Friday, December 19, 2014

Running With Wild Women, Revisited

I originally wrote this article back in July 2012 after I finished reading: Wild:  Lost and Found on the Pacific Crest Trail.  I have just come from watching the movie based on the Cheryl Strayed book.  I hope you will read this reprint and then the postscript that follows in which I briefly share my review of the movie.

Running With Wild Women!—July 2012

Okay, okay, so it’s just a catchy title that I hope will interest you enough to read on a bit.  However, this is about what some would consider as wild women!

In recent years I have read several books that especially interested me.  Both were written by, for and/or about women.  The first book was Women Who Run With the Wolves, by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, PhD (Ballantine Books).  It is about the myths and stories of the wild woman archetype and was so interesting to me that I have probably at least 50 pages flagged and I made copious notes that practically amounted to another book.  In its over 500 pages I gained wonderful insights to the feminine nature and the quest for meaning and empowerment.  This was important to me because I have felt the strong feminine in myself through the years.  Sometimes it expresses as the tender, loving nature that is so nurturing in its expression.  Other times what I experience is the intuitive and mystical aspect that so symbolizes women to me.
The other book that I just finished is Wild: From Lost to Found On the Pacific Crest Trail, by Cheryl Strayed (Knopf).  This book is also about finding one’s self, particularly as a woman.  This local Portland author set out alone to hike the Pacific Crest Trail which she describes as, “A world that measures two feet wide by 2663 miles long,” stretching from the Mexican border on the south to Canada on the north.

Her almost unbelievable journey would test the endurance and resolve of the hardiest of trekkers.  While I could imagine making such a journey, reality quickly sets in with the realization that even in my most fit years I could never have made it.  But what is interesting to me is that I could vicariously identify with the author almost step by step.  Even though the story is largely about a woman finding her strength in a world of men, it is also about anyone’s journey into self.  It is about moments in life that include highs and lows.  It is about relationships.  It is about doing things that detract from who we really are but with the redeeming actions that put the lessons in their proper place within the life journey as a whole.  Finally, it is about empowerment whether you are a woman or man seeking the self.

With the turning of the pages each describing some particular challenge along the path, I would think of people I know who I felt could also identify with this journey, or who I think would at least enjoy the accomplishments recorded day by day.  Maybe these thoughts are representative of the old saying that if you find yourself wishing some other person in your life could know this, it is really you that needs the experience.  I can accept that, but still, there are people I know and love that I wish could share this journey, perhaps with the realization that we are on that journey together. 

So often, particularly in close relationships, things begin to be taken for granted.  In that period something is lost in those relationships because expectations begin to diverge almost unnoticed until you find yourself on a different path all together.  The author volitionally chose the most difficult path one could imagine.  On that path she found herself.  She discovered the roots and development of her relationships, particularly with her mother and siblings, but also with others in her life.

Her story telling about the trek is richly enhanced by her flashbacks along the way to events in her life.  Most of these flashbacks involve her mother who died before her 50th birthday and the difficulty of reconciling her loss with feelings of “unfinished business.”  She also tells us of her drug experiences, her sometimes reckless sexual adventures, her marriage and the divorce that framed another part of the reason for her trek.  While much of her journey is done very much alone, there are others she meets along the way.  As she describes these meetings, some challenging or threatening, you see how she is able to weave them into the unfolding understanding of her self. 

It was a deeply emotional experience for the author, and for me as her reader.  She mentioned at one point in the journey how she would not let herself cry.  It was also true that there was often not enough moisture in her body to provide tears.  When she finally reached the Bridge of the Gods that crossed the Columbia River at Cascade Locks and after she allowed herself the pleasure of an ice cream cone that left her with only 20 cents to her name, she cried.  They were tears of exhilaration, not those of exhaustion.  She had accomplished what she had set out to do.  She had begun not knowing for sure why, but ending it knowing who she was and totally empowered as one of those special wild women!
Reese Witherspoon as Cheryl Strayed
I have waited for this movie with eager anticipation since I first heard that it would be made.  I have followed the author’s Facebook page hoping for news.  I enjoyed the movie in most every respect.  To some extent I could fill in parts of the story not carried into the film, but for the most part it well documents the author’s journey of self-discovery and acceptance.  I hope you will see it, especially if you like the outdoors, but more if you find satisfaction in stories of how individuals bring meaning to their lives.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Before the Sun Sets

On Friday, October 31, 2014 I received word from my brother-in-law, Robert Kruse, that my sister, Lucille, had passed on February 15.  She would have been 87 this year.  Long issues with skin cancer from over exposure to the sun finally took its toll.

My sister and my brother, Frank, who was 11 years older than I, were my childhood idols as you might imagine.  Frank was the older brother every child would want.  Lucille was the most beautiful girl/woman in the world (to me).  I never got to be as close to either of them as I would have liked, since the age difference from me placed them in a different circle of friends and relatives.  They were closer to my cousins in age.

From what I was told by my mother in later years of my adult life, Lucille doted on me and did much of the caring for me.  I clearly remember how close I felt to her.  After she left home and married the opportunities to get together with her and her family were rare, but always memorable.  My family drove the Alaskan Highway in 1965 to visit them in Anchorage while Bob was stationed there in the Air Force. 

Lucille was not really interested in maintaining close relationships with family members and had made that clear through the years.  I like to feel I was the one exception she made to that preference.  Certainly, whenever we were together it was a wonderful time.  My last visit with her and Bob was several years ago on one of my trips to Tucson to visit my son and his family.  They had a lovely home in the Phoenix area.  We enjoyed great conversation getting up to date on our lives.

Sometime after that Lucille and I had a falling out over what I now realize was a petty difference of interests.  We had no communication of any kind following that event.
The reason I even found out about her death was that in cleaning out my file cabinet I discovered my folder of correspondence with her from a few years before.  I had copies of all her letters to me and those to my mother prior to her passing in 2002.  I re-read every one of them and realized how much she had cared about mom’s well-being in her last years and how warm her correspondence was with me.  I knew without a doubt that I had to write and apologize for my disrespecting her priorities regarding family interests.  Somehow, even as I wrote that final letter to her, I felt it was going to be too late.  It was.  My heart is broken for failing to realize how important our relationship was and how unfortunate it was to not have healed our wounds sooner.

 In the letter Bob wrote to me he recounted how special I was to Lucille and how much she had cared about me.  I cared as much for her.  Yet here I came to the point of realizing the need to ask her forgiveness too late.  I know that there will always be a connection with Lucille, and I feel our healing will, in fact and in truth, be realized.  But I must admit through streaming tears, I wish it could have been here and now.

My point, dear readers, is: “Be ye angry, and sin not:  let not the sun go down on your wrath.” (Ephesians 4:26 KJV) I have often heard this statement in one form or another.  I have not always found it possible to rise to the occasion of implementing that advice.  Perhaps in my sharing of this personal experience each of us, including me, can find the will, the love and the wisdom to forgive and accept forgiveness offered.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Wonderful Oregon Cascade Mountains (Revised)

I recently completed a two-day trip from Dallas, Oregon to Sisters, Redmond, Bend and then back through Sisters traveling the old McKenzie Highway 242. Then I headed north on Hwy 126 to Hwy 20 and then to Sweet Home, Lebanon, Albany and home.

Thanks to a gift from my son several years ago I had a digital camera that should have made it possible to take excellent photos to document my adventure. Unfortunately, one needs a steadier hand and an ability to understand what the camera icons were all about in order to produce the best quality. (Yes, I read the instruction book. Memory fades more quickly these days so it didn’t really help.)

However, after taking nearly 100 photos I have selected the better ones for a slide show so you can travel along with me. I will not try to give you a photo-by-photo narrative. It is the picture that counts anyway. Hope you will enjoy my adventure. And, if you haven’t come to Oregon yet, you are invited to visit.

 Click here  or copy and paste the link below to your browser address line (and hopefully you will now be able to view the photos without getting "permission").

Monday, September 1, 2014

Come Take A Walk With Me

Before moving to Dallas, Oregon in March 2013 one of my favorite places to take a walk was the Tualatin Hills Nature Park.  I wrote an article about those walks for this blog in July 2011. [1]  Now I have another regular trail which I take every day, weather permitting.  It takes about a half hour each morning to cover the mile and a half.  It took awhile to develop the habit of walking daily again as a part of my fitness program.  Some days the muscles and joints handle the journey more easily than at other times, but once the habit was re-established; the results for me physically were worth it.

The pathway along Rickreal Creek was extended for quite a way since I moved here.  Sometimes I follow the length of the trail on my bicycle and other times I take the shorter mile and a half walk.  During the summer months the stream is almost dry.  During the winter and spring rainy periods it flows heavily making the walk even more pleasurable.

I usually meet some “regulars” during the walk.  Most of the folks in my age range are walking their dogs.  The younger folks, of course, are getting a jog in before heading to work.


LaCreole Drive runs north/south.  (It took me a month of Sundays to get my bearings as to direction!)  It still seems that south is west.  My walk takes me south on LaCreole past the middle school and down to the Dallas Aquatic Center and park.  To vary my walk I sometimes go around the ball park and aquatic center, under the bridge and then back home.
So this is part of my effort of seeking to stay as fit as I can, at least in terms of those things I can actually do something about.  I also participate in the Silver Sneakers fitness program twice a week.  It is not as good as the program I took under the tutelage of Jacqueline Sinke at the Stuhr Senior Center in Beaverton, but it keeps me moving.

Home at last.  Thanks for walking with me this morning!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Comforting Peace

It seems to me there are an unusually high number of people in transition right now.   I have noticed in posts to Facebook by my friends, or friends of friends, of loved ones in the process of moving on in life’s adventure.  Of course, the news is full of the almost daily deaths due to gun violence, much of it hitting closer to home than we ever imagined it would.

This challenges us in many ways.  We all know that the time will come for each of us.  Some of us are prepared to “be there” for our loved ones as they move closer to the time of parting from us physically.  Somehow we have found the love and strength to abide in the “peace that passes understanding.”  Still, it is never really easy to voice our final farewell.

When a tragedy of some sort comes unexpectedly, we are seldom ready.  At times such as that instinct often takes over and we are numbed to the tasks at hand that we must attend to.  We are enabled to move through the experience deciding, acting, and comforting others as necessary.  When the immediacy of the need passes, we may fall into our own quiet oblivion while we find our personal healing and renewal.  Perhaps these words from a man who was my mentor and my friend will encourage and strengthen you in your time of need as it has me many times.

I Am There

By James Dillet Freeman
Poet Laureate Of Unity

Do you need me?
I am there.
You cannot see Me, yet I am the light you see by.
You cannot hear Me, yet I speak through your voice.
You cannot feel Me, yet I am the power at work in your hands.
I am at work, though you do not understand My ways.
I am, at work, though you do not recognize my works.
I am not strange visions.  I am not mysteries.
Only in absolute stillness, beyond self, can you know Me as I am, and then, but as a feeling and a faith.
Yet I am there. Yet I hear. Yet I answer.
When you need Me, I am there.
Even if you deny Me, I am there.
Even when you feel most alone, I am there.
Even in your fears, I am there.
Even in your pain, I am there.
I am there when you pray and when you do not pray.
I am in you, and you are in Me.
Only in you mind can you feel separate from Me, for only in your mind are the mists of “yours” and “mine.”
Yet only with your mind can you know Me and experience Me.
Empty your heart of empty fears.
When you get yourself out of the way, I am there.
You can of yourself do nothing, but I can do all.
And I am in all.
Though you may not see the good, good is there, for I am there.
I am there because I have to be, because I am.
Only in Me does the world have meaning; only out of Me does the world take form; only because of Me does the world go forward.
I am the law on which the movement of the stars and the growth of living cells are founded.
I am the love that is the law’s fulfilling.
I am assurance.
I am peace.
I am oneness.
I am the law that you can live by.
I am the love that you can cling to.
I am your assurance.
I am your peace.
I am one with you.
I am.
Though you fail to find Me, I do not fail you.
Though your faith in Me is unsure, My faith in you never wavers, because I know you because I love you.
Beloved, I am there.

(A copy of “I Am There” is now on the moon . . .carried
there on the Apollo XV voyage by Astronaut James B. Irvin,
and left on the moon for future space voyagers)