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)

Monday, May 26, 2014

I “Like” Your Facebook Post

In a way I rather dislike admitting it, but hitting the “Like” icon on Facebook seemingly is the main, if not the only, way I connect with other people these days.

Sometimes I feel irritated about that.  People are more important than that.  Whatever happened to actually talking with someone?  Admittedly, I am the worst offender when it comes to that form of connecting.  My telephone usage is usually less than an hour a month, and even that time is related to “business.”

Then comes along those Facebook posts of my great grandchildren and I melt into a blob!  I am so grateful that I have the opportunity to “Like” your post!

Locations, geographically, are far apart so being able to share your lives on Facebook is, for the time being, my access to you. 

These Facebook posts of photos of my newest great granddaughter, Arianna, with her mother, Kristin, and the group with my other great grandchildren, Izzy and Teddy, with their mother, Becky, mean the world to me.

Facebook posts brought these family members right into my home and heart!

For whatever else I might think about Facebook at times, I Like Your Facebook Post and am glad to have them (and each of you).

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Journey of Being Alive

I am not sure when it happened, but this morning I became aware that it had.

I am sitting on the sidelines of life.  I have become a spectator.  I am not even commenting currently on what I see or sense.

Wow!  Never thought this day would come.

Living alone for over 20 years can cause one to become introspective and reclusive.

Again, I don’t know exactly when it happened.  I just know that it did.

There is no rule that I know of that says you have to become withdrawn and lonely simply because you are alone.  Circumstances are not what make us who we are or do whatever it is that we do—or don’t do. 

What I believe I have come to realize is that I have allowed myself to respond to circumstances with an increasing degree of skepticism and frustration over not being able to change things more to my liking.

Then, some days after penning the words above, I discovered in the words of one of my favorite authors, Mark Nepo, in The Book of Awakening a kindred spirit.  He told of a poetry reading he was doing in New York City when he encountered an angry young man that had just witnessed a woman being mugged.  The young man was so angry he wrote a poem on the spot.  Another person attending the event called out, “Yeah, it sure beats stopping the mugging.”  Mark went on to write:

The story points up, painfully, how living in our thoughts removes us from the very real journey of being alive.  To always analyze and problem solve and observe and criticize what we encounter turns our brains into heavy calluses.  Rather than opening us deeper into the mystery of living, the over-trained intellect becomes a buffer from experience.

Well, those thoughts immediately clicked for me.  For a number of years I have been observing from the sidelines, analyzing the variety of events that puzzle and upset many of us.  My way of dealing with the upset was to write critically, often, about those events and the all too apparent lack of judgment being expressed by others.   This process is not living.  It is observing. It is judging.  Seldom, if ever, will we find satisfaction in simply observing and criticizing events.  It makes no difference, really, if our judgments are sound.  Making a difference comes from what one does, not what one sees.

Here is where I can tell myself that I have had many years of actively engaging in life during my careers, first as a minister and later as an employee of a Fortune 500 company.  In both of these careers I found ways to move my observations into actions that helped change some conditions.  The doing of whatever I could brought a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.

Unfortunately, following retirement, my doing was mostly limited to writing about my observations.  Of course, I believe my writing was an appropriate way for me to move beyond simply being discontented with events.  Still, as time has proceeded I have been less satisfied that writing has served a broader useful purpose.  That is why I suddenly had the realization that I had become a bystander.  In some respects I was not much different from the young man who wrote an angry poem about a woman being mugged rather that attempting to stop the mugging.

I suppose I am expected to say here that not everyone should jump into the fray and try to physically set things right.  That does not satisfy me in the least. We have had so many occasions through the years where people just stood by doing nothing while some tragedy was taking place.  In these days of instant communication, we find so many using their phones to take pictures of events.  I wonder though how many think to call 911 or rush to the aid of a person in trouble.  Yes, I know, some do.

Finally, my point is that to live we must be engaged on some level.  Each person will decide for him/herself what he or she can do.  Once we have decided how we will be engaged in life, we must do it.  It may even be that whatever you are doing is already exactly the right thing for you to do.  No one can decide for you.  Getting beyond analyzing or just thinking about it does seem to be an important step to take.

Apparently I became a spectator without realizing it.  Now that I see that I will seek to find ways to be more engaged in living.  I will probably continue to write.  It’s what I do.  I will also get out of myself more and socially engage.  (This is difficult for me, in case you wondered.)  Maybe I will take that trip I keep thinking about (even though I don’t have a particular destination in mind).  I encourage you to find your own way to engage in life here and now.  Let’s enjoy life together!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Waters of Life

In my morning reading from The Book of Awakening, by Mark Nepo,[1] I found a connection with another of my morning rituals, the review of Facebook postings from my friends. 

Raven Dana had posted a You Tube item about a waltz composed 50 years ago by Sir Anthony Hopkins, a well known actor, but which he had never played.  Sir Anthony had asked the also famous musician/conductor, Andre’ Rieu, to play it, which he did.  I found the waltz beautiful, intricate and emotionally uplifting. [2]   My own tears of joy flowed at the thought of how music graces our lives and how it can bring us into harmony with the “Song of Life” itself.

I’d like to quote the passage from Awakening in order illustrate the author’s discovery of his own “waters of life.”

I was traveling in South Africa and felt very tender one morning, when my friend Kim came upon me as I was weeping.  She asked if I was okay.  I told her it was only the waters of life splashing up my shore.  Later that day I found her near tears and checked in with her.  She said, “The river’s now in me.”
We looked into each other and realized that we all share the same river.  It flows beneath us and through us, from one dry heart to the next.  We share the same river.  It makes the Earth one living thing.
The whole of life has a power to soften and open us against our will, to irrigate our spirits, and in those moments, we discover that tears, the water from within, are a common blood, mysterious and clear.  We may speak different languages and live very different lives, but when that deep water swells to the surface, it pulls us to each other.
We share the same river, and where it enters, we lose our stubbornness the way fists wear open when held under in the stream of love.

At times in my life I have been criticized for the apparent easy expression of my emotions through tears.  It used to bother me that others did not seem to understand what I felt, or how it was not a symptom of some unknown weakness.  Rather, for me, there was a mystical sense of connection with all that is as it became apparent in a specific event or piece of writing or even within a movie.  I think this is what Mark Nepo was recognizing through his tears.  There are those special waters of life that well up within us in those moments we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, to let down the barriers of our stubbornness so that stress, inharmonies, hurts or whatever else may trouble us may be let go.  In letting go we once again can thrive.  In that moment we are open to the deep joys of simple things that have gone unnoticed.

In a “perfect world” we would always be open to the oneness of all life and our particular oneness in that life.  While the world—as Creation—may indeed be perfect, our expression within that world of potential does not always rise to the occasion.  I am grateful every time I feel that rise within me.  I increasingly find more to enjoy in life and less that is uncomfortable or troubling.  Long way to go, but I think I am on the path.  At least the path I am on is increasingly rewarding.

May you also find yourself in the waters of life!

[1]  The Book Of Awakening, Mark Nepo.  Large Print Press, A part of Gale, Cengage Learning

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Something To Think About

For many years I have believed in the theory that the outer universe was a macrocosm similar to the microcosm that is our human body.  I saw the structure of our body—the cells, atoms and molecules—like a universe of stars and galaxies.  Science has informed us that the space between the atoms that comprise our bodies have the same relative space as exists between the stars in the Cosmos.  We are more “space” than “substance.”

Over 40 years ago, in a newsletter I published at the time, I wrote about an experience I had one Sunday morning.  I arose early, retrieved the Sunday paper from the porch and sat down in my study to read it.  At some point I looked up from the paper and out the window I saw Colfax Avenue, a main east/west street in Denver.  Traffic was light due to the early time of day and the fact it was Sunday.  As I saw a car heading east on Colfax I suddenly had the vision of the city as a nervous system in the body.  The car became the “carrier” of signals to parts of the body from the brain.  Then I imagined the various other systems of the body expanding on the concept of how the body was like a small universe.  The cells and tissues were like a solar system.  All of the elements of the body connected one part of that micro universe to other parts.  The whole process of imagining this took just seconds, but it profoundly affected my sense of connection with all that is.

Since man first contemplated the make up of the universe and how it all began, there have been competing discussions about the “Big Bang” theory and others.  Einstein, in his theory of relativity, posited that gravity bends light, which would result in the creation of ripples in the fabric of space and time.  Such an activity of waves of light would support the “Big Bang” theory of how the universe began.  These “waves” have never been able to be seen before.  This morning, however, USA Today reported that scientists at the South Pole, using special telescopes in the clear, dry atmosphere there, believe they have discovered those actual waves of light rippling out from the center of the creation of the universe in an ever-expanding flow.

As I envisioned those ripples moving outward in an infinite flow like ripples in a pond after a tossed stone breaks the calm surface, I could not help but imagine a What if scenario.  Since the dawning of conscious awareness in humankind we have wondered if we are alone in this vast universe.  To many of us it seems impossible that in the vastness that comprises our “home” we have no neighbors.  What if by looking out into the universe for those neighbors, we are actually looking back in time.  Again, science informs us that everything we see in our skies happened millennia ago and is just now registering in our sight. 

What if in the ripples of that pond humanity is placed at some point within the concentric circles that move outward into infinity?  If we see ourselves as a kind of midpoint in the evolution of life, then in the ripples beyond where we are there might just be other probable points on the evolutionary scale representing further evolved forms of life.  What if we are looking back at life forms less developed than we are? What if looking forward there are other civilizations more advanced than we are?  What if there is an evolutionary continuity of life from the simplest beginning wave outward, infinitely, to more complex forms in waves advancing before us?

Life seems to constantly move from the simplest forms into ever-increasing complex forms.  What if this really is how life unfolds?  What if this is the “heaven” we have before us?  What if there is an ability to recognize both the history and the future of life and to communicate with those aspects of “Reality?”  Our consciousness has only scratched the surface of its full potential.  Much more lies beyond our current view. Scripture tells us, Faith is the substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things unseen. (Hebrews 11:1 KJV)  I am also reminded of the words of Browning:  Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, Or what's a heaven for? 

Something to think about.