Accepting the Torch

My spirit has been riding in this body for forty years now – I was born forty years ago next June but I would have had brain cells and such by this time, forty years ago, even though I hadn’t yet tried the outside air.

It hit me hard today.   As I was reading an article about craft traditions that are now practiced by a bare few, I realized that it’s my turn to bring the things that I value into the future.  I want a college student twenty years from now to fall in love with Sumi-e, or to feel the touch of washi paper, or see a real indigo dyed piece of cloth, or paint with oils, or know how nice it is to write a letter with a real pen.

It’s not a burden to bear alone, thank goodness, but I can do a great service to the future by adding my interest and support to the traditions I want to see continue.  So can you, if you want to.  Every one of us who loves something and shows it, helps it stay in the world and not be forgotten.  Maybe for you it’s your grandmother’s sticky bread that nobody else knows how to make just right, or a breed of dog that’s rare and misunderstood.  Maybe it’s something else.

So I’ll keep baking my own sourdough that never knew the touch of a stand mixer.  I’ll practice my ink painting.  I’ll keep shifting my own gears and cooking on a gas flame.  I’ll keep learning about oil painting.  Sometime, I’ll save up and buy an iron tea kettle made lovingly by hand.  When I can, I’ll buy real washi paper from Japan, not an imitation, and make sure to get it from one of the places that still uses the old methods.   The money used to buy those things will help crafters and tradesmen keep the lights on just a bit longer.

It doesn’t take a huge effort, it doesn’t have to become some kind of holy cause.  I accept this burden, which isn’t so heavy after all, this torch, to keep and guard and carry so that someone can take it from me in the future.

The painting here is my first full size oil painting.  I see a lot of issues with it, as with any first effort, however there were also some of the fabled happy accidents and I learned from it.  The sumi-e up in the header is another thing I’ve picked up again, my first painting in that medium in quite some time.  I promise I’ll get better!

 

summer forest.JPG

 

 

Who’s walking on my bed?

Halloween is different for everyone – some people use it as a religious day, others an excuse to eat massive amounts of candy, some love to make costumes, some go to parties, some watch the goriest movies they can find, and some use it as a time to say hello to the dear departed one more time.

October 31st has been all of those things to me, except maybe for the day to watch movies, and lately it’s been more a time to say hello to those whom I’ve loved and lost.  You should see what they do during the Japanese festival of the dead, they party for three days.  Obon is a really fun time.

For me, though, the end of October is a time when the veil between the different realities seems a little thinner, there’s a snap to the air even out here in Arizona, and life seems just a bit more sad and a bit more beautiful, like it could end at any moment and I’m reminded to tell everyone just how much I love them.

This Halloween tale is true, every word of it.

It’s simple enough:

Last night around midnight, a cat walked on my bed.  His steps were light and fast and both I and my spouse felt him.

Here’s the thing though.  There are two living cats in my house.  One of them was in my study, the other out in the living room, snoozing away on a pillow.  That left the third – who was a sweet black furred gentleman named Orion, who had golden eyes, a rumbling purr, and gave great hugs.  He would jump into my arms when I asked him and always seemed to understand me.  He taught my current calico, Nezumi, to put me to bed at night and get me up in the morning.

With both cats’ locations known, that left only one possibility – Orion, nine years gone, had come for another visit.  We feel him sometimes, usually walking across the bed, sometimes brushing against our ankles.  The site mascot, Nezumi, sometimes reacts to him too.  He’s actually the reason why I think sometimes people, whether they have two legs or four, come back to visit friends and loved ones.

Orion continues to teach me quite a bit, even though he’s no longer a physical person.  I think he might actually be happier now, since he doesn’t have a body to deal with and all its problems, and he can’t get hurt, and he can go wherever he wants.

I guess he’s the ultimate Halloween kitty – a black cat who IS a ghost!

 

 

(Photo looks like Orion but isn’t.)

Unhappy Accidents

Fred Rogers’ mother told him as a child that when terrible things happened he should always look for the helpers.

That advice hasn’t stayed with me as firmly as it should, not all the time anyway, and I admit my faith in humanity often slips.  Today I had cause to be reminded that there are still good people out there, even if they aren’t as often captured on cell phone video or posted on YouTube.

I was sitting at my coffee shop this bright and sunny morning, with my spouse.  She had a cold brew and cacao, I was celebrating her negative pathology results with an iced chai.  Deliciousness in a glass, that.  We were having a peaceful time.

The front porch of the coffee shop faces a busy, six lane street.  We see plenty of near misses and traffic on that street and often comment on the interesting or colorful cars that we see.  Not long before, a bright green VW van had gone by, with huge daisies impeccably painted on it, followed by a gorgeous deep purple Dodge Challenger.  Lovely car.

A little while later we saw something that wasn’t so lovely.  A rental car stopped too fast in order to turn in to a driveway, a small sedan was following a touch too close.

CRASH.

In an instant, the one who had been rear ended was driving away up the street, carried by instinct I think, and the car who had been behind was a wrecked and smashed mess that was bleeding fluids everywhere.  Radiator fluid, steering fluid, brake fluid – it was a pinkish red, spreading puddle.  I sniffed the air and did not smell gas, to my relief.

My spouse headed up the street to check the other driver.  I stayed to watch our stuff.  A young man and woman got out of the car, along with a cat carrier.  Spouse came back after a bit, gave me the license plate number and said the person in the car was all right and on the phone with 911.

The forlorn couple with the smashed car were on their phones as well.  I ran over to let them know I had the license plate number in case they needed it.  When emergency services came, everyone migrated to the front patio of the coffee shop, it was the nearest place with chairs.

What I noticed then was all the helpers.  The cops being gentle with the drivers, the EMTs putting patient care above all else, the woman nearby who brought water for one of the drivers. The people who came to help both drivers, offering comfort and support.   We had our own job too.  We got to cat-watch.  The occupant of the cat carrier was an older kitty with a broken arm, they’d been taking him to the vet to get his cast changed.  I was happy to see his owners loved him enough to get him a vet’s help.  We looked after him a couple of times as the young couple had to take care of various things related to the accident.

Soon I saw people coming to help both sets of drivers.  I checked to see if the young couple needed a ride anywhere or a cup of coffee.  At the end, when the wrecks had been cleaned up and the cops were gone, I saw the drivers of both cars shake hands – young man and older woman, showing respect for each other.  There was no screaming match, they behaved like civilized people.

I tell you it almost made me cry I was so happy to see it.

It was a terrible thing to happen – but in the end, everybody was all right.  No one was hurt, and I saw so much caring and regard on that coffee shop patio.

I saw helpers that day.

Happy Accidents

Silence would reign in the house of my young parents.

A bump.  A crash.  Then a suspicious silence.

A young voice, maybe two or three, calling in a rather brash way…

“ACCIDENT!”

 

I did that when I was little.  My poor parents.  Hey, at last I let them know something was up!

Accidents are generally bad things, and I strive to avoid them.   However, sometimes the more I try to avoid them, the more I make mistakes!  It’s a nasty cycle.

Here comes Bob Ross with a nugget of wisdom that is deeper than it seems.

“There are no mistakes, only happy accidents.”

Much like Yoda’s “try not, only do,” this isn’t saying you shouldn’t try to do your best.  After all, would it be a mistake if you weren’t trying to do well?

After some thinking about this statement, I came to realize that he’s talking about learning to work with whatever happens, whether you planned it or not, and that will lead you to turn some mistakes into opportunities, make fewer mistakes in general, and be happier with what happens.

In art, and in life, I think we could all use a dose of that.

It’s a wonderful and relaxing attitude and I think I may turn it into a tattoo.

A Radiant Thought

Here is a quote that I have considered many times, even though I am not religious.  Every time I consider it, I find meaning.

 

If I take a lamp and shine it toward the wall, a bright spot will appear on the wall.

The lamp is our search for truth, for understanding.

Too often, we assume that the light on the wall is God, but the light is not the goal of the search, it is the result of the search.

The more intense the search, the brighter the light on the wall. The brighter the light on the wall, the greater the sense of revelation upon seeing it.

Similarly, someone who does not search – who does not bring a lantern – sees nothing. What we perceive as God is the by-product of our search for God. It may simply be an appreciation of the light… pure and unblemished… not understanding that it comes from us.

Sometimes we stand in front of the light and assume that we are the center of the universe – God looks astonishingly like we do – or we turn to look at our shadow and assume that all is darkness.

If we allow ourselves to get in the way, we defeat the purpose, which is to use the light of our search to illuminate the wall in all its beauty and in all its flaws; and in so doing, better understand the world around us.

 

J. Michael Straczynski

 

via Daily Prompt: Radiant

Mending what’s been torn

I sometimes have a tendency to complain – hey, who doesn’t?  Life is often frustrating and hard.  However, today I have had a great experience and I want to focus on that.

Even considering the fact that I have had a murderous headache most of the morning, I have actually had a pretty good day.  I had some work done at the dentist and needed to pick up the holiday meal.

I went to Albertson’s to pick up the chicken and mayhap a small Christmas cake, which we are going to enjoy in the Japanese tradition.  I don’t always have the best experience with their deli but today the workers went the extra mile, doing everything I needed with a minimum of fuss.  The lady in the bakery went out of her way to help me find the perfect five inch round cake, exactly suited for what I wanted.  She even commiserated with me about the sad lack of buttercream in much of today’s baking, and made sure the cake I bought had it.

Amazing Christmas Caek.JPG

At the dentist, all the hygienists were exemplary, the office staff quick, and the dentist his usual cheerful, amazing self.  My cleaning went really well and I actually enjoyed it!  Lisa was really amazing.  It’s so good to deal with people who truly enjoy their jobs and are good at them.  She was informative, good to talk to, and gave me some excellent tips about managing my dental health.  (Shout out to Associated Dental on Campbell in Tucson!  You guys rock!)

So, even though my headache only got worse as the day went on, I was really happy with everyone I dealt with.  So here’s a big thank you to everyone in the service sector, thank you for doing your jobs with a smile.  You help mend what’s torn, fix what’s broken, and the world would be lost without you.

Happy holidays!

 

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/torn/

Thoughts of a Neophyte Guitarist

DSCN1466

I’m in love with a six stringed lady.

I jokingly call her my “mistress” to my spouse.

She’s got a rosewood fretboard and a mahogany body, with a rather battered wine red finish.  She stays in tune, more or less, and has only a little fret buzz.  She has dual humbucker pickups, being an Epiphone copy of the Gibson design, and sometime I’ll get an amp for her instead of plugging her into Tuxguitar on my Linux system through an adapter left over from my flying days.

I named her Rosie.

Starting over twenty years ago, I had a recurring dream about buying an acoustic guitar and just knowing how to play it.  The dream came and went but the desire never completely went away.

Now, only a year and a half from the magic number forty, I’ve decided to cross this item off my “Bucket List.”

Time’s wasting, and my fingers won’t get any more limber.  So I got this guitar, “Juke Box Hero” and “Summer of Sixty Nine” running through my head all the while.

I happily welcomed the sore fingers.  I don’t mind playing endless scales or doing the finger exercises my guitar Sensei has assigned me.  I am doggedly trying to learn to switch between C and G chords without interruption or muffled strings.  I practice at least twice every day.

However, the guitar has already brought me so much.  I’ve had great talks with people who love the instrument as much as I do, found tips on playing, learned so much. It seems like every other person I meet plays, or has played.  Several people have started up again after talking to me.  It’s like my enthusiasm has reminded them of a love they half forgot.

When I picked up this style of guitar for the first time, it fit in a way I can’t describe.  My hands knew where to go, and it just felt so right.

Right now I have a goal of just practicing every day, building up my new calluses, and seeing where it takes me.  I’m enjoying the journey every bit as much as the destination.  I think that’s something I couldn’t have done when I was younger, because I didn’t have the support network I do now and I hadn’t yet learned to see practice as fun.  Because it is.

Nobody told me practice would be fun!

I expected it to be drudgery.

“I want to learn to play…. ____.”

“You’ll have to practice a lot!”

I know – but it’s so much fun.  It’s meditative and stress reducing.  It makes me feel better.  I can’t be anxious or sad when I’m concentrating on making the notes sound right.  I relax.  And that’s all before I have even learned one song beyond “happy birthday.”

If you have something on your bucket list that you haven’t gotten to, or never thought you could get to, something creative like art or music or writing, why not try?  I did, because I hadn’t realized an electric guitar would be so affordable, or be quiet enough to practice in an apartment.  Once I learned that, it opened a bright, beautiful door that had always been closed before.

I wish you inspiration and joy.

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/neophyte/