A Need for Place


We had a difficult week. We did a quick trip to Texas to help our 50 year old, very accomplished and independent baby girl who was scheduled for surgery last Friday. It was a fast-growing lump on her thyroid that might be cancer. All is well with her, but we are feeling the aftermath of the stress when someone we love develops a serious health issue.

During this time we had a couple of really early mornings, over-the-top stressful problems with our airline tickets, and it was really hot and humid in southern Texas. All of these impact my body and mind because of fibromyalgia. I have learned how to take care of myself, but sometimes life is hard and I can’t seem to do enough to counter the stress. I told my children, as they were growing up, that life isn’t fair. It isn’t. It’s hard.


Michael Watson wrote a post this past week called The Power of Place. Michael’s identity has been shaped by his dual presence in Native and Anglo culture. This post was in response to the Native American gathering in North Dakota to protect their sacred places from destruction by the building of the oil pipeline. Michael helps us understand the different world views that are clashing as Natives and capitalists come face to face. I always appreciate how much I learn from Michael’s posts because the Native world view is so different. What struck me most in Michael’s words was this:

I was raised to understand that places have the capacity to heal us. They may also hold us, offering safety and comfort, and, as Don Juan famously said, power.

20150816-dsc_0110I think JB and I are looking for comfort, healing and safety in place. As we were returning home we both made the decision that we need to spend a few days in familiar places in northern Michigan before we head to Florida. I have been culling photo files and find that I stop to study those photos of places that have a special feel. All of them places where I felt the power of life flow through me. Places where I feel the presence of God.


The places that we are seeking right now are not grand scenes, like World Heritage Sights or the U.S. National Parks. We seek them out, are moved by their majesty, and they enrich our lives. But these are not what I need right now. I need places that are simple and pure, that sooth and calm, that heal. These are places that allow me to be with myself while being aware of where I am. These are the places in nature where I am at home within myself.


I was a healer in a part of my working life and I respect our ability to heal in body, spirit, and mind. I have experienced this powerful healing within the bonds of human relationship and have been a part of helping others heal. What Michael helped me realize is how much I need nature for healing and growth. To use a popular phrase in sociology and psychology, I need both nurture and nature. I hope we have enough time to heal our planet so my new great-granddaughter will be able to find her places of healing.

Linked to The Daily Post: Recharge.

Thankful after Thanksgiving

mt ranier 061It is easy to sit down on Thanksgiving Day and make a list of what I am thankful for – but I felt almost repulsed by that exercise this year. Besides, after 50 years of adulthood lists they begin to look very similar – except for the occasion year when all I could be thankful for was that the prior year was over. My one daughter is there right now after a difficult year for her and her family.

This year I feel a need to do something different than think about what I am thankful for. This year I feel a shift in my being – a shift from a pause to be thankful to a different way of being in each day. I think it has to do with the aging process. I no longer need to “make it” in the sense that I did when I was in my younger years, when I was thankful for events and accomplishments that made me more “adult.” I now live with a sense of peace that I accomplished what I needed to accomplish and can forgive myself for what I wasn’t able to do. I also know that I lived a good life, attributed in part to good decisions but also because that unpredictable, uncontrollable fickle finger of fate worked in my favor bringing opportunity and wonderful family and friends into my life along the way. Occasionally I have brief moments of sadness over paths that I could have taken “if only…,” until I remember the joys of the paths I chose. Sometimes I’m hit with grief over family and friends who have died, but also feel the joy of having had them in my circle of love.

That seems to be where my mind goes when I pause to be thankful – I think about the past. Then I start thinking about the future and how I want to live my life in my remaining years. Those thoughts seem to spring from some notion that I need to give back for all that I have received. I think about how I could use my mind and ability to write – to make a difference in our national politics. Maybe I could even write so powerfully as to convince a few people that wanting to ban semi-automatic weapons has absolutely nothing to do with wanting to take guns away from law abiding citizens who use them for hunting or the sport of target practice or who collect antique guns. (Oops, how did that editorial slip in??)

When I start thinking about all the things I could do I begin to feel dragged down. If I am honest with myself I know I am limited in the things I can do, and what I choose to do I need to plan well and be vigilant about energy and pain levels. I don’t feel like I have the energy to give as I would like – and that makes me sad. Really sad.

How can I be thankful when my life is limited and, because of my age and fibromyalgia, I know it is only down hill from here? Do we reach an age when we are no longer expected to give; when we can just take? When I taught about adulthood and aging, I discussed with students the theory of role reversal, the reversal of children taking care of aging parents. It was clear then – now that I feel it beginning to happen, not so much. Back then the emotional part was more theory than real. Now it is in-my-face real.

I still want to age gracefully, with joy and peace and love and laughter and stimulating activities. I thought I was doing a pretty good job. I had decided to take each day as it came – finding joy in doing chores and fun activities (like making quilts). Being thankful each day for what I could do without thinking about what I used to be able to do or want to do in the future. Today. Joy. Thankfulness. Wow.

Then we brought the Christmas tree upstairs, the pre-lit one that we cut all the lights off last year because half weren’t working. I had a plan. I would sting the lights securely so I could leave them on. I started stringing the bottom third with colored lights in the center (JB wanted colored) and white on the ends of the branches (my choice). I did a little and then would do something else that allowed me to sit and rest. Then I did a little more. I was able to make the strings of lights end so I could start new ones on the middle section. I worked on the tree Monday and Tuesday. Took lights off on Wednesday because they weren’t ending at the top of the middle section.. Decided on Thursday (with tears of frustration) that we wouldn’t have a tree this year, but instead I started putting lights back on. Friday I bought two more strings and put them on. Friday I took those off because I had bought LED and they didn’t look right with rest of tree. They also weren’t long enough so JB went out to buy two longer strings. The lights still weren’t going on right so Friday night I took most of the lights off. Saturday I put lights back on, with a new plan of taking them off after Christmas. JB’s worked with me on the top third that gave me the energy to finish with the light stringing.

It is beautiful. JB and I agree that it is the most beautiful tree we have had in many years. But it took me a week to put lights on the tree and it wasn’t a graceful process. I cried and cussed and was surly. I gave up several times, lost sleep over it, and felt very little joy during the process. Not the way I want to live – but it isn’t my normal way of living.

During this same week I designed and bought fabric for a darling quilt for my new two-year-old great-grandson. I am so excited about it, and thankful that Kaden is a part of my life and that I can bring joy to my grandson and his new wife. And what about the tree? Yes, I wasn’t at all graceful but I kept going back, I kept doing as much as I could, I persevered and changed my plan as needed, and I “got er done.”

Maybe I don’t need to always be graceful. Maybe I need to take on challenges and fight my way through even if it isn’t good for my body and spirit. If most of my life is lived with joy and thankfulness, I think I can forgive myself for those moments (or weeks) when I’m not feeling it so much.

Good-bye to the Sea

20150417-beach goodbye 037We went to the gulf beach last night to watch the sunset because we are leaving tomorrow for Michigan. I went to say good-bye until next fall. It wasn’t much of a sunset because of clouds on the horizon, but it was a perfect evening.

We are leaving a week earlier than I had planned because of the unusually warm spring. That is an understatement because the temperature has been in the high 80’s (Fahrenheit) with high humidity every day for the past month or so. I find these high temperatures as difficult as the winter cold up north, and I get tired of living under air. But the heat made for a perfect evening on the beach.20150417-beach goodbye 038

As we walked towards the beach I could feel the calm. There were less people as most of the tourists have left along with a lot of the seasonal renters – and everyone was moving to a slower, quieter beat. I could feel myself walking into the calm, every nerve in my body relaxing. The water was sheeting the shore, inviting me to walk in it’s shallows.

20150417-beach goodbye 024At 8:00 the temp was still 81, and the water temperature was 83. It is such a strange experience to feel warm water coming to shore from such depths. I spent a lifetime in the Great Lakes, and that water is always cold, unless it is colder. I don’t expect an ocean to be warm.

20150417-beach goodbye 027I didn’t want to focus on the intensity of a setting sun, and I didn’t want the distraction of being with people on the pier. This evening the gentle surface of the water is what fed my soul. It is moments like these that I am filled with awe and wonder of the world. It is moments like this that confirm my belief in a God who knows how to create great mysteries, mysteries I experience beyond my understanding in these calming walks at water’s edge in the still of a warm evening.

Now I am ready to move on to the great mysteries of the Great Lakes.

Nice & Easy Does It

MSU Bird Sanctuary 008-2

What a hoot watching ducks walk on ice. It seems like certain conditions call for adaptations from all of us. Even funnier was watching birds fly in for a landing on ice. All things considered, a graceful slide while remaining on his feet (although the tail does seem to be dragging).

MSU Bird Sanctuary 078-2 I am so thankful for the two times I have been able to get out with camera in hand and the companionship of friend Julie. When in Florida, I forget how hard the cold weather is on my body and the grey sky is on my morale. I know what I need to do to keep pain and fatigue at manageable levels but there are still times when I do everything right and still have a bad body day.

Yesterday was one of those days when my firm footing became precarious. I don’t know why – maybe just a change in atmospheric pressure. Every cell of my body hurt at some point and my attitude was shameful. I was irritable with a friend who called to invite us to supper later in the week: speak of biting the hand that feeds me. JB could see I was having trouble, even before I started crying. He tried to hold me but I wouldn’t let him because it hurt, both physically and emotionally. Usually bad body days aren’t accompanied by a bad attitude – I just use those days as rest days finding quiet things to do while sitting in my favorite chair.

This morning I woke up refreshed, body feeling relatively good, and my mind sharp and happy. I was active today, being sure to allow time for periodic rests. And I’ve decided to give myself an early Christmas present (besides the new CD player I ordered). I have decided that every day doesn’t have to be an isn’t-life-great day where I am joyful and thankful. In my heart I am full of joy and gratitude, but there are days when the ice is just too slippery and I fall on my tush. I refuse to be grateful for my really bad body days. I’m going to grumble a lot and do what I need to do to make the next day better.

That decision feels really good – and everyone else is just going to have to deal with it. That is what I do best – just dealing with it. And on this good day I’m sending all of you peace, love, joy, and lots of hugs. And maybe there is a special gift you need to give yourself.

Beauty Thru my Lens: Chapel Doors

Owen Sound 004

We went back to the cemetery today, where yesterday we were told we were lost. Today we had an all day rain, and we were beginning to get cabin fever. On JB’s agenda was visiting family graves. When I saw these doors on a small chapel that is no longer used, my heart skipped a beat. They are among the most beautiful doors I have ever seen.

Think of all the tears that were shed on this threshold. Were there evil thoughts about the deceased or plots devised against other heirs? How many hearts were heavy with regret? Or maybe there were a few who rejoiced – like the family of my friend’s mother-in-law when she died. They said it was the nicest thing she ever did for anyone. She must have been one mean person.

I wonder if people who don’t care what people think of them when they are alive, care after they have died. Of course that only applies if we believe the spirit lives on after the body has stopped working. I don’t know what happens after death, because there isn’t much scientific data on spirits, but it seems to give my life more meaning if I believe some form of me will continue. I also like to think the spirit of the people I have loved are waiting to greet me. Do you think believing that our spirit lives on provides a moral compass for our daily interactions with people?

There is so much we don’t know, and that makes life so exciting.