Monthly Archives: February 2012

Noticing

Today we had a smaller adventure than the Winslow trip, but no less fun.

Just got in the car and headed towards the mountains. One of the fantastic parts of living in New Mexico is how much the land changes from season to season and with every elevation shift.

Going down a road we’ve traveled umpteen times, there was an unexpected splash of color off to the right.

We went back to look for it and on the banks of a stream stood a strip of bright yellow bare branched trees.

It can take a while to get used to the colors here. At first, you pretty much only see the brown. And then the dark greens of the pinon, scrub oak and juniper.

We have softer colors in the high desert as well. Delicate shades of green, sage and chamisa bushes, dotted with yellow flowers in the summer.

Fiery gold cottonwoods in the fall. Swaths of maroon from red twig dogwood in the winter.

And now this unexpected lemon, bare branches of some unknown tree stark against the blue sky.

Zipping along, it would have been so easy to miss it. And the little church a tiny bit up the road. And the rushing water in the stream that even looked cold.

I’m so glad we stopped, looked around.

And I wonder what else I’m not noticing, what bright colored clues I’m zipping by.

Slowing down, taking notice, being open to adventure.

 

The Importance of Crayons and Hula Hoops

I’m usually running in far too many directions. I work part time at the local uni, work probably more than part time on freelance web design, always have a book at some stage or another, and spend a terrifying amount of time with the animal rescue in the area.

 

So my usual reaction to the idea that I need to take some time for me, that I need to slow down, is to clutch my list and wave it about like a madwoman.

 

“Have you seen this?  There are 47 things I need to do by 2pm today.  How can I slow down??”

 

But I’ve learned a couple things about me in the last few years.

 

If I don’t take that time for me, if I don’t slow down, I crash. I’ll end up with some sort of lingering sickness. Nothing major, nothing that forces me to rest. Just an ongoing sense of achyness and coughing.

 

I’ll get more migraines. I’ve gotten pretty good at avoiding other triggers, so a series of migraines is usually an easy test right there to see if there’s too much going on.

 

I start resenting people. All these people wanting things from me. And they’re keeping me from writing, or thinking, or whatevering. Even if they’re people I like, doing work I believe in.  When it starts to be something I’m grumbly about, that’s a clue right there.

 

If the house gets to a certain stage of being ignored, the disorder presses on me. I feel like there’s no place to work, to see all the pieces of whatever the day’s puzzle is.

 

And worst of all, things don’t really get done from my list.  They sit there, and glare at me, and I feel worse and worse about the whole thing every day.

 

Really, we’re all much happier if I just stop and take some breaks. I’m pretty darn fond of my oil pastels that are shaped like crayons. And even though I’m terrible with my hula hoop, I can now at least get through one song without crashing it. (although the dogs and cats are still a little nervous when it comes out.) Take an extra five minutes in the kitchen while the water is getting to a boil.

 

I still don’t really think I have time for breaks. But I know that my hips hurt if I sit too long, and my arm aches if I type too long. So I can tell myself its for the best, it makes me more productive if I do a silly dance for a minute, or lay still for just 10 minutes on the little yoga ball things, or just my mind be quiet.

 

And it works. The list gets smaller. I don’t waste time or energy getting upset with stuff – I just get it done. I feel better, and I’d bet I’m more pleasant to be around.

 

And best of all, I’m in better shape to say yes to something fun. To be ready to jump in the car and visit some little town down the road that a co-worker says has the best tortillas. Or bake a new recipe. Or whatever the adventure might be.

 

Comments: I’m experimenting with how to bring more adventure into my everyday life. I’d love to hear what’s working, or not working, for you in your own quest.

 

Adventure Waiting Outside My Front Door

When I moved here, it was hard not to notice all the cats in the neighborhood. I’m used to indoor cats, and seeing so many wandering the streets, lounging by sheds or playing in the grass was a bit of a shock. It didn’t take long to realize these weren’t anyone’s pets out for the day – they were all feral.

The ones in our area ate from a metal stewpot across the street filled by an elderly lady. I peeked in once day and saw leftover pinto beans and white bread.

  1. Cats do not eat pinto beans.
  2. Little old ladies should keep their leftovers for themselves.

The next day I went over and introduced myself and told her how much I missed my own cats. Would she mind if I helped take care of these? (At least, I hope that’s what I said, and what she understood. Her English is better than my Spanish, and she nodded a lot, but I’m not entirely sure we connected.) The result was that I started feeding them too. First in the metal pot by the shed, then on our porch.

Once I started feeding them it was easier to study them, learn about them as individual cats. Bond would spy on us from the edge of the porch, then eventually came up for pets. Bitsy seems to be always glaring but we realized that was just the shape of her eyes.

And then there were the kittens. We should have thought of it sooner, but we just didn’t. Four roly-poly balls emerged from under the rundown trailer our cats nest in. Two of the four we only saw a few times before they disappeared.

The other two came and played on our porch, rolling and fighting and chasing moths. We plotted about how to trap and socialize them.

They were both killed, probably by stray dogs, in the course of a month. We buried them, cried a lot, and kept trying to care for the rest of the colony.

We found a spay and neuter mobile van that comes to our area when the local rescue group can afford it.  We borrowed traps and caught three of the colony in one night. Glaring Bitsy, as well as a big cream and white bruiser of a tom we named James, and one tiny black kitten.

We’d glimpsed the kitten before, never sure if it was one of the missing siblings of the two who had been killed. This one would come to the porch for food, but scamper back across the street the instant the door started to open. We stopped trying to approach for fear of him running into traffic.

 

None of the three were happy about the trapping and certainly not about their day at the doctor’s. Then snow came and we had to keep them all an extra day or so after surgery. And the little black kitten started to purr at us, and I pleaded with Sean (who’s terribly allergic) that we should keep the kitten and try to socialize him.

And so we did. (The socialization has been mostly successful. Most days.)

And later, after other rounds of trapping, some successes (Bitsy is now at a cat ranch, Moriarty has found a home) and some heart break (Bond disappeared one day and never returned), James decided to be an indoor cat as well, and has finally won Sean completely to the feline cause.

 

James naps quite a bit these days.

 

The colony seems to stay at around 10 members. We keep trapping them for neuter and feeing them, and some days think one or another might be able to be socialized.They give me great joy to watch. And they break my heart every time one is sick or injured and I can’t do anything because they just won’t get in the trap.

But because of them over one-hundred other cats and kittens have found homes. We started volunteering at the clinic for spay/neuter, got involved with the non-profit that sponsors it. Then started a push for local cat adoptions and transfers to other cities that don’t have quite the overpopulation problem we do.

This has been an odd kind of adventure. Along the way we’ve met great people, fostered silly puppies, and felt like we’re actually doing something.

It’s been one of the hardest, and best, things I’ve done in my life. And it all came from just looking out the front door.

 

 

The Power of Presence

I’ve been experimenting with the power of presence.

I have the really terrible habit of always, always, thinking ahead. Making plans.

I justify it by telling myself that I’m being efficient, that I’m multitasking.

But really, I’m letting one project bleed into the time for another. I’m not giving my ful attention to the task at hand. Or even just walking to work. I think about what’s coming up, what’s on my plate for the day.

Which would be fine if that’s where I stopped. If I did a quick review to make sure I’m not missing anything, or forgetting a meeting.  But I don’t stop there. I let my mind drift into fantasy realms – worry about a future that may never be, or reliving things in the past.

And this habit robs me of the present moment. And then I’m at work, and I couldn’t tell you what the day had been like, or if there had been blooms on the trees.

 

We ran away this last weekend to Winslow, Arizona. There’s really not a lot to do there.

Really.

So I soaked and read old magazines and we played terrible educational board games from the 1960s. (A rousing round of Landmarks of the USA, anyone?) We took walks down the railway tracks and through the surrounding neighborhood, and came back and looked at the hotel gardens and raced each other in the hay bale maze.

And we made and effort not to make plans, or talk too much about work (it always comes up a little bit, since we work at the same place) or get trapped in the future or the past. Just to be where and when we were.

And it was so very liberating.

Even with all my planning and worrying, things seldom work out the way I expect them to.

I’m not at all saying that I’m going to stop planning ahead, and being prepared, but to spend a certain amount of time on that, as a project. And then stop it. Not to let that take over all the empty spaces of my day, to let planning be my default mode.

If I allow the habit of letting my mind wander, then it’s that much harder for me to focus on something I want to focus on.

Or to keep my mind from ruminating on a worry that I’d rather put aside.

So, a new present for me – the present. At least, that’s the plan.

 

Comments: I’m experimenting with how to bring more adventure into my everyday life. I’d love to hear what’s working, or not working, for you in your own quest.

 

 

 

Snowlace trees

The sky is blue and clear, but last night’s snow has surrounded our year with lace covered trees.  One side of our yard backs against a river walk. Sometimes the noise can be a little much, but most of the commotion is from our dogs informing passersby that the house is well defended.

But then there are mornings like this, when it doesn’t really feel like we’re in town at all, just trees and quiet. Even the dogs just snuffle.  And its a pretty good start to the day.

Bright Stripey Armor

It’s a grey winter day, but I’ve got armor on. Bright blue and green stripey armor in fact, patches of color blurring from one into the next. I’ve never been much of a scarf person, but rummaging through a drawer of bright silk in the morning has become a bit of a ritual this winter, an antidote of sort to the leeched out landscape.

In the holiday dance so many couples perform, Sean and I visit my mom in North Carolina, then back to Albuquerque to see his folks.

During the week we’re there, mom and I usually have a project to do – rearranging her desk, or sorting out the contents of an old cabinet.   We enjoy organizing and making lists, but this year I decided we should try something different.

“Some packages are headed your way,” I warned her in one of our pre-trip emails. “A different sort of project day.”

In mom’s kitchen we unpacked the boxes – piles of silk and jars of dye.  And for two days we dipped and twisted and cooked them in the microwave and melted plastic bags and laughed ourselves silly.

And this is what we ended up with – flags of brightness against the sky.

 

Time: Feeding, Consuming and Eating Time Sandwiches, with a side of Adventure

How do you make time for this? How do you have time to make things, to write stories, to visit places even nearby, to learn music?

This is a conversation into something that comes up for a lot of people who want to live a life of adventure. It certainly does for us. There’s just never enough time.

And it makes me think of two different questions that at first seem contradictory, but on closer examination, fit pretty well together.

 

First check-in question: Am I consuming, or am I creating?

I catch myself with this all the time. I go to research something online, check a fact, look for story ideas, check for a client email. And thirty minutes and who knows how many blog posts later, I’m completely zoned out.

But I think that has to work with a question the fabulous Holly Lisle posed in one of her courses, which is the second check in question:

Are you feeding it, or is it feeding you?

I need to read. Really, flat out, I need to read fiction. If I don’t get time to curl up with a book on a regular basis, I can feel my stress rising and so can everyone else around me.

Reading feeds me. It’s worth spending the time on that.

Poking mindlessly through blog posts?  I’m probably feeding it. (no, I don’t know what “it” is – but while sometimes I may find interesting stuff out there, or something that makes me think, I’d bet 90% of that time my brain is on idle)

Watching Stewart or Colbert together, and talking about current events? That feeds us.

Watching almost anything else… we’re feeding it.

And sure, we need down time. Everyone I know runs too fast, too hard, has to-do lists that are frightening to look at.

But Sean and I have both noticed when we decide that we need an entire day to be slugs, just totally brain dead couch potatoes, by the end of the day we don’t really feel any more rested.

If we take that time to have an adventure, even if its just taking the time to play music, or get a little writing done, the creating recharges the batteries.

I need to remind myself as I move through the day to ask the questions. What feeds me? What am I feeding? Am I creating or consuming?  And are the answers what I want?

No, we don’t have children. Or parents who live with us, or anything along those lines. And every person and every situation is different. Instead we spend a fairly huge chunck of our week working with animal rescue. This is what works for us.

 

Commenting note:

Be kind. We all create our adventures in our own ways. I’d love to know what works for you.

 

We talk about a lot of things here…

Being gentle with ourselves, and the importance of small adjustments towards alignment.

Experiments in happiness and what does adventure mean, anyway?

What can happen when you say "Yes" and what might be waiting outside your front door.

And of course, why pretending to be a pterodactyl is good business.

 

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