Friday, September 27, 2013

Sky Moods

We crested the top of the pass and I gasped. The moon shone bright above the peak of a mountain. It was a big, full moon. A harvest moon. I asked my son to slow the car. I rolled down the window and leaned out with my camera in hand, trying to capture the scene.  I snapped a couple pictures, unsatisfied with the results.

“You like sky pictures, don’t you?” my daughter’s friend asked me from the back seat. We were on our way home from a softball game.

“Why do you think that?” I asked.

“You posted a moon picture last night on Facebook.”

“Oh. Yeah I guess I did.”

Truth is, I love the sky. Sometimes I go out on a clear night and just stare into the dark vastness. We live in the mountains and have almost no light pollution. I can see satellites gliding across the black velvet backdrop like a sailing speck of glitter. 

I relish the day sky too. I love how the clouds are like a face displaying moods. Sometimes, like me, there is a mixture, refusing to be confined to just one. Dark and angry clouds coexist with blue skies and only shadows and hints of emotions, like a pout or furrowed brow. 

With shifting hues and lights, prisms of color, it is always changing. The sky is constant, but it never rests in the same image. It is dotted with puffs of morphing cotton, or teeming with stormy potential, or even so blue it almost looks fake, like a drawing by a school child who chooses "sky blue" for her picture. In the evening, sunsets of orange and red show off with a flaming grand finale. Some mornings dazzle with purples and pinks, an early dawn greeting and sneak preview performance for those who rise with the sun. 

This is what I feel in my heart and soul. I too am changing, restless, passing moods like the intangible shades and shapes of the sky.

The sky reflects back to us what we see in ourselves. Sometimes we are flashy and bright. Other times we broil with dark, obscuring clouds, angry, sad, desolate, lonely, analytical, dramatic. Still other times our countenance is calm, peaceful, content, resting.

There are times we glow in beautiful colors, showing off  rainbows of playfulness, potential and promise.  

I believe there is always a light within us—whether the sun of the day or the moon at night. 

All these beautiful passing flavors of the omnipresent heavens remind me of our steadfastness, despite the feelings that flicker and pass. Like the firmament, we too are created to reflect and show off depths and subtleties, shimmering and roiling, moods caught on a breeze. 

The sky's beauty is the Artist's playground and shows us we too are a beautiful canvas, splashed with paint, a product of continuous creativity. 

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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

An Ankle Biter Among Us

A tough face to resist. 
I caved. For several weeks now, my son has been hinting, nay, downright asking for a puppy. He has been going through some medical stuff that’s pretty tough, and although I was resistant at first, I had to admit that a little critter to care for and love just might be the perfect distraction and therapy for what he is enduring.

I saw an ad in a local paper for little puppies, ¾ German Shepherd, ¼ Great Pyrenees, 100% huge. My son had mentioned he liked German Shepherds, so with some trepidation I placed the call and left a message. “Hi, I’m calling about the puppies you are selling, wondering if you have any left. Thanks.” 

Phew. No response. For fifteen minutes. Then I got a call back from a very nice young gal, “Oh, I’m so sorry! We just sold the last one this past weekend.”  

“No, it’s fine,” I said, secretly relieved to have that decision delayed. I then told her why I was looking for a puppy. That’s where I might have committed the Big Cosmic Mistake. Immediately, she told me how she had M.S. and how very good this breed of dog would be for my son. She then told me she had her doubts about the couple who took the last puppy. Apparently they had really debated about the decision and weren’t sure their landlord would agree to it. In short, I could tell, after hearing our situation, she was determined my son should have a puppy.

Sure enough, three days later, we received a call, “Good news!”

Maybe. Depends on your perspective.

Mr. Blue, aka Dog-Dog, has had a difficult adjustment. Puppy is a bit of an ankle biter and very rambunctious. We anticipated it would take a couple of weeks for the two to grow accustomed to each other.

But what really has surprised me was how much of a curmudgeon I am being about this new puppy in the house. Me! A self-proclaimed dog lover!

Blue and Puppy meet

I remember my mom once saying, “There’s a reason you are young when you have kids. They take a lot of energy!” 

I think the same can be said for puppies. Dog-Dog and I are used to our routines. We get up early, very early. He gets fed then goes back to sleep; I sip coffee and enjoy a couple hours of quiet time before the house gets up. Or at least that’s how it used to be. Now we get up early and puppy wants up too. And he does not go back to sleep. He chews slippers, drags shoes out to gnaw, bites at Dog-Dog and generally wreaks all kinds of disruptive havoc on my quiet morning.

Having a puppy requires a lot of vigilant attention. He is still being house trained and likes to chew. Catching him mid-piddle requires alertness and quick reflexes. My quiet mornings of writing are shot. Finally, this morning, I snapped. Puppy had a rawhide, Dog-Dog felt it should be his, after all he is the senior dog in this-here house, and much snarling and yipping ensued. In a fit of impatience, I yanked the offending bone out of the puppy’s mouth, scolded Mr. Blue, and perhaps threw around a few cuss words. My son apologized and got his puppy. I muttered, grabbed my running shoes and the leash, and Dog and I went on a much-needed quiet jog.

For the first mile and a half, I grumbled.

By the time I turned around to head back home, I had relaxed (well OK was winded and panting). I reminded myself why we had got the puppy in the first place. Both Dog and I would adjust to the new little critter and could handle the temporary disruption in our routine. I took a larger picture perspective and let the need to control and defend my time and routine go. By the time I walked through the front door, I was even looking forward to seeing the little furball and giving his nose a kiss.

The puppy has been a good reminder to me about how easily I can let the “I” in my agenda very quickly take over. He’s been a good lesson in letting go and enjoying a little playfulness.

I’m not sure Dog-Dog agrees with me yet. The verdict on the little whipper-snapper is still out, pending the biting and general mayhem and disruption to his turf. 

This is when Blue and I like Puppy best. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Soul Salamanders

Salamanders. That’s the sign, apparently.

The other day a friend of mine posted on Facebook that she had seen a higher number of salamanders than in years past. Specifically, she asked what people knew about “water mud dogs” and predicting the weather. This, of course, caught my attention. I’d never heard of a “water mud dog”. Fortunately, she clarified they weren't dogs at all but rather salamanders. I didn’t realize that their appearance was associated with weather patterns. Actually, I didn’t realize we had salamanders at all where we live.

Sure enough, a follow-up comment she received echoed her prediction. “They were so thick in the summer of ’07 we couldn’t open our door.” I cringed. That's nasty.

Turns out the winter of 07-08 was legendary for the amount of snow fall we received. It was so harsh the Colorado Division of Wildlife ended up dropping food for elk and deer to help them survive the winter. Even with those efforts large amounts died, unable to forage for their food beneath the huge layer of snow.

Another commenter asked if anyone else had noticed the high amount of mosquitoes towards the end of summer. They were, the responder pointed out, conspicuously absent during the early months. Surely this was yet another sign pointing towards a long winter with piles of snow.

Even the Farmer’s Almanac is predicting a snowy winter this year. But they don’t rely on just any ol’ signs, but depend on a carefully guarded secret formula, locked in a calculator, known only by one mystery person. The formula involves things like sunspots, moon phases and tidal action. 

In spring, as the winter thaws, locals point to the nearby mountain tops with their layers of snow, predicting the winds by the amount of white stuff still on the peaks. The more snow, the windier it will be. The afternoon winds die down when the snow melts, so they say. There might be some kind of scientific validity to this prediction, I'm not sure. 

I’m a big believer in signs or at least I like to think they really do exist. Sometimes, when I’m struggling with a big decision or problem, I like to treat the common objects in life like my own personal Magic 8 Ball. Like, for example, three years ago when I was struggling to make a decision about quitting my full-time career. I used to put all kinds of, what church folks call "fleece", before God. "Now God, I really want to do the right thing. If you are all right with my quitting, show me a sign. Like," I paused and looked around. "How about that traffic light turns red just as I come up to it."

Of course it stayed green. I'm pretty sure signs don't work that way.

I like to ask for falling star signs too, one streaking flash in a great, big sky dotted with sparkling and shimmering lights--  just for me. I rarely get that one either. I know. I know. The cosmos isn't a crystal ball at my command.

Mostly I think signs are more subtle, kind of like turning lights on a car, just giving us a slight hint that there's going to be a change in direction, maybe a closed door where we sought an opportunity or an open door that leads to an experience we didn't anticipate. Or maybe a flash of an idea or inspiration when we least expect it. Still, sometimes I long for something flashy, obvious and directive.

I think what I really want are a few soul salamanders.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Image-Shopping at A Bargain

There is a distinct smell as I open the door of the shop. It’s a little off-putting to be honest. It smells like humanity and maybe old shoes. But inside the thrift shop is fantasy world, all for me to try on, at rock-bottom prices. 

Today I’m here to seek out a new outfit. Since giving up my paying career and taking on this writing gig, I’ve put myself under a strict clothing budget. Besides, for what I do, the same three pairs of capris I own and four varieties of tank tops in my drawer are really just fine.

I finger through the rack of shirts, arranged by color. Do I feel red today? No, maybe blue. My kids roll their eyes at my bland blue, tan and black wardrobe. I should look for something flashier. 

I pull out a rust-colored bohemian peasant top with colorful stitching along the neckline. I try to picture who originally owned it. Was she a hippy type? I imagine the college kids who hang out in our town. I always admire their carefree look and wish I could pull it off. I try to see myself wearing it, my hair down and mildly unkept, schlepping along in moccasins...that just might be too much, too soon. I hang it back up. 

At the end of the first aisle are the dresses. There are all kinds of styles: blacks and lavenders, a champagne colored dress and one that is emerald green. I’d like a new dress. 

One is covered in shimmery sequins that twinkle in the florescent lighting. I wonder why it was first bought and by who? I imagine a special cocktail party, exotic, the kind I never go to. The wearer has perfectly coiffed hair and her makeup is impeccable. She is elegant and working the room, holding her cocktail, laughing with her head slightly tossed back. She is flirting with a Don Draper type. I try to imagine myself dressed up in this outfit, but then I think about the heels it would require and having to keep my stomach sucked in. I grimace and put it back.

I decide to be more sensible and check out the pants rack. There are a lot of small sizes. I’m pretty sure whoever fit into these miniature pants were people I distinctly wouldn’t like. They probably don’t eat much and are obsessed with working out. Those kind of people are never to be fully trusted. Better to look in my own size. No doubt the original owner of these pants are nice, approachable and friendly folks.

Tucked in the midst of dozens of faded jeans is a black pair of Patagonia pants. I double check the label and price. Patagonia is one of those brands that make a statement about the wearer: they are outdoorsy. People who wear Patagonia make a conscious effort to look casual. The person who owned these pants probably wore Tevas too. Not the knock-offs bought at an army surplus store with the souls peeling off, like I wear, but the real thing. Now this is a look I’d like to project: the casual mountain woman, outdoorsy, yet pulled together. 

I pull the pair of pants off the rack and head to the dressing room. Feeling adventurous, I grab the little rust-colored peasant shirt too. I’m already envisioning myself sporting a mountain, hippy mama style. People will look at me and admire how casual and carefree I appear.

I pull the little flimsy curtain closed, hoping no one comes in by mistake, and try on the pants. I pull them up but can’t, for the life of me, get them buttoned. These pants must not run true to size. I should be able to fit into this size. It is the pant’s fault. Then I slip--just so I can see the effect--the little stitched peasant top over my head. I reach up and tease my hair with my fingers so I can create that studied hippy look. I glance in the mirror, forming my lips into a slightly sexy pout.

I look like a pregnant woman with bed head. 

This is not a good look for a 49-year-old woman. Then, because I need to feel better, I try buttoning the pants again, because they really should fit. But they will not quite snap over my tummy. Stupid pants.

I leave that day without purchasing anything, but there will be another time. I’ll be back and maybe this time I’ll dare myself to buy something exotic. Maybe I’ll find a pair of jeans with cool stitching that make me look ten years younger or a tunic top that says I’m a together woman comfortable with her age. Or maybe I’ll pick up a new sweater with swinging bell sleeves. After all, the weather is starting to change. Maybe I will too.