Monday, August 11, 2008

stopping (literally) to smell the roses

i lead a pretty busy life. most people with my disease cannot walk for long distances, can rarely work by the time they are my age, and spend much of their time in unremitting pain.

i hike regularly, work when i feel like it, and have relief from my pain for many hours at a time, sometimes stretching into days.

today i wandered the little shops and coffee and tea houses of the gold mining town, nevada city. they are quite delightful. a friend of a friend, when he was visiting the bay area described to me his need for finding "root locations," places you feel at home to be yourself in a strange place or a new place. i realized that i've done this all my life. whenever i travel, i always seek out some place, whether it's my hotel bed, or a lovely garden or a pleasant cafe, where i feel "at ease." at one with myself and the universe. not hurried, not worried.

i have a favorite coffee shop which i frequent each time i visit here. they have wifi and i can work from there and drink my favorite fair trade, organic brew. the sandwiches are superb, all locally grown food, free range meats, with bread from area bakeries.

they have a little library book shop and locals hang out there. i eavesdrop on the gossip and the personal sharing of their conversations. the people here are more evolved than in the south. i enjoy the topics they discuss. the men aren't afraid to hug and express deep pleasure at seeing one another and to talk about "risk taking" with jobs and relationships and projects. i listened to a local water board activist talk with a partner about her strategies. now to look at her, you'd assume (if you're from the south, like me) that she was somewhat of a dropout. she took no care over her personal appearance; she looked like she just rolled over, threw on a tie dyed batik housedress and walked outside to greet the day. yet, obviously, she was a mover and shaker of this small community; she was discussing her agenda for lobbying sacramento legislators about pollution of local waterways and various other aspects of local progressive politics.

i love that! i love that women out here don't have to conform to society's norms of incessant personal grooming. women in the south are so damn high maintenance. they've been taught to hate their bodies and fight aging.

but the women in norcal seem comfortable in their skin.

i took my kids to the farmer's market on saturday and gave them 10 each to spend. i told them about my new ritual of going to farmer's markets each week and cooking from locally grown foods.

i watched the locals browsing and playing music and selling vegetables and fruits, catching up with each other during their weekly visit. the women wore natural fibers, cotton, linen, bamboo; little makeup, and their hair looked very like the goddess intended, not dyed, straightened or permed. it made me happy.

saturday afternoon, we drove over to lake tahoe, about an hour and a half from here.

it was so beautiful. i got to watch my kids just being themselves and that gave me such joy. i adore my children and find them endlessly fascinating. they stretched out on the sand, in the sun, and lay back reading their favorite books. like myself and my mother, they always bring books wherever we go. our family is never without good reading material!

the night before we had watched the opening ceremony of the olympics. this is a family tradition for us.

my son is a little ocd, like this mom and dad, but it's really cute! before we arrived in gold country, he had researched where we were vacationing, which cable company is used here, and what time and channel the ceremony would be on based on that data. he was determined not to miss it. we laughed at him and teased him and he said, mom when i want to watch a show, i make it happen. i stayed up till 2 am and watched all the games in the world series (during his junior year abroad at oxford). there's no way i'm missing the olympics on tv!"

my oldest daughter is into track and field, and is a sprinter for her college team. it was fun to listen to her take on the athletes in the olympics. to hear her rooting for someone by name whom i'd never heard of. it makes me so happy! title 19 really worked! there were no team sports for young girls when i was young. the landmark case of the girl who fought to be allowed to play in the little league shocked and horrified our southern mothers. and in high school, the girls sports were underfunded dramatically (and underattended and underreported!) compared to the boys.

she showed me her power point presentation of argentina, where she will be studying in the fall. i'm so proud of her and so happy for her opportunities. i feel so grateful that my kids have access to a wonderful education. their grandparents were the first generation to attend college in their families. neither of my parents finished.

to think that my kids get to go to grad school and study abroad just blows my mind. i feel so utterly grateful.

it gave me great joy to just sit by my daughter and soak in her enthusiastic, buoyant energy. she reminds me so much of myself when i was her age, all bouncy and effervescent.

i just soak it in, the sound of her voice, the feel of her little arms next to mine. she brought her stuffed animal, curious george, even though she's in college. that really touched me. she kept posing him doing funny things and then taking pictures. she talked to him and about him, and posted her pics of him on her facebook. she posed him "catching up on brangelina" reading people magazine on the back porch in the sun on a white rattan chair. that just cracked me up.

she takes him everywhere and poses him; he's been to russia, sweden, england, france, malibu. and now norcal!

she hugged me so big when we were at lake tahoe. she said, "mom i'm so glad you brought us here; this is the BEST vacation! it's so beautiful. when i get older, i'm going to live here and i'll say it was because of YOU! you are so great, mom!" i couldn't believe my ears. she kept saying she really wanted to live in california.

i'm just happy as a clam that both my daughters are attending college in CA and both of them got the heck out of TX as soon as they graduated high school. my youngest daughter, who's still boycotting me for speaking out about the domestic violence of her father, didn't come on vacation with us and that about broke my heart. but come fall, she will be here in cali, even though it's southern cali and far from me and i'll see her about the same amount (very little), it's still a hell of a long way, mentally and physically from texASS! (rhymes with "sucks ass.")

yesterday, my son drove my oldest daughter back to the airport; i only had her for a very brief 48 hours. but it was so precious to me. he searched at 8 places for the NY Times on the way home. (his sunday tradition is reading that with a cup of earl grey tea. he has loved newspaper reading since he was a little boy and published his own newspaper when he was 8. he couldn't sell any copies - it was news of what happened in our neighborhood, with headlines like "bobby fell skateboarding but he still beat jeffrey from down the street." he moved on to publishing comic books with a fellow collaborator and they sold them to their school friends. that was a success, 25 cents for each edition. he wrote the copy and his friend and he took turns doing the illustrations.)

so when he got home, we sat out on the porch swing and rocked back and forth, drinking tea and reading the times. when we found something amusing, we'd read it to each other.

there was a wedding going on in the common house of the cohousing community where i'm housesitting. and the string quartet was playing so the beautiful music wafted down to us as we rocked in the shade.

it was about as good a way to spend a sunday afternoon as i know.

this morning we got up early (9 am is early for me to be up and out; i am sooooo not a morning person.) and hiked the south yuba river trail. it was hot even that early, but we were headed to the swimming hole at the end where the snow melt rapids cool you off immediately. it was such a pleasure to watch him hiking in front of me. i felt such a surge of love and pride for my one and only son.

my kids have always seemed to be allergic to nature and nature deprived with their urban upbringing, always preferring to be on the computer than to be outside. this had saddened and concerned me since i grew up spending hours in the woods, camping, building fires with my dad, hiking waterfalls, shooting cans in the forest, and learning archery in the meadows.

but my son studied in the french alps this summer as part of his grad studies at oxford. oxford keeps a little cabin up there and regularly sends young people (with a couple of professors) toting their water bottles and flashlights (there's no electricity.) they read for a day and discuss what they read in small groups. then the next day, they pack a lunch and take off for an 8 hour hike.

it pleased me no end that this child of mine (whom i used to have to bribe to get to walk a short jaunt around my favorite lake!!!!!) is now buying hiking maps and wanting to explore the mountain wilderness.

i feel at peace and utterly blessed.

i still miss my baby girl who didn't come. i still feel deep anger and resentment about my ex's control over my kids bodies and minds and spirits. i still worry over money. i still suffer from depression and anxiety sometimes.

but it's not as intense. i can recognize it and face it head on. i can give my monkey mind a banana and take it for a stroll in the sunshine.

i can be at rest, mentally and physically and emotionally. i can more frequently, just BE in the now.

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