Archives for category: Parables

What’s lighting your path? What are you using for a map? What processes and values guide your steps? Where are you going? Does this path even take you there… ever? If you make some very different decision, will you find yourself somewhere very different than you expected to be?

If you get to the donut shop late, you have less selection from which to choose. (It’s a metaphor.)

It is a pleasant Thursday morning. I slept in. Took my camera out on the trail and enjoyed the sunrise over the marsh out at the Tualatin River Nature Reserve. It was a lovely quiet morning, and not much going on. The day had already started to feel like it would be a hot one, by the time I headed home.

I am “not waiting” to hear back about a job interview that went (I think) very well. It’s hard to maintain my chill factor and stay focused on other things; the wait is what it is, and obsessing over it doesn’t help or speed things up.

The future is filled with unknowns. This moment, now, is filled with the potential for joy. I have choices.

I breathe, exhale, relax – and have another sip of this excellent cup of coffee. My Traveling Partner has some big shop projects going. I am helpful when I can be, otherwise I focus on not being in the way. LOL It’s a nice time to enjoy us, together. The days linger gently. We share moments, often, that might ordinarily be overcome by the demands of work and employment. I savor the time as it is. It’s likely to be all too brief. 🙂

My partner is merry and encouraging as I do the job search things. It’s nice. I feel loved and supported. I feel appreciated. I can’t say enough about how much it really does matter to have this kind of support while I look for a new job! I hope I am clear with him about how much I appreciate and value it, when we’re discussing the progress together. 🙂 I smile, feeling loved, and remind myself to also be one of the people loving me so well. That matters too.

It’s a good day to run some errands and get some things done around the house. It’s already time to start preparing the garden for winter crops and general cleaning up before the rains come again. It’s a good day to take a look around and improve my quality of life (and sanity) by tidying some things up… this studio is a bit of a mess (again) and could use my attention. I feel hopeful – and purposeful. The path ahead “feels paved” and illuminated, and it’s a good time to begin again.

Sometimes it feels deceptively easy to “see where I’m going” – it’s still a journey with no map. 🙂

However smooth life’s path may seem, there are going to be some painful moments, challenges, unexpected detours… you know, “potholes in the road”. Just saying, even when life is purely delightful, don’t expect universally sunny days and smooth sailing (do expect mixed metaphors – at least here! lol).

The dinner planned for yesterday came together nicely. My Traveling Partner and I worked on it together; we had to.

I am learning how much I rely on my left hand. LOL

I was at the end stages of preparing dinner. Sauce cooking down, house filled with the delicious aroma. Cheese was grated and set aside, ready and waiting. Pasta weighed out for two servings, ready to cook once the sauce was nearer to being done. Garlic butter was all whipped up and ready to be spread on the bread that would become garlic toast. Good time to slice that batard and spread both halves with the garlic butter, I thought…may as well have it ready. I explicitly cautioned myself to use care; sharp knife.

With great care, I cut myself rather badly across my forefinger and middle finger. Shit. Totally my foolishness, too. I made an explicit point of taking note of the fucking risk then stupidly still cradled the batard of bread in my fucking hand to cut it. For real? Fucking hell, just take away my license to adult, right now. lol

Two cuts. One fairly minor, the other quite deep and too damned close to the finger joint to brush it off as “nothing really”. My Traveling Partner was concerned it may need stitching (or worse). Both were bleeding quite a lot. Urgent care is very nearby, so we agreed I would keep pressure on them, keep my hand elevated, and drive the short (less than a mile) distance to the clinic, while he kept an eye on dinner – that sauce wasn’t going to stir itself!

Left hand more or less useless made turn signals hilariously awkward, but the drive was uneventful. “We’re so sorry! We don’t have a provider on site today, we’re just doing tele-medicine appointments today!”, the startled woman at the reception desk said as she eyed the blood oozing between my fingers where the wad of paper towels in my grip didn’t absorb it. “You can go to the other urgent care… or the ER…” she suggested. I carefully loosened my grip on the paper towels to check the bleeding. The smaller cut on my index finger had stopped bleeding, the other not so much. I got directions and made my way to the other urgent care… which was closed. Fuck. I call my partner, share the details, and look at the injury again. It had finally stopped bleeding… so… I went home. Didn’t seem like much of an emergency at that point… More of an anecdote.

I got home safely. Dinner was ready, and it was delicious. Before serving it up, my partner bandaged up my fingers and splinted them so I would not reopen those cuts by absentmindedly trying to use that hand. Dinner was delicious. Hilariously, I know I’ll look back on this fondly as a wonderful evening with a moment of misadventure… I mean, the dinner was that good, and a cut? Just a minor mishap. My partner is still teasing me good-naturedly about it; he had just done the same thing last month!

It was only this morning that I was confronted with numerous wee inconveniences resulting from impaired use of my left hand. lol Typing being one of those. There are lessons here. I hope I learn them. In the meantime, I’ll be asking for help with a few two-handed tasks… and beginning again.

Sick time activities tend on the easy low-effort side, for me, and I’ve spent quite a lot of time the last few days (between naps and hot showers) looking over pictures of previous camping trips to the same general location I’ll be going next. I noticed fairly quickly that “the numbers don’t add up” – the campsites are numbered, and I reliably snap a picture of the site I’ve selected, and note the number in my itinerary and various writings. I tend to favor sites that are the most distant from other campers, wherever I go. As I’ve said before; I go for the solitude. 🙂

Like, seriously, out among the trees, camped surrounded by dense tall nettles. Manufactured solitude. 😀

During the pandemic, I didn’t get much camping in. (Duh) There was that last trip in August 2019 – before the pandemic – and then “at long last” another in August 2021, when pandemic restrictions were beginning to lift (rather briefly, as I recall, before returning for some while…I hope I am remembering that correctly). That most recent trip was not down into the deeper, quieter, hike-in camping – that camp ground was closed for substantial repairs, and even the trail down into that area was closed. There had been some serious storms that took down trees, flooded trails, and caused a lot of damage (I read, but did not see for myself). When I went to book my upcoming trip, I noticed something odd… there was a particular site I was considering reserving… only… it didn’t exist on the map at all, now. Actually – there are two fewer sites than there had been, and two of those that were removed were among the four sites that were singularly “remote” (by a notable distance) from the others (and each other). One of these now-missing sites was one I greatly enjoyed. Change is. The other I hadn’t yet tried out, but found visually very pleasing, and had considered it more than once. These changes briefly tested my sanity; could I really be remembering things this incorrectly?? Could I be so wrong about where that site was??

This is no longer site #9. This is the past. Gone now.
This site is gone, too. I wonder what reminder of the past may linger there now?

Now there are just two sites in the hike-in campground that truly stand out as being quite a bit more distant from any other camp sites. One of those is a “walk-in only” and can’t be reserved at all (and is generally occupied any time I’ve gone there). The other? My personal favorite spot. The thing that I found amusing-confusing is that the numbering (of course) had to be updated to “make sense” on the ground for folks seeking their reserved site… and now, the carefully recording numbering of prior visits that I see in my notes and pictures makes no sense; it doesn’t match the map as it exists now. My preferred site was #23, which “no longer exists” but strictly speaking it’s right there on the map – just bearing a different number. So many lovely visits to #23… only… now it’ll be #21, and of course the one trip I had previously made to #21 would be better numbered, now, as #17. Sites #22 and #9, as they had existed, are simply gone now. There is no need for a #22 at all and #9 is attached to a different site altogether. Vexing. But… change is. These are certainly the sorts of changes that can screw with a person’s memories of the past, though. lol

Sometimes I get hung up on such details. What something is called now versus what it used to be named. Street names. Business locations. Changes in which streets are one-way. I sometimes struggle to reconcile what I recall with what I see in front of me. I don’t think that’s unique or unusual; I think we all deal with it because change is. Sorting out these photos and getting them organized by camping trip has been fun and I love the reminders of each one. The pictures take me back down trails as they once were, and each visit has its utterly unique and splendidly different moments… on the same trails. Different weather. Different light. Different flowers in bloom. New or old signs. Well-maintained or falling into disrepair. These small variations don’t reflect “poor memory for details” at all, they simply remind me that “change is”, and that this affects us all, with every experience. The map is not the world. The trail is not the hike. Each moment is an experience all its own.

Still the same favorite, but the number has changed. LOL It’ll be #21 on the new map. The map is not the world.

I’ve camped at this place in March. I found it a bit chilly (and definitely unpleasantly so at night). It was rainy. I find that I would rather wait for later weeks, generally, instead of camping in March. lol

I’ve camped here in May. May was also rainy, but the nights were pretty comfortable, and the thimbleberries along the trails were ripe. It’s a lovely time for wildflowers. The trails are sometimes muddy.

I’ve camped here in July. The summer heat often hasn’t really gotten going, and everything is lush and green, and the trails are dry and easy to walk.

I’ve camped here in August, several times. Comfortable nights, followed by cool mornings well-suited to long hikes. The afternoons are hot – good for napping after a hike. The birdsong, crickets, and peeping frogs make a delightful racket.

I’ve camped here in September a couple times, too. Chilly evenings develop from warm afternoons. Sometimes it has rained briefly, most often it has been dry. Creeks are at their lowest flow. Trails are dry, and so are the meadow grasses. A few wildflowers remain.

Funny thing… while it makes quite a bit of sense that I don’t typically camp earlier than March (don’t like being cold all the time)… looking over my photos, I am a little surprised to see that I have not camped later than mid-September, either. Why is that so odd? Well, the weather around this location is quite mild and suited to camping well into November before it begins getting properly chilly again. Not that it matters relative to most other things, I just found it peculiar, and find myself wondering if I should plan something for October this year? Catch the autumn in her glory, perhaps?

What I was getting to, though, is that each experience has been quite different for reasons other than camp site or season. That March trip? It was dreadful, and I cut it short. I was out there primarily doing a “gear check” for longer more remote trips into wilderness areas with only dispersed camping available, and no “conveniences” (like potable water and vault toilets). I utterly failed to be adequately prepared even for the chill of a pleasant March weekend. lol I forgot my coffee. (Nooooooo!) Seriously? I even forgot any sort of hot beverage, even tea or broth. Forgot my bee sting kit (omg, bees in March??). Couldn’t start a fire – just, for whatever reason, completely forgot how to make that happen on this whole other “do not go solo camping you nitwit” level. The ultra-light cot I had such high hopes for? Flimsy and would not support my weight. Fucking hell. After one overnight I was tired, stressed, and miserable. After two? I called my Traveling Partner to come get me. Embarrassing. I still get occasional teasing about that one. lol

Most of my camping trips are just excuses to hit trails I can’t easily reach on a weekend morning, and to get away for some “me time” and take pictures of flowers. They sort of blend together – until I see the pictures, and look back on each trip as its own thing. A singular experience. Each one of them is quite different, and by making a practice of savoring every pleasant moment at great length, my longer-term memory of all of them is of these wonderful experiences out among the trees – even that March trip.

How often do we taint our memories of the life we live by focusing on the shittiest moments with the whole of our attention, picking them apart, re-analyzing them, talking and writing about them at length, thinking of them often – while failing to do the same for all the pleasant ones? When I stopped doing that, and started putting more of my focus on the choice moments, joyful moments, a-ha moments, and wow moments instead, my experience of life over-all improved quite a lot. I recommend it. When I catch myself ruminating on some bullshit moment of chaos or unhappiness, I make a point to follow that with reflections on lovely moments. Legit. Real. Mine. Doing this has definitely changed my “implicit memory” of life and the world for the better. It’s a choice I make regularly. It’s been very effective as a strategy for ensuring that life feels worth living, every day. Figured I’d share that with you. 🙂 I hope you find it helpful.

…The tl;dr? Don’t get mired in your own bullshit. Reflect on your joys, your wins, what works, and what you love. Take time for that. Sip your coffee (or tea, or… you know, whatever you like) and focus on what delights you in your surroundings right now. I mean… I’m not telling you what to do, just sharing what has been working for me. 🙂 You’re walking your own path, of your own choosing. You can begin again.

Choose your path and walk it. Your results may vary.

I’m in a strange headspace this morning. It’s a long weekend. My anniversary with my Traveling Partner coming up. 11 years married. 🙂 Worth celebrating. Where would life have taken me if I had not taken this path? I don’t know, and never will know; it is the path I took, and the path I travel now. I’m okay with that.

The headlines in the news are pretty grim. Every day more terrible news about the war in Ukraine. Nearly as often some terrible family killing or murder-suicide or mass shooting or femicide or report of a child killing someone with a gun left too easily accessible is the story of the moment. If you’re reading the news in America, you’ve likely got a news feed filled with violence. It’s fairly shameful that this is who we are. (Oh sure, “not all Americans…”, but we vote, and we put the people in power who do nothing to make the changes we need to keep people safe and free. We each have a chance to do better.)

So, today I sip my coffee. I figure I’ll help out today by not killing anyone, by refraining from acts of violence against others, by embracing calm and contentment and making merry with my partner. I’ll treat passing strangers kindly and with courtesy. If I run an errand, I’ll drive gently and considerately, and I’ll refrain from flipping off stray asshats who drive like they own the fucking road and have nowhere to go other drivers. Choices. I’ll do better, myself. It’s a place to start.

The seedlings on my windowsill are doing well. Promising. New life. Fresh vegetables grown at home. 🙂 I’m excited to have “a real garden”, although admittedly I begin every gardening adventure with maximum enthusiasm and commitment and I acknowledge the variable outcomes. lol I think my own best previous gardens were the balcony garden I had in my first apartment with my Traveling Partner (herbs and roses, and later some wonderful tomatoes), and the garden I had in the garden at #59. That one was lovely – just steps away from my apartment, with water right there easily available. I grew tomatoes, carrots, and some salad greens, that I recall were delicious, but bolted quickly in the summer heat.

I rarely took pictures of my vegetable garden, and the few pictures I had were lost when #59 was burglarized (my laptop was stolen). So… here’s a squirrel visiting my container garden on the patio there.

I sip my coffee and think about my parent’s garden when I was growing up and still living at home. At the time, I felt like an involuntary laborer most weekends. The whole family would have breakfast, usually my Dad would cook. Then we’d all go out and work in the garden in the mid-morning, on weekend mornings. It was a lot of weeding, as I recall. As kids we didn’t do much of the heavy work, or planning. I had my own 4″x4″ square plot to call my own, too. I rather foolishly planted it in Jerusalem artichokes, which thrived beyond my wildest expectations, filling the bed and coming back year after year. lol Why was that a problem? No one in my family ate them. LOL There’s something to be learned there.

…There’s almost always something to be learned…

My Traveling Partner is making me a raised bed for our front yard. I’ve planned it modestly – a manageable size that I can count on myself to take care of. I’ve outlined an “L” shape that will “nest” within the edges of the flower beds, and give about a 30 inch (about 72 centimeters) walkway between the flower beds and the raised bed. I’m excited about it! It’s a very sunny spot, well-suited to growing food. The grow bags in the back are excellent for cooler weather vegetables and things that like a bit of shade during the heat of the day. I like having both. It’s not a lot of square footage in this new bed – just 20 sq ft, but I know I can manage that comfortably without help, and that matters. I get about 3 sq ft out of each grow bag (of the size I have), and the four of those give me another 12 sq ft of growing space. 32 sq ft doesn’t sound like a lot of garden, but it’s the most I’ve had since the 20 ft x 20 ft community garden plots I had back in the very early 00’s. I had two of those; they were completely beyond my ability to manage them, but I hung on to them year after year, puttering around and playing at gardening without much to show for it. I don’t think we ever actually ate any produce from my own garden there (it was mostly herbs, roses, and flowers). My greed overcame my ability. There’s something to be learned there.

So, this time, I am hoping I’ve found the right balance between ability and will, between sunshine and shade, between yearning and having, and even between vegetables and flowers. I’ve learned some things. I’m sure there’s more to learn. There almost always is.

I find myself thinking about my parents, their garden, and the things that motivated so many of their choices and practices. Their garden was not “just for fun” – they fed us from that garden. We often didn’t have a lot of cash resources, and were not “wealthy”. In fact, I’m fairly certain we were “poor” by many definitions of that word, but that garden fed us and it fed us well. It set my expectations of what vegetables taste like way too high to eat supermarket produce and be happy with that (it often tastes almost flavorless without a lot of seasonings). I miss those flavors! My parents were not “doomsday preppers” or serious survivalists, but my Dad had an interest in survival, bushcraft, and the practical details of life without “extras”. He hunted, and we ate game. I grew rabbits, and we ate those, too. We fished, and crabbed, and ate our catch. The house we lived in was in quite an ordinary residential neighborhood, crammed pretty close to other houses, but we explored the countryside through family visits elsewhere, and trips to see my Dad’s friends out in the rural areas of the state. Most of the backyard was garden. We had a complete set of the Foxfire books and I read them eagerly. There were often evening conversations at the dinner table (or in the kitchen or by the fireplace in the winter or outside while working on a project together) about “what if…?” – What if the power grid failed? What if we use up all the oil? What if there were a new ice age? What if there were a serious drought? What if there were a major food shortage? What would we do to live, survive, and thrive… if? We were encouraged to really consider it, and to develop useful skills.

I have my doubts that anyone is truly “self-sufficient”. We are interdependent, each of us contributing something to a larger whole. Family, community, workplace… it’s not just one person standing in a garden, selecting that perfect ripe tomato. Where did the seed come from? The garden tools – were those hand-crafted individually by that gardener? The water… what is the source? How much of what is being used in the garden has to be purchased elsewhere? I sip my coffee and think about self-sufficiency vs interdependence. I think about “what if”… and wonder what my own life might be like if I suddenly found myself without electricity. What if there was none to be had? (“Generators!” Sure, sure …and when the fuel runs out..?) I slide contentedly down this rabbit hole on a sunny morning, as a rather large gray cat makes his way along the fence beyond my window.

A stranger passing by, curious about what I’m up to on my side of the window.

I call out to my Traveling Partner to come look at the hefty visitor making his way along the fence so carefully. I haven’t seen this cat before. He moves on; he has things to do, clearly, and no time to waste on us.

Today I’ll finish cleaning up the aquarium and put it up for sale with all it’s parts. I’ve been slow to finish this project, less out of reluctance or sorrow than avoiding the effort involved. I’ve been working at it a bit at a time, but now the time has come to finish it off and get it gone, and reclaim that space for other purposes. Here, too, there’s something to be learned.

…There’s almost always more to learn. It’s time to begin again. 🙂

I’m drinking water. It’s a sunny Saturday in April. The weather is mild and well-suited to getting outside into the garden. At least at the moment, I’m not “there”.

I’m fighting off a UTI, and I’ve been very fatigued recently, though I feel decently well-rested today (and since the antibiotics started doing their thing on this infection). I made a delicious scramble for my Traveling Partner and I to start the day on (he’s working, I’m… doing things that definitely require effort, but don’t “seem like work“). This antibiotic is best taken on a full stomach, so breakfast definitely made sense.

…After breakfast, I cleaned up the kitchen and did the dishes…

…I broke down a bunch of cardboard and took it out to the recycling bin…

…then started laundry (towels mostly)…

…then I made the trek down to the city to pick up a snap-together little garden shed to put all my gardening gear in, to get those items out of the shop space that my Traveling Partner needs for other things…

…then I came home (very cramped drive back, since that shed, even in pieces and boxed, barely fit in my car at all) dropped the shed off at the house, and headed out for some quick grocery shopping, and to return an item that didn’t suit the purpose for which it was purchased. Thankfully both tasks could be done at the same retail location.

By the time I got home again, it was lunch time – so I brought lunch home with me and sat down for a few minutes with my partner over a bite to eat between tasks in the shop. He’s got multiple projects in progress. I do my best to be helpful and supportive where I can.

…After lunch, I put the little shed together. Once completed, I asked my Traveling Partner if he’d like to help me decide specifically where to place it – he must have misunderstood my question; he came right out and put it where he wanted it. I’m cool with that; it isn’t heavy, this shed, but it is awkward, and it’s nice to have help. (I could have moved it into position, I’d just forgotten where we had talked about putting it.)

…Then I broke down the surprisingly large quantity of cardboard that the shed arrived in, and stuffed it into the back of my car for a trip to the disposal place next week; it’s too much to fit in the bin here at the house.

…Then I realized I was already feeling fatigued, and it’s not even 2:00 pm (at the time I noticed my fatigue, that is)… so… I sat down, here, with this glass of water for a few minutes of restful self-care. There’s still so much to do…

I had thought I’d spend the day weeding the garden and maybe painting… the decision to go get that little garden shed sort of threw that plan out, in that instant of spontaneous decision-making, and the discovery that there was exceedingly limited local availability of these specifically sized small sheds. I still feel the motivation… but for the moment I am wiped out. I need to give myself a proper break.

…Then…maybe…I’ll get a short walk in, out in the sunshine, around the neighborhood, checking out the progress of Spring in everyone’s flowerbeds along the way, and pick up the mail on the way back… I definitely want to do that; I’ve got new seeds waiting in the mailbox. They won’t do me any good there.

Soon the towels will be dry, and they’ll need to be folded and put away. There’s still plenty of weeding to do in the front flower beds… and my clean laundry (from days ago) has yet to be folded. “Fuck how am I already this tired?” I think to myself, drinking my glass of cool water. I know the answer; resources are finite. That’s it. That’s the whole truth of it. Whether we’re talking about acreage, or fresh water, or cash money, or our actual living life force expressed as our capacity to do work… it’s all dreadfully finite. It’s important to “stay within our budget”, but it’s not always entirely obvious that there is one…

…I felt so incredibly free and energetic – boundless energy and sheer force of will, on demand, at any hour, any day (pretty much) when I was younger. I’m thinking teens and 20s, when I make this observation. That kind of seemingly unlimited individual energy probably wasn’t as unlimited as it seems looking back on it. I do miss having just a bit more to draw upon, when fatigue seems to set in well-before I’ve checked off my to-do list, and before the afternoon can become an evening. Sometimes, a break to rest, to drink water, to sit for a moment with my thoughts, is enough to recharge for the next little while, and I get a few more things done. Yesterday, I even managed to push past my fatigue to prepare an excellent evening meal that we both enjoyed immensely… I wasn’t good for much after that. LOL I had “used up all my spoons”. I went to bed early(ish).

Today I tried to budget my energy – and my time – a bit more wisely. I don’t know that I succeeded at all… but if I stopped right now and did not one fucking thing more, I’d be pretty okay with that… but oh! there is so much more I do want to do today…

…It’s time to begin again…