Integrity = the glue that holds us together

Happy February.  I missed wishing you all a happy new year. Have one anyway.

The new year brought a huge change for me.  I traveled for months, after beginning to set up shop in rural Idaho, an unfamiliar place to me – certainly, not home, yet – then arrived here, for good, on January third.  Even if you are familiar with your neighborhood and feel at home, we are all facing uncertain times.  I imagine many feel what I’ve heard expressed around me: fear, anger (which grows from fear), and lost in what looks like the possibility of destruction of what is called home.

Too much news or arguing or overhearing arguing, the barrage of accusations or descriptions that continue to fuel the pathological polarization in this country: us/them, blue/red, male/female, colored/white, young/old, rich/poor, and native born/immigrants is another product of fear.  I struggle daily with finding and practicing the antidote to our human tendency to act out of fear – to blame, polarize, project or lash out in physical or symbolic violence.  On a good day, I awake remembering my most immediate and effective tool: gratitude – the theme of the last blog post in honor of Thanksgiving month.

As I mentioned (saving you from scrolling), I cannot feel fear and gratitude at the same time.  When I am exercising my gratitude muscle – consciously and actively feeling grateful, fear disappears.  If you think that is simplistic, I dare you to try feeling truly grateful and continuing to hang on to your insecurity, anxiety, doubt, worry or the other many names and children of fear.

Moving to rural North Idaho (how far north? – let me just describe what’s keeping me indoors to blah, blah, blah-og, instead of letting you get off your screens, and commune with nature or your human fellos or fellas: there is a TON of snow outside, and it keeps coming down; there is no longer a driveway or a road or a walkway or any hint of ground of any kind, just mounds and mounds and mountains of snow;  did I mention it’s still snowing?  – the tall, beautiful trees have so much snow on their branches – pine laden or bare – that they are beginning to look like white mountains, also) has been the greatest challenge in my life (yes, I had actually started a sentence that needed ending).

Excuse me, I left my train of thought for another view (or seven) from my window.  This distraction resulted in the longest parenthetical “phrase” I have ever written.

Back to North Idaho (I have learned, in my very limited time here  North Idaho has little or nothing to do with the bulk of Idaho who ignores us, most of the time) where I have felt lost and almost homeless since moving.  What is feeling lost, falling apart, feeling alienated (homeless), losing a sense of identity or simply confused?  It is getting off balance, not knowing who I am in order to be true to myself.  It is losing touch with the vital, essential core of being that makes you you and me me: integrity.

With the discomfort and alienation, however, came another tool for acting for justice, equality, with respect and dignity toward all, and being kind, instead of letting fear take over and becoming a self centered ego running amok.  Solitude and introspection arose with my isolation when I practiced gratitude.  One day while appreciating the great variety of wild animals, trees, birds, and a strange bug who smells like a spring meadow when aroused, I caught a glimpse of my insides – an integral cog making me me.  That susan bit wasn’t related to being talkative, sociable, urban, educated or a coffee drinker.  It pointed to someone bigger and connected to life directly, not straining to touch others through the above masks.

We, modern machine ridden people, desperately need solitude to find ourselves again.  I fear that is an almost impossible task for the young Americans glued to their machines, unable to be alone for two seconds.  The irony is that they are alone while pretending to connect (virtual, not real) in social media and electronic cyberspace. My grown children have described some good friends who are seemingly incapable of communicating and being with them, even after a long absence, and must be on their phones continually. Addiction to any outside role, substance, activity or image is a grasping and holding on to one of the masks of the ego. To see inside ourselves, to reconnect with our true selves, to be alone in contemplative solitude, instead of alienation, we must be willing to drop our masks.

Practicing gratitude daily, and as many hours as I can remember, has led me to a contentment inside myself.  Instead of feeling alone and isolated, I have discovered the rewards of solitude, contemplation, meditation, self reflection, or finding the glue that holds me together.  Ironically, connection to others, to nature, to that sweet smelling bug, arises.  Unity and togetherness emerge from a more secure, integral me, discovered in solitude.

The dazzling white world outside my window, even before sunrise, held me in awe.  I could not leave my window (and, as you well know, I am still distracted by its spell).  I have not had many cold, snowy winters in my 62 years.  I have not appreciated the great gifts winter can bring.  Today, instead of being “stuck” at home, I appreciated winter’s invitation to retreat, to delve deeper into myself.

I was moved to write. Hopefully, it provides a good ending to this post:

Winter smothers us with its white pillows.  Ice, snow, cold, and the angry wind chase me home, into the warmth of my beating heart, to my roots, my center, to the seed of life, hiding, waiting for the thaw. White, white and white, again, with chilling frost descending on everything, reminds me to withdraw. Only white or dark to look at, nothing to smell, nothing to hear, only cold to feel, I turn sight, hearing, touch, smell and all sensation inward.

Go deeper than the sensational summer. Dive under the ever blossoming, exploding ego, always hungry.  The sun is inside.  Reflect that light.

Be still. Be silent as the snow. Be naked as the trees.

Winter smothers the world of senses, chases us inside, to the hearth, back to the beginning, before time and the sun were.  Return to that inside glow, the primal ember, the eternal now.

Wait there.

 

 

Grateful for Others’ Stories

November has been called Gratitude Month. Happy Thanksgiving. Everyday.

Gratitude is my magic carpet to the present tense, to living this moment.  I have discovered that I can’t feel gratitude and fear at the same time.  Gratitude has, thus, served as good medicine.

Currently my moments are in Worcester, Massachusetts, a stay before traveling to a conference in Syracuse, NY.  I’m noticing some differences between eastern and western Americans.  For starters, our vowels and “r” sound different.  Assumptions about personal space, comfortable social space, and acceptable topics among strangers are different.  Yesterday, stories about a severe snow storm were shared for a long time, and I had nothing to contribute after living without snow for most of my life.

I am grateful to be able to meet people who are different from me, even if it takes me some time to understand a new word, a new pronunciation, a new idea or a new reference.  I would never know who I am, if I never met another.  How do I know what an American is, if I never visit another country or meet someone from somewhere else?  I would have never called myself a western American had I not met eastern Americans.  Every time I take time to listen to another or observe a new person, I learn something about myself.  I am and cannot be Susan without other humans.

And, as I listen and observe, I see past the differences.  We are always more alike than different.  As I listened to all the stories of how the severe snow storm affected lives and communities, I heard almost identical accounts of experiences I have had in disasters.  Instead of snow storms, I lived through the affects of earthquakes.  Regardless of the natural disaster, the community response, the individual difficulties and mutual concern, help and heroism was the same.

Regardless of the dialect or language, the stories are the same kind of expressions, arising from the same or similar human needs.  One of the greatest and most common need being the need to share, especially through telling our stories.  I hope to hear, see (through American Sign Language) and share many stories next week at a conference for professionals and parents struggling to educate and communicate with their d/Deaf and hard of hearing children.  We are not seeking specific knowledge and tools as much as the sharing.  If that were not true, there would be no face-face conferences.  We could simply send information from one machine to another’s machine.

We need stories and to share our stories.  Experience, it is said, is the best teacher.  Very probably it is the ONLY teacher.  Men did not stop smoking regardless of the facts, until the percentage of dying and deaf men was high enough that men saw it in an uncle or brother or friend.  Women’s smoking still increased until…..   We have to experience to learn or experience vicariously through someone close, through his or her story.  We go to conferences to confer, to bear with someone through his or her story.

We are our stories, and I am grateful for yours.  Your story shows me more of me, and how I am connected to you, and all of life.

The stories I can share  – The Boy Who Cried Wolf – accessible through many languages – and A Man Without Words, the book or the short documentary on a DVD, are yours.  Write me and send me your address and I will send them to you.

And, since you are writing me, be sure to tell me a story about yourself.

E-mail me for A Man Without Words/ The Boy Who Cried Wolf/ Annie’s Tales/ Princess and the Pea or….

Soon, I will leave for the east coast.  Before I do, I have time to send books and DVDs for any who want to explore opening their minds and hearts by experiencing ASL story telling in ASLTales – The Boy Who Cried Wolf, the one I wrote, with Aesop’s help, and four others.  Many have learned quite a bit of ASL, others have learned English or reading or, for little tykes, identification of emotions and empathy (opening the heart).

Visual language can teach us hearing people a lot.  Gifts of books and dvds await you.  No obligation – gifts – and, if you want to join me in the gift economy, give a gift to continue the gift giving, helping to buy more and send more to new parents, students and teachers who might not be able to afford them otherwise.

A Man Without Words book or short documentary (DVD) is also available for those of us who could use an inspiring story of someone beating the odds.

The four other books from ASLTales are Annie’s Tales, The Princess and the Pea, Rapunzel and The Tortoise and the Hare.  Let me know what you want, how many, for whom (if a present) and if you want me to sign the ones I wrote.

Write me, through this web site (contact page, above)or via old-fashioned SLOW mail (like slow food, slower living – try it): 3222 S. Sagle Rd., Sagle, Idaho 83860

I look forward to hearing from you.

Plans? What Plans? Life Unfolds as it Will

“Lordy, Lordy, Lordy,” she says to herself day after day, not wanting to burden her life and mind with more negative explicatives.

Hello, any who brave this site, after my long absence.  Life has moved me to a new plateau or canyon depending on how much dirt and fatigue is affecting my perspective.  Specifically, I have been moved to northern Idaho.  Yeah, I wondered where it was, also.  It’s that little rectangular bit between Montana and Washington, just below Canada.

Northern Idaho is not what registers when I wake up in the morning as I have been living in a tent for two weeks.  Until my brain shifts into full waking mode, I stare at the blue and orange dome that I am under, and wonder where or, more often, why I am where I am.  Slowly, as I explore the area looking for a shower, laundromat, groceries and internet, I am beginning to see where I am: just north of Lake Cocollalla, east of Priest River, south of Sandpoint, and surrounded by national forests and lots of lakes.  My neighbors are wild turkeys, deer, eagles, quail, coyotes, cows (elk, cougar and bear have been reported, but not yet seen), my sister, her husband, and their gigantic black draft horses.

Why I am here is much less certain than the where.

My sister and I became friends a few months ago, after being estranged for a long while. I’m here because they invited me to join them and I agreed, wanting to celebrate having my childhood best friend back.  After two months of traveling, camping and saying good bye to many friends, family and what used to be my life, the “why” question keeps popping up.  In other words, my gut led me here, but has been silent ever since arriving.  I mean, couldn’t we celebrate sisterhood on skype?

Then again, life is always struggling, exploring, not knowing, and about chopping wood and carrying water. Whether fighting the boredom and frustration of a traffic jam in the city or carrying water, literally, in rural Idaho, it’s all about learning more patience, joy, love and peace, internal stuff that is not dependent on outside circumstances.  My job is to be patient, learn to love more, be peaceful – one with Idaho dirt, for starters – and find joy where ever I am, knowing that the wind storm will stop the tent from flapping, eventually, and that I don’t need to focus on what I don’t have, but appreciate the baby quail in the driveway.

In gratitude, joy, peace and love, which I seem to have more of since my hot shower at the local RV park, in spite of what I said about outside circumstance (Lordy, Lordy, Lordy, I am so human, and so reallllly grateful to have lost all the weight of that dirt I left in the shower drain!),

Susan, the old (too old for this?) homesteader of the wild west

Life on hold?

I might become a farm/horse ranch owner, farmer and/or gardener and/or tiny house builder, next month – gulp!  In the mean time, I’m hanging out with my partners, farmers-to-be, my sister and her husband, in some hot mobile home in an unknown part of Oregon, on the Oregon trail. We are wondering what to do, from hour to hour, while we wait, and wait, for escrow to close or fail or ?

Today, I decided to do something: write you all, whoever you are.  I have not given up my ideas and ideals relating to my book projects: creating community through sharing stories, and education for all ages through multi-lingual and multi-cultural story telling.  If you would like to know more, look around my web site or scroll down and read more, and/or are interested in books/DVDs, write me.

Also, if you know how to be a farmer, write me and let me know.

And, since I don’t know how to be a farmer, invite me to present or give a book talk or a workshop – ASL or ASL storytelling for literacy or language learning – write me.  I know how to do that.

And, enjoy this day.  Don’t wait for life to happen.  Make more life.