My Happy Place(s)

Lately, I’ve been reveling in the ability to thoroughly enjoy both staying at home and venturing out and about under the summer sun of Montana. In both instances, I am delighting in my own company. It’s a mark of inner contentment, I think, to feel at ease wherever we are. And I need not travel even one step to find where home is. I carry it within me. I am never without it.

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My Happy Place(s)

My happy place is on a motorcycle, cruising at 70 over a smooth ribbon of asphalt.
My happy place is on a SUP board, on any body of water that will have me.
My happy place is being perched in front of a blank sheet of paper, with a blue P-500 in my hand.

My HP is in the woods, surrounded by elder trees and ancient wisdom.
My HP is on my meditation cushion, cultivating ease and spaciousness.
My HP is in the kitchen, preparing food to feed my friends.
My HP is next to a campfire, with a cup of tea and a guitar.

My HP is being solo on the road, inhaling music through my pores and exhaling it through my lungs.
My HP is in the Mission Lookout Tower, intimately rekindling my love affair with the sun and moon.
My HP is behind a set of drums, allowing others the chance to get their African dance on.
My HP is my humble abode, in a town I adore, close to my people.

My HP is Deer Park Monastery.
My HP is Banff National Park.
My HP is anywhere I haven’t been.

My HP is in the here and now.

My HP is doing something silly.
My HP is playing with small children.
My HP is watching fireworks.

My HP is within me.

More HP pics:

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Everyone Has A Story

To listen to this post being read on my podcast, click here.

This post is in honor of World Storytelling Day, which by happenstance was yesterday (March 20th), the same day as was arranged our quarterly live storytelling event here in town called Tell Us Something (TUS). A pairing which was entirely coincidental by its orchestrater, Marc Moss.

The TUS guidelines for storytelling are as follows: they have to be about true personal experiences, fit in the span of 10 minutes, centered around the chosen theme, and must be given without the use of notes. Last night’s theme was: Right place, right time. 8 local storytellers got up on stage at the Wilma Theater, in front of a well-packed 850-seat venue of friendly faces, ready to listen.

Here’s my account of the evening, in order of appearance on stage:

1. Alex wore an orange Marty McFly vest and jazzy 80’s decor ball cap to regale us with a story about his last excursion to ComiCon, and encountering not 1, not 2, but 3 Deloreans, one of which he got the lifelong lasting pleasure to take a ride in. With the delightful confidence I’d never seen in a 13-year-old, he kicked off the evening with a breath of hope for our future, which I’m certain translated to every member of the audience.

2. His name was Michael, which meant I liked him right away, as derivatives of that name have followed me around in droves all my life and have always treated me well. He spoke artfully of his 70 years of life in the span of just 10 minutes, somehow managing to weave together having had a heart-attack, both in the literal and metaphorical sense, when his wife left him for another man, self re-invention, and travels over-seas.

3. Sarah opened with a mention of Ani Difranco, calling her a “weapons grade feminist folk singer,” which meant I liked her right away, too. The topic of divorce also made a cameo in her story, having left her husband for a woman whom she now has a child with. I saw fit to pen these two quotes from her in my pocket-sized notebook: “Whatever you do out of love, you can’t do it wrong,” and “I can only be where I am when I’m there.”

4. Heather wore a flower-print dress and continued in comradic fashion the theme of divorce. Like the others, it wasn’t in a sad country-song accord but more of a hard heart moment mentioning that spurred a re-posturing of a life once thought figured out. She spoke about her travels to Malawi, Africa, being a dancer, and ended by saying: “The Africa I went to see was not what I wanted, but it was what I needed.”

During the intermission, I shot up from my seat and went to stand against the wall next to the aisles, to write frantically in my pocket-sized notebook. Here’s what I wrote in mildly illegible form, as the theater sprang to life with a mixture of chatter and rustling about: (NOTE: while I’m tempted to make slight edits to this bit of writing for the sake of clarity and ease of reading, I’m resisting the urge and will include it just as I wrote it, hoping it makes some sort of sense)

These stories cut like butter on the battlefield of what it means to be human – and I pulsate with electricity like a bolt of lightning tossed to a tree top, firing up the atoms of everything in sight. I listen, absorbing inspiration like ears to sound in the wake of stories being told – and it’s words that matter, maybe it’s all that really does – I’m juiced up, ready to steamroll anyone in my way like an avalanche – shoot, I’ve got so much to say that I can’t write fast enough – this freekin theater is packed with story listeners being given permission to live their lives without shame, becoming unburdened by the fact that we stand in our own way when it comes to learning how to love and be loved, unfettered and free – and I want to take up shop situated on the shoulder of every person here and listen to their story, so I can keep on learning how to be myself amid the fray.

 

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Good Quotes

 

(You know you’re a writer when you take a picture of the notes you’re scribbling down while at a writer’s conference because you think your pen looks hella sexy.)       

I’ve had so much great input as of late, from a variety of sources, and have collected a smattering of quotes I’ve penned on whatever papered surface was in my midst. I wasn’t sure what I would do with these quotes, I was simply inspired to pen them down. In the interest of not containing these quotes on paper where only my eyes will glance upon them, I’ve decided to fashion this post and release them into the wild, where they belong.

Quotes from panelists during the Writing at Work conference, which took place at the University of Montana campus on Friday:

“You need to be ready to be rejected over and over and over. If one rejection email is going to crush you, you shouldn’t be a writer.”

“I can’t get too close to my hometown of Cut Bank, Montana – it’s population, elevation, and wind velocity are all the same number: 3,800.”

“Stick with your voice, we’re more capable than we think” and “Put in the time, even when you don’t want to.” – Pete Fromm

“Create occasions you have to rise to.”

“Find the joy in the work” and “I only learn things when I suck at it.” – Sarah Aswell (local comedian and comic writer)

“There’s often a crisis that precipitates inspiration.” – Editor of Beargrass Publications

“No woman writer thinks they have permission to write.”

Random quotes from random sources of inspiration (from songs to films; from books to videos on youtube; from articles to twitter posts):

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Awake at Midnight Thirty

Sooo, this is me awake at midnight thirty, listening to my new favorite musician Ben Howard, the night before my big spoken word show & CD release party. A time when normally I’d have around three hours of slumber under my belt.

It seems I forgot to heed the doc’s warning not to take the steroids prescribed to me for the acute treatment of laryngitis past the hour of 2:00pm.

Welp. I may be running on little to no sleep tomorrow but I should have a voice with which to use for the show, which is kinda important. So there’s that :)

In attempts to combat the pulsing energy of the meds, I’m drinking a cup of herbal tea. The teabag message – tossed overboard like a climbing rope from my mug and currently resting beside my keyboard – reads: You will always live happy if you live with heart. I used to regard teabag messages as rather trite and hokey – but not anymore. We need more positive messages strewn about from teacups the world over. We need em wherever and however we can get em.

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Along the thread of messaging, I’ve been making an effort lately to share about my inner workings of fear, centered around the unfolding process of my upcoming show. I think it’s helpful to share this element with others who would otherwise be quick to judge a book by its cover, deeming me as someone who has no qualms whatsoever about getting up on a stage, performing, recording herself in album form, and so on – which is most assuredly not the case.

Earlier today – or, I guess yesterday now technically – I posted this on my personal Facebook page:

With nerves in rising swell preparing for tomorrow night’s big show, the following exchange took place between my husband and I before he went off to work this morning:

Me: Sooo, I’m probably going to be rather a pill until the show tomorrow night. Just sayin. So, I pre-apologize.

Him: What kind of pill?

Me: Like one of those horse pills. The kind that’s unpleasant and hard to swallow.

Him: Mmm mmm.

Me: But if it’s any consolation, I will ALSO practice to infuse some comic relief into the mix, too – so there’s that.

Him: Like a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down?

Me: Sure. Okay. Yeah. Like that.

 

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Cat on the lap

 

In only the way a cat can, I was commandeered – in the best way possible – unable to break free. And, as we were sitting outside, I was afforded the luxury of time to look up and ponder the merits and inspirational value of the two towering elm tree friends posting guard in our backyard.

So, it was just this morning that I was able to determine, without wavering, that while they are cause for dismay and require great efforts of manual labor at times, their beauty, wisdom, and fortitude offer far more benefit.

I realized, too, that the one directly overhead of me had a sense of humor, as it was pelting me occasionally with small bits of twigs and leaves as I was writing.

P.S I thought it worth mentioning that I have mild-moderate levels of hesitation in fashioning and posting this photo array from pics I took this morning, as there is a part of me that wants to stay in close personal accord with not becoming one of “those” kinds of cat people. But after careful consideration, I decided it was worth the risk.

More Than Enough

MoreThanEnough_md

Inspired by a poem my friend Llora recently wrote on her new adventure: A Poem A Day http://lhkontheroad.blogspot.com/ I decided to write this:

More Than Enough

Just what is happiness?
Today, I think that it is:
eating a warm blueberry muffin that I just baked
and making a pot of chili for 15 friends,
that we’ll be eating during our sangha campout
on the Flathead Lake this coming weekend.

The orange glow of the mountain ash berries,
glistening on the tree in my front yard.

Taking a nap,
drinking cold water,
listening to the soft chattering of my backyard chickens,
great music,
and the practice of sitting meditation.

Wet grass on my bare feet
and waiting for the sprinkler to rotate
before heading to empty the compost bucket.

Feeling the sun on my skin.

And there’s more.
So much more.
But this is plenty.
It’s more than enough.

Here’s Llora’s poem:

All I Want 

Just what is happiness?
Today, I think that it is:
really good pizza
comfortable shoes and finally
finding a bra I actually like.

Red bricks after the rain.

Seeing a friend in a unexpected place
and it not being 90 degrees.

The guy in the book store
letting me sit for an hour
lost in a book
and the girl at the counter
whose smile and chit chat
made me feel normal again.

Sand between my toes
and everything being made
whole again
by the sea.

Today, it’s all these things
and that will have to do
because that is plenty
for any life.

– Llora Kressmann

Writing My Obituary

obit

On Wednesday I found out that a sangha friend, three years younger than I am, passed away. I was emailed his obituary from our local Dharma Teacher. His name was Scott, and while he hadn’t recently been sitting with our Monday night meditation group, Be Here Now, he had been part of our sangha for the past couple of years or so and sat with us on and off during that period. I saw him just a couple of weeks ago walking by McCormick Park as I was driving by on Orange Street. He was walking alongside someone, talking and smiling. I remember thinking at the time, “I’m so glad to see him! He looks good…happy.”

Scott was bipolar, and often fluctuated back and forth between having a reliable place to stay and being homeless. His obituary listed no cause of death. Our assumption is he committed suicide. My heart swelled with sadness when I read of his passing.

While Scott was part of our mindfulness community, and has been to my house for sangha potlucks and gatherings, I didn’t know much about the conventional aspects of his life: where he was born, where he went to school, where he grew up, how many brothers and sisters he had, and the like. This isn’t unusual, for me, in relation to other casual sangha friends. Part of what I love about my sangha community is how connected I feel to people based on simply sharing our meditation practice together, sharing silence, and sharing mindful intention. While I may not know people’s last names or where they were born and raised, I feel an inherent closeness to them as a fellow sangha member.

Reading Scott’s obituary gave me a lot of the conventional information I hadn’t known, or really even thought about before. And it put me in touch with wanting to write my own obituary, which is nothing new in the world of writing-prompt ideas, for those who enjoy the art of the written word. So, here goes:

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