Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Looking Forward to the heart Wrenching

On Monday morning, Nila and I went to the Rec Center where Mommy got to do a little reading while working out on the exercise bike or the stairmaster.  It's pretty much the only way I can get a little reading done, and it's a service for which I am extremely grateful.  The daycare is usually not very busy and I really need to stop telling folks how good they are there because on this particular Monday, my friend Shona brought her little boy, Walker, so she could get a little piece herself.  So i went upstairs and read my book on Chaco Canyon while climbing imaginary mountains on the stairmaster...and I just about can't get to this next part fast enough i need so desperately to purge some emotion around it.  But when I went back down I watched through the window at the door for a few minutes.  I like to see what goes on with no parents and I like to be able to watch Nila when she doesn't know I'm there and watch her solve puzzles or play with toys.  It warms my heart to see her enjoying herself and being independent from me.  Today she had a pair of plastic glasses that were in the shape of feathers and she was pretending to be an owl.  She and Walker had played a couple of times before so I thought they would play together like friends, but instead, there was another little boy there who was a little older and Walker was playing with him and they were both ignoring my sweet Nila as she ran up to them with the glasses on trying to be funny and singing, "Hoo!  Hoo!"  She was pretending to be a little owl while they were running around and darting in and out of this big fake tree they have in there, my sweet girl was trying to get their attention by running alongside them and singing, "Hoo!  Hoo!" with her little glasses.  My heart felt like someone squeezed their fingers around it and my  lips pressed together to contain the lump of sob that got caught in my throat.  I walked in and called her and said, "Wow!  What a great owl you are!" and decided not to mention anything about it to her.  How can I protect her from these things?  Am I supposed to?  last night, Darren said he didn't know if he could take the disappointments she would inevitably have to face.  I'm not sure I can either, but it sure beats the alternative.  Man, I love that little varmint.  I don't want to see her have to pick up the pieces, to be embarrassed, to struggle through friends disappointing her.  And it will happen.  I can only hope that I find the right words to share with her and that I never forget to hug her when something like this happens.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

So I'm a Liar

I lie about my age.  Actually, I’m not even ashamed of it, nor do I tell you this the slightest bit apologetically.  As a matter of fact, as a Southern woman I have always felt it was both my privilege and my obligation to lie about three things:  my weight, my dress size and my age.  All three of these descriptors are loaded with such stereotypes that only a woman’s husband and closest friends should know the truth about any of them.  

While most people still respect the personal nature of dress size and weight, for much of the population, age seems to have fallen out of protected status, along with the use of polite niceties such as, “please” and “thank you.”  Privacy surrounding a person’s age in popular culture these days is often considered outdated to which I am truly baffled because I, personally, am very offended when someone asks my age.  Because for what purpose is the question asked?  Those who advocate prying about someone’s age do so under the rubric that it’s in order to learn about you.  Well, what does knowing a person’s age tell you that’s actually useful and not an arbitrary basis for evaluation, comparison, pigeonholing or cataloging?  Am I right?  If someone wants to learn about me then I insist they do it the old fashioned way:   by getting to know me.  By asking questions that actually might yield some real information about me, like what I like to do, what books I like to read, what music I enjoy, whether I like to travel and where or anyone of thousands of more enlightening questions.  Don’t have time for that?  Then we probably don’t have time to become friends anyway.

The funny thing to me is that I’m not supposed to be offended when someone asks and actually, they become offended when I either tell them that I don’t tell people my age or better yet, ask them why they want to know, advising that “Just curious”  is not a good enough reason.  I equate it with the same level of intrusiveness as asking me how much money I make, or for that matter, asking me whether or not I’d had a bowel movement that day…even if it is just out of curiosity, it’s inappropriate.
Why am I so touchy about it you ask?  And I ask you to consider what conclusions you’ve already come to?  That I’m a bitter old woman?  Guess what?  I’m not old.  In fact, I still get carded at the liquor store and in bars from time to time.  My attitude runs deep and from very early on.  You could say it runs in my family, as both my mother and my sister are ardently opposed to the sharing of their age as well.  To this day, I have no idea how old my mother is and it’s not important for me to know.  You might also say it’s a product of cultural traditions, going way back to Southern Belle’s of old.  In traditional Southern etiquette, asking someone’s age has always been considered extremely rude.
But there’s more.  I have actually experienced social restraints and prejudices surrounding age from a lot of different viewpoints.  For example, I was on my own at the age of 16 for reasons I won’t go into here, and trying to find honest work to support myself was just about impossible.  Because of challenging life circumstances I had been forced to grow up much faster than most of my peers yet I was considered too young for jobs that carried any weight of responsibility, which were the only ones that might possibly pay enough to support a gal.  This created more “character building” situations, stretching me further outside of any traditional mold so that by the time I was 20, if you asked me how old I was the conclusions you drew from that information would be so far from who I actually was to the point that those conclusions really told you nothing about me.  I’ve met quite a few other people where this would also be true for them.   As I continue through life I encounter the prejudice in an ever broadening scope.  “Too young to understand.”  “Old enough to know better.”  “Old for my years.” “Immature for my age.” 
There’s a term for this and it may surprise you to have it applied in this circumstance, it’s called “Ageism.”  I know.  It’s usually applied to the elderly, but ageism is much more prevalent and it’s tendrils more broad.   As women, we’re confronted daily with the ageist unspoken “expiration date” such that women in their twenties are getting botox and chemical peels and women over their twenties have to fight through feelings of inadequacy when they are no longer considered young enough (by some) to portray the leading lady role.  Bosh and Bullocks!
I’m reminded of a scene from a movie called, “Fried Green Tomatoes” where the heroine, played by talented actress, Kathy Bates, is a middle aged woman fighting for her self-worth in a world that would tell her she’s passed her prime.  While looking for a parking space in a crowded grocery store parking lot she spies a car backing up and with a sigh of relief, she waits patiently for the car to back up.  As the car begins to move away a souped-up convertible Volkswagon beetle zooms in and steals the spot right in front of her.  Outraged, she yells out her window that she was waiting for that spot.  She was there first!  Two bouncy young girls get out of the beetle laughing, turn to our stressed out heroine and while smacking thier gum, one of the girls says over her shoulder, “Face it, we’re younger and faster.” And then laugh as they head into the store.  Our heroine proceeds to push their car out of the way with her own larger Cadilac and as the girl’s stand outraged, she smiles satisfyingly as she drawls, “Face it girls, I’m older.  I have more insurance.”  To which, be we young or old, all cheered “YES!”  Why should age trap us in roles?  Why is age considered such a negative, so limiting?
Maybe it started with the cultural revolution of the 1960's.  During the heyday of The Beatles, Jim Morrison and rock 'n roll, no self-respecting young person would trust anyone over the age of thirty  Adults were the "establishment." The arbitrary age marker signaled something to be avoided at all costs: growing old. People above the age of thirty were square. Someone age forty and up was an antique. Once you hit sixty, you were practically dead! A person in their sixties in the 1960s would be a white-haired old lady (or old man) consigned to life in a rocking chair.

Of course by the turn of the 21st century, those same baby-boomer teens from the 1960's had grown up, and suddenly they realized that thirty wasn't so old, after all.  People started to question the stereo-types of age and the results have been that sixty year olds these days may be just as likely to take up rock climbing as twenty year olds.  To which I cheer, “YES!” 

Living in Colorado, the land of perpetual youth and man-children, taught me much more about age and ageism.  I had one of my first major lessons when I was in college and I took an avalanche training class.  The class took place on the coldest mornings in Colorado that year, near the top of a dazzling 11,000 foot peak of rock, ice and sun sparkling snow.  The teacher was a beautiful, strong woman…in her 70s.  We trudged up and down that mountain in the thin air all morning and on every climb, that gorgeous woman beat me to the top and seemed to be barely winded.  Meanwhile I was gasping and wretching up breakfast as discreetly as I could to the side.  On a similar note, while snowboarding at ski resorts I’ve yawped with sheer glee following ten-year-old friends as they zig-zagged paths through pine and spruce forest.  I hucked off of cliffs I never would have found on my own and laughed when a tree unexpectedly dropped a branch load of snow on my head when I paused to take in the wildness so deep in the forest with a waxed board letting me float atop chest deep snow.  

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

New Blog Title?

I should have called this 'Donna Stewart Whining' istead of Donna Stewart Blogging, because that's what really seems to be going on here.  I'm venting.  I'm venting about blogging and letting myself and my expectations down as I continue rat-tat-tating at keys without producing anything remotely resembling the writer from the past.  What was it?  Was it Lore or motherhood that stripped me of my voice?  I find myself seeking out the people I knew back when I was proud of my writing ability, back when I fell into trances infront of the computer screen and my fingers on the keyboard felt like keys on a piano.  I composed.  So, yea, that's what I'm trying to do here.  I think it's getting a little better, though I still have tapped into 'the space.'  I'm still not feeling it.  part of me wants to find a writing class to see if that breaks the rust free from those brain cells and returns the feeling of elation, but that might cost money and I got the ix-nay last night on spending any more money.
Sooooo this is my practice arena.  Why does there actually have to be a blinking line when you're not typing.  It's like a tapping foot and makes me feel impatient.  Okay, so I read in a book yesterday that you should draw from your life experience and write about it.  In theory, you have a wealth of story ideas right there in your frontal lobe just waiting to be unearthed and exploited.  So that's what i'm going to do.   I'm not going to check my email once in the next 15 minutes...just going to write about....about...hmmmmmmm...should this be an ancient life experience?  Maybe.  Maybe I should choose from the life of Donna pre-Nila as I'm having so much difficulty remembering who that gal is and how her brain used to work.  course I don't want the brain that I had then or the soul.  the improvements are nice and maybe, like Darren says, a good life makes for boring reading or television.  Sooooo...ah!  Okay, the first thing that popped into my head was the day I fell off the cliff and broke my jaw and my wrists, though as I think back on it, well, it really wasn't that exciting.  The most excitement would be in the approximately six seconds when I got to fly, rather rapidly and very briefly, through the air and the amazing fact that i actually had time and focus to think to protect my face.  So hear goes....
It was a beautiful day in Durango, but most of them are weather wise so there was nothing remarkable in that.  But anyway, it was beautiful with the temperature being that level of perfection that can only be found in Durango and the amount of humidity wafting through the air was just right having rained for twenty minutes earlier in the day, taking the parch away and leaving an invisible, yet detectable, mist rising from the earth.  Being a high alpine desert, humidity in Durango can sometimes be so low the my skin turns white and flaky within seconds of being exposed to the air.  But this summer had been mystical.  It rained everyday for about 15 minutes in the morning and maybe 15 or 20 in the clockwork so it was easy to schedule around and prepare for the storms.  There were flowers blooming everywhere that we just went a decade without seeing because of how dry it has been since.  I was going hiking with John, a friend slash possible boyfriend.  I wasn't sure about him, and he was dating another girl while pursuing me (i didn't know about that, btw) so it wasn't a particulary serious courtship...More like friends with the occasional heavy flirtation and enough drawn out chemistry that it might have made a slightly interesting layer to a television drama.  Anyway, so he was living in this cool little AFrame out near Vallecito Lake.  Everyone i knew seemed to find some cool little nook like this to live in back then.  It was tiny, like maybe 15 feet long and seven feet wide.  I don't think it even had a kitchen area.  Just a bed and a desk.  It suited him.  As a driven environmentalists leading a semi-radical environmental organization, he spent a lot of time poring over documents and through books, looking and learning about what the forest needed and how to see that it got it.  His desk was set against the wall, under a window whose sill held a collection of items you'd expect to see on the sill or shelf of an eight-year-old nature scout.  Bits of moss, interestingly shaped sticks, rocks, leaves, and crystals.  On the desk were stacks of National Forest Service documents and books with titles on nature, endangered species and biodiversity.  I'm not sure why I remember that so vividly.  I was only there the one time.  But this day did turn out to be quite memorable for me, so perhaps that's why.
So there was a trail behind his little AFrame that meandered out into the Pine Forest behind his house and he had invited me to go exploring with him.  As we hiked along, he was distracted by everything around him.  I didn't understand this at the time, but two years later when he was on sabbatical and it was up to me to run the group, I understood very well.  At the time, I just found it boring.  He kept stopping to examine different aspects of the forest.  A dead tree here, a non-native plant...and birds.  He was a HUGE bird man.  I used to make fun of him by suddenly pointing my finger at a bird whizzing by and shouting, "Look Kestral!"  It was a bird that would ultimately change our relationship completely that day.
The trail had been following beside the river for a ways and we had come to an area where there were 30 foot tall cliffs towering about the water.  I started climbing on them.  In John's defense, i was being stupid.  I hadn't really examined the rock or looked at where i was going.  I just clambered on, excited to finally have something fun to do, to find some action.  As it turns out, this was geologically way inappropriate for climbing.  The rock was good for the first ten feet or so, but then came layers of flaky, crumbly shale like rock.  it makes for an interesting striation on the cliff, but it's not something you want to climb on.  I was a good climber so I was up in the shale pretty quickly and I realized what i was climbing on very quickly also.  I thought John was right there, as he had been, as anyone else would have been if their hiking partner started climbing up a rock.  Because of where I was, it seemed like it would be less dangerous to just head up and top out than to try to down climb, and anyway, I wasn't a talented enough climber to downclimb yet so I shouted out that I was heading on up.  At about 20 feet, the rock became flaked off wherever I tried to grab and then my footholds broke off and I dropped.  It didn't happen in the slow motion like you'd expect.  It went fast, but it seemed that I moved fast too.  My body somehow shifted so that I was parallel with the rapidly approaching ground.  Really, it couldn't have taken more than just a few seconds but in those seconds i distinctly remember the roar in my ears, my eyes popping wide and then the realization that I was about to splatter my face on this big rock a the base of the cliff.  I shouted to myself, "Not my face!" and put my hands out in front of me and turned my face away just in time to hit the rock first wit.h my hands, breaking both wrists, and then my jaw, breaking my jaw.  I'll finish later

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A little stream of conscious

It's kind of like doing the rapid fire Vinyasa before you start doing the really, really hard poses.  You don't want to pull anything and some of the poses just aren't even possible before you've heated and lubed them.  So I'm glad i really don't have anyone else following right now.  This is starting to be like my man-cave, except I'm not a man.  it's a place I can come to to do my verbal vinyasas and try to get myself mentally heated and lubed and ready for some writing.  It's so different than it was.  I used to be able to crank out really good stuff on a moment's notice.  I got rave review from professors for assignments I hastily scribbled out, or tapped out, as the case may be, in 10 minutes before class.  having a baby has certainly changed things.  I love motherhood, I do.  It's worth it even if I lose everything else and by everything, I mean the ability to completely control my bladder, ease in my body without the feeling that one of my vertebrae is forever sticking out farther than the others and tweaking up my ligaments and tendons while it "gently" torques on everything else, the ability to feel passionate about anything, to strive to be anything other than mediocre at stuff...especially stuff I used to be particulary good at:  like writing, rock climbing, hell, fixing my hair and not having these bags forever under my eyes.  Yes, I've decreased skill level in all of these places and i miss them.  I can't figure out most days whether I'm trying this freelance writer thing so that I can eventually contribute to the family coifer while staying home most of the time with my little angel, or if i'm desperately trying to prove to myself and anyone else remotely interested that I am capable of more.  That this woman who doesn't get out of her comfy exercise clothes til just before her husband gets home most days is still a woman and still has a future ahead of her.  yes it is wonderful to have the honor of loving, supporting and educating my Nila, but I do still have possiblities and potentials of mine own right?  Now I wish I had a following, if for no other reason than to hear from other stay at homes.  Hello?  Anyone else feel like that?  Like we're just on hold...and maybe, like our bellie buttons, we're scared that we'll never have potential like we used to have because now the majority of our life force is directed at raising our young.  Gotta go.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Unexpected Abiqui

Elizabeth Gilbert's book, Eat, Pray, Love, touched a part of all of us that longs for deeper experiences and adventures.
We started ours camping at Abiqui Lake in really rural Northern New Mexico.  We found this place, as such places are often found, by complete accident.  We're pulling our 12 foot vintage travel trailer and needed a place to camp near a monastery that we would be visiting in the morning.    Over the next three days I would be dragging my family through some of the most beautiful, unusual...and sacred (?) destinations Northern New Mex has to offer.  This wasn't how my trip was originally planned, but as I researched my original area of intention, other areas started rising from the landscape of red cliffs, seas of sage brush, mystery and legend.  They were all so compelling to me, so close to each other and the opportunity for more travel before winter socked us into our little mountain village seemed so remote, I wanted to see them all and after checking mapquest and figuring out routes it even seemed least to me.  My husband, Darren, would need a little more convincing.
Fortunately for me, I had an ace up my sleeve.  I had just spent the better part of a month entertaining Darren's family.  They're great people and I'm growing quite fond of them, but still, a month?  He owed me big.
And he knew it well enough that he agreed to be primary caregiver to our rambunctious two-year-old on this adventure, leaving me free to play writer/researcher.
All of these places have a certain amount of spiritual significance, some more than others and some more to others than to some.  Our destinations included:  Christ of the Desert Monastery, a benedictine Monastery with a modern penchant for going green for ecological as well as savy economical reasons; Ojo Caliente, where the Hot Springs heal the tired and weary adn the resort offers yoga and archeologically guided hikes through ruins of ancient pueblos; Chimayo, steeped in legend, mystery and the magical side of Catholicism that believes in miracles; and El Rito, a rock climbing haven that draws climbers from all over the world, some of them with their own strange magical realism spirituality.
But for now--we are camping at Abiqui Lake, on a small bluff overlooking the lake and the Chama valley, near the Georgia O'Keefe Ghost Ranch, in full view of the flat top mountain featured so prominently in much of her work.  Her home wasn't too far from here, though the lake wasn't here at the time.  I think she would have liked it, but I wonder how it would have effected her work and how prominently it would have figured into her interpretation of the desert.  On second thought, maybe she wouldn't have liked it.
The Lake is rimmed with rock cliffs and spoked with rocky side canyons, some making for private pool areas like the one my family and I swam naked while the sunset.  "Nila get tummy wet?"  Across the valley, higher cliffs can be seen, red, beige, pink, off in the distance, but not so far that the red beige cliffs didn't display spectacular details in the shadows.  Those rocky layers that always remind me of temples somehow.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Owl Watched Me From the Tree

This is actually the first time I've ever used a blog and I'm just trying it on, so to speak, trying to see if this "look" is right for me.  I was told that I if I really wanted to build a career in writing these days, then I desperately needed to get a blog going.  I'm rather proud of myself.  I thought I was going to have to get a whole new website going and everything and that would be complicated because I already have one website that hardly gets any views.  Well, that's me being cynical and it's not quite true.  I've had enough views that I'm the second website pulled up when you do a two word search of the subject...which I'm not going to share right now because I'm still not sure how public this is, how many people might actually view it, etc. we need to be paranoid about the internet?  That's a good title for a story and one that might actually sell...I might need to look into that .  Right now, I'm using this blog as merely a vehicle for my stream of consciousness writing.

I used to be a writer.  and I used to be a good one.   In college, my professors always made me feel like they expected great things from me and I'm afraid that up to this point, I may have disappointed them.  Right out of college, I didn't try to set the world on fire.  I concentrated on rock climbing and yoga.  Course, I'm in one of the hardest towns to find a job if you're looking to set the world on fire, but as it turned out, I was lucky.  There was one firm that offered experience that would open doors in a direction I might actually end up walking and I was very fortunate to be able to get a job with them.  Very fortunate, because otherwise, I'm not sure what I would have done.  I had no real ideas and no money to help move me out of this fabulous little mountain town, yet I held out hope that something would materialize...and it did.  malcolm gladwell would refer to my experience as opportunity intersecting with preperation.  Of course, according to his Outliers book I need to log 10,000 hours before i become really, really good at what I do.  I wonder where I am with that?

Anyway, that one job with a corporate entity turned into 7 years of valuable education that I got paid for.  It also helped me clarify what I want and don't want.  I don't want to work for anyone else.  I don't want a boss.  It doesn't suit me.  At some point in my life I began to think of myself as more of a subcontractor with my jobs.  i didn't believe my employers owned me...and it seems that most people think that they do, on a subconcious level, if no where else.  i found this rankling.  I found it stifling and something I couldn't live under.  At my last employment, I worked directly for the CEO and didn't appreciate anyone else telling me what to do.  I don't like being told what to do period.  Tell me my objectives, tell me what's expected of me and I will get it done, but don't ask me to fetch your slippers or get your coffee, unless you plan to return the favor.  We're equals after all, right?  Fortunately for me, my employer felt similarly or realized that I would do a great job if you just stayed out of my way.  Unfortunately, this also meant that he kind of dropped the ball on helping me develop, but at the same time it was good because I learned to develop myself during this time.  this didn't always translate to me developing talents beneficial to the company, but it did help me a great deal. I focused a lot on self-improvement, and on yoga.  I believe I needed to focus on these things at the time because I had a lot of healing, buiding and rebuilding to do after the life I had had.  Now I feel like Humpty has actually been somewhat put back together again...and even improved.  may sound vain, but maybe more like the Bionic Woman.  I've been through so many transitions, burnings, etc. that I have often felt the universe picked up my battered remains at some point and said, "We can rebuild her, make her faster,"  And from there the universe set to pulling and pushing and molding to now I sit here trying to scrub the rust off of my writing muscles and set them to work for me.  Then end for today.