Friday, August 22, 2008

A Civilized Tradition

Work is not always required...there is such a thing as sacred stillness, the cultivation of which is now fearfully neglected.
-George MacDonald

Every day my daughter takes a nap between 12 and 2, or roundabout that time, letting go of the day for a moment, to replenish her VERY energetic spirit! Every day, as I put her down and enjoy a couple hour-long slices of freedom, I am met with the same dilemma: to use the time to work, or to relax? I had been spending  the  time in a very responsible manner, catching up with work during her naps, but a change has come over me this summer; now I take the opportunity for some downtime of my own.

I just realized that trying too hard is often counterproductive. When you're trying too hard you often don't see what's right in front of you. And life takes on a rushed, unfulfilled feeling. Surely not the note I want to characterize my days; my goal is to ENJOY this life as much as possible, in all its variations.

And, with the heat of summer upon us, I realize the very natural way siestas evolved; it's just too damned hot to do anything else!

So many other cultures uphold this seemingly indulgent tradition, but truly it is the best use of time! To relax, take your mind off your troubles and work, and simply be for a moment, is the perfect anecdote to a long, productive day. Although not a tradition in America, we do have the independence and creative spirit to weave this practice into our days in whatever capacity is practical. That is one thing that I love about America, I love its freedom and "can do" attitude, that anyone can create anything they put their minds to. Even if it's napping! 

Friday, August 15, 2008

I'm Pregnant, Part II

My turn! In my usual style I have waited for the last possible moment to guest blog for Mary Alice AKA Mean Face AKA Dearest Sissy. It’s not that I had nothing to say but rather too much to say and couldn’t decide where to start. I mean there is just so much to Mean Face. But, my idea began the moment I read the title of Practical Sis’s blog and has been formulating all week. So…here goes.

Most of you readers know that quite a bit of our growing up was accomplished in a sort of haphazard way in a very small town in the nether regions of California. We were also homeschooled in a rather haphazardly manner and together A LOT. Lets just say there was not a lot of privacy as we careened through adolescence. Plus, our father did not believe in doors, which did not help. At all.

So, you may not be surprised when, at the tender age of thirteen, I was intrigued by an air of secretness that had invaded our home. I noticed heavy talks between my mother and older sis surrounded by an aura of hushed, nervous secrecy. I was obviously annoyed at them having a secret--especially when there was no hope in hell anything exciting was going to happen to me; surely nothing so exciting as to warrant secrecy. How did my sister get so lucky, I wanted to know, and beyond that, and most importantly, WHAT was the secret? Plus Mean Face was being meaner and weirder lately. I couldn’t handle much more.

Finally I confronted them when they were found AGAIN in one of those weird, hushed conversations we could all hear because there were no doors. Faced with my annoying demands to be let in on the secret, Mean Face finally caved, “well, I guess you’ll find out soon enough anyway, I’m preeegnnnaaant!”


Now that set me back. I had not considered this. Hmmm. Again, as when Practical Sis told me she was pregnant, I went into complete shock. Gradually, as the months went by and my sister’s stomach filled with promise, I got very excited. I love babies. And my littlest sis, Katrina, was certainly not a baby anymore.
She was already ahead of me in home school, I am sure, by that time!

I read all the books about what was going on in my sister’s belly, I read about what would happen when she went into labor, what to expect afterward. Everything.

Then the day came.My sister had a home birth. We were all there. In the house with no doors. I do not think I can adequately describe my emotions completely for that day except that I have never before wanted to take someone’s pain away from them so much EVER. I remember thinking if I could just switch places with her to give her a break I would, or if somehow God could just give me half her pain so that I could help. It was the most helpless feeling I have ever had. But Mean Face did it, and there arrived a handsome, healthy baby boy we now call Rescue Ranger whom I have ADORED from the moment I layed eyes on him.

But it really looked like it hurt.

Needless to say, it took me a really long time before I had kids. I was traumatized for many years thinking back on that day. But life and hormones have a way of changing your mind and one day I found myself delightedly pregnant. I thought about the day I would give birth but just sort of glossed over it. I mean if Mean Face could do it in a mountain town far away from nice helping drugs of any kind, in a home with no doors, surely it wasn’t as bad as my memory of her experience. I’d been through a lot, I was tough, I was athletic. I’d be fine.

Finally the day arrived that Babou decided would be the perfect day for her to begin her journey into this world via my nether regions. As those of you who have had kids know, the pain cannot adequately be described. To those of you who have not had kids, I say the same: the pain cannot adequately be described. I labored long and hard and somewhere in transition, as I screamed for an epidural and C-section RIGHT NOW $$%%^^&&***(((*(*!, I thought of my sister, of how she had gone through this too. That not only had she been through it but she had been through it with no drugs, no doctors, no nice nurses with more nice drugs, in a house with no doors, with her sisters huddles wide eyed in a corner WATCHING her. But thinking that made the pain worse (like when you think about how you slammed your finger in that door after you slammed your finger in the door and it makes it hurt worse?) so I stopped and tried to focus on the fact that it was too late to change my mind about having a baby and that I’d better get to pushing.

But I did not forget that one clear thought that formulated as I gave birth to Babou. Mary Alice is one of the bravest, toughest, most focused women I know. She can HANDLE her business. It may have taken me 30 years to fully understand, but it’s amazing what you can learn in one night.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

A True Legacy

I seem to wish to have some importance in the play of time…What is deep, as love is deep, I’ll have Deeply. What is good, as love is good, I’ll have well. Then if time and space have any purpose, I shall belong to it.
-Jennet Jourdemayne
(Christopher Fry)

Every morning I wake up to paintings of my great-grandmother. Their images are imprinted into my eyelids, centering me before I go to sleep and before I get out of bed. Sometimes I stare at them for a long time, looking at her brushstrokes, wondering about her and how she was. Up close the paintings show the minutiae, I can almost feel her painting, see what she saw and, from afar, you can almost smell the day they were painted. Her subject was always nature and landscapes, equally imprinted in my mind and senses…grassy fields of the California foothills, piney mountains, bald hillsides seen for their bare lines and beauty.

My great grandmother was a great lover of nature. She collected rocks (a passion I am haunted with), painted avidly, created everything from her own jewelry to her own rock and concrete BBQ. She loved plants. She seemed like the kind of woman who could get things done, who knew what she loved and was prolific. Interested and interesting.

It is noteworthy that those who inspire and interest us the most are often admired not for what they were but for rather who they were. My great grandmother had no profession as far as I know, maybe rancher; she was rather who she was, perfectly expressed. None of her paintings were professional, she was not going for greatness, she was going for the moment. She was inspired and obeying the command innate in all of us: create! And she did, prolifically, create.

Now those paintings hang on my walls, as well as my sister’s walls. Her paintings often lift me, giving me the perspective I need. As I stare at her brushstrokes for the ten thousandth time, I am again reminded that life is like this: that the sometimes irreverent or painful or mundane or joyful details all work together to create the picture of your life. It gives me faith that there is coherence and beauty and order. They inspire me every day to heed my passion; that it’s not about perfection, or a career path, that it’s just about being me. Prolifically.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Eco-Coaches: Paving the way to Eco-Ease?

“Eco-Coach offers sustainability consulting solutions for individuals and businesses interested in making a positive environmental and social impact.”

What a whirlwind past few days! We had visitors all weekend and really had a great time visiting and entertaining. But I have to say I was so glad to finally put my feet up last night. I had been waiting all weekend for the chance to crack open the newest issue Food & Wine magazine. It is one of my favorite magazines because much of its focus is on the ecological aspects of wine and food. I always seem to learn something new and interesting in each new issue (so important for me as I don’t get out much anymore), and this issue was no exception!

As I curled my toes contentedly, thumbing through the magazine backwards, as I have a tendency to do, an article on green living, by Henry Alford, caught my eye. The title contained a term, “eco-coach,” that I had never encountered before.

I hate when I don’t know a word, so I had to interrupt my toe curling and go to my own personal oracle of wisdom, google! A short bit of research, I discovered that Eco-Coach, founded by a woman named Anca Novacovici, facilitates individuals and business to live more ecological lives and run more ecological businesses. Brilliant, I thought, and read on…

This particular eco-coach went through the writer’s apartment, giving helpful eco advice rather than embarrassing critiques. One piece of advice that interested me most was that the eco-coach strongly suggested discontinued use of canned goods because they are lined with a plastic that contains Bisphenol-A.

Bisphenol-A, the article continues, has been not only linked to obesity but also to both breast and prostate cancer. In fact, according to Wikipedia, this chemical has been suspected of being hazardous to humans since the 1930’s(!) and has only recently been gaining press regarding its hazardous nature (perhaps only now scientists can see its long-term effects?). It is profoundly prevalent in food and drink containers, from drinking water bottles to baby bottle to...canned foods.

This gave me a weird feeling. It gave me pause for thought. Do you ever think about how packaged everything we eat and drink is? And how hard it is to buy things not encased in plastic in some way, shape, or form? Or how few alternatives there are (although more and more companies are doing their part to stop over packaging) to plastics? Even if you buy in bulk, what do you use to house it? The plastic bag you were so conveniently provided with—that’s what you use, nine times out of ten.

But there are alternatives; they just aren’t all that convenient. You can use your cleaned glass bottles as containers for bulk items, stainless steel or glass containers can replace your plastic water bottle, there are ways to escape plastics use but it requires a lot of time, energy, and forethought.

I think that eco-coaching is a wonderful new innovation and sincerely hope that this will help individuals and businesses easily transition to more environmentally friendly practices. I also hope that they can make being an environmentalist and conscious consumer a little easier. I am tired of going through mental gymnastics every time I go to the grocery store trying to make the most eco-friendly choices I can while maintaining my sanity. I hope that future environmental alternatives are mainstream and that living in an eco-friendly manner will no longer be a decision but rather a way of life.