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I once had a garden filled with flowers that grew only on dark thoughts but they need constant attention & one day I decided I had better things to do.  (Brian Andreas)

At my “regular” job, my desk is directly next to a humongous picture window – and it is one of the few reasons that my day behind a desk is tolerable. I get a front seat to the doings and happenings out there, the comings and goings, the small dramas of mothers pushing toddlers or lovers hand-in-hand (or not as friendly, and therefore, more dramatic).

Most of these passersby don’t ever even notice I’m there. But every single morning, without fail, the elderly man who does outside maintenance for the company next door, walks by with his scoop bucket slung over his shoulder, and he waves. Every single morning. I wait for it – in my head he’s the scoop-shovel-man. I don’t even know his name. I know nothing other than that every morning, we share a wave and a smile – and that he’s an important part of my day because of it.

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.  (Leo Buscaglia)

I marvel at these moments when virtual strangers are able to connect and share something important – a small moment, a small mutual experience of being human. I tend to be something of a Pollyanna (I hope you all know who she was – Disney made a movie about her a loooong time ago, based on a 1913 novel by Eleanor H. Porter). According to Dictionary.com, a Pollyanna is an excessively or blindly optimistic person – I wouldn’t say that I am quite that extreme, but I make a real effort to see the sun peeking through the clouds on more days that not.

I don’t know if any of you have felt the energy shifting lately, but I sure have. It was funny – I was on facebook the other night, and one of my friends posted something along the lines of, “Is it a full moon or something? What a really weird, intense day!” I posted back, telling her that it was, in fact, the new moon that day, and those energies could be just as – if not more intense – than that of the full moon. Not sure what she made of that, but I hope her day went more smoothly, anyhow.

This shift links to something that keeps coming up for me in the everyday – a newer unwillingness to put up with things and people in my life who bring bad juju. And this brings me to the phenomenon of the Negative Nellies. A Negative Nellie is the antithesis of a Pollyanna. I am sick unto death of people who, when asked how they are, heave a deep and mournful sigh, and proceed to tell you how everything in their life is utter crap. Aack. Tired of it. These people leave a legacy trailing off behind them like a comet’s tail, too – but, instead of kindness, they sow sorrow.

When confronted with a Negative Nellie, don’t even think of mentioning the weather – this is one of their favorite whipping boys. If it’s a clear sunny day, it’s too bright; if you have a warmer day after a lengthy stretch of bitter winter, they’ll tell you how horrible it is that all the snow is melting and everything is wet. If you are in a ten-year drought, and the long-awaited rains have come, they’ll tell you how there is not enough rain, or too much, or the water just isn’t quite wet enough.

The dismal outlook of the Negative Nellie extends to literally every event, emotion, occurrence, or happenstance that could be conceived of by man (and some that haven’t yet). If you see a silver lining, they’ll find a spot of tarnish. And, lately, I find myself less and less willing to give them even a moment of my time – which presents me with a bit of a moral conundrum: I believe that one of the most important things we can be is kind, and I believe that there is good in every person (somewhere) – but then, I find myself wanting to absent myself from these folks who propagate and spread negative-vibes (which also eliminates some opportunities to show kindness).

I find myself unwilling to be subjected to or held unwilling captive to the Eeyore-ish moanings of these nay-saying doom-and-gloomers. So, I absent myself from their presence, from the conversation, and from the bubble of negativity that they cultivate & surround themselves with – and it made me feel just a bit guilty. Aren’t I supposed to be spreading sunshine and daisies wherever I can?

And then, I came across the following quote from George Eliot: It is good to be helpful and kindly, but don’t give yourself to be melted into candle grease for the benefit of the tallow trade. I had to read that a few times before the depth of her (George Eliot was a woman) message sank like a pebble into the still pond of my heart and rippled outward. How can I go on spreading kindness and a helpful hand if I allow it to be devoured by all and sundry? And, especially if I squander that energy on those who don’t WANT to think or see anything positively? (Depending on how you look at it, I either do the Negative Nellies a disservice by attempting to inject positivity into their contented discontent & melancholy – or, I make them deliriously happy: whenever I make a positive statement, they get the chance to spread negativity seeds with each rebuttal).

So, I think I’ve devised a new modus operandi – I will continue to extend kindness, politeness, courtesy, generosity, and compassion to all I meet – but, when I note the presence of an ‘event horizon’ surrounding these black holes of energy, I will pull back, retain my energy (and my integrity), and move on to offer the gift of my being to others (I realize that “gift of my being” sounds unbelievably conceited – but, I swear I don’t mean it that way – I see everyone in my life as a gift, so it’s hypocritical not to think of my self that way, too).

This new determination is all well and good, but I know there will be times when I slip into the maelstrom with the Negative Nellies and that’s fine – I’d rather take a chance with someone than squander the possibility of a wonderful interaction out of fear of being burned. I’ll just have to continually tweak my Nellie-o-meter.

What it comes down to, really, is this (said by those who’ve said it best):

Treat everyone with politeness, even those who are rude to you – not because they are nice, but because you are.  (Author Unknown)

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion. (Dalai Lama)

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. (Plato)

The other night as I was trudging up the colossal flight of stairs stretching up to our apartment, lost deep in thought, and laden with bags & belongings, an elderly gentleman who I’d seen around the building was making his way down. He has extreme difficulty walking – it takes him minutes to traverse what I can in a few seconds. He said something to me, which broke me out of my myopic fog, and I said, “Pardon?” And he says, “Oh, you shouldn’t have!” And I look about for a moment, uncomprehending – until I realize he means the fake grass thingie I’m carrying under my arm (it looks like the wrong end of a hula skirt all tied up). And I just started laughing!

My laugh is a booming, chest expanding one – I hold nothing back. And I said to him, “Have a good night, sir.” And he said, “Thank you. You, too.” And I got the feeling that he was thanking me for more than my well-wishes. I hope he knows that my laughter was a thank you, too – for a moment shared on the stairs with a stranger, who saw an opportunity to reach across the silence, and make a connection.

The idea of home has always captured my heart and imagination. I have always been fascinated by those people who are adept at creating inviting spaces where you immediately feel welcome and at peace. And being on the Path of Reiki Mastery, I was naturally led to think about the energetics of those people and the home-spaces they create.

My grandparents’ house was like that for me – I am certain that the love I felt for them colored my perception of all of it, but that has been one of the few places where I immediately felt a calm and sense of peace just walking through the door. Their home was in many ways, very World War II generation-ish, and maybe that held part of the mystique for me. More so, they had a loving home, and welcoming hearts, and when you walked in their door, you were greeted warmly and fed and coddled – no matter who you were.

I have not had that kind of home space since I first left my parents’ house. Time after time, I had this impulse to just wait it out and keep things in boxes. I never allowed my energy and self to fill a place in a genuine way. And for the past two years especially, it was more like prolonged “camping” – and in many ways I felt like a squatter in the apartment we shared with our roommate.

As Wittler and I prepared for our new glorious abode, minus the roommate, I started to give a lot of thought to what it would mean for both of us to create space where our presence was felt, and where each room was filled with welcome and warmth. And then I came across this from Denise Linn:

Our homes are mirrors of ourselves. They reflect our interests, our beliefs, our hesitations, our spirit and our passion. They tell a story about how we feel about ourselves and the world around us. A home is more than a place to lay your head and seek comfort from the elements. It is a place where you can interface with the universe. It is a crossing point in time or space that can attract or repel energy.

Your home can be a place of renewal and hope. It can be a sanctuary within which you can retreat and recharge during the changing times, and oasis of peace amidst turmoil. Homes can be places of healing and regeneration. Not only can your home help to strengthen and heal you, but your home can be a template of harmony within which you and all who enter can be invited to step up to a higher level of spiritual frequency.

…Like an echo heard throughout infinity, your home can be a transmitter of luminous energy. The energy radiating from your home can be like a small stone dropped into a still pool of the universe, whose ripples will be felt at the farthest shore of the cosmos.

(from Sacred Space, by Denise Linn)

And then, I realized that we were already creating that homespace together – Wittler and I – through our commitment to one another, our genuine enjoyment of one another, our similar commitment to acting lovingly in a sometimes harsh world … All of that combines with our optimism and positive outlook on things, our sense of shared burden and willingness to reach out to others. Our homespace is creating itself beautifully out of who we are, and who we are becoming.

Dani recently “reclaimed” her space at the shop, making it into a place that she found soothing and relaxing – a place that she found sacred. As she did this, I found myself really relating to what compelled her to do it, and to need it. And all of the people who walk into the store, or come for a group and gather in that space comment on it, and bask in it. When they do that, they are basking in her.

Instead of allowing worry about how our home appears to others, I am going to focus on wanting our home to appeal to us – and allow it to grow its own energy and beauty and peace out of that. And rest secure in the knowledge that this is how those homespaces I’ve so enjoyed were created, and know that we are creating ours with every moment and breath, with every shared laugh, with every conversation at the kitchen table, with every meal prepared and consumed in love.

And even more, we will bask in it. We will be at peace in it. And those who will enjoy that space will find us, and come to bask, too.

 

Aaah, family.

There is simply nothing like the bond that you have with the folks you happen to be attached to by birth to make you absolutely lose your mind. My family? I call it the Gaar Family Circus. I tend to hesitate to bring new people around, especially if they have “tender sensibilities.”

My mother and father are still married, which I realize makes them a bit of an oddity. I am the oldest child, and following me are one sister – Kate, and a brother – Dave (a.k.a. “the boy”). The sole grandchild – Abby – is my sister’s daughter and my goddaughter, and puts the twinkle in my parents’ eyes.

The majority of my extended family lives within an hour’s driving distance. My people are totally “settlers.” Our predecessors got off the boat, got to Wisconsin, and here they stayed. Here we’ve all stayed to the present day.

There have been plenty of times in my life when I have definitely felt completely stymied by the seeming unchanging nature of this group of people. By the embedded traditions, and the expectations that accompany them. By the sheer weight and force of all of these people.

Yesterday was Thanksgiving, and we gathered at my parents’ house. I have a little joke with my folks, now that I live elsewhere – an elsewhere that manages to be pretty quiet and peaceful most of the time. When the circus starts up, I walk into the glass-fronted pantry, and close the door behind me, and every single time, my dad starts giggling.

My parents do strange things, now that I don’t live there. They bicker and tease one another. They have a different and cool relationship – they have their own secrets and stories again – ones that don’t include us. It’s pretty neat, actually.

My sister is a Gemini. That should explain everything. I always say that her picture should be featured in the dictionary next to “A.D.D.” – she doesn’t really have it, but having a conversation with the “two” people inside her head is maddening. First, you have to realize that as the Sign of the Twins, she can’t help it – there are two people having a conversation with you. Second, you have to learn to play both sides of the issue with her, and know that in each moment there is a part of her that is in complete opposition to what’s coming out of her mouth (hint: that’s the part that talks next). Kate is also incredibly irreverent, and hilarious.

The boy is taciturn and amusing by turns. He’s the youngest and the only boy. He had a hard time of it with us girls – a team and a force to be reckoned with – but he’s relatively well adjusted.

These people have shared moments with me that have made me cringe with embarrassment, grit my teeth with rage, cry with pain or joy. They have watched me walk through some of the darkest moments of my life, and they have seen me shine at my best. We have dealt one another some of the worst blows we’ve ever faced, and provided the strongest support any of us has ever received.

And yesterday, we sat down at a table together and broke bread. All of the drama melted away for just a little while. The three-ring circus emptied, the lights came down, and we just enjoyed one another.

My mother said it best, “I am grateful for my family. I am grateful that we are all here to eat this meal together today.”

Simple words, powerful words.

I am grateful for my family.

Happy Thanksgiving World.

 

Ahh, Mother,

I walked awash in your light,

gently enshrouded

tenderly kissed

all of the nights of my life.

 

A silent witness

to every howl, sob and sigh

to each time I’ve stood –

as solitary as yourself –

and stretched my arms wide

spun circles in dewy glades

closed my eyes

and rejoiced,

knew what it meant to feel blessed.

 

And hail their queen, fair regent of the night.

Erasmus Darwin

Our first jack-o-lantern, made by Wittler from an "accidental" pumpkin we got from Mark & Mel

Our first jack-o-lantern, made by Wittler from an "accidental" pumpkin we got from Mark & Mel

I have always loved autumn. I love the jeweled trees, the leaf-bedecked streets. I love the crispness of the air, and the bite in the wind – an atmosphere where all facades are cleared away and the truth of things emerges.

 I love to look around and see what the seasons of creation have wrought – to watch as plump pumpkins appear on doorsteps, and woodsmoke begins to waft through twilight evenings. I love this time of harvest – of bringing in all the products of growth.

 I love to look out over the fields and see the jittery bones of cornstalks marching off into the distance, mellow-golden soldiers standing at the ready, anticipating the time when their usefulness comes to an end. I love the birds bunching from one field to the next, schooling and pooling in the air-sea. I love the geese announcing their plans to travel, their intention to shift their families to warmer climes and sunnier shores.

 I have never had the sense of depression or moroseness that others have about this enchanted season – I look around me and see celebration, wholeness, fullness, cycle – birth and rebirth. The endings encountered now give way to new opportunities – autumn speaks to me of that lull that always seems to follow bursts of growth – where we are given time to settle into the changes that have come so that we may start off again rested, and with a strong step.

 I like the sleepiness of the fall – I like that everything sinks slowly down, back into the earth. I like to watch this process of rejuvenation. Autumn is only sad if you believe that there will never be another spring, that there will never be another time of fecund growth and boisterous creation.

 My life mirrors this cycle – instead of mourning the endings (for they surely and inevitably come), I try to find the gift in the experience I’ve had, and look to the potential of the new coming to me over the horizon. For me, autumn is more about the potential and promise of the new beginning than it is about mourning change.

 I love the way that people seem to regain their sense of wonder, their childlike fascination, with the beauty and the majesty and the mystery of our world – autumn is a visceral, visual reminder that the cycles continue, the world has her own agenda. It reconnects us to something primal and deep – the naturalness of change, the necessity of change… and the accompanying promise of a new gift to follow.

Come have a look through my kaleidoscope eyes. Come walk with me, as I make my way down the Path of Mastery (complete with fits and starts and pitstops and potholes). Our very impermanence is what makes us burn so brightly, and struggle so valiantly, and feel so deeply – it’s what makes us seize the day, and the moment. Come in, settle in, share a moment with me.

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"Who are YOU?" said the Caterpillar. This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, "I--I hardly know, sir, just at present-- at least I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then." (Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Chapter 5)