Sunday, August 31, 2014

Little green apples

I'm finally here.
Sort of. I kind of feel shell shocked from the crazy months that have been spinning by me at lightning speed. 
This summer has been full of kids. Lots of kids of all shapes and sizes. It's been full of mud pies, squirt guns, water fights, marbles, games, blocks, and did I mention, kids? 

Our house seems to be a hotel, bed in breakfast, kid entertaining station, the hub where all things  meet in our family. There's always something going on, going inbetween, going after.

Right now at this moment, there is a pause. And I will relish it. I know all to well that pauses, if left too long on their own will by the excess empty space bring into itself derbies, people, events, and stuff, always. 

Empty spaces have strong gravity pulls. If you don't believe me go clean your kitchen, and wait. 

Some kitchens have longer waiting periods before the inevitable happens. But it always does, sooner than later.

At our house, in our kitchen, with someone always cooking, with someone always making something, it's always sooner. Always. 

Besides being a place where my nieces and nephews like to take  summer vacation, our house is also the house where there will always be someone to rescue someone from something.

Be it someone's lost goat stuck in a irrigation ditch, (which did happen one summer and it was a stinkin billy goat) or someone's stranded at their house, someone needs an ear, someone needs someone to fill in---somehow if we can, and if it's truly needed, we are usually there, especially when it comes to family---they just get first dubs by default. 

The last rescue mission we just completed.  And now our house is uncommonly quiet. But this too is the pull of gravity, just like the silent last hush of summer, waiting for winter to rush in. 

Something is brewing, waiting to descend, some family event, something...

My sister in law's father recently died, so we had five extra kids, and a baby that's never been away from her mom to juggle for a while. I honestly don't ever remember taking care of a baby crying, and carrying on that much for her mum. It was enough to make me reconsider ever having kids. Seriously. 

I hope nobody in my family reads this or I'm in the dog house. 
Oh well. But honestly. It was tough. All night, all day she cried, and cried. I'm sure the neighbors thought that we were terrible people. We tried everything to sooth and comfort her. But she would not be comforted. Nothing worked. That kid was bound and determined to cry her lungs out, and then some. At night I'd lay in bed, and the ringing sounds of her crying would echo in my ears even though she had finally fallen asleep. 
Not until the last day we had her, did she finally start to warm up. 
I don't know what changed. Why she stopped crying. Why she began to giggle and smile, and do normal things that babies do? 

The only thing I did differently was tear up bits of paper to try to make her laugh. And it worked. It wasn't moment later that all her crying stopped. And there was this happy child in her place. It was such a switch I was baffled. That day I witnessed a miracle. Seriously. 

After that, my mom had this notion to put up corn.
This was not any corn, mind you, this was non gmo corn. So we had to put a lot of it up, because who knows if we could get this kind of corn again. 
               So thus ensued a corn fest.
                 Picking corn.
                    Shelling corn.
                       Cooking corn.
                        Chopping corn.
                         Bagging corn.
                              Cleaning corn out of the cracks of the table, and decorning the floors, pans, tables, chairs.
                       Disposing of the corn husks and cobs. Not to mention the people who had to grow the corn, and water it.
                            Why do people do corn anyway? Who thought of it in the first place? It's crazy.

By the time we were done putting the corn up, I was sick of corn. And can safely say that I won't be wanting any for a very...very long time. 

Then my mom's been harvesting cucumbers, turning them into hot yummy pickles. Those I can never get enough of. Yum.

Oh, and let's not forget the onions. Got to chop the tops off them and let them dry.

And don't forget the apples....the picking of the apples, the chopping of the apples, the peeling of the apples, the coring of the apples, the apple pies, apple sauce, and the bottled apples. And these weren't normal sized apples, mind you. These are small, golf ball, sized apples, that no one would be crazy enough to do anything with. 
But because we so happen to love the flavor....because they were so crisp, so sweet, guess what.

And more APPLES!

Oh, and in-between all this, my sister was in a play as the lead role--Sleeping beauty. My mom was helping out with costumes, and our house was littered with bits of cloth, costumes, and random bits of clothes. 
My sister, sleeping beauty in a dress my mom so artfully redesigned

 The play.
Now I must make a confession.

I tried out for the play as well, and was cast as one of the good fairies. But then, after reading the script, and going through the schedule, and comparing it to what my summer would be like if I followed through, I had to face the fact that by being in the play, a lot of more important things would end up not done.  So, again, I had to be brave and say no. Had I known the play schedule before I tried out, I would have not been so bold.

That no was really hard no to say. It made me look yellow, made me feel terrible to bale out after the first practice. 
But it would have made me feel worse to be indentured to a play---to spend my entire summer learning someone elses words, saying someone elses lines, while I forsook writing my own words.
  That was a really hard no because I have always liked acting, music, and the connection that comes with creating art with a group of people. My ego really didn't like saying no to that one. Nope.  But I knew it was a lot more polite to drop out sooner than later so that the directer could find someone else to fit my shoes. And believe it or not. He did. He found someone that did a great, fantastic job as the fairy. Watching the play at the end of this summer, I didn't feel bad either. It was really excellent. And I was again reminded that it's okay to say no.

It's humbling as well as relief to know that I am not irreplaceable in all aspects----that saying no sometimes will not cause the cosmos to stop in their orbit, and spin into oblivion. 

I just wish no got easier to say.  
Then betwixt everything I had a job I was looking into, interviewing for, but I finally decided that it would eat away too much of my time.  I had to weigh in everything else I would have to say no to if I said yes to this.  
Plus in light of our rescue mission, watching kids, and after giving it good consideration, again I had to say no.


I must be the queen of no. But I find myself saying that word a lot these days, even sometimes to my family. It sure makes me feel mean. Maybe I am? 

But, by golly, sometimes it's just the only right thing to do. Yes, it may be viewed as selfish. But more important than hoards of friends that like to use you, is having integrity, and a few close friends who can count on you, and who you can count on. For me, no has been more oftentimes coupled with integrity---and saying yes, more coupled with my ego.
But that's just my experience. 

I'm just sitting here I wondering what No's I will have to say in the future. And how much more courage I will have to require before I can say it with conviction. 

What no's await me? And coupled with that no, what yeses am I saying yes to when I say no?
Will I be strong? 
Do I have the courage to live what I believe regardless of my ego, and what the world thinks, whatever no's or yeses await me.

At harvest time, when all my no's, and yeses have been gleaned, the things that mattered, things I did, or didn't do gathered into a bunch, what will fly away, like chaff, what will be solid?

Will my harvest of no's be more than that of the yeses because of the greater yesses they led me to? 
Did I make the right decisions? 
Will I make the right decisions?

Will my harvest be like those bunches of small golf-ball sized apples, loading the tree, weighing the branches down, small, simple, but abundant, not particularity wanted by everyone, but full of flavor, and when diced and sliced add up to more than a bunch of large apples.

Gathered into my kitchen, at first, when I started chopping the apples and coring them, I was afraid that we wouldn't get very many jars of apples. I was afraid that all our effort picking them was a waste waste.
Then, as time went on, and my sister, and mom came to help, jar after jar became filled. More jars were needed. More jars were filled. What looked like a measly harvest turned into quarts and quarts.  At the end of canning, my mom said something like, "Maybe the small apples make more, after all."

Maybe that's what most of life is like---moment by moment, they come. Those small, sweet, delicious little things, that yield the most flavor, and greater harvest.  Little green apples, loaded with flavor. It doesn't take much to enjoy them, only a little thought and some action, picking them one at a time until the barrels are full. Oh yes, the larger apples at the top of the tree are nice. You shake them off too. They come in one's or twos. Some, the birds have eaten, some the worms have got to. They looked much more prettier from far off, out of reach. And now that they are on the ground, you see that those large apples you tried so hard to get aren't as grand as you thought.

So maybe, decisions are like that to, some small, some large, some wormy, some bruised, some sour, some tart, some green, some ripe, some sweet, some juicy, some full of flavor, others not so much.
But maybe at the end, it won't matter so much how big your apples are, or how long it took you to pick them, what you picked, but how you picked them, who you picked them with, and what you did with them once you had them. Maybe it's the quality of flavor that counts, and the sweetness that makes apples worth keeping in the end.


Monday, August 11, 2014

Seeking the signature

A couple nights ago, my sister and I decided to take a stroll late at night through the alfalfa field out under the stars. The moon wasn't out like in this picture. So it was dark.
In the west the clouds were building up with random flashes of lightening. Above us the stars shown brightly, and every once in a while we saw a shooting star.
It was one of those beautiful dark nights where we couldn't really see the next step ahead to walk, but we could see the sky, and the stars, so we weren't afraid, we knew where we were, and that we wouldn't get lost. 

My sister and I talked a lot, mused a lot, philosophized a lot. We do that a lot. We talked about ourselves, our unconventional lives, the fact that we love our freedom, and creative time we have open to us--with only ourselves to deride us if we fail or succeed. 

It was a good talk. 
As we looked up at the stars I was again reminded how vast the creator is, and how small our man-made plans, houses, and goals are. 

Then I began to wonder what it was that God wanted us to see when we looked at his creations, the sky, the ocean, the stars?  Did he want me to feel less than nothing when I compared myself to the vast universe of his creations? 

No. I don't believe he wanted me to feel less, nor for us us to look at his handiwork and feel depressed, or estranged to him---but connected, and reminded of the part of ourselves that he created. The part that is just as timeless and fixed and bright as the stars. And that by looking up and remembering, everything that wasn't apart of that timeless eternal greatness would fall away.

That is what I see when I see the stars. 

As a artist, and writer, I see why the creator doesn't jump out of the masterpieces he makes, grabs us, shakes us, and says, "Do you see my work?"

No. He won't do that. He respects us too much.
If the creator is a creative, and I know that he is, one thing a creator never must do is be in your face, saying, "SEE, here I am again, ta da!"

No. I don't think the creator works like that.

Honestly, as an author, I want every word I write to be mean something, to reflect something within me. I know that my words aren't me, that they will be imperfect like me. But deep down, I want the things I create to mean something.

And I think that's what the creator does too, his handiwork is everywhere. His creations aren't him, but they reflect bits and pieces of who he is. Deep down, I think we all want him to overtake us by his fantastic glory, but I believe he cares about our agency far too much to do that. Besides, when's the last time you went to an art show and enjoyed having someone shove a piece of art in your face.

 I think we need space to enjoy good art. Space to see, space and choice to decide if we like what we see---and if we want to see more. I think the creator wants us to see his work. But he won't shove it in your face. And when we see his creation, we see a glimpse into what and who he is. 

As an artist, writer and creative person, I know it would be really bizarre for me to plaster my name over a painting letting it bong out so that everyone can see that this is who made this interesting piece of art. Drum roll please. Yes. In the books I write it would be just as silly to write an author alert message into the story ***** beep, beep, be beep,**** this is the author Stephanie speaking, how do you like this book so far?***hello. I know you are there. Why don't you say anything?***
A message like this would jolt the reader out of the book, making making you, the reader aware of me, but not in a good way. To do this would garner irritation, annoyance, and the reader would probably put the book down, and look elsewhere.
I think the creator knows this. 
He could be bold.
He could be fantastically bold.
He could have his name plastered over every creation. Every miracle, every drew drop, every profound shaft of light that we grasp hold of. But out of courtesy, he does his work quietly, beautifully, perfectly, then, in a small obscure corner, he signs his name, and lets us find him. I believe he does this not to be invisible to us, but so that we may have to look deeper, search harder, so that when we find out who the maker is, we value what we have found even more.

I remember my sister bought a beautiful hand-crafted metal object second hand. She wanted to find out who the maker was, but there was no stamp, no way to track it back to who made it. So she couldn't find out where it had come from. This made her think deeply about making sure she had a stamp, a signature on the things she made, so that those who buy her creations can find the creator.
 Because without a mark, a stamp, a signal, the creator would be lost to us.

Sometimes I feel like I can't find the stamp or signature, no matter how long and hard I've searched, and have ended up lost.  But most of the time when I feel like this, it's because I was looking for his signature in all the wrong places, in artificial man-made objects, in people that were just as plastic, and future goals that had no substance to them. I wanted His signature to be on something it was never on on in the first place.

I think the creator wants us to find him. His signature is there, always, even though it may be hard to find among all the fake replications, and through the clutter of opinion, it's there. He wants us to come looking. We must collect these signatures, like a art-savvy collector, look deeper, think broader, and seek the creator in every blade of grass, every leaf, every thing that is good, true, and beautiful, even in yourself.  His signature is in you. It is up to us to search out that unique, special, timeless part of ourselves that can't be artificially made or produced, only nurtured, and carefully tended. In that special something we will find our passion, our purpose, our reason for being. And hopefully, if we don't get in the way, maybe what we do, in some small way, even in our imperfect state, can point to the creator who created us, and to his signature. 

As an author, I cannot reach out and know each one of my readers personally, just because they may read my books. But if they know my name, they can search, find, and contact me, and then I can contact them because I know they did their homework, and want to find out more---that they liked my books, and appreciated what they contained.
It makes me feel very happy when someone takes the time to say thank you, or to notice the effort, time and dedication I put into something. It makes me want to thank them even more than they thanked me.

Likewise I think the creator is happy when we notice, when we look, and say thank you.
Even when we notice some small thing, I believe he is glad.

I believe true artists don't go searching for compliments for their creations, because to create, to call in to being, is who they are, it is what makes them them, and they create regardless if anyone appreciates what they do. 
But oh, when someone takes time to really look, to wonder, and enjoy, and seek out the creator in thanks, it is very nice. And more often than not, that simple thanks opens the doors to more beautiful creations to be bestowed, and appreciated.

No true artist who feels appreciated will leave the appreciator unappreciated. 
I remember writing letters dozens of famous artists. In the letters I wrote, I appreciated their artwork, and asked them what made them--the artists, successful. Then I sent the letter and waited. 
I had no idea what to expect, or if they'd even write back.

I was blown away when the mailbox was flooded with replies. Some sent thank you cards, others sent small copies/prints of their work, others sent little booklets and really heartfelt letters back, some even invited me to visit if I ever made it their way.
This I never forgot.
It really astonished me. The simple act of just telling them that I thought their artwork was beautiful, that I appreciated them garnered so much more than I ever expected. 

Here I thought because of who they were, they'd never take the time to even notice me, and my little notes. But I was wrong.

Noticing the small things.
Seeking the signature, who made it? 
Looking deeper.

These things are so very important, and I often forget to look for the signature. I think human nature tents to want signatures written in bold, italics, with a glowing halos around it, and hundreds of spectators to witness it. Then I we can notice. Then we can appreciate. Then we can say, oh yes, there is what we have been looking for. 
That is our miracle we can appreciate.  

As humans we collectively like to place our stamp on things, and claim or dismiss the object of our focus together, regardless of whose signature is on it. On facebook we see only the post that has a hundred likes on it. We miss the quiet profound post that goes unnoticed. In music, in art, in everything we push together in masses, reaching for that, grasping for this, clapping together when something pleases us, or is pushed to the top by chance.
 But rarely do we stand with the one who stands alone. Rarely do we look to the voice that has a different opinion than ourselves. We move together in masses trampling so much good, by going after what one small better.
 All the while the thing we are looking for is not on top.
Not even on the bottom. 
But apart. The cream has been separated elsewhere.
The berries on one bush may be picked clean, but if you stepped away, stopped grasping, you might see that there's a lot more bushes. You need only step back.
 In lonely corridors, in ones, in twos, and without much fanfare. Silent. This is where the magic happens. Just as only one reader can read a book. The creators creations are enjoyed on more personal levels, far way from the crowds, the buildings, the noise, the commotion.

While seeking the master for the great flashes of inspiration,  the lightning bolt of knowing, and the deafening rumble of the thunder, that demands we hear, we miss the glory of silent things that speak in ways that rattle, not our eardrums, but touches our heart. We dismiss ordinary because we have not looked at the unique signature under the treads, where the soul lies. 
I think the creator has many paths, many avenues of light, and possibilities as numerous as his creations for our lives. We need let go of wanting to control everything, to let his all-knowing be enough. 

He is in the details of our life. On every page, in every chapter. He is there. There may be ellipses, page breaks, tab marks, long blank pages, misspellings, typos, imperfections. The story may even veer far from what you planned. You may get writers block. You may feel like nothing you put on those pages matter. You may feel lost, like the characters are never going to make it, that the wise person in your story doesn't exist, and that you have no purpose, that the dragon in your story is too big, that you, the hero may give up.
Don't give up.
Look for the creator's signature, you can be co authors of a very beautiful book called your life. 
True artists make imperfections assets, and crumpled edges works of art. If you don't write perfectly, write with passion. 
If you don't know what to write next, wait.
Don't be in a hurry.
Maybe the point is not so much where we end up, or if our story ends well. But if we were true to the signature, the truth that is in us, that we look up and live in thanks. 

Just some rambling thoughts, I've been thinking---more to remind myself than anyone.

P.S Below is a collection of sunsets I've taken over the summer. A lot of them were pretty fantastic do to the fact that there have been so many fires in the area. Another reminder that beauty can even come from smoke.

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