Meandering

It’s Sunday, a day to relax and not worry about staying focused. Despite this, I managed to go to a very efficient meeting for our upcoming square dance event. I even got in a walk on the way there. It had started to rain by the time the meeting was breaking up, and one of my friends offered me a ride. I told her I lived nearby, but she was concerned because it was raining. I thanked her and gave her my standard response—I’m not the Wicked Witch of the West, so I won’t melt. (Indeed if I am any of the witches from that movie I would be Glinda. Who doesn’t want to travel around in a bubble and look gorgeous all the time?)

I relish these chances to walk in the rain, to breathe in the fresh clean air and enjoy the sound-dampening characteristics of the mist. I could hear the birds enjoying it with me, and I walked around a little bit extra once I got where I was going, just to soak it all in. Ah bliss!

I’ve been doing a lot of walking this weekend. Last night I marched in a candlelight vigil for the recently-formed Queer Ally Coalition. There’s been an increase lately in gay bashings, so our community wants to remain visible, organized, and strong. The walk felt very positive to me, and I think we got our message across.

Now I’m off to commune with friends. I know many people go to a church to worship on Sunday, and I support them in that. I feel like I’ve worshipped all over Seattle today. Life is good.

See you tomorrow!

Link, should you desire it:

http://www.capitolhillseattle.com/2009/02/28/anti-hate-vigil

Lovely weather we’re having

I can tell that the fall is on its way here in Seattle. The first signs of impending autumn are the signs outside the numerous coffee shops, which all start to advertise pumpkin spice lattes and hot apple cider. The Halloween candy is starting to push the school supplies off the shelves, and—oh yes—it’s getting a bit cooler.

The temperature change is the most subtle of the clues, because it just doesn’t get that cold here in Seattle. Most of my life I’ve lived in places where you cannot escape the signs of the season. Leaves turn colors, wood smoke fills the air, and it starts to feel quite chilly. I miss that sometimes, although I seldom miss the winter weather that follows it. Still, fall remains my favorite season.

Another great thing about fall in Seattle is that the rain starts to come back on a more frequent basis. Suddenly the sky is overcast on more days of the week, and the skies will start drizzling at least once a day. I love it. Bright sunny days do not thrill me the way that they thrill others. I don’t want to squint my eyes or melt in the heat. The return of the rainy season thrills me. Soon we’ll be having full-out downpours, the sidewalks glistening as people do their holiday shopping. The horse buggies will start circling the downtown again, and the steel drummers will start playing on the corners, trying to get some coins from those out to buy presents. Seattle shows its seasons in a different way than other places I’ve lived, but the traditions here are as predictable as everywhere else.

If it should happen to snow once the winter comes, it’ll be a real event. During the three years I’ve lived here I’ve seen perhaps two inches of snow at the most, and every faint dusting sends the town into a panic. Having lived through blizzards that dumped three feet with barely a disruption in the normal routine, I find this amusing. Of course they don’t salt the steep streets here, and the city is rumored to have only one snow plow. That does make a difference.

I don’t have to worry about these false calamities right now. I’m going to enjoy my day under Seattle’s white and cloudy sky, giving thanks that I’m in a place that suits me. If I’m lucky, I’ll even get rained on. What more could I ask for?

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:

184. What are the signs of fall where you are? Do you enjoy the season? Why or why not?

What a glorious feeling

Everything is wet today. The sidewalks glisten, the leaves curl around mouthfuls of water. Damp pigeons fluff their feathers as I walk by. The city is renewing itself. I love the rain, and it’s a special treat to have it on the tail end of a miniature heat wave.

I woke up to a cool bedroom, the air crisp with the breeze brought by the showers. I made sure to go for a walk during lunch so that I could enjoy the nice weather. Other people stayed inside, not wishing to get wet. I’ve been told that I’m perfect for Seattle, because I love the native dampness. I moved here partly for that dampness, and I have not been disappointed.

I think it’s important to live in a place that suits you. I have a close friend who lives in Phoenix. I love to visit Arizona, but I cannot see myself battling the heat on a daily basis. I would miss the greenness of my environment, and I would never want to leave the cocoon of an air-conditioned nest. I don’t even like air-conditioning. On a similar note, I used to live in Minnesota. I loved the people there, and the culture was intriguing. It was a very friendly place by and large, and I enjoyed strolling around the many lakes. It was also cold—so cold a lot of the time that I felt like I was battling Mother Nature. Winter, which seemed to last most of the year, was an endurance test. I bonded with the natives there, because we were all survivors of an environmental endurance test. Who needs that kind of struggle?

Now that I live in Seattle I am much happier. I’ve tossed my snow shovel, and I don’t even carry an umbrella most of the time. There’s always going to be days that aren’t quite perfect, but I am happy in the knowledge that I’ll get to sit out in the rain on a regular basis. My city provides me with the puddles and downpours I crave, and I revel in them when they arrive. Mother Nature and I are friends again. She’s a pretty good ally to have.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:

108. Does the place where you live suit you? Why or why not? Is there anything you can change to make your environment more accommodating?

The cat rested, too

Yesterday I recharged my batteries. I slept late and I stayed inside most of the day, a good thing to do while the weather was having one of its little fits. The sky was charcoal gray, and the rain was whipping in all directions. I was inside under a blanket watching movies with my housemate.

I used to feel bad about days like this, and I still get little twinges of guilt. After all, I have so much else I should be getting done. Should—that’s a warning word right there. Should is about guilt, and obligation, and grief. Sometimes there are things that need to be done, regardless of volition. I’ll be at work all this week, whether or not the mood strikes me. I’ll pay my bills, I’ll feed the cat. There are enough things that absolutely must happen that I try not to add extra duties to the list.  

My body has its own absolute needs, and sometimes I forget that. I need to rest, to have some down time. Some days it feels like my brain is melting, because I haven’t had that fun time. It is just as important as all my other duties. Yesterday I satisfied my need for fun with movies. We watched Stardust (Matthew Vaughn, 2007), a fantasy based on a Neil Gaiman novel. I love his writing, so I was eagerly anticipating this movie. I was not disappointed.  

I don’t understand why this film didn’t get more notice—it was funny, silly, and also a great adventure story. The fantasy universe was believable, and was different from the common elves, dwarves, fairies routine that populates so many other examples of the genre. This was a touching love story, and the film was a visual treat.  

My friend and I accompanied our movie viewing with spontaneous Chinese food. We had a nice dinner planned, and were going to cook grilled cheese and soup. I love grilled cheese and soup, but when my friend wandered outside for his smoke break he found Chinese delivery menus. Our fate was sealed, and we got to watch extra movies instead of cooking. It was just what we both needed, and my fortune said I’d have a great day today. So far it’s right on the money.  

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:

54. Take a day off to relax, doing only what is necessary and no more. If you’d like to rent a movie, I’d highly recommend Stardust.  

Drizzle drizzle, splash splash

I love my adopted homeland of Seattle for its constantly dripping sky, and I think part of that is my love of water. I like the feel of rain on my skin, the gentle mist that fills the air. I like to walk through the wet streets in the dark, watching the headlights glint off the puddles. I love the sound of the rain as it hits umbrellas and overhangs.

Much of this love of water transfers inside. I love showers, too, and I particularly like to take them in the dark. Not pitch black, mind you—that would be dangerous. Besides, I might end up washing my brunette strands with mouthwash or something. I do not want minty-fresh tresses for work. In order to prevent such unfortunate incidents, I like to light a candle and shower under its flickering light. That way I can see the basics and focus on the relaxation being offered me. With less to look at it’s easier to screen out distractions.

I remember reading about this little trick in a meditation book years ago. I thought it sounded silly—until I tried it. Part of what attracts me to Zen is the way it is integrated into daily life. One aspect of Buddhism can be summed up by the slogan “be where you are.” You’ve probably heard it. It’s on mugs and t-shirts. What does it mean?

Aren’t I always where I am?  Nope—not at all. My body may be fixed in place, but my mind wanders like a two-year old lost in a mall. Sometimes it’s hard to find again. Better not to lose the mind in the first place.

When I shower, I try to just shower. I let my constant babble of thoughts slide down the drain while I focus on the warm water hitting my skin. Ah, the scent of the green tea soap—so slippery, such nice lather! I enjoy the mini scalp massage as I work the coconut shampoo into my hair. I feel the conditioner as it detangles. Ahhhhhh. I could tell you more, but there’s a fluffy towel with my name on it. I don’t want to keep it waiting.

 

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:

23. Try out a shower in the dark, being fully present with the water and the soap. If you don’t have any candles, run out and get some first. Was it a joyful experience?

Splashing in lemon yellow and turquoise blue

It all started in the back of a puke-green mid-seventies model Pontiac Catalina. I remember the lone swing set, its iron chain creaking back and forth under an ashen sky. We could see it out the rear-view window. The motel had bad pancakes for breakfast and I wanted to be outside playing. Instead, I was trapped next to my brothers and my sister in the car. We had a shared 64-pack of Crayolas, our favorite colors worn down to stubs. The coloring books were disappointing. The downpour was keeping me prisoner. I was not happy.

Many years later I moved to Seattle for that same weather, for the rain that blesses our flowers and grasses with a healing baptism. The rain keeps things green all year round and leaves dew that hangs like small crystal beads off the succulents in the morning. I love our showers, the symphony of each drop hitting disparate surfaces around the city, a metal overhang giving a different timbre than a plastic bucket. I like to watch the droplets dance in the puddles or ping off the taxicabs. Steadier rains roll languidly off designer umbrellas, their colorful awnings like native Seattle wildflowers that only spring up during a good drenching to disappear hours later. In short, I am in love with the ongoing sprinkle that is our city. I only wish that it rained more.

How did my viewpoint change so radically? The mind is a strange beast, but I have my theories. I’m no longer trapped in the car, so I can make the rain my playmate. I dance with the rain, smell it, hear it, taste it. And when we drove out of that drizzly parking lot all those years ago, the sun came out. We forgot the crayons in the back window, and they melted into one glorious rainbow block. I remember it like a primitive piece of stained glass on the warm vinyl. So now the rain makes me think of crayons. And who doesn’t love crayons?

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:

5. Dance with the weather in your own environment and explore the strange beast that is your mind. What memories come up for you? What path does snow or sleet lead you down?