John Prine, rest in power

It feels particularly cruel to lose a man of such empathy and wit right now. If there’s one thing the world needs more of, it’s people sensitive to the struggles of others. John Prine left us a catalog of songs that illustrate a deep understanding of people’s inner lives and the moments that often go unremarked. He was a treasure.

In the fall of 2002, President George W. Bush was beating the war drums (with the enthusiastic help of Democrats like Senator Joe Biden) in preparation for invading Iraq. During those months, I played “Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven Anymore” an awful lot. It was my way of maintaining equilibrium during those days of flag-based jingoism. Because, no exaggeration, flags and flag decals were EVERYWHERE. My family attended anti-war rallies in Denver during that fall and spring of 2003, and I helped the boys make signs that expressed their sentiments. Here’s Zebu in the middle, holding his sign.

Civic Center Park, Denver. October 28, 2002.

That sign was always a big hit at rallies because, once again, John Prine had nailed it.

While digesting Reader’s Digest in the back of a dirty book store
A plastic flag, with gum on the back fell out on the floor
Well, I picked it up and I ran outside, slapped it on my window shield
And if I could see old Betsy Ross I’d tell her how good I feel
But your flag decal won’t get you into Heaven anymore
They’re already overcrowded from your dirty little war
Now Jesus don’t like killin’, no matter what the reason’s for
And your flag decal won’t get you into Heaven anymore
Well, I went to the bank this morning and the cashier he said to me
“If you join the Christmas club we’ll give you ten of them flags for free”
Well, I didn’t mess around a bit, I took him up on what he said
And I stuck them stickers all over my car and one on my wife’s forehead
But your flag decal won’t get you into Heaven anymore
They’re already overcrowded from your dirty little war
Now Jesus don’t like killin’, no matter what the reason’s for
And your flag decal won’t get you into Heaven anymore
Well, I got my window shield so filled with flags I couldn’t see
So, I ran the car upside a curb and right into a tree
By the time they got a doctor down I was already dead
And I’ll never understand why the man standing in the pearly gates said
“But your flag decal won’t get you into Heaven anymore
We’re already overcrowded from your dirty little war”
“Now Jesus don’t like killin’, no matter what the reason’s for
And your flag decal won’t get you into Heaven anymore” 

Well, the U.S. ignored the millions of us around the world who over and over took to the streets to say NO WAR ON IRAQ, and invaded in March 2003 (with Senator Bernie Sanders voting against invasion and occupation). John Prine died on April 7, 2020, and minutes after I’d finally dragged my sad self out of bed this morning, I learned Bernie Sanders ended his presidential campaign.

Today is an especially hard day on the planet. Think I’ll put “In Spite of Ourselves” on repeat and sit in the sun.

John Prine, rest in power.

Enter this wild wood

Chiricauhua Mountains. May 14, 2019.

Stranger, if thou hast learned a truth which needs
No school of long experience, that the world
Is full of guilt and misery, and hast seen
Enough of all its sorrows, crimes, and cares,
To tire thee of it, enter this wild wood
And view the haunts of Nature . . . .
~ William Cullen Bryant

(Note: After posting this, I realized it all felt very familiar. Probably because I’d posted the same words very recently.)

On the upswing

Gratitude!

Neighbor’s yard. April 1, 2020.

After 20 days of not feeling well, I’m regaining my health. Still have my morning cough episodes, but yesterday I walked the neighborhood (2.25 miles, yo!) and today did yard clean-up for three hours and then took another walk. I’m tired now, but not to-the-bone-fatigued. Whatever illness was dogging me, it’s on the way out. Woot! Woot! Woot!

To celebrate, here’s a beautiful little bouquet I photographed in my neighbor’s yard.

Sunday Confessional: sometimes anxiety just is

I’ve been trying to work on my revisions this afternoon. I’m listening to Beethoven through my earbuds in an attempt to drown out the present reality and it seems to work in short bursts. I’m focused and then . . .I’m not. So I decided to look at some photos to find something to put here, and began examining pictures of birds, flowers, waterways, and other typically calming images.

May 3, 2019. Clearwater, Florida.

Well? Right now, my heart is racing. Adrenaline is pumping and it’s as if there’s no escaping my anxiety.

Rather than try to (unsuccessfully) distract myself from these feelings, I’m going to try another approach. I’m going to sit with my anxiety. Because maybe it’s like how you’re not supposed to run when you encounter a bear: if I don’t run from my anxiety, maybe it’ll quit chasing me.

Sanctuary

This afternoon I packed notebook, binoculars, camera, blanket, and camp chair, and walked up the street and out into the open space. I’m still not feeling great so only “hiked” a short distance before settling in. I spent that time outdoors doing much and also very little.

I sat in the chair and watched birds through the binoculars. I rested on the blanket in the sun, welcoming the heat baking into my black shirt. I explored the immedate area with my camera, jotted in my notebook, and eavesdropped on hikers talking on the nearby trail. When my stomach growled, I fantasized about snacks. I photographed the moon in the blue sky. I rolled onto my back to watch this uncharacteristically mellow Dark-eyed Junco in the tree above me.

Those two hours outside were balm for my soul. I’m very grateful for the luxury and ease of walking up my street and out into the open. Next time, I’ll know to bring something to eat.

It’s a reach, I know

‘Tis sweet to know there is an eye will mark our coming,
and look brighter when we come.     
  ~ Lord Byron

Columbus, OH. August 23, 2019.

I’m quite sure the gleam in this chipmunk’s eye had less to do with me than bird seed on the ground. Still, that bright eye can’t be denied.

Sunday Confessional: on becoming a conformist

When I was in first grade, my teacher sent a note home to my parents. Mrs. B was concerned I wasn’t taking time to color within the lines and included a worksheet as an example. I’d filled in whatever blanks were there with the correct words and then scribbled with crayons across each of the pictures I was supposed to color.

Maybe my fine motor skills weren’t that well-developed. Or, perhaps I’d already caught on to the busy-work aspect of school. Either way, I wasn’t interested in coloring inside the lines.

My attitude has changed. Today, I’m sitting in my self-isolating bedroom (upright in a chair, rather than in bed), and just finished this Sea Dragon picture from the coloring book I bought months ago. This time around, I found it very soothing to focus on staying within the lines. No time for anxiety while trying to follow the complex paths of green foliage! I suspect I’ll be coloring more pictures in the days to come. If you haven’t tried it, I highly recommend.

Slight exaggeration

I’m quite sure it’s only stress-induced illness, but I haven’t consistently felt like my normal self over the past 12 days. As soon as I feel better and exert myself, it sets me back again. So, I’m now embracing my inner slug. Today, for instance, I spent all day in bed. And you know what helps make me feel the very best?

Image by Erik Tanghe from Pixabay

Humidity.

I’ve been closed off in my bedroom, reading and writing, while the humidifier sends a constant stream of vapor into the air. My cough doesn’t stand a chance against all the moisture. Don’t worry, there’s no fungal in this bedroom jungle. Not yet, anyway.

Thankful Thursday: magical nature edition

Backyard steps. March 26, 2020.

“If you find yourself worrying, go outside, take three breaths, address a tree and quietly say, ‘Thank you.’ If you can’t find a tree, a dandelion will do… Nature is magic.”                                                                                                             ~ Robert Bateman

Making friends

Lots of sunshine here today and I was eager to get outside after two days “trapped” indoors by snowstorm and frigid temperatures. Silly me, I assumed my three menfolk and the dog would share my eagerness. Not so. I finally coaxed Emma off the deck and tried to get a game of chase going in the backyard but, after taking a piddle, she ran back to the deck. The guys stayed indoors, refusing to join in the fun. (Except for when they stepped out long enough to lob a snowball or two at me.)

Well, they missed out on some awesome conditions. Warm sunshine + snow just dying to be packed and rolled into balls. However, the snow was verrrry heavy. Oof.

Eventually, I gave up on creating snow friends and started to play a game of Jenga with myself. Here’s an early iteration (actually, two).

My final Jenga tower was above my head and just as I handed my phone to Zebu to take a picture of me standing next to it, it tipped over. The tower was truly glorious and you’ll just have to take my word for it.

Meet my neighbor

Yes, it’s snowing again in Colorado. At this point in the year, I’d prefer the sunshine and warmer temperatures we’ve had the past week or so, but this storm has it perks. Exhibit A: looking out my window at Rainbow.

Rainbow Dash (so-named in honor of My Little Pony)

As I write this, she’s still out there, content to let the snow accumulate on her beautiful, thick fur.

Thoughts on a Magpie Monday

I woke with anxiety (in large part exacerbated by the reality of the corporate, political, and media establishment rallying around the candidate who’s campaigning against Medicare for All during a pandemic) and knew I had to do something. Pull the covers over my head and remain in bed all day? Or get up and get moving?

I wisely chose movement and for the first time in weeks, went for a run. Well, a walk/run. For once, I was kind to myself and didn’t berate myself whenever I slowed to a walk. I went out on the trails in the open space and within minutes, I saw a bunny under a bush. I greeted it as I chugged on by and then a few minutes later, I spotted a talkative magpie perched on the water tank.

Black-billed Magpie in neighbor’s yard. August 29, 2019.

I’ve become accumstomed to being the only human out on the trails, but today I encountered a total of ten people and three dogs. I hope that if they also woke with anxiety, that their time in the open space soothed their souls. I know it did me a world of good.

Anxious times call for natural beauty

Red Maple budding out, March 10, 2020.

Nature gives to every time and season some beauties of its own; and from morning to night, as from the cradle to the grave, is but a succession of changes so gentle and easy that we can scarcely mark their progress.   ~ Charles Dickens

I didn’t realize this maple was budding out until I was standing next to it, and I swear it didn’t look like this yesterday. Gentle and easy changes, indeed.

The essence remains

Purple Coneflowers. July 19, 2019.

Nature is the most thrifty thing in the world; she never wastes anything; she undergoes change, but there’s no annihilation–the essence remains.                                      ~ Thomas Binney