Mountain memory

Lost Lake, somewhere in Colorado

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The first time I hiked in the mountains, I needed a break, so I laid on my back in an alpine meadow next to a melting snow cap. I was struck by the closeness of the sky, how it rushed toward my bare face, how the silence buzzed in my ears, how I could almost grab a handful of cloud and lick it like a tuft of cotton candy, how the dripping water formed shimmering ribbons coaxed away by gravity, gathering volume and speed, toward life below.

 

(I stole this from myself. I wrote it as a comment on another blog. Is that breaking some blogger bylaw?)

A week in pictures

No time to post this week. But I did make an effort to really experience each day and search for the one thing that made it special.

Monday morning walk to the bus stop. It's oddly warm and humid for mid-March in Michigan.

Did I ever tell you that produce is like porn to me? The colors, textures, shapes and the scent, oh the scent of earth and leaf.

Self portrait of a woman who needs more vitamin D in her diet.

How about this? I dress to please myself. There are a lot of these message cars and vans rolling around town and I'm not sure what to think. Freedom of speech at its finest, I suppose.

Give me Play-Doh, this is what you get.

Sign taped to the door of a used-book store in my neighborhood. Real books, damn straight! My husband and I debate this all the time. I win the argument with this one: Does a Kindle smell like a book? No. It never will. Case closed.

Roses aren't my favorite but these creamsicle colored ones look good enough to eat.

It was like going to a Led Zeppelin concert, except it was all girls -- and they were pretty hot. Oh, and some 20-something guys asked me to hang out with them. I didn't but, wow, best ego-boost in a long time.

I'm a sucker for this kind of cute art. It makes me happy. (Artist: Jason Gibner)

 

What did you just say?

People are made in China, too.

We all do it.

The brain issues the statement and the mouth broadcasts it faster than the censors can hit the bleep button.

Then, my dear, you are in the throes of an awkward moment.

Recently, I found myself on the receiving end of one while volunteering in Girl from the East’s kindergarten classroom.

In case you are new here, Girl from the East was born in China. She is an American citizen through adoption. She is the world to us.

Girl is six years old. We became a family in 2006 when she was just under 11 months old. Everyone who knows us well knows our dynamic. Although we cannot shield her from the ignorance and hate of the outside world, we are fortunate to travel in fairly educated and enlightened circles.

But when something changes, like starting a new school, we have to start fresh. We have to go through the shit — again.

So it came as a kick to the gut during a classroom holiday party when one of the volunteer parents uttered an insensitive statement for everyone to hear.

Apparently upset that the plastic glue bottle would not produce a dot of adhesive for him in a timely manner, he began banging the container on the craft table. Then, he stood up, handed the glue bottle to the teacher and said something close to this:

“Another useless piece of crap from China.”

OK. I know. We are in an election year. The anti-China rhetoric is blowing around like trash in the streets. We, especially those of us in the Rust Belt, gripe about the outsourcing of manufacturing to overseas factories. We all grumble that things are not made to last.  I’m just as upset about it as you are.

As I mentioned, my daughter was made in China, quite possibly to hard-working farmers, or severely overworked and under-compensated factory workers. It is not the fault of the collective overseas workforce that products are inferior. Look to the greedy corporations, suppliers and governments. Many of these factory workers travel hundreds of miles away from their home villages to earn wages to support their whole family. Some have children they never see.  It is an ugly situation and we all suffer the consequences of it through low-quality and sometimes tainted goods as well as job loss right here in the United States. It is a huge problem.

Please direct your anger where it belongs. Boycott products and companies that take part in these practices. Write letters. Start a movement. Please do not China bash, especially in front of my daughter or your children or anyone of Asian appearance.

Telling me, oh, I thought she was Korean, does not make it OK.

Our classroom is somewhat diverse. We have a racial and ethnic mix. Open bashing of any of the other races or ethnicities is unheard of in today’s hyper-sensitive school climates. Yet, China bashing is rampant.

My daughter is proud of her roots. She is too young to understand the complicated relationship between the United States and China (heck, I don’t get it, either.)  She is too young to understand things like Communism and the Cultural Revolution and emerging capitalism. She’s just a kid.

We teach her there are good and bad people in China. Good and bad businesses in the United States. We must take things on a case-by-case basis.

I haven’t forgotten that day or those words. I’m still wondering what to do. I started writing a proactive type of letter that could be distributed via the school’s weekly newsletter, but it doesn’t seem like enough.

Why didn’t I call him out? Why didn’t I pull him aside afterward? I’ve done that before to little satisfaction on anyone’s part. Perhaps I’m not the most diplomatic. Perhaps those who say such things are firm in their beliefs and are just twitching to engage in debate.  When I approached an offending parent at toddler play group a few years back, she vehemently stood behind her words, asserting that there is no correlation between statements of inferior products and the people of a nation. She suggested I grow thicker skin because the issue isn’t going away.

I’m not going anywhere, either. The day I held my Girl from the East for the first time was the day I knew I’d taken on an extra duties, ones that require added defense and offense for the inter-country adoption community.

So, please, take a moment to think about the source of your anger. Think about your audience. Think about the innocent people you might hurt with your uncensored remarks.

Thank you.

 

 

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Word

My night stand is like a cheap motel. Books of all sizes and backgrounds take up short-term residency. We have our thing. Edges curl under the weight of words. Spines twist and crack. Minds expand. Then, it’s over.

One book, on a long-term lease, sits quietly to the left. It’s plain, unassuming and solid. Pema Chodron’s When Things Fall Apart is a safe place, a treasure chest, a beacon of light.

It gives me this quote:

“Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible in us be found.”

For one year, those words gave me the strength to go on.

Here are two more quotes by Chodron:

“People get into a heavy-duty sin and guilt trip, feeling that if things are going wrong, that means that they did something bad and they are being punished.

That’s not the idea at all.

The idea of karma is that you continually get the teachings that you need to open your heart. To the degree that you didn’t understand in the past how to stop protecting your soft spot, how to stop armoring your heart, you’re given this gift of teachings in the form of your life, to give you everything you need to open further.”

 ________________

“Life is glorious, but life is also wretched.

It is both.

Appreciating the gloriousness inspires us, encourages us, cheers us up, gives us a bigger perspective, energizes us. We feel connected. But if that’s all that’s happening, we get arrogant and start to look down on others, and there is a sense of making ourselves a big deal and being really serious about it, wanting it to be like that forever. The gloriousness becomes tinged by craving and addiction.

On the other hand, wretchedness–life’s painful aspect–softens us up considerably. Knowing pain is a very important ingredient of being there for another person. When you are feeling a lot of grief, you can look right into somebody’s eyes because you feel you haven’t got anything to lose–you’re just there. The wretchedness humbles us and softens us, but if we were only wretched, we would all just go down the tubes. We’d be so depressed, discouraged, and hopeless that we wouldn’t have enough energy to eat an apple.

Gloriousness and wretchedness need each other. One inspires us, the other softens us. They go together.”

____________

Eden asked.

I answered.

Open mic at a party. What words would you share?

Edenland's Fresh Horses Brigade

Interruption

One of the biggest disappointments of late is realizing we won’t be moving out West, as was the goal set 12 years ago on our honeymoon. We’ve known (even if we’ve never said it out loud) for the last three years that it would not happen in 2012. If you ever visit our house, this goal will be obvious. Almost every room has a picture of mountains or alpine flowers or something painted by Georgia O’Keeffe or cowboys on the set of “Lonesome Dove.” We even have a sign that says “2012.”

We’ve suffered many financial setbacks, endured job loss, and now, we are slowly rebuilding. Things are getting better, but not good enough to walk away from a house underwater and scant savings. I want to live in the mountains, but not in a tent.

Let me make this clear. I will not let go of the goal. It will happen some day, some way. Right now my biggest goal is to find a happiness in each day right here in Detroit. Yes, Detroit.

Even before I found this site, I began playing a game with myself, one I invented during a particularly difficult time, when depression hovered like a dank mist around my shoulders. My challenge each day was to find one thing to appreciate, to make me smile and feel grateful.  Whether it was the perfect cup of coffee, a clean apartment, an achingly blue sky, a new shoot on a bedraggled house plant,  or a genuine smile from a stranger.

The game continues with today’s offering:

What makes me happy is listening to “Love Interruption” by Jack White, and anticipating the April 24 release of his first solo album.

I’ve followed this guy’s career for 12 years. Even when critics called him a passing fancy, a novelty act, I just knew he’d become a major player in the music industry. I have a little shelf in my office of White Stripes unauthorized band bios, Rolling Stone issues, concert ticket stubs, and one of their original band buttons I scored at a resale shop. You know, basic rabid fan stuff.

Although Jack lives in Nashville, his roots are here in Detroit. He is who he is today (I believe) because he was born of the Detroit ethos. The day I discovered The White Stripes was the day I rekindled my love for Detroit. I couldn’t get enough of their music, of the scene around town. I tried, somewhat successfully, to get to every live show. There was a time when I could go to see a local act at a dive bar and turn around to see Jack towering above the crowd, sucking on a cigarette, a beer in hand, intently focused on the stage, appearing oblivious to anything else. Just another guy in the audience. It felt like a special time. It feels gone now. But the music goes on.

So does Detroit, in his absence, as the scene changes, the focus redirects.  And so do I. There is much to dislike here in Detroit,  but I credit White, among others, for opening my eyes to what is here: the creative energy, the poetry amid ruin, the idea that here lies the raw material to shape into anything the artist can envision.

The White Stripes disbanded last year as anticlimatically as my husband and I realized that we wouldn’t be house hunting in Boulder this summer. The signs had been there all along.

Did you watch Jack’s performance on Saturday Night Live last weekend? I was blown away by the duet with Ruby Amanfu. Maybe you like his music; maybe you don’t.

Sometimes all it takes is the right chord, pitch, and lyrics to turn a dark day around.

Today, I am grateful for good music in all its forms and the power it holds.

 

 

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