Recipe for Holiday Peace.

Recipe for Holiday Peace

Ingredients:

  • 1 large bunch of cold, dry, dark weather.
  • 1 large bunch of spring-like weather.
  • 1 small bunch of Jingle Bells.
  • A touch of anticipation.

Pour both kinds of weather into a large bowl. Add jingle bells and anticipation and mix well. The result will be confusing, but proceed with confidence.

Mix in:

  • 10 cups of busy. Any variety will do.
  • A few leaves of tradition.
  • 1 dusting each of longing for times past and wishing for a brighter, happier now.
  • A dash of Hope, a heaping tablespoon of Faith, and several large spoonfuls of Love.

Stir well and let flavors mingle.

Add all at once:

  • Five drops of scent of pine.
  • A few drops of loneliness… due to those who will not be at your table this year for one reason or another.
  • 1 heaping cup each of red, green, blue, silver and gold.
  • 2 overflowing cups of effervescence.
  • 3 cups of glitteriest-glitter. Throw it everywhere, and whatever makes it into the bowl, good for you.
  • 1 collection of interesting relatives and friends around a large table — eating, drinking and discussing the state of the world (or not).
  • Three small pinches of obligation. What you’re expected to do, should do, always do, thought you should do, agreed to do, must do, planned to do, don’t want to do, were asked to do.
  • A toss of fantasy, perhaps the one about escaping to a quiet villa with a handsome, kind chef/real estate magnate/comedian/wise man for three months on short notice.

Mix well over a nearby hearth fire. Then stop everything. Let the mixture rest while you pour a glass of sparkly. Put your feet up. By the fire. Go ahead, drink your sparkly. Feel warm and appreciative. Fantasize about the chef/quiet villa idea.

When you’re good and ready, add:

  • Prayers. Your kind. For what’s important to you.
  • Heavenly sleep. As often as possible, yield to the desire to crawl under the covers.
  • These wise words from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: “…the best thing one can do when it’s raining is to let it rain.”
  • Singing. Any kind. Any time. Any place. If you get too worried, if you get lost, if you get broken, The Wood Brothers can help you.

And last but not least. With gusto and reverence add:

  • A generous splash of Mother Nature while gushing about her beauty.
  • Five scoops of your strength.
  • Seven scoops of your flexibility.
  • Ten scoops of your wisdom.
  • Your boundless love.

Stir well, add any available candles and poinsettias — and don’t forget the mistletoe! Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

May All Good Angels be with you this Holiday season!

P.S.  My book of poetry, “100 Words: Small Servings of Whimsy and Wisdom to Calm the Mind and Nourish The Heart” will be ready soon (in time for Holiday gift-giving) and I’ll let you know the moment it’s available.

Over the Holidays, I’ll be editing my second book about Relationships to be published early next year.

My blog will be back in January! In the meantime, Ho, Ho, Ho!

 

 

 

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This Is Water.

From time to time, I like to share writings from others, especially something that’s timely or something I couldn’t say in the way another might say it. I appreciate when people write with their unmistakably authentic voice, and this writer does.

David Foster Wallace was wildly brilliant, and also suffered from depression. He is known for his rather mind-blowing journalistic pieces, short stories and novels. He was best known for his second novel, Infinite Jest (1996), a sprawling undertaking with almost 1100 pages and 330 footnotes. His life-long battle with depression ended in 2008 when he took his own life. 

The following is an excerpt from his Kenyon Commencement Address, which he delivered on May 21, 2005 called “This Is Water.”

The speech is long, so I will cut and paste. In case you’d like to read the full transcript of his talk, here’s a link: David Foster Wallace Commencement Address.

 
*****
 

THIS IS WATER

 
As I’m sure you guys know by now, it is extremely difficult to stay alert and attentive, instead of getting hypnotized by the constant monologue inside your own head (may be happening right now). Twenty years after my own graduation, I have come gradually to understand that the liberal arts cliché about teaching you how to think is actually shorthand for a much deeper, more serious idea: learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed. Think of the old cliché about quote the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master.
 
This, like many clichés, so lame and unexciting on the surface, actually expresses a great and terrible truth. It is not the least bit coincidental that adults who commit suicide with firearms almost always
shoot themselves in: the head. They shoot the terrible master. And the truth is that most of these suicides are actually dead long before they pull the trigger.
 
And I submit that this is what the real, no bullshit value of your liberal arts education is supposed to be about: how to keep from going through your comfortable, prosperous, respectable adult life dead, unconscious, a slave to your head and to your natural default setting of being uniquely, completely, imperially alone day in and day out. That may sound like hyperbole, or abstract nonsense. Let’s get concrete. The plain fact is that you graduating seniors do not yet have any clue what “day in day out” really means. There happen to be whole, large parts of adult American life that nobody talks about in commencement speeches. One such part involves boredom, routine, and petty frustration. The parents and older folks here will know all too well what I’m talking about.
 
(He goes on to give detail-driven examples of “day in, day out.” You can read them, of course, using the link to the full speech above.)
 
“The thing is that, of course, there are totally different ways to think about these kinds of situations. In this traffic, all these vehicles stopped and idling in my way, it’s not impossible that some of these people in SUV’s have been in horrible auto accidents in the past, and now find driving so terrifying that their therapist has all but ordered them to get a huge, heavy SUV so they can feel safe enough to drive. Or that the Hummer that just cut me off is maybe being driven by a father whose little child is hurt or sick in the seat next to him, and he’s trying to get this kid to the hospital, and he’s in a bigger, more legitimate hurry than I am: it is actually I who am in HIS way.
 
Or I can choose to force myself to consider the likelihood that everyone else in the supermarket’s checkout line is just as bored and frustrated as I am, and that some of these people probably have harder, more tedious and painful lives than I do.
 
Again, please don’t think that I’m giving you moral advice, or that I’m saying you are supposed to think this way, or that anyone expects you to just automatically do it. Because it’s hard. It takes will and effort, and if you are like me, some days you won’t be able to do it, or you just flat out won’t want to.
 
But most days, if you’re aware enough to give yourself a choice, you can choose to look differently at this fat, dead-eyed, over-made-up lady who just screamed at her kid in the checkout line. Maybe she’s not usually like this. Maybe she’s been up three straight nights holding the hand of a husband who is dying of bone cancer. Or maybe this very lady is the low-wage clerk at the motor vehicle department, who just yesterday helped your spouse resolve a horrific, infuriating, red-tape problem through some small act of bureaucratic kindness. Of course, none of this is likely, but it’s also not impossible. It just depends what you want to consider. If you’re automatically sure that you know what reality is, and you are operating on your default setting, then you, like me, probably won’t consider possibilities that aren’t annoying and miserable. But if you really learn how to pay attention, then you will know there are other options. It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, hot, slow, consumer-hell type situation as not only meaningful, but sacred, on fire with the same force that made the stars: love, fellowship, the mystical oneness of all things deep down.
 
Not that that mystical stuff is necessarily true. The only thing that’s capital-T True is that you get to decide how you’re gonna try to see it. This, I submit, is the freedom of a real education, of learning how to be well-adjusted. You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn’t. You get to decide what to worship.
 
Because here’s something else that’s weird but true: in the day-to day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship– be it JC or Allah, be it YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles — is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you. On one level, we all know this stuff already. It’s been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, epigrams, parables; the skeleton of every great story. The whole trick is keeping the truth up front in daily consciousness.
 
Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. But the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they’re evil or sinful, it’s that they’re unconscious. They are default settings.
 
They’re the kind of worship you just gradually slip into, day after day, getting more and more selective about what you see and how you measure value without ever being fully aware that that’s what you’re doing.
 
And the so-called real world will not discourage you from operating on your default settings, because the so-called real world of men and money and power hums merrily along in a pool of fear and anger and frustration and craving and worship of self. Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom to be lords of our tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the center of all creation. This kind of freedom has
much to recommend it. But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talk about much in the great outside world of wanting and achieving. The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day.
 
That is real freedom. That is being educated, and understanding how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing.
 
I know that this stuff probably doesn’t sound fun and breezy or grandly inspirational the way a commencement speech is supposed to sound. What it is, as far as I can see, is the capital -T Truth, with a whole lot of rhetorical niceties stripped away. You are, of course, free to think of it whatever you wish. But please don’t just dismiss it as just some finger-wagging Dr. Laura sermon. None of this stuff is really about morality or religion or dogma or big fancy questions of life after death.
 
The capital -T Truth is about life BEFORE death.
 
It is about the real value of a real education, which has almost nothing to do with knowledge, and everything to do with simple awareness; awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, all the time, that we have to keep reminding ourselves over and over:
“This is water.”
“This is water.”
 
It is unimaginably hard to do this, to stay conscious and alive in the adult world day in and day out. Which means yet another grand cliché turns out to be true: your education really IS the job of a lifetime. And it commences: now.
 
I wish you way more than luck.
 
*****
 
Bless you all and may you have an aware and awake week.
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100 Words: How The Universe Gives Moving Advice.

The watercolor painting of a ballet dancer slid elegantly down the wall one night while I was sleeping, offering a poignant point the next morning: “Are your feet dancing, honey, through this change?”

The puffy white comforter secured on a shelf since winter, untouched for months, came tumbling down. I watched it roll. (Freaky, really.) “You’ll land softly.”

The Zen brush painting was “overlooked” during packing wall art. Ah, yes! “Meditate, see things as they are, not as the mind insists.”

Moving advice: Dance confidently forward through your changes! Or pirouette. Or slide down the wall. All of it works.

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100 Words: My Old Friend, Change.

Moving to a new household — so many choices.

Where does the heavy cooking pot go, or shall I give it wings? What about this perfect stack of porcelain, this whisk of all whisks? Where exactly will I sleep, dress, brush my teeth?

Am I alone on this journey?

Not in the least. Change, my faithful life partner, is visiting. Encouraging, hovering, sometimes demanding attention.

And yes, tapping gently on my heart.

How will this go? Will we remain friends, speak often, solve matters of love in an evolving, satisfying way?

Will we grow together, stroll into the sunset, die happy?

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A Light Story To Soften Your Day.

The day was winding down.

It had been overcast until the last few hours when the sun re-appeared to add its touches to the evening. I had just finished my dinner in the room with sky-high windows. Taking the last bite, I turned toward the mountains for a fuller view, dessert if you will.

The landscape had been scrubbed clean from the last few days of downpours. Now, with a bright nod from the setting sun, the colors below and beyond the mountain ridge turned especially dramatic.

But something felt different than usual…

There was, yes, the standard backdrop of mountain midnight blue, deepening as evening approached. And tonight the blue was so strong, I closed my eyes to invite the depth of that blue into the center of me.

This is the blue I welcome when I most need reassurance and strength. Confidence. A strong foundation.

Some days the mountains offer deep sky blue or dark slate blue. Other days, Dodger blue, cornflower blue, steel blue. There’s plenty of blue in these mountains and these mountains share.

Across the valley, each blade of grass, every tousle-headed bush and tree was dressed for the evening in a favorite spring shade of green. And thanks to the generous sun, the green finery was awash in spectacular light. 

AND THEN…

As the sun slowly descended to the mountain ridge to my left, a colossal pile of brilliant white clouds moved in with unusual speed and accuracy, setting the stage for a possible grande finale, a last call for luminosity.

The process seemed faster and showier as if to say, pay attention! So I stood and waited. And watched.

There was a bright tension developing.

Cloud after cloud moved swiftly in front of the dropping sun, harnessing the light, holding it back, reigning it in, creating a light gate — one which began almost immediately to strain mightily at the seams.

There was, after all, unlimited light pushing from behind.

I wondered about capacity. Did the light gate have its limits? Would it burst? I noticed I was holding my breath.

Then, when it could hold no more, without announcement or fanfare, the light gate simply yawned. Or opened to speak, I’m not sure.

Through the gaping cloud mouth shot so much light! Over the valley it careened, worlds of light, galaxies of it — pouring, pouring — a breathtaking, awe-inspiring light slam!

The light did not spread evenly over the valley. Instead, the open gate sent one bold blast of blazing light through a single line of poplar trees, pouring so much light into them, they glowed with green fire.

The poplar leaves, light-drenched from every angle — top, bottom, sideways — became fluorescent green, radiant from within. I wondered how they felt being so loaded with light!

Taking a deep breath, I thought about humanity and how we might relate to the pouring of brilliant light. We humans can, after all, focus streams of love and light from our own eyes and heart out to the world. We can direct our light. Our love.

What if we did that — more? What if we waited to communicate until we were bursting with light? What if (then and only then) we opened our light gate to speak? What would change on the world stage? Or at home?

On other days, we’d be a poplar tree, drenched in light from another. We’d let the incoming light infuse us, inspire us, light our way.

I put my hand on my heart, running for my phone to see about a picture. But in the seconds required to reach for my other eyes, the cloud gate closed its mouth and that was that.

Light across the valley softened instantly. Tall trees relaxed. The soft greens below pulled a dark, cool sheet of midnight blue over and settled into the quiet of the evening.

Gradually, night came.

Witnessing the light shot, feeling the power of that much focused radiance has changed me. I’m not quite sure what happened to my understanding of life, or to my heart, or my soul, but I can tell you I (and those trees) will never be quite the same.

What I can say is that a deeper understanding of the power of light went into my bones. Light speak is more clear to my heart-being. My belief in our human connection to nature has never been more pronounced. Could there be a better partner for humanity than nature? I don’t think so.

That nature goes to the trouble of arranging a sky full of clouds and light to make a point, to show a truth — I’m not sure if I’ll ever understand the enormity of that kind of love. 

 

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Terri Crosby

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