Meet The Girls

I have been MIA I know, but for good reason: I want you to meet my new friends.

Actually, they are old friends but now I know what they look like, and it’s all because of setting Intentions.

I skipped writing about intentions last year as I was apparently on the two-year plan with getting things done. Two-point-two-five year plan I guess, as it is now April. Time flies.

So hang with me here as I explain.

On the Anonymous Good Turn front, it’s still a lot of fun. Some deeds are not so anonymous but if those people pay them forward the world will just get better and heaven knows we need more people being a force for good.

Practicing Music at least 3 days a week: I manage it more often than not. Violin is continually surprising and I frequently feel like giving up but I can’t imagine living without it. It’s like the violin is…I don’t know…waiting for me to keep practicing until I unlock the secrets.

It is a patient instrument.

I had an “A-ha” moment last lesson where I finally felt my bow wrist move the way it is supposed to and my teacher saw it too and it was SO COOL!

I’m glad my teacher is patient, too.

Becoming more physically fit. This one has been and continues to be amazing. Between CrossFit Spark (CrossFit-ish), my local rec center and Eat To Perform, I have lost inches, pounds, body fat and gained muscle. Last month TWO people commented on how good I look and last night another person referred to my arms as “guns”!

Be still my heart.

Eat To Perform helped me sort out how many grams of protein, carbs and fats to eat and fits nicely with my paleo-ish omnivore self (but people who are vegan, vegetarian, whatever-arian follow ETP). Coming from chronic under-eating this has been a life-changer.

If, like me, you have tried almost every weight-loss plan out there and are frustrated, check out ETP. I am almost two years into it and am in my best shape since high school. The kids and I are a CrossFit/Eat To Perform family as Rebecca has signed on also, and likes the structure it provides. We meal prep her food for the week and enter it into her computer, then all she has to do is eat daily and do the dishes. Nifty.

I would like to say it made me run faster, but alas, no.

However, now I run the same distance then bust out some burpees, crush the assault bike (it is my favorite because it has a fan so you get air conditioning) and have enough energy left to kick butt and take names.

I LOVE being strong.

And now…drum roll…writing.

I FINISHED MY BOOK!

AND MY ILLUSTRATOR SAID I WAS GOOD ENOUGH TO DO MY OWN ILLUSTRATIONS!

YES, I AM YELLING!

And I will calm down now because it is annoying, but seriously, I am so stoked I can hardly stand it.

My illustrator said she would be my consultant and so we have this great email system where I draw, she critiques and I draw some more. I am in heaven and I want to call in sick to work every day and make art.

My mortgage company is not agreeable though so I fit it in where I can.

And now, without further ado, meet the girls: Sally, Nell, and their coop-mates playing bug keep-away.

sketch of running chickens

I have learned a lot and will learn much more thanks to mentors who have appeared when I needed them. My 2017 intention is to self-publish this year. For reals.

Stay tuned!

 

 

After The Election You Still Have A Choice

Thank God this debacle is over.

The gutter brawl between the parties threatened to spill into my front room and had become so, so tiresome.

Now we know and I am not wasting any more energy on this election. There are people to be taken care of, runs to be run, tests to be taken, dogs to be petted and choices to be made.

We have the choice to be better or bitter. There is no staying the same.

We can choose to live with courage and heart here and now.

We can choose to be a source of calm and strength and honor in whatever happens next. For every person you see gloating or wringing their hands or just being a twit about this state of affairs, do something kind.

Choose to be goodness in the world.

The people in Washington won’t notice, but our families and friends and neighbors will. That’s what makes these choices so much more important than the ones we made on November 8.

 

Clouds and sun

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some people’s kids

StarsI was at work when the tragedy in France unfolded and did not understand why my friend was posting that she was “Charlie” (No…no, I am pretty sure you are Beryl….) until I read the news that night. I found it ironic to remember that while the shootings were going down in Paris, a Muslim woman and I were hugging as we celebrated her last chemotherapy; we had found much common ground in spite of dissimilar upbringings.

The magnitude of this horror sank in as the days wore on and Boston came to mind; neighborhoods on lockdown, police searching and innocent people dead and wounded. All in the name of the prophet of a Higher Power. Dear Lord. What is wrong with these people?

My heart broke after Boston and I did the only thing I could think of……I ran. After Charlie Hebdo I dragged out my Julia Child French Cookbook and I cooked. I made haricots verts and sent an email to the local French consulate, never expecting a reply but wanting to send some good out into a world where there are people who use the name of God as an excuse for their mean and rotten and hateful behavior:

Dear Madame,

Please know your country is in my thoughts and prayers. In honor of those involved I will make the small gesture of cooking something French today. Kind of silly but a way of holding the French in my heart. 

Vive La France!

 

Imagine my surprise when I received this several days later:

 

Thank you for you prayers and  wishes!
What you write is so moving and not silly at all.
Merci!
Marie-Helene Glon

 

Hate and murder and death make the news all the time; drama and heartbreak sell. While the bullets and bombs are real enough and we need to have situational awareness, it does not mean that when events shove us through the door of the house of fear and hate we have to unpack and live there.

Unplug the media when the re-hashing begins and come back to your reality. Take Mr. Rogers’ advice and look for the helpers. Run. Breathe. Paint. Cook. Write. Do something nice, no matter how small, for someone. None of this will make the news but sending beauty and good into the world is never wasted effort and warms your soul like a cozy fireplace.

We all know there is plenty of badness out there; so be safe, be strong, be a force for good.

And enjoy these haricots verts, with my warmest regards.

Julia Child Green Beans

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A Closed Mouth Gathers No Foot

I have spent a pretty big chunk of my life perfecting the art of being hard on myself. I swear, if self-criticizing was an Olympic sport I would always be on the podium (and it better be the gold!). While being very understanding of others (and excusing inexcusable behavior in some) I have a history of lingering way too long in bashing me over my own shortcomings. The last few years have brought an astounding revelation: there are people who recognize that tendency in me and use it to my disadvantage. This is an odd thing to know but since it keeps coming back, it is something that is apparently essential for me to recognize, and I think I “got it” this time.

We all have deep dark secrets and here is mine……I say unkind things when I am pushed, (and then I get called on it by the people who pushed me). I do pretty good with “is it true? Is it necessary?” Yes and yes. But when stretched to breaking I flounder, sometimes fairly spectacularly, on “is it kind?”. I stay over-long in situations that are no longer tenable and this pushes my buttons.

So….what is the Universe offering me here?

1. Recognize the feeling that a situation is not healthy and get out, emotionally until I can get out physically. I have a huge sense of obligation to protect others and throw myself into the breach, which often results in nothing really changing and I flame out to boot. It’s OK to say “No, that doesn’t work for me” instead of being the team player and screwing myself over. It’s OK for me to be my first priority and I can’t help those who think otherwise.

2. Keep my mouth closed when I am beyond frustrated by the metaphorical “being put in a round room and told to spit in the corner”. Just walk away. Writing this now the feeling of being trapped comes back; walk away. Stay away. Breathe. Keep myself safe. This is not selfish, it is sane; the oxygen mask.

3. Work on delivery. Another of my favorite sayings (I collect sayings like a groupie collects rock bands) is this: “Diplomacy is the art of telling someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip.” Word craft; a finely turned sentence puts me in mind of eating a perfectly ripe peach.

So I am walking away. I will make amends as appropriate (thank you, Al-Anon) and move on. I did my best and there’s always room for improvement and that’s the way it is. I am home with my “work family” now, in safe harbor and I am the luckiest person in the world.

loveoflifequotes.com

 

 

 

 

Re-balancing

 

Have to be tough to live here

I started this post in our typical un-spring-like spring; an entire season ago. Too much time has gone by and so here it is, a little disjointed, but that is kind of the way things have been lately.

Walls of water snuggled the tomatoes and squash through the snow and cold of early summer. I have this great little banana belt micro-climate up against the house that keeps the veggies protected from the frosts that we have well into June. IMG_1376Rain chains now help rainwater to the ground and I am sure they will be equally beautiful with snow and ice this winter.

Easter found me in church and during prayers of the people I heard myself forgiving my former spouse. This was followed immediately by the thought “and stay the hell away” so maybe it doesn’t really count. Ah, well.

Work has invaded every aspect of my life. Being flexible, learning on the fly and thinking two steps ahead are my forte and I feel like I have been living at the bottom of a Niagara Falls-like deluge of new information for the last two months. As if this wasn’t enough, the long-promised new institution-wide computer program finally went live and I began to feel like resistance was futile. I know this for sure: I want to be retired before another electronic medical record change like this comes about.

Nothing says "spring" like new running shoesGandalf and I put some miles on my new running shoes to let the over-worked problem-solving part of my brain take time off. Running reels (reals) me back in….the focus is on the moment; breathing, feeling my muscles power me forward, finding the cadence and zoning out. There is only the dog and me. And the bugs; nothing like inhaling a small insect to break your stride.

The answer of how to restore equilibrium to my life came one morning upon awakening and when I got to the clinic I asked my former manager if I could work for her again. We chatted, struck a deal and I gave my notice (two month’s worth) as there was much training to be done before I left. Tomorrow is my last day and although I will miss the good people I came to know and have I learned more than I thought possible (molecular biology at my age!), I am relieved to be going. And I am only going down the hall, it’s not like I am moving to Canada, eh?

The last time I was in my old/new department I was married; so much water under that bridge I had to burn it down. Gandalf and Pippin are great house partners and I spend a fair amount of time supporting Rebecca. William, Sarah and their families make me realize what a lucky momcat I am and I like flying solo. My last date was in 1976 and I almost got asked out about a month ago but when I said I was busy and happy and had a restraining order and a Glock he moved on. Hmmm….apparently I’ve lost my touch. Bummer.

So here I am on the eve of change again; three years ago Independence Day was marked by the realization that if I was to stay alive I had to free myself from the way things were in my marriage. This year it is merely moving to a different job and gifting myself with a week off to get my sea legs back. I tend to stay too long in situations that are no longer working; maybe with practice I will get better at maintaining balance.

Growing isn’t just for gardens.

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Winter Solstice 2013

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“Well. Here we are!”

This has become my traditional toast and since Gandalf and Pippin can’t hold a wine glass I hear an imaginary *clink* as we salute this night. Christmas lights are bright, my fireplace is toasty and this year Loreena McKennitt has joined my Winter Solstice music companions Jennifer Cutting and the Windham Hill Artists. The critters have dozed off next to me and life is good.

Solstice music

Solstice music

This morning Rebecca and I went to the city and ran a 5K in the falling snow with other batty people. It was a fundraiser so it was good for our hearts on many levels!

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Yes, those are fishnet stockings

The costumes made us laugh and my favorite was The Lamp from “A Christmas Story”. This was Rebecca’s first run since tweaking her knee at karate a few weeks ago and then re-injuring it when she had a seizure. All is well; meds are adjusted, physical therapy attended and as we trucked along she kept saying “It feels SO good to run again!”. We are often the caboose; it’s a tough job but somebody has to do it. Upright and moving is what counts!

We delivered presents to Sarah, Jared and Michael and made it back before the roads iced up. I got Rebecca snuggled into her apartment and I arrived home tired and happy; a romp in the snow with Gandalf and then I was in for the night.

And what has become of the intentions set last Solstice?

I intend to publish my book this year. I would love to say that it is available on Amazon but, alas, this is not so; the sails have been adjusted more times than I care to remember and what has floated in on the tides of life is that I will write it differently. The exercise of writing this blog (and reading others’) has made me realize time and marination are still essential and even though I have come to this later in my life the process can’t be hurried.

2014: I intend to get this new book version down on paper. 

I intend to continue doing anonymous good turns; “pay it forward”. This is easy and fun. Part of me still thinks I am/need to be invisible. That is a long story not worth going into here, and anonymity suits me.

2014: Keep it up. 

I intend to practice my music at least 3 days a week. This has refashioned itself the most of the three intentions; I am a percussionist but I think I might have a melody instrument in me somewhere. Mountain dulcimer? Violin? Work and life being what they are, some days I only have ten minutes to spend practicing; how was it that when I was a kid thirty minutes at the piano was so bloody never-ending? Oh, wait….it was because I had no talent for it and I would gladly have gnawed my fingers off if it would have gotten me out of lessons.

But music practice on my own terms is….exquisite! 

2014: Play music as often and long as possible.

If I did nothing more than attempt to fulfill these intentions I would be completely occupied. Weaving them into the everyday is part of the challenge and if I just had a Carson and a Mrs. Patmore I am reasonably sure I could take the world by storm!

The night has worn on and tomorrow is Fourth Advent; soon it will be Christmas. To my family, friends and followers I raise a glass of the finest red I could find on sale.

Well. Here we are!

 *clink*

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Little Cat Feet

Gandalf and I stepped out into the deep grey mist; he blended in beautifully and while the fog wasn’t so dense he disappeared at the end of his leash, his edges did blur a bit. This is the least-foggy place I have lived but my Pavlovian response to seeing it remains intact; without fail, the phrase “the fog comes on little cat feet” pops into my brain. And then I think of third grade and Mrs. Hembree and choral readings and how we presented that poem. She had us say “little cat feet” in high squeaky voices and when I am old and demented that is probably what I will mumble over and over, so kids, don’t be worried.

I was fortunate to attend elementary school in southern California when education was cutting edge and for almost three years Mrs. Harriette Hembree was chief goddess in my life. Lest you think I had to repeat a year twice, she moved up each grade with her students and third, fourth and fifth years (until we moved) were splendiferous. She woke up my brain and my mind and became the yardstick by which I measured other teachers, both my own and my kids‘.IMG_0323

When we moved far away (both geographically and through a time warp) the remainder of fifth grade was spent in a quonset hut where we shared our space with the sixth graders. The teaching was not memorable; punishment for dinking off in class was to be made to copy a page out of the dictionary (I think Russell D. had his own edition of Webster’s by the end of the year) but everything else was; we were loaded into the “cattle car” to be taken to the mess hall for lunch (while singing Love Potion Number 9 at the top of our lungs) and our playground was a field of boulders, some as big as VW bugs. We made forts and running paths through and over them and completed (most of the time) magnificent leaps from rock to rock. Later that year we moved to the new school with a cafeteria and conventional playground; I always missed the rocks.

But I digress.

By the time Gandalf and I circled back home the mountains were still socked in but if you look at the top of the photo below you can see just the barest hint of blue sky; the fog layer was moving on. Carl Sandberg pegged it.

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The fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on. 

 

 

Rescue Me!

He was found in a barn; no mom, no litter mates, just a persistently cheerful ball of fur. The people at the barn didn’t know where he came from, either, and when he was still there the third time she arrived to ride the deal was sealed; she was taking him home.

He was a pot-bellied, tabby-ish, white-socked little guy and the first stop was at the vet. Aside from probably having worms and surviving on a minimal diet, he was healthy. With the vet’s stamp of approval, he arrived at his new home, good-natured but a little shaken after shots, lab work and worming medicine. In spite of being raised in a barn he had impeccable litter box habits and was a smart, jolly little bugger. Kitten cuteness aside, he had an exceptional personality, a living lesson in resiliency and enjoying every moment. It was going swimmingly until he met Inside Cat.

Inside Cat was well-loved in spite of having such subtle personality traits it seemed he had none at all and the appearance of the kitten produced a reaction the depth of which had never before been witnessed by his humans. The kitten (now named Gobbi) was not going to be able to be an inside kitty at her house. OK….how about being a barn-only kitty? No, he had just been rescued from full-time barn living. Several days went by and Inside Cat did not return to his usual state of ennui; Gobbi must find another home.IMG_0309_2

He was on the verge of going to the no-kill shelter when I ran into one of his humans in the grocery store, heard the tale and saw the photos. I have thought for the last two years that Pippin (the sweetest, most social cat in the world) would require other animal companionship once Gandalf passed from this realm and when the time came I would get another cat. Gandalf was still hale and hearty and I only went to the store for eggs but it seemed I would come home with a kitten. Ummm…..well……OK. It felt right and I resolved to let it marinate for a day or two before making the final decision.

I awoke the next morning knowing that this kitten was too remarkable to be put into the New family photoadoption pool; he would come to my house. I wasn’t sure he was really meant to be mine but I hoped so; it had been a long time since kitten antics graced my home. Phone calls were placed and Gobbi (now named Merlin because he *magically* appeared) arrived. Rebecca was ecstatic and I was tickled. Gandalf The Ever Patient let Merlin bounce around him. Pippin was disinterested; this was getting off to a good start! It seemed that enlarging my family by one small life was in the cards.

We spent the next day enjoying the show; bounce, skitter, somersault, race across the floor and skid to a stop. Stalk and kill all the fluffy balls. Again. Careen around corners and slide into Gandalf, leap tall footstools in a single bound. Well, maybe two single bounds. Snack, drink, litter box, repeat. Catnap and sideways kitten hop; it was a day filled with laughter and not getting much of anything else done. That night he slept with Rebecca and she reported that he hunted bedmice in the wee hours. She changed his name to Tigger because he was so bouncy and he reminded me of Linus from “Peanuts” so at last he had a formal name: Tigger Linus Wholam, also known as ‘TL’.

With the bestowing of The Name came the ghost of a sensation I thought no longer existed. I have spent the last several years trying to put my life back together and welcoming Tigger Linus felt….new. Forward-looking, not just picking up debris. Participating in something starting from now. New legs. Air in my tires. Wind in my hair and bugs in my teeth. Hope. And I was able to feel it because I opened my life to a kitten.Wore himself right out!But I digress.

The next day began much as the previous day had ended; rowdy. Tigger Linus sidled over to the cardboard scratcher and went to town on it. Cardboard flakes flew and the noise woke Pippin from his first nap of the day. He instantly morphed from this:into this:

Lordamighty, Pippin! Did you not notice him until now?

I scooped TL up and Pippin stormed outside to sulk. This pattern would be repeated several times over the next few days and doubt about what I had thought was the right thing to do started seeping in around the edges.

A week elapsed and Pippin actually stepped up his anti-TL campaign. Gandalf stopped eating; he is a sensitive soul and whenever there was hissing and surliness he averted his eyes, pained at the display. TL made the best of the situation and remained good-humored and cuddly, counting on me for the right choice about his future. Since I had no clue as to what that was, I asked the Universe and a few days later it came to me.

I have a friend at work who, in the last couple of years has lost her old cat, her old dog and her not-so-old husband. Squince, her remaining dog (and one of the most extraordinary beings I have ever met) was now her only housemate. We had often talked about our animal families and life’s vagaries and there it was: TL belonged to her; he just had to come through me to get there. I sent texts and photos and by the end of the day it was arranged; Rebecca and I would deliver TL to his forever home.

New family portrait

Time flies when you’re having fun and here we are, two weeks later. Pippin is Gandalf’s and my best friend again. TL has yet another name….DoeDoe…..after his soft brown eyes. He and Squince play and nap together and one day his Momma tried to describe to me this unfamiliar sense of optimism that had come to her life along with the kitten. Yes, I understood this completely…..finally, after a long dry spell, some rain in the desert.

Who rescued whom?

Who rescued whom?

Summmmer-time…..

The day begins

I don’t even know how to start this post…I am just so happy I could spit. I do feel bad about killing the ants, though. I was down for peaceful co-existence but they were all about world domination and it just wasn’t going to work. It was them or me.

 

Anyway, two summers ago I was looking for a place to live, last summer I was trying to sell my old house and pay the bills and this year……I am awash with gratitude to have been given what I need.

I feel like I should sacrifice a virgin or something and of course I won’t but the indebtedness feels that big; beyond words. But not beyond pictures…. so here is my offering; snippets of my days just for you because “To have joy one must share it, happiness was born a twin“.

My friend and I went for a hike, got rained on, had a splendid time. While I have lived here for years, she is a recent arrival and asked, “Do you ever get used to these views?”

Nope, never get tired of them.

 

Rebecca and I went to the zoo one day and yes, it really was this hot.

 

 

The bok choy bolted but the flowers are cute little yellow guys so I am enjoying them for a while. I think it was too hot when they were coming up; I will plant some more now that it is a little cooler. I love my garden experiment and am thankful I do not have to survive off what I grow this year!

 

 

Fortunately, the professionals have growing fruits and veggies down to a science and my CSA boxes are like Christmas every week.   

Gandalf dozing on the grass

Gandalf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pippin snoozing in “his” chair

 

 

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to find the Norwegian Elkhound.

 

 

 

Last Sunday I rode my bike to church then afterward kept going up the valley. Storms built and dissipated and I picked a few clouds to watch; I used to do this during the long days on the tractor at the ranch.

Look up! If your nose is always to the grindstone you will miss the story in the sky.

More gifts: friends, free concerts and a Great Blue Heron flew over Gandalf and me at dawn yesterday morning. Being able to go to work. Being able to punch out and come home. Knowing that even the tough days have goodness and mercy in there somewhere. What I learned in Al-Anon: One day at a time. It’s really all we’ve got and if someone tells you different, they are selling something. (Thank you, Princess Bride).

 And the most serendipitous finding in ages was provided by one of my favorite blogs, “Hooker’s Horde” hookershorde.wordpress.com

I discovered that Gandalf’s paws smell like popcorn!

 

 

 

Salt water

 

“The cure for anything is salt water – tears, sweat, or the sea.”–Isak Dinesen

I wrote this post while on a 19 mile bike ride with my new BFF bike seat cover. I didn’t use to need a gel seat cover but one day a few years back I was riding a bumpy downhill and got tossed over the handlebars after bouncing hard on the seat (to gain altitude, apparently). It really is true that time is elastic when stuff like this happens and as the sun was at my back I had the unique perspective of living the event while simultaneously watching my shadow play it out. I distinctly remember seeing one shadow (me on bike) become two shadows (me not on bike) and I thought to myself “Houston, we have separation from the launch vehicle”. Then my face was in the dirt with my bike on top of me. ThanksBeToGod for helmets and sunglasses! My bike was relatively unscathed, as I initially thought  I was, and after I thrashed around and got untangled I stood up and decided to resume my ride.Trek handlebar Then I looked down. Hoo boy…..bleeding like a stuck pig and yes, Houston, we had a problem.

Now this was in the early days of believing that my ex was actually pursuing sobriety; in reality he was using any time I was away from the house to drink himself pickled. I called him to come and get me. He got lost. I called him again and he complained that “they” had changed the road (really? in the last thirty minutes?). He finally arrived. I was not feeling very good by then and I had him stop at a paramedic-staffed fire station on the way to the city twenty miles away. A friend of mine was on duty and I explained what had happened and apologized that she had to look down there to see if I had an arterial bleeder; at this point all the males in the area scattered like cockroaches when the light goes on. She blanched at the sight of the laceration, applied a dressing and since I was not bleeding to death I opted for non-ambulance transport to the Emergency Dept. Now this is the scariest part of all: I got into the car with my ex who, in retrospect, was impaired. I thought I was going to survive a bike crash only to die on my way to the hospital. After a minor trauma workup, some stitches and a couple of hours in the ED, we made it back home in one piece. A few days later I tracked my paramedic friend down and took her treats. She is good people.

I didn’t ride for almost three weeks but eventually got back in the saddle and that is why I now need a gel bike seat cover. Best thirty bucks I ever spent.

One reason I ride is to have some way to burn off fury; something will trigger memories from the last several years and emotions of ferocious intensity will ambush me. Without warning there is total outrage and I understand the quote “hell hath no fury…..”. I run and ride and meditate and work and settle down and get comfortable with this scorched-earth anger; a not very “nice” emotion but there you have it. If I was queen, heads would roll and I know that I don’t want to get stuck in this wrathful place. I cry and want to throw things; I stagger into Al-Anon for support and guidance; help me to want to want to….forgive? have compassion? for him? for me? I don’t even know. I let it marinate. I write, delete, repeat, post; my guardian angels really can fly as fast as my ex could drive. I lay it out on the altars of All The Powers That Be and rest, knowing that I don’t have to know. Paradox.

Then the most curious thing happens; I walk into my house and am consumed with gratitude for this place of refuge, or I revel in sitting in my little yard with Gandalf and Pippin. PippinTookI can play in the dirt in my own garden. I am on my own and I am surviving and waves of thankfulness wash over me. I melt into them, sea foam hissing as it meets the lava and eventually the anger cools; I am left with new landscape; a new shoreline.

I am still standing…..and riding, and singing and and and. Isak Dinesen was right.