Daily Prompt: Uneven

I visited Virginia City, NV, a few years ago. The old part of town looked like it came out of a Hollywood western, complete with rustic building facades, saloons, and wooden sidewalks. Strolling along, you had to be careful where you planted your feet because probably like bygone days the  planked sidewalks were uneven. Sometimes where one board met another, there was a lip that could send the unwary sprawling.

Now in my town that would be an occasion to sue. But in days gone by, the assumption was that you watched where you walked and took charge of your own life. Though efforts were made to safeguard the community, it was assumed that life happened, so walker beware.

It seems that in this day, we want everyone to be aware for us and to be held accountable for any mishap–whether it be a physical situation or a misspoken word. Life is uneven–sometimes a result of our own choices and sometimes others’. To take responsibility for our actions and own the resulting consequences is a skillset that needs cultivating.

So yes, I am taking that Facebook post down right away!

Daily Prompt: Interior–The Eagle Version

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(screenshot from live feed)

I have been watching the live feed from Florida of bald eagles and their eggs. One has hatched and is fed raw fish from a very conscientious mama (or perhaps daddy—hard to tell). The other egg’s hatching looks imminent. Mama sits on her nest, rearranging the twigs and grasses, protecting the hatchling and the one yet to come. The nest does not look particularly soft or comfortable, but obviously fits the bill for this little family. What makes this nest safe is not the materials of which it is made, but the presence of formidable parent-raptors who not only shelter the young but stand ready to fend off any foe.

The home my husband and I made for our kids is not very fancy. It is not filled with rich furnishings or decked out in ostentatious accessories. Granted, it is a bit more than twigs and grasses perched high in a tree, like my eagle friends, but it is warm, and hopefully welcoming in its simplicity—and with no more eggs to hatch!

I have visited immaculate homes with rich furnishings, but sometimes the décor does in no way compensate for the pain and dissatisfaction present in its inhabitants. I would prefer to invest in simplicity and a happy hearth for my home to one of cold perfection.

The same goes for an interior life, I suppose. I want my interior design to be straightforward and honest, not cluttered with the thoughts and arguments of someone on the run from themselves and truth, not decked out with the lies people tell themselves to keep guilt at bay. Not cold and aloof, fearing exposure, but open, honest, and welcoming.

As is my home, so I want my heart to be—hospitable to life. Simple, clean, and suited for the task.

Now back to my eagle live cam. It is not a great movie because the plot doesn’t move quickly, but the characters are awesome!

 

Dead Trees, Thorns, Elections, and Me

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There is an abbey up in the hills where I like to go to think, to photograph, and to seek moments of peace. A few weeks ago, I happened to go on a Sunday morning, and since there were masses scheduled, parking was limited; and I had to park quite a distance away from the reflecting pond. I did notice, however, as I was leaving there was an old, funky, dead tree across the field near where I had parked the car, and I determined the next time I came I would get closer and photograph it.

That next time was this week. After communing with the ducks and turtles and photographing the fall leaves and reflections in the water, I drove down to the edge of the field, grabbed my camera and headed across. The field was mostly sandy with tufts of weeds, but what kept me wary were the many holes I saw. I assumed they were gopher holes, but one can never tell. Up in the hills, we have Mojave green rattlesnakes, so I scanned the ground carefully as I walked so as not to be surprised by a very deadly snake.

I was barefoot in my Crocs, which was probably not the best choice for protective footwear, but I live in them because it is the next best thing to going totally barefoot! I started feeling little pinches and assumed some stickers were coming in through the holes as I walked, though I really didn’t see any thistles or thorns on the ground. I stopped by a small, flat rock and took one foot out and set it down there to rid my Croc of whatever had invaded. When I lifted my shoe up, I was horrified to see the whole bottom surface carpeted in goathead thorns. These are nasty, piercing, painful things! At my age, balance is not as sure a thing as when I was young; and realizing that I could not risk stepping down on the ground barefoot, I carefully emptied the shoe of the 2 bits of thorn and cautiously put my foot back inside.

My dilemma then was not whether or not to keep going, but whether to forget the picture and head back to the car. Of course, I took the picture. I would have liked to go closer and get shots from different angles, but I am not entirely crazy!

As I turned to make the careful trek back, I was aware—painfully aware—that the hundred or so steps back were to be done with utmost care. Part of me wanted to panic and run, but the sensible part gingerly took one step at a time. I pressed my feet hard against the plastic, scrunching my toes tight together, trying to ignore the bits of thorns that progressively invaded as I tried not to scuff.

When I finally made it to the car, I sat in the driver’s seat with my feet out and removed the shoes. Both soles were completely covered with thorns. There was no way I was going to be able to dislodge them, so I carefully put my Crocs on the floor mat of the passenger side and drove home barefoot.

My husband tried to clean them up for me, but very quickly came to the realization that he was not going to be able to get every part of the thorns out; so, they are destined for the trash bin!

I kept thinking that there had to be some kind of allegory or moral in all of this. So here it is.

Even though we head toward what we think is a worthy goal, and even though we think we know what dangers exist and are on the lookout, there are myriad little things we don’t see that become just as great a threat to our health and safety. In this election cycle, people have had different goals, different candidates, different passions and causes, different behaviors or evidence they were willing to overlook for a greater cause, and they have pushed full steam ahead in their desired directions. I had hoped that once the election was settled and a winner declared, tempers would cool and folks would go back to their respective corners to continue on with a semblance of orderly life. However, the thorns that were picked up on the way were not the big and obvious obstacles that all factions were maneuvering through. What has attached itself to our underbellies are all the cruel words, the bitternesess, the ideological divides that make it impossible to agree to disagree.

What has attached itself to our souls is the tension of otherness—an otherness that is supported by the studies and anecdotes and inflammatory rhetoric that each group trusts. People are virtuous in their own narratives, supported by their selective documentation and cited diatribes. Folks are indeed going to their respective corners, but not to cool off and gain perspective of the greater goals—the greater good. Folks are in their corners throwing rocks and gearing up for full scale attack.

People have stopped listening to each other.

People have stopped caring about what is best for their neighbor, more intent on winning a political and/or an ideological battle. If it means undermining the Constitution or throwing communities into disarray or pitting person against person, it becomes more about winning than about what is good for the country. These are the nasty, piercing, painful things, and I wonder if the nation will survive them.

As for me, I am not a citizen and cannot vote; but character counts for me, so I would not have voted for either candidate. My ultimate kingdom is a spiritual one, so whether America goes Republican, Democrat, or Libertarian in the long run does not matter to me. Well, maybe a little.

And yet, I live here, and the stress and at times near panic has been unsettling.

But the thorns in my life that keep my eyes off forever things,

the thorns in my life that pinch and keep me from loving as Christ loves,

are the ones that can do damage to my soul, and those I am endeavoring to throw in the trash.

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A Bit of This About That

It is much more comfortable to make my own decisions.

When others make them for me,

even if I would have come eventually to the same conclusions,

there is a pain and a sense of betrayal in having been decided for. In having been shaken loose and rearranged.

I prefer to hold on till the discomfort helps me decide to let go. But

this prying away by sudden force feels like

violence. And I hurt.

A Bit of This About That

A Facebook friend posted an article link in which the writer very methodically went down a list of why people post certain things on FB (and by extension, I would assume, any social media) and what was wrong with all of that. It got me thinking.

There was much in it I could agree with–kind of, sort of. Some folks need approval and only post to get it. (Don’t forget the LIKE button down below.)

Others have no community–read that, no life–and so have high hopes that with a lot of FB or blog friends they will somehow find that sense of belonging they crave. This author would have you abandon that “shallow” quest in order to search out real flesh and blood friends and family (or stay home and sulk if you don’t happen to have any close by). I have, I must admit almost unfriended my faraway siblings for not LIKING my FB life, but blood is thicker than ambivalence–I think. That’s a real sulk.

It is true, as the author rightly points out, that folks often share too much personal information and / or pictures of mangled pets or stitches on a bloody incision. I will be very happy not to see one more healing wound or bug bite or even a bloody slab of prime rib with baked potato! Vegan moment! The meat, not the potato (but perhaps guilty by association since it had sour cream on top).

But what was ironic is that the commentary is a blog posted on the Web and linked to others on other social media sites. Maybe not hypocrisy, but certainly a disconnect there.

I think Web life might be the world we live in now.

Is conversation over coffee in an intimate coffee shop that plays old black and white movies in the corner with soft jazz piped through the system a better environment for fostering relationship? Probably. But can’t we have a both / and without being accused of sacrificing the sacred cow of what is supposedly real.

For some, the Internet offers a broader horizon to find folks of common (or uncommon) mind here, there, and across the world. For others, it might make far flung loved ones seem not too far flung as we share pictures and jokes and health tips.

And there might be that voyeurism thing.

Does social media have its problems. Sure. But most of that has to do with you driving into my lane on the freeway as you update your status.

Unless the apocalypse comes sooner than later, social web connections are here to stay. There is value in all of it as long as we find a balance with what is real and accessible and what is just safe fun–and as long as we don’t post any more extracted teeth.

(Don’t forget the LIKE button. I like to have an audience because I am needy. Or not.)