Dychotomous Sisters

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There is a tree in my yard that, every fall, refuses to drop her leaves.
She sits beside a twin that throws off her leaves at the slightest hint of chill.

Both grow together in concert
one speaking volumes every Fall,
the other waiting quietly for Spring.

I imagine they are sisters.
One very prim, proper and protected,
holding tightly to her leaves, afraid of letting go.
The other free and easy,
happiest when she throws caution (and leaves) to the wind.

What makes them so different?
Both were born in the same tree lot,
were nurtured by the same loving arborist,
were planted the same depth in the Oklahoma red dirt,
and both receive exactly the same amount of sunshine, wind and rain.

At the beginning of every Spring, the bare sister always buds first,
not having any leftover baggage to slow her down.
The adorned tree buds later, hanging on to the past as long as she can,
until the fresh, green leaves of the new year begin
to push the old brown ones aside,
one by one
until she stands green and proud beside her sister
as an equal.

— Ordinary Alchemy

Life Beyond?

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The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. — Albert Einstein

I read a Huffington Post article this morning about a recently declassified US Navy video that caught a fast-moving UFO. Aliens or not, the pilots sure got excited!

Wherever you stand on the UFO debate, it’s an interesting one. I think the most compelling argument against alien life is simply if there are others out there, why haven’t they made contact? I tend to think believing we humans are alone in the entire universe is part of our Christian roots – “we’re all alone because God made the whole shebang, including us in his image.” Creationism vs. evolution aside, there’s a whole lot to consider on this subject!

Does our government believe in alien life?

Maybe. It turns out there was an official UFO investigation program within the Department of Defense from 2007-2012. Sources say it was “officially” dissolved in 2012 but continues “unofficially” today. Before that, Project Blue Book investigated UFO phenomena from 1947 until 1969. Most of the 12,000 sightings investigated by Project Bluebook were debunked, but some 700 were never explained, which isn’t evidence of aliens, but it sure leaves room for speculation.

SETI (the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) was unofficially established around 1959 for the sole purpose of looking for alien life. It was originally based on the idea that we could use radio waves to search for signals from other planets. While SETI is privately funded and not-for-profit, its projects have been heavily sponsored by universities, corporations, and the government. Today, SETI does much more than sit around listening for unusual radio signals, expanding its reach to exploration and understanding of the origin and nature of life in the universe at large.

Ancient Aliens?

One of my favorite arguments for alien life is the existence of ancient alien art…

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Not only are these drawings very “alien” many of the ancient ruins where they’re found are aligned along geographical medians – covering areas of up to 600km.

The History Channel did a whole series on the subject of Ancient Aliens, speculating that extraterrestrials may have been visiting the Earth for millions of years!

A Big Problem

In my mind, the primary problem with the whole argument is the question of speed. Most scientists agree that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light – even reaching the speed of light would require infinite energy and if you did somehow reach that speed, slowing down or stopping would require even more energy.

Consider this, in 2017 scientists discovered 7 Earth-sized planets – 39 light years away from us around a star named TRAPPIST-1. For a space shuttle, which averages around 17,500 mph, it would take about 1.5 million years to get there! So the argument becomes – if we can’t get there, how can they get here? And, if they could get here, why on earth would they want to (unless it’s to steal our resources or “serve man”)?

Science is all about Change

All science is basically theoretical – it’s made up of ideas for which we can demonstrate reasonable evidence. The trick is that science is constantly changing, constantly proving itself wrong – or maybe it’s more accurate to say, it’s constantly understanding more and coming up with better theories. A few examples…

  • We once thought that the Earth sat stationary at the center of the universe and that the sun and all the planets orbited around it (geocentrism).
  • Pluto was one of 9 planets in our solar system until 2006, when scientists decided it was really just a dwarf (smaller than our moon).
  • Until about 1998, most agreed that dinosaurs were reptiles – then we learned that dinosaurs likely had feathers and were more closely related to birds.
  • We once thought atoms were the smallest element of matter – then we discovered that atoms are made up of even smaller particles called quarks and leptons.

I would never stand hard on any single argument for or against alien life. I think the real magic is in having the curiosity to consider the possibilities.

Spring or Fall?

Are you a Spring person or a Fall person? I have to say I’m both – or rather, I’m drawn most to whichever season we’re closest to in a given moment. In the winter I look forward to the warmth and color of spring and in the spring I love every second. By summer, I’m looking forward to cozying down for fall and by fall, you guessed it, I’m in love with every brown blade of grass and leaf that falls. I like to think our acclimation toward one season or another goes slightly deeper than temperature preferences…

If you are especially drawn to Spring, you likely love fresh starts, new beginnings, bright pops of color. This is a time to reach outward, expand, leap forward:

  • Get back outside after the long cold winter – go for a walk, make note of bulbs blooming and trees flowering in your neighborhood.
  • Take a walk around your yard and do some daydreaming about things to plant or prettify, browse seed & plant catalogs or go to the garden center.
  • Inside the house, throw open your windows, strip the beds, dust down the cobwebs, clean out expired stuff in your pantry and freezer.
  • Go to the car wash and spit-shine your ride, inside and out.
  • Revitalize your menu plans – lighten things up with salads, fish and all-things-grilled. By the end of March or early April, fresh veggies should start to appear at the Farmer’s Market.
  • This is a great time for personal fresh starts – get a new notebook and a set of colorful pens, then take time to brainstorm ideas, sow some new seeds, reimagine yourself or something in your life.
  • Buy new makeup and a few bright springy things for your wardrobe.
  • Change the battery on your smoke detector.

If Fall is more to your liking, you might really love to snuggle down, get cozy, review your accomplishments. This is a great time to turn inward, self-reflect and take pride in all you’ve accomplished:

  • Fall is my favorite time to get comfortable in the kitchen with stews and hearty soups, creamy casseroles and baked goods.
  • It’s the time to pull out heavy socks, sweaters, knit scarves and cozy blankets.
  • After the heat of the summer, it’s another great time to get outside – go for walks in the woods, clean out flower beds, mulch for winter, and plant trees. It’s also a fun time to be a magpie – I find lots of feathers, dried seed pods and other interesting pretties for my altar this time of year.
  • It’s the perfect time for big cleaning projects inside my home – cleaning out closets (if it hasn’t been worn in over a year, let it go); get the windows, rugs, and carpets cleaned; clean out the junk drawers and garage.
  • Start thinking about holiday gifting – organize a family name drawing and get as much of a head start as you can before things get crazy!
  • Go on a road trip to see the fall color – take back roads so you can go slow, stop off at roadside stands or shops in small towns, savor every moment.
  • This is my favorite time of year for candles – pumpkin, cinnamon, patchouli. My favorites are Magnolia Market’s Joie de Noel (only available in the fall) and Scentsational’s Rugged Patchouli.
  • This is another great time for a new notebook. Take some time to review your year  – what do you feel fantastic about, what would you add or do differently, what do you wish you’d skipped altogether?

Whichever season you are most drawn to, make time to honor its particular magic.

Extraordinary Ordinary

The whole world is a series of miracles, but we’re so used to seeing them that we call them ordinary. — Hans Christian Anderson

Isn’t this true?! I look at my life sometimes and wonder what the point is – nothing I do goes outside the boundaries of ordinary. We live in a world where people are doing such extraordinary things – my life pales in comparison! Here’s another quote I keep in my back pocket…

Comparison is the thief of joy. — Theodore Roosevelt

When I got the bug to start this new blog, I kept running up against my ‘ordinary’ wall.  “Who cares about my ordinary life – what can I possibly write about?” You know, the original purpose of blogs (weblogs) was simply to be a sort of “captain’s log” review of the noteworthy events in our everyday lives – a plain old ‘ordinary’ diary. Somewhere along the way, they became much more than that – award-worthy photography, ad space, earning potential, digital product sales, search engine optimization, and a HUGE point of comparison!!! I tell myself I’m writing this blog for myself, but then I catch myself wondering “who will care” – in other words, do I have the chutzpah to attract readers? I sometimes suspect my purpose in life may very well be to get over myself!

Bottom line, there are some extraordinary people, women in particular, out there doing some pretty extraordinary things… here are just a few. There is also a lot to be said for the extraordinary ordinary things we’re doing and experiencing in our everyday lives:

  • We have amazing health options that tend to appear ordinary to us these days. In 2013, my husband was diagnosed with mitral valve prolapse. It was identified in a routine office visit when our family doctor heard a murmur. If he hadn’t gone for that checkup, if our doctor hadn’t heard that murmur, if he hadn’t had mitral valve replacement surgery he would have died within the year (so we were told). Medical science didn’t even have a way to work on the heart before 1953 (when the first successful heart-lung bypass was performed). My husband came out of that surgery, healthier than ever with an audible tick (the valve opening and closing), which we don’t even notice anymore – it’s just an ordinary (extraordinary) part of our lives.
  • Twice a year, I get to go on a health retreat in Tuscon, Arizona. Before 1950, that would have meant driving for many hours in a hot, gas-guzzling car to get there, probably sleeping on a cot with no air conditioning, and you do not even want to know what the body treatments would have looked like (okay, if you really want to know, here’s a glimpse). Today, I hop on a plane, hurtle through the air at over 500 mph, land in Tuscon appx. 2 hours after departure, then it’s luxury all the way.
  • Outside my window, I have a flower garden that’s bordered with natural stone blocks. At some point, someone went out into the wilderness, harvested enormous rough stones, transported them somehow back to a workshop of some sort and diced them up into the nice, neat, regular shapes that now line my flowerbed and are taken for granted every day.
  • My daughter lives in Vermont, an approximate 29-hour drive from where I live in Oklahoma; yet, we talk face-to-face on Skype every Sunday. A hundred years ago, handwritten letters would have been the best we could realistically hope for, delivered by horse or stagecoach – in just 10 days using Pony Express!
  • Indoor plumbing, electric lights, clean air and water, fresh food, cars to drive around in – our lives are infinitely more comfortable than our ancestors, who faced such hardships as walking everywhere, living together with extended family (as much as 3 generations worth), hand-me-down clothing, outhouses! Our ordinary is beyond extraordinary in comparison.

I could go on and on – it’s easy to be grateful when I really start to evaluate all that’s available to me. I recently read “The Humans” by Matt Haig and the main character (an alien from hundreds of thousands of light years away) talks about what a miraculous thing it is to be alive – on a planet that’s the perfect distance from a healthy sun, that spins just the right amount to keep out feet generally attached to the ground. Then there’s conception – the gazillion sperm of which just one meets the one egg (out of a gazillion) that results in you. Then there’s birth itself – everything working just as it should for nine months inside a woman’s belly to deposit you healthy and whole into the great big world!

You are lucky to be alive. Inhale and take in life’s wonders. Never take so much as a single petal of a flower for granted. — Matt Haig, The Humans

Disconnect to Reconnect?

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Most photographers agree that good photography is mostly about noticing and seeing. I think that’s possible with my smartphone, but it tends to look more like noticing and seeing with an eye toward sharing, which is inherently quicker and less focused on composition, lighting and other details. Plus, I’m less likely to even take the photo if I don’t think it’s going to look good on Instagram and inspire a measure of awe in my handful of followers (who I suspect sometimes “like” my posts just to be polite).

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I have a theory that the world is growing harder around the edges, colder, less caring because we don’t notice as much of what’s going on around us. We’re too caught up in our respective electronic worlds to see how our actions might impact others. Everywhere I look… having lunch, driving to the pharmacy, walking in the woods (!), I see people focused, not on the people, road or experience going on around them, but on the world inside that little rectangle of chips and wires we all seem to have indelibly attached to the palm of our hands.

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Smartphone tech has grown by leaps and bounds over the years and the quality of our photos probably FAR surpasses the quality we got from our old point & shoots.  Still, I think we’re all constantly editing our experience of life to determine what’s share-worthy and what’s not, which is to say we’re less likely to notice the things that don’t measure up. Sometimes, too, I fear we share without giving a lot of thought to how our personal wow-moments might be taken by others. I’m reminded of the vet that went viral a few years ago, when she posted an image of herself, proudly holding up an arrow-impaled cat, with the caption, “the only good feral cat is a dead one.” People went crazy, calling for criminal charges, loss of her job, loss of her license.  In fact, she did lose her job and, ultimately, had her license suspended for a period of time. I adore my cats and was as horrified as anybody by her actions, but I can’t help thinking she never would have gotten into the mess in the first place if she hadn’t shared that darn picture.

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Maybe social media can serve to keep us accountable? It’d be nice, but that doesn’t seem to be the case, given some of the more bumbling posts that have made news in the last year and a half. Everyone’s moral compass isn’t the same – one person’s idea of a reasonable thing to tweet may not always be the same as everyone else’s and I have to wonder how any of us can be sure that one innocent share might not one day be the one that turns into a social crucifixion?

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At some point, I think we have to disconnect a little from our tech to truly reconnect with each other. I think it’s the only way we can start to see when other people are hurting or in trouble. It’s the only way we can begin to care enough to step in and help. It’s the only way we can really begin to appreciate the extraordinary world we live in and truly/completely LIVE in it every day.

All photos were taken yesterday with my ‘real’ (though digital) camera at a local nature park. I left my phone at home.

First-Evers

There is always a bit of magic involved the first time you experience something. I still remember the first time I flew on an airplane in 1969. Flying was kind of a big deal back then – you got dressed up, family came to the airport with you and waved goodbye at the gate, they served hot meals – in coach!

Another first – learning to drive a stick-shift with my first husband. He kept yelling at me to do things differently until I politely asked him to get out of the car, please! My memory of figuring that darn clutch out – ALL BY MYSELF – is precious. Later, I remember buying my first car. It was a candy apple red Toyota Corolla – definitely a mom car (I was a mom, so it stands to reason). There were no cheering crowds, no mysterious reveal, no squeals of delight (though there might have been a tear or two of joy and excitement as I drove my new baby off the lot), but it was a first I will never forget.

I have cried so many times over the last several  years, watching Jeannie, of the Ellen Degeneres Show, surprise an unsuspecting fan with an unbelievable first. Cried again today when I saw this sweet video about Jeannie’s new gig with Ford – pure magic!

Just Begin

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It’s not always easy to be a human on this planet. I’ve spent the better part of my life trying (and mostly failing) to figure it out. I worked for a fortune 500 company for 30 years and fled the moment I reached retirement eligibility. I spent some of those years (okay, a LOT of them) drunk every evening, which in hindsight made it infinitely harder to be a human on this planet!

Some people just seem to have been born knowing how life works – as though they were given “THE LIFE MANUAL” before conception and retained its knowledge at birth. I know that’s just perception. Everyone struggles – some just hide it better than others. Those others (like me) find it considerably easier to hide from life than learn to live in it.

Almost 10 months ago now, I decided to stop hiding. To begin with, I got sober, though this is not going to be a sobriety blog. I got real about the work I was doing in the world and realized I’d made it mostly about making everyone around me happy and that it didn’t particularly make ME happy. And I started looking at what it would take to get me happy.

There is one idea that has repeated itself throughout my life – it has informed the things I read, the experiences I gravitate toward, the people who inspire delight in my heart. As the song says, I’ve “got to believe in magic” because without it, what’s the point?

Now, I don’t necessarily mean woo-woo, Harry Potter, rabbit-out-of-hat, kinds of magic (though I do love all of that). I’m talking about the simpler kinds of magic – a good book on a rainy day, the sight of the milky way on a dark night, a simple human kindness that brings a tear to my eye, those small moments of delight that give me goosebumps. I think a life spent focused on seeking and seeing these types of magic is one that I would be proud to have lived when my days on this planet are done.

I want to live simply. I want to sit by the window when it rains and read books I’ll never be tested on. I want to paint because I want to, not because I have something to prove. I want to listen to my body, fall asleep when the moon is high and wake up slowly, with no place to rush off to. I want not to be governed by money or clocks or any of the artificial restraints that humanity imposes on itself. I just want to be… boundless and infinite. — Author Unknown