The Last Word

Vitruvian Lights

This is a thank you note to you, my reader. You’ve been generous with your time, kind with your comments, and provided my motivation to write. You have surprised me, encouraged me, and allowed me to connect with you, whether we know one another personally or not. I am very grateful for the experience we’ve shared.

But I’m starting a new life chapter. I am returning to graduate school full-time in January, as a Master’s degree candidate in Theological Studies. Commitment to the program leads me to close the blog and make time for new endeavors.

Yes, it’s pretty late in my life for a course correction and new occupational focus, but that’s not really what I have in mind. In retrospect, I think I’ve always been a seeker, puzzled and curious about the ‘big questions’. I have always had a faith tradition [a gift from my grandparents] but it’s been without theological foundation, without discipline, without the words to describe or understand it.

These past several years of self-indulgent travel and freedom from obligation have been more than entertaining. They’ve been enlightening and broadening. And the big questions have just gotten bigger for me.

So now I want to take the time to go deeper, better appreciate the strength of internal guidance, and learn more about what it is to be on this distinctive walk. I want to become immersed in our several thousand-year history, which couldn’t be more illustrative of the concept of extreme impermanence, and yet…. There’s another conviction out there, told through many languages and traditions, that has existed just about as long as our written history, and continues to shape it. I want to know more about it, so I’m heading off on a new adventure, into a very old story.

Thank you again for having shared these past few years with “My Time”.  My wish for your New Year is that it will bring you what you want for you.

Home

Hamilton RoadI’ve been struggling with this concept for some time. “Home for the holidays.” “No place like home.” “Home is where the heart is.” And the holiday season brings the subject around again for many of us who are distanced from our underlying ‘home’ touchstone. ‘Going home’ is no longer possible for me in the sense of ‘going back’ to the place where I was born, filled with familiar people and pleasant memories.

Like many, I’ve lived in a number of places over time. Most were temporary, rented spaces over which I had little influence, but several were longer term experiences, with financial and emotional commitment. I bought stuff for those houses, and painted walls and hung pictures. And yet, when we moved from those cities, the houses were cleaned of my mark and became blank canvases for others. No longer ‘home’.

Geography has made a difference to me, too. Growing up in one part of the country, with which I became familiar in formative years, left a mark. Moving to new places and creating new memories has absolutely enriched my life, but I’ve never felt ‘at home’ in any of them. We’ve actually lived in our current location and in the same house now for longer than anywhere else, including where I grew up, and still…

Over time, and in an effort to compensate for my sense of dislocation, I have invented a concept of ‘home’ and looked for it everywhere. I have no idea why I’ve chosen these fantasy elements since I’ve never lived in a place like this, but I’ve included moderate weather, a walkable village of shops and sidewalk cafes, populated with interesting people I’ve known for years with whom I’d love to linger over coffee. There is ‘community’ in my creation, and natural beauty, and mutual regard. I imagine such a life when sitting in a cafe in Paris [before contemplating the cost of it] or at breakfast in a local Portland eatery [before contemplating what winter must be like there.]

My current suburban lifestyle, as immensely comfortable and convenient as it is, doesn’t scratch my itch. But I’ve also come to understand that my fantasy is just that…and what I really need to do is change my underlying touchstone notion about ‘home’.

Author Denis Lehane helped me with this:

“Happiness doesn’t lie in conspicuous consumption and the relentless amassing of useless crap. Happiness lies in the person sitting beside you and your ability to talk to them. Happiness is clear-headed human interaction and empathy. Happiness is home. And home is not a house – home is a mythological conceit. It is a state of mind. A place of communion and unconditional love. It is where, when you cross its threshold, you finally feel at peace.” 

I like what he says a lot, but whether he intended to, he seems to suggest that a minimum of two people are required to achieve a sense of home. I can’t believe that’s true. 

I now have come to believe that  ‘home’ is a state of mind, a place of unconditional love, a place of peacefulness, of self and for self, with human interaction and empathy the enriched outreach of a contemplative inner life. That makes ‘home’ REALLY hard to find, and I suspect meant to be a lifelong search. 

The Real Story

You know how, when you Google a subject, and then click on Images when the returns are posted, you see a collage of relevant and irrelevant pictures in response to your query? And you scroll down and down, and stumble on something that stops you, hopefully exactly what you were looking for. But sometimes something so unexpected shows up it requires an audible exclamation, which the following picture required of me when it popped up during a search that shouldn’t have produced it.First_Lady_Betty_Ford’s_“Bloomer_Flag”

I was stunned, really, and followed its links to the Wikipedia site for First Lady Betty Ford. The photo appears on that site with the following caption: “A handmade flag given to Betty Ford that demonstrates her support for the Equal Rights Amendment.” Well, sorta, but not quite.

You see, during the time the Fords occupied the White House, my husband [then boyfriend] was Special Agent in charge of Mrs. Ford’s Secret Service detail. One day back then he told me about an amusing conversation he’d had with Mrs. Ford when returning to the White House from an event in town. Her motorcade arrived on the South Grounds of the White House just as President Ford’s motorcade was preparing to leave, and she commented that there were flags waving from the President’s car, but none from hers. As there couldn’t have been a less pretentious person to occupy the office of First Lady than Mrs Ford, we thought about a way to make her laugh about this inequality even more.

I was living across the hall from a dear friend and artist, Chris Haggerty, and we went to work immediately, sitting on the floor of my condo, drinking wine, cutting out felt lettering and stuffing polyester filling into those red silk bloomers [Mrs. Ford’s maiden name was Betty Bloomer.] And we added the ERA letters to honor her many efforts to support women’s rights [and encourage her to continue doing so!]

The White House photographer, Carl Schumacher, was present when Dick and Mrs. Ford’s military aide made the flag presentation to her on June 24, 1975. Carl gave a copy of the film strip to Dick which we’ve kept all these years.

Dick1Dick2Mrs

Mrs. Ford enjoyed our joke, and even referred to it in her book, “The Times of My Life,” published in 1978. The flag never flew on her car, of course, but made its way to the Ford Library. We heard of it one more time, when a friend sent us a news clipping from the San Francisco Chronicle dated 9/27/1980, describing an exhibit of White House memorabilia from several administrations on display that year at Macy’s in San Francisco. This photo caption got the story right. Article

My New Favorite Place [When the Sun is Shining]

P1020064We had occasion to be in Portland, Oregon last weekend for a special reunion event, and decided to add a few extra days to explore an area unknown to us. We chose to pass by Portland entirely [only because of time constraints] and drive along the Columbia River gorge and into Washington State. On a recommendation, we stayed at the Carson Ridge Luxury Cabins [one could wonder about “luxury” and “cabins” as a pair of descriptors, but they fit. It’s the kind of “roughing it” I adore, and worth the price for an indulgent few days. The view from our front porch took my breath away. P1020337P1020308P1020304

As challenging as it was to leave this fall garden, the surrounding area offered so many options, we did our best to take advantage of the sunshine and perfect weather. I had packed rain gear and expected the traditional drizzle and foggy dampness to constrain our activities, but instead we saw the best that Washington and Oregon could offer.  I loved walking in the woods through trees and rocks covered in moss to find hidden waterfalls, driving on roads fringed in moss to a suddenly emerging stunning vista,  discovering a quiet lake in the midst of lava beds left by ancient volcanic eruptions. The colors were absolutely neon everywhere we looked, and the only word that comes close to describing the sense of it all is “lush.” From Mt. St. Helens to Mt. Hood, from forests to valleys to the Columbia River gorge itself, Mother Nature showed her glorious self to us for two full days. I don’t know how we were so lucky. The fog came in the morning we left to help keep her secrets.P1010984 P1020266 P1020122P1020343

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