Peace In A Tin Can

Peace In A Tin Can

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Lines, Lines, Everywhere Lines

I started this blog when I was removed from a job that I loved very much.  The blog was a way to fill the time and replace the ugly thoughts in my head with something more positive.  As I learned more and more about blogging, I even thought I could do this full time and make some money in the process.  Problems solved.

Or so I thought.  I can't make money with my blog, at least not yet.  As much as I appreciate those of you who keep reading, the 50 or so "hits" I get a day do not attract advertisers or sponsors.  A successful blogger needs to get about 50,000 "hits" a day.  I am not sure that many people will ever want to read what I write!  Unless I am willing to take a frightening financial leap with lots of risk, and completely change my life, and possibly negatively affect my family, I cannot write full time.

Last summer when the loss of my job was still fresh, my husband allowed me to indulge in my two passions; camping and writing.  I had this exciting, grand idea that I could travel around often in my tin can, meet people, hear their wonderful stories and share them with an audience who would be as captivated as I about people and nature.

But this year, my husband wants to see a return on my indulgence.  He is having a hard time supporting me investing in a future that is seriously unsure, and on an intellectual level, I agree with him.  So I am struggling to keep writing while getting on with the responsibilities of life.  Aside from the fact that I don't have much opportunity to write at home, I have no material with which to work.  Said simply, what in the hell can I write about?  I never go anywhere or do much, and my life is a bit dull these days.

As usual, my family comes through for me.  This morning I was driving in the car with my youngest daughter, The Wise One, and I expressed my frustration to her.  She gave me a rather demeaning eye-roll and said,

"Mom, you're making this too hard.  You can write about anything, look around.  Write about lines.  There are lines on the road, lines overhead, lines in the sky and lines in the car.  Every day, we stay in the lines, we go over the lines, under them, around them.  Write about that."

Okay.  I can do that.

Lines really are everywhere.  There are the lines on our faces and lines in the mirror.  There are parallel lines and lines that intersect.  Sometimes we put one line against another to form an angle to our own advantage.  There are lines we cross, and lines we blur.  Some lines are drawn for us, like the yellow line in the middle of the road.  It keeps us on a narrow path, telling us how to get where we are going.  If we cross that line at the wrong time, we could be in serious trouble.  I like those clear-cut lines, I follow them.  If I am driving on a rainy night and those lines are blurred, I get uneasy.  I do not like blurry lines, I like them defined and easy to see. (That's the OCD talking).

Then there are the lines we draw for ourselves.  For these, we use rulers and sharpies, at least I do, because I have OCD, and these lines are permanent and straight.  We do not cross them, that would be messy.

I have spent the better part of my life walking a line.  I balance responsibility with dreams, staying on the fine line between being what I need to be for others, and what I need to be for myself.  I have taken the safe route, the one that's been drawn for me, because it's easier.  But in all this time of walking that line, I always saw, in my peripheral vision, the wide open spaces on either side of the line.  I think the time is coming when I step off the line, take a turn, and wander into the wide open spaces with no direction, no boundaries, and endless possibilities.

It took an off-hand comment from a twelve-year-old child to make me realize that I am tired of the lines in front of me.  I have stayed in the lines, waited in lines, gone under the lines, and followed the lines for too long, without ever really crossing them.  I soon may find myself drawing my own line, with a straight edge and a colorful sharpie, and hoping others will follow it.

When I started writing this post, I had no idea where I was going with it.  The Wise One tossed me the topic, I thought it had possibilities, so I just started writing.  I never thought it would lead me to this conclusion;  I can write my own lines, I can change my story.  (My OCD just kicked into overdrive).  I don't have to have everything planned, my life doesn't have to keep following the same line.  I can change my course (hyperventilating now) and see where it goes.

I know that the day I can step off the line and take those first few steps away from the hurt and anger over losing my job, the day I can turn away from the people who don't believe I'm worth something more, will be the day I become something more.

I can keep writing.  I haven't even begun to take it seriously, but maybe if I do, I can learn to be a better writer and let my blog take a new direction, not be limited to stories from the tin can.  In the words of The Wise One, I can write about anything.

I mean, c'mon, I just wrote an entire post about lines.  I'd say it's a good start.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Taking Life An Inch At A Time!

You don't need to climb a mountain.

Google Images

You don't need to hike the backcountry.

Google Images

You don't need a kayak.

Google Images
You don't have to ride a $2000 bicycle on a 12 inch wide trail.

Google Images
Sometimes, you just need to go outside, in your own backyard, to remember what it felt like when you were a child, and the discoveries of the world around you were amazing and wondrous and miraculous.  Go outside, open your eyes, and see the miracles!

Inchworms are typically about an inch long, and move 3/4 inch each time they go forward.  They only emerge for about two weeks a season in the Spring and Fall, the rest of the time they are underground laying eggs.  How lucky was I to watch this little guy go?

Have an awesome day in your backyard, and let me know what you saw!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Spirit of Spider Wort

My flower gardens have no weeds.  People assume I spend time every day plucking the pesky weeds from the stones and mulch, but the truth is, I use a product called Preen, which I spread on all my flower beds in early Spring before any weeds start growing.  It works like a charm, and other than an occasional weed popping up here and there, which I pull while watering my flowers, I do not get many weeds in my gardens.

It's not that I don't like weeds.  When I travel in the tin can, I always come upon fields of wild things growing, most of which are weeds.  I find these landscapes breathtaking in their beauty, because who but Mother Nature could design such beauty with such perfection?  Sometimes I will even pull over to the side of the road, grab my camera, and attempt to capture the feeling that washes over me as I look out to the horizon and see the wild grasses and flowering weeds swaying in the wind, with such asymmetry that a natural balance results.

But lets not forget that I have OCD.  I have often dreamed of achieving that perfect landscape in my own backyard, but every attempt falls short, and usually ends up looking like an abandoned parking lot.
So I ditched my efforts to play Mother Nature, and created carefully sculpted flower gardens with pretty mulch covering the base, and the weeds that crop up are ugly, life-sucking, choking plants that propagate faster than an Irish Catholic mother and, left alone, would destroy all the beautiful flowers around them.  So I use Preen, and I pluck daily, and my flower beds look neat and clean, the way the flower beds of an obsessive compulsive gardener should look.

One of my favorite times of each day is early in the morning, when the sun is just peeking over the horizon and the dew begins to glisten.  The birds are waking up, singing their joyous songs, while the nocturnal animals are bedding down.  It is a quiet time, a time to pour a comforting cup of fresh coffee, and water my flowers.  As I water, I keep a keen eye out for an errant weed, promptly plucked and thrown in the mulch pile, which has become less of a mulch pile and more of a weed pile, because weeds will grow anywhere, even after being plucked.  This morning, though, my usual optimism at the dawning of a new day was hampered by some nagging worries.
My family is going through when of those times
when things just aren't going right, and little
problems keep popping up.  I thought,

"Wouldn't it be awesome if I could write a blog post with a mind blowing metaphor for the weeds in my garden and the weeds in my life?"

But I can't.  The fact is, there is no Preen for life.  There is no magic dust we can sprinkle around us to prevent chocking, life-sucking, messy, ugly things from popping up.  Oh sure, we can take steps to simplify our lives, we can build a rainy day fund for unexpected bills.  We can fill our lives with positive, caring people, avoid those who would bring us down, and help those we are capable of lifting up.  We can plan, organize, keep calendars, and be on top of things, but still, the weeds will pop up.  We really cannot control (even when we have OCD) the things that happen to us.  Job stress, busy family schedules, accidents, gas prices going up, a friend who is in trouble but can't see it, and appliances breaking down are all attempts to ruin our day, if we let them.  I'm pretty sure no one plans to end up in the ER with a sick or broken child, we don't hope for drains to back up, and we don't anticipate opening the mail to find a bill we had no idea was coming.  We didn't mean to leave the car windows down overnight when the sprinklers would run the next morning, or find a stain on our shirt after we're half-way to work.  We certainly don't intend to get cancer, have heart attacks, or develop dementia.  But all these things happen, all the time.  The weeds just keep popping up, distracting us from the beauty and purity of a perfect life.

I don't have a great solution for this.  All I know is, when the ugly, messy, choking problems pop up, I like to pluck them right away.  If I ignore them, they get bigger, they spread, and suddenly I've got a major problem.

Spider Wort at 7:00am
Spider Wort at 3:00pm
Several years ago, my sister-in-law suggested I plant a flower in my garden called Spider Wort.  It has multiplied and become one of my favorite plants.  Not only is it beautiful, but it has the most fascinating habit.  When I wake up in the morning, I am greeted with hundreds of small, yet stunning, blue-purple blooms, but by 3:00 every afternoon, they are gone.  Next morning, they are there, next afternoon, they are gone.  The blooming season for Spider Wort is quite long, and for several weeks each summer, I eagerly watch for the flowers to disappear and reappear, fascinated with the precise timing and coordination of it.  Every day, the Spider Wort gives me a brand new gift.  It is beautiful.

I don't need to employ weed control around the Spider Wort, because it spreads so profusely that it's roots choke out the weeds.  Unlike other flowers, like the delicate lily, the Spider Wort is too beautiful to be bothered by weeds.  So I guess we have a choice in life; do we want to be a delicate lily that needs to be tended to in order to save it from the choking weeds, or do we want to be the Spider Wort, that is so strong and beautiful that it won't allow itself to be diminished by the weeds?

I'm pretty sure you know which one I choose, but just so you know, for years my husband gave me a lily plant for Mother's Day, and it always died.  I finally got up the courage to tell him I hate lilies.  He doesn't bring me a flowering plant on Mother's Day anymore, but he did plant of small field of wildflowers in the back yard.  They are the most beautiful weeds I've ever seen.  Which leads me to my metaphor.  (Geez, I'm on a roll today!)

Most people think weeds are undesirable.  But they really can be beautiful.  Maybe the weeds

that pop up in our lives are disguised as ugly, messy, choking problems, but in the solutions to those problems, do we not often find something better?  Just something to think about on this wonderful day.

Keep plucking.  You never know what you'll find when the weeds are gone

Friday, June 14, 2013

Art in Nature

God was the first artist.  He painted our landscapes with brilliant color which can never quite be captured in another artist's paint or a photographer's camera.  He gave us sculptures and clay and minerals, and He gave us natural art that is so stunning, so breathtaking, that the only way to truly enjoy it is to immerse our souls completely in nature.

But God also has a sense of humor, and in my travels I often find things in nature that imitate life.  Have you ever seen a cloud formation that looks like a rabbit running through the sky?   Or a rock that looks like a heart?  I have, and many other things as well.

Many of the cosmically comedic examples I find are in trees.  Like the baboon that perpetually ran away from my campsite…

And the almost submerged cow lurking on the beach…

You can decide for yourself what I saw in this tree stump…

Then there is my absolute favorite: God's inspiration for medieval weapons…

I don't know if God intended for these things to be odd, or humorous, or if we interpret His art to satisfy our own sense of humor.  Maybe I'm just a little weird in seeing things that aren't really there.  Whatever the case, I take great delight in my hikes through nature, finding things that are funny, or macabre, or unbelievable, and keeping a photo journal of my artful discoveries.  The best artwork from God, though, is the scenery that takes my breath away, fills me up, and leaves me in awe and wonder.  This is why I go outside…

To Look at the Colors…

Listen to the Waves.

Feel the Breeze…

Hear the Music.

Taste the Splendor

Be Still.

Everywhere I look, there is beauty around me.
It makes me smile, sometimes laugh, and always be inspired.

Friday, June 7, 2013

New Places, New Faces, Same Story…Awesome!

I am one of those annoying people who watched a movie a few years ago, jumped on the bandwagon, and wrote my own Bucket List.  It's a long one, with the top two lines reading "Alaska in the Tin Can",  and "Write A Story".  Further down the list is "Camp One Night in Each of Michigan's State Park Campgrounds".  To that end, I spent last weekend at Port Crescent State Park, at the tip of the thumb in Michigan, along the Great Lakes Bay Region.  I've never before gone east to camp in my great state, so I was apprehensive, mostly about the reported snake population that thrives in the reedy, marshy waters of Lake Huron's shoreline.

The day I left home was my favorite kind of summer day; hot, windy, sunny, but with storms threatening in the evening hours.  The iPod was on shuffle, the tin can was clean and packed, and Rooney was in the back seat looking out the window, with what I swear was a smile on his face.  Newfies are known for their solemn faces, but Rooney looked so happy.  Google Maps re-routed me away from the construction zone on M-25 to take me on a delightful, meandering voyage through farmland and wind turbine fields.  Stretched out in front of me were no less than 100 wind turbines, possibly more.  The majestic towers spun lazily in the breeze, waving to me and sending me along my way.  It was rather awesome.

I came upon a roadside rest stop, and discovered the first site of a natural disaster responded to by the Red Cross.  I then continued along M-25 to catch glimpses of Lake Huron, and storm clouds building in the sky far away over the cold water.  When I pulled into Port Crescent State Park, I knew I still had plenty of time to set up camp before the storms, yet I felt rushed to complete my camp so I could watch the storm approach while sitting on the beach.

The tin can was ready to be inhabited with 20 minutes to spare.  I walked Rooney while we could still stay dry, then settled into my camp chair under the awning and felt the wind shift as electricity filled the air.  I could actually smell the rain coming, and with the first distant rumble of thunder, I felt my surroundings change as the storm came upon me.

It was a lovely storm; not dangerous from where I was sitting, just a brilliant display of light and sound reminding me of how powerless we are to stop nature, and how lucky we are to experience it.

The storms came and went all weekend, but it didn't stop Rooney and me from exploring the park and meeting other campers.  I have always
found that each state park in Michigan attracts a certain "type" of camper, and at Port Crescent I found the best kind of people.  Every camper I met didn't care what the weather was doing, they had come to enjoy the peace of camping along the shoreline of a Great Lake, get outside to walk slowly and take in their surroundings, and share their stories over a fire.  They were a friendly bunch who respected each other's privacy.  And, of course, they all fell in love with Rooney.

Speaking of Rooney, he once again has a brown tail, instead of his usual black and white.  He really must learn not to back up to the bonfire.  While I appreciate torch light, the smell of burnt hair that still lingers in the tin can is unpleasant, at best, and downright sickening when a rainy day turns the odor to wet, burnt hair.  As with the other times, his hair is so thick he never even knew he was on fire until I tackled him to the ground at beat him with a blanket.  I assure you, his expression quickly reverted to the Newfie "sad look".

All in all, Port Crescent gave me exactly what I needed for this trip.  Sunny days, stormy nights, and wonderful campground hosts who were knowledgable about the area and gave good suggestions for things to do.  The campground is quite secluded, miles from the nearest town of Port Austin, and make sure you fill your gas tank in Caseville before you arrive.  Though the black flies were biting, and there are no trails within the campground, and dogs can't go anywhere near the beach without a DNR officer appearing out of nowhere, the campground was clean and my site was on the beach.  The sunsets were stunning, the driftwood was spectacular, and the staff, hosts, and campers were a friendly group, making my stay rather enjoyable.  For a quiet weekend, I would return there to regain peace and perspective in a busy life.  As a side note, I am most pleased to report that I didn't see a single snake.  They must not have known I was coming.