Of all the trees please freely eat
Enjoy the fruit they give
They were created to sustain your life
So you may always live
There are thousands of trees for you
Eat from all you choose
But there is one that you should not touch
The moment you do, you lose
So man planted an orchard and drank
Another and ate of its food
Another and inhaled the aroma sweet
And like his Father said this is good.
He planted yet another seed
This time inside his wife
And enjoyed the children born to him
and learned he too, could bring forth life
So man enjoyed his time in Paradise
Existing in a utopian state
Not knowing that a single bite
Would one day seal his fate.
But the one who ate of the tree before
Chose to share his newfound knowledge
For misery does love company
For that we must acknowledge
You see knowledge gives birth to pride
So man thought he could do it better
But everything he did create
Just shackled him in fetters.
He built his own prison
With the trees he did fell
And as knowledge increased more and more
He traded Paradise for hell.
He invented seeds to make him happy
To take away his pain
And seeds to calm his children
And seeds to keep him sane
Man forgot all about the garden
Where true life really grows
And now he’s searching for meaning
Because he’s reaping what he sowed.
I am…I am… I am what? I simply am.
I am not the person staring back at me in the mirror,
I am not the name on my birth certificate,
I am not my profession.
I am not mother
I am not Father
Who am I? I am consciousness, I am aware
I am…I am…
Yet I am everything and anything
I am imagination
I will be what I will be
The summoning hitch-hiked on the night wind as it had done so many evenings past. The breeze moved the curtains ever so slightly, billowing them upward as the message sailed past the open doors of the balcony. The gentle intruder swirled through the room, flipped through the pages of my journal and read the entries in record speed before crawling across the bed and waking me with soft kisses. I breathed in deeply, taking in an enchanting breath of the night jasmine blooming beneath the terrace. The fragrance was stimulating, rousing me from slumber. I rolled over and opened my eyes. The white glow of moonlight lit the wall like a spotlight, showcasing the shadow of the juniper tree as it danced to the tune of my wind chimes. The branches moved back and forth, like bony fingers scratching out a cryptic message. I pulled my blanket higher, bristling at an unseen presence in the room. “It’s just the wind picking up.” I comforted myself. Probably a thunderstorm brewing. It would be good sleeping weather. I flipped my pillow, and rolled over, giving the performance my back. The hollow song of the windchimes was hypnotizing, serenading me back to sleep, when the call whispered in my ear, waking me and prompting me to sit up fast this time. “Gunner, are you in here?”
Silence followed my question. Frowning I pulled the delicate chain on my tiffany lamp bringing light to the room.
“Gunner, I swear, if you are in here.” I threatened while taking a quick scan of my surroundings. Nothing was out of place. My bedroom door was closed and from the comfort of the bed I could see that the lock was still secure. Leaning over, I peeked under the colossal frame. It would be just like Gunner and some of his pubescent junior high buddies to stake out underneath. Empty. Nothing but dust bunnies scampering across the hardwood floor and cowering in the corner at my sudden intrusion. I decided to shrug it off. Could be I just thought I heard the whisper. Maybe I was asleep and dreaming. It’s happened before. Often, I’ve often woken to the sound of someone knocking on my bedroom door only to stumble out of bed and discover no one is there. The scenario occurred often enough to warrant me researching strange nocturnal happenings. The only explanation was lucid dreaming. I knew that wasn’t the case, so I settled for the logical explanation of dreaming someone was knocking and waking up thinking it was real.
The hour was late, and I desperately needed rest. There were only two hours of sleep left before the alarm would remind me that I decided to get up early and study for the economics test. I had put it off until the last minute and at this moment did not know the difference between microeconomics, macroeconomics, or positive, normative, and applied economics. God, I hated the subject.
The sheer curtains rose upwards, swelling with the breeze like phantoms materializing right before me. I refused to give into the eeriness invading the room. “I’m too old to sleep with the light on.” I reprimanded myself as I yanked the chain, turning off the lamp. I’m also too smart to let my imagination get the best of me. Lord knows I’ve practically raised myself and been my only source of comfort more than I cared to remember.
Damn it! There it was again. A soft whisper. Where was it coming from? Tilting my head, I leaned an ear towards the open doors of the terrace, but the clanging chimes made it impossible to hear. The door to the room began to shake, rattling as an unseen force tried to push its way inside. “What the hell?” I jumped up and jerked the chain with such strength the lamp toppled over and knocked my glass of water over, soaking my study notes. The light flickered and then went out.
“Shit!” I bolted for the bathroom and switched on the light. I grabbed a towel and mopped up the water blurring the ink on my papers and dripping off the nightstand onto the hardwood. What a mess!
A soft rap at my door sent me over the edge. The unexpectedness of it caused me to scream and when I did, I heard Della cry. Leaving the towel on the floor I ran for the door, opening it as quickly as I could. Spiral curls covered my sister’s face but even beneath her bed head hair I spotted her big brown eyes glistening up at me through tears. She didn’t wait for an invitation to come inside. Instead, she scurried across the floor like a frightened rabbit and hopped in my bed. “I’m scared. Can I sleep with you?”
“Of course, you can.” I assured her. “Did you have a bad dream?”
“No.” She hugged her knees and looked apprehensively toward my open balcony.
“Then why are you afraid?” I asked her while scooping up the wet towel and tossing it in my sink.
Della buried her head in her knees and whimpered. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
I want to know what frightened her. I wonder if she heard the whispering too, but I dare not press her for answers. If I do, I will only send her further into her corner of withdrawal.
“Okay, you don’t have to tell me. Just go back to sleep.” I picked up my lamp and examined the intricately sculpted glass to make sure nothing had chipped. The blue wisteria shade was one of my favorite pieces.
“Are you coming to bed?” She asked, refusing to lay down until I joined her.
I sat the lamp back upright before turning off the light in the bathroom.
“Can you close them?” She looked apprehensively toward the open doors.
As much as I love fresh air, I complied and lassoed the dancing curtains before closing the double French doors. “There,” I said, bringing an end to the chimes incessant clanging. I crawled under the covers and when I did, she scooted her warm little body close to mine. Her soft curls tickled my face and by the smell of her breath I know she ate Doritos before bed.
“You okay?” I wrapped my arms around her and pulled her close.
“Uh huh.” She yawned. “I heard music.”
“You heard music?” Her admission surprised me. “It’s just the wind chimes outside. They clank pretty loud before it rains.”
Her little voice rose from the covers. “It wasn’t the chimes. Somebody was playing music in my room. They woke me up.”
Her declaration was disturbing but I dared not show it. “Maybe Gunner left his TV on again.”
“Maybe,” she yawned and fell back asleep.
I stared at the ceiling. She’s just a kid but I know she’s not making it up, because for the past few nights, I’ve heard it too.
To be continued...
Don’t Miss Your Shot
During one of our mountain trips, while my daughter Journey was fishing, we spotted a bald eagle perched on a tree branch on the other side of the pond. It was too far of a distance to take a good picture, so I decided to take the walk to the other side to get closer. I kept my eye on the eagle as I rounded the pond and hoped it wouldn’t fly away before I got there. Once I neared the spot, I looked down for a few seconds just to make sure there were no snakes in the high grass surrounding the tree. When I looked back up, the eagle was gone. Disappointed, I turned to walk away. Journey yelled, from across the pond, “take the picture.” I yelled back, “it’s gone. Still, she kept pointing and saying that it was there. I knew she was wrong. I was standing right next to the tree and the branch was empty. Besides, a big bald eagle is not something you miss. I turned to walk away and she yelled even louder and kept pointing. I was sure she was seeing a leaf formation or something, because the eagle wasn’t there. Then I heard a loud noise and the eagle swooped down and flew off. It had been there all along.
When I walked back, Journey asked me why I couldn’t see it, since I was standing so close to it. I said, “Well Journey, I lost sight of the eagle when I took my eyes off it. Then, when I looked back again, I was looking too low, I didn’t look high enough.”
The words no more left my mouth when I realized, this is a great lesson. Sometimes we take our eyes off the promises for us because we are afraid of snakes in the grass. We let fear intimidate us and we lose focus on what we are striving for. When we decide to look again, we look too low. I make the mistake of not looking high enough. The eagle had never moved, it was there the entire time, but I took my eyes off to check for snakes. Fear will always stand between you and what you love.
In the Movie the Village, a group of people live in what seems to be the late 1800’s in a small settlement surrounded by Covington woods. They have lived their entire existence in that village afraid to leave for fear of a legend that tells of monsters existing in the woods. Red is a forbidden color for it attracts the monsters, so no red is allowed in the village. When red flowers bloom, they immediately pick and bury the blossoms. Yellow is the color of protection so the keepers of the borders wear yellow cloaks and feel safe. From time-to-time livestock will be slaughtered and scratches appear on the doors of homes indicating that the monsters have entered the village and are on the prowl. This only happens if the borders were breached. The guilty citizen often confesses out of extreme fear and swears to never enter the woods again.
One day tragedy falls in the idyllic town and medicine is needed that they do not have. A young blind girl volunteers to go into the woods and to the closest town to get medicine to save the man’s life. He is her fiancé, and she loves him dearly. If you haven’t watched the movie then I warn you, the next few lines will be a spoiler alert. The young girl is told a secret her father has kept for years. There are no monsters in the woods. They are fabricated to keep people from leaving the village because the founding fathers do not believe the world is safe. All The founding fathers had suffered some kind of tragedy in the real world and had relocated to a remote wilderness, establishing what they felt was a safe haven for their families and future generations. In a sense, the citizens of the village are imprisoned by fear and are stuck in a life where they cannot move forward. They live an 1800 lifestyle when the world around them in the twentieth century.
The movie is a powerful example of fear keeping your world small. Fear entraps you, causes you to give up certain things because it tricks you into believing they are bad and will bring harm to your life. Fear says, don’t leave the safety of the village because there are monsters in the woods that want to eat you. So, you stay in your small world and never venture out. Yet in truth, the monsters are not real, only fabricated stories whispering their ghostly tales in your ears and keeping you cowed down in terror. Once you face fear, and call it out of its hiding place, you can get out of yours.
I heard it said that our fear gives the lion it’s fierceness. If we run scared it chases after us, but if we stare it in the face, it’s nothing more than a kitten. Fear is a farce. It is nothing more than a bully trying to intimidate us to back down, turn tail and run in the opposite direction of our dreams. But if you stare back into its empty eyes, you discover that it is really terrified of you. It is a monster of your own making. Better yet, don’t acknowledge fear at all. Don’t look for it, keep your eyes on your goal so you never miss the perfect shot!
The Filtered Life
In the age of photography studios at our fingertips, life becomes a façade. What we see isn’t always reality. Life is photoshopped. We see everyone and everything through a filtered screen. All of life’s little blemishes are smoothed out. Exposure is added to things that need not be exposed! Contrast runs rampant when we compare our lives to everyone else and feel we don’t measure up. After all, we aren’t traveling the world as a photographer and getting thousands of followers on Instagram. Bloggers are overexposed, spouting off their opinions as facts. Algorithms highlight what the powers that be deem important and shadow what they wish to suppress. So many filters are put on life that it is hard to remember what the original actually looks like.
Let’s take a minute and try to locate the original. A snapshot of the true you, untouched by the filtered glass of social media. What do you think about yourself? Is your worth measured on how many followers you have? How many likes you get? How many people agree with your politically? Do you get buried under the avalanche of tweets, snaps, Tik Toks, Blogs, Vlogs and all the noise? Have you been too busy scrolling and reacting instead of living? What have you discovered about life lately outside of the computer screen?
There was a movie several years ago that fashioned the infamous line, “You complete me.” All women swooned at the line delivered by the handsome Tom Cruise. I didn’t. The line repulsed me. If anyone walked up to me and said, “You complete me.” I would run as fast as I could in the other direction. Why? Because I do not need someone to complete me, neither do I want to complete someone. If I must complete you, it means you are only half a person and if you need to complete me, then I am not a whole. I’ve got an idea. Why not be an entire person so when you meet that special someone it’s two whole people walking side by side in life.
So how do you become a whole person? Start by pulling away from the siren’s entangling call of social media. Once you do, your senses will grow sharper and you will notice new things about life, the real world surrounding you.. Life will seem much more natural, simple and easy. We spend so much time self-deprecating and criticizing ourselves with the filtered pictures of others and dare say such horrible things about ourselves such as, I hate my nose. I hate my chin. I hate my legs. I hate my hair. I hate my eyes. I wish my lips were puffier. I wish my hair were thicker. I wish my hair were straight, I wish my hair were curly. I wish I had longer eyelashes. I wish my eyes were green.
We also compare our life with the filtered statuses we read and spend our energies wishing things were different. I wish I was somewhere having fun. I wish I had a husband like that. I wish I had more friends. I wish I was in the cool group. I wish I were talented. I wish I had been invited to that. I wish I were successful. I wish I were more popular. I wish my story got more views. I wish I had a million followers, and on and on it goes. We criticize our lot in life and do not allow ourselves to measure up.
First of all, realize that everyone out there is living their life behind a filter that makes them look better. Things are not always as they appear. People pay for followers and likes. I remember going on a hike once. The friends I was hiking with were miserable. It was a hot day. Everyone was tired and thirsty, and no one was talking. When we reached the top of the mountain everyone pulled out their phone and started snapping selfies and groupies. The pictures told a story of an amazing hike full of adventure and camaraderie that never happened.
Before you hate on your life or self-deprecate about those short chubby legs of yours, be thankful they have taken you everywhere you want to go. Your legs take you to the coffee shop. They help you ride a bike and climb up stairs and ladders and mountains and hike beautiful trails. They propel you across the swimming pool. They enable you to dance a jig at your best friend’s wedding. They take you on adventures, walk you right up beside that hottie and run like heck to get you out of a difficult situation. At the end of the day, you and your faithful legs crawl into bed and relax. Realize those two legs are your buddies. They are incredible. Thank them for doing life with you. Thank your eyes for showing you the world. Thank your ears for allowing you to listen to your favorite music and hear the voices of those you love. Thank your lips for providing the tunnel for your favorite beverages to enter your mouth. Fall in love with every part you. See yourself as adorable and loveable and fun to hang out with and you will always have a best friend. Don’t trick yourself into thinking you need a shoulder to cry on and someone to lean on. It’s good to have friends and family that can be there for you but learn to rely on yourself. You do not need to be completed by a job, a career, a boyfriend, a spouse, a child, a best friend. Those things are wonderful and should be celebrated but they should never complete you.
Discover that you are good company and can encourage yourself when needing a pick me up. You are more powerful than you know. The soul of the world exists inside you. You are a complete and whole person. You are an original. There is nothing more freeing than stripping of the filters and being you!
How Old Will You Be?
What is it you are wanting to do? What calling on your life are you ignoring? What excuses are you making as to why you haven’t started writing that book? Why haven’t you sent out your resume or started that business you’ve been dreaming about? Why didn’t you enroll in classes and go back to school?
I had a client, back in my hairstyling days, who would come in for his haircut appointment. Every visit, without fail, he talked about how much he loved children and how he wished he would have been a teacher instead of a salesman. He spoke of it so often that on one appointment I suggested he go back to school and get his teaching credentials since it was something he was so passionate about. He laughed and made the excuse, “I’m forty-four,” he said. “By the time I’m finished I’ll be close to fifty.” I smiled and asked him, “How old will you be in four years if you don’t go back to school?” He turned around and faced me, realization blossoming in his countenance. Four years would pass for him either way. He could be close to fifty with a teaching degree, or close to fifty without one. The choice was his. I am happy to say, he went back to school and has been teaching for many years.
Things just don’t happen, it takes effort. The biggest endeavor is just starting. Water will not flow until the faucet is turned on. We spend so much energy on excuses. The first advice you will get when discussing a big life change is to make a Pros and Cons list. I would encourage you to never do that. Pro and Con lists work like this. You list all the pros on one side of your paper and then on the other column you list the cons. I am telling you now, the con list will always outweigh the pros. Why? Because Con’s are fueled by fear. Cons will tell you everything that could go wrong. Fear sets in and soon the paper is in the trash along with your dreams and hopes for the future. Cons live up to their name. They are swindlers, robbers who come in and fast talk you out of your success. They scare you into playing it safe but playing it safe will never get you where you want to be. Cons give excuses as to why the dream is too risky or wouldn’t work in the end anyway.
I would encourage you to make a Pro list only. Tell yourself all the good that will come from following your heart’s desire. Keep a running list of all the wonderful things that could happen once you start on the path to your life’s calling. Those pros will be your daily inspiration and the motivation you need to keep going. Pros are promises that are yet to be fulfilled but will come true once you execute your plan.
Today is the day. No more excuses and no more wasting time. He who kills time dies with it. How long do you figure it will take to make this life change? How old will you be? Just remember that time will pass regardless. You will age regardless. Approach those years with a dream intact or approach those years without it. The choice is yours.
It’s time for adventure. Remember, the man on the top of the mountain didn’t fall there. He climbed, took risk, got a few scrapes and bruises. It took some time, but that time would have passed whether he was climbing or sitting in his recliner. By climbing he did summit, and he felt the exhilaration of being on top of his world!
Losing the Wind
When I lived in San Diego, I started dating a guy who lived on a 37-foot sailboat. It was cool and weekends on the water were fun. Funny thing was he never took the sailboat out of the harbor where it was docked. It was his home, and he didn’t like moving it around. He did however have a catamaran and one day asked me on a romantic picnic on the water. He neglected to check the weather forecast. I didn’t blame him for overlooking that. San Diego had perfect weather so who would have thought a storm would roll in and there would be a small craft advisory issued for the day. We were a way out on the water when we decided to break open our picnic lunch. Just as I opened the basket the main sail snapped, and we found ourselves drifting out to sea. He was well prepared and had a tool kit for such occasions but with the wind whipping the way it was, it took him a while to fix the sail. The longer it took the further we drifted. The water was getting choppy and the more the little catamaran bounced the more nauseous I became. Soon I was retching uncontrollably while water rushed over the boat and gave me a continual soaking. Once the main was fixed we tried sailing into shore, but the wind wasn’t having it, so we had to tack. This meant instead of sailing straight for the harbor we had to zig zag from left to right sailing parallel to the shore until we made it in. What should have taken thirty minutes, took hours. The wind was increasing, the waves were washing over us, and we were losing sunlight. Our situation was getting dyer by the minute and I was soaked to the bone and still vomiting. We were thirty minutes out. I could see the shore and my hopes were on the rise despite my extreme discomfort when an expensive yacht came racing alongside us. There was a party in full swing and people were out on the deck enjoying their swift ride to the harbor despite the choppy sea.
The rules of the ocean are for big crafts to give way to the smaller ones, especially those without engines and rely on the wind. The captain of the party boat didn’t heed the rules and cut in front of us blocking the breeze and literally knocking the wind out of our sails. This lack of momentum sent us drifting again and added another two hours to our return. The guy I was dating cursed, using words I had never heard. I learned what cussing like a sailor really meant.
Have you ever had the wind knocked out of your sails? What you thought going to be a great day, a promotion, a budding relationship, a pay raise, an award-winning audition, an acceptance letter, a new house suddenly turns sour. You put in a lot of effort, worked hard, and banked on something that you were so certain of. The winds of change blew up and what you planned didn’t turn out like you imagined. You were trying so hard and then the party boat, loaded with those who seemingly have it so easy, not a care in the world leaves you in its wake. They breeze past, not caring that your struggle is real. They knock the wind out of your sails, take what you have been striving for and leave you adrift floating in disappointment.
Don’t let yourself drift. The longer you float into the sea of nothingness, allowing your mind to replay the loss, the further you get from the shore and the longer it will take you to get to where you want to be. Take a deep breath, paddle if you have to, get out and swim, do whatever you must but do not drift. All the effort you applied before is not lost. You improved yourself, you learned something, and you are a better stronger person because of it. If you need to cuss, then cuss. If you need to scream in a pillow go scream in a pillow. If you want to raise the middle finger at the party boat as it passes by, then do it. But do not give up! Then, let go of the anger, lose the disappointment but don’t lose momentum. Don’t drift further than you were before you started. The shore is in view! You will get there!
Breaking Past Obstacles
Sitting poolside one afternoon, an actor friend of mine told me of a recent production he was in where he played the role of a cop. In one particular segment he was supposed to open a door and enter the crime scene. The set piece malfunctioned quite a bit throughout the entire run of the show and he found it difficult to actually open the door. This delayed his arrival many times and caused a struggle before each entrance. The door was ill framed and barely on its hinges. My friend said it wouldn’t take much just to kick it in and walk onto the scene. Since the play was a comedy, and he was portraying a cop, he thought, more than once, of making his entrance by kicking the door in and bursting onto the scene. He suggested that on their last performance he should kick the door in. He guessed the audience would roar in laughter. He made this suggestion to his fellow cast members who heartily approved and encouraged him to do so.
He smiled at the telling and then picked up his beverage and took a drink. He looked out over the pool and grinned. Eager to hear the rest of the story, I asked him, “What happened next? Did it work? What did his director think? Was the audience amused? Did he receive an arousing applause and high fives from his cast members?” He shrugged and said, “I didn’t kick it in.”
I was appalled, confused and shocked. I said, “Wait, what? You didn’t do it? Why did you tell me this entire story? It has no ending!”
He looked a tad bit sheepish and then said he had chickened out. After a few minutes of me mercilessly making fun of him, he admitted that he wished he had kicked it in and even went on to say he would probably regret not kicking that door down the rest of his life.
My friend told me that story over seven years ago and it has stuck with me ever since. So many times, in life there are rickety ole doors keeping us from something we want to do. They are closed doors to our dreams, an obstacle preventing us from success and happiness. They aren’t strong barriers, and honestly it would take nothing to knock those babies off their hinges and burst into the next scene of our life. But like my friend, we let them intimidate us. We often daydream and think how wonderful it would be to have a breakthrough, but we never actually take the initiative to do it. We talk about how great it would be to move forward and conquer our fears and inhibitions. Our friends agree and encourage us to do so, yet we still wrestle with the idea and like my actor friend, we talk ourselves out of taking a chance. I believe our greatest regrets in life will be the chances we didn’t take and the power we gave to fear. Fear’s a farce. It attempts to win by posing as something it’s not. And when you discover it’s not all powerful, you’re not afraid to confront it anymore, or to kick it out of your way.
What’s on the other side of your door? A relationship? A promotion? A reconciliation? Have you let the door close on your dreams? It’s time to kick it in. Don’t just think about it, do it. I guarantee you; life will explode in a hearty applause and who knows you might even get a standing ovation! Kick it in today!