January 16, 2021. Today has been quiet, reflective on the home front. I indulged – creating a photo collage of magnolia blossoms (from Austin’s Natural Gardener in 2016) to illustrate a poem written a short while back about an encounter from a long, long while back (eight grade!) At the time I was living with my aunt in the country 20 miles from Cuero TX – her front yard filled with a large, spreading magnolia tree. I still recall the elation high in the limbs surrounded by blooms … and moving toward one “just over there” …
Includes Book Review: Dancing In The Narrows by Anna Penenberg
May 1, 2020: The past six weeks have been a continuing transformation of “normal”. Settling into new stay-home isolation, two challenges arrived simultaneously: a beautiful but ultra-difficult 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle and a book-review request. The jigsaw image is by Sara Steele, one of my favorite modern painters, and ultimately worth the agony that prompted visions of a mini bonfire, puzzle pieces aflame. The book, by Anna Penenberg, chronicles a single mother’s heartaches and strengths as she and her daughter (stricken with a debilitating illness later diagnosed as Lyme Disease) are propelled through one medical intervention after another, hopes rising and falling. I welcomed this book to better understand Lyme Disease.
Certainly I had ample time to work this puzzle and review this book. They made interesting “lap” companions! The puzzle flowers took me virtually out-of-house, and the book took me out-of-now back to years as a single mother. The timing of reading this book is notable. A book about rising to meet uncertainties, about survival through adapting – along with a world-wide call to face uncertainty, to adapt.
I’ve collaged together the imagery, as these two have become interwoven symbols of my pandemic stay-at-home experience. I’m breaking usual form with this post to include the book review, below. You can pre-order now on Amazon; availability is July 2020.
Dancing In The Narrows by Anna Penenberg (She Writes Press, July 2020)
This is a true tale of resilience facing uncertainty. Lyme disease is the villain. Mother Anna Penenberg and daughter Dana are each victims, though only the daughter harbors Lyme. Both are also heroines. Though many Lyme specifics are covered, read this book for its model of perseverance against odds, against unknowns. The book is hard to put down. And when the last page turns, you will see your own challenges through a clearer lens.
~~~Woven into the struggles are spiritual connections to nature, labyrinths, and dance. Author Anna Penenberg studied dance in college to become a therapist using bodily motion to heal. Exploring treatments takes mother and daughter on several road trips, each a mix of serious business with natural and spiritual encounters. Like the sunset viewing of the Grand Canyon while pelted by hail, doubling over in laughter, needed relief. “Everything bothered Dana. When pain overwhelmed her ability to be civil, we drove in silence.”
~~~The Narrows, a slot canyon in Zion National Park, is a 16-mile stretch of the Virgin River where tall canyon walls come closer and closer together. On a rare week away from Dana, Anna returns to this place during a rainy season, and hikers must stop short of her desired point. She is allowed 10 minutes on her own, a little beyond the group. She splashes along a sandbar, hugging the cliff, finding herself “not broken.” The book is named for this pivot point.
~~~The phrase “She will turn a corner” captures the essence of years of searching for answers, “as if we were driving in a neighborhood where, if we made the right turn, we would meet the cure for Lyme disease.”
~~~As Dana begins to improve (in 2012), Anna celebrates turning sixty with a circle of women, reflecting: “I’d had the heroic job of standing by my ailing daughter day and night for years. It wasn’t a job that could be hired out. It wasn’t a job I chose. It wasn’t a job with tenure, benefits, retirement, or prestige, but it transformed me.” The illness began in 2007. In 2013 Dana could finally live on her own. “I took off the cloak of survival and stepped naked into my life.”
~~~Each chapter opens with a poignant quote. One, from Alan Watts: “The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.” This book has much to offer anyone (male or female) facing a challenge that defies resolution — hence, all of us facing the 2020 pandemic. This odyssey encourages survival through persistent pursuit. Protocols embraced by daughter Dana make 2020 rigorous hand-washing seem trivial.
Book Review posted on GoodReads.com: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3309921796?book_show_action=true&from_review_page=1
January 17, 2020. As I open mentally and emotionally to the uncertainty of 2020 … this poem honors an experience way, way back in 1983 working for IBM in Boca Raton, FL … I became the lucky alternate when the guy chosen to attend a Santa Monica 4-week class could not go. The class was Modern Engineering, and its primary purpose was to encourage life-long learning. We were blessed with UCLA professors delivering all sorts of engineering specifics I had no immediate use for. But the experience was indeed mind-opening. Gone was my notion that “engineers” were a super breed. They were mathematicians, like me, theirs a specialized focus.
The Mobius band given on completion has been my reminder since that life IS continuous learning, that whatever is occurring right now is both temporary and influential on what follows … everything changing all the time. I look to the Mobius band as a “walking stick” to steady me through unorientable uncertainty along the path of 2020.
(A Möbius strip, band, or loop, also spelled Mobius or Moebius, is a surface with only one side and only one boundary. The Möbius strip has the mathematical property of being unorientable.)
January 7, 2020. One week into this new year, new decade … one I have anticipated for its promise of transition in my personal life. I go through a month-long process each December focusing forward and creating a mandala to guide the coming year. I named 2020 Navigate Uncertainty given mid-year expectations. Well … 2020 is showing its character up-front, in this first week!
We were camped at Lake Mineral Wells State Park (west of Fort Worth TX) when 2020 arrived. Image (from my Austin yard) is last night’s sunset in west … behind it a cloudless eastern sky dominated by a high bulging moon.
June 6, 2018. A landscape chore neglected several years taught me a few things. Our suburban backyard is “yard” surrounded by a U-shaped “dog run”. Chain link fencing (once part of a cat fence-in of “yard”) proves an inviting trellis. Over the years we’ve planted deliberately while battling such as wild grape, cat brier, and a good many unknowns. Uncensored, Moonseed vine and Virginia creeper took over the section of chain link beside the back porch. Beyond, in what’s now the Labrador’s run between chain-link and wooden privacy fences, Mexican petunia (Ruellia) flourishes. I love those blooms – enough to tackle downing a mass of vines.
But I was in for a rude awakening: I was ripping down beauty in its own right, albeit not showy like Ruellia.
May 18, 2018. Transitions happen, ready or not. I wasn’t. This is day eleven of our new indoor-only cat living the outdoor-only lifestyle. I’ll spare details, but she violated Gary’s tolerance one too many times. This has been harder on me than on the cat, but I am observing her absolute glee with the outdoors and coming around to interpreting her plaintive meows as less complaint than plea for me to join her out there!
All changes again when we begin summer travels. Both cats will be indoors for the duration. Both will be very ready to explore the yard when we return. And perhaps at that point, the older cat and younger cat will share in-and-out privileges equally. I have fingers crossed. But I am open to the possibility that this little catalyst may have yet more to teach me.
This image I created for the 2010 Gathering of Circles – http://www.gatheringofcircles.com
January 11, 2018. It’s been a little over five years since I slipped my left wrist into the silicone band bearing the wisdom Celebrate What’s Right With The World – motto of Dewitt Jones, photographer and philosopher. I’d just spent a week “on Molokai time” recalibrating with Dewitt and others. I wondered how long the band might last. At least five years: the one I am retiring to my altar shows no wear until placed on top of a new one. Then I can see it has thinned, which explains sometimes slipping off.
2012 held a pair of life-changing encounters. A week with Mr. Poetic Medicine, John Fox, in Canyon De Chelly broke me open. Mother Nature delivered a Vision Quest where I’d anticipated just poetry and nature appreciation. I came home wobbly, at best. Within days, notice of a Dewitt Jones workshop on Molokai slid into view, and I signed up on the spot. I was a fan of Dewitt’s philosophy from videos in wisdom classes. With crossed fingers, I began another adventure. Getting to Molokai felt a lot like another Vision Quest, but the Island way and the people (once there!) were what I needed. I will never forget returning, standing outside the Austin airport waiting to be picked up, unable to contain my smiles, eager to say THANK YOU! to the one picking me up (the one who put up with me after Canyon de Chelly!)
November 29, 2017. I love to wander the aisles of hardware stores, or Home Depot. Usually I have a problem on my mind, looking for some fix. But I can be sidetracked by a gizmo with no apparent use. Like the day I found the goddess, thinking she would never set posts!
The new power line to the tiny house my daughter is building needed to be elevated, visible above grasses soon to regrow from recent mow. Though others had previously borrowed the goddess for such, this was my first post thrusting. Impressive.
(Yet I continue to revere her for hue and curve aesthetics.)
August 27, 2017. Hurricane Harvey has come to visit Texas, moving inland to squat over family land near Cuero. My mind races back to youthful times when the Guadalupe River overflowed and those who lived out in the country could not get to town for days and days. I worry for relatives still on the family land, as well as relatives in Houston. Houston, already flooded, is the projected target for Harvey’s meander away from Cuero.
Within Harvey’s outer rain bands (5+ inches measly compared to up-to-40 inches predicted for Houston), I mourn the uprooted live oak next door and cringe as images of flooded Houston roadways pour across my computer screen. Houston is the 4th largest city in the U.S. To evacuate that many people is next-to-impossible. Last time they tried (Hurricane Rita) more people died on the jammed roadways than in the city behind them. I am oddly sympathetic with Houston’s mayor, now taking all sorts of flack for his earlier direction to hunker down vs. evacuate. He saw only two imperfect options. Could there have been other choices? Houston is a lesson-occurring – conclusions still beyond view.
With all this stirring my mind, I uncovered this 2013 poem in a pile on my desk. A spark of synchronicity! The image is from recent camping near Cloudcroft NM.
February 27, 2017. I’m stepping back into 2007 for this image and poem, which feel appropriate given prevalent prickly agitation. This image was taken on Alamo Mountain, near El Paso, on a hike to view ancient rock art images left by a culture challenged daily with adversity. Perhaps we, too, will learn to live with constant conflict. But maybe we can bridge polarized opinions – it’s a challenge worth considering.