In the Rockies

In the Rockies
Butler Gulch

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Inspirations - nature, spirit, & people: Musings

Inspirations - nature, spirit, & people: Musings: A quiet day in the midst of a busy season is both strange and pleasant.   I am writing on an I-pad as I may soon need to replace my laptop a...


A quiet day in the midst of a busy season is both strange and pleasant.   I am writing on an I-pad as I may soon need to replace my laptop and am told that these are the new best thing, perhaps with an attached keyboard which this does not have.

We have had a busy time--grandson Will's 21st birthday dinner, Ben's arrival from Florida for a few days, our Christmas Eve feast plus a visit to son Mike's longtime good friend's family gathering (Johnny did realize that introducing me as "Mother Means" was no longer appropriate!), and the big Means-Sanders family gathering on Christmas evening.  I am also visiting friends along the way; however it's that "family" gathering about which I'm musing.

The Means family gathering is actually my ex-husband Tom's family group.  Since I am most always visiting our son and family, I have, for more years than I can remember, been part of this gathering.  Our holiday plans are made around when the Sanders part of the group can be in town.  It is not always convenient, and there were years when I would have enjoyed skipping it.  However, son Mike made it clear years ago that he expected me to go.  In recent years I have looked forward to seeing everyone.

This year two things made the gathering memorable.  The exciting one--seeing the newest member of the clan, one-year-old Rowan--Tom's wife's first grandchild.  He really was adorable! The other part of this special get together was for Tom, whose cancer is proceeding without treatment since his body can take no more.  It was expected to be his last Christmas.  Tom met me with an "I have something for you" and toddled off to return with a gift bag.  In the bag were cookies which, Tom announced were hermits made by the recipe I used years ago.  He had found the recipe and oversaw the making.  I appreciated being part of Christmas memories, memories long not an acceptable part of the conversation.

I had become so accustomed to being this odd-person-out that I had repressed any feeling of loneliness that created.  It was only after the gift reminded me of our shared traditions that I realized what had been at the root of my feelings of not belonging--the erased years.

This doesn't happen at the wider Means family gatherings as I remain "Aunt Margaret" to all but the youngest of nieces and nephews and sister/friend to the Means siblings and spouses.  I realized that that is why I find those times--funerals these days--important.  I have no Cox-Wood family with whom to gather.  I keep holiday touch with three cousins, only one of whom I knew growing up, and we have few shared memories.

It is strange to have one's past erased.  It will be the same when Tom dies--no room for my grief.  In our healing prayer group's last meeting before I left for Nashville, the member who prayed for me said something like "give Maggie strength and comfort as she likely sees the man with whom she shared so much for the last time."  It was a wake-up call.  Being aware of my feelings even when they make others uncomfortable is difficult.  They aren't feelings to flaunt, just to acknowledge and be with privately.

Our children have held tightly to the dad of their adulthood and who he has become.  Perhaps that too is part of the erased-memory syndrome.

Christmas night dinner and gift giving was lovely.  It was made more fun by young Rowan--so cute as he helped Tom unwrap a package.  Our son said that Tom was having a good day.  He shared quips and laughter.  We were all where we needed to be sharing a mixed family Christmas dinner for what could be the last time.  Who knows if that group will come together without Tom.

I am reminded to be grateful for times with all family and friends as today, this time is all we can know.

(As this is not my device, I'll add photos later.)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Blessings -- Thanksgiving


                                    Ducks on a Boulder Reservoir Inlet taken a couple of days ago.

t is a bright sunny morning here in Colorado.  Our intense cold and snow has moved on to the part of the country where some of you reading this live, and I'm hopeful that my son and his family have a safe drive from Nashville to Asheville, NC, where they will be spending Thanksgiving with his Dad's extended family. Grandson Sam (flying with his Mom and Dad from Colorado) told me Monday that he was excited about going to a state he hadn't visited and seeing all the people.  He hasn't gone with his Mother to Nashville for some time and doesn't remember all of those he will see in Asheville.  It will be odd in some ways not to be there and normal in others as Thanksgiving has been a hit and miss holiday with family for me for years.

I find much for which to be thankful as always, but want to focus on my recent visit to St. Benedict's Monastery in Old Snowmass (near Aspen) for a silent retreat.  It wasn't long planned nor was it a retreat that I knew that I needed until after the scholarships fell into place so I could go.  We were fortunate to arrive at the Monastery on Monday, November 4th before snow began to fall in the valley.  The next morning we awoke to softly falling snow covering the ground and accenting the quiet.

                                        An earlier photo of the Retreat House where we stayed.

Shortly after we arrived the first blessing of my retreat appeared when a young woman got up and walked toward me saying she believed we were acquainted and she was Sarah.  Sarah had been one of the bright spots in my early days in Boulder and at St. John's, but we had lost touch several years ago.  She now lives above Lyons and is a free-lance editor, with lots of professional editing experience behind her.  We were both delighted to connect and met last Thursday to catch up and talk about working together on my memoir manuscript which I had already planned to work on again.  Sarah said she hoped to accompany and support me as I work to hone the manuscript once again.  I'm hopeful that the material that I gave her won't be too difficult for her.

My roommate Mary Ann was making a diet test during our time there so she prepared and ate her meals in our room--an unusual way of retreat participation and a big unsettling for room silence at times.  She is, however, an excellent roommate as far as not talking goes and very considerate in so many ways.  I do, however, go as a support for her--driving (her Subaru) and providing a hiking/walking companion.

Silence at these retreats includes no eye contact, which is hard at meals and not always possible with a roommate.  The Benedictine monks are gracious (quietly) about those of us of other faiths participating in their communion services, but I choose to attend the first morning, the Thursday evening, and the Sunday services while Mary Ann goes most mornings.  I especially enjoy the evening Vespers which I attended regularly.  The monks' chants, the silence and the candlelight with the lighted stained glass window of Mary holding the babe lighted make for a lovely way to end the day.

Walks and talks with the three people who staff the retreat are offered each afternoon.  All the times with Mary Ann from New Mexico, who has staffed these retreats for years, were quickly filled with me in one of her slots.  When talking with her for my 30-minute allotment, I said that I felt drawn to the young monk who was one of the three staff members, but didn't know what we would talk about or why I felt that way.  She suggested that I sign up and tell him that I didn't know why.

As he and I walked down the road on a pleasant afternoon, it became apparent that we were destined to meet.  He had walked, talked and held a friend during the trying months when she had remembered the terror of childhood experiences similar to mine--a much younger woman living in affluence in a northeastern city--parents with a second home in a much-desired resort community.  Her group too was multi-generational.  Sharing experiences was healing and inspiring for both of us, and he is willing to read the manuscript in the near future.  (I started to post a photo of him, but then realized that it might violate his privacy and as well as using his name would.)

There are others too whose presence, sharing at the ending circle and brief visits during the last dinner and breakfast, made a difference.  I think of the Monks and their daily lives of work and prayer with Thanksgiving, especially for my young monk friend and his faith.

Blessings, peace and love from my home to yours.

PS:  Son Mike just phoned from the side of the Interstate in Nashville, waiting for a tow truck as his tuned-up ready-to-go car had slipped a belt.  He said it would only delay them for a couple of hours as they could drive another vehicle and glad to have the break-down occur locally rather than on the Interstate between cities.  


Plans -- and Mesa Verde National Park

                                       Cliff Palace -- the largest dwelling ruins in Mesa Verde

This morning I was reminded of all the planning that went on for our trip to Mesa Verde National Park in mid-September and the plans for events to take place after we returned.  I had saved today as a writing day, intending to write this blog early this morning.

When I awakened, it was dark and cold in my little place.  The electricity was off and the heating, though gas, doesn't work in a useful way without the electric blowers.  It was 60 degrees and dark.  After checking to be sure that Xcel, the power company, knew about the outage, I snuggled under my comforter and went back to sleep.  It was light outside when I woke up--a beautiful chilly bright day.  Whatever could have caused a power outage on such a day?  The original estimated time for the power to return had been 9:15 am--not bad.  However, the phone calls kept coming, and the delays mounting.  When the Xcel trucks appeared in the parking lot, I went out to see what was happening.  A station wagon was parked right over the spot where the underground break was, and the owner was unavailable.  One of the Xcel men helped me open my garage, and when I left at 11:30, they still hadn't towed the vehicle and begun the work.

Now, I'm at a coffee shop with lots of others, drinking coffee, using the computer and charging my phone (and getting warm).  I am more aware of the effects of the flood on those who were without power for days and I had water and no flooding in my home so only had a small taste of their difficulties.  We take so much comfort for granted!

Mesa Verde -- an amazing place.  It looks so barren and yet people farmed those ridges above their homes carved into the canyons.

Much later--I was called out of the coffee shop to assist with some work at church so didn't get his finished. Now, re-reading it, I think of how the people who lived in these cliff dwellings must have kept warm in the winter.  Right now there is at least a couple of feet of snow in the Mesa Verde area.  I forgot when we were there that the Sangre de Cristo mountain area is that which usually has the most snow of any part of Colorado, and it's on the edge of that mountain range where Mesa Verde is located.

We were amazed as the rangers who led hikes into two of the ruins and the one who led the hike we took shared their thoughts about how these dwellers lived--different theories about how they arrived and when they left.  All agreed that it was a hard life.

This ladder at Balcony House (36 ft. I believe) wasn't there for the Ancestral Pueblo people who lived in these cliff dwellings.  We all marveled at how they must have climbed the rock faces of the canyons to reach the mesas where they grew corn, grain and squash--and from looking at those "fields" now, we wondered how they grew anything edible.  (The ladder is secure though I was slow climbing to the top. It's done two at a time with a little space between the pairs.  My friend moved quickly up the ladder so I climbed alone with those behind me wondering if I was okay.)

It seems long ago--that trip in mid-September, but the evidence of the Boulder and Front Range floods are still with us.  The last of the highways up the various canyons opened yesterday morning--temporary but adequate until next spring when permanent rebuilding will begin.  The county roads that are passable are dirt and won't make for good winter driving.  My friend who had been evacuated twice by fires and again with the flooding and with dirt to drive on through the winter showed off her new Subaru 4-wheel drive vehicle yesterday.

I'll sign off of this mixed post and write one for Thanksgiving now.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Without Access

       Boulder Creek -- back in its banks, but much more than the meandering stream expected in the fall.

September and October, sometimes even November, are usually among my favorite hiking months.  The fall light is lovely, seeping through the deep yellow leaves.  The mountain sides, the creek sides are blanketed by aspens and willows turning yellow, gold and occasionally red.  I have walked among them filled with delight at the sight and sound of those leaves (especially the Aspens) humming in the breeze.

This has not been a typical year on Colorado's front range.  And as a friend and I mused recently, the loss of our hiking access and damage to the local trails is small when compared to friends who lost everything and others who are dealing with lower level living spaces that are not yet habitable.  Few basements in Boulder County are used as storage and junk areas.  Instead folks extend their living spaces by finishing basements into bedrooms, recreation rooms and great rooms.  One friend even had a grand piano in her finished basement that flooded.  

                                                                        Near Georgetown

I drove into the edges of the high country--across a pass and down into Georgetown.  I found a picnic area in which to eat a sandwich I'd brought along.  There were pull offs with short walks, but it wasn't like hiking among the leaves.  I did love the grandeur of golden mountain sides more fully covered in aspens than those up Boulder Canyon and on view from the RMNP trails.  First we couldn't get up the canyons to reach the park; then the park closed, and now the leaves have dropped from their branches.

This time of finding open trails in the flats of Boulder, watching for and taking walks on parts of trails as they opened, and finally driving, Wednesday afternoon, up the newly opened Boulder Canyon Drive to Nederland, has made me think about how I would find the release and nourishment that my usual hiking brings should I decide to move back to Nashville.  There, to find the up trails that I love, would also entail a drive--perhaps to Monteagle or Sewanee.  There are parks with trails in Nashville, as there are here--not as many for the area, but they exist.  However, I spent many more hours walking or running on sidewalks and streets years ago when I lived there.
                                      From the partially open Boulder Creek path two days ago

I haven't yet found the answer to not really hiking--just taking long walks or going on a trail until I reached the yellow tape that closed the remainder of the trail--doesn't give me that release, that sense of being away, of the challenge of going a little farther, of standing in awe, of being alone in God's beautiful world.  I did do a panorama of past year's golden hikes--I didn't have to look at photos to go there.  I know there could come a day when that's the only way I can enjoy the fall season, and I'm grateful to not yet have reached that time.  There are more changing colors at the nearby park and the Boulder Reservoir path a five-minute drive away has re-opened.  I will walk there this morning, and I will enjoy it.  However, I haven't yet found the answer to doing without mountain hikes.  The search continues.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

A Spiritual Place

                          Chaco Canyon View -- (Part of a Panorama so it won't allow a bigger photo)

Chaco Canyon is not an easy place to reach.  It is between Farmington and Albuquerque, New Mexico, in the middle of barren desert.  Your only choice to stay nearby is that of camping in the park in a rather rustic campground--best done in a camper.  We stayed in Farmington and drove the almost two hours to reach the park, ending the drive on a mostly flat dirt road in barren desert country.  And suddenly there were canyon walls.  Driving in, before we saw any ruins, we felt the spiritual force of the place.  For me Chaco Canyon was much more about the energy of the place than about the ruins though the ruins were large and easier to see and spend time in and around than those in Mesa Verde (about which I'll write another time).

A fellow Daughter of the King, an international prayer order whose cross that I wear identified me, was a ranger there and our guide for a two-hour tour of Pablo Bonita, the largest ruin in Chaco Canyon, pictured from a distance below.  It was four-five stories at the back walls and had over 600 rooms.  Our guide spoke of how the people there must have lived, pointed out the detailed rock work, and we noticed that even the storage rooms were done with care.  This entire canyon was filled with astonishing structures around AD 1020 - 1120.

             The people must have been short!
Unprepared for a rocky hike!

Our guide, wanting to be sure we were having an enjoyable time, followed us to the next ruin on the loop and introduced us to the Navajo man who had been the master of restoration in the park for a number of years.  He told us he was the only Navajo (a Hopi reservation adjoins the park) and also a medicine man.  He said those working there needed his healing services frequently.  

And the canyon itself--we could have spent many more hours there, but did take time for a brief walk/hike.  It appeared that we wouldn't be going up the hillside--just a little walk around some small ruins.  When the trail turned up a rocky slope, it was impossible to stop.  The feel of the space and reaching a height where we could survey the area was enticing.  The photos give you only a tiny sense of the grandeur of Chaco Canyon.  I would love to return, stay overnight and hike the trails.

PS:  I've been trying to post this for about a week.  Hope it happens today!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Scrambles Up and Over -- and Partners on the Way

                                                      Chasm Lake surrounded by amazing rock walls

Early this morning I was musing about my good fortune with two recent hikes--Chasm Lake and yesterday's Lake of Glass/Sky Pond.  Both are hikes that require "scrambles" up and over rock faces, the one yesterday over wet rocks.  They aren't hikes to take without a good partner.  That's because those "scrambles" up and over the rock ledges are for me, a stretch.  A first glance as I looked at the wet boulders in front of me yesterday, I didn't see a foothold that I could reach.  They were there.  I'd done this hike so I knew I could do it.  I'd needed my hiking companion when I'd done it in other years, and I definitely needed a companion up in front this time around.

                                                   The "scramble" up to the lakes is behind me.

A companion who was confident supported my confidence.  And she was sure that I could do it too.  Our third companion decided that this part of the hike was not for him.  He waited and was there with the intent of catching us if we fell on the way down.  More about those who catch us when we fall later.

                                    My companion (Colleen) with the Lake of Glass meadow behind her.

I looked back at photographs of hikes before I'd gone digital.  They were from our big hike years of 2001 and 2004--nine and eleven years ago.  There have been a few challenging hikes since that time, but not as many.

It made me wonder about those scrambles in my life too.  In 2001, and even in 2004, I believed in my memoir.  I believed it was a book I was supposed to write, and I believed it was supposed to be published--not by me, as in self-publishing, but by a trusted publisher.  My Holy Spirit guide tells me still that this is true, but with all the stops and starts in procuring an agent, I am reluctant to take that on as I did before--as a job that I worked regularly.

I have also believed I had a healing message to get out to those who have been seriously abused, especially those with a background similar to mine.  However, the easiest path to talks has been to speak to church or spiritual groups.  I've enjoyed doing that, and others have been touched, moved and gained insights.  But they haven't easily led to more talks.  That may be a message--or it could be that I haven't tried hard enough.
I remember a woman priest saying to me a decade ago that my ministry would always be to those most wounded.  While I have believed that, I haven't made real movement in that direction.

I believe in the cause that has taken a lot of my energy in the past four and a half years--our local CASA agency supporting abused and neglected children.  We do good work, and I believe I have made worthy contributions.  The thing is--couldn't those contributions have been made by others?  Realizing that deeply is what led me to say I wouldn't commit to another year as president of that board.  Letting go of that job at the end of this month is a journey, as letting go always is.

So I'm saying, "Here I am, Lord."  I'm ready to do what only I can do, what you have me here to do.  I'm saying this knowing that the Spirit is with me and will serve as a confirming guide.  I'm also saying this knowing that the partnership I need isn't visible.  That's not saying I don't have friends who support what I believe I'm to do--and think they know how I should publish the book!  They'll say "great" if (or when?!) it happens, and a couple of them will listen occasionally as I make my way through the process.  But a partner is more than that, and a partner is needed.  That partner needs to believe with me (even when I'm not so sure) and be there, maybe not to catch falls along the way, but to soften them.  I might need to make a similar commitment in turn.  Wonder what that would look like?

This is a "scramble" that I'm making room for, I don't know what the journey looks like from here on.  I can't see to the next steps.  It seems to be this part of life's scramble for me.

                                                       Lake of Glass -- RMNP

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A Warning Dream

           The trail and view from my "going it alone" hike last Friday--and can you see how rocky the trail is!
                                                                St. Vrain Mountain trail.

A dream that wouldn't let go is one I've found that I need to wrestle with, and this early morning's dream was about what feels to be my "work" call.  I was visiting a group to whom I was scheduled to speak--a group in a sophisticated Methodist church in Nashville.  A friend had gone with me.  I didn't get to the group's Sunday evening meeting until after they had begun.  I was tip-toeing around, timid.  I met their associate who mentored the group and didn't say that I was scheduled to speak--just something silly about being Episcopalian in a Methodist church.  Afterward he disappeared, and I talked to the two women group leaders.  One said, "I thought that was who you were." when I said I was scheduled to speak later.  The other asked if I usually gave my talks in my home!  That was how I was showing up.  Little lady, not a professional speaker or program leader--timid and unsure.

Fast forward -- I'm giving the program to that same group.  I begin with hesitation, stumbling over my beginning.  I'm combing through my written program notes at the same time.  I assumed that I would remember and hadn't reviewed.  After the false start however, I get it together and everything works.  Afterward participants are moved, excited, have something to take away in their own life's journey.  I'm asked who is doing my future scheduling.  Who is supporting me in my efforts?  My son is there (very odd) and says he is the only one.  He would be happy for some help.  Some elusive (vague in the dream) person offers support.  The dream ends as I talk about how I want to speak to mental health groups and those offered for sexual abuse survivors.

                             Perhaps a few flowers will grow among the rocks and streams of life.

My long-time Jungian-trained psychoanalyst and spiritual director emphasized that dreams always hold information for the future.  This one feels loaded.  And it fits with where I am--feeling hesitant as I carve out small pieces of time to attempt to schedule future programs.  I might easily sound like the woman who gives programs in her home (not bad if you are a priest as one here is since all know that she can speak anywhere).  And I am often so sure that the right words will come that I skimp on preparation.

Support -- I need to be open to the support I need being available.  And the inner support is too.  It's those self-diminishing voices in my head that I need to ignore.  And that voice that says, "You are alone.  There's no one who wants to help."  It's a childhood voice.  I know that.  But then I was so sure about writing the memoir and that it had a place in the world--and after all these years, that place hasn't been found.  It has shaken my confidence in my "work."

              The "flowers" growing may be many but not so easy to see.  (mountain harebell bellflowers)

At a recent healing prayer group meeting, one of the members prayed for me asking that I know which things I needed to let go of and let them float away.  I knew at the time that there was wisdom in those words.  It appears that feeling a lack in what I have to offer is a big one.  The Spirit wouldn't call me to do something that wasn't mine to do--and that wasn't of value to others.  And at age seventy-five, the time must be now!

Thanks for being with me in my debrief.

                                            A few may sprout and blossom in tough terrain!
                                                                (subalpine larkspur)

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

An Inspiring Wildflower Season

Fourth of July Trailhead above Eldora (Boulder County)

Parry primrose on a bank with lots of water -- Butler's Gulch in the near high country between Empire and Winter Park

My plan -- to share the best of this season's wildflowers -- has turned into more of a task than I'm up for.  So other than the top picture from Boulder County's best trail, these are all from Butler Gulch.  Since the Butler Gulch trail leads to flowered meadows above tree line, it is similar to the high country flower areas that are too far to drive in a day.  This one is 150 miles round trip, but since most of it is interstate, it takes about an hour and fifteen minutes to get to the parking area--about the same time it takes to reach most trails in Rocky Mountain National Park, which is about 80-90 miles rt.

I went by myself, but was accompanied back down the trail by a young Korean man from Denver, who let his five friends continue their run toward the parking lot without him.  He had the car keys so didn't worry about them leaving him.

This is what I'm climbing that last steep part of the trail to see--meadow after meadow of wild flowers!  On the hillside above this meadow I found these columbine in stages of bloom backed by dwarf chiming bells.

And though taking pictures of myself doesn't bring the best result, this gives you a sense of the fields and how delighted I was to be there!

And there were these lovely yellow-green ones too.
A close-up of the rose paint brush behind me.

              And the stream--near one of the crossings--and there are three.  On this trail, it's guess how you can get across without getting water in your boots.  And I did it--barely!

Do notice that the new photo for the blog is also up high on the Butler Gulch meadows.  I sat among the flowers and ate lunch.  I hope you feel as if you have been somewhat with me on this wonderful hike.

I wondered if it might be the last time I took this trail as I ate my usual hot fudge sundae in the ice cream shop in Empire and watched the rain pour from the skies, waiting for it to lack before starting back toward home.  I am truly blessed to have these wonderful hikes and this beauty waiting.

Monday, July 29, 2013

When Things Seem As if They Are Going the Wrong Way

    This spot in a huge Boulder was pointed out by my friend visiting from Nashville--a geologist by training.  In today's blog, it represents how I was feeling and the force I felt I was pushing against as I began writing.  Looking closely, it holds beauty too.

This post will really be about beautiful wild flowers and hikes.  The title doesn't sound that way.  I know. And the new blog cover photo was taken a couple of weeks ago in that same wonderful meadow at the top of Butler Gulch off the highway between Empire and Winter Park--a 150-mile round trip so it's one of my summer luxuries.

Our "new" Voices For Children CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) Executive Director completed her last day about 2:15 last Friday, and another search is on.  The committee isn't as strong as last year's, not as independent of the loudest voice.  I don't have as much influence as I'd like with the committee chair, and yes, as board president I appointed her.  It feels out of control even though we have several qualified candidates.  Perhaps out of control is good.  Maybe mixing it up is the way we'll come up with the best candidate for the job at this time.  It doesn't appear that we will get the most qualified candidate, but perhaps someone looking from a different point of view will be good.

I'm rationalizing.  But for my own well being, I must let go of the outcome.  I am letting go of the board presidency at the end of my term--September 30th--and don't remember when I've felt so "right" about moving away from a leadership post.  It's a little hard to see that end right now as I'm the go-to person for the staff, and have the responsibility to be sure grants are mailed/finished, meetings attended, and all is well at the office and that plans for our big fundraising luncheon on September 20th are on track.

Did I just make the case that I have enough on my plate without trying to control (guide I would say) the search outcome?!  Is this just another opportunity to let go of power and control--one of the ego centers that gets in the way of the true self showing up?

I have a practice called "the welcoming prayer."  It's welcoming the distress showing up from one of the three centers of need that get overblown and govern our lives--power and control, esteem and affection, and security and survival.  That practice works in reverse.  As I say "welcome, welcome, welcome my need for power and control in this situation," over and over the angst begins to loosen.  I'm doing that now.  Next I will welcome my need for esteem and affection as it seems to be playing in this scenario too.

Now to the mountains and flowers, which actually aren't part of this blog after all.  I'll write about them in another post.  Here are a couple of photos that remind me that creation is good whether or not things are going my way.

          Above, me at the falls below Isabelle Glacier, taken by
         friend John Bowers from Nashville during our Indian Peaks
         Wilderness hike last Tuesday.   To the right, paintbrush
         above Isabelle Lake on the same hike--from my I-phone.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Peace, Beauty and A Warning

                                              Heil Ranch -- Color is mostly grass in early summer

This morning I am particularly grateful for inner peace.  This deep feeling of peace came unexpectedly last night after a week of stress and a day when it seemed to pile up.  The stress of having our "new" Voices For Children CASA Executive Director resign after not quite six months is a real one (I'm president of that board).  Unusual inner anxiety about my two "up front" tasks at the church service had passed without a flub.  The discovery of the strong relationship my Healing Ministry Group back-up leader has with our Rector--evidenced in our meeting when it seemed that I was the observer -- provided stress on my ego.  It's always an initial jar to see my replacement so clearly, although it was also comforting and freeing.

The absence of my daughter in my life too was brought close in an unexpected way.  On Facebook I discovered that a high school friend had come to Colorado to vacation with Michelle, and I hadn't heard from her.  This friend has become one of the few I always see when visiting Nashville (was one of the girls who called me "Mother Means" and as an adult sometimes refers to me with that name).  

There was a fantasy relationship that I was also letting go.  With all of this sloshing around, I wasn't peaceful!
Even the anticipated pleasure of going to Nashville this Friday for my 75th birthday celebration with family and friends wasn't easing the stress.  Then as I sat on the bed and half watched a re-run of Elementary, a deep peace surfaced.  It was (and I can still touch it, though not so profoundly) that "All will be well" peace.
Amazed, I simply sat with it.

With the prospect of a busy day with an emergency board meeting of VFC CASA, I put away the novel I was reading early and went to sleep.  It seemed that I barely closed my eyes when a strongly distressing dream woke me.  It escaped being a nightmare because I wakened immediately.  In a vehicle, I was being high jacked by first one, then two, burly characters, taking over the driving and pushing me into the back seat.  When I tried to open the door, another burly character blocked my way--and as I was beginning to feel there wasn't a way out, I woke up.  For me, this dream was clearly a warning that the path I was supposed to be on was in danger of being high jacked.  Whether the three characters had meaning, I haven't discerned.  However, it was clear that I was taking the VFC CASA concerns as my mission to solve--that old ego saying, "It's up to me."

I had readily accepted my first choice as the Search Committee chair's reason that he couldn't serve.  He just received a big promotion.  Last year's chair is waiting on confirmation of a new full-time job before saying that she will even be on the committee this time.  These were obviously valid reasons for limiting participation.  Why could I not have easily seen that while my "work"--focusing again on obtaining an agent for the memoir and working to schedule programs in other areas--was as valid and needed my time?  It's that old thing of the obvious need in front of me calling--and my ego's "I must be the one to solve this problem."

Interestingly, our Associate Rector's homily had focused on the danger of letting our egos take over by puffing up--or by believing that we were indispensable!  So today I'm meeting with a newer board member who has enthusiastically agreed to chair the Search Committee and letting go of (at least trying) my feeling that she will need propping up along the way (and of course, that I will be the one to do it!).  I'm saying that I trust that the person we need to lead VFC CASA's important mission of being a voice for neglected and abused children in the Boulder County Court system will show up.  I know that the more I trust, the more I can let go of the angst that this resignation has brought--and interact with compassion with the one who is leaving.

Inner peace is a blessing.  It doesn't necessarily mean that all of these insights will promptly cause calm, assured behavior.  It does give me a place to dive into as a swirling of stress begins to form.

Rivers meet along the Camp Dick Trail

Soon I'll write and put up photos of early flowers that i intended to include this morning.  

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Hiking a Back Country Trail

                                                       Ouzel Falls, RMNP, June 7, 2013

While insights abound these days, this bright Sunday morning, I'm sharing my recent hike to Ouzel Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park, a favorite in the early hiking season.  The falls is at its best during the snow melting season, and with the late snows this year, I was sure the water would be gushing over the rocks and spraying the logs where we often sit for lunch.  (And some may remember the falls as my first blog cover photo.)

At the ranger station, I learned that the bridge at the Calypso Cascades, more than halfway to the falls was out.  I would need to take the back country trail, one I had never hiked, to reach the falls.  The parking lot was full of tourists' cars (it was Friday), and I noticed that most were walking on toward the Cascades rather than taking the trail to the falls--and the clouds were gathering early.

I could not help but think of this trail--old and faint at times--with life's journey--and was reminded that delightful surprises exist no matter the difficulty of the path.  The photo below doesn't do justice to the beauty of the aspen leaves beginning to unfurl against the background of boulders and pines.  I simply love this beauty.  The back trail is more shaded so the aspens have been slower to leaf out.
I stopped to photograph and admire their beauty over the first part of the trail and was surprised by big raindrops that began to fall.  When it seemed that they were not presaging a downpour nor were they going to stop soon, I slipped my poncho over my head and walked on.  I was reminded that I was more prepared for the rain than I often am for the showers of life.

This trail meanders away from the river so as its flow got louder, I had to go off trail to see and listen to its sounds--as those of you who have followed me for a while know--a sound that is comforting and healing for me.  It feels as if it is cleansing the dregs and crevices of my life.  I crept close to the water, knelt and let the water flow over my hand.
I didn't know where on the usual trail this one would come out--life for sure--and the few I met were newcomers to the hike and had no idea what my question even meant!  Not so many guides on this part of my life's journey either!!

Since I must quit and get ready for church--I'm the scheduled reader at our church picnic at Flagstaff Amphitheater and am giving a ride to an 86-year-old friend--I'm going to rush along.  When the trail ended, I was about a mile up from the falls on the Thunder Lake trail--not one that was familiar.  Backtracking, I came to the Ouzel Lake Trail and a series of brightly colored boulders (and thought of you Judith -- actually many times on this hike.)  Here they are--beauties of nature that give me great joy!

Have a blessed day!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Under the Armour

Did I know what I would find when I realized, last fall at a Snowmass Retreat, that I had a breastplate of armor that had protected me growing up, and that I needed to set it aside and allow the emotions hidden there to surface for healing?  Since I was familiar with the anger that could arise from behind that armor, I knew the emotions were strong and the experiences difficult.  I also knew that this would be healing and freeing.  I had first become aware of that ball of anger when a man I spent time with in the early 90's touched that pain with words.  It was as if a knife was slicing through my guts. I have touched it many times in my healing journey, but have never been able to get inside it.  So this work has been a long time coming.

I needed that armor and am deeply grateful that I had it.  I count the young girl who developed that armor and the Divine that allowed it to form as one of the greatest blessing in my young life.  The core of the ball that is still unraveling is the fear of being destroyed.  That is strong language, and in my case, this was sometimes a warranted fear.  Other times, there were words, tones of voice and looks that activated fear that felt as if I was being torn apart, thrown aside--feelings that were especially strong when the person triggering them held power over me.

Storm clouds and their shadows can be beautiful, especially when blue skies and white cottony clouds can be seen in another part of the sky.  However, when a vicious storm has brought damaging wind and rain, when lightening has ignited a nearby forest fire, those storm clouds may cause a knot to form in our stomachs, and fear to course through our bodies.  The same is true for words, voices and looks that activate old, often unconscious fearful experiences.

As my ball of fear and pain has been unraveling, I've become aware of why I unconsciously created fear in the two 6'4" men who worked for me in the early days of managing growing grant and loan programs in economic and community development--and how I used some of the same tools that had been used to create fear in me.  Fortunately, I've become friendly, if not always friends, with many of my shadow parts so I am not devastated or upset the way I was when my lovely administrative assistant, after hours on her last day before moving on to a full professional position, told me that these two men were afraid of me.  My mental picture was of a slender 5'4" woman standing between two men, each a foot taller, trying to get them to understand the urgency of the projects they were working on and my frustration when their looks of slow understanding and unhurried voices expressed the opinion that I was expecting too much.  They could have as easily said, "We are state workers.  What do you expect?"

That anger was triggered recently in an e-mail dialogue with one of our pastors regarding the expectations of attendance in the healing ministry discernment group that I chair.  My reaction was over-the-top though the worst of it I kept to myself.  I should have realized the pattern that often occurs when an old deep pain is working its way through to consciousness.

My use of those tactics--a steely look in my eyes, a cold tone of voice (not loud), and words have long been my tools of protection.  At times words are not needed.  I have prided myself on not needing to raise my voice to get across my point--get out of my way, don't touch me, stop now.  I could write an essay, maybe a short book, on the looks that shot fear and feelings that I needed to be squashed--sometimes literally--growing up.   Changing those looks in my life to ones of compassion is the transformation necessary--and God will provide that healing.  My job it to be open to the Spirit's work.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Enjoying the Beauty

Lumpy Ridge near town of Estes Park.  The rock that sticks up to the left of center represented God for me the winter of 1999-2000 when I lived there knowing no one really.

The snow continues to melt, though the high peaks are mostly covered.  This was taken from my friend, Mary Ann's yard in mid-May.

Except for the pasqueflowers in the upper right hand corner, these were all on a well-traveled trail in south Boulder a couple of weeks ago.  The pasqueflowers were near a RMNP trailhead.
Sugar bowls on Goshawk Ridge -- the only place I've seen these
My most recent blogs have been more about darkness than light so I wanted to share spring flowers and the beauty of this wonderful area this morning.  A newer friend and I saw the sugar bowls on a hike last Friday, timed, I must admit to find this early spring flowers--and we did, more of them than I had ever before seen.

I was more enthralled than my friend.  She saw them with interest the first and second time I pointed them out.  After that, they were old hat.

I am reminded of how many times I think, "oh I've seen that before, done that" without recognizing that I am a different person today than I was when I saw, did whatever before.  I can easily say that about seeing the sugar bowls last year when I went alone primarily to photograph the spring flowers on that trail--or the year before that when I took a friend who hadn't been on that trail to see the wildflowers.  And the first time I went the year before that with the local Open Space Parks ranger who told us all about the area, just opened to hikers, and the flowers, rocks, trees, and mountains along the way

And yet--I am also the same in many ways.  I still live in the small condo/apartment and have looked forward to the pool's opening.  I enjoyed spending Sunday afternoon there reading with a little time in the water, greeting a few fellow pool sitters I hadn't seen since last year.

I've shed some volunteer tasks and taken on others.  And my inner healing journey has deepened.  (I'll say more about that in the next post.)

The flowers looked more beautiful--partly because of the long, late spring with snows and cold.  The mountain vistas were clearer.  The friends with whom I shared more dear, especially the one in whose back yard I stood to take many stitched together panorama photos of the mountains.  Perhaps it is because I am older.  Perhaps it is because I think of moving back to the Tennessee hills.  Through whatever darkness--the clouds, my inner journey, the difficulties of family and friends--to enjoy the beauty with which I am surrounded.

Happy Spring!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Going Alone

There is a trail through that deep snow.  It's mostly one snowshoe track to another, but it's there.  As I trekked up the fire trail toward the Mills Lake/Loch junction through snow that was so deep that I had to raise  each foot up several inches in order to put one down in the next track, I was glad it was a bright sunny day.  I was in the shadows a lot, but the sun was shining.

It was like the recent weeks' have been, a lot of the time has been spend with dark memories, dark pain--and my dark side, but I know that bringing those experiences and pain to the surface allows God's light--the best--to shine on them for healing.  And the steps are, like those on the trail, sometimes high--and I can't see what's through the trees or around the next curve.

Another part of the winter trail experience was that I went out for this snowshoe alone--and I didn't see anyone as I stopped and started up the fire trail (and it's the one most used in the winter).  I would learn that there was enough snow on the summer trail, and that those few who were out were on it--spring tourists for the most part.  The hardest journeys are those inside and are journeys of faith--between us and God or as the 12-steppers say, our higher powers.  It would have been good to share the snowshoe; however, I noticed little things that I might not have seen had I been talking or looking out for my companion of this year's snow hikes.

 The same is true of my spiritual journey.  When I am busy, busy
with my various commitments and don't stop and listen and see, I am apt to get lost or miss the signs along the way.  So as I muse about having a special companion--or having others with whom to share the spiritual journey in ways I don't now have, I remember that much of that work is done in silence.

My I-phone didn't capture the sparkle of the icicles.  They were lovely.  And I know I have photos of some cascading down the rocks below from other years in the spring's melt, but each year they are different--as different as the insights from old stuff I have previously visited at some level.

As I started down the summer trail, I met the two men I had seen at the trail head coming up the trail.  They asked how I got there before they did as they were unfamiliar with the trail I had taken.  That is not a question I get in life.  Instead, the question is more likely to be, "Haven't you handled all that stuff before?  Aren't you done?"  I am looking forward to spring flowers, and this week's rain should bring them out.  I'm hopeful that with the flowers, a leveling off will come; but the answer is 'no."  This is a lifetime journey with lots of grace notes along the way.  

Last Friday I had set out to snowshoe to The Loch, a favorite I've missed this season.  I did not attempt the final leg, as there were many "hills" that aren't usually there as I hiked up the fire trail.  I had a time deadline in Boulder too, and that handled any wild ideas of a big push--one I sometimes get after a brief rest.  I now avoid--most of the time--having goals in mind as I travel the spiritual journey.   I used to say, "I'm almost through with this or that."  Some of you remember those days.  Now, as I break open another big piece as I did earlier this week, I know that it will spin and unravel many skeins before it can be cleared away and another piece moves into the upward pattern.  Co-leading the St. John's Healing Ministry Discernment Group is probably not the way to have a smooth road upon which to travel--but who says that smooth is the best?!  Exercising those spiritual muscles must be as good for us as that of exercising our body's muscles. 
Until next time--with hope that the photos won't be of snow!