Tied

The leaves from a family walk last November. How has a year come and gone?

We walked and we talked, we laughed and threw an acorn, a stick or a pine cone across the wooded path. We enjoyed the handiwork of autumn and one another. I picked these that day. Once brilliantly colored leaves that stood out in stark contrast as our feet rustled through hundreds of the crunchy fallen of the season. I chose just five and in their state at the time, still fresh and pliable, quite flat, bright canary colored and in perfect gradation of size from large to small. Like a little family I suppose. Just like ours. I bound them together with a bit of twine so to keep this leaf family—the moment really—tied to my heart.

My own mother kept several collections of things like leaves and small trains and other trinkets gathered from meaningful life moments. They had their own significance to her as anything we humans choose to collect will have. The sentimental among us will place a certain unascertainable value on our collectibles as there is often no real monetary worth in them. But to us . . . to us they serve as memorials of how we felt when we visited that grand cathedral or small chapel, those faraway castle ruins, or the walk in the park with someone worth remembering. They serve as a touchstone to a time or a love or a memory we choose to hold dear.

And so in the sentimental mind we look back. We recall. We reminisce about the days that came before. We save stuff that sparks the journey back to when . . . and with a small scrap of twine we hold our favored moments of the past together. Our fond memories are really quite a gift. Though the dried leaves may crumble and descend into dust, the tie . . . the tie is what binds us to those moments gone before. Blessed be the tie that binds.

More Than One

I’ve taken to making my own home brewed Kombucha lately and that alone gives a sense of Little House on the Prairie meets modern day mixologist. It begins with a couple of isolated ingredients that magically create something unique when they come together. I start a new batch by dissolving a cup of organic sugar in 12 cups of cooled black or green tea. If you don’t have a kombucha buddy who’ll share some of their’s then add a cup of good quality purchased kombucha as a starter (think sourdough); cover with a tea towel and wait 2-3 weeks. Free yet slo-mo entertainment ensues as you watch the daily progress unfold. In a few days gas bubbles begin to appear on the surface as the tea and the sugar do their thing. As the probiotic nectar gradually develops, a delicate yet solid film “grows” on its surface. Yes, it becomes a living thing. Eventually, in a matter of 14-21 days, this materializes into a lumpy, quarter inch thick blob of micro organisms atop a beverage that is gut healthy and teeming with probiotics. Whew (or ewww)! Though I make and daily sip this stuff it STILL sounds creepy around the edges even to me.

However I must point out that what forms on the top is the real star here and it has a name. They call it SCOBY for Symbiotic Community of . . . (wait for it) Bacteria & Yeast. Nummy.

Other than imparting unto you a recipe for a trending probiotic beverage, I must say that the process itself just screams of the health giving, yay life giving benefits of community. You know—aka friends. Drinking buddies (Kombucha of course). Co-workers. A neighbor or two. Family. More than one. Opposite of isolated.

Its called Community not Alone-ity because it isn’t done by one. The partnership works and creates something healthy that didn’t exist, COULDN’T exist when it was only a cup of sugar and some loose tea leaves on separate shelves in the cupboard. Online community works too, dear friend. Join one. Create one. Make something healthy and bottle it. This takes more than one.

Black and White

This isn’t really a black and white photo. The painted green wall and the red one nearby are just inches away. Lil’ salt jar abides in a wonderful world of color but you’d never know from the camera’s perspective and the rest that’s been cropped out of view.

And it underscores, really, that most of us use a specific (and mostly flattering) perspective when we display our lives to the world. I know I do. Others mainly see what we want them to see. And our iPhones grant the power to filter brightest colors into monotone, or the reverse, making a drab little sunset look spectacular. Now consider this:

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With a filter of the heart we see beauty in a thing or a soul or a situation where others see nothing of the sort. They only see the black and the white of it. Others may assume you’re embellishing. But no. You’re crazy about something or someone and no one who knows you (at a certain level) can see why. But maybe one or two folks will get it because they get you. Our emotional snapshots of people, places, and things have been taken through the lens of all we currently know. Our unique experiences and our pre-set filters having been applied, we make a determination based on how we perceive a thing and we conclude that is how it truly is. And what else can we do really?

We quickly and intuitively form perceptions. But perception is not equal to perspective and that is my angle today. When I change my perspective and widen my lens I take in so much more. More color, more detail, more information, more understanding. At the end of the day it’s my choice to learn and grow or else continue to see just the black and the white. Wider lens, lots more color, new perspective.

Time to Shine

The key speaker at Saturday’s breakfast taught us something I won’t soon forget.

She spoke a simple truth. That there are seasons we exist in the shadows, in the wings, not center stage, and its okay. We may be cast as “best supporting actor” while another at our side takes a bow in the brilliance of a moment. It’s our turn to stand off to the side, raise a cheer, position the spotlight even, while the other has their place in the sun. Our turn will come just not now.

One of my kids’ teachers knew this and introduced it to every class of third graders she ever taught. She was intentional about creating a shining moment for each of her students through the medium of the grade-school musical. While those can be precious or disastrous (or both) she mastered the art form quite well. Once during rehearsals a particularly squirrelly kid in the chorus began to act out to get himself some attention. He truly needed it and craved it. To know his story is to understand. However this time he did it just as a shy little thing struggled painfully to get through her solo number. Without missing a beat the teacher firmly stated to them all, “this is HER shot—do NOT take the ball.”

The kid in the back had some talent. The girl at the mic—not so much. But the Director made the call and the cut saying, “You . . . sing in the chorus today. And you, trembling child, take the stage.”

We may fancy ourselves to be noble as we wait in the wings, just off camera. We must do it well by intention not just while biding our time. Do you think we can we go one step further? Can we ourselves lead the applause while the “star” of the moment takes a bow?

To EVERYTHING there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven. The Byrds sang it in the sixties and a very wise man wrote it long before. There’s both shadow and sunshine over time.

The Best Part

Do you remember the old Folgers ad campaign from the 80’s? 🎶 The best part of waking up . . . 🎶

While this has NOTHING to do with my lil’ pumpkin photo above it is what’s on my mind this morning. So, regarding my personal coffee history (but really, who cares?) my earliest recollection of actual consumption was the first cup of Joe I ordered and paid for at a Bob’s Big Boy restaurant at seventeen. Hanging with a group who were older than me—my first time eating out with no parent there to order or pay—I associated an air of sophistication with drinking coffee alongside these early twenty somethings. I was a tad nervous but also inwardly euphoric to have been included. Our conversations went on into the night until the restaurant closed.

Life was different after that—I felt more grown up because of this practically insignificant quite ordinary experience. And it was only partially due to what was in my cup that night. It wasn’t a pink lemonade and it wasn’t a Shirley Temple (which made a young kid feel very grown up). It was coffee. Cowboys made it on the range and grown ups drank pots of it. Now I was in their ranks (in my own mind) because of that first cup.

And yet again it wasn’t entirely what was in my cup at all but the sense of being treated as an equal. It was a subliminal dawning of a new day. What I metabolized in that seemingly meaningless/totally empowering experience was inclusion. At my youngish age I wasn’t yet old enough to be running with their pack, I knew that, so when they welcomed me in it impacted me.

Its not always easy to welcome others “in” to an existing and functional pack. It takes less effort just to keep the circle closed and to run with those we know. I get it because I can, and do, go both ways but maybe its a good time to look outward at who’s on the outer edge and ask them in. For a metaphorical coffee. That’s all. Though you may not imagine so, it may leave a lasting impression, as it did when it happened to me.

Into Focus

There’s nothing quite like the luxury of a wasted day. Do what you want. Read all day long, binge watch some Netfix, scroll through your phone, hang at the beach or just stay in your PJs.

Once in a while an unstructured day fills the bill. Once in a while a “day off” is just plain medicinal in the best kind of way.

But too many footloose days and we begin, without too much notice, to lose focus. The edges of a thing that matters to us begins to get fuzzy and then gradually, gradually, gradually nothing is crisp and clear anymore. Importance and sense of urgency becomes hazy. Definition blurs. But when we refocus on a thing we begin to realize that adding structure and parameters gives shape and borders and definition to this project or relationship or idea or life or dream. An appropriate refocus can turn, “I one day might . . .“ into “I will . . .“ I will take these steps to start this project because it will take me closer to what I’ve set my focus on.

Thinking that “one day” I’ll do this or that takes your objective out of focus and puts it on the shelf of indefinite obscurity. The focused lens of the magnifying glass captures the brightness of the sun causing a dry leaf to catch fire. What amount of focus will set your soul on fire? Adding some structure to a once nebulous thought will narrow the lens and bring your next steps into focus.

What do you already have, whether resources or passion or availability? Focus on what you have as a starting place. Then set some priorities, become more intentional and get your focus back.

The Boiling Days

Observe the slow dance moves of the tea bag with it’s partner Just Plain Water. Boiling hot.

Gently they swirl together. The heat of one brings out the essence of the other. If you squint you can almost see it flow . . .

One’s purpose is to hydrate and sustain life. The other’s is not crucially life sustaining yet they pair beautifully together. One imparts flavor, enjoyment, relaxation of mind, comfort as it’s essence is imparted. And yet it can’t impart nuthin’ without the other. It needs the fluid boiling heat of the other to bring it out.

Dang it, the boiling water days come and go in every life. Unavoidable and inescapable. Can we avoid the scalding though and allow those times to bring out our finest essence instead? Flooding our souls in the down times, in the quiet peaceful seasons with good and proper thoughts, words, music, good people, small deeds of compassion towards others—these are the things that create an inner substance of worth. An essence that is imparted in all days of ups and downs. Particularly the boiling water days.

(My apologies to WordPress and emailed readers . . . This format converts the hypnotic video I uploaded into a still image. You’ll have to imagine the dance that Instagram plays on repeat!)

Thedailycuppajo

Won’t You Stay

Maybe its in our blood. Maybe in our DNA. I like to go but I also want to stay.

I was talking with a friend who is truly the anchor of her family. That tethered-to-you, rock solid object that you drop down into the deep when you want to stay in one place. To her family she is considered Headquarters. A place where you check in for orders, where you go for reinforcement, where command central is. We talked about this and tossed the idea around, looking at how a person in a place could be described as such. There was a comfort to it.

Many folks, with help from ancestry companies out there, have traced the lineage of where they came from. From, as in somewhere not here but there. I write as an American and we mostly tend to be “from” somewhere else. Dad’s family was from Texas and so my older sister just moved there. My younger has lived in New Mexico and now hails from Washington state. It is true to say they’re originally “from” Cali though they both plan to stay where they now are. Here I am, in the land of my birth, where I plan to remain. Oh sure, I’ve visited places that made me want to stay. I wanted to stay in England soooo badly. Ancestors were calling loudly through the voice of Phil Collins as his song, “One More Night,” played in the airport terminal. I about died. But I boarded the plane and went back to where I’m from.

We stay where we are when we feel that we belong. Some would disagree but I’m writing from my perspective, not from their rationale. We’ve got a stake in the ground and we’re here for the duration. Maybe we leave when we hear the long lost blood of our forbears calling us like a magnet pulling bits of iron ore to itself. The iron cannot withstand the pull of it. And so it is drawn towards that pull. We move “away from” as the strong magnet of family, opportunity, affordable lifestyle, or pure adventure pulls us “there.” All dat stuff and more.

Me, there is a powerful magnet underneath the sandy shifting soil of California. This is where I’m from. Here I’ll stay.

Crispy

The heat has continued around here and its taken its toll. My fave potted lavender plant has crispy edges and toasty leaves to my dismay. Darn how I’ve tried to keep up with the watering! I tried to protect the lavender and the strawberries. Wilted. The water in the bird bath evaporates while I’m away and the poor doves and sparrows are left to wonder why. They keep hanging out though. Just like a kid staring into the fridge, waiting for something not there to appear.

Despite my best efforts to water and protect though, the greater force of nature has gained the upper hand. I remember Graham’s comment on the freeway drive from LAX. He’d just arrived here from London and made a somewhat glib remark that So Cal was really just a desert after all and if it weren’t for our irrigation systems we’d be parched. Having lived here all my life in the land of automated sprinklers I’d never thought that before. Never ever. Always green. Always flowers in winter.

So before I go out to water, just now before the sun comes up, I’ll reflect on this one thing. The important things in our lives need watering. The people we care for need our love. Not sloppy buckets-full that may drown them or wash them away . . . (pause and think about that). Its just not that hard but it does require a thoughtful, others-focused sense of care. Am I drowning them because I myself am so thirsty? Am I depriving them because I myself need so little? Look to their crispy edged leaves for the answer—not your own . . . and then water.

Feelin’ It

Can you walk about on a sunshine filled day without wearing your sunglasses? Not me. Blue eyes were what I got, and maybe they’re not actually to blame here, but I’ve got to wear shades when I’m out in the sun.

I need a filter between my baby blues and that big fireball way up in the sky. Without my sunglasses on, on a bright sunshiny day, I’m practically sunshiny blind. Too much light confronting the lens and a temporary blindness takes over. Light that is supposed to reveal something or allow me to see more clearly instead obliterates anything and everything in my view. But I slide on my shades and, ahhhhh, now I see!

Yesterday in church, at the conclusion of the opening song, a point where participants joyously clapped, came a deep and thunderous, “AMEN!” from the back of the room. What decibel level and what hertz it was could not be told and I would only be exaggerating a little to say it felt like a sonic boom throughout the assembly.

As the music continued there it was again . . . And again. The pastor discreetly walked back from whence the thunder emanated and, no doubt, said a few gentle words that had the desired effect. The service moved on and his message was oh so good. I didn’t think of the incident again until just this moment. And its about this: sometimes the most skillfully trained trumpeter will use a muting device at the appropriate moments in a musical piece. Those at a shooting range or grannies at a rock concert will wear earplugs. Blue-eyed folk will wear shades. Its about a filter and using the right one, in the right place, at the right time. Should the trumpeter blare through the entire piece of music the other notes, the melody line even, would be lost to the hearer.

Hard as it is there are times, even in a packed stadium of nearly mad screaming fans, that a judiciously applied filter, like a good sunscreen, is all that one needs. The heart is open and every bodily cell is saying “YES!” to all that is good, to this particular moment striking a chord deep within, to an overwhelming agreement of heart and soul. And so the trumpeter, the skilled one, will apply a filter and play on. God bless that unbridled soul who joined the flock yesterday. He left no doubt to anyone that he was truly “feeln’ it.”