Monday, February 24, 2014

MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU, DARLIN'

Two or three times a week Hub travels a two-lane highway that leads east out of our city through a series of small towns with ever ascending altitudes, until he reaches the mountain pass ski area where he snowboards. This highway is one of the most dangerous in Washington, so designated due to the high number of serious and fatal accidents recorded somewhere along the way annually.  So, every time he walks out of  the garage door to hop in his truck for the trek, I say a little prayer and visualize a protective layer of white light surrounding him and then I chant and light incense and sacrifice a small animal… OK, not that, but you get the idea.  I try to bring all the spirit worlds and their practices into play to keep my man safe on his journey.

I don't think too much about what happens once he gets up to the Pass.  I don't do snow sports, so I can't relate to, or even visualize, much of what he describes about this sport he loves so much.  I know he would never go without a helmet; I know he doesn't do crazy jumps and I know he always stays "in bounds", not taking off into uncharted, forbidden parts of the mountain.  There is risk, but he seems to mitigate it and have fun.

So, it's the highway I fear and last Monday was no exception.  He and Son-Two were looking forward to a day of "powder", relishing the 19 inches of newly fallen snow they would find at the Pass.  And they did.  They were having a grand time, as I understand it, until Hub hit a tree.  Thwack!

He hit it hard.  Really, really hard.  Because he goes fast.  Because he loves finding powder off the groomed runs and in the less-traversed areas.  He loves maneuvering his board with speed and grace,  finding peace, beauty, challenge, thrill, and utter mindfulness of the moment as he plots his course through stands of trees and down the mountain.

But last Monday he hit a hidden clump of hard ice buried under that fresh powder, which threw him off his carefully planned trajectory and into the trunk of a tall fir tree.  Son-Two was nearby and heard the sound of his dad's chest hitting the tree, saw him fall, saw him lie motionless.   

Hub felt himself hit the tree.  Felt his ribcage collapse inward.  Felt pain shoot through his upper body.  Felt the breath whoosh out of his mouth, none coming in to replace it.

He lay still, consciously and carefully assessing the possible damage.  He caught his breath and was able to tell Son-Two he was "OK".  He considered possible broken ribs, a broken sternum.  He assessed for shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea.  He stood and tried to move around a bit.  Pain.  Stiffness.  But breath came naturally, heartbeat was fairly regular, no light-headedness.  Nothing life threatening.  He was grateful that he had no collapsed lung or a severed aorta.  Only a physician would have the presence of mind, after a dramatic accident, to start the systems review and diagnostic analysis that led him to determine he could make it down the mountain without assistance.

He descended slowly, traversing his way to the bottom, then to the parking area.  Son-Two drove the dangerous highway home.  I was in the kitchen when they arrived, and heard as they came through the door,  "Dad hit a tree…he's OK."  

He was stiff and sore for a few days, but declared he was better by mid-week, when he started packing for his 4-day Idaho trip with 3 other buddies to go skiing and boarding…again.

I would have taken to my bed for a month and stayed away from the sport for the rest of the season -- maybe forever.  I guess I'm a Drama Queen that way.  But not Hub….he's in amazing physical condition and has a "keep on with it" attitude about most things, so he was ready to go again within a week of his collision, even though he finally surmised he might actually have a cracked rib in there.

I've been watching bits of the Sochi Olympics this week and they are fine athletes all, but I have my own almost 64-year old Olympian in the family, traveling a dangerous, but exhilarating path to golden glory.   May the Force always be with him.

At least, that's the view from here… ©

Sunday, February 9, 2014

I AM MY SUNSHINE

One does not want to sound ungrateful.  I am grateful, believe me.  The opportunity to spend 2-1/2 weeks in Hawaii at the end of January and beginning of February is not something to take for granted.  I am blessed beyond belief.

But does that mean I can't be a wee bit disappointed that this 2-1/2 weeks has been unseasonably cool and cloudy?  I was sooooo looking forward to this trip, imagining long lounges in the sun, frequent dips in the huge pool, kicking at the waves lapping the sandy shore….

Got a little bit of that -- a very little.  Mostly, it felt like home on days when we stare up at the overcast sky and try to figure out which way the clouds are moving and whether there is a sun above the thick layer of gray and when, if ever, it might break through; days when we dress in shirtsleeves and sweatshirts and spend an inordinate amount of time putting on and taking off various layers of clothing; days when we hope that "tomorrow" the sun will come out.

We are going home today; home to where snow fell last night, blanketing Puget Sound in white, which is also unusual and I wonder if the new buds and bursts of green in my garden, that were a harbinger of spring not too far off, will survive the deep freeze of last week and the snow of this weekend.

For someone who seems to need sunshine like nourishment, I have to question my decision to live in the rain-soaked Northwest and then buy a timeshare on Hawaii's wettest island.   Maybe it has to do with the green, lush, amazing beauty of both places.

Maybe it is my Higher Self hitting me over the head with the message that my narrowly defined comfort zone could use some expanding.   Other people went in the pool in spite of the wind and cloud cover and only shivered a little bit when they got out.  Other people went on cloudy, drizzly day hikes and laughed over slipping and falling onto Kauai's red dirt trails that turn to mudslides with the slightest precipitative provocation.   Other people donned rain gear and booked whale watching expeditions onto the choppy Pacific.

Sorry, Higher Self, I don't buy it; none of these things appeal to me.  I don't like being cold, covered in red mud that never washes out and leaves a stain on all it touches (voice of experience), or being seasick.

I just kept waiting for the sun:   reading several books, doing the NYT crossword each morning, journaling, blogging, posting to FB and working on some poems, watching the whales spout and breech offshore, going on "let's explore backroads" drives, savoring the most amazing Hub-grilled fish every night by candlelight in our room overlooking Kalapaki Bay, being quiet, being social, being reclusive, being 100% in connection with Hub (no disagreements, arguments, frustrations, or resentments in spite of 24/7 proximity!).

OK, maybe it wasn't such a bad trip after all; maybe all that sunshine would have distracted me from the quieter warmth that finds a way to shine from within.

At least, that's the view from here… ©






Thursday, February 6, 2014

GINGERS UNITE!

I read this article yesterday about prejudice against redheads.   Very interesting and science-y.
http://theweek.com/article/index/255821/the-science-behind-anti-redhead-prejudice

I have been pondering since then if it is (was) true for me.

One of my big regrets at aging (and it's a silly little thing, really) is that no one who didn't know me in my younger years believes I was ever a redhead.  My hair is graying in a really good way --  a "highlighted" mixture of light color (OK, gray) that is turning the whole thing into a sort of a copper-y blonde.  Very nice, if I do say so myself, but usually I am now referred to as "blonde".

Until aging changed it, my hair was red.  When I was a teenager I would have killed to be a blonde.  The cultural fantasy was, and maybe still is, that "blondes have more fun".  This was played out in ads for hair color, scenes of non-stop adventure, photos of raucous laughter, and all manner and hue of blonde girls being surrounded by hot, hunky guys.

My life was more sedate.  I blamed it on the hair.  And the skin, which was always super pale with a little ruddiness, and freckled, not smooth and evenly tanned like was the ideal.  My best friend was blonde and she had the perfect personality for it.  I was the sidekick, sort of ignored best friend:  Super nice, kinda smart, but maybe a little quiet and preferring to go home early.  If I had been able to be self-aware then, maybe I would have also attributed my quieter life to a more discerning taste in what I thought was fun and who I thought was hot and hunky.  But I wasn't wise then, only self-loathing.

Still, from earliest memory, I did garner attention for my hair   It was always worthy of comment, usually from older women, who always remarked, "You have beautiful hair!" as if this was some anomaly.  Or by rather lecherous men, calling or whispering, "Hey, Red!" as if my hair color gave them some entree to familiarity they had not earned through actual introduction.  "Carrot-top" was another moniker some found wholly amusing to toss my way.

I wanted to hide.  I felt shame and embarrassment.  I longed for the anonymity of brown or yellow hair.

Maybe I was particularly sensitive, since neither of my parents had red hair, although my older brother and I did.  That recessive gene popped up unbidden in both of us (and yes, I am certain we had both of  the parents we had).  This caused even more ruckus.  If had a a dollar for every time I heard: "Where'd you get that red hair?!?" I'd be richer than rich.  My little girl self had no way of knowing how to answer that, but somehow I got that I was a freak or was "wrong" to have the hair I did.

Later I came to understand that redheaded women were also assumed to be sexy and exotic, with a fiery temper some found exciting.  I tried to live up to that -- it was a more "positive" stereotype, after all.  But I was (am) sort of an introvert so mostly I just felt like a pretender, still not getting it quite right.

I think it may be even worse for redheaded men.  My younger son is a redhead and he gets a great deal of attention for it -- the kind I had gotten as a kid, too.  He's referred to as a "ginger" by some of his friends and while he doesn't seem to let it bother him, I have sensed he'd rather it not be his defining characteristic.  He's fighting the "tall, dark, and handsome" ideal.  He's tall and very handsome, but he's not dark -- being redheaded, blue-eyed, and fair skinned.  When I did a clip art search for this post, the "redheaded guy" photos were almost exclusively of the goofball, freckled, Poindexter variety.

Which brings me back to the prejudice thing.   A person of my acquaintance recently used the expression:  "redheaded step-child" in a mocking and derrogatory way. While not directed at me,  I was  still offended and then shocked that I'd never heard this expression before…you would think I would have.  I looked it up:  This idiom refers to anyone or anything that is neglected, unwanted, or mistreated.

(The following provided by Word Detective:)

“The best guess I've seen is that while any child may face abuse or neglect from a step-parent, one with a notable feature (such as red hair) reminiscent of the departed former spouse may be a particular target in such a situation. It is also true that red-haired children are often the butt of jokes by their peers, especially in Britain (where they are called 'gingers'), and in several European cultures red hair has historically been considered an unfavorable characteristic."
______________________

Cassell’s Dictionary of Superstitions (1995) tells us that red-haired children are reputedly born to unfaithful mothers, and that meeting a red-headed man or women is considered unlucky. A Dictionary of Superstitions (1989) by Opie says that to be red-haired has been considered unlucky since at least the 12th century. 


No one wants to be defined by, judged by, or identified by a negative stereotype that is used to denigrate.   I know that as prejudices go, being a redhead is relatively benign.  Still….I'm sad for my little girl self who was so embarrassed.  I'm sad for my teenager self who felt so outcast from the ideal.  I'm frustrated for my eldering self who now cannot embrace that which I'd love to flaunt -- and use as a rallying cry:  GINGERS UNITE!   YOU WANT HOT AND FIREY?  I'LL GIVE YOU FRIGGIN' HOT AND FIREY!!!

At least, that's the view from here…. ©



Monday, February 3, 2014

THE SEPARATION IS IN THE PREPARATION


We won.  We dominated.  Vegas had Denver as 2-1/2 point favorites in the Super Bowl.  Final score:  Seattle: 43  Denver: 8.  Shocking and completely unexpected.  Denver with the best NFL offense and MVP veteran quarterback vs. Seattle with the best NFL defense and a bunch of virtual rookies and low draft picks  (our QB in only his second season with the NFL).

There will be gallons of ink (well, terabytes of data) used to break down and analyze the finer points of the game.  But I find inspiration in this quote by Seattle's coach, Pete Carroll:

"We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit."

Russell Wilson, our Seahawk QB, says "the separation is in the preparation", meaning hard, tedious, continuous, unrelenting WORK gives the advantage to those who put in the time and develop the habit of seeking excellence.  The reward goes to the one who believes in their inherent gift in whatever they do and constantly seeks to learn and improve.  Wilson also believes in a higher power, recalls and honors the love and encouragement of his late father and mentor, and selflessly checks his ego at the door to let others shine.

I have been taken to task for my recent football posts. Deservedly, perhaps, for finding such pleasure in a game that can cause irreparable injury and debilitating dementia among those who have sustained serious head injuries.  I have no defense of this, only to say that I lay the blame at the feet of the NFL (and coaches and anyone else) who turns a blind eye to a culture that sacrifices players for money and a winning record.

The game itself, however, and the lessons one can learn from sport are not the villains.  Yesterday's game was played cleanly.  There were few penalties for infractions that were "violence"-related; no one was seriously hurt; the win and the loss were between two of the sport's elite teams….and the team that had developed the habit of excellence this year won.

All of us have a gift.  There are many, many ways in which we can be thwarted in life; many things beyond our control.  But I am inspired today by a bunch of guys on a football team who believed in their talent, worked hard to develop it, and then demonstrated the power of positive thinking, generosity in the spotlight, and some modicum of humility in victory.

At least, that's the view from here….©








Saturday, February 1, 2014

A WHITER SHADE OF PALE

So, it's been a bit disappointing, the Kaua'i weather during this trip.  I've seen more long pants and long sleeves and light jackets than ever before.  I brought two long-sleeved tops and one pair of long pants.  It may be time to go to the Mall.

But yesterday, as we sat on the Terrace overlooking the pool and out to the beach, we noted a brightness to the gray.  Others were lamenting another cloudy day, but not us.  We knew.  Because we are masters of evaluating the various shades of gray and what lies beyond the cloud cover that may look relentless, but actually is just a tricky disguise.

I mean, my god, it was such a BRIGHT gray that slight shadows were being cast.  There was a perceptible (OK, subtle) increase in ambient temperature.  This was a friggin' SUNNY DAY!

We started to shed our clothing and wriggle into our swimsuits for a day at the beach.  And sure enough, within an hour or two -- bright sunshine!  Oh, ye of little faith.

When we first moved to the Seattle area in 1982 we happened upon a documentary on some TV channel about an artist who loved to paint the Northwest.  He spoke of the amazing array of color and the shifting and beautiful shades of gray.  We had just moved from a barrier island off the coast of Charleston in South Carolina, where sunny days and blue skies were about as expected as Christmas in December.  So, we totally cracked up as this dude waxed on about the beauty of gray.

Soon, we got it.  And while that particular brand of beauty can get old after several months straight of carefully scanning the skies, observing those shifting clouds, looking for any promise of a whiter shade of pale, we are now expert at predicting a sunny day even when that sun is heavily filtered.

We got the best spot on the beach; the non-believers having abandoned the day for indoor activities.  Silly folk.

At least, that's the view from here…. ©