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Archive for the ‘places’ Category

The gifts of perfect timing

I took a break from reading the 500 some page book club book about Teddy Roosevelt to check and see if the mail had arrived yet. As I walked into the foyer of my apartment building, I saw a large wooden desk sitting there with a yellow post-it note proclaiming “Free”. I have been keeping my eye out lately for a desk of some type, but it needed to be smaller than this one. I was anxious to replace the TV tray that I had been using as a combination desk to write at and kitchen table to eat at. Rick and James were in the office, the manager and assistant manager of my building, and I lamented to them how much I would have loved that desk but it was just too big for my studio apartment. One of them mentioned a smaller desk they had seen in the basement, in the corner where people leave “free stuff”;  things that are let go for one reason or another, usually because it is easier than trying to haul large and bulky items to the nearest Goodwill.

I found the adorable white wicker desk just sitting there in the corner, amongst a mattress, a broken entertainment center, a battered tool box and a box full of old clothes and shoes. I felt like I was at the humane society, picking out the perfect pet. Instead I had found the perfect desk! I ran up to the office, out of breath and proclaimed, “I’ll take it!” James graciously offered to bring it up to my apartment on the fourth floor; good thing he was there at the time or else I don’t know how I would have managed it on my own, and then I may have lost my chance to have such a great find – for free!

But wait, there’s more!

As I started to rearrange things in my home to accommodate my new piece of furniture, I heard a knock at the door. I answered it and there stood Rick with a lovely black office chair that looked as if no one had spent any time sitting in it. Another free gift! Rick must have been paying attention to me when I was rambling on about how I have the world’s most uncomfortable plastic folding chair that I bought only because I didn’t feel like driving all over to find something better and yeah I hate to complain but it really would be nice to have something a bit more comfortable and on and on. And now here he was, with the perfect chair to match my perfect desk – yes, what a perfect day!

After all was said and done, with my new desk in place and the drawers full of all the things I had previously kept on a kitchen shelf, I could see how perfect timing, what is called synchronicity, played a part in all of this. I had to come down to get my mail, just at the time that the desk was there, just at the time that Rick and James where there to tell me about a better desk and to hear about my sad chair story, just at the time that James was there to carry my treasure find to my apartment, just at the time that Rick thought to give me his old office chair. This is how the Universe lines up the dominoes of our life’s happenings, then gives them a joyful flick to fall into perfect succession – this is how it’s done!

As far as I’m concerned, there is no such thing as luck or fate or serendipity; there are no coincidences. We are all part of a much greater plan than we can imagine. And when we take the time to step back and stop trying to control everything, we might just find ourselves the recipients of perfect gifts that can only come from perfect timing.

From this….

…to this!!

 

 

Time to explore, once more

It’s been awhile since I’ve had a travel adventure; I would say the last place I really traveled to was Portland, last year when I moved here. And now I am happily settled in as a Portlander, and I have had adventures and explorations around my pretty city. But I could feel my soul, nudging me on a bit as I hemmed and hawed about attending an event in Seattle, about angels and the afterlife. Oh my, two topics so near and dear to my soul, and a chance to go on an out of town adventure – well, why not? So I purchased a ticket to the event itself, a round trip train ticket from Portland to Seattle, and made reservations at a hostel for two nights – that in itself would be a whole new experience! But after finding hotels in downtown Seattle averaging around $200 a night, I took a leap of faith in the $69 a night hostel experience – after all, I am an adventuress!

The four hour train ride to Seattle was very pleasant, and after sinking into a good book I brought with, I was there before I knew it. I love traveling by train, and Amtrak once again proved to be a mode of travel I am very comfortable with. My skills in acting as my own travel agent proved to be quite proficient, as I found myself situated only five blocks from the hostel I had found, and less than five minutes by city bus to the convention center where the angels & afterlife event was being held. I had to pat myself on the back for that bit of perfect planning!

I do have to admit though, that as I walked through the heart of Seattle’s Chinatown to get to my hostel, I was a bit nervous. There is a Chinatown in Portland that I have walked through many times, and it just doesn’t seem quite as “gritty” as the Chinatown in Seattle. But I do have street smarts, that tell me to be back at the hostel before dark, and to try and not look like a tourist – in other words, only look at the big bright fold-out map of Seattle before heading into a “questionable” area. The hostel itself was warm and welcoming, and the staff very friendly and helpful. I had to laugh though when I saw my room. I don’t think I quite understood the whole hostel experience, as I just thought it would be like having a very basic hotel room. Imagine my surprise when I opened the door to my room (and I had booked a private room) and saw basically, a college dorm room – a metal frame bunk bed, a sink, and a tiny wooden table in the corner. But you know what, it was all I needed, and the whole time I was there I felt completely safe and comfortable. What a deal for only $69 a night – and I got breakfast to boot!

My room at the hostel

Time to explore Seattle! I didn’t plan on going too far, but I had enough time to make my way to the waterfront and to a place called Pike Place Market. The waterfront area was pretty, looking out over an expanse of water called Elliott Bay. I spotted the huge Ferris Wheel from a ways back, so tempted to take a ride and see everything from high in the sky. But when I found out it would cost $15, my budget minded self thought it may be better spent elsewhere, like on food. And Pike Place Market had plenty of that – from fruits and vegetables, to chocolate and cheese, and of course the amazing array of seafood that Seattle is so known for. The fish vendors are half the fun in the marketplace, as they toss fish back and forth, making up crazy rhymes and chants as they go along. I settled on some great bread and delectable cheese, going a bit European, with a cheesecake truffle for dessert – perfect!

Elliott Bay

The Ferris Wheel that I didn’t ride

Fish stall at Pike Place Market

More food at Pike Place Market

The next day was my biggest concern, as I needed to navigate the free downtown bus system to get me to the convention center. This free bus ride takes place in what is called the “bus tunnel”, and it is just that – a tunnel, much like a subway, that has both buses and transit trains running through it. But thanks to a helpful employee I found in Union Station, I was able to get on the right bus and get there easily, as well as getting back – phew! That was honestly my biggest concern about the whole weekend, and I conquered it.

The event itself, the catalyst for getting me to visit Seattle in the first place, was very nice. The speakers were John Holland, a well known medium/psychic, and Doreen Virtue, a woman who connects with the angelic realm and is equally well known in the metaphysical world. I didn’t really come away with anything I hadn’t already heard or knew, but the energy was lovely, and the speakers were very interesting. I was able to walk around the downtown proper during the lunch break, and it seemed very nice – but not as nice as Portland!

When I got back to the hostel, I found a celebration going on in Chinatown – the Moon Festival. What luck for me to be staying in that part of the city during this festival, and I was able to satisfy my craving I had for weeks for sweet and sour chicken – it was delicious! I watched some displays of martial arts, as well as dancing and drumming in the Chinese way. Then I saw something called a mooncake, and just the name alone enticed me. It is a decorative pastry, filled with sweet lotus paste – but the duck egg in the middle was too much for my uncourageous taste buds, and I had to just say no when I got to that part!

Martial arts at the Moon Festival

Drumming at the Moon Festival

A mooncake

All in all, I had a delightful time in Seattle, happy to be able to visit this city that is really so close to me. But honestly, when the announcement on the train came, “Next stop, Portland”, I had my bags gathered up and I couldn’t wait for my feet to touch the streets of the city I have come to love the best, my beautiful Portland.

A rhumba of rattlesnakes? The idiosyncratic world of animal & bird group names

Because I love to write, I love words. I love putting words together to form thoughts or a story, but sometimes I love words in and of themselves, just enjoying how they look and sound. Words like cacophony, plethora and gallivant have a quaint look and rhythm all their own, making them fun to say as well as making me appear well spoken when I can actually use them in the proper context. That may be a bit pretentious though, don’t you think? Do I want to be one of those people trying to impress others with my extensive and unique vocabulary? Well, obviously I am not the only one who wishes to be noticed by using interesting words. I recently discovered a list of group names of various animals & birds, and I’d have to say that the biologists or ornithologists or whoever appointed themselves to the task of naming these groups must have been either drunk or trying to impress fellow colleagues as they came up with some rather peculiar pairings.

As I read through the list, I realized how clever some of the names are. I could certainly attest to a prickle of porcupines, a shiver of sharks (and they do make me shiver!), a quiver of cobras (another creature that yes, makes me quiver!), and a tower of giraffes. There are some group names that imply a character trait: an implausibility of gnus, a mischief of mice (and isn’t that one so very true?), a wisdom of wombats (who knew they were wise?), and a pitying of turtle doves. I found that some groups were named on the basis of their actions: a leap of leopards, a lounge of lizards, a romp of otters, a cackle of hyenas, and a crash of rhinoceroses. But the ones I enjoyed the most were the totally off the wall labels that had to have been chosen by those in a mind-altered state, or perhaps on a dare, or maybe just for the hell of it, because they could! : a kettle of vultures, a consortium of octopuses, a charm of hummingbirds, a bloat of hippopotamuses, and my personal favorite, a murder of crows.

I am envious of those who were given permission to label the creatures of the earth and their groups with such creative license.  So the next time you go to the zoo, remember the zeal of zebras, the streak of tigers, and the coalition of cheetahs, and say “thank you” to those who sprinkled a bit of levity into the animal kingdom.

A flamboyance of flamingos

A barrel of monkeys

A flock of seagulls
(also the name of a popular 80’s musical group)

And what did I learn this time?

Life can be a breeze here, when the dominoes fall in perfect succession. I have had that pristine line -up of  all things clicking into place, as they did when I made my plans to move here to Portland, when everything did come together as it should and the dominoes fell in a perfect wave of all I needed, all I wanted.

But now I am cleaning up all the dominoes of a recent experience, where they seemed to connect at first, but there was a piece or two out of sync that caused everything to scatter. I have found myself needing to secure a job here in the near future, so I do not blow through my retirement money and end up having to live with one of my children – not the scenario I have for my “golden years”, and not one I’m sure my children have either! So I started the job hunt a couple weeks ago, perusing Craigslist, and came upon what seemed to be the perfect job for me in so many ways. I started to line up the pieces, so sure they would all be in order.

Oh yes, this job seemed to be made just for me! A short 15 minute walk from my home, part – time hours in the morning which would leave my afternoons free, and located in a small holistic health clinic – the type of medicine that is near and dear to my heart, no longer wanting to be back in the world of Western, corporate medicine. And after my first interview with the clinic manager, I walked out of there cocky and confident, thinking about what kind of clothes I needed to buy for what I was sure was my new job.

But wait, not so fast. I was asked to come in for a second interview with one of the physicians. Well of course I was more than happy to meet with one of them and show what a great catch I was for their clinic; this was just a formality and then I could get started earning some much needed income.

But I started to realize as the interview progressed that I must have failed to line up one of those damn pieces just right, and things started to scatter everywhere. I went from a belief in myself that I could do this front desk job with ease to jumping into a defensive mode, as the physician interviewing me started asking his probing questions. I felt the energy shift palpably as he questioned my ability to handle stress; citing my reason for retiring from lab after 30 years of burnout and stress as a red flag to him, not confident that I could handle the stress of their front desk. Fair enough; I patiently explained the differences I saw between front desk stress in a clinic setting versus the stress of working in a hospital laboratory, literally dealing with life and death situations.  But when he asked me if I could handle the fact that some of their patients die, I almost had to laugh! After 30 years in healthcare, I unfortunately saw my fair share of patients die, but that did not discourage me from working in my field. I think that was when I knew my chances were oh so slim.

And then I received the response that I knew all along was coming – they hired another candidate. What have I learned? This is what I come to ask myself these days, with all experiences, good or bad. I’ve learned that there are times we think we know what is best, in our limited egocentric ways. But I know in my heart that for some very good reason, God and the Universe knew this was not my best place to work, and arranged it as such. So in that way, I learn trust, letting go of the bitterness my ego wants me to feel. I learned how to speak my truth, not making up a more pleasant reason for retirement, even though “burnout” to some may paint me as one who can’t handle the stress of work. And lastly, I learned honesty, especially with myself. Because deep inside, I knew this really wasn’t the place for me, but all the parts seemed to fit – except the part that was missing, and that was a genuine excitement to work there. And I learn that my soul really wants that, enthusiasm and joy when I do go back to work. So I patiently wait until I come upon the workplace that genuinely lights up my soul.

Home and community – It’s all a matter of perspective

Home is where the heart is -Yes, it is a common, kitschy phrase often seen on pieces of arts and crafts that we display in our homes, where our hearts are. But moving past the overused phrase that it is, and really thinking about it, the place we call “home” and the place that brings a sense of community are just that – places on this earth that we resonate with and come to see with the eyes of our heart and soul.

I have often heard the lament of those who live in a small town that city dwellers live in a cold atmosphere of indifference; we pass each other on the street, strangers with our heads down,  lacking acknowledgment of one another. But I beg to differ. This morning I bypassed my usual routine of tea at home in my pajamas, and headed out in the cool morning air to one of my favorite coffeehouse haunts, the Fehrenbacher Hof, located in a delightful neighborhood of Portland called Goose Hollow. Just the fact that Portland is comprised of delightful neighborhoods like Goose Hollow within the confines of a big city tells me that a sense of community can be established anywhere, not just in a small town or less populated city.

As I sat on the porch outside “The Hof”, as it is affectionately called, I felt such a sense of belonging, even with the cacophony of the city sounds; cars, trains and a helicopter flying incredibly low overhead. And that small event, the helicopter buzzing the treetops, spurred on a conversation with a stranger and others around us, as we wondered what that was all about. Sitting there as I sipped my coffee, I began to feel like a greeter at Wal-Mart, saying “good morning” to just about every person who came in and out. We do make friendly connections in this urban setting!

Even my apartment building fosters a sense of community; a lovely circle of interactions and connections with the other tenants, pride taken in our building and even the apartment management. One of the tenants took it upon herself to thoroughly clean up the laundry room one day, lending a helping hand to our overworked manager/building maintenance man, taking pride in this place we call home. Another tenant has been so kind as to leave a bucket full of cut flowers in the foyer; leftovers from her job at a flower shop, as she shares with her fellow neighbors. And one morning we were treated to boxes of doughnuts in the foyer; a gift from the management company, to show appreciation for having such lovely tenants.

For many years the place I called home was a place I found myself in because of family ties, friends and familiarity. But life can be changeable and malleable, and we may find that home is a place that has been buried but now is ready to be uncovered. For me I unearthed my love of the city, and that city for me is Portland. Now I fully understand what the word home means, and it is here that I truly feel as if I am part of a community.

Home sweet home

Learning what friendship is all about

I had sadly wiped the slate of friendship clean throughout the years, focusing all my energies on my husband, my children and my work. The few friends I had seemed to slip away like sand through my fingers, as I blatantly ignored them in favor of my family. My introverted nature didn’t help matters, and I found the only friend I really had to do things with was my husband. Luckily I did manage to keep in touch with a high school friend, Denise, who lived out of state – and I was a poor friend to her, not responding to her invitations to visit. Bless her though, she kept our friendship going even though I was such a weak participant. I found myself becoming so envious of women who had a close circle of female friends. I wanted to be one of those women.

Mistakenly, I thought that having my husband as my only friend was enough. But as our children grew older and didn’t need or want my attention so much, I saw how limited my world of connections with others really was. And I also saw that my spouse and I were really not on the same page in so many ways, and we divorced. Now I was starting over from scratch, trying to remember not only how to make friends, but how to be a good friend. And I have learned so much.

I have learned that sometimes we come together as friends, for reasons unknown, only to find ourselves drifting apart from each other. But that is the way of life at times, and even though we don’t connect with those friends like we used to, they are still a connection in our hearts. I have learned not to burn so many bridges, as life is an ebb and flow, and I may flow back to old friends.

I have learned that we may seek out friends on the basis of shared interests, and it is always a joy to share our passions with one another. When I moved to Portland, these shared interests were a great way to meet people – the book club, the knitting group, the walking group. But as I began to make closer friends from members of these different groups, I realized that sometimes it is so true that opposites attract! In my mind, I had to find friends who liked the same music as me, who followed the same spiritual practice, who had similar lifestyles. How wrong I was on all those counts! I am passionate about music; most of my Portland friends listen to talk radio. But because they do, we have some enlightening discussions. My friend Vanessa in Minnesota loves her political science classes; I haven’t read a newspaper for years now, and I only do so when it is an election year. I find that because of all our unique interests, it opens up the gateway for learning, for discussion, for discovering new possibilities for my life.

Now I realize what friendship is all about. Friendship comes on many different levels.  Some friendships have deeper bonds that allow the sharing of more intimate thoughts, and there are casual friendships that are all about sharing lunch together once a month. Each type of friendship is equally important in our lives. The bond of friendship is one that goes beyond the superficial aspect of shared interests. It is a bond that comes from connecting with the true self of each person, a resonating from soul to soul. My friends are like a beautiful bouquet of flowers – different varieties of lovely blooms that bring me joy in all their unique ways.

My friend Denise & I with the “umbrella man” in Portland

My Minnesota friend Vanessa & I

Out to lunch with the “library ladies”

Perfectly Portland – The Big Busk

One of the things that really drew me to Portland was the great music scene here. I had always felt pride in the wide ranging nationally known music of Minneapolis – Prince, The Replacements and Bob Dylan of course, even though he really turned into more of a New Yorker when he finally achieved his fame. But now I am proud of not only the great music that has come out of Portland – Elliott Smith, The Decemberists, Sleater-Kinney and even Paul Revere & The Raiders – but the emphasis and respect that is given to the buskers, the talented and hard working street musicians that serenade us all around the city.

Today was a special event designed to give extra special notice to the music of the streets, a festival called The Big Busk. Unlike most music festivals that are held in one specific location, this one was held all throughout the downtown area, on various street corners. Each artist or group was given an hour at a time on whatever corner they chose, allowing a rotation of artists and locations. This guideline is actually part of something called the Street Musician Partnership Agreement. This is a policy that was written to help the street musicians and downtown businesses come to agreement on some guidelines to assure a safe, respectful and enjoyable time for all, allowing everyone to take in the joy of hearing great music in such an amazing city setting.

I often stop to listen to the buskers on any given day when I am out and about, as well as taking in the great buskers that are always playing at the eclectic gathering we call Saturday Market. But today was so much fun, as I came across so much great music.  I listened to a young man play music on a gorgeous guitar, which I’m sure is his pride and joy that he saved up to buy, complete with a leather guitar strap with roses embossed on it (Portland is known as the Rose City). Then I listened to a duo sing a song that lifted my spirits; words sung to me of hope that I really needed to hear – and they gave me a free cd of their music! I saw a woman in a long skirt pushing a xylophone to her next corner destination, but I lost her somewhere along the way. But I found a woman playing a beautiful handmade hammered dulcimer, that produced ethereal sounds in contrast to the cacophony of the city noises. What a lovely way to spend a bright and sunny summer’s day, listening to the sweet sounds of music in the city I love so much.

That little voice inside my head

We all seem to hear about “women’s intuition”, and I can remember telling my daughter as she was growing up, “Trust that little voice inside your head, because women just seem to know things, even if they don’t seem to make sense.” But since that time I have come to realize that we all have that gift of knowing, men and women alike.  I do believe that it is easier for women to admit to using it and trusting it; the male ego sometimes dismissing it as much too illogical. But I am convinced our world is heading towards a time when the use of intuition as guidance will be universally accepted and trusted.

My whole adventure of moving to Portland from Minnesota was a shining example of using intuition and following messages that came from elsewhere – I was told to rent a car, what papers to bring, and I was even given numbers that translated into the zip code of the area I now live in. One day as I sat eating my yummy peanut butter sandwich, enjoying the delicious simplicity of it, I started to think about how much I wanted to move to Portland. I had a train ticket to go there in September, six months away, thinking I wanted to enjoy one last Minnesota summer before planning my move. Then I heard the voice, clear as day asking me, “What are you waiting for?” Good question – what in the world was I waiting for? So before I gave my fun- killing, logical left side of my brain a chance to reason me out of it, I called Amtrak and changed my train ticket to May. This was a spontaneous and impulsive move for me, so unusual for my usually organized, safe and calculated self – but it felt so right! And now I find a year later, having made that move to Portland, that it was exactly what was supposed to happen. I am happier than I have ever been here; I am in my soul’s home.

The past couple of days have been ripe with small examples of intuitiveness – knowing seconds before the phone rang that my step mom was calling me, and the other day anticipating the early arrival of my friend for our weekly walking date – this is my dear friend who is always running late by at least 15 minutes, and that day I just knew she was going to be 15 minutes early – and she was! Now these are not earth shattering instances of intuition at its finest, but I think they are meant to show us how us we are so much more than just our logical, thought out selves. And granted, it is not an exact science by any means! I have had my share of misses; things that come to me that I am convinced will come to pass but never do. But I look at our time here on earth as a classroom, and learning comes by trial and error as any good scientist will tell you. Intuition is a skill like any other, to be practiced and honed. And earth is not a place of perfection, that’s for sure! So while I am here, I will continue to use my intuition – I have discovered it is my very best tour guide on earth.

 

 

A morning walk

I try to get out and walk every day, which is usually sometime after lunch. In the mornings I have my routine of prayer and meditation, followed by coffee or tea while I journal or read something spiritually uplifting. This little routine I have can sometimes go on for three to four hours, so there goes the morning most days! But I do find it a lovely way to start my day. The other morning though, something in me whispered, “Let’s go for a walk, before the day becomes warm and full of people.” So at 7 a.m. (gasp!) I was up and out of bed, and headed up the steep climb to Washington Park, which is the home of the International Rose Test Garden here in Portland. What a wonderful treat it turned out to be, as I cleared the morning cobwebs from my head and took in the beauty of a place that is so deliciously close to my home, available to me at any time. And the writer in me found inspiration in a few words I journaled about my experience, how it just felt so good – and the words come out in a poem.

It Felt So Good

 

At the top of the hill I stopped

And looked out over the city draped in haze

Sitting on the soft green grass I rested

In a meditative pose

I opened to all the earth’s gentle energies

It felt so good!

Walking through the playground I stopped

To sit on the swing

Slowly moving, to and fro

I gathered my strength and flew above the earth

Gliding through the cool morning air

It felt so good!

Meandering onward I came to the singing fountain

I stopped to sit on the stony edge

And listen to the lovely melodies

Of the water chime as it played on metal

Tantalizing my sense of sound

It felt so good!

I walked along until I spied the splash of colors

Roses in full bloom, roses in the fullness of being

I noticed the brilliant shades and hues

I breathed in the familiar fragrance

I brushed the soft silk of a petal against my skin

It felt so good!

I turned to go home

Along the shaded dirt path

My body swinging with the rhythm of life

My heart open wide like the roses

My soul singing like the fountain

And it felt so good

The coffee monkey

Portland is known for many things, and drinking coffee is one of them. There is not only a Starbucks on what seems like every single corner, but there is also the plethora of independent coffee houses that offer up local brews of all kinds. So what an odd thing for me to do, to throw out my coffeepot after moving here to the land of coffee and hipster coffee houses and quit my morning coffee habit, cold turkey. Oh, it was three days of caffeine withdrawal hell, complete with a headache and fatigue that had me back in bed by noon. But hey, I made it through! On the fourth day, my body said, “What coffee? We are doing just fine without that nasty habit and added expense.” But slowly, ever so slowly, I found myself wondering, can’t I just have a little cup of the lovely nectar called coffee that smells so damn good every time I walk past a coffee house? So one day, I walked to my favorite local haunt and ordered up a cup, just a small cup of their house blend with a shot of yummy caramel for good measure. Oh my! I had forgotten how rich and satisfying and downright fun the coffee buzz is! And how interesting that my now caffeine-free body was a bit shaky, trying to take in this drug that I had quit. But hey, it was worth it, even if I couldn’t hold the pen still as I tried to do some writing in the coffee house. No matter, that will wear off – the sweet taste of caramel coffee on my tongue was worth it. But, not enough for me to go back to my routine of brewing coffee in my home. But the other day, as I was doing some grocery shopping, I found myself drawn to the coffee aisle – and there I saw the answer to my dilemma – instant coffee! And look at all the great flavors they have! Vanilla and hazelnut and mocha and the one I finally caved in to with the fancy name, Cafe Francais. And as the coffee monkey on my back and I took home my treasure I heard myself saying, “I can quit anytime – it’s not like I’m going to drink it every morning again.” But just to be sure of my undisputed resolve in this, I hid the pretty coffee tin in my cupboard – right behind the packages of gourmet cookies I bought, during yet another weak moment when the other monkey was on my back – the one that just has to have that sugar fix every now and then.

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