Things About Meditation

So I have been reading all of these books lately that talk about meditation. Meditation isn't something I've really practiced getting good at because well, I'm me and holding still for more than 30 seconds is REALLY HARD if Game of Thrones or Vikings isn't on TV. But It's something I've decided to work on since stillness and focus and direction all seem to be recurring problematic themes in my life.

Today I set the timer to meditate for 10 minutes, which seemed to be the agreed upon reasonable starting point for most beginning meditators according to a variety of self-help authors. I decided to lay on my back because sitting hurts my hip and I didn't need that distraction, so I got in a savasana-type pose with one hand on my heart and the other on my belly to really connect and all of that stuff. The first 5 seconds went really well.

I closed my eyes and practiced the words I had decided to say in my head to help me focus on not focusing on anything. "Air in - air out." I said it a couple times but then I realized I was fighting really hard to keep my eyes closed so I opened them to remove that distraction. That's when I noticed the texture of the ceiling was like a topographic map, but in reverse, where all the low areas are actually raised. Like topography in negative. Then I realized I was not focusing on not focusing and redirected my thoughts. "Air in - air out."

"Air in- air out, air in - air nose... air in - air out... my nose... is so weird. I hate it in pictures." uh oh. the wandering... "AIR IN - AIR OUT. Not that I like any pictures of me, but those ones I just sent with my bio for the articles REALLY make my nose look weird. And they're not very professional. I should look into getting some professional head shots done. Then the photographer could like, airbrush my nose... oh crap. AIR IN - AIR OUT." I could tell I was slipping and I am pretty sure I was less than 2 minutes in. So I laid my hands out to my sides to remove the distraction of contact with my body and decided to switch to the word BLUE instead of all the other words because I was kind of bored with them.

Plus blue feels calm and serene and like the thing I would want to focus on if I was focusing on nothing. Not blue like depression or sadness. But blue like water and air with clouds floating in it... how many minutes I spent reconciling myself to the new word I was going to silently chant, I have no idea.

"Blue. Blue. Blue. Blue like the sky. Like the sky over the ocean on that one beach in Brazil... where was it? Oh yeah, Ilha Grande, when Hal was super hung over and I took 7000 selfies because I was basically alone on the beach all day, but it was fun. The sky and the ocean were almost the same color. Oh crap. BLUE. Blue. Blue. Blue." When I was able to stop the chatter, I could almost see a blue haze behind my eyelids. "Blue. Blue. Blue. Like that Keith Urban song. I don't know if I really like him. I mean, as a person he's ok, but his music... meh. And that stupid song with Carrie Underwood. UGH. Make it stop."

"Blue. Blue. Blue. Blue. What size are these underwear? They feel like smalls. They're binding a little. But they're so cute. I mean the fact I can even get into a small... UGH. Blue. Blue. Blue." This is my mind, people. I spent the last three minutes of my "meditation" writing this blog entry in my head. But you know what, it's a start.

Things That Fascinate me: Total Eclipse From the Start

1927 map of eclipse pathways
In 3340 BCE, a bunch of Neolithic Irish Priests documented a series of celestial events onto a pile of rocks. The Loughcrew Cairn stands as the oldest recorded total solar eclipse in human history. These petroglyphs mean that people have been chasing eclipses since about 160 years before the wheel was invented.

Ancient cultures saw the total eclipse as a religious experience, usually a bad omen, a premonition of destruction, or in the case of an ancient Chinese emperor who wanted to know what had caused the sudden darkness - the imminent beheading of some hapless astronomers who didn’t know. What ancient Chinese records DO say about the event in October of 2134 BCE is that “the Sun and Moon did not meet harmoniously.”

Rahu swallows the sun
Whether it was a Chinese dragon, a South American Jaguar or a Scandinavian sky wolf, most early people had some theory about the creature that consumed, and promptly regurgitated the sun in the middle of its daily course. In India, the floating head of the demon Rahu occasionally caught the sun and moon in his mouth, but, lacking a body, they slipped out shortly after, according to legend. Ancient documentation on clay tablets found in a Syrian cave reference an eclipse that experts say took place in March of 1223, BCE. The Holy Bible itself makes note in the book of Amos, chapter 8 verse 9, of an 8th century Assyrian (now Iraq) eclipse that took place: "And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord God, that I will cause the sun to go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in the clear day."

Fast forward a few hundred years and people started getting wise to the repeating pattern of the eclipse. It probably helped that they started traveling more too (now that they had wheels) and discovered that the once-in-a-lifetime event happened fairly routinely, just not often in the same place. By the time that humankind had graduated into the Anno Domini they were predicting when and where the next total eclipse would be and all making up all kinds of theories that had nothing to do with giant mythical creatures. Less dramatic? Hardly, considering the vastness of the cosmos that were just beginning to make sense to astronomers.

The first photograph of a total solar eclipse in 1860
But what is it about a total eclipse that is so captivating to human audiences? Rarity seems like an unlikely motivator when the event occurs every 18 months somewhere in the world, and yet more than seven million people are expected to make the trek to experience the totality in August of 2017.

Dubbed the Great American Eclipse for the sweeping course it cuts across the entire nation like a beauty pageant sash, the August 21 path of totality makes its first all-American appearance in Lincoln City, Oregon where local law enforcement have issued preparedness warnings that residents should stockpile and prepare to shelter in place before the hordes of eclipse chasers descend upon them.  The shadow will move east/southeast across the country, leaving a path of partiers that some brilliant website analyst describes as “ 20 Woodstock festivals occurring simultaneously across the nation”, before finishing the visit along the beaches of  South Carolina.

Unlike comet-tracking cults and celestial doomsday believers, eclipse chasers appear to be cut from a completely different cloth. You won’t find end-of-the-world gibberish on - rather, the community is a scientifically driven, curious group hailing from every imaginable background who all agree on one thing: there’s nothing like it in the world.

“The feeling of the eclipse when it happens, you can't describe it, it's like magic.” 30 year old Latvian IT consultant Agnese Zalcmane told the Daily Mail in 2015, “One minute the sun is shining then it starts getting darker but it doesn't get dark like it does in the evening or at dusk - it goes dark very, very fast. Within half a minute it's completely black and it is something that is very strange to experience.”

Seasoned eclipse chaser Rhonda Coleman tells the Bend Bulletin, “We depend on our sun for everything. You can’t help but feel a little dread when it starts to lose strength, when it starts to lose power, when it starts to dim in the middle of the day — when it’s not supposed to...For just the short period of time, everybody’s just looking up at once. It’s this beautiful connection to the family of man.” The experience seems to draw strangers together into intimate throngs with one purpose. Author, eclipse chaser and psychologist Kate Russo describes the experience in one of her books on the subject.

You can literally feel the ominous shadow before it arrives.  The temperature drops.  The wind picks up speed.  The Sunlight slowly dims, bathing the surroundings in an eerie twilight that produces colours with shades rarely seen in the natural world.  Then it is time. Moments before totality a wall of darkness comes creeping towards you at speeds of up to 5,000 miles per hour – this is the full shadow of the Moon.  You feel alive.  You feel in awe.  You feel a primitive fear.  Then – totality.” Something akin to the ghost story your older brother told you late at night in a shadowy tent, the total eclipse haunts the experienced viewer with tenacity.

Hotels, campgrounds and resorts that were booked more than a year in advance are facing scandal after they scratched all reservations and jacked the price up to meet demand. The Grand Ole Opry, in Nashville, Tennessee, falls directly in the path and is hosting an Eclipse Party on the day of the event, showcasing country stars (pun intended) and celestial-themed food and drinks. Google is rife with websites featuring eclipse chasing tips that range from where to get your eclipse glasses ahead of time (or better yet, make your own!), to the best weather pockets along the path of totality. Granted, it’s the first total eclipse in the United States since 1979, but the good news is if all of the eclipse glasses are already sold out and your favorite central Oregon resort is booked up, you’ll likely have another shot on April 8,  2024 when a total solar eclipse will climb the U.S. from Texas to Maine on a northerly route.
For more info, check out this article from Forbes magazine.

Things About Being Famous


I am almost there. I can pretty much taste it. It’s a very short matter of time before I close the gap between myself and Jayden K. Smith and become the world famous writer you all knew I would be. I have spent an unreasonable amount of time, sandwiched between reading “You Are a Badass” (highly recommend) and writing stories about Billy Ray Cyrus (don’t worry, he’s not really changing his name), obsessing over how to get people to share my writing on the viral scale that Jayden K. Smith’s hacking threat spread. Maybe if I was more threatening. Maybe if I had hacking skills. Maybe if I had a name like JAYDEN. Then I would be famous by now. I thought about shotgunning out a blog link out to every single contact I have on Facebook. (In case you didn’t know how pseudo-popular I am, that’s about 628 people, give or take the ones that will unfriend me after my most recent blog post wherein I didn’t capitalize The Lord’s Name.) (I apologize.)

If I shotgunned out a blog link with a minor threat of 14 years of bad luck or puppies dying tragically if the material goes unread, or worse - UNSHARED (gasp!), and at least three of my “friends” succumbed to my manipulation by sharing, and another six shared it accidentally because they are Of a Certain Age and don’t know what the Facebook buttons are for, I would increase my audience by at least 13%. That’s a lot when your audience is currently 6.5 people, and at some point, someone’s great Aunt Ruth is gonna share that piece of vital literature with her entire social network and her interweb savvy great-grand-niece would be some super cool literary agent or publishing house employee, or even the editor of a Small and Insignificant Magazine, but she would read me, and WANT me, and I would be FAMOUS. Two steps from a book deal, y’all.

I am dreaming here. I can see it now. In between worrying that Google Docs is going to suddenly realize that I have used up ALL of their internet space with my constant rambling and shut me down, and wondering if I bought a sophisticated pair of booties to wear with skinny jeans if people would take me more seriously, I am conjuring up a picture of where I am headed, and it’s frighteningly exciting.

Ever since I watched Romancing The Stone, I knew I was destined to be an eccentric writer with a messy bun and stacks of random literary starts scattered around my airy, high-rise big city apartment like so many tiny plants, just waiting for the exact right amount of sunlight and moisture to germinate into flourishing specimens of literary AWESOME. Except I would have more dogs than Kathleen Turner.

Of all of the GREAT IDEAS and CREATIVE VISIONS that come to me in my dreams (no, really, they do, but they’re kind of weird), I have yet to settle into the focus that is really the thing that will get me where I want to go. I, in predictable fashion, am all over the place like a ping pong ball in a zero gravity capsule, floating indiscriminately in and out of lost food particles and droplets of drool. I need a weighted vest to hold me down to my couch and brain blinders to keep my mind tracking down one path. THE PATH. I have proven that generating material is no issue at this point, cranking out thousands of useless words every day with no specific mission other than PAY THE BILLS. But it’s time to direct all of that wanton energy into something good. Good enough to get big. Big enough to open doors for All The Things (see video below).

But then I am gonna need things like trendy photographic head shots for my professional portfolio and business cards. I have business cards right now but I am mildly embarrassed to give them out, maybe because they don’t have a trendy head shot on them. Or maybe because I don’t like my phone number. Or maybe because handing out business cards makes me feel too much like a grown up. But only grown ups make the Big Bucks so I guess it’s time to embrace the business card suck.

Anyway, that’s a lot of rambling to basically express my displeasure at how much work it takes to become famous. Not that I am against work, but… If you know of any shortcuts (i.e. literary agents looking for the Next Big Thing, etc), I am all ears. (And feel free to share me with your great Aunt Ruth.)

Things That Are Seedy

When I was a kid, I remember my mom referring to “seedy hotel rooms”. Actually I am not sure if she was referring to hotel rooms, but I felt like when she used the word “seedy” it must be in reference to hotel rooms, because what else can really fall under that classification. For that matter, what in the world does “seedy” even mean? In my juvenile brain I imagined something like a dried up orange, sour and sticking to your teeth, and definitely hard water stains in the bathtub. That is seedy for sure.

I started hashing through all of this on a recent sleepless, yet thought -provoking night at a hotel room that could probably pretty fairly be considered seedy. I was trying to be thrifty since my employers had been reticent to pay for the nicer hotel the last time I needed one for work. There were hard water stains on the bathtub for sure, but no dried out oranges to speak of. If I had to define seedy I would probably say it something akin to the opposite of “classy”, i.e. low quality, unkempt, and questionably legal. The ACTUAL definition of seedy is much better than mine:

Seed·y ˈsēdē/
  1. sordid and disreputable.

As I lay contorted in a bed with undefinable lumps in it, I decided it would be helpful to develop an identification strategy for anyone who wonders if they might be staying in a seedy hotel room. Here are the parameters I came up with.

  1. If you walk into the room and smell wet carpet, it’s a pretty sure sign you’re at a seedy hotel. Chances are also good that where you smell wet carpet there is wet carpet and it will be a relief to discover that it’s mostly from the leaking air conditioner, and probably not from that suspicious stain by the bathroom door.
  2. If you find yourself playing the “floor is lava” by yourself, leaping from bed to table to entertainment center to cracked bathroom tiles to avoid carpet stains, you’re probably in a seedy hotel.
  3. If the table you lept to from the bed does not support your parcours adventures and breaks into 5 pieces, you’re probably in a seedy hotel.
  4. If the paper cups wrapped in saran wrap by the coffeemaker are so biodegradable that they biodegrade during one episode of House with a little bit of ice water in them, chances are good you picked a seedy hotel.
  5. If it sounds like there is a middle school game of twister going on above you and they all brought their toddler siblings with them, you might be staying at a seedy hotel.
  6. If the guy in the room down the hall has his door open and an ACTUAL boom box stationed to blare into the hallway some unrecognizable cross between mariachi and Celine Dion, yeah, you’re probably there.
  7. If the coffee for your room is two scoops of folgers in a zip-lock baggie…
  8. If the circa 1987 wallpaper still matches the bedspread and the paint is rubbed off of EVERY CORNER, it’s a good sign.
  9. If there is hair in the bed BEFORE you get in it, well, that’s just gross.
  10. If there is no discernable difference in color, smell or viscosity of the shampoo, conditioner, body lotion and shoe polish - good chance you’re at a seedy place.
of course I have. 

Things About Loving Myself

The Universe has been talking to me a lot lately about self-love. Self-love is a concept, much like self-forgiveness, that has never sat well with me - violating my self-flagellating conscience with associated character flaws such as Pride, Arrogance, Selfishness and Self-Righteousness. But what I am slowly coming to understand is that self-love, and even self-forgiveness, is a much different thing than the justification of flaws. It is the acceptance and acknowledgement of flaws. It is the graceful peace that come with understanding that I AM WORTHY of love because Someone saw fit to breathe into me the Divine Spark that we all possess, each differently and independently.

I am not worthy of love because I am part of creation as a whole, I am worthy of love because I am A CREATION - unique, specific, flawed, imperfect and 100% ME. These are hard things for me. Hard to get past the guilt of perceived failures and sins and hard to see through the ugly opaque sheen of mistreatment and being told for far too long in far too many ways that I am unworthy. But I have been listening to the wrong voices. Certainly not the voices that created me. Certainly not the ones that matter. But the loud, clamoring voices, the ones desperate for power over their own perceived unworthiness.

So here I am, at 40 years old, learning about self-love. Learning about myself, and how to love it. It’s a tricky thing, because for every thing I can find to love, I can find the ugly underside of that same thing to loathe. I have decades of practice at this. I am a professional at self-disqualification. But I am finally realizing that the only thing that has kept me from BadAssing my way through life is this method of self-destruction in my own head, and I am kinda over it.

So here’s to finding all the things about myself to love. And to loving all the things about myself that I find. When I think about how I love other people, it’s all the little things that make them THEM that come to mind. Like how they sigh audibly when they feel content. Or how they drum their fingers when they think. Or that deep-rooted sparkle and wild eyes behind a genuine smile. So I am trying that with myself - noticing the little things and loving that they make me me. Like the fact that I don’t like to write with my shoes on because it makes it hard to think, or that I feel a compulsion to rinse my hair in cold water, or that my laugh sounds a little like a sea lion with a head cold. Once I start to love the little things, maybe I can move on to the bigger things - like my hard headed unwillingness to ever settle for BLAH. Or the way that I can feel the pain of other people, physically, really, truly. Or the gift of childlikeness that I know I possess when I am not murdering it with cynicism.

Back when I was a kid and believing in all of my fallen darkness, I also believed so much in the redemptive power of faith. I BELIEVED in things unseen. I believed in the Desires of My Heart. I believed in Happily Ever After and True Love. I got bitter when all my believing took a little longer than I expected to pan out (still waiting?), but bitter isn’t a good fit for me so I think I will go back to believing, and it seems like the place to start is learning how to truly love myself. There’s a lot more life in believing. There’s a lot more life in hope and love than there is in fear and loathing. Feels like an upgrade for sure.

what's not to love? amiright?

The Lady of Shalott (1832)

The Lady of Shalott - John William Waterhouse, 1888

Part I 
On either side the river lie 
Long fields of barley and of rye, 
That clothe the wold and meet the sky; 
And thro' the field the road runs by 
       To many-tower'd Camelot; 
The yellow-leaved waterlily 
The green-sheathed daffodilly 
Tremble in the water chilly 
       Round about Shalott. 

Willows whiten, aspens shiver. 
The sunbeam showers break and quiver 
In the stream that runneth ever 
By the island in the river 
       Flowing down to Camelot. 
Four gray walls, and four gray towers 
Overlook a space of flowers, 
And the silent isle imbowers 
       The Lady of Shalott. 

Underneath the bearded barley, 
The reaper, reaping late and early, 
Hears her ever chanting cheerly, 
Like an angel, singing clearly, 
       O'er the stream of Camelot. 
Piling the sheaves in furrows airy, 
Beneath the moon, the reaper weary 
Listening whispers, ' 'Tis the fairy, 
       Lady of Shalott.' 

The little isle is all inrail'd 
With a rose-fence, and overtrail'd 
With roses: by the marge unhail'd 
The shallop flitteth silken sail'd, 
       Skimming down to Camelot. 
A pearl garland winds her head: 
She leaneth on a velvet bed, 
Full royally apparelled, 
       The Lady of Shalott. 

Part II 
No time hath she to sport and play: 
A charmed web she weaves alway. 
A curse is on her, if she stay 
Her weaving, either night or day, 
       To look down to Camelot. 
She knows not what the curse may be; 
Therefore she weaveth steadily, 
Therefore no other care hath she, 
       The Lady of Shalott. 

She lives with little joy or fear. 
Over the water, running near, 
The sheepbell tinkles in her ear. 
Before her hangs a mirror clear, 
       Reflecting tower'd Camelot. 
And as the mazy web she whirls, 
She sees the surly village churls, 
And the red cloaks of market girls 
       Pass onward from Shalott. 

Sometimes a troop of damsels glad, 
An abbot on an ambling pad, 
Sometimes a curly shepherd lad, 
Or long-hair'd page in crimson clad, 
       Goes by to tower'd Camelot: 
And sometimes thro' the mirror blue 
The knights come riding two and two: 
She hath no loyal knight and true, 
       The Lady of Shalott. 

But in her web she still delights 
To weave the mirror's magic sights, 
For often thro' the silent nights 
A funeral, with plumes and lights 
       And music, came from Camelot: 
Or when the moon was overhead 
Came two young lovers lately wed; 
'I am half sick of shadows,' said 
       The Lady of Shalott. 

Part III 
A bow-shot from her bower-eaves, 
He rode between the barley-sheaves, 
The sun came dazzling thro' the leaves, 
And flam'd upon the brazen greaves 
       Of bold Sir Lancelot. 
A red-cross knight for ever kneel'd 
To a lady in his shield, 
That sparkled on the yellow field, 
       Beside remote Shalott. 

The gemmy bridle glitter'd free, 
Like to some branch of stars we see 
Hung in the golden Galaxy. 
The bridle bells rang merrily 
       As he rode down from Camelot: 
And from his blazon'd baldric slung 
A mighty silver bugle hung, 
And as he rode his armour rung, 
       Beside remote Shalott. 

All in the blue unclouded weather 
Thick-jewell'd shone the saddle-leather, 
The helmet and the helmet-feather 
Burn'd like one burning flame together, 
       As he rode down from Camelot. 
As often thro' the purple night, 
Below the starry clusters bright, 
Some bearded meteor, trailing light, 
       Moves over green Shalott. 

His broad clear brow in sunlight glow'd; 
On burnish'd hooves his war-horse trode; 
From underneath his helmet flow'd 
His coal-black curls as on he rode, 
       As he rode down from Camelot. 
From the bank and from the river 
He flash'd into the crystal mirror, 
'Tirra lirra, tirra lirra:' 
       Sang Sir Lancelot. 

She left the web, she left the loom 
She made three paces thro' the room 
She saw the water-flower bloom, 
She saw the helmet and the plume, 
       She look'd down to Camelot. 
Out flew the web and floated wide; 
The mirror crack'd from side to side; 
'The curse is come upon me,' cried 
       The Lady of Shalott. 

Part IV 
In the stormy east-wind straining, 
The pale yellow woods were waning, 
The broad stream in his banks complaining, 
Heavily the low sky raining 
       Over tower'd Camelot; 
Outside the isle a shallow boat 
Beneath a willow lay afloat, 
Below the carven stern she wrote, 
       The Lady of Shalott. 

A cloudwhite crown of pearl she dight, 
All raimented in snowy white 
That loosely flew (her zone in sight 
Clasp'd with one blinding diamond bright) 
       Her wide eyes fix'd on Camelot, 
Though the squally east-wind keenly 
Blew, with folded arms serenely 
By the water stood the queenly 
       Lady of Shalott. 

With a steady stony glance— 
Like some bold seer in a trance, 
Beholding all his own mischance, 
Mute, with a glassy countenance— 
       She look'd down to Camelot. 
It was the closing of the day: 
She loos'd the chain, and down she lay; 
The broad stream bore her far away, 
       The Lady of Shalott. 

As when to sailors while they roam, 
By creeks and outfalls far from home, 
Rising and dropping with the foam, 
From dying swans wild warblings come, 
       Blown shoreward; so to Camelot 
Still as the boathead wound along 
The willowy hills and fields among, 
They heard her chanting her deathsong, 
       The Lady of Shalott. 

A longdrawn carol, mournful, holy, 
She chanted loudly, chanted lowly, 
Till her eyes were darken'd wholly, 
And her smooth face sharpen'd slowly, 
       Turn'd to tower'd Camelot: 
For ere she reach'd upon the tide 
The first house by the water-side, 
Singing in her song she died, 
       The Lady of Shalott. 

Under tower and balcony, 
By garden wall and gallery, 
A pale, pale corpse she floated by, 
Deadcold, between the houses high, 
       Dead into tower'd Camelot. 
Knight and burgher, lord and dame, 
To the planked wharfage came: 
Below the stern they read her name, 
       The Lady of Shalott. 

They cross'd themselves, their stars they blest, 
Knight, minstrel, abbot, squire, and guest. 
There lay a parchment on her breast, 
That puzzled more than all the rest, 
       The wellfed wits at Camelot. 
'The web was woven curiously, 
The charm is broken utterly, 
Draw near and fear not,—this is I, 
       The Lady of Shalott.'

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