As we hiked at Lory State Park this morning, I kept noticing spots that had burnt in recent fires but were now coming back in, green and full of wildflowers. It made me think of how grief is like that, a fire that burns everything, strips it all bare and raw, but how that doesn’t have to be the end of the story. Given time, sunshine and rain, new seed, things grow, the landscape is restored. The destruction isn’t forgotten completely (notice the singed trees in this picture), but rather it forms the foundation for the new growth. It’s a harsh process, but on the other side, there is something like beautiful.
This post is a mashup of The Little Bliss List and Joy Jam, and as such is meant to celebrate: the little things that brought me hope and happiness this week, the sweet stuff of life, those small gifts that brought me joy this week. By sharing them, I not only make public my gratitude, but maybe also help you notice your own good stuff and send some positive energy out into the world.
1. Our visit to the Denver Botanic Gardens. A break from the smoke, the worry about the fire, a gorgeous location and lovely long walk, and the fact that I am lucky enough to not only have a husband who will consent to going, but who had the idea in the first place and enjoyed it every bit as much as I did.
2. Being able to open the window over my desk this morning and listen to the birds as I wrote. The fire is no where near gone (in fact, they’ve said that while they will be able to eventually contain it, it most likely won’t stop burning altogether until the first snow), but the wind had shifted and the air cleared enough that me and the birds of dawn could hang out together this morning. I had missed them.
3. Walking the dogs with Eric. Because it’s summer, vacation time, we can do this more often, and I really enjoy it.
4. Danielle Ate the Sandwich CD Release Party. As always, she was adorable and funny, not to mention incredibly talented, and put on a great show. I finally worked up the courage to talk to her, and even though I had a whole story prepared to explain, remind her who I was, to help her remember, I only had to say “Hi, Danielle. I swore this time I would talk to you” and she said “Are you Jill?” and hugged me. There was a caricature artist working there that night, so I had him draw my picture. If you ever wondered what I’d look like as a cartoon, here it is. He totally got the hair right.
5. My meditation practice, and the Open Heart Project (Practitioner Level). I needed extra support this week, it was more important than usual to have a method for manifesting sanity when my experience feels less than sane, and these two things gave me just that. I am so profoundly grateful, for the practice, the guidance, and the community.
6. How good people can be to each other in hard times. When I was at the park yesterday afternoon walking the dogs there were two girls selling paintings and taking donations to help with the High Park Fire, I heard multiple stories of fire fighters and community members (many of them women) saving homes (one woman’s home was saved three different times), the Fort Collins Shambhala Center sangha stepped in to feed and house staff evacuated from the Shambhala Mountain Center, and community members are dropping baked goods off at CSU for the firefighters to grab on their way through. It made me think of this, one of my favorite quotes from Anne Frank:
In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery and death. I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness. I hear the ever-approaching thunder, which will destroy us, too. I can feel the suffering of millions – and yet, if I look to the heavens, I think it will come out all right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again.
Bonus Joy: In one week, we are leaving to drive to Oregon and settle in to our little house on the beach in Waldport, “where the forest meets the sea.” Just thinking about it makes me happy, and I’m ready to go. I love Colorado, the sun and the land and our little house and my life here, it really is where I should live…but the truth is that half of my heart, no matter where else the rest might be, stays on this long stretch of beach, looking at the water and listening to the lullaby of the waves.
Kind and gentle reader, today’s post is hard. I need something good more than usual, keep asking Eric to “tell me something good,” but all I really want him to tell me is that this fire will stop, that no one else will lose their home or get hurt, that all the animals will be safe, that our favorite places to hike won’t completely burn up, and that it won’t reach us, that we aren’t in danger. The lizard part of my brain is having such a hard time with it, keeps screaming at me “grab the dogs and run!,” and my heart is just breaking for all the hurt and damage. The High Park Fire, as of the last update, was started by a lightning strike, has burned 36,930 acres and 100 structures, and is 0% contained.
So in light of all that, it feels a little silly, naive to share a list of things I saw this week that I thought where awesome, but at the same time, it feels more important than ever…does that make sense?
1. If you are interested in helping, one way to do so is to donate to the Larimer County Humane Society. They have taken in pets from evacuated homes, are “currently providing temporary shelter for cats, small mammals and farm animals (the size of a goat or smaller) displaced due to the High Park fire,” but are at capacity for dogs (in Colorado, we love us some dogs, so there are lots of them). They need help feeding the animals, so have set up a way for you to give a donation online. I’m sure there are plenty of other places to donate, this just happens to be the one closest to my heart.
2. The Denver Botanic Gardens. We needed a break from worrying about the fire today, so we took a spontaneous trip to Denver to look at things that were lush and alive. We walked around for over three hours, and I took lots of pictures, and we got lots of ideas for what to do with our new beds in our front yard. We were laughing at ourselves, because if you add in both dog walks, we did about 4.5 hours of walking today.
3. Kizuna exhibition at Denver Botanic Gardens. As a lover of most things Japanese and all things bamboo, I adored this strange and wonderful instillation spread throughout the gardens. “This season’s signature exhibition, Kizuna: West Meets East, brings together two installation artists working in bamboo: Tetsunori Kawana and Stephen Talasnik. Through different working methods, both artists employed this versatile natural material to create large site-specific works for the Gardens.”
4. I want to make this list: Jamie Ridler’s Discovering Delight. In fact, I think we should all make this list, throw out our “to-do” lists and live this one instead. I will if you will…
5. 7 Ways to Celebrate Summer from Positively Present. This list is a good start, but I bet if we tried really, really hard, we could think of more than seven ways.
6. How to Make a Living as an Artist at Create as Folk, by Laura Simms. Be sure to watch the video, if for no other reason than Laura is just so stinking cute.
7. How to Unstress and Truly Enjoy Your Vacation from the Positivity Blog. Can you tell where my head is at?
8. Welcome to the World, Book Baby by Susannah Conway. This is a really great post about her new book, This I Know: Notes on Unraveling the Heart, how it came to be, and links to her virtual, online book tour.
10. Photo a Day, June Challenge List. I wish I had time, because I love this idea and think it would be really fun, so I’ll save the link and maybe do the one in July.
11. A sweet little video about life and how fast it goes by, in honor of the baby robins next door who are learning how to fly today.
12. The color of. Oh, I could waste so much time here…”a system created to find out the colour of anything, by querying and aggregating image data from Flickr, a popular online photo sharing community. It is an attempt at answering a potentially complex and abstract question in an objective manner, by using simple algorithms on data originating from subjective human perceptions.” You can search any term. Here are the ones I just made.
13. Quotes from Ray Bradbury on Brain Pickings. Ray Bradbury passed away this week at the age of 91. I adored him for most of my life, and am sad he’s gone, but glad he left such a wonderful legacy.
14. Want To Know Yourself Better? Ask Yourself These Questions from the Happiness Project. These look good.
15. You Can Be at Peace from Jennifer Louden. Oh how I adore her…
16. I love Rosie Thomas, and apparently, so does Susannah Conway, who shared this link to an interview with Rosie. I love hearing stories about how someone “finds art” or “becomes an artist,” those magical origin stories, and this article also pointed out that Rosie has a new album that I didn’t know about, which I am listening to as I write this post, (oh, and it’s really, really good, so #16.5 on the something good list is her new album).
17. Do These Petals Make My Stem Look Fat? by Sunni on the Daily Breadcrumb. Oh that Sunni, so precious, so brilliant. This post, which I adore because maybe you’ve noticed by now how much I love flowers?, also reminds me of this quote: “If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change,” (Buddha, who is precious and brilliant as well).
18. This quote, shared by Judy Clement Wall in her latest post on A Human Thing: “You can’t control what other people think about your art. Think about the part of yourself that you can control, which is your ability to be kind and loving and creative.” ~ Ann Patchett, Yoga Journal
19. Calm.com, my new favorite website. Go ahead, try it and you’ll see what I mean.
20. Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zero, Man on Fire.
It’s pretty hard to explain how or why a white girl growing up in a small farming community in Oregon loved Donna Summer so much, but from the first time those eighth grade, older and much cooler girls pulled the record player out into the hallway during lunch and played “On The Radio,” I was in love with the Queen of Disco.
There was something naughty about her, but innocent at the same time. She had a big voice, and you could hear the joy there, the sense of fun and of self and of pain–it was riveting, and so beautiful. She was everything I wanted to be, but didn’t even dare hope, certainly didn’t wish out loud. But I had so many private dance parties in my room, imagining being as big and as beautiful as she was, believing for at least as long as the song lasted that it was possible. At ten years old, she sang the magical and secret soundtrack to my dreams.
It made me so sad today to find out she’d passed. She was only 63, and apparently battling cancer, (stupid cancer).
I already felt off kilter today. Sam was fussy last night, woke me up around 2 am licking his nose and doing this weird swallowing/gagging thing, so I lay awake on the edge of the bed, leaning close so I could hear him breathe, and stayed like that, tense and attentive, until the alarm went off at 4:30 am. I tried to practice tonglen, tried not to panic but when I’m worried and it’s dark I almost can’t stop myself, felt sick to my stomach, took deep breaths, didn’t fall back asleep even when he did, and wondered for the millionth time how moms do it.
And Hewlett Gulch, one of my favorite places to hike, is on fire, growing from 900 acres to almost 6000 over a single, windy night. On and off through the past few days, the smoke has blown in to town, making the nearness of the fire clear. I don’t think humans can smell fire, unless maybe it’s a campfire, and not feel fear, that deep and old anxiety that lives in our DNA, that panic, that instinct to run for our lives.
It’s only my second day of vacation, and I’m already giving myself a hard time. I made a list of what needed to get done this summer, what I wanted to do, called it my “summer mondo beyondo list” and wrote it on a piece of scratch paper with the picture of a baby bunny on the back to dispel any yucky to-do list mojo it might generate, but it didn’t really work. I kept adding to the list until I’d filled one whole side of the paper, every inch of space, and looking at it was making me sad, making me feel like I wouldn’t have a vacation at all, but also I know this is a stage, a transition I have to go through. I knew it would happen. It most likely will take me two weeks to settle in, to let go.
In a guest post on Kind Over Matter, Angel Sullivan shares this poem:
daily forays into the tangled undergrowth of my mind.
slogging through the muck
over and over
finally (finally!) recognizing that it’s time to set divine fire to the whole damn thing and watch it
burn baby burn
I feel myself standing in this moment, tired and afraid, knowing that it’s time.