One Thing a Day

I promised myself I’d find one thing a day I’d learned while I enjoyed a four-week trip around the USA. I called it my rules of the road, and it kept me paying attention to the important things, and sometimes the little things, that shaped my days.

I’m not sure there are any profound revelations on the list, but in aggregate, I get a few messages.

Curious? Here’s the list.

Rules of the Road (Daily learnings from a 28 day road trip)

#1. Make sure everything is well organized so you don’t have to look for things and can see if you are leaving something behind.
#2. Forgive yourself when you break rule number one and leave something important behind.
#3. If it doesn’t sound good to you, don’t order it. Don’t eat it. Don’t drink it. No matter how much your sister likes it, or how much you like your sister. Just don’t.
#4. Bloom where you are planted, even if it’s only for a day.
#5. R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
#6. No saying I should have. You didn’t.
#7. It’s okay if some travels make you sad. Cry.
#8: Get off the road once in awhile.
#9. When all else fails, turn to another human for help.
#10. Always bring an onion.
#11. Avoid unnecessary trouble, no matter how much that asshole deserves it.
#12. When you’re cranky, focus on something else.
#13. Don’t let a little dust stop you from doing what you want to do.
#14. Don’t let a day determine how your evening will go.
#15. Stop pretending to be meaner or more miserable than you are, just to make meaner and more miserable people like you.
#16. What rules? What road?
#17. If you get interrupted by a parade, laugh.
#18. It doesn’t have to make sense, at least not if you’re a human being.
#19. When you cross the border into another reality, cross it.
#20. Pee when you have to, you don’t know what’s around the next bend.
#21. Allow way more time than you think you need.
#22. Stop when you’re exhausted. Treat this like it’s Rule #1.
#23. They live in their reality and you live in yours. Remember this insight.
#24. When something makes no sense at all, go ahead and read the directions.
#25. Never back up more than you have to.
#26. Avoid extremely difficult days. If you can’t, do your best to see there is comfort waiting for you at the end of that day.
#27. If you didn’t learn anything special today, it’s okay. Don’t worry about it.
#28. Be grateful to have made the journey. Be grateful to have made it home.

Day 22. Stop, or Else …

I should have reconsidered my plan to follow-up 6 nights camping at Burning Man with two long days of driving. Last night I woke up twice in the night thinking the place was filling up with dust. An inch or more of the flaky grey coating on everything gave the room the look of something out of a horror movie, until I turned on the lights and saw there was no dust at all.

The second time it happened I knew I needed a little more decompression time.

Luckily, we are staying for three nights at this pretty Airbnb in Trinidad Colorado where we have our own 2nd floor apartment and garden below. The mountain view is more lush than Nevada, although I’m not sure what isn’t. We are not going anywhere today; relatives will come to see us.

But I wake up with no appetite for visiting or making food, and decide that doing qigong out in the garden will make a world of difference. Qigong is a form of moving meditation that involves breathing and simple exercises designed to improve ones personal energy flow. I’m sure mine could use some improving.

Only I forget to take my shoes down with me, and the garden is filled with small sharp rocks. I don’t want to go back up and get them, so I walk along the flagstone lining the little pond, trying to get over to the concrete patio.

It seems a simple thing, but one of the flagstone is unattached. It topples right off when I step on it and, although the fall is only a foot or two, I land hard.

My right toe has been sliced open and is bleeding pretty good, and my left knee throbs and is swelling fast.

“What the hell is the matter with me?” I mutter at myself.

Then I know. I’m exhausted, mentally and physically. I’ve failed to stop and rest, like I should have, which has just become rule of the road #22 and maybe should have been rule #1.

My body and mind have conspired together to get me to do something stupid so that I will ….. just ….. stop.

“Okay, I’ve stopped,” I yell in irritation, wrapping a tissue from my pocket around my toe. Soon I’ll be bandaging it up, and sitting with my other leg elevated under an ice pack.

Aren’t we humans funny creatures? We go and go and often don’t bother to stop and listen to our own needs.

Aren’t we humans lucky creatures? We’re made to find a way to take care of ourselves. Sometimes we do it the easy way. Other times, we need to make a mistake.

If you’d like to read a short blurb from each day of my journey, check out
Day 1. The Journey of 6000 miles
Day 2. Rules of the Road
Day 3. Just Don’t
Day 4. Bloom Here.
Day 5. Yes Aretha. Respect.
Day 6. No Trucks. Just Corn.
Day 7. Cry
Day 8. There’s No Place Like Home
Day 9. It’s Okay to Ask a Human for Help
Day 10. Always Bring an Onion
Day 11. Gimme Three Steps Towards Nevada
Day 12. I Want to Scream.
Day 13. Dusty Virgin
Day 14: Magical ride
Day 15. As Nice as I Want to Be
Day 16. What Rules? What Road?
Day 17. If you get interrupted by a parade …
Day 18. I, Human
Day 19. A Border Crossing
Day 20. Someone to Help Me Get Home
Day 21. Time flies like an arrow and ….
Day 22. Stop, or Else …
Day 23. What’s Your Reality?
Day 24. If it seems ridiculous …
Day 25. Backing Up
Day 26. To Stop a Hurricane
Day 27. Lights Along My Path
Day 28. Grateful

A better word than hope?

Soon after I began writing my third novel, I realized that it was going to center around the theme of hope. I’d already gone with such lofty themes as peace and joy in my first two novels, so when it came to the big words in life, I felt like I was on a roll. It helped that my protagonist was an aging athlete, and I wanted to him to find the one thing that I’d noticed aging robbed humans of most often.

But hope wasn’t quite the word I meant, any more than peace and joy had been with the first two books. I was trying to talk about refusing to let go of fears and animosity from the past, and refusing to give others a chance based on old experiences. And I was talking about the belief that humans cannot change, that they cannot learn to be, or choose to be, better.

Having already written two stories that took place on opposite sides of the globe, I decided to place this third tale more or less halfway in between. That took to me to the southern reaches of North America; to Belize, Guatemala and Southern Mexico. It also to took me to my own home in Houston. “Hope” looked to be a perfect theme as my research led me to the history of the civilizations and their clashes in this heated part of the globe.

By now, I knew I was doing a rainbow with my books. This was fueled by my love of physics and my fascination with light (or more correctly the electromagnetic spectrum) and I was already planning to give light waves a starring role in this third story. The fact that rainbows had been used over the years to symbolize racial harmony, and LGBT acceptance, was an added plus.

The rainbow thing meant that this book had to be yellow, which was perfect. Yellow is for bright sunshine breaking through on a cloudy day. Yellow is for the first flowers poking through the winter snow. My book was bright yellow for a word that means

the belief that the ills of the past are not an inevitable part of the future, and the knowledge that life can be better, and will be better, if we do our best to make it so.

We do need a word for that.

 

(For more thought on words we need, see A better word than loyalty?, A better word than peace?, A better word than joy? and A better word than courage?)

 

Missing the Eclipse: There is Always Another?

I’ve wanted to see a total eclipse of the sun for as long as I can remember. I was a child who was fascinated by astronomy. By sixth grade I’d read every book that Jefferson West Elementary School had on the subject and I’d moved on to the Hays public library and was making pretty good progress there.

But it takes money, often a lot of money, to get the the remote locations in which that thin strip of totality seems to always lie. So, imagine my excitement when I read last February that a swatch of total eclipse was going to reach from Oregon to my home state of North Carolina.

Then, imagine my reaction when I realized that I would not be here for the big event. Days earlier I had booked non-refundable airline tickets for four to Kenya for the safari trip of a lifetime. No, the eclipse would not be visible in Kenya. No, the tickets could not be changed. Maybe I should have checked, but seriously, who looks at a schedule of eclipses before they plan a trip?

I cut my losses, focused on the excitement of my upcoming journey, and tried to ignore the ever-increasing hype about the eclipse as mid-August approached.

I had a great time in Kenya. And, the good old reliable sun provided me with a lot of beautiful photos, so I didn’t feel completely cheated out of celestial beauty.

Meanwhile, some of those closest to me headed over to nearby Charleston SC for nature’s big show. Our home near Asheville wasn’t in the path of totality. But, we have kin in Charleston, and it seemed like  a terrific place to view an eclipse: all that wide expanse of ocean, all those great restaurants and things to do, and a relative’s condo that was available for free.

Only the total eclipse didn’t happen quite as expected. Yes, the moon passed in front of the sun for a couple of minutes, but it never got dark, like in the NASA photo shown at the top of this post. It was more dusky, like part way through a sunset. According to some theories, light from outside the totality band was reflected off of the ocean, preventing complete darkness. Whatever the cause, an iPhone captured totality like this. It was a cool experience, according to those who were there, but not quite the extreme event they were lead to expect.

I’m in Charleston today, thinking about the eclipse that I missed. That was about 28 days ago and we are back to the new moon. This time, the moon won’t pass directly in front of the sun, at least from where I am sitting. But it will from somewhere, even if that somewhere is out in space.

Sooner or later, I hope to find a way to put myself directly in that shadow. Will the experience live up to all of my expectations? Maybe. Maybe not.

Meanwhile, here is how the sun, and that invisible new moon, are looking today in the Charleston area, just one full cycle of the moon later.

Not too shabby. If this is the best solar event I get to see for awhile, I’m not going to feel so bad about it.

 

Believe.

What should determine your behavior? How you feel at the moment? What you think of those around you? What those around you think?

All of those things do have an effect, even if we don’t think they should. But my current favorite film focuses on a different answer, and it’s got me thinking.

The way you behave should be largely shaped by what you believe in. And if it isn’t, it’s time to take a hard look at either your behavior, or your beliefs.

I can give you a long list of things I do not believe in, and an even longer list of kind-ofs to which I can add many qualifiers. But today, I’m forcing myself to make a short list of simple virtues in which I firmly believe. Virtues that can shape my everyday actions, you know, Wonder Woman style.

This should be easy. I have plenty of beliefs. I’ll pick one.

I believe in tolerance. That means letting me be me and letting you be you. Yes, I can hear the qualifiers creeping already. No one should tolerate one human harming another. Okay, I agree. But what do we do on the fringes? The barely harming that some say isn’t harming at all?

Image result for confederate flagI live in North Carolina and the confederate flag is a great example. I cringe when I see it. I have neighbors who find that intolerant. I find the flag itself intolerant. We are at an impasse, my neighbors and I, each unwilling to tolerate each other’s intolerance. What a mess.

So let me try another word. I believe in inclusion. Young, old, all races, religions, sexual orientations and body types. We are all beautiful. Except, of course, for the people who think we are not. They’re ugly.

Try again. I believe that we all need to accept each other as equally valid expressions of what it means to be human. No one gets excluded from anything based on the bodies they were born into, the cultures that raised them, or the personal preferences they now have.

Hey, I think that works.

That does not mean we have to tolerate each other’s bad behavior. In fact, at some point we have to act to stop it. And no, I don’t know exactly where that point is but I am sure it exists.

I believe in tolerance. I do. Tolerance means you’re beautiful, because you are a miracle and  I’m beautiful because I am one too.

We both need to act like it, and that is my belief for the day.

(For more Wonder Woman inspired thoughts, see Top Requirement for a Superhero,  It’s About What You Believe, I believe in appreciating those who protect us. All of them, and Believe in Tomorrow.)

 

May 2014 bring peace, joy and hope to all!

Please enjoy this collage of my favorite images of hope from the past year.

best of hopeThanks and credit to (from upper left, clockwise) 1. Facebook page for the Dalai Lama 2. www.fearbuster.com 3. blog.richmond.edu/heroes 4. Facebook page for the Dalai Lama 5. Inspire21 6. Alternate Economy 7. iHope

For a look at my favorite images of peace from 2013, please visit my x0 blog here.

For a look at my favorite images of joy from 2013, please visit my y1 blog here.