spirits

I’m a nurse and I’ve been around a lot of illness, disease, death. But the day I learned my step mom had stage 4 pancreatic cancer I was taking a shower and it was raining outside. I was living in Asheville NC nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The sound of the water hitting the shower curtain sounded different. It was crisper, louder, almost palpable.

 

It’s raining in the spring season of Colorado snow and flowers. The smell of the rain reminded me of that day when I connected to the spirit of Ann and I knew she would stay with me and she wasn’t leaving as the pain of her situation screamed.

I knew I’d feel your presence and I always will.

 

Windows

I love them. I’ve had my favorites and I have a new one. These are so cool. They can open from the top by tilting in or wide open from the side or the handle locks firmly down in place. I’m in the basement studio with a sidewalk slant so one window eye level is on the ground, the next 2 feet higher, and my last window I can sit on the sill and watch the night sky full of stars or the snow as it falls or the brilliantly blue Colorado sky.

One 12 foot tall window in town often has a grey haired old man named Rocky sitting at his huge wooden round table cluttered with stacks of import looking art stuff. Reminds me of San Francisco and my step dad Bud only he would be using his sizzer’s as he loves clipping important stuff from papers.

Looking out or looking in ….it’s soothing to me.

Babysitting meditating …same thing

I realized something about my mind. I need it. But I need it to not do certain things at times it really wants and to keep quiet from time to time. That is a tall order if you’ve ever tried meditating.  I joined a 50 day challenge where I meditate for 10 minutes a day. Anybody can find 10 minutes, right? What about quieting your mind for 10 minutes. Virtually impossible (initially) and 100% OK!

Pretend you are babysitting your mind. It’s gonna wander, that’s it’s job. But suddenly your role as your soul is to babysit that little creature. When it says something to get your attention just say ‘shh it’s ok I know you hear that’ or want that or think that or feel that. It’s ok a thought comes up. Let it. Then sit back and watch. Listen. Breathe. Set your alarm so you can be free of time for a minute….. or 10.

birds of a feather

I have joined a new group on Facebook and I was excited when a member said ‘we wanna start hiking together!’ I love hikes and have several amazing ones just out my back door …literally. So it took me a minute to put together an invite for a week away. Although I didn’t have any takers from that platform I did end up on 2 of the most adventurous hikes I’ve been on in 20 years!

The first with a lone local 22 yr old young man named John. I offhandedly mentioned a hike and he was thrilled and off we went. He lives up in the canyon – home-less. He is not on Facebook nor part of my intended target audience. His story originates from Indianapolis. The streets thereof. His mom was a drug addict and he had meth, heroin, etc in his blood when born. We’ve been acquaintances since I first arrived in town as most frequent Good Karma Cafe for free wifi and yes coffee. Back then I had noticed his wrapped finger and I suggested he soak it in warm salt water – often. He’d dropped a rock on it and it looked painful …still does now months later.

Chica has begun to run and jump when she sees John was happy he was there when the inevitable headwall would cross her path on our hike. He kept saying ‘I can go into 4 wheel drive!’ and plowed ahead scrambling up across over the alpine terrain, I suggested he pace himself instead. When he had asked every group of hikers ‘Hey do you need pot brownies I have them for sale!!’ and received only raised eyebrows and no takers I suggested he save his products for another crowd. He quit after the next group ignored his sales pitch altogether.

We had a blast on the hike. Made it to the Williams Canyon Waterfalls. So beautiful. We ventured way above the falls looking for crystals as the locals vaguely point this to be a good area. John found prettier rocks than I did! He even learned to keep the volume down in the canyon by saying ‘I’ll show you this if you don’t scream.’ I tend to get excited about life’s simple pleasures, it can be a bit much at times I’ll admit even for me. But I have noted the younger crowds are much more forgiving and we tend to balance out in some fashion.

On Sunday I decided to hike alone. A comedy of errors ended up a day full of adventure with me, Sky, and Sarah. The two 17 year old girls had  seen me way up above the canyon trail and thought I knew where I was going. Sky works at the local chocolate shop and hadn’t been back here since the massive Manitou Springs flood wiped familiar away. They’d caught up with me and we hit it off immediately.  Actually it was after I’d put them to the Pam test and they actually took it gracefully that things began to flow and I accepted I was not going on a solo hike. Later when I apologized Sarah laughed and said ‘no we would have said the same thing!’ We’d found ourselves terribly off trail and loving every minute as we fueled each other at the exact right moment.  Yet, I’m an old rock climber so if I sense a hint of danger I’m safety focused and we had some of those moments. It was too much fun and I must’ve time warped to being 12 again. Scrambling up these cliffs and caves therein, seeing the waterfalls from WAY far away, not knowing which way to go and switching leads. Magnificent views.  We didn’t take pictures as it couldn’t be captured. We couldn’t turn back as down climbing was not an option. We somehow ended up at the base of Williams Canyon Waterfalls after seeing it from so far away never believing we’d end up at it’s base and the familiar way out. There we shared the hand sized blueberry pie I’d brought along for this exact spot.

Birds of a feather ….. it’s fun to be together. We’re gonna do the Incline next. Sarah hasn’t done it and we know we’ll all enjoy each others company. Chica isn’t invited as she ends up in my backpack too much. When I told John about the girls he was interested in their adventurous style and ‘I’d like to have a girlfriend.’ In the meanwhile, he’s gonna meet me at the laundry mat as we both need to do some cleaning up.

I love Manitou Springs 🙂

 

 

March Madness

My favorite wild flower : forget-me-nots

My favorite rock climbing spot: Tallulah Gorge, GA

My favorite male singer: Jerry Garcia

My favorite flower smell: gardinia

My favorite hobby: birding

My favorite place: Upper Peninsula, MI

My favorite color: cobalt blue

My favorite medium: water color

My favorite season: spring

My favorite month for sports: March Madness

Sleeping Bag

listen to your heart

The homeless travelers in Colorado Springs stand on the highway exit corners collecting an undisclosed plethora of coins, paper money, uneaten fast food lunch I didn’t want after all, 2 large unsweetened tea cause I asked for sweet tea I’m a Southerner now in the West, cans of sardines, to name a few. Last week the wind was blowing crazy like it only does around the plains and yep it was cold and snowy. I’m in my toasty warm lovable Kia Sportage and there he stands shivering with his cardboard reused sign ‘Need Help’ so I gave him my sleeping bag. Chica doesn’t know yet as I’d used it for her to stay warm when she takes her copilot seat. The traffic light remained red for some time as the grey and orange bag whipped around the disheveled fellow as he stood waiting patiently for the next flow of onlookers. I rolled my window down again and gave him one of my many cloth bags cause I’m a silent bag lady too. He scurried back with a grin saying ‘thanks man.’

Yesterday as I was walking around the adorable welcoming snowy town of Manitou Springs I spotted a fellow curled up under the bushes in a sleeping bag with the morning sun resting on his quiet form. He looked rather comfortable but I know better.

Try telling a mother and business woman facing retirement she should get pregnant because after all it brought her such joy and purpose. She would not need to answer and could inwardly chuckle as she continued to plan her future freedom life out from under all the shady business situations she’d faced working in the system as well as all the critiques she’d swallowed during her parenting years as she attempted to do the best for the fruits of her loins.

Ok so I’m not facing retirement but I relate to her. As a rock climber would turn and walk away from some strangers encouragement to jump on a climbing route without ‘good beta’ from a trusted source. I’m at a spot where I neither want to get pregnant nor jump on any rock requiring vertical ascent. Substitute the suggestions of what should a nurse do? ICU, ER, private duty, hospice liaison, cardiac unit step down, travel nurse (hard!), inpatient rehab RN, camp nurse, Health Director, occupational health nurse at a lumber plant, and most recently school nurse. I’ve done it all. Loved it and can list why I will not do each again.

As my own employment grim choices are laid out in front of me I can’t help but think I might need another sleeping bag.

Cowboy

Outlaw caught my attention first as at 5 months old she was 4 ft tall and 105 lbs. Huge black male German Shepard with attached owner on one side named Cowboy. Long grey hair and you can imagine with the cowboy hat and boots, every finger ordained with silver turquoise jewelry. He was out leash-training his pup and this was no silent matter as Outlaw has quite the bark and I didn’t want to challenge his bite. The conversation began as I’d been walking from my rental just a block up in the canyon and close to town. It’s a quaint cozy eccentric kind of folk community of Manitou Springs, CO. Been here 4 months and being slow to pay attention to details, it took me 3 of those to realize there were 12 fresh water soda mineral infused springs bubbling at spots throughout town. The Indians didn’t live here but intentionally passed through for the healing waters. Back to Cowboy and Outlaw, what an encounter. Where is Flannery O’Connor when I need her?

Let’s just say long story short I’m now looking at this framed memorabilia of Cowboy and his 35 years of playing Buffalo Bill in the rodeo show in Wyoming from a spot in his living room. He looks the same as the beaming confidence he emits in person, just 40 years younger. His high ceiling cottage is tucked up on the hill with lots of others all aching for an upgrade and a fresh can of paint. A rock collector and ex-Vietnam Vet with a huge service dog, an internal sound system futuristic, in it’s midst, as well as Cowboy’s built in friend “Alexa”. You heard me and she hears him. Each request he shouts has just a little aggression noted as it’s a commanding relationship in the fullest. She graciously responds and turns on lights or t.v. shows or finds attempts to retrieve a Grateful Dead song for me when that topic comes up in our group conversation.

My visit was brief and just a glimpse of what I get myself into. No harm just gotta shake your head of judgement and accept everybody lives their own life and hopefully it’s to the fullest of their ability as Cowboy is doing. He made it clear they’d honorably discharged him way back before he arrived in Manitou Springs. He added it was because they didn’t want a weapon in his hands. Lol. And the healing he has gotten from remaining within these canyon infused pockets of town and the 14,000 ft beauty of Pikes Peak as our background sky as well as drinking it’s water corresponding vortexes being key to his happiness.

I have this inate quality of making any soul feel accepted, willing, and ready to open their closets with skeleton’s without fear. I think it’s cause I’ve been a nurse for awhile now, a mother for a while longer, and an open hearted little girl for a very long time. I carry with me my empathy and corresponding experiences to share if only heartfelt understanding.

I remember the first time I connected with a homeless person without judgement or fear but with a mother’s love. I was riding the BART busline in San Francisco. My then 18 year old daughter just starting her freshman year of college in the bay area and as such, flying from the nest. Gazing out the window as the transit hummed along, I saw this dirty bearded fellow with his long brown coat and shoe laces dangling standing on the side of the road amidst trash and city winds.

I thought to myself, ‘That’s somebody’s little boy.’ I felt his mother’s love for him. Somewhere, maybe only in spirit.

I’ve come view most of society from those eyes I’ve gained. Years after that day on the bus, I’d find myself in a form of homelessness. I had a car and a seaonal job, but my heart felt homeless. It would take actually being physically ‘home less’ to discover the secret. Homeless people/‘travelers’ have found a spiritual home those with material homes silently seek.

Cowboy and his sidekick Outlaw now have both homes. He deserves it for his service for our country’s freedom, and  I’m happy he found it in this old western cross through of a town.

another day at the office

………….NYC Outwardbound style. My kind of office setting  – in the woods. Nature, the best teacher. You don’t want to be taken to the principal’s office either! That’s a stormy cold day but it happens to us all regardless of our age/rank/position.  Students come up from NYC with their school teachers and we all have the opportunity to learn …. from each other.

3 things

I saw a bunch of homesick kids last summer …. summer camp …. kids of all ages … there’s nothing worse than that old feeling of missing your mom (dad/parent/guardian) and it’s usually visa versa from her end as well …. but from the nurses end – mine – it’s a challenge unlike most others. Add a medical element to it all and there’s another obstacle to clear. My experience has showed me the child who faces this and makes it till the end of camp is often the one who grew the most and as a result it shows in their walk/smile/eyes. And it’s contagious. I found a simple tool to use for homesickness.  To help redirect the mind when it’s steering the emotions to complete upset you need to know 3 good things. Ask the kid to tell you 3 good things about their day. 3 good things she looks forward to. 3 good things. And I’d have to say it often amidst many tears where the subject is ‘I miss my mom and I wanna call her’ and more upset. So, change the subject.  It will now be ‘good things’.  So when homesick is brought up (every other minute) my role is to model the simple use of the tool of  strong communication. Before I listen to you I wanna hear 3 good things. And I’ve gotten good at prompting the child who can’t think of a single thing to be thankful for ……. Tell them to me. Feel that good place. That’s what happens. They accidentally feel good just for a split second …. and it puts a chink in the darkness of sad/gloom/negative. The cool thing is … it simply works. Its easy. It’s a remedy I gotta package and now sell. It might help kids enjoy their childhood a bit better.