Eat and be eaten

Bread loafOne of the components of dough is yeast, and yeast is a living being. It has been dormant but wakes to its potential when given food and water.  Food and water — along with a few other things — are what all living things on this planet need to survive.

Because they are living things I think of yeast as little beasties that I’ve given the opportunity to make whoopee in wet flour. They live, they eat, they digest, they multiply to eat some more, and in the act of doing so they transform flour + water into bread dough.

And then I kill them.

All things eat, all things are eaten

The above phrase is either a quote or, more likely given my faulty memory, a paraphrase from a science fiction book I read years and years ago. I don’t remember the author’s name, the book’s title, or much of the plot – but I remember that phrase because it is a truth that I remind myself of often.

I feed the yeast and the yeast feeds me. The little beasties perform an everyday kind of act that is easy to let pass by without acknowledging the miracle of transformation and the sacrifice involved. The living beings that are yeast will ultimately be given to the heat of the oven, where they will die. What is left is the structure they’ve built for me, a loaf of bread.

Keeping this in mind as I mix flour, salt, yeast, and water, then let it rise, fold it to give the yeast more to eat, and eventually bake the dough in the oven, makes it easier for me to remember to be grateful for my bread and all the food that I eat.  Gratitude is the only way to survive the harsh reality of eat and be eaten that describes life on this plane of existence.

No-knead bread recipe

So Happy I Could Cry

♪ I’m So Glad (Skip James, ca 1931) YouTube

What is it about joy that has such power to make me teary-eyed? How can I be grinning like a maniac as I’m hauling wood from the woodpile in a wind so cold it freezes my snot?

I want to ask how I ever got to this place, this happy place I am in this moment, but I don’t need to ask – I know the answer: Even though it seems like a miracle bursting into my life it’s actually the result of decades of work of purposefully changing who I am.

Purposefully creating a life as opposed to being tumbled through the stream of time willy-nilly. Making my own choices even though they often pit me against the flow. Risking drowning in order to save my life.

No – to create it.

We each have our own life story and we each are the sole author of that story. The question is how the story will be written: by chance or on purpose?

I’ve known my answer since I was a kid — but knowing isn’t implementing.

The problem is I keep forgetting to choose in spite of the fact that it feels so good when I do. It’s not my fault. It’s simply the nature of living as a human being. We have epiphanies but we are bound to lose them. We spend more time seeking than basking in enlightenment. It’s not our fault! We’re human!

Thank the gods for art, what we humans do to memorialize our connections with enlightenment and to remind us to remember them again. Doesn’t matter what kind of art: writing, music, dance, painting, sculpture – and yes, the art of being ourselves, too, if we allow it. Art stretches our inner selves, makes us high. What’s not to love about that?

But enlightenment is an impermanent state of being. We don’t live in the Zone, we aspire to it. While we bask in instances of great art our souls are hauled up to a higher level – but we don’t get to stay there.

We have to choose it over and over again. On purpose.

Enlightenment for human beings is not a state of being but moments of bliss. The trick, it turns out, is not to try to grab those moments and hold on to them, for they are ephemeral in nature and will slip away. The trick is rather to choose have lots of those moments, one right after the other, until miraculously it feels like they are all the moments there are.

Chop wood, carry water. That’s said to be the way of the path. Most people take it as a metaphor. Much to my surprise, in doing the wood and water thing in real life I discovered that those tasks have kept redirecting my feet back onto the path. The path is not to enlightenment but of enlightenment.

So, hey, make your choices. Choose to have a blissful moment or a million! Here, have a tissue.

♪ I’m So Glad (Cream, 1966) YouTube

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Coming home

Welcome to New Mexico and ta-ta Texas.I suppose I’m not a good traveler.  Maybe I’m defective that way.  But I like where I live.

No.

I love where I live.

I just got home tonight from a road trip.  Back in the day I thought nothing of hitchhiking across the country.  Now driving from New Mexico to the east coast and back is an exercise of endurance.  Aside from the fact that my body is not what it was half a century and more ago, my emotional comfort is more important to me now than it was then.

Back then I just wanted to do things.  Everything.

One time back then, back when I lived in Boston, my roommate’s boyfriend who had visited her over the spring break announced he had to get back to college in southern California and that he was going to hitchhike.  Understand, back then we did those kind of things and it was no big deal.  It was also no big deal that I decided I’d go with him.

Why?

Why not.

It didn’t occur to me that I had only met the young man a few days before, and to go on such an adventure might be ill-advised.  It didn’t occur to me that I needed more than the few dollars I had to travel so far.  Or to tell my family I was going.  Or to have a destination to go to.

I just went.

It was an adventure, you see.  I was up for adventures at at the drop of a hat.  The story of that trip — which was accomplished fairly easily with only getting busted once in Buffalo and which ended up with my meeting the man who was to be my first husband at the other side of the country — is for another time.  My point here is that it was an adventure.

It wasn’t all fun and games, of course.  Spending the night in a police station right off the bat was a drag.  Standing in crappy weather with Robin’s boyfriend (sorry, man, I’ve forgotten your name) for hours on end waiting for a ride was a drag.  Some of the rides were a bummer but there was good stuff, too.  The semi-trucker apologized for the bumpy/jerky ride (shocks problem?  I forget now) but let us take turns crashing in his sleeper.  I missed the midwest – too stoned because the people in the VW bus insisted we share their smoke.  True, I froze in Colorado, but then there was that guy who treated us to lunch in Utah because he was so entertained by our account of our trip so far.

And when it was over, it was just one more cool thing I had done and I looked forward to the next adventure.

Nowadays it’s harder to drum up that feeling of excitement about adventures.  Then I was free of responsibilities, now I have many anchors, all of which I love and want to keep.

I live in a beautiful place.  An enchanted land.  My soul soars and my heart sings, and my creative self is fed by my home — and by home I don’t mean my house, I mean the critters, the house, the valley, the county, the state.  The magic of this place.

And that makes it hard to leave here.  But that’s not all.  Back then I was about gathering experience.  Now I’m about using my experience to flesh out my writing.  Back then I was all about the outside.  Now I’m all about the inside.

Even so.  I’m greedy.  I want to have it all.  I want to go and stay.  I want to be out there and dwell in here at the same time.  I want to live forever so I can savor deeply and slowly, and I want to plunge into the unknown and flail about

How is it that I could be this old and feel like an adolescent?

 

 

Expect a miracle

Expect a Miracle 2018 Lif Strand photo Miracles are magical things.

Magic is miraculous.  Magic, miracle, samey-same. You might not think so but yes, it’s true.

First, let me explain the photo to the left. I clipped it to my desktop computer long enough ago that there are fly spots on it and I had to wipe off the dust so I wouldn’t be even more embarrassed when you saw it. I’m sure it’ll come as no surprise that housekeeping is not my forte. Not only is the note still there — still crooked like it has been for years — but so is the computer, which kicked the bucket some time ago.

Every so often I look at it (the note, not the computer) and I remind myself to not just see the words but to remember the reason I put it there and why I’ve left it there to collect dust and fly spots all this time. I need the mental jog because it’s easy for me to read advice, to agree with it, to want it to be meaningful in my life, and then to somehow not take it in, not make it mine.

But this one I’ve worked at.  Expect a miracle has come to mean everything to me. It has changed my life. It’s amazing. It’s like magic.

I started writing about magic in 2012, though I’ve been thinking about it, yearning for it, all my life. The blog started out as mostly fan homage to guitarist Jimmy Page, but I quickly realized that the best music really can be a kind of magic. So then I began to explore what exactly that would mean. I eventually compiled my posts about magic into a book, Mage Music: Writings on Magick and Creativity*, and then moved on with my life, wondering when I could personally do the magic I wanted to.  And not by accident, either, but when I wanted to do it.

Really, if I could do magic, that would be a miracle, wouldn’t it?

Now look:  By magic I don’t mean sleight of hand, illusion, stage tricks. I don’t mean the occult, either. I mean changing reality.

Changing reality.  Purposefully doing so. Oh yeah, definitely magic.

I knew that expecting is part of the deal, because doubt is a killer when it comes to creativity, and magic, and miracles. But I kept forgetting to expect. That’s why the note, but it didn’t do any good to just read the words.

I had to swallow them into my heart, digest them so they nourished my soul. And that was not so easy.

Part of the problem was that I didn’t understand how to properly expect, or what miracles would actually look like. But gradually, it snuck up on me. What doing magic was about. About what miracles were like.

Some of them have been like this:

Chamisa (rabbit brush)  2018 Lif Strand photo

Chamisa (rabbit brush)  2018 Lif Strand photo

Bee on Russian sage  2018 Lif Strand photo

Bee on Russian sage 2018 Lif Strand photo

Verbena    2018 Lif Strand photo

Verbena 2018 Lif Strand photo

Russian thistle     2018 Lif Strand photo

Russian thistle 2018 Lif Strand photo

Pretty yellow flowers   2018 Lif Strand photo

Pretty yellow flowers 2018 Lif Strand photo

Fairy grass  2018 Lif Strand photo

Fairy grass**  2018 Lif Strand photo

And this:

Peaches nearly dried enough    2018 Lif Strand photo

Peaches nearly dry   2018 Lif Strand photo

Okay, I bet you’re a little confused.  Sure, the flowers are pretty and wowza, look how those peaches have come along. But what’s so miraculous about that? Show me the magic!

That’s just it, my friend. My magic isn’t out there, it’s in here. It’s not about me changing the outside — your reality or the reality of the plants or critters or the environment — it’s about me changing me. Why should I change your reality or anything else’s, anyway? That’s for each of you to do for yourselves, if you will. What you do doesn’t change my reality.

And that’s the miracle for me, that I internalized what had previously been words, mere logic, present only in the conscious mind. I not only made the concept mine, I made it me.  I changed my own reality.

I came to know that the magic is all around me because all around me is me.  It’s all my choice, to love what I have. Or not. My choice.

The miracle is that these things in my life — the flowers, the peaches, the sunsets, everything in my life — they don’t just give me pleasure, they are my pleasure.  They are not mine — separate from me — but rather are me.

You want magic? It turns out that to love what I have brings more of what I love. The magic is already there. The miracle is only in finally choosing it.

Proper expecting is not waiting for something in the future.  It is the experiencing of the miracles around me right now that paves the way for more miracles to come.  It is the understanding that the miracle is my choice.

Is it easy?  No.
Do I stay in the miracle zone all the time?  No.
Am I flippin’ crazy?  Maybe yes, maybe no.

So what. I’m happy.

Here.  Have a moon.

Moonrise on the cusp of Autumn 2018 Lif Strand photo

                   Moonrise on the cusp of Autumn                    2018 Lif Strand photo

 

 

 

* The book is currently out of print but available for Kindle
** Also, far as I know there’s no such thing as fairy grass.  But it looks like fairy grass to me.