Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Bridge Builder

~by Will Allen Dromgoole

A pilgrim, going a lone highway,
Came at evening, cold and gray,
To a chasm, deep and vast and wide.
The old man crossed in the twilight dim.
The chasm held no fears for him.
But he paused when he reached the other side
And built a bridge to span the tide.
"Old man," said a fellow pilgrim near,
"Why waste your time in building here?
Your journey ends with the close of day,
You never again will pass this way.
You've crossed the chasm deep and wide.
Why build ye here at eventide?"
The pilgrim raised his old grey head,
"My friend, in the path I've come," he said,
"There followeth after me today
A fair-haired youth who must pass this way.
The chasm which held no fear for me
To the fair-haired youth may a pitfall be.
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim.
My friend, I am building this bridge for him."

Today I navigated Kanan pass from the Ventura Highway to the Pacific Coast Highway, passing through canyons, past vineyards through three tunnels and lots of curves. After cresting the Santa Monica Mountains just past Backbone Trail, the ocean lay before me, her vista bared, in all her winter glory. This time of year, the ever-present marine layer is stripped away, revealing a startling, 160 degree view of the ocean.

This, by far, is my favorite route to the PCH.

I was sulking. And why not. I'm not immune and I certainly have it in me. I had just gotten off the phone after a conversation in which I was apparently the only conversant. The other party had not even done me the courtesy of listening to my side of the story. And I had rendered such  a passionate discourse. It had something to do with rebels.

Rebels come in all shapes and forms. Farley's Free Dictionary says to rebel is to dissent from an accepted moral code or convention of behaviour, dress, etc. I am a chiropractor by trade, but I choose not to wear a white coat in my practice. I also get to pick my hours and, because I don't like alarm clocks, I see my first patient at 10:00 a.m. I often, however, stay late for the after-work crowd. And work on Saturdays, for others. For this, I am a rebel. My work fits me.

An alternative definition for rebel is: to express opposition through action or words; "dissent to the laws of the country". And, another: to break with established customs. I am aware that my individual efforts, coupled with yours, will have a positive impact on our world. So I'm choosing to grow my own vegetables. This spring, I will do just that. That's one less bag of fertilizer, one less tree to make the bag, one less truck to get it to market, less gas consumed. I will pick it at the peak of perfection, plus have the pleasure of tending it and watching it grow.

In my opinion, rebels are not just insurgents, are not all organizing the overthrow of a country, a government, a regime. A rebel turns the spigot off while brushing his teeth, watches BBC because it's news and not commentary. A rebel reaches out her hand to her fellows because she can. Encourages. Cheers. Allows. Gives her time.

A rebel builds bridges. Even when the bridge is just a hand.

There are giants who walk among us. And giants tend to be rebels. Even when they don't think so.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Santa Angel Winds

It's 8:00 p.m. and this day has worn me down to a big ole' pile of mush. Normally, the Santa Ana winds don't bother me much. But there are times, like today, when they push me right up to my edge emotionally.

I decided to see just what's up with these winds, what causes them and why they play havoc on my serenity level. This is from the UC San Diego website:

"Any low-pressure system in the Pacific off the California coast may change the stability of the Great Basin High. The Great Basin High winds then turn southward along the eastern slopes of the Sierras. The low-pressure system over the Pacific literally sucks the winds through the mountain passes of Southern California toward the coastal areas."

Yep. That's exactly what it feels like. And while it's sucking the winds through these canyons I love, the winds suck the moisture out of everything. Including me. I drink lots of water. And try to ignore the low-level hum of my nerves, twanging like rusty banjo strings as the oaks rattle, the wind chimes sing and the gusts slam against my home.

It didn't help that my schedule changed. My full day at home getting more stuff done, narrowed precariously after two trips to the spa to see patients. Then, when I did sit down at the computer in the afternoon, some jerk had sent me a random hate email, presumably because I'm a chiropractor, or a natural healer, or whatever he thought.

I know, I know. Shake it off. It's not about me, it's about him. Yada, yada, yada. But come on...

Then, Calvin says another band is playing at Fresh & Fabulous on the 11th, so now I either have to change venues for my going-away party, or call Magda and see if there's any way we can get him on stage instead. Calvin and Sam, the Piano Man. It wouldn't be right to have my party without them.

If I'd looked in the mirror early this afternoon, I'm sure I would've seen a sane, calm woman. But what I felt like inside was a doe on the first day of doe season, not knowing where to run. I sat at my computer, hung up in emails and Facebook posts, when wise words talked me down from the edge. Sometimes it just takes a little outside intervention, thank you my kind friend, you know who you are.

There are angels among us, I see them every day. In pretty much every face I see. There is not one person in my life who's not an angel to at least one other person. More likely, to many. And that surely must include my friend, the Judge at Be kind. Rewind. Restraint of pen and tongue. Love one another. I hurt you, I hurt me, too. We are one. Forgive. Forget. Love.

Okay. I'm done.

Thanks for listening. And, thank you to all of my angels. Today and every day.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


As I said before, my decision to leave California was prompted by having been 'backed in to a corner' financially. This came across my mail today, and perfectly addresses that corner...and, elevates it from a place of pain to a place of import.

"In a corner
Somewhere in the Austin Airport
Sept 19, 2007

They’re everywhere. They’re
important. They give us a landmark for when it’s time
to turn. They give us something to shoot for and make a change. They give us somewhere
to go and hide. Let’s go around the corner and smoke a cigarette.
Sometimes they are dark. Dirty. You can’t always get the dust out of the back
on the hutch. Don’t worry, no one will see.
But they are also full of life. Life that isn’t always right in front of us. The
subtle, the hidden, the discreet. Off the beaten path. Corners are their own little
world, sometimes in the middle of the rest of the world. But when you go into the
corner, you feel like you’ve left the rest of the world
It was funny, coming from Houston where there was nothing but Continental aircraft
everywhere you looked. Then you fly into Austin and they have a corner at one end
of the terminal. All the way at the end. Tucked away in a corner.
Down on that same
end of the concourse was a little place called Lefty’s On 6th
Street. If you’ve never been to 6th Street in Austin, make a day or three of it.
It’s a street just off the center of town. Music. Lot’s of it. One of those corners
just off the center of town where everything is not quite so obvious. But you can
find it if you want.

But here in the airport, inside security across from the gates, sits a little corner
in Lefty’s where a young man sat strumming his guitar. I was struck by his voice
at first. I could almost imagine I was listening to Eric Clapton singing Delta
Blues. Then the strumming on the strings
turned to a furious slash and pick that
seemed like a blur. The sound leapt from the instrument and floated across to me.
Here was a man that knew what he was doing. Then he shifted gears and I was imagining
I was listening to Michael Hedges, playing something on a guitar tuned in a way
only Michael could do.

Here was a little piece of magic, tucked away in a corner. Not necessarily the
magic of a prodigy, but surely something for this modest little location, tucked
in a corner of the Austin airport.

Corners are the great frontier of the eclectic soul. The kind of place where you
go to find things that get you funny stares when you talk about them, or a knowing
nod from someone who has been there. Long lines, waiting times and pop culture
familiarity are not found in corners. That’s what makes them so attractive. Treasures
are found in corners; treasures that are valuable, perhaps, only to the adventurer
that makes the find. But the more I go, the more I glance from the road
in front of me and turn corners and find corners and have a cold beer in a corner,
the more bounty I find for my treasure room."

Published by permission from the author, Randy Jeffers

Saturday, November 21, 2009

About a Boy

It occurred to me at 3 in the morning, after waking way too early, that a good story must have more than goodbyes and a general thread of anxiety running through it to be interesting. This one is no different. You know that I'm leaving California, the land that I love. And that I am returning to Georgia, where I grew up.

What you don't know is this: there is a boy.

Or rather, a man. In my memory, we're 36 years younger, and he's 17. I have golfed only one time in my life, when I was 16. Over the years, when relating the story, I never thought about who I had been with. Or why there was no second date. I just remembered being awful at it. And not wanting to repeat the experience. I also remembered laughing hysterically at my amazing ability to swing and never hit the ball. Turns out, he was the unfortunate guy.

It is true that I'm going back to Georgia for economic reasons. I've been pushed in to a corner, financially, over the last three years. And that lately, push has become shove. I've pared my expenses down to the bone, got rid of the expensive car, office and so much more. Yet still, I struggle.

But, the real reason I'm leaving, the thing that makes leaving actually palatable, is the boy.We re-met on Facebook. Totally innocently, I might add. I sure wasn't looking for a heart connection.

When I saw his comment on someone else's post, I thought, "hmm, I remember that name." But not the man. Not even after looking at his pictures. I sent him a friend request anyway.

Once done, my subconscious mind began sifting though the "52 Years of Lost and Discarded Memories" file and the first memory that popped up was the infamous golf outting. When I tried to grab hold of the memory, to flesh it out, I got nada. Till I got home and he had confirmed our Facebook friendship with a message that simply said, "What are you doing on the West Coast? How can I take you golfing if you're all the way out there?"

Lightning bolt. Over the ensuing days of messages sent with increasing fervor and frequency, my subconscious ran nonstop. Even at night when I was trying to sleep it continued, churning, turning, searching for memories of this boy. Occasionally, it brought back fleeting ones. Isolated snatches of an impish, adorable face, very young. Later on, a little older, at the store where he worked, ignoring me. Not much more.

But I know, I feel, there was more. After all, there were eleven-plus years of football games, practice, parades, pep rallies, school hallways. Was my desk in Mrs. Lawson's first-grade class his, from the year before?

Amazingly, he remembers me. He is, in fact, a veritable repository of carefully-catalogued information, including, it seems, my missing memories.

He remembers our "date". And other times. He remembers me. And apparently saw me, at a time when I thought no one did. Or could. I was so busy getting out of Villa Rica, you see. It was too small, and I wanted the whole world. My big dreams seemed too big for one tiny town. (Then, there was the not-so-small voice of my mother saying "run, run away, as fast as you can!")

Why am I sharing this with you, my friends? Because I can no longer hold it inside. It colors everything that I think, do and say. And there's an honesty within me that will not be denied. Because I'm happy, and I want to share my happiness with you.

And because the world can always use another love story.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Drift Off to Dream

I'm tired. And don't really feel like blogging tonight.

So, I'm just here to say hello. And report that Vonder and I made significant headway with the furniture and schtuff today, the furniture's all tagged, paintings, pictures, mirrors, vases, lamps, plants, tables, knick knacks, etc, all with little price labels on them. Mine, with two little zeroes behind the dollar amount, Vonder's, without. We even labeled most of the stuff in the garage.

I feel heavy. More maybe, than just tired. I suppose cataloging one's things for impending sale could do that to a person. Especially one sensitive as I.

I'm selling my stuff. And letting go of a thousand tiny, little, invisible ties.

I'm leaving California much lighter than when I arrived.

Light enough to dance to the radio. Maybe even right up till dawn.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Yellow Wood

A thread of anxiety wound itself through my day today, twenty-eight days and counting...

It stirred up a bad case of shuffling-paperitis, which prevented me from finishing a thing. I did find out the going rate for shipping books. But box size, hell. I need visuals, or dimensions, and they're giving me a number: 108" combined length and distance at the widest point. Whaaat? I'm pretty mechanical but this one, hmmm. I still don't know how big a box I can use.

I managed to get a few small things done, then settled down to billing, mostly data entry. That simple task brought much-needed calm as productivity distracted the beast for a while.

Wednesday is my BNI meeting morning, which means I'm up, by alarm, at 5:00. I've been a member for 9 years, and once a week, for four of them, I've had breakfast with these particular guys. Like my patients, they are my California family. So, this morning, at 7:00 a.m., I said goodbye.

It occurs to me that some may look at my life and see it as a series of leavings, of goodbyes. I am keenly aware of every goodbye.

But what about the arrivals? When I leave, don't I always arrive at my next destination? Yes! Adventure requires a journey, and a journey, a beginning and an end. Seekers travel miles. Over years. For lifetimes.

I recently shared one ending with you, the end of my seeking. I expect to be sharing another one soon. So, stick around...

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference."*

Thank you to all my fellow travelers, poets one and all.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

29 Days and Counting...

The last two days have been pretty emotional. Yesterday I emailed the going-away notice to my patients and colleagues here in CA. Last night, this morning and even in to today, I've received many responses.

Every single one has been surprised and sad, yet understanding and supportive. As I said, times are tough. Hmm, this gives me a whole new perspective on the phrase "when the going gets tough, the tough get going". Thank you, to everyone who extended well wishes. I hope to see each and every one of you before I go.

The last two days were productive. I met with the estate sales lady, who will hopefully be including a few of my pieces in her sale this coming weekend. I made the decision to drive, and not fly. I figure if Bugsy has to spend four days in the car and hotels, he'll be so grateful when we get to Georgia and a real house, he'll be happy no matter where he lands!

I did promise Carolyn to bring tranquilizers, in case he decides to yeowl all the way. She said she'd probably be the one who'd need them. But, Vonder says if we fix him some hiding places in the back seat, he'll be happy. I think she's right.

Just so you know, I did try to blog last night, but kept getting kicked out by Blogger. I finally gave up. But I'm back tonight. And I plan on being here every night between now and December 16th.

See you tomorrow!
Pictured: Bugsy with strawberry juice on his face. "I love strawberries!" he says.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Homeward Bound

Change is in the air. Indecision has passed. And joy has taken over in my heart.

I've decided to move. Back to Georgia.

While the decision was sudden, the leading up to it wasn't. A year. Almost exactly. That's when the winds of change first whistled through the valley of my heart, blowing me home. A mini-meltdown in November, last year, resulted in a week at a timeshare in Solana Beach, where I relaxed, got grounded and began the long journey home.

In May, I was there. We went home, Cherry and I, to spread Mama's ashes at Lake Oconee. It took 2 1/2 years to be strong enough, emotionally. Just takes what it takes. Bill couldn't make it. Nor, Josh, who was in Army Advanced in VA, and is now in Korea, wrenching blawkhawks.

As much as I love California, as deep as my ties here go, my roots run deep in those red hills of Georgia, where I played and dreamt as a child. Thinking of going home feels warm now, and comfortable and right.

I wish I could explain the force that moves me from one coast to another, and now back again. Or why I listen and obey. But the journeyer now sets her sails for home.

I'm reminded of Paul Simon's Homeward Bound and search for it on the net.

The words, metaphorically speaking, fit, and the tune is haunting me home.

I'm going home. Back to Georgia.

~ Olivia J. herrell
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