Monday, June 30, 2014

Desperately Seeking a Sunrise

Sunrise pictures are courtesy of a fellow seeker...this one is from Nightmare Range...great name!
Sunrise Part  

It was the late 80’s and four teenage girls were cramming for their exam in Humanities.  Or maybe Chemistry. At 2am, fueled by soda and Reeses peanut butter cups, someone got the bright idea to drive to the coast and watch the sunrise. They would be back in time to take their test! 
No point in trying to sleep as they were already up so late. No one seemed concerned that Ocean Shores was a two-hour drive each way or that it was dark and no one had slept. These are the sort of adventures that happen when high school seniors live in their own apartment, far away from parental common sense.

I imagine they listened to Duran Duran, Echo and The Bunnymen or maybe some Psychedelic Furs as they chattered their way west in a bright yellow Volkswagen bug that smelled slightly of gasoline. The beauty, and environmental horror, of Ocean Shores was (and still is) that a car could drive right out onto the beach.  The girls parked a safe distance from the surf, in the dark, and fell asleep. One of the twins woke first and roused the rest from their slumber, “Wake up; it’s starting to get light!”

Four sets of bleary eyes…likely just four single eyes with their counterparts concealed by big 80’s bangs full of AquaNet…stared straight ahead at the white-capped, murky, cold Pacific surf. Waiting. Watching. For their sunrise. As it slowly brightened around them, someone had a realization. The sun was in fact rising. Behind them.  You see, the girls lived on the West Coast, which makes for lovely sunsets, but no brilliant light would rise up out of the water on this morning for these girls. They drove back home, trying their best to keep the driver alert. They laughed it off later. And still do. The silliness of youth…unable to find a sunrise, but hell bent on trying!
Of course Just Only Judy was one of the fearless foursome. It seems I still struggle with sunrises.
This one is so lovely it almost makes me want to try again...

Sunrise Part II

For much of this year I drove my teenager to school each morning, upholding my end of the agreement for his good grades.  It’s only a mile and a half from the house, but there are limited sidewalks and some mornings are dark or rainy. I worry about sleepy teenage drivers. And bears. 

My alarm goes off at 6:30 am and I lie in bed, listen to the shower, and wonder, “Whose child is this?”  The one that gets up at 6:00am and likes to be driven to school so that he can be there 30 minutes before class actually starts.  The child who hates his mother’s tendency to run late. Or at my best- right on time!  Somewhere in my wondering I fall back asleep and am awakened by the sound of 170 pounds of boy, as he walks about the house to gather his homework from the night before.  I stagger to the kitchen and make his lunch. This last bit is a relic of days gone by…when he was a small boy and needed me to pack his lunch, or maybe even make him a pancake in the shape of an H, for Hunter. 

Every day I have driven directly back home and fought the urge to return to bed. I generally succeed with the help of coffee or Irish Breakfast tea- brewed strong- and a little time with my Happy Lite. I am not a morning person and never have been! I have been known to bang on my window to discourage songbirds that have taken up residence in my rhododendron. One particularly sleep-deprived morning I went so far as to go out front in my pink pajama pants and throw a basketball at the bush.

But I’m getting older and it seems to me that old-er people like to get up early. At this seemingly halfway point between old and young, at the age of 44, I try to test my boundaries; to continue to learn, experiment, discover. It was with that spirit that I decided to chase a sunrise one morning this past March. After days of gray sky and rain, Hunter pointed out the orange sherbet sky during our morning commute.  “Yes, I just noticed that!” I said. 
“Why don’t you drive to the ocean?”  He quipped, in reference to the story from my younger days.  I laughed, inhaled deeply and smiled. Three things that I don’t generally do in the morning.

After I dropped off the witty boy, I headed downhill to the harbor, where I knew there was a drive-up coffee stand.  I don’t like to do drive-thru’s and pollute the air unnecessarily, but there was the issue of the pink pajama pants.  While I waited for my mocha, the teenage-looking barista chatted with her co-worker about her upcoming 10th wedding anniversary. I had at first thought it odd she wasn’t in school and then thought it very odd that she had gotten married at the age of 6, but it seemed best not to ask. 
My plan had been to park along the harbor, sip my mocha and watch the sunrise. I felt certain that an epiphany, a spark of crone wisdom, would strike. But as I pulled away from the coffee stand I saw only a gray, slightly lilac sky. Hmmm….I turned left, looking for orange sherbet. Alas, the same gray. 

“Perhaps if I head back up the hill…” I thought.  I made another left and began my ascent away from the water. There were too many tall trees. Just as I had given up hope, I crested the hill and there was the orange and now vibrant pink sunrise! In my rearview mirror. Crap. It was now slightly behind me and to the left.  This confused me because another left would pretty much equal a circle. My mocha was in danger of getting cold and the driver behind me seemed in a terrible hurry. I gave my side mirror one last glance and a sigh, changed the radio station from Soundgarden to classical piano, and headed home. I had to go pee. But I was comforted by the fact that I must not be old after all, if I still could not catch a sunrise.

Surely an epiphany lies over that mountain? Thanks for the pics T.O.

Sunrise Part III

For the past three months the “Sunrise” post has sat in a file on my computer. I could not finish it. The clocks changed three days after I wrote it and I would have no more 7am sunrises for this school year.  I sensed a ‘lesson’ in the sunrise, but the spark of crone wisdom; the epiphany that I was looking for remained as elusive as the sunrise itself.  Until tonight.

Eight years ago I took a wonderful discussion course on Voluntary Simplicity. You can read more about it, and similar courses, at The Northwest Earth Institute website. I recently participated again, with the hopes of getting a re-boot on how to simplify my life, particularly my time. The course books are comprised of excerpts from books, magazines, etc. While many articles had been updated over the years, there were some that remained. One is called “Washing the Dishes” by Thich Nhat Hanh. The piece is taken from the book “Present Moment, Wonderful Moment”. Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese Zen Buddhist Monk and one of the best known Buddhist teachers in the West. The article did not appeal to me 8 years ago with lines like, “The dishes themselves and the fact that I am here washing them are miracles!” This is probably why I am not a Buddhist monk. I dislike washing dishes nearly as much as I dislike mornings. I would rather scrub a toilet than chisel dried chili from the bottom of a pot.

The lesson is one of mindfulness. And one of finding the sacred in the profane.  He reminds us that, “the time of dishwashing is as important as the time of meditation. That is why everyday mind is called the Buddha’s mind.” While I appreciate mindfulness and at least understood the lesson this time around, I could not fathom of dishwashing as a time that I would want to practice mindfulness, or meditation, or anything remotely positive.

But somehow I found myself thinking about this eloquently simple teacher tonight and decided to give it a try. I carefully washed the “Geeks who Drink” glasses and the BPA-free water bottles. As I scraped the bottom of the rice cooker I thought about my medical appointment earlier today. And my appointment last week. And the four that I need to schedule. As my MS takes a slow turn I am mostly just along for the ride.  For many months I have been fearful, frustrated and in pain a good bit of the time.  My fatigue is high, my mood is low. I continue to try to accommodate this chameleon of a disease and to do things that bring me moments of joy. But always there is a shadow hovering behind me. Others cannot necessarily see it, but I know it is there. The shadow reminds me of what I can no longer do as easily, or at all. This blog is one example. Sometimes I cannot write for lack of motivation, but more often it is for lack of ability. At the end of a work day typing is no longer an option.

As I rinsed the rice pot and started on the silverware I had a thought. There is no flash of brilliance waiting in the sunrise and no epiphany in the rice cooker. Just the moments. But the force behind each moment, this is me…I am in control of this ride. There is something in the fact that I choose to chase a sunrise now and then; something in the fact that I continue to test my boundaries even as MS re-draws the lines. I am willing to look; for answers, for solutions, for accommodations to my dis-abilities. I may not find them, but I am hell bent on trying.

I am blessed to still count my three fellow sunrise chasers as friends. 
We have all faced adversity in our lives and each has found a way to face these disappointments with the same adventurous spirit that we had so many years ago. It is simply in the moments of seeking…not in the answers…that I gain strength and courage.With this thought I find my comfort and for the first time in almost a year I feel the shadow retreat. I know that I will be okay. 

I feel like Grover in “There’s a Monster at the end of this Book!”  Aw…there’s no monster...nor spark of crone wisdom…there is just only me. Loveable, Just Only Judy!