stealing peaches

Today I spent $6.84 to send a card to my childhood bully.

A bear came into our yard this morning. His paws were wet and I knew he had been in the pond eating our goldfish.

The card was filled with sentiments that I don’t mean.

I’m sure he will be back in August to steal peaches from my peach trees.

Humans are so unnatural.

Sometimes I wish I were a bear who stole peaches and ate goldfish from the pond.

Happy Father’s Day.

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Sonnet Schmonnet

We had to write a sonnet for class.

 

Sonnets are so very old-fashioned, right?

William Shakespeare drilled them into my head.

Now to write one is my terrible plight.

God damn you, Wil, can’t you stay cold and dead?

 

Does anyone still wax on about love

with tired, old cliches of starry eyes,

the quick beating heart of a turtledove.

Seriously, can we just stop it, guys?

 

These are the old poems that we all learned,

ages ago in English class so dull.

Our teacher for a more captive group yearned

and yet these old rhymes remain in our skull.

 

Oh, Wil, the modern poets scorn sonnets,

my friend said to end with Easter bonnets.

An excerpt

I’m writing a poem inspired by an intense trip down memory lane the other night. A small sample…

 

Twisted sheets and aging angsty rockers

join me in my bed.

Billy croons, we’ll crucify the insincere tonight,

his nasal notes brush my ear

and bruise memories two decades old.

 

Eyes closing,

 

and I am standing

In the cream-colored hallway of my high school

my arms looped around my friend’s neck

laughing, the camera flashes,

arresting us in youth.

Black Payless Mary Janes and my favorite dress

ditsy beige roses growing on a field of maroon rayon

that fell low across my breasts,

Spilled down over my hips

Into a skirt that swam in the eddies of the hallway between classes.

Grave call

I sat in the chicken coop we were building, my cell phone in one gloved hand, the staple-gun in the other, sweat pouring down my face. It was my mother, colon cancer, it had metastasized to her liver. “Don’t worry,” she says, “I’m going to fight it.” I knew I was talking to a dead woman, it was her ghost on the other end of the line.

Chilly

I just finished the most energizing Body Scan meditation. I meditated in the solarium again, only this morning it was 5:30, dark, and the house was still cold. I put my throw quilt over myself to keep warm, but as I got into the meditation, I began to realize it wasn’t enough. A chill swept over me, not a shiver, just a chill. Just my body letting me know, “Hey there, our core temperature is a little on the cool side, maybe we could warm up?” Then a few moments later another came. At first, I tried to stay focused on the guide and where we were in the meditation, but then I realized I was missing the whole point of the body scan; to be aware of what’s happening in our body.

The next chill that swept through me I paid close attention to it, following from where it started and continuing as it spread. Wow! It was like billions of tiny points of ice blooming across the surface of my skin. I had a miniature blizzard inside me swirling around. Up to this point, I always associated this sensation with being negative. Not so my friends, not so. What a feeling, this tiny miraculous autonomous response to the cold air.

As each chill subsided, I would return my attention to wherever we were in the body scan. I began to notice correlations. For the most part, the chill would start in the center of my back and sweep up across and down my body, often ending in my scalp. The tingling was delicious! Interestingly though, it would generally gravitate from my back straight to whatever body part I was focusing on in mediation. What a trip! My mindfulness was directing my cold chills.

To anyone watching I was laying on the floor at 5:30 in the dark in a cold room covered by a thin quilt freezing my butt off. But no, peppermint snow storms blew across my skin for the entire meditation and it was invigorating. I am learning how very little we pay attention to these tiny miracles.

Albert Einstein said,

“There are only two ways to live your life: as though nothing is a miracle, or as though everything is a miracle.”

He’s right you know, take the time to find the tiny miracles. The fact that any of us are here at all is incredible, noticing these things is even more so.

What tiny miracles have you experienced recently, dear reader?

Have you ever paid attention to something you thought was unpleasant only to discovered that it’s not?

Leave a comment below with your own experiences and share this post with others who you think would enjoy it.

Tracey Lee Besemer? “Present!”

Do you remember in school when they would take attendance in the morning and the teacher would call your name? I always got a kick out of saying, “present” rather than “here.” I don’t know, I’ve always been a little old fashioned and I just liked how formal it sounded. These days I find myself looking for more ways to stay focused and present in every moment. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but we only get one ride on this big blue ball.

Enter MBSR or Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. This science-based form of meditation was developed in 1979 by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn. (https://www.umassmed.edu/cfm/mindfulness-based-programs/) It is a way of becoming more mindful, more aware of the present moment in a nonjudgmental way. I was directed to mindfulness by one of my favorite people gracing this planet. I’m not going to get into specifics here, but let’s just say if you are looking for a way to deal with daily stress, if you geek out over neuroscience like I do, or if you simply want to begin meditation without all of the religious and mystic fuss, do yourself a favor and Google it. I like to think of it as meditation for skeptics.

I am working through the fantastic video course, Palous Mindfulness, offered by Dave Potter. The course is split into 8 Weeks of preparatory videos and readings that go along with a weekly practice and an informal weekly practice. This is a wonderful program for those wishing to learn MBSR, but who are inhibited by financial or geographical constraints. Please, check it out, give it a try, and if you can donate.

I just finished Week 1 myself and did my preparation for Week 2 today. I have a little experience with meditation, but it was nothing I ever put much stock in. Yeah, it would be nice to meditate for 30 minutes a day, but really, who has the time? Well, I do. And so do you if you’re honest with yourself. We make time for things that are priorities, it’s as simple as that. Recently stress-reduction, better-health, and genuine happiness have all been priorities moving to the forefront of my life. What sold me on MBSR though was the research data that has come out of it and is still coming out. Neuroplasticity, yo! Google it!

This past week, Week 1, we practiced the Body Scan. Sounds pretty intense right? The point is to focus on each individual area of our body, including your breath bringing attention without judgment to what you notice. I have to say this drove me nuts. I was expecting some mind-altering experience. Instead, I found myself at 5:30 am, headphones on, tucked neatly under the covers and ready to just be done so I could read and have a cup of tea. Listening to Dave tell me to focus on my ankles I thought, “Wait, what? I have ankles? I mean, I know they are down there I can see them, but who cares? Why do I need to focus on them?” Try as I might there was nothing but dead space in that area where my ankles were supposed to be. It was frustrating, to say the least. The rest of my first Body Scan went much the same way. My mind kept wandering away and wishing it would be over already. By day four I was delirious when we focused on the shoulders because it meant I was almost done.

Sounds like fun, right? Not. Hear me out though.

I stuck with it, and it was uncomfortable and my mind wandered. A lot. But when I realized what was going on I gently dismissed the thought and got back to concentrating on whatever body part we were focused on. While there was no out of body experience, I did notice that my day went better and I started becoming more aware of lovely moments in my life that I was usually too busy to enjoy. Like standing on the street corner in the cool rain waiting for the pedestrian crossing light to change and feeling the damp, cold air on my cheeks and how bracing and wonderful the very air in my nose and throat was. Yeah…good stuff.

Enter today, my last day of Week 1. I decided to change it up today and lay on my rug in the solarium in the sunshine. The floor was hard and immediately I thought, “Oof, this isn’t going to work.” I could feel pressure points in my body already. I closed my eyes and pushed play anyway. At first, I was distracted by a pink light in front of my eyes and I could see the veins and dots in my eyelids. Gross, go away. But as I began to focus on my big toes the veins went away and the light became white.

I found, for the first time that I could connect with each part of my body. I have ankles! I focused wholly on them. I wasn’t antsy or in a hurry.  In fact, I had a few moments where I thought, “No Dave, slow down!” I was fully immersed even though there were parts of me that were growing stiff and sore, those parts quieted when I was focused elsewhere in my body. My boyfriend was in the kitchen (the next room) making breakfast and even his movements didn’t disturb me. A few times a Sheltie nose brushed my hand looking for pets, but even she didn’t bother me. (Don’t worry, she was pet a lot when I finished.) My mind still wandered, but as soon as I noticed I brought my focus back to my body, without an internal admonishment and kept going. I was disappointed when it was over. In fact, I might do it again later.

This mindfulness stuff isn’t half bad. Now if you will excuse me I am going to go make a fully aware cup of tea and sip it noting the way the coconut and vanilla flavors swirl around my mouth as I think of all of the things that helped get that tea to me.

Perfect toast with a side of pride

I love to cook. For me, cooking is meditation in motion. I get lost in the rhythm of chopping, slicing, stirring, tossing. It offers me the chance to slow down and decompress after a day of juggling faculty requests, visitors popping in and out of the office for various business and non-business needs. (I am a provider of chocolate and a listening ear when folks are having a rough day.) It’s my respite before I dive into my evening filled with homework and writing, or relaxing.

Cooking is also my way of showing love for the people that I care about. I want to feed you, my darlings! I want to fill you up with delicious and nourishing food stuffs! And I’m getting pretty good at it. I’m no culinary wonder, but I can put on a mouth-watering spread.

All of this has led to an unexpected development; rarely do I enjoy eating out anymore. For me, eating out is an experience, not a need to be fed. When I go out to eat, I want to taste something unusual, something that I can’t or would be hard-pressed to create at home. As my culinary strengths grow, this task is getting more expensive and harder to find. Steak? I have never had a steak in a restaurant that compares to the steak I can make with my sous-vide setup and my cast iron skillet. Pizza? Oh come on, everyone knows homemade pizza dough and fresh mozzarella beat anything that comes from your local pizza place. The list goes on. I often finish a meal and think, that was good, but I would have done this differently, or that was overdone, or whatever.

Think about it this way, the last time you got breakfast at a restaurant, how was the toast? Now, think about a piece of toast you made at home, toasted to the exact browness you like and slathered with as much or as little butter as you want. Perfect. In my desire to live more simply I am finding more comfort and satisfaction in the things I do with my own hands.

I still love to go out to eat, and I still have nights where ordering in is just more convenient. For the most part, I am learning that when I want a complete meal, as in one that comes with a side of satisfaction and pride, there’s no place like home.