Saturday, October 14, 2006

Taking the Time

My mother recently commented that I am an old soul. It's not the first time I've heard that. From the time a was a toddler, I idolized my great grandmother, begged to spend summers working in the garden with my grandpa and hung out with my older brother's friends. People used to tease that I was the eldest sibling, even though my brother was three years older.

There's something about people who have lived for a long time that makes me want to stop time and just soak in their reflections on it all. I also love to see the spark of youth in their eyes. They have an aura of youthfulness and appreciation for every moment. They don't take life, or people, for granted. I am drawn to people with these characteristics, which makes for an interesting demographic of friends.

In my work, I have been an organizer, a facilitator and an enabler. I have encouraged younger folks to take the time to learn from their elders and for elders to open themselves up to the world of youngsters. Most of this has been through storytelling and music. Now that I am at the threshold, pausing in the doorway before I depart, I am finding that I never gave myself much time to sit at the feet of these elders I have cherished. I have come to know them as friends and spent many hours just talking, listening and bringing people to hear their stories and songs. I have brought them students and sat beside them while they shared their treasures. Often, I was behind a camera, capturing it all. Looking back, I realize how much I have given to those I brought to the feet of the elders. And how I never even thought to step forward and give myself the time to become one of their students.

That is now about to change. Two nights ago, one of my favorite elders, Lee Sexton, told me that he has set his mind on learning me the old timey drop-thumb banjo tunes that he used to play. Now this is a big deal, because Lee Boy has not been playing his drop-thumb for a couple of years now, due to a nasty run-in between his thumb and a raccoon. But he's determined he's going to show me those old tunes, and I'm determined I'm going to learn them. I must admit, I'm a bit dumb-founded that one of the greatest banjo players I know is seeking me out for a student and re-learning what must now be a painful style so that he can teach me.

I feel I am coming to a new phase in my life. I'm going to put my caretaking hat on the hook for awhile and focus on uncovering opportunities for myself. And I'm going to start by going over to Lee Boy's house tomorrow for my first banjo lesson!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

the gashlycrumb ladybugs

every year about this time, when the lady bugs sense the first frost is on the way, they start trailing into my house. much like i'd imagine the wagon trains headed west. all the family members, friends, neighbors, strangers, and perhaps even the enemies eventually end up inside. and they mean to stay... at least until they die or spring rolls around.

they linger on the ceiling, in the windowsills, on the walls and take strolls across any surface they choose.

most of them die. some get batted down and swallowed by cats. some fry themselves on light bulbs. others drown in a night stand water glass. then there are those that get squashed by paw, foot. or worse: steamrolled by cat, dog or person turning in their sleep. there are those who die the long slow death, their tradmark red polka-dotted shells turning to dull rust and finally a yellowish brown.

lady bugs don't taste good when you swallow one late at night in your water glass. even if you manage to get the sucker out before you take a sip, the water still tastes sour.

edward gory should have done a book about how all the tinny lady bugs come inside our houses to die in our company.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

selfish, selfless?

i've been thinking a lot lately about how it has become the cultural norm to be selfish. at least to a degree. personal happiness and well-being are what we are supposed to seek above all else. what troubles me about this way of thinking is that it isolates us all from each other. what's good for you may not be what's best for the people you love, your neighbors, your whole community. hell, look at the bush family. they are doing quite well for themselves... at the expense of millions, billions of other people. they sure do seem to be enjoying themselves, though.

when i think about the sacrifices that my parents and grandparents made so that i could have a good life... well, it just doesn't add up that every choice i make should be about what makes ME happy. sometimes you've got to put others well-being ahead of your own. how do you know when to make sacrifices and when to step up and demand something for yourself?

i think that for most of my life, i have been an enabler. i like to help and encourage other people to find their happiness. but i often don't take care of my own needs. i'm not really sure that i know how. i love connecting people with each other, growing to love a certain few... but i hate the potential i hold within myself to hurt the people in my life. it terrifies me.

i wonder if happiness is really something a person can seek? shouldn't it just happen?