Sunday, August 22, 2010

Air Traffic

Serving as Chief of Air Traffic Control in my yard, I am very busy this time of year. Air traffic is at an all-time high. This is not easy work, but I am dedicated to doing it with skill and without complaint.

First I must observe...and direct...the larger crafts (birds). Work must be done to ensure that their approaches, landings, and take-offs are without incident. Hazards need to be minimized, which may require posting hawk-shaped decals on window panes or moving fueling stations away from easy feline access.

Then I must think of the community concerns. If a hammock is in the area, I must monitor it to ensure that residents are not bombed or subjected to excessive noise. If a gathering occurs, I must be vigilant that guests are not having close encounters of an avian kind.

Once I take care of safety and comfort issues, I can focus on observation and that is the fun part of air traffic control in my yard. A few years back, I followed the advice of an Audubon Society speaker and planted a hummingbird island. Using native plants as much as possible, I put in lots of mallow and pentstemon, in brilliant girlie-hues of hot pink and violet. I also added white monarda to the bed, which already had good stands of blue cornflower and pale yellow columbine. The island sprawls just north of deep pink monarda, dogwood, coral and yellow honeysuckle, and three large butterfly bushes (including the gorgeous deep purple of "Black Knight"). Pale coral oriental poppies, Japanese spurge and pale pink Queen of the Prairie round out that bed. The two spots lure hummingbirds shamelessly.

The hummers come. I hear them often before seeing them. Sometimes one will plummet into the honeysuckle, stay a flash, and then lift off. Sometimes one will wander a bit through the aspen grove, its subtle green shape looking much like an aspen leaf. Sometimes a pair will race through the yard, dipping, chasing, soaring in a crazed duet. Sometimes, rarely, one will perch on a limb or a wire and take a micro-nap.

The air is filled this time of year with bees. My benign neglect of oregano and mint and sunflowers under the bird feeders brings hoardes of bees. What a joy to see golden buzzes of different sizes working the big yellow faces of six-foot tall sunflowers! What pleasure to hear the soft whirr of bee in the tiny orchid oregano blooms next to the sunroom! What satisfaction to see a huge bumble of black and gold among the columbine! Given the globe's bee problems, I'm pleased to be helping a tiny bit.

Most notable in my garden air this time of year are the fluttering ballerina butterflies, their ivory tutus dotted with dabs of charcoal. These sweet creatures kiss many of my plants, not just the open-faced ones like yarrow and buddleia, but the ruffled skirts of yellow hollyhock, the pale umbels of parsley and the cheery white goblins in my petunia bed. Sometimes these performers do solos and other times engage in synchorized gyrations that spin my head. I watched a quartet this week whirl, dive, pop, and glide in a dance of impressive length. What, I wondered, made them move as one?

Monitoring air traffic in my yard is one of my important chores in late summer. You can rest assured that I am going stay vigilant at my post (whether it's a hammock, swing, or futon), keeping watch on all my aerial visitors.

Saturday, August 14, 2010


I share an indulgence with my daughter: we are both massage junkies, skin pigs, she calls us. We like being touched, touched by a pro. I budget for massages, several a month, and have done so for a long time. My family physician approves, noting that he'd like all his patients to do so.

Jennifer, my wonderful therapist, does deep tissue work on me. Voted "Best" in our town, she earns the title. She's strong and tough and hurts me real good. Sometimes she'll say "Don't hate me" when working the knots out of my shoulders. When I leave her serene spot, I'm liquid. Sliding into the car, I try to get home without being picked up by the police, because I'm sure my nonchalance may appear to be signs of DUI.

Touch is incredibly important. I remember touching, ever so lightly, my husband as his cancer crashed over him. His skin was taut and tender, but he liked the soft strokes of lotion I'd put on his arms and legs. Sweet golden retriever Sadie would lick his arms non-stop: "Here. Let my touch make it all better." Sadie and I hoped our touch eased his pain.

Research shows that massage helps victims of cancer, AIDs, high blood pressure, migraines, stress, and many more maladies. Those who choose bodywork are selecting an important, maybe even sacred, calling.

As important as massages are, not all massages are fun. I recall an excrutiating one in a resort north of Puerto Vallarta, during a yoga retreat with my daughter. The therapist was a tiny, mysterious woman who whispered in my ear as she finished her work, "Listen you heart!" During her intense manipulation, I envisioned many persons in my life and sorted them into angel and devil categories. I put myself in the "diablo" set. When my massage was done, I went to the suite my daughter and I shared and cried, cried non-stop for a long, long time. Could not quit crying. Cried mostly about my husband's death, but cried for lots of other reasons too. Could not understand why that massage triggered such emotion. Oddly, the three persons who had massages that day were ill the following day. Ate the same food, drank the same beverages, et al, as everyone else, but were ill. I'm convinced the therapist was more shaman than masseuse and that we three had somehow been spiritually purged.

I used to see Julie, an amma therapist (practicing a form of Koren acupressure, I'm told). Sometimes when she was working on me, I'd launch into incredible visual treks. One session found me experiencing spring repeatedly as an emerging blossom on a fruit tree. Another saw me wandering calmly through acres and acres of red rock in the Four Corners. Julie transported me somehow with her fingers.

On a recent trip I followed my daughter's advice and sprung for a foot massage rather than a cocktail at the airport before boarding my flight. Oh my goodness, was that the right decision. The twenty-minute massage was heavenly. My flight was on-time and pleasant, but I don't think it would have mattered much to me had it not been either. My feet and I were in nirvana.

Whether I'm in an airport, at a Mexican resort, or at my therapist's calming site, I savor each opportunity for a massage, enjoying the blissful and healing connection with another creature. Blessed am I to be touched.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Letting Go

Every day I get a message from the Dalai Lama. He encourages me (and the thousands of others who follow him on Facebook) to let go of anger, to let go of attachment, and to hold on to compassion and kindness. His words have guided me for years. I sometimes wear a white silk scarf I was given at a luncheon where he spoke. A person's wearing such a scarf signals that she comes with good intentions. I like that scarf and wear it on special occasions.

The Dalai Lama helps me nurture compassion and kindness. Recently I've had an opportunity to test these traits in response to behaviors of a very unhappy person. My initial response to these behaviors was to cry, to solicit support from those I love and trust, and then to get angry, really, really angry. The attack was, in my mind, unprovoked and mean-spirited. I clung to my anger for a day or so. Then, after reading a message from the Dalai Lama, I went for a walk.

I walked through a haunting memorial to Anne Frank. I meandered along the water feature, studying quotes from inspirational persons all over the globe, from victims of oppression on this continent, Europe, Asia, and South America. I studied the bronze sculpture of Frank, a likeness captured as a lean teenager peering out a window. I was truly awestruck by her comment that, in spite of everything, she thought people were basically good.

How could she practice such compassion? How could she let go of anger, given the horrors of the Holocaust that she witnessed daily? How could I stay angry, when my wound was so slight?

My steps took on new energy as I left the Anne Frank memorial. It was really possible for me to let go of this anger. It was really possible for me to move on to a realm where scowls and tears were replaced by grins and laughter. And so I did. Even this week, when another snotty message was shot my way, I let it go. Processed it, then let it go.

Each moment I'm unhappy is a moment I could have spent being happy. Each frown I wear is an expression I could have turned around.

My daily messages from the Dalai Lama, my walk through the Anne Frank memorial are special blessings in my life. They help me practice kindness and compassion. They help me with the very important task of letting go.