Friday, January 19, 2018

FULL DISCLOSURE AND WHY I WAS AFRAID TO MEDITATE




I come to this blog today to write about a pained time in my life that I eventually remedied. This is not an easy story to share. And yet I do so because I find increasingly that these deeply embedded stories are the ones I yearn to share, and to hear from others.  So many of us have stories like this, secret words and thoughts we hold captive. I find that telling these stories, in particular, is one way to combat the social isolation we feel in these modern times. Bringing our deeply held stories into the light of others' illuminates the human condition and brings us into intimacy and trust with one other. We share experiences. We find we are not alone.  

My story surrounds fear, specifically a fear of meditation that begins with a friend who I knew when I was 16, who took too many hallucinogens and ended up in a psychotic state in a mental institution for a year.  Walt's story shook me up at a time in my life when I was beginning to question such things as infinity, the nature of mortality, how our minds work. 

Soon after that, partying with friends one night, I took a strong hallucinogenic called MDA, akin to Ecstasy, both classified as psychedelic stimulants. I was in my boyfriend’s basement bedroom with friends listening to Jethro Tull and Traffic -- which I can't hear to this day without triggering panicky feelings -- when I began having scary hallucinations; my sister’s head had come off her body and was floating around the room like a ghost, her long, dark hair trailing behind her. 

My boyfriend could see I was panicking and suggested we go to the store to get out of the room and distract ourselves. When I tried to walk,  the ground looked like broken bricks, and I couldn’t steady myself. Attempting to cross the family room from one side to the other, I still don’t know if it took an eternity or if it was 30 seconds. I felt I had dropped into the vast reaches of my mind that had no end nor beginning.

I didn’t go to the store, but went back to the room with my boyfriend, who stayed by my side helping me calm myself, which I eventually did. 

But the next day, I woke seeing trails on lights and feeling panicky. I thought I was still tripping and that I would never stop, that I would end up like my friend Walt. I didn’t tell anybody because I was afraid that I had done something to myself. The trails eventually disappeared, but I began, and continued for months after, to have full-blown panic attacks. I'd never experienced such a thing before, and thought I had done something to my brain. I was too afraid to tell anybody, which of course is what was causing the panic. I eventually tried: One day, some months later, I took a deep breath and braved to try to tell my mother by asking her a question about the nature of the mind; I was a tender 16, after all, and needing to talk about such things even if I'd not had a bad drug experience. Alas, the single mother of four daughters, who herself was anxiety-prone, my mother was often ill-equipped to respond appropriately to the musings of her teen-aged daughters. “Mama, do you ever want to take a break from your head?” I asked, holding my breath for her answer. “No!” she said, and that was that. She was 34 years old when I was 16. 

To my credit, I never took hallucinatory drugs again after that and stopped smoking pot with my friends, despite the social norms of my group. This further isolated me and made me feel even more like something was wrong with me, which dug me in further with fear.

But I held my story and my fears inside myself. In fact, I could never bring myself to tell anyone what happened until almost 25 years after the incident, when I found the courage to tell a friend who is a doctor and then some time after that, a therapist. It was clear to both of them that the amount of the drug I took was not enough to have irreparably harmed me. What I was describing was a dissociative experience wrought of panic, wrought of the overwhelming effects of the drug, coupled with knowledge of my friend’s experience. There are some people who should never take hallucinatory drugs. People who are anxiety-prone are among them.

I felt a great relief after that. TELL PEOPLE YOUR STORIES. But the residual fears that had built over the years had yet to be faced and understood. My experience left me afraid of the dark recesses of my mind. I was often afraid to be alone, especially in the dark. I was afraid if I thought too deeply, that I would disappear and never come back.
Matt, guest teacher, teaching yoga in Kent

It would be another decade, after my friend's son decided to become a Buddhist monk, before I would begin to move methodically into these fears instead of away from them, like the sages tell us to do when we are afraid.  Matt was teaching a meditation course via Skype for eight weeks. I liked Matt and know his decision to become a monk came out of his own fear. He’d openly shared with me that as a teen-ager he'd had debilitating death anxiety. He thought that becoming a monk might help him. I knew that he would understand fear, and so I decided to study with him and in doing so, to tell my truth. 

Matt reassured me that fear of our own minds is not uncommon. COMMON HUMANITY. Psychologists use the term "pure mind" to describe people who are afraid of their thoughts, who want to control them, who believe they can keep themselves from thinking about anything bad or uncomfortable. Hearing this was in and of itself a relief, and I began to work toward my fears by approaching my mind, by meditating, 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 20 minutes and by talking about my meditation experiences with Matt and my therapist. Eventually, slowly, gradually, I realized I was meditating, indeed sitting with the deep recesses of my mind, and nothing bad was happening. I was experiencing only calm. and restoration. The darkness was abating because I was bringing it into the light. MOVE INTO FEAR.

I have meditated off and on since then and with renewed vigor of late, as I have been making physical and metaphysical changes in my house. I developed a space in my living room near a big window that lends itself to calm, quiet and intimacy. At the same time, I found beautiful meditation pillows at the local Farmer’s Market and a little book in the checkout lane at Earth Fare that has been helping me. "How to Meditate," Buddhist Practices for your Heart and Mind"  is a great entry point for the beginner and full of reminders for the seasoned practitioner.

My new meditation space
I have been meditating now this last stretch for about a week,  just 10 minutes at a time, and sometimes 20. My friends who’ve not meditated tell me they could never get their minds to stay still for that long. But that's not the point, I know now. The point is to be still with whatever our minds are doing, to make friends with our human, fallible minds. I am grateful as I write now -- for the experiences that have made me, grateful for the space, for the people who made the pillows, for Matt, for increasingly finding a friend in integration, mind, body, spirit together. It all makes me, me. Finally, all together.

Thank you for listening and reading.

Monday, May 8, 2017

NEW ORLEANS JAZZ FEST WRAPUP 2017

~~~~~~~~~~~
Trombone Shorty, King of Jazz Fest this year,
re-inventing New Orleans music with his combining jazz, R and B, soul and funk.

Not only a musician extraordinaire and a great bandleader, 
but a communitarian and ambassador for the city.

And the 2017 DLJF awards go to: BEST CONCERT: Stevie Wonder. Such the ambassador of love, such the performer, so good at getting people smiling, praying, thinking, singing and on their feet. SECOND BEST: E W and Fire. So many favorites! Such performers! Everybody up for this whole concert too. FUNKIEST CONCERT: What is hip, and don't we know it's Tower of Power. BEST SURPRISE: NOLA Diva Wanda Rouzan (with our own Charles Moore on bass and groupie me back stage!!) who tore up the Blues Tent. HAPPIEST ENERGY: Gospel Tent on Sunday morning with the Zion Harmonizers and once again our own Charlie on bass. Stomp your feet, clap your hands happy joy. The tent was rocking almost!  BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: Lake Street Dive. Love this band, but I think they show much better in a smaller venue. HAPPINESS FACTOR: Weather. Temps in the 70s Thurs, Fri, and Sat. Sunday only 82. And unheard of low humidity! We were actually cold a couple of times. PERSONAL JOY: I survived with only one camera and going to only one of the weekends instead of two



Rockin the Gospel Tent with the Zion Harmonizers
Partying with Stevie


.
For some perspective: In the 1970s when the JF first started, tickets were $3. You could drive your car onto the fairgrounds, and performers were mostly local musicians. These days, tickets are $80, Jazz Fest brings in $300 million to the city every year. The fest is rivaled as a tourist attraction in NOLA only by Mardi Gras, and it attracts not only local musicians but the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Snoop Dogg, Tom Petty, Stevie Wonder, Elton John, U2, Jimmy Buffett, Rod Stewart. 

Named festival of the year four times, JF offers every kind of music possible. And yet it is more than a music fest; it also features Louisiana culture and history, bringing live demonstrations of cooking and folk craft. It is an arts fest as craft and art vendors bring clothing, jewelry, instruments and art. It is a style fest as photos seen below can attest. It is a festival of food -- wow, crawfish bread and shrimp bread and alligator po-boys, jambalaya and seafood gumbo and pecan catfish meuniere, seafood merliton, mango ice, fried chicken, fried green tomatoes, artichoke casserole, the list goes on and on and on and includes more and more vegan and vegetarian options like spring rolls with tofu, plantains and jama jama (spinach). Seventy vendors in all. 


Crawfish monica

As for my own personal history, my first Jazz Fest was in 1973. I remember seeing Bonnie Raitt, skinny as a rail, playing slide guitar. Over the years, after I left New Orleans and began growing my own family, I was able to get to the Jazz Fest only sporadically. During recent years, beginning in 2004, meanwhile, I started making it a mission to come every year. Those first years, I left elaborate handouts for sitters and my husband to make sure my children, 7, 12 and 16 were cared for in my absence. I'd come back heavy laden with spoon rests, Charles Moore CDs and playing cards for all the people who helped. So far since then, I haven’t missed a festival. kow. My children are old enough these days to make their own PB & Js. As of this year, I can say I’ve come 14 years in a  row, most of the time both weekends.

We come for the music. We come for the culture. This festival, like I imagine no other, oozes culture and place. Musicians love coming to this city to perform, because this is New Orleans, where jazz was born, and the audience expects a good party, with good music. There is also an international feeling throughout the fest, just like the city itself. Music comes from all over the world, as do vendors and visitors. There is always a nation represented, celebrated and highlighted. This year it was Cuba.

Blues Tent with Wanda Rouzan

Even the weather is signature NOLA. But hold the  umbrella, the fest has its own elaborate pumping system for getting water off the grounds when it rains, and believe you me, it rains in New Orleans. This year, on the Wed. before the first day of the second weekend, we got five inches. It was still raining Thursday at 10:30 a.m. just before the gates were to open at 11. Sister Sue and I expected major mud and went to two different places looking for rain boots. But the fest has got this down: By the time we got to the fairgrounds, water that we later heard was knee-deep in places had been pumped into a nearby pond. Straw and sand had been laid. Et voila, there was not nearly the mud we've seen in later years, not nearly the smell of manure like that one year when they made the mistake of spreading hay from the horse barns (note aforementioned). Temperatures and humidity soaring past 90 in both cases cooked the hay, which they didn't think to consider, had horse waste in it. The smell was enough to send some people home rather than stumble around in mud and manure six inches deep and more. 

More Gospel Tent again: One of my favorite places to be. No greater,
 collective happier energy anywhere on the planet that I can see.


 This year, as aforementioned, I made a few major changes in my festival-going behavior: 1. I did only the 2nd weekend whereas in the past I've done both. 2. I brought only one duffel bag of Jazz Fest outfits instead of the usual two. 3. I bought only one camera instead of the usual two camera and lenses, including my heavy long one. 4. I booked one-way tickets to NOLA and one-way tickets back. 5. My sis and I also paid for primo parking, which means close to the gate,  instead of a mile away. The $40 per day, split in half, wasn't all that bad.


































There were disadvantages to this. I barely got my Jazz Fest legs and it was time to go back home. I didn't get to see Leon Bridges and other people I'd like to have seen the first weekend. The most major downside was only having one camera and not my long lens; I didn't get the concert closeups I like to get.

However and still, I found myself happier without so many cameras to carry and with parking so close. It was easier to decide when to come and when to leave with one-way tickets. (Airlines are doing crazy things these days; wasn’t much more expensive or hard to pull off. I booked tickets the night before in both cases for around $210, not counting luggage, each way.)  Instead of a backpack full of stuff, I carried a little purse, one camera and a chair. 

Everything was so much better. I still took a lot of photos. But I relaxed more. I didn't feel the need to run between stages so much. I also, finally, learned to put on the sunscreen before going in so I don't have to carry it in with me, to hydrate before I even walk in the place, to keep a large rose mint tea going the whole time and to bring toilet paper in my little purse for when the port-a-potties run out, which they inevitably do. (Special side note: I took note of the best way to smuggle in alcohol: breast milk pouches hidden in the unmentionables. See below.)



Meanwhile for now, I'm always, always, always glad I came, and this year, I am especially glad I came the way I did, a little lighter, a little more flush with fluid and a lot less expectant of myself. My legs and feet aren't killing like they usually as I trudge my way through the airport and to home.  Less cumbersome, less work, makes more energy for more fun. Party on, greatest city in the U.S.

Cops and staff were extra happy this year.
Weather was nice.Music was good, including Earth, Wind and Fire,
where this woman (above) got to dance on a bridge
even though the men in green usually keep people off, 
and where this couple (below) got to fall in love again.






Love how street parties continue after Jazz Fest each day.
This is To Be Continued Brass Band, a group
of kids from a local high school who wanted
to not be a statistic and began to do music together
Vendor
At Widespread Panic at Acura Stage























Cajun stage, Fais-Do-Do, on that rainy Thursday. You can see a little wet, 
but not anything like last year when the field was ankle-deep in mud and manure.







Stylin





Post-Stevie after-glow

My traveling companion

Me

Monday, December 28, 2015

The ache of nostalgia

By Debra-Lynn B. Hook
Bringing Up Mommy
Special to McClatchy-Tribune News Service

As Christmas moves back into storage bins and my grown children move back into their respective time zones, as people begin to work on New Year’s resolutions and December hubbub becomes January quiet, I find myself remembering a moment of clarity on Christmas Eve.

Gathered with my family in a small darkened church lit only by the candles in our hands, our voices raised in the stark beauty of “Silent Night,” I found myself yet longing — for Christmas past, when my children were young and Santa-crazed, their little fingers wrapped around wobbly candles, their sugarplum bodies close to mine.

I thought of pre-school concerts and rows of excited children singing in their high soprano voices “Jingle Bells” and “Deck the Halls” and always the last song, “Silent Night,” which made the mommies — and sometimes the daddies — cry.

I even wandered into nostalgia for the year just past, when my youngest child was yet in high school, singing beside me at church with his arm around my waist, and I was decidedly still a mother with babes at home.

I found myself aching for these profoundly beautiful moments.

But then I realized: If these moments are so painfully beautiful in retrospect, won’t this moment be one day, too?  Won’t I one day, when the children are off with their own families, long for this moment, too? Which means, isn’t this moment beautiful now? Which means — is it possible what the sages say — that every moment is, and can be, beautiful, not only in the memory, but in the living of it?

This enlightened concept of “living in the moment” has become almost overdone in our time — compressed into words on pillows and calendars, emblazoned on our chaotic brains like branding on cattle. But to discover this concept for oneself is different, I told myself that night.  To experience it in the magic and mystery of Christmas Eve is to grasp what the great wisdom traditions try so desperately to have us hear. 

For the rest of Christmas, and beyond, I determined to stay firmly planted in “this moment.”

Instead of longing for Christmas past when my children played with their toys while I made sticky buns in the kitchen for breakfast — I told myself “This is good, too, right here, right now” as the five of us adults in Santa aprons danced to my husband’s favorite Jimmy Buffett Christmas album while cooking breakfast together.

Instead of recalling years gone by, when I was the self-satisfied queen of Christmas, looking on while my young children opened the dozens of presents I’d chosen and wrapped, I determined to see beauty in our new grown-up traditions, as we five adults opened thoughtful gifts each gave the other this year.

Gathered for our annual Christmas dinner with friends, I looked around the table at our six collective children, all grown now, and, instead of longing for the reindeer sweaters they used to wear, I marveled at the stunning adults they had become.

But of course, there is always a second lesson behind the first. 

Despite my willingness to find ultimate joy in the moments of a more adult Christmas, my mind continued to wander again at times, into wishes of Christmas past when my children were always going to be here, and fears of Christmas future when they might not be here at all.

I was disappointed to realize I had not fully adapted — until, on the Sunday after Christmas, I came across the forgiving words of author Jeffrey Lockwood in his book of meditations, “A Guest of the World.” 

Lockwood, writing about personal peace and the “hard work of life,” says it is both the blessing and the curse of humanity that such work is never done.

“It’s a curse in that there is no utopian culmination of our labors, a blessing in that we will always have meaningful work,” Lockwood writes. “We forget that virtue lies in the doing of good works, not in the completing of our task.”

And so it is, that I learned this Christmas what it means to do the good work of not endlessly reaching for the past, but seeking joy as best I can in every new moment.

I also learned, just as importantly, that I may not always get there. 

I imagine, for example, I will always tear up at the sight of red velvet Christmas dresses, girls’ size 3T.


--Journalist Debra-Lynn B. Hook of Kent, Ohio, has been writing about family life since 1988 when she was pregnant with the first of her three children. Her blog is http://debralynnhook.blogspot.com/.Her web site is www.debralynnhook.com. E-mails are welcome at dlbhook@yahoo.com.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Christmas I denied my son divine connection

Bringing Up Mommy
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
First published 2008

"Don't play the martyr" and other lessons of Christmas




                                                      
  


Bringing Up Mommy newspaper column
Syndicated by McClatchy-Tribune News Service
First published 2011

Every Christmas, I learn a few lessons the hard way.

There was the year my baby swallowed a poisonous yew berry – which he eventually, blessedly, passed intact, but only after much hysteria from his mother. 

Lesson: Don’t let baby crawl around on the floor while you’re making the holiday wreath. Better yet: Buy a wreath for $10 at the Christmas-tree farm, thus conserving your time and emotional energy for the important have-tos of Christmas, like tending your children.

There was the year I made Christmas pillows for everybody in the family. By the time I got to my pillow, I didn’t have enough stuffing. Now, every year at Christmas, the sight of the pitiful understuffed half-pillow becomes a point of reflection on Mom’s low self-esteem. 

Lesson: Don’t play the martyr at Christmas. It will always backfire on you.

There was the year I told my mother I was cutting back on the many overwhelming traditions of Christmas. This was an announcement she applauded, since she never figured out how to scale back herself. She lauded my decision, that is until I told her that part of my cutback included not making her favorite Christmas candy.  

Lesson: Avoid making your mother cry at Christmas.

Now, here we are at the beginning of a new year. As thoughts turn forward toward the next 12 months, I also look back at the holiday just passed, an intensely meaningful, intensely busy season full of peace and joy, but also regrets, mishaps and mistakes.  Here they are, then, the lessons of Christmas, learned the hard way:

1. Tie the Christmas tree to the wall. No matter how ergonomically correct your tree stand claims to be, trees aren’t really meant for standing unrooted in  houses for long periods of time.

2. After the tree  falls down, check immediately for wet and otherwise damaged presents under the tree. He didn’t say so, but I believe my husband was disappointed that the copy of George Carlin’s memoirs he unwrapped on Christmas morning was soggy with old Christmas-tree water.  

3.       Getting sick a few days before Christmas is not as bad as you might think. You don’t eat as much. You don’t drink as much. And when the Christmas tree falls down, you get a pass on sweeping up broken candy canes, putting the ornaments back on the tree and anchoring the tree to the wall.

4.       Complete not only your gift shopping, but your grocery shopping way in advance. My friend found herself at two different stores Christmas Eve night looking for ingredients for dinner. She eventually gave up and took the family to Arby’s.

5.       Making and decorating cookies  is a lot more fun in theory than in practice. Consider another Christmas tradition, like napping.

6. Before -- not if -- you shop online (worth every penny of shipping and handling), make sure you are computer savvy.  Don’t wait until Christmas morning to discover you were supposed to click “complete order,”  which you only realized when your niece calls to say “Merry Christmas!” and “Oh, by the way, just so you know, I’m the only one in my family who didn’t get a present from you.”

7.      Don’t forget where you hid Baby Jesus. Although not as functionally bad as losing a dyed egg somewhere in the house on Easter, losing Jesus, which your youngest likes to place in the manger first thing Christmas morning, does not send a good message about the meaning of the season.

8.       On Christmas morning, place next to the Christmas tree a large bag or box, ready to fill with return items. Immediately whisking into the return bucket those items that don't fit, work, or register on the face of the recipient will lessen the emotional impact on the giver, usually me. (See above-mentioned lesson on avoiding making mother cry).

9.       Along these lines, do not accept any Christmas shopping lists after Dec. 20, even if the list is coming from your college-student son who says he can’t possibly come up with a list until exams are over. Tell him the only size M clothes left in the store on Dec. 20 will be the kind like Dad wears.

10.    All holiday cookies, candies and cakes placed in front of you will be eaten, despite what Dr. Phil tells you about how you can will yourself into eating only carrots if you imagine yourself standing next to Bradley Cooper in a bikini. You know you will, during the first days of January, have some fairly deep regrets about how much peppermint bark you ate. And you’ll want to diet -- that’s die with a “t” -- as a result. But quit with the conflict. Eat the cookies, for God’s sake, as you remember  dieting  is what the bleak midwinter is for. 

Happy New Year to all, and to all, a good night.


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A return to childhood's summer

I sat one afternoon recently in the back yard of this house where we've lived 17 years, listening to the sounds of my children wafting through the open window.
I had no interest in joining the three of them in the kitchen, where they were laughing, shrieking and making a mess while concocting homemade peach ice cream from a recipe they got from a book at the library.
I didn't want to ruin the moment by stomping into their space and shouting "Look at this kitchen!"
I also didn't want to tamper with what appeared to be a rare return to childhood.
There have been many summers around this house when scenes like this were plentiful, when my children would individually and collectively make colossal messes while spending hours creating clubs and forts and homemade Popsicles in the kitchen. With no concept of time, space or serious living, they'd ride tire swings until dusk and make up plays and songs and games with marbles until they fell over, exhausted.
There was no shortage of time in these summers of childhood, when days were governed not by dates and commitments but by when the sun rose and set.
Summer was a time of much and plenty and each other.
Of course the summers of childhood don't go on forever. My eldest has spent his last three years, including summers, working at a government job in Washington, D.C., hundreds of miles from home. His sister, a rising senior in college, has likewise spent her summers working, two and three part-time jobs, and traveling with friends. Their younger brother, a high-school senior, has held the occasional odd job, but mostly he has focused his summers on high-school soccer which begins making demands on students as soon as the previous school year ends.
Those languid, barefoot summers when my children rode tire swings into the sunset, were gone.
And then my eldest child announced he was quitting his job and enrolling in graduate school. The gap between his job and school in the fall would be three weeks. Which he wanted to spend with us.
Chris' announcement, that he would be home for half of July and much of August, created a flurry of activity: His sister Emily figured a way to be home, too, so we could all be together. His brother Benjie needed no coaxing to forego a school backpacking trip and soccer practices. My husband and I rearranged already flexible schedules and hurried to secure a cabin for a week along Lake Michigan where we vacationed every summer when the children were young.
Our week at the lakeshore was relaxing.
But it was the two weeks that followed that left the indelible mark.
Surrounded by the familiarity of home and each other, unhindered by work or school or FAFSA forms, our children fell back into ruling their days by who wanted to play what board game in the basement, when. Aided and abetted by parents who look for the return of childhood, too, they started their days with sunrise bike rides, runs and swims together along old familiar trails and waterways. They made bonfires into the twilight, climbed the tree house ladder and rode the zip line in the same back yard where they once kicked the can and caught fireflies.
Who doesn't fantasize about a return to childhood? For two weeks, our children did.
And then it was over. My eldest went back East, where he has a serious girlfriend, and soon, a $50,000 college loan and at least two years of graduate school. My daughter began familiarizing herself with the course load necessary for her last year in college. My youngest child began making his way through the summer reading list required for AP senior English.
We know, meanwhile, what we had this summer, that this summer was rare and a gift -- a summer, that, given the trajectory of our lives may never come again.
Of course, we thought that before this summer.
And look what happened.

Of course, you can never know, when you are beginning a family - and even when you are 25 years into it - what shape your family will take and how events will affect it.
Against the backdrop of these idyllic weeks, as my son was taking leave this morning, I asked if he thought he would ever refuse a permanent job because it takes him too far from family.
An ambitious young man who wants to travel the world, he surprised me when he said, "Yes."
A mother who prides herself on never pressuring her adult children to live near home, I surprised myself when I responded, "Thank God."
(Debra-Lynn B. Hook of Kent, Ohio, has been writing about family life since 1988 when she was pregnant with the first of her three children. Visit her website at www.debralynnhook.com. Read her blog: debralynn-bloopbloopotter.blogspot.com; email her at dlbhook@yahoo.com , or join her column's Facebook discussion group at Debra-Lynn Hook: Bringing Up Mommy.)

Read more here: http://www.star-telegram.com/2014/08/12/6037530/family-returns-for-a-moment-to.html?rh=1#storylink=cpy


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

i wonder as i wander




Every week, I go to the nearby town of Canton, Ohio, to get water from a spring where hundreds of local folks also get their water.

Today, instead of simply filling my glass jugs and leaving, I thought to explore the area -- a riverfront where I’d often noticed people walking and jogging. 

I pulled around to a parking lot, got out of my car and began to walk the manmade path with everybody else. But then I noticed a path into the forested hills beyond the asphalt. 


And that’s the path I took. 


  



Except for the rough-cut paths and the occasional sawed log, the forest seemed untainted by humans. Chipmunks skittered, unafraid, across the path in front of me. An inordinate number of songbirds flitted from tree to tree, singing as they went. I even saw what appeared to be a wild, abandoned kitten. She seemed no more than six months old. Grey and curled into herself as she was, I thought she was a rabbit.She looked up at me from her ball of fur and scampered into the weeds, too fast for my camera.I was surprised to find nobody else here: The place was so beautiful, so serene, so natural and meandering, one sun-dappled path gently leading to another and another. I felt my pulse slow as I experienced majestic trees and wildflowers guiding me, my camera lens and my hungry soul.


 I meandered back and forth along the many paths, up, up, up into the wildflower-dotted hills as if I were in the true Appalachian mountains of my youth that I long for sometimes. 
I came upon aster red-painted steps leading ever higher into the hills.  

 
 I came upon a stream crossed by a curved wooden bridge.






Still, there was nobody but me to echo and relish the silence. In rare and perhaps longed-for solitude, I walked along the stream and across it. I took more photos, and then down the other side where I saw a large field of lilies. 


As I approached the lilies, I began seeing other manmade structures. I saw an arbor and stone paths, a bench, landscaped flower gardens flowers, a butterfly garden, a bell tower, and the sign, "Canton Gardens." 






I stayed here in this place for an hour or more that day, marveling at the lovely things that can happen when my feet take me where they will. 
~
I delighted in the discoveries I can make when I have no provocation or agenda. 
~
I felt awe, pure, childlike delight and joy at what can happen when I allow myself to wander.













FULL DISCLOSURE AND WHY I WAS AFRAID TO MEDITATE

I come to this blog today to write about a pained time in my life that I eventually remedied. This is not an easy story to share. An...