The Weary Club

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There’s an odd little house on Main Street. It’s partially hidden by a large oak, its unassuming sign is practically illegible from the street. 

This is the home of the The Weary Club. Formally founded in the 1920s, the club had already been meeting in some form, as a casual place for men to smoke, whittle and swap stories. Admission is rumored to be granted only to those who can shave a cedar piece light enough to float.

The Weary Club has always been a place for the big wigs of Norway to relax. While women were definitely not encouraged until relatively recently, and drinking is still verboten, this small house organically became a place to gather around the potbellied stove, tell a tall tale, and maybe get a cribbage tournament going.

Although, to be clear, no games of chance for money! (I think they may have been Methodists from the sound of it…) 

From this outpost, no telephones or technology is to ruin the calm; “Conversation was restricted to fishing, hunting and kindred subjects. Village gossip was permitted if soft pedaled and kept within bounds.”

Its simple slogan still stands:

“The Weary Club of Norway, Maine — Makers and Dealers in Cedar Shavings, Social Gossip, Political Wisdom and Yankee Philosophy.”

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Making Gifts

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Making gifts is one of my loves. From really small, like a collage postcard, to much bigger like a pillow or sewn thingamajig, it’s fulfilling and satisfying.

It is, in some way at least, a little self serving. Don’t you want to be known for your thoughtful gift? Your craftiness or talent?

That’s one of the reasons why this quote from John Green, so gorgeously illustrated by Zen Pencils [click to read the whole comic], impacted me.

Very rarely do we remember that the value of what we create, or even just what we spend any energy on, is not the external reaction, but is inherent in the act itself.

Also, it may just be my theology background, but I hear the not very veiled Biblical parallels of praying with the door shut. Don’t let the right hand know what the left hand is doing. That we build a future that is not our own, but the work is not lessened by that.

But we’re human, and it’s hard not to be disappointed when the accolades don’t flow in, the awards are offered to others, and the beauty you share is not applauded loudly, publicly and often.

One of my goals with this project is to not measure it. Believe me, this is a huge feat for my type-a, color-coding, talented-and-gifted self. And wordpress puts the stats right at the top when I’m logged in! I still do my best to look away. To remind myself that this discipline, like any other, is ultimately an exercise in making a gift.

A gift toward my mission of self-exploration, openness and truth without expectations. A gift of words that if one person reads and enjoys, questions, is inspired, laughs, or cries, is worth it – even if that one person is me.

***

I am now realizing that this could be interpreted as the biggest ‘fishing for compliments’ post ever created. I swear to the storm gods it’s not! I swear. Pat, do not call out the irony. Here, have a gif for your troubles.

Waiting to Begin

I really dislike ‘generation’ assumptions. Maybe it’s being a part of the “what’s wrong with the millennials?” “how the world is imploding/will eventually explode in the millennials’ hands” “oh just give up already, you’re screwed” generation.

Nonetheless, I’m not sure what it is about my generation. At least in its current state.

Without the “traditional” narrative of school-job-marriage-kids-house-grandkids-pension, a lot of my cohort seems adrift. Not the least of which is myself.

I am often caught in a kind of loop, constantly questioning: when I will start?

A recent conversation with a friend reminded me how silly that is. She was questioning remaining abroad (where she is finishing graduate school), but feeling pulled to “start a life in the US.” Immediately I thought: but we are already started. In whatever form we are living now, this is it.

It reminded me of how often I question my own judgement, purely based on the fact that my life does not fit into that dominant narrative.

Maybe the reason a lot of my generation is uneasy, or unsure, is that our society has barely started to make room for stories like ours. Ones in which absolutely everything is different.

I don’t think this is a unique conundrum. In fact, I think every generation at some point feels the same. What I am interested in, is if mine is ever going to be able to turn the tide. To allow, even encourage, each other to be different.

To be a world traveller for a year, a volunteer in Malawi for two years, a new graduate student at 30, a knitting instructor, a receptionist-by-day-epic-event-planner-by-night, a yurt-living farm couple, or any of the dozens of iterations I see just within my circle.

A huge part of it is, and will continue to be, supporting each other. Telling ourselves only gets us so far. Yet, I will, as always, start with me: “I’m rested and I’m ready to begin.”

I went on the search for something real
Traded what I know for how I feel
But the ceiling and the walls collapsed
Upon the darkness I was trapped
And as the last of breath was drawn from me
Light broke in and brought me to my feet

There’s no fortune at the end of the road
That has no end
There’s no returning to the spoils
Once you’ve spoiled the thought of them
There’s no falling back asleep
Once you’ve wakened from the dream
Now I’m rested and I’m ready and I’m ready to begin

I’m rested and I’m ready to begin

DMZ: Friendly Fire

dmz I was not into comics growing up. I mean, the Luann in the Sunday color section, but beyond that, not really.

For this reason, among many others, I was surprised to be handed a copy of Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi in a “Modern Islam” course in college. Graphic novels had just started to emerge into the mainstream, and for me, that book was a turning point.

The vivid imagery, art and story sacrificed nothing by being completely illustrated – in fact, it was enhanced.

Shortly after that course I discovered one of my favorite books of all time, Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, that also happens to be a graphic novel. And since dating P, who is an avid reader of the form, I continue to be exposed to new, exciting works of this genre.

DMZ is an unforgiving, realistic, detailed account of a potential future of the US – another Civil War.

In this dystopian future, Manhattan becomes the border (“DMZ”) between the “Free States” and the “US/Liberty Media” (Yes, we finally merge with big media).

In the particular issue I read this week, our hero (loosely defined) is asked to report on the massacre of hundreds of peace protesters, as one of the soldiers is countering the official narrative: that one member of the peace march had a gun.

The drawings are vivid, at times disgusting, and eerily accurate. Massacres, unfortunately, are not uncommon in civil wars, and this issue of DMZ perfectly explores our human capacity for hate, revenge, and attempts at truth against the greatest of odds.

What I’ve most appreciated about this series thus far is its unflinching commitment to looking war, violence and the worst of ourselves directly in the face. Yes, it’s fiction; yes, it is written for entertainment; but none of those factors undercut the efficacy of the story – and its lessons for our current wars.

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Are they right? Is the warrior culture created by the United States government to blame?

Is sending roving packs of young soldiers out into a civilian area with shitty training and no intel and expecting results a defensible act?

Is it intentional?

Or is this war just so fucked up that no one has a handle on what they’re doing anymore?

***

Dispatch this week to Sarah and Kyle!

What No Longer Serves

There’s a mantra in yoga: let go of what no longer serves you. Almost every teacher I’ve had uses a variation on this theme.

It often reminds me to let my mind be nimble, to let go of old habits, anxiety, fear, or over-analysis.

What I’ve been struggling with lately is knowing when to let bigger stuff “go.”

I’ve always been an active dreamer. Overly active, in fact. From night terrors as a kid to some pretty epic sleepwalking stories, sleeping is not often fully restful for me.

It’s like the Mitch Hedberg sketch: Dreaming is supposed to be restful! Now I have to build a go-cart with my landlord?!?

Lately, my normally vivid, laughable dreams (oh, everyone transformed into Serta sheep but me? Fun!) have taken some dark turns.

Maybe it’s losing a friend so young and so quickly. Kristin’s death is still unbelievable most days, and I often use the oh-so-comfy denial.

Yet over the last few weeks, as my dreams have slowly killed off most everyone I know and love, I’m struggling with how to “let that go.” Or really, how to grieve.

I know that the pain of it won’t stop soon, and that it will always be an awkward, confusing dance between the happy feelings of the rambunctious woman I knew and the fact that she’s really not here anymore.

Most times, in yoga, when asked to think on “letting go” I do think of Kristin. As an aspiring yoga teacher, she often reminded me to let go of hesitation, doubts and body worries programmed into those of us of the female persuasion.

Those memories bolster me, make me feel like I understand, at least a little.

Then my head hits the pillow and the carousel of oddities returns. Intellectually, I know that these weird dreams don’t serve me at all. Perhaps, however, they are pointing toward what I still don’t understand and need to learn to accept.

***

“Keep walking, though there’s no place to get to.
Don’t try to see through the distances.
That’s not for human beings. Move within,
But don’t move the way fear makes you move…

What you seek is seeking you.”

~Rumi~

Mobbed!

Today, my workplace hosted a Cash Mob. What is that, you ask? Well, it’s an inspired idea hosted by the local WJ Wheeler Insurance agency to get a group of people together, each armed with $20 and descend on a (somewhat) unsuspecting local business.

The innovative approach gets people into places perhaps they never visit, or don’t see often. It lets businesses share their wares with new and old customers alike. Plus, there’s free food.

When the group meets together, they are not told where they are going. The group leader announces it as they walk to the chosen site. It was really inspiring to see over 50 people in our small community come together, committed to supporting each other.

We sold plants, accessories, art, and fun gift shop items, raking in around $2,000 in about an hour.

As a non-profit, these funds will go a long way to ensure our garden is always freshly planted, the barn and homestead remain in good repair, and, you know, that I have a job.

Scribbles

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Jotting down thoughts, quotes, songs or observations is second nature to me. Since about age 15 I’ve consistently kept a journal.

The “love&apathy” entitled Myspace/LiveJournal aside (I had ANGST okay?), these notes are usually the only “reliable” record of events, friends now forgotten, and my view in the moment – without the bias of hindsight.

From small things, like the smell of honeysuckle at midnight on Santa Clara’s campus, to life changing months of travel, these little bits of myself are put down in their pages.

I don’t think I’ve ever suffered a lack of grandiosity, but neither have I thought anyone would ever read my journals again; perhaps but myself. And I look back very rarely.

So then what is this compulsion to record? To paste in tickets, a ginko leaf, a flower, an incomprehensible once inside joke?

I suppose it comes a bit from how bad my memory can be at times – perhaps in the same way as all of ours. The way we lose the taste of chilled red wine in Slovenia; the mix of anxiety, thrill and freedom when we snuck up Multnomah Falls at 2am to lie on our backs and stare at the stars; or just how much we raged at that injustice, however slight.

It’s the desire to grasp those fleeting emotions, to define reality, to understand the meaning of living in the face of uncertainty.

I know few things in life. One I’m certain of is that I am a writer. A writer searching for my story. Maybe that’s what these journals have been all along; signposts directing me to what has always been there.

Then again, they might just be cheap therapy.

Either way, I’m grateful for the habit and perhaps someday my journals will help me find my way.

Porch Sittin’

Porches are more than entryways. Some of my favorite and most memorable moments have taken place on that fine space between the drive and the front door.

After our house in New Orleans was robbed; Sally and I cracked a couple Milwaukee’s Best (we were volunteers, don’t judge) and sat back on our front porch. We pondered how we found ourselves in the deep South, swapping stories and working our way back to a feeling of safety.

From Boston, I can’t count the hours spent looking down on Comm Ave from Packard’s Corner, taunting undergrads and blasting ELO.

On Rocky Bound Pond, the sunset cascading through the trees as I set the table for some of my favorite people on the planet. Coming together on the screened-in porch to share a meal, stories, laughter and long weekends together.

At home in Oregon, where family dinner in the summer always takes place on the back porch. Facing the woods we’d rehash our days, eat straight off the grill and try not to get eaten alive by mosquitos.

In El Salvador, we rocked in hammocks and sang; at Santa Clara, the cheap champagne flowed and late nights were the norm.

Now, in Maine, we have a veritable plethora of porches, at different angles, jutting toward the lake, off the roof, and into the yard. We joke we need to rotate around every night just to use them all.

Regardless of their locations, porches are a special place that allow interface with the outside world, but within your home. They encourage neighbors to chat, music to be shared (although perhaps not always welcomed), and generally open doors in ways we usually close.

From where I sit, that’s pretty grand.

Codex

We exist in narrative. Not that we would cease without it, but it is inherently human to craft, reform, manipulate, ponder and create our stories.

Sadly, the truth of our stories is not often told, either completely or in part. Even to ourselves.

Books offer an outlet to pour out these narratives; often contradictory, competing, courageous, striving, fantastic, or simple. They can inspire and speak truths that we somehow knew, but could not articulate.

Books provide camaraderie – a sense of belonging in a world where you felt “different than.”

Last week, a great friend took us to Codex, an exhibit of finely crafted art/books that explore the Mexican narrative. Hosted in the gorgeous Mexican Tourism building in DC, Codex probes the variety of interpretations of the Mexican story; from despair to anger to wonder to hope.

Honing in on national identity is a slippery endeavor, yet Codex spoke realistically in ways academic papers, journalism, or even oral history cannot.

Artists took “the book” as inspiration but in no way felt bound to a singular interpretation of the medium. Through use of reflection, graphic design, watercolor, metallurgy and leather work, they pressed the boundaries of form to fit their experience.

Codex reminded me of the best books I’ve read: they do not explain or solve everything, but push us to question further and remain open to constant interpretation.

The poem is your guide.

“Not Catholic”

I’m often told I’m not “really Catholic.” Sometimes, to avoid the seemingly inevitable 2-hour impromptu theology lecture, I avoid the label myself.

This is most often caused by the sad truth that “my” Catholicism is not the mainstream, the stereotype, or the scandal. It is not the voice most often, or ever, heard on the nightly news. That’s why I was so surprised when I came across an article I could’ve easily written.

Even-handed, thoughtful and realistic, Jason Steidl outlines his basic defense of the Jesuit university model. Recently, Georgetown, Steidl’s alma mater, was accused of being “not Catholic” and a petition was formed to attempt to force the Vatican to address its standing.

Yet Steidl states:

At Georgetown, my friendships with other students, the challenges of critical coursework, and the open-minded atmosphere on campus challenged my uncritical assumptions about the nature of truth and life with others in a pluralistic world. It was this process of spiritual, intellectual, and social questioning that first led me to a dialogue with, and then embrace of, the Roman Catholic Church.

Man, are you in my brain? Never before I landed at Santa Clara University in 2003 had my mind been so challenged, fulfilled, broken and re-healed in one spot. Never before had I met people who really, truly “walked the walk” of Christian faith, dialogue, struggle, social justice and love.

Without my four years at SCU, I cannot imagine the woman I would’ve become. I would not know the value of standing with someone, regardless of background, creed or origin.

Seeing, valuing and being in solidarity with their human dignity.

Listening, hearing and acting in a way that empowers all of us.

The model of the church I believe in is reflected in myself on my best days – its grace even more so on the days I fail. I return because I am inspired and emboldened by institutions, congregations and people who are striving and also at times failing.

The church, Georgetown showed me, is not an exclusive society of like-minded individuals closed in on itself. It does not retreat into a world of its own making, but rather engages humanity through conversation with diverse cultures and current concerns.

It is far from perfect, but we return together and reach toward the example of “contemplatives in action.”

+AMDG+