Saturday, April 28, 2012
The card from the Observation Deck says: Squint
The idea is that squinting at a familiar scene lets you see it in new and less familiar ways by observing lighting, angles and nuances not previously perceived.
For me, it becomes a blurred and shimmering glimpse of a terrifying future in which one of my most precious senses, my sight, might be diminished. I'm filled with intense gratitude right now that I still have my vision.
Both my mother and her mother had macular degeneration - an eye disease that, spot by spot, robs you of your central vision leaving you with some peripheral sight if you're lucky. For years my mother brought Granny talking books from the library so she could continue enjoying one of her greatest pleasures, reading. Famous actress Dame Judith Dench who has the disease and now has to have new scripts read to her, has said that the thing she misses most is being able to see the face of her dinner partner at a restaurant.
Recently my optometrist gave me a sheet of paper with a grid and two angry red dots at the edges to be used for self testing. She sees the first signs of the disease in my eyes. The idea chills me to the bone; of course, fear of what the future might bring is one of the things I am constantly trying to resist.
There are preventative measures: diligently wearing sunglasses in the Colorado sun, taking supplements like lutein, regular check ups. How could I face not being able to see the forest in Spring, a beautiful sunset, a future grandchild's face, or words on a page? If all prevention fails me, will I in fact perceive the world in new ways, hearing the birdsong in the forest at dusk more distinctly and the beloved voice of the grandchild more clearly? Helen Keller, who surely knew, said, "When one door of happiness closes, another opens."
Need a new perspective? Just squint.
Saturday, April 21, 2012
Since I've had quite a dry spell in my writing, I decided to pull out The Observation Deck--a deck of cards with creative writing ideas to give myself a jumpstart. The point is to make your self write something about the idea on the card no matter what; there's a little booklet with a few paragraphs about each card to help get the juices flowing.
The first card I pulled read: "Create a Sacred Space"
I was reminded of my small efforts over the last several months to create a more welcoming spiritual place for myself in my office at work. It's a small corner office many would envy: huge windows facing west the a clear view of the Front Range. In one corner of my desk I've placed a small cascading fountain and I've arranged my five little ivory laughing buddhas around the fountain and up its steps. Nearby stands a small white statue of a guardian angel given to me by a friend during some very dark days a couple of years ago.
Next to the fountain is a meditation chime--a metal cylinder cradled on a wooden base with a small wooden mallet which can be used to strike the chime, issuing an extremely clear, bell-like tone that fades ever so slowly back into silence again. The chime helps me remember to breath and be present.
Also on the desk is a daily Zen calendar with a new quotation for each day; I've saved some of my favorite quotes which are arranged somewhat haphazardly on the desk for repeated reference, including:
"Always stay in your own movie." - Ken Kesey
"Only the madman is absolutely sure." - Robert Anton Wilson
"My father considered a walk among the mountains the equivalent of church-going." - Aldous Huxley
"Awareness is therapy per se." - Fritz Perl
A weekly calendar is on another corner of the desk with beautiful photographs of nature and wild animals; I look forward to turning the page each Monday morning. A monthly wall calendar has nature photographs and quotes by that master of the here and now, Eckhart Tolle. A carved wooden bowl sits nearby which I keep filled with tangerines and apples.
On the wall opposite the windows is a framed panoramic photo of Boulder's Flatirons glowing pink and orange at dawn.
I spend a lot of time at work and I'm glad I've succeeded in creating a welcoming and spiritual space there.
My bedroom at home is a restful place, with a huge picture over the bed of the ocean viewed through a window with thin white curtains stirring gently in the sea breeze. Deep blue glass bottles filter the light from the window, pictures of my family grace the walls, a big white goosedown comforter covers the bed. On the wall by the door is a photograph given to me by my true love of a tree-lined Parisian walkway, the sun filtering down through the leaf canopy. Perched on one corner of the picture frame is a yellow and purple feathered Mardi Gras mask.
So I think I know how to create sacred spaces for myself. But when it comes to my writing, I lean toward extreme portability. I like to load my backpack for long walks, carrying with me everything I'll need to write anywhere. In this case I carry my sacred space inside my head by staying aware and noticing the vastness of the world around me.
Do you have a sacred space?