Finding “Community”…

knittingdrawingIt’s been a few months now that I’ve been on my own, since my daughter and I parted ways and she was married. At that point I knew it was important for me to find “community” with others, build new friendships and engage in the world at large more fully. I took stock of my interests and developed what I called a “4-pronged” approach to having regular contact with others; the 4 “prongs” for me are: spiritual, creative, musical and literary.

I started on the first prong last April, and it was a stuttering start at first. I began looking for spiritual community but found the first places I looked to not be my cup of tea. It was uncomfortable, they weren’t very friendly, just not a good fit for me. I had to define what a spiritual community I could live with would look like. I needed a “thinking” place where people were more important than policies, helping others was more important than being “right,” where no one would be marginalized or excluded, and where mercy and kindness were the order of the day. I was lucky enough to find that on my third try, and although my work schedule interfered at first, I’ve been able to settle into my spiritual community and I am enjoying the friendships forming there.

With the first prong well under way, I sought community on the second prong, creative. For me at this point, that meant fiber work. As luck would have it, an excellent yarn shop relocated nearby just recently, and now I can knit and crochet with a group of people every week. Even when we are not necessarily speaking for long intervals, just working together companionably, there is a peacefulness and cohesiveness that is soothing and is fulfilling the requirements of my second prong quite well.

I was hoping to start on the third prong, musical, yesterday, but an event at the first prong conflicted with that, so that took precedence. But I have a place to play music and sing (as able) with others and will build that up over time. I’m also looking into playing with smaller groups, so I’m keeping my ear to the ground for opportunities to do that.

The fourth prong, literary, is my writing. Writing itself is generally a solitary pursuit, but there are times when it’s good to come together with others to touch base, receive some constructive help and encouragement, and write in community with others. My work schedule makes it difficult to write with the group I’d like to be a part of, plus there’s the expense. But I’m working out those details and expect to pursue this fourth prong soon.

I do have to look at being balanced, however, which is always my weak area. I tend to overinvolve myself and then burn out from skimping on other areas of my life which need attention. I discovered I have no day of the week now just for downtime, and I know I need that. So I’m trying to work that in as well. But I’m enjoying this new life; it’s nice to participate in and be a part of a “community.”

A Contemplative Walk…

sumclabyrinthI have been entranced by labyrinths for some time, so I was pleased that the progressive church I currently attend has a labyrinth room. One can walk the labyrinth whenever the church office is open, but time is set aside in the evening on the first Thursday of each month with soft lighting around the edge of the labyrinth, candles and peaceful music in the background, and all are invited to walk there.

Labyrinths have been used in many cultures and faiths for centuries.  A well-known labyrinth of stone is the one constructed in the 1200s AD in the Chartres Cathedral near Paris where thousands of visitors walk its path each year. Labyrinths of various sizes and styles are becoming more and more common in the United States; there are 120 in Oregon alone. Near my home is an outdoor labyrinth in the classical style on the back lawn area of a Presbyterian church. The labyrinth at my church, in the photo above, is in the medieval style.  (click HERE for more on labyrinth styles, if interested)

According to the Veriditas website, “walking the labyrinth reduces stress, quiets the mind, grounds the body and opens the heart.” If one is walking the labyrinth as a “spiritual exercise,” the idea is to bring a spiritual question or thought to contemplate while walking. One is to clear the mind beforehand, perhaps by sitting quietly and taking some deep breaths, then walk slowly to the center, pausing for a time, even sitting, in reflection, then exit in the same slow, deliberate fashion, with further contemplation and reflection afterwards.

I brought no particular expectations to my first labyrinth walk this week; I merely wanted to open myself to the experience. A friend and I went together and we sat for a time in the dim quiet, then she tapped the “singing bowl” at the entrance with the small mallet and we started. I walked slowly, carefully, and concentrated on the thought I’d brought to the table. I started with this personal concern, but as I walked I let my thoughts go where they would and I found them expanding, from thinking about myself to those I knew and then farther out to world issues that weigh upon so many of us these days. As I walked I felt an increase in despair, particularly over recent items in the news, and the way life seems ever more fear-filled. I let those thoughts continue, but then I paused and gazed at the very old stained-glass window in front of me that had a small pane with the words, “Peace I leave with you,” which somehow made me feel incrementally better. I continued walking and exited the labyrinth, sitting again for a time before leaving the building.

There are those who feel walking a labyrinth is a life-changing experience, those who even feel having done so “saved their lives,” so to speak. I was not expecting a life-changing experience but hoping for a bit more peace and clarity, and I feel I did find that to a degree. What I plan to do is walk the labyrinth once a month and see what benefits may come over time.

Have you walked a labyrinth? What was your experience like? Please share.

Retour!

red square cafeI’ve decided to blog again, because I’ve missed it. It’s not that I think I have anything more earthshaking to say, or that I have any articles, stories or books to promote, or that my life has suddenly taken on stellar qualities that everyone should know about. I just missed writing blog entries.

My last substantial blog entry here was last spring; after that, I started a Tumblr blog that was purely photographs, no text other than captions, which was fun for a time. I also wrote frequently in a private blog where I worked out writing ideas, wrote from prompts, etc., but somehow both of those blogs were unsatisfactory. Then I thought about starting an entirely new blog on another blogging service. But I like WordPress, I liked the blog I had, though I wanted a new look. I also tried out some new names for it, but “Patricia in PDX” always worked so well. I lamented to a friend, “But I’ve been using that title for 5 years!” She replied dryly, “McDonald’s has been using the ‘golden arches’ for more than 50 years. Go with what works.”  Point taken.

So here we go again. I’ve also added a “Photos” page, where I’ve moved the photos I’d posted on Tumblr. The page looks like a hodge-podge; I’ve never been able to place photos on a blog page properly, but if you click on the pictures they will all enlarge, so what the heck.

What’s new? Well, not a lot. I’ve had some company over the summer, endured the hot weather, made some new friends, gave up car use totally in favor of public transportation, enjoyed some new eateries, got a new haircut. What about you?

Anyway, I’m back, for better or worse. If you’re still following this blog and want to continue, that’s great! If you’re new and just started following, welcome! If you don’t care to read my blog, that’s certainly okay too!

Have a safe and happy Labor Day, everyone!

Motivated by Fear…

scan0079 I’m eager to get started again working on the book about my mother’s life, which is at the halfway point to completion of the first draft. I’d like to say my motivation is because I just can’t wait to get back to work on this interesting project, but that’s not my primary motivation. I’m motivated by the fear that if I don’t complete this now, I may procrastinate until something interferes one day and I’m unable to complete it at all, and I would deeply regret that.

In settling in after moving I’ve had occasion to go through some of the very old family photos again. It occurs to me that my sister and I are likely the last people to care about most of this very large collection of photographs, and we are both 60+ now. I’m not expecting we’ll pass on anytime soon, but it bothers me to think that these interesting people and their lives will be forgotten forever one of these days.

It’s not that they’ve done anything particularly extraordinary; there are no explorers or research scientists or inventors in the group. They are likely, for the most part, pretty average. But I’ve heard many of their stories for most of my life from my mother and grandmother and always found them intensely intriguing.

Like many as we’ve gotten older, I became very interested in genealogy in my 40s.  I know more about some branches of the family than others, thanks mainly due to research done by others. I know about the Moomaws, for example, back to when they first came to this country from Germany, via the Netherlands, in the 1700’s, and can trace any Moomaw back to the original 3 progenitors who arrived here. I know some about my mother’s ancestry, particularly on her father’s side, but very little about the family history of either of my grandmothers, though I hope to learn more over time.

There used to be a segment on CBS News called “Everybody Has a Story” and host Steve Hartman would throw a dart at a map of the U.S. and wherever it landed, he and a cameraman would visit the town, pick a name at random out of the phone book, and interview them, getting their story. It was always interesting, because we are ALL interesting. So many stories, some that will be remembered, but the vast majority forgotten, which is a shame, yet it happens every day. Even if we learn as much as we can and try to hold onto the stories, they will eventually inevitably fall into obscurity.

I think the best we can do is learn as much as we can about our family’s stories and let them enrich our lives, our understanding and our experience. We can learn from them and pass them on to the next generation. I have no illusions that the book about my mother will become a bestseller and in truth it will likely have a very limited readership, but if her story is interesting and life-enhancing to even a few people, it will have been worth writing. Understanding her motivations and those of my grandmother because of what they endured helps me understand my own life so much better.

As I’ve said in the past, ask your family about their stories while you can; don’t let your history slip away.

The Monday Post, Vol. 49 — Last Monday Post

I’ve had a feeling for awhile now that this blog, in its present form, has pretty much outlived its usefulness. The past few years have been a running history of my ideas of wanting to relocate from Florida, deciding on the Pacific Northwest, making plans to move here, moving here, getting acclimated to the area, and finally my move to living on my own. “Patricia in PDX” was all right when I first moved here, during the “honeymoon phase” of my new location, but that time is long since past. Okay, so she lives in Portland! Old news! Can we move on, please?

Also, since my recent move, I’m reviving some other activities and adding new ones, and I’m not sure I want to be tied to a weekly blog any longer. “The Monday Post” was for 2013 a continuation of my “Project 52″ blog entry challenge in 2012; I’d gotten used to writing a blog entry every week and wasn’t yet ready to give it up, but I feel I am now.

I acquired a large influx of new followers with my post about my grandmother in August of 2012, and additional “followers” who don’t really read my blog, but were hoping by following mine that I’d follow theirs. Some of my followers are Facebook friends who occasionally comment on my posts there, but with Facebook becoming ever more restrictive as to who sees what posts from whom, I’m getting much less readership than before, so it often feels like I’m writing to myself, which I can do in a private blog. Or I could just talk to myself.

However, I like having a blog; I like having someplace online to share thoughts, ideas, photos and the like when I feel I have something worth sharing, someplace that isn’t just Facebook or Twitter. I am not sure yet whether I will revamp this blog and go in a different direction with it, start a different WordPress blog or start something on a different site altogether, like Tumblr. We’ll see.

Regardless, if I’m not going to continue here, I will post a link to the new site. I thank you for your readership and occasional comments and encouragement. It’s been grand…

The Monday Post, Vol. 47 — Living Small!

As I’ve alluded to in the past, I’ve been interested in “living small” for some time, following “tiny house” blogs, small apartment blogs and also a great blog on all aspects of streamlined living, Be More with Less. The author, Courtney Carver, and her husband and dog, downsized from a 2000 sq. ft. house to a 750 sq. ft. apartment, and has written several books on living “large” by living “small.” I take a great deal of inspiration from her excellent blog and books!

As some know, I recently downsized from a 1000 sq. ft. apartment to a 425 sq. ft. studio. In preparing for this move, I jettisoned what I felt were unnecessary belongings and donated most of my furniture, including a large futon, a dining room set, large TV and desk. When I felt I had only what I needed with me, I was still dismayed at the number of boxes I’d packed and was afraid I wouldn’t have enough storage space for everything.

When I arrived at my new studio and began unpacking, I worried again about storage space. Kitchen cabinet space was at a premium, and I wondered if I’d need to buy a pantry storage cabinet. However, I needn’t have worried. Now that I’ve unpacked everything, with a little creativity there’s plenty of room for everything and I won’t need that extra pantry after all.

And I actually have more open space than I was expecting! So in the coming months I plan to create a “living room” area with a storage-added loveseat from Home Reserve, with a small bookcase placed in back of it in my “bedroom” area with a chair and lamp, creating a reading nook.  I have lots of wall open space currently, but I plan to hang stretched-fabric pictures and also, since I have all the family photos, an arrangement of framed photos of my grandparents, great-grandparents and other close family members.

Of course, living in a small space discourages clutter, and is a snap to clean, so that’s a great benefit for someone like me who is not naturally neat and dislikes housework. That leaves time for the other, more important aspects of life!

So living small means living large!