Some Lines a Day…

5ydBrowsing through Powell’s Books recently I came across a selection of 5-year “memory books” or journals. These immediately reminded me of the 5-year diaries with locks where we as teens scribbled our deepest secrets that we dared not share with anyone (except sometimes our best friends). These secrets usually ran along the lines of , “I love ____,” written several times per entry, along with “I saw ____ walking down the hall with another girl. Will he ever notice me???” “I put his picture under my pillow tonight!” Tame stuff, for sure, but it gave us a thrill at age 13. And a secure feeling, being able to lock up our words and hide the tiny key (as if the lock would actually keep anyone out who really wanted to read it).

I started keeping journals again (in a bit more mature fashion) when I was 25, though it was hit and miss over the years. I wrote more consistently when the journal was tied to a specific event, such as when my first husband and I separated, the pregnant months before my daughter was born, and when I was approaching 40 and worrying that my life would go downhill after that. A little later on I started journaling, or blogging, online when I received a LiveJournal membership as a gift, and then I also started blogging on MySpace around 2006. In early 2009 I started this blog, and I also have a private blog I started around the same time on another blogging service; this is where I write things I prefer not to share with anyone, writing generally when I’m angry, feeling hurt or trying to work out a personal problem.

sladAs I gazed at the memory books on the bookstore shelf, I became intrigued. If I start a 5-year memory book on January 1, 2015, the ending date will be December 31, 2019, which will be my last day of full-time work. I liked the idea of a few lines each day to chronicle the last 5 years of my full-time working life. And there were many types of 5-year journals to choose from; most were relatively small books, some with thin, fragile-looking paper, which I felt wouldn’t hold up very long. Some had a “question of the day” to spur one’s entries, which was kind of interesting thinking about how one’s response might change from year to year. However, I decided on a Leuchtturm 1917 “Some Lines a Day” memory book, because there’s more space in which to write, and the paper is amenable to fountain pen ink. So I’m looking forward to starting this on January 1st!

Do you keep/have you kept a paper journal? Do you prefer that or blogging/journaling online? Please share!

What I Want to Be…

When I turned 60 at the end of last year, I realized that I was embarking on the “last third” of my life, what I consider to be the years from age 60 to age 90. I knew I would be semi-retiring around my mid-60s, which would give me more time to do anything I wanted, but what? I thought of having more time to write, to finish my books that sit half completed and to start new ones, or to perhaps start a new career that I could do part-time such as teaching fiber crafts, or to paint and perhaps make a small income from that on the side. But what I want most of all, as I age, is to continue to be useful, to make a difference, and to leave at least a small portion of the world a bit better when I depart this life.

I am on the cusp of joining a church, something I haven’t done for many years. The progressive spiritual community I mentioned recently provides me with a satisfying connection to like-spirited people, but it also offers the opportunity to serve others, to be useful in ways that not only help people, but will encourage my own growth as well. This church is currently considering its future and its vision, and I want to be part of that. It’s not necessary to be a member to serve others, but for me joining a church is like getting married; it’s not necessary to get married to commit to another and build a life together, but making one’s commitment a public statement with promises and vows can be a satisfying and solidifying experience.

manyhandsOf course, it’s also not at all necessary to be a part of a church or spiritual community to connect with others and serve one’s community, but I’ve always been attracted to the ready-made framework for doing good that churches can provide. It’s an easy place to “plug in” to “give back,” and I’ll be able to do that in varying capacities within a supportive group over the coming years. The caveat here, however, is that the group is “like-spirited” — a less progressive church outlook, a place that values a set of beliefs more than people, would not be a comfortable place for me.

So I don’t know in what ways I will be useful as time goes on; perhaps I actually will be useful in writing, teaching a craft or painting. Perhaps it will be something that at this point has never occurred to me. Perhaps I will be useful in only a succession of small ways over many years. But useful I will be, even when it eventually means the best I can do will be to encourage others, even with just a smile. And that will be a satisfying last third of my life.

“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” — Mother Teresa

The Handwriting’s on the Wall…

Putting pen to paper is always such a nice change to pounding on a computer keyboard, I feel. However, years of heavy typing have left me with a good deal of pain when trying to write on paper these days. I do best with a fountain pen, since it skims over the page with the least amount of resistance, therefore requiring the least amount of pressure. My sister, who is a fountain pen aficionado, sent me a fountain pen several years ago and at that time I was hooked. I bought several pens over time and enjoyed using them, but I still had pain and eventually just stopped writing almost anything other than signing my name. And since the quality of my writing had suffered, I started printing instead when I had to write anything at all.

Lately, however, I’ve wanted to try again, and decided much of my pain probably comes from scrunching my hand and fingers to write, instead of using larger arm and shoulder movements. That change in position does seem to help, though I’ve just started.

pensampleAnd I’d like to improve the quality of my writing, and I think that’s possible even at this late date. But here’s where I am now (please click on the picture to see it LARGER):

I have two fountain pens left from my burst of enthusiasm several years back, the original my sister gave me and another I picked up along the way. I recently bought two more inexpensive pens, and those are all I intend to get for now.

So here are the pens, and the ink I intend to use in them (again, click on the picture):

pens11.  Sheaffer fountain pen, the gift from my sister, using Sheaffer Skrip green ink cartridge
2.  Pelikan GO! pen, another oldie but goodie, in which I’ll be using J. Herbin Rose Cyclamen ink (which hasn’t arrived yet)
3.  Pilot Kakuno pen, using Namiki purple ink cartridge (I used this pen for the writing sample above)
4.  Pilot “Preppy” pen, using Platinum red ink cartridge, later on brown ink

I am considering getting converters for the pens so I can use bottled ink in all of them, as I feel using the cartridges, while convenient, isn’t very environmentally responsible.

rosecyclamen

 

This is the ink for the GO! pen, which didn’t arrive in time for this post.

Lastly, not to jump too far into the should-we-still-teach-cursive-in-school debate, but putting a toe in, yes, I do believe it should still be taught. Penmanship is good for training fine muscle coordination and is a worthy discipline. If it can’t be taught in the regular classroom, it should be at least taught in art class (assuming most schools still do have some art classes, or am I dreaming?).

Anyway, I’m going to be working on my handwriting, and I’ll give an update in a few weeks to show my improvement over time. Here’s to legibility!

“The Roosevelts”

On a warm day in 1900 a special train pulled into Union Station in Atlanta, Georgia. The train was carrying vice presidential candidate Theodore Roosevelt, who was crisscrossing the country, campaigning hard to help get President William McKinley re-elected for a second term. During 1900 Mr. Roosevelt would visit 567 cities in 24 states, making more than a dozen speeches a day. He was young, ebullient and irrepressible, a whirlwind of energy who invigorated crowds everywhere he went. A throng had formed in anticipation of Mr. Roosevelt’s arrival, and when the train had stopped they crowded about the car where “Teddy” bounded out to the railing and began his rapid-fire speech. He spoke for 45 minutes and then the people eagerly reached for him as he began personally greeting as many as he could.

(George) Martin Fishback, my great-grandfather, wanted to see young Mr. Roosevelt in person and took his little daughter, my grandmother Lucie, with him for this once-in-a-lifetime event. He held tight to her hand as they waded through the mass of people swirling about the railroad car, and he listened intently to the speech, though Lucie began to tire after a time and complained that she couldn’t see anything. He picked her up then and stood her on a crate next to him so she could see better. When Mr. Roosevelt finished his speech and began to move into the crowd, he glimpsed my grandmother waving and made his way toward her.  He grasped her small hands in his and kissed her on the cheek, exclaiming, “God bless you, honey!” and shook my great-grandfather’s hand before he moved on. As Mr. Roosevelt released Lucie’s hands she gazed after him as he swept away, and Martin said, “That man’s going to be our president one of these days.”

I remember my grandmother telling me this story the first time when I was very young, and I loved hearing it again when she related it from time to time over the years.  I imagined how Teddy Roosevelt had kissed her and could feel her excitement. As soon as I was old enough, I looked up Mr. Roosevelt’s biography at the library and gazed at his picture, thinking how he’d spoken kindly to her and that she’d never forgotten it. The biographies I read as a child told of his exciting exploits, and I marveled at this man who always seemed larger than life to me.

therooseveltslgI thought about this story again while watching Ken Burns’ excellent 14-hour documentary film on PBS, “The Roosevelts: An Intimate History.” I’ve read a number of Roosevelt biographies over the years, but this new film brought out information and insights that were new to me. I felt a thrill as I watched photos and footage of Teddy Roosevelt campaigning, both for President McKinley and then for his own elections. I admired Eleanor’s fortitude in conquering her fears, pushing herself to do the things she was sure she couldn’t, and her desire to keep going and keep doing, no matter what. I was in awe of Franklin’s political shrewdness and deftness and how he was truly the right man at the right time to lead this country.

But what I admire most about all three Roosevelts is their sense of altruism, their constant sense of duty and service towards others, the desire to make life better for as many people as possible. They had their faults and shortcomings and certainly made their share of mistakes, but they kept at it, they kept trying, kept moving forward, as they moved a country and a people forward, helping them to think and to reason and to stretch in ways they might not have otherwise. They changed the way government works in this country, and proposed and implemented most of the social programs that benefit all of us today, such as conservation of natural resources, food inspections, Social Security, unemployment benefits, the right to organize labor unions and their right to negotiate, the 40-hour work week, our national park system, the FDIC, to name only a few.

It is this sense of altruism that is missing in so much of American government today. Too many elected officials seem interested only in blocking beneficial legislation, in cutting benefits to Americans stretched to the limit, and in downgrading another political party when they’ve done so little good in their own. Theirs is not an attitude of service, but of self-serving childishness and pettiness, wasting their terms in office by failing to adequately serve the needs of their states, districts and constituents.

Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt made countless enemies during their presidential terms in office, usually because of their brashness in pushing legislation through, in going above and beyond the Constitution when needed and possibly overstepping their executive powers at times. But these bills were written and pushed through so they could benefit the largest number of people in the shortest time possible. If they erred, it was in the best possible way, always making the needs of the people, of their own generation and of future generations, the most important factor. Would that more of today’s politicians had more mercy towards others in their souls, rather than hardness in their hearts; the Roosevelts never forgot those they were elected to serve.

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!