Magnificent Beasts

Elephants are amazing. But you knew that. I travelled to Thailand blissfully unaware of what, exactly, I was in for. After a night in Bangkok we loaded up and flew to the wonderful city of Chiangmai. And after a night in Chiangmai we loaded into four by fours and headed into the hills.

Using their trained keyword "bun bun" to have them raise their trunks – those elephants love bananas. Click To Tweet

We lined up outside the fence around the enclosure and the elephants came to us, obviously anticipating what they knew came next. Huge bunches of small local bananas were placed on the ground and we were shown how to give them to the elephants. And we proceeded to do just that, using their trained key word “bun bun” to have them raise their trunks. Those elephants love bananas.

We arrived at Elephant Jungle Sanctuary #9 and loaded our stuff into a bunkhouse that would be our home for the next four days. Those were some hard bunks, just a mat and a throw. But that is of no matter. We were given a little orientation and went to meet the elephants.

For the next days we would come to know the elephant’s habits, their families, their names. We would bathe with them, in water and in mud, we would help to do vet checks on them and learn about their health, we would walk with them in the jungle as they walked free. We were told about the history of the elephants in Thailand, their uses and abuses, and of all the efforts the project was making to rescue them, to make their lives healthy, happy and safe.

For the next days we would come to know the elephants' habits, their families, their names. Click To Tweet

We also learned about the lives of the mahout, the “handlers” that literally live and work with the elephants on a daily basis, and the efforts being made to improve their wages and living conditions. We worked to build dams in a small river, creating larger pools for the elephants to cool in during the hot dry season when the water was low.

I loved being close to them but I also found them very intimidating. ! When we were in the jungle with them, the guides told us it was their time, not ours and to just let them do what they wanted, to walk or not and where to walk. It was wonderful that there was so much respect for the needs of the animals and that the people came second, put their needs second. There was a sense of glorious purpose, living and working with people so committed to these beautiful, intelligent animals and doing something to help. It is hard to articulate why this felt so good and so important, but it did; something to learn from.

There was a sense of glorious purpose, living and working with people so committed to these beautiful, intelligent animals… Click To Tweet

Some in our group were totally fearless and walked amid them as casually as can be imagined. As much as I loved being with them, watching them, learning about them, I’m sorry to say that wasn’t me.

Learning ~ It’s Never Too Late

First, social media. Yes, like every baby boomer I have learned the basics of Facebook. And I do mean basics. The “gif” thing still escapes me but I don’t really care.  I spent a weekend recently setting up an “author” page, which you are probably on, and getting schooled on Twitter.  I now understand why everyone is looking down all the time, your twitter has to be maintained, stay fresh.

So ok, I have acknowledged that I am an author and my mentor and guru decided I could be trusted not to muck up my WordPress site and gave me “tools”.  Trust, how wonderful.  Joy, now I had to learn to use them.

After three tries and several repetitions, and a couple of requests for refresher texts, I managed to make a “tweet box”. I felt deeply accomplished.  I find that no matter how many times you tell me how to do something I cannot master it until I do it myself, hands on, several times.

And so it is with much in life. I have not been an adventurer since I was quite young.  In my late teens and twenties I was fearless, some of the reasons for which are for another time.  I was unafraid to go anywhere, do most anything.  I find now that I am willing and desirous of finding that courage again. With the “wisdom of age” however came fear and as a result, reluctance.

So how do you learn courage?  The same way you learn to tweet, by practicing, by doing, by going beyond the borders of what you already know. You learn to be alone by practicing being alone, by doing things you like to do even as they feel awkward.  Tweeting regularly is more work than I would have thought, but then again, so is courage.

Here I go again my friends.

Becoming ~ Redux

It is a year on down the line and some things are clearer and some things not so much…..

I have had many small adventures, theatre, symphony and other cherished music.  Live performance is critical to my happiness.  I have spent much time with loved female friends and have talked to the dog and the cat at great length.  I have watched my son becoming, in a very real sense, the man he will always be while being intensely grateful he is my child.  His help and support this past year has made my life manageable as I swing madly from fierce to afraid and learn how to do things I have never had to do.

I have learned to clean the pool, I have learned to dispose of dead animal cat gifts, I have learned I cannot change the light bulbs in the kitchen or the air conditioning filter.  But I have found people to help me with what I cannot do and I accept that there is much I have to do.  All this has shifted my perspective about what my life will look like in the future, what I want to deal with and what I don’t or won’t.  BAM, everything changes.

I have understood love and I have not dated.  I have taught children about God and in the process found my faith stronger. I have begun a crooked walk towards possible retirement and the financial realities that I will face.  I have made music with people I love and in that creativity have found immense joy.

How odd to think that one morning I will wake up for the first time in about fifty years with no need to rise and go to someone else’s employ.  Probably the most exciting and the scariest thing I have ever contemplated.  If I can stay in the idea that this is a great opportunity and that wondrous things still await me at this late time in my life, it will be amazing.  And so I work on creating options, possible paths for myself, knowing that at any moment, BAM, a totally different path may appear.  Stay in the moment but plan….faith is the antidote to fear.

Things Your Father Wants You To Know #3 ~ Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff

I think its fair to say that your father sweats the small stuff; the smaller it is the more sweat. And it causes him a lot of angst. He is truly a mensch when it comes to the big stuff. If he wasn’t, we wouldn’t have you! We had just moved in together and I called home and said I was bringing home a teenage girl who needed a foster placement ~ no big deal. Call him in the middle of the night for an emergency, he is up and out in a heartbeat; but leave a dish in the sink and his head explodes.

So more than almost anything he would tell you… don’t sweat the small stuff, it will just raise your blood pressure. And more importantly, it is almost all small stuff. There is very little that you will face in life that is actually life threatening. There is no question that you will face things that will force change in your life; change is not bad, it can just be very disconcerting. Fearing change can cause you to make bad decisions; trust me, we know. Most decisions, fortunately, are not irrevocable. The good news is that faith will carry you through most change, and most change won’t kill you; small stuff.

With any luck you will never go to war. Hopefully you will not face life threatening illness, catastrophic accident or the untimely loss of a loved one. But you cannot count on these things; these are the big things. You will sweat these things, they are hard, painful and demand your attention. These are the things it takes time to recover from, the things that leave scars on your heart. Pretty much everything else is small stuff.

If you remember that it is all small stuff, you will have an easier time in your relationships; the necessary compromise will come more readily. If you are able to let the small stuff go, you will waste a lot less emotional energy on things that don’t really matter. You will be able to survive any tragedies that come your way. If you don’t sweat the small stuff you will have the emotional space for the things that really do matter… your loves, your passions, your joys.

Things I Want My Son To Know #2 ~ Don’t Be Afraid

Don’t be afraid. That’s it in a nutshell. If I had to choose one thing that I think is most important it is this… don’t be afraid. Fear informs all our bad decisions, all our non-decisions, it paralyzes us. It is not good to get hurt, but it is worse to never try. Don’t be afraid to love, you never know when you are going to find your one true love. Don’t be afraid to try new things, you never know when you will find your passion and your success. Don’t be afraid to laugh out loud, you never know when you will need those few more minutes of life (laughter adds minutes to your life they say), or when it might be your last good laugh. Don’t be afraid to tell your loved ones that they are loved, it might be the last time you see them. Don’t be afraid to trust, even when people abuse your trust it is better than living in cynicism and distrust. Don’t be afraid to touch people, hugs make a lot of stuff better. Don’t be afraid to talk to God, that way you’ll know you are never alone. Don’t be afraid to sing out loud with your head out the window and the wind in your face. Like any mom, I don’t want my son to take crazy unnecessary risks. I am afraid for him all the time and to counteract that fear I work on faith that he will be okay. But I want him to take risks, life is about risks. If you risk nothing, you get nothing; financially, spiritually and emotionally. Now that I’m old I am a little afraid of motorcycles (I have seen a lot of friends pretty broken up), but I wouldn’t trade knowing what its like to ride a beach road on a summer night on an old Harley. I know now that too much loud rock and roll can cause hearing loss, but I wouldn’t trade long nights of the best rock and roll in the world. I don’t want high cholesterol or diabetes (one I have and one I don’t) but I won’t trade the taste of a fresh blueberry pie or a profiterole. We try to protect our children from all the things we are now afraid of, but in my heart of hearts I know he has to take some risks, and I want him to take others, in spite of my better judgement. I want him to feel joy and love and laughter and a little danger, and not be afraid, and be safe.