Just Three Songs?

From our third Writing 101 assignment participants are asked to free write about the three most important songs in our life.

My first thought “ugh”.  Not because I don’t love music but rather because I LOVE MUSIC.  In order to complete the assignment without completely losing my mind I’m going to slightly alter it to choose my three favorite albums.

  • Court and Spark by Joni Mitchell
  • Aqualung by Jethro Tull
  • Live at the Troubadour by Carole King and James Taylor

The first two were easy enough since I owned them on LP, cassette, CD and full downloads to my iPod.  The third I happened upon quite by accident at my neighborhood Blockbuster check-out counter which featured a CD/DVD pack of a live performance by the incomparable Carole King and James Taylor.

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Court and Spark:  The brilliance that is Joni Mitchell is never brighter than on this compilation (in my humble opinion).  I know the words to every song and they still evoke emotions at age 58 though in a different way than they did when I discovered it in high school.  The songs are lyrical, painting musical pictures.  Her voice resonates.  I have listened to this during happy times but also when nursing a broken heart. It is in a word…..divine.

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Aqualung represents the “rock chick” that I was at 16 and still am today.  This album was being released at the same time I went to see Jethro Tull in concert.  Having already discovered an earlier album by them, I was excited about the new release.  I’d never been to a concert but cannot  imagine a better performance than what I experienced that night. Ian Anderson, the lead singer and player of the flute, (that is such a defining instrument in their body of work), was electric.  I was mesmerized, gob-smacked, mind blown.  The songs are stories crafted inside of music that you can’t explain in words.  If you made me choose one song from the album, it would be “Locomotive Breath”.

And lucky me, last fall Spence and I traveled to see Jethro Tull in Buffalo, New York.  (see my earlier blog post “Flash Back – Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, then and now” for more about that experience and some little known trivia…..intrigued? I hope so.)

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Live at the Troubadour is like a gift from the gods.  First of all, the life work of James Taylor and Carole King, two of the most gifted singer/songwriters is without equal (again, I’m blogging so I get to state my opinion but sense I’m not alone). Spence and I have listened to this CD (and watched the DVD) so many times it would be impossible to guess. These are songs that are lovely, evocative and so interwoven into our lives and memories that you couldn’t extricate them if you wanted to – and why would you want to?  Listening to this music brings tears to my eyes, a smile to my face and  an overall sense that everything is right with the world.

So there you have it.  Not so hard an assignment once I tweaked it a bit.

No room for negativity

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In my yoga class yesterday we discussed the importance of asking “will it disturb my peace?”

Whether from situations, people or things, increasingly I find that I ask myself this question. As I have embraced yoga and meditation in the last year, I’ve found more focus and clarity. I’ve also found that I need to “clean house” both literally and metaphorically. It’s meant making changes. As a result, my health is better, I’m happier and I’m accomplishing more. I’ve also learned not everyone you know will understand or support the changes. And that’s okay. It’s just the path I’ve chosen.

Lion or Fox? That is the question…..

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I dedicate this post to Jules who posed the question in the first place and has gotten me to explore my mind, my soul and the universe in which I exist. As a Lion.

Yesterday was my yoga class with Jules from whom I take private instruction every two weeks. She is my teacher, guru and guide, responsible for my increased physical capacity as well as the expansion of my mind.  She is light, love and inspiration, always positive. Besides time on the mat our time encompasses meditation, chanting and discussion of yoga philosophy. This time Jules presented a challenge to me, along with a pen and a legal pad. While she read a brief story, I was asked to consider as I listened, “Am I a Lion or a Fox.” I was then asked to write which I was and why. While it was a spontaneous exercise, it was surprisingly revealing and spot-on.

This is what I wrote in case you’d like to read it.  And hey, ask yourself – which are you?

I am a Lion

Like a Lion, I take charge of things; it is and has been my role to be a leader.

A lion is decisive and watchful, as am I.  

Out of necessity, the lion provides (and in my case) prepares the food for others. 

As a Lion, I’m fiercely protective of my family and friends.  I can roar when provoked but take measures not to show my claws, unless there is good reason to do so.

Like a Lion, I’m wise, sought out for my knowledge and I’m a survivor. 

I’ve created a warm and comfortable “den”and share it with others with whom I feel a kinship.  

I’ve created a safe haven for a colony of feral cats, providing food, water, shelter. While a Fox might threaten them, I ward off threats.  Sometimes with a roar.  

Let it snow?

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I try to embrace positivity as my approach to life these days and as I do each day, I email checked-in with mom, who lives in Ft Myers, Florida.  “Did you get much snow?” she asked.  “Not much but the roads are bad” I replied, having driven home on some wicked slick roads last night.  Within a few hours while I was snuggled with the cats enjoying a steaming cup of tea (or 2), we got hammered with snow! It looked as though the heavens had opened up a big sifter of powdered sugar and were dumping it on us at warp speed.  “You’ve gotta be kidding me” I said, to Biscotti and Tipper who nodded their agreement.

But having scheduled a long overdue lunch with my dear friend Jeanne (who’s August birthday we were finally celebrating…yikes) I wouldn’t be deterred. I proceeded to get all dolled up in a cute ensemble, my new furry black ski-bunny boots making their debut and out I went.  I was on the road in sales for most of my career and have lived in the same county my entire life so I can drive in snow.  What’s a couple of inches?  Just give yourself more time, right?

Living on a main road you can count on the salt trucks to be out and working on this white mess.  But as I pulled onto my road, my two year old Tucson was fishtailing like a toddler on ice skates. (okay, not the best depiction but you get the idea) No four wheel drive on this vehicle, I was crawling along at about 10 mph and barely making contact with the road.   We’d planned to meet at a restaurant that on a good day would have be a 20-25 minute drive.  I gave myself better than an hour to get there……but immediately realized that there was no way in hell I was going to make it.  With regret in my heart, I pulled over and called her to cancel.

Back in my cozy house, a lunch of left-overs warming in the oven and a roaring fire, courtesy of Spence, I’m feeling a little more positive about the snow.  It’s still accumulating out there at an accelerated rate but it looks fluffy and fresh from where I’m sitting.  And I love Michigan. Snow just comes with the territory.

But when I saw the picture above, I’ll admit it – I thought of our recent trip to Sedona.  And I thought about sunshine, dry roads and a really good margarita.

Roaring fire, courtesy of Spence
Roaring fire, courtesy of Spence

And speaking of floating….

As I look out my window on a snowy, frigid Wednesday in Michigan, I fondly recalled a warmer day from this summer. My favorite Canadian and former co-worker Jess, invited us again this summer to the Port Huron Floatdown.  An annual “unofficial” event spanning 30 years, we’d missed it in 2013 due to our vacation but this year I was in.  Bucket list – right?

It was a hot, sunny day.  This was good as dependent on currents, it takes hours to complete. A tube was graciously provided for me complete with drink holders and head rest.  There was a flurry of activity to load up the tubes, kayaks, coolers, ginormous floats and rafts.  We were told  it’s “a bit crazy” to get to the launch site. Reality check: your designated driver gets as close as possible, stops in the middle of the street and you unload your stuff post-haste and hoof it to the beach then shoreline beyond.  I don’t recall how many were in our group – 30 or so?  So we’d all arrive, then tie up and off we’d go.  Right?

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It was a bit more involved.  Traffic and multiple arteries to get to the beach. Bedlam. Chaos.  A veritable parade of colorful floating vessels, life vests, coolers transported by thousands of swimsuited minions, teeming and careening through the shifting, soft sand towards the shoreline. I hung out with Bams, Jess’s grandma (one of the coolest ladies I’ve ever met, love her). We found a spot by a fence and offered to “watch the stuff ” (I’m good at that type of task) while the rest of our team ran back to work as spotters for the remainder of our flotilla, who arrived over the next 20-30 minutes blending into the throngs of floaters.  Once reunited, we quickly tied our stuff together.  In tandem, we pushed off the beach and into the water, leapt into our vessels (maybe gilding the lily about leaping – in my case flopping) launching at the same time as every other group who was ready to float.  And then we were off, starting our float just south of the magnificent Blue Water Bridge, which spans from Port Huron to Sarnia, Ontario in Canada.

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Shipping lanes were closed so the typical freighter traffic was not an issue.  Suddenly we realized we were missing some of our gang.  Leaving no man behind, Jess and her mom turned their kayaks around. No mean feat with our flotilla in tow, paddling against the current, passing other floaters shouting “hey you’re going the wrong way“. Undeterred, we spotted our lost friends and in short order, attached them and now floated en masse towards St Clair.

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We snacked, drank cold beverages, had our share of a variety of delicious jello and pudding shots.  And floated along this spectacular waterway, a bunch of friends having fun.

Would I do it again?  In a heartbeat.  With one modification, sunscreen on my thighs (which have rarely been exposed to that much sun in recent years).

You might be asking yourself, “where was Spence?”  Age 70 at the time of the float, Spence is a Viet Nam veteran with shrapnel and war injuries that have left him in constant pain. I wanted the decision to be his.  Ultimately, he decided that floating in the cold water for hours wasn’t going to make sense for him.  Always game for a day by the water and hanging out with these friends, he enjoyed the sun while relaxing on the deck with his cooler of beer at our finish line.

Good times for sure. Adventures in retirement continue. And on this cold day, it’s fun to flashback to that balmy summer day.

Sensory Deprivation or Floating Away Stress

Everyday in retirement holds infinite possibilities for experiencing new things, traveling new places. And I’ve been one busy young retiree.  Immediately after I retired my lifelong BFF found a 3 day Primordial Meditation Workshop – was I in?  Abso-freaking-lutely!  I knew meditation would be good for me but was always too stressed, too tired or too fill-in-the-blank to commit to it.  Fast forward to now. I’ve rarely missed a day, sometimes meditating twice a day. Using a free smart phone app called Insight Timer, I’m up to 221 days, 87 hours of meditation and that doesn’t count the meditation done in my private yoga class.  I began working with an awesome yoga instructor/life coach/spiritual guide every other week, leaving each class feeling more zen, younger and flexible.

So when my sister gave me a brochure to Great Lakes Floatation and asked me if I’d be interested in going, I thought “but of course”.  I deduced that being in such a great mental place, I could easily handle being inside a sensory deprivation tank for an hour. Just me floating in a mega-salt water bath, in the dark. My sister by contrast, approached our girls-day-out in the midst of a catastrophic, money-hemmoraging home repair nightmare that for two days prior to the float included jackhammering her basement floor.  I knew that she desperately needed this but wondered if she could “let it all go” and just float.

I needn’t have worried.  There is something magical about the silky, tepid salt water.  About the dark and total absence of sound.  I repeated my meditation mantra for awhile, I think I dozed off a few times.  I stretched and floated in a state of nirvana.  I liken it to transporting back to the safety of the womb. (too much?)

When we emerged from our private tank and after a shower, we met up in the after-floatation lounge.  I felt fantastic but the transformation in my sister was remarkable.  All the frustration and stress that she carried in with her, had “floated” away.

My tank

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My sister’s tank

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Great Lakes Flotation LLC
5232 South Morrish Road, Swartz Creek, Michigan 48473  – in case you’re interested