Lost Things

It’s a perfect day to be next to the water – so long as you perch your bum on a sandy log instead of on a cold metal bench. Cloudy, but calm. No rain today. The temperature is bordering on sweatshirt weather, but a soft breeze might make you wish for a jacket. Despite the calm weather, my toes still know that it’s now officially winter, as they grow cold inside my gray Chucks that magically have gathered sand inside of them.

© Amy Holweger 2013

© Amy Holweger 2013

Collectors of all sorts are about, fingering and digging through the salty debris left behind by the tide. Some are picking up shells, particular shapes and sizes for different projects. Others are sifting through rocks, plants and jellyfish parts to find metal treasures. Their spirits are infectious. I walk around scuba divers preparing to explore the underwater park nearby. I prepare to get my hands into the cold sand as my eyes start roving for finds.

A rough bundle of waves roll rapid-fire onto the shore, disrupting the calming lull. Soon, the waves return to the pace of a breath, and its safe to go closer to the water to hunt. I find I have an affinity for putting things in my pockets. Today I’ve emptied out my small purse and intend to pretend I’m Tinkerbell, putting Lost Things into my fairy pouch. A bit of imagination doesn’t hurt on a cloudy day. Sometimes I pocket things almost unconsciously, arriving home with rocks, bark, shells and acorns with little recollection of how they got there.

I came to the beach just to enjoy the smells, but like a shopper hungry for a good sale, my eyes rake the piles of ocean plant life. Baby crabs, pieces of plastic, tangled brown plant ropes, and odd pieces of red that look like enlarged sheets of plastic Velcro stretch across this small section of beach, hiding surprises of all kinds. I think it keeps the child in us alive to hunt like this for shells – for things of little value to most.

Everyone has their own reasons for hunting. Sometimes i think I might be brave enough to ask these people one day what motivates the to hunt, or to do any of the things they do. All these people are so fascinating, with so much to share even if they feel their lives are dull and uneventful.

Consistent and Spontaneous

So, I’ll (probably not) be the first one to point out that being consistent is not one of my top traits. Consistency is thought to be very desirable in the land I live in, where spontaneity is a trait left for children and romantic ideas. I bring this up because I feel obligated to myself and others to develop a form of consistency for survival and courtesy, so I’m trying to at least blog regularly. Obviously that hasn’t been going well, unless you have a very loose definition of “regularly”. I can always claim my goal is one post per month, and in that case I’m going above and beyond! But in truth, I was hoping more for once a week.

Now that I’ve spent a little spell berating myself, let’s move on to bigger and better things. When Googling definitions of “consistent” and “spontaneous” in a way that pertains to this discussion, we get the following:

Consistent – “(of a person, behavior, or process) unchanging in achievement or effect over a period of time.”

Spontaneous – “(of a person) having an open, natural, and uninhibited manner.”

We all know the definitions of these words, but sometimes looking at the straight up definition really gives me an ah-ha moment. That came when I was actually reading the definition for spontaneous when referring to a plant: “growing naturally and without being tended or cultivated.” Isn’t that beautiful when applied to a person?

I’m going to go off on a tangent for a moment, but I promise it all comes back around the spontaneous definition for a plant. Now, there are some self-righteous believers out there that think they can’t listen to the musings of someone younger than them simply because us younglings have less life experience. Sure, this may be true. But it may also be true that you can’t discount someone based on their age because they can still be more experienced than you.

For example, I’ve been playing the violin for three months – clearly I’m no expert. A high-schooler is younger than me, with less life experience, but they can probably still provide me with some damn good advice on improving my violin playing just because they have more experience – but it has nothing to do with their age. Another example is a teenager growing up in the tough parts of the United States is likely more street smart than me, and grew up fast the hard way by having to rely on themselves from an early age. They have a DIFFERENT life experience than me, more experience with a different upbringing. What matters is that they have a different perspective, and that’s what helps us to grow and cultivate ourselves. We step outside of our self-absorbed circle and look at what other people have to offer. If we only offer up judgement instead of an open mind, we won’t be able to glean any gems from the beautiful people that surround us.

This can especially apply to children, who we may discount because we change their diapers. Then, you see something like the movie Beasts of the Southern Wild, and you realize that children say things like in the movie all the time – it’s profound because they have a different view of the world than we do. Here’s a couple of lovely quotes from the movie: “The whole universe depends on everything fitting together just right. If one piece busts, even the smallest piece… the entire universe will get busted… I see that I am a little piece of a big, big universe, and that makes it right.” Another couple of favorite quotes of mine are from a movie where a child also plays the protagonist, Hugo: “I’d imagine the whole world was one big machine. Machines never come with any extra parts, you know. They always come with the exact amount they need. So I figured, if the entire world was one big machine, I couldn’t be an extra part. I had to be here for some reason. And that means you have to be here for some reason, too… Maybe that’s why a broken machine always makes me a little sad, because it isn’t able to do what it was meant to do… Maybe it’s the same with people. If you lose your purpose… it’s like you’re broken.”

© Amy Holweger 2013

© Amy Holweger 2013

I think that people are consistent in who they are (even if they aren’t outwardly consistent in their activities). Their experiences shaped them uniquely, and we can learn from them. Yet, according to the plant definition, really our personalities seem to develop spontaneously. They grow “naturally and without being tended or cultivated”. We are all spontaneous and consistent in the core of us, of who we are. We can grow, but I don’t believe we ever really change. You plant a pine tree and it grows in height and complexity, but it will always be a pine tree.

The Countdown Begins…

Today is the first Thanksgiving I’ve spent alone. I went to the grocery store and drove by cars full of people, walked by families with carts full of turkey and dinner for ten. I collected seafood for a dinner for one. Looking around, I felt that I should be lonely, feeling sad that I couldn’t be with my family on this day. But the truth is that I was only relieved, relaxed. I didn’t have to worry about chitchat, about looking at the clock and waiting to go home. It’s not that I don’t love my family – I’m just an introvert and crave solitude like candy.

Today, on this holiday of gathering, I got to make my own rules. So instead, I thought about how these people were all just doing what they always do, feeling happy about a family life that I don’t have to participate in. I’m just glad I get to live in a day and age where I’m allowed to be single, not have kids, and never own a table that feeds a dozen. Not that there’s anything wrong with other people living that way, I just think that I was built a bit different – but there has to be some people like me in the world to help balance it out. My family back in North Dakota all actually spent the holiday apart, in their own immediate family circles. With death and divorce comes change, and it seems everyone is fed up with the drama as well, and I get to have the best excuse to not participate. No one can blame me for not flying halfway across the country for a one day – there are other days I will fly back and it won’t be centered around overeating and preparing for a weeks worth of Black Friday deals (since now you can start shopping for Black Friday deals BEFORE Friday, and Cyber Monday is just around the corner… these holidays and shopping events are something else that has never made much sense to me).

Today, despite all my cynicism and lack of understanding, I will engage in the traditional act of giving thanks.

I’m thankful for the warm hearts of the people here in Seattle that have brought me into their hearts and homes. I’m thankful for the people I have chosen to be my family, even if they might not always be there for me.

© Amy Holweger 2013

© Amy Holweger 2013

I’m thankful for the salty breeze that gives me a bigger picture of the life of the world, and the mountains that force me to put my life and time in perspective. I’m thankful for the trees that stand here for generations. Trees are everywhere, and they give a sense of peace, comfort and familiarity no matter where you are. I see trees in Seattle and they can link me back to places and memories in North Dakota, even if really the only trees that are there are shelterbelts. Shelterbelts have their own beauty though, which I realized on a plane ride home last year. A woman unfamiliar with the area got excited as we were landing, tapping her travel-mates and pointing out the window. In my head I’m thinking, “It’s just North Dakota, it’s not that exciting.” But as I looked outside where she was pointing, I saw something different than just my bland, flat home state. It was a patchwork quilt, each varying shade of green and brown stitched together with trees. Quilts are often thought of as being made by a grandmother or some comforting elder female for a loved one. Quilts are sewn up with time and care (not to mention money – crafting isn’t cheap) and they provide us with comfort, a sense of home. As a species, we are pulled towards nature, because it wraps us up like a quilt and brings us closer to something bigger and helps us to see things that maybe we didn’t see so well before.

I’m thankful for my income, which allows me to participate in the rich things in life like travel, eating, and reading. I’m thankful for my cat that provides me with nonjudgmental companionship, with security in the fact that he can’t get mad at me and leave. I’m thankful for my books that tell me stories when I want and need to hear them, and never complain if they sit on the shelf, never read. They can’t cuddle with me and purr quite like a cat can, but books still provide a great source of unique companionship.

I’m thankful for the temporary things in life that remind me of my limited time to enjoy this planet. I’m thankful for the fear that drives my remembrance of my mortality, to inspire me to make the most out of every day.

Most of all, I’m thankful for my capacity to love and be loved, even when I think I don’t deserve it or that I’m unable to give it. It gives me passion and a connection to the higher part of ourselves that in a way is eternal, and will carry on even after time has taken back my body.

Now that this year’s Thanksgiving is passing, the countdown begins for Christmas. Plans are still pending for that holiday, but I have more important things to worry about than that right now, like how I’m going to finish knitting all of my Christmas presents between now and then…

Trees and Leaves

It’s certainly fall here in Seattle, with a balmy average of 45 degrees. I keep thinking about my childhood home in North Dakota where snow has been falling, and in a few weeks the snow blowers will be coming out of the garages. Here, there’s just a little bit of drizzle on occasion, usually windless days, and some partial sun by the afternoon (there’s really not as much rain here as people think there is – but it’s our little secret).

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© Amy Holweger 2013

I’ve been thinking lately about my different homes and how they bring out different parts of me. In North Dakota, I was rooted as tree, content to stay put. Certainly I’m an introvert by nature, which can be a powerful thing according to Susan Cain. Back there, in ND, I feel like I was all bundled up in my wings. They were wet, dripping around my little shoulders. I spent a long time feeding my brain, consuming books and enlightened company. Then, clinging to the outside of my chrysalis, I wasn’t sure whether the sun would come out and shine on my wings or if they would just stay crumpled forever. I didn’t think much about my potential outside of my home state, because I figured I would always stay there, that I would never leave the withering leaves of the plant I was born on.

As my dreams for my life grew, I pushed my roots deep into the land. I was pushing towards the sun, spreading my arms. Digging deep for nourishment but never quite finding enough. Yet, I had resigned myself to the state, never thinking of living anywhere but my hometown. My view of life was just too small as a caterpillar living on a leaf. When I had an opportunity to move to Seattle for my job, a city where I’d never been, I took the chance. I didn’t know where this attitude derived from, because I spent a long time leveling out my emotions from an impulsive nature to one where I spent a lot of time thinking about decisions – especially big life-changing ones.

Now in Seattle, I feel like a leaf on the wind (yes, that is a Firefly reference), infected with wanderlust. It’s a tired cliche, but I’m still flabbergasted how one can “uproot”. In a way of course, part of my roots will have been left behind in North Dakota to nourish the soil there. Here in my new pot, I’m growing well with lots of creative fertilizer. At first I tried to resume all my old habits and burrow my feet into the ground, sometimes along with my head. Then I started to look around and realized the incredible and inspiring journey I had become a part of.

I had always been the person who made excuses to never write because I never had any adventures. I never had really taken many trips outside of my home state, and only once outside of the U.S. to Canada (which when you live in northern ND doesn’t count because you’re basically Canadian anyway…eh). Now my camera, notebook and I have a long list of adventures planned. I feel like my wings are finally beginning to dry, and I’m setting off on my own.

Sometimes I have to wonder though – why the sudden change? Everything about my life changed except for me. Then, when I tried to remain the same, I felt stuck. I had to open myself to change. It makes worry that I went too far, and the wanderlust is just another symptom of “not enough” when faced with new circumstances. As I settle in to Seattle, the place I now call home, why do I want to explore? Is it because of the obvious that Washington (and the rest of the planet) is a beautiful and endlessly fascinating place to explore? Is it because of my new lease on life, and now that my outer definitions have shaken loose I am free to finally “be” this potential that was locked up inside of me? Or is it just part of an endless search for something “more” in life in a new form? Am I just falling into another mold of what’s expected of me as an outdoorsy Seattleite?

In cases like these, were I tend to chase my tail, I find it’s best to sit. To radiate the roots of my energy into the earth and spread my leaves to soak in the sun. To pull from my deepest wisdom, and settle like a shaken snow globe to see what exactly lies beneath the swirling particles. My only problem is that I tend to keep picking up the damn snow globe again and giving it a good shake before I see what is at the center.

So, I keep moving forward. I’m FINALLY getting my passport this month…

These are the voyages of a passionate girl, Amy. Her five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.

The Lessons of Animosity

I think a lot. Sometimes I feel like it’s an unfortunate side effect of being introverted as I am, but at the same time it’s a blessing. I spend a lot of time wading through messes, trying to figure out what I’m thinking – because honestly I don’t know sometimes, and it truly frustrates me. Then I get shots of clarity on occasions, which always feel like a release of pressure as you exit a hardship and have more of a sense of the hardship being “productive” and “worth it” (in retrospect, of course). In recent events, I’ve taken to really observing how I interact with people and most of the time I watch myself do and say things where I feel like someone should be there to slap my hand. No more cookies for you!

You know that friend that always seems to rub you the wrong way? The coworker you can’t stand? That person at the checkout ahead of you that just seems to be out to get you? These are the people that sometimes we have to pretend to like, but the more we reject these people in our lives, the more we seem to close out our connection to the world around us. Why do they get under our skin like that and bring to life the writhing loch ness monster coiled in our bellies?

Sometimes we’re just in a bad mood. Hungry, stressed, lacking in self-care. Other times we need to take a deeper look at why these people really bother us, and we can discover the nasty secrets about ourselves. It’s amazing how our minds know when we are looking in a mirror, even if we can’t admit that we might have a problem. We see traits in these people that we ourselves have, and we hate those traits. So we scowl, put on our “I hate the world” face and say that we are just the victim of a world that sucks.

You’re mad at the friend who always lies, because you know you’re not being honest with yourself. You grumble at your cynical coworker that complains all the time, when you go home and complain about how awful that person is. You get impatient at the person ahead of you with copious amounts of ridiculous coupons (because you’re certain it was planned that they would be ahead of you – they knew you had an appointment to go to after this), when really you just wish you could have more control over your finances.

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© Amy Holweger 2013

But realizing these things is hard, because it requires brutal honesty with ourselves. It requires us to admit that we might be wrong, and the people we hate really deserve to be loved and cared for because they are in pain just like we are – but maybe they don’t know it. You may not feel you can really love that jerk who lied to you, but at the least we can take it as an opportunity for self-reflection and be thankful for being able to see what we’re doing that might cause pain to others. And in that action we begin our path to a true joy, cultivated in a mind that is compassionate and aware.