Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Growing Up Flower Child

This little blurb is from the archives, (recycled material) over the years I have stopped and started writing my memoir more times than I care to recount. It's difficult to know what viewpoint to write from, how much detail to include or leave out etc...Lots of touchy subjects. But the more I write the better I feel, and when I share, I find people with shared experiences which is good as none of us wants to be alone in our tragedies or triumphs.

Growing Up Flower Child
For as long as I can remember, I had a sense of being different, for one reason or another. It seems I always had awareness that my life was not the same as others. In the beginning, I think this feeling was generated by an ugly custody battle between my parents that turned out badly. My mother ended up with me, while my father took my older brother and sister, none of us at the time realizing it would be twenty some odd years before we would see each other again. In addition to this, my mother’s choice to raise me in a commune, that would obviously make one feel different, I even felt different within the context of the commune. I felt like an outsider, it was a pervasive theme in my childhood.
     This sense of being different I think in the beginning was not one of comfort, but caused me to want to hide away or blend in. Of course being a young girl, I had no way to make any sense of my life up to that point.
     My mother was the stereo typical “cult” member, submissive, and unsure, looking for guidance and a sense of belonging. In addition to this, she had the benefit of receiving assistance with getting custody of me, and an escape from an abusive marriage. At that time I'm sure it felt like a good option, and without it, both our lives would be very different. She first lived between the "Love Families" Seattle homes and the 300 acre Arlington ranch. At the Ranch location we lived extremely rustically in an army tent with community facilities such as showers and kitchens.  The tents were furnished with pot bellied stoves and woven tapestries for the small amount of privacy they provided. Beds were on the floor and we had “travel bags” for our clothing and personal items which were minimal to say the least. I was fed and warm and loved at this point, and I had nothing to compare our vagabond lifestyle to so I suppose you could say I was relatively carefree. These were my youngest years and I believe short lived as my mother still lived with the fear of my father and expressed her desire to relocate to the properties in Eastern Washington.
     After joining The Love Family, my mother soon settled in a secluded area in Eastern Washington on property occupied by several other families. Being a shy quiet child, of a shy and quiet mother this was heaven for me.
     The families who located there were hardy, hardworking and peaceful people. We gardened, raised chickens, and had the rare bit of game for our food. Being “hippies” and not having much money we also received items such as cheese and milk on the Dole. We (the children at least) never knew we were poor. We were well fed and well cared for.
I can remember my mother and God mother in the cabin kitchen on bread baking day. The heels of last week’s bread had all been devoured and it was time to start again. Thin films of flour covered the counter top, the soft conversational voices of the women filled the kitchen. The children played just outside the window in the yard in summer, or in a warm corner of the cabin in winter. I remember watching their skilled hands fold and punch the balls of dough kneading it until it was just right. There it sat for hours it seemed, in a wooden bowl covered with a kitchen towel. When the time was right it went into pans, six at least, and was put in our wood fired oven. That smell will never leave me and will always mean comfort. One loaf, maybe two were served that very day, warm thick slices with butter and homemade jam. Our mothers may have felt it was just another daily task, but it was always done with care, and is remembered still as an act of love. It was a treat that was always eagerly awaited by our entire family. Homemade Bread to me represents a mother’s love, a happy family, a full heart and full belly.
 Summers were also particularly memorable here, long hot days spent on banks of the Columbia or helping in the garden. Everything grew here to huge proportions; I remember eating tomatoes plucked right from vine, that seemed bigger than my head, still warm from the sun. We raised chickens and for a time had Belgian horses that were used to work the land or get us to town when we were snowed-in, in winter.

Winter, was also an adventure, we were so remote, that even getting to the tiny town of Northport was a challenge. We had to literally be stocked up for the winter. Much of our goods were gathered and grown on the land an canned or dried for winter. We would pick and clean the wild hazel nuts and store them in 5 gallon buckets. The wild service berries were also harvested by shaking the bushes over sheets we spread on the ground. These were often the chores for us children; everyone did their share to survive. We were living like pioneers even though it was the mid 70’s early 80’s.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Owed To Winter

There is a strange and gloomy beauty about winter. The naked branches of the trees against the iron gray sky, brown and trampled grass from recent snow or heavy rain, swollen gray rivers challenging their banks, all of it a raw, stark beauty. Even the sounds are dark and lonely, drip, drip, drip, of rain or melting snow, an infrequent trill of a solitary winter bird, the crunch of your footsteps on frozen ground.

My mind works hard to find the beauty in these cold dark months, I know it is there, but it seems as though it does not want me to see it. it's not an easy beauty, but harsh, cold and dark landscape.

My namesake is the sun, it is easy for me to love the warmth and light. The long lazy days of summer, ripening fruit and causing flowers to blossom. Everything is alive.  It occurs to me I would not know the warmth of the sun was such a gift, if I did not feel the chill of a biting winter wind, nor would I worship the bright warm light of a summer day, if I did not have the short gray days of winter.

Winters dark beauty works hard to escape me, but I find it. I find it in the sparkling frost on the lawn, and in the still silence of snowfall. A frozen pond, a cold damp trail winding through the forest. I find it in the knowledge that warmth will return to coax new life from what appears to be long dead.  I know life is there, just beneath the surface, resting, waiting...

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Making mistakes and Forgiveness

Forgiveness has always been a huge part of my life. I was wronged by many people at a very young age. It was very early on I realized how much work, and how bad it felt to hang on to someone else’s wrong doing. I also realized that good people are just as capable of making mistakes as anyone else, and that included myself. So I decided to try to be as forgiving as possible whenever I could and hoped the same would be extended to me should I commit a transgression.
I have experienced both sides of this. I slipped up once and hurt someone I love pretty badly. But I was forgiven almost immediately because they said, they had seen my example of forgiveness and felt I deserved it.  I am not advocating for people to just let people of the hook willy-nilly, there needs to be true remorse for true forgiveness.
Remorse is a tough pill to swallow, I know. The natural instinct is make excuses for your bad choices, reasons why they were okay. But if you want true forgiveness you must humble yourself, admit your wrong doing, and enact some sort of change to move forward in a better direction.
Both of these things take work but they are so worth it. I feel relief when I forgive, I don’t have to carry a burden of anger and bitterness. Also, the other side, to humble oneself, to make no excuse, is one of lifes great opportunities to grow.
We as humans are fallible; none of us will walk through life with perfection. We all have the ability to miss-step and we all have the ability to forgive.  When I feel someone has wronged me, it helps me to put myself their shoes, to try to understand what they may have been thinking. If I need to be angry, I get angry, or mourn or whatever it is I need to do, and then I communicate my feelings. Sometimes this means you can’t have the person in your life anymore, and sometimes it will enrich a standing relationship, whatever you choose should make you feel peaceful.
Forgiveness comes fairly easily to me when I see true remorse; I find no benefit to hanging on to my case against someone.  If you are struggling with hurt, pain, or betrayal, speak up. No one is served by denial.   You may be pleasantly surprised by people and your own ability to do what is right.
I am starting my new year with full confidence that I am whole, and I am loving, and I want to walk through life with grace and integrity.