It’s not the start of a joke but perhaps it ought to have been. Months later the whole silly ordeal still makes me laugh out loud.

I didn’t notice when he arrived, whether or not he was there before or after I walked in. Initially I didn’t notice him at all; what I noticed was the turtle. That’s where my attention was…trying to determine if the turtle was lonely in the tank that sat in the waiting area of the dentist office or was the turtle experiencing solitude in the tank. It was a subject of which I had become increasingly interested in; the contrastive nature of people who experience loneliness when alone and people who experience solitude when alone.  I was a million miles away pondering the nature of the turtle when I became aware that someone had approached and was also taking an interest in the turtle. We talked about the turtle and the loneliness vs. solitude theory and watched as he/she followed my finger as it moved on the outside of the tank, up and down, back and forth. What does that mean? Why is the turtle following my finger?

I turned my attention to the man talking to me and found him to be interesting and bright and then became aware of how good he felt on my eyeballs. I had been out of practice from any eyeball gratuity measures for many years.

I had married my first and so far, only, love. I’m aware of how quickly our world moves today although I haven’t joined the fast and furious set. The companionship-at-all-costs-existence is not a suit that I’m interested in wearing; although I had every reason in the world to let my eyeballs enjoy themselves over the previous years. I had been cheated on, lied to and repeatedly deceived by my first love who I eventually and tearfully found the strength to ask to pack up his problems and let me live again. He did and I am but that doesn’t mean it didn’t hurt. I had spent more than half of my life with him and there was some healing to do.

I intentionally gave myself time to feel the hurt and grieve the loss in order to allow my heart to fully heal.  In my mid-40’s, I was experiencing my first-ever heartbreak and my tender, older heart deserved time to heal. There were no imposed deadlines or time limits. “Broken heart? Take whatever time you need, we’ll wait.”  Meanwhile my eyeballs had been patiently waiting for my heart to be ready; they’d not put pressure on my heart and had respected the process. It’s as if they had come to an agreement: the eyeballs won’t look until the heart is ready, the heart won’t open until the mind has clarity and when all systems are go then we’ll collectively venture out together.

As I waited to have my teeth cleaned with the background noise of dental drills and loud piped in happy music assaulting my senses, I ventured toward the turtle, quietly swimming in the tank when the pretty man approached.  My healthy heart gave the long-awaited signal to the eyeballs, “Hey eyeballs; I’m good to go, you can enjoy the pretty man”. And they did.  Obviously the pretty man and I had a connection or you wouldn’t be reading this. We exchanged contact information and it wasn’t long before he and I were communicating. He mentioned he was facilitating a workshop the coming weekend and invited me to be his guest. Despite an aversion to the fast and furious I am adventurous (which intrigues me that those two groups are oftentimes mutually exclusive). I looked forward to the workshop, despite having no idea what it was….which reminded me of Evelyn.

Years ago, Evelyn was a client of mine who has since died and who I think of frequently and fondly. I miss her laughter, humility and acuity. I often chuckle at the memories we shared. I don’t think Evelyn would have qualified as a chronic hoarder but she was most certainly a chronic holder (she didn’t like letting things go). While working with Evelyn to de-clutter her closets and organize her home, one of my favorite memories of our time together is holding up something and saying Evelyn do you need this?” , and she would without fail respond by saying, Yes!…What is it?” . We laughed every time. My mindset when invited by the pretty man to be a guest at his workshop was essentially the same, “Yes!…What is it?”.

It turns out the pretty man was a Shaman. I cannot do Shamanism justice by attempting to explain so I won’t. It is something I can appreciate and respect but not something I can articulate. However, I wasn’t nearly as interested in the Shaman part of the workshop, as I was interested in the pretty man part of the workshop.

Being a good ol’ southern girly girl, a great deal of consideration can go into the outfit selection process. It had been 26 years since the eyeball, heart and mind systems were collaborating their efforts toward someone other than the man I married and the other man I divorced (despite being the same person).  I wanted just the right look, the right shoes with coordinating belt; I probably spent 15 minutes selecting which bracelets to wear: “One isn’t enough, but two seems too matchy-matchy, three seems good like I’m not trying too hard, four is an even number, lets go back to three.”  All of these highly critical decisions take time and all systems were enjoying the process.

While all this was going on for me, the workshop was beginning for everyone else. I mistook the start time and with my outfit and bracelets and whatever else I deemed important attire of the day, I walked in precisely one hour late. And made a big scene. If you ever want to make an entrance and ensure everyone will notice, show up an hour late to a group sitting on the floor in a circle with no room to sit unless the circle widens to include you which means every circle member has to adjust their position. It also helps if you are dressed like no one else in the room.

I’m not sure what all went on during the Shaman’s workshop. He was serious, they were serious, I wasn’t so serious. After 26 years of not looking, my eyeballs were having a great time looking at the pretty man who just happened to be a Shamanic healer facilitating a workshop. They didn’t care how serious he was, or what he was saying or what we were doing with journeys and spirit animals and lying on the floor covered in blankets and letting our heart sing to a drum; all legitimate, worthy Shamanic practices. But my eyeballs could not concern themselves with any of that; they just wanted to watch the pretty man.

The outfit selection process had resulted in being dressed as if I could have easily been transplanted to a Parisian Cafe for déjeuner avec du vin and fit right in, oui oui merci garçon (I suspect the French are strong proponents of the three-bracelet look, I even wore a scarf!). I guess it’s fair to say if there was a fish out of water that day, I was the fish. In hindsight the Shaman probably didn’t like fish – he was more of a turtle guy.

By the time the five-hour workshop (five for me, six for everyone else) came to an end, I had developed a friendship; not with the Shaman but with Susan. I suppose the pretty man decided he wasn’t interested in a girl who showed up an hour late to attend a Shamanic Workshop dressed for the Champs-Élysées and I decided Susan had way more potential for fun and friendship; I think she thought so to. She was warm, witty and bright and I found myself wanting to interrupt the workshop so she and I could talk.  We didn’t quite fit in, we were two peas in a pod who happened to be in the wrong garden.

Other than an obligatory and pithy, “thanks for coming”, I never heard from the Shaman again. Luckily, with all systems healed, healthy and functioning, my eyeballs were happy to have enjoyed the pretty man, my heart was happy to find a new friend so comfortable and familiar she referred to us as “starting in the middle” and my mind continues to feed me with laughter over the memories created from the experience.

I’m not sure I could ask for anything more.

Thanks for reading,
~ Haven

Source: New feed

Have you ever met someone and gotten the feeling you already knew them? Have you ever said something like, “Wait, haven’t we already met?”.  That happened to me recently while camping in Vermont; I met Linda and Dan for the first time but it felt more like a reunion to me.

Ah…the best laid plans; looking back I smile and shake my head…what had I been thinking? I had set out for Vermont to camp out in Granddaddy’s Van* (* see previous blog) with a well-intended plan of spending time in solitude surrounded by the majestic Green Mountains, meditating, cycling and writing.  And all of those things happened except the solitude part; my first morning there, I awoke and walked in search of the bathhouse and reunited with my new friends.

Sitting side-by-side on one side of their picnic table, it was as if Linda and Dan had been expecting me to stop by. I initially met Lucy, their adorable Yorkie, and the little dog’s enthusiasm was so welcoming I figured I had to meet the folks who belonged to her.

Within a few minutes, I was sitting on ‘my’ side of the picnic table as we discussed everything and anything. We talked about camping, dogs, books, authors and everything in-between.  Missing was the initial awkwardness that can happen upon meeting for the first time; in hindsight I guess that doesn’t happen when people are reuniting. Our conversation flowed easily like they tend to do when you’ve known people a long time. I’m not sure how long we sat and talked, but eventually my full bladder reminded me of the reason I had wondered from my campsite to begin with. As I walked away I giggled thinking I had actually thought I was going to go camping and not talk to anyone.

Later that afternoon as I finished a bike ride up what felt to me like the steepest mountain in the world, I was thrilled to stumble upon an actual Street Dance in the tiny village near the campground. I immediately leaned my bike against a tree, removed my helmet and joined in the activities. Within minutes Linda and Dan arrived as if we had planned to meet. At that point I was keenly aware of just how familiar they felt to me.  Having had just finished a bike ride that somehow seemed uphill all the way, they didn’t seem concerned that I wasn’t the freshest daisy in the bunch.

We sat and ate lunch, listened to the live music and talked. Our conversation, familiar and easy, was not superficial as we watched and listened to the spectacle around us. While Linda walked Lucy, Dan and I discussed life experiences, choices, jobs and work environments. I enjoy meeting people and have always taken an interest in their lives and experiences; a bonus for me is when someone expresses a reciprocal interest in me and they did.

Our dinner that night consisted of Linda’s amazing ability to prepare an incredible meal from a camper and an open fire (although the camper ain’t too shabby) and they shared their secret to having a fire start the first time, every time. For me the hi-light of the meal was when she brought out the container of pickled eggs, something my Grand always had on our camping trips when I was a child. They were leaving the next day to head home and although I didn’t say it, I wanted them to stay one more day.

The following morning as they packed and prepared to leave, Dan gave me a list of things he had written for me to do – preparations for upcoming changes in my life and things to do to ensure my camping goes well in my ’76 camper van. Linda showed me all sorts of stack-able pots and pans and gave me another secret fire-starter. As I left on my bike that morning and headed out for another uphill all the way ride, I secretly wished they would drive by.  When I returned they were gone, their campsite empty, only memories remained.

As I write this, Linda, Dan and Lucy are on a camping trip. I’ve given them a great deal of thought. Time spent with them touched my heart on the weekend I had planned to spend in solitude. I wonder about their campsite and who they’ve met and conversations they’ve had, I wonder if they’ve finished the books they were reading and if their new awning has come in yet; because the rain had ruined theirs the night before we met. I wonder if they are eating pickled eggs.

But mostly I wonder when I’ll be fortunate enough to see them again. I know our paths will cross again and I wonder if it will be soon or will it be in a different time, a different place, a different lifetime?

I wonder if I’ll say something like, “Wait, haven’t we already met?”.

Thanks for reading,
~ Haven

Source: New feed

Hi Everyone!
The poem on the home page banner, Life’s Wake, is one that I wrote a few years ago, while riding my bike.  The sequence and rhyming of the poem seemed to emerge with my pedal strokes. The words bubbled up early in that ride and for the rest of the 20 or so miles, I rode in devoted solitude repeating the words with the left, right, left of my pedals not wanting to forget. I’m honored the poem chose me since that’s exactly what it felt like. I had simply set out on a bike ride on a beautiful Carolina afternoon and the words presented themselves. As I rode through the picturesque countryside by horses grazing in undulating fields, pine cones seemingly scattered like confetti from a forgotten party on the sides of the roads, that famous deep blue sky watching from above and the words to Life’s Wake bubbling up with each stroke of the pedal; all very pertinent to the world around me then, all very pertinent to the world around me now.

Life’s Wake sums up everything I believe to be most important. Just like a boat on the water, we leave a wake behind everything we do, say and think. Yes, I believe our thoughts leave a wake! It’s important to understand that our wake effects everyone who comes in contact with us and with the energy we leave behind. The circumstances are not important but our actions and thoughts always are. Every action we take effects something or someone else; our thoughts are equally powerful which is why believing our thoughts isn’t always a good idea (just because we have a thought doesn’t mean it’s true, valid or accurate). When we have a thought that isn’t positive, we tend to judge others and/or ourselves and then there it is…from what appeared to be a benign thought results in a toxin that negatively effects us and everyone in our wake.

In coming posts I will write about becoming more thoughtful toward ourselves and others. Being mindful is somewhat de riguer these days but until we step outside our often self-absorbed mind (afterall, what else would we expect it be…), we aren’t really acting on mindfullness. What’s missing in much of the mindfullness-new age-self-discovery programs and workshops is the action of stepping outside ourself to start considering others. It’s true – we have to know how to nurture ourself before we can nurture others, but being kind and considerate is the first step to becoming thoughtful and you’re never gonna be mindful if you can’t be thoughtful – that’s like putting on shoes and then thinking you’re going to put on your socks – it ain’t gonna work.

Consider this…if you see someone upset or know someone who is struggling, try talking with them, not about them. When we can step outside of our own box of concerns we can be present for others. Becoming more thoughtful will change who you are, how you feel about yourself and how you feel about and treat others. When your wake becomes pleasant for everyone you will immediately experience how good it feels when it comes back to you because it will and it does, over and over, day after day – it’s so simple yet we make it difficult. We need to be courageous enough to care about others a step at a time. It’s like standing in a long line at the grocery store, do we really want to cede our positon to someone else just because they have fewer items? But that is the mindset we need in order to care about the wake we leave behind. If we care about our wake, we can improve it. When the path you leave behind is smooth you’ll see your path ahead will be the same.

I welcome your comments, I’d love to hear about your wake!
Thanks for reading and a special thank you to Paul A. for naming the ‘Manna from Haven’ page!
~ Haven

Coming soon:
“Tourist or Traveler”…How do you live your life?
“Taking it Personally”…Do you really know what that means?
The “J” Word…Why even allowing it into your mindstream is toxic

Source: New feed

Granddaddy’s Van doesn’t have air-conditioning.  Technically it’s not a van.  Since he died many years ago he no longer owns it. But the green Volkswagen Westfalia Bus with the pop-up camper he bought new in 1976, and now belongs to me, will always be Granddaddy’s Van.

We recently experienced one of those 90-degrees-in-the-shade days. I was driving Granddaddy’s Van home in slow-moving summer traffic after having played tennis with Dave (world’s best hitting partner). I was sweating as much in the van as I had been on the court because the air emitted from 1976-era vents is dependent upon the relative speed of the vehicle. And the vehicle, on that hot, tourist-heavy day, wasn’t moving very fast. The tripartite effect of no air-conditioning, no tinted windshield and slow moving traffic resulted in me pulling into a local sandwich shop for a cold drink. I sought out a shady parking spot knowing I would sit and enjoy my soda before I continued on. Without a cup holder it’s virtually impossible to drive a stick-shift VW bus with a large, yet incredibly skinny steering wheel, and hold onto a drink at the same time.

As I stood inside the store waiting to pay, I noticed I was not the only customer who had chosen to purchase a retro-bottle of soda. I thought it was apropos for me given my antique vehicle to purchase a soda that required an old-time opener. The store was busy with people who had come in from the beach seeking cold drinks and sandwiches. When it was my turn to pay I asked for a bottle-opener in order to open my soda and the cashier gave me a blank look. They sold the retro-bottles of soda but didn’t have a bottle opener; she explained that no one had ever asked her for one. I commented that I have one in my car and it wasn’t a problem.  As I walked out I noticed other people in line with the retro-bottle soda’s and briefly wondered how they planned to open their bottles; I figured they were headed back to their beach houses. But they weren’t.
It turns out they would be headed out to Granddaddy’s Van but none of us knew that at the time.

When I inherited Granddaddy’s Van I knew I was receiving a big green box of my childhood memories. I had grown up with the van and my fondest childhood memories come from camping in the van with my Grand and Granddaddy. We traveled all over Virginia and camped in state parks, public campgrounds and the Blue Ridge Parkway. I remember the feeling of awe watching from inside the van as a bear unscrewed the lid and ate our peanut butter that had been sitting (and covered) on our picnic table. I remember peeing in a Maxwell House coffee can in the middle of the night, being awakened at what seemed to me as a god-awful hour by my Granddaddy and Earl talking as they enjoyed their morning coffee and the excitement of the discovery that my Grand, after a week of camping, could repeatedly pull out a brand new bag of Cheese Doodles from one of the many strategically placed compartments.

She stocked that van like nobody’s business. It’s still stocked today. Sometimes I’ll open the drawers and compartments just to go through and look at the cups I drank from, the towels I dried off with, the jacket my Granddaddy wore that still hangs in the closet compartment and the utensils we used. The van has everything I need; including on that sweltering summer day a few weeks ago, a bottle opener.

After purchasing the retro-bottle soda, I returned to the van, slid open the side door and used one of two (!) bottle openers to open my soda. As I sat in the doorway of the van in my sweat-soaked tennis clothes enjoying my cold drink four pre-teen boys approached. They had bought sandwiches and the retro-bottles of soda but couldn’t figure out how to open them; they sheepishly asked if I would show them how to open the “new bottles”. I explained the bottle required an opener of which I had two and I showed them how and laughed as they enjoyed opening their bottles. Since I was parked in a shady spot, they sat near me and we proceeded to sit and drink our old-fashion soda’s – the boys seeming to inhale their sandwiches – the same age I was when I used to camp in the van.

In a matter of minutes a couple walked over to us. They noticed we were drinking from the retro-bottles and asked if we had an opener. The boys with their newly-learned skills jumped at the chance to open the bottles as the couple peered inside the van. Within a minute a man on a motorbike pulled up, cut his overly souped-up engine and said he had to stop because he used to have a VW Westfalia. Two other couples, vacationing from Massachusetts, walked over and asked if they could use my bottle opener (the cashier had told them a woman wearing tennis clothes had one in her car and if they hurry they might catch me).

The man on the motorbike ended up being from the same town as the Massachusetts couples and the pre-teen boys had run back into the store to announce if anyone needed a bottle opener to come out to the parking lot that they could open them; they each bought another bottle (ahh…youth!).  In less than ten minutes, Granddaddy’s Van had gifted me with a group of strangers who had bonded over retro-bottles of soda and a retro van.

My experience that hot afternoon was not uncommon. When I received Granddaddy’s Van from my mother, I knew I was getting back some history and fond memories, but it never occurred to me that the van itself would continue to provide me with new memories. The van attracts people – for some it evokes memories of a simpler time, for others, like the boys who didn’t know how to open the “new bottle”, it’s a way for them to connect to a past of which they aren’t yet aware. Not long ago I had far too many kids for modern day regulations in the back and three adults sharing the two bucket seats in the front as we drove to a friends house for a visit; part nostalgia, part impulse.

Almost every time I drive the van I receive a wave, a honk or a two-fingered peace sign. I’ve had people offer to purchase it from me on the spot, invite me to attend antique car shows and someone bought me a slice of pie in a restaurant just because I pulled up in a “piece of history”. I’ve had hikers offer me weed if they’d let me look inside and strangers ask if they can take a picture from the driver’s seat.  It has been posted on Facebook by people I don’t know and Andy, my mechanic, refers to it as ‘Granddaddy’s Van’ on his invoices for servicing.

Whether I’m stopped in traffic, parked at the grocery store or camping in the woods, Granddaddy’s Van affords me the opportunities to enjoy the love perpetually stocked inside; but most importantly,

                                   Granddaddy’s Van allows me to connect with people.

As I put the van into gear and pulled out of the sandwich shop parking lot that hot afternoon, the pre-teen boys waved goodbye as I laughed knowing they had learned to open a “new bottle” of soda with Grand’s 30-year old opener.

My Granddaddy left me a way to experience people coming together and bonding over old memories and the creation of new ones and that is a rich, merit-filled legacy. I think that is the best gift of all.

Thanks for reading,
~ Haven

Source: New feed