wonder • wander
a collection of thoughts, musings, and milestones
To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose oneself.
Some mornings, when I wake up, it takes me a minute or two to enter the day; to choose to enter the day. My dreams are so exciting and baffling. I want to engage the players, characters, and situations some more. No such luck! My dog wants to go outside; my cats want to be fed…I throw back the covers as the intriguing dream recedes. Fades. Disappears. I turn my mind to the reality of another day, another gift from the Universe. One dream world diminishes as another takes shape:
What dreams, I wonder are still mine as I begin my octogenarian years? What dreams are yours??
A. Lucid Dreams
C. Bigger and Better Dreams
D. Postponed Dreams
F. All of the Above
Do our dreams depend on where we focus our attention?
Here’s the thing: Yogi Berra was right: “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.”
The entire future is still available.
So, what if some mornings my leg cramps for a minute! So, what if the face I face in the bathroom mirror looks momentarily unfamiliar? So what!
I splash water on that face and tell her to smile from her heart. I find some shoes. I feed the insistent cats and my patient dog…
I go outside. There it is: the air, the ground, the sky. My chickens. And the birds!
Stretch. Bend. Move. Breathe. Walk. Skip. Sing. Hum. Look. Listen…and say aloud, “I Love My Life!”
Go ahead. Risk it! Risk being optimistic, determined, grateful…
What do you want; what do you need? Where does your dream live?
Keep speaking your dream out loud. Keep thinking about it, considering it, praying for it, wanting it, going for it, trying it, starting it, finishing it, doing it…
That’s the spirit!
May we give ourselves permission to ask for what we truly want at 100 %.
…The trip – The book – The poem – The project – The phone call…
Are you waiting for APPROVAL? From whom? For what?
Are you weighing risks? What if you do “it”? What if you don’t? Suppose you had done it?
What would you risk doing now that you would not have risked when you were younger?
What would you NOT risk now that you did or would have risked in the past?
What are the basic risks of “Showing Up”?
In Baghdad, I weighed the risk of (possibly/probably) getting quite sick against the risk of insulting the generous, internally displaced Iraqi woman who graciously offered me a glass of Tang-like beverage as I stood in the bombed-out, makeshift living quarters that she shared with her large and struggling family.
Some say I shouldn’t have risked it!
Some say, “Of course, you drank the Tang!”
How do you deal with (so-called) RISKS?
Here is a magical poem that inspires me. Maybe it will inspire you:
My personal creed for Life first developed on the playgrounds of my early childhood. By mastering the monkey bars and conquering the see-saw, I gained early confidence and uncovered nascent indications of creativity and determination.
MONKEY BAR METAPHORS
On the Monkey Bars, there is an exquisite moment when it is necessary to take a swing of faith and trust one’s ability to travel onward. Let go from behind, swing forward, reach, grasp, hold, let go from behind, swing forward, reach, grasp, hold, let go…
Intent on moving forward, I choose to let go of what is or was holding me back.
Navigating Life reminds me of navigating the monkey bars. It is about rhythm, courage, intention, plus the gravity-defying aim of making one’s way across to the next place, and the next…
It’s still a good metaphor for the ever-moving me as well as for those who consider opportunity, courage, movement, and continuation to be among the most interesting and important drivers of life?
The unorthodox see-saw maneuvering of my long-ago youth indicated an aspect of my personal style. Most kids shared the see-saw with another friend—preferably a friend of a similar weight. The two teeter-totterers would sit facing one another and go up and down, using their feet to launch themselves upward, over and over. That was not my see-saw way. No, I preferred to mount the see-saw in the middle, straddle my legs on either side of the fulcrum, stand tall, and lean my weight sharply from side to side to control the movement of the see-saw. Challenging balance. Right, left, right, left. Balance. The rule of this solitary exercise was to maneuver the see-saw back and forth, as fast as possible, pushing both sides perilously close to the ground—without bumping. Of course, sometimes, I bumped. Once I recovered my balance, I prepared for the next bump.
From those teeter-tottering playground experiences, I learned that, in big life, bumping is inevitable. Also, the act (the gift, the talent) of letting go is something to hold on to…
“The world is but a perpetual see-saw.” Michel de Montaigne
When I was eight or nine, my Grandmother Bailey regularly instructed me to slather my face with Pond’s Cold Cream every night. This would stave off wrinkles. Well, of course, I didn’t follow her advice! Cold Cream was greasy and it had a scent (I can still conjure that Pond’s olfactory unpleasantness). It was a bit too "old-grandma" for my taste.
Anyway, I wasn’t worried about wrinkles. I was worried about freckles!
Freckles were an unfortunate imperfection; an imperfection that was unavoidably visible on my face, arms, and skinny little legs. Sure, wrinkles may have been a horrible reality to old people—but I didn’t have wrinkles and I was lifetimes away from being old. Why be concerned about some future, future thing I couldn’t imagine?!
Classmates called me “freckle-face”.
In third grade, Brian, who could barely read and who sat at the desk behind mine, posited that I had probably been left out in the rain when I was a baby and my hair got rusty and dripped on my face. Middle school boys suggested that I should stay out in the sun a lot more so all the spaces between my freckles would fill in and it would look like I had a tan. I knew that wouldn’t work. It felt like thoughtless taunting.
My own mother suggested putting urine on my face to bleach the freckles—like “they” did in Ireland, according to her. I knew my freckles (ha, “like the back of my hand) and I could instantly see a reddish-brown speck anywhere in the freckled landscape of my body and recognize it as a foreign mark. A smudge. Some dried butterscotch spots. A careless peanut butter smear from lunch. Playground dirt.
I could not wear dresses with polka dots.
Had those myriad rusty freckles of mine been numbered--by an angel or perhaps by a supremely gifted Artist—I imagined being able to draw a line from number to number to number thus revealing a beautiful map or code or figure that illustrated the meaning of life or solved the secrets of the universe.
As we know, years come and fade into the past; into memories. I stopped being concerned about freckles long ago. Freckles do fade with age and indoor living. The bothersome issue passed.
Eventually and inevitably (I can’t say I wasn’t warned), the “future, future” showed up. It’s here. It’s been here for a few decades now. And, since I’m still on the planet, it is clear that I’ve entered an unenviable stage in many a mature woman’s life. Let me now speak the dreaded “W” word: Wrinkles.
I have reached and gotten accustomed to the Wrinkled Years. What the “present, present” is revealing to me about my “past, past” is that I never spent my long, long life hiding from the sun or strangers, or chance, or dangers. So, no wonder they all found me. Wrinkles invaded my face.
Note to Life (as it goes on and on): Freckles fade: Wrinkles remain.
Alas, it's too late for Pond's Cold Cream.
Four hundred, sixty-five dollars and fifty-eight cents is the exact amount of money owed to me by BookBaby, the company that printed and “distributed” my memoir: STILL MOVING. Four hundred, sixty-five dollars and fifty-eight cents is the total amount of my earned commissions on book and Kindle sales from December 29, 2000--the pre-publication date--through the end of April, 2021.
Let me break it down a bit more. The “retail” price of my memoir is $17.95. The less than laudable figure of $465.58 represents this naive, overly-eager, first-time author’s dollar share of sales on: 125 paperbacks ($360.03); 22 Amazon Kindles ($73.70); 2 Bookbaby Bookshop sales ($17.95); 1 “i-book” ($3.50); and 1 Amazon Kindle-CA ($3.51). On a better side—if not a truly “the good side”, in December, I had the foresight to purchase two hundred and fifty paperbacks at the special customer price of $10.80 a copy. These I sold privately—or gave away. For the purpose of this rant, I did not factor in those sales.
Now, through simple arithmetic, I have deduced that four hundred and sixty-five dollars ($465.58) is thirty-two dollars and forty-two cents ($32.42) short of the number that my author’s cut must reach before BookBaby cuts me a check.
This is Life—not “death of a thousand cuts”!
Surely, the magic number of five hundred dollars ($500.00) looms on my near-future BookBaby Author’s accounting page.
Note to Self: do not permit your confidence and optimism to waiver or be thwarted by the reality of your current (and far less than stellar) publishing circumstances. You are “still moving” towards a resounding small “S” success. May is such a friendly and promising month.
As any first-time author, who has dreamed of good reviews and positive results and who has traveled the long and winding road of independent publishing, will attest: a self-publishing adventure is not for the faint-of-heart. Most, who have traveled this road—fraught with unintended consequences and helpful and unhelpful revelations--might pause before recommending this path to the easily discouraged.
In the beginning, (wherever that was) I actually thought writing the book would be the most formidable road-to-authorship hill to climb. In my case, getting to the acceptable PDF stage took years. And more years.
With the creative, fun, writing part of my journey had been conquered to my satisfaction, a bigger task confronted me: dealing (and fighting) with a professional editor. Oh, the editing and re-editing! Oh, the criticisms and critiques; the disagreements and misunderstandings!
One might surmise that that fourteen-month ordeal represented the most difficult part of producing a book. Pause. Breathe…
Actually, no. My fragile little memoir still had to weather the storms of confusing and frustrating DESIGN decisions. Disparate opinions were borderline abusive. Consensus was elusive on everything: the front and back covers; the typeface; the paper color and weight; the margins; the spine; the photographs; the dingbats.
What, pray tell, is a “dingbat”? Isn’t that how Archie Bunker referred to his wife?
Frustrating squabbles and intractable opinions about design and marketing concepts stalled the desired progress. The entire production year was full of difficult discussions, major and minor misunderstandings. Far too many hurtful remarks knifed through cyberspace. Senseless arguments among my hand-picked team of valued supporters and creative professionals made my head spin. Tragically, it redounded to the loss of a treasured friendship. Deeply painful. And maybe, in the end, that was the most difficult part of it all…
So, to reiterate: May is a particularly friendly and promising month. And who doesn’t love June!
SCIENCE OF MIND THE GAP
“By convention there is color, by convention sweetness, by convention bitterness, but in reality there are atoms and space.” --Democritus (c. 460 – c. 400 B.C.)
There are spaces between everything. We know that from basic science lessons. Molecules are not connected. Nothing is solid. There are gaps between everything. Synapses. I am a creature who is most alive when hovering over a gap, landing, surveying, and taking off again.
The Unknown is what I know best. It’s reliable. I know it’s there. For me, the power and discoveries that exist in the unknown beckon me…onward! My curiosity about the magic and mysteries and information that lie ahead repel any sense of fear. I embrace the idea of the unknown. It propels me into the adventures that create my life. There are those who are reluctant to explore the dark, distant, and indistinct aspects of life on our planet. Many cling to the edges of free-floating fear and live lives dictated by conservative convention and practical rules rather than by the concrete knowledge that nothing is solid. Gaps are everywhere. They divide and join everything. And falling into gaps and climbing free and leaping safely over gaps are some of the reasons I love my life so much.
The ground isn’t solid. Marriage isn’t solid, not all friendships are solid and not many careers are solid. It’s simply and scientifically true: The Universe is not very solid. And by extension, solids are only relatively more solid than liquids which are only relatively more liquid than gas…
At this particular crossroads in my more than seven-decades-long life. I am focusing on the other side of some identified and unidentified gaps. And I am preparing to journey to them, explore them, cross them.
I want to breathe my way around the world again. I want to excite my senses with that which is still foreign to me. I want to catapult myself into new realms of thought.
I want to navigate my way over, under, around, and through the gaps in my understanding of the world and world cultures.
Sometimes, in my dreams and fantasies, I sense--or imagine--hands reaching across the seas, inviting me to be part of something bigger than the good Life I have here in New Mexico with my community of friends and family and activities. At seventy-seven years of age, I recognize that parts of me are moving (slowly, surely) towards an inner stillness…and still, I find myself driven by a strong voice of longing and a recurring caw, caw, calling from that familiar unknown; the mysterious unexplored—commanding me: “Move. Onward. Now!”
GOOD MIRROR/BAD MIRROR
There are two big mirrors in my bathroom. In the “KIND” mirror, with soft light coming from behind me, I look quite attractive—at least by common standards for women of my generation. In the other mirror, the “MEAN” mirror, I look like a desert rat with the wrinkled face of the woman I have become as a result of the lifestyle choices I’ve made over the decades. Mine is not the face of a pampered, well-cared-for or self-caring woman born with good skin. My super-pale, melanin-deprived skin has had the misfortune of belonging to an impatient, think-about-it-tomorrow, truth-defying and truth-denying woman of an advanced age whose independent decisions led to certain ancient-skin results.
For decades, through continued misuse and neglect, I failed to protect the largest organ in my all too human body. Avoiding the sun, always wearing a hat, slathering on moisturizers and sunscreen have been sorely neglected aspects in my daily routines. Today the neglect is so evident that I am disinclined to confront my face in that wicked, telltale mirror. Fortunately, I have been far more diligent in protecting my still healthy inner organs. Proper exercise, good food, low stress and lucky genes have served me well.
I take a deep breath and sigh and say aloud, “This is how things are, Durham. So, what are you going to do about it?” I have some ideas. To start, I can refuse to linger in those good mirror/ bad mirror realms and instead devote my time to universal good “mirroring”.
TEXAS MILES/TEXAS SMILES
“Home is the hunter (wanderer), home from the hill (country)”. Thank you, Robert Louis Stevenson (for the cadence) and apologies to scholars for the plagiarism.
A picture may be “worth a thousand words” ---or more--- but a road trip through Texas, is worth an infinite number of words. All my senses were in full alert as I traveled along a few of the highways and byways of The Lone Star State. I heard the trains… “And when”, I asked myself---because I was alone---"did trains get so incredibly loooong!?” At one railroad crossing in Fort Stanton, I waited for almost five minutes while the tanker and container cars clacked by and by and by. I smelled the feedlots---and I asked myself (chastised myself) again, “why do I eat meat?” I tasted migas for the first time in a long time—in three different restaurants. (Note: migas are best when the chips are crunchy.) I saw a sign on a billboard advertising “World Famous Beef Jerky”. Who knew there was such a thing! I imagined someone in Fiji or Finland feasting on and commenting about the fame of that special brand of jerky. (“It’s famous, you know.”) I felt the wind and the rain and the sun---all Texas-sized.
If I were to write an epic poem about my trip---or even just one of those long poems one struggles to read on parts of two pages in The New Yorker---it would have to include some (or all) of these elements: 1) A bloated dead Black Angus cow on its back, with four feet sticking straight skyward---as if “playing dead”, I thought, smiling to myself because…it wasn’t playing! There was so much road kill along those miles. Caused by people in a rush, I guess…and animals in states of confusion. I “encountered” a doe and a buck bounding across the road right in front of my car…a reminder to drive carefully and to pay attention. 2) Empty, boarded-up, burned- out buildings where small businesses once flourished. Big box stores standing at the edges of towns…3) Hawks and ravens and, to my delight, one cardinal (because then the rains came and the birds hid in trees beyond my view). 4) A herd of antelope—such graceful, shy animals! 5) A portly, off-balanced man, in a red plaid shirt, on a steep incline, fastening a huge American flag to an equally big sign reading GUN AND KNIFE SHOW THIS SATURDAY 6) Beautiful stretches of road, marvelous rocks and ridges, some rivers…tall grass…Nature. And then, a sign for a housing development: Paleface Ranch---and I wondered who, in the world, would want to live there? 7) A gardener collecting small flowers to garnish meals at the fancy Spa. 8) “Keep Out” signs. “Trump” signs. “Wrong Way” signs. “Exit Only” signs. All signs of our times.
In that remarkable nine-day journey, I saw a thin slice of Texas---which is also a thin slice of America. It wasn’t, by any means, a true cross section…but it did give me some insight into the vastness and diversity of the state and the beautiful people who inhabit it. And it gave me some solo time to consider the trials, triumphs, and tribulations of this struggling country which continues to conquer dangerous and confusing crossroads.
Wonder & Wander
A collection of thoughts, musings, and milestones from author, wonderer, and wanderer, Linda Durham.
Copyright © Linda Durham | Site Design by Angulo Marketing & Design
Linda Durham is a human rights advocate, adventurer, author of Still Moving, The Trans-Siberian Railway Journey, An Art and Friendship Project, and a Sixties Manhattan Playboy Bunny. She is the founder and director of Santa Fe's Wonder Institute, which sponsors art exhibitions, lectures, workshops, and salons focused on discovering and implementing creative solutions to contemporary social and cultural issues. For more than three decades, Durham promoted New Mexico-based artists as the hands-on owner of contemporary art galleries in Santa Fe and New York.