Wow! How did this happen?

Last night we watched “The World’s a Little Blurry,” documenting the meteoric rise of the American singer-songwriter Billie Eilish, whose actual name is Billie Eilish Pirate Baird O’Connell. In 2015, at the age of 14 she decided to record the song “Ocean Eyes” written by her brother Finneas. Then just for fun, she posted the song on SoundCloud. Almost instantly, she was acknowledged with 10 million hits and her career was launched. Then in 2020 she won five Grammys. That same year Forbes reported that she had an estimated net worth upwards of $50 million, even before the release of her documentary-style movie.

Like many creatives, she expresses herself not only in her art, but also in her appearance. You can’t help but notice her brightly colored hair, baggy eclectic clothing and jewelry—lots of jewelry. She was born and raised in Los Angeles. Billie and Finneas were encouraged to be unique, creative and expressive. But LA and and the US are full of talented people. So we wonder, “Why Billie? How in the world did this success happen for her?” 

Gen Z

Billie belongs to Generation Z, sometimes called Zoomers. In fact, she’s one of the charter members of that group—nearly 68 million strong in the US. The general characteristics of this “selfie-generation” according to experts, is that they’re completely comfortable in a digital world, entrepreneurial, and insistent about diversity. They’re mostly unaffiliated with religion, and generally less rigid—blurring traditional “lines,” which results in being very progressive and individualistic.

Reach out and touch someone

But, lurking beyond this seemingly unlimited potential is a blaring contradiction. Although they may be quite connected via technology, they seem overwhelmed with life in general, somewhat lonely and depressed. Why? Of course they exhibit the same needs as every previous generation. Everybody wants love, significance, meaning, and belonging, right?  But the Zoomers have the added overlay of the extreme complexity of today’s world. Imagine being a Gen Z whose reality is constantly changing with rapid-fire high-tech information, coupled with an immediacy of communication and potential influence in the world. In this case, writing a song is daunting and the recording process is another task altogether. Then, and only then comes the marketing, right? No! Gen Z’ers write, record and upload all within days or even hours—the entire world is at their fingertips!

Finneas creating music at home in the bedroom studio

In a way, it all makes perfect sense. Think about it: young Billie is highly charged in a creative environment at home. She considers many different directions for her life, but is naturally drawn to the freedom and expressivity of music which is already a familiar part of her home-life. She adores her older brother Finneas and they develop a collaborative style of writing and producing music together in their bedroom studio. Being spontaneous and comfortable with social media, she probably had no hint of hesitation about putting their first song out on the airwaves.

Billie with her adoring fans

Nearly 70 million young people are listening for words and sounds that reflect how they think and feel about their place in this world. They’re not looking for answers, but rather, a voice that’s poetically and romantically asking their own personal questions. Billie projects a dark but playfully creative persona that resonates with them. Just imagine hearing her music for the first time. Perhaps feeling an immediate resonance, each listener forwards it on to several friends, inviting them, “Listen to this! You won’t believe it. She’s like me. She feels the way I do. She sees me!”

Like magic, suddenly everyone knows and loves Billie Eilish and can’t get enough of her personalized musical view of and from the Gen Z perspective. Creating a musical narrative of her life is just Billie doing exactly what she loves to do with her best friend/brother, all the while being coached and encouraged by loving parents.

Sizzling spark of energy

Billie Eilish is the classic electrical spark, the confluence of powerful forces at play—the right person at the right place on the right platform at the right time. Boom!

There’s really little reason to wonder how or why Billie Eilish became a phenomenon. Her passion is that she speaks (or sings) from the heart on behalf of millions. To quote philosopher, Joseph Campbell, “Follow your bliss.” Seems that Billie’s bliss is both magnetic and magical.

Fogged in

We awakened to a gray morning in the valley with fog just outside the window so thick you could see it hanging in clumps. Cheryl turned to me and said “Come stai oggi, how are you today?” “Sto male, I’m not well,” I said with a coarseness in my voice. It seemed that my sinus condition had worsened in the night and had reached a critical point. It was clearly time to see Francesco, our local pharmacist to ask what could be done for my deteriorating condition. 

We got dressed and went downstairs, and as was our custom, we flipped through the Italian dictionary to make sure that we had all of the words we needed to get right to the point. This was not the time for a miscue in communication—say it right one time, get some medicine, and then back home into bed.

Feeling well-prepared for the conversation, we got in the car and Cheryl drove us to Fiesole, the nearest town, where we hoped the pharmacy would be open. (We’ve been told by many shop owners that they are ALWAYS open, unless they’re not.)  I went in while Cheryl kept watch with the car, illegally parked on the sidewalk out front (that’s normal). To my dismay, Francesco wasn’t there, so I had to explain my condition to his associate/pharmacist I had never met before. I thought to myself, “My issue is rather simple and fairly common so it shouldn’t be a problem. With the season change, surely sinus issues are addressed daily.” With my confidence bolstered due to my self-reflection and recent language lesson brush-up, I approached the counter and stated my case. 

I’ll never forget that look!

I began my explanation in a pleading tone befitting someone not feeling well. I said, “Ho un’infezione nel mio seno, I have an infection in my sinus.” The look on the pharmacist’s face was one of both astonishment and confusion. Checking for possible errors, she cautiously asked me to repeat what I had just said, and so I did—loudly enough for everyone in line behind me to hear. Each customer was suddenly privy to the personal details of my condition. She then repeated it back to me in a questioning tone, with a look of slight repulsion, she began pointing to her breasts. What!?

My new best friends

Now, this really confused me. At first, as unbelievable as it may seem, I thought there was an outside chance she was hitting on me. Was I delirious? Surely, in my condition and in the pharmacy line, of all places, this could not be the case. Then, I instinctively pointed to my nose. Instantly, she was relieved about our seemingly imminent first date, and the issue was suddenly clear. There was an almost audible sigh of empathetic relief from all of my “new best friends” behind me. I turned and offered a polite but awkward smile. The pharmacist quickly prepared an appropriate remedy. I paid her in cash and gathered my gift-wrapped package (they sometimes do that in Italy and we have no idea why). I shuffled through the door, breathing a raspy sigh of relief, eager to begin administering my new healing regimen.

As I approached the car, I detected a look of embarrassed concern on Cheryl’s face. It seems that while I was inside the pharmacy, she was outside, practicing her reading skills. There was a large poster in the pharmacy window advertising a cream for breast enhancement. She had spotted the word seno and knew that I was inside at that very moment, asking for some help with my seno. Oooff. She knew before I did that, depending on the context, the word seno is unfortunately, the same for both sinus and breast (why oh why would they do that?) With 450,000 words in the Italian language, evidently, they couldn’t add one more? There was no pronunciation or even a grammar error this time. 

I’ll do better next time

To this day, I’m still troubled by the incident. Why, given the two choices between sinus or breast, did the pharmacist think that I meant breast, since I am obviously a man (I did though, at that very moment question my own masculinity). I was sure she could clearly hear the raspy nasal tone in my voice that indicated a sinus infection. Maybe I inadvertently placed my hand on my chest, giving her the wrong visual cue.

So from that day forward, I’m extremely careful to make sure my hand gestures are tightly synchronized with what I’m trying to say—just like any good Italian!

This is the first “breadcrumb” we’re leaving along the path “Toward the Light” of aging.

Rumi speaks to us across seven centuries, as a wise old friend joining us in the shade of the porch on a warm summer afternoon. Perhaps he has come to stay for a few days, or even longer. Wonderful! We sit entranced by his soothing voice as he recites a poem written especially for us. He calls it “The Guest House,” to honor our openness, hospitality, willingness to listen and our love of Life. We absolutely adore his visits—always gentle, kind and gracious. We heed every carefully selected word and subtle inflection in his voice as he begins:

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably. 
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight. 

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

What a beautiful poem to start our journey into the “final stage of life.” We took our first step by cracking open “The Spirituality of Age: A Seeker’s guide to growing older.” The co-authors invite readers to take a new perspective, a new vision toward aging—with a veil of spirituality. Count us in!

Rumi, our first guest

As we all know, in order to begin any new endeavor, we must first be open to listen and then to actually hear. Lao Tsu said, “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.” Hmm. Ahh. We are ready, and Rumi arrives as our first guest and guide. We lean forward to hear his message. Shhh!

Poetry by Rumi, from “The Essential Rumi,” translated by Coleman Barks.
The Spirituality of Age: A Seeker’s guide to growing older,” by Robert L. Weber Ph.D. and Carol Orsborn, Ph.D.

The first post of this series is called “From Wind-Down to Wisdom,” and can be found with a simple click. To find all of the stories that will follow, just enter the word “Breadcrumbs” into the Stories “Secret Search” box,” on the site’s front page and they will all magically appear for you.

Turning toward the Light.

Cheryl’s mom had a funny saying, “One day, we’re all going to wake-up dead.” This may sound like a contradiction, but it’s actually a humorous nod to an inevitable reality. 

Kane Tanaka

Hey folks, that’s the truth of the matter. We all WILL die, even though some people seem to defy that reality. For example, the oldest person living (as of Jan 12, 2021) is Kane Tanaka in Fukuoka, Japan—born the same year as the Wright brothers’ first powered flight. Imagine that! For some of us, the earthly end will arrive much sooner than it will for others, but eventually, even Kane will take flight. But at 118 years, she wants to delay her own “take-off.” She thinks she’ll be ready when she’s 120. Why is that any better than 118, you might ask? Only Kane knows?

So, what’s her secret to longevity? She says it’s all about “Eating delicious food and studying,” Okay, we can do that, but frankly, there must be a bit more to consider!

Living well is one desire that many of us surely share. However, for some, the topic of mortality has rapidly moved to the top of the list. We represent just two Baby-Boomers, two septuagenarians. But let’s face it, In order to even consider a powerful “lift-off” from this earthly adventure, it makes sense to examine our pasts—which may then require a little clean-up work. We’ve always tried to “keep house” as we go, checking in with the expertise and wisdom of select therapists along the way. But, over the past several years we’ve decided to “up our game,” deliberately and methodically digging into lingering issues or limiting perspectives. We feel that this deeper dive will help better prepare the Way. Now, together, we are ready to design a “grand finale” for this human experiment. Here we go!

Erik Erikson

We first shifted our gaze to the future when our wonderful therapist Dr. Jody Saltzman referenced the work of the German-American psychologist Erik Erikson. He authored the now famous “Eight Stages of Psychosocial Development”—of which the last and final stage is “Maturity” (from ages 65 to death). Ooff! That last hurrah has also been referred to as the phase of “disintegration.” YIKES! That doesn’t sound good! However, upon further study, the “virtue” of that stage, according to Erikson, is “wisdom.” Hmm. We became intrigued and decided to check that out!

We are stardust

We began our own little research project to uncover the possibilities that lay ahead. We strongly preferred the word “transformation” rather than the ooky term, “disintegration.” Oh, sure, we know about the “ashes to ashes and dust to dust” thing, but disintegration sort of signals a painful “falling apart.” No, thanks. So, our mission is to turn this time in our life from “the beginning of the end” to just “the beginning.” With thoughtful enthusiasm, we jumped right in. 

Once we decided to explore the topic, we found ourselves sorting through some amazing information. It will definitely take some time, determination and patience, but early indications suggest that irresistible clues are scattered all around us. Transformation is not only possible, but appears to be the preferable “calling” at this juncture.

Finding our Way

Mind you, our interest is certainly not about “staying young,” (too late for that) but rather about making the most of this truly once-in-a-lifetime chance to “grow old and get wise.” We also suspect there might be others who are approaching similar crossroads. So, as we meander and stumble our way along this trail, we will drop as many breadcrumbs as we can. Perhaps, as we follow the clues left by those before us, we too can find our Way “Home.”

We’ll keep you posted!
Cheryl and Emerson—fellow travelers

This initial post will be followed by an ongoing series called “Breadcrumbs.” To find the complete list of entries to date, just enter “Breadcrumbs” into the Stories “Secret Search” box, and they will all magically appear.

You might also check out our related music and story from 2008 called “Toward the Light.”

 

My body felt like lead. “Who are you? What do you want.”

Somewhere in the stillness of the night, I became aware that I was dreaming. Or was I?

Okay. I’ll admit it. I had a really tough day! A good night’s rest is often the best remedy when the “toughness” sets in, so we hit the hay before the clock even turned to double digits—which is really early for us. We usually see every double digit, and witness single digits again before calling it a day.

I was sure that sleep would offer me an escape from the day’s stresses—at least I hoped so. Usually deep and satisfying sleep is often a refuge. This night began with promise, but shifted abruptly shortly after drifting off. I steadied my breathing and remember the sensation of falling asleep and releasing the day’s worries. I was right on track in the beginning. I shifted my weight to the far side of the bed to give Cheryl and our little doxy Sara more space. I was hovering in twilight sleep.Then suddenly I wasn’t!  

Fast asleep

My nightmare began. I dreamed I was asleep in a long narrow room totally unfamiliar to me. All alone on a skinny single bed, I was peacefully slumbering, laying close to the far corner of the room opposite the door. Suddenly, the door opened and someone or something entered. In the darkness with dim shadows I saw it silently moving toward me. It was a pale creature, formless, yet weighty. Startled, I had the urge to wake myself from this terrifying encounter. I tried to sit up, but couldn’t move either my legs or arms. They felt like lead. Still groggy, I called out, “Who is it and what do you want?” But my voice was as frozen as my arms and legs. From my lips I heard a low guttural, creepy sound something like: “Bhough eez zhit ehhhh bwaht zhou whwanndt?” Needless to say, there was no response from the silent intruder. I struggled again to get up and confront whatever it was, but it just kept floating/sweeping toward me as if sadistically enjoying my night-time terror.

The “Entity”

The “Entity” swooped low at the foot of the bed, then circled around me moving ever-faster. Then it approached the corner of the bed close to my head. I could feel an icy cold air following its movement. I tried again and again to simply turn my neck to see it more closely, but all efforts were in vain. I absolutely could not. It sensed my growing fear and somehow hovered both behind and beneath me. Dimensions and depth blurred. In a fit of desperation, I mustered every ounce of strength, flailing in the air with my hands over my head trying to disrupt its sinister plan. In my last best hope, I took one great vanquishing swipe into the darkness.

I was jarred into semi-consciousness with the sound of a heavy steel lamp crashing onto the wood floor. I bolted upright, disoriented. At that point, the bright ceiling light came on, blinding me. Suddenly Iris was up and on high alert. She was awakened by the crash, but of course, the “Entity,” was nowhere to be found. The only source for the sound clearly fell to me. Boy, did I ever feel ridiculous!

At breakfast we gathered around the table to review the night’s events. I told Cheryl the sordid details of the intruder’s attack. Always objective and curious about dream symbolism, she matter-of-factly said that the “Something-Entity” may have represented my “Shadow” coming to challenge me. Would I control it or would it control me? My response was the same as always, to fight back. That is my fatal mistake, it seems. To disown the shadow sets up battle lines, as a war ensues that can never be won—by anyone. And, once again, I sadly end up attacking and destroying my own “LIGHT.”

Integration

Perhaps this little night-time vignette has finally made it clear. The only way for the LIGHT to prevail, is to INTEGRATE with the shadow. The power of the shadow is in its ability to provoke. If I’m not provoked, perhaps it will settle down. “Wholeness” is the only viable strategy. I finally got it! Then, I walked into town to the hardware store to get the necessary supplies to fix the broken table lamp.

Moral of the story: Rest assured, the LIGHT always wins in the end—eventually! Why not just let it happen sooner, rather than later?

Niki de Saint Phalle was a French-American artist/sculptor, born near Paris in 1930, and died in San Diego, California in 2002. She was a pioneer and celebrated the world over in feminist and monumental art. During the later years of her life she lived in San Diego, where there are many sculptural masterpieces that can be found throughout the area. If you aren’t already familiar with her work, please allow us to introduce you to Niki by way of this digital “tour” of her incredible legacy—culminating in her magical “Tarot Garden” in Tuscany, Italy. Shall we begin? Please follow us!

Mingei International Museum—San Diego

Huge glass marbles

 

Balboa Park is legendary in San Diego.

It’s composed of 1200 beautiful rolling acres of urban green space. Several museums, gardens, theaters, and an outdoor amphitheater. Located on El Prado, in the heart of the park is the Mingei International Museum. Outside the entrance is Niki’s “Nikigator—a large lizard-like form made of colorful mosaics and mirrored pieces, inviting children to climb and explore the art from every possible angle. The materials, style and spirit of the sculpture is classic Niki, as we will see throughout this tour. Sit back, spark your imagination and enjoy! 

Poet and Muse—San Diego

The second sculpture just outside the Mingei museum is called “Poet and Muse,” completed in 1998. This is a two figure piece, featuring a female angel or muse perched atop a male figure. The angel is a favorite motif that Niki uses again and again in her works to represent “feminine energy,” or unbounded creativity. The male form is a bit more buttoned-up in a suit, orange shirt and finished with a red tie. 

We wonder if Niki was inspired by Rodin‘s Poet and Muse sculpture by the same name. Perhaps. Rodin also used the female figure as a muse, hovering over a male poet. But, Rodin‘s sculpture created around 1900 is a monochromatic, realisitic, serious carved marble statue, while Niki’s is bright, whimsical, and colorful, with shimmering mosaics. She always enjoyed making her art controversial and certainly used techniques that were unique to her, that others seemingly dared not do. Perhaps Niki was a bit of an idealistic artist contrarian.

Rodin’s “Poet and Muse”

Museum of Contemporary Art—La Jolla

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thirteen miles up the coast is La Jolla Village, where more Niki sculpture lives. Although it’s technically located “in the museum,” it’s actually in the garden area behind the museum which makes it easily accessible, as well as free! The first thing you’ll notice about this piece is that there are no mosaics. Big Ganesh is smooth and painted to be compatible with the previous Niki style, but is made of fiberglass instead—a technique that Niki used for many of her later works. 

Ganesh(a) is one of the best known gods in Hinduism and is the remover of obstacles. Ganesh is depicted as having a human form, but with the trunk of an elephant, Traditionally, riding on a lowly mouse. Here, the mouse has gained independence and is actually standing alongside Ganesh—a companion in equal standing—the much preferred Niki interpretation

Sun God—University of California San Diego

Perched atop a topiary hedge, Sun God watches over a peaceful grassy area on the UCSD campus. Installed in 1983, it was Niki’s first outdoor commission in the US. The fourteen-foot bird is made of painted fiberglass and is carefully hidden from view within the greenery. 

The Sun God is a deity celebrated in many myths and religions. In Hindu, it’s a Bird God, while Helios (Sun God) was the Greek version. Perhaps Niki’s Sun God blends these two entities into one magnificent creature. 

In July, 2016, Sun God received a “make-over.” Restorers removed the original paint down to its base layer. The paint had suffered cracking due to its proximity to the ocean. After removing the surface damage and sanding the base coat, the sculpture received fresh acrylic paint. Finally, clear coats were added to seal out the harsh elements. The next restoration will most likely not be needed for another 20 years. We hope!

Kit Carson Park—Escondido

About 17 miles northeast of Sun God, is the town of Escondido. The park there is a delightful place for a picnic or family outing. But, in addition to being a destination, the park has the distinction of being the site of Niki‘s amazing sculpture garden—Queen Califia’s Magical Circle. It’s the last major international project that Niki created, which was completed in 2003. Nine sculptures are encircled within a serpentine wall. All of the pieces are mosaic with ceramic and mirrored tiles. 

Queen Califia on Eagle

Queen Califia stands on the back of a five-legged eagle in the center of the garden. The surrounding totems include representations and symbols from many cultures, including Native American, Mexican and Pre-Colombian. As is typical of her style, Niki embraced and interpreted these cultures through her vivid imagination. The result is both fantastical and whimsical, yet always highly provocative. The playfulness of her work can sometimes hide the seriousness of her underlying messages.

Queen Califia was a warrior-queen who ruled the mythical island of California. The fictional character was invented by Spanish writer Garci Rodrigues de Montalvo around 1500. Califia’s story is the reconciliation between Islam and Christianity, probably representing the struggles between the two religions which had collided in Spain. Califia is also thought to be the preferred depiction of California, symbolizing bounty and beauty with an untamed nature. 

Coming together—back in downtown San Diego

This is one of our favorite pieces. It stands majestically in a small garden, adjacent to the Convention Center on beautiful Harbor Drive. Niki’s design depicts the human challenge of integrating the opposing forces within all of us—the wholeness that comes from acknowledging the yin and yang of our existence.

The sculpture speaks to our ephemeral and delicate nature with the lacy design—almost invisible and translucent at times. The striking task she highlights is to bring the two halves of our existence together, integrating the shadow, depicted in the black and white portion of the sculpture, with the incredible bright colors reflecting the light of our limitless possibilities. The colors and contrasts on a sunny California day are awesome, much like the beauty of human form.

You may want to visit our “Behind the Scenes” story about Niki and her “Coming Together” sculpture—We call our story “Neither Black Nor White. Just click on the title.

Waterfront Park—San Diego

Serpent Tree

Three whimsical Niki sculptures grace Waterfront Park: Serpent Tree, Cat and Baseball Player, forming a trio of playful pieces that are irresistible to children and adults alike. The sculptures are on loan from Niki’s charitable foundation, but hopefully will be able to stay long term, making Waterfront Park the perfect location as their permanent home. Swing by and take a look, and maybe even play for a while!

 

The Tarot Garden—Tuscany, Italy

Niki discovered the incredible work of architect Antoní Gaudí in Barcelona Spain and was inspired to create her own magical park in Italy. She found a large wooded property to develop in southern Tuscany where she would design and build her fantastic creations—each year a new sculptural form emerged, peeking out above the tree-tops. This ongoing project was truly the culmination of her life’s work as an artist/sculptor.

Allow us to take you there by way of the following short video. The house you will see that’s literally built inside an enormous woman—Black Nana, as she called her, was Niki’s home where she would live while working every summer on her forever growing garden paradise. The Nana series was a favorite that Niki sculpted again and again, representing feminine energy. She created black versions, as well as white.

Notes/Credits

The mechanical sculptures shown in the Taro Garden video were done by Niki’s husband Jean Tinguely, a famous Swiss sculptor. They completed many projects together over their lifetimes.

Niki and Jean

The beautiful opening photo of Niki with a stylized snake painted on her face was first seen in the French Quarter magazine in an article called “Niki de Saint Phalle, French-American Heroine.”

Niki’s work can also be found around the world in Paris, France; Nice, France; Kiryat Hayovel Jerusalem, Israel; Stockholm, Sweden and Zurich, Switzerland. You will also find a number of artists with similar works that were influenced by her style. 

 

Welcome to an amazing episode in the continuing story of Sara, the Wonder Dachshund. Cheryl: I will tell this story as best I can from the details Em recounted as he lay on the sofa recovering from his “urgent adventure” with Sara.

Secret weapons – nose and empathetic eyes

Dogs are incredible creatures. Did you know they have about 300 million smell sensors in their noses—about 50 times more than we do, mere humans? On top of that, their brains are 40 times more capable of analyzing those smells than the big person next to them. As if that isn’t enough proof, they can also sense pain/distress and will come to your rescue, trying all their wiggly, licky tricks to comfort and console, or even just lay on you. Anything to heal and make things better. We call it fur-therapy. Now, that’s a “best friend!”

Shivering Sara

The other day, Em was experiencing his share of stress around long-overdue feedback on things like relationships, communication, negative behavior, leadership style etc.—you know, ordinary things like that. He was working at the computer when our little longhaired dachshund Sara came to his side and wanted something. He picked her up to find she was shaking uncontrollably, which was really unusual. Thinking she might desperately need to go out, he leashed her up and hurried out into the grass. She did a token tinkle, but immediately started heading east across the lawn, pulling hard like there was something urgent that needed her attention (also not like her).

Trolly and train crossing

The leash was taut with Em in tow. Laser-focused, she jumped the curb and jaywalked them across Union Street. She stopped, momentarily sniffing and inquisitively looking up at a man on a platform 15 feet away—but no, he was not involved in this chase. Lurching left, she ran through a parking lot where she had never been before. Leaving the lot, she sniffed out a signal and immediately took a right turn, south down the sidewalk toward the trolley tracks. Then they bolted across the tracks where Em had to literally hold her at bay while traffic cleared on Harbor Drive. When the light changed, they were off again on a tear across six traffic lanes and a median of palm trees.

Marriott entrance

Without hesitation, she jumped the curb on the other side and launched up the ramped-drive toward the Marriott entrance. Sniffing as she ran, they circled around past the entrance (thankfully they didn’t need to go inside), taking a hard right toward the loading dock. Holy Moly! Em yelled to the guard as they darted by, asking if it was okay if they passed through to the other side. He said “the guard at the end will definitely open the gate since he’s afraid of dogs,” as he laughed out loud. Em shouted-out a quick “thanks” as his hair wafted in the breeze of the loading dock wind-tunnel.

The wind tunnel

Like clockwork, the guard opened the gate as they fast approached—a perfectly orchestrated team event and they were off and running toward the promenade along the marina. Those little dachshund legs were a blur as Sara scurried and sniffed her way to some unknown destination. Em mused that this time, the leash was pulled tight enough to pluck a low Bb, like on a stand-up bass.

They then crossed the promenade where she did the most remarkable thing: she literally jumped up on the bayside retaining wall (never before had she done such an exuberant thing in her entire life), and stood there like a statue looking out over the water. Evidently, the mysterious fugitive had made a cool get-away—apparently confounding his scent amid the boats gently rocking in the bay. After a moment of determined gazing, she jumped back down onto the promenade and then retraced their exact route back home—still sniffing and pulling Em along behind her like a man obediently following his fearless leader.

Ready to sleep

Arriving at home, they went inside as if nothing unusual had just happened. Sara immediately fell asleep. Em and I puzzled over her urgent adventure, wondering what in the world it was all about. Since she can’t talk and has no opposable thumbs to write her story, it remains a mystery. Then, a possible explanation dawned on us: What if she had sensed Em’s stress about insensitivity and over-assertiveness—his “leadership crisis”? She knew he needed help. We imagined her concocting a little adventure, combining her expert sense of smell with her innate human sensitivity to teach that “old dog” a new trick?

She decided to give him a first-hand experience that he would hopefully NEVER forget: the importance of learning how to FOLLOW.

Shivering Sara needed a warm hat!

 

 

 

2020

What did you do over the Pandemic Sequester?

As for us, we basically laid low, hunkered down, worried about all the wonderful people working the front lines in the battle to heal. We cheered and clattered with wooden spoons on pans at 8:00 pm, as everyone in our neighborhood poured out onto their porches and balconies. We video-chatted with our loved ones, read everything we could find, watched some great movies, shows and documentaries, focused on self-help, exercised, did lots of remote therapy work and on and on and on—much like so many of our fellow Americans. 

But there was one other thing we did that perhaps helped us keep our sanity while processing everything that was swirling around us in the news each day—we wrote music and stories together, a privilege that we’ve enjoyed for the past 20 years. We were “working from home” before it became a necessity. 

Following are the stories and music that showed-up for us during the turbulent and often disturbing year, 2020. We decided to collect them all together for our continuing reflection and conversations, asking ourselves and each other, “What just happened?”  It certainly wasn’t all bad. Overall, our assessment is that it was extremely sad and devastating, but also an interesting and transformative time that we shall never forget. This post includes a quick synopsis and links to each separate story that will serve as our way of documenting what 2020 inspired, as experienced by two 70 year old Patriots from inside their apartment looking out—for 10 months, and counting!

Music and Stories 

Lightning Rod

January 1, 2020

Lightning rod sculpture

Not knowing about the pandemic that was stealthily making its way to the US, we started the year with hopeful introspection, working in therapy on ourselves and our relationship, anticipating an even better year than 2019 had been. Fortunately, it was the therapy that prepared us for all that was to come—global turmoil, chaos and unbelievable sadness. The world was suffering in ways too many to count.

Playing with Echo

May 17, 2020
Then came the beautiful springtime and the May birthday of our dear Rosie June. Even a pandemic can’t dampen the contagious youthful energy of a birthday celebration. We were captivated by the creative mind of our 3 year-old granddaughter. As she arrived at her newly remodeled home, she discovered an unexpected playmate for the first time ever—ECHO. They were suddenly best friends!

No Better

June 1, 2020
Summer arrived and we found ourselves returning to a more reflective mood as the harsh realities of the global catastrophe became clearer and closer to home. The new fears and concerns were layered on top of what was already overwhelming heartache for many people—regular life. Divorce left a friend lonely and all alone—not quite what he imagined. We could see firsthand, how the accumulating psychological weight was dangerous for all of us. You might think we would all KNOW BETTER!

Lucky Day 

July 1, 2020

We were missing family due to the isolation of lockdowns and stay-at-home orders—becoming quite sentimental. Simply being together with loved ones suddenly seemed like an incredible luxury that we used to take for granted. Em’s brother sent an old audio recording of a song that Em had sung for his Mom and Dad for their 50th anniversary. We decided to seize the opportunity to recreate the gift of the original music, bringing it into today’s world as a way of commemorating that special time of family gatherings and freedom—the ability to hug, laugh and celebrate without masks or fear of risking harm to those we love. 

Quiet Comes Along 

July 13, 2020
The heat of summer matched the heat of battle required to fight the relentless virus. For us, and perhaps even for others, we felt a need to create an adult “lullaby” for the times. We know that soothing songs are  important for children, so we pondered that they could be equally meaningful to calm grownups. We acknowledge those responsible for the safety and healing of others. With that in mind, we decided to write a quiet, relaxing and hopeful song that would lull us into much needed rest, peace and compassion.

The Pusher

September 8, 2020
By the fall, our spirits were tattered and worn with all of the death, destruction and division. It seemed that our president wouldn’t  or couldn’t stop the chaos, and intentionally added incendiary rhetoric to it every day. We felt like the dynamics of conflict and negativity were determined to push and push and push us to the brink—of what we didn’t quite know. Life felt, we imagine, like a powerful drug overdose—we were given far more bad news than we could tolerate, and the situation went from dangerous to dire.

Follow the Leader

November 23, 2020
Late fall brought us to a fever pitch with the upcoming presidential election on top of the pandemic. We thought things couldn’t get worse, but they definitely did. We were struck by the awesome power of a charismatic leader. As if in a trance, people seemed to follow their hero no matter where he decided to lead them. Hearts and minds had already been captured and there was really nothing left to think about—just FOLLOW! The danger to our democracy was palpable! 

Feathers and String

December 31, 2020
Exhausted yet hopeful, we closed out the year by returning to the way we started—reflection. This musical story is about a deep meditation on love, joy and compassion in the midst of the horrific, ongoing winter wave of the pandemic. We found ourselves relying on meditations to keep us centered and resilient—musing about the mystery and magic that abides in every day, no matter what life tosses our way. We pondered the power of a smile, even though masked. We decided to trust the awesome logic of the universe. We know that healing is in the future. 

 

 

The last line of the message was left unfinished.

Our therapist said that WE would need to complete the sentence later. That evening, after re-reading the notes from the day’s session, we both paused at the unfinished line as if slowly, cautiously walking up to the edge of a cliff. We each knew the answer. Then together, we spoke the missing words like the powerful ending of a sacred song—we whispered. “Her Destiny.” Silence followed as we pondered the significance of what we had just spoken. Hmm. Something shifted.

That moment was actually foretold 17 years prior as we put the final touches on three important musical stories: “Out Of the Block,” “Swinging Statues” and “Letting Go.” Looking back, we hear the words of those songs describing in great detail what was happening within us then. And now, they speak about what is happening once again, but in an even more powerful way.

It was 2004 when those songs first appeared. Little did we know that just over a decade later, on the 17th of May, in 2017, our sweet little granddaughter would arrive in this world—a force to be reckoned with. And now, four years later, we’re faced with the awareness that in this our 70th year, we must prepare for our own “Transformation.” We ready ourselves to pass on that which was promised.

Our promise is our Destiny writ large—a message magically scrawled among the stars. The time to deliver is upon us and we are prepared to do our part. Like in a relay race, the crucial handoff that only we can make is fast approaching. And, our granddaughter is undoubtedly determined to carry it forward in her words, deeds and the precious DNA. The lineage shall continue unabated and unaltered, on into the distant future—forever and a day! Destiny.

Music and Story

Out of the Block

In 1999, we found ourselves on a partnered journey of discovery in Florence Italy where we fell in love with the city, the people and the glorious history of the Enlightenment. There, we were moved by images of Michelangelo in his studio workshop, carving the stone to release the form hidden within. That was a major turning point as we felt the same urgent chisel, chipping away at us. We were beginning our own personal works of art—our destiny, waiting to be revealed! But it’s more than that. We now see that “lineage” links multiple destinies together. Like a relay race, each relies on those who come before!

Out Of the Block

Swinging Statues

We opened ourselves to change, not knowing exactly what that would look like. It reminded us of the childhood game of Swinging Statues. Regaining our balance after a few extreme spins was always exciting: What would we look like? Who would we be? That simple game set us in motion, twirling and tumbling in surprising ways. Invigorated, yet quite unaware, we were preparing ourselves for something grand that would happen. Well, later has finally arrived. Twenty years have landed us in a form never quite imagined. We scramble back into position, take another deep breath and extend our arms again—ready for one more spin. This is our destiny—directly tied to the destiny of our precious little granddaughter.

Swinging Statues

Letting Go

Beginnings and Endings have a lot in common. They both challenge us to reach deep inside, trust completely and let go! Any step we take toward our destiny requires that we begin something new and end something familiar—trade what we know and love for the unknown. That’s just the way it’s been for us. Without the ability to let go, we would be stuck in the past. Destiny requires us to listen closely to intuition and heed the call. The discomfort of not knowing has been our only path forward. Surrender. Release. Then soar! We are ready, once again.

Letting Go

 

The misconception is that those who birth us are our parents
They are not
They are escorts through life
They cannot know what you need
They are caretakers, awkwardly fumbling as best they can

Parent yourself

Release them from your preconceived notions
They were parenting themselves, which you could not know

Parent yourself

This is not ego, which is demanding, and ultimately judgmental
This is true self-care
If someone else suffers or is inconvenienced, that is ego
Self-care is kind and generous
It is quiet, stealthy

It’s a secret mission

This poem was written exactly as Cheryl received it late in the evening on January 16, 2021
It arrived without fanfare, much like many other messages over the past 20 years. You can also visit another related story that includes music from 2004 called “Silent Messages“.