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Archive for the ‘Cerebral Buffet’ Category


Silent blogging of late aside, I would assume that all who have happened upon my little corner of the Internet World have prrrooobably deduced that I’m a bit of an extrovert. I CAN spend alone time – – and do – – but if I’m honest with myself, even a lot of that alone-time is spent e-mailing people, creative writing, talking on the phone, texting or thinking up some hairbrained craziness to put up on Facebook. I enjoy connecting. Thrive on it. And though I have spent the last decade or so learning how to become more Zen in my approach to life, I’ve also spent a lot of time TALKING about my new Zen approach to life. Which isn’t being very Zen, is it?

And let’s face it. Taking pictures of oneself wearing a Viking hat in various poses and settings, while entertaining and ridiculously creative, isn’t exactly…..introspective. In short – – I’m a bit of a handful. Hopefully an insanely AWESOME (and, of course, modest) handful – – but a handful.

My boyfriend – – God bless him – – is an introvert. He’s a sneaky introvert, though, because he can be quite social. People often comment on how well he fits in with any group – – how personable and easy-going he is. He can fit in just as well with a group of Hells Angels as he could a group of Circus Clowns – – would just put on that leather jacket or that face paint….and chill. We share this talent and it’s one of our commonalities – – the ability to be a camelion in any setting and our sincere enjoyment of different life experiences. We both get a kick out of being thrust out of our familiar surroundings and thrown into a pool of the unfamiliar and told to “Swim!”.

But there is a difference – – and this really is the key difference between the introvert and the extrovert: his energy slowly depletes from social engagements and being around people or a person for long periods of time, while mine gets filled to the brim. My energy feeds off of others’ energy while his energy is slowly sucked out by people as they become unknowing vampires of his very Life Force. Oh sure – – I get tired and need a little “down time” after a series of events. But down time for me could just be doing something more lowkey with the one I love, or with friends. For HIM, downtime means complete solitude. Solitude and introspection and zoning out. It is an absolute necessity for him and it’s taken me a while to begin to understand it so that I won’t get offended when he needs it.

The thing is, he’s so GOOD at seeming like an extrovert at times that I forget about the fact that he’s an introvert, and so it’s stunned me at times in the past when he suddenly seems to flip off like a switch. But I’ve gotten to where I can see it start to happen. See him begin to shut down. I used to wonder why he would suddenly say really ODD things at inappropriate junctures in a conversation. Like, for example, after a couple of days of social events and spending ALL of our time together, I would say something like: “These pancakes are really good”. And he (after about a 5 minute zone-out session with methodical chewing) would say “Yes. Beavers have large teeth.”

It’s like watching HAL from “2001: A Space Odyssey” get powered down and start singing “Daisy, daisy, give me your answer do. I’m half crazy, all for the love of….you.” The eyes glaze over and……nothin. He’s done. And all the while, he’s got a dancing, enthusiastic, blond Golden Retriever puppy dog leaping around him saying “I know…let’s go to the MALLL! Let’s go get some CANDY and then take photos of me balancing gummy bears on my HEAD!” And I honestly think that, quite literally, at that moment, if he could be swallowed up by a rabid hippopotamus where he could hibernate within the belly of this beast for a few days, having bits and pieces of other humans and wild animals being chewed up and swallowed on top of him, he would opt for that over going anywhere that involved me possibly injesting more sugar, and balancing any multi-colored jelly-candy on body parts. And sometimes, it doesn’t even have anything to do with what activity I’m wanting to do, it’s just the presence of another body near him that sends him to Zone-Out World – – I could be sitting across a room from him, stone cold, like a statue – – – but my breathing and the sound of my eyelids opening and closing would be too much to take.

It’s taken a while for me to not get so unnerved when it happens; to understand just how deeply it helps him. And to realize that a day to a few days away is good for me too – – it seems I’ve got a little introversion in me as well. And this restoration that is derived from a place of inner peace is often a lot more authentic and solid than that gained from the external. I KNOW this philosophically – – but it’s another thing to make yourself do it.

One of the most frightening things we all have to do in life, after all, is looking inside, and facing ourselves. But it’s so worth it when you do – – because that’s where you find the gold.

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Amy2hands

I bought a cowboy hat the other day on a whim. I’m sassy most any day of the week but with the hat, I’m Super-sized Sassy with a side order or Kicking-Your-Ass. I really don’t know what possessed me to buy the hat – – but there they sat atop a shelf at Target in their cheesy, Cowboy-wanna-be perfection for $12.99 and suddenly I was compelled to buy one. It lay at the bottom of my shopping cart, promising me adventures on a hilltop somewhere in Wyoming – – slow-motion scenes of the saucy blond sitting on a horse driving the cattle with precision, persistence and a hair toss played through my mind like a romance novel come to life. And then reality entered my dream and I realized I don’t know how to ride a horse.

So I ride around in my convertible instead, and stare out at the sunny, sweltering city from underneath the brim of my hat, feeling very American indeed. I’ve had such a love/hate relationship with my country in the past and I feel myself falling in love all over again lately with it’s grit, heat and open roads. I don’t have to actually be on the open road to dream about the open road – – and dreaming of it, I have been. Specifically, Route 66 – – the pinnacle of all Open Roads. The stretch of pavement that yawns out before steaming rubber wheels en route to nowhere and everywhere. Route 66 isn’t really about getting to your destination – – it’s about experiencing the journey, which is, of course, representing the very ideal that we all are told to strive for on a daily basis – – and no matter how trite and predictable a statement it has become, it’s good advice.

route66

I want to take my hat to little diners dotted along the highway and say things like “howdy” and “I reckon I’d like some of that blueberry pie you’ve got on special, ma’am if you could be so kind as to serve me up some”. Then after she brings it to me, finish my pie quietly and mysteriously from the corner booth – – tip her 5 dollars, tell her to “keep the change” and wink at her as I walk out the creaking, glass door. Aside from her thinking I might be some sort of Roy Rogers lesbian (which I’m not….not that there’s anything WRONG with that!), I figure it could be a pretty smooth move – – indicative of someone who’s facing inner truth on the open road and just wants to share the joy of this existentialist discovery with a friendly waitress via monetary altruism. Or, you know……..whatever.

So for now, I am a cowgirl with a $12.99 hat in the city, wearing a tank top, some strappy high heels, and paying way too much for my hair highlights. But you can see by my swagger that I’m a REAL cowgirl at heart – – who’s just looking for the chance to hit the open road and kick some cowboy’s ass for lookin’ at me wrong.

Amyfinger

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ptcruiser

Very close to this time last year, I bought a convertible. It was one of those things I’d always thought about doing but was always too practical a thinker to do. I had my ancient, green, gimpy Honda Civic ’98 with NO car payment – – and that suited me JUST fine, thank-you very much. A new car – – even a SEMI-new car – – just seemed too frivolous a purchase.

But I got it into my head that I finally wanted to get a convertible and so I did my shopping around, put down a large down payment and bought a quirky but sleek 2007 silver Chrysler PT Cruiser Convertible. It was a complete splurge – – impractical in the extreme despite the relatively low car payment – – and an AMERICAN car (something I swore I would never buy) to boot – – but I loved it. The first time I drove it home from the lot, on a beautiful sunny day in early spring, I swear I could hear choirs of angels singing their praises of me as I raced down the interstate in my new-found Freedom-on-Wheels. I smiled the entire way. And waved at truckers who honked in appreciation of the blond in the convertible – – which is a departure from the usual hand signal I think of throwing….and sometimes DO throw their way under normal circumstances. Even horny, gutter-minded truckers weren’t going to get me down THAT day.

And so began my love affair with my PT Cruiser. Getting into the driver’s seat, and punching the button to pull the top down so that the world suddenly opens up above me is like a mini-holiday. Especially after a long day at work. In the Spring and Fall (and sometimes on the less Hottter-than-Hades days of what is a Southeast US Summer), I don’t care where I drive….I just drive. I drive to get a coffee. I drive to get an avocado. I drive to buy a pair of socks I don’t need. I’ll make up any excuse to drive.

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And so I drove today – – to run errands that could have been done today, tomorrow, or next week – – but the purpose wasn’t the errands, it was to drive in this beautiful, perfect Spring weather we have here in Atlanta right now. One of those series of 72 degree weather days that we experience in March that follow a blast of cold like we just had last week. Spring is not sustained yet, but she is peaking her head from behind the corner of Winter and teasing us with her sweetness.

And so I took full advantage of it and drove with the sheer purpose of enjoying the wind in my hair and sun on my face. I drove to be here now in this place, and take in the moment fully and completely.

And as I drove, the blue sky above opened up with possibility.

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img07skydive5

To say that I was once afraid to fly, would be like saying that Hurricane Katrina was actually just a few small tufts of gray clouds containing a smattering of showers. I was, in short, petrified of flying.

I was in my mid-twenties, and I still FLEW, mind you….but I got onto an airplane, literally, feeling like I was walking into a metal coffin that could, at any moment, plummet nose-first into the Earth….with me, likely, munching on some peanuts while sitting on the lavatory toilet. And what’s worse than dying in a plane crash? Well…that would by dying while sitting on a TOILET in a plane crash. Humiliation and death…joined together in a matrimonial fire.

The strange thing was that the fear sneaked up on me. What was, at first, just a few tendrils of apprehensive thoughts, soon became a giant, hissing boa constrictor of fright that began to squeeze the life out of me. I could no longer approach any vacation that involved air travel with excitement because I had so much anticipatory anxiety about the flight. And once I reached my destination, I would not be able to enjoy so many beautiful, amazing places because I would start worrying about the flight home.

I limped along like this for a year or so….never refusing to get on a flight out of pride and determination….but each flight feeling like the worst form of torture I could imagine. Until one day, after a particularly distressing flight where I nearly had a full-on panic attack while on the plane, I decided “enough” – – and knew I had to get help, or I wouldn’t be able to get on a plane anymore. And I didn’t want that to happen because I loved traveling so much.

Interestingly enough, right about the time I was starting to research options for therapy that I could perhaps try in the area, my aunt called me about a local news segment she saw about a therapy called Virtual Reality Therapy – – and they were doing a research study where they needed volunteers. Therefore, I could get a very expensive….but very new…form therapy for free.

I called them the next day and very soon after that, I found myself sitting in a room, answering a whole myriad of questions designed to see if I just THOUGHT I was aerophobic but was, instead, actually…you know… schizophrenic. Luckily for me, I was only diagnosed as the former because I left out the part about the voices in my head. And even more luckily for me, I was selected as one of the participants in the group that would actually get the therapy – – not the placebo group.

I went to my therapy sessions with a lot of conviction and determination, and took all the behavioral tools they gave me and ran with them. Basically, I would wear a VR mask, which made me look like I was about to play some sort of geeky war game or something, but instead, I was looking at the virtual replication of the inside of an airplane. I would sit in a chair with this mask on, and the chair would move around and simulate the movement of an airplane. In addition, there were speakers inside of the helmet so I could hear noises that sounded like what you would hear inside an airplane too. It was honestly pretty amazing. And I tried hard to block out the mental image of what a complete freak I looked like while doing it.

The goal was to create an environment as close to a REAL airplane, and then desensitize me to it. By repeated exposure to the environment, and showing me how to calm down all my physical and emotional reactions to the stimulus, then eventually I was able to calm myself down on the virtual flights.

Soon after that, I took my “graduation flight” and did quite well. I wasn’t 100% better, but I was well on the road to recovery. With each flight I took that next year, I noticed a degree of improvement, until I could actually READ while on a flight again instead of gripping the arm rests waiting for the captain to come over the PA system any minute and scream “CRASH POSITION, PEOPLE! WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE!!!!”. I felt almost like a normal passenger again.

At some point during that year of recovery, a pinprick of a thought entered into my mind. This thought told me that if I could skydive….if I could really, truly, jump my ass out of a plane……then I could do anything. Because that, right there, was my worst fear. Falling OUT of an airplane, thousands of feet in the air – – – well…that was enough to make my blood turn cold with just the thought of it.

It was a thought that grew and grew….it soon became almost an obsession. I began researching skydiving statistics….watching movies with skydivers. I looked up local skydiving companies in the area to check on pricing. And, you know, if there had been any deaths that month.

And then one day, when I was sitting in my cubicle at work…..staring at a desk calendar….I just decided to call one of the companies and make my reservation. No rhyme or reason as to why I decided to do this right THEN….I just decided it was time. So I called….as quickly as I could before I lost all nerve…and did it. I made the reservation for the following weekend, and I even managed to find a friend who would go with me….since most of my friends thought I’d lost what was left of my mind and wouldn’t even consider the thought of going with me.

The morning of the skydive arrived, and my friend Matt came to pick me up in his truck. He’d never been skydiving either, so we were both a bundle of nerves driving to the little town where the hangar was where we would be diving from. As we arrived and parked the truck, I thought seriously about turning on my heel and running like a bat out of Hell away from that hangar, not knowing where I was going, or where I would end up….but that hopefully wherever it was would have large quantities of alcohol.

We walked in and Matt informed them who we were and what we were there for, they turned to me and asked me to come over and run my credit card through for the final payment to complete the purchase transaction, and I thought about saying “No hablo ingles” but figured all that would buy would be an interpreter, not a ticket OUT of the situation like what I was hoping for.

Once that was done, Matt and I were ushered into a room to watch a video of a bunch of happy, smiling skydiving people with their thumbs up in the air, pretending that they weren’t hurtling toward their deaths from 10,000 feet in the air. Everyone looked like they were on an outing to a circus….or perhaps a really exciting polo match. Not strapped to another human being, looking down at cars the size of sugar ants.

At one point, I realized I was spacing out during the video, then smacked myself in the face mentally to “SNAP OUT OF IT!” because, you know, this wasn’t a boring video shown in biology class. This was a video that was giving me step-by-step instructions on how not to die.

Once that little comedic gem of entertainment was over, we headed over to a table where we were presented stacks of forms to read and sign, that basically said that we, or our families, would not sue them in the event of our death or dismemberment. Somehow, the “death” part didn’t rattle me as much as the “dismemberment”. But after thinking about it and deciding that, as long as it wasn’t my head, that I could deal with losing a limb because, hey, at least it would sound tough losing my limb in a skydiving accident as opposed to having some sort of freak accident with a garden hoe. So I signed on the dotted lines in front of me.

If I didn’t suspect I was insane at this point, I truly began to worry about my mental stability when they introduced us to our “trainers”. I can’t recall my trainer’s name, so I’m going to call him “Whipper Snapper”.

Whipper Snapper was abbbooouuutttt….12 years old. Maybe 13 since it sounded like his voice had changed. Mostly. Unless he said the word “awesome” – – – I detected some audible cracking of vocal tubes on that one. Ok…he was ACTUALLY 19 years old. But still. Come on. I’d just signed off on a sheet of paper that said I was trusting a NINETEEN YEAR OLD to prevent me from being dismembered. I. had. lost. my. mind.

Whipper Snapper liked to say “rad” and “far out” a lot. He was pretty professional for a 12 year old, but I had a hard time paying attention to a lot of it because the sun kept glinting off of his high school class ring. I lay on the concrete floor of the hangar and assumed the various positions I would need to contort my body into while in the air – – all the while Whipper Snapper would give me a thumbs up and “Awesome!” as I, apparently, wallowed on the floor correctly.

Then, Whipper Snapper inexplicably clapped his hands and said it was time to get into the plane. Now that stopped me dead in my tracks because…..hang on there, grasshopper….you haven’t taught me how to LAND yet. Whipper Snapper was unruffled by this notation of mine, as he continued to gather up all of our gear and usher me toward the plane. He said “Oh no worries….I’ll teach you that when we’ve pulled the chute”.

I stumbled behind him and, over the roar of the propellers, I screamed “You’re going to teach me about landing while in the air???!!”

He nodded in affirmation, and grinned broadly as only a death-defying 12 year old can.

I followed him into the plane, against my better judgment. While on the plane, I was introduced to my videographer. He went by the name “Skydogg” and had right at 8 tattoos (that I could see) and his jumpsuit was unbuttoned to the navel. I wasn’t sure if this was to attract ladies or detract birds in the air. Either way, I didn’t think the look would be effective on either front. Like Whipper Snapper, he grinned at me in a way that indicated he knew something I didn’t, and then slowly put on his helmet, containing the camcorder. Attached to the helmet was a small lens that fit over one of his eyes, making him look like a demented cyborg.

The plane took off, and I craned my neck to look into the cockpit. I was immediately sorry that I did because I noticed a swath of duct tape over one part of the controls. “Dear God…”, I prayed, “please let that be the industrial strength duct tape. Amen.”

Whipper Snapper began securing his parachute and pulled me back until I had my back against his chest then secured my harness to him. I checked that I remained attached to his harness no less than 137 times. I then put on my hat and goggles….realizing that there appeared to be something wrong with my goggles…..they were fitting loosely….looser than they should. Whipper Snapper tugged on them a bit then declared them to be “fine”. Because, you know, he was SUCH an expert. Freaking 12 year old.

I looked over at Matt, my companion on this adventure, and he was attached to his own Whipper Snapper, with a look of extreme concentration on his face. I can only assume the concentration was to ward off the desire to throw up.

Beside the door of the plane sat a lone figure – – a younger man likely in his early twenties. He kept checking his altimeter, then appeared to lean his head back and pray. I turned to Whipper Snapper, my eyes questioning him…..Whipper Snapper said “it’s his first solo jump”. I immediately felt grateful that I was attached to someone else and didn’t have to think about things while I was in the air like, you know….pulling a parachute cord at a certain moment while hurtling toward the ground. Laziness was paying off for me in this instance.

We reached 14,000 feet, and it was time. The skydivers on our plane began to jump out, one by one. Some silently….some with a rebel yell. I was the last one to go.

Whipper Snapper and I crawled to the door like mating insects…and I looked outside, at the yawning earth below me. I nearly fainted but gathered up what shreds of courage I had brought with me to this place….wondering whose STUPID idea it was in the first place. Reminding myself it was MY idea just made me feel worse. SkyDogg stepped out onto the side of the plane, hanging onto the door so that he could film me coming out of the plane and get a good shot. I briefly looked at him, marveling that he was still grinning at me, seemingly completely unaware that he was hovering above the earth at an appalling height. Then Whipper Snapper and I began to rock back and forth, counting….”1……2………3!!!!”

And we jumped out. The air hit me with the force of a train. I did not feel like I was falling, but I was gulping in air, wondering why Whipper Snapper didn’t tell me how to BREATHE in the air.

SkyDogg was still free-falling beside us, at the same rate, motioning to give him a thumbs up. I did, but then realized that my hat and goggles were beginning to fall off….and at the rate we were falling, I didn’t want that to happen because I would then have to shut my eyes. Whipper Snapper shoved my hat on my head and held my goggles on over my eyes so I could look at SkyDogg for a few shots.

After what seemed like an eternity of falling, we pulled the chute, and then were jerked up into the air – – the chute billowing above us.

And then….silence.

The silence was both eerie and beautiful at the same time – – floating serenely above the earth, looking DOWN on birds flying. For all the hubbub and angst and hurry leading UP to this moment……it was suddenly exquisitely quiet. I smiled for the first time….the worried tension leaving my face. We moved the chords this way and that on the parachute, so that we were doing dips and turns in the air. I looked to the right of me and could see the Atlanta skyline.

“Oh!”…I said.

“Pretty awesome, huh?”, Whipper Snapper said. I could hear him grinning.

I could only nod. I was, indeed, in awe of the experience.

He reviewed the landing procedures as we continued to drift down, like a large, bizarre snowflake. It actually wasn’t, miraculously, that difficult to do, from what I could tell. And as we descended closer and closer to the ground, I readied myself for an embarrassing impact. But I actually only stumbled once, then righted myself for a near flawless landing.

It was a euphoric feeling when we landed, and I eventually disengaged myself from the bodily care of Whipper Snapper. The euphoric feeling remained as Matt and I chatted excitedly on the way home, looking up at the blue, blue sky occasionally, in disbelief that we were just UP there. Our SKIN had touched the air up there!

The euphoria still remained for weeks to come…months….until it dissipated into my psyche as just a very fond, quirky memory.

But it’s a permanent memory. And whenever I get scared or worried…or think “I can’t do that” about some new challenge that has crossed my path, I think:

“I went skydiving attached to a 12 year old. I can do anything”.

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amyatlantalightscr1

I moved to Atlanta with a total of two suitcases in tow, and four cardboard boxes that had been shipped earlier via UPS, on the way. I was 23, and had just returned to the south from nearly two years of living in Oregon, leaving many experiences…some bad, some good, all important…behind me. I was facing a new job, new car…new life…immediately upon my arrival and I was both excited and nervous….as one would expect to be given all the changes that had taken place in so short a time. It had taken less than a month to land the job, quit my other job, buy a car, and hatch a plan to restart my life. That was a lot to take in.

What I wasn’t planning on, was the degree of Urban Intimidation I would be facing upon my arrival. And by “Urban Intimidation”, I’m not talking gang signs and car-jackings – – – I’m talking about being intimidated by the idea of living in a city. All other places I’d lived were either small towns or fairly large towns – – not actual, certified, horn-honking, sky-scraper wielding cities. Oh I was concerned about what this would mean to my psyche in theory…sure…but distantly, like it was a story where I was the main character that I was reciting to myself and others. And until I stepped foot onto Atlanta soil, it hadn’t felt real…..but once it was real, I began to slowly slip into an ashen-faced panic.

I memorized all my routes to and from work on back roads because the interstates were what made my heart get palpitations in the extreme. All those winding, snaking sheaths of road…fast-moving cars that showed no mercy to a shy new-comer like myself who did not know what lane she was supposed to be in. Exits would appear out of nowhere, taking you onto an overpass which lept up into the sky – – arching you over the city and dumping you off onto one of the 20 bazillion “Peachtree” streets, where you were left to wind your way back to an area that looked familiar. And since NOTHING was familiar to me at that time, this sometimes took a while.

I don’t know how long I avoided those interstates – – a month probably – – maybe two. I probably could have done it at least a year…maybe more…if I’d worked really hard at it.

But as with most things in my life that have involved fear, I avoid it until I can’t stand to look at my fearful eyes in the mirror any longer – – until I can’t take one more moment of palm sweats and not facing the thing that I just cannot do. And on this instance, this point came when I was sitting alone in my apartment, that contained only a lawn chair, a rabbit-ear TV, and an inflatable mattress that deflated every night so that I woke up lying on what had now essentially become a plastic sheet on top of the hard, worn carpet. I sat in my ratty little lawn chair, gripping the metal arms of it, concentrating on the floor at my feet….giving myself the mental pep-talk of my life.

I needed to go somewhere across town, and I needed to take the interstate to do it. Oh…I could have worked out a back-way, I’m sure….but I was sick of figuring out the back-ways….sick of avoiding the inevitable. I was sick of being afraid.

So with sweaty palms and a determined spirit, I made my way across town on the interstate – – shaky and careful in my driving – – and it was, honestly, awful. But it became less awful each time I got into the car. Each time I made myself tackle the beast. Until one day, it no longer bothered me….and I became a curser and a yeller just like everyone else who lived here. There are still times when I catch myself mid-eye-roll, and realize how far I’ve come….celebrating this fact instead of lamenting the stupidity of the driver in front of me. I used to be that stupid driver – – and now I’m………still a stupid driver (but I do it with a lot more panache and style! ;)).

The city grew into my bones – – its quirky, fast rhythms – – its lit-up streaks of red and white car lights. Where intimidation once resided, now there was excitement. Where fear lay, now there was curiosity. I eventually got some furniture…I got some gumption…I got a life….and I counted the city as one of my friends now.

So it was with these thoughts in mind this past Saturday night, as I carried my new camera, tripod and a creative spirit along-side my photographer friend, Kyle…..en route across the bridge overlooking Freedom Parkway to take photos of one of the most fantastic views of Atlanta around.

The wind was cold and biting, the air completely clear, and Atlanta rose up like an electronic, angular sun – – its skyline truly a beautiful sight. I looked down on the cars whizzing past – – on all these people who have found their daily, nightly rhythms in this great city….just like I did and still do. It is all comforting to me now, in an exciting sort of way. These streets that I know, that have taken me to so many new places in both body and spirit….they are constant with their lullaby of fury…carrying our agendas and egos with them.

No matter where I go and what I do from here forward….I cut my teeth on this city. It opened up a portal to the rest of the world for me – – – not because of what IT is, with all it’s sweeping vertical movements of concrete and steel – – – but because of what I found of myself in it.

atlantalights

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I will, likely, not talk politics on this blog much.  I mean…I’m sure it will happen once in a blue moon  (like what I’m about to write now), but the aim of this blog is not to expound on my political persuasions.  While I enjoy political debate and definitely have my opinions, this just isn’t the forum where I want to do it.

HOWEVER….I was working from home yesterday, and in between conference calls and e-mails, I looked up to my TV which I have on mute most of the day, and noticed that Ann Coulter was on “The View”.  

I felt my jaw become rigid and my eyes narrow a bit….dreading what I was about to do while knowing I couldn’t NOT do it…….which was, to turn up the volume.  What I witnessed then was a pretty substantial fireworks display amongst The View women,  as they grilled Coulter about her new book entitled “Guilty – Liberal ‘Victims’ and their Assault on America”. 

The problem with Coulter isn’t just her views – – which are a highly skewed, biased version of the truth – – because, let’s face it, politicians, in general, on BOTH sides of the spectrum, do this repeatedly.  It’s the nature of that beast – – even the ones who are a more moderate voice still do it on occasion, and so I have come to expect it and know that, often, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. 

But the problem with Coulter is that she is absolutely scathing in her delivery – – down-right nasty.  It’s like she relishes being mean – – and uses this schtick to sell books.  And what’s interesting is that it’s not just liberals who disdain her rhetoric, it’s conservatives as well.  You’ll note from the clip that Elisabeth Hasselbeck – – the conservative member of the bunch – seems equally disquieted by Coulter’s ideas and tone as her other View collegues….which is a rarity.  But here, Hasselbeck joins in the firestorm of questions being posed to Coulter in an effort to take her to task for the blatantly inflamatory verbage about single mothers that she has, once again, used in one of her books.  The big firey finish of the show’s segment is when Coulter comments that Barbara Walters sounds like she is reading from Hitler’s extremely controversial book  “Mein Kampf”, when she’d read aloud an excerpt from Coulter’s book  earlier in the show.  View co-host, Sherri Shephard, called Coulter out on this offensive remark, as well as Coulter’s entire tone throughout the discussion.  And rightly so.  I could barely hold back my desire to cheer when that happened – – despite being here alone in my condo.

Anger and bitterness exude from Ann Coulter’s pores like a black cloud – – and the vast, vast majority of people I know, liberal and conservatives alike, do not align themselves with either her message or her tone in any way shape or form.  Therefore, what I want to know is this:   who is reading this woman’s books?  How is she still in the spotlight?  With ALL the other conservative voices out there that are diplomatic and respectful – – why is her voice still screeching out as one of the loudest?

And what…..in the WORLD….made her so angry at life?

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watercolor

In the years that I have been traveling across the pond, one of the first things that I notice when I step out, bleary-eyed and jetlagged, onto UK soil, is the light. The light there is different. There is a muted, sheer quality to it – – delicate and dancing across surfaces in a very subtle way. Which is appropriate, considering that the very nature of the British People is one of subtlety – – of restrained emotions and refined speech. Somehow, the light that shines down on this little island nation reflects this mood in a beautiful way. It is a canvas of watercolored landscapes – – whispering, antique hues…..not one of bold, saturated primary colored oil paints that would be used to depict the wide-open spaces of the US, brilliant under it’s big cobalt sky and achingly stark, white clouds. The British use the word “lovely” to describe a wide array of things – – and that is the word that comes to mind when gazing out at the soft, waving green grasses….the small tufts of light pink clouds….the villages tucked amongst winding roads. This nation is, in it’s very essence……lovely.

As an American, I was initially afraid to speak too loudly and openly when visiting the UK – – my speech felt so abrupt and big in this land of quieter ways. I soon lost these inhibitions and realized my silliness with these sorts of thoughts….but I have not lost the awareness, when I’m there, of how my mouth fits around my vowels, using them almost as consonants. US citizens milk every sound out of our vowels, like a wrung-out wash rag – – while the Brits pause briefly over an “o” or an “a” with a staccato beat – a brief mention within a word before getting on with it (“Getting on with it” being another favorite British past time). Like with the landscape, the speech that hums throughout this country is a quieter, steadier rhythm – tart and sweet like a crisp, muted-green apple.

During one of the walks that we took in a nearby park called “Virginia Waters”, I was surrounded by this subtle light and the speech of the visitors there taking in the scenery – – a soft visual and audible symphony of loveliness. In these moments, I forget I am American and just drink in the stark, cold, biting air – – watching the light unfold across objects and people, alighting them in tones of translucent gold, pink and copper. I realize why artists have been inspired by the British countryside because my camera seems to almost click on it’s own – – begging me to keep pointing at each object along my path which has become, not a tree, but a piece of art….not a lake, but something so exquisitely still and quiet, I feel it might be impossible to fully capture it with a lens. But still, I tried.

Oh – – I love the bold, wide country that is America – – I love it fiercely, with a pride that spills into the veins of us Americans from such an early age. There are stretches of this country that can make a knot form abruptly in your throat, catching you completely off guard – – it is just so, starkly, richly, big and beautiful.

But even still….the quiet beauty of the UK seeps under my skin, with each visit. Learning my bones and wrapping its mild, calm fingers around them with a knowing, sweet reassurance. I am lulled under its spell, like a night song. If America is the sun, the UK is the moon – – – it’s lovely light shining down steady and sure, nestling into a nook of my heart, and resting there.

peoplewalkinglight2

watercolorbridge

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