Crabapple Blossoms © 2013 Bo Mackison
“As a child, one has that magical capacity to move among the many eras of the earth; to see the land as an animal does; to experience the sky from the perspective of a flower or a bee; to feel the earth quiver and breathe beneath us; to know a hundred different smells of mud and listen unself-consciously to the soughing of the trees. We are continually articulating the intelligence of the planet, which has grown up through all the species. The whole earth lives within us, and in every moment, we are both its creators and discoverers. We only need to reawaken all these early memories.” ~ Valerie Andrews in A Passion for This Earth
*** Last week in Jen Louden’s TeachNow course, each participant was “invited to become a story gatherer and story creator.” I jotted a few stories in my journal and that was that. This week, we are invited to “claim and own our authority and lineage” so that we can step into the teacher that we are (or are becoming). In order to claim my lineage, I recall past teachers in my life – childhood, youth, student, adult – and identify those people, places, books, experiences — positive and negative — that were influential in shaping the person I am today. This post combines both assignments.
I was blessed to grow up in a multigenerational home. I lived not only with my parents, but with my maternal grandparents and my grandmother’s mother. As an only child for much of my childhood, I had no age-mates for play, but I had devoted adults who were always at the ready to nurture, instruct, and entertain.
My grandfather relished telling me the following story when I was about 5 or 6:
As a toddler, I was easy to watch whenever I spent time outdoors. My mother needed only to spread a quilt on the grassy lawn, remove my shoes and socks, and I never ventured into the stubbly grass. Mother delighted in this arrangement, as any mother of an intrepid, almost two-year-old explorer might. It gave her some down time when she could be near me, yet visit with friends or family, or simply read a magazine. But at some point, my wariness of all grassy spaces turned into a babysitting monster. I became fearful of the edge of the quilt and what was beyond. I began to limit my safe space to the very middle of the quilt. I refused to reach for toys near the quilt’s edge. Eventually I began to fuss whenever I was near grass of any sort.
My grandfather became troubled about my fear of grass. He was a gardener, devoted to the earth and plants that grew. He spent his daylight hours outside: tending his vegetable gardens; caring for a variety of flower beds — tulips, peonies, irises, roses; pruning his ornamental and nut trees; caring for the yard and exterior of the house; and deriving deep pleasure from the gifts of the land.
He decided to introduce me to his world. He wrapped me in my “safe” outside quilt and carried me to a garden space in the back recesses of the property. First, he picked a few blades of grass and offered them to me. I promptly grabbed them and took a taste. Then he set me on a few paving stones and stepped into the grassy field. When he told this story, he always claimed that he “danced a jig and sang a song,” I have no proof of this! Then he picked more blades of grass and pretended to nibble them. He claimed he made noises like a bunny, but again I have only his word, which is good enough for me.
Tiny Tulips © 2013 Bo Mackison
Before long he was sitting in the grass, then lying on the grass, and finally rolling down the slight decline in the yard, chuckling all the way. It didn’t take much more coaxing on his part. Soon I was mimicking his actions. A tentative crouch to pick a blade of grass. Another taste. An accidental plop on my seat and I there I was, sitting in the grass. I began to fret. Then we noticed the violets, white clover, and dandelions aplenty. I became entranced with the flowers. We picked bouquets for Mother, Grandma, and Great-Grandma Prudie.
It didn’t take much more encouragement, nor many more days, before I was following Grandpa everywhere. Digging worms between the rows of tomatoes. Eating strawberries and green onions fresh from the garden. Watering the plants with a miniature watering can. When we rested, we leaned our backs against a hundred-year-old maple. In a few short weeks, I changed from a young child afraid of the outdoors to one enamored with her grandfather’s company and the outdoor’s infinite possibilities for exploration and discovery. I spent the next 12 summers working or playing in his gardens.
My grandfather was a truck driver and a factory worker until he retired shortly after I was born. But he was a gardener in his heart and soul. I consider my grandfather one of my first and finest teachers — the person who introduced me to his gardens and fostered in me a deep love for the earth. He was a nurturer, a gardener, an entertainer. And a mighty fine teacher!
Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC. She is exploring her lineage with Jen Louden and the other TeachNow participants. Memories of Bo’s grandparents are in her thoughts often: they are mentioned in her gratitude journal daily.
Twilight over the Mountains © 2013 Bo Mackison
Feel ecstatic that there is no end to life, that when you have reached one peak, suddenly another peak starts giving you challenges — a higher one, a more arduous climb, a more dangerous reach. And when you have reached the other peak, there will be another peak; peaks upon peaks. ~ Osho
Each evening the sun slides from our view, yet its brilliant light show lingers in deep hues of oranges and reds. Gradually, so gradually, the darkness deepens until there is only dark sky. The day is over; night is upon us. From experience, we know that twilight passes into night, night lightens into dawn, and dawn brings forth a new day.
“To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.” ~Henri Berson
Our life is filled with transitions, also. Life is change, no part of life is constant. We live, passing through transitions, firm in the knowledge that when shadows settle on us, and when night makes all dark, faith reminds us that the darkness will gradually lighten into a glorious dawn and then transition into the light of day in which we can clearly see.
Transitions are often difficult. It is easier, more comfortable, less anxiety-provoking to live in the false illusion of constancy, yet nothing in nature is constant, and we are a part of nature. Once we open our minds and hearts and souls to the acceptance of change as a constant, we are better able to transition, to ride the up and down roller-coaster of living a full, authentic life.
The horizon leans forward,
Offering you space to place new steps of change.
Here, on the pulse of this fine day
You may have the courage
To look up and out… ~ Maya Angelou
The reverse side of the TRANSITION card offers questions/reflections for journal writing, art, and a call for action:
- It is human to resist change, to fear transitions, but life’s forward movement is unstoppable. When facing a time of transition, know and accept that this time may be one of increased stress, anxiety, fear. When you know you are working through a transition, your first step is to plan extreme self-care. The basics: are you eating the right foods, getting enough sleep, moving your body, making time for quiet and solitude. All are essential – when you are in a balanced space, you can more easily keep your footing through times of upheaval and change.
- At a time in my life when I was developing the skills to successfully negotiate transitions, I created a mini blank book, about 3″ x 2″ in size. It had about 12 pages. I carried it in my pocket so I could easily refer to it. Each page was a visual reminder for a life-skill — methods for grounding, dealing with difficult or challenging times, for problem solving through transitions.
- These books are super simple to create, with just a few pieces of folded paper. I made the cover of my book from an old map — a symbol for having the directions to find your way. Each page had a skill – a simple line drawing, a few words. Make a book for yourself.
- Among the skills I included in my book were visualizing a safe place and repeating a simple mantra for calming. Fill your mini-book with the techniques you find most beneficial when dealing with transitions. Use as needed!
Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC. Bo is creating a deck of Desert Wisdom Cards for exploration and discovery, using a Sonoran Desert theme – its myths and stories, cultures and heritage, and the desert’s remarkable natural beauty and resources.
Abandoned Barn © 2013 Bo Mackison
The Ninth Day
Sioux Falls, South Dakota. 7:17 am. 41˚ and a cold drizzle.
I study the map with intention.
450 miles from my destination, and suddenly I yearn to be home.
Damp, the gray clouds spread before me, hugging close to the ground.
It’s farther than I want to drive, but I throw my preferences out the car window,
and phone home, “No stops today. I’ll be there by 3.”
Fog thickens, the spinning windmills disappear,
only the brown-black soil drenched with slick puddles is visible.
For distraction’s sake, I turn on the radio, listen to an interview in progress,
Maya Angelou recalls her youth, the words of wisdom she lives by,
I catch bits and pieces as I concentrate on steering
around wide load trucks and semi trucks, double strung.
“Love liberates love,” she says. “Doesn’t bind.”
I think of my four month stay in Arizona.
Angelou speaks her mother’s words: “I’d love to have you near me,
but if that isn’t possible – go.” The ultimate gift.
The exit sign for Rushmore, Minnesota shifts into view,
Red wing blackbirds dart from field post to billboard post.
“Love liberates love. Love doesn’t bind.” The radio informs.
I take a break from the steady rain, pull out my umbrella,
pace the pavement in front of a square rest-area building.
Winded and chilled, I wipe the raindrops from my arms and face,
resume my drive.
Piano notes fill the car’s interior, Bill Evans plays Peace Piece.
My chest tightens, the need to drive safely is stronger than my urge to weep.
It’s been a long drive, a long stay away.
A swarming flock of crows mobs a hawk.
Skies lighten, blue sky window,
only a glimpse before gray returns.
Glimpse of Sun © 2013 Bo Mackison
In central Minnesota, I exit I-90. Back roads cut the angle.
State highways wind through the countryside. Snow covers fields.
Shooting Star Scenic Highway.
At the VFW east of Adonis, I wait in a traffic jam.
Drivers park cars along the road, there’s a crowd
standing outside, neatly in a long line.
Flashing neon sign tells all — Chicken Dinner, 12 Noon to 2:00.
I munch on almonds and string cheese. My apple rolls on the floor mat.
Upper Iowa River at flood stage.
More music on the radio – Unchained Melody by the Righteous Brothers,
James Taylor crooning You Are My Only One.
I’ll Make Love to You by Boyz II Men.
I’m at flood stage, too.
MN 56, US 63 South, IA 9 East.
I zag across state lines, searching for short cuts.
Lionel Richie’s Truly plays on the radio. Really? Universe, I am listening.
I pull to the roadside, take deep breaths, open another bottle of water,
turn off the radio to concentrate on the road.
My breathing comes easier as I cross the Mississippi at Marquette
and two hawks dive from the limestone cliffs, land on a sliver of river island.
On the eastern shore, the governor’s sign welcomes me to Wisconsin.
At Mount Ida, in a 20 mile an hour zone, I study a woman
as she spray paints her yard’s dried seed heads a bright iridescent blue.
I smile. Then I grin.
An hour later, I pull into my driveway.
Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC. A cross-country traveler by day, and an occasional poet by night. This poem is in nine parts, because the trip lasts nine days. This is Day Nine, the final day of traveling. This entry is dedicated to Sherpa, who is close to my heart, wherever I am.
Entering the Badlands © 2013 Bo Mackison
Rapid City. 6:27 am. Sunny and 37˚F.
Filling the car’s gas tank is morning’s first priority – $2.94 a gallon,
cheapest gas on my travels. I buy sunglasses as I pay for my gas.
Standard equipment in Arizona, I’ve three lost pairs in the car,
and I’m driving due east into sunrise.
Streaks of angry orange flames decorate the cheapest pair that fit.
No matter, I buy them, in a hurry to find the back road to the Badlands.
I am the sole traveler on Highway 44 for miles, the country’s rough, desolate, beautiful.
The Badlands rise from prairie, stark layers of sediment,
rock ribbons in tan, gray, yellow, black.
Grasslands and badlands – a contrasting combination
of pale green growth and rock erosion. Soul soothing.
Badlands National Park © 2013 Bo Mackison
My hike is brief – an hour in, an hour out – I make the time.
Hiking in rocky wilderness is good for what ails me.
I celebrate with lunch, Indian Tacos at the Cedar Pass Cafe,
visit the Badlands National Park’s Visitor Center.
Roam through the twenty site campground – more family trips
come to mind. I am grateful I’ve held tight to these decades-old memories.
I’ve avoided the mindless Interstate roads for 2100 miles, but no longer,
Back roads that head east are no longer an option.
Roads in South Dakota head to outlying ranches or farms, or towns 50 miles to the south.
I pull on I-90 East, set the cruise control, and become traffic.
Destination: Sioux Falls, a decent dinner, a quiet hotel room.
On my last night on the road, I wade through puddles in the cold rain,
enter the nearest restaurant,
and order a steak. It comes with a first class salad bar -
bowls mounded with fresh veggies along a twenty-foot table.
Contentment eases into my being.
Tomorrow I will be in Wisconsin,
but for now, a walk in the rain soaks me in Midwestern welcome.
Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC. A cross-country traveler by day, and an occasional poet by night. This is a poem in nine parts, because the trip lasts nine days. This is Day Eight.
Aloe Fireworks © 2013 Bo Mackison
“People of our time are losing the power of celebration. Instead of celebrating, we seek to be amused or entertained. Celebration is an active state, an act of expressing reverence or appreciation… Celebration is a confrontation, giving attention to the transcendent meaning of one’s actions.” ~ Abraham Joshua Heschel
I dubbed this bright coral aloe the ‘Fireworks Aloe’. To me, it is a beautiful reminder of CELEBRATION. Not the noisy, crowded celebrations we associate with national holidays or milestone achievements — parties, large gatherings, extravagant entertainment — but the small daily achievements that deserve celebrations, too.
The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate. ~ Oprah Winfrey
These aloe buds are bright and beautiful. They carry a certain joie de vivre, the French phrase that conveys “an exultation of spirit.” The blossoms remind us to celebrate life frequently, passionately, reverently.
We often do the hard work, complete the frustrating assignment, then move on to our next task never pausing to look back and acknowledge our achievement. How wonderful to take a few moments and celebrate, with appreciation and reverence, a job well done or a task completed in a timely fashion.
“Celebrate, celebrate, dance to the music.
Celebrate, celebrate, dance to the music…”
~ lyrics from Three Dog Night
The reverse side of the CELEBRATION card offers questions/reflections for journal writing, art, and a call for action:
- Celebrations do not require expensive preparations or large chunks of time. A celebration marks the completion of a project, large or small. Reflect on the projects you’ve completed in the past few days – large or small. How many of these accomplishments did you acknowledge?
- In your journal keep a running list of your completed projects for a short period of time – perhaps a morning or a weekend. (Laundry, exercise, weeding the garden, writing a paper — they all count!) As you finish each project, celebrate. Think small Or not. Acknowledge with an “exultation of spirit”.
- Collect a few props to use when you want to celebration. Streamers. Upbeat music. A big sheet of paper and bright markers for writing yourself congratulatory messages. A kazoo for impromptu cheers. Add smiles and laughter. Use frequently!
Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC. Bo is creating a deck of Desert Wisdom Cards for exploration and discovery, using the Sonoran Desert theme – its myths and stories, cultures and heritage, and the desert’s remarkable natural beauty and resources.
Pictograph by Native American Artist © 2013 Bo Mackison
Day 7 – Nebraska Panhandle to Black Hills
Scotts Bluff, Nebraska. 7:10 a.m. 34˚F. Sunny. Windy.
Smoke hangs in the air as I head north, leaving town.
Cook Oil Road.
Gas Engine Road.
Narrow valleys shrouded with heavy fog.
Wild turkeys on the roadside look ready for a butterball feast,
No kin to the elongated, scrawny fowl in Wisconsin.
Black calves peer though the wire fencing,
one has a pure white face, striking in his difference.
Agate Fossil Beds National Monument on the Nioroba River.
The ranger unlocks the Visitor Center, it’s early on a Friday,
He story tells his way through the exhibits, proud of
the people in the murals and their discoveries and kind deeds.
A calendar pictograph covers the wall – a peoples’ history. Striking.
Horses in Custer State Park © 2013 Bo Mackison
Trees appear in the distance as I drive
the battered road in Ogallala National Grasslands.
Antelope stare, then break into an elegant run.
Ardmore, Nebraska, nearly out-of-town before I notice it’s a ghost town.
Old houses and churches, broken windows in faded businesses, out of business signs,
old cars, but no people, no voices. No signs of movement, of living.
Driving turns hypnotic, I jerk alert when I see a curve sign.
Enveloped by soft greens, soft mounds, soft sounds, I continue –
Me, my car, the narrow asphalt road.
Historical Sign Ahead: Wood Stage Memorial Marker.
Cheyenne River, a narrow ribbon of brown.
Wild Horse Refuge. and the hills turn Crayola Crayon Green.
Cascade Falls, Black Hills National Forest.
Bison chili at the Blur Bison Cafe in Hot Springs.
Buffalo Right of Way © 2013 Bo Mackison
Wind Cave National Park,
I skip the cave tour and watch the buffalo instead,
often I wait, my foot on the brake, as the buffalo ignore me.
Huge beasts, shaggy and disheveled, shedding their winter coats.
Mount Rushmore from Afar © 2013 Bo Mackison
I detour through Custer State Park, relive memories of a family summer vacation
twenty years past; there was a pop up camper,
a hotel-preferring husband, three kids and me, all on our big explore.
Memory making moments, still precious, favorite childhood memories.
I pull out my camera when Mount Rushmore, framed in a narrow tunnel, takes me by surprise.
Flags at Mount Rushmore © 2013 Bo Mackison
Miles down the road, I hesitate.
Stop at Mount Rushmore National Monument? I’ve already seen it…
Once more memories crowd my thoughts, I stop, pay exorbitant parking fees,
and walk to the empty benches in front of the four Presidents.
That vacation long ago…
I remember the 9-year-old boy who sat next to me for a half day,
craning his neck, staring, studying
stunned into silence by the thought of a mountain, a sculptor and a chisel.
The memory alone was worth the stop.
Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC. A cross-country traveler by day, and an occasional poet. This is a poem in nine parts, because the trip lasts nine days. This is Day Seven.