Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Sway

This entry will be a small whisper settling on rough winds.

There is this painting above my couch that my dad framed for me a long time ago by Edouard Manet. It's called "A Bar at the Folies-Bergère" and is possibly one of my favorite paintings in existence.
A Bar at the Folies-Bergère

The way Manet captured this woman's expression and the many stories that can be woven by just looking into her eyes and at the man reflected in the mirror behind her enraptures me.

Last weekend, I was randomly reminded of it. I went to dinner with one of my best friends and then we went out for a drink with her friends afterward. While I scanned the bar we went to in Medina, my eyes stopped on a man sitting directly across from me. He looked to be in his late 30s or early 40s and wore an electric blue button down shirt and suit pants, as though having come in straight from work. It was 10 p.m. at this point and he was well acquainted with the mixed drink in front of him. I imagined it had Scotch or Vodka in it. It looked like it'd been that kind of day for him, possibly that kind of week, month, year ... life.

I found I couldn't stop looking at this man and felt my heart squeeze inward. I remember he leaned forward as though peering into his glass for answers that were not there while rubbing his temples. He then looked up, as though realizing he was in a crowded bar for the first time and lethargically asked the bartender for his tab. Never once did he look at anyone directly. Never once did I look away. I wondered if he'd just lost his job or someone close to him, or perhaps he'd done something awful to someone else. Whatever it was, he'd lost the battle that day. He slowly signed his bill as though signing away his life and as he buried his face into his hands, I wished I could have told him everything was going to be alright. But I never moved. And then he was gone.

Suffice it to say, the moment stayed with me. It's not the first time I've seen someone in that light, a complete stranger, and wondered what ailed them, what made them look so disparaged. I also realize now, at one point not so long ago, I was one of them. And many times, someone did whisper to me everything would be alright.

Amongst some very good changes in my life, I've also been facing some challenges with stress relief and being there for those around me while battling my own demons. My cousin, Nikki, and I were inseparable growing up. Though life has pulled us both in our own directions, we're still bonded in a way that has never been severed. She used to tell me that the moment I answered my phone and she heard my voice, I brought an instant calm and peace to her mind. She'd often call me in the midst of a panic attack or in the middle of crying and as soon as I started talking to her, I'd hear breath ease back into her lungs and rationale seep into her mind.

I didn't fully comprehend that gift until I got older and continued to hear it coming from other people in my life. On the flipside, I'm also a sponge to those around me, soaking up what they're going through down to its finest detail. For years, I've struggled to find a balance. However, as of late, I'm being forced to find that balance in a very real way. Because people in my life need me in ways I never thought they would and everything inside my veins pulses to be there for them. Yet, I, too, have needed help. And I've just recently removed myself from the very painting that is my life and looked upon it like a grand spectator, watching how those in my life who are true sustaining forces are bending forward and backward right along with me. We all have sustaining forces in our lives, but I'm not sure we always recognize who they are.

I'm realizing I don't have to just focus on my own path versus helping those around me. It doesn't have to be one or the other. It's about striking a balance between both. Being good to myself ... it's taken me so long to remember what's good for me -- I'm still learning. But it's also healing for me when I'm able to help someone else, even if it's just being a quiet, gentle sounding board or eliciting a smile. It's about recognizing what is nourishing but also being cautious of situations that could potentially be unhealthy or sapping. I've had to learn that the hard way and still am, but I'm also learning to listen to an inner voice I'd ignored for far to long. And as of late, hearing its whisper and following its natural pull has only provided me sustenance.

Whether people believe in karma or not, I find that the more good I'm exuding, even in the smallest, subtlest ways, the more benevolence I'm receiving in my own life. And more oftentimes than not, it's through those very same people who have their own struggles to deal with. I'm learning to ask for and receive help when I need it, despite the very strong, defiant part of me that tries to do everything on my own. Because now I see that it's about swaying forward and backward with others, helping each other grow that extra inch longer.

And it makes me sad for people like that man at that bar, who, at least in that moment on that night, had no one.

I can only hope that in this moment on this day, someone found him.

~C~

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Maribel's Chocolates

Two weeks ago, I met a local candy shop owner in Willoughby for a story I was working on. Her warm, welcoming, gentle demeanor instantly captured me. The way she described the chocolate-making process, how she'd pause in between sentences, thinking through every word she spoke as though hesitant to miss a beat, and how her eyes twinkled with every syllable, it made me want to stay there all day and just soak up her entire life story.

On my way home tonight, I drove through downtown Willoughby and was stopped at a traffic light. I looked over to my right to see an older man standing alone, playing a banjo and harmonica on the sidewalk. My gaze never wavered. I was mesmerized by this man and had no clue why. I wished I could have went back through time and witnessed his life. As it were, the light changed not long after and I had to tear my eyes away.

This story is for them:

He stood beneath the pale streetlight for a moment as he tuned his banjo and adjusted the metal headpiece holding his harmonica. He then took a slight step back, immersing himself in the shadows cast by the building overhang. He donned a gray mustache and a long, scraggly white beard framed by shaggy hair. Wisps of it peeked out above his ears from under his forest green hat. As he began to strum his banjo, swaying ever so slightly to the chords, his life-worn face was periodically caught by the lamplight, betraying every well-earned wrinkle. Their deep creases represented long lost memories.

Slowly, he blew into his harmonica; its biting sound muted by the breeze and the banjo strings. He stood there, all alone, as people farther down the street gathered in front of a coffee shop. I’m not sure he saw me, but my car was stopped at the nearby light. I couldn’t stop staring at him, begging to know his life story, yearning to hear about his heartbreaks. There was no doubt in my mind, by the slump of his shoulders and sad shake of his head as he played that harmonica, that he’d faced heartbreak. I pulled my car to the side of the road and parked, continuing to watch him.

The traffic light changed from red to green as the rest of the cars moved forward, clearing the road and my view of this man, clad in a flannel shirt, old dark blue work pants and a pair of dirty broken in tennis shoes. I leaned against my hand as it rested on my steering wheel, transfixed on his silhouette. He must have been in this late 60s or early 70s. I suddenly pictured him as a young teenage boy, first learning the banjo, eager to play for the girl he’d has his eye on.

My mind then wandered to an older woman I’d just met the day before at a local, homemade hand dipped chocolate shop called “Maribel’s Chocolates.” The owner was soft-spoken, hesitant and gentle, her eyes twinkling as she conscientiously described the way every piece of chocolate was handmade and dipped, the way every bit of attention was paid to each detail of the complex process. Her voice, sandpapered with age complimented her eyes, which held the kind of warmth that wraps itself around your insides, making you feel as though you were home. She also carried a glimmer of sadness in her docile brown irises, as though something had been lost a long time ago that no amount of cherry cordials, chocolate covered almonds, coconut haystacks and intricate chocolate making could replace.

My imagination began to flicker as I was brought back to the present scene and this nameless, melancholy musician before me. Never once did he look up at anyone passing. It was as though he was lost in a world of his own, his worn velvet-lined banjo case openmouthed at his feet. I pictured him once very much in love, perhaps he’d once fallen for the tender chocolate maker. She’d acknowledged a husband in our meeting, but I remember how her eyes grew detached at his mention. Maybe that phantom ghost of a deep memory carried the faint sound of banjo strings upon its wings.

Perhaps the lonesome banjo player had passionately chased after his talents and ensuing dreams, despite the financial burden struggling musicians often face. Perhaps the one and only object of his affection, this young, temperate candy maker had fantasized him serenading her in the kitchen as she wiped flour from her hair and chocolate specks from her blushed cheeks.

Perhaps together, they could have braided their passions into a lifetime, never batting an eye at the pressure their respective families put on them. Perhaps.

But here I sat, looking upon this despondent man as he sang a few words with closed eyes before blowing into his harmonica. All he seemed to have left were those coarse strings, that metal upon his lips and distant, somber memories. And as my mind flitted to the candy shop owner, I recalled her eyes as I’d spoken to her, the way she slightly hunched forward and moved slowly around the shop, as though much of her life had been left to better days. All that seemed to remain were her chocolates and her whimsical, sullen, caring eyes.

I glanced at my dashboard clock and realized I should be on my way soon. I looked up at the banjo player one last time, slightly shaking my head at my romantic musings, feeling momentarily ridiculous that I’d let them run so far away from me.

As I pulled out into the road again, I decided to stop and drop a few coins in the banjo case. I unzipped my wallet as I walked over to the man, peering into the shadows, trying to catch his eye. I could tell he saw me approach, but he never once looked at my face, as though afraid of his existence being acknowledged. I dropped two crumpled dollars and some change into his barren case and he slightly tipped his head forward as though in a gesture of gratitude. I felt my heart give a quiet leap in my chest. It was enough for me.

I began to walk back to my car and as I got into the driver’s side seat and shifted gears, I glanced back at the street, my eye catching on an object propped up against the lid of the man’s guitar case. I leaned in for a moment, squinting through the streetlight, which poured onto the worn, tattered edges of the rectangular box. I strained to make out the faded print as my eyes finally adjusted to the light.

It read: “Maribel’s Chocolates.”

~ C ~

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

I Used To Be

Looking back, you realize that a very special person passed briefly through your life, and that person was you.  It is not too late to become that person again.  ~ Robert Brault

So, as some of my recent posts have indicated, I've been delving into my past a bit while attempting to formulate a new and better present and future. In doing so, I've looked back on some pretty dark days, however, I have neglected to remember some of the brighter ones. I know it's not always healthy to focus on the past version of ourselves as though we're suppose to work our way backwards to something, but I think it's important to remember some key elements that perhaps we can work toward getting back in touch with, or at the very least, creating a new version of.

This entry will likely be to the point and in a stream of conscious format as it's hard for me to think of the positives in myself sometimes, sad as that sounds. And so, when I do, it almost has to come out in a purging, uninhibited, raw fashion, at the end of which I'll likely hit "publish" as fast as possible before I convince myself to hit "delete" instead:

I was once extremely imaginative, in fact, I admittedly still played with Barbies and created my fantasy worlds at the age of 13 and 14. As everyone endures the older they get, life steals away pieces of that innocent imagination; for some people, it vanishes entirely. For the artists and writers and actors, parts stay, but they're not quite the untouched ores they once were. Life and experience taints them.

So again,  I was once extremely imaginative -- I'm becoming so again, just a different flavor of playful

I was once overwhelmingly passionate -- I lost that passion for a few years, but it has returned with a fury.

I was once ridiculously silly -- With the right people and environment, I can fall right back into that completely dorky side of myself.

I was once head over heels in love, to the point of wanting to do everything and anything for that person, to the point of insane giddiness making me literally run and jump into that pair of outstretched arms and exude uninhibited grand romantic gestures on a whim, to the point of practically bouncing in place with the amount of life and love and caring I felt, as though it was bursting out of me -- Now, I ... am not. But I hope to find a new version of her. What she gave off was absolutely magnificent ... it's one of the main things that makes life, to her, worth living.

I used to be comfortable -- I am not, but in all honesty, I don't think I ever want to be completely comfortable again.

I used to be deeply intuitive -- I still am, but I want to harness that level of consciousness to reach much higher levels

I used to be highly artistic and insightful -- I'd argue that parts of me are still artistic and insightful, but there are other facets of my skills I'd like to hone even further.

I used to be excited, I wasn't sure what for, but just for something big, something immense, something profound, waiting out there for me to not just touch, but to embrace, to become -- I am starting to be so again. That excitement was replaced by dread for the last couple of years ... but in the last several months, the embers of that eager, higher awareness and anticipation have had much needed breath blown on them. They have reignited.

I used to be a dreamer, sometimes a sad one when I felt most lost -- I'll always be a dreamer, only now ... I'm determined to make those dreams my reality.

I used to be obsessed with the subtleties exchanged between two people, a glance, a soft passing graze of skin, a slight intake of breath -- I still am ... I still am.

I used to be a poet -- She's in there, her poetry hasn't come out in some time, but the inspiration is near by, waiting to be inhaled.

I used to be fun -- I was all the pretenses of it for a long time -- I was good at pretenses -- but I now catch glimmering glimpses of her in my eyes again.

I used to be very trusting -- I'm not. I want to be, very badly, but so much has passed ... there are times when I am for a brief moment, but it never fails this wicked voice will softly tell me I may be in danger once more. I hope to shove that voice into the depths of forever one of these days ...

I used to be soft and gentle -- I still am to an extent, when someone or something brings it out in me, but every fiber of that softness and gentleness has a coarse hair of caution and fear woven within it. I'm hoping one day, that pure silken touch will return in all its beauty.

I used to be strong -- I am not in the way I once was ... but I see now I am more resilient than I realized.

I used to be beautiful -- I don't see her often, I sometimes have to look away when I do, but I catch more glimpses of her now than I have for a long time.

I used to believe I was invincible -- I now know I am not. I know it so deeply it's hard to breathe. But I have found there are parts of me that can be unbreakable, if I really choose them to be.

I used to have faith in myself, in other people and in life -- I still do, even at my darkest hours I had enough to find a way out ... and as rickety as it's been these days, I plan to continue climbing that beanstalk.

I used to be innocently unassuming -- I am not ... I fear that is one piece, like that of a child's imagination, I may never touch again. But I AM unfailing in giving people the benefit of the doubt, even now, even when in some cases, I should not.

I used to be happy -- I am. I'm not. I will be.

I used to be ...

I am.

~ C ~

Monday, August 22, 2011

Turning the Page

"Just close your eyes, blot out all of the noise and feel where you're being pulled ... and maybe for once, just follow it." ~ C ~

My mini-adventure last week gave me renewed movement. The days were sunny, the open windowed drives out to Bellevue, Sandusky and Burton were warm and relaxing and as I trekked through history, I felt a part of me come back alive. I made a point to follow that inner voice and it took me through deeper levels than I anticipated. It was a much needed reprieve from all the noise in my life and the perfect preface to this new chapter I'm starting.

Things I've been thinking about as a result of my travels last week, which followed some turbulence the weekend before, are the importance of balance, the notion of closure and the power of letting outside forces in. These things don't necessarily intertwine, though in my particular case, they are related. For far too long now, I've let other people or situations throw me off balance by immersing myself in them. And what's more, I've left many loose ends untied, whether it's a thread of unfinished growth within myself, letting go of the past, breaking loose from unhealthy patterns or severing ties with the sad woman I used to be. While I have yet to do all of the former completely, I've definitely established my footing and made some significant, albeit hesitant steps forward.

Last week, a part of my imagination was revived. Like a wilting flower placed under spring showers, every flourishing petal spread itself out, pushing aside past inhibitions that the recent dark parts of life put into place and expanding my boundaries as a writer. For a few moments, I felt like I was a child again, imagining my world into existence -- nothing outside of me penetrated.

My eyes no longer look at myself the same way they once did, though that's not to say I don't still look through those old pairs of glasses when something sets me back for a moment. I also feel strangely out of place as I look at myself now, not used to seeing the forest green in my eyes look quite like it does these days. Some of this has to do with this notion of letting outside forces in. In the past, when I was at a low point, I would receive a reminder, sometimes multiple ones in a day, about my significance in this world and my worth. It never failed and the sources of these reminders always varied, but oftentimes came from very unexpected or random places, like someone I'd just met and interviewed or a stranger in a store or hearing from someone suddenly I hadn't heard from in months or years. It wasn't that I thought this phenomenon of sorts was a mere coincidence. I knew it wasn't, but at that time, it was always so much easier to slip those old glasses back on and reject the notion that I was something more.

But now, I've been letting them in little by little. I realize they're not meant to prove to me my place here or its worth -- only I can do that. But they're meant to serve as a steel beam, a column, a slate of wood, a nail in my rebuilding. And while I have to come to these ultimate realizations myself, that doesn't mean I can't accept aide when it mysteriously presents itself. Because rest assured, it is often mysterious in its forms ... like last week's historic traveling and some of the people I encountered, they'd only just met me and the warmth and welcoming feeling I felt from them and an almost knowing look in their eyes ... perhaps I was merely imagining it, but it unexpectedly stirred my insides. And that movement has carried me to the first day of a new job in an environment that just feels ... right.

So, my traveling last week became more than just delving into history, it felt like a journey I took within myself, listening to grazing whispers and following their call, touching my darkest corners and filling them with the soft glow of a lantern light ...

And finally going where I was pulled.

~ C ~

"If you are brave enough to leave behind everything familiar and comforting (which can be anything from your house to your bitter old resentment), and set out on a truth-seeking journey and if you are truly willing to regard everything that happens to you on that journey as a clue, and if you accept everyone you meet along the way as a teacher, and if you are prepared—most of all—to face (and forgive) some very difficult realities about yourself...then truth will not be withheld." ~ Elizabeth Gilbert

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Rutherford B. Hayes and his Lucy ...

"Nobody else can know as I do her wonderful goodness and amazing powers. She touched life in more points than anyone else I ever heard or read of." ~ an excerpt from the diary of Rutherford B. Hayes after the death of his wife, Lucy.

I have a fascination with photos and the way they, especially old prints, can ignite a memory or strange feeling inside. The moment I saw a black and white picture of President Rutherford B. Hayes and his wife, Lucy, something stirred within me, but as I toured their home and the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center in Fremont this week, it unveiled what it was I felt -- love.


While I was already out in the Sandusky area, the Hayes museum seemed to be the recommendation I was getting from those I'd talked to in Bellevue, so I decided to go. Admittedly, I didn't remember a whole lot about President Hayes from history class going in, just that he was our 19th president and won in a hotly disputed election, and was the only president to serve one term by choice. So my mind was virtually a blank sheet waiting to be written on.

When I approached the front desk of the museum, the white-haired man sitting there wearing glasses asked whether I wanted to walk through the museum, take a guided tour of the Rutherford home or both. I smiled at him and said, "both." I only glanced at a few exhibits of the museum before one of the tours of the home started.
Rutherford B. Hayes Home





They wouldn't let us take pictures inside the 1863 home, but as you see on the outside, the home, built by Hayes' uncle Sardis (who was his father figure as his own father died two months before he was born), held a warm coloring, was simple, but elegant in architecture, It also allowed for spectacular views of the nature surrounding it. This was very reflective of the style inside. And everything about that home made me feel warmth and welcome.

The day quickly became more about this couple and their family and intimate lives and less about Hayes' political career and time as president. Though for the record, his main focuses were on equal treatment regardless of race, reconciling the divisions that resulted in the Civil War, improvement through education and civil reform.

It's hard to convey this on paper, but when I think about exactly what spoke to me the strongest about that home and the Hayes' personal items and letters, it was that Rutherford Hayes, without a doubt, deeply adored his wife their entire lives together. It showed in everything we passed, from their shared taste in styles, books, nature, to his letters describing her "dark raven hair" and "perfect eyes."


Taken from his diary: "She was very beautiful in her prime and changed with years less than most persons do. Her eyes were simply perfect -- large, hazel, dark, flashing, tender. I saw once a panther in Quebec, down at a little collection of native animals and birds of Canada, when traveling with her in 1860. I told her and Clinton Kirby, 'There are Lucy's eyes when excited.' Not like hers, but reminding you of hers in their force. Her hair was always a beautiful raven black, with a single red hair or dark auburn here and there. The few gray hairs now have not changed its general appearance, so it has often been said lately, 'Her beautiful hair is as black as ever.'"


The couple, who met in Cincinnati and were married in 1852, had eight children, seven boys and one girl, named Fanny (after Hayes' sister). However, three of the boys died before the age of 2 of childhood diseases. I couldn't even imagine what that felt like for Lucy, especially when they lost one of them during her time visiting her husband -- whom she encouraged to fight in the Civil War to end slavery -- while tending soldiers at the camps. She was equally loved by the soldiers, who would call her "Mother." Hayes kept a locket with Lucy's picture on him from the time he was in the war up to his death in 1893.

Their home reflected their love of books, especially Hayes, who had at least 12,000 books in his library and who called his office where he retreated to read or work his "inner sanctum." The home, which had several additions as the family grew, had a very top floor that was akin to a lantern as it had windows facing all directions letting light flood into the room and serving as an indoor greenhouse of sorts for Lucy. As I walked through the red parlor (nostalgically named by Hayes in honor of the red room of the White House), the master bedroom and library, everything about this couple continued to draw me in. The woodwork was done using a richly colored local tree called butternut and some of the accent pieces in the house as well as the door hinges were oriental in design.

Lucy, who played piano, guitar and sang, was also the very first president's wife with a college education and the first to be referred to as "The First Lady." Our guide, Ann, said when Hayes was governor, he would affectionately refer to Lucy as his "first lady," and the term carried on into his presidency where the press picked it up. The couple also saved most if not all of their letters -- Hayes in particular kept a steady journal -- and diaries and the family kept most of the original furnishings in good condition, creating a treasure trove of pieces and accurate information for the museum staff to utilize. One of my favorites, a 1779 grandfather clock that belonged to Hayes' grandparents, which was 10 years before George Washington was president.
Uncle Sardis

Another tid bit about Lucy that I loved, there was a gorgeous cherry oak side board, or buffet in the dining room with wooden sliding doors on the side and Ann said when Lucy was a little girl, she'd hide inside the side board and listen to the conversations at the dinner table.

And one area I identified with Fanny, being the only girl, is she was completely doted on by her father. He gave her a lavishly furnished bedroom with baby blue colors, similar to the one she had as a child in the White House and gifts such as a large, intricate dollhouse that is currently in the museum.

Lucy, who was also the first person to ever bring a Siamese cat to the states, which was a gift given to her from Siam, loved sewing and looking out the window while doing so. During the 1889 expansion of the house, Hayes had a sun nook that overlooked the backyard grounds --which he walked almost every day -- incorporated into one of the upstairs bedrooms for this reason, however, a few months before the expansion was complete, Lucy passed away while doing some mending in her chair at the age of 57. Ann said she lived three days after that with Hayes at her side.
Hayes' locket with a picture of Lucy
 
He mourned her deeply and passed away a few years later in 1893 from a heart attack he had on his way home from delivering a speech in Cleveland. Hayes had refused medical help and told his son he wanted to be home when he passed -- he wanted to be where Lucy was when she passed.

The more I read about this couple's lives together, their struggles, their shared passions and inner strength, the more I was reminded that love like that -- the kind of love that nurtures, respects, gently pushes, supports and cherishes -- does exist. There was no denying it as I walked those grounds, read those yellowed letters and entries, saw those pictures and even felt the energy of that home. I felt loved.

So, I will leave this entry with the last part of Hayes' diary excerpt after his wife's passing:

"She had a many-sided nature ... was fond of looking on at the dancing in a ballroom, of all great gatherings, of soldiers marching and drilling. She would say: 'I am not very far from being so good as they say. But I do want to treat others as I want them to treat me. I would do this with all of God's creatures. It makes me happy to do it. I try to do it and am miserable if conscious of a failure.'

This was her religion -- treating all others according to the Golden Rule. A Christian? Yes, Darling, you were indeed." ~ R.B. Hayes.

~ C ~

Friday, August 19, 2011

Lyme Village

History with its flickering lamp stumbles along the trail of the past, trying to reconstruct its scenes, to revive its echoes, and kindle with pale gleams the passion of former days. ~  Winston Churchill

In all my journeys back and forth from Cleveland to Bowling Green, never did I really consider the town of Bellevue. My previous post about what drew me there this week attests to the word having been tucked away in my mind for some time now, but I never really knew what was tucked away in all of those cornfields until today.


Historic Lyme Village is essentially this complex of 19th century buildings that have been collected over the last several decades, save for the John Wright Mansion and Carriage House, which are in their original locations. If you're not paying attention, you'd drive right past it to be quite honest. It's not some elaborately run historic center, but in some ways, that makes it even more charming. I arrived yesterday afternoon and joined a group of three on a guided tour of the village, which includes three log houses, the Wright
Mansion and Carriage House, two barns, the woodworkers shop, general store, Schug Hardware, Groton Town hall, Lyme Post Office, Seymour House, shoe shop, Merry School House and Detterman Log Church.


Our guide, Emily, who is 18 and has been volunteering at the village since she was 11, took us through the quaint village, starting with the 1864 one-room school house. It was used to teach first through eighth grade, as that was about the highest education level you needed at that time.

The intricate school desks and chalk slates sat as though eagerly awaiting use. I was tempted to sit down and just breathe it all in, but we soon had to move on. Yet as we filtered out, I glanced back and momentarily imagined the days when that room was filled with uniformed children, just knowing they had once walked right through where I stood gave me chills.

We visited all the buildings, which I could write a novel on, but the ones that stood out for me include the Annie Brown Log House. This woman, Annie Brown, had virtually lived in this tiny log house her entire life, passing away in 1951 at 82 years old. It amazed me to imagine how a person could live in such a tiny space for all those years, but she chose to do so, even in the mid-1900s. 


The Detterman Church, which was built by John Detterman, a German immigrant, in 1848, is one of Ohio's oldest remaining log churches still used today. It's simplicity was what spoke to me, as well as the narrow pews and Detterman's picture in the back corner.


The woodworking shop was also a favorite stop mainly because the musky scent of pine wood assailed my senses the moment I stepped into the shop, which displayed wood workings, including a casket, some made out of oak and walnut wood as well as pine nut. 


We then made our way to the Seymour House, which was originally located across the street from the village and had a basement which was the 9th Underground Railroad stop of the River to Lake Freedom Trail. John Seymour was the post master and clerk in Bellevue at the time and his wife ran a millinery, which is essentially a hat shop.


The N. Cooper General Store was also fun as it was the "happening" place to be in the early 1900s. 
"People bought dried goods and anything you couldn't make on your own," Emily said. "People also came here with goods to barter and the women came here to gossip."
As I walked through the store, I noticed a checkers board set up with two chairs and could just envision two men playing near the pot bellied stove during the winter and on the porch in the summer. The checkers pieces were made from sliced up corn cobb.

And then we got to her ...


The John Wright Mansion


Wright, originally from England, came to Bellevue to work as a farmhand and married a farmer's daughter, Betsy Ford. They had 10 children together and many years later, the Second Empire style home was built between 1880 and 1882 using wood native to the area for the woodwork. However, Betsy died not long afterward, in 1886 and two years later, John married a friend of his daughter's, Fanny Wright (no relation), who was 30 some years his junior. This house was simply beautiful. The rounded corners, which was a Victorian style that tied into the superstitious notion that ghosts hid in dark corners.

Wright had a winter and summer bedroom based on the rising and setting of the sun during seasons and a passage that connected him to Betsy's room. The home had a second floor of rooms and a third floor ballroom, which he simply built to win a competition as his stricter religious practices did not allow for elaborate balls. One room contained several long, lace dresses women wore then as well as gloves, ornate combs and broaches. Another, had a Thomas Edison corner, with an Edison phonograph called a "Morning Glory" by it's shape and bright colors.
 
There was also a cupola at the very top of the house which contained a spiral staircase that went up to a widow's peak. I imagined being a child in that home and pretending I was locked away in a tower awaiting my rescue ... 

We also passed a room that held Betsy's original, personal writing desk. I could just see her sitting there, dipping her quill into ink, furrowing her brow as she constructed her next sentence, periodically gazing out of the window next to her in thought. 


 As we moved through each room, I felt as though the walls breathed us in, as they'd breathed in the lives and memories of those before us. Every piece of carved cherry oak, every lace curtain and creak in the floorboards seemed to whisper a tale, a moment, a story long forgotten. And being with a group of only three others, I felt like we were all taking in various aspects of the village and mansion at our own pace and to our own liking. In some ways, it felt like I was alone in those rooms, blending into the walls. 

In some ways, it felt like I was a faded ghost.


video
~ C ~



Thursday, August 18, 2011

History, Relaxation and Enchanting Inns

"It is the dim haze of mystery that adds enchantment to pursuit."~ Antoine Rivarol


The very warm and welcoming innkeeper showed me around the illustrious Victorian Tudor Inn, gave me my one and only key to my room … I haven’t seen him since. He wasn't feeling very well, so I assumed he went to lay down, but I’ve yet to hear a single soul all night. I realize I'm the only one staying in the Inn tonight. Every room is lavishly decorated with ornate Victorian décor, ranging from intricately carved chair legs to flowers, crimson red accent pillows, black and white stills and lace. When I first arrived, Richard, the innkeeper, told me I was welcome to every main room on the first floor, to the kitchen as though it were my own and welcome to the array of wine choices.

I'd just come from Historic Lyme Village, which I will write about in a separate entry. My experience at this Inn seems to demand my current attention. So, here I sit, in what I would imagine was the formal sitting room or parlor of the home in its infancy with a glass of white wine next to me and the smell of dark, antiquated wood tickling my nose. I could just imagine the women back then, donning their richly colored, elegant dresses and lace gloves as they sat upright in their chairs delving into the latest town gossip.

The wine bottles in the kitchen are all half or three quarters empty, teasing in their phantom traces of life. Everything around me seems to gravitate to my center, even the creaks of this enchanting home. My imagination may be bursting at the seams, overcoming logic in a way it hasn't in years. I feel strange sitting in this room, alone, staring at the dark burgundy walls, plush carpets and low hanging chandelier in the dining room next to me. I feel as though I’m in between worlds.

The innkeeper upgraded my room as well, giving me the “Nautica Suite” with a gorgeous high-rise, four-post canopy bed and large bathroom with a jacuzzi framed by candles. I loved everything about it, including the soft ruby carpet and various shades of blue Victorian print on the canopy, bed, accent pillows and chairs. And the room had its quirks, like a door I keep fiddling with because it falls slightly ajar every time I enter or leave unless I lock it into place.

I also decided it was high time for a professional massage, so I treated myself to one as well. She came right to room and dug into pockets of tension I didn’t even realize existed. And before I was drawn to my keyboard and this parlor, I immersed myself into steaming hot water and let it drive away any remaining tension I had left today. As Sylvia Plath once said: "There must be quite a few things that a hot bath won't cure, but I don't know many of them."

And as the candlelight flickered off the rising steam and lavender-hued backdrop of the walls surrounding me, I couldn’t help but smile as I told myself I was here, in this place I decided to come to on a whim, and down the road, whenever I feel lost again, I can remember this moment and how at ease I felt. I can remember the traces of a smile pulling at the corners of my mouth. I can recall what it felt like to just breathe …

So, as I sat in the front room, not able to access wireless and having spotty cell phone reception, I decide to take the hint and remain unplugged for the night. I'd also decided to continue following that inner voice and ventured outside on the front porch swing. As I rocked slowly back and forth, the metronome-like creek of the swing beneath me, I watched people and cars pass by, feeling as though I sat behind a sheet of glass, a translucent vale, unable to reach out or speak to them, somehow tied to this house and another time. I could practically feel its long-stemmed fingers softly tug at the outer edges of my conscious.  

I got up and walked down and around the house. When I returned, I suddenly heard a sharp, insistent “meow” next to me, causing me to jump a bit and look down to find a gray cat with black stripes and stark green eyes looking at me with both uncertain caution and immense familiarity.
She feverishly cried and rubbed against me as though both lost and found at the same time. I knelt down as she circled me and felt her follow me easily into the dark as I descened the concrete stone steps to the side of the house and gazed up at my room’s lit windows. I quickly realized not a single other room’s windows were lit, not even the innkeeper’s. A chill rolled down my spine as my new feline companion softly murmured next to my leg. I turned back around to return to the porch and as I began my ascent, I turned back to look for her, but all I found were shadows … she was gone.

I went back inside the house, feeling it rumble with every passing truck, its tremble sliced right through me. Eventually, sleep pulled at my eyelids, causing me to finally give in. After all, I’d been given much more than I’d hoped for tonight, despite a furrowed mind and struggling heart. I’d been given a glimpse of past chapters of history and allowed them to embrace me, fill me, hauntingly inspire me. In truth, where I’d been searching for balance, I’ve found much more … I’ve found a missing puzzle piece I didn’t even realize was lost.

And as I sank into the feather topped bed and fluffy pillows, feeling sleep begin to envelope me, I heard a jingling at my door. When I checked, thinking maybe the innkeeper finally received my two earlier phone calls about accessing wireless, I opened the door to no one. Perplexed, a little scared and equally fascinated, I returned to bed and just as sleep began to reclaim me once more, I heard that same soft jingling, but this time, I just smiled and gave in to my dreams. 

This morning, I woke up, hazy, as though still unconscious. Strange how the sunlight pouring through my windows made me feel as though the previous evening had just been some hauntingly beautiful dream. I open my door and immediately smelled bacon and eggs. Richard was downstairs making French toast with bacon and a bowl of fruit for me. He apologized for having virtually conked out from medicine his doctor gave him yesterday and missing my calls. I tell him it's OK. Something tells me it was supposed to be that way. He tells me about other residents "strange" experiences here as well as the home's history.

It was built in 1908 and owned by The Greenslades, which were prominent business and civic leaders and board members of the city's First National Bank. It was built onto a carriage house that was originally in this location, but has since been moved to Historic Lyme Village for display as a "Cobbler's House." One of the home's previous owners also owned a funeral home nearby. Richard said oftentimes, if anyone does have an odd experience, it's been very subtle, like a piece of jewelry or some other item being moved or a knock at the door. I told him about the jingling ... he shook his head and nervously laughed before we moved onto a new topic. He suggests today's historic visit should be The Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center in Fremont. This is the second person who has mentioned it, so I've decided that's where I'm going.

And as I made my way back up to my room, unlocked my door and shut it behind me, I stopped, turned around and stared at the door knob.

This time, it closed just fine.

~ C ~

Monday, August 15, 2011

Ruffled Minds, Mirrors and the Quest For Balance

A ruffled mind makes a restless pillow.  ~ Charlotte Brontë

My mind has, indeed, been ruffled these days, but it isn't just my pillow that is affected, it's my surroundings as well. Sometimes I imagine myself a mirror, reflecting the inner workings of my mind, heart and soul. And like a pebble thrown into stilled water, the ripples of what I emanate can be seen and felt by those around me. My dog, Lakota, and cat, Bella, are no exception.


Whenever the subtleties of a stressful day, a hurting heart or an anxious mind have settled in, unbeknownst to me, my animals also serve as a mirror, reflecting what's inside me. So, lately, I've been looking into them far more often than I have in the past. Other pet owners may find this true of their own pets' behavior in relation to what is going on inside of them. Bella, tried and true, is always there purring, looking upon me with her intensely beautiful, deep emerald eyes; never once looking away at what she sees inside me. And Lakota, his chocolate brown eyes, so playfully innocent, yet so gentle and wise, remind me of what unconditional love feels like. They've been my steadfast unit for the last 8 years of my life, witnessing ever smile, laugh, tear, haunting experience and moment of realization. They've been guides and protectors, but they've also been teachers.


That was a minor tangent to where I was really heading with this entry, but it ties into my ever present search for balance. As of late and in light of a new job I'll be starting in a week, I've been trying to do other things out of my comfort zone. This initiative really started at the beginning of this year, when I took a work trip on my own to France, something I would not have had the courage to do years prior. Then came the initiative to publish my novel, which I'd been putting off for some time because of being scared to submit it. After that, the pursuit of a new job hit me hard, yet with it, more change and discomfort. And the more recent things ... well, this blog for one. I cannot discount how much it's taken to expose parts of myself I'd gotten so used to keeping hidden for so long. And, to bring things back to my "family," I've begun taking Lakota on more frequent and longer walks, down new paths and under night skies. And I've noticed a difference in not only his demeanor on those walks, but my own. It seems trivial, but even the subtlety of changing up our walks, discovering new places to go, has been somehow symbolic to the bigger picture I'm currently trying to paint. 

However, my mind and heart are still creating shaky strokes, so before I start my job next week, I've decided to expand my quest for inner peace and balance by taking the rest of the days following Tuesday to travel around Ohio to various historical homes/museums and villages. Because for me, there has always been something majestic about history and the way being physically immersed in it affects me. And something about this notion that hit me the other day (similar to the one that compelled me to start this blog) just feels right, like it's what I'm supposed to be doing.

An almost eerie contributor to that feeling stems from an experience I had three years ago. I was meditating in my old room at my parents' house and decided on a whim to do a mental exercise I'd been taught years prior. You essentially imagine a blank, two-sided chalkboard that is off a ways in the distance and as you slowly approach it, you begin to make out words or a single word on the board. In this case, the word "Balance" was on mine. At that time in my life, as I'd mentioned in a previous entry, my life was the complete opposite of balanced, so it came as no surprise that that was my "message." However, when I flipped over the board, the word "Bellevue" appeared. At that time, I hadn't a clue what that word meant or how and if it was related to balance. I'd tried to make it fit later on, always keeping an eye out for it, but it never quite fit in any of the things going on in my life at that time.


Well, as I began constructing my make-shift itinerary for this mini-adventure of mine, I stumbled across a website that had a complete list of historic home/museums in Ohio. And one of the first sites that immediately hooked my eye was "Historic Lyme Village," a restored complex of 19th century buildings including homes, barns, shops, a mansion, a schoolhouse, a general store and several museums.

As I looked where it's located, it said in large bold letters: Bellevue, Ohio.

So, Wednesday night, I'll be staying overnight at a Victorian bed and breakfast in the area and hope to write about each place I hit after that. I'll be on my own, but hopefully some of you will follow along.

And who knows, maybe I just may find some balance after all ...



~ C ~


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Writing

There's nothing to writing.  All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.  ~ Walter Wellesley "Red" Smith
   
Last night I decided to go to Capitol Theatre on the west side to see a movie my brother told me I would like, Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris." Indeed, I enjoyed it. A lot. Without giving too much away, the plot revolves around this successful Hollywood movie-script writer, Gil (played by Owen Wilson), who tags along with his fiance, Inez, and her parents to Paris for a business deal her father was completing. Long story short, Gil falls in love with Paris again (he went once before and regretted leaving). This ties in very closely to how I felt the first time I was there in 2004 and then again this year. Maybe it's the romantic in me, the writer in me, or both, but something pulls me in so strongly when I'm there. Gil wishes he could go back in time to Paris in the 1920s during Picasso, Hemingway and Scott Fitzgerald's time and while walking back to his hotel one night, he is mysteriously transported to that era.

Suffice it to say, he runs into Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Picasso, Gertrude Stein, Faulkner and Salvador Dali among other great artists and writers. If someone were watching me as the light from the screen played off my face, they'd have seen a huge smile throughout that entire movie. I related completely with Gil, who had this endearing naive innocent way of viewing the world around him. What I wouldn't give to meet all of those historic figures and just sit there in enamored fascination and listen. There is no coincidence in my mind that many of the greatest artists and writers created their works while in Paris. It's as though that city carries this effervescent energy that emanates its history while inspiring and moving its present. And in the film, as he continues his journey, Gil learns much more about himself and his writing than he realized.

I, too, feel like I'm on a path of rediscovery. I haven't felt this passionate about writing again in a long time. It's as though a flame has been re-lit deep down inside me. I'm seeing characters in people all around me and the details of every scent, breeze, shared glance or touch I experience are like pools of paint colors, waiting to create a tapestry; snippets of stories waiting to be told. When I think about why I love writing to much, I have trouble explaining it. I just know that when I was in elementary school and we had an assignment to write a short story, I found myself completely immersed in the project. It never once felt like work. And having had a very active imagination that lasted well into my early teen years -- and I suppose never left in some ways -- writing also feels like a release valve for that imagination or my emotions and experiences. It's like holding your breath under water, feeling your lungs screaming for air and then when you hit the surface, feeling that blast of relief. While I've also dabbled in drawing, sketching, etc., and have always loved and carried a great admiration for art; writing, in a lot of ways, feels like painting or drawing as well. It's creating a vision with words fueled by the senses. It's an element of exposure and vulnerability that requires a level of risk-taking. And it nourishes growth in me, as all passions should.

Just seeing Paris again on film last night gave me that deja vu, familiar sensation that hasn't left. And on my ride back home with the giant, golden hued moon as my compass, I breathed a whimsical sigh, suddenly overcome by a feeling of both slight trepidation and excitement for what's to come.

Who knows ... maybe one day soon, a much longer visit to Paris.

~ C ~


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Misfortunes

"Experience has taught me this, that we undo ourselves by impatience.  Misfortunes have their life and their limits, their sickness and their health." ~ Michel de Montaigne

This entry is going to delve into a bit more personal territory, but for more reasons than one, I'm going to try and find a balance in its level of exposure.

Patience in healing, overcoming fixation and relearning have been three prominent concepts rolling around in my head and heart these days. The reason why really goes back quite a ways ...


When I was a teenager, there was a relatively lengthy period of time where I fell into a pretty dark depression. I believe in hindsight, the "dark" factor was in part due to relatively common teen angst compounded by hormone changes and perhaps genetics (there's depression and anxiety in my family, though I was unaware of it at that age).  But it was also during a time when school violence (Columbine), bullying and racial fights were high, at least in my school system. 
  
I used to essentially wake up every morning angry for having to be up that early and go to a school where I couldn't stand most of my class and felt misunderstood by virtually everyone. I'd wake up, skip breakfast, not eat much for lunch, come home and go to sleep. At that time, sleep was my escape. I also wrote some pretty dark, twisted stuff in those days.


Then, shortly after I turned 18, I had a bad experience at a party where I was taken advantage of by a guy who was 26 years old. Slowly, my depression flipped to anxiety and it was around this time (I was 19) that I went to counseling at Tri-C. My counselor was a woman probably in her late 20s or very early 30s who helped me work through a lot of my anxiety. She explained that depression and anxiety are more related than people may think and that you can, indeed, have both, but one often overlays the other. In my case, my depression had been overtaken by social anxiety at that point. The twisted part of this is, I'd gotten so used this constant drone of melancholy that part of me felt abnormal during any good days that I did have. I would morbidly miss that depressive feeling because it had become a familiar companion for so long and I sought out comfort and familiarity at that time.


The reason I'm going this far back is, after that incident at that party, I had to virtually rebuild my self esteem, self confidence and self respect. My ever-so-patient and respectful boyfriend at the time was invaluable to me and that process in ways I'm not sure I'll ever be able to express in words. But I'm a definite believer that the people in our lives during moments of trial, of growth, challenge, happiness, whatever the case may be, they are in our lives for a reason. And in this case, without a doubt, he was everything I needed then and remained so for years to follow in so many other ways.

Another part of anxiety is fixation. So, at that time, I would fixate on various situations or people or memories that were or had become a source of anxiety. Little by little, one by one, I faced these sources, albeit sometimes at the pace of molasses. Then, when I moved away to Bowling Green to finish out my Bachelor's Degree, I was forced to face a lot of other challenges, such as living on my own -- though I had my boyfriend with me, which definitely helped that transition -- and forced to obliterate any qualms or social fears I'd ever had before by my job as a student journalist. In those early years of my 20s, I became a much stronger, happier, more content woman and no longer a frightened, angry, depressed teenager. 


However, a great deal has happened to me since then and I will say that the depths I tumbled to made those dismal days of my teenage years look like child's play. Someone once spoke these words to me: "Cassandra, the only thing I can say to you is, do not lose yourself." While the context in which these words were said to me may give them more meaning, I will say this much, whether it's a person, an unhealthy or abusive situation, a trying time, a job, or multiple situations, whatever the case may be, I realize now more than ever how easy it is to lose myself. Back then, it wasn't that her words fell on deaf ears, I just didn't realize how far gone I already was.


Whether you've been scarred or abused by something or someone, whether you've lost someone and lost yourself in the process or even if you've simply witnessed the former in those around you, I would hope those reading could relate to these things in some way. Because, like a weeping willow amidst uncertain winds, I continue to have moments of forward bending as well as my fair share of backward bending. And part of me hopes I'm not alone. 

And just like I held onto the comfort of depression all those years back, I sometimes find myself sickly fixating and holding onto my more recent sources of anxiety, fear and pain because they'd been such a prominent, powerful presence in my life for so long, I'd forgotten who I was or could be without them. So now, during the days when this tug-o-war continues in my mind, I have to remember that I have already made strides, some of them ... truly, most of them, only known to myself. For, during those years I was lost, only I really know the things I failed at then and have overcome now.


But relearning, that's been the trickiest part so far. They say once you learn something, the relearning is easier, such as cursive hand-writing, long division, stick shift or an instrument. Like the cliche, "It comes right back to you." But when it comes to relearning yourself, who you truly are, what you have to offer, your self respect, confidence and inner beauty, it doesn't come back quite so quickly.

So, to return to Montaigne's quote ... Impatience, whether in myself or being expressed by those around me, can easily unravel me, bending me backward a bit. But what I realized today is, I don't have to let it undo me. Because the truth is -- misfortunes, scars, periods of strife,  they do have their lifeline, yes, but like anything in this world, they are not without limit. And though they will exude their share of illness ... 

If allowed to, those misfortunes have the power to nourish.
 
~ C ~ 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Grams

This Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong duet bled into my afternoon soundtrack today, making me think of my grandmother: Summertime

I wrote a passage, which I've posted below, not long ago for my grandma; a woman that has such a strong presence in my life, I'm honestly not quite sure what I will do when she is no longer here. Everyone's families are different, some are tight-knit like mine, others are distant and detached. I was lucky enough to grow up five houses down from my grandparents, making it seem as though our closeness was a commonality rather than a rarity.

Even in middle school, and high school during the nights when other kids my age were playing video games, hanging out at the mall or watching TV, there I'd be, sitting on my grandma's kitchen stool, playing Double Solitaire or plopped down on the floor next to her legs in the living room as we watched old 40s and 50s classic films. Every other weekend, I was sleeping over her house, soaking up so many wonderful stories about her childhood, her time as a budding student in art school, her flirtatious, smart aleck personality, her kind, patient and calm soul. I've taken in every recollection, every sad tale and whimsical reminiscing of times long passed ... sure, things have changed a lot compared to her day, but there is a place for her wisdom that is truly timeless. That place is in my heart.

She reminds me that every moment we have here on earth should be treasured, that every meaningful person in our lives should be acknowledged, always. She reminds me that I should never take those moments and people for granted, that I should spend every minute with them as though it were my last. She reminds me that no matter what strife or challenge I face, mistakes I make and stresses I feel on a daily basis, everything will pass. Everything will be alright. And when she cradles my face in her hands the way she does every time I sit at her feet -- because yes, I still sit at her feet -- I'm reminded of the innocent, imaginative child I'll always be in her eyes as well as the woman I have blossomed into. Like plants, connected to the soil beneath them, her chestnut irises always guide me back to my roots.

They always bring me back home.


Ann

Her eyes, chocolate brown and framed by those familiar lenses, always bring me back to center. But, it's more. It's her soft, scratchy cadence, betraying aged vocal cords worn from years of chatter, crying, singing, gaiety ... life. My days melt together sometimes. But my moments with her never seem to touch; each holding its own place on the wall of my mind's eye.

The weight of the daily grind buckles my legs at times, pulling my heart so low, I can hardly breathe. Yet, as soon as my hand clasps the old latch of her screen door, every furrowed knot finds release, cascading to the cement beneath me. They burrow into each shadowed crevice, awaiting my return. But none of that matters as I walk into the kitchen, the warm glow of her antiquated ceiling fixture filling me from the inside out. I step into her open arms, always waiting not far behind and it never fails, as life has taken me farther away from her, she always professes how much she's missed me. And as constant and natural as the seasons change, we float into the living room and I sink into a child-like ball at her feet as she immediately brushes her fingers through my hair, the way she's done my entire life.

All remnants of melancholy are painted white as I listen to stories of days gone by, whimsical memories of a time long past, forgotten brush strokes, the wink of my grandpa's eye, rolled up cigarettes, Pink Squirrels, Romanian dances, love, heartbreak ... life. And every time, like a sponge dipped in bath water, I pull it all in, let it fill me, soak my insides. Each laugh, each tear, every scratch upon my arm, every brush across my dimple and twinkle in her eye. Every time she cradles my face in her biased hands before I leave and whispers, "You are so beautiful."

All of it, I've captured and tied to a place deep inside me, for the days when it rains and I need an anchor, when my heart yearns for its music, for the days when nothing is as it once was or ever will be.

For the days when my own vocal cords are worn ... with life.

~ C ~

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Change

"It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new. But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful. There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change there is power." ~Alan Cohen  

There's this quirky indie movie I have an affinity for called "Cherish." It stars Robin Tunney (you may know her from "The Craft," "Empire Records" and more recently, "The Mentalist"). The plot revolves around Robin's character, Zoe, who is this socially awkward, love-crazed woman in her 20s who lives in this kind of fantasy-like world where she romanticizes everything and constantly calls into a radio station called KXCH Cherish radio requesting cheesy 70s and 80s pop love songs. She also can never sit still at home by herself and is constantly out with different men. Without giving the storyline away, something tragic happens to her and she's on house arrest, restricted to a small apartment with an ankle bracelet. Essentially forced to sit still. Overtime, she grows and transforms, discovering who she really is and how strong and independent she can be.

This Noe Venable song is played during a scene depicting her evolution: Down Easy

I've always gravitated to Zoe since I first saw this movie several years ago, but it hasn't been until recently that I've quite grasped what it is I was drawn to. It's the fact that she had no choice but to face her greatest fears, to face that her life, as she knew it, had changed and there was nothing she could do about it except to learn and grow. It was her transformation.

I, too, am facing a few changes, now and ahead of me. And part of me is terrified, while the other part is elated. But, weird as it may sound, I think back on Zoe whenever I feel overwhelmed and, fictional character or not, she never fails to inspire me to flow with the transformation. I think so often we tend to fight change or anything risky or challenging in order to stay complacent with our familiar lives, never leaving our comfort zones. Sure, it's safe in that cocoon, but it's also quite drab and stagnant after time.

My heart races with anxiety some days, the blood rising to my cheeks as adrenaline takes hold. Other days, my heart grieves with anguish. However, instead of trying to avoid those feelings and the change that has caused them, I've begun to swim within them, feeling their pulse inside my veins -- feeling alive. I'm tired of standing on the precipice, afraid to take the leap. Isn't that jump what makes it all worth it? Because as daunting as change can be sometimes, I believe it may lead to outcomes beyond our expectations, to the pursuit of our dreams ... and ultimately, to a life fully lived.

After all, how will we ever know where we are capable of landing ...

Until we've actually leaped?

~ C ~