Becoming

“I still haven’t found what I’m looking for”, so said Bono.

Is it this? Is it that? Why is “it” just beyond my reach? How elusive, that thing is! Could it be that the very thing I still haven’t found is what I need to become? Hmmmm, pause and think about that. Is it time for me to step up and begin a journey towards becoming?

Here’s what the contented, purpose driven, mission-minded folks have discovered. Money isn’t enough. Philanthropy isn’t enough. IG fame isn’t enough. Position isn’t enough. We all have a heart’s cry that longs for significance, meaning, and purpose, even the most humble among us. We were wired that way.

Maybe I long for someone to be loving and kind to me. I must become loving and kind. Maybe I so respect that talented author, musician, teacher, photographer, chef. Start writing, take pictures, keep picking up your guitar, take one class and another and another.

Yes, it takes work! Yes, there will be struggles. Yes, there will be sweat and tears. But do you get it? What can I do today within my own power to take even one forward steps toward becoming “what I’m looking for?”

What about it? If you’re still alive then it isn’t too late.

Someone To Look Up To

This hand painted Italian ceiling was installed in one of the 58 guest rooms located at the California home (dubbed Castle) of Wm Randolph Hearst. They say that the occupants of these rooms weren’t given much time to spend looking up at it. Hearst insisted that his guests stay busy outdoors playing tennis, taking hikes, riding horses, or frolicking in the Roman swimming pool. They weren’t given much time to look up at the ancient handcrafted Italian splendor that Hearst had imported and installed into these rooms.

Now thats a problem. One could argue that getting outside into the sunshine, breathing in the fresh seaside air and engaging in a wide variety of physical activities is good for body and soul, and it is, yet . . .

Human beings were made to look up. We look upwards for help, for insight, for support, and for direction. A shepherd once wrote, “I lift up my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from?” I saw this quote on a monument in a very well visited public garden in LA but the inscribers had removed the question mark, turning it into a statement instead of a heart’s cry, attributing the hills themselves with the power to help. They got it wrong. While the hills are alive with the sound of music and more our help does not come from them. Oh no. Our help comes from a Higher Source, higher than the top of Mount Everest. So don’t fix your eyes there, that’s too low. And though our true Source is higher than the highest mountain peak on earth, when we lift up our eyes we realize that our Help is present with us. Not on a hilltop, not in an imported Italian ceiling, not as an extravagantly wealthy billionaire.

The shepherd knew as he wrote these words, “. . . my help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”

I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from?

My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip, He who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you, the Lord is your shade at your right hand;

the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm, he will watch over over your life;

the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forever more.

Psalm 121

Side of the Road

While driving north on the freeway most mornings, every now and again I’ll experience a fleeting twinge of sadness at this one particular and recurring sight. There on the side of the road is an arm chair broken in two from a fall off a truck; a lone couch cushion all tattered and torn; random items that once belonged to someone, now abandoned on the side of the road. The result of an unsecured tie-down l suppose.

The equivalent scenario in the human factor? A once valued but now distant friendship, a strained relationship we meant to make better, a weakening connection we planned to strengthen in time. A rough patch or unforeseen bump in the road tested the strength of our “tie-down” and the bump won the day. These are the regrets of accidental loss.

Regardless of how it occurred losing what we meant to keep can happen on the road to somewhere else, our eyes being focused on what lies ahead and where the journey is taking us. Before we know it countless miles have been logged without so much as an awareness that something we valued has slipped away. Flown off the truck. Left by the side of the road.

What was the old hymn Grandma used to sing? “Blest be the tie that binds . . .” If its of value then its safe to say that we’d best strengthen the tie that binds.

Unraveled

I know how to sew. How to pick up a needle and thread and reattach a wayward button; how to use a sewing machine to create a wedding gown even. I’ve covered a couch with new upholstery and made drapes and baby quilts. So why didn’t I feel compelled to pick up a needle and thread when the tiny hole first appeared in my fave (not necessarily stylish or attractive but still favorite) house slippers?

We often think that things won’t get worse so our attention goes to the things that have the potential to blow up. But a tiny hole in a knitted slipper will only grow larger when continually worn without repair. If I were to throw these in the back of the closet never to wear them again there would be no further stress upon the broken threads of yarn. Things would remain in the same state. But, since they’re regularly worn day by day, the tiny hole continues to grow and unravel.

The word? Repair.

Do the simple mending early on. The things that need even the smallest amount of attention will continue to unravel if we neglect the basic maintenance needed. That goes for work problems, people problems, relationships too. Neglecting a small tear or rip in either a slipper or a relationship will lead to an unraveling. Get to the task of mending and do it sooner rather than later if something or someone is of value to you. People first, things next. If we cherish it and need it, we must repair it.

Don’t wait. The first signs of unraveling are the signs that NOW it the time.

Dropping Petals

I’ve been collecting rose petals all summer long in this vintage gallon jar. Only one rose grows in my garden and its a fragrant one with deep, dark, velvety red petals. When looking across the stretch of greenbelt, my neighbor’s roses often wink and wave at me, growing tall in vibrant shades of pink, coral, yellow, and white. Every now and again I’m invited to come and gather some for myself. I did that yesterday and as I assembled a beautifully varied selection of full blown roses, the white icebergs I’d chosen began to drop, petal by petal, as I turned to go back home.

Always contemplative and looking to gain insight, I pondered the symbolic meaning of the falling petals. Is it a sign of something past its time? Something dead or dying? The poem quoted by Robin Williams in the movie “Dead Poets Society,“ came to mind,

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, Old Time is still a-flying,

And this same flower that smiles today, Tomorrow will be dying.

While I love that verse of poetry it wasn’t quite what was forming in my mind. The flowers I was carrying resembled a bride’s bouquet. This bunch of fresh cut blooms resembled not only the Bride’s bouquet but, simultaneously, the flower girl tossing her petals along the path.

We all, at one time or another, can be the representative of love, hope, and new beginnings. We can also be the innocent, often shy child, who goes before, dropping petals of beauty and fragrance in the paths of others. Dropping petals . . .

Round and Round

The Relics Mall in Paso Robles is one of those places where individual vendors have set up their wares in a collection of wandering stalls—all under one roof, providing hours of enjoyment to the history buff, the collector, and the curious.

So many treasures from a day gone by. Everyday items from decades before take on a new persona when displayed with a 21st century eye. If given a moment or two you may even begin to hear whispers or see images of 1950’s teens spinning the latest bebop singles on these “45s.”

Life goes round and round, “like a record baby” and our moments, days, and years form the grooves, filled with lyrics both happy and sad. One hit wonders and double LPs. Our lives contain many a melody and many a tune. The song we carry today and the tone we choose to play are themselves being recorded. Then in time, after we have become relics, will be played by succeeding generations. Our personal melodies will be tracks laid down in the memories of those whose lives we touch today.

Yeah, life goes round and round. Spinning, getting scratched, getting skipped. But the song! Its so worth playing. And when its played well will be listened to and recalled with fondness, joy, and all the good vibes that we enjoyed while recording it. Round and round.

Smooth It Over

Have you ever used that magical product that removes the gummy, left-behind gunk from old price tags and stickers? Goo-Gone. It works like a charm. Sometimes requiring a little more elbow grease than others but it definitely does the trick. It contains some citrus leaf extract but the miracle ingredient is oil.

Olive oil, coconut oil and others—they’re good for the heart in more ways than one. They help clean gunk from our arteries (so saith Dr. Oz) and smooth our rough places. Things and people that smooth things over are good to have on hand. We all need more of that in our lives.

Oil of gladness. Oil that anoints old testament kings and street corner prophets and oil that gave new life to the tin man (speaking of Oz).

What can we do today to smooth things over, wipe off some old gunk or bring a little new life to a dream or a friend? Maybe for myself, or for someone I care about, someone I work with, or perhaps even a frustrated stranger in line at the market.

Be the oil today. Smooth it over.

Light

Just a lovely lampshade once owned by Wm Randolph Hearst.

As we walked from room to room on the guided tour of the Hearst Castle I realized that one could make a clever coffee table book featuring nothing but Hearst’s lampshades alone. Made of silks and velvets and assorted leathers, these shades were works of art in their own right.

Speaking of shades, there are days when the sunshine itself is too intense for us blue-eyed folk, causing us to pull out our Ray Bans for protection. There are rooms lit up with the radiant glow of one hundred watt bulbs that can be blindingly bright if not for the careful placement of a humble lampshade.

There are brilliantly shining stars on this planet, occasionally making an appearance in our own spheres. We need a filter of sorts between us and them just to be able to gaze upon them and not be blinded by their talent, their brilliance, their magnificence in whatever it is they excel in. I can think of a few in my lifetime.

A lampshade of shirred velvet adorned with silken fringe seems to elevate the light it protects our eyes from. But the light is the main thing. No light, no need for a shade. A light came into the world many, many years ago, shaded by simple human form. No velvet, no silken fringe. Most didn’t acknowledge this light, their own darkness being so great. But some did. And they held it dear and hold it out to light the way for others.

Hide it under a bushel? Nope.

One Good Eye

Oh my gosh, how precious!”

That’s what I thought when I saw this adorable pair staring at me. They’re a hand carved, hand painted, quite vintage, (though who knows or who even really cares just how old) reminder that the buddy system is still a really good idea.

Upon closer inspection you can see that each of these friends are missing an eye. They need each other and they know it.

Oh how often we go around trying to navigate this life with only one good eye, whatever that personally means to each of us. Having a deficit in our abilities or personality is manageable. We can cope, we can adjust and we do, but just how much do we miss because we think it’s easier to adapt to our shortcomings rather than to reach out? Eyes were designed to work in tandem after all.

These guys have what it takes to make a great pair, each possessing what the other one lacks. You can just tell by the look in their one good eye. This colab is going to stick together and stand up for one another. Side by side they’ve increased the likelihood of having vision beyond what they would surely experience by going it alone.

Made in England

Sometimes where we were “made” is an important factor. It can speak of the quality of our heritage and background and therefore our value. Like a wine from the Bordeaux region of France or a tulip grown in Holland, where a thing is from might add or take away from our perceived value of it.

Sometimes what we’re made of is the important thing. It’s good for an object such as a dining room table to be made of a sturdy material such as oak, allowing that table to be passed down over several generations. Much better than one made of particle board and covered with a veneer of faux wood grain.

Sometimes what we’re made for is the main thing. A pastry chef must use the proper equipment to produce delectable desserts that tease the eye and tempt the tastebuds. The delicate pastry must be contained and supported by a sturdy form if it is to be baked and, in turn, contain perhaps either a lemony or rich custardy filling. Simple stuff really but a delightful pastry such as this cannot be made without the proper equipment. Without a support structure the delicious ingredients would bake up in the shape of a free-form blob, indistinguishable as something worthy of presented in a bake shop display case.

All hail those whose purpose in life it is to reinforce others. Those who bring form and order and design to the every day. Blow the trumpet for all the indispensable tart pans, aka the dedicated nurses who support our health, the tireless educators who inspire while instilling knowledge into us, the hardworking farmers who grow the food that nourishes our bodies, and so many, many others in supporting occupations.

A vintage tart pan made in England and found on my recent visit to Central Coast California. It will continue to produce delicious desserts for another 50 years or more. Humble yet designed for a purpose.