Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Accentuate the Positive

So lately I've been reading a book about a spiritual practice called Huna. It's a belief system derived from traditional Hawaiian culture and religion, influenced and interpreted through the eye of Western psychology and metaphysics. It honors concepts such as love, balance, breath, family, connection to nature, and mind-body-spirit integration and suggests practices to bring us in touch with ourselves and others in very specific ways.

One of these ways is through positive thought forms, brought into being by positive speech. The belief that words matter, that what we say and how we say it shape not only our intent but the very reality we live in, is fundamental. As a healer friend says "The Universe always says Yes." If you wake up and tell yourself you'll have a great day, the Universe replies "Yes." If, on the other hand, you tell yourself that everything is going to go wrong, the Universe still replies "Yes." It's powerful stuff.

In my everyday life, I've been trying to remember this, and modify the things I say accordingly when I can. As a parent, I get tested a lot in this area. My kids will verify that I'm not afraid to say no when I need to (and chances are it's those no's they most clearly remember), but honestly, if there's a yes to be found, I try to find it.

But there's one area that gives me considerable trouble, when it comes to positive speech and thought. My government makes me very angry, and has for nearly four years now. With the election coming on, the feelings of loathing (and there is no other word that more closely captures how strong the emotion is) have intensified; I see a light at the end of the tunnel, the possibility that we can be rid of an administration that I feel has hugely damaged our country and our world, and it makes me almost desperate.

I don't like feeling that way, and I like even less owning those feelings. Yet there they are.

The other day, it occurred to me that maybe there was a way to turn some of that around, to change my thought patterns from negatives (i.e. we need to get them the hell out of there!) to wishes that are more positive. These are the thoughts I came up with, and that I will try to hold from now until November. In sharing them here, I make those thoughts manifest in the world.


George W. Bush. Whether one believes your pResidency to be legitimate or no, whether one agrees with even the least harmful of your policies, I think that we can all agree that it's not an easy job you hold. My highest wish is that next January you are able to hand over the burden of governing, to go back to the ranch you love so dearly that you've spent quite a bit of time vacationing there over the last four years, and to become just a regular guy again.

Dick Cheney. It's no secret that you've had your share of health problems. Your heart is not as strong as it once was, and the stresses of carrying a large share of the workload in this administration threatens to send you to an early grave.It also can't be easy to constantly be whisked away from your family to undisclosed locations. So for you I wish rest for your mechanical heart, and more time with your kin especially your lesbian daughter to whom you owe an explanation as to why you don't think she deserves the same rights as straight kids have.

John Ashcroft. You don't have a bad voice, really. I heard you sing in Fahrenheit 9/11 and it was quite okay. In January, when you no longer have the responsibility for violating the privacy rights of anyone who disagrees with you, I want you to take the time to work on that. Let the music flow, Johnny baby!

Condolezza Rice. You always look so sad and lonely and that's just no good. It's got to be difficult to make connections with others when you always have to be the tough one, spouting the talking points that you know are a bunch of hooey. So live up to your name "con dolcezza", and go out there and find yourself a partner! Man or woman, doesn't matter once you're not in the limelight anymore. But *damn* woman. Getting laid should be your number one priority when you have the time and are no longer servicing serving the pResident.

Donald Rumsfeld. The man with the cockeyed plan for world domination expressed in paradoxical poetry. Many, myself included, would say that your talents are wasted orchestrating pre-emptive war on sovereign nations based on faked intelligence claiming the existence of a nuclear and chemical weapons program. No... you're all about self-expression and you need to share that gift with us all through the written word. Though you'll probably be too busy to take on NaNoWriMo this year what with helping your boss try to cook the election, I think that you should definitely plan on enrolling in some workshops early next year to hone your craft.

Colin Powell. Ah, Scarecrow, I may miss you most of all (which shouldn't be surprising, given the others I have to choose from). I don't think it's going out on a limb to say that the last four years have been pretty disappointing for you. Once admired world-wide for your reason and moderation, you've been put in a position where you've had to repudiate pretty much everything you've ever stood for and have compromised your integrity to the point where even used-car salesmen cross the street to avoid being seen with you. I really and sincerely hope that you'll be able to put this nightmare behind you soon and I hope that you'll take the time to do some meditation and come back to your core values... when you do, I look forward to the book you'll be writing.


So may it be.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Home Field Advantage

You'd have thought that living in the midwest for most of my life, a mere 3 hours from Chicago by car, I would have seen the Cubs play at Wrigley Field at least once. I visited my dad who lived in the southwest suburbs every summer for several weeks and attended games at both the old and new (ptui) Comiskey parks, but, strangely, Wrigley eluded me.

Twice I came close. My fifth grade class went on a field trip, by bus, at the end of the school year, but my overprotective mother (love you, mom!) wouldn't let me go along. In 1995, on a trip to the city, my sweetie and I took each other's photo in front of the park, but baseball season had either not yet begun or was already over, I don't recall which.

So I was thrilled when my brother was able to snag some great seats for us (a dozen or so rows up along the first base line) when we were visiting a couple of weeks ago. Not only would I finally get to see a game at one of the two remaining old-time ballparks, but I'd get to share it with my husband and our two little baseball fans. Together, for the first time, we'd see the ivy-covered walls, the hand-operated scoreboard, the rooftop bleachers surrounding the park where the views are good and the beer is... well, it has to be better than the Old Style and Budweiser they serve in the park, and the famous red sign out front welcoming us to "Wrigley Field, Home of Chicago Cubs"!

We got to the park via the El, another Chicago institution I had yet to experience. It was a Friday afternoon game, and the train was packed with baseball fans hoping, as we were, that the "scattered showers" predicted for that afternoon would pass us by. (They didn't, but luckily we had thought to bring rain ponchos and we and our seats stayed nicely dry through the five-minute downpour and rain delay.)

The moment we passed through the turnstiles, I entered baseball stadium bliss.

I've discovered over the years that my love of baseball is rooted as much in the history of the game as it is in how my team is doing in any given year. In fact, for the last several years the only thing that has sustained me as a Tiger fan has been that history (oy). When home plate was moved from my beloved Tiger Stadium to the the swank new Comerica Park, I mourned that owner Mike Ilitch could so cavalierly abandon The Corner, home to Detroit baseball since 1895 and host to all of the greats, for fancier bathrooms and luxury skyboxes.

So I reveled in the old-time feel of Wrigley, imagining the generations of families who walked along the same concourse we did to find our seats. I enjoyed watching the opposing relief pitchers warming up, not way out in a far-off bullpen, but right next to their dugout in front of our section. I loved that there was no huge TV screen blaring entertainment and advertisements whenever there was a break in the action, no synthesized hand-clapping sounds telling the fans when to get excited - instead, the crowd noise rose organically in reponse to what was happening in the game (what a concept!). Wrigley is, indeed, a baseball-lover's park.

And yet. Something was missing.

Nathan and Sophie might tell you that it was the Jumbotron. Nine innings of a low-scoring game (the Cubbies lost 3-2 to Milwaukee) is a long time for a four- and six-year-old to sit through without some form of entertainment to keep them amused during the slow spots. They were much more impressed by Comerica Park with its 2 (!) big screens, carousel (with Tigers instead of horses, of course) and a car mounted on a wall in the outfield (it is the motor city after all).

Stephen might tell you that it was the beer (brand, not availability) and garlic fries. We are spoiled with very yummy stadium food at Safeco Field (burp).

But as for me, I realized that as great as the stadium itself was, oozing with history and tradition and inhabited by the ghosts of millions of goat-cursed Cubs fans, I personally felt no connection to what was happening inside those famous walls. Sure, the Cubs are my favourite National League team and I wanted them to win, but... well... I'm an American League girl, through and through. When it comes to the NL, I don't know the players, don't know the rivalries, don't know who to love and who to hate. (Except the Yankees - I think that any right-thinking baseball fan, regardless of league affiliation, hates the Yankees.)

And that lack of spark, of casual knowledge and shared memory, was the difference between watching the game as simply a spectator, and watching it as a fan. I thought about this a lot over the next several days as we continued our summer odyssey, driving from Chicago to Michigan and points beyond.

It's a route that I've traveled many times. The names of counties and towns we passed through were familiar to me as were the seemingly endless cornfields, buzzing cicadas, and (once you hit the Michigan border), highway construction zones. For the millionth time, it seemed, I had to think about which time zone Indiana decided it wanted to be in for the summer, so that we wouldn't be late (or is it early?) for a lunch date with a friend. I remember this. I know this.

And then there is the now. The pacific northwest… Seattle… feels in many ways more like home than anyplace I’ve lived before. I’m at ease here, in a way that I never was back east, whether in the small town where I grew up or Columbus, a city of moderate size. The climate is my ideal – like little bear’s porridge it’s just right - not too hot in the summer, not too cold in the winter. The socio-political climate too is more to my liking. In Seattle I know I'm not likely to see the sign I saw along the side of the road in my hometown that trumpeted – “pro-life pro-second amendment conservative Republican” as if it were something of which to be proud.

And the moutains. And the water. And coffee and Tevas and the Fremont Solstice Parade. I love this coast and this city fiercely and deeply, with the zeal of the newly-converted.

And yet.

I didn't grow up here listening to the radio on a snowy winter's night, waiting to hear that my school was closed, and in doing so learning the names of all the neighboring counties and towns. In the fourth grade I didn't learn the Washington state bird or flower or stone or motto (Michigan: robin, apple blossom, petosky stone, "If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you."); I haven't a clue what the state flag looks like. I can't point to my hand to orient you to where I live.

I don't much care about the UW/WSU rivalry. Heck, I'm only assuming that there is one.

And when people ask me where I went on vacation this summer, I still automatically say "home" even though it hasn't been for many years and I have no plans for it to ever be again.

Those connections and memories run deep and they make me who I am. And, I have to admit, they're what is as yet missing for me here, in this lovely place where I've chosen to make my life. Like Wrigley Field, Seattle feels right, the way home is supposed to feel. But I've only been here for four years, and I'm just starting to get to know its heart, to feel my roots digging in.

This revelation came as a bit of a surprise to me and that feeling of in-betweennes, of fully belonging neither here nor there is taking some getting used to. But it has also motivated me to dive in and connect more fully, to stop being just a spectator.

To orient my internal compass to the big water being to the west rather than the east. To retune my ear and tongue so that "Sequim" and "Okanogan" and "Twisp" sound as familiar as "Calhoun" and "Sturgis" and "Erie". To not always be converting in my head from Atlantic to Pacific time.

One day, in the not too distant future, my kids will come home and tell me they're learning about Washington state history in school. I'll help them study and in doing so will undoubtedly learn a lot myself. And in 30 years, wherever they are I know they'll remember, as it will be etched indelibly into the geography of their childhood: american goldfinch, coast rhododendron, petrified wood, and "Bye and bye".