Needless to say, the timing of this started a whole new round of joyous grieving.
Hi Dad, and thanks for the visit!
More posts on the Blue Angels:
The stuff these challenges bring up for me is amazing!! Thanks again Nancy!!
Needless to say, the timing of this started a whole new round of joyous grieving.
Hi Dad, and thanks for the visit!
More posts on the Blue Angels:
The stuff these challenges bring up for me is amazing!! Thanks again Nancy!!
I spotted this great challenge this morning and thought I’d join in.
Picking a tree photo has proved impossible because I photograph and write about Trees I’ve known and loved all the time. (If you go to my site and look up Trees, you’ll see what I mean.)
I am so connected to many, many trees, maybe because growing up in the smallish ocean-side town of Pacific Beach (San Diego), in our front yard, we had the tallest tree in the entire town. That tree was a huge part of my life. I experienced it as a living being, a friend, and that has informed my experiences with trees ever since.
I wrote this story about it years ago.
Not just a Tree
By Kathie Arcide 10-07
For fifty years, there was a Star Pine tree in Pacific Beach that could be seen from almost everywhere. Rumor had it that this particular tree was, by far, the tallest in this San Diego beach community, and the surrounding area for that matter.
The true story about the origin of this tree is a well-guarded secret, but for a good cause; to prevent sibling rivalry.
Here is the part of the story that can be proven. It seems an unusually forward thinking young man moved to the West Coast from Coffeeville, Kansas in the late 1940’s, and wisely bought a piece of property close to the ocean.
He had it all planned; settle in to his new job as an aeronautical engineer at Convair, build his new house and get it all ready, and then, begin his search for the woman who would become his wife.
The only thing missing from the homestead he was creating was a large tree on which his future children could climb. (Well, that and a storm cellar, which, being from Kansas, he believed, was an absolute necessity. But that is another story.)
Here’s where the secrecy starts. This man eventually had three daughters. Each of these daughters has a different tale about the origin of the big old Star Pine tree that dominated the property, as well as the Pacific Beach skyline. I am the oldest of those daughters, so here is my version, told to me by my Daddy when I was very little.
The yarn goes like this. When my father met the woman who would become his “one and only”, she already had a two-year-old daughter; ME.
In order to welcome me into his life, we went shopping for a tree for the front yard of his newly built home. We had to look around a bit because he had many specific requirements for this tree.
1) It had to be a future climbing tree.
2) It had to be a pretty tree; none of those Monkey Tail trees that my Dad thought were inferior.
3) It had to have the potential for providing shade.
4) And most important, was that at the time it was planted, it had to be exactly the same height as his new little daughter, “so that the tree and I could grow together”.
So we found the Star Pine that occupied the front yard of this home in Pacific Beach for many years. Well, “occupied” is a relative term. It grew to become massive and regularly needed a “trim” to prevent its branches growing into the bedroom windows and overtaking the house completely.
This tree really saw some life, let me tell you. I am now in my fifties and some of my fondest (as well as harshest) memories are of sitting way up high in this old tree, for hours at a stretch; sometimes reading, sometimes privately watching the neighborhood, stretching from the West to the Pacific and to the South to San Diego Bay. Sometimes I’d climb the tree with a little friend to enjoy a picnic lunch, and sometimes I’d hide up there from my bothersome little sisters, or from my imperfect parents.
The Star Pine was where I would “run away”. My favorite thing, a guilty pleasure now I see, was that from high on my perch, I could hear everything my parents said when they would come out into the yard, worried and looking for me. I loved to eavesdrop on my Mommy and Daddy while they discussed how much they loved me and how very much they would miss me if I never came home again. (Now, of course, I’m sure my folks knew I was up there in that tree all along.)
And then there were those times when that old Star Pine tree was utterly a place of soul saving refuge.
As much work as raking up the shedding needles and branches? was, Dad loved that tree and so did we.
It was a landmark of sorts. One really couldn’t miss it as it could be seen from most angles throughout the town. It should have been left to live out its life in peace, just as our father did.
He is gone now, having lived a wonderful, fulfilling life in his cherished, self-built homestead. Pacific Beach flourished and filled in around him, but somehow retained its small beach town atmosphere.
When Dad passed on my sisters and I made the very tough decision to sell our childhood home. We idealistically tried to require the buyer to promise NOT to cut down this magnificent old tree. He agreed, but if you are ever in San Diego, don’t bother looking for 1361 Wilbur Ave. The TREE is no longer there. The man who bought the house professed termites and immediately had the tree removed. He also did other things to the house that, other than the address, make it no longer recognizable as our childhood home, our Father’s dream.
But some part of my Daddy is still there, his spirit and energy strong. And so are his three beloved little girls, frozen in familiar childhood poses, arguing over whose myth about the origin of the tree is really the truth.
Ah, such a subjective theme.
In this context, we’re talking visual beauty…that we can capture with a camera…or at least, try to capture.
Maybe it’s because of my father’s lessons about being able to find something amazing to look at anytime, anywhere. (I just wrote this story about that.)
Or maybe it’s because I have spent so much of my life around people who are blind, including several up close and personal relationships, in which I was often called upon to describe something beautiful with words. (I often fell woefully short. I mean, YOU try describing an Abalone Shell with words!) Maybe my awareness of visual beauty just became heightened.
In any case, in my world, absolutely anything qualifies.
So picking photos for this topic is a challenge. I’m going to go photograph the first thing that came to mind (mostly because my son and grandsons just brought me souvenirs from their Spring Break trip to Hawaii).
Be right back. (7:22 AM, 4/20/19)
I’m Back. 9 AM. That was both a fun and frustrating experience. Delightfully fun to experiment. And frustrating to realize there is just no fully capturing the amazing beauty of an Abalone Shell…at least not with my camera equipment.
Of course, this post made me research the history, meaning and healing properties of the Abalone shell. What an amazing gift from Nature! Here’s one site.
https://www.energymuse.com/abalone-shell.html (this is basically an ad for jewelry, but full of info about the shell.)
And don’t even get me started on “creation”. I mean, the Abalone Shell! How in the world??? WHY in the world? Who first discovered the beauty hidden behind that “ugly”, rough exterior?? ETC. ETC.
Thanks for this Challenge. What a delight!!
UH oh, uh oh, too big, TOO BIG!!!
My mind reels at the thought of picking one thing my Dad said that influences me! I could write a whole book about his subtle , even covert teachings.
Oh wait. I DID!
I have 52, still to be edited, chapters (short stories really) about something my Dad said or did that is still with me today. For the purpose of this challenge I will start with this.
When I was growing up, and there was conflict with my sisters, we of course would try to get Dad to solve it for us (which really meant “take sides”).
He would quietly listen to tales of woe and blame…and then, as if he had just thought of it and never ever said it before, he would say “Hmmm, Well, that’s one way to look at it…”
Period. That’s all. No solutions. No votes for one side or the other. Nothing. The implacable silence following his casual-seeming comment, I interpreted as lack of love clear into my adulthood.
But now, that sentiment is interwoven throughout my experiences, my calling.
Those words from him have fueled and inspired my stance in life. I am on a mission to teach and model for others, that we each have options about how we view things. And that it’s not just a choice, but a responsibility, to see things, especially in a conflict, from as many perspectives as we can confirm or imagine.
Thus Chosen Perspectives.
Here’s one of the Chapters (stories) I mentioned above. I feel very vulnerable sharing it so would appreciate any comments you are willing to make. You don’t have to like the story. Any kind of feedback is valuable. I would like to know if you read it. I’d so appreciate your “perspective”.
The “Ruler” and the Torn Screen or One Square foot
“To this garden we were given
And always took for granted
It’s like my Daddy told me, ‘You just bloom where you’re planted’
We long to be delivered from this world of pain and strife.
That’s a sorry substitution for a spiritual life.” Don Henley- “Inside Job”
“Give a child an inch and he’ll think he’s a ruler.” Sam Levenson
When I was newly eleven years old, I decided to sneak out one night to meet my two of my friends. To achieve this daring escape, I had to tear the screen on my bedroom window.
Oh, I had my adventure alright. My fellow delinquents and I caroused a whole square block in quiet little Pacific Beach. We were MIA for a couple of hours, doing the classic deviant things of our generation…for Girl Scouts anyway. We stole pomegranates from a tree whose branches hung way out into the alley making them public property, right? And we creeped into one grouchy neighbor’s back yard to see baby bunnies in a homemade cage. This guy refused to let us see these precious fluff balls during the day time, matters into our own hands and all….
Almost sunrise, I came home triumphant but exhausted and forgot all about repairing the damage to the screen…..not that I could have fixed it anyway.
Of course, I was caught. My mother discovered it that same morning and boy, was she was pissed. I hadn’t thought to close my curtains to hide what she later called my “willful and thoughtless destruction of property”. When she found it, she didn’t say a word but I knew I was busted by how she glared at me. She was a silent seether.
Then, my Mom woke my Dad, only a couple of hours into his post graveyard-shift slumber. She insisted that he deliver my punishment…a spanking…unheard of in our household, and at eleven years old….I thought “Give me a break. Never gonna happen”.
But my extremely shy and pacifist father was apparently more invested in pleasing my mother than I had realized. Her explicit direction to him was to spank me for the torn screen. The sneaking out in the middle of the night part was completely ignored, a fact that bothered me for years.
I will never forget the look on my father’s face as he slowly entered my room and closed my door. He looked chagrined but also resigned. I was shocked that he was actually considering carrying out this task set upon him by his wife….completely out of character for him.
My Dad had never touched me in anger or punishment or, for that matter, even in love. We addressed this last much later. When I was in my forties, my sisters and I finally taught him how to hug us. It was visibly painful at first, but it finally grew on him.
But when I was eleven, he sat down on the very edge of my bed and then mumbled something about bending over his knee, the whole thing so surreal to me that I complied without question or reaction.
His swing was simultaneously swift but also slowed by some imaginary obstacle, like slapping his hand through a two foot thick barrier of Jell-O. From my vulnerable position, the approach of his hand made the expected whoosh through the air, but contact with my waiting butt never happened. He tried twice but could not quite muster the actual blow.
Then he startled me by smacking my bed, twice, and loudly. I was absolutely surprised but definitely not injured.
When I stood up and we were face to face, he didn’t speak a word but in a rare moment of slightly prolonged and very direct eye contact (seriously…my Dad was shy) he conveyed to me ‘Please don’t tell your mother”. I read his look loud and clear…..and played my silently assigned part to the hilt. I cried real (but exaggerated) tears for quite a while, making sure my mother saw and heard me. I was furious with her but I don’t think I had never felt so loved by my Dad.
One of my childhood friends was named Mary Lou Reichel. She lived two doors down and sometimes I was invited to go on adventures with her family. They had a big motor boat and I went Marlin fishing with them. They did so many things, even attending church….all together. They were Catholic. Mary Lou and her big brother even went to the parochial school. Mr. Reichel was very strict and the mom very quiet and religious. I loved their family. They were so different from my own and I longed for my parents to assume their proper stereotypical positions like Mr. and Mrs. Reichel.
I remember so clearly a reaction Mary Lou had to my Dad one sunny Sunday afternoon.
We were hanging out in my front yard while Dad worked on the car. I was complaining to him about how bored I was and why couldn’t he take us for ice cream or to the beach or…whine, whine, whine. He just looked at me, a familiar look so I knew what was coming next. But Mary Lou froze and held her breath. It was as if she knew the very words my Dad would say next, and she was exactly right. With a faintly apologetic sigh, he said, “Go get the ruler.”
Mary Lou’s reaction puzzled me. Her eyes widened, panic on my behalf all over her face, and her shoulders went up to her ears. “Go get the ruler” meant something so different to her and I know now she had regularly been on the receiving end of a Ruler Whap…on her knuckles from the nuns at her school and her father had broken several yard sticks over her bare bottom. Later that afternoon, she actually cried and whispered to me, as if her father two doors down might hear, how she wished her Dad was as nice as mine. Grass is always greener, huh?
I had envied her father taking her to church all the time. The sum total of religious teaching I received from mine was this.
“Boredom is a sin.”
So when my Dad, a consummate and camouflaged spiritual teacher, said “Go get the ruler”, here’s what he meant.
Take the ruler and some chalk or a pencil and mark off one square foot of surface…on anything….the car, the wall, the grass, and my personal favorite, the sidewalk in front of our house.
Then, he told me to stare at it until I found something miraculous. That’s it.
Do you have any idea how much life there is in one square foot of Southern California lawn? Weeds, pill bugs, itty bitty daisy-like flowers, rocks, the marble I lost last summer, caterpillars, and always, about one thousand ants. And I was convinced the sidewalk was filled with flecks of pure gold. (I bet this is why I so enjoy Macro Photography!!!
It would occupy my sisters and me for hours. We were inspired to start collections. It gave us stimulating stories to tell and write. We built complete little towns with the gathered natural debris from neighboring square foots….and this was just from the grass. The lathe and plaster walls in our house held scenes filled with animal shapes. Our brown shag carpet was jam-packed with faces. The sidewalk became a canvas for colored chalk. One time I used a square foot of beach towel and a magnifying glass to get a good look at what terry cloth really is. (That was the same time I learn about the fire starting power of a magnifier!)
It took me many years to choose between Mary Lou’s perspective and mine about my father. I had seen my Dad as distant and cold, not really caring that much about me… not that he was mean. I always did the things he suggested; “Close your eyes and count five sounds”, “Name five smells in the air right now”, “Where did all those tadpoles go?” “What happened to the Polliwogs we saw just last week?” And “Why is our favorite pond now filled with tiny frogs?”
And I enjoyed the adventurous outings he would provide. The bustle and commotion in a single square foot of tide pool is truly amazing.
Just five blocks from our house they were excavating deep into a hillside in preparation for a new subdivision of homes. My Dad knew this would be a once in a life time opportunity so he packed up the tool box and took us there on the weekends when all the big machinery was silent. Our tools were our beach buckets, some old paint brushes, the fancy grapefruit spoons (“Don’t tell your mother”), and of course, the ruler. I still have beautiful and amazing fossils from those expeditions.
When I was young, I thought my father was just weird, but now, I see him through Mary Lou’s longing eyes. He was a gentle, loving, unassuming and brilliant Master Parent and Spiritual Guide. Completely out of our awareness, he was training us to be biologists, artists, ecologists, archaeologists, maybe even Buddhists.
As I look back now, I can only imagine what that “spanking” over the torn screen must have cost him.
Here’s my story…long, but it makes me so happy every time I tell it.
Hope you enjoy.
It’s Never Too Late….
(Branding VS Bonding)
“Maternity is a matter of fact; paternity always a matter of opinion.” Unknown Author
When I was two, my Mom and me found me a Dad. They got married and had my sister Eileen when I was three. They had my sister Barbara when I was six. When I was nine, I found out that Dad was not my first Dad. I don’t remember that fact being particularly bothersome. But when I was twelve and my folks divorced, well, that was definitely bothersome. When I was fifteen, being fairly exhausted by the role of Junior Mother to my sisters while my own Mom drank herself into oblivion, I left home in search of the rest of my childhood. When I was nineteen, my mother made her first (at least discernible) suicide attempt. (She took pills.) She survived, but only after being in a coma for as many days as I had had years on the planet. She woke up saying, “I don’t want to sleep anymore.” I thought she meant it and was really relieved and hopeful. Her narrow escape from death seemed to inspire her. She turned her life around dramatically…but only for a couple of years. When I was 21, my mother was more determined…no reprieve this time. It is much harder to survive suicide by gun.
When I was 24, and had a toddler of my own, the difference between a biological parent and a step-parent right in my face, I wrote my Dad a note. It said, “Now that Mom is not alive, you and I are not REALLY connected by anything, do you want to stop being my Dad?”
As of this writing, I don’t remember how he answered that question. I think it was something sweet and positive.
I do know that after he died in 2001, when we were going through his belongings, I found that 30 year old note from me, crusty with age, in a small box full of obvious treasures; like a very beautiful picture of my mother (his one and only love), correspondence from his father, and a very impressive letter of endorsement from his commanding officer in the U.S. Cavalry recommending him to West Point. My barely camouflaged plea for parental reassurance was in very admirable company indeed.
When I was 40, I received the following letter from my Dad:
When your mother and I got married, we didn’t have much money and you were very young so we didn’t think you would mind if we skipped the legal proceedings for me to officially adopt you. Then, as it does, time passed and we just never got around to it.
Would you think it silly now, at this late date, for me to make it all legal? Would you let me adopt you?
I think you know that you have never been any different in my eyes from your two sisters, except that you were my oldest. Your biological father left before you were ever born, marrying your mother in name only, at the “insistence” of your grandfather, so I knew I would be your only Daddy.
Have I ever told you when I knew you were mine?
When your mother and I were dating, we always brought you along. I knew from the start it was a package deal with her and that was just fine by me. One afternoon when we were out, I picked you up to carry you on my shoulders, as had become our routine. Well, while you were up there, you had a little accident and leaked all over my neck. That wasn’t too bad really. But when I went to change my shirt and tie later, I found that you had marked me. My white shirt and neck were stained a bright crimson, the color of my tie. I didn’t think of myself as a “red neck” but I proudly wore that red mark around my neck for several days until it finally wore off. I told the guys at work that my new little girl had branded me. That’s when I knew I was your Daddy.
Now, I would like to make it official if that’s OK with you. Let me know what you think.
My response to him was a no-brainer.
So, the Christmas after my 40th birthday, my Dad flew to Seattle from San Diego. My sister Barbara was there. My sister Eileen, who had rarely seen any of us since our mother died all those years before, flew over from Hawaii, and my 2 long time best friends, Lee and Linda, attended as witnesses. It was definitely official, taking place in a courtroom in front of a judge who asked both my father and I a peculiar series of questions. “Do you have any ulterior motives for taking this step?” “Does doing this help you to avoid legal action in any way?” “Are either of you doing this for financial gain?” etc.
Then the judge pronounced us legally “father and daughter” and leaned over his bench to shake my Dad’s hand. He said, “Congratulations on your new baby girl.” And to my sisters he said “She is your real sister now.” Then he thanked us all profusely saying, “Usually during this week between Christmas and New Years, we have nothing in Family Court except Child Protective Service cases or maybe the termination of parental rights. How refreshing it is for me to have participated in this long awaited and obviously joyous occasion.”
Judging from the things my Dad did during the time immediately before he died, my legal adoption was not the first time he had considered my sisters and I being re-united.
Although he had never uttered a single word of criticism or advice concerning our long-time estranged sibling ties, clearly he had thought about it. He simply carried on three separate father/daughter relationships. He developed his own connection with his 3 grandchildren and before his death he fixed it so that at least once more, we had no choice but to all three be together. I mean really together. We had to join up and cooperate in the dispersal of his estate. All papers had to be signed by all three of us at the same time. There was even plenty of money designated specifically for travel expenses from our respective far corners, etc. Clever, clever man. Either that or he was a real brat.
If Dad was nearby, and we believe he was, we know he got a real kick out of it as his lawyer innocently said, “Yes, I thought this was an unusual request that there be 3 executors and that all must be present in the same place for all procedures. This is not how it is commonly done. Your Father must have known that you three get along really well to put you in this position as equal trustees.”
I wonder what that attorney thought of the look of shock, dismay and wonderment that passed among my sisters and me in that moment.
Dad, I’m sure, was chuckling. I guess he really believed that it is never too late.
I try to write a Thank You letter to the Veterans in my life, every year on this day…also on Memorial Day.
I also have to admit when I started writing these yearly notes, I did so from a place of “universal guilt”… a cousin to that instant feeling I have when I spot a traffic cop following me, even when I know I didn’t do anything wrong.
“something happening here…”
But I realized a few years back that though many of my generations’ brothers and sisters treated each other poorly…well, horrifically…during the conflict over the Vietnam War and its Veterans, I personally never threw pig’s blood at a returning soldier.
Like many of my peers at the time, I didn’t really understand who exactly to be mad at- the military vets, or those who drafted them.
“what it is ain’t exactly clear”
So I focused my energy on Peace instead.
I was that girl with a wreath of flowers in my hair, who shoved daisy’s into barrels of the guns of local law enforcement, clad in riot gear. Young men about my same age, I have to add, who were just doing their own confusing jobs.
“there’s a man with a gun over there”
In the 1990’s I tried to open my mind to a new generation of returning veterans, so badly wanting them to have a different experience than those brave men and women, drafted or not, returning from Vietnam.
And then 9/11 happened and did a permanent number on my heart and soul. It was the birth for me of a new level of awareness. People the world over were responding to “attack” event with such dark black or white hot absolutism.
That all coincided with my father’s death so his lessons to me as a kid naturally came rushing back with a warm, loving vengeance. I considered, for the first time really, what he had been trying to say.
There is always more than one way to look at something.
“nobody’s right and everybody’s wrong”
So now, if I say thank you to a stranger in a military uniform, or when I send out my gratitude, in a note or blog post, I feel no guilt. I still don’t like or understand war, but I have room in my head and heart now for many, many more ways to fight for peace.
And I am grateful, and deeply respectful for those who choose the military (and law enforcement) as their vehicle to accomplish that.
This year, my sweet James wrote the letter below to his family. He and his siblings have had a wonderful, daily tradition, thanks to their 96 year old mother’s deathbed request. She insisted that they all stay in touch, even though they have lived across the country from each other. The emails to each other, all these years later, is one of my favorite all- time uses of the internet.
James says I can share today’s note with you too. (I have altered it only to remove other people’s personal stuff.)
I have had a grief-filled week and came across this song. (Thank you Carol.)
Nothing to do with cars, and I could save it until this theme comes around someday, but today is when I needed it, and there it was. It might not be new to others but a wonderful surprise for me.
The music is lovely and haunting, and the video is beautiful.
Full screen and volume up for this one.
I am resilient I trust the movement I negate the chaos Uplift the negative I’ll show up at the table Again and again and again I’ll close my mouth and learn to listen These times are poignant The winds have shifted It’s all we can do To stay uplifted Pipelines through backyards Wolves howling out front Yeah I got my crew but truth is what I want Realigned and on point Power to the peaceful, prayers to the waters Women at the center All vessels open to give and receive Let’s see this system brought down to its knees I’m made of thunder, I’m made of lightning I’m made of dirt, yeah Made of the fine things My father taught me That I’m a speck of dust and this world was made for me so let’s go and try our luck I’ve got my roots down down down deep So what are we doing here What has been done What are you going to do about it When the world comes undone My voice feels tiny And I’m sure so does yours Put us all together we’ll make a mighty roar I am resilient I trust the movement I negate the chaos Uplift the negative I’ll show up at the table again and again and again I’ll close my mouth and learn to listen…