Archive for May, 2010

Let’s make up a story….

Let’s say you’ve been married 10 years and you’ve not had much luck getting pregnant and you find out that someone else did and your husband is the father.

Let’s say, after much drama and therapy, you decide to make a go of it imagining that, if the marriage survives, it will be an amazing kind of love story.

Let’s say, you move from Southern California to Northern California and you start your life over. You find a house, in a delightful neighborhood, that accommodate your dog and cat; you settle in and the landlords become friends of yours.

Let’s say that part of that new life leads you to more seriously explore your creative talents instead of opening up your old business in a new location.

Let’s say it turns out you just pressed a pause button and that, with lack of support from without or even within, you succumb to your inner critic and return to that money-making business with which you had success before.

Let’s say that the marriage does not dissolve, though your creative dreams seem to, and you move from the transitional rental home with the big question mark aura around it to your pride-of-ownership let’s-put-a-period-on-this-thing home.

Let’s say things go along swimmingly for another tenyears.

Let’s say a shark in the waters and a large rogue wave rudely awaken you from a very long swim and you face the facts that the marriage never fully repaired itself and you become something of a wanderer.

Let’s say that wandering takes you to house-sittings, road-trips, more workshops than would fill a catalog, and roommates until you settle in a rental in a quiet mountain location with a beach nearby.

Sanctuary Home copyright (c) Dec 2008, Kathy J Loh

Mountain Sanctuary Under the Moon

Let’s say that place you landed became your place of healing and solitude; that when you were ready to emerge, you knew you were going to give your all to your creative endeavors, even if the actual forms of those endeavors had changed; that in this healing place you also tamed that inner critic and fully supported yourself regardless of the opinions of others.

Let’s say in that emergence you crave community and commit to moving back to the old ‘hood.

Let’s say you get a call that leads you to a rental in that old ‘hood that has much of what you want in terms of natural surroundings and a pool, but the house, well, the house is old and the floor and windows have some “quaint” angles to them, the kind that make the inner ear question reality.

Let’s say you plunk your cash down anyway, go home to your little mountain sanctuary and then find yourself tossing all night. You know your body is sending the message loud and clear – “I can’t do this!”

Let’s say you call your old landlady, the one who is still your friend; the one who rented you that first house in N CA and ask her advice regarding how much is actually fair rent for a decent place in the old ‘hood.

Let’s say she says “If you are willing to spend that much [the amount you plunked down on the quaint and crooked place], you can have my house. I was going to charge $300 to $500 more for it, but if I can rent it to you I’m glad to reduce the rent to meet your price.”

Let’s say that house she is offering you turns out to be the very same house you lived in when you were deciding whether or not to stay married; when you were attempting to honor your creative talents and pursue your passion, but quit.

Let’s say, you say yes.

Well, that’s exactly what happened to me.

The way it happened, a phone call, a deposit, a sleepless night and another phone call all within 36 hours is what tickles me.

Someone asked me if I was nervous about being in the house and the energy of my past being there.

I’m not at all. I’ve been in the house. As soon as I walked through the door, I recognized the smell (as each home has its unique fragrance). I “saw” the ghosts of my past and I didn’t feel any anger or sadness toward them, only compassion. This is a good sign that I have truly healed. I also saw the opportunity to offer to the ghosts, especially the ghost of me, great comfort from the future. I love me and who I’ve become and all I would want the past me to know is how happy and loved she truly is; that she can be who she wants to be and create what she wants to create, fully supported.

Now this house has become the fork-in-the-road house, where two paths diverged. Back then,  I took the road more or less traveled. Now I cycle back and live into the choice, the one that has to do with me and not my relationship, from a new place as a new me.

It’s not about arrivals, make goods and do-overs as much as the sacred and amazing opportunity to continue to be an explorer in the mystery of life.

And so now, I am living into this new perspective of:

Rewind – Splice – New Ending

Rewind the tape to that moment in time

Splice it and store away the old story

Write and live into the new story

Sure, what happened in-between happened and whether or not it needed to is moot, because it did.

What I do know is that I don’t need to tell the old story anymore and that living into the new story, rewrites the past anyway.

I know this new-old house served as a transitional home in the past and will do so again.

And I know that I’m excited about what’s possible  in this one-delicious-moment-after-another now.

And you, dear reader, what is the story that’s grown stale and what is the new one that wants to emerge?

I welcome and relish your comments.

If you’d like to explore this by way of coaching, drop me a line and let’s see what we can create together.

copyright (c) May 2010, Kathy J Loh, All Rights Reserved

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The first guy to show up was kind and connected from his heart. He looked through all my things, opened cabinets somewhat gingerly and asked a lot of questions. He told me stories of the others in his life and how grateful they were for his integrity and caring. He took his time and lingered. He seemed to leave no stone unturned. He said he’d take everything I had.

The second guy to show up was late; caught in traffic; and this, after a reschedule. He barely took into account the depth of my closets and he opened all the cabinets while pretending to talk to me about other things. He judged my furniture – “nice piece,” “ particle board.” He said “I don’t do plants,” as he waved his hand dismissingly over my potted flowers. He told stories of the others and their quirkiness, the dust in their places and the only time he wasn’t cynical was when he was talking about his upcoming trip to Italy. I swear he had no interest in me at all and was just going through the motions. I wondered why he bothered.

I met the third guy online, recommended by a friend. I have yet to hear back from him after I filled out his questionnaire asking me all kinds of questions about what I have in every room. I suspect he’s busy this weekend.

No, I’m not dating. I’m moving and these were the three very diverse estimators I encountered this week.

I don’t think I’ve ever felt more vulnerable.

For just over four years I’ve lived here and never unpacked half of my boxes. This place, as healing and wonderful as the location has been, has always been too cramped. A grand piano has a way of eating up space. Most of my things ended up in closets and the garage. For the first 6 months I lived here, the garage was inaccessible while the roof was replaced. Everything in the garage was under blue tarps getting damp and moldy. By the time the roof was on and the tarps removed, I could no longer face going through the remains of my still-in-the-process-of-divorce-twenty-four-year marriage. It just made me miserable.

Between the cramped quarters and the garage-of-painful-memories, there was nothing to do but to hike the trail outside my door. I developed an incredibly intimate relationship with nature here. I lived as much outdoors as in; as much in my imagination as in the real world. It was all very healing.

And now it’s time to go.

Sunset Soquel CA copyright (c) Kathy J Loh

I'll miss these sunsets

So, the moving guys came and they opened my cabinets and closets and made me feel more naked than if I were standing before them with no clothes on. I saw the tattered remains of my life through their eyes. All the ways I’ve been stingy with myself; my frugality and hesitancy to let go of much; all my coulda-shoulda-woulda-willsomedays. I recognized my compassion in the first guy, my judgment in the second and my complete detachment in the third.

Today, I drew the rooms of my new house to scale on graph paper and cut out little pieces that represented my furnishings. It took me a couple of hours to complete the puzzle to my satisfaction. I made a list designating where each piece of furniture and every box will go on moving day. I also started to throw away things that are from my past life. I even drove to Watsonville to take two boxes to a free shredding event.

At the same time I rediscovered things that got stored and ignored because I had neither the bandwidth nor the available physical space to deal with them; my electronic music equipment being the most notable.

In my new home I will have an entire room dedicated to music and another to creative projects. I am more than doubling my space. I won’t have the trail at the end of my driveway, nor those gorgeous sunsets outside my window, but I will be more interested in what’s going on inside my house than I have been for many years.

There’s more to tell; in particular the story of how I found this new place and what it means to me.

Stay tuned!

PS – I suspect that the guy who moves me will be the one who connected from his heart; took his time and lingered.

copyright (c) May 2010, Kathy J Loh, All Rights Reserved

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I am incredibly fortunate to have a mom who reads my blog, likes it and, from time to time, comments on it. So mom, I know you are reading and this one’s for you.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Mom sent me an email after reading my March 19, 2010 post: Spring Equinox Musings with a Touch of Mystery. In it, she wrote: “Always enjoy witnessing your awareness of all nature. Reminds me very much of my mother. “

I got a chuckle from that. It’s true, Grandma was a nature lover. She sent me books about animals and birds. My favorite (and it still sits on my shelf) was a big picture book of birds that included a small record of their songs.  I also received from her plastic models of birds (one was a red-headed woodpecker) which I assembled (no warships for me). I can still smell the paint I used to color them. Whenever grandma came to visit, we’d go to places like the zoo, the aquarium, the hummingbird exhibit, or, if it was spring, to the desert to see the flowers in bloom.

Yet, as much influence as my grandmother had on my love for nature, my mother’s impact was even more profound. Here are some of my memories.

I remember (at about 8 years of age) standing on the front lawn of our suburban home staring up at the night sky. We were stargazing. With a little book in her hands, mom pointed out Orion’s Belt, the Big and Little Dippers and other constellations. In those days you could still see the night sky in most parts of San Diego. Not so true now. That book was Seeing Stars by W.B.White, published in 1935 and I have it right in front of me now. The binding is held together with scotch tape. The title page bears the inscription:

“To [my mom’s name] from Aunt Leah Dec 10, 1940.”

It also has my own name scrawled in pencil by my 8-year-old hand. To this day, I am an avid stargazer and opponent of light pollution.

Thanks mom!

Two other books that have traveled with me all these years are: Golden Nature Guides to Birds and Golden Nature Guides to Insects.  Everywhere we went, mom would point out the birds. She knew their names and if we could not identify them, we would go to the bookshelf and pull out one of the guides, either the Peterson Field Guide to Birds or one of several amazing books of Audubon drawings. I used to trace them with pencil and tracing paper and then color the birds appropriately, much as I painted my little models.

Thanks mom!

Yellow Warbler copyright (c) Kathy J Loh

Yellow Warbler (K J Loh)

Our family did a lot of camping together. We’d pack up the yellow Mercury wagon with tent, cots, sleeping bags, a big cooler, boxes of food and camping equipment and our suitcases. Most of the time, we stayed at CA state or national parks. A visit to the nature center at each park was a must and it wasn’t so that we could buy trinkets. It was to get educated about the local flora and fauna. Then we’d hit the nature trails with the little brochure in hand and stop at every numbered sign. Mom would read the brochure notes out loud to us. Dad would get impatient. It wasn’t that he wasn’t interested, but he liked to keep moving. He was an active guy. Even if there was a large sign we could all read, mom would read it out loud. It’s no wonder I became an audio learner (or perhaps it’s lucky that I was born that way) because I got so much of my nature education listening to mom’s voice.

Thanks mom!

Mom was the leader of my Girl Scout troop for a while. Though some of the badges were for rather domestic things (like how to make a bed – can you imagine?) her support of me in scouts also led me to camp where I encountered lots of new and interesting wildlife, like the raccoon that was staring nose to nose with me when I awoke one morning. In scouts we also went into a canyon in Torrey Pines, located wild animal tracks indented in dried mud and made plaster casts of them. I learned to call squirrels with a clicking between tongue and cheek. We watched jays eat our picnic lunch, encountered giant ant hills under our sleeping bags and hiked to the tops of mountains. I was a little chubby as a kid and those hikes were not my favorite time, but I got to see lots of different kinds of plants and animals that live at higher elevations.

Thanks mom!

I grew a deep appreciation for the magical springtime appearance of wildflowers that were only on display a short while. We caught fireflies and put them in jars or paper bags in my bedroom at night. I learned to always be on the lookout for wildlife, for a splash of color hidden in the grasses, for some movement or shadow that gave away the presence of a bird or butterfly overhead. I learned that every creature and every plant had a name and if I wanted to know what it was I could “look it up.” Those words will ring forever in my ears.

Thanks mom!

There was a time when I rebelled against knowing the names of things. My rational was that a tree is no less beautiful if I know it to be a tree or an oak. In my wisdom now, I know that it is powerful to speak names. It is powerful to speak our names and it is powerful to speak the name of a tree, a flower, a bird. There may be spirit names for them that we don’t know (unless we listen and the tree reveals it), but we all can feel that an oak and a redwood are not the same. Their energies, wisdom and medicine are uniquely their own, not only from genus to genus, family to family, but from tree to tree.  So to call it by its name, even the one humans have supplied, is to honor the tree. And if I have to take the time and go to the effort to identify that tree, insect, flower, constellation using my guides or on the internet, then I will, eagerly.

Thanks mom!

Wild Iris - copyright (c) Kathy J Loh

Wild Iris

I used to gather flowers and leaves and press them between sheets of wax paper with an iron. I still gather feathers, shells, rocks, leaves, and wildflowers that I press between pages in my guidebooks. I take photographs of every flower, butterfly, insect, bird, tree, moss, mushroom, rock that calls to me when I am hiking and I even record the calls of birds by day and hooting of owls at night. On my hikes, I say “hello beautiful” to the amazing creatures I come across and I let melodies drift from the wind, into my consciousness and out my vocal chords as I go. I observe the changing of seasons and the cycles of growth, of moons, the way everything changes. I marvel at the many shapes of clouds and catch as many sunsets as I can. For me, the world is alive and magical. I wouldn’t have it any other way. This is traveling with delight and being truly enchanted by the Great Mystery

Thanks mom!

Thank you, mom, for teaching me to love and honor the world around me and to find delight and wonder in the beauty of nature.  There’s something about that love that I have for nature that cycles back and I always feel loved by the nature in return. This is how I know, in my being, that I truly belong.

Thanks for teaching me to slow down long enough to observe; that there is a time to be getting one’s exercise and a time to be present to our surroundings.

Thanks for teaching me to “look it up.” I know you probably never thought you’d hear me thank you for that, considering all the times I complained about it, but I am a master researcher as a result.

And mom, while I may remind you of your mother, my grandmother,  I am truly my mother’s daughter. It has taken me many years to be OK with that. Most of us don’t want to hear those words “You’re just like your mother.” Now I am not just OK with it, I am thrilled and extremely grateful. I could not have been any more fortunate and I know, truly know, why my soul picked you. And I didn’t even get to mention the ballet and music lessons, money management, writing skills,  gardening, pruning roses or my ability to cook from scratch. Yes, Dad was influential too and there are many memories I have that come from that side of the parental team. I’ll write about him next month.

So here it is, from my heart to yours , mom.

Happy Mothers Day!

And yes, I did interrupt writing this post several times to take photos of creatures that sailed by my window while I was writing; one Turkey Vulture,a Variable Checkerspot and Tiger Swallowtail butterflies, a Red-tailed Hawk  and a Carpenter Bee.

Note to readers: thank you for indulging me this personal thank you letter to my mother. It is my hope that you will be inspired to write your own love letter to your mother as well as to know the treasure you are to your daughters and sons.

copyright(c) May 2010, Kathy J Loh, All Rights Reserved

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Big wind today

Crazy excited about something

Clearing the air

Releasing the leaves, pollens and dead weight

From trees and bushes



Madrone Blossoms copyright (c) Kathy J Loh

Walking the trails

I encounter my past

Strewn about the pathways

In dizzying array.

Pea hail of Madrone blossoms

Gentle blue-snow dusting of California Lilac

Needles, cones and leftover leaves from the fall

Prints of canines and critters that have passed this way before

deeply embedded in dried mud.

Only crazy people walk in the woods on a windy day.

Squirrels scold and Jays sound the alarm

Trees creak, clank and moan

Consider releasing what no longer serves

Be it leaf, twig, bough or branch.

A few will give up altogether

Surrender their roots to time

Come crashing down to meet the earth

Face to face

Unless another stronger tree

Happens to catch them in their descent.

Crow copyright (c) Kathy J Loh

Crow or shadow – crow won’t tell

Hawks and crows surf the currents

(Oh, I know you won’t believe me

But just after I wrote that line,

Two crows dove dramatically

Within twenty feet of my window.

Where’s my camera

Where’s my camera

I’m not surprised

Crow medicine has been showing up lately.)

Songbirds dive like bullets

For the next safe haven

Strategize to avoid being blown sideways.

Falling leaves twirl like little girls in

New skirts with petticoats.

I swear I can hear their laughter.

On the trail, beneath the creaking trees

A splash of white feathers

Sign of angels

Sign of a kill.

feather amid pine needles copyright (c) Kathy J Loh

After a time of solitude

The path is enlivened with neighbors

A trail runner

A couple and their show dogs

A couple with no dogs

A woman walking her horse.

Who dares walk on a windy day?

We do!

the walkers, the runners, the riders.

All that mental energy needs a bit of earth

A bit of dirt and trail under our feet

Some blazing sun to make us squint

And a good wind to face into.

I feel it pull my thinking right out

The tips of my wildly flying hair

And send it God only knows where.

Butterfly copyright (c) Kathy J Loh

I release an invocation

And let it fly on the wind as well.

I sing for all the butterflies

That emerge today,

Or on any windy day,

Who had no idea

It would be this blustery

Once they left the ground.

It’s a different kind of freedom

And freedom, none-the-less.

copyright (c) May 2010, Kathy J Loh, All Rights Reserved

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