Friday, January 01, 2016

Spent the morning watching the Rose Parade and wondering what 2016 can hold that can possibly match the drama of 2015, at least when viewed from the standpoint of one small life ... ?  

Pageantry and Pomp are alive and well, but lurking in the background of the gaiety is a new level of fear and national anguish over terrorism and what appears to be the beginnings of a new form of warfare for which none of our defensive armaments is being effective.

The old Fascism, newly-disguised as a less harmful Narcissism, is becoming more evident with each day, and it's hiding within a kind of super-religiosity born of zealots of many Eastern and Western faiths practicing a dangerous extremism that threatens us all.

Much of it appears to be long-ignored responses to Colonialism that continues under new guises, but that can probably be traced back to paternalistic dominance over thousands of years of what we've accepted as "Civilization," but which is now being rightfully questioned by much of the developing world.

I'm not at all certain that it won't be a relief to expect to take my place among the missing -- not too far into the future.  Mortality is less frightening now than when I was much younger.  Can't imagine non-existence.  Maybe that fact alone provides a buffer against fear. But -- nonetheless -- it is now a natural expectation after a life that feels relatively fulfilled.

It surely isn't that the world hasn't been under great threat over past millenia, but the planetary dangers now evident will need far wiser generations than mine in order to survive into another century.  On the other hand, the current generation has developed technological answers that mine could never have imagined.  Today's science may hold many of the answers that the planet must have in order to save the world as we know it, for all its inhabitants.

It begins to appear that overcoming human selfishness and greed may prove to be an even greater challenge than ISIS.

Nature may not be looking into a finite future after all. The scientists may yet be capable of borrowing time through new discoveries about the nature of the evolving Universe.  But it will be a race against Time, and Time waits for no man or woman.

Will Life continue to unfold in totally unanticipated ways, or, will mine settle into a more predictable and reasonably sane tomorrow?  And -- is that what I really want to see?  I think not.  Having lived my entire life in a constant state of surprise, why on earth would I want anything else in these  declining years?

Hope the top of the crescendo has not been what this year brought ... .

... but then, there's always tomorrow ... .


Wednesday, December 30, 2015

... evening light at the Jefferson Memorial
Much has changed -- and I'm still trying to decide just what that is and what it means ... .

So much has happened since our return from the great adventure.  It all came to a crashing halt yesterday when I hit the proverbial wall and I'm still reeling from the impact!

In the days immediately following our journey up the Yellow Brick Road, everything seemed normal -- or however normal is now defined.

Landed at SFO on Saturday, December 5th.  Had two days off (Sunday and Monday) as is my usual schedule -- and reported to work in full uniform on Tuesday.  Except for having experienced the highest point in my long life just a few days before, one might have described my return to schedule as totally without incident.

In my pocket was the only evidence that it wasn't all a fantasy -- the presidential seal -- to be shared with my co-workers.  Otherwise, everything appeared to have returned to "all systems GO!" and I was able to close off the larger-than-life adventure; save it for re-living in those few minutes before sleep each night.

My week was completed with office time at headquarters; filling out travel information and turning in receipts for processing; answering my co-workers questions about what-it-was-like to meet the president, etc., then -- after a few days getting back into real life it was time to deal with Dorian and the need to take on Christmas shopping, finding a tree, digging out the ornaments, making the calls to find out who would be coming to dinner, etc. 

Each night I'd sit at my computer and try to post the story of the National tree-lighting ceremony, and each night I'd give up and go to bed early to avoid trying to organize thoughts that defied every attempt.

Then it was over.  Spent 5 days at home and resting.  It was then that "the world" re-entered with all the hoopla of the holiday season; the awful news of the debates of the presidential campaigns; the new dangers to America's Muslims from the unenlightened; ISIS; Trumpism!; and Tamaya's 18th birthday celebration on Saturday evening (family had postponed from December 1st).  And then it was all over -- everything in the foreground that needed taking-care-of had been done, and it was time to return to work and "normalcy."

Yesterday I returned to give my regular two-o'clock presentation at the Visitor Center and found myself unable to cope with the new celebrity status -- the image of my appearance with President Obama in an embrace on the stage before the giant Christmas tree had been aired on PBS several times, locally, and it's as if the gloves are off -- and I've become a true publicly recognizable "celebrity," and suddenly I'm experiencing a feeling of vulnerability that is new and strangely discomforting.

Did you send this to me?  Would love to know ... .

My feelings of a personality "split" has grown, and thinking of myself in the third person -- which had started out as a joke -- has become quite real, and disturbing.  "Helen" is now personified and sharing life with me.   

Found myself unable to deal with the lines of visitors in our lobby, waiting for tickets to my two o'clock presentation -- and ended up sitting in one of the downstairs offices to get away from whatever madness this had turned into.  Elizabeth, our lead ranger, found me there and said, "... we're going to have a capacity crowd, so you'll need to stay here until we clear out the theater for the next seating.  We'll call you when we're ready."  And then, after years of comfortably sharing my story with friends and strangers with ease, I was now in full panic!

Everything went as planned.  And I walked into a crowded little theater and a hushed audience -- and climbed onto my plain wooden stool to begin my talk.  My palms were sweaty.  Thoughts scrambled.  The first words somehow uttered themselves, and I was on automatic pilot.  I was miserable with no idea what had changed -- except for some X factor that was unidentifiable at that point.

My talk ended about ten minutes (by the wall clock) before it should have.  I'd left out a lot of my story in a rush to end the experience.

I was close to tears much of the time, and had no idea just why that was.  Yet, the audience was clearly not disappointed.  I'd communicated enough to satisfy expectations, but that was no more understandable than anything else ... .

It was in those few moments after my talk ended that I settled for this explanation:

This was the first time that I'd not been sitting on my stool as folks arrived.  They were always coming into my space.  I'd insisted, always, that I introduce myself to my audiences.   It was in the small chatter that the tone was set -- that identifying the faces I'd speak to, the eyes ... .  Had never wanted to be presented.  Today, they were all seated and waiting -- and I'd walked into their space.  Had I always known this?  Could it be as simple as this?

Can it be that I'll not return to the sense of magic that I've always treasured -- without the need to understand until I've processed, fully, the Great Adventure?

We'll see, as I allow myself to re-live it in small pieces over the coming days.

Maybe it's just too big for that ... .

Maybe some things are simply felt too deeply for words to convey ... .