Free-Range Fiction: Dinner With Margaret

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Once again this installment of Free-Range Fiction is due to that Pennsly-‘Tuckian Boot in my arse. That boot comes in the form of a writing-prompt challenge regarding setting.  Here were the choices:

In the middle of a prison riot.

Chinatown during a hurricane.

In the Martian suburbs celebrating the Red Planet’s independence.

In a haunted mountain pass.

On the battlefield during a war between two races of mythological creature.

I chose Chinatown during a Hurricane. It came out fairly easily, if slowly.  The word count is more than 1,000 — there’s 50 extra words, specifically description for those who have never been to Chinatown in Seattle.  But like Chuck said in another post – Fuck the Police. I’m making my own rules. And this was an exercise to get me writing, so, it did its job — 50 extra words or not. 

So please enjoy:  Dinner With Margaret.

**********

Seattle's ChinaTown's Historic Gate

Seattle doesn’t often get hurricanes. Okay, it never gets hurricanes. But, with global climate change and all that hoo-ha, we were getting hit. It was going to make Katrina look tame. Or said the idiot from the weather channel. You know the one who looked like he probably played football in college but turned weather geek because he blew out his knee. There he was, standing out on Alki Beach, with the wind tearing at his blue parka, rumbling sensationalism and subliminal fear into the microphone, as the wind flicked his cheeks. I was watching him on a screen that had a thin layer of greasy dust on it in a place that I likely shouldn’t have been. But I was here. Seattle’s Chinatown, or rather, the International District as it was politically correctly named in 1962 – the year I was born. Despite the PC name, the locals still called it Chinatown; however, it featured not only Chinese, but also Filipinos, Koreans, Vietnamese, Japanese, and Africans, who have a little niche in the community because of all the bullshit that went down with the Japanese during World War II.

Surrounded by all this culture, we sat with dullness painting our faces – the bartender, a waiter, a cook and bus boy and about a dozen other people besides me, in a little dive lounge restaurant that no tourists visit, The Nettle Fish. It had been here since 1966 and incorporated all the foods there was in the district. Its menu was huge. Anyone with a problem deciding on drink or food normally stayed away. I always ordered the Moo Shu Mushroom and a Chau Tien. There we sat, in the red-tinged cave-like setting, eating PHO or Spicy Chicken or nursing a Kirin. The bartender kept asking everyone that came in if they knew which Margaret they had named the hurricane after, they would get happy hour prices. I said Margaret Meade. He charged me full price.

Like I said, I shouldn’t have been sitting there. And when the cops rolled in, I knew I should have been seeking higher ground – heading to some place east – any place over the mountains.

“Folks, you’re going to need to clear out,” he stomped through the restaurant, his thick thighs rubbing against his uniform pants. He was burly, brash and had a butt the size of a Ford Bronco. He also had this nasal tone to his voice that made me think of my Aunt Dottie in Ohio.

From my seat at the bar, I could see into the kitchen and I saw the bus boy and dishwasher dude duck into the walk-in refrigerator. The bartender was looking back and forth from customers, to cop, and towards the front door.

It dawned on me then that maybe some of these dudes were illegals – but hell, the cops weren’t here for that. They were evacuating the city. Hurricane Margaret. What a bitch. She sure knew how to wreck a Friday night.

I just sat still in my stool, sipping my beer. Chau Tien was tough to come by these days – especially the stout batch. I wasn’t leaving it.

“Hey buddy,” the smaller of the two cops approached me. I saw the bartender act like he didn’t hear him. “You have to hit the road – get out of the city. Don’t you see the weather channel there?” He flashed a night-sticked hand at the dusty TV.

“I’d like to finish my dinner,” I said without looking up.

“Take it to go,” the cop squawked.

“Moose and chicken,” I said.

“What did you say?” the cop said, trying to act like he was a fucking Scarface clone, only less tough.

I said nothing. Mini-Scarface got up right in my face. I could smell the toffee mocha on his breath. At least the cops here in Seattle had something better than Dunkin’ Donuts. “Sir, this does not need to get ugly; I don’t think you want to be in jail when the hurricane hits.”

Before I could answer, there was a crash from the back of the kitchen. The Ford Bronco cop came through the silver and black swinging doors, his eyes bugged and he looked to be as moving as fast as he could without alarming anyone else. He was on his little suspender radio calling for back up.

Scarface left my said and went up to his partner. They faced the kitchen and conferred quietly together. Sirens screamed past outside. I could see no movement, nothing in the kitchen. The walk-in door was closed. Behind me the waiter was getting flack from some lady about her food being delayed. He kept saying, “Hurricane and cops make house special fried rice late.” She wasn’t listening. I was watching the cops.

The cops stood watching the door. More cops poured through the door. I figured it was my time to exit. I took a last swig of my beer. The back-up pair of cops joined Bronco and Scarface. I set a twenty-dollar bill on the bar and walked slowly towards the door.

I put my hand on door to open it, froze, noticing the little bells that dangled to let the staff know someone was entering or exiting.

A roar came from behind me. Through the doors came this creature the size of a fifth grader, with grayish, brown hair, a duck-like beak and a heart-shaped face that indented deeply at the top of its heads. It had huge long claws and was doing this barking honk at the officers with snarling teeth.

“Kappa!” screamed a woman, who sat in a table behind the wall of cops.

The creature bellowed again, as if in response to the woman’s cry. Others were screaming, too, but like the woman behind the cops, no one was moving, except the creature. It was snorting and scratching its claws on the carpeting, and bowing its head as if to bull charge. I put my hand on the door, eyes on the cops and the creature. A fire hose of water began to erupt from the top of the creatures head. I dashed out the door, not looking back. I heard breaking glass, water hitting the sidewalk, and screams  come from behind me. I kept running.

I ran the four blocks to my motorcycle.

“Eastern Washington, here I come,” and I started the bike.

Free-Range Fiction: I’ll Take Monday

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Herr Chuck Wendig lobbed some creative challenges at us over the last few weeks. First a first-line one. Then, he chose three of the hundreds of proffered first-lines and challenged us to write a flash-fiction piece from it. The three he chose were:

“Everyone else remembers it as the day the saucers came, but I remember it as the day a man in a suit shot my father.”

“Three truths will I tell you and one lie.”

“Thursday was out to get me.”

I chose the last opening-line prompt. 

I started to write something really creepy and stalker-ish and it turned out more cutesy. It is what it is. I hope you like it. 

All comments welcome. Don’t be shy. 

I’ll Take Monday

Thursday was out to get me.  Most people hate Mondays and call it their worst day of the week. However, mine was always Thursday. This Thursday was already a beast and it wasn’t even 6:45 a.m. My neighbor woke me with his bag pipe playing. He had jarred me awake from a weird dream, which with each piping note I promptly forgot. When I yelled at him, he apologized and said the muse has attacked him and he couldn’t resist. I would mind it less if he could play something other than Brian Boru March.

He continued to play even though I yelled at him. I tried to pretend it was a soundtrack for my shower. Not very sexy or invigorating. Just aggravating.

Looking in the bathroom mirror, I found a pimple in the middle of my forehead. Strange desires to take my razor and shave off the zit hit me. I honestly couldn’t stop myself. Blood ran everywhere. The hand towel looks like it was tie-dyed in blood. Not attractive in the least. Eventually I got it to stop bleeding and put one of those stupid-looking circle bandages over where a simple blemish had been. Now I was late to catch the bus to work. I needed coffee and shoes. I dashed to grab a travel tumbler of coffee and felt my stocking feet ooze into something wet and sticky. I looked down. Cat puke.  I love Mr. Waffle, but he truly is a cock sometimes.

Ten minutes later, I was finally out the door. In what seemed like a gesture of peace, Thursday sent me that killer-looking blonde – a modern version of Angie Dickinson. She was there at the bus stop each morning, but never noticed me. I gave her my best James Bond smile, “Good Morning.”

“Good Morning,” she purred back.

Encouraged, I shifted my backpack to my other shoulder to get slightly closer to her. As I went to shrug it on my shoulder, I inexplicably lost my balance and spun around like a drunken discus thrower in the most epic nerd slapstick ever. I ended up on my ass, my backpack nearly getting hit by a passing bicyclist. I scrambled for my pack and stood up and brushed street debris off my trousers.Dickinson’s clone took a step back and poorly suppressed a smirk and a giggling snort.

I exhaled defeat and my seeming rightful place in the bus-waiting line – dead last. There was one spot left. Predictably for my Thursday it was the one above the wheel well of the bus that left little room for my pack or my legs. I wanted to bolt from the bus via the rear exit doors and call in sick; but, I had coding due today and I needed it off my desk. I squared my shoulders and sat in the wheel-well seat. Also stuck there was this pig-tailed woman, who wore red-framed glasses, which contrasted starkly with her jet black hair. She shifted closer to the aisle as I tried to get my pack into my lap and closer to the window than her.

The next stop flooded people into standing room only, stuck holding on to the seat backs and the poles. We were beginning cruising speed and I leaned my head against the window and tried to calm myself down. As my breathing slowed to something nearing a bus nap, my head was jerked forward, and a spray of iced mocha landed on my head, chest and lap. I looked up and saw the poor schlub whose paper coffee cup was now oscillating between my seat partner’s feet and mine. Sorry, he mouthed and shrugged. The bus driver queued up the p.a. system and apologized for the sudden stop, explaining he had done so in order to avoid a stray dog.

I looked down at my trousers and shook my head, “Curse you, Thursday.”

“Pardon me?” the woman next to me said.

“Nothing; having a bad day.”

“Oh,” she paused. “I thought you said my name. Here,” she handed me a handkerchief and motioned towards my face.

“Very nice of you,” I said, seeing she had near violet eyes beneath those giant glasses.

“My name is Thursday,” she said, and stuck out a hand. “Good thing about that dog, eh?”

My heart started beating in a heavy metal rhythm and I hit the Next Stop button on the bus and awkwardly bleated out an “excuse me” as I climbed over her purple tights and white Mary Jane shoes.

The exit doors parted and I hit the street, my shoes sticky with chocolate and cream.

“Wait!” I heard a bird-like screech behind me.

I kept walking. I would just walk home. Screw this day. Screw my codes and the boss and the cat and my fucking bag piping neighbor.

“Wait! You have my handkerchief!”

The words warbled into my ear slowly, along with the clack, clack of short heels on concrete.

I quickened my pace; all I wanted was home, my bed and an end to this piss poor day.

Click! Clack! “Wait! Wait! Please wait,” the words were punctuated with gasps for breath.

Just like the desire to shave my blemish this morning, the urge to halt immediately right there washed over me. I stopped and stood still. The air all around me felt electric, and I remembered what the dark-haired girl looked like…from my weird dream.

A hand slapped my shoulder, “I got you.”

I turned around. She was beautiful; her eyes enchanting.

“I need my handkerchief,” she said. “You can’t keep it.”

I handed the crushed and sodden thing to this woman, Thursday.

“Sorry,” I looked down at my coffee-stained shoes. “Like I said, I’m having a bad day,” I looked up at her and recognized this exact scene from my dream, except I think maybe there was a monkey on the sidewalk in my dream. But Thursday, she had been part of the dream. “You got me.”

 

Rulin’s and Happiness: A Project in Improvement

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Woody & I are both concerned about our teeth.

For those that know me well, or are a part of my LiveJournal friends list, you’re well aware of my 2012 Rulin’s.  I stole a page from Woody Guthrie’s book and declared before the start of 2012, the Rules for this year. The rules were all self-improvement-type things I wanted to focus on for the next 12 months.

So we have a foundation for our discussion today, here they are:

  1. Eat healthier.
  2. Exercise.
  3. Meditate.
  4. Floss before bed every night.
  5. Less Facebook, more face to face.
  6. More Lunch/Breakfast Dates with my friends.
  7. Do my artist date each and every week.
  8. 1,000 words a day (at least 5x a week).
  9. Charming note.
  10. Read.
  11. Do more book reviews.
  12. Set time aside to play.
  13. Start an etsy shop.
  14. Learn to cut my own hair.
  15. Take my anti inflammatory every day.
  16. Wear my carpal tunnel braces.
  17. Each week spend one-on-one time with each of my three younger children (still living at home), once a month with the older kids (out on their own)
  18. Move every project forward.
  19. Read about your favorite authors.
  20. Get Tank’s scrapbook done.
  21. Remember to dance.
  22. Get the urban farm more established.
  23. Get a new couch. 
  24. Set up a (better) space for the boys.
  25. Make more and save more money.
  26. Don’t bite your nails:
  27. Get the Northwest Art Collective established.
  28. Have a “literary salon” every quarter.
  29. Pay off debt.
  30. Allow yourself to play the lottery, but only $1 a week.
  31. Realize that the housework can always wait.
  32. Continue chipping away at Operation Organization.
  33. Forgive myself when I stumble (just don’t fall down) and know that I am human.
  34. Practice my spirituality.

Initially, each week I took a look at how I was doing on each of these. Unfortunately, the weekly updates turned into monthly updates the last couple of months. However, I’m still trying hard to stick to these goals, which are just disguised resolutions.

One day at one of the Writers’ Cafés that my group, SnoValley Writes! puts on, I was talking with some of the members, my fellow writers, about my “Rulin’s.” The next café, one of the members brought me the book THE HAPPINESS PROJECT by Gretchen Rubin. The subtitle of the book is “Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun.”

I highly recommend you read this book, especially if you're looking for a methodical way to increase the joy in your life.

I cruised through this book faster than I read most non-fiction books. Rubin and I must have been separated at birth. Many of the things that trouble her about herself or the things she wants to improve upon within herself or her life are some of the same things I see on this year’s Rulin’s or are lurking in the back of my brain to get done in the very near future.

Rubin’s discoveries about happiness were digestible and her honesty in the book was refreshing. It didn’t have that “I am better than you because I discovered this before you” feeling that I find in a lot of “self-improvement” books. Part of that is that Rubin is not only an accomplished writer, but also an avid researcher. She does her research and then experiments. Then she uses a great memoir-style to impart the outcome to the reader. Therefore, Rubin’s book is truly a self-improvement book in the most honest and actual way. She tackles – much as her subtitle alludes to – everything from getting her closet organized, to improving her eating and exercise habits, to improving her marriage, parenting and other interpersonal relationships.

She takes each month and has an overarching theme of a goal, such as August, which was Contemplate the Heaven – Eternity (194). Then she sets up some actual action items that she wants to accomplish within that goal. For August’s it was:  read memoirs of catastrophe, keep a gratitude notebook, and imitate a spiritual master.

In each chapter she relates her successes as much as her failures, the later of which allowed her to learn a lot about herself, because as she discovered, anything in her life that went a stray from her personal commandments and secrets of adulthood (10-11) . It occurred to me, reading Rubin’s experience, that anyone who is feeling unsatisfied or unhappy with their life is likely setting up false expectations for themselves. You have to be yourself first and foremost. And Rubin’s number one commandement? Be Gretchen.

The best discovery of the book, for me at least, was that Rubin targets in on the fact that doing this created not a security, but the ability to potentially cope with problems. She wrote that it was truly wise to not “…wait for a crisis to remake your life.”

A couple of other great quotes and lessons Rubin implements into her life creatively throughout THE HAPPINESS PROJECT  were from Buddha and Nietzsche.

Rubin notices that when she’s stuck in her work or has a problem she can’t solve that a walk does not only the body good, but the spirit and mind, too. Hence, the wisdom of Nietzsche: “All truly great thoughts are concerned while walking.”

The teachings of Buddha, especially, provided some serendipity for me, as I turned the pages of THE HAPPINESS PROJECT, I kept thinking I needed to undergo my own Happiness Project. Then, wham! Buddha’s words:  “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.”

So, I’m thinking about working on my own Happiness Project. Take my Rulin’s efforts and amp it up ala THE HAPPINESS PROJECT’S strategies. Rubin’s success, much as she details in her book, and as I know in my own life is that she checks in daily on what her monthly goals were. She would “reward” herself with check marks each day as she reached her goals. This turns out to be a very successful tactic for Rubin, and one for which I believe would be for those of us always seeking that gold-star on our forehead for our efforts and tasks we accomplish in our lives. The daily check-in makes it necessary to stay focused on what you truly want to get done.

If anyone wants to join me, let me know – comment below and we’ll make a plan for 2013. Perhaps some mutual support will be good. Rubin’s husband and sister were great supporters for her. The more the merrier, and likely more successful, I say.

After that we can check out HAPPIER AT HOME, Rubin’s forthcoming book releasing next month. From her website:

Gretchen dedicated a school year—from September through May—to concentrate on the factors that matter for home, such as possessions, marriage, time, parenthood, body, neighborhood. How can she control the cubicle in her pocket? How might she highlight her family’s most treasured possessions? How, for so long, had she overlooked the importance of the sense of smell? And it really was time to replace that dud toaster.”

Sounds like another winner, another book for those of us trying to make some new Rulin’s for our lives might want to dive into to create a new level of happiness in our lives. I’m looking forward to reading this one, too. But first things first – another lesson from Rubin’s first book:  Make a plan for 2013.

For now, I’ll finish 2012 with my Rulin’s and then dive into a Fiction Farm version of THE HAPPINESS PROJECT. So, who’d like to grow some happiness with me?

Free-Range Fiction: Death by Bible

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This flash fiction piece brought to you by Terrible Minds blogger and brilliant author, Chuck Wendig. He challenged, and I mean challenged,  us to write half a piece from the protagonist’s perspective and half from the antagonist’s perspective. 

I really struggled with this. I started trying to write this on Friday. Granted I was doing the great Room Redo and wasn’t necessarily focused, but 1,000 words is not difficult to produce. The tough part was trying to tell a flash story and get inside both these characters’ heads.  That is hard to do in a mere 1,000 words. I’m learning. It took  sitting in my favorite cafe with my iPod on when Rob Zombie’s American Witch came on that this story finally came to me. 

My original draft was 1,037 words. It’s now dead on 1,000 words.  My chief alpha reader, dear husband, read this and said I seemed to write the antagonist better than the protagonist. I commented back that sometimes it’s easier to be the bitch, I guess.  

He said, “It seems odd that you would nail the antagonist better than your character.”

I said, “You mean the protagonist?”

He said, “But that character is more like you.”

I said, “Yes, she’s like me, but isn’t me. Just because you can see elements of me or people we know in my work doesn’t mean it’s them or you or me.” 

This conversation coming aftercommented on Theodora Goss’s blog that I thought my immediate family understood this. /headdesk.

If you are the kind that is offended by pointing fingers at religion, government,  feminist overtones or profanity or any other sort of transgressive literature, you might want to go find something else to read.  I am finding more and more about what I write is very transgressive. It’s uncomfortable, which tells me I really need to do this.

I’m not necessarily sold on this piece, but it’s an exercise. We’re all learning — me about my craft and you about me. Yes?  Regardless, I hope it does something for you…whatever that might be. 

DEATH BY BIBLE

Tabitha sat in the cafe, wanting more peace than what was being offered. She knew this afternoon was likely going to be a complete waste of time. The pain in her shoulder was distracting her from her work. Even lifting her mug of java to her lips caused pain.

As she tried to get a message via the net to her circle, that she was fine but in hiding, she thought back to last week, when the enforcement team had raided her home, assaulted her in her own kitchen. The charge was unlicensed alchemy. With the collapse of the entire healthcare industry last year, her healing skills had come into regular use. It was only in the last month that the New Community Church had started to raise issue with her newly formed cottage industry. Just like any calling, there was a need and she filled the void. The enforcers had cornered her and she fought back like the wounded animal she was – little did she know there was more injury to come. Injury and escape.

The woman who had called the authorities along with her sign-waving cronies declaring “God Hates Witches,” stood outside the front of her home, all prim and proper – perfect too-big hair and modest bible-thumping skirt suit and obnoxious make-up that included expertly applied lipstick, that didn’t come off. It remained perfect even when she held up the good book and kissed it and said, “Praise Jesus” as they hauled Tabitha out in plastic cuffs, her nose bleeding, her shoulder already aching, and her lips and eyes swollen from the nightsticks, her brain in a fog from the taser hit which took Tabitha down and into custody at last.

Tabitha chuckled thinking about her attempt to give Little Miss Pastor’s wife the evil eye. She continued to smile as she recalled how she had fainted at Tabitha’s call of “Hell is coming for you!” All those hate witches signs were quickly made to fan Mrs. Pastor back to consciousness.

Tabitha missed her home, but it was guarded now. A day after her escape, two days ago now, she had snuck through the back forty acres of forest that lined her property and saw them, all dressed in black urban warfare attire. Who are these people? How did they get in control of the world? Why was anyone convinced this was a good thing? Healing, medicine and natural remedies had long been eradicated from everyone’s daily life; but the medical industry collapse had brought it all back. Tabitha hadn’t been very careful, she saw what she did as healing and caring – medicine. Not alchemy. Not magic. She mistook the rise in clientele numbers as acceptance. She thought those that sought her services would protect her. Instead, she would now be heading up a war. How was that for irony? Little Miss Pastor’s wife would be the first. Tabitha wanted to beat the shit out of her with that goddamn oversized Bible. But Tabitha sighed with the knowledge that she would probably just let time take its toll.

*****

Virginia– Ginny to her friends and husband – got up off her knees and climbed into bed, her bleach-white night gown seeming to sparkle against the rich green sheets and comforter. Simple elegance, it was what she preferred. And she was used to getting what she preferred. She got the most eligible Christian man to marry her. She had ensured that no one would have better or more than she did. But, that woman, that sorceress, was to blame for all the problems as of late. Ginny thought with the arrest of Tabitha, people would come back to her husband’s flock. They would get their healing at the altar of the Lord, and pay the money to the Community Christian Church, not that witch. Also, Andrew would no longer look at that evil woman when they were out and about in town. She knew Andrew’s heart. He would never cheat – but she didn’t trust that woman to not tempt him outright. The fact that she was alone seemed wrong to Ginny. A woman should be with a man. Andrew was already snoring as she climbed into bed. There would obviously be no attempt to have a child. When one of the parishioners had suggested she go to Tabitha to maybe reverse her barren nature, Ginny snapped.

“How dare you suggest witchcraft!” Ginny cried. The parishioner had not been back and Andrew was upset, because that was a family that gave large contributions to the church.

Ginny got her Bible out and opened it, trying to find comfort in its pages, since her husband’s arms were not available. She often did this. She would take a deep breath and just let the book open, thinking God would show her what she needed to read. The Bible, dog-eared and well worn, fell open to the book of Acts. Chapter 9. It was the story of Saul’s conversion. She hadn’t read this story in a long time. She always felt so relieved when Saul came over to Christ. Then she reached verse 36: “In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha, who was always doing good and helping the poor.” Ginny slammed the book closed. The slamming of the book stirred her husband.

“What’s the trouble,Virginia,” Andrew grumbled. “God not responding quickly enough to you?”

“I’m sorry I disturbed you; I’m troubled still about this whole situation with the escaped witch – what if she is in consort with the devil and they bring a curse upon our house? What if they try to destroy the church?”

Andrew fluffed the pillow and turned over.

“When the amount gathered in the coffers is so little – I would think you would care more,” she rolled her eyes at her sometimes dumb-witted husband.

Ginny fluffed her own pillow and went to turn off the light and her Bible fell off the bedside table and fell open again to Acts 9.

Ginny saw it; her heart stopped and didn’t start again.

You are naked, and you will die: Enjoy the moment

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This should be subtitled, “When a book blows your mind.” But, I wanted to make sure as many people read it as possible. Mention nakedness and death, and, well you’re reading this, aren’t you?

This blog post has had trouble getting out of my head, because there’s so much richness in it, it just oozes all over the place like crayons melted by the Key West sun in the back of your parents’ wood-paneled station wagon. But, I think I have a scrapped enough off that it’s in order again.

It all started with a moderately famous Seattle social activist, Mary Witter, (who also has the most adorable and love-bringing dog ever) suggesting that I read THE WISDOM OF INSECURITY by Alan W. Watts. The fact I had never even heard of it bemused Mary, yet, she’s a gracious loving soul and was happy she could share this book with me. And now, I pay it forward and share it with all of you.

If you haven’t read this book, read it today. Now. Yes, go get it. I wholeheartedly agree that this book should be required reading for college freshman. If you’re not a college freshman, you should read it anyways, especially if you are feeling like you’re in “searching” mode in your life.

I left organized religion when I was 18 years old. In my heart, I left my faith far behind well before that, but waffled for a few more years as I tried to balance my family’s desires and my own known truths. The whys and how is another entry, for another day. At any rate, I’ve maintained my spiritual nature, mostly through my connection with the earth and by following the change of seasons and the progression of time. I find the universe in the beauty around me. That, in my soul is the original goddess we call Earth. Couple that with a deep-seeded belief in the truth-seeking of science, and I end up with a cross-pollinated earth sorceress plus humanist belief system. There is no name for it; it’s just my personal spiritualism. At its core is that life is sacred.

As I’ve grown older the wisdom in the Tao and Buddha seems so apropos for the dissatisfaction much of western society has left me and my partner wrestling with for some time now.

Enter this book.

It blew my mind. It was able to bring to light so many things I had struggled with into a clear and concise way. All the ideas in here I’ve known for some time but for them to be presented in this type of package is epiphany-making. This will be a book I will have on my shelves always and return to repeatedly. This is a life text.

It may even be that a piece of this book may end up being tattooed on my skin:

“For the poets have seen the truth that life, change, movement, and insecurity are so many names for the same thing.” (pg. 41)

Watts further explains, “Struggle as we may, “fixing” will never make sense out of change. The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.” (pg. 43).

Watts hammers home that life is impermanence and merges the Tao and Buddhist beliefs that being mindful of the now is the path to not only enlightenment, but happiness. He writes (77) “…the desire for security and the feeling of insecurity are the same thing. To hold your breath is to lose your breath. A society based on the quest for security is nothing but a breath retention contest in which everyone is as taut as a drum and as purple as a beet.”

Perhaps just putting “taut as a drum and as purple as a beet” would be a better tattoo. But, I digress.

There is no security. There is no safety. Embracing that allows one to be free from this living in the past-chasing the future gerbil wheel we are on. And just be. Just be.

How elegantly wonderful and simple is that? For me, as I said, it was fog-clearing and has allowed me to be more present in right now. Like right now, I’m appreciating the free spirit the little boy in the tye-die shirt at the end of this ridiculously large cafe table who keeps getting in trouble for bumping the table from his apparent grandmother. I winked at him and told him it was okay when the adults weren’t looking. We shared a secret smile. Could he have knocked over my drink on my laptop? Maybe. But it was more fun appreciating his sweet smile, his spirit and connecting with him on a level no one else was aware.

Embrace the insecure. Be wise.  It’s given me a new view on happy and a new peace I hadn’t known before. Maybe it will help you. Can’t hurt, eh?

Read this book. It will be on my “comfort” book shelf from this day forward.

Say what you will about Steve Jobs, but he nails it here.