Twin Peaks: Another Day In My Teenage Life

Today is strange and profound. I have gone to the grocery store, put dishes away and folded laundry—completed Sunday afternoon types of chores. Ordinary tasks. It is pouring rain here in the mountains. There is a heavy, consistent rush in the stream that normally giggles. Like a waterfall. The sky is gray with an almost-fog presence. Birds flutter from branch to branch, and occasionally, from bird feeder to bird feeder at each end of my porch.

Everything around me feels “busy”. There is mysterious calm. I am surrounded by trees. All I can think about is, “Who killed Laura Palmer?” Who really killed her? Leland. Bob in Leland. Bob? Who is Bob, exactly? What about the Black Lodge? I still need to know more.

I am 16 years old again. Everything around me is Twin Peaks, the imaginary Washington town that will come alive again on the same-named TV show this evening. I am not in the North Carolina Smoky Mountains. I am in the tall forest of the Pacific Northwest. The owls are flying. The giants are watching.

No TV show or movie has affected me like Twin Peaks. I remember watching the shows with my friends in high school, reading Laura Palmer’s diary, and spending hours in conversation with fellow fans trying to make some sense of the mystery. About ten years later, I would purchase the VHS tapes until I owned every episode, later journeying into owning the Blu-Rays and then streaming through Netflix while begging my later-life-friends to discover the story with me again. I never thought Twin Peaks would come back to me with a new story, although the original one never left me. Tonight, it begins again.

When I first watched Twin Peaks, I realized there were other worlds in the art of stories that were as interesting and weird as my own mind. I realized that my own strangeness was not something to keep hidden. I was more like people than not. Twin Peaks brought me that realization through its complex, eccentric characters and willingness to create a world that could not always be explained, yet fed the ordinary world with a push that brought out the impossible in everyday people. For the first time, as a teenager, I realized that my creative mind was a perfectly normal and valid place and that it is was okay to use it to inform my life, my world, and eventually, my career as an adult. Its darkness, its strangeness, and its whimsy, were all important and useful.

When I watched Twin Peaks as a teenager, I was experiencing the adult world for the first time in my own life. I was making mistakes, hurting people without meaning to hurt them, pushing past religious guilt and discovering a more imperfect and interesting world, and doing it all within the realm of innocence. I did not realize this at the time. It is something I only know looking back. The complex Twin Peaks world of spiritual mysticism and journey of people to keep faith while looking for worthwhile moments in their lives matched my own life. I fought and wrestled with both realms of existence, wavering, sometimes smashing in and out of them.

I do not know where tonight will take me. I am already in the woods. I am waiting and listening. It is already strange. I will meet myself there. Older. Wiser. Still innocent and dark. Whimsical and goofy. Ready for some pie in the cathedral of the unknown. Ready for the lessons to resume.

 

How To Smile Like a Dog



STEP 1: REALIZATION

Today is our first snow of the new year. The dogs run through the cold, white powder like they have had three shots of espresso and a few candy bars. They gallop, more like deer, above it and drop lower as their feet retouch the ground. Then, they race inside the house with their eyes wide like footballs, tongues hanging out, smiling like goofy super villains. An Elmer Fudd meets Wile E. Coyote combo. Five minutes later, they are calm, stretched out on my bed, posing as hibernating bears. The dogs are not exhausted or downtrodden. They are relaxed and content.

STEP 2: REFLECTION

Last year was a busy one, full of projects, jobs, and deadlines. Time was stacked like moving boxes that couldn’t be unpacked before a new destination was appointed for them. I pushed, focused my way through the year, making the most of the moments as I could allow myself to enjoy them, but I often felt smothered by the pressure of it all. The stress. I found few moments where I dove into the shocking snow, embraced coldness and newness, and jumped right back into my comfortable skin with a goofy, happy smile.

STEP 3: CLARIFICATION

New year resolutions have become cliché. For many, they are a source of animosity and resentment; they reflect projects half-finished or weakness for follow-through. I projected this mindset for many years. Then in retaliation, I told myself to forget about useless resolutions, to focus on the things I do well and not the things I don’t do well. Both mindsets were extremes.

STEP 4: AWARENESS

My realization this new year is that expectations and goals are not good or bad on paper. The underlying messages, motivating the goals, are what need introspection. Many goals for better health or functionality in general, are based on feelings of “have to” or “better do that before this gets worse”. My failure to follow through with these goals, no matter how beneficial they may be, is rooted in motivation via punishment and guilt. With the opposite extreme—the need to pacify and ignore weaknesses and growing edges—the same outcome holds true. I quit because neither approach is healthy.

STEP 5: DOGNESS

Diving into the snow, with unabashed whimsy, so easily mirrored by my dogs, comes from a place of curiosity, passion, and enticement. Not obligation. With stress no longer first string, but benched. For me, shed through an activity. An activity that has no bearing on “should” or “because it’s good for you”. An activity that is joyous and canine-inspired. I realize, after a year of searching, that I am drawn to the road as my dogs are to the snow. My whimsical activity requires no psychologist, fancy equipment or deep analysis, just a pair of good shoes and the road. A jog with no finish line.

STEP 6: FREEDOM

I move fast enough to think without analyzing things too much. The world is a blank canvas, and I am not stifled by fear of failure or the heaviness of the world. The jog isn’t prescribed exercise, and it changes the last letter of its name to “y” just for me, which is the best medicine I know. Joy. With joy in mind and body, my heart remembers that yes, I am enough and that I can build on that. Practical. Powerful. Grounded. Jagged. Simple. Like the road.

 

Haunted Christmas Tree

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This holiday season, I find myself more fatigued than ever. I have become so busy over the last six months that it is hard to believe it is December. I keep saying, “Wasn’t it August just a few weeks ago?” Yet, my body tells me that much has happened. Many projects have been completed. I have been looking forward to this break—this time to stop for a bit and breathe in the holiday—before the new year throws me right into the fast lane again.

Now in my journey to stop and to rest, I find myself becoming agitated and downright grumpy. I am like Scrooge halfway through his nightmare with the Spirits. I am haunted. I am exhilarated. I am baffled. I am not completely at peace with it all yet. I am in my own Advent darkness hoping for the light that is always promised.

This Christmas, I am haunted by my Christmas tree. It is decorated with so many different ornaments. They reflect my Christmas past and present. One ornament is a nest of two birds that my brother and I reached for each year we decorated the branches of our tree as kids. There is a homemade paper ornament that keeps memory of a parakeet I had in my early twenties. It reminds me of my sweet little blue bird, but also those beginning years right out of college with my best friends. We had a simple tree with homemade paper ornaments and popcorn garland. It wasn’t a fancy-pants tree, but we were proud of it, and we poured our hearts into it as we created the ornaments. I look at that ornament and remember being silly with my friends and how much I miss them now that we live in different cities. There’s a stuffed Papa Smurf ornament in honor of my Grandaddy, who died twenty years ago. He was a great mentor and friend to me; I was always his “Smurf” and he was my “Papa Smurf”. The stuffed ornament makes me smile and remember how much fun we had together, but it also makes me miss Grandaddy even more.

At the top of this memory hill that I climb when I look at my tree, is the most painful, haunting ornament of all—a dalmatian in a gift box that represents my late dog, Lily. I realize this year, that after all of the crying and the terrible pain that has come as a result of her death 16 months ago, I still haven’t fully grieved her.

The tree haunts me. It teaches me that I must hang my present day grief on it. I have to allow it to break my heart completely open so that I can see the guiding gestures of the Spirit of What-Is-To-Become. I am grateful for the tree, and one day I will appreciate the pain. It is proof that I have known love, know love, and will continue to know love. In this season of celebrating miracles and birth, I am swimming in the inevitable cycle of death, looking for my own infancy to return. In the meantime, I am resting in Mother Mary’s womb, waiting for the contractions to begin.

Gryffindor Is Real

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI find myself living in a different world lately—one not so different from the one in my imagination. At moments, I am physically present in places that remind me of my dreams—meaning sleeping dreams—and also the dreams that are my aspirations in life.

My husband and I visited Universal Studios recently and were completely captivated by the world of Harry Potter. I am a huge Harry Potter geek. I have all of the books, movies and even the audio books. I am officially sorted into “Gryffindor” on pottermore.com, and delightfully enough, my husband is officially a member of “Slytherin” house.

When we entered Diagon Alley at the theme park, I became quite emotional because I felt like I had come home. I was physically entering a place I had only dreamed could become a part of my real life. As I left the park that day, after drinking Butterbeer, eating in the Leaky Cauldron and literally taking in the scenery, I realized that this imaginary land is no less real than the street I live on. There is community, good food, excitement, hope, thrill and whimsy. I feel alive in it. I come alive in it.

Growing up in the theatre, I often fantasized about plays and musical I would one day perform. But I also lived in this dream world where I worked alongside those performers who were my idols. In that dream world, I stayed content, knowing that in reality, I would always somehow keep those superstars of the stage far enough away from me to feel separate—to keep them exotic and me plain.

YetOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA recently, one of my all-time favorite Broadway stars, called me on the phone and asked me to direct a musical with him. I remember feeling like I was in Harry Potter land all over again. I was sitting on my back porch in the mountains watching my hound dogs play in the yard. I saw I had received a voicemail. Neutrally, I check the message. When I heard his voice and his request for me to call him, I was in shock. All of sudden, I could taste Butterbeer in my mouth. I could see the vaulted ceiling of The Leaky Cauldron. I was the star of the Quidditch team.

The dreams of my imagination and the dreams of my career were merging and all of it was real and happening. I am still deciphering this swirling of atmosphere that I continue to dance in. What I do know is that there is a real Hogwarts out there, and I am flourishing in and out of its doors, dancing with the exotic and the plain, and living in a dream that is more real than anything I have ever been able to create in my sleep. I like being awake these days.

Princess Leia and Other Four-Letter Words

IMAG0195Our new dog Leia was given her name in honor of the famous Star Wars character, Princess Leia, because, like her namesake, she was separated from her brother and later reunited. Henry and Leia, both sibling hounds, were separated from each other when first taken into shelter life from their abusive home four months ago. We adopted Henry after one month, not knowing he had a sister. Upon learning of her, we followed her story, and in December, we adopted her. 

Leia came to us with another big four-letter word attached to her identity: Fear. Leia did not adapt well to shelter life, and the more time she spent there without her brother, the more withdrawn and afraid she became. When we first brought her home, she would shake, hide and cower at the sound of a cat sneezing or the wind blowing too strongly against the windows. In fact, on her first day with us, after only three hours, her brand new leash broke and she ran far away into the woods and up a mountain at the end of our road. I pursued her for twenty-nine hours before she finally stepped foot inside our home again. 

When Leia first took her fear-flight up the mountain, I felt hopeless. What could I do to convince a dog to come to a home she didn’t even know? Would I ever find her? Would she ever trust me enough? Her brother Henry, a true hero with great patience, grazed in the general area where we tracked Leia. She finally came to him, but she would not approach him if I was near. After sitting on the mountain in the cold for eight hours, Henry and I both gave up for the evening and went to our home, defeated. I left my coat and a bowl of food for Leia on the mountain, hoping she would not run too far from it.

The next morning I drove to the mountain where I had last seen Leia. She was sitting by the food bowl on my coat. I tried to get her to come to me for more food but she kept a cool distance. Frustrated, but calm, I said, “Leia, this isn’t working. We don’t live on this mountain. I have to take your bowl and bring it to our home. I hope you will reconsider joining us there.” As I drove away, Leia started to follow my car. She followed me all the way into my driveway. 

That day, in the yard, Leia played with her brother Henry, who enticed her to stay near our home, and although she remained suspicious of me, she slowly allowed me to approach her and give her cold cuts. After several more hours, I convinced her to come into the kitchen for more tasty treats where he brother awaited, softly whining and pleading for her to take the big step inside. 

Leia overrode her fear response. Henry remained a hero. My hopelessness became hope and I was overcome with love. Fear could not win that day. Leia realized her own Jedi potential and trusted love to lead her through the doorway. No bully or abusive past could win the argument that Leia should stay in captive fear. Big steps by a little pup made me realize I had a tail to wag, too, and I could move forward with my own plans without being stifled by broken leashes or dreams. 

New Room in the Inn

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Three months ago, my husband and I adopted our dog, Henry, a foxhound-pointer mix. Just after his adoption, we learned that Henry had a sister named Leia. Upon being removed from their former home, they were separated, and due to limited space at the rescue facility, Leia was sent to a boarding kennel because there was no Room in the Inn, or the shelter in this case.

We continued to follow her story, hoping she would quickly be adopted. The rescue organization was reluctant to allow the siblings to stay together, worried that there might be behavior issues between the two dogs. Leia was constantly in trauma. She was moved from the boarding kennel to a foster home where she became ill and soon had to be transferred to the rescue facility where we first met Henry.

As the months went by, I continued to feel a connection to Leia even though I had never met her. Last week, I was out doing some Christmas shopping on my lunch break, and as I left the mall, I turned in the opposite direction I usually drive because the traffic was terrible. I thought I’d take a different street that would reconnect me to my work office. As I turned on the street, the traffic became backed up even more and I found myself sitting at a stoplight at a small cross street. While stopped, I realized I was looking at the side street that leads to the rescue facility.

Leia came to my mind and I decided to turn down the side street and stroll quickly through the facility. She was there, sitting alone and sad in the shelter, full of busy people and barking dogs. Leia had been in shelter life for four months, and due to the stress of that environment, the abusive environment from which she was removed, and the separation from her brother, she had developed a fear disorder. The shelter employees told me she would have a hard time getting adopted because she wouldn’t interact with anyone. No one, in all of that time, had shown any interest in her.

My heart was broken seeing Leia alone and distressed. I thought about the amazing new, love-filled life her brother enjoys each day. My husband and I discussed the possibility of adopting her. With four cats and a dog in our home, our busy schedules, and the financial commitment, we couldn’t find one logical reason to bring her home. In the end, we made our decision based on intuitive judgment—a gut decision that felt right regardless of any analysis brought to it that countered its validity.

Leia has been with us for three days on a trial term, and if all continues to go well, we will adopt her next week. Henry and Leia are exhilarated to be together again. Henry is teaching Leia to trust people, and she becomes more confident each day. I believe that, with a little time, she will outgrow her fearful reactions and become the strong woman she was meant to be. We didn’t have any Room in the Inn either, but we opened our doors anyway. The birth of Hope now dwells in our little home, and for that, Christmas has already come.

A Pint of Stout Gratitude

McGanns pub

Five years ago, I took a trip to Ireland with my best friend. We had been planning the trip for years, and as preparation, we made homemade piggy banks out of pickle jars with Guinness stickers all over them to keep on our kitchen counters. We planned to stuff them full of change, hoping that after a year’s time they would surprise us with enough money to get us started on our big trip. Unfortunately, for most of that time, I was in graduate school and often resorted to using that change to buy groceries or emergency therapeutic Mexican food.

We romanticized about the perfect time of year, spring or late summer, to be in Ireland, and all the amazing things we would do in the perfect weather. We even had a really good fantasy going about meeting a handsome Irishman in a pub who would buy us unlimited Guinness. We would talk the entire afternoon away, bathing in his awesome accent.

Once the Hollywood rose-colored glasses faded from reality, we realized that the only time we could both go to Ireland was in late November. It would be cold. It would mean not spending the Thanksgiving holiday with our families. We were both strapped for money and had nothing put aside. So, with all the odds against us, we decided, “This is the perfect time to go to Ireland!”

We arrived in Ireland, via the airport in Shannon, in darkness, at the wee hour of 5:55am on Thanksgiving morning. Having been awake for twenty-one hours, we exercised our good judgment and rented a car, drove on the “wrong” side of the road and started our journey as the sun began to rise. After staring at the mystical fog coming from the water over the Cliffs of Moher and listening to its powerful drumming rhythms as water merged with greater water, we found ourselves aware of the beauty becoming present we had dreamed about. In my journal from the trip, I wrote that the experience was energizing to our souls because we could feel “all the creative compassion of God’s work” present in that place.

With our hearts full of gratitude, we drove through a little town called Doolin, while making our way to Galway, our destination for the night. We stopped at McGann’s pub in Doolin. Entering with the feeling of God’s great creativity and a hungry stomach, I immediately felt like I was entering the home of a relative I’d been waiting to visit my whole life. A sign behind the bar advertised Thanksgiving Dinner. (The picture in this blog is from that very scene).

In honor of the warm-fuzzy-heartfelt-real-life-cheesy-bliss we felt, we had Fish and Chips and Guinness, and in that moment, our friendship was perfect. Our lives were resting in a simple moment where everything was as it was meant to be, and I felt closer to my own family at home than I had ever felt before. The promise of the return to them at Christmas was all the more meaningful.

When have you experienced a great sense of home when you were far away from it? Where were you? What parts of the senses did it evoke in you? I have spent time meditating on that moment each Thanksgiving since, and oftentimes, it has become the moment in my day when I feel the most grateful for those who are with me, who have gone before me, and who will come into my path on another journey to home.