Friday, June 14, 2019

History Lessons: Music

When I was a young'un, most knew me as a "child prodigy" on the piano. While still in the crib, I would plunk out tunes on a black-and-white key [toy] xylophone, by ear ("Mary Had A Little Lamb"..."Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star"...Sesame Street songs, etc.). I absorbed music like a sponge. Since that toy xylophone had the keys stamped into them, I pretty much learned the music alphabet right along with the English alphabet. Basically..."A" had a tone. "B" had a tone. "C" had a tone. And so forth. Granted, after "G", there was no associative "key" or tone, so...there's that. LOL What do you do with perfect pitch as a blessing and curse?

Yes. The original xylophone...

My Mom was keen on my musical abilities. My sister, Kim, was taking piano lessons from Francis Kelliher, and after Kim would practice her lessons at home, I'd climb up on the piano bench and would pick out, by ear, everything that she had rehearsed. Mom asked Mrs. Kelliher if she would also take me as a student, but I was way too young. Back in the day, no piano teacher (especially in the middle of Wyoming) would take a student as young as three years old. But Mrs. Kelliher said that when I turned four, she would take me. So [near/around] my fourth birthday, I had my first piano lesson. I remember that day...she had four upright pianos in her basement piano studio, and I climbed up on each piano bench and tried each one. Little did I know that I was kind of an "experiment" at the time, but I just remember being in absolute heaven. Upstairs was the Steinway grand; I had never seen a grand piano before. Playing it was a privilege. Master the uprights, practice hard and maybe, just maybe someday you'll be able to play that Steinway.

And I did, but I cannot say it was an easy road. As most parents know, the attention span of a four year old varies, but my Mom kept me in line...she would be right by my side as I practiced and practiced and practiced. At that time, just 30 minutes per day was a chore, for both of us! I remember a lot of tears (as I always wanted to revert to my "by ear" habit to classical training), But then my Mom bought several vinyl records of "Piano Classics", and I would listen to them intently. On Sunday afternoons, we'd go out to my grandparent's farm house, and the Starks family would gather on the porch to sing and play the old folk and bluegrass tunes and hymns. My Dad would play the harmonica; my Uncle Earl would break out the guitar...I would sit there in my Sunday dress and little lace-stocking feet, black patent-leather shoes, smell Grandma's cookies baking in the oven...watch the afternoon sun sink behind the trees and wait for the crickets to join in the chorus.

Eventually, my parents bought a baby grand and I "graduated" from the old, pink-painted, yellow-keyed antique in the basement, and practiced my lessons (upstairs...out of the dungeon!) in the living room on the Grand. Eventually, I had been disciplined to practice a minimum of four hours a day. Eventually, four hours turned into six. Eventually, I learned Beethoven's Sonata No. 25 in G Major, Opus 79, the first Movement, completely by ear. Eventually, I had finally earned the privilege of playing the Steinway in the Kelliher home.

From there, Mrs. Kelliher said that she had nothing left to "teach" me, and I began my curriculum with Professor Carol Dahlberg at Central Wyoming College. I was in between eighth/ninth grade when I entered my first piano competition. Throughout my junior and high school years, I was submerged into the world of classical piano. I played the organ for church services (taught by Diane Tippets). I sang and played in the high school choirs, played flute and bassoon in the bands. Sometimes I look back and think it would've been nice to have some sort of "normal teenhood"...but at the same time, music has always been my world, my life...my best friend. When I couldn't count on people...I could always count on Music.

I tell folks often: "There's a song for everything," and it's true. Whether you're happy, sad, angry, conflicted...numb and tired, or active and motivated...Music has a way of speaking on the frequencies of the soul. My playlists contain a wide variety of genres...classical, jazz, bluegrass, rock, folk, Bollywood, alternative, pop, etc. Depending on my mood (or coffee intake, LOL), time of day, or life circumstances, I guarantee that there is a song for it. Music has always been...and always will be...my go-to-first medicine, entertainment, love and joy.

As for now, I'm taking an indefinite Sabbatical from my [formal] music career. Thirty years is a long time, a very long journey. I'm not saying I'm giving it up. I'm saying that I've learned a whole lot over the years as to what Music in my life really means. I'm excited to discover what lies ahead.

If you've read this far, thanks. Hopefully, you poured another cup of coffee! 😉



Sunday, June 2, 2019

Common Grounds: For Good

I love my road trips, and most of my travels lately have been to Utah or throughout my home state of Wyoming. As the weather [finally] warms up, I plan on embarking upon my "Wyoming CoffeePong Tour 2019", stopping at scenic views, visiting natural and historic landmarks, visiting friends and family, catching some live music here and there, and of course...visiting coffeehouses and roasters all over the state. Itinerary to come out soon, so if I'm in your town, let me know! I'd love to catch up.

This morning I'm kicking back with a nice French-pressed, espresso-grade, caramel-infused cup o' joe. My poor French press had been sitting in the corner as if to say, "Pick me! Pick me!" as I've always reached for the cone for my morning coffee these days. So today was "French Press Day", and I think it's happier now. Been saving coffee grounds for my gardening, so every cup has had purpose.


Ah, that word: Purpose.

Not many know the story of how I came to be back home in Wyoming, after 30 years in California. The short story is one that is frequently told these days: 1) Affordability. The cost of living had become too way much to bear. 2) A sustainable wage, income to expenses. Budgeting every dollar for bare essentials...rent, utilities, phone, Internet and food...added to the daily.weekly/monthly stress. When just rent alone sucks out over 3/4 of your net monthly income, all you're doing is surviving, not living. And 3) Politics. As a news blog editor who has done her very best to keep ACN non-partisan and politically neutral, I got hits from all sides, not just left and right. It got to the point where I had to cut blog writers, deal with finger-pointing partisan whiners, and pressured to either join the lemmings of the elite, or stay true to what community media is all about. Everything had a protest; everything was a protest, a march, a complaint...and if I didn't appear as progressive on either side, then I must have been for their opposition. I was called a "fence dweller", a "milque-toaster". I lost advertisers because of gossipers and backbiters. But I've stayed true to who I am, and ACN is still going strong, even with me here in Wyoming. Those who truly understand and embrace the concept of community media and the "common grounds" are still loyal readers and Supporting Advertisers. And I thank all of them, from the very top and bottom of my heart.

Back to the California exodus...I had been living in Sacramento with a significant other, making the commute from Sacramento to Amador County for my Music Director position at Trinity Episcopal Church...there and back again for five years, a two-hour round trip commute. Eventually, my supplemental, long-term temp job in Sacramento came to an end, things went sideways in the "relationship" (if you could call it that)...so I returned to Amador, renting rooms, desperately looking for a supplemental job that could help make ends meet. Two of the landlords I encountered were not "all there" (okay, they were nuts)...the last straw was when I had moved all of my stuff into a new place, and then the landlord kicked me to the curb. Then, he posted rent for the room for $200 more than what he asked of me...which is illegal. I filed a police report, but nothing was going to be done about it, and I knew it.

So...for a few days, I was homeless. I lived in my car...sometimes slept in my office at the church. Ironically...I became a "client" of the Interfaith Food Bank. I say "ironically" because I used to be a volunteer there, and remembered the housing market crash in 2006-7 and we'd have BMWs and sports cars parked in front, folks dressed up in business attire, applying for food boxes. It was a harrowing moment to realize that I, myself, had become a statistic as well.

One night I was updating Amador Community News (ACN), and also arranging the music for Sunday's service...and I just broke down. I was sobbing and sobbing, when I heard the little familiar "ding" from a Facebook friend. I don't remember how the PM conversation actually started, but I do remember her asking me how I was doing.

At that moment, I could have said, "Oh, I'm great! Everything's fine. How are you?" But what good would lying do? What have I ever really achieved with my pride standing in the way? I hesitated for a bit, but my tears and guts were all over the desk at the time, so I told her:

"You know what? I'm not doing so great..." And I told her my story.

She immediately said that she and her husband were going to help me get all of my stuff off of the [crazy] landlord's property and I would live with them in their guest room. "We'll figure it all out later, we just need to get you outta there." And we did. They did.

Not only did my decision to move back to Wyoming come during that time, but also an epiphany of honesty came to light. Telling the truth, no matter what, might be a difficult thing to do...but I've learned that there are angels out there who are waiting to hear it, and ready to take action when you cannot, and your strength has been totally drained. I completely admit that I was blinded by my circumstances and weakened by my pride. I often wonder what would've happened if I chose to say: "Oh, I'm great! Everything's fine. How are you?" instead of telling the truth.

I called my Dad and told him the truth. We made arrangements for me to move back home to Riverton, Wyoming and live in my grandparents' home, which had been vacant for years. I found a great job within a month upon arrival. I still run Amador Community News from afar for the people of Amador County, California (that's the beauty of the Internet)...no longer with the stress of political pressure or persuasion...and it's never been better. My partners, RTV and Sierra News Bulletin, have been nothing but supportive and innovative.

I'm here. For good.

Some don't believe in angels and miracles. To tell the truth, I don't, either...in the sense that they're ethereal, celestial creatures with wings and harps, or that miracles are simply coincidences that might be considered anomalies on the charts and graphs of probabilities. You know the ol' "You might be a red neck if..." series by Jeff Foxworthy?

Well, you might be an angel if...

I've been back home for almost two years. My life has come full circle, and I'm not about to discount any event that has happened, good or bad, that has brought me here. Everything that has happened in my life has brought me back here for good. So the very least I can do is be the kind of person for good. Help those in need...do good in the community...find that one thing that makes a difference. Paying it back, paying it forward...for good.

In a day where borders and walls seem like "good" solutions, I have a better idea. Let down your walls with humility, and make those tough decisions with faith, but more importantly, with honesty. Let down those walls of [false] security, and trust in your gut, with your smarts...but more importantly, with your heart. Not everyone can be trusted, and you don't want to bring chaos and drama into your own homes...but you know what? There are those who can be trusted, and there are those out there who need your help. So help them. Invest in them. Where before despair had set in...give purpose. Give hope. Like I did with my little French press this morning...

Be that angel that sets a course for good in this life on this crazy planet called Earth...for yourself and for others. For Humanity.

Do it...for good.



Saturday, June 1, 2019

History Lessons: 'Merica!

Folks and friends have asked where I stand these days on a few "political issues". I guess it's only natural that they would, given that I used to be quite vocal in the political areas.

Here's my latest "scoop":

On the abortion issue: We already have Constitutional laws in place. Roe vs Wade has been working.
Add on: Place the same requirement on men as well as women.
Men: Convicted rape/sexual assault? Jail, prison and an automatic vasectomy/castration upon sentence, according to the severity of the crime.
Women: Protect yourselves, and surround yourselves with other strong women. Oh, and clean up your lives. Quit the jobs that make you weak, afraid and desperate. You're better than that. You're strong and independent. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
I'm both pro-life and pro-choice.
Pro-Lifers: Have you dealt with the infants and children traumatized and affected by neglect, abuse and violence in today's world? If you are a product of that, I'm so very sorry. But those who put religion in the mix need to shed the hypocrisy, then maybe there can be some talk. Because believe me...you can be a "good Christian family" that devastates and destroys children...please, don't ask me to provide proof. Google it for yourself.
Here's just ONE: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-california-captives/california-couple-sentenced-to-life-in-prison-in-severe-child-abuse-case-idUSKCN1RV0NJ
Pro-Choice: I am a firm advocate for adoption (as an adopted child myself), but I cannot speak for the women who have been faced with "The Choice". Not all women can be mothers. Not all women want to bring life into the disintegrating world we live in. This choice needs to be protected and respected.

On the gun issue: We already have Constitutional laws in place. Practice gun safety in your homes and families, your community. The problem is mental health. The problem is the family, social, community environments you believe and raise your children in.
Parents: You raise your kids to be bullies? That's on you. You raise your kids to be racist? That's on you. You raise your kids to not care about anyone or anything? That's on you. You let them play video games that involve guns, drugs and violence? That's on you.
If you want a better world...take responsibility. There's nothing wrong with owning a gun. The responsibility in using it/them is what matters. It should never have to be used. But never fault those who do and have taken responsibility for the firearms in their homes. It's a Constitutional right. Enough said.

On the drugs/cartels issue: We're not stupid. We all know, deep down, what is right and what is wrong. We take drugs to do whatever makes us think is "normal" or to escape whatever reality we're in...whatever is marketed to us as "normal"...or think what normal should be. But we know very well that NO drug can do that.
Personally...I would rather drink alcohol in celebration than in a state of despair. Can't smoke a joint (here in WY), but...if I could, I would do it for medical reasons. I have a bad hip and lower back pain. Don't think I haven't tried all medical and homeopathic options.
But...also don't think that I don't know the effects of weed. I do become so much more aware, relaxed, creative and artistic. But at the same time, I become unmotivated, less productive and complacent. I'm grateful to have a job that requires me to be me, but I very well understand the struggle for those in non-420 states who need alternative medicine, rather than synthetic options offered by Big Pharma...which is also a cartel.

On the immigration issue: We already have laws in place, but the governmental red tape is absolutely ridiculous. We have future US citizens who can greatly contribute to the US economy. Fear, ignorance and racial tactics only gridlock and greatly minimize what America is about: Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We the People have the power and ability to make change. Elect officials who will truly represent you, but don't forget what it actually means to be a US Citizen. Never forget where you came from. The struggle is real, on a global basis. The World is watching us. America is not a perfect country, but...
We are free because We the People make it free. There are those who dream about that. Can you imagine? Things that we often take for granted...people actually dream about.
Like crossing US State borders without an army with machine guns pointing at you...
Or some nuclear missle from some disgruntled country ready to aim and fire...
Yeah. There's that.

On the Native American issues: Diplomacy is always a good practice, but let's not fool ourselves into thinking this is still the 17-1800s, and American Indian tribes are still ignorant of the US government's ways. Treaties were made and broken. Today is the "karma" of bad decisions made in US history. This was their land, and it was taken and exploited. In some cases, destroyed. Tribes were made extinct. You visit a reservation these days, and you may as well visit the homeless under the bridge or the barrios in suburbia.
So now, here we are. Now it's become red against white...rez gangs against communities. What exactly was expected, after all these years?
I'll tell you right now...as a "mutt" (Native/White)...this is an explosive issue. I'm not one with an answer, but I do know the issues. And willing to be one to make a great change.

So there you have it. I know, I know...most of you think I just drink coffee and visit odd places.

But the world is real. Our home, our planet...is real. If we don't come together and think of solutions other than the warring between ourselves on the "little" things...what makes us think we'll come together on the big things? Our Midwest/Southern states are being devastated by tornadoes...the South is always being struck by hurricanes. And then, and only then do we come together.

Why? Why do we only come together in times of trouble? Shouldn't we come together in times of encouragement and progress as well?

We are all so small in this Universe...

Wind River Canyon, between Shoshoni and Thermopolis, Wyoming.
These canyons have rock that are millions, billions, trillions of years old.
If these rocks could talk.
We are so small.



Monday, May 27, 2019

History Lessons: Remembering the Fallen, Part II

I shared a photo I saw on Facebook...a sign that read: "If you want to thank a soldier, be the kind of American worth fighting for." I added: "Amen. And worth dying for..."

On one of my first entries here on CoffeePong (a year ago),  "Remembering The Nouns", I included something I wrote years ago...a story about my time with the Tennessee Marine Family, and the night my son came back from Iraq. In it, I wrote:

"My son came home, alive and well. I cried tears of joy as I wrapped my arms around a big, husky young man who had been through and seen enough. But so many don’t come home in bus caravans with Camp Pendleton as their destination; so many come home in caskets with the U.S. flag draped over them..."

My Grandpa, Stephen Starks served in WWI. My paternal grandfather, Frank Quintana, was a pilot in WWII. My [birth] father, James Richards, served in the Navy in Vietnam, joined the Marines upon his return. On Memorial Day, we do honor our Fallen Heroes, but it has also become a day where we honor those who have served and currently serve. I used to think we should celebrate these military holidays with the correct designations...Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, Independence Day, etc...but today I was thinking about all of our troops, the living and the dead. Why?

Because I think about all troops who been in and experienced a time of war, and even though many have lived through it, survived it...throughout the years, a part of them has died. No matter what they did while in service...whether they were on the front lines, or a cook in the mess hall, behind a computer...a mechanic, an ammo tech, etc...even if they weren't deployed, they saw they're buddies come back in boxes...and a part of them dies. Something happens inside the human mind while trying to make sense of it all. Categorizing it or bottling it up is a temporary, band-aid fix, but the long term effects continue to haunt long after homecoming.

Many do come home, but it doesn't feel like home. They get a job, but it doesn't feel like their job. They say they're fine; hell, they might very well think they're fine. But they have trouble adjusting to civilian life, when all they knew was military life. They don't just magically "forget" what they've seen and heard, and many turn to drugs and alcohol to cope with that part of them that died.

I remember my son telling me that he was out in the desert at a base in the middle of nowhere. Water had to be convoyed in, and there were periods of time where they hadn't showered in weeks. I kinda joked with him about it ("Well, that must've been a wonderful smell."), but then I think about how I can simply turn on the faucet and there's clean water...take a nice hot shower any time, wash my dishes after a nice, hot, home-cooked meal, wash my clothes and make them smell nice and fresh, make my coffee with nice clean, cold water. Sacrifice comes in many forms, and though I know that there are many bases that are sarcastically deemed as "Camp Cupcake"...it's not the same.

It's not home. It's not America.

What kind of America is worth fighting for? I have been trying to define it, and quite honestly - in today's political and social climate changes - I am trying to find the words. When we are fighting among ourselves, hurting each other, killing each other, shutting each other out...the opportunities for our enemies to strike at our Achilles heels become more and more possible/likely. When we are so focused upon the red herrings and ignore the real threats...the lines between right and wrong, truth and lies...become more and more gray. When we build walls instead of bridges (where just one bomb could obliterate them all in mere seconds)...instead of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, fear becomes the norm. When we allow our leaders and judges to stray so far away from our Constitution, refusing to listen to We the People...we only accelerate the already-slow death that was predicted decades ago.

United we stand, divided we fall. We reap what we sow. How many more pieces of America has to die before we realize that the facade of being "great again" wears off and reality sinks in? And how many more troops have to die, defending that facade?

This Memorial Day, I hope we can realize the battles that exist in our own states, counties and communities, right here in America. I hope that we can stop the bickering among ourselves long enough to really open our blinded eyes and see those who are already hurt and wounded by a long history of hate, greed, war and violence that exists, right here in America. That we will truly remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice, and that those sacrifices have not been in vain. Their headstones are right here, in America.

I hope that we can make a difference right where we are, and stand...not fall.

On my CoffeePong Facebook page is a link to Green Beans Coffee's "A Cup of Joe for a Joe". Before you fire up that grill, donate a cup. It's just $2.50. You can afford that. I have over 2,700 "friends" on Facebook. That's almost $7K worth of coffee for our troops. It may seem like just a small thing, but...for our troops, it's huge, because...it's a little bit of home.




Wednesday, May 22, 2019

History Lessons: The Angels of Lights and Sirens

As many know by now, I work for American Medical Response (AMR), Fremont County. When I signed on in December of 2017, it was with Guardian Flight/EMS (Ground). It was a confusing time, to be ushered in and learn the history of emergency medical services in rural Fremont County, Wyoming and the Wind River Reservation. But it was also a wonderful time of learning.

My background in Health and Medicine was actually founded at Sutter Amador Hospital in Amador County, California. I worked three jobs there...hired on initially as the Office Assistant to the Director of Facilities (Engineering and Environmental Services)...then a short stint as a Financial Clerk...and was then asked to be the Interim Medical Staff Coordinator for a time. Working in a hospital is, well...pretty much chaos on all departmental levels. However, each person I came in contact with, I got to know, and know as well as I could. I have to say, scheduling was pretty much the worst part of the job. But...I'm the creator of systems that serve me and the purpose, and once implemented, everything [pretty much] runs like clockwork.

That's how I roll.

Many years later, I worked for Interim Hospice of Sacramento. I was actually prepped into the job by a temp agency, doing a massive data transfer from one program platform to another. By the time I was done, I pretty much knew the new program like the back of my hand, so the position was kind of a shoe-in for me. Again, I set up a system of operations that would serve the needs of organization and management, with my motto being: Keep it simple and excellent. The more complicated you make it, the more you have to manage.

Scroll forward to today.

Working for a ground ambulance company...no matter the company branding (as I've well learned)...is, well. very different. Bottom line: it's absolute chaos. All the time. I was working for both Guardian Flight and Ground EMS, and everything I knew about health and medicine was out the door and different than I ever knew before...at a hospital or hospice care. The environment, the lingo...it reminded me of the time when my kids got back from combat training in the Marines, and they were sitting in the back seat of the car, speaking in military acronyms. I was like: "Um, hello? Civilian, right here. I can't understand a single word any of you are saying...!"

It's taken me over a year and a half to understand "normal" life in an ambulance station, and I very well know that I'm still not up to par. My own par. Because what our EMS Providers see and do is beyond comprehension. They give so much, they see so much, know so much. At any moment's notice, they're off. The stations may be buzzing with activity...or crickets the next. I've had to learn (sometimes the hard way) to tip-toe to my office in the morning, because you know what? The crews are sleeping. They had a rough night. And there might not be enough coffee in the world for them when they wake. Or sometimes it's light, and we're laughing, joking, talking...and then their pagers go off...when they're listening to the dispatch radio...when they're ready, 24-7, 365...

Fremont County, Wyoming...the State of WY...the United States of America...needs to be grateful for their EMS services. Their job is to save your life. Their job is to apply the bandages to your wounds. Their job is to muddle through the mud, the dirt, the snow, the heat, the wreckage, the fire, the trauma...to serve, well...

You.

This EMS Week...no, every week, every day...see the Lights. Hear the Sirens. Know that those who are in that mobile box called an ambulance are coming and going with earnest for the communities that you live in. That your families and friends live in. That your children and elders live in. That your leaders, politicians and business owners live in. Life and death situations know no bounds...and they know it. Believe me...

Because when it comes down to the wire...you are and will always be the priority.

I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone at American Medical Response of Fremont County...for your service, your dedication, your hearts, minds and souls. It can often be a thankless job...and you might think it such, I know...but for those who really know:

You are the Angels of Lights and Sirens.

Facebook.com/AMRFremontCountyWY




Sunday, May 5, 2019

Road Trippin': If I Could Fly

Cinco De Mayo weekend. I can honestly say I had the best cup of coffee in my entire life in Merida, Quintana Roo, Mexico. Granted, I was staying in a 5-star hotel (nothing but the best, right?), but I tell ya...that coffee was the richest, smoothest, most amazing coffee ever. No cream or sugar even needed! Drank it "black", but it really wasn't black. It was a very dark caramel and the aroma itself, I swear, had finger-like wisps coming out of the cup, right into my nose, as if to say...

"Told ya."

I have yet to experience such a cup of coffee as the one I experienced in Merida. I may never travel down that way again, but the impact of that moment has stayed with me. Like so many things throughout my life's journey...

I don't do politics anymore...I'm bored to death by all of it. I know full well that I'm an ultimate enigma in Wyoming (driving a Prius), but as I'm road trippin', I do catch the "news" now and then. Liberals doing this, Conservatives doing that. Memes and GIFs poking at each other, back and forth. And here I am, as a Moderate (neither right, nor left), thinking:

You're ALL freakin' crazy!

As most of you know, I travel down to Utah occasionally for some "triple R" time. Relax, Regroup, Refocus. I get the "Relax" part from The Lotus Dawn. I get the "Regroup" time as I do the things that I want to do - dine, shop, sleep...maybe schedule in a casual date or two (hasn't been going so great these days, please don't ask). But to be honest...the "Refocus" time has been mainly on the road, driving to and from my destinations.

When I road trip, I fuel up and just go. I open the sun roof, I crank my music and just...well, go! If I want to stop, I'll stop. If I want to see someone, I'll let 'em know. But for the most part, road trip time is for me and me alone. Sure, there are places to go, people to see...but for me, it's the journey along the way that makes the trip. I may screech to a halt and capture a sunrise or sunset. I may stop at a historical landmark. I may have lunch at a greasy spoon in the middle of nowhere. But it's all mine. You can't do that in a plane, train or bus ("Um, pilot, could you land the plane at this wacky tourist trap in Nebraska?"). I love being at the wheel of my little Prius pod...and, at the wheel of my own life.

On my way to and from Utah this time, I had the "joy" of experiencing canyon-sized potholes, mainly between Green River and Fort Bridger. I remember driving these roads a few times this Winter, and know very well that the hugely-pocked asphalt was a result of snow removal. Yes, it has made a terrible mess of things, and I was almost thinking that the State of Wyoming should pay for any and all tire damages on I-80 (damn it all to hell!), but...then I thought about the snow removal workers, who were out there at all times of the day/night...doing the best they could to clear the way for all travelers and truckers. Then I felt bad, and had to stop for another espresso to ease my guilt.

Anyhoo...on my way back home, a certain song came on my playlist. "If I Could Fly" by Ocean Lab (see below). Music is so powerful. This song played between Farson and South Pass, and as I passed historical landmarks such as "Wyoming Women's Suffrage Pathway: Home of the Women's Vote"..."South Pass City"..."Atlantic City"...and yes, the beautiful scenic stop of Red Rock Canyon...my thoughts swirled around:

There are no walls out here. Hell, there's pretty much nothing out here but sagebrush, antelope, deer and a lot of wind...and a lot of road kill...

There are also many moments on my road trips where I've set the cruise control and find myself "flying". Where nothing else in the world matters. Politics, religion...all the problems of the world dissolve. Arguments, debates, "news"...mean absolutely nothing.


Because when it comes right down to it, none of that shit matters. You have someone in your family dying of cancer or other illnesses, and everyone is up in arms about borders, a "wall". You have a friend that is suicidal, and all the entertainment media can talk about is what Kim Kardashian is wearing. There are so many problems, so many bottlenecks...and the best that anyone above us can do is turn a blind eye and silver-tongue us that things can get better. Then they don't...

Maybe it's time we deal with the "walls" that have already infected this United States of America for decades. Political, social, cultural, mental, emotional, religious, spiritual walls. Prison walls. A physical wall isn't going to cure anything; it is the core attitudes that have to change before any successful change. I sincerely believe that the political parties of the USA are destroying this nation and the visions our Founding Fathers intended for us. They must be rolling over in their graves...

Well, that said...my chile relleno from Rosa's Cafe in Ogden was delicious. It's nice to be home. I see my little seedlings are doing well and are aching for a replant. I have some unpacking to do, laundry to do...and a lot of thinking to do after my R, R & R.

It's not Merida coffee, but...it is coffee. And that's a good thing.

Bottoms up!

If I Could Fly

A thousand people on the street
The rain is trying to drown my feet
The cold bites into every bone

The solemn faces pass me by
A gray veneer on buried smiles
A crowded train to take me home

If I close my eyes a minute
See a world within a minute
Standing on the road
my wings to take me high
If I could fly

See the world beneath me
Feel as though I'm set free
Oh, if I could fly

A simple smile can change a day
An understanding look can say
I know exactly how u feel

But we have learned to build our walls
so very strong and very tall
for fear of what the world might steal

If I close my eyes a minute
See a world within a minute
standing on the road
my wings to take me high
If I could fly…

Copyright Ocean Lab “If I Could Fly” 


Sunday, March 31, 2019

Road Trippin': Holi, Holi!

As an avid Bollywood fan, I have longed to visit India for its music, culture and, well...the Holi Festival. It has been on my bucket list for a long time. A "quick definition" of Holi can be found on Wikipedia at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holi

Like many cultures around the world that celebrate Spring, Holi is the Hindu Spring "Festival of Colors", and this last weekend was epic for me, personally. Many of the Bollywood films I've watched have Holi festival dance scenes, and it just looks so fun and happy and celebratory! I've always longed to be mixed into the crowds...dancing, hugging, throwing colors in the air and at each other...

So when the opportunity arose to attend the Holi Festival in Spanish Fork, Utah, I jumped at the earliest chance and bought tickets. Despite a looming Wyoming weather forecast, I forged through the wind, ice and blowing snow through South Pass and just out of Little America to Fort Bridger...determined (or at least be known as "died trying"). My logic (and I did have a little bit) was that...it would be the next best thing to the real deal without actually having to book a flight to India.

And it was! Granted, it was in Spanish Fork, Utah, but the Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple was a most amazing backdrop, with the beautiful Wasatch Mountain range in the distance. Thousands (I mean, literally, thousands) gathered for one of the most amazing events I've experienced.

(There are videos on my personal Facebook page, too. https://www.facebook.com/carolrharper)



View from the Temple.
I pretty much inhaled the whole experience. I got a henna tattoo on my left hand/arm...had hot, fresh samosas for lunch...stopped and shopped at all of the vendors' tents. I met so many people...hugged so many people...the music was amazing...threw colors on so many people who smiled and laughed and knew that we were all there for the same reason:

To celebrate Spring! To live life, to love...to shed the Winter and look forward to new beginnings!

Many of my friends and family wonder where I am in my spiritual life right now. Today, Sunday, March 31, 2019 is as good a time as any to say that I am "spiritual" (however you want to define that, I don't know how anyone really does), but...I do not belong to any spiritual, religious persuasion or belief. I have studied, read, experienced and have witnessed the terrible history and misguidings of so many world religions, tribes and people...with the idol of money as the primary "god"...that I have simply shed the complexity of it all and have finally learned that life is not meant to be as complex and horrible as those in power have and continue to make it.

That we are all human. That we laugh and cry...we hurt, we're angry, we're stressed, but...we are also good, kind and forgiving! We come together in times of trouble. We give, we work, we play. We have it in us to be more intelligent than those who are telling us to not laugh, not cry, not hurt, not be angry, not be stressed.

But to what end? What's it all about if we cannot be?

Just Be?

You could travel the world
But you can't run away from the person you are in your heart.
You could be who you want to be, make us believe in you,
Keep all your light in the dark.
If you're searching for truth, you must look in the mirror,
Make sense of what you can see
Just be…just be.

They say learning to love yourself is the first step
That you take, when you want to be real
Flying on planes to exotic locations
Won’t teach you how you really feel
Face up to the fact that you are who you are
And nothing can change that belief
Just be…just be.

‘Cause now I know, it's not so far to where I go,
That I respond, it's inside me
I need to just be…
Just Be.