The Music Of The Wild

DSCF0109“There is language going on out there –the language of the wild.
Roars, snorts, trumpets, squeals, whoops, and chirps all have meaning
derived over eons of expression. We have yet to become fluent in the language —
and music — of the wild.”  

Boyd Norton (Serengeti)

It’s that time of year, when along with flowers and blossoms, I awaken each morning to a sunrise chorus of bird song.  I throw on my dirty clothes from yesterday and take my dogs out for their early morning walk.  Birds of all kinds are singing … robins, a wood thrush, jays and chickadees, the drumming of a woodpecker. I love the sounds of spring along with the visual bliss that each day brings as new flowers open, bringing color back into the winter weary world … green leaves unfurling, yellow forsythia, and pink cherry blossoms … later, snow-white azaleas bloom in my garden.

Way back in 1984, I spent twelve days and nights in Kenya, on a photo journey with eight other photographers, under the leadership of Boyd Norton, who wrote the quote above. I will never forget that trip and the music of the wild as we journeyed through the Masai Mara and the Serengeti Plains. Every night we ate dinner around a watering hole, in the company of elephants, zebras, and giraffes. We fell asleep in our tents to the sounds of life and death going on all around us.

Along with the tapping of rain on the roof, the wind in the trees, the rumble of a coming storm, and the ocean heaving itself against the shore, the language and music of the wild, brings me peace and the knowing that I am only one tiny speck in the greatness of our universe.

My photos from that trip still lay hidden in one of the boxes in the attic.  One of these days I will break them out and share some of them with you. But, it won’t be the same as being there, away from sirens, jack hammers, and the roar of jets overhead … the sounds our very own species projects out into the world.  But thankfully we also are the makers of music …  the humming of a harp, the voice of a soprano,  and the magical weaving of notes performed by a symphony orchestra … all of it comes from the heart.

Posted in Life, Matters of the Spirit, photography, Quotes, Travels | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

ABOUT PTSD AND RECOVERY

DSCF0125I was in my mid-sixties when a therapist first suggested that I was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. My response was, “No. Impossible.”

Dr. B. handed me a book and asked me to read several pages out loud. When I was done he asked me if the words sounded familiar in any way.  I had to admit that the long list of PTSD symptoms did indeed sound like things I’d experienced.

But I also told him that I had never been in a fire, a horrific act of Mother Nature, experienced a terrorist attack, or fought in a war.  I told him my life was just ordinary, and that the parental abuse I had experienced as a child did not make for PTSD.  I reasoned that there were many other people out there who’d had it much worse than I, and that I knew my parents had really loved me. They were just a bit f ‘cked up.  I described others I knew who had been through much worse and weren’t suffering from a mental disorder.

It took a few more years and another two diagnoses by other therapists to set me straight and to get over the shame of having a mental disability. Early on, my parents had planted a seed in my head that said mental dis-ease of any kind, is something to be terribly ashamed of.  Denial was always the name of the game.

My father, who had beaten and abused me, showed signs of what at the time was called Shell Shock, brought on by his experiences in World War II. But he was never considered to have a mental health problem.  On the other hand my grandmother had been labeled an unfit mother because of the way she treated my mother and her siblings. She was the family’s deep dark secret that no one ever talked about. After all, what would the neighbors think if they found out about Grandma?

After numerous long and difficult hours with a therapist who specialized in working with trauma patients I began to understand that most any trauma can cause PTSD.  It all depends on the person who experienced the trauma, how early it started, how long it lasted and so on. She helped me to find new ways of navigating through life without the anger and anxiety that tortured me.

After I finishing my work with M., I picked up a book written by Michelle Rosenthal, entitled, Before The World Intruded, Conquering the past and Creating the Future.  Hers is an inspiring story of how she overcame PTSD and won the battle for her life brought on by a life-threatening allergy to a medication she experienced in her teens.  Over the years as she suffered from insomnia, nightmares and flashbacks she was diagnosed with a number of ailments, including cancer, by physicians who did not recognize the classic signs of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Twenty-four years later, knowing that there was something terribly wrong, Michelle started doing her own research.  When she discovered she had PTSD, she began a journey of healing that included a move to a new location and getting on the dance floor.

As she began to recover, she started blogging about her journey. She became a Certified Professional Coach, a Certified Hypnotist and a Certified Neuro-Linguistic Programmer, and started giving back as a PTSD Coach.  In 2009 she founded Heal My PTSD, an organization that brings awareness, education, and treatment options to those struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Michelle’s book is a compelling story of self-empowerment, and has further helped me with my own struggles. Filled with inspiration, Michelle brings us good information and the understanding that most anyone can recover using self-empowerment techniques and community to bring those with PTSD back to feeling safe and at peace in their surroundings.

Posted in Books, Fear, Healing, Life, Memoir, Mental Health, Navigating Through Life, Trauma | Tagged , , , , | 9 Comments

Boston …

IMG_0677Yesterday was once again a day of terror and violence.  I took in the scenes on CNN of the attack on Boston and could only shrug my shoulders in disbelief. Today is the 6th anniversary of the massacre at Virginia Tech, and every day it only seems to get worse. Will every day become the anniversary of a shooting or a bombing?

What has surprised me most is my own reaction.  Breaking news of the sort we received yesterday doesn’t seem to be news any more. I didn’t cry as I usually do for the victims of the other attacks. I thought, “It’s just what happens in our world.”  That scares me. It is not how I want to be.

I’ve lived seventy long years and was living a good life, the day JFK was assassinated … also when his brother, Bobby, was killed and let’s not forget Martin Luther King, Jr.

I cried for those who died at Kent State … young people simply protesting the actions of a President, who the day before launched a campaign on Cambodia, during a war that few supported.

There was Rodney King, in 1991 who asked, “Can’t we all just get along,”  after a horribly cruel beating by police officers who acted out of prejudice.

9/11 took us all by surprise. We never believed we’d see an attack of that magnitude on our homeland … home of free and land of the brave. But there have been other shootings, bombings, and wars all around the world, in places where people fear for their lives if they leave their homes, or go about their lives without noticing what is happening around them.  It’s just the way it is.  And I’m afraid there will be much more to come.

For me, the straw that finally broke my spirit altogether was the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Connecticut.  It was a complete shock to my nervous system that even innocent children are not spared.  Now, I simply have no more tears. But I have the hope that the parents and spouses of those who were murdered that day, can lead this confused nation back to the reality before us and bring a stop to much of the violence. But they cannot do it alone.

All of us, who believe in peace at home and abroad must stand up to stop the violence. That includes our lawmakers, many of who are afraid of not being re-elected if they back the gun control laws they are now considering. The events in Newtown could bring us to a New Country, and maybe even a New World, where all people can live free without fear of going out in public.

If we do nothing, I fear we will become a complacent society barely noticing what is happening around us. We can’t let that happen. Please make your feeling known to those who can make new laws, and stand tall for peace.

Please note that I will be taking a blog break until April 27th, so that I can deal with the mess on my desk, write a few letters, and plant flowers in my garden. I wish you all a glorious spring through which we can hopefully bring our country back to a life without fear. 

Posted in Compassion, Fear, Life, love, Matters of the Spirit, Navigating Through Life, Trauma | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Painting Spring

spring-color

Water soaked grey sky
pure tones of birch
magnolia, forsythia
spring green leaves
redbud

spriing-colors-in-trees

Raindrop music
fills the air
my paint brush
drips with color

JZR

I made these photographs and wrote this poem back in April of 2008, posting it on the blog I was then tending.  I’m going back through all of the posts now and considering putting together a small e-book to repurpose some of the writing and photography I was doing at the time.

Spring, being the season of rebirth finds me also at work on a new Website and hope to have it up and running before too long.  I’ll let you know more as it progresses.  In the meantime next week will be all about getting my studio cleaned up and getting back to work on my memoir.  There are many new ideas filling my thoughts.

Posted in Being Creative, Books, Memoir, photography, Poetry, The Garden, The Seasons | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Courage Of A Seed

Water Lily Seed Head, © Joan Z. Rough

Water Lily Seed Head,
© Joan Z. Rough

“In nature, we are quietly offered countless models of how to give ourselves over to what appears dark and hopeless, but which ultimately is an awakening beyond our imagining.  All around us, everything small and buried surrenders to a process that none of the buried parts can see.  We call this process seeding and this innate surrender allows everything edible and fragrant to break ground into a life of light that we call Spring.  As a seed buried in earth can’t imagine itself as an orchid or hyacinth, neither can a heart packed with hurt or a mind filmed over with despair imagine itself loved or at peace.  The courage of the seed is that, once cracking, it cracks all the way.  To move through the dark into blossom is the work of soul.”

Mark Nepo, Seven Thousand Ways To Listen, Staying close to What Is Sacred

 Last Sunday, found me shuffling through a pile of books that I had started reading and put aside because something else called to take their place for the moment.

I had started reading Mark Nepo’s, Seven Thousand Ways To Listen, in early December.  Wanting to preserve the sweetness of the experience of reading Nepo’s words, I opened it daily, reading only a few pages or even just a few paragraphs at a time.  I would ponder what I had just read, savoring the wisdom, as I might a raspberry lozenge that I don’t want to dissolve on my tongue too quickly.

Obviously, it was slow going and in the midst of total chaos and my failed time management in February, I set it aside until things calmed down and I could once again tap into the richness of Nepo’s writing.

Sunday, I opened the book slowly to the page where I had left off, starving for a shot of spiritual wisdom. I sat in my reading chair, while a chorus of birds sang just outside my window, and read the words above.

It was like a homecoming … finding a long-lost relative who I haven’t seen in years.  I was awed by the words and found myself rereading them over and over, filling up the empty spaces in my heart that had been drained over the past month or two.

I am so ready to begin reading just a bit of this book again every day … without rushing, so that the words settle in my soul and I again carry within me the courage of a seed.

What are you reading?  Do you have a book that you cherish and read only a few sentences at a time?

Posted in Books, Healing, Kindness, love, Matters of the Spirit, Mental Health, Navigating Through Life, Quotes, The Seasons, Wise Words | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Living All The Way

Amaryllis, © Joan Z. Rough

Amaryllis,
© Joan Z. Rough

“This is my living faith, an active faith, a faith of verbs: to question, explore, experiment, experience, walk, run, dance, play, eat, love, learn, dare, taste, touch, smell, listen, speak, write, read, draw, provoke, emote, scream, sin, repent, cry, kneel, pray, bow, rise, stand, look, laugh, cajole, create, confront, confound, walk back, walk forward, circle, hide, and seek.” 

Terry Tempest Williams

Posted in Matters of the Spirit, Navigating Through Life, Quotes, Wise Words | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Don’ Give Up

Grandlings, Zoe and Noah on the Downtown Mall.

Grandlings, Zoe and Noah on the Downtown Mall.

I’ve been running into those words often for a couple of days now as I try to get myself back into my daily routine and at work on my memoir.  It’s been a crazy couple of weeks in which the routine, the writing, exercise, and getting enough sleep have taken a backseat to other things.

The loss of Brody took a number of days before the waves of grief that overtook me became fewer.  During that time I mostly sat and cried, unable concentrate on the simplest of daily activities.

Five days later the annual Virginia Festival of Book started here in Charlottesville, and with it came a visit from a friend whom I’d never before met in person, but with who I knew I had much in common.  We’d emailed and made comments back and forth on each other’s blogs and even talked on the phone once.  Shirley Showalter of 100 Memoirs was someone I’d stumbled upon on the Internet and it turns out she lives only about two hours away.  Her book, Blush, will be in print and on bookstore shelves sometime in the fall.  She’d been planning to visit the Festival of the Book and I invited her to stay with me here in my home.

What a wonderful time it was.  We went to a few of the festival sessions together and spent hours talking and reading to each other from our memoirs. Way ahead of me on the writing and the publishing angles, she is an inspiration and I know that if she lived any closer I’d often be on her doorstep asking unending questions. When Shirley returned home l was filled with excitement, new ideas and directions for my writing as well as pinpointing publishing options.

For a few days I struggled with catching up on all that I had let slide for a week.  The daily rounds of laundry, preparing food for the upcoming Easter weekend and visit from my daughter’s family took up most of my time. Not to be forgotten was taking time to play with our new adoptee, Max, who snuggled his way into our bed and hearts, easing the sadness of Brody’s untimely death.  There was little time for writing, except for capturing notes as I remembered things I would change in my memoir, made lists of new books to read, and emailed a few new contacts. I also just needed to sit with myself to bring the roar of excitement to a lower level in which I could think more clearly, keeping myself from being overwhelmed by all that I wasn’t getting done.

Easter weekend was a blast with my Grandlings (read grandchildren) staying with us, sleeping in our basement, “Harry Potter” room, which looks somewhat like a set from the movie.  We gifted Lisa and Deena with a stay in a nearby hotel so that they could have a few evenings without the kids. We spent lots of time walking and laughing and on Saturday helped to surprise Mark’s stepdaughter Casey on her 25th birthday with a lovely party.  It was the first time in a number of years in which my kids were all here together. We joyfully spent our time celebrating each other.  As I grow older occasions  like this past weekend become more and more important to me.

Casey blowing out her candles.

Casey blowing out her candles.

We’re all back in the daily grind now, and I can’t help but feel a bit let down.  I’ve not felt like writing and last night caught myself thinking that maybe this memoir I’m working on is a waste of time.

I’ve so enjoyed the distractions of friends, parties, great food, laughter and being with my kids, that returning to the serious work of reliving the past and moving through it to healing, seems more painful than usual. The sunshine and the bursting forth of new life is stealing my attention and my need to get my hands into the earth is growing.  Words flow onto the page with difficulty and I struggle to make myself sit down and dive back into what was.  Time marches on and there are so many things I still want to do.

But I am returning to my work, knowing that it is something I must do, even when it doesn’t feel good. I’ve moved my September 1st deadline for a finished first draft to November 1st, and plan on giving myself a few breaks along the way.  We’ re making plans to kidnap Zoe and Noah for a week this summer when we’ll ride the train up to Washington and take in the museums.  We’ll also go swimming, read books together, see a silly movie or two and just be with each other.

In the meantime, I’ll not give up working on my story.  I love the writing, even when I hate it. I’m growing way beyond the trauma that once made me hide from life.  The secret is to integrate the past and the present, stay out in the sunlight, breathe deeply, and enjoy every single moment that comes my way.  Time will do as it will.

“Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.”  Earl Nightingale

Posted in Books, Dogs, family, Friendships, Gratefulness, Healing, Life, love, Memoir, Navigating Through Life, Quotes, The Garden, Time, Uncategorized, Wise Words, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments