October 16, 2018

Capturing the Heart - One Thing at a Time

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore, Dream, Discover. —Mark Twain

I'm sitting in a coffee shop along the Black River and the St. Clair River sipping a dark roast coffee with thoughts about my motivation and focus and the get-up-and-go I’m known for. I am looking out at the water as the weekend continues its gloomy face with low hanging clouds that spit down. Nevertheless, I find this environmental hiccup enticing in that it is forcing me to stay single-minded. Some of my focus is thinking that my get-up-and-go has lately got-up-and-went. My gut says, you are tired.

In exploring this motivational lapse, I’ve concluded that I want to do so much and cannot seem to achieve singular focus - not an endearing attribute. I have lived in the shadow lie that women are great at multitasking, but not true! Our focus on one thing is good but when that attention is split on multiple things at once, all becomes fuddled, tired, and does not give the result we think it does. Our alliances are torn and our brain is constantly switching the track of the train - recipe for mediocre, perhaps disaster.

I acknowledge heartily that when I'm in extreme multitasking mode, the memories of the time (un)focused are blurred. What was the weather? Who did I talk with two minutes ago? Did I just post on Facebook - and what? This is scary to me as, like anyone, I want to capture and cherish my memories - good or bad - and not lose days to the disease of multitasking. 

Certain things catch your eye, but pursue only those that capture the heart.
Ancient Indian Proverb

I find focus and am energized when attending conferences, events, interesting meetings, reading true adventure stories, walking in the woods, and watching documentaries. Strange, but when I engage in these activities I have extreme focus and attention to every phase, word, and thought – I get blessedly lost in what interests me. Hmm … makes me think I solved my own concentration issue. Of course, singular focus is difficult in this society but believe it can be tempered a little with surrounding yourself with activities that delight your sensibilities.

If you hear a voice within you say you cannot paint, then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced. —Vincent Van Gogh 

Focus on the moment when you can and as often as you are able. This is why I love coffee shops!

from Raven Café & Coffeehouse bathroom wall

October 6, 2018

The Raven Doth Speaks to Me

Have you seen my Mojo?* I feel "she's" lost - or sadly replaced with a dull sense of myself. My Mojo was large, introspective, exhibiting bright thoughts and colors, and typically would have been found in a coffee shop, the woods, along a trail, or even shuffling through the house redecorating for the change of seasons. She was nerdy but indelible .. to me.

I'm worried and have searched in my heart for when and why she left me – there are clear concrete reasons on why and seems that these final ones created a rift between Mojo and myself. But I haven't lost hope of eventually finding and reclaiming her wonderful presence. Oh, my Mojo was tiring at times, always pulling me away from the mundane and relaxing to the realm of excitement and wonder. Frankly, during this loss I've been regaining the energy she demanded, still absolutely miss the spark Mojo was able to create … the gift of optimism she instilled in me.

The rain pours down in Port Huron today where I find myself with hours of me time. Delightful time, but truthfully, it's time to find that Mojo. As she's been noticed around coffee shops I asked around and was told I may find her again at the Raven Café and Coffee House in downtown Port Huron. The search is on … found the Raven and climbed to the second floor balcony to sit, drink in the sounds, atmosphere, and because it was rather funky - the music, perfectly suited for such a place - the Raven. The counter is narrow with a wrought iron "fence" you look through to the first floor. 
the view from my perch

As Halloween is approaching and Poe is well known for his tales of the macabre and mystery, this seemed the perfect viewing stage to spot my Mojo, so, I'm looking...

"When you come to The Raven, you’ll immediately notice something different; a feeling you can’t quite put your finger on. Part Hogwarts and part Cheers, the Raven is a unique place. When you step through the doors, you’ll get the distinct feeling you’re walking into a story. The walls are decorated with beautiful woodwork and packed with books, posters, and artwork of all varieties. Whatever time of day you visit, you’ll find an energetic atmosphere filled with the aroma of just-brewed coffee and, if you’re lucky, the smell of freshly-baked cookies or brownies." (from the Raven website). 

An hour of delicious pumpkin soup passed, ever alert, I continued to absorb the wisp of my Mojo. A sense of my need to continue this exploration was palpable. My Mojo is beckoning me to learn from this experience and will not fully re-engage with me until I follow the leads. My hope and faith get stronger as I swirl and swallow the last of my multiple cups of coffee. A peace settles in as I prepare the next steps. These passages from The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe speak to me - I'm listening. 

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
"Sir," said I, "or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you"- here I opened wide the door; -
Darkness there, and nothing more.

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,
And the lamplight o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted - nevermore!

(*Mojo means 'finding the magic in what we do'. To have 'lost your mojo', refers to a loss of inspiration or creative genius; a loss of that special spark. Slang for Mojo from Answers.com)

October 5, 2018

Anatomy of a Murder

Many years ago I decided to (pedal) bike from Marquette to Big Bay, Michigan (and back again). On the chosen day there was an Upper Peninsula rain - a wet, breezy, chilly, relentless rain. I thought naively that bicycling in blue jeans would keep me warmer. True … but the material stuck to my legs, creating pull on every rotation of the pedal. I was chased by Bigfoot and a wolf causing my adrenalin to push me beyond my capacity - as my vivid imagination soared and scared me on these 27.2 miles of wilderness roads.

But, I digress. The purpose of this venture was to visit the Lumberjack Tavern where bar owner Mike Chenoweth was murdered in 1952. Big deal? The murder and court case were the basis for the 1959 film, Anatomy of a Murder, based on the book of the same name written by John Voelker (pen name Robert Traver), a native Yooper and former prosecutor for Marquette County who also loved to fish and write.

But, I digress. Our family elders shared our history over coffee, old camp tables, in warm living rooms, wherever there was an interested audience. The story goes that my grandmother loved BINGO and was quite the winner. On one occasion, in Big Bay where the family lived at the time, she had a particularly lucrative evening. Her winnings probably included dollar bills, soda pop, and donated items from local businesses, as was the custom in the 40s and 50s. She was so loaded down with her loot that she had to seek help - so went into the Lumberjack Tavern and asked Mike Chenoweth for a ride home. Family rumor claims he was afraid of my grandmother so acquiesced and gave her a lift. Nothing special in this story, except for the link with the main character in the book.  

Anatomy of a Murder was filmed in Marquette and Big Bay featuring Lee Remick, Ben Gazzara, Duke Ellington, George C. Scott, and Jimmy Stewart. Emil and Edna Olsen, my paternal grandparents, were extras in this film, as were others in the region. A huge honor and so very exciting.

Jimmy Stewart stayed near the old courthouse on Baraga Avenue during the filming - down the street from my grandparents. Jimmy had his own way of walking and was easily recognized, was friendly in his greeting to people and always spoke in his slow signature manner. Through our grandparents we heard he was a very nice and polite man. My grandfather was a stand-in for Stewart as they matched in height and he had some of Stewart's features.

Edna Olsen wore a black netting hat during the courtroom scene and can be quickly viewed – very quickly - as she traveled past Stewart and Remick. Emil Olsen can be seen standing next to these two celebrities during a break in the courtroom action.

One final digression. My love of family history began as a young person when we would stay at my uncle's camp along Lake Superior, where outhouses were common and skunks owned the woods. As we clustered around the table waiting for the coffee grounds to boil, stories were told. As children, we kept our mouths closed, drinking in these funny tales of sailors, relatives, and each other. My life regret would be that I did not journal all these delicious pieces of history - but have been able to write these down in my favorite hard-backed journals after "interviewing" the older family members.

The Hardwood Walking Stick

All through my 30s onward, I’ve walked woods from the Appalachian and Smoky Mountains, along with the mountains, hills and valleys of Michig...