Tag Archives: Character development

The Heart of the Change Cycles

Fog incoming over Alcatraz

With each new day the world turns, and all things move, all things change and keep changing, and so time is marked by the hands on a clock and thoughts run through our minds and change comes and things go like tides in the oceans and clouds passing through the sky….always though, is this turning of the wheel, the whirling of the stars and shining of the sun, always infinite circles, symbolized by rings, unbroken and endless and timeless and infinite beyond words….a mystery….and in this infinite mystery, this life here and now, people the world over reach into their hearts and join their lives together, forged by vows and with each day they commit their efforts to love and compassion, living out our days on this earth mated, married, happily in the trust of each others care….

Ain’t Nothing Changed…

Working the Land over Time

 

“Bingo brother, and you just watch yourself ’cause you can turn one year into ten just like that.” Crow snapped his fingers. “I swallowed a decade in the blink of an eye.”

“That’s a long drift, man, a long time.”

                                    Highway Home 

            Momentum comes in every size and every color. You get a job, it pays the bills. You get into a relationship maybe it works well enough to keep you hanging around. I call it digging in. You get a place and jump into the day to day. For the moment things work well enough. You have stability and that can count. Might be you are working on something, developing something, might be something that develops over a longer time horizon. There are many things accomplished over a longer time frame. Homebuilders know what I mean. I knew a sculpture who worked on large urban sited monumental pieces. Restoring wood boats, writing novels, getting married having a family. There are things we set out to do that take dedication and a commitment of time. There’s a difference between falling into a sweet thing and setting out to do something you’ve made up in your mind to do. The mind sees into a thing only so far, the balance point tips, we run the risk, take the chance, we don’t really know how anything is going to turn out.

A World of Change

San Francisco Bay Bridge at Dawn

“That everything changes is the basic truth of existence.”

                                    Shunryu Suzuki

            We do great harm to our lives when we surround it with worn out old stories. Nothing stays the same. Things are not fixed but rather in a state of flux. We have a lot of change going on in our world. In Japan there is change happening. In our own lives it is happening. It is wonderful in some circumstances to have fond memories of some special moment. Not so wonderful moments take advantage of our minds tendency to cling. We think that Japan is a fixed thing. I look at photographs of centuries old villages here Thursday and now vanished. Everything is gone. They can’t even find the bodies. It is difficult to accept. My mind doesn’t want to believe this can happen (to me). It happens out there somewhere, to somebody else. They were caught in a story. Someone didn’t look both ways before they crossed…. We have this mental trick in our head that tends to be dishonest about reality. We predict when something bad might happen. We avoid certain neighborhoods. We stay off the roads when weather is bad, we hope things will work out. Might be that we would be better served by taking a fresh look every next moment and forget about thinking we know how something might turn out. Might be better to not know how it is going to go. We don’t have to go around believing everything we tell ourselves. I got up Friday morning and it turned out I was wrong about what I believed about Japan. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. That is a fact.

Changing Places

Running Hard to the Great Divide...

“At the same time there was a solitude to this place of a kind that was rare. Beyond this last gasp of farms the road began weaving through boulders and ridges and ran higher up off the immense and flat bottomlands. Noel took a dirt track off the highway and rolled amidst the boulders and red rocks into a small pull out where he’d camp for the night.”

                Noel Sanderson on the run after things had not gone his way

                                                            Highway Home

 

            I hit the road as a performer for my first national tour in 1974 with a small circus. I acquired a taste for running the road, sleeping in the back of a truck, going town to town. When I began planning my first novel Highway Home I wanted to tap into that experience, but as fiction not biography. I didn’t want to center the story around the world of street theater more out of instinct than for any reason. Instead I tried to build a close up look at a young man’s life, un-tethered, adrift, exploring, discovering, some days feeling grounded while other days alone and empty. If everything you have is in the back of your truck, if you are earning money working here-there picking up a days work doing one thing or another. If that was your circumstance might be that you just keep driving away time and time again when things turn against you again…young man might think he can keep changing places…eventually we have to own up to the thing, might be what needs changing isn’t located out there….

Changing Saddles

Author Dana Smith outbound on a trail hike...

 

“Let the world do what the world does. I don’t think I’ve ever taken this trail that it hasn’t changed me. Leave in the morning one person, and come back another kind.”

                         June, An old cowgirl from Jiggs, Nevada                            

                                          Highway Home

            Kicking up some dust on a trail hike can do a soul good. When I can get out on a track and let the rhythm of the place set to working against what I’m caught up about I can find a grip I can use to get back to who I am. The less that happens while I’m hiking the more a tonic I feel in my bones. If I got a worry it usually is gone by the time the walk is finished. It is odd how we spend so many of our years under the impression that we aren’t much changed, that we’re pretty close now to what we’ve always been. Good long walk is kind like a long slow cooking of a meal. Food inside a Dutch oven given enough time breaks down and merges into something you can find worth sopping up and eating with a slice of bread. Comes a point if you get on the trail enough that you’ll come to a panorama look out, see fifty miles to the next mountain range, you’ll be looking out into the distance, and you’ll find you are looking right into the heart of who you are right now…

Plane Change

The Traveling Show

 

I woke up at 4 in the morning. I’d slept backstage on a sofa in a portable building at the Ohio State Fair where I’d been working as emcee/stage manager on the Main Street Stage for twelve days. By the time I woke up the stage, sound and lights had been struck. Everything was gone. I rolled my gear off the grounds and caught a cab out to the airport. I went from Columbus to Las Vegas to Anchorage. Lacey and I picked up a rental took the Seward Highway westbound our destination Girdwood, Alaska. For three days I studied the love life of bush pilots. Turns out bush pilots compete with fishermen, not for passengers, not for fish, but for the rarest of all rare finds a good woman to hold over with when winter sets in.  I would perform at the Kenai Peninsula Fair about 150 miles south. I was put up in a place ten miles out of the town. One of my favorite events at this fair was the fish throwing contest, something I’d not known existed until I worked this show. Best I can tell nobody knows about the fish throwing contest until you get to Ninilchik. Owner of my cabin was a retired sea tug captain who had worked the Indian Ocean prior to coming back to this little piece of fish tossing heaven. Everyone invited me to go halibut fishing because fishing was epidemic in this part of the world, being the only thing a person could do besides trying to find someone to hold up with before winter sets in. For big excitement one night I drove down to Homer. It was here that I met a pontoon pilot who had lost his sweetheart to another fisherman, and it had sealed his fate. He’d hoped to hold up in his cabin with his lady for the winter and instead gave up, changed planes, changed plans, whole life changed. Last day of the fair this pontoon pilot entered the fish throwing contest. Must have tossed that thing like he was throwing a punch at the guy who’d run off with his girl. It was a silver sparkling thing of rural Alaskan beauty watching that old fish go flying across the fairgrounds…pontoon pilot lost the girl, but won the contest. Everything happens for a reason as best I can tell…

Change Directions

Fire Juggling Lessons

 

“Education can direct our attention to faculties of mind, not just facts in memory.”

                                                                        The Mindful Brain, Dan Seigel

            My smart phone provides access to information I don’t need to carry around in my head. A few years ago I didn’t have a machine on my desk that answered my questions. As a classically trained ballet dancer, juggler and circus arts performer I learned decades ago that training my body to do various physical moves was a whole different scratching of a place in my mind that was hard to itch. Here is the deal. Faculties of mind are not so much about the mind as storage container as it is about the mental muscle of the mind. The attentiveness muscle in particular seems to produce measurable changes in the brain. Here is a list of the key functions enabled by the middle prefrontal areas: body regulation, attuned communication, emotional balance, flexibility, empathy, insight, fear modulation, intuition, and morality. That list of attributes comes from the Mindfulness Research Center of UCLA…For example increasing our intuitive powers would include focusing more attention on how our gut feels. It might include looking at a persons face and bringing attention to the muscles in their face, observing the tension in their eyes, clenching of jaw, posture, tone of voice. It doesn’t take long before we begin to see that our practice produces an increase in our intuitive skills. Figure that most of what I’m talking about is part of the cognitive toolkit we can play with. Playing with this toolkit in the good times increases our talents without having the pressure of coming to a crisis and frantically trying to grasp for them in the hard times. This is not a fix/broken model (I’m not into thinking of us like that) it is a cultivate/enhance model… I like that. Hopefully you will too…