Grade . . . send email . . . feed the cat . . . wonder if they caught that guy? . . . was I rude to Cate? . . . relax . . . need to blog . . . dishes in the ink . . . breath . . .

This is a rough approximation of the thoughts that flashed through my head this morning as I opened my eyes. I am keyed up, and it’s 6:40am. . . part of the culprit is that I got wired yesterday when we had a car chase (think Los Angeles in rural Maryland) end on our campus and had one of the men in the car take off into the woods behind our instructional buildings. We had choppers and police on motorcycles – just a whole lot of excitement for about two hours – and then we were done . . . I’m an easy-going girl, but things like this just get me riled up. . . . have to explore why that is.

On top of that, I’m still in the midst of the grading hell that is the end of the semester. . . I’m making progress, but at this time of year, it never seems like I’m working fast enough.

The rest of this frenzy was caused by me, my inability to slow down, to breath . . . and I know I need that, so today, my post is focusing on things that force me to slow down. Here are my top ten, for today, gleaned from posts around the web, Natalie Goldberg, and others.

1. Sitting on my back deck and watching the birds. Yesterday, at school, I got to have a similar experience when I looked out a window and saw a Great Blue Heron walking the stream bed below our building.

2. Coloring, yes, that’s right, coloring. . . and redRavine has a great post on coloring Mandalas. For me, coloring, actually doing anything that requires me to focus just enough to stop obsessing, calms me, brings me back to center. I get the same feeling from sewing or walking in nature.

3. Holding a newborn baby. That smell, the softness of a breath.

4. Reading anything that is different than my life. . . Right now I’m in the middle of Lisa See’s
Peony in Love. The book is set in 17th century, which is about as far from my life as I can imagine.

5. Watching a movie. . . most of the time any movie will do, but I particularly love those magical, fantastical ones. Last night, to rest before sleep, I watched The Water Horse and marvelled over not only the touching plotline but also the gorgeous scenery and those stupendous Scottish accents (I think I’ll say “Ay” instead of “yes” from now on. That won’t be weird with an American accent, right?) Plus, I loved looking up the water horse traditions this morning and seeing that in most cultures the image of the creature is more like an actual horse, less like Loch Ness than in the film (although I’ve always been fascinated by Nessie, so the movie’s choice didn’t bother me).
Image of a Water Horse, taken from wikipedia

6. Staring at gorgeous images, particularly paintings in museums or photographs of nature. Two of my favorite artists are Albert Bierstadt and Mark Rothko, who I just recently came to appreciate when visiting a museum (I wish I could remember which, but I can’t – the Met? The Chicago Institute of Art? Somewhere else?) I came upon this Rothko image, which I also can’t remember the title of, and it was just a field of red. It used to be that I would walk by something like that say, “I could do that,” but this time, I dropped into the image, into that sea of red in almost the same way I disappear into my writing when I let myself go.

7. Writing. Natalie Goldberg keeps reminding me to “write what’s in front of me.” Write what’s in front of me.

8. Talking with my parents. . . They always have perspective.

9. Playing the piano. I’ve played since I was little, but now I rarely get the chance.

10. Listening to music. Lately, I’ve been into the son “Car Crash” by Matt Nathanson. The first lines of the song are “I’m wide awake and so alive. Ringing like a bell.” Yes, to wake up and be alive . . . not caught up in thought.

To just be (or to not be, depending on which side of Hamlet’s dilemma you fall) . . .
How do you let yourself exist in the world?

P.S. My friend Sarah pointed out another way I can help people. She recommended Good Search, a search engine that allows you to search the web and give money to your charity of choice at the same time. You can also add them to your search toolbar and have their search engine come up instead of Google. It’s pretty cool and easy.