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Sunday, August 31, 2014


I was sitting in my sunroom once when a very large dragonfly zipped up my yard, up the back steps, did a 90ยบ turn, flew sideways through the almost shut sliding glass door, and committed suicide on my forehead, smack on my "third eye".  Its lifeless body fell neatly on my lap and didn't show any signs of damage from contact with my hard head.

I don't know how other people feel about moments like this, but I felt my world shifting.  Having spent so much time in the woods and river, I know dragonflies don't make a habit of committing suicide, and I seldom have dragonflies in my back yard.  I carefully picked up the dragonfly and thanked it for sending me a divine message.

Maybe that sounds odd to you, and I'm pretty sure dragonfly suicides aren't described in any of the major religious texts, but I notice it when animals don't behave right, or show up where they shouldn't be, or any other kind of strangeness in the natural world.

At the time of my life when the dragonfly died, I was separated from my husband, pending divorce.  I was thinking about my future and my disappointments when the dragonfly came into my life.  I looked at the lifeless body and knew the marriage was over.  New things were coming into my life.  This was the way it had to be.

When I was on my recent trip in Baltimore, a dragonfly danced around me and I thought "Oh crud!"  (Okay, maybe something a little stronger than that?)  I could blow it off and just say it was defending territory, but I knew better.  It kept flying in my face, "Look at me!" and I said "I see you.  No need to commit suicide on my head."  It flew back to its territory and did regular dragonfly things while I contemplated new acid in my stomach.

My dad told me whimsical stories about dragonflies being fairies, and there are traditions where dragonflies are angels in disguise.  If you want to put this in a more rational way, when I'm thinking of life changing events, I notice dragonflies.  Maybe they don't do anything different at all (though I don't believe that), but I notice them because of whatever's going on inside of me.  Maybe my heavy thinking makes my breathing or sweat different and there is a logical explanation, but even that's still a message to myself.  Something's changing.  I hate change.

I wasn't in a good marriage and needed out.  Ultimately, I'm a lot better off divorced than staying put because it was familiar and what I knew.  I suppose I took vacation recently because I already felt changes coming and needed time away to think about different things.  I don't know how to explain feeling change coming.  I just do.  Let's call it female intuition.  Time will tell if it works out plus or minus, but as much as I dislike change it is an opportunity for metamorphosis.  Seeing the dragonfly makes me feel like whatever's coming is inevitable, so it's up to me to make the most of it.

Sometimes I doodle dragonflies.  I think they're often as pretty as butterflies, and they go through just as an amazing metamorphosis from egg to nymph to adult.  Do you ever feel like you get dragonfly messages or messages from another animal?

Saturday, August 23, 2014


I have a very tiny bird skull in my office with a jawbone as thin as a thread.  I don't think anyone notices it or the vase of feathers.  They might see the nest with the clay bird, but I don't think they notice that either.  My natural history section is filled with things I found in the garden at work.  It gives me something real to look at when I'm stressed at work.

There was a movement in Dutch art when artists would show a dead leaf or flower, or a skull, or something to show that life is fleeting.  The Dutch were wealthy, and it was a way to remind people to focus on what mattered.  We're at a similar place these days, people are caught up with what they have materially without thinking enough about the lessons they need to learn or the legacy they'll leave behind.  It's too easy to get caught up with all the obvious things we want without thinking about what we need.

"Medieval Times" in Baltimore, MD
For me it isn't about material things.  It's getting too caught up with deadlines and other people's needs without any time for myself.  I hit an invisible wall and took a vacation, driving to DC, Baltimore, the ocean, and upstate NY.  That's a lot of driving in Pennsylvania, an endlessly interminable state with a lot of mountains just to make it even longer.  I'm sure I saw more headstones than houses in that state, and a lot of the people I saw were Amish, people who are in their way the antithesis of materialism.

All that driving by myself gave me a lot of time for thinking, but thinking wasn't making me happy.  Once in a while that little bird skull flitted through my mind.  What matters to me?  How can I arrange me life so those things that matter are a part of my daily existence?

House in Lily Dale, NY
I enjoyed seeing my friend in DC and my cousins in Baltimore, and enjoyed the activities we shared, but I was still looking for rest.  A coworker loaned me her Lake Chautauqua, NY condo and I unsuccessfully tried to force serenity.  I needed to get in touch with myself, but couldn't seem to get there.  A speeding ticket from a cop who looked like my ex-bf didn't help.  Neither did my daytrip to Lily Dale where a spiritualist told me to leave because I wasn't "receptive".  Really, who gets rejected at Lily Dale?!

I picked up shells at the side of the lake and grouched to myself about the shells' dirty shades of brown.  I painted the shells blue to match the color scheme of my friend's condo, then painted words on them.  The resulting arrangement was my thanks to her for loaning me the getaway.  I supposed that was more meaningful than the inspiration I wanted to have for my next great painting, so I packed up and left.

Sunset at Lake Chautauqua, NY
I stopped at a "Cheese House" and the lady tried to sell me Finnish cheese.  I asked for something local, but she said her father quit making cheese in the 40s.  "The best cheese is from Ohio."  Not just any Ohio cheese, but from my area.  I bought some Middlefield cheese and joked with her about my mom, or was it Grandma, who liked baby swiss, saying that aged swiss was a waste of money because all you get is holes.  The Cheese House lady said the holes were free, and I felt my childhood come back to me when an old man said exactly the same thing as I watched a big ball of wet cheese wrapped in cheesecloth get pulled out of a huge stainless steel vat near the place where my ancestors lived for generations.

I spent the rest of my time chopping up a peck of (unpickled) peppers I bought at a farmer's stand, then making dill pickles.  (7 quarts)  I'm finally starting to feel that relaxation that I was trying so hard to force on my travels.  I'm glad I went visiting, but I'm glad to be home.

Happy to see a palm tree in Ocean City, MD

Friday, August 15, 2014


A lot of people have written a lot of things about Robin Williams.  I don't know that I've heard the kinds of things I've wanted to hear though.  Of course the likelihood of that happening would increase if I'd actually pay more attention to my tv, but the sampling I've gotten has left me feeling... well, I'm not sure.  Unsatisfied.

Robin Williams was an important person in my life.  I know, he wasn't even aware of my existence beyond a statistic, but I watched Mork and Mindy when it was new, I watched all of his movies.  I cried during Good Will Hunting, a movie that I own 2 copies of just in case something happens to the first copy.  It's my favorite movie of all favorite movies.

I know we don't know celebrities the way their friends and families know them, but Robin gave us so much information about himself.  Just the fact that he had to act out so outrageously so much of the time tells us a lot about his unmet needs.  He told us about addiction and depression.  He was very honest with us, in the ways that he could be honest, and told us more by the roles he chose and how he acted them.

I am nothing like Robin Williams, I am a lot like him.

I feel like the tv people are all missing the boat when they talk about Robin's death.  A lot of people struggling with demons, and sometimes people lose the will or strength to keep fighting the battle.  Give them credit for fighting the good fight as long as they have.

I want the retrospective love fest of showing Robin's work.  It's a lot like going through old photos after a breakup or after someone we really know and love dies.  It's a process of letting go and remembering, and remembering that those moments are with us for life in our memories, but the voice in my head says I want them to really talk about depression and what it is, how it feels.  If the bulk of society can't understand that, then I don't feel understood either, and I suppose that is somewhere in Robin's last thoughts too.

A long-time friend of mine tried to commit suicide a number of times.  I don't blame her.  She's had more crap in her life than most people could imagine if they tried.  Not blaming doesn't mean that I want her to die though.  I want her to somehow find a way past her torment.  I want her happy.  I help in the ways that I can think to help, but I don't know the answers a lot of the time.

I've thought about suicide.  I think a lot of people have.  I haven't tried it, but I wanted off the planet in a very serious way.  If you really want the truth, the reason I didn't do it is because I was afraid crossing into the next life would be worse as a result.  Then the clouds part, good things start happening again, someone makes you laugh, and living starts feeling possible again.

I'm so sorry that Robin Williams couldn't get to a happy place again.  I'm so sorry he's gone and won't make me laugh or cry except in retrospectives.  RIP

I'm posting another "king" because I've got things to do and don't want to wait for the next IF prompt.  Please excuse me if I don't respond right away to comments because I'm planning on doing a lot of visiting and running around this week.  Maybe one good thing that comes from Robin's passing is lighting a fire under me to get out and do things?  I'm alive, I want happy moments.  Wishing the same for all of you!

Sunday, August 10, 2014


Squire’s Castle was built as a gatehouse for Feargus Squire, a founder of Standard Oil.  Now the castle is part of Cleveland Metroparks and is a scenic backdrop for weddings and picnics.  That’s the castle, and Feargus was the royalty.  The king lived his excesses while somebody else swept the floor, got blown up in refineries, and was beat up by anti-union thugs in a time when widows couldn’t get work and companies weren’t held responsible.  People come to the park now and imagine themselves as part of the elite where someone else sweeps the floor.  We can all live the fantasy.

I don't want to be a princess, and I don't want any kings.  I just want to have the freedom to live a middle-class life and retire someday when I can really paint whatever I want without having to worry about how much money I get from it.  I'd like some reassurance whoever inherits my estate won't sell my life's work at a garage sale or throw it all away.

Last night I said "Find your focal point!  Look at the light!" while a young woman huffed and groaned with labor pains.  I'm not really sure what to say about this, especially since I don't feel like I have the right to talk about her life in particulars.  "Remember, you're doing something men will never do!  You are woman, roar!"  Which caused me to get chastised for making her laugh, and laughing hurt.

Her young daughter was floating around the periphery of a very female experience, and I remember being that age when my mom was huffing too.  It was exciting in the moment.  The more times it happened the more I disapproved of my mother procreating, but the first time I didn't know that a new king was supplanting my place in the family order. 

I guess it's been an interesting week.  I've been feeling very stressed and escaped to the river on Friday after work.  "Is that a Hensley?"  "What? Do we all look alike?"  Kevin pantomimed me walking, or maybe he pantomimed my brother walking.  Okay, I laughed. I never realized my family has a particular way of walking.  I tried to notice as I walked through the woods and decided I have "in the woods", "trespassing ", and "on the street" modes.  Bet my siblings have those styles too.  I'm going to notice now.

I have to walk through Kevin's kingdom to get to the "cutoff" where the river was redirected by the Army Corp of Engineers when I was a kid.  I walked around the resulting island and noticed the old paths are gone.  It was like walking through virgin forest, but I know stories for a lot of the bits and parts of that place, like the yurt my ex just had to have.  My nephew stole the yurt and used it to build a fort.  I guess my ex was right that the extra $ for oak was worth it because it's lasted a lot of years in the woods.  At least my nephew's kingdom still exists in its way and I can hear remembered laughing.

I don't know where I'm going with any of this talk of kings and kingdoms.  The new baby was born this morning.  I painted this fish after I finished that other painting.  I don't know what to do with it now because I want to work on something else.  Anyone want to buy a fish skeleton?  And I guess since I don't have anyone to sweep the floor or do my laundry, I guess that's how I'm going to spend the day in my kingdom.

Saturday, August 2, 2014


As a substitute teacher, I learned that if I came into a room bothered about stuff, the kids were terrors.  If I spread a layer of calm in the room, the kids were angels.

I had one trouble-making girl in multiple classes.  One day I watched Jessica with more detachment than I usually had towards her chaos, then called her to the teacher's desk while the rest of the class worked on their projects.  "You have a lot of charisma", I said.  "What's that?!", she demanded.  Obviously she thought I was criticizing.  "Charm.  You're pretty, smart, and people look to you because you've got something special. When you've got that kind of power, it's up to you to decide what to do with it." 

She looked confused.  I'm sure she thought she was in trouble when I called her to the desk.  "Just think about it.  You can be anything you want, and life in middle school is just a blip in your life.  Use your charisma for something good."

"I get bad grades."  Her head dropped and she looked miserable and ashamed.  "That's only one kind of smart.  You have to be smart to cause this much trouble.  Besides, if you put as much energy into your schoolwork as you did into getting in trouble your grades would be better."  I could see her thinking hard.

Months later, I saw her helping another kid with his lessons.  She glanced up and we understood each other.  I smiled and she looked proud.  My heart swelled.  It's one of the good things I've done in my life.  I found more kids to help in similar ways.

I was a good substitute teacher because I could have these kinds of little moments with bigger impact.  I think I'd be terrible at the long haul of a regular classroom where I might be expected to keep it up.  I wasn't always at the top of my game, but I cared about those kids.  If political leaders cared about kids, would they be bombing them?  Oh, but those kids don't look like my kids.  Yeah?  Well kids are kids.  They all have potential.  When you hurt them, they grow up and cause more hurt in the world.  I just want to scream "Stop it!  Stop it!  Stop it!"

Yesterday I listened to someone describing what another teacher said about his students.  There wasn't anything good in it, and he shouldn't be a teacher.  He's causing harm that goes beyond however much math he teaches them.  He thinks he's better than "damned Mexicans" and can't see his attitude makes him ugly.

I'm upset about the bombing and shooting in the world.  See your enemy as a person, and maybe you can see a solution to your differences.  That's true in the big world, and it's true in our personal lives.  On a good day I can de-escalate the drama around me.  On a bad day I can make it worse.  Mostly I want peace on the small and grand scale.
People have been getting to me lately and I've been having a harder time trying to get along.  Sometimes I need to remember that I know a little understanding upfront makes for a better life in the long haul.  I escaped to the river at lunch yesterday to get my feet under me.  It did my heart good to see kids playing in the water.