Like Words Together Reflections from the deep end of Practice.


Sunset Walks Gratitude

Today we didn't get a chance to walk the dogs during the afternoon, we ended up going as the sun was setting. Being out later, and on Halloween, meant we saw pumpkins lit up and the first groups of kids out trick-or-treating. The air was crisp, the leaves underfoot crunching. Several times our younger dog, the bulldog, went running into piles of leaves just for the fun of crunching through the leaves.

I love our walks together. Seeing the way the neighborhood changes and being out moving has become an important part of our week. We don't always get to walk together, sometimes I just take the dogs for a brisk walk, quickly around the smallest loop that our house is on. Today I had thought we might do that when my wife decided she'd join me. I just loved spending that time together, enjoying an especially vivid sunset.


Flexible Schedule Gratitude

Right now I have my schedule set up so that I don't have to rush on Monday or Friday mornings. I also only work 3 evenings a week now, teaching at the same place on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday evening. I gave up a class that was doing fairly well on a Tuesday night because I was so tired all the time. Having the ability to have a slow start some mornings, not be out in the thick of traffic trying to get somewhere, really helps me a lot.

I am teaching 12 classes a week these days, usually seeing one client as well. I've added back in appointments with a new therapist and that's gone well so far. I feel like I'm getting to a good balance of teaching, seeing clients, caring for my own health, and household stuff like errands, grocery shopping, etc. Ideally I'd like to be where I'm seeing a client one day each week, I could add that many in and not feel too overwhelmed.

Having a schedule that's relatively flexible means that I have opportunity to do things like write, do business planning tasks, and rest if I need to. As my training wrapped up, I have found myself having more energy to tackle more things.


Learning from Others Gratitude

Today I've managed to finalize a draft of an article I've been working on, publish a post to my business site, do some social media prep for posts this week, create a card of classes in town this week, and prep a new blog post for my business site for later this week. No wonder I'm feeling tired out.

I began this flurry of computer-related productivity this morning, reading a post from a friend online. A response she received hinted at how to fix the communication between two social media applications, enabling easier cross-posting. I started digging into this, fixing something I've been meaning to figure out. The ensuing conversation on this post gave me some other great resources for using media via web pages.

I just love this kind of sharing of information. The ability to learn things from people, via random connections in online conversations, is one of the things I love about the Internet.

I love to learn stuff, on my own for certain, but particularly getting to learn from someone else is particularly great. I am filled with gratitude for the connection and for the knowledge. I love it when people share their passions with me, not only do I learn more about them, but I often learn about things I might never experience.


Cats Gratitude

Like dogs, I'm sure I will write more then one gratitude about cats. Today is the first of those days. While more complicated than dogs, there is so much to love about our cats. They're playful, curious, loving, and infuriating in pretty much equal parts. Cats were around growing up too, my Mother seemed to view them as the right pet to have, requiring minimal help from herself. There were a lot of times when it felt like our cat was my only source of comfort in my family.

Today I really enjoyed spending time sitting on the sofa with our tuxedo kitty. Of the two cats we have, he's most bonded to me. He's anxious, particularly about food, and really never lets me sleep in. He's attacking the bedroom door before 7am most mornings, anxious he won't get a meal and needing comfort. At night he often sits on my cushion next to me while I meditate, occasionally even bugging me to do my bedtime sit if I'm still on my laptop late.

In the words of poet Charles Bukowski:

My Cats

I know. I know.
they are limited, have different
needs and

but I watch and learn from them.
I like the little they know,
which is so

they complain but never
they walk with a surprising dignity.
they sleep with a direct simplicity that
humans just can't

their eyes are more
beautiful than our eyes.
and they can sleep 20 hours
a day
hesitation or

when I am feeling
all I have to do is
watch my cats
and my

I study these

they are my


Autumn Sunshine Gratitude

Really trying to get into the practice of writing a gratitude without judgement. I wrote my one about Whimsy recently and felt so cranky and judgmental about it! There will be days where it feels like I'm reaching and there will be days I repeat the same gratitude. The practice and reflection is the whole meaning for doing it.

I was about to tell myself I wasn't allowed to write another gratitude for October, having already done that. Silly how rules get in the way of practice, the way the busy mind makes up obstacles instead of just writing.

Today I've been most grateful for the brilliant sun against a blue sky. Occasional white, streaky clouds for added drama here and there. This brilliant combination, lighting up all the leaves turning brilliant as the days grow shorter. Everywhere I looked today trees seemed to be glowing with brilliance, this last burst of color as they die.

Despite not really wanting to go for a walk today, having had an on-and-off again headache on top of poor sleep, I'm grateful I went out. Spending even 20 minutes walking briskly does the dogs good and being out amidst the brilliant sun and bright trees did me good as well.


Parks Gratitude

Now that I'm teaching at the Mt. Scott Community Center 3 days a week I get regular opportunities to walk through the tall firs the fill the space of the park. It is a park with a lot of history for me, my grandmother lived not far from it when I was a child and the park was the setting for several family gatherings including my birthdays. Having an August birthday meant several of mine were celebrated in public parks.

Portland has over 10,000 acres of parks. The largest, Forest Park is over 5,100 acres, is where I first took my wife on our first outing together to hike in gently falling snow and mud. It is the largest urban forest preserve, significantly larger than Central Park in New York City or Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. I've hiked all over it growing up here and I doubt I'll ever see all of it in my lifetime.

Whenever people visit I usually take them to visit a park, we have so many to choose from. There has always been at least one park within a fairly easy walk in every part of the city I've lived in. I've been so fortunate to grow up living with this abundance of green spaces. Being able to find myself in amidst tall trees and green, growing things remains an important healing tool in my life.



Whimsy Gratitude

Today I managed to visit the studios of three artists as part of Portland Open Studios with my friend AF. In the past we've made more of an effort to see many studios across the 2 weekends the event runs, but this year has had some impediments so making it out for a few felt like an accomplishment.

Because we were so pressed for time, going after I'd finished teaching a tw0-hour class, we opted to go to a cluster of studios that we could get to quickly and then walk between them. This meant we saw some artists we would not have picked otherwise. This meant we saw some unexpected things.

Walking up the driveway to one artist's studio we paused to appreciate the mosaic of found objects embedded in the space between the tire tracks. Toys, old phones, sunglasses, letters, sports equipment, random action figures, and more.

Inside the studio of this artist were beautiful wooden sculptures, I loved spotting bits of colored pencil cut down small and added into the wood inlay.  She had a charming long dog, spotted and friendly. There were also all kinds of charming animals, with signs and wearing fruit, dancing around trees.

On such a gray, blustery day I felt particularly grateful to see such whimsy on bright display.


October Gratitude

I've stayed up late with my wife watching a political espionage film, a genre we both like. It has been a long week and I have a 2 hour class I'm teaching tomorrow at 1pm. I'm glad I'm only doing these Saturday classes once a month.

This week, as autumn really hits Portland with rain, wind, and chilly temperatures, the trees have nearly all turned brilliant colors. In the words of  L. M. Montgomery, "I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers."

Autumn has long been my favorite season. I love the return of cool weather and sweaters. This year I'm particularly grateful for the rainfall that's begun in earnest after a long, hot, dry, smokey summer. Whenever I'm out I cannot help but marvel at the impossible colors the trees display as the light shifts down toward winter.


Space to Grow: Gratitude

There is a crack in everything.
That's how the light gets in.
― Leonard Cohen

Today's been a little easier, very busy but I'm feeling better about the day overall. I've been thinking about something I was sharing in therapy about my relationship with my wife.

Most of the time, despite us both living with c-ptsd and her managing ADD as well, we connect well and work well together. We have real synergy at times when we're working together. When we're not, when we get off and end up at such opposites it is if we're magnets pushing each other away. She gets bigger. I get smaller and try to disappear.

I even joked, in reference to a tree in a storm I'd drawn, that "I make myself small enough to hide in that gap, down in the roots."

"So you disappear?", my therapist asked in response.

"Not exactly." I responded after some thought, "It is more that I try to find some place dark, warm, and safe until it is safe to come out."

Making myself small and scarce, only doing things that would please my Mother (like silently cleaning the house), helped me survive her rages. For so long, I have perfected making myself small enough to go down into the cracks until the storm blows over.

I want to think of those cracks now, not as places I go to hide, but places I am reminded of the light. Places where I grow from, until I grow out of this reaction to get small enough to disappear from view.

I'm grateful for all the times that pushing myself down into the cracks kept me safe. It was a useful skill.

I'm grateful for all the light that came in to me during those times since it helped me to find ways through the darkness.



Trees Gratitude

Today has been long and tiring, with a headache much of the day. I had my first real visit with my new therapist and my directive was to draw 3 trees; before, during, and after a storm. Once my worries that I'd have to use regular pencils and actually "draw" were put to rest and I had my choice of pastels, medium I'm more comfortable with, I set to it.

I like painting and collaging trees. I love tree pose, Vrksasana, and often teach it with several variations one of my earlier yoga teachers taught me. I love being in forests and in the company of old trees. This love of trees and materials that helped me feel confident made the therapy session art-making really pleasurable.

I was really intrigued at what my art told her, it showed resilience and optimism, a hopeful outlook. Without intending to, I'd made the trees different, with the "after" tree being even more strongly rooted to the earth and taller, having weathered the storm with growth. My before tree also turned out a little larger than the "during" tree, which looks worn a bit thin by the storm. I'm sure it won't always be so lovely and fun, but starting out this way is great and I look forward to my next session in a week.

I'm feeling absolutely worn out tonight, but hugely grateful to have this chance to explore art therapy. Today I'm particularly grateful for all the trees around me here in Portland. I thought to myself while out walking the dogs that I've had some good role models in the trees around here, seeing how they hold strong to the earth despite sometimes fierce storms. Going into teach after therapy I paused walking past all the tall, old trees at the community center, and how I've been coming to see many of them for much of my life! Now that I teach for the City 3 days a week I get to walk in a park I went to frequently in my childhood.