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Setting the Boat Adrift

Setting the Boat AdriftAn old friend used to have a catchphrase that he was fond of repeating. “I don’t mind burning bridges,” he’d say in his smooth, Southern drawl, “Because I don’t plan to retreat.”

Most of the time, I live my life in an opposite fashion. I hold on, I keep, I save. I find comfort in the notion that 98% of the daily decisions I face aren’t going to bring about the end of the world.

Still, there’s something very healthy about letting go, cutting ties, or just plain setting the boat adrift. There’s also something to be said for reaching the point of no return and living on your feet, moment to moment, without the safety net.

I’m just thinking out loud here—and putting it to screen—but I wonder how much our decisions change based on whether we can turn back or not. Do we take the risk? Do we play it safe?

When you get beyond that point of no return, beyond the safety net, outside of the comfort zone, you have to figure out the puzzle, interpret the clues; you have to make a move. No one’s going to do it for you, and you can’t get anywhere until you make the call. It’s all up to you. Where you go, how you live, what you spend your time doing—all up to you. The story you write is all yours.

~
Jody Brown is the author of Upside Down Kingdom, and is a multi-blogger, poet, and traveler. Her current writing projects, including her daily blog endeavor, #Project365, can be found at JodyBrown.com/writing. 

The Voice is Within

The Voice is WithinIt’s rainy and blustery here in Pittsburgh, one of my favorite kinds of days.

When the sun is out, it tends to direct your feet outside so you can enjoy the fresh air and the light on your face. You can take a walk in the woods, play a sport, mow the lawn, chat with neighbors. The sun sets the tone for the day. But dark, rainy days are for the pensive. There’s no need to run outside and look for neighbors today, no need to join in any activities today, no need even to speak. The voice is within. Everything needed is inside, so I seek refuge within today.

Some may say it’s positively gloomy. I’m afraid I must agree, especially with the positively part. There’s so much potential here. This is the kind of day you want to crawl under a blanket with a cup of hot tea and a great book—or a great notebook and a pen. Either way, it’s a day to lose yourself in story, and see what happens.

Of course, there is much to do today, places to be in, and people counting on me. But mentally, I will be wrapped up in that blanket and story, carrying them with me in my mind, until I return home to cocoon and create.

Strangely, I think of this process the way my Dad cooks. He’s mastered the art of slow cooking, so that you smell a delicious aroma for about 8 hours until it’s ready to eat. By then, the taste buds are conditioned to expect the best, and they’re never disappointed. Rainy, busy days are days for slow cooking an idea, simmering and stewing the plot until it’s just right. Then, and only then, does it get put to paper.

~
Jody Brown is the author of Upside Down Kingdom, and is a multi-blogger, poet, and traveler. Her current writing projects, including her daily blog endeavor, #Project365, can be found at JodyBrown.com/writing.

A Curious Little Story: The Edge of the Field
I had just arrived. I stood in a friend’s kitchen, looking at a curious little radio of sorts that was on the countertop. There was a strange feeling hanging in the air. I could hear voices in the dining room, so I headed that direction.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

I was told that these were the last days. “The Earth will be completely destroyed in 30 days,” one friend said.

I didn’t believe him, but everyone else in the room vouched for this truth.

“Everyone knows that,” one person said.

“The government announced it,” another said.

I still didn’t believe them. “This is the fault of that blasted box on the counter,” I said. “We need to unplug it immediately so you all realize this nonsense.”

I went back to the box, but it didn’t have a plug. There were no batteries, either. I picked up the little 3×4 inch box and saw that it was counting off the days and marking other factors to the end of the Earth. The box said 30 in one of the little windows.

A vague memory of a person at a bus stop reading a newspaper with a headline about the end of the world flashed through my mine. It was all true? And I’d only just arrived.

My friends weren’t upset in the least. To them, this box and its future were just a small part of their otherwise good and happy lives.

A Curious Little Story: The Edge of the FieldI went outside and found a large, grassy field in front of me with soldiers all sporting differently designed uniforms, according to the lines they were in.

The four lines on the left were charging the four lines on the right, head-to-head. There was a lot of noise and chaos, but there was only one canon, held by the white team (left side, closest to me). Everyone else was fighting: on the ground, man to man with swords and sticks. And bodies were strewn across the field.

There was an announcer, like at a high school football game, calling the play-by-play and reading off the impressive stats of the teams. The Irish had four straight victories, and were currently kicking and fighting their way to a fifth against the Japanese.

Then they announced some teams that were out of combat altogether because they’d lost too many times. The Czech team had just beaten the French team, so the French were out.

In my mind came old words I remembered learning as a kid, “In the last days, great wars were waged…”

I realized everyone had interpreted this and were simply trying to fulfill it the best way they could. There would be destruction, violence, war, death. These were the wars. Sardonically colorful wars.

Everyone had accepted this, and instead of fighting it or denying it, the world united in making the best of it.

These were people of an ending world who were honestly and sincerely making the very best of their situation.

I stood on the edge of the battlefield, and it seemed a burden lifted off of me. I breathed in an easy breath, deep and sweet. It was time to enjoy these days to the fullest.

~
Jody Brown is the author of Upside Down Kingdom, and is a multi-blogger, poet, and traveler. Her current writing projects, including her daily blog endeavor, #Project365, can be found at JodyBrown.com/writing. 

Pruney Fingers

Pruny FingersMy fifth grade health book had a lesson on feet that I remember reading over and over again because it said our toes grip the ground as we walk. I thought that was a funny way of describing what toes do. I kept thinking I misread it, so I looked it up again and again. Gripping was the toes’ design, the book said. At home, I must have walked miles across the floor and back again, watching my toes to see them grip.

And, growing up, we always knew that spending too much time in the bathtub or swimming pool would turn your fingers and toes pruney. That was how adults got us to come out of the water, by pointing out that we were shriveling up. It was our body’s signal that we’d had enough, they said.

Years later, swimming with a friend, I got really curious about why fingertips prune. My friend dismissed, it, telling me that our pores absorb the water. Staring at my fingers, I thought his explanation made no sense. Absorption would swell the fingers, not shrivel them. And why was it only my fingers and toes? Exiting the pool, I noted that I wasn’t waterlogged, nor was I dehydrated, either.

Unable to let it go (when do I, ever?), I dug around online and found a recent article where scientists discovered our bodies naturally pull water away from our fingers and toes when we’re in water in order to give us better grip. It was our body’s physiological way of giving us traction, according to the article.

After all these years, it all comes back to grip, again. Our feet are our connection to the ground; our hands, to one another. We have a hold on this life. Not with talons and claws, but with wiggly toes and pruning skin. We’re not securely strapped to this planet. We’re connected to it, simply, by touch.

~
Jody Brown is the author of Upside Down Kingdom, and is a multi-blogger, poet, and traveler. Her current writing projects, including her daily blog endeavor, #Project365, can be found at JodyBrown.com/writing. 

The Bottom Fell Out

The Bottom Fell OutThe bottom fell out this week.
(Who keeps an army of little butters in the fridge, anyway?)
Seize the day and enjoy a good belly laugh before cleaning up messes in the midst of chaos.

Some things just need to come first.

~
Author Jody Brown has been through the wringer this week. (As a child, her arm did go through the wringer of her Grandma’s washing machine, so that statement can be taken on authority.) Tomorrow is a new day. Have a good evening, All.

Color of Life

Color of LifeThe Internet today had a story about a woman who can see ten million colors, with her bare eyes. Imagine that, ten million colors.

When you think about it, we all see things so differently. I think of all the diverse personalities you can stuff into a party, a funeral parlor, a board meeting, or a dining room, and the way they will all have a different take on what’s really going on around them.

Imagine a gathering of people who all want to build a village. Imagine that they work separately, allowing each person to add their distinct flair. Would the village get built? Would the village come together? Or imagine that they work together, pulling their various visions into one, shared collaboration.

I think of little kids at the beach, building castles in the sand. I think of the way each castle will be completely different, based on the child’s vast imagination.

I think of strict housing plans, the way each house looks exactly the same as the last. Cookie cutter. Or are they? Does each of us see the houses in a different way? Because we don’t all look at the world around us with simple, rose-colored glasses. Each of us sees and interprets based on our own experience, and in trying times, we add emotional needs into that great mix, further painting the color scheme from plain or clear or bland, shades so unique, they could only belong to that particular moment in that specific time.

Ten million colors. I marvel at eyes that could see so much, eyes that could allow for so many variances, all in one world.

~
Jody Brown is the author of Upside Down Kingdom, and is a multi-blogger, poet, and traveler. Her current writing projects, including her daily blog endeavor, #Project365, can be found at JodyBrown.com/writing. 

Grasshopper in the Wind

Grasshopper post - status quoStatus quo is life as we know it, the present state of affairs, the norm, if you will. And, quite frankly, it can be a bit of a hoodwink.

Despite its stately Latin suit, status quo translates to “the state in which.” This begs the question: It’s the state in which what? What happens? Because just when you grow accustomed to the status quo, it changes. Just when you adapt to the change, it changes again or even reverts back to its original form. Status quo jumps around like a grasshopper in the wind. And we silly humans chase after it, trying to “maintain” it. Whatever it is.

Status quo has adapted to mean different things to different situations. In restaurants and hospitals, status quo is organized chaos. In marketing, it’s keeping things as they are, rather than seeking more. In business, they say it can kill you.

We’ve given status quo a magical and dangerous connotation of being something better or worse than where we are right now. We spend our time trying to reach it, or trying to avoid it. With all this movement, one can’t help but wonder: Is there a present anymore, outside of a yoga class? The concept of status quo is spiraling out of control.

So we go back to the beginning, and look at the Latin. And something becomes obvious: The present state of affairs is now. It’s today. It always was and always will be. Strive for more, or strive for less, but know that now is what we’re given. So make it count. Don’t take for granted that you can fix it tomorrow, or that you can set things right next time. Now is it. And “the state in which” is open ended.

~
Jody Brown is the author of Upside Down Kingdom, and is a multi-blogger, poet, and traveler. Her current writing projects, including her daily blog endeavor, #Project365, can be found at JodyBrown.com/writing. 

The Imp Called Hindsight

The Imp Called HindsightAnother look at signs today. Unlike yesterday’s signs, which were everywhere and unreadable, today I’m thinking about all the signs that go unseen until, if and when, you look behind you. These are the signs that are barely noticed, if noticed at all, in the present. It’s only in hindsight that they stand out clearly, which makes me wonder if we’re supposed to see them at all. Things like time, weather, a trusted safeguard, an offhand remark, a certain clarity of thinking, or even a strange lack of anything out of the ordinary. These things play tricks with the mind.

Hindsight after a tragedy makes a person think the signs were there all along. And maybe they were. But without the event itself, these signs alone don’t point the way to anything. Interpretation of clues points to several outcomes. But tricky Hindsight shows only one obvious and clear way, pointing to a present that could have been avoided all along, if only we were smart enough or paid attention enough, compared notes enough. If only we were enough. It’s all of this, and especially the guilt factor, that prompted a friend to say recently, “The next time I see that little imp, Hindsight, I’m going to kick him.”

Indeed, run, Hindsight. We’re on to your game. Life is full of signs. We’ll open our eyes, we’ll pay attention, we’ll add up the clues and live better lives. And then we’ll get some predictions wrong, and we’ll close our eyes and everything will still turn out fine. We’ll tempt Hindsight himself, and nothing will happen. We’ll learn from the past, but not by looking over our shoulder in the present.

So say your peace, say your love, share the last cookie, and get back to living. Today is ours.

~
Jody Brown is the author of Upside Down Kingdom, and is a multi-blogger, poet, and traveler. Her current writing projects, including her daily blog endeavor, #Project365, can be found at JodyBrown.com/writing. 

The Whole Written Lot

The Whole Written LotI’m a fan of reading the book before I see the movie. Similarly, I prefer to learn a fair amount of a language, my surroundings, landmarks, and culture in advance of a trip to get the most out of international travel. But, flexibility just to go with it and make it work is paramount when circumstances arise quickly.

A few years ago, on one such last-minute opportune adventure, I was in Germany and didn’t know much German at all. That’s when it suddenly occurred to me how much I love to read: when I couldn’t.

I discovered then that this love transcended books and newspapers and random articles to include reading road signs, billboards, directions, labels, nutritional facts, the whole written lot. Were these road signs telling me how many kilometers to the next town, or telling me how fast we were allowed to drive? Frustratingly, I had no idea. My crash course in German, otherwise known as practicing with my hairdresser, didn’t include the written language. (I knew words for please and thank you, bathroom, hotel, some numbers–what I considered the important stuff at the last minute.)

When I couldn’t read, I hunted for patterns in the words. I discovered words for Enter and Exit pretty readily, food items, train schedules and such, but otherwise, most was a blur. And I was off to the next place just as I started to crack the code.

When I got home, incidentally, I signed up for a German class, where those sought-after dots finally connected themselves. A little late perhaps, but not for the next adventure. There’s no statute of limitations on what’s next.

~
Jody Brown is the author of Upside Down Kingdom, and is a multi-blogger, poet, and traveler. Her current writing projects, including her daily blog endeavor, #Project365, can be found at JodyBrown.com/writing. 

Hurry Up and Wait

Hurry Up and WaitIf you’ve ever spent a day in an airport, you know the values of self-entertainment, copious patience, the ability to fall asleep sitting up or to sleep with one eye open or to ward off sleep altogether. You know the fun of people-watching, walking vs. standing on the moving walk, and counting tiles and carpet squares.

You discover your innate navigational skills and your ability to read the tiny, changing print on the teleprompter walls. You appreciate your flexibility to scan those TVs while removing or putting on your jacket, gripping your baggage, and clenching your flight number and seat assignment in your teeth.

You know what it is to feel you’re getting nowhere. You know what it is to watch the news going on in the world as you sit still. You know what it is to pay more for a cold sandwich than you did for your first car.

You know how to monitor your batteries on all devices, scout out the most convenient outlets, and you know when to give up and buy a paper book. You know how many steps it is to the nearest bathroom, and the one beyond that, too. You also know where everyone within a 50-foot radius of yourself is going, why, and the names of the people waiting for them on the other side of flight.

The airport brings strangers together for short spells to learn, adapt, and quietly endure one another’s quirks. It’s an oasis of happenstance. It’s a place where time speeds up and slows down, always against your will.

And then, to the lucky, your number comes up and you’re invited to break the cycle, break the bubble, break the surface, break the spell, break out. You walk the gangplank and you take flight. And when you arrive at your final destination, reconciled with time, you realize the world was going on all along and you missed it.

Or did you?

~
Jody Brown is the author of Upside Down Kingdom, and is a multi-blogger, poet, and traveler. Her current writing projects, including her daily blog endeavor, #Project365, can be found at JodyBrown.com/writing. 

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