Monday, February 3, 2014

Napoleon and Illya

About once or twice a year I receive an email from my sister in Australia.
I just turned 54 years old and have not seen Lisa since I was 18 years old.
She was only 13.
Lisa has two grown sons just as I had two grown sons.  
I remember us emailing regularly for a short while when her boys were troublesome young teenagers and while mine were (finally) less troublesome young men coming to an end of their teenage years.
I could empathize with what she was going through because I had just found my way through those challenging years.  As I told Lisa at the time (somewhat, but not completely tongue-in-cheek) "They'll find their way through these years and will come out at the other end just fine.  You however, will be scarred for life".
She asked me for my address a few weeks ago and I gave it to her.
A few days ago I unexpectedly received a package from Australia in the mail.
When I opened it I found myself looking down at yellowed newspaper clippings of a young woman that used to be me.
Newspapers clippings of an 18 year old girl.
Stories about karate competitions and a marathon I ran and awards I had won.
As LC and I drove the short distance from the mailboxes to the house I scanned through the clippings quickly in muted awe of pictures and stories I hadn't seen in...........forever.
And two pictures of my Sean when he was a baby.
I looked at them briefly but only briefly.
Putting everything wordlessly back in the large envelope I walked into the house, threw the envelope on the kitchen table and haven't looked at the contents since.
It's strange to have them.  To see them again.  To think about that person being me.....................

One evening a few days ago I walked with Kory.
It was not long before dark and so I kept her on leash as we wandered aimlessly around this quiet, tiny town.
As we got to the back of town I automatically looked up (as I always do) to see what the buttes in front of me were doing.
I had been deeply introspective.
One of my sisters had died of breast cancer when she was 28.  My oldest son had died from an enlarged heart when he was 28.  My youngest son is now 28 and will not be 29 until late November.
Be alright Chris.  Be alright Baby.  
Please stay alright...........

I had been walking with Kory for quite a while, wandering up and down one street after another, not seeing anything around me aside from a gentle and occasional reminder that my dog takes great pleasure in these outings that we regularly take together.
As we approached the back edge of town I was pulled kicking and screaming out of introspection by the sight in front of me.
This sight................
I was startled by the brilliant colors of the world, and stood in one place while slowly turning in one direction and then another, looking more closely at what I was only now seeing for the first time.
A sky that was on fire.
After taking in the pinks and purples in one direction and the yellows and oranges in the other I looked down at my dog who was sniffing her own tracks on the road and was completely oblivious to the beauty of the desert.
I smiled at the sight of her, rubbed one of her crazy ears, stood upright again and looked from the sky to the solitary behemoth that is Big Butte...................
I was a very shy, unathletic and overweight girl of 12.  The person who was always chosen last for PE sports teams.  The person who was terrible at team sports - couldn't throw, couldn't catch, couldn't dribble, couldn't all- the-other-activities we did in gym classes.
And then one day I decided that I wanted to learn judo because my favorite TV show was The Man From UNCLE and the two agents featured in the show were judo experts
A good enough reason I suppose, when you're only 12 years old.
My mother enrolled me in a jazz ballet class because judo wasn't "lady like".
I gave it a shot the first class and of course, as with every other physical activity I had ever done, I was terrible at it and I hated every moment of it.
Next door there was a judo class and after that one terrible experiment in dancing, whenever my mother dropped me off I would skip the jazz ballet and head next door to watch the judo.
Within a few weeks my mother found out, dis-enrolled me from the dreaded dancing class and enrolled me in judo.
I loved it from the first moment I stepped onto the mats.
And for the first time in my life I found something that I was not only physically good at but also something that actually gave me direction.  That inspired me.  That excited me.  
Over time the dojo (gymnasium where I trained) became a second home to me.  In many complicated ways it became a first home to me.
I loved the skills that I was learning that seemed to come so easy, loved the feeling of competence I felt, loved the competition that gave me an outlet from the aggression that I felt and that had (up until then) no outlet.
I came third in my first official judo competition.  Came second in my second judo competition.  And never lost after that................
I had been training and competing in judo for a few years and continued to love the sport.
I trained a few nights a week at a police athletic club and my instructors were wonderful, caring individuals who were as dedicated to me as I was to them.
By the end of my second year of training my instructors told me that I needed to leave them and go train at another, larger police athletic club where I could receive more advanced training.
If I wanted to become more competitive I would have to move on.  
Very reluctantly I did.
It was a good move.  A much larger club.  Higher ranked instructors.  More training partners.  A higher level of training and competition.  
At the same time that I was training a few evenings each week, I was always training two afternoons a week at the high school I attended that also had a judo club............

One day when I was about 15 I participated in a martial arts demonstration at the high school.
After our club had done their little demonstration a Japanese man in his late 30's took to the mats and gave a karate demonstration.
He was (as the saying goes) straight off the boat, could speak very little English, and he was highly skilled.
I watched him going through various forms and breaks, and couldn't believe what I was seeing.
I was mesmerized by his skill, his strength, his stamina, his grace, his fierceness.
The sheer strength of the aura that surrounded this man.
I was hooked.  I wanted to do this.
While still continuing regularly in judo I searched for this instructor in the large city of Brisbane in Australia, and the also-large Valley which bordered the capital.
No luck.  I didn't know his name and couldn't find him.  Nobody seemed to know where to find him.
And so I joined the largest karate club in Brisbane and suddenly found myself seriously training in two separate martial arts, and my days became a non-stop blur of studying and training.
I loved karate.  I was also very good at it, was strong, was precise, learned fast, was a dedicated student.
As much as I loved it, and as I was slowly getting one belt after another as I continued to learn, I wasn't entirely happy with the club.
It was a commercial club.  
A very big money making conveyor belt of a club and I was one of the masses (unlike the judo club I was in, that was big but not huge, and where everyone - instructors and students - were all very close).
Between being a school student, and being a student of both judo and karate, I was living a very busy life and that was fine with me.  
About a year after I began karate training I was walking down a street in the Valley and saw a huge chalkboard leaning against the wall beside a building entrance.
On the board was written the word KARATE and an arrow pointing up the stairs.
Impulsively I climbed the stairs curious to see this new karate dojo.  A small office to the left and a huge wooden floor, and the instructor I had seen at the high school the year before.  In the middle of the floor, he was training by himself.
I stood silently watching him for a few minutes.  God, he was good.
A 5th degree black belt at the time, he had been sent to represent the Japan Karate Association and expand karate in Australia.
I quit the commercial club that same day, and signed up with the instructor who by this time could speak a little better English...................
We have been in a continuous cycle of snowing and melting for the past few days, and NOAA tells me that it will be cold and grey and snowy for the next five or six days.
We are at the point in winter right now that if we get a day or two of mild and sunny weather I begin to seriously think about spring.
This coming week reminds me that spring is still a seemingly long-way off, but a few days ago it was very beautiful outside.
On such a wonderful day LC and I took Kory to her favorite hang-out by the left-over hay bales on the outskirts of town.....................
Click on the picture to enlarge it.
Kory blends so seamlessly with the terrain that she is difficult to see............
Sleep is difficult nowadays, when for my whole life sleep has always come easily and readily.
So many nights now I toss and turn and my brain runs as freeway speed, moving rapid fire from one thing to the next.
Moving rapid fire from songs that maddeningly won't stop playing in my head, to the mundane and frivolous, to the dire and heart breaking and then back to the ridiculous again.
Rinse and repeat and repeat...............
I bought this Marilyn Monroe tin sign from someone in Blackfoot a few months ago not really sure what I was going to do with it or where I was going to put it, but it was cheap enough and I liked it so I bought it anyway.
Although I liked it, there was really no place in the house where it fit, and so I asked my Mountain Boy if he wanted to have it.
The graphic is an early Marilyn picture and she is advertising liquid makeup.  
Given that, I wasn't sure that LC would actually want the picture, but was Marilyn for goodness sakes and surely he could find a place for Marilyn in the garage.
After it was up LC looked at me and proudly announced and joked that he had just nailed Marilyn to the wall.
Nature looks dead in winter because her life is gathered into her heart. She withers the plant down to the root that she may grow it up again fairer and stronger. She calls her family together within her inmost home to prepare them for being scattered abroad upon the face of the earth. ~Hugh Macmillan, "Rejuvenescence," The Ministry of Nature, 1871

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