My Own Kind of Pride Celebration – Juneteenth 2018

Though this year has been challenging in many ways, it has also been good. I’m having my own kind of pride celebration now. I’ve been blessed to have accomplished a lot of my life goals. After finishing my third book, I have been thinking about the next creative project. Do I start on book two of the series? Do I do the audiobooks I wanted to do? Or music? Music keeps playing into my heart and mind, perhaps it’s time for music to be created. But what about painting? Am I giving up on painting?

Bread & Wine – Watercolor

The truth I realized is that I paint when I am happy and content. Maybe that’s why people liked my paintings, they came from feeling loved and happy. It’s not that I am unhappy here on Beech Mountain, but I am still unsettled. Having lived here for almost a year, it is beginning to feel like home. I can’t say I am content, though I love the solitude.

One of the challenges I face as my art grows is how to balance the sacred and what some would call the profane of my life. I am a lesbian who is also Christian. For me, the lesbian part is as sacred as the church connected part. I have always been a religious person and I knew at an early age I was different. I didn’t know the word “lesbian” until I was older.

Once I learned the word, I can’t say I was proud of being one. Every time it was spoken during that time, it was in a condemning way or a way that sounded dirty. I wasn’t dirty or mean, just afraid. It’s only after decades of practicing saying that, “I am a lesbian” that I can say it without feeling my heart in my throat.

 

In today’s climate of hatred, I am cautious again. After being in a town where I was free to be who I am, I’ve felt I had to be more careful here. I didn’t know anyone on the mountain and for the longest time thought I had to be the only lesbian on the mountain. I’ve learned that I’m not, but like me, those who live here tend to keep to themselves. I’m okay with that. There is still comfort in knowing that there is someone who gets me on the mountain even if we aren’t close.

Passion Flower – Watercolor

Today I decided that I wanted to write about being proud of being a lesbian. It’s taken years of prayer and good counseling to get to the place where I can be proud of who I am instead of afraid of who I am. My goal in life has always been to serve G_d and one day to find the right person for me. After my recent divorce, I may have to accept that there is not a person for me. I am okay with that for the most part. We all have our moments. But back to my topic of being proud.

Growing up, we were discouraged from being proud in a braggart way. I’m glad of that. There was, however, a pride that was a family way of being. We were hard workers. We were smart and quick learners. None of us were (or are) perfect, but all of us are good, decent people. Just because I am a lesbian doesn’t make me any less of a good, decent, person.

 

People have accused me of things I’ve never even thought about doing. I will state again that I am of a religious mindset. Most of my thoughts are theological or musical when I’m not worried about hurting someone’s feelings. As I age, and my activities are limited due to health challenges, my thoughts turn to quality. I want to be better at writing, playing music, drawing or painting, living. I want to be good at living. This is something I can be proud of and exclaim to the world.



I am celebrating Pride Month in my own quiet way. I can’t get to the parades. My heart and mind are focused on what is happening in our political landscape for the immigrants right now. I want to find ways that I can encourage those who are still able to physically get involved and encourage the rest of us to keep heart.

 

A little bit of light will go a long way. Be proud of your light whoever you are, whatever color your light casts. You matter. I matter too. The more we embrace the goodness of each being, the better our world becomes. I hope you take time to listen to the Victor Wooten song below. His song is full of the good news of life and I believe it speaks my truth. I see God in you. I see God in me.

 

 

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Beech Mountain and a May Rain

The morning is rainy, but it is a pleasant May rain. The smells are the earthy smells of a summer rain. The birds still sing as though the sun still shone. A kettle for tea boils on the stove. The dog sleeps on the couch. Swishing sounds come through the open window as a car passes far below. The month of May moves quicker than usual it seems. Though, if I am honest with myself, so has this entire year. Not that I’ve lived on Beech Mountain an entire year yet, but if time continues to click by so fast, the anniversary of my move will be here in a flash and not a tick or a tock.

At this writing, I am pleased to have made it through my first winter in the East Coast’s highest town. The below zero temps and copious snows made it the best winter in many ways, and the worst in others. It wasn’t the worst winter I’ve lived through though. Tecumseh, OK still holds that record in my life. This winter, as I made a fire to keep pipes from freezing, I gave thanks for that winter in Tecumseh because I had learned how to keep a fire going.

The trees are finally greening out here. It seemed to take longer than when I lived in Sylva, but that is hours South of here and which means it’s much warmer. Even the Southern Appalachians got snow this year. Beech Mountain had a snow in May in 2017, so there’s still that. I’m not worried though. My Fiat made it through the winter without ever having to use the tire chains.

 

When I first traded my 4WD Rogue for the Fiat 500, my friends made fun of my choice and warned me it would always be in the shop. The joke wasn’t going to be about my car, because it is a new Fiat. They had to be thinking of the old ones. My way of debunking their joke was to change the meaning of FIAT to this, Fine In Any Terrain. I have had to replace my windshield wipers, but they did a ton of work in the short time I’ve lived here.

A view from my Fiat this winter.

Beech Mountain is a dusty place. Partly it is the fact that there are a lot of dirt roads up here. The dirt roads are well maintained, but they are still dirt. Add the wind to the mixture of elements and even if one didn’t live on a dirt road like me, dust is bound to swirl. The dirt road in Tecumseh, well, that prepared me for the worst case of anything. This dirt road near my condo seems like a dream road.

 

How can a dirt road be a dream road? First you have to know that I was raised in the country. I learned to love dirt roads growing up. The first best dirt road led to my

Parking for the Orchard Falls Hike.

Grandma and Grandpa Whitley’s farm. During the summer when things got dry, even rolling up the windows (before air conditioned cars) to keep from dust getting into the car became an adventure. Dad wouldn’t drive to fast, but he also didn’t want dirt in his cars.

 

My second favorite dirt road led down behind the house where I grew up. As kids, our parents and the Thompson family would often walk that dirt road to my Aunt Imogene’s house in the summer. There were times we rode bikes and when dad could hitch the pony to the cart, some would ride in the cart. Down that dirt road lived the Hatleys. They always had a dog that scared the daylights out of me, but they were always so nice and it was the only place I was brave enough to go sell items for school fund raisers.

My sister and I loved to ride bikes on that dirt road. Once we learned how to get past the Hatley’s dog safely, we kept that road busy. My sister and I both loved nature and bike riding. We would ride to the Bull Hill area or to Aunt Imogene’s and back. We often raced down the last part of the hill as though we were motorcyclists in some race. After my sister had a bad crash (this was before bicycle helmets), we were more cautious in the downhill races. We still loved this dirt road and took it anytime we could.

Barn – Watercolor by JRobin Whitley 2014

 

The thing I love about the dirt roads here is that in addition to being well kept, they are good for walking. As a person who is in constant pain, one of the most recommended activities for such disabilities is walking. Yet, walking on concrete or asphalt worsens the pain. In Sylva, I tried to keep physical by walking up and down our road near the house. The asphalt only aggravated the pain and there wasn’t enough of a shoulder to walk on the shoulder of a road.

 

Here on Beech Mountain, in add

Deck of the SkyBar at 5506′ Beech Mountain.

ition to copious dirt roads, there are copious trails. There are places I could still bike if I had the balance to do so. There are mountain bikers and touring bikers who travel regularly on the mountain. The Beech Mountain Resort changes the ski lift to a bike lift in the summer. This week I found a way to get up to the SkyBar so I can attend one of the Mile-High Yoga classes.

 

There are many ways I can stay active and healthy here, while also being in tune with the ways my disabilities limit me. Just because I’m disabled doesn’t mean I am dead. I keep saying that to remind myself that there is still a lot I CAN do. I’m so excited to live here as the year begins because I want to hike more trails as I can. The beauty of living here full-time means that I can hike on my good days, but on days when I must stay inside, it’s like staying in a tree-house. There are always many ways I can just BE here on the mountain in peace.

 

Falls Trail

 

Rain is falling down my chimney and hitting on something that sounds like a bell chiming. It is raining hard now, but not a downpour. The birds have tucked into their nests and houses, only chirping randomly. The clock ticks peacefully on the wall. I pick up a book and a cup of coffee. Then, as I walk past my guitar, I change my mind and decide to sing a song of the blessing of warm rain.

 

יַעֲרֹ֤ף כַּמָּטָר֙ לִקְחִ֔י תִּזַּ֥ל כַּטַּ֖ל אִמְרָתִ֑י כִּשְׂעִירִ֣ם עֲלֵי־דֶ֔שֶׁא וְכִרְבִיבִ֖ים עֲלֵי־עֵֽשֶׂב׃

May my discourse come down as rain, my speech distill as the dew, like showers on young growth, like droplets on the grass (Deut. 32:2).

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Thoughts on Being

Living alone on Beech Mountain is certainly a process of living in the now. One of the important practices in meditation is learning to just be present to the moment. Thoughts on being are prevalent in all religious traditions. NPR even has a great radio show called On Being with Krista Tippett. She interviews great speakers from around the world to talk about being.

In my experience, being can be challenging if it means I must sit still. Sitting still is a type of challenge for me since I am a wiggly person. Since getting older, I also move to try and deal with the pain that is constantly

Grayson – He was a very good cat!

present in my body. For the best example of what I mean by merely being, think of a cat.  I no longer have a cat, but our cat, Grayson was great at being. I often called him my Buddha cat. It always seemed that when I was having problems paying attention to “being” instead of “doing”, Grayson was sitting at the window merely observing the world as it passed by.

My wife was better at being still than I was. But, learning to be present to the moment, as meant here, is more than being still. Just as Grayson was able to be all cat in his “being”, our being means to be all you and for me, all me without trying to be someone else. It means being present to all that makes up the person you are (not who you want to be). The only person who can know if one is good at that type of being is the individual.

A new part of my “being” has been very hard for me to accept. It is accepting my physical limitations as I accept my physical illness and challenge. Yet, as I continued to push and try to be who I was in the past, those actions only caused more harm to my body, peace of mind, and relationships with others.

Being a spiritual person has meant that in my life, I paid more attention to the interior process than the body. Constantly working to train the mind, heart, and soul to be godly was my vocation. That vocation played out in music and church work. I also enjoyed softball, biking, and hiking. Though competitive, there was no interest in harming myself to win.

Because of being attuned to my body, I thought that meant I took care of my body. Though I did in many ways, one of the most acceptable ways to destroy one’s health is also one of the most rewarded ways of destroying health. Many call it work and for me, it turned into workaholism.

Growing up, I knew at an early age I was a lesbian, though I didn’t know the word for it yet. I only knew that my crushes were on girls and I dreamed of growing up to marry a woman. I did have crushes on a few boys and those were the ones I spoke of aloud. But in my childhood dreams, I was the boy and I always had a girlfriend. That wasn’t happening as a child, but it was a dream. I learned quickly that I had to find ways to divert attention from myself. Luckily for me, work did the trick. It was also a good thing that I had a good singing voice. As I began to sing at school and at church, it seemed to be a good cover.

Many will ask what this has to do with “being” and I’m getting there. During this same time, I had always been a religious kid too. I was merely interested in God and the Bible without understanding the religious condemnation at the time. All these years later, it’s become clear that some of my natural gifts combined with my physical and intellectual capacity for work empowered me to become my own wizard of oz. The only thing is it caused me harm.

Busy all the time means that someone is ignored. Always on the go means several things: not eating right, missing quality time with friends and family, waste of natural resources. Sometimes a body has to stop. Rest. Rest is the part that we Americans want to leave out of the equation for happiness. I don’t mean vacations that require more money, time, or travel. I mean sleeping. Unwinding. Reading. Being quiet. What many call unplugging. Yet, many of us are afraid of unplugging because in that place of solitude and stillness we come face to face with who we really ARE.

There are some things that can be changed about who I am. I can cut my hair, wear different clothes or makeup, ink my skin. Yet those are all exterior changes to the body. The body is a temple for the source of our being. The changes we can make to our body are merely adornments. Not taking time to rest or listen to our heart and mind can cause physiological changes. Those are not the ones we want or need. What does it mean to be you? What makes you afraid to be you? How are you creating smokescreens to divert YOUR attention away from who you really are?

 

One of the things this place on Beech Mountain is not a thing, but a place. I have a place where I can be quiet and simply BE. Even the little town below us has a sticker with the word on it.  This sacred place allows me to let the dust of the world settle and see what remains. Every time I can be patient with myself and have courage, these things remain: G_d, spirit, music. Another way of saying that for me is faith, hope, and love. I must also admit to myself in those moments that there is an essence of life that is uniquely Robin. G_d does not want that essence to change for Robin was created for a divine purpose whether others recognize it or not.

 

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Robin will be giving a talk about her book and the power of community on May 5th in Albemarle, NC. Please join the conversation at Second Street Sundries at 1:00 p.m.

PayPal.Me/RobinsRadio

 

 

 

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Not Dead Yet – The Disabled Hiker

 

Start of the trail to Crab Orchard Falls.

I wave at the girl coming down the path to assure that she saw my dog, Birdie. While Birdie won’t pull me down, the large dog with her could easily pull her off the path and down the steep hill. She nods an acknowledgement. I ask her if the path is the one to the water falls. She ignores me. I see she has ear buds in so it could be she didn’t hear me. It saddens me that she missed out on the beautiful sounds of nature while she hikes.

I decide that me and Birdie will follow that path anyway. It is the likely correct path to the Crab Orchard Falls. There are signs but they are pointed in strange directions. Perhaps some prank by a youth walking by, perhaps some animal brushed against it for a scratch. There are bears and deer in the area. A sign would make a good scratcher

Birdie is being a pill today and pulling harder than ever. She woke up on the bossy side of the bed. At first I hooked her to my bag so she would have a longer leash. We didn’t walk far before it was clear that she would need to be tied around my hips so she would know who was really in charge. Also, maybe she would help me walk farther. I used an old ski pole to stay balanced. Once everything is hooked safely, we start up the hill.

Immediately I had to turn to take a photo of the fields below us. The snow had kept the skies so gray. Then the rain kept it grayer still and the fog thicker than pea soup. It was nice to have a clear day. Streisand was right, that on a clear day you can see forever. At least, the beauty of this day reaches beyond the ordinary.

Below me is the Valle Crucis Conference Center

 

When I first began having problems with balance and pain management, I was discouraged that I would have to give up hiking. I love to hike and always have. I learned how to hike with asthma and did fine for years. When my marriage broke up because of my disability I argued that “I am not dead yet!” Now that I’ve had to move and the air is cooler, that turns into a motto of sorts. Whenever I get down, I remind myself that I am not dead yet and change my attitude.

Discovering that there are tons of trails on Beech Mountain and also near my church, I’ve made up my mind that I will find a way to hike. At least if I die on a trail, I will die happy!

That being said, my goal is always to stay well. I’m learning these helpful things.

  1. It’s okay to go slow no matter what the dog says (or the humans who might hike with you). When I walk too fast my arthritis complains more. It can also trigger asthma.
  2. Stop and rest along the way. Each time I stop, I also look back the way I came to ask if I think I could make it back. When I first tried to hike with my current disabilities, I always forgot the hike back. There were times I was in so much pain or my asthma was scary because I forgot this vital piece of information – do a health check to make sure you can go back the way you came. If you are unsure, it is better to turn back and go home. The trail will be there for another day. At least you showed up! That is the first step to getting back on the trail.
  3. Be okay with people passing you. Yes, it is awkward at times. When I first hiked Waterrock Knob in Waynesville, I had to sit down on the rocks and sometime the very path where I had to walk. This meant for people in a hurry to go up or down the path, they had to watch me struggle to get up and out of the way. Yes, it was awkward for us both, but that day I knew I had to make the hike. It was the first time I tried to hike and the first Father’s Day without my dad. There were some sixth graders who passed me and were rather rude. They were sixth graders. Who cares if they laugh or make eyes? They are the sixth graders, and not us. It’s okay to let people pass you or see you sitting.
  4. This actually should be #1 on this list. I leave it in this section because it goes with today’s hike. Don’t forget your water! My meds make my mouth dry. No, I don’t want to have to take a leak while on the trail, but you don’t want to be parched either. Besides, your dog might also need a sip. Today Birdie and I were both too thirsty to keep hiking.
  5. Enjoy the close up, detailed view. We don’t know how much we miss by simply hiking up to a view and then back down to our busy lives. By stopping and sitting, catching my breath, doing a health check up, I have been amazed at the beauty that the fast hikers are missing. Slowing down and having to stop every so often has not lessened the pleasure of hiking, but heightened and deepened the joy. Don’t miss the beauty at hand.
  6. It’s okay if you don’t reach the destination. Yes, it may be disappointing, but the goal is to remain active and still get to hike. Today I was bummed that I couldn’t make it to the waterfall. Although the path evened out for a time, it turned rocky and started uphill again. I stopped, looked behind me and asked if I could easily make it down. Then I looked up the hill and knew I couldn’t go on. Also, by stopping, I could feel the pain in my feet throbbing. By pausing, I could feel how labored my breathing was and realized it was too hot for me to go further without having an asthma attack. So I turned and started back down.
  7. Focus on what you DID do rather than what you couldn’t do.
  8. Remember that life is about being on a journey and that at the top is just another view. There is a view before your eyes that you can appreciate. Lichen, rocks, trees, all have interesting colors and patterns. Have you ever really looked at that beauty before? Have you ever seen so many shades of green or brown?
  9. When you get back to the start of the trail, DO congratulate yourself because the hike was hard if you had to turn back. You got the full effect for your health. AND now you know what you need to do in order to prepare to hike further the next time.
Even the start of the trail has a beautiful view.

I asked a new friend to hike some this summer on some of the trails here on Beech Mountain. I would love to hike Linville and Grandfather Mountain and I know I could not hike safely alone in those places. I make sure to tell people that I hike slowly and often have to stop. That way they are free to say no while we are not on the trail.

Hiking is about being out in nature for me more than it is about finding a view. I love views of course, but more than anything I love the sound of water flowing, birds singing, the rustle of leaves in the wind. Nature is good for the soul. Get out and hike, the distance doesn’t matter! Be good to your soul and get out!

“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity”  ~ John Muir, Our National Parks

 

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A friend of mine who also battles arthritis and fibromyalgia reminded me of her cool walker that helps her still be able to hike. Check out the Trionic Walkers on FB if you need more than a cane.

 

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A New Year of Creativity – 2018

 

© 2017 Skyview by JRobin Whitley

Creativity is my passion. At the writing of this blog, my life dreams are coming true with three published books, a CD, and more creative projects becoming manifest. Each year of my life has been filled with poetry, reflection, music, meditation, and all of the good that life has to offer. This new year promises more of this goodness.

January 1 started out with guitar work. Then I found a song I had started writing posted on one of my recorders. Got some great photos of the snow that happened on New Years Eve. The wind wasn’t blowing that night so I didn’t exactly “ring in the new year” but it’s coming into my life with promise and hope.

Chimes

This will be my first year without my partner and wife of 12 years. In many ways, it saddens me. I’ve always believed in true love and feel that she was my one. We can’t change situations or other people though. We can only change our attitudes and viewpoints. That being said, my disabilities have shown me how precious and fleeting life is. We mustn’t waste one minute for wishing for the past.

One of the things I’ve learned since my dad died, is that in looking at the past, when love has happened, love remains. All the bad of the past fades in the light of love that shines on. Love lasts when nothing else does.

One of the hardest challenges for many people however is learning to love the self. This is not in the manner of narcissisim, which is an entirely selfish and self-serving love. To love oneself means to live the life that makes you glad to be alive. Be the person you want to wake up beside of in the morning, because no matter what, the one person who is always there is you. Allow yourself to be okay with who you are.

 

“Trust yourself. Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life.”
~Golda Meir

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