Soar…

I jumped.

I’ve been wanting to jump for a while, but so many thoughts rattle around in my head.

What if I fail?

Starve? 

What if it all falls apart?

There is no money saved, no safety net.

No, I jumped off a cliff of safety, of comfort with full intention of soaring on thermal currents and using everything with in me to strengthen my wings…

And honestly? That cliff? That supposable comfort zone? It’s a death trap. Like the frog put into warm water that slowly goes to boiling, that was what that comfort zone was for me.

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It was time to leap.

I read so often where people want to make that leap of leaving their miserable 9-5 that they have plodded along in for decades, to starting their own business doing what they love. But fear of losing that so-called security keeps them on the hamster wheel, going nowhere.

It is scary. There are bills to pay, people to feed, living expenses.  And if you are like me, single, no partner security…it’s all that much more harder.

Fear…very present at the moment. But the feeling of being trapped where I was never going to get a decent raise, benefits, future, or have any of my talents appreciated, well that out weighed everything.

I think I might have a $100 in my account. It’s already been claimed to pay several bills that way exceed that amount.

Am I worried?

No.

I know how to overcome. I am a survivor of many things and though my knees are scarred, my fingernails are torn, my face is tear-stained, I will stand up and move forward. Somedays I limp…other days I collapse in a corner and cry. But I will get up. The most important incentive and strength that I have comes from God. It’s not from me. It’s from what He has put in me, the talents, the strength, the creativity, that I tap into. I partner with Him. My prayers go up, I lay out my day, and He walks me through it. He has given me so much favor.

Free fall with no parachute, no safety net is terrifying and exhilarating. It’s where I am at right now. And I truly believe that some things cannot happen until you “close a door” so you can walk through the next one. Since given my notice I have started to get more phone calls and bookings for one of my businesses. I have had beautiful support from others, and am building a clientele that is steady and consistent.

Life is too precious to be in a  space of negativity. I am embracing this journey with gusto, pain and all, because the only way to that next level of freedom is LEAPING.

Free fall…

Soar

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Loop to loop

Fly.

Don’t want that, want this.

SO, I have these ideas swirling around in my head. Ideas to be financially independent, ideas for art projects, and learning new things with graphics. Unfortunately they bang into things like the feeling I am jumping on a hamster wheel going nowhere, every time I clock into my day job. You know, that one we do to pay the bills and be responsible.

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I want to be responsible..I just don’t want to jump through hoops, count lots of money that is not mine, or work for people who want my loyalty, but will fire me without a hiccup in their day because that’s what is best for them.

I was just “voluntold” (a word my lovely pastor is fond of using!) to work all night with inventory. It is a shift that was volunteer only. I did NOT volunteer, but found myself on the list.

I want to be irreplaceable. I want to be so good at what I love and what I do, that my work space is unique and welcoming. I can only do this if I work for ME.

Part of me wants to quit my job and launch out on my own. But. But. But.

I have no back up money to do so. The rent still needs to be paid, among other things, and I am not going to drown in bills. The plan is in place, I am moving forward, albeit slowly, but moving I am. I am NOT in a happy place, that’s for sure. But in that time, I am learning what I do NOT want in my life. And that can be just as important as knowing what I do want.

I hate to be confined. I hate being told what I can not do, just because another can’t do it. So dumb. It took me so long to learn that lesson. I was told by others what I could not do, and didn’t realize it til later it’s because they had no vision and could not see what I saw. Why are people so scared of another’s talents? I never get that…

Then I have this problem with time. When I have time to paint or write, I spend it staring at the wall, spacing off and lost in my dream world. Time is lost, never to be brought back. I could have had a book or two written by now…

coulda woulda shoulda

Not worth thinking bout. I have today. Tomorrow, I am back on that wheel, spinning and spinning, going nowhere. Just trying to get thru another 8 hours of quagmire.

 

 

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Scrubbed

Scrubbed

Trash in the street.

Tossed under trucks.

Muddied and torn.

Picked up by the wind.

Flung in the gutter.

I am.

Gust of frigid air catches it again.

Bending backwards, forwards, sideways, upside-down

Crazy.

Whipped around, and around, blinded, ripped, bleeding

Trash in the street.

I am.

Once a pretty picture.

Drawn by a child’s hand.

Now stained with dog shit

Muddy boot prints.

Passed over and over and over

Again, by cars, buses, trucks.

Forgotten.

I am.

You trampled me.

Scrub scrub scrub SCRUB!

Can’t scrub the pain away.

I am.

Numb.

I am.

Gone.

I am.

Scrubbed.

Glass

Glass

Shards of glass

under my skin

So much pain

don’t touch me

I’m on fire

hurts so deep

Bleeding in a million places

No one knows

No one sees

My bleeding soul

Trails of tears

Oh God

You know

You know

Only You know

My heartache

My brokenness

Trying to hold myself

together

So I don’t spill out

Keening, wailing inside

Mourning sweet love

Wanting to see you

Touch you

Yet afraid

Cut off, isolated

with my pain

So much together

So much shared

Now deleted and thrown away

Hide

 deep down

where the pain is

Unstoppable…coming

My hands go up

to hold back

the crashing force

that’s coming

when I see you

maybe

maybe

For the last time

In a long while

Can’t defend

Against this tide

that comes and

swells

and thrashes me

Oh God

You know

You know

Only You know

Am I a fool?

Should this not have happened?

To love that deep

And intensely

and forbidden

Cost me so much

Shards of glass under my skin

So

so much pain

So much

Don’t touch me

Snake in the Grass?

Boa in the grass in our yard

Boa in the grass in our yard

So, yes, snakes. I happen to really like them. In fact, the whole reason I went to Costa Rica in the first place was because I worked as a volunteer at the Bronx Zoo with their reptile house. It was my job to feed and clean out the cages of all the non potential dangerous species there. The zoo had quite a lot of critters that were not always on display. I got to work with gavials, a very interesting Indian species, found here:

http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/reptiles/gavial.html ,

monitor lizards, anacondas, a wide variety of turtles, lizards, crocs….SO MUCH. I fed the Chinese Alligators gold fish, made salads for 5 ft long iguanas that ran around my legs as enthusiastic as dogs for their dinner, and brought massive salads to Aldabra Tortoises, weighing in at about 400 lbs. It was normal for me to be in a room, cleaning out cages of rainbow boas, anacondas and different pythons, with a row of cages of spitting cobras behind me. Yeah, I don’t have a problem with snakes. Back at my apartment, I had nine. In my menagerie were 3 boas, a ball python, Asian vine snake, 2 corn snakes and 2 milk snakes. The Asian vine snake was particularly interesting because its eyes are shaped like keyholes and it was also a rear fanged, mildly poisonous chap. It never bit me. Other snakes had and I think I have been bitten about 11 times, mostly by boas and usually at feeding time.

Living in the jungles of Costa Rica was no big deal for me with the critters. Having children did cause my momma senses to kick up several notches and as most people around the world do, I raised my children learning to respect and not touch. It was just a little different; in the states one might teach a child about not going into the street or to play with matches. I taught mine not to go near this guy….

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This is a 16 ft or so salt water crocodile that was sunbathing at our place. Quite alarming especially when it would snap its mouth close several times, a sound like gunshots going off. Guess it was getting ready to go catch some very unlucky prey. My ex is a fisherman, and he would clean the fish at our dock. We had a sink and a plank over the water where he did this and all the fish guts/heads would be tossed into the river. It was normal to see about 5 pairs of eyes reflecting back red at us. These were the caimans and the crocodiles that were like Pavlov’s dogs, salivating when they heard the water from the sink hit the river below. We were about 5 feet above the surface, so never felt in danger of our dumpster divers.

Our children knew all about being careful. My son would inform me of eyelash vipers in trees where he was playing. Usually, his dad would collect them and let them loose into the forest where they belonged.

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This is one that was hanging out on our porch. The interesting thing about these is that they come in three colors, which is not normal for a species. They can be bright banana yellow or a mossy green that blends perfectly onto the trunk of trees…Another valid lesson: “DON’T PUT YOUR HANDS ON THE TREES!!!” In Spanish, they are called “Dormilonas” or Sleeping Beauty because they will stay in the same tree for days. A favorite spot for them is the heliconia flowers where they wait for humming birds. I highly recommend http://www.fogdenphotos.com/dbm.html They have some amazing photos of an eyelash viper in the bright yellow color phase, striking out at a rufous-tailed hummingbird.

Sometimes, in the late evening, heart wrenching cries would be heard. One evening I heard what sounded like a cat mewling and crying. I went out to investigate and came upon this disturbing sight. Felt really bad for the little frog, but nature rules out there…

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I’ve had snakes slither cross the floor of my house…actually it was 5 snakes and my only guess is that the first one was a female and the other 4 were horny males trying to be first.

There are several species of poisonous snakes other than the eye-lash viper in Tortuguero, Costa Rica. There were bushmasters, Fer-de-lances (called Terciopelo in Spanish which means velvet due to their beautiful pattern.), other pit vipers, and coral snakes. I have had friends that have gone through the agony of a snake bite. One gentleman, Rapha,  was closing his wooden shutter before heading to bed, not realizing that an eyelash viper was curled up on the sill. At that time there was no way out of there other than by motorboat and he had to be driven in the pitch black to the nearest hospital, three hours away. I am happy to say  that he survived with no health issues after getting the proper treatment.

At one point I raised chickens for their eggs. I had a little coop and would go out daily to collect the eggs. Hens will make a certain clucking noise when they lay, so I knew there were eggs to be picked up. I was surprised to find none. I thought, maybe an opossum, but there were no tracks. This baffled me for days until one day I ran over when I heard the hen’s cluck and found a big boa sucking down the freshly laid eggs!! He was promptly removed and dropped off on the other side of the river.

I guess it’s a good thing that I am not phobic about snakes and other funky wildlife that surrounded me in and out of my home all those years. Don’t get me started on bugs. And, yes, I like them too!

Sea Turtles

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Female turtle coming up for air off the coast of Tortuguero

Back in 1985, I went to Tortuguero, Costa Rica to tag sea turtles. I really had no idea what that meant.  No, I did not swim after them in their water world, like you might think from the photo I have put up.  This was taken out in the ocean, while fishing for Kingfish. The turtle is coming up for air, sometimes in a love grip with her mate. They stay right off the coast from June-November, the females making their way to the beaches of Tortuguero and other towns up and down the coast to lay their eggs under the secrecy of the night. Ah, Tortuguero….known as Turtle Bogue by the old timers…Such a wealth of life, hardship, and hidden treasures.

So turtle tagging, was done on the beach. Tortuguero is the biggest nesting beach for the green sea turtles in the Caribbean. I went there at 21 years old, to participate in one of the oldest data collecting researches being conducted at the time. One of the turtles that I tagged had first come up in 1968, making her estimated age in her 60’s. Tagging turtles involved putting a tag on the front flipper, usually while the turtle is laying her eggs. While they are laying their 120 or so eggs, they are focused on what they are doing and we would try to tag them as they were finishing up. Tagging a turtle heading back to the ocean is extremely challenging as they weigh anywhere from 350-500 lbs, can bite, and are not very happy about being clamped with a tag. Their flipper also has a claw on it, and getting swiped with it hurts like a bitch. However, the tagging program has brought clarity to tracking their progress once they leave the beach and understanding their behavior. The turtles are around 35 years old when they reach maturity. For those first 35 years in the ocean, not much is known about where they go. Tagging them helps researchers and scientists track the female turtles movements in the course of their lives.

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Tortuguero beach that stretches for 27 miles

 When I first went to Tortuguero, the villagers numbered about 100. It was a small community of a few families who had settled in the area because of the turtle. You see, the turtle tastes exquisite. Yes, I said it. And yes, I have eaten plenty of turtle. It was the way of life for the people who lived there. My husband at the time was one of the people who was native born and grew up hunting and fishing to survive. In the mid 80’s, the community was allowed three turtles a week that were divided among the families. With no refrigeration, people salted or smoked the meat for later, and prepared tantalizing stews with fresh yucca, hot peppers, and the stock made from coconut milk.

To. Die. For.

My friends up here get on my case for heading down to Central America as a tree hugging, SAVE THE TURTLE, bright eyed conservationist, only to come back eating turtle, iguana, wild pig, tespisquintle, among other things. But, I lived there 24/7, as the locals did. There were no other North Americans, tourists, supermarkets, restaurants, electricity. You know, when in Rome….do as the Romans did…and all that. So I did, and was given a very rich and in-depth education about jungle life.

Now a days, turtles are NOT given to the villagers, and have been a great source of income in the tourist trade. Not as a meal, but as a tourist attraction to see the turtles come up and lay their eggs.  Most people living there work with the now 10 or more hotels, as guides to see the turtles and the inhabitants of the rainforest that comes to the edge of the beach. The village is now over 2500 people, mostly from Nicaragua. There are plenty of restaurants, supermarkets, electricity…There is no need to hunt, but that doesn’t really stop people from doing so. It’s their culture, the old time, the way it was…we all want to remember the good times of precious moments we experience in our lives. The past traditions of Tortuguero are symbols of a lost community and family life style. Preparing and eating turtle stew is a travel log for the people of Tortuguero, that I was very blessed to be able to experience.

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Turtle tracks seen from plane

On Painting…

I have alway been artistic, although it took me a long time to accept calling myself an artist. I think my mind blocked it because I am not formally trained. However, as the years passed, and I made a living using my artistic skills, it was easier to accept that term. 

Living in Tortuguero, Costa Rica gave me an abundant source of subjects to choose from. Every day, I would see vibrantly dressed flowers, birds and butterflies. I could never quite capture the variations of hues and tones that were my world. 

It took me a while to actually try my hand at painting. I felt I didn’t understand color, and rightly so, with the palette of so many shades out my door. Just the greens were daunting, and if it rained? Shoot, the whole thing changed again. But try, I did. I bought books, I practiced, and if I met a tourist who was an artist, I would trade things from my shop for an art lesson. I made my way, and little by little become more comfortable in color. 

Now I am living close to Trenton, and my surrounds have changed drastically. My style uses strong vibrant colors in acrylic. My eyes now have a new feast set in front of me of a more urban setting. So different, yet color is everywhere. One of the things that I can not get enough of are the beautiful garments of women gathering around the steps of their West African church. Or the saris worn by women from India. It’s not surprising that my art style is now veering to incorporate this into my art form…take the painting I am working on now. It is of a Black woman standing in the jungle with the lush tropical flora behind her. She is purple at the moment, graceful and long, wrapped in a sarong of geometric African patterns. Her lips will be pink, full and succulent, and mistaken for a flower by a hummingbird who comes to drink her sweet nectar from her lips. She is one with nature and her inner beauty shines. 

My goal is to merge my two surroundings together in a new flavor of two jungles; the natural and the concrete. In my short time that I have lived in this area, I have met so many talented and gifted people. Ideas are swirling in my mind and I start to “see” what I will paint, way before I start. It is an exciting process, and I am blessed to be on this journey of learning and exploring. 

Last night, as I was driving home after a Hispanic fund raising event, I thought about how happy I am living here. It was not an easy adjustment from where I came, but I can now say that I am content with my surroundings and all that it has to teach me. 

Happy painting!Image