Retirement Lesson# 8: Lasting change for all
What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another.
- Mahatma Gandhi
I wake up every morning to a courtyard full of beautiful plants and flowers. The cymbidium orchids are blooming now, bursting up and over the edges of their pots in a majestic array of colors.
But the living species at the center of it all that I am most grateful for is the Pepper Tree that drips pink peppercorns onto the ground all year long. It is healthy and tall, provides spices for cooking as well as a canopy of shade that allows light to seep tenderly through, nourishing the plants that I have amazingly kept alive since I moved here July 1, 2012.
Some people have green thumbs. Mine are not. I am a plant killer. Even cacti wither at the sight of me.
But I’m trying on a small scale in my own backyard to nurture and grow beauty for myself, my family and friends. I’m also part of a project that promises to provide beauty and heal the planet at the same time.
I am deeply committed to an organization whose sole mission is to repopulate the planet with trees …and not willy nilly Johnny Appleseed style (a romantic and popular but incorrect story of a dedicated nurseryman from Massachusetts). The goal of Archangel Ancient Tree Archive is to clone, re-grow and reforest stands of giant trees with the proven genetic potential to achieve champion size. Champion size is exactly that … the largest individual specimens of their species.
Some of the most magnificent champions to grace our planet are literally the largest – coast redwoods and giant sequoias. They grow hundreds of feet into the air and some are as big or bigger around than 30 feet in diameter. One of their lasting gifts to the world is that they can clean the environment and cool our planet’s alarming and accelerated rise in temperatures.
Archangel Ancient Tree archive has stunned the world of science by successfully cloning the ancestors of the coast redwoods, sequoias and other ancient trees by safely taking DNA from the tallest, widest and oldest of their species.
Scientists have now found that these old growth trees can help mitigate climate change by removing carbon dioxide from our air, storing thousands of pounds of carbon in their massive trunks and root systems, along with removing dangerous pollutants from our water, while simultaneously performing other vital ecosystem services. Unfortunately, the biggest and strongest among them were chopped down during the industrial age. Only 5% of the original coast redwood forest remains.
We can bring these ancient forest giants back to life.
If you share this passion and would like to help, visit Archangel’s website www.ancienttreearchive.org . If you still have questions, I encourage you to reach out by contacting a man I have known since I was a teenager, Founder David Milarch at (231) 883-5366.
If you’ve ever wanted to make a positive difference that will last thousands of years, the time is now.
Retirement Lesson#7: Setting intentions without an alarm clock
Good MORNING cold nose to my face.
Happiness is a 90 pound alarm clock that has to go to the bathroom… but only after expressing unrestrained excitement that you are awake.
One dog, two cats. The cats are less spirited about the whole thing. Mr.Rusty, all coiled next to me at the nine o’clock position and Fang, joy that she is, resides at 3 o’clock.
How can you have a bad day when faced with the blind trust, needs and “love” of such a menagerie?
I still pinch myself.
While the news of the day awaits, it’s no longer the first thing I check. The world and its relentless accounting of bombast, betrayal and bombing can just hang on for one more minute while I feed and water the crew and get ready for some dark roast delight.
If it’s possible to have time march less maniacally… then I have achieved such velocity. Part of the waking dream I find myself in has created space to create. I enter my studio, coffee cup in hand, with certain desires but no demands. Time bends to allow room for the pieces in my head that are queued up behind the ones that exist in front of me that call out to be finished. I am filling the time at my disposal at my own pace.
I recognize the gift. I am grateful for it. I don’t mean to keep pounding this theme because the truth is … I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. None of us does. The difference for me now though, is that I will wait for it to arrive. It will not be manipulated and squished into some design of another’s making. No alarms will ring and the world will have to wait to intrude because this retirement will not be televised.
Retirement Lesson#6: You can always go home but you may not want to
There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.
I went back to KPIX last night to say hello.
Kenny Bastida was the first person I wanted to say “hi” to since we worked side by side on the anchor desk and shared a dorm sized office for more than a decade. It was great to see him and everyone else on the night shift … who will remain nameless because they are not public people. But I love them all and miss them.
I knew that leaving my colleagues would be the worst part of saying goodbye when I quit to start my life over as an artist.
It still is.
What surprised me in returning last night was my absolute and total disengagement with the “what” of what goes on there. I thought it might take me a while to let it go as you would think that 25 years of mastering a skill would leave a deep footprint on one’s psyche. Would I have some longing, a hint of regret or maybe just miss the adrenaline rush of being in the middle of the action?
The core of my job as a broadcast journalist was to show and tell folks bad news. It was dressed up and sanitized for a wider audience but at its most basic level, it was the accident you couldn’t turn away from…death, dismemberment and despair.
I do not miss it … not the production nor presentation of it. It feels like a huge weight lifted from me as it was impossible for some of the negative not to stick. It was like a poison porridge coating the ribs around my heart.
I always joked with people who would tell me they watched me every night. I would caution them that it was too much…and to only watch a couple nights a week, maybe two at the most. We would laugh and then move on.
I meant it then. I mean it even more now.
Retirement Lesson#5: The hardest thing
If we are facing in the right direction, all we have to do is keep on walking.
- Buddhist Proverb
Those of you who know me will laugh out loud reading some of this, maybe even shake your heads with sadness at the seeming futility of what I’m about to express: I am working on patience.
Yep. I swear (and no, that isn’t part of the deal…yet)
But, I promise.
This is way more than any New Year’s Resolution. It is an imperative that I feel needs to be achieved in order to grow as a human being. Externals have driven me for far too long and while I have enjoyed success in life, the standard measurement has been achieved when someone else said it was so. My new standard will be internal and fully controllable by me.
Like building up any routine, be it spiritual, academic or athletic … it will take vigilance and time. I will falter and flail, no doubt, but I will succeed in the long run by growing my patience through a daily practice.
I won’t bore you with the small details but I will share three giant steps I’ve enlisted to engage the process.
I am going to yoga. (ok, now I’M LAUGHING …) I know, I admit to making fun of it since I fancy myself athletic, spending years on a rowing machine and in a scull on the water. But yoga is hard…all that focusing and breathing. It’s like learning another language. One day I hope it just comes to me but for right now, I’m thinking a lot about the learning of it. That’s a big one. Number 2? I bought a truck. ( LAUGHING again!) And what, you ask, might a truck have to with anything? Well, I like to drive fast. Everywhere. My little red car was made for it. I can’t do that in a truck. Just manuevering the thing takes great patience. I know, it seems tangential to my goal but it’s actually quite on target.
And #1? Art. It is the guiding force behind this earthshaking shift in how I want to live going forward.
It has already provided the framework.
Sculptures collapse and need to be rebuilt. The one I’m working on has done it once. I had some potential clients in the studio, showing them my space and current projects. I uncovered a large piece only to show them a caved-in mess of roughly 150 lbs of clay. I didn’t get upset or even feel like crying, I just pulled the plastic back over it. I have since rebuilt it. It will be a better creation because its weakness was exposed.
Work can begin immediately on a buckled mass of clay but a painting is different, requiring even more patience. Oils need drying time. If I want to change or fix a painting, I am required to wait …days. Then the paint has to be remixed to match, not just color but the medium used to enhance liquidity and sheen. It’s a lot. Trust me.
And I love it all. I can only work as fast or slow as a piece or painting allows, giving it time to present itself… not pushing for completion but rather waiting for revelation. I know the direction I am pointed. Taking one step at a time will get me to where I need to be.
Retirement Lesson#4: Moving slower in order to move forward
“There is more to life than increasing its speed.”
Mohandas K. Gandhi
I’m going to be late to everything.
That was a promise I jokingly made to friends when I told them I was retiring. But seriously, I have lived on the clock for 25 long years. Every broadcast, every day. My internal stopwatch knows the difference between :15, :30, :45 seconds, etc. I have developed an uncanny ability to time just about anything … a now useless skill that needs to be sidelined. I remember speeding (often) through the streets of San Francisco after a dinner event to make it back to the studio in time to do the late broadcast. One time in particular… I was flying, going about 70 miles an hour, my car—almost airborne like Steve McQueen in “Bullitt”. I made it back to the station with about 4 minutes to spare.
That kind of heart stopping stress is over.
I may not be late to everything, but I’m not going to get all twisted up about it anymore because time is now mine. I get to decide what to do with it.
I like the idea of weaning myself off a deadline. It used to be a constant, providing me the framework inside which I would complete my daily tasks. It was also a hell of an excuse to test myself. I worked best when slammed right up to it…challenging my proficiency, my capacity to prioritize …to plan. I liked it. A lot. It kept me humming, ready for the next big thing. I used to ask myself regularly…”so what are you going to say today if we have an earthquake (the California “gold standard” of disaster reporting)…how will you stay calm and report it?”
Journalists work best when the motivation is negative.
I will have to readjust my adreneline meter. It might be difficult for a while, especially when the next big thing happens. But I want to slow the pace …not of life, but of death. I am interested in flipping that switch, no longer riding along the edge and reporting its daily demise …but rather, moving to the middle and embracing the whole of what’s exciting in the living of it.
Retirement Lesson #3: Into this new beginning
“Life is but a day
A fragile dewdrop on its perilious way
From a trees summit”
― John Keats
2012. It’s time for you to go.
I will miss you as I do the sun when it sets and remember you only fondly as I recall your loyalty. You were there for me every day and every night. Opportunity poured out of you every single second.
It was I who made the decision how to use the time you gave me.
I tried not to squander the gift. I got up everyday with an intention to do better and be better. Redemption was the promise of the hours you provided. That is the beauty of having 24 of them. Like any great story, each 24 hour cycle offered a beginning, a middle and an end. During a third of that time it was easy to do well because sleep was a safe harbor where no harm could be done. If I fell from the grace of the day, I got another chance to try again after sleeping it off. It was during the 16 hours prior to sleeping that I was challenged to be my best self.
So how did I spend the 366 days of this leap year… the 5,856 hours I was awake during it?
1800 were spent at work. 240 were spent volunteering my time. 432 doing my art. 192 running errands. 480 reading and writing. 144 doing household chores. 144 hours exercising. 280 vacation hours. 192 hours cooking. 576 hours eating. 672 time-sucking hours on social media, internet stuff. 366 hours driving.
If my calculations are correct … after all that, I still had another 338 hours or 6.5 hours a week to spend on relationships, pampering and piddling.
There’s no way I can attach any negativity to 2012 as it marches its way into the past. Why would I do that? I am still here. I am still breathing. I have clean water to drink and food aplenty to eat. I have a roof over my head. My family is safe and healthy. There is no war on my doorstep.
All in all…it has been a damn fine year.
The exciting thing about 2013 is that I will get to reconstruct the 1800 hours I spent at my j-o-b during all of last year. That’s a lot of time. My solemn oath to myself is that I will fill them with art … thinking about art, seeing the artwork of others, reading about art and creating art.
I want to use my time to add more beauty to the world.
What about you and your time? How will you spend the hours you will be given in 2013? There are so many opportunities for goodness after the obligations of the day are fulfilled. I hope that you will dedicate some of your precious time to beauty, looking for it in the everyday, everywhere. It will make the world a better place because despite the headlines … beauty exists. It’s real and available and free.
Just thinking about it makes it so.
Retirement Lesson#1: Garbage in, Garbage out
i woke up this morning panicked. i forgot to take out the garbage. It was overflowing with once elegant holiday wrappings and other trash. I jumped up, grabbed my robe and jammed my feet into my warm, fuzzy booties and flew down the stairs. I made it to the door only to watch the green monster wheel its way around the corner.
I put out the garbage anyway, hoping against hope that the truck might circle back later.
So what? I forgot garbage day. Who cares, right?
Well, the reason i even mention this is because I realize I will now have to make note of garbage day. I may even have to set an alarm for it because I no longer have a set schedule. Not an official “gotta go to work today because that’s what i\I get paid to do” kinda schedule.
I am retired. It doesn’t officially begin until December 31, 2012. I have been on “vacation” since the 7th…never to return to KPIX TV at 855 Battery Street, San Francisco again. I am finished with television. Not the watching of it, although I hope to remain an underachiever in that regard. I am finished being ON TV. 25 years of it. It has been an amazing run but it’s time to go. (Bio and last day on the air video attached in additional post for old time’s sake)
But like any great read …it’s time to turn the page …
I can now officially consider myself an artist. Full time. 100% dedicated to the process of creating art.
The groundwork for this new chapter began back in 2008 when I went back to school to pursue my MFA. It took on speed after completing a sculpting class with Master Sculptor Philippe Faraut and achieved velocity when i bought “The Compound” in May 2012…a live/work studio space in Oakland.
I have had amazing opportunities presented to me in my life. The blessing has been being able to recognize them as such and leap into that future with the knowledge that whatever is in my path, it will become reality. I like the feeling that the unknown provides. It’s not fear. It’s freedom.
I am so excited to be at the beginning of something again. While it’s great to look back at my journalism career and know that I was successful … I am loving looking ahead at the possiblity of creating a new environment for achieving the same degree of accomplishment. I want to have the opportunity to grow and learn by failing. I know…crazy huh!! I want to grow into becoming the artist I believe I can be.
I look forward to working in my studio until I can work no more, no matter the time of day or hour of night …not having to clean up to “go to work”. I look forward to letting my mind wander on ideas as opposed to marching through the process because my time is limited.
My heart is wide open.
I. Can. Soar.
Retirement Lesson #2: My Political Compass
I signed a petition the other day.
It was on behalf of saving the Drakes Bay Oyster Farm. I was especially aware of the Lunny family’s battle with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and The Point Reyes National Seashore because I used to live in West Marin County. I even helped facilitate coverage on KPIX, the story produced by other reporters, but I never publicly expressed my thoughts on the issue. Or any other issue for that matter for the last 25 years.
My silence ended the day I added my name to a long list of supporters of the farm.
Politics was never a favorite of mine. Not so much the boring predictability of political posturing and talking point piffle but rather the powerlessness to express an opinion about any of it. I always wanted to attach some side note to the coverage but knew there was no place for that in my role as “objective” journalist.
Don’t misunderstand…I have always had an opinion. It’s just that I held fast to the belief that my opinion had no place in the story. Yes, yes, yes, there were times I let the viewer in… favoring the Raiders over the 49rs, the A’s over the Giants but NEVER on anything of substance.
Most of my friends have never even truly known my positions. It wasn’t that certain topics were verboten. It was just never a condition of our friendship. Granted, close friends know that I am a conflicted fiscal conservative and social liberal but little more than that. And forget strangers who wanted to know my thoughts about x, y or z… they got the stiff arm treatment. It was tiring to fight against myself all those years because sometimes I just wanted to shake the tree and stand at the top of it and scream … but restraint was part of the job.
So, signing the petition that day was the boldest personal move of public expression I have made in almost 3 decades.
I have traded in the big microphone in order to have a voice … breathing again, after my own fashion.