Julie A. Swanson

Purer and Purer Streams…

Month: March, 2013

Enjoying playing around with my new Wacom Intuos 5 tablet (and Sketchbook Pro 6)



Scary Incident

Yesterday while giving our almost 16-year-old son some extended driving experience on the highway while traveling to his soccer game, we had a terrifying incident. My life flashed before my eyes. I’m not sure how we came away from it without a scratch, much less alive. I don’t understand how it was that none of the other cars or trucks on the highway behind us crashed. Our car is filthy and covered in mud and grass and has clods of dirt stuck in the wheels and every crevice–I don’t think there’s a square inch on it that isn’t get splattered–and yet nothing happened to it (that I’m aware of yet).

I’ve never felt so lucky to be alive.

We’d been on the highway about 45 minutes and were going about 70 (in a 70 mph zone) and S was trying to switch lanes when he noticed a car in his blindspot, or that he hadn’t checked both mirrors well enough, so he tried to quickly correct (and over-compensated; we were really in no danger of hitting that car–I think he just got kind of scared, was surprised by it). Which sent us into a series of swerving fishtails, four by my count. I just kept quiet in that awful in-gasping and then holding your breath way, tried not to panic him further by saying– What? what would I have said? Goodbye. I love you. Don’t look, we’re going to die…? We were going 70 and severely out of control in fairly heavy traffic all going the same speed. It felt like we were going to flip. Or cause a multi-car pile up. We went back and forth and back and forth between lanes, and then just when I thought he might pull it together and straighten things out, we shot off the highway, toward the grass and gully and the woods on our right. The trees in the woods were big and mature, tall and straight with thick trunks, oaks, tulip poplars, loblolly pine… Read the rest of this entry »

Beasts of the Southern Wild

imgresI’m not sure what to say about this movie. The little girl who plays Hushpuppy was adorable and there was a lot of good food for thought, but it’s hard to figure out what I thought of the movie. My feelings on it were mixed. I can’t truly say I liked or enjoyed it, and yet I was very interested in it and wanted to watch it all despite my discomfort. It was unpredictable and original.

I felt like I was carsick for much of it, not sure if it was the filming–much like a home video the way the camera moved all over–or if it was just that some of it was  hard to watch. I’m prone to motion sickness and often  get a queasy stomach watching a film where the camera isn’t held steady. But there was also a lot of stuff in in that was just gross, or unappealing. The way the people ate, the squalor they lived in, the dead carcasses floating in the floodwaters, the sweat and grime and alcohol guzzling… And there are things scenes you just don’t want to watch–the little girl hiding in a box while her ‘house’ burns down around her, a little girl being neglected, hit, a little girl with almost zero emotional support…

But still, it was good. I’m glad I watched it. Makes you appreciate what you have, makes you think about the way some people have to live. It’s a movie, yes, but that kind of poverty exists, and it doesn’t get enough attention. And there was a lot of heart in the movie.

It was right up my alley in another way, too. Hushpuppy flexing her little guns, with her daddy who wouldn’t let her cry and who was trying to toughen her up for her own survival once he was gone–well, Hushpuppy  definitely qualifies as a tomboy.

What is the difference between ‘Wellness’ and ‘Illness’ ?

I heard something interesting yesterday. Was listening to a discussion (on a Sounds True podcast, http://www.soundstrue.com/–The Compassionate Brain, Session 3: Cultivating a Forgiving Heart, with Dr. Rick Hanson and Dr. Tara Brach) of the importance of a sense of belonging to one’s health and wellbeing. Of being connected to others rather than feeling isolated. How much longer people live when they have loved ones, close friends, companionship. How much happier we are, how vital it is to us as human beings to feel a part of something greater than ourselves, someone or some thing outside ourselves, whether it’s a community or a small group of others, nature, our pets, God… The notion that anything that expands our sense of self so that we’re stretched to recognize and  feel that we really are a part of, or belong to, something outside of the sack of skin we live in–well, that’s good for us, it feels good. In my mind, a sense of belonging, of feeling connected, those notions really are no different than Love. Love connects us, bonds us. We feel a sense of belonging to things/people/creatures we love or are loved by. So that’s not really the interesting or novel idea for me, but this was…

Tara Brach pointed out that the difference between the words ‘wellness’ and ‘illness’ is literally the difference between the letters with which those words are spelled–the difference between We and I. We need a sense of ‘we’ to feel well, to be well. If I don’t have that and feel like I’m just a solitary ‘I,’ totally separate from everyone and everything and all alone in the world, well, that’s not healthy and it doesn’t make for happiness.  

I thought that was a cool and simple little thing, a coincidence maybe, but still:

wellness illnessWell, when I was younger, I never understood the saying, “No man is an island unto himself.” Why not, I would think? That sounded pretty great. I could be that. I wanted to be that. The idea of living on an island with no bridge to it, that appealed to me. Give me a little boat so that I could go off the island if I wanted, but don’t anybody be coming over here without first asking if it’s OK. I wanted to do the inviting onto my island, no surprise visitors. If there was to be any reaching out, I would do it when I felt like it, and that wouldn’t be too often. I didn’t feel like I needed other people. I didn’t feel like they understood me or wanted to, or me them, so we’d just stay separate and happy and do our own thing. I was a loner. I hardly ever got lonely or felt the need or urge to be social.

But now I see it differently. I think I would’ve liked to connect with someone like-minded, but I didn’t think there was anyone like that (or at least so few that I’d never find them), so rather than do the awkward and scary thing of letting someone know how weird I felt myself to be, rather than trying to understand how others could possibly be so different and weird to my way of thinking, I just took the ‘easy’ way out and told myself I didn’t need or want them. Maybe I didn’t recognize that what I was really doing was hiding. I still enjoy lots of solitary pursuits–art, writing, just thinking. I need time to be alone. Lots of it. But I’m enjoying people, all sorts of different people, and becoming more and more interested in the notion of WE.

I no longer want to be an island.