Shane and Tyler

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This post is also on DiscoverThePractice and Patreon

I walked down the hillside field, its slight slope gently amplifying winds and making it easier to get kites aloft. Everybody uses the park. The city built ballfields and a playground on the other side of the parking lot and a big gazebo in the middle of the field. A friend caught one of my kites’ lines in the gazebo’s roof once and it took some good flying to get it free.

I could hear the cheers and catcalls from people in the ballfields – must have been some exciting games going on – and laughter and chatter from families on the playground. People must have parked on the far side of the ballfields because this parking lot was practically empty.

An empty parking lot is one of the things I look for, a good sign, it means the field will be open, plenty of room to run out my lines and fly a kite or two between the gazebo and the street. A good wind rustled the trees high up, their tops dusting the sky, and I had already chosen my SkyDancer as the kite to fly. I walked down the field carrying it, its tails, lines and two ground pegs in my hands.

A man and boy had a little area set up on my right, between the gazebo and the parking lot. Not a problem, still plenty of room. A t-ball stand stood beside them, a whiffle ball rested on top, a broad, plastic yellow bat and several more balls lay on the ground next to it. The boy, a toddler based on his size, slightly awkward movements and shrieks of joy, threw the balls back and forth to no one. He’d throw one, go get it and throw it back to where he started then repeat the process over and over again.

The man knelt on the ground, his eyes focused and his hands busy. It looked like he was rigging up a single line delta. I thought that a small, single-line delta would be more work than it would be worth but said nothing. I had the day off and wanted some time to myself.

Child's Delta Kite

They got their delta up. Then down. Then not quite up, then definitely down. Then down and down and still down.

But the man wouldn’t give up. He’d get the kite up and he’d hold the line with the boy and let the boy take the line and the kite would come down and he’d go to work sending it back up.

And on one attempt, the boy called out, “I love you, Daddy!” and the man called back, “I love you, too, Son!”.

I’d just finished driving my ground pegs into the earth and had walked out my lines, my SkyDancer still in its pack along with its tails, and something told me to offer them my Big Sled. The Big Sled is actually a fairly small kite. I got it long ago. A local kite store was going out of business, I got there their last day, there wasn’t much left and I refused to go home empty handed. It’s more a kid’s kite than something an adult would fly, but I have close to one-hundred kites, kites for all levels of skill, all sizes of flyers, all types of wind and I love all kites. One more would round out the bunch so got it I did.

I went back to my car and got out the Big Sled.

The father was kneeling again, the delta in front of him as he adjusted the harness. I walked towards him and said, “Sir, excuse me, sir?”

He looked up.

I unfurled the kite. “This’ll be much easier to fly. It’ll catch the wind better and ride high on top of the wind.”

BigSled Kite

He was hesitant. “That looks like a professional kite.”

I laughed. “I’d never call myself a professional.”

He offered me his hand and said, “I’m Shane.” He had broad, flat palms. Thick fingers, calloused. A welcoming grip. A practical smile, open and evaluating at the same time. More laugh lines than frowns and deep brown eyes that took in all of you without leaving your face. He stood wide and solid with hair the color of his eyes and ruffling in the wind where it stuck out from under his green baseball cap. I took him to be a skilled laborer, someone both comfortable with himself and with tools in his hands, someone to whom making was automatic, without thought. He didn’t smell of resins or wires. Doors and walls, I decided. Not cars, there was no grease or grime under his nails or etched in his palms and a whiff of wood welcomed me as he moved. Not tanned, so a finish carpenter, someone who works inside, not someone who frames and builds houses.

“That’s Tyler. Say hello, Tyler.”

Tyler, a cherub as only little boy toddlers can be cherubs, called out “Hello!” Thin but healthy, both well and goodly fed, with clear eyes and a trust because he’s a little boy and everyone should love him, because that’s all he’s known is love of family and friends and, it seemed, a mirror that would grow into his father’s easy good looks. He stood beside us comfortably, neither anxious nor wary, following his father’s focus on my hands, watching me stringing the line, his eyes full of joy and his father’s smile echoed on his toddler’s face.

I attached the line and handed Shane the line hoop. “It’s going to have a little pull, so hold the line with Tyler. Let him get a feel for how much pull it’ll have so he can brace himself for it.”

The father looked me in the eye, confused.

“Enjoy yourself. Have a good time.”

I went back to the SkyDancer and lines, strung it up and, as is my habit, talked to the kite and the wind. I was rewarded with some great flying and LineSong – the wind pulls the kite causing the lines to tighten then the wind vibrates the string like a bow crossing a violin and you can hear the lines sing.

It’s the wind letting you know it’s having fun, too, me thinks.

SkyDancer

I flew for about an hour, maybe a little less. Every now and again I’d hear Shane and Tyler laugh from the other side of the gazebo. I’d glance every so often and see the Big Sled high in the sky, swooping and swirling as the winds whirled it about.

I told the SkyDancer and Wind, “One more flight, girl. Come on down when you’re ready and we can pack up and go home.”

We had one more glorious flight. Some people had gathered so I had the SkyDancer live up to its name and perform a little ballet. The wind, as promised, grew tired, which was fine because I was, too. I brought the SkyDancer down and began untacking the lines.

Shane and Tyler came up to me. Shane had the kite against his chest, the line hoop and line in hand. “Thank you, Joseph. That was great. Tyler and I really appreciate your letting us fly your kite.”

I said, “Did you have a good time, Tyler? Did you have fun?”

“Yes!”

I said, “Keep the kite. It’s a gift,” looking at Tyler.

Shane said, “We can’t do that,” shaking his head.

“You and Tyler gave me a gift when I walked onto this field.”

“We did?”

“Tyler called out ‘I love you, Dad,’ and you called back, ‘I love you, too, Son.’ That’s a gift. Please. Take the kite as my thank you for that gift.”

Shane slowly shook his head, not quite believing. “Are you sure?”

I stood. “Yes, and here’s the catch.”

He pulled his head back a bit.

“Whenever you and Tyler don’t want to fly kites any more, or when you think it’s time, you pass it on to the next father and son, you give it to them as a gift because they gave something to you as a gift.”

Shane nodded slowly. “Okay. We can do that.”

“Pass it on. Pay it forward. That’s how it works.”

“Thank you. Thank you so much for this gift.”

“Thank you. Have a good day. Have a good life.”

They walked away and stopped. Tyler started running towards me and Shane called him back. They huddled for a moment then both came up to me. “Tyler has something for you.”

Tyler ran up to me and gave me a big hug. “Thank you for the kite, Joseph!”

I put my arms around him, held his precious little body next to mine. “Oh, thank you, Tyler. You’re the man, Tyler, you’re the man!”

You never tell me you love me

One of the most frustrating arguments to watch goes something like this:

“You never tell me you love me.”

“Of course I love you. Everybody knows I love you. I talk about you all the time.”

“But you never tell me that you love me.”

That middle line, the “Of course I love you. …”? That’ll be spoken by a male. It won’t matter if this is a gay or straight relationship because males, as a group, aren’t good at verbal communications.

And when those verbal communications are about feelings and emotions, ie, about making one’s self vulnerable?

Oy!

What’s fascinating about this is that the male’s last sentence, “I talk about you all the time.”, is probably quite true. Men, as a group, will share information with other male or mixed gender peer groups gladly.

Note the use of “groups” in the above.

That’s the kicker; Men will talk up their partners in peer groups gladly, loudly, proudly and unequivocally. But one-on-one, in an intimate verbal moment? Not so much.

The disconnect here is that people like to hear that they’re special, that they’re loved, that someone special feels for them as they feel for that someone special.

Fortunately there are ways to reconnect. Does your significant other male lack verbal skills? Ask them to write you a love note. Nothing elaborate, just something for you to keep and hold to yourself. Most men are happy to do so (although sometimes trust can be an issue. Promise not to share it with anybody). Their prose may be a little rough, a little awkward, and remember, it’s a start.

Give them time. They’ll be bringing you flowers, taking you out to dinner, the movies, and generally courting you all over again soon enough.


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You smell funny

[[this post originally appeared on the other platform on 29 Jan 2010. We’re resurrecting it because J found some more research along similar lines and will be sharing it in You smell so good to me (Matings Bonus), which will be available about this time tomorrow.]]

Perfumers and associated industries spend an incredible amount of money producing various scents for our use. Deodorants mask the caucasian from smelling like goats for example. And I’m not kidding about the goal smell, either.

Some people appreciate that there’s only one scent/perfume/olfactory mask they can wear and all others make their scent foul. I’m one of those lucky ones. I can only wear musk based scents. Wear any others and I quickly clear rooms.

Ah, the joys of individual body chemistries.

And that brings us directly to this post’s topic; how do you pick a scent that will be pleasing both to you and to those you want to please?

what ever happened to love potions 1-8?

Pleasing perfumes, deodorants and their kin evolved from what we once called love potions. We would go to our village wisewoman and she would ask who we wanted to have fall in love with us, when we would see them next and whether others would be present. You’ll find this mix of questions in fairy and folk tales from around the world and with good reason.

What pleases us olfactively and vomeronasally (collectively “our sense of smell”. Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of your vomeronasal sense. Nobody knew it existed until the late 1990s) is first based on our common biologies — we are designed to like certain scents and not others, then on our family’s preferences, then on our culture’s and then on our society’s as a whole.

Our olfactory senses are among the most primitive. The only older sensory system our bodies have is also the most dominant; our sense of touch. Our whole body is devoted to that sense and even our other senses yield to it. This is why it hurts when we poke ourselves in the eye. Why should it hurt? Why not just go blind for a moment or two? Because our sense of touch signals the eye is damaged before our sense of sight signals “Cover Your Eyes!”

Because olfaction is one of the oldest it often goes unnoticed by most people until there’s a really good smell or a really bad smell wafting towards us. Does the smell of freshly baked bread or frying garlic or apple pie cooling or pot roast cooking or bao steaming make your stomach growl? Or maybe just the thought of those things?

Congratulations, you’ve just noticed one evolutionary purpose of our sense of smell — to find good things to eat.

Likewise does the smell of a ripe horse or cow field cause a hasty retreat? Excellent, that’s another of it’s evolutionary purposes — to keep us out of nasty environments and situations.

And both of these grew out of our sense of smell’s original purpose — finding us someone to love.

That’s where the wisewoman’s questions come in. Did we want everybody to fall in love with us or just one person (and if personal genome sequencing kits ever come to WalMart®, be careful)? Was this someone from our village or another village? When would we see them?

The last question deals with dispersal method. Do we ingest it so that we disperse that magical scent through our pores (it takes a while) or apply it topically so that our body heat activates it (fairly rapid)?

The second question deals with those things we smelled as babies and growing up and have long forgotten. Just as there are comfort foods so there are comfort smells. Knowing where someone is from answers this.

The first question tells us the type of scent required; animal, vegetable or mineral.

The wisewoman’s questions are the same one perfumers deal with today. Much more scientifically, of course.

And usually with far worse results.

So the next time you’re considering which $150 bottle of perfume to purchase for that special occasion, consider whom you’re wanting to entice. If you know enough about them you might be just as well off with some bread, wine, cheese and a flower for your hair.


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Sing Me to Sleep That I Might Learn Thee Loves Me (Matings Part 4)

[[…continuing what was started in I Love the Way You Say That (Matings Part 1), Sex on the Beach (Matings Part 2) and Sing Me a Little Song (Matings Part 3)]]

I wrote about how the sounds we make affect our mating potentials in I Love the Way You Say That (Matings Part 1) and Sing Me a Little Song (Matings Part 3). Those posts dealt with how women and men respond to the sounds their partners make. This post deals with a time the sounds we make are extremely important; when we’re with our children.

Mothers around the world sing or hum their children to sleep. Fathers around the world may not sing and often, when a mother or mother surrogate isn’t available, will hum, coo or otherwise vocalize to their children when it’s time to nap (and if they do sing, excellent!).

Those young minds are both amorphous and agile. Just because their eyes are closed don’t think they’re not listening…and learning.

Babes’ and young children’s brains are basically information gathering engines. Very little goes unnoticed by them and what they record is amazing in both scope and quality. They may not recognize what they record — sights, sounds, tastes, scents, touches, emotions, thoughts, … — as we do and record it never-the-less they do.

Examples of this type of recording and learning are cultural specific foods. Have you ever heard of comfort foods? Comfort foods are things we eat when we need solace, love, attention, caring, concern, …basically when we want to return to the womb to regroup. We seek out and eat the things mom and dad, grandma and grandpa gave us when we bruised our knee or lost a toy. This goes well beyond chocolate and such. Comfort foods are amazingly culture specific.

In my case, comfort foods include hot capocollo, soppresetta, spaghetti sauces that make your eyes water as they cook because they’re so spicy, … things my darling wife wouldn’t let past her lips. She, on the other hand, has the audacity to seek out things like liverwurst (oy!), sauerbraten (ok, I guess), sauerkraut (I’ve learned to live with it) and the like. Both are culture specific, both are comfort foods.

Much like foods, the sounds we hear as we go to sleep — especially when we’re children — create neural pathways that science is just beginning to figure out. It’s been known for a while that natural sleep helps us organize and systematize our memories. One new study indicates it also helps us learn to control our movements.

Our movements? In our sleep? When someone is singing?

Yes. Have you ever twitched while falling asleep, perhaps whacking your hand on the nightstand or kicking off the covers? Those twitches are called jactitations. Usually minor and often amusing, they can also be indications of more severe pathologies.

Jactitations occur when the conscious and non-conscious parts of the mind are handing over control from one to another. The brain knows not to let the body walk when we dream we’re walking, but sometimes the brain isn’t sure and we kick our legs once or twice.

In children, this is neuro- and sensori-motor practice. Our dogs and cats chase rabbits and sparrows in their sleep, twitching, sometimes woofing and meowing away. It’s much the same thing.

And it turns out singing, humming, cooing and vocalizing to our children (probably our pets, too), helps their brains learn how to control muscle movement. It allows for better mind-body integration and physical coordination. I don’t think anybody is exactly sure why just yet and there is evidence it is so.

The thing to remember is that it’s not talking (as in “conversation”), it’s non-verbal sounds. Talking (as noted in previous posts) uses different parts of the brain than does singing, cooing, etc. I’m willing to bet children’s brains are building pathways to match those adults have when they sing and such.

That’s real learning and yes, it would help in mind-body integration and physical coordination.

Sing a little song to your children as you lay them down to nap, moms and dads. It’ll let them know you love them, yes, and you’ll also be helping them later in life by preparing their brains and bodies to harmonize.

(budda-bum)


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Eliana’s GiveAway

The most recent NextStage Irregular shared the anthropologic and cultural meaning of the GiveAway ceremony, the rituals associated with it and how it is used and misused in modern commerce.

Putting that email together, I was reminded of a story from another phase of my life that very much involved The GiveAway and is a demonstration of how much personal meaning and power it can have in our lives. Before reading the rest of this post and assuming you haven’t read the above mentioned newsletter, let me share the following:

GiveAways are marked by what is exchanged, usually something which was and may still be very special and/or has meaning to you, and is something which you’re willing to move beyond. Traditionally GiveAways involve exchanging something very important, something we are hesitant to give away, yet something we know we must part with in order for something else to come to us.
This can’t be something we give away then take back. Most importantly for rewarding or gifting people in commerce settings, we must give away something that we know has value to everyone involved. Again traditionally, this meant GiveAways involved exchanges of symbolic or real power, symbolic or real value, symbolic or real information, and there’s always an exchange involved.

During a training session, a student, Eliana, carefully, almost religiously, placed a small, well worn, red-velvet pouch tied with an equally old, faded red ribbon in my palm. Once there, it felt heavier than I would have thought and I realized there was something inside. She was making this pouch, the ribbon and whatever was inside her offering in a GiveAway that only involved me.

We had been studying GiveAway ceremonies and rituals for some time but this came as a surprise to me.

Once the pouch was in my hand, Eliana stared into my eyes for a moment then returned her gaze to the pouch, ribbon and whatever was hidden within still lying in my open palm. She asked me to open the pouch for her. The pouch was only closed with that old ribbon which looked like it would split if you simply breathed on it. I was unsure of her offering although I knew I could trust her because mutual trust and honoring are part of GiveAways.

But still I was confused and she must have sensed that. “I can’t. I can’t let it escape,” she said.

That really confused me. Whatever was in the pouch wasn’t moving and didn’t seem alive.

“Do you know what it is?” she asked me.

I felt the form hidden in the pouch, touching it softly, gently and respectfully. “Some kind of horse,” I said. “With a crown, I think.”

“It’s a unicorn.”

“Ok. You can’t open it because it’ll escape and I can open it? Are you sure you want me to open it?”

She started crying before she could answer. The sobs were coming from deep, wracking her body as she released some very deep energy that she’d carried for a very long time.

“This is a very important to you. A memory of some kind and you’ve managed to put it in one place, to tie it up, to bind it so it can’t hurt you any more, to put a noose around it and keep it and you safe. I’ll accept your gift and I won’t open it until you’re sure you want whatever this represents set free.”

She looked at the pouch in my hand. “Do you know what the memory is?” she asked.

“No,” I answered and that’s when the story, the reason she was studying with me and the meaning of the pouch, came out.

Eliana had been sexually abused as a child. Every time her father sexually abused her he would go out and buy her a unicorn. Through the years she’d given away all the unicorns except this one. Her father stopped abusing her when she had her first period and this was the last unicorn he’d given her.

The symbolism of the unicorn bound in the red pouch was astounding and nothing she ever intended. It simply was.

Through all the training and work we’d done she was finally able to give-away, to release all that energy. This was a very important thing to her, a very important memory. She was ready to give it away, ready to move beyond.

And then she said, “I need you to open it. You won’t let it hurt me. I trust you not to let it hurt me.”

GiveAways are exchanges and Eliana was giving me an incredible gift. Now it was time for me to offer a return.

“Let’s open it together. I’ll hold the pouch, you untie the ribbon and let the unicorn out. The moment you feel that the unicorn is going to hurt you again, I’ll close my hand so it won’t escape.”

She nodded and again was crying, releasing all the agony that had been held by her throughout the years. Sobbing and rocking, she untied the ribbon and pulled a beautiful, tiny carousel-style unicorn out of the pouch.

“It’s beautiful,” I said. Eliana nodded.

“You released all that energy, Eliana. It no longer has power over you. You’re free. And beautiful.”

There were some stains on the unicorn and she used her tears to wash them away, then placed the unicorn back in its pouch, tied the ribbon back up and curled my fingers over it.

“Thank you,” she said.

I still have that red pouch, the unicorn back inside, and haven’t opened it since.

Eliana’s GiveAway was an incredible healing because that’s what giving it away was, a statement that the last of that pain no longer had a place in her life while recognizing it had been important to her life.

To her the red pouch, ribbon and unicorn within were a symbol of abuse and pain. There was incredible emotional power and energy there. But power is simply power. There’s no good or bad, there simply is. So what she gave me was incredible power and, in Giving it Away, she utilized that power as incredible healing by releasing herself from it’s hold.

What Eliana was actually gifting me with was trust. My gift was honoring that trust.


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