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Archive for July, 2010

We all know about Dorothy’s weather-related shenanigans and how she accidentally dropped in on the land of Oz, but our understanding of her predicament has been hampered by the facts as presented in the MGM classic.

Playing it by the book, here’s what really happened:

Dorothy carried the shoes into the house and placed them on the table. Then she came out again to the Munchkins and said, “I am anxious to get back to my aunt and uncle, for I am sure they will worry about me. Can you help me find my way?”

The Munchkins and the Witch first looked at one another, and then at Dorothy, and then shook their heads.

“At the East, not far from here,” said one, “there is a great desert, and none could live to cross it.”

“It is the same at the South,” said another, “for I have been there and seen it. The South is the country of the Quadlings.”

“I am told,” said the third man, “that it is the same at the West. And that country, where the Winkies live, is ruled by the Wicked Witch of the West, who would make you her slave if you passed her way.”

“The North is my home,” said the old lady, “and at its edge is the same great desert that surrounds this Land of Oz. I’m afraid, my dear, you will have to live with us.”

Dorothy began to sob at this, for she felt lonely among all these strange people.

So, Dorothy was in a land surrounded by a desert (bet you didn’t know that). She ws being told that there really was no way OUT, i.e. to make her get-away by crossing an uncrossable stretch of hot sand.

Isn’t it ironic. Dorothy’s wish was to escape the grey Kansas landscape where she could make her dreams come true, and she does that, but she’s now trapped and feeling very lonely.

How often does that happen to us. We want to escape from a situation, believing that it’s the situation that’s holding us back, when in fact the situation is only the result of something deep inside us.

So we find an escape, a twister of sorts that propels us out of the situation…right into another situation that often is more complicated than the one we initially escaped from!

Once Dorothy learns that she does have another option, i.e. to follow the yellow brick road, she comes to realize that the journey she needs to take…to find herself…is an inward journey. And in her case, her journey on the YBR will lead her to the center of Oz.

In essence, she has to go in to get out. And sometimes that’s exactly what we need to do.

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Although she was short-lived in the book and movie…and even though she was just one of the many who lost everything when the bottom fell out of the housing market…there’s much more to the story of the Wicked Witch of the East than a pair of slippers (silver in the book and ruby in the movie).

Who was she; how wicked was she; and what was her relationship with her sister, the Witch of the West are just some of the questions I’ve thought about when taking in the broader Wizard of Oz story.

As to her demise, can anyone say for sure what actually happened to her at the moment of impact?  Or was her timely death a case of a mid-air collision or did she happen to be at the wrong place at the right time (or at least the right place for some people)?

(I think her last words were: Oh, shit! or something along those lines.)

I think it would be a mistake to definitively identify and describe the mysterious Wicked Witch of the East. I believe it is better to keep her identity shrouded in mystery. She’s the one character in the book and movie that allows us to personalize her, to let our imagination run wild and to create our own Wicked Witch of the East story.

I want to limit my WWE discussion to some metaphorical aspects of this wonderfully complex character.

That she was the witch of the East is more than just coincidental. The sun rises in the east. It is the dawning of a new day. It is where some believe the Garden of Eden was located. And we all know what happened there. Adam and Eve were given their two-week notice to vacate the territory and leave without even the shirts on their back.

(I think Adam’s first words to Eve were: “I don’t think we’re in Eden anymore.”  And what were Eve’s first w0rds  to Adam? I think she said something like, “Not tonight, Adam. I have a headache.”)

Theologians have long debated the spiritual significance of the Garden of Eden story, so I don’t know if it’s necessary in this blagh to join the debate. Suffice it to say, I don’t think there would have been any story to tell if the metaphorical Adam and Eve had not willfully disobeyed God’s directive. Adam might have blamed Eve, but all I can say is “way to go girl!)

Genesis makes no mention of a house falling on the evil serpent, but I believe I would have added something like that if I had been asked to write the Book of Genesis. (Here’s a question for you. How lack  do you think security must have been in Eden to allow a weapon of mass destruction…for that was what the snake turned out to be…to led the serpent slither past the guardians at the gate? Some say he was hiding in a Bush.)

Once outside Eden, Adam and Eve started their journey on the YBR. And along the way they met up with intelligence, heart and courage. And they were wearing a silver/ruby slippers.

I believe we all begin our journey on the YBR with a great big thud. Once we have mustered the courage to step out of Kansas, Eden or whatever place it was that kept us from growing, we can look behind us and see that we have put an end to something needed to ‘kill,’ be it a relationship, a habit, a bad work situation, etc.

But here’s the interesting thing. We do get something out of our bold action. We get to wear the silver/ruby slippers because they are rightfully ours. But it will take us a while to understand the power they have because for so long we had given that power over to someone or something else.

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Heard a very interesting story I believe has a place on the YBR. A man I just met was telling me how he took a skeptic on a walk through an area where they lived. The skeptic didn’t believe that there were mountain lions in the area because he had never seen one. And while the storyteller and the skeptic never saw a mountain lion, they did see footprints.  The storyteller not only pointed out the footprints, but was able to provide some details: that the lion was a female, pregnant at the time, and had made the footprint about two weeks earlier.

It got me thinking. Although there were no visible footprints in the YBR in Oz, there are always footprints left behind, even if they are not visible. All those who walked on the YBR before us did leave footprints and the footprints are their life stories.  We are often blessed by the literal strides made by those who blazed the YBR before us.

But what about us? What footprints are we leaving behind.  What mark will we leave on the YBR?  I believe we have to  think about our lives and the footprints we leave.  And we have to wonder what kind of impression have we made during our journey on the YBR.

It’s worth thinking about. It’s worth thanking those who went before us and being ever mindful of every step we take because every step is important.

Please note: My YBR blagh will be a little scarce this week since I am on a trip and I have limited access to the Internet.

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Although I have been on the YBR long enough know a thing or two, there are still some things that confound me. For instance. I can’t figure out why so many people can get away with doing so many bad things…to good people, and never have to be held accountable for their actions. I also don’t know why so many good people have to suffer illnesses, loss and sorrows.

I also have no idea why there are weeds.  That’s right. Weeds. (And I’m not talking about the magical variety of weed.)

What’s up with weeds? We in the northeast have been dealing with a bloody hot spell. My once green lawn has turned to dry, brittle hay because there hasn’t been any significant rain in weeks. But…the weeds are thriving! The weeds are …lush! The weeds are…plentiful.

So what does this have to do with the YBR? I’ll tell you. Although there wasn’t a weed to be seen in the MGM color classic, and L. Frank Baum never made any mention of weeds in his book, there are weeds on the real YBR.

And in keeping with this ‘blagh,’ the weeds I’m talking about aren’t the kind in the picture above. These metaphorical weeds are the aspects of our life that can, if not held in check, take over our lives and choke the life out of us.

In nature, when the rains feed the grass, we sometimes ignore the weeds even though they too are the beneficiaries of the rain. But for some reason when  the rains stops and the grass turns brown, the weeds seem to stand out.

We all have weeds in our lives. They are our imperfections…our weaknesses. When they begin to grow, it’s hard to tell them apart from the grass that’s also growing. And if we’re not careful and if we don’t tend to our garden, before we know it, our lawn is filled with weeds.

And while I hate weeding, I realize how important it is. I also understand that during periods of drought…when we might be in-between jobs, when we’re dealing with an illness, if we are going through a rough emotional period…that’s the best time to weed because the weeds are so visible. That’s the perfect time to get rid of them because we all know that there the rains will come and the grass will turn green…and we’ll forget about the weeds.

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I’m minding my own business sitting at the computer when I notice this rather large, black figure come into my line of vision. It’s a bear, and not of your Goldilocks variety. This was a bear of a bear. I thought that by the time I grabbed my camera he or she (I’m not a bearologist) would have been long gone. But to my surprise he/she waited for me and actually posed for a number of pictures. (Maybe it wasn’t a bear after all. Can you say Lady GaGa?)

Nonetheless, it was a bit disconcerting to know that bears (they always travel in threes, don’t they?) wander through my neighborhood.  In fact just the other day a bear (maybe this one) took a dip in a kiddie pool next door and sort of ripped it up on the way out.

Now, this blagh is not actually about the real bear, but about a metaphorical bear. (What in the world is a metaphorical bear?)

A metaphorical bear is anything that exists in the forest of our mind/soul. It’s that thing or things that we know exist in the deep, dark forest of our soul, but we tend to ignore them or deny them. More often than not the bear is a fear we might have.

But sometimes the bear walks out of the deep , dark forest into the sunlight where we see it and unless we’re living in complete denial, we can neither  deny nor ignore it.

In reality I know that since my house backs up to a gazillion acres of woods there have to be bears roaming about.  Just because I don’t see them. Just because I don’t think about them does not make them go away.

The same thing goes for our inner bear/bears.  The bears are there and sometimes they reveal themselves.  And I think that’s a good thing because when they do show up unexpectedly the bears provide us with an opportunity to think about those things that might be holding us hostage because we keep them hidden in the deep, dark forest.

They sometimes help us make things once unbearable a little more bearable.

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Glinda’s question to Dorothy about what she learned on the yellow brick road was probably the best question/answer exchange in all of literature (that might be an exaggeration, but remember this is my ‘blagh’ and I’ll say what I want to say. So there.)

Dorothy’s cinematic reply, “I learned that if you go looking for your heart’s desire and you can’t find it in your own backyard, then you  haven’t really lost it in the first place,’ bothered me greatly when I was an overly optimistic youth because I believed that if you didn’t look outside your own backyard, then you’d never find it.

I’m older now, and perhaps a little bit wiser. I understand Dorothy’s reply. I am convinced that happiness is found within. No doubt that it can be enhanced and magnified by outside experiences, but until the happiness radiates from within, the longing and searching will be in vain. (One of the greatest books to read about this is Hermann Hesse’s Narcissus and Goldmund.)

So, let me reflect on what I’ve learned on this day when I took my first breath.

I’ll always remember the three things my mother often told me when I was growing up:

– Never eat yellow snow (still very sound advice)
– Always eat everything on your plate because there are starving children in India (I always wondered how my eating the last piece of dry meatloaf was going to ward off starvation for a kid a gazillion miles away. Still haven’t figured out that one.)
– Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Now that last piece of advice from a woman who never stepped foot out of the United States has provided me with some meaningful food for thought (unlike her meatloaf).

Having no understanding of construction, and knowing that historically Italian labor was never on a hurry-up basis, I did realize that my mother was speaking metaphorically.

Rome was anything you dreamed or hoped for, and like Dorothy’s journey on the YBR, her dreams and desires were not realized (built) in a day.

I think one of the hardest lessons to learn in life is patience. And more than that.  It’s learning that ultimately what we are building while we’re on the YBR is our life…and no life is ever built in a day.

Life is one yellow brick at a time. And in the end it doesn’t matter if your yellow brick driveway leads up to a palatial mansion at a glitzy address or to a humble home in Anywhere, USA. All that matters is that our road is connected to who we are.

I’ve learned that life is not all abut chasing rainbows, but finding the rainbow inside us. The rainbow other people…who matter…see when they see us.

That’s really what matters most. And if other people don’t see that rainbow that is us, maybe they’ve never seen a rainbow…or worse yet, maybe they don’t even believe in rainbows.

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I don’t have Sirius radio or anything like it in my car. I just have a plain old AM/FM radio and just the other day it began to do something I remember car radios doing when I was a kid. Even though I hadn’t changed stations, I kept getting different frequencies. For a few minutes I would hear the station I was tuned into, and then it would pick up another frequency. Sometimes I would hear two and even three different stations playing at the same time.

It got me to thinking about our long drive on the YBR. We are like that car radio. Some of us are born AM and some of us are born FM. Some of us have our stations pre-set by our parents, friends, community or country of origin, meaning we have a certain pre-disposition to certain stations.  That can be both good and bad. It can be good if our pre-set stations include a wide variety of programming offering us diverse messages and giving us something to think about. It can be bad if the only stations we ever listen to only broadcast the same and often prejudicial messages.

I believe we need to exert some control over the stations we tune into. We have to listen with an open ear and an open mind. For example, too much conservative talk radio or too much NPR can limit our listening sensibilities. Too much rap and not enough ‘easy listening’ can try the soul.

But that’s literal radio. The kind I’m talking about is more metaphorical. I’m talking about our internal radio, and it too can often lose frequency or fade in and out from one station to another.

I think we need to be mindful of our antenna. I think we have to be aware that there are so many conflicting messages floating through the air waves that sometimes we can get confused and begin to listen to a station that really doesn’t help us as we journey along the YBR.

The station or stations we listen to have to resonate in our souls. We have to be willing to switch stations if we find our favorite station might not be playing the music that feeds our soul. And when we drive through those stretches on the YBR where our radio begins to pick up different stations, we can’t ignore it. Our internal radio might be telling us something.

And sometimes as hard as it might be, we just have to turn the radio off and listen to the silence because sometimes the sound of silence is what we need to listen to.

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