Friday, December 28, 2007

The Kennedy Center Honors

"Diana Ross makes it sound so simple.'I really, deeply believe that dreams do come true,' the international entertainment icon has said, while also believing that 'you can't just sit there and wait for people to give you that golden dream-you've got to get out there and make it happen for yourself.'"

Tonight I watched a Kennedy Center program honoring Martin Scorsese, Steve Martin, Diana Ross, Leon Fleisher, and Brian Wilson. Each tribute was beautifully done, full of the appreciation and joy of expressing artistically, the passions of life as art, emphasized by those who were influenced by these artists. Each person has his or her passion, their perseverance for using or finding the medium through which their passions could live, could be expressed joyfully, happily. Fleisher still says, after having lost the use of his right hand for piano and regaining it decades later, to play music is wonderful, is to be in a state of ecstasy. After the despair of losing his gift, he came to realize that the music came from him, not just his hands. He began to teach, beloved students, to conduct, and finally, again, to play, first with his left hand. Each of these artists was honored by contemporaries and those who have come behind.

Some of the Beach Boys hits persisted through the years I was growing up in boarding school far away in Africa. The older girls danced and sang while we listened and danced with them, energized by their fun and the music. Girls from around the world sang those lyrics together, loudly, and clapping. Diana Ross is a diva who personifies the word. To watch her even now is to appreciate that spirit she personifies – reach out and touch somebody’s hand, make this world a better place, she sang, and I feel it as she took Brian Wilson’s hand, Martin Scorsese’s hand on either side of her as they took their final bow of the program. Familiar faces from our public arena, and entertainment history,appeared everywhere in the audience. As the camera showed Condoleezza Rice as she listened to one of Fleisher’s students play a beautiful grand with the Peabody Conservatory orchestra and a grand choir behind him, I wondered if she ever longed for more of that pure ecstasy of playing music, without the tangle of politics which so often has no harmony. She moved with the music. Steve Martin always sought to invent new ways to express himself, to laugh at the absurdity of so much of life. His college study of philosophy gave him the prompt to go beyond the physical sleight of hand to overt absurd props which he used in new ways, and to use his own physical humor with absolute freedom. Just to be physical is funny! He was hilariously silly. Recently I saw his memoir in the bookstore (Born To Stand Up). I picked it up but didn’t buy it then. I’m adding it to my list, again. For me it is a tribute, too, to read the ways such personalities express their lives on paper. Martin Scorsese – to capture his vision on film, full of the sounds and sharpness of the streets, the personalities with the raw energy which keeps the streets humming. As he listened to the tributes, he smiled, and his face was full of emotion– as he listened to the aria, to the music, listened, no doubt remembered. I cried with joy as I watched. These tributes remind all of us, and especially the creators, how much their presence means in the world, how the ripples expand.

What a tribute, what a place, what passion. Thank you.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Everywhere I Look

Julie Newmar

Recently I was reading the January issue of Esquire magazine. (I like to peruse all kinds of magazines that get my attention.) Johnny Depp is on the cover (which always gets my attention), and the headline is "What I've Learned." All kinds of people were asked this question, some comparing their answers from years ago. It's an interesting view of public personalities, our culture, ourselves. It made me think about the question, which I often do, in new ways. It also invited me to think about Julie Newmar again. On p. 16 is Julie Newmar's (Catwoman)response to "What I've Learned." It's beautiful. She finishes with, "More is not necessarily better. Better is better. You can't fail. The further you fall, the greater the opportunity for growth and change. Shape up, folks. There is no death. Think of it as evolution."

I went to her web site, then, just to acknowledge, and found her "The Very Last How To Book" (The Conscious Catwoman Explains Life on Earth), along with her bio, which I read. Thank you, Julie. Check it out if you're surfing and want to pay a visit.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Oh Baby

“The nicest mammary glands I ever saw belonged to an American Alpine goat at a county fair in upstate New York.” Sandra Steingraber

Human labor does not follow a one-way chain of command. “Determining what ultimately sets childbirth in motion is less like tracing a path up to the top of an avalanche-prone mountain than like searching for the headwaters of a swiftly flowing river. What one finds at the source is a nexus of interconnecting creeks and springs, each feeding the other.” (Having Faith, 180)

I’ve been reading a lot about childbirth lately. Not because I am having a baby but because I wanted to read Sandra Steingraber’s book, Having Faith: An Ecologist’s Journey into Motherhood. My nine-month-old niece and her irrepressible energy also prompt me to think, to want to know more. (See how that works - thanks, Banner :) Wanting more, learning more is to appreciate more. Steingraber is a good writer, and an honest, diligent appreciator of the value of knowledge in its many forms. She is also a lover of nature’s intricate and infinite expressions. She knows what she wants to know, asking questions that lead to others. Whatever happened to natural childbirth? What is her emerging desire for it all about? Interwoven with her research journey, and interesting historical facts that are sometimes incredible, are details of the baby herself, and the emergence of that new, charming life. The pictures she paints of the history of obstetrics, for example, shows how we create our “facts” and support them by our beliefs, which then influence our interpretations of other “facts.” Steingraber exults in finding a piece of her puzzle: “Trained to treat trauma and disease, physicians tend to see pain as a problem to be fixed and the refusal to accept analgesics as an exercise in masochism.” (165) There are many kinds of pain that are not pathological, she writes, pointing out that no one rushes to a marathon runner finishing a race with a needle full of narcotics. The focus is on the thrill of “victory,” not the relief of pain. Our focus must change to supporting life rather than disease.

I’m learning a lot reading this book – physical details in the history of childbirth, medical histories, most popular contaminants and where and why they show up as they do, and more personal details about one woman and her family. The history reminds me how our collective attitudes about “medicine” and “health” have been created and fostered. Individually, we are part of a collective, and it is individuals that initiate change in a collective. At the risk of seeming to choose the most glaring examples of the misguided "male-mind" control of life (whether in males or females), I’ll point to one Steingraber mentions. In 1920, Dr. Joseph DeLee, a noted gynecologist particularly disliked by “natural childbirth” advocates and midwives, printed a paper which led to the use of episiotomies as routine procedures rather than emergency measures. He wrote, “Labor is a decidedly pathological process.” Episiotomies could restore the vagina to its “virginal condition,” he argued, and medical students were once taught to call the final suture the “husband’s stitch.” I see in full measure how our collective minds have been mainly passive as women, aggressive as men, in creating and keeping this mindset of “male convenience” or male-mind preference in all things. Even childbirth! Labor is pathological! What??? There were male heroes along the way, who tirelessly campaigned for change, along with female heroes, but the examples are clear to me: until we acknowledge our internal equality as human beings, with the compassion of ethical values as our guide, we will still cater to this male mind focus in how we treat our bodies, how we live our lives.

To say there was life before medicine is not to dismiss its critical importance. I’m simply educating myself about the ways we have become dependent upon drugs and accepted their use and their advocacy as “normal” and necessary. In my own life, I can see how challenging it can be for a mind to change, and how ingrained our minds are in the habits of “what is.” While in the emergency room with my mother just after Thanksgiving, we were very dependent upon what help they could give her as she struggled for breath, and grateful for any relief. As I looked at monitors, listened to machines humming, watched fresh-faced nurses intent on their duties, I was alert to the energy of the hospital itself, and each nuance of change as people passed, as the clock ticked. Some nurses were completely engaged, lovingly attentive. Waiting for the nurse to solicit help, at one moment I knew all I could do was “love my mother” – we were doing the physical things we knew to do. I sent energy to her with my mind, and focused on her heart and lungs. I put my fingers on her chest. She opened her eyes, with a look both foreign and full of love. I felt the warmth of love between us, and this sense overcame all others - physical distractions of the monitors, bright lights, other sounds. Because I have studied Neural Depolarization, and work with the woman who created the technique and has used it all her life, I thought about the power of our nerves to create and sustain life, and all the communication that happens. I felt the power of the energy in the room, the flux of energy within my mother as she struggled to breathe, the inanimate presence of machinery. Yet I did not automatically think of helping ease the pressure my mother felt by removing the energy of the fluid buildup in her lungs and around her heart. My mind was influenced by the still-present belief in “we are in a hospital emergency room,” what do they do next.” These are normal thoughts, I know – this helps me to understand how we created and reinforce this pattern of submission and aggression, in this case in relationship to our health. Think! Our body as one whole organism, an Intelligent Design of energy and matter, is made to be efficient, to support itself, to celebrate life. Do our interventions and considerations always have this aim? We must learn to know how to choose them, to know them for what they are.

Steingraber’s study of the history of obstetrics in particular, as it relates to her own journey of the moment, prompts me to relate my own recent research about early physicians and scientists’ interest in the nervous system. Kathy Oddenino created NDP as her own technique of working directly with the nervous system, and her particular hero is John Newport Langley, British physiologist at the turn of the century who spent years studying the intricacies of the nerves and their function. He coined the term “autonomic.” His work was groundbreaking, and yet has he for all practical purposes languished in obscurity? Do medical students hear of Langley? I assume that students of neurology encounter Langley and his work along the way. Yet what importance is his work given? Without nerves, we have no life! And without nerves we would not know what pain is. At different forks in the road, opportunities to expand our collective knowledge in one area or another, why do we choose one over another? For centuries, Steingraber writes, medicine considered childbirth was more than happy to cede the whole business of childbirth to midwives and their sympathizers. Birth was controlled by women at home, and then came the Inquisition. As time passed, knowledge as science developed and it became more and more relegated to men only, and the patterns and divisions continued to expand. There are statues to man’s discovery of ether (1846) and the anesthesizing of pain. We are, it seems, more concerned with regulation, security, and profit than we are with health and education. We love education, but our education mostly supports the tradition, regulation, profit, and market rather than expanding our minds to more, the possibility of change and the validation of history beyond our most influential minds and textbooks of the moment. We must learn to love knowledge. To believe that “labor is pathological” is to believe that life and death themselves are pathological. What would Hippocrates say?

What sets disease and trauma in motion is much like what sets childbirth in motion - i.e., "what one finds at the source is a nexus of interconnecting creeks and springs, each feeding the other." And, I realize, what sets life and death in motion. The energy of growth and change, as energy and matter, is a constantly flowing river with the power of life and the beauty and force of nature. And we don’t just hold on for the ride. We Are the ride! With each thought, each choice, a seed is made and the complex of connections which create the life of that thought begins its motions and change. Yet within these causes and effects are specific actions and reactions that we can work with beginning with Nature (good food, air, and water). We are not simply people who “create” energy from coal, nuclear reactors, or even biodiesel – we are people because we are energy in matter. That changes everything.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Thanksgiving - Family Moments -

Most snaps taken by Bill Wiles, brother-in-law for whom songs have been written.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Nature Knows Better

I’ve just come back from Memphis, for the holiday and an extra surge of support as my Mother went into the hospital. The week was a powerful tunnel of energy complemented by the novel I was reading en route, The Theory of Clouds by Stephane Audeguy. As my mother strained for breath, bending over, laboring over each step, I felt the energy of her life within her - that beautiful spirit of life she lives, and the forms of clouds came with it. Memories of my mother’s week stay with me along with images from the novel. Audeguy writes about why Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo was “meteorology’s revenge.” Years earlier an aristocratic scientist came to Napoleon to explain cloud classifications. Napoleon didn’t understand the importance of it (the relationship of this scientist’s knowledge to his own reality of the moment!), and even made fun of the man and his nuanced descriptions of cloud formations and movement. Napoleon mistrusted this new science. What the chevalier learned was that the new order was not open to serious thought. He never came back to court, the story reports. An indifference to weather is the crowning ego’s aggression in thinking it knows best. Waterloo remains in our collective minds a monumental symbol of defeat, death, sorrow, triumph for some, and humanity helping humanity for others. Then think of this: military genius created orphans and widows across Europe.

One sentence is a kernel for my relationship with Audeguy’s words: “Napoleon had not understood the point of it (cloud classification) - or understood that greatness of spirit sometimes involves accepting things with no immediate practical utility.” (84) This, to me, means vision, an open mind and heart. True Form knows function, and this is one way to define practicality, efficiency. Earlier A. writes, “Humanity could only be obliterated by self-destruction.” Nature knows better. When inventions eclipse the inventor, we have accepted the utility of the invention? When creations know the energy of life as their own, their function and utility is meaningful. Children learn this as they grow; parents know this as their children are born and grow. The cycle continues. The book brings in more examples of how memories are created, hidden, brought back to life.

This week my parents helped remind me of the power of the energy of life (as energy and matter in motion and change) and the love of life. I love to feel the kindred spirits of knowledge-seekers that lead to our knowing the patterns of life as human nature learns to be with Nature as we share the energy of evolution and change. Earlier this week as I listened and took in the energy of those whose focus is taking care of patients, I felt the boundaries of that world, especially the gate which is made of our belief in drugs as our way of addressing the body’s needs. Our intention is to “take care of,” to be sure all signs are stable and following the pattern of “back to normal,” yet our idea and understanding of “normal” is relative to that world as we have known it. We trust what we can control. We mistrust what our senses help us to know – because we have relegated (separated) our “sense of science” into what we call Fact. The chevalier knew what Napoleon didn’t – the relationship of weather to all else. Some doctors acknowledge the basic foundation of Nutrition as something we too often ignore. But what does “nutrition” mean? It seems to them to mean that we must have the nutrients of food to keep us strong, to help our body heal – and that medicine will not work as well without the absorption of food. An equation of “healing” without medicine doesn’t seem to exist. I only mean to think “aloud” about this world we have created and why.

As I write this I have tissue beside me to blow my nose, since I have the remains of a cold. These levels of symptoms remind me, too: pay attention to the weather – internal and external. I remember my mother’s hands, black and blue with needles and memories of needles, fingers laced across her stomach. Her tiny blue veins were like little branches against a mottled sky. I felt the intensity of her vision, of her determination and appreciation of life. With hers, she enhanced mine – we shared the energy of these moments because they were real as energy. These are all permeable fields: We are energy and matter. As my internal temperature fluctuated with the air vent flow, as Mom tried to be comfortable beneath her coat and thin warmed blankets, monitors hummed and machines outside made more noises. I felt sad yet strong, determined to be present, not half-there. It was easy. I felt fully formed in that moment. I had visions of others’ dying, a friends’ mother whom I loved, sirens waxing and waning, and this time I felt the terrible music of instruments set up to play in such a world. Food, air, and water, I remember, are the elixirs of life, and love is the true chemical basis of creation and change. This may sound fanciful and simplistic, but within this energy is the way to finding the Facts of Life that support health and healing. The science of life supports life in all forms. From this basis the work of research, learning, and application that lasts can begin.

Some of the personalities written about in Audegy’s novel are disappointed by a lack of enthusiasm for their expanding insights – and the point is made: inventing something before it is technically feasible is deemed failure in the sciences. The utility of Nature’s knowing itself and our own utility of function in relationship to Nature we still miss. Cyclones, floods, drought, fire – all are front-page news these days, as is disease. We continue to hammer away with the same tools, variations of the same theme, feeling strong in our determination to prevail despite it all. I admire the courage and strength used in rebuilding, regrouping, keeping families together, creating families. My week’s experience – Thanksgiving with my family, then the hospital environment – brought visible more clearly to me what Presence means as physical support in times of need, how all energy is real and always making itself known, the beauty and strength of love through times of challenge and change. We ease transitions for ourselves through our experiences in ways far greater than our conscious minds are aware of, and I am grateful for this. We must trust the new science of the old philosophers-physicians-scientists who knew that we must first “do no harm,” and that we are part of Nature. We must re-think support, and "harm," life and death. Thank you, those of you who tend the sick and comfort those who are suffering. Compassion is truly an art which shows science the way.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

How Many Would Tell You

Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

On Nov. 1st, the New York Times ran a theater review by Charles Isherwood His review, titled “Her Life Coach Comes From Another Lifetime,” starts this way: “Barbara, the heroine of ‘Spain,” a new play by Jim Knable at the Lucille Lortel Theater, has an unusual pest problem. She’s got a conquistador infestation in her living room. A real, live Spanish adventurer from the 16th century has plopped himself down on her couch – battered armor, blood-spattered sword and all – and he won’t take his grimy boots off the coffee table.”

I haven’t seen the play, but I know it really is hilarious to think about the costuming we do as we show ourselves the hidden memories we constantly live with in our internal worlds. We don’t know any other way to live with them, or explain them, except to display them theatrically. And what fun it can be. Isherwood goes on – “Barbara is played by Annabella Sciorra, a likeable actress who spends too much of the first act shouting. This is to some degree understandable since Barbara has recently been dumped and now finds herself playing unwilling host to that messy houseguest in a quaint helmet.” Well, I have played unwilling host to a messy houseguest in a helmet, dour sisters cloistered too long, raucous pirates with a lust for more than gold, a painter with a mind addled by colorful fumes, a giggling schoolgirl playing with her schoolmate hours on end, a soldier weary of battle and entombed in the sense of hopelessness that battles will never end. The list goes on.

Those who know me are often surprised when I say such things. Those who know me well, beyond the trappings and customs or borders of certain times and frames, are not surprised but amused or intrigued, curious. We each live our own memories, more and more easily unfolding our own personalities as we know ourselves. We are learning what it means to be infinitely energy beings, habitats of our own making, universes within, all for one and one for all. Life as the ultimate “finishing school,” and beginning school. I am walked to the door by my mother or father the first day of school, that intrepid walk down the sidewalk (or, in our case, my brothers and sister and I, to the converted carport) to the entrance. From that day forward, the feeling changes. Nothing is ever the same, although more is familiar.

Now what comes to me more often are the images of men and women in long robes, with endless conversation into the night, wine flowing, tears sometimes falling both from laughter and sorrow that passes on into the night air. Glimpses of little children running, fully free in their glee. Characters stroll through my internal and external plays, too, and I am learning to enter and exit on cue. The structure of the day’s plays, the nighttime flights, are becoming more familiar and free-flowing, and the vistas are opening up to me in ways that arborists have described biographies of trees, and one ecologist has explained her motherhood. Pilots describe flying, acrobats have no words for their flight. I feel their words anyway as I swim through my life, remembering, diving.

I think of Nabokov writing about his Blues, that widespread group of small butterflies known today as the Tribe Polyommatini, called Blues even though many of them are other colors. His passion for these creatures, his joy in pursuing, collecting, categorizing, studying them is exquisite, obsessive, joyful. He never learned to drive, and he estimated that between 1949 and 59 his wife Vera drove him more than 150,000 miles all over North America, mostly on butterfly-hunting trips. Nabokov obviously relished his pleasure in this study, which he was committed to as a boy, and his personality also appreciated the humor in this character of a man strolling through towns and fields with a small net. He trained himself as a scientist and wrote specialty articles for a few appreciators. The rest of his literature does not show this aspect of the man, but the seriousness, the winks, are still there, along with his precision of language, his seriousness of tone. This is an example to me of a man who gave full rein and focus to that memory stream that was so strong in him, and he created this in the stream of his “other” life, though with great nudging and support from his wife, Vera.

Examples abound. And what fun it can be.


pic by C Buffington
I thought of a fairy tale with the three little pigs. The wolf threatens to blow their house down. This story came to my mind when we talked about the ego and the power we give our ego as our negatively controlled mind. When we are not solid in our own truth, knowing ourself, we are swayed by the wind, and not just the strongest winds, hurricanes that come with roaring and warnings. I have lived this swaying, and compared to dancing, the dancing of leaves in the breeze, even the sexy swaying of hips in the hot mambo chemistry on a dance floor, this swaying has the quality of giving in, crumbling, unequal.

Fairy tales are simply more images we’ve made of ourselves to help us see the stories we live. Beasts that speak, trees that reach their limbs to us, water that climbs and shrinks – these are fantastic, we say, the eyes of children bright as the moon, expectant, surprised, and full of wonder. This is mine for the day. My friend Max had a cat he loved. He knew I didn’t love cats, in fact I sneeze around them, so he never asked me to pet or take care of his cat when he was away, or needed time without his cat. Max is 10 years old, and very busy. Sometimes I call him just to ask how he is. When this is during a weekday, sometimes he will say, Aren’t you at work? I’ll say, yes, and he’ll say, Well, me too, can we talk about this later? He sounds preoccupied yet attentive. When I hang up, I am smiling, and I always hear his care, his concern that I hear him. It is wonderful to know such a child. One day Max called me and said his cat Perkins was going away. Where? I asked. Why? He spoke very calmly, yet with the same attentive air, the same concern. Well, he said, I decided he wanted to live with someone else. How did you know? I asked. A friend of my mother’s came over, he said, and she loved Perkins, I could tell. I could tell that Perkins wanted to live with her, and that I was ready to spend time on other things. Wow, I said. Yeah, he said. He was very matter-of-fact. There was no love lost. She brings Perkins over to see me sometimes, he said. I could feel his smile when he said this.

I will never have a cat living with me, but I surely remember every image of them – stalking, sleek, lazy, fast, large, small, meowing, growling. (Did you ever see the film, Cat People?) Cougars, cheetahs, Siamese, tortoise shells. One morning before fully awake I lean across the bed to reach for my water glass and a big paw complete with claws rises toward my hand, its soft pads suddenly there. Believe me, my eyes opened then. I rolled over and up before I got the whiskers and coat.

Closing the door behind me as I throw my animal print scarf around my neck, I think of Max and I smile. Max knows how to listen and learn. He knows how to feel a breeze. What a night, what a day, what a life.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Hidden Agendas

First, what does it mean to be "conscious" and "aware"?

What does it mean to have a "hidden agenda"?

What are "ulterior motives"?

Until we recognize ourselves as energy beings creating matter, creating our physical world and physical lives, we have "hidden agendas" too that are solely physical and therefore manipulative of our own energy fields as "our world."

I think of this as I am learning to know myself as an energy being with an intelligent design of creation, an evolving consciousness. Recently I was in a restaurant for dinner with a few friends. We waited for a table and consulted with the hostess about the choice of tables and our preference. We were seated in a section with a waitress we have interacted with many times in the restaurant, but not for a few months. When she began working there we were among her first customers, and she was charmingly young and engaged as she opened our wine bottle for the first time as customers. It’s a good memory for us. This recent night she came to our table and we were all smiles to see her again and she was happy to be waiting on us again too. We asked how she has been, she gave us a brief update of her activities, and opened a bottle of wine for us, remembering that first time. As our dinner went on, the band began to set up and then play, and the number of people in the place increased. It was a Friday night, and the loosely reckless air of weekend freedom began to build too.

As the noise increased and we had to lean over our round table and talk loudly to be heard, I paid attention to the many different energies I felt. The physical tension of energies building – the music, the voices, the sound of chairs scraping the floor, the energies of the many people getting together and communing, those gliding in and through carrying food, the kitchen staff in their focus of preparation and momentum – was itself orchestral in the crescendos and changes. I felt the verses and chorus of the song my friends and I played as we were together, even as the physical energy in our space increased, with the activity of the larger space, the crowd gathering, music playing. I looked around and saw some familiar faces, people talking, eating, some drinking. As I made eye contact with a few familiar people, those nodes in my mind felt different than when I passed through other fields physically unfamiliar.

The joy I felt in the familiar energy of our waitress was delightful, and we hugged as our party left. I remember this lilt of energy inside like buttercups appearing in a field, blips on my screen, my archival history of moments that have lit me up. As I contemplate this energy, the energy of this physical person with the charming smile and innocence of youth which still holds the wonder of actively creating life, I smile at this feeling and remember – as a child, my brothers and sister and I running in circles, or down the dirt road of the compound, arms out, just making sounds in the wind, sometimes barefoot, sometimes with soles kicking up dirt. I understand more now why these giddy streams of memory, energy, are what they are, and why we make them into other images in our urge to feel that way again. When we open our minds to our infinite memory as energy, the streams are there to wade into spontaneously and also to be consciously explored "as they are," no manipulation required. What joy this is.

Seduction and manipulation are physical energies that are the "totems," the stock exchanges, of what we come to believe are the tools of our trade as human beings that need and want to be loved. The "hidden agenda" within us is our intelligent design as long as our minds are not open to the reality of us as energy beings creating our physical world in every aspect. The inspiration and motivation of the soul and spirit is to create, to evolve. I see now how a belief that "I am responsible only for myself" can be a manipulated and distorted image of the belief that "I live only one life."

As I sit in silence by the open window on this beautifully brisk Fall morning and think about this carnival of energies, I think of a book I’ve read called Having Faith: An Ecologist’s Journey to Motherhood (2001), by Sandra Steingraber. Sentences she has written came to mind as she describes the narrowness of focus in amniocentesis, for example – the whole enterprise implying that the future life of a child can be read by counting its chromosomes and scrutinizing their architecture. She writes about having her amniocentesis and the process as science interprets it. Only about 10 percent of the captured cells are alive, but these can be coaxed to grow and divide if carefully nurtured in an incubator at human body temperature. Then they can be harvested for genetic analysis. She explains that chromosomes can only be studied if the fetal cell’s growth cycle is interrupted just at the point where the cells are about to divide. Only when the cells are about to divide are the chromosomes changed from the loopy threads that are impossible to study to the pictures we see in science books of fat, distinct bodies. Chromosomes have to be compressed and contracted and then stained to be examined for their individual characteristics. Steingraber shares a great image: "A geneticist friend of mine claims that a properly stained human chromosome that has been captured in the moments preceding cell division should look like a headless man in a striped prison suit." Given my fascination with mannequins and manufactured body parts, I now understand my relationship to these internal images more clearly. Steingraber’s epiphany was this: Whatever is in hummingbird eggs is also inside my womb. Whatever is inside the world’s water is also here in my hands.

In his new novel, Tomorrow, Graham Swift's character (Paula Hook) describes her twins imagining what it was like before they were born. She found them one morning trying to form a positive single ball of flesh, giggling, saying they were practicing not being born yet. A stage beyond the stage of not being born yet was still beyond physical imagining – but that sense of "being there," one, of having been one and divided remained, and remained a delightfully giddy sense that prompted giggles and never-ending smiles.

Having been born a triplet, I now easily image beyond what our physical division as growing children, then adults was and all it portends – over and over. This is a pattern of cell division and capture made real, with a special signal to me as an image of my own creation in this life and an invitation to feel the exuberance of this process of creation that continues endlessly, simply captured in moments, stained and otherwise.

My heart pumps away, tireless, part of my intelligent design of life, and I feel both the giddy and quiet shades of joy with it. Whatever is within the seed of my thought, is what I share with the world. I am the maker of my world as caretaker, caregiver. My epiphany is this: staining an image I’ve captured to study simply shows me creation is eternal and constant. Not to know this is to remain cold-hearted and huddling by the hearth without a sense of the world. A blind man was one of the greatest known explorers in history. Imagine walking a mountain range the width, to scale, of a human vertebrae high in the air, without physical sight. Imagine stumbling into furniture in the dark when you open a door or get up in the night to go to the bathroom. Indivisible. Images come to us in the same way we capture them before cells divide, to study their characteristics and what they tell us of life and its development. Now, we go beyond that narrow way of rods and cones alone defining our world for us. Our chemical environment is constantly in motion, interactive, not just in one image, or at one level we have learned how to capture and predictably interpret. Life goes on.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

A Good Arch Goes a Long Way

I worked for a short time in the LOC’s Madison Building, that sleeker more modern relative of the grand Jefferson. I remember insecurity stories as the security at entrances was increased, and the adventures of watching and catching the stealers among us. I thought about this a lot then – what prompts us to steal, to take from another something we want or feel we need? What creates this urgency of “security” within us, and why do our faces change when we speak of it? What motivates us to declare something of value and covet it, cherish it? Walking in those stacks of things – the tall thin metal shelving, nothing majestic about those, but fully functional – with the light glancing this way and that, whispers from lives long gone grew louder, and the noise of today rose too. When I stopped to really listen, the clamor quieted but the crowd did not disappear. Wisdom does indeed linger. Knowledge helps us know it so we can use it. The beauty of a good arch, the colors of light as it plays, the quiet that soars, the eye and equipment that capture it. All are priceless. (Energy is real.)

picture by Ferrell McCollough

Scents & Sensibilities

He became a paragon of diligence and docility.

As resilient as a bacteria.

At last he was in his element.

The goal was to possess everything the world had to offer in the way of odors. His only condition was to be that they were new ones.

as many new odors as he could

He would learn how to preserve scent so that he would never again lose such sublime beauty.

Even the moments of buttoning those buttons, as that last moment begins- show us the way each moment portends. The perfume never ends.

Find a place on earth where scent was almost absent. Tranquil all around, the scent of almost dead stone. He was finally able to bask in his own existence and found it splendid.
His own smell was not there.
A thousand others.
For the first time in his life, he realized he had no smell of his own – he had been a nobody. For the first time he was afraid of his own oblivion.

He wanted to teach the world that he existed, that he was someone.

This is where I see the shift.

His look changes, there is some innocence returning.
He hurries after.

A perfume contains four chords.

Each perfume contains 3 cores – heart, head, the base.

What’s a legend?

The scent of purity.

How to capture scent and possess it forever.
Don’t you mean, preserve, asks the master perfumer?

Is there scent in the soul of being?

How to capture the scent of all things.

The scent of roses – let them go to their deaths with their scent intact.

The very soul of the rose.

You can no more distill the scent of a cat than you can a human being!!

The arches hung over the water in dimming grey stone and solid weight that seemed less relevant than when the bridge was created. Why? Its presence still as heavy as ever, bridges are always relevant. What determines their weight, their style, their bearing, besides their material, their engineering?

At last he was able to breathe freely. Walking through town, following the men on horseback, tanned leather rolled and tied on his thin back, he was not selective about his odors. Oysters, oil, grime, stone, sweat, horses, the heavenly scent of tight coiffed curls, make-up, heavy colored fabric that folds and rolls, wood, legs, eggs, apricots, lemons, all manner of fruit.

The magnetic pole of the greatest possible solitude found in sensations. In Perfume, J-B is desperate, hungry for that scent. In once scene, the music itself is sublime. He watches secretly as she simply plucks the rose to bring into her bedroom, or compelled with it outside (to this gravestone, in this courtyard story, where he hides). I am a romantic at heart. What does this mean?

My friend so long ago, after “knowing” me for years, upon reading a story I wrote, told me, You are a real romantic. I wondered what that meant to him, and why he was surprised.

Allow the flowers to die slowly, in their sleep, as it were. Capturing the scent of life, of purity, of innocence, of love? It’s impossible, without understanding the true energy essence of love. J-B‘s acts are gruesome because he doesn’t understand the essence of life. He doesn’t want their virginity, he wants their beauty itself. Whatever it is, the noble father says, fearing for his daughter, I fear he won’t stop until his collection is complete.

As I watched this movie, I saw so many images of why we feel depraved, deprived, vulnerable to the powers of seduction, and why the airy lifting of veils of fear, even for a moment, is monumental, majestic, and absolutely compelling.

When I saw the previews for this film, I was drawn to it, as when I had found this book years ago. I waited for a while to watch it. I was both drawn to and disgusted by what I read. I think I was drawn to it because I was so drawn to its sensory heights, the obsession and misunderstanding of what senses mean, and a desperation to follow them to their end – or an end as the death as we know it. Memories compel us on, and we are driven to know what purity our senses remember. As human beings, we are teaching transcendence to the earth, and first we must learn it ourselves, energy beings living in a physical world. A phantom cannot be fought by human means, without the human mind beginning to know the truth of love and the eternity of senses. There is nothing light about this vision of single-minded possession of purity, except this vision that comes with crowds who want, ache for more - a vision of paradise made physical because it is internal, universal.

This is why we must understand energy to know ourselves. This is the pattern of how we destroy ourselves without understanding. We are infinitely sensory creations, designed for life and its exquisite celebrations.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Ecology of a Cracker Childhood

I read most of this book fast first, and I’ve been picking it up again and again since I bought it while on a July vacation in Georgia. What a powerhouse it is. Since this one, I’ve discovered two others Janisse Ray has written, Wild Card Quilt: Taking a Change on Home, and Pinhook. One reviewer wrote this about:“The most effective scenes in Wild Card Quilt are moody, impressionistic pieces that evoke the old South of Faulkner, but with an important difference: With Ray at the helm, you pretty much understand what the hell is going on the first time through.” She indulges her passion for a life lived close to the land, and doesn't mind the blinding sun sometimes.

Welcome, sister, to my world. Or I am glad to have discovered yours. Pull up a chair, a pillow, a plank. I do love to meet strident sisters of the heart, whose voices ring so clearly with such raw power and beauty. It is, to me, like finding family members in the woodwork – literally.

Another reviewer, a tree farmer,self-described conservationist who lives an hour from Janisse Ray's home, adds that Franklin Ray's family history was brutal, and that a history of mental illness was present. "A clue to Georgia's mental illness history is given through the words of a doctor. The doctor credits poor diets and eating an excess of corn during the Civil War as a leadin cause of southern mental illness." The family was fundamentalist in their religion, followers of radio evangelist Bishop Johnson, whose believers were called Apostolics. Flannery O'Connor meets Rachel Carson? What we have to learn about our need for self-preservation and survival, our healing ways, why brutality is of an old order without logic or love in an evolving world.

I love the descriptions of growing up by a junkyard, a highway, and the constant presence of her father and brothers, mother, all part of that make-use-of world. The solitude of certain trees she shared, the shining of broken down cars and pieces of other things, the foraging, hunting and gathering. This book is full of love for nature, its fragility and grandeur, and its interactive energy with the air, with water, people, times and change. Deeper and deeper she goes, into the turmoil of causes and effects, in her own microcosm of life in the yard, into the life of long leaf pines and their forests, then beyond her own small borders of life to a broader geography of moving, and life of the earth everywhere.

Now I understand the jacket cover sentence about the long-leaf pines finding their Rachel Carson. Thank you, Janisse, for writing this book. I’m learning from it, and what a pleasure it is.
Ecology review

Bread & Butter

Patience, Understanding, & Support as Ethical Values

I landed a quarter of a mile from the jump school. The closer I got to earth, the faster it rose, and I plummeted straight toward a pine. With some frantic tugging of the guides, I managed not to land in its crown. Nonetheless the tree reached out its arms and caught me: the parachute swept across its slower limbs and snagged enough to soften my fall, but still I landed hard against the ground – feet, knees, hips, shoulders. I was home.” Janisse Ray, Ecology of a Cracker Childhood

Because I was born the third of triplets to loving parents, I have always had some conscious sense of “support” and understanding. Throughout my life family and friends (teachers all) have shown me how they support me as a human being – my family in our creation itself, a nurturing environment – food on the table, shelter, comforts of “home,” however far from our birthplace, encouragement every which way, to grow. We heard lullabies to sleep, laughed, ate, did homework together, played in sand, mud, and water, smelling fruit, wood smoke, dust, rain in the air. Just the other day I looked through old pictures and remembered our older brother pulling the three of us in our red wagon, all of us busy building in our sandbox, Dad on a sunny day filling tin tubs with water for us to play in.

I think about how fleeting sensory impressions can be – billions of moments lived, like stars, or leaves, or lights flickering, to be forgotten if noticed at all. A friend reminded me the other week that nothing is “lost and gone forever.” Knowledge gained supports me as I use it.

My appreciation grows for the reality of creative energy and what it means to be “energy creating matter.” My nieces and nephews, others’ children, my own memory as a child and beyond into other swirling worlds of images, are all infinitely real to me, and valuable. As I think of my child-self, and I remember the whirls and twirls, the hard earth beneath my feet, the dust rising, the way the rain felt as it fell hard and soft on my skin, soaking my hair and making it heavy, much more – I realize how lasting impressions of life can be, and how beautiful. A rain shower is not only dirt or skin deep.

What better way for me to know the true value of patience, understanding, and support than to begin to remember why it takes the patience of a mother to love her child utterly, without condition, and why “Eve is the mother of all living.” Creation itself, as energy constantly in motion, lives the patience inherent in change. It also takes the patience of a father, guided by a mother spirit within, and by the love that comes with creating, to make physical life what it is – my view of “bring home the bacon.” Roles intertwine and change – love is cooperation, compassion, communication, strength, courage, unity, faith, trust – all of the ethical values creating together as designed.

I am the intelligent design of us all, as male, female, and spirit. I am a woman, today. My family supports me in every way to be a responsible human being, which includes keeping in touch, acknowledging our mutual love and the physical ways we show it - communication, food, knowledge, learning, guidance of the “Golden Rule,” money, compassion, an interest in our life, our health, individual goals, passions, even when we have not held the same beliefs. I remember a slide from a Spiritual Philosophy seminar years ago which read – The spirit supports the soul supports the physical. What does support mean to me? Acceptance of love, of life, encouragement, interest, the relationships that make life, learning, faith, trust, love, the nurturing of growth. True friends support me, too. While learning that “no one is a stranger,” true friends are also easier than ever for me to identify, when I honor my senses and think with love that reveals the truth without sentimentality, or doubt born of old fear. Energy is real, and my memory and “new” knowledge of us as energy and matter reinforces the fundamental laws of nature, including human nature, which strengthens the bonds of change and makes the courage of life and growth more real to me than death and loss.

These gifts of love have all shown me the path to learning to love, beginning by loving the self I am. I was born a perfectionist – according to my Dad, who has always been patient and supportive with me. I have spent a lot of time scratching and shaking my head, feeling the palpable nature of the world and people as I experienced them, wondering where I began and they “ended.” Learning Spiritual Philosophy has given me the tools to recognize patience and know why patience is an essential quality of love, and life – if we don’t have patience, we will, some day! But what memory recall will this take and what form? What we might have lost will require even more patience, and more creative force and support than I can imagine at this moment. We must learn to recognize what patience it has taken for us to be created (beginning as chemicals forming, interacting), to create, to evolve through history - to rise and fall as Romans, to stroll and speak to crowds as Greek senators, to share feasts and toasts and dialogue as philosophers, to wonder at the sense and sight of the moon and stars, feeling their rush and force, as astronomers, to stroke our growing bellies as mothers with breasts full with the milk of life, to endure a star-spangled death with the heartache of another moment gone, the joy of tears and laughter. Everywhere is the structure and discipline of support, the inherent creative love there to be acknowledged once we change our thinking to know we create together, internally and externally.

Awakening brings the satisfaction of understanding, and an appreciation of the scope of our entire human history, our Universal mission.

My own spirit energy is patience personified, literally, as my mind feels its way along the path of learning, gambling and squandering its thoughts as well as gaining polished pearls. When I have been sad, mad, sick, scared – always hope has appeared, in some form that I could recognize. When I have laughed and celebrated, I’ve felt it so deep I know there is no end to joy. No one is kidding when they say it isn’t easy to change a mind! Each way I think of all I have felt and experienced in my life, and with whom, I come back to the sense of never being alone, and how even depression itself was a gift to my mind to show me I was ready for a new beginning. Each moment in memory shows me the pattern I followed to find the thread, the umbilical cord which connect my heart and my mind to the spirit’s infinitely creative support of life in all forms. We are after all a complete nervous system that knows itself! We are all creators together. As I support myself, I love – food, air, water, the currency of life - and I support the life of all I love. Be responsible. What better way to learn, what better gift? It’s perfect, and I’m grateful.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Learning to Read

Dave McKean
Kathy Oddenino
I have been a full-stream reader ever since word patterns began to make coherent meaning (sense) in my mind. Some call this learning to read. I don’t remember exactly what age we were when my brother, sister, and I began to read, but I vividly remember the sensation of sitting on the bed or couch with them, or with our mother or father, with open books scattered over our laps, and studying patterns on the pages. I am a triplet, and because we were so much together and following the patterns taught to us by our parents, and by our older brother, we mostly learned things at the same time. I asked Mother once what she remembers about my learning to read, and she said one day the words suddenly clicked into place and I started reading and never stopped. The feeling reminds me of learning to ride a bicycle, beginning with the training wheels, wobbling along, getting used to the feeling of movement, and of guiding my own movement, then suddenly one moment my feet move the pedals with power and assurance and the wheels turn faster, my hands grip the handlebars with purpose, and I’m off! This pattern is familiar in any context once we recognize it.

When we were children, we read a variety of things, such as Zane Grey novels, a whole series of them. We borrowed them from a missionary doctor friend who had the entire collection, along with every novel by Wilbur Smith. These were "thrillers" connected to the land, to Africa, as well as to the dramas of families and their networks of intrigue. Mother liked certain types of mysteries. We had encyclopedias, world books, the Bobbsey Twins, Tintin’s Adventures, Mary Stewart’s offerings, including her "Arthurian" series, which began with The Crystal Cave (1970). I remember this book on our shelf in the living room of the apartment my parents’ lived in while they were house parents at the boarding school in northern Nigeria. That book had a white book jacket with an alluring cave opening. In interviews Lady Mary Stewart has said she always wanted to write a historical novel, but had no real interest in Arthurian stories – or to the Medieval time. She was drawn to Roman Britain, and also she so admired White’s The Once and Future King, that classic of Arthurian tales, that she didn’t want to tread on his ground. When she read of early Merlin, before he was a priest, a druid, the magician of great legend, she found her subject, she said. What made this man this man, I imagine. The story of each character, Arthur, Merlin, Mordred, more, is tangled and complex, easily recognizable and familiar.

I was never particularly drawn to Arthurian legend either – although I read The Once and Future King and loved it. I entered that tangled, troubled world with full will and senses. I read Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, upon the great insistence of our American cousins, and again plunged into that invented world full of every pathos, tear, loyalty, creation. The list of what I read and was drawn to continued to unfurl. I was interested in what got my interest and how I usually responded quickly when taken. I waded right into the pool and went under.

When I went to college the only thing I was sure of was what I had always been sure of – I would study literature. Beyond that was unknown. I wanted much more than "English literature," but my thinking was narrowed into what I assumed such options would be. I found wonderful teachers and a few friends accustomed to such loyalty to reading. We found, then, Garcia Marquez, and 100 Years of Solitude. What a revelation it was - to walk into that dense tangle of jungle and sound that was so different than mine, yet so familiar. His language opened my mind to new worlds. Wright Morris was another favorite. I found in Wright Morris’s writing a clean and clear style, straightforward innocence and honesty, that still held all the evancescent poetry and profound permanence of a moment in memory, including the development of photos. Wright Morris’s book, Field of Vision (National Book Award winner in 1956), is one of the treasures of my early exploring in the book world. Wright Morris wrote more than 33 award-winning books, and Stephen Goodwin said of Morris – No writer in America is more honored and less read. The clarity of his style reveals his subject clearly, with artful grace, without drawing attention to "the writer." This is a true characteristic of artful grace to me. He captured for his characters the fleeting sensuality that is so profoundly memorable and also starkly physical in a way unlike any other writer I know. This is his uniqueness, and something I cherish in the gift of being introduced to his writing when I was.

Joyce Cary was another – particularly his book, The Horse’s Mouth (1944), with his "hero" Gulley Jimson, memorialized again, courageously, by Alec Guinness on film (1958). Gulley Jimson is a painter, an artist, a William Blake lover, a man on fire for the passions of life, and the chaos of following his muse wherever "she" may lead. He is overtaken by color, and the challenges of each vision, each penny that needed making when it came to that break in between. Another connection with Cary, which I think I discovered after I read his book, was his colonial service in Nigeria before 1920. His government service gave him the experience to find the "common humanity" among us, and he wrote movingly about this in some of his books.

Michael Ondaatje, Annie Dillard, and Jeanette Winterson are other favorites. There are many. This doesn’t begin to name the other "poets." To tell this is to name persistent threads through my reading life that have "shown me my way." Each has his or her place in this map of mine, as each gave me a foothold, an anchor, or a kite to hold which felt natural in my hand, in my mind, and I flew or dove with them into the depths or heights within myself with their easy prompts. With prompts from certain teachers in college, I filled pages with my insights as I read, each word, sentence, or paragraph exploding into visions or caves. Some were so intense to me that I had to stop, just finish sentences. Others trailed into air and I followed them silently at other times, dark, light, shifting.

Through school I read poetry and novels mostly, along with the science, history, and political intrigue introduced to us by teachers and sometimes parents. I dove into novels and poetry and found myself at home there more than I often did in the "real world" which required my attention to "do what I needed to do." What did I need to do? Go to school, eat, sleep, play intramural sports, shower, spend time with my friends, boyfriend, do homework – whew. What a life, I thought. When can I get back to my reading?

A friend said to me recently – my personal life is getting in the way of my doing these other things. I laughed about this, because this reminded me myself. Still, now, as I get behind in some of the physical details of my life – such as paying bills, taking trash to the landfill, the overgrown shrubs – sometimes I feel the frustration of "I’d rather be…." The difference now is that I am coming to know myself as an evolving consciousness of "energy and matter." My freedom to choose does not begin and end at what task I focus on at any given moment. It begins with my creation as energy, and my creation as energy and matter with my parents’ cooperation. Spiritual Philosophy has taught me this, and therefore taught me to get to know my own mind as itself, in its energy intention to cooperate with "the rest of me" as an infinitely evolving sensory being.

I introduced myself to changing my thinking focus most effectively through reading. When I was 29 years old, a friend insisted I read Kathy Oddenino’s book, The Joy of Health. Kathy Oddenino lives, breathes, and teaches Spiritual Philosophy. I was living in Annapolis, Maryland then, as was Kathy. Living in the same town as the author whose name was spoken so excitedly by someone I was so close to, was a prompt in itself. I had lived many lives by then, since college, and my reading tastes had changed somewhat, but not my reading habits. I had a stack of books by the bed, and was constantly thinking about, reading about, wondering about books. I shrugged it off, saying I would, and her excitement continued. She insisted I read them, as I had borrowed them for her from the Library of Congress, where I was working at the time. Tired of being pestered, and curious, I picked up Kathy’s first book and began to read. I was captured by the words, though not in a way I was familiar with. Her introduction explained the "channeled" message, what that meant, and then laid out the cycles of life and the chemical foundation of us as humans – air, food, water, energy and matter in motion. The energy and pattern of creation was defined in specific ways – how to eat and why, the patterns of lessons we create through our different ages of life, as mother, father, embryo, through relationships, children, families, life, a cleansing and maintenance program and how to keep a balanced "energy." How to keep your engine running smoothly? I didn’t know much about my car engine, and certainly had not treated my body very well much of my life – smoking, drinking, depression feeding self-destructive habits that cycled up and down. As I read Joy of Health I found myself following along intellectually, thinking I understood, that the words "made sense" and that I agreed with them (therefore "understood" them). Yet I felt this growing reaction inside me that felt like irritation, then anger. I was familiar with the slow-burning volcano. Why? What was happening? I had never had exactly this reaction to reading. I knew that how I felt was related to what I was reading, and I also knew that my mind didn’t understand why I felt the way I felt. This confused me. My mind could not "make sense" of this – Houston, we have a problem. I couldn’t make it go away. I was determined to figure out what was happening and why. I resolved to keep reading some of the book every day to help me understand. I did this, and gradually (within a week, two weeks?), I began to notice that I was reading more and more pages and the feeling was dissipating, or gone. Why? The words were having their effect. I felt better. Responding to words and the "energy of words" was not new to me, but the fact that these words were talking about "energy" and the energy of us as human beings, the creation of thought and matter, had a different meaning for me. I had read plenty of science by then, in school and out, but rarely had I felt that level of interest, motivation, spark that I knew came from inside me to Know More. Other sparks were more like shooting stars that shone brightly, high and quick, then disappeared into the dark, faint memories only.

Not long after this, I went to an event at Kathy Oddenino’s home in Annapolis, and this began a friendship and mentoring process that continues today. I began to work with her shortly after this meeting. She had published three books, and was working on her fourth, Love, Truth & Perception. I was glad to be "helping her," and eager to work with her books too. I began to read the manuscript, studiously marking a few things here and there. Then I found myself repeating sentences to myself over and over, trying to "make sense of them." I quickly realized what was happening. I could not read these books in the left-brain manner I was used to. This was part of the challenge and invitation I had found with reading Joy of Health. My intellect was accustomed to introducing itself to subjects, objects in its own way, and using them or backing off accordingly. Kathy’s books had an energy altogether different. The words were inviting, stimulating, provocative, yet not confrontational, not divisive, not insistent. Does this mean these words are "true"? I was not even used to thinking of "truth" except as right/wrong, substantiated or not, etc. An intellectual approach mostly, or a way of thinking influenced by emotional heartache, heartbreak, or need – either to control, or make sure "everything was alright." To think beyond this as "truth" as a mind was an insight, a revelation in itself.

This insight seems self-evident to me, as the mind that experienced this. This is part of the point that makes itself known to me all the time, and why coming to know "Spiritual Philosophy" has been the best mentor for my mind – Spiritual Philosophy explains to us why it is only our mind that has to "know itself" – the rest of us, as infinite senses, and loving emotions, already "knows itself" and is eager to cooperate with the mind, as our male energy creation (no matter our gender). As I began to read Love, Truth & Perception, and came to a grinding halt more than once, very early on, I recognized the gift to me in this work showing me the difference I had already made in my mind, and what it meant to open my mind to thinking differently – to the beauty and potential of thinking as an infinitely sensory being made to love.

To embrace a word! As a child, I had been taught, "In the beginning was the word." I knew this was true. Yet what in the world did that mean, really?

For a brief time, in Richmond, I taught reading to a few adults as part of a public program. It broke my heart to imagine someone, especially in our culture, going through life without being able to read. I also admired the courage people had as they made their way through life without these skills. One man I tutored briefly had his own successful business. He was married with two beautiful girls. A big burly man with beautiful eyes and black skin, he cried when he told me he wanted his girls to know he could read and was tired of hiding. They are beautiful, he said, and I don’t want them to be ashamed of me. Even here, he showed his love, not pity for himself. He taught me in those few sessions, and I loved the way he read each word and how they came together. I hope he never stops.

A mind wants to "know itself." The joy of reading has been a gift to me all my life, and my mother and father gave it, fostered it, as did my brothers and sister and teachers beyond. Words that offend are not part of this art – words with the energy that enhance the beauty and joy and power of creation, the celebration of the lifeforce of us – that is the joy of "in the beginning was the word." Read on! Thank a teacher! Let the mind love.I love to read, and now I know why I never would have made a "good academic."

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Blue Ridge Travelogue

My friend Steve took a 1041-mile trip on byways and highways of Blue Ridge beauty. He shared some pictures with me, and names of towns I'd never heard of, or hadn't thought about in many years. It's nice to be reminded. Saluda, for instance: A town in Henderson and Polk Counties, North Carolina. The population was 575 at the 2000 census. It is a quiet country mountain town at the top of the Northfolk Southern Railway's Saluda Grade, the steepest standard gauge railroad line in the country. Tourists like it, I've heard, and I like this: The town festival is named Coon Dog Day, after raccoon hunting dogs.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Learning to Kneel - Poem by Mike Martin

i am learning to kneel
to rivers and sky,
mountains and earth,


God’s forms
Presented in structure and motion.

These powers we resist,
Threads spun in infancy.
Twirls of color spiraling in cycles,
Returning again and again,
Renewed even as they burn.
Just like the sun, burns,
Burns down our faith,

Our name
Our place
Our worth

The clouds are moving
Somehow holding these burnt threads,
Offerings, familial patterns,
Collages we cannot escape in our gatherings,
Pondering changes, illness,
Trailing our fingers in the sand.

The memory of water,
That prayer,
Spills in hinting of blessing and beauty,
Undeniable grace.

We feel the desert wind blowing,
Hearing the call,
The thread that waits for response.

We collect the amber silt simply through stillness,
The dusting showers left in the telling of our stories,
Butterfly coating,

Angles of dust,
Soul forces thriving in this place of sharp light and thin soil.

copyright by Mike Martin

Atlas Winced

Lester Kraus

Harriet Rubin's 9/15 NY Times article on Ayn Rand's Literature of Capitalism included a quote from John P. Stack, a business executive who took Rand's ideas to heart. Stack says to save his company he took action like a hero out of Rand's Atlas Shrugged. He created an open-book company in which employees were transparently working in their own interests. The best motivator of all may be when we see the direct relationship of our thoughts and actions to our quality of life and how that quality of life relates to others and our world. It's the best business book I ever read, he said. To get something that tells you to take your dreams seriously, that's an eye opener.

I couldn't agree more. To feel the rumble and racket and even disfigurement that happens to us on the inside and outside when we ignore our dreams, or see them as nightmares, bats and gnats bothering us, is to know the need to take our dreams seriously as our personal urge to create with the power that gives and sustains life. What do our dreams call us to do? Surely not war. The hero stories are those in which lives are saved, life is enjoyed. Rand called her book a "mystery," "not about the murder of man's body, but about the murder - and rebirth - of man's spirit." Her book was published in 1957 to scathing reviews and criticism from all sides, even as groups of fans grew. Many were secret fans of the motivation of self-interest she proclaimed, but afraid to be visible. One of her big fans was Alan Greenspan, whose memoir is now in the news. The world needs prime movers as much as ever. What does it mean to live the truth of our convictions, to dare to be dreamers, and to take our dreams seriously? Be realistic. We are creators!

Spiritual Philosophy is shining the light for me on the cave walls of my memory, and our collective memory. I have often feared success, just as I have feared failure, not dared to be "visible." This fear itself is the nightmare. My eternal dream has been to awaken. What a wonderful world. Healing happens.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Snakes and Ladders

What is love?
Sometimes we think we have to explain, justify, when what is asked for is love. This shows why we cannot truly love until we know ourselves as spirit energy – that it is the spirit energy within us that is love. When we suppress this, we create pain, chaos, destruction, war. The levels at which we create this depend upon our own level of growth and the relationship that we have to ourselves as energy – the images of ourselves as energy that we recognize and relate to. In the same way that our friends reflect our energy, our energy reflects our relationship to ourselves as energy beings. Why would we choose violent friends, for example, unless that is an energy we are comfortable with, intimate with, within ourself? An energy that we have not yet changed, healed. Why would we choose war if we knew the reality of peace?

Let’s be realistic, someone said to me.
What does it mean to be “realistic”?

When we look at the history of art, what we call art and why, we see patterns that artists, appreciators, critics have recorded that may help us recognize our perceptions and beliefs about what “realistic” means. Does “realistic” mean a recognizable facsimile of life the way I see it? Does “realistic” mean an image that is recognize as “real” to any human that looks at it? A landscape of beautiful green leaves on trees that bloom in spring – is this recognizable to someone who has grown up in a desert where there are no shade trees, only other kinds of blooms? What does “abstract” mean? At a local library recently I looked at pictures in an exhibit by a local artist whose work was called “abstract” – forms, images, mixed media, some very large. The colors were muted and soft, with some bold strokes. One image brought immediately to my mind a very large painting I saw once in an old friend’s apartment many years ago. The old friend and I are no longer in touch, but the image of the painting in my mind remains vivid and its impression at the time of our last visit is a memory now imprinted in a way that will last forever. Does this mean consciously? When I am “another person,” in another life, does this mean I will keep this memory of this moment and this painting in this room as this person and I felt what we felt and spoke what we spoke? Moments live and die as we do. All are there, within our mind, to be called upon and conjured up, at Will? When we do, what do they mean to us, how do we feel, what do we think of ourselves, of them, how do we relate? Energy never dies, so knowing why we sense as we do, what we do and when, becomes an adventure and the fun of it multiplies when we share it openly as the energy of who we are as we change.

Now I see the danger in our ladders and levels of learning to know ourself as we experience life, as we create experience. With each opening, the myriad of pinpricks and sunbursts of light we may rejoice in, until we know ourselves fully without fear, the shadows of our beliefs which we have willed into being, lurk behind doors, under beds, in the shadows of our thoughts like clouds, or storms, and reinforce the same old beliefs we are more and more ready to release and change. In Bernard Berenson’s Rumors and Reflections , I read a good example of this, which he wrote in diary entry in 1941. He is writing about his friend, Carlo Placci, in Florence, and his reflections of friendship, interaction, images, intimacy, and thinking, are interesting to me. Intimate as they were, B. writes, Carlo seldom gave an indication into the depth of his private thinking. He gave enough to make B. suspect that he was incapable of a wholehearted conviction about anything. He had many fervent opinions, but they seemed only skin-deep, which he showed by the rapidity and completeness with which he turned away from them to whatever was most up-to-date, whatever he had been next convinced of. He relates the habit his friend had of needing the last word. Because I can relate to this, his example means something to me in my learning about the images we create of ourselves as energy beings and the progress we make through life in our learning and living.

Here is B’s example: “…this swift and sure turnover from the extreme of leftism to the opposite extreme was made easy in his own eyes by a book just published that I had in all innocence lent him: William James’s The Will to Believe. It gave him the pragmatic justification for choosing the principles which his whim of the moment and his tropism led him to prefer. Like the Scot who when politely told that he was eating asparagus from the wrong end retorted ‘I prefer-r-r it,’ Placci would bang the lid on every discussion by rejoicing in iniquity, despising reason, and rejoicing in the right James had extended to him, to believe what he willed.”
As I said, it takes one to know one, and I recognize Placci – and what patience it takes for us to grow through this stage, as well as for our friends who remain, to love us despite our annoying habits and not encourage them.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Lost & Found

One day I walked down the street in late afternoon light, and I felt the rough stones under my feet like little rising bread loaves. I smiled inside somewhere, even though outside I was beginning to feel the new chill in the air, and my past seemed both large and empty. How could that be? I thought. I’ve lived 54 years, with a wife once, and a young son. He must be 12? I haven’t seen either of them in so long, I’ve almost forgotten their mannerisms, their ways. I wonder if they are happy.

I had spent so many years inside, in that office full of piles of paper, paint faded and beginning to peel. I almost forgot why we were doing what we were doing. Filing court orders, filing official notices, recording liens in different languages. Why did this seem so important?

Always, we choose to climb stairs and enter doorways, to walk down one street rather than another. The motionless sense of time passing you by is a strange sensation. All of this would make sense if all I have seen were true! The passing of windows, cars moving slowly by, the way rain falls on the cobblestones and bricks, leaving slick patches and reflecting puddles. We watch ourselves, don’t we? What do we see?

Socrates may have said Forgetting is just losing knowledge. Where do we put it when we lose it? Plato wondered what it meant to remember. Who first used the phrase, “hidden in plain sight”? I’ve been known to lose things. I hear myself saying, It drives me crazy when I can’t find something! When something is “found,” does this mean it was lost? “Lost” at times has implied hopeless. “Lost forever.” “I lost the feeling in my leg.” How do I find it again? Is it hopeless? This thought clings to loneliness and solitude and denies the power of each generating energy cell of life. We are humans together, creations in the image of creators. Are our thoughts extinct? Genetically engineered? Or do we know our power, and “it must be here somewhere.” What creates reflections from the puddles in the street? Who made the car I pass in whose window I am reflected? Why is the car parked here, and for how long? Energy is real. I touch the metal, feel the rain, take in air, and expel. Energy pulses. Energy plays, dances, creates, moves, changes, expands. There is nothing stale about creation. Remember?

Another Day, Another Dollar

I walked on the beach, by the river, on the mountainside, and the sky opened above me. I remembered each moment, each cycle, cataclysm, then, and the faces that spoke goodbye, hello, the smiles and tears. Love letters to my world. I write them to myself and send them to the sky, late nights to the stars, the spread between, early mornings in the air before it changes with the sun’s heat or the day’s chill, I wad up inked pages, sometimes with the smile of send-off as a message in a bottle on the ocean of all I remember. The children next door jump in their cluster on the trampoline, some in their dresses, others in shorts and t-shirts, all squealing. They light up the heat-filled sky, and I listen, letting their sounds show me the different in the shrillness of what I remember as the bats in the cave in my mind, the memories of the darkness, the rough cave walls, and the clanging cymbals. This is the joy of the world, the way we all light up as we listen. Spread this, with a thought, let it blend with the motion of water, the rhythm of all reeds and strings and wind. Then I’ll pay bills, spread that.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Skateboard Leaps

Anna sat herself down at the edge of the creek and studied the swirls in the water, the leaf patterns as leaves moved with the current, then caught on rocks, twigs, at angles. As she sat she felt the whole world within her. What did it mean to have landed her, in this spot, as if she were from some alien ship? Of course, she wasn’t. Why would the thought even come? Weren’t there lights and ramps and whirs and bells that she heard sometimes that seemed to signify other launches, other exits? Then again, wasn’t the curl and urge and nudge and stretch and suck from her mother’s canals a practically indescribable ride full of lights and ramps and whirs, liquids, smells, all manner of earth coming alive and pulsating with life? With the palms of her hands she can feel the ends of the earth? Are there ends of the earth? With the palms of her hands she can feel the rings of Saturn? With the palms of her hands and tips of her finger she can sense the inside of every cell, every course and flow, every organ, every signal? If not yet, then why not? Isn’t it because this nerve language is one that grows and changes like the grass, the sky, the water, only individual in its expression of its collection of the moment, and she has always been attached to anchors, to alphabets, to some root she thought might mean forever, unchanging?

When her son, Daniel, approached, she closed her eyes and felt him walking toward her. Every step was an earthquake, his stare a laser, a rope swing, his sloping shoulders a ready range for the weight of the world. He was 13, big, and his eyes were still that innocent blue, with just a bit of a shadow in them, a sadness. He had felt a lot of sadness in his young life. His father, Anna’s husband Carter, shot himself the day before their 8th anniversary, when Carter was 7. Carter’s is another story, yet part of mine, ours, and I feel the weight and the waste, and the eternal love within it, now, she told me. Her eyes, when she says this, are closed just for a second, then back open and blue-grey, clear.

This was a day by the creek not far from her house, when she sat on cold smooth stones and studied the water and its artifacts. She told me some of this later, how this is her way of following the flow of the world and knowing her place in it. There are no true stops and starts, only knowing the place where thought makes itself known, and the way leaves flow, twigs catch, temperatures change, water levels rise. There is knowing how and why this happens, which becomes in itself a study of life, and an easing of the pain that comes with blocking each thought and then letting it go.

I never had children in this life, and when I hear their voices in my sleep sometimes, it is my own playground. Anna and I talk about this sometimes, she telling me how she dreamed of Daniel before he was born, Carter’s terror at moments of knowing such life was in his hands, such joy, and I coming to know all things that make such nurturing known in other ways, finding that flow. This is mother’s milk of love, I think, this sweetness which lets us know that what we create is what we know, the endless, boundless joy of life itself, a constant creation of goals, spin-offs, thoughts, fantasies, the roots and anchors the creations themselves.

Sometimes when I hear music which reverberates and warbles in notes that drown these whispers, I know the cacophony that happens inside always when confusion reigns, when signals are missed, train wrecks happen. It takes time to clean up the debris, and this is with the most dedicated workers imaginable. Tonight at the restaurant earlier the music resounded and I remembered this. I remembered ropes, mist, smoke, loud clanging, dark night, fog. Those strings do not call forth morning. Yet it is easy – remember the stars that appeared as the sky cleared, the silence and sense of the breeze.

Anna loves Daniel. Daniel loves his mother. His innocent blue eyes with that dark shadow flitting through show his need to be with her, not to fear her disappearance or death. I watch his face when I can, and I see the placid lake of a cool Fall day, the heat of summer underneath. He questions, likes the prompts alright. I remember my own questioning, the shadows in my eyes as a child, and I remember swinging on vines of the thoughts in my mind. This way of energy I did not know. Obviously, we are falling.

The roots and anchors are also the creations themselves, each step, each skateboard leap, each goal achieved. As love takes roots in a mind, the sky inside lights up. Daniel, take my hand. As you remember you, I will remember too.

"You have created your life in the exact design that will allow you to learn the lessons that you have come here to learn. It is your design and you should love it. You first need to understand that you are more than you can see on the surface. You are not blown back and forthby the winds of events. You are an integrated being. You are body, mind, and spirit." Kathy Oddenino, Sharing, 66.

Monday, September 03, 2007

The Big Picture

Kerry Skarbakka

Yesterday I went to Kathy Oddenino's latest seminar on Hidden Memories - Here is something she wrote, which I've been thinking about since:
We live countless lifetimes and as energy we create them intentionally – when we accept this we can see how we are changing and growing internally through our growth of Spiritual energy experiences, how we preserve our past-life memories in the neurons of our brain, and why our past-life memories are pure diamonds within the dual soul memory of our endless past lives.

Our mind is always seeking new knowledge, new experiences, so what is sought after by our mind is an image of the “carrot” that is leading us, motivating us in our continuing creation. What urges us on, to live, to get up in the morning, go to bed at night, eat, dream, read, swim, walk, fly, talk, laugh? A life without any sense of momentum is no fun – it is depressing!

When we feel or express that we do not want to grow and change, we are writing our obituary as a human being. We are not getting through our head the storybook of us as a human being.

Believing that we live only one physical life has kept us focused on only black keys on the piano keyboard, only one or 2 colors in the color spectrum, only a few tastes in our taste palette. We do not know how to use our hidden memories to our advantage because we do not “know” (accept) they are “there.” This is because our beliefs are “cast in stone,” as “fact,” and we have become accustomed mainly to proving only what we already accept as “true.” This is an internal image of what it means to make ourselves into “graven images” and worship this image as immutable, omnipotent, and to-be-obeyed. We misread what we see in the mirror. Kathy’s seminar yesterday on Hidden Memories (past life memories, past life memories as bleed through with flashback memories) brought this up again in my mind in a new way. We worship this image of ourselves as a monument to our history, to ourselves as we are, even in our struggle to survive, our struggle to conquer, and divide, even as we think we commit ourselves to unity, support, and love of our fellow human. This also relates to our iconic memory of the “Ten Commandments” cast in stone and given to Moses on the mountaintop - think Charlton Heston in his flaming fierceness as a bearded image of Moses on the mountain with those tablets, in Cecil B. DeMille’s 1956 film. We saw this film as kids in Nigeria, I think on a visit once to the theater in Ibadan, the city closest to Oyo, where we lived. Certain images imprint themselves in our memories. I remember looking up at the big screen, a towering Moses, towering waves on screen, Charlton Heston’s booming voice, a slave woman being crushed by a gigantic block of stone because her a piece of her clothing was caught beneath the weight. For those who saw the film, or read about the history of film and animation, the technology and skills which expand the ways we manipulate images, that film had plenty of drama – the River Nile turning red (dye) and more staged effects that add to landmarks of memory. The drama of images fascinates me, and understanding them as energy fields simply adds to my fascination.

In disgust, the stone tablets are broken. When we are fed up with our own waste and denial and wandering in the wilderness, we break the stone of our beliefs and see the truth of the ethical values which the “love your neighbor as yourself” intends as an energy message.

The day before Kathy’s latest seminar on Hidden Memories, I went to see an exhibit at the N.C. Museum of Art called The Big Picture. The exhibit featured 23 large-scale photographs by 13 artists, including Kerry Skarbakka. I’ve been intrigued by Rosemary Laing’s photographs since I first saw a print a few years ago from another N.C. exhibit catalog called Defying Gravity. Some curators and art observers are saying that photography is now the dominant force in contemporary art. This adds more emphasis to how we manipulate and interpret images as our skill and technology creations expand. Kerry Skarbakka is one artist who had 2 prints in the exhibit. His series of photographs of “perpetual falling,” and how he simply and profoundly describes his “impetus for change and “the challenge for self-improvement” all fit together for me in how we each sense our rise and fall. We “fall” through the energy levels within our mind when we don’t open our mind and rise to the occasion of the momentum of growth and change that our mind is seeking. This is depressing for the mind! We capture these images of ourself in many ways, in life, in art, as we learn the art of life through change – the death of loved ones, our own demise, our own rise and fall. The knowledge of who we are as evolving consciousness explains this pattern of creation and expression. It is beautiful to see how we change our view from "defying gravity" to knowing we can fly, or, as my friend PC beamingly acknowledges, Levitation of the mind!

Kerry Skarbakka
Kerry Skarbakka’s images picture a world full of physical and emotional dangers. His web site refers to German philosopher Martin Heidegger, who described human existence as a process of perpetual falling. This creates the framework for much of the falling/tripping photographs in his series The Struggle to Right Oneself, for which Kerry has become known.
Lightwork catalog