Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Gift of Years

While traveling over Christmas I read Malcolm Gladwell’s latest bestseller, Outliers: The Story of Success. Gladwell explains success in terms of generation, family, culture, and class. He explains how and why the lives of “outliers” (which is defined as "something that is situated away from or classed differently from a main or related body; a statistical observation that is markedly different in value from the others of the sample"….) follow a “peculiar and unexpected logic,” and so presents a blueprint for making the most of human potential. At least this is what the book jacket says. “Why do some succeed far more than others?”

This is fun for me to think about, and to read about in his book. I read The Tipping Point, but not Blink. I like Gladwell’s way of assimilating information and presenting a “new picture” using smaller patterns to reveal larger ones that help us think more deeply about our assumptions about life and the phenomena of interaction – of “facts,” information, personalities, cultures. Energy! His own book is an example of how one mind , interprets, manipulates information to make sense for and of itself, isn't it?

One fascinating point in his book, to me, is: “The idea that excellence at performing a complex task requires a critical minimum level of practice surfaces again and again in studies of expertise." Researchers have settled on what they believe is the magic number for true expertise: ten thousand hours.
‘The emerging picture from such studies is that ten thousand hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert – in anything …,” writes one neurologist. Studies don’t address why some people get more out of their practice than others, but no one yet has found a case in which true world-class expertise was accomplished in less time. It seems that it takes the brain this long to assimilate all that it needs to know to achieve true mastery.” (40)

Another fascinating point:
“The particular skill that allows you to talk your way out of a murder rap, or convince your professor to move you from the morning to the afternoon section, is what the psychologist Robert Sternberg calls ‘practical intelligence.” To Sternburg, practical intelligence includes things like ‘knowing what to say to whom, knowing when to say it, and knowing how to say it for maximum effect.’Where does practical intelligence come from?

The incubation our environment is for us as a choice we make as evolving consciousness makes these points ever more fascinating to me. This is how we learn to know where our “practical intelligence” comes from! As we learn to open our minds to the design and structure of ourselves as energy and matter, we become conscious of the purpose(s) which guide our every interaction. The Ethical Values (especially of love, truth and equality) reveal themselves to us, within us, as our minds open to thinking differently about our “blueprint.”

"I just believe that the interesting time in a career is pre-success, what shaped things, how did you get to this point?" Steve Martin told Renee Montagne. "I think it's somehow an American story in a strange way, because I started untalented. I didn't have any gifts except perseverance."

I am also reading Steve Martin’s memoir, Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life (which he is said to call a biography rather than an autobiography, someone he once knew). He writes about redistricting moving him to Garden Grove High School (near Garden Grove, CA, in the 1960s), and on his first day of school, the student body being called to assembly. He had determined, with this move, that he would leave his old personality behind and live as this new “non-conformist” personality (though, he writes, the changes may have been imperceptible to those he knew in his “former life”). In the assembly on the first day in his new school, he first saw the ‘face of God,” in the ice-blue spotlight that shone center stage in the surrounding dark. The 1500-seat auditorium had great acoustics, a polished hardwood stage, which included a proscenium framed by heavy velvet curtains (which always have their own presence), and the pre-program dark was full of adolescent chatter and the high energy of first-day-of-school and anticipation of grand entrances. He knew he wanted to be “up there” rather than “down here.”

One reviewer wrote, Even for readers already familiar with Mr. Martin’s solemn side, “Born Standing Up” is a surprising book: smart, serious, heartfelt and confessional without being maudlin. Decades after the fact he looks back at a period of invention and innovation, marveling at the thought that his efforts might have led absolutely nowhere if they had not wildly succeeded. While there is much to validate his sense of having been lucky, nobody put it better than Elvis Presley, whom Mr. Martin once encountered backstage when both were enjoying the status of show-business kings. “Son,” he says Presley told him, “you have an ob-leek sense of humor.” Having just come back from Memphis, this Elvis note was irresistible.
I think about the interests, passions, fun of tricks, sleight of hand that captured his thinking, the way he took everything in during the shows he watched – the nuances of each performer and the context of audience.

I think about how each of us, as personalities, follow dreams that live within us. My waking dreams have been to truly know myself, as the sum of child, woman, human. Each experience has taught me something about myself, what I hold dear, what I have feared. With each day’s passing, now, I am more alert to the way my thoughts move and create, the way my limbs feel as I live and breathe, sometimes the way breathing itself ripples inside like a cloud forming or like the river current – smooth, cool or warm, clear, strong, sometimes like music (moonlight sonata), sometimes strong like a waterfall rush.

Though a woman in this life, I’ve not had children – one primary role of a woman in life. I’ve not been married, though I’ve had “serious” relationships. I’ve ridden these experiences as the waves within me. What has opened my heart the most has been the leaves of learning, the way relationships fit together, what builds, grows, and what remains. One of my favorite activities as a child was cutting out paperdolls, cutting pictures from magazines, and anything “cuttable.” I could spend hours looking, cutting. Recently a friend and I made a birthday card for my friend’s daughter, cutting pictures from magazines, of things we thought suited her, images that we smiled at. I have always liked to create shapes, textures, put them together, find patterns. From the zebra patterned throw on my bed, to the bookmarker in my book, I appreciate memories, I feel myself as that child I was, intensely focused, all else silent around.

Now, as I grow and change (and age!), and lives of others change as mine does, I’m changing my relationships, my feelings about loss and gain. “Things” I used to cling to – feelings, perceptions, people as I thought they were or wanted them to be – I’ve let up on, as love guides and influences me in my current of my own life images. The simple gestures, the easy nature of how we can each live, show ourselves what we’re made of, are gifts I’m learning to honor. My tears flow more freely, both joy and sadness, and I know the deep satisfaction of laughter. I am watching my own parade, and I celebrate better how uniquely we create each life, each day.

My own ice-blue spotlight, eye of God, is like a constantly spinning set of concentric circles, my own green eye visible to me always – pigment of grass, chlorophyll, growth, happiness, glint of sea glass under ocean foam like lace. I’m learning to know the rhythm of change as my own. What a gift of a year, of all years.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Handwritten Notes

Spiritual Philosophy prompts from reading Kathy Oddenino’s work: The energy that we live, the words we speak, the emotions we feel internally, and the sensory response we have to other people and our life reflect the level of our energy “growth” as a human being.

We must ask ourselves, Who am I and who do I want to be? Once we truly understand who we want to be, we can learn the fine art of “being” or living in that energy field in our daily lifestyle. We are constantly challenged to break our old habits of “thinking and doing” to allow change to become a part of our everyday human existence.

Robyn O'Neil, graphite on paper, 2008
“Recently, I was a guest artist/professor at Rice University and the University of Houston, doing studio visits with graduate and undergraduate students, and this is what I keep trying to tell younger artists, because so many of their ideas come from, like, “I love Bob Dylan, so I’m going to make…portraits of Bob Dylan!” You know? That kind of literal transcription of their own interests or influences instead of something more subtle or powerful. I think you want to jar people, or at least I want to jar people, and confuse them about these things, to make it exciting if they do talk to me about it and find out what’s in there.’”
Robyn O'Neil

I read an interview with Robyn O'Neil recently in Believer Mag. I love discovering "new" artists, expressions, and ones that share some of my obsessions thrill me always. O'Neil writes about how her research into Nabokov's way of thinking and writing/association by studying his handwritten notes affected her very intensely. I can relate to this. As I learn about the reality of us as energy beings, I am even more fascinated with the vortexes of energy every thought, every word creates. The fact that Nabokov was a butterfly collector with a passion not easy to match, has intrigued me ever since I began to read Nabokov's writing. Sensory associations are everything, as energy. The time we live creating images for ourselves is not usually so important as the images themselves.

I recognize more clearly today how truly creative thinking supports the internal and eternal growth that my habitual thinking and behaviors resist. My physical habits of thinking and doing are well-developed. I’ve worked on some of them for decades, some for eons! My mother once described to me a pattern I lived as a child. She said she learned quickly that when I resisted doing something she asked me to do, she simply had to wait, ask again, wait, and ask again, and, though I said No again the third time, I would then do what she asked me to do. Once she recognized this pattern of my behavior, she had no more struggle. Of course, she understood this pattern long before I did.

I’ve thought a lot about this pattern of mine, when I have felt strongly about some idea, issue, or conversation. Sometimes I’ve seen the pattern clearly and changed it easily. Mostly it amuses me now to see it. When I get irritated, this gives me more clues again to how I created the pattern in the beginning – clinging as a child will to a favorite toy to my own thought in that moment; Don’t tell me what to do! Are you listening to me? Why don’t you agree!, etc. This week another example came up, and once I blew off my steam into the air around me, I laughed and felt the relief. My employer and I were talking about a work project, and as we discussed our ideas, we hit energy roadblocks. I felt my energy flares arise, but didn’t understand why exactly, beyond a frustration of wanting to “complete” the cycle of thinking and move our project on to the next phase, as I thought it was or should be, in my mind. Finally, I said, I don’t mean to be cantankerous, but I’m trying to be productive and move this on. My employer said, rather softly, You can be cantankerous sometimes, as she poured her coffee. I jumped on this with some relief, and said, Okay! Will you explain to me what makes me cantankerous in this conversation – how this is? Some of this I knew, as my tone of voice had grown hard, loud, and abrasive, but I didn’t understand exactly how I had created the cycle of energy. She said, Sometimes when I go beyond a thought you have, you resist, become argumentative, before coming around. I thought, Yes! I get fixed on a thought, and sink it into the ground as though it is anchored by roots, by concrete. My thinking mind (which in that moment I am defining as “I”) is challenged, and my ego buffer, as has been its habit, defends “me” with, “How dare you change!!”

Immediately, I remembered this 3-times no then Yes pattern I’ve lived since I was a child! Here is how I understand this now. When a “new” thought enters my mind, or my sphere of influence, if I am not instantly and consciously open to that thought energy as it changes and seeks the internal support of growth as “eternal growth,” my mind expanding, then I put the brakes on, control my thinking because I am not able to assimilate “new.” The energy of ego resistance rears its control, and I feel the absolutely controlling energy as a physical force within my body, and within the energy fields that create who I am in this moment. When I am controlled by my mind (mental) energy, I am pacing, guarding my thoughts from change. When I let myself go, soar the wind of the spirit energy, I recognize the restrictions of the physical clearly.

What a gift it is to consciously begin to know who we are so intimately, as energy beings, constantly in motion. Love honors us all, and in this time, the need for Love shows its face everywhere. I remember, to change our energy, we only need to know that we ARE energy!

to be continued.....

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


What a few weeks of reminders of the wonder of thanks-giving, of what it means to love and to be loved. Where do I begin to express the energy lessons and experiences I’ve lived in the last few weeks? Our family was together again this Thanksgiving, with only a few unable to come because of schedules, and as always I enjoyed our get-together. The familiarity of rituals is fun – even the getting ready, the car shuffling, deciding who is going in which car, what time to be “there” (my aunt and uncle’s lovely home), the great spread of food including an asparagus casserole that my Aunt makes as part of the Thanksgiving tradition and other contributions from friends such as delicious cole slaw and pickled cabbage and sausage. So much was so familiar and fun in its familiarity, and a few changes were dramatic and sad. Mom was determined to go and dressed well, as always, though it took such energy to do so. We persuaded Dad to go, and I think he enjoyed being with everyone, even though he could not eat the offerings. He had a sucker or two from his stash that turned his mouth blue. Sumner asked him to name his favorite flavor.

After Thanksgiving Day, I became more focused than ever on the energies of life and disease and health and healing as they presented themselves in our collective. All of the movements Dad made were with absolute deliberation, and I marveled again at how our energy works with our matter to motivate us to move and to change – physical positions as profoundly as mental and emotional “positions.” I watched my brother tend to Dad also, so patiently, and my nieces and nephews marvel and observe as the changes in energy unfold before their eyes.

As I listened to Dad’s comments and took in how I felt his words, what he could do and couldn’t do, how he felt, I felt the integration of us as energy beings in one more profound way. He wanted help, advice, as well as to be able to do what he could do. Instructions can confuse a mind struggling to orient itself in its matter, as its matter is changing function. What we are used to our body “doing” begins to change, and our relationship to ourselves “as a body” with it.

As I slept in the bed with my mother, and felt her energy so close, I became more aware of the reality of energy levels “all around.” That is, how we behave as energy and matter beings, with our energy fluctuating constantly, focusing itself in different degrees, different ways at different times. As moments change. I felt the absolute comfort of nesting in bed, relieved of activities or the energy of activity in the daytime. Nothing was required then except to rest, to cradle our own energy. I heard and felt her breathing, the soft rise and fall. I breathed deeply, to know my own energy as love, and to smile with her, from the inside. It has been many years since we have slept in the same bed, and my memories of our laughing together are vivid. We talked about this one night before sleep.

Once when I came back into the bedroom darkness after checking on Dad, I heard my Mom’s voice say, You’re just like a ghost. This made me laugh, too. It isn’t my normal pattern, I said, slipping under the covers again.

It was fun to feel the energy of our parents and of Mike, M.A., and I there together after others had left, just as it was great to be with John and everyone else in the whirlwind of the holiday. Each family member, spouses, children, all their own ambassadors of life at this moment. Everyone plays their unique role being themselves. One buys flowers while another cleans. Every smile means the world. We adapt easily with each other, if not always gracefully, and always we laugh a lot at the least provocation.

That evening when we felt we had to call 911 for Dad, our hospital journey began again.

I thought about all the energy between us, the energy his body was using, the love I felt in his innocence and appreciation of the gift of life. Mixed in the week’s gathering I felt the joy and smiles and some laughter, as we always do, but a pronounced sadness lingered and was heavy to walk with, through. I became conscious of how pronounced the physical energies of our lives are – the lists, the chores, the things our minds become so occupied with, that need to BE DONE, as though our lives depend upon them. I also appreciated the flow of how these tasks can be accomplished – as we learn to communicate, as we pick up where another leaves off, as we ask and answer, as we do.

At my mother’s friend’s suggestion, and having time at the hospital, I began to read a borrowed copy of The Shack, a recent “novel” growing in popularity. On the cover of this copy is written this endorsement, “This book has the potential to do for our generation what John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress did for his. It’s that good!” The story centers on one man’s life experience, a great loss (The Great Sadness) he suffers, and how his experience of God, love, life, and death begin to change. As he enters the scene where his daughter’s tragedy occurs, his world opens into the energy of love and the manifestations of “God” as he will come to know them. So now what am I supposed to do, he asked. You’re not supposed to do anything. You’re free to do whatever you like, the energy character called Jesus says. Don’t go because you feel obligated. That won’t get you any points around here. Go because it’s what you want to do.
After I had read these words, I heard Dad’s voice saying again, What should I do now? Suddenly I had an insight into how my mind has sought answers to life’s questions, and how our training from our many lives as physical beings forgetting that we are energy beings first shapes our thinking to ask What shall I DO now, to help us hear the voices within us that are guiding our energy forces every moment. The function of our matter changes as our thinking changes, and our mind begins to lose its connection to the way our matter moves. We become foreign to ourselves, until we know ourselves as spiritual energy beings.

The help and support we have experienced as a family has been wonderful. The list is long, and continues. For example, church members signed up to stay with Dad as he recuperates. His Sunday School class came to his hospital room on Sunday so he could "be there." He was delighted. He is eager to go home. What do I do to make that happen? he asks, his resolve firm in the moment. Focus on moving, I say, with full love, a little at a time. We use our energy to go where we want to go. I am thankful.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Shifting the Mind into Love, Take 333 - Family Jewels

We must think deeply enough to see the beauty of our own design.

Listening to Dad’s questions, his comments, such as What a life we are living – helps me to tune into his level of energy reality and mine, as I can. Every movement is so careful, takes such focus and effort, and so often it is easier to be told what to do or have someone else do. His speech therapist, Amy, an adorable young woman, said her motto with him is – When in doubt, Swallow! He kissed her hand as she was leaving, thanking her for her help. He followed her instructions diligently, as he could, with a full intensity of focus, as a child might do. I thought many times during the past few days of how parents having and raising children create a cycle of familiarity with the tending of every physical need – food, bathing, sleep comforts, health monitoring, ears and eyes alert to their children’s energy patterns. As I washed the syringes for Dad’s PEG tube in the very hot water, I thought of all the parents I have known, washing their baby’s bottles – filling, refrigerating, cleaning. I thought of how interesting it is, how we create our experiences, our cycles of experience in each life.

As Dad moved slowly down the hall toward the bathroom or bedroom, I thought of all the energy that makes us up, everything working together to make the movement happen, what a miracle phenomenon life is. Also, what sense is made of how, as chemical energy beings, our “healthy hum” vibrates as we support the music we are, and that we know to play. We are not only the song, but also, ultimately, the composers and the instruments.

Friends repeat to me how much our parents are loved, what their kindness and example have meant in so many ways and so many lives.

Dad is puzzled by why he feels and doesn’t feel certain sensations, why the left side of his face (his forehead) appears to him to have more wrinkles than the right. Last night he told me he thought he would not have any more pictures taken. Why? I asked. Well, look at my face, he said, facing me as I leaned toward him. It’s so ugly. He doesn’t say this with a sense of vanity, only a sense of amazement and acknowledgement of changes he sees and doesn’t really understand. Of course, he isn’t ugly to me, as I told him, but he sweetly dismissed this and proceeded with his nap.

Memories of Dad when we were all much younger come to mind as I am here, and I remember Dad’s appreciation of these “sweet memories.” Those were the golden days, he says. I feel the “silver thread,” golden cord that ties Mom and Dad together in their lifetime of interaction and creation. When he said yesterday, you know I haven’t seen her in almost a week, it brought tears to my eyes. I don’t know when it has been that long. I think my telling him and others about Mom walking down the hall and back in the hospital gave him incentive to want to walk. He walked a few “laps” in the house. Also, my cousin Bob talking about how my parents and Aunt and Uncle always encouraged his mother (Sister) to walk, though she declined.

In this, too, along with, first, their own creative lessons, they teach us. We teach each other. The way we think of creating and struggle – the diminishing of struggle and the good humor always predominant, the appreciation constant – “We’ve got some hurdles to climb, kid,” my mother’s doctor observes.

I feel such a gravity of sadness, yet also a strengthening of my own spirit energy – which, I imagine, I remember, happens as we age, grow up, change form, feel the gravity (literally) of our own coming and going. Out the airplane window right now, with the aircraft banking slightly right, the layer of clouds seems to curve in my view, forming a feather shape, or an oar, with water rippling off of both sides. It’s beautiful, and many shades of white and luminescent gray. Now the clouds are thicker and whiter below us, the same way as the ocean changes.

Talking with a few of Mom’s friends, a diverse group, I hear some talk about bridge club, sewing circle, Knitwits, garden club, mostly made of “Republicans,” they say. Mom belongs to none of these. Their network of long-time and newer friends is well-knit and wonderful. They volunteer and come and go in her hospital room, some with crochet, books, anything they or she might want or need. My Aunt, her twin, is faithfulness itself - funny, persistent, always ready, encouraging. She prompts Mom to eat better than anyone.

Now the thick clouds below really do look like deep, fresh wind-blown snow.

A few of Mom’s friends, my Aunt and I were in Mom’s room yesterday talking about love. A mutual friend always says “love you” in her very sweet way and she means every word. Another friend, equally loyal, thinks this is revolting, only because it isn’t her style. I think actions speak louder than words, she said. You’re here, I said, my arm around her shoulder and on her soft peach-colored jacket. That’s love! We all agreed. We all began to say “Love you” as anyone left the room. They were great moments.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Take a Poet's Pause and Breath(e)

Take a poet's pause and breath.

Look up at celestial heavens as day breaks "our back yard this summer".

From our friend, Ellen Van Horn, in Virginia. One in "Long Island Bahamas," the other is the daybreak. Their own Sistine Chapel.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

John Henrys

What does it mean to know that we are, I am energy, all is energy? I know something about how science defines energy, and the many categories in which we relate to energy and its function in our lives. We put gas in our cars, we pay our electricity bills, we talk about turbines, nuclear power, the power of the water and wind in a storm, we digest food, plants convert energy. We breathe as we live, we get up in the morning if we can, we wake up if we are conscious, we swallow, speak, and share our energy in infinite ways. Why do we still believe machines are more powerful than we are? “Folklore” is full of tales of humans interacting with machines, with Nature, with each other as we have tried to define our human personalities as energy creating matter, without remembering that we are “Gods,” as energy constantly creating matter.

Remember the story of John Henry, that steel-driving man who beat the steam drill? In the 1800s, our history reminds us, when our country was recovering from the “Civil War,” railroad tracks were being laid to connect coast to coast. Thousands of men took on the job of clearing the way and laying the tracks, and some of the most challenging jobs were blasting tunnels through mountains, like the Big Bend Tunnel in West Virginia. Men used large hammers and stakes to put holes in rock that were filled with explosives to speed up the process of laying track. The folk hero image of John Henry reminds us of the “David and Goliath” story, any underdog-versus-the-dominating-force story, and we feel good when we hear of such a will that accepts any challenge, even if we die doing it. Singers and weavers of stories through our history have made this story their own, and the ballad of John Henry is said to be the most well known and often recorded American folk song.

Isn’t it easy to imagine at least some of that drive of John Henry’s? The purely physical pressure of survival, life itself, being proud of feeling full as an able body with the strength to perform, the will to live, the ability to do what we aim to do? Glistening muscles, sweat from exertion, the clanging of steel, the hard rock, the sparks of life and rock and iron and engine competing. So much is in only a few details. In the political news on television I hear commentators point out the presidential candidates’ careful language and the slippery slope of meaning and interpretation's influence – “After I am elected,” “After I win.” I feel a difference in the energy of the words, the determination, or desperation, with which they are delivered. I look at my life in this moment. A friend who recently read my book wrote to me and said, Was there an ending? I laughed out loud and wrote back, Now I remember - life is eternal. The love of life is eternal. Change is constant. Endings, and beginnings, change as I do (ENERGY is real, creating matter). Almost any good editor (one who "goes by the book") would tell me (as some have) that beginnings, middles, and ends must be clearly structured, defined - the reader must have this guide, like an internal clock that helps them feel comfortable. Most of us feel better going into a house that has a good foundation, some degree of order. It's funny to me - I find mine has been more like burrowing in to then blow off the roof and see the celestial beauty both in the heavens and underground. She wrote back: Thanks Margaret! Your ending is "the love of life is eternal. Endings and beginnings change as I do." Now I feel complete. (Guess I got used to roofs on my houses.) Thanks for letting me share your life and book. It was an interesting read.

What is it that moves us to pass a story on, memory to memory, a legacy of iron, steel-driving will, a song we make our own that we sing with all of the emotion of our heart? Hippocrates' teacher is said to have believed violent wrestling should always be prescribed as part of the healing process. Hippocrates disagreed. His focus is said to have been on gentleness, nurturing the body into a healing focus. When I listen to my mother’s voice over the telephone, I hear her lovely laugh, and I also hear the days when her voice seems small, a sound of “hello” captured in a paper cup and lifted out to the wind rather than spoken. I hear the vibrations of my own voice when I speak with her, and when I talk to myself inside my head before I sleep. I am writing songs sometimes. Other times driving steel, carving letters. Today is the paintbrush, tomorrow perhaps the glass-blowing, the abacus. Always the energy is real, and love is what heals.

Monday, October 13, 2008


Recently a friend sent me an Elvis bust made of molded rubber and complete with a good wig, animated blue eyes and lips. He came with his own microphone, batteries, and an adaptor. His lip lifts, his eyebrows rise, his eyes move and shift, his familiar voice comes out. I captured a picture with my cell phone late in the night and sent it to my 19-year-old niece. She texted me back instantly, asking Who is that??? When we spoke, she said it was creepy, she was worried. I reassured her that, in the light of day, and with a clear rather than fuzzy picture, Elvis is actually not scary but very charming. Part of Elvis is now propped on the cedar chest in the sunroom. When a friend walked in, she said, What the hell is that? We laughed, and punched his buttons so he would perform, play with us.

I conceived characters aeons ago, which I would become, each day being its own addition to the adventures (trials and sorrows) which grew into a mountain of joys when seen whole, the view from the overlook, and with some distance from that air.

Devils, angels, incubi, dart-throwers, gargoyles – all the fantastical creatures of allegory have been conceived by men and carved in every manner of medium, even (and often, especially) skin. We have made ourselves into the distorted images we see in our dreams, or the touched-up versions we see in our magazine spreads. Temper tantrums called up by children when pressed by fatigue, frustration, and a moment of emptiness show us what we adult characters grow into, with a little more costuming and maybe more flair. My parents taught us that tantrums are not acceptable, or desired, by thinkers. To be alive is to think and to do, to love life. I have thought about this a lot.

I think about how perfect this pattern/process is in relationship to how we act in our world with each other. How often are we propped up, wait until our bunches are punched, then rise to the occasion? Do we wait to be “plugged in”?
I think of the icon Elvis was and is. I never saw Elvis perform, but have seen plenty of monuments and trickets made and sold in his name. What would Elvis himself think? Elvis as Jesus. I don’t mean to blaspheme, but this is one of the points in my mind. We create images to worship, to manipulate, to suit our fancies, and converge upon them the powers that we want them to have in our world. Beyond a pure enjoyment, this symbol is scary. It’s only scary because I recognize how mammoth our lesson is – we ceaselessly search for ways to entertain ourselves, and yet we do not relate our images to every image we create and the roles our images perform for us.

Friday, October 10, 2008


“Each time that we live an emotional experience that emphasizes our finite nature as physical beings, we expand our level of conscious awareness of our eternal Divine Nature.” (The Journey Home, 482)

Today my brother sent me two recent poems, “Because I am his son,” and “Between these waves.” Since I read them they move gently in my mind. “Between these waves” begins, “I draw you close, My loves”; “Because I am his son” begins, “Because I am his son, I go.” Reading the poems in succession, I feel their rhythmic beat, the energy of all they mean to him, and now to me, rippling like the leaves touched by wind, sand moved by water. The “his” refers, here, specifically to our Dad, whose physical energy diminishes and still charms. I cried a little as I read Mike’s words – not because they depressed me, though sadness was there, and reached me; because the love shared expands me.

The quote above from Kathy Oddenino’s The Journey Home fits, again and again. As Mike wrote, we are “forging a beautiful simplicity between these waves.”

Another bit I read in computer-land today was about the LilyPad Arduino, a washable, flexible fabirc circuit system you sew together with conductive thread, so that your whole body becomes circuitry - Leah Cuechley,the creator, a fabric designer, says, “I am interested in integrating ‘feminine’ activities like sewing with computer science, mathematics and technology. I think that social issues more often than lack of talent discourage women from entering math, technology and science-related fields.” She hopes to help create environments where women’s interests are explored and represented. This may seem a strange or “invisible” segue with the above, but I find it fascinating – light-up clothing, snaps that say “here I am” by light, clothes that go dark when you put your coat on. I am learning about the reality of energy, and therefore how science, art, visuals and perceptions of all kinds of minds interpret themselves as expressive energy. The diminishing or expanding energy of us as people (physical energy) is a phenomenon in my mind a lot these days, therefore the infinite fields in which we create are becoming more apparent to me. Without the add-on circuitry, I am learning to know the language of my nerves within me, and the absolute intimacy of this language of life. Love lights me up. Fear frames the dark. How do we keep our circuitry going? What is our true nature as “spiritual beings”? I see signs all the time of our continuing to separate the reality of “the physical” (our belief in the physical as Real and absolute, even as we reinforce our belief in the invisible as simply “faith,” or “heaven” or….) from our appreciation of the love with which our senses invite and experience life when we know and support our true nature.

When I look at ideas, things, patterns, people whose thinking I’m attracted to, I know more of what makes me human, and why my personality is as it is in this moment of drifting time.

Borges, Crowley, epigrams, ephemera, symbols of stairways, ladders, nests and eggs, hatching –All invite me into the tunnels of my neuronal pathways which begin to enlighten me as I open my mind to the reality of us as energy first and matter second. We are our own creators, as made in the image of God. In an article called Metamorphosis (2007) about Rosamund Purcell’s “natural history” (2007), John Crowley writes, “An overarching category (if Purcell’s extreme nominalism can permit such a thing) is the category of the sublimely diminished, things that, as she says, are bereft of their original potential yet still familiar. “I have chipped these things from the matrix of the almighty thingness of our all-American world, and, as I did not stop to mourn their demise, why not revel now in their inevitable disintegration?”

Read again the quote from Kathy Oddenino'sThe Journey Home, “Each time that we live an emotional experience that emphasizes our finite nature as physical beings, we expand our level of conscious awareness of our eternal Divine Nature.” (The Journey Home, 482) I think again of Mike’s poems. I marvel at the moments of healing that happen always, the sun rising and setting, the moon phases as I know them. As energy we are never bereft of our original potential. As energy, we grow. Revel.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Passing it On

Lately I've been reading a new book called The Girl from Foreign: A Search for Shipwrecked Ancestors, Forgotten Histories, and a Sense of Home, by Sadia Shepard. I am thoroughly enjoying it. Here are the quotes she shares at the beginning.

"When I think of Bombay now, at this distance of time, I seem to have a kaleidoscope at my eye; and I hear the clash of the glass bits as the splendid figures change, and fall apart, and flash into new forms, figure after figure, and with the birth of each new form I feel my skin crinkle and my nerve-web tingle with a new thrill of wonder and delight. These remembered pictures float past me in a series of contrasts; following the same order always, and always whirling by and disappearing with the swiftness of a dream, leaving me with the sense that the actuality was the experience of an hour, at most, whereas it really covered days, I think." - Following the Equator, Mark Twain

"And might it not be, continued Austerlitz, that we also have appointments to keep in the past, in what has gone before and is for th emost part extinguished, and must go there in search of places and people who have some connection with us on the far side of time, so to speak?" Austerlitz, W.G. Sebald

I've read most of Austerlitz, at different times, flipping through pages. I was drawn to the book by the same sense of the narrator's searching for threads, and the satisfactions of each mind finding them, threading as we go, unraveling as they do.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

What am I really doing?

Am I creating “good”? What is my “legacy” day by day? What will I remember? How? How will I be remembered?

After attending this weekend’s Retreat/Conference on Ethical Values: Levels of thinking and behaving, I’ve been feeling my thoughts more consciously. Reading the handout from the class this morning out on the patio, in the cool breeze before the sun’s heat began to break through and intensify, different aspects of the weekend’s conversation sparked in my mind. One is the phrase, “trial by fire.” Kathy wrote: “When we can examine our thinking and behaviors through the Ethical patterns of our human design, we begin to see that life is not simply a ‘trial by fire.’ We do not have to chastise, question, or intimidate ourselves before we can understand the truth of who we are, where we are going, and where we have been. We need to open our thinking mind to new concepts of thinking and understand the truth of who we are as energy beings, how we were created, the patterns that we live unconsciously, and the patterns that we need to understand before we can change and grow beyond our external, fearful beliefs.” (7)

During this year’s classes on “hidden memories,” I’ve become more and more aware of the hidden minefields, flowers, essences (Energy fields!)of the infinite creations we are responsible for throughout time. Because I’ve lived so much self-doubt in my life, I’ve come to understand how this dual chatter in a mind can undermine the very essence of loving creation, how memories hold together as energy fields, and how they make themselves known simply by the mind allowing them to be revealed. This thought of life as a “trial by fire” has been “real” to me in my experiences throughout time. Think of the Spanish Inquisition. I’ve read and thought about the drama of questioning minds being punished, usually to death, by those in “power.” I can conjure the taste of charcoal, the smell of oil and fire and sweat, the sensation of dark shadows and heavy breath, the clanging of iron gates, the iron and clashing of loud voices as hard as the gates themselves. I recognize how I and we, as humans, create this “trial by fire” as the buildup to showcase the courage it takes to stand up for our truth when that truth goes against the prevailing power, and what consequences there can be.

When I think of each energy image as myself, the energy of both tried and prosecutor/executioner, I understand why we have to live infinite images to know ourselves as energy and matter - the power of infinite energy is our design. We must come to know ourselves as an Ethical dynamic energy design. Summoning energy images which I have lived as both tyrant and slave (and levels of man, woman, child, father, mother, teacher, student, potter, tapestry-maker, weak-kneed mobster), I recognize our Human Story.

Summoning the courage to challenge the “powers that be” is simply learning the art of communication rather than war, which begins internally. I am my own worst enemy, as long as I live in fear, whether tyrant or slave. The “trial by fire” is every moment I live when I feel threatened by changing the way I think. The “trial by fire” is how I respond to the energy of life and death, which shows how much I’ve allowed my thinking mind its freedom to love and expand its horizons, to create.

My parents, among others, continue to teach me what it means to Grow Up, to live as a loving being. When we were all together at their home in Memphis a few weeks ago, we came wanting to be able to “do things” for them, to be helpful, since they have been challenged with disease and treatment and diminishing energy. We came wanting to be together, to energize our family bonds, which happens when physically together in a way which is very special and memorable. My mother was teasing us about wanting to “get things done.” My mother has always been a very energetic person, active, busy, and productive. With her cancer treatment, she remains cheerful and courageous in her attitude about Life, even though her energy level fluctuates dramatically. We wanted to cook a few things to put in the freezer, so it would be easy to pull something out and heat it for lunch or supper. I chose a squash casserole which I knew they liked, since it came from a Church cook book and the recipe was one Mom had contributed. The recipe included mushrooms (optional). I like mushrooms, so added them. After cooking the casserole I realized, Mom and Dad don’t like mushrooms! My sister and I laughed about this. Maybe they can scrape them off, she said, hopefully. Mom laughed too. I automatically included the mushrooms, since I liked them, and my memory returned as I went through the process of cooking the casserole. When I asked Mom later if they ate the casserole, she said yes, that it was good. What about the mushrooms? I asked. We just moved them to the side, she said, smiling through the phone. You included it in the recipe, I said – optional. Exactly! She said. Humor lives on, despite all challenges.

Sometimes we can get so caught up in the tasks, the goals of “doing,” that it can keep us from appreciating the reality of us as energy, and how precious it is to share our energy as love. Rather than focusing on not being able to “do enough,” we begin to appreciate the energy of love which calms and heals us, whatever that healing may mean in our immediate physical world.

My earlier image of myself in my life has not been one of being “helpful” to others. Mostly I think I was consumed with putting out my own fires, and the diversions of my version of “walking on coals.” Knowledge about myself as a human being has helped me to be open to examples, and the dynamic reality of change. I see now how my image of myself as an energy being has grown, how knowledge of us as chemical sensory beings (energy never dies) has changed my perception of what it means to live and to die, to grow and to change. On the surface it may seem obvious that we are responsible for ourselves, as physical people – we grow up, get jobs, have families, physical responsibilities that change as we all get older and times change. What about our internal change? My goal of life, even before I was conscious of this being my goal, was to understand the meaning of life, and therefore of death. As I’ve begun to remember the many images of dynamic life, I have begun to recognize the many images of death as change in this cycle, and this includes the “death” of images of myself throughout time. I’ve clung to perceptions/images of myself for periods of time, mourned their loss, just as I’ve worked to enhance others. My “to do” list for this life was not so long as it was deep! Sometimes when an image of life still seems “unreal” to me, I recognize that my mind is guiding me to feel the truth of creation at my level of thinking, to experience the “reality” of it, as a gift of learning. Always, now, I am learning to appreciate the power of us as creators of our own reality. I was afraid of "energy"!

This brings me back to the perception of “walking on coals,” or a “trial by fire.” To feel compassion for the experience of life and death, as a physical energy being, as an evolving consciousness, is to begin to know the truth of cooperation, the art of all sensory communication, and to focus on health rather than disease. I am responsible for my own cleansing and healing, as an evolving energy. By expanding my knowledge about myself as a human energy I’m learning to consciously use my mind to heal my body. Reading Healing Ourself again now, I’m beginning to understand the sources of my mind knowledge as intellectual memory, soul memory, or Universal memory, and what mind energy levels I am conscious of as I live moment by moment. What an amazing gift.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Memphis Memories

I just spent a week with my family in Memphis. What a great week, with infinite levels of experience to acknowledge. We always get together for about a week during the summer, usually at a beach house somewhere. This time we converged on my parents' place for the pre-Elvis-Week. It was good to have a little more time in town and be with them. In the cultural history pages, we visited Sun Studios on Union, downtown, had a great tour guide, a 29-year-old musician himself, who was witty, informative, and had a perfect voice for tour-guiding - and, maybe, singing. (His CDs were for sale!)

Memories flash up everywhere, evident on the studio walls, in the stories our guide told, and in the faces and body language of everyone in the group, which included all ages and many nationalities.

Another highlight was visiting the farmer's market at the Botanic Garden. My sister, my Aunt, and I went through the long rows quickly, on our way from another stop, and picked up peaches, tomatoes, crowder peas, flowers, and... Delta Dollars! - a sweet treat from Delta orchards at a table set up by friendly Mike and Suzanne, from Tutwiler, MS. My mother's family is from Sumner, MS, not far from Tutwiler, so we traded a few geography details with them, and licked our fingers as the delicious chocolate melted in the Memphis humidity. They sell gift tins of different samplers, and use different artists' work on a few of the covers. We noticed in their brochure that Dog in the Fog, a print by Maude Schuyler Clay, is one of their selections. Maudie happens to be our cousin, and we enjoy her work. A showing of her prints (Delta Dogs)happened to be at the Perry Nicole Gallery while we were in town, too. We were sorry we missed the opening reception. We went by the Gallery and got to see her Delta Dogs selection too, along with a few gorgeous color prints.

The best part of the visit is spending time together. All the way there, during the week, and since I returned, I've been thinking about "eternal memories," and how we as energy beings live our lives. I don't think I could count the number of times I heard and thought the word "love" during the week. As I talked with Dad at different moments, lingering with him as he shuffled with his walker, still joking in his cheerful way even as he laments his loss of energy, tears came to my eyes along with a smile from so deep within. Dad is and has always been grateful for life, and for the gift of being alive.

I hear their sheer will and love of life, and how this motivates them. I hear the devotion, the commitment to love and life (and how they perceive God and this gift of life), and how they live this commitment of love, supporting each other, helping those who need help, comforting those who need comforting. Sitting next to Dad while at the eye doctor, and his saying, Well, hopefully I’ll get better, just broke my heart and made me smile forever. I love his attitude. I see how our faces change, how even the physical “mask” we wear changes our expressions as our physical experience begins to take more of our energy, and we strain to move.

When our physical energy becomes so compromised that we must think about each movement, each breath, not to the degree that we have to tell ourselves to breathe, but that our breath is labored and therefore conscious, inevitably –just as with each step we have to take. We are showing ourselves what it means to use our energy in this way – consciously productive, and also, sometimes, what it means to focus on the task at hand. As I appreciate the reality of us as energy, I appreciate more what it means to acknowledge and let our energy guide us more consciously as we focus on the tasks at hand, and how knowledge supports us in doing this.

I hear and feel the care from friends. I appreciate what our lives are in fresh ways, when we are together. I see how everything takes such effort. Dad is grateful for each thing he is able to do. Says he is grateful to be able to put a few things up (such as the ironing board). My mother is her beautiful, courageous self.

When I look at my family as a “collective consciousness,” and I sense how we all interact with each other within that collective, I see another example of what this pattern of creation means to us as evolving souls. As we experience our lives and lessons, and we each and all feel the love within us and express it at the level and personality that we do and have, I see the fractal patterns with fresh eyes. I see how we are each called upon to think about “what will happen next” – as in, how each physical need is met, in relationship to the relative level of comfort for survival. I think about what is happening Now? What does it mean to know that NOW IS? The mind is prompted to think about the comfort of emotional and physical survival, and the mental level of survival is responsible for how these other levels are accepted and able to adapt.

Today I read in Healing Ourself, "Our soul mind gives us the freedom to learn in the most valuable way we choose." (44)

Good night, sweet family. I'll see you all in my Dreams!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Socrates In Love

"You know, I think the forms of love in my book are just five ways of approaching excellence as the Greeks conceived of it. This allows us to come to the epiphany that these five forms of love are all facets of the same thing."
Christopher Phillips

Recently I've been dipping into Christopher Phillips' book, Socrates in Love, which a friend gave me last year. I met Chris Phillips in Bowie, Maryland some years ago when he came to the Borders Store near where I lived for a Socrates Cafe Intro. I was excited about his project, and the fact that this man would do such a "thing." Launch such a project. When I think about this now, and follow Chris's trail of books, talks, groups, and the ripple of energy effects these have, I appreciate how beautiful creative energy can be when one person follows his passionate heart and mind to create. Examples of this abound in my life.

This past weekend I attended Kathy Oddenino's seminar on Disease Versus Eternal Health in Chapel Hill. This seminar fits, too, because I am thinking about what it means to truly "know my own mind." Some of the questions we explored are: What do we do when are suddenly told that we have a fatal disease? How can we prevent disease along the journey of life?

I recognize how I've hoped for the best, ignored, or denied certain levels of thinking, because I was afraid of being wrong, of just not knowing enough, or...was just too busy, or too lazy to think differently. It is amazing to me to recognize the infinite patterns, like tunnels, of thoughts I have created and lived without knowing what this reality is, except in intermittent glimpses. These glimpses were inspiring, sometimes confusing.

I've had some Neural Depolarization lately, and this attention to an imbalance I've created has made me more conscious of my cellular sensing. I feel my cellular stories come alive when asked to "speak" - memories of what I've ingested, built up, and the thought patterns as the waves in constant motion, until blocked. I also feel the compassion, love, when I have the NDP - this person, practitioner, is consciously using their spirit energy to communicate with me, with mine, with a healing focus, and the love feels great. Love always feels great, doesn't it!(There is no fear in our Divine Nature!)Love is part of our Intelligent Design as our healing energy. When I've been discouraged, or felt a "lack of love," I felt "bad." Thinking on "eternal health" urges me to communicate more, both internally (listening!) and with others, and I feel my energy lift to a new motion of change. How do I feel being totally in control of my own life, health, being? Better and better, with a little help from my friends (family) of all kinds! So this is what my cells have been saying to me on my internal satellite radio...

Monday, July 14, 2008

Be the Clean Air You Want to Breathe

Disturbances In The Atmosphere - Storms
How is the weather where you are? Is it clear and sunny? Perhaps it is cloudy. Or is today a stormy day where you live? How can we tell if it is a stormy day? What conditions or clues can we look for? What is a storm?

A storm is a temporary disturbance in the atmosphere. Storms are transient, meaning that they generally do not stay in one location for very long. They move with the flow of air

I read a NY Times review of a new, first novel by a “young M.D. turned M.F.A.” – Rivka Galchen’s Atmospheric Disturbances, and somewhere in the review is this line, “No, this is not chick lit.” Hmm. The novel’s interweaving themes of this fussy 51-year-old psychiatrist whose Argentine wife, he believes, has been taken and replaced by an exact replica, seem to me one more wonderful example of how we are, collectively, creating new images of ourselves as human beings not so fixed as characters of flesh and blood (only the matter of us), with only a certain barometer of feelings, emotions, and actions or reactions in the dynamic interplay of life as we have known it. I haven’t read this novel, but I sure do love these twists of turns of our ways of creating these images of ourselves.

What do these twists and turns really mean to us as an “evolving mind,” and thinking human beings? Thinking and speaking are the two senses that primarily distinguish us from other life forms on Earth, aren’t they? Reading this review gave me one more clue as to how I have lived this belief in separation – i.e., competing mostly with my own old thoughts that jump up and use my thinking energy in ways that don’t feel as productive as they might if I changed them. This belief shows up everywhere in the world as I observe it. This is the classic “conflict of interest” model, which begins within my own mind! Still, at times, living this belief that I am a spectator of life, i.e., that if I show up, do what I’m told, encourage, support, all will “fall into place.” What an amazing revelation. Lately I have been thinking a lot about “atmospherical disturbances,” so when I came upon this review, I laughed out loud. Mine have been certain disturbances in my energy fields that have gotten my attention, if not seriously disturbed my function and overall feelings. I’ve been getting irritated easily, and finding myself impatient with explanations at times, wanting to hurry people up, to move on. I laugh at this mostly, because I have learned enough Spiritual Philosophy to recognize the “game” in this, the charades of myself that I am making myself aware of. I’ve been thinking of what I am creating as my life – as I listen to others’ joys and sorrows, as I feel the pull and tug and recession of energies I interact with, and as I am more conscious of my own constantly changing frequencies of communication. What call-to-action am I hearing? Simply to love, to think with love always and forever, as I do anything? As I’ve been reading Spirit Consciousness again, I have been dwelling on a few paragraphs in which Kathy describes the growth of the thinking mind into the loving emotions:

“The growth of the thinking mind into the loving emotions becomes a dance, two steps forward and one step back as the loving emotional self dances to and fro to capture the thinking mind’s attention and the thinking mind flows right along the stream of fear thinking as it barters for attention and fame as the “power of love” by using old thought patterns of manipulation and seduction that it refuses to release.” (pp. 69-70)

When we use an external focus of manipulation and seduction to live as an energy human being in a physical world, we do not recognize that we are an Intelligent Design of Spirit Consciousness! Kathy and I were talking about responses people have shared from their doctors or health care providers – their sometimes lack of interest or dismissal when a patient actually begins to heal using some way other than what they deem is the “right” (only) way. I thought about this and realized, again, when medical providers get irritated when someone brings up something they think is ridiculous, this is the same pattern I live when I feel impatient and want to “hurry someone up.” I’m closing my mind to more “fresh air,” to the breathing that feels so good as if on a mountain (though not too thin!), and sticking to the tunnel with the grind and blast and whine of machines and slow going that accompanies such a project.

I am no replica of myself, as the fussy psychiatrist in the debut novel tries to figure out through his scientific means. He is trying to use the available science to validate his feelings. I am no replica, yet as I live I create images of myself with each thought and action, and as I create memories, these memories haunt the corridors of my mind, or they drift easily, making their way in their unique chemical stream, adding their own combinations to the Me I am as I create. As I become the cloud of disturbance (the Pigpen in the neighborhood), I’m feeding on what wants to become old baggage, debris, decomposition (compost), rather than seeking fresh nourishment, building productively on what was, and is as I feed it. This doesn’t affect just Me! This dance Kathy Oddenino describes in the above quote suddenly comes home to my thinking mind in a new way. The love in me agrees to do this dance, to help this impatient mind laugh and trust that it is indeed the vehicle through which I create daily. The guide that has the deepest trust, the maestro of the music is the Spirit within, always loving, saying, Just love, feel the music!

What a beautiful gift it is to begin to appreciate all that makes up a mind, and a Trinity of Consciousness. I remember that the energy of all knows itself, and patiently urges me, as a mind, to acknowledge this truth – there is no impatience within the spirit, only love, and the Ethical Value of integrity of Intelligent Design, which always supports love, change, and the vistas that open to insight, whether microcosm or macrocosm. The dance goes on. Just pump up the volume, and invite others to dance with you!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008


Ever heard of Joseph Cornell? He was an American artist and sculptor, also filmmaker, born in December (1903) and died in December (1972). Joseph Cornell and I have a few things in common: he loved assembling bits and pieces of things into sometimes surprising collections. He liked the “evocation of nostalgia,” and though he admired the work of Surrealists like Max Ernst and Rene Magritte (as I do, in a certain way), he said he only wished to make “white magic” with his art and not “black magic.” Cornell loved birds, starlets, and certain great dancers of 19th century ballet. He was shy and sensitive to the poetic quality of dreams. His brother was born with cerebral palsy, and Cornell took care of his brother until his brother died in 1965. Towards the end of his career his art was widely recognized, and some admirers sought him out. One of them contacted his sister and their efforts kept his work from being lost.

I thought of Joseph Cornell again when I came across The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin’s blog site, and read about her love of book-making and her current project of making a book, inspired by J.M. Barrie’s Boy Castaways. This led to a link to Sloane Crosley’s blog site about her book, I Was Told There’d Be Cake. She’s an uncommon personality too, funny, quirky (as “they” say), and loves to “assemblage” too. What great fun it is to follow these streams of interest in a mind. Anyone coming across mine may visit theirs in the same way I’ve followed this trail of crumbs, or lit-up stars to make a constellation. This is another way I appreciate what memory means to a mind. When I wrote my book, Sensing Infinity: Finding the Love of My Life, it was a collection of sorts to me, a compilation of experiences, thoughts, images that had to be assembled together in juxtaposition that reflected the balancing of my own sensory exploration over and through time. I’m not so good with glue. These are my little window-boxes made of words, window-views, rooms with views, plexi-glass, sculpture, aerial flights, deep dives complete with heavy metal, shiny brass locks and chains, seaweed, and the sparkle of salt and sand on skin, seashells half-buried and sneaking a peek as the tides turn them. As Magritte wrote, Without inspiration thought becomes mechanical, and Spiritual Philosophy was and is my invitation to turn what was my "dark matter," or "black magic" into "white magic." There is nothing to fear - even that little flutter of surprise that can come from an adrenalin rush when you almost run your car off of the road and gravel sprays from your wheels is a cellular revival that invites so much more.

“Nuptials. Sounds like something you get a case of. See: I felt a case of the nuptials coming on so I had a full-body fiancĂ©.”
“In third grade I had to make a diorama about the Inuit. I showed up to school with a Plexiglas case that housed an igloo made from nail-filed sugar cubes and a battery-powered fan that created dry ice. It was difficult to claim I had created a functioning arctic biosphere on my own, given that long division was a struggle.” Sloane C

Rene Magritte, from Secret Affinities, Institute for the Arts, Rice University, Houston, 1976.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Life's Big Adventure

small is possible: life in a local economy by Lyle Estill

I just finished reading “small is possible. I have met Lyle Estill a few times, and we have mostly waved hello. One conversation I remember happened when I attended a booksigning for his first book, Biodiesel Power, at Chatham Marketplace in Pittsboro. I admire the passion and depth of knowledge and activity of biodiesel advocates, especially these local “neighbors.” I wanted to learn from them, and acknowledge their efforts at the same time. When Lyle signed a copy of his book for me we struck up a conversation and he began telling me a little about his “Seasonal Affective Disorder,” what it meant to realize he’d had this all of his life. I had said a few things about the depression I'd lived earlier in my life and what it has meant to me to learn to change this (my) energy. My passion is not "fuel," as Lyle's is, but, more and more, the human "energy and matter" of us and how we use it, beginning with my own. (As I wrote in my recent book, without love memory has no meaning.) I remembered this conversation again when I began “small is possible.”

In the Acknowledgments, Lyle mentions George McRobie and E.F. Schumacher, and that his book comes from their tradition. When I was in college in the early 1980s, I took a wonderful class called "Constructive Survival." This may seem an odd classroom focus - it certainy seemed unusual at the time, yet I recognize how our knowledge of "constructive survival" is still and ever more relevant today. I read Schumacher's Small is Beautiful, and many other books during the class. We had a great professor who was intensely interested in teaching us to really think about what survival means to us, as individuals, as a society, a culture, as a nation, and as a world. He guided us to think beyond the boundaries of our perceptions as young students, to examine ourselves as "human beings" first. What does this mean? Though I was very interested in this focus then, and learned a lot about others who were and why, my own "constructive survival" was still a distant star in my mind. I had no real idea or sense, motivation, to "constructively survive" beyond the most basic paramenters and experience. I was living a relatively reckless life in relationship to my ignorance about what it means to eat good food, drink lots of water, get good rest, enjoy all of life. I was happy at times, and liked learning, but did not truly learn much about myself as "energy," therefore my mind could not really constructively use this information in the best ways possible. (This did not help my depression, and in part created it!) That folder from C.S. class is one I have saved as I have moved from place to place since then. I think of that professor and his guidance often.

In his new book, I learned about Lyle’s urge to move from Canada to the United States (namely, North Carolina), where there was plenty of water, things were cheap, and the technology market was growing. I got a good glimpse of the growth and shift of his thinking as he sought more “light,” and came to the sense of celebrating “life’s big adventure” as he does now. From tireless effort helping to expand one family’s business into a global economy, to making one man’s mission to know the light of his life as his family and “hometown security,” this is a creative tale (unfolding snapshot) told by a thinking mind with maybe a poet’s heart and a sincere and growing appreciation of “the good life” and the cooperation that makes it so. I relate to Lyle’s example in his Conclusion: once he was a connoisseur of video games, and he dreamt of racing go-carts. Yet when he spent a weekend with his boys, his dear friend and his friends’ children, they dug up garnet stones, raced go-carts, played video games, took shifts in the batting cages, and he was bored out of his head. When he explored his boredom to understand it with his friend John at John's "therapy shack" in Silk Hope, John framed it simply – Try to find a way to sustain human life on earth. When you are in the game, it is easy to get up in the morning and start playing with everything you’ve got.

I like the structure of this book. I like the way a simple curiosity leads to integration of other, more expanded activities (like deep-frying the turkey and curiosity on a ride to the Eno River Festival leading to barrels of biodiesel), the Pioneer Family sculpture memory leading to his “Going to Town” at the Carrboro Arts Center.

Some sentences I really like:
“Dirt snobs like to be able to control the content of their piles.”

“Making soil is at the heart of sustainable agriculture, and for some it is at the heart of healing the planet itself.”

“Yet a massive garden of one is forever doomed. A garden of many has a much higher change of success.”
(I’d like to talk about that further, though – since I’m a triplet, I’m all-for-one, one-for-all.)

“It all made me think I know very little about healing ourselves.”

“At the end of the day the fundamental healing that needs to go on is in our heads.”

Another bit that got my attention and prompts me to write to Craig Venter is on p. 202 "I like the thinking of Craig Venter on this subject (changing our collective self-image from 'consumers' to 'conservers'). He's the one hwo led the private sector's effort to sequence the human genome, and who published the work for all to use.
One of his core arguments for untangling our genetic maps is that it could lead (to)a preventative approach to health care. He laments that we do not live in a 'preventative society,' and that we prefer 'big fixes to big problems.'

Hmmmm. In Kathy Oddenino's sixth book, Depression: Our Normal Transitional Emotions, she defines health this way: from the root word 'heal,' a condition of physical, mental, and emotional balance of equal energy. There is that "energy" word again. As I learn what it means to "heal myself" daily, I am gaining a deeper understanding of "prevention." It is as though we have come to define health as the "absence of disease." I talk with friends and family, and more, who are struggling with disease and multiple levels of symptoms of "imbalance." On a program after the human genome was "decoded," Craig Venter showed the vulnerability he felt as he interpreted what his own DNA told him. This prompts my question again, What does it mean to "constructively survive"?

What would our world, our lives, be like if we all knew ourselves as "energy beings" equal to the opportunity to heal ourselves?

I hope you will read Lyle's book. You might think more about what it means to be a “Good Neighbor,” a good human being. I am, constantly, and appreciating Life’s Big Adventure more all the time.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Cooperation and Cultural DNA

A few days ago I had a dream of a tornado forming. I was in a friend’s home, with glass windows that invited the world in and our looking out. We sat close, facing each other, talking, enjoying tea or some such, and suddenly we noticed the air building in the distance into a big dark cloud and forming the funnel that is so familiar to so many. The intensity of air and speed building was very impressive and while not immediately threatening, we sensed the urgency and began to move. We headed to the basement. My friend’s house was designed with many wide, open levels that were staggered. Elegant gold tones, blonde wood, and flowers in pots were everywhere. It was beautiful, and beautifully this friend’s personality. Suddenly two other friends were there on the patio, feeling the urgency of this air. We all headed to the basement, awed by the wind.

Once awake, I watched the news from the Midwest, where water levels continued to rise, crest, recede. I took it in: the resolute faces of those in Cedar Falls, Iowa as the many volunteers gathered to sandbag the levees. The overall energy of this cooperation came through loud and clear in every way – the pictures, the voices, the tones, the reporting.

As I watched this, and remembered this and other parts of the “dream,” I remembered again how I am opening my mind to truly know that I am an energy force creating matter, ripples as I live and breathe. Gifts of love and life are infinite.

Lili Haydn- She began playing when she was 8, and soloed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic by the time she was 15. “Violin resonates with people on a lot of levels,” she says. “In Mississippi or India or Spain – every culture has its violin music, and when people hear that played with a lot of intensity and a lot of heart, it hearkens back to their fondest memories – or their worst. It really has a place in everybody’s cultural DNA."

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Sensing Infinity: Finding the Love of My Life

Thank you, Milburn, for the article in The Chatham News after my book "talk" at Chatham Marketplace. Thanks, Cameron, for setting it up, and to all of you who came. If you bought and read my book, I'd love to hear your feedback!

Sensing Infinity: Finding the Love of My Life

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Ben Franklin, Socrates, and Me

"The greatest way to live with honor is to be what we pretend to be." - Socrates

Not an easy sell, ethics. Google "Ethical Values" and see what you come up with. I did, and what I came up with led me on a long and winding internet road.

I've been thinking a lot lately about "long and winding roads." A 79-year-old friend in Virginia called to give me an update on her life at the moment. Her unwinding story included details of detours, how she had felt so cooped up really, with her even older sister going into a nursing home, not having a good place to walk, to be out in the beautiful spring-into-summer – until her niece’s family in Florida had invited her to visit and she had finally gone. Her niece took an airplane ride to Virginia, then they drove together in my friend’s almost new comfortable car back to Florida, where her two-week stay turned into two months. She reveled in being there, walking in their garden – I haven’t been treated that well since 1953! She exclaimed. In her voice was the pleasure of unwinding all of those cooped-up feelings, being needed but more in ways of having to take care of everything because there was no one else. She was ready for another kind of life, at least expanding the old into more roses, appreciation, fresh air, walking in it.

Part of her urge to tell her tale was to tell me why it had taken her time to get to reading my book, which she had bought months ago. She had to have quiet, she said, and when she at last did, I took a profound journey along the roads in your mind! She exclaimed. We laughed – so did I! I said. Sometimes there were too many roads for me to follow, she said, so I had to let it sink in, and then go on. I thought about this phrase, “too many roads.” She spoke about her niece’s English husband, and how they are trading books, both being avid readers. They recently watched the television series on John Adams, and he had borrowed her copy of Adams’ most recently biography. John Adams had too many roads, too, she said. He is easier to read than Ben Franklin, though Franklin talks a lot about Socrates, she said. I love to read them.

She told me about asking her niece if they could drive her big, almost-new, comfortable car rather than riding in her smaller sportier car, which wasn’t easy for her to bend into and get out of. My friend is very tall and lanky, and a cane helps her keep her balance. She had not had the car long, it only had a handful of miles on it when she got it, and oh, she said, when I got on the highway, I could hardly keep from going 80 miles an hour! It was wonderful – I heard the exhilaration in her voice.

I keep thinking about her phrase, “too many roads,” and the exhilaration she felt as she drove her big comfortable car. As I hear the newscasters and others at the pump talk about gas prices, and as I fill my car between commutes,now I think about “too many roads” in new ways. I have another friend who is passionate about keeping things simple. I say I am too. Yet as I listen to the candidates speak about how to solve the issues facing us, our country, the “American people,” and I sit in the quiet of my own space and ask, What did they really say, often I don’t have the answer. Each enumerates physical details about what to do with which program – offer a tax rebate, tax relief offset by someone else paying it, lower prices and get the money from another source – sometimes I say to myself, too many roads to follow!

How accustomed we have grown to thinking only along the lines of the same maps that have already been drawn for us. Most of us no longer have the same urge to explore the way our pioneering ancestors did, those who ventured into the jungles, into the seas, to make maps for us, guessing at the locale of sea creatures, mountain ranges, riches. We have expanded into pioneering in many fields of learning, beyond just the physical jungles, roads, and waterways. Work goes on in labs around the world, including our ecosystems. A photographer I've met recently published a book in which he explored new techniques of dynamic imaging with digital tools, and new ways of using older tools that are very exciting for many in his field and image-lovers everywhere. Every day artists explore new media, or new ways to use old media, to capture their visions. Our internal biological, atomic pioneering, mapping our DNA genomes still seems mostly about planting the flags and noting the territory markers and what they mean.

What does it mean to us to explore our Ethical Values as human beings – what energy motivates us to create and why? What would Ben Franklin say? What would Socrates say? Lifehacker has an “oldie but goodie” on Franklin and his life plan which consisted of 13 guidelines. Franklin made the list when he was 20 and used it all his life to chart his daily progress. Beside humility he wrote “Imitate Jesus and Socrates.” I’ve been thinking about what it means to “make new use of old things.” I’m getting better at clarifying my goals, what I want, and updating them as I go. When I use Spiritual Philosophy’s list of Ethical Values beside my goals, I’m making a map for myself that I can follow. These are my kind of rules - now

Yesterday I was overcome with sadness – which had built up to overflowing. Tears seeped out all day long. I was sad because my mother and father felt less energy than they want to, though thrilled still about Life; sad because other friends’ mourn the loss of a young husband, brother, brother- and son-in-law, son, colleague, friend; sad for many losses. I was also encouraged by the energy I felt returning to me as I let the sadness live its day. The day was beautiful – crystal blue sky, white cotton clouds, colors and moods bright, but not mine. I felt the compassion of love as I cried, as a friend listened and just “let me be.” This brought back to me another day long ago, when I really felt the gift love is, though not as I do now. Now I appreciate Ben Franklin’s pragmatism in new ways, and his dictum, “Imitate Jesus and Socrates.” I’m making my goals of life, and what it means to me to live. Loss gives way to love, always. Simple.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

A Tribute

An old friend asks, What do you dream about? Today, I said, how this beautiful peony is blooming. Another friend brought it from her garden for my birthday. Even one day later its illustrious beautiful blooming has dimmed, though still absolute and radiant. The pink luster is just a little less, the softness just a little faded. I wouldn’t know this except I was presented with it in its full glory. One more day and I’m dazed by death, a friend’s young son-in-law dropped in the shower, his radiant wife stepping in later, before other details, just to be where he had been.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Figure 8s and Chocolate Cake

OmStudio - Wings to Fly

Thanks for the birthday love! I'm thinking of birth and death today, every precious moment. So much to share. One gift I love is Wings to Fly, a beautiful book by Jeanne Ripley and Joanne Chilton. Click the link!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Erica and the Yoo Hoo

Be Careful What You Drink

Linda Bruce also posted this on her Expanding World blog, with more details. Yikes. I've never really gone for Yoo Hoos, but sure know people who have. One of the big alerts is "We've had similar calls." Kathy bought a "natural food" product once at an Expo a few years ago. I don't remember the name offhand - but after consuming it several times, enjoying it a lot, she went to open the next bag and some of those grains and nuts and seeds and all were moving! Turns out some of those were alive, too. We spent some time talking to the company, and after repeated tries, we did have some friendly feedback - though one of their responses was, the product is ORGANIC, so sometimes that risk is there! Our appetites for the product were never the same.


George Kunz examining what may be the crystal of kunzite shown here. From the Mineral Collector, Vol. X, No.8, October, 1903, pp. 113–114.

“Many good lessons result from the disease process that helps to change both the patient and the healer. There is a change in the awareness level of all souls involved in an illness that directly relates the disease to the interaction of care as giving and receiving, which nurtures everyone who is involved if fear is not in control of our heart. As we learn to love ourself during the lesson of disease, we must also learn to receive love. As we dispense love to those with disease, we learn how to give love from our heart.” Healing Ourself, Kathy Oddenino, 344

I love pearls.

Pearls are the products of living animals. In 1908 George Frederick Kunz wrote what has been called a masterpiece about pearls. Once I read that the knotting of pearls on a string began when someone thought that keeping one pearl from scratching another was a way to protect each pearl’s luster. Fine, fragile spheres can be damaged when rubbing too close. The knots give each individual bead breathing room. Because I was born one of triplets (and we have a birthday in a few days), I have my own sense of curled up clusters, of what it means to rub, and what it means to be strung together. My name, in some history, means “pearl,” as does my mother’s.

My mother may be sitting in her living room right now, many states away, wrapped in her blanket, watching the news as I am. Here today is all wet. I open myself to my mother’s arms as I think of her. She has had cancer, then pneumonia, and, her heart weakened, she moves more slowly, or not as far in one go. The medicines she takes have their signatures that mix inside her. When I hear her laugh, I remember every giggle we’ve shared. I never saw her knit, crochet, or knot beads, although I have seen her sew, fix tears and hems. She has had pearls as long as I can remember.

I am not a mother, but I have been given the gift of opening my heart to the energy of life, which mothers create and nurture. As I sat on the hospital bed with my mother late last year, hooked up as she was to tubes, I admired her persistent grace, her eternal spirit as she expresses herself. As I watched another mother in my life bear pain with the persistence of a mind and heart constantly tuned into healing and the life force of love, I thought again how stones are ground to gravel, to fine sand, how a grain of dirt lodges in the sea creature to begin the formation of a pearl.

When I hear a mother say, I didn’t realize how sick I was, and it never occurs to me to ask doctors what they’re doing, or to think that they don’t know what they’re doing, I am reminded of the beauty of interaction, of nudges, of promises – for better or for worse, in sickness and in health. Now when I read or hear descriptions of escalating symptoms, I remember: running roughshod over nerves. Strong medicine barely touches it, but the graphic picture of pygmies with spears I get loud and clear.

Hearing grown children’s concerns, and our sometimes gentle prodding to take the medicine, to do what the doctor tells you to do, I know we learn to love by trusting, being there, showing we care simply by who we are. There are no enemies, one son said his mother taught him: why not just love everyone?

This is very different from our habitual thinking: So long as we do what we are told to do, everything will get better. I understand this sense of limbo, of waiting for change – while washing dishes, washing clothes, making tea, paying bills. Through this “mother’s day,” I remember why love is our creative energy, why love heals. I listen to the rain on the roof, drive through the flashing lightning, feel the electricity of life, admire the persistent fragility of blooms. As I read recently in our spiritual philosophy handout, Nothing is more beautiful than personal responsibility.

In the past year I have learned more about Florence Nightingale and the source of the art of nursing and healing than I ever knew I would. I have a better sense of who she was, what motivated her, and why that determined loyalty and compassion she had for those suffering remains eternally precious to help healing along. Florence Nightingale understood her responsibility to love one another, and why love is the healing energy. This is our gift to learn as we live.