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.