Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Tell Me A Story

The Greatest Show on Earth.
The Greatest Story Ever Told.
Every Picture Tells A Story.
Tell Me A Story

Tell me a story, Sarah said, looking into her mother’s eyes as her mother bent toward her to kiss her good night. Her mother smiled every time she said this, even when she was too tired to tell much of a story. Sarah began to learn that every word is in itself a story. There is life in every syllable, every sound, her mother used to say. When she spoke sometimes Sarah closed her eyes, and her mother sang to her softly. Some were songs she knew, others her mother made up. Where do you think songs come from? Her mother said, when Sarah asked about a song. Songs come from somewhere!

I want you to think of a word as a string, her mother said once. Close your eyes and see the string. Make the string a red string, one with three threads intertwined. Make it as long as a spool of thread, or the garden hose. Now let the word unwind, just like the thread, or the hose, watch the thread as it is pressed through the needle eye, then begins stitching, the hose begin to spray a fountain onto flowers ready for a drink.

Ah, Sarah sighed, her eyes closed tight. I am beginning to see what you mean, she said. There is no end to imagination, creation. That’s the way stories go. Each one begins another, each a wheel, spokes, rainbows, circuses, flowers, smiles. I know, her mother said, touching her hair and smiling that smile again. Just remember, there is no end.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Beauty of Planet Earth

I've heard a lot about this BBC documentary, and have been watching some of Karma Tube's video clips for quite a while now. If you'd like your own "world tour," and also to connect with these people who are bringing us the powerful beauty of Life images, take a look. It's awesome.

An Emmy Award-winning BBC nature documentary, Planet Earth is the first high-definition video series to provide, in the words of its makers, a "definitive look at the diversity of our planet." The series' narrator, Sir David Attenborough, notes: "Planet Earth is more a celebration of our planet than a lament about the state of it. It shows what is still there. In some areas there is no doubt that we are doing damage to our world but at the same time, there is a vast amount of uncharted and untouched wilderness." This video excerpt unleashes the elegant beauty of that which is home to all of us.

This is a great fit with a recent post (Why I Eat Organic) Linda Bruce added to her blog site, Expanding World. Check it out.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Our Big Invitation


Some obvious hypnosis happens when you stand by water, just as it does by fire. What is prophecy? What is a “jeremiad”? Verses of songs leap and dive in my head like fish with grey-metal skin shining in sunlight.

On public television I listened to Bruce Springsteen tell stories and sing. He spoke of Mary and a beloved son, what parents may feel. What it must mean to lose a boy. He framed songs, told Thunder Road as his Big Invitation, to himself, his audience, to live, hopefully with someone, people you love, and find a place you feel at home. He spoke of how you internalize your craft, how feelings come, and the mechanics of storytelling become part of that craft. You pray to the gods of songwriting, and that you will remain awake, your senses about you, so that when those moments come, you will be ready. What you speak without thinking, he says.

I dreamed as he sang of the fishers of men. I dreamed of the water, the way the water moved, and how my toes dug into sand. I sang the sounds that came to me from as deep as the ocean, and the depths of the sky that were blue and grey with rough edges and soft cushions that blur and blend together into one swirl of snow. Fish swam to me, scales shimmered and shone like shields on some battlefield that drifted through my memory, empty and open and littered with broken bits of shells. My hands were open and reaching for something, and I heard horses, then, smelled blood. I was a man with armor, an insect shelled, and the strings that tied me were tight as rubber bands, rough as leather. I was a woman with a long taffeta dress, silk draped and dapper and also easily worn, bone and shells as buttons and jewels I wear, because I remember the majesty of horned animals crossing plains with wind like sails with them, and also umbrellas I twirled, playful and happy over old cobblestones as birds fluttered and flapped around me, circling fountains.

These jumbles of images sometimes require organization, train coupling and cars. Trains are beautiful machines. Remembering each tumble of syllable, word, image as they come refreshes me like water as my memory opens to all time. There is no stop clock, no hands to tie, only the beauty and precision of time passing by clock face and season. Leaves turn colors, drop from branches, and pile up at trunks. Skies are endless panoramas of change, as all is beneath the surface of earth. The surface smiles, cracks, moves, shakes, slithers. When I reach for any object now, I know something of its story.

When I lie in bed at night, and awake with morning, sometimes I remember coffins, sometimes flowers, and almost always the cry of a baby with first breath. Finding the place which is home is a thought which comes as poetry when I truly listen. Home is where the heart is. I once longed for a “you” which reached for me in the morning as sun began to shine, in a bed warm and with the smell of fresh crumpled sheets and lilacs, the wood framing the bed telling its own story, its own smells embedded in grain. Some days I remembered you, delicate details of your hands, the touch of beard that came in fast. Other days your face came completely different, framed by strawberry blonde. These are tumbling times, and there is no danger of falling off of a cliff, or being strangled by a long scarf caught in a wheel well. For me, there is no immediate and present danger of gunpowder residue, a ticking too loud, a gun barrel or bomb. My world works differently in this moment. Evolution happens.

When I touch your back nerves with my fingertips, I feel the water of life move, and every broken bit of shell wave-tumbled. The thread of your bright green sweater makes its own green map of the world. Energy knots that form clusters want to be released like rocks too long lodged. You will know, too, your own language of how you move, the way the atoms dance inside. I am no scientist, yet I feel the science of life itself making itself known to me like the language of the earth, the way building blocks form, the spangle of chemical stars and clusters, clumps and colors beating and rising and coming to rest. None of us are strangers. This is one way we know what it means to be lovers- we are made the same, as energy, density of matter, beautiful as matter in motion. As I live and breathe.

Nerves have their say, their way, as they do, so often with no thanks.

Monday, January 21, 2008

"Promoting Peace" not "Fighting Terrorism"

I've been listening to the presidential candidates, and reading small press newsletters. One of my favorite small press newsletters is Shelf-Awareness. Recently I enjoyed an article about Greg Mortenson's Three Cups of Tea, a book a friend gave me last year. Tea reminded me again of the radiant inspirational power of love compared to our so-familiar hard-hitting mind's way of "paddling the gorge," which I thought of again when I read this article. Note in particular Mortenson's push to have the book's subtitle changed. Thanks for the reminders! With all due respect to historians, I ain't gonna study war no more! That's my feeling, my thought, my fatigue of the slow if not fast death that war creates. I had to think through this again. Truly Thinking can keep us from simply jumping onto the raft of feeling good about what we are thinking and not being open to change. What is "truly thinking?" In Joy of Health, Kathy Oddenino defines "intelligence" as "thinking with feeling." Watching, listening to the Democratic debates, I feel the electric currents of the candidates flowing, and I feel my own energy flux as I am engaged. It's so easy to get caught up in the energy of debate, reaction, without really thinking with the energy of love that inspires and moves with the exciting energy of change. If these sound like just words, it's because we are not yet in touch with the energy of the Ethical values of our spirit energy that gives life to us as moving matter.

Neoneocon's blog site post on "I ain't gonna study war no more" helped me think through this further. This blog site by a former dancer, and a therapist, chronicles the education of a mind coming to know itself, pushing on. She prompts me to think again about the necessity of our "knowing where we came from." She points out what education used to mean to us, in our history.

According to a Wiki entry she quotes (our modern reference to everything), "classical education" is not only an education in the classics of Greece and Rome, it’s an education according to a system set up in ancient times by the Greeks and Romans, with an emphasis on history itself as the key to nearly everything ..."

"History is the unifying conceptual framework, because history is the study of everything that has occurred before the present. A skillful teacher also uses the historical context to show how each stage of development naturally poses questions and then how advances answer them, helping to understand human motives and activity in each field.

The entire issue of classical history and military history dovetails—strangely enough—with one of the major concerns of therapists as well, and that is the understanding of human nature and its lessons for future action. It’s a topic that can hardly be studied in a vacuum, moral or otherwise. You might say that one of the main goals of therapy is to help the client understand the patterns of his/her own personal history and how this knowledge can inform his/her future. The same is true for learning any history; in focusing on the past we are trying to learn the best way to affect the future. "

She continues quoting Victor Davis Hanson. "We must abandon the naive faith that with enough money, education, or good intentions we can change the nature of mankind so that conflict, as if by fiat, becomes a thing of the past. In the end, the study of war reminds us that we will never be gods. We will always just be men, it tells us. Some men will always prefer war to peace; and other men, we who have learned from the past, have a moral obligation to stop them."

This brings me back to Greg Mortenson and Tea. And to what it means to me to understand my own history. What has grown repetitive to me, in a way that feels war-weary, is my thinking, when I just jump on that raft and paddle, falsely thrilled by the thrust of old, familiar ways. I'm not sure who I'm voting for in our endless prep to upcoming elections. I am paying attention to how I've lived my own "economy on steroids," for example (building up debts, before learning this power and freedom of Choice, creating as I go, skip, jump, dance, do!) The next step to me is to begin to know that we are our own ancestors! Our history as energy and matter (consciousness) is reflected into the physical behavior we've described and inscribe in every expanding-media way we can: chip, processor, satellite, speed.

We have lived plenty of war to study. Now, the true motives of life and change as energy beings. Human nature? I love to keep thinking.

By Bob Minzesheimer, USA TODAY

A surprise best seller this season is a non-fiction book, set in Pakistan and Afghanistan, that was published 21 months ago to limited notice. Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin has climbed the lists, thanks to word-of-mouth recommendations and a tireless author with an inspiring story.

Tea describes how Mortenson, an American mountaineer, found a new cause: building schools, mostly elementary and especially for girls, in 1993 during a failed attempt to climb the K2 peak on Pakistan's border.

In a Pakistani village, the former U.S. Army medic met children without paper or pencils. He promised to build them a school.

His book, written with Relin, a journalist, describes how he did that and more in the belief that "education can overcome the despot leaders, dictators and clergy who use illiteracy to control impoverished society."

The non-profit foundation ( he started in his hometown of Bozeman, Mont., has contributed to the construction of 58 schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Via e-mail on his way to Pakistan, Mortenson, 49, says he pushed to have the book's subtitle changed. In hardcover, it was One Man's Mission to Fight Terrorism … One School at a Time. In paperback, it was revised to One Man's Mission to Promote Peace.

"The public is interested in peace, just as much as fighting terrorism," he says. "So far, no politician seems to have their finger on that pulse."

In hardcover, the book rose no higher than No. 164 on USA TODAY's Best-Selling Books list, then quickly fell off. In paperback, it hit No. 73 in March and is now No. 24. Publisher Penguin reports 1.1 million copies in paperback.

His publisher credits the author's personal appeal: He has visited 123 cities to promote the book and his foundation.

"What championed the book were women's groups, book clubs and independent stores," Mortenson says.

After he visited Bodine High School in Philadelphia, teacher Cecilia Ramirez said, "I have honestly never received so much positive feedback from students."

The mission of the Central Asia Institute, which he heads, is to promote and provide community-based education and literacy programs, especially for girls, in remote mountain regions of Central Asia. And the girls, as well as the boys, are determined to learn. In a village west of Kabul called Mydanshar, teachers held class for the younger boys in rusty shipping containers. The school's older boys studied on the back of a scorched armored personnel carrier. The girls had to study outside, where the wind whipped sand in their eyes and tipped over their blackboard. They all had to contend with U.S. Army attack helicopters buzzing the school at high speed. Other schools taught three shifts every day, while the teachers rarely got paid. Mortenson asks, if we can't do something as simple as seeing that teachers get paid, "How could we ever hope to do the hard work it takes to win the war on terror?"

"It's impossible to capsulize what Greg Mortenson went through to build that first school, and the discouraging days when all he felt was failure. It's impossible to convey the richness of this story, the incredible kindnesses he encounters, the dangers he has survived (two fatwas and a kidnapping by Wazir warriors near Peshawar, to name only a few--and the roads!), the passion he has for building schools and for the people of northern Pakistan and Afghanistan. I urge you to read this book, and you will find yourself telling others about it with an earnestness that may surprise you. It's heartening that one person can make such a difference, especially during times when the world seems overwhelming in its need for just such people. Jon Krakauer has said, "If the world had fifty Greg Mortensons, there wouldn't need to be any war on terror."--Marilyn Dahl

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Three Girls and Their Buddy

What a show! Here's the bit from the Carolina Performing Arts web site, with links to each of the performer's sites. I hope you'll visit. The Hall is a beautiful space, newly renovated, and these performers are always a pleasure to experience. Their genuine laughter while acknowledging the reality of sadness inherent in loss, the true joy of sound and song, deep rhythm and wide-open hearts, is well, a gift of life in itself. And what voices ... Thank you. They're also very funny. Nice light show, and I love Emmylou H's reference to the days when men pumped your gas and tuned your guitars. I'm hanging on by a thread, Patty G. said. The blue light came on. And what does Miss Liberty have in her left hand? I'll have to look that up.

The winner of 10 Grammy Awards during her 40-year career, Emmylou Harris was one of the first female performers to bridge the gap between traditional and contemporary country music. Harris remains one of the genre's best songwriters and interpreters.

Three-time Grammy Award-winner Shawn Colvin achieved mass popularity in 1996 when "Sunny Came Home" became a Top 10 pop single. Since then, she has fully transcended into the folk-pop world with albums such as 2006's These Four Walls.

A country music luminary since 1992, Patty Griffin has penned songs performed by the Dixie Chicks, Harris, Martina McBride, Reba McEntire, Bette Midler and others. Twice-nominated for Grammys, Griffin has become one of the genre's most gifted songwriters.

Considered one of the best guitarists in Nashville, Buddy Miller has become known as a skilled producer and songwriter. Miller has toured extensively with some of country music's biggest stars, including Steve Earle, Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

I Had A Dream

photo by Jefra Linn

One night I had a dream of trying to tether something to the ground. The feel of it, my determination to dig in the dirt and fix the peg deep, was intense and real, just as the flap of cloth on my cheek, then other bits, more material, cool air, wet silk, confetti, wind. When I awoke I was speaking to a friend on the phone, pleasantries, and suddenly the sense came to me – I was attached to this feeling of being “shot down,” literally and figuratively. Certain feelings of bitterness, like leftover coffee grounds, connect with symbols, clear images complete with scenes, just as others of sweet fragrance, laughter, wings, earthquakes, skin do.

Not to know the energies within us as they introduce themselves is to miss the manners that come with evolution. When I sat with my coffee in the quiet of rare morning moments, I followed this thread of thought and came to the shore where my parachute tore. Silk shreds, sheets, some long like kite tails, and luminescent in the night sky, like sea creatures I’d seen over water. Every loss was related to this feeling, just as every thrill was related to the elation of climbing, the white water, clouds simply forming and changing.

It is amazing to let such memories come. My shot-down self said hello, silently, and the smile that came with it was both amused and relieved. My goodness, we talked this way for hours, until what felt like afternoon came again. We talked of how each sand crystal was created and glittered, how the water felt so cold, how the memory of Gulf Stream warmth came like every other memory of warmth, flooding. The sun and clouds and stars rolled into one, too, and scattered, and the memory of twinkling eyes glittered like diamonds on water. There were no leaves at first in this opening, only eyes blinking, salt water slipping down one cheek, then dancing in bursts over rocks, against hard sand.

Slowly what came was the memory of creation itself, a seed swollen with the urge of life as a thought wanting to express itself every way beautifully, the power in this, the quiet joy. Each seed of thought within me has had its life, is living. When we swirled that latest Port with warm chocolate, for instance, my friend and me, in the warm brown room that held the laughter and flavors of friends enjoying themselves, the flavor of centuries lingered and leapt in our syllables.

As I watched the face of the man who served us, those who passed him, his eyebrows alone told a story of restraint, some sorrow. The gleaming bar told a story of hands resting, wiping, wishing. As we read the story of beans, seeds, flavors, years, on the slick paper presented to us, I opened myself to their stories. Just as each object we accept easily has its own movement and change, each thought dances or dives, glides or struts, smoothly lets itself be known. The Story of Stuff is out now, Annie Leonard’s and more, making us think of the journey each object, each creation, each thought takes. And a local man wrote a great article of his own application to know this journey intimately, reforming one use into another. While thinking on this, I had news of a distant relative’s death, news made known through an apologetic email, the litany of names connecting the name, the person, the people, to me, to us – Buford, Desaix, Elizabeth, Minnie Maude, Donna. I am thinking of this now, these energies distant to me, South, Deltaland. Connecting chemical dots, to know the force of love, and all the ways we make love live. Thank you for each way we make ourselves known, in love.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

What A View


“Well, pray for a 12-car pile-up because we’re not exactly swimming in livers over here!” Dr. Cuddy on House

Sarah had always collected things. Greg was a brilliant broken-down doctor with a bad leg – as he said – and she had nothing to say to it. They were between bridges, he in his way of cajoling but not being willing to love truly, and she in her hope growing inside her like her own harvest. A drought had accumulated for months, and most rain that came ran right over the ground. When she sat at the kitchen window and watched the birds at the feeder, she sipped her coffee and tasted the story of the beans, or so she imagined. How many hands had they passed through – planting, harvesting, separating, roasting – not so much literal hands, too, as then mechanical ones? What soil had fed these seeds? She imagined the dark beans sliding down a shiny grey tray, a conveyer, some bouncing a little, then calming down into a heap. She tasted different notes, like music, or maybe she imagined this as tasting was described by coffee connoisseurs. Certain sounds she felt in her mouth when the first sip passed her lips and pooled, then the deepening of the heat like roots without strength. The bitterness came after, a slight bounce or reflection almost, and she saw the sun baking the plants, nurturing them to a high harvest.

She had all the time in the world, somehow. She had been a journalist for a long time. There was plenty of work, which still excited her, and somehow she felt she still had all the time in the world. A dream? Now, this broken-down doctor with a bad leg. How did she love him? Some friends discouraged her. Were they, her friends, happy? A few were actively engaged in Living, and some laughed and cried and danced as they tied their shoes, combed their childrens’ hair, filed reports, and gave presentations. She admired them in some ways, their commitment to life itself as days and nights unfolded in their worlds. Always there was truth in this "how do you feel" question. What was the work? What was the dream? One friend told her, Careful what you say, I believe in the power of words. Yes! She thought, so do I or I wouldn’t be writing stories about reasons for war, the heartbreak of martyrdom, the jousting of egos in a room. There is no “all the time in the world.” Act now!

Then it came to her, again - the way the rain sounded as it poured through the rain barrel spouts last night, after so much dry air, dry land, reaching roots. Come back to the way souls seek peace after war. Her doctor friend was hard as nails in how he reflected the care and love he wanted. She listened and took it in, as late water permeated dry land at last. She saw it in him, and, as his friend told him, Being miserable doesn’t make you different, it just makes you miserable. Was she open to satisfaction, to changing, to love?

A friend gave her a gingerbread heart her son made, an ornament for the season. Then her friend strung a green and red ribbon through it. Ah, then she thought of the dramatic simplicity of the birds at the feeder. They peck and peep and move fast to nudge another. They preen and strut, then, gradually, nuzzle. What a word. What a wonderful world. What a view.