Monday, March 31, 2008

The House Was Busy With Them

She lay in the bed in the dark, deep into sleep, until something woke her. What was that noise? As she raised her head from the pillow, she was conscious of the moonlight glowing just enough into the window above her head. The shadows in the room lengthened, the ticking clock in the other room seemed louder. At first she felt her heart beat faster, a sudden moment of extra air, then she calmed as she thought, felt the energies that flowed around her, through the house. Some she could see, shadows that danced, others she heard whispering, some talking loud enough for her to hear words. The house was busy with them, especially in the rooms just beyond her bedroom.

When she lay flat again against her pillows and closed her eyes, breathed deeply, she felt her exhalation grow, and the outline of her body seemed to blur, into the fabric, into the overflowing edges of the bed, creeping to the walls, experiencing the air.

She felt the many wisps and whispers contracting and expanding, softer, louder, as she lay in the night air. When she fell back into sleep, she was diving into water, backwards, the water flowing over and through her. She felt no fear, only this flow of liquid aqua and spreading blue.

Camille Claudel Comes Back

I know better, she says inside,
Her head down, the dark encroaching
All the way in, her candle glowing.
She holds as still as stone
while he sculpts-
this force of Rodin, the fire inside,
is a man
like she has never known.

Her world is rocked with it,
This power that so depends upon his
Demand, his urge. Where are the gods
Now, but inside her playing havoc
With all she knows and wants to remember.

Make the clay mine, she whispers,
all urges mergingher tools her hands,
life in the wet clay forming itself
As she moves. Precision comes, as daylight does.

Her tools wait-

They move me, she says,
limbs coming to life as she sculpts herself
awake. Caress, feel me
Frantic with the urge of clay.

He is gone.
At last she sleeps, dreams
Of limbs, beautiful, the sea roaring.
The tide is turning.

Monday, March 24, 2008

In Another Country with Tift Merritt & friends

Tift Merritt gets a second chance on her third album - Independent Weekly article

A few friends and I went to the lovely Carolina Theater in Durham Saturday night to hear Sara Watkins followed by Tift Merritt and her band. The Independent Weekly had a great article about Tift, her friend and fellow "player" Zeke Hutchins, and the joys and struggles of making your visions real in the world to an audience that cares. Maybe I'm not crazy, she said. I'm glad she perseveres. I really appreciate Tift Merritt's way of exploring a range of music - styles, genres, sounds. She is a rocker for sure, and can sing French ballads, over a keyboard, that will bring tender memories and maybe tears to your eyes. And Sara Watkins (one of Nickel Creek fame) - what a voice, what a charmer. Keep listening for her....

The Raleigh News & Observer and The Rambler also printed articles about Tift-in-the-city.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Do You Remember Mobiles?

Alexander Calder,
From police gazette to circus,

I wrote as if I were writing to my favorite uncle,
The formality playful, but knowing he would know
The joy I felt in dotting my I’s and throwing my words
like a lasso, whirling
Until the battery ran out.

There is nothing he would not feel,
Animated, and the playful muse
He followed was forever getting lost
In some woods whose trees grew
Like redwoods, even with shrub and twigs
strewn around like a campground.

He put sculpture into motion,
I read, and I moved with him,
Hands quickly at my pocket flaps, fingers
Wiping clean, quickly, then on to more
Bending and prodding, shaping,
So motion knew what it must do
In the shapes I gave it,
That moment.

No wonder they grew,
No wonder they moved,
Those shapes,
Excited to be alive.
He knew.

National Gallery of Art Collection

Monday, March 17, 2008

On the Outer Edge of Blooming

Oppenheimer staggers
into sunlight,
wondering what happened,
searching for the names, the faces,
the reality of those he knew, disappeared now
into a different dream.

He remembers the rich inky blackness
of war, stamped seals of approval,
signatures he shared.
After the bomb blew,
who knew
what would come true?

This wager of science he relished,
but he never truly knew
it would turn him inside out,
his heart a fragile flower, his mind
a hazy cloud.

Oppenheimer cries,
his idea of the world
was beyond him
until they made a monstrous burn
that blocked the sun for some.
His memories are lonely
and the energy of each scrap of cloud alone
eternally changes, his family gone.

When he dreams,
he swims in sweeter memories,
his wife leans to kiss him, and
his chemistry remembers.

Dreams coming true
wake him as if he’d never been asleep,
and the thrill grows like a cloud
loving the soil, wet steam,

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Camille Comes Back

A woman waits by the sea, intoxicated by the air beyond the horizon. A sculptor of air, sand, water, the breath within her is the greatest form of all, the passion of the gods writhing or singing in her throat, in her wrists and hands, even her feet. Her mind itself is the bow and arrow she envisions, from Greek myth, from hunting days, from her brother, father, and every man she has known, every arrow she has been, every bow. This whirls her into nothingness, yet she returns. No longer faceless, the brash mask she carries is her old memories that want their way with her, nipping at her joints. Tenderness is overtaking her.

In each turn of a century, each arc of a movement of time that has built itself into a cresting wave comes the moment of opening, spreading, fanning out into whitewater lace, the filigree network of spiderwork.

She waits by the sea, turning with then against the wind, feeling from the deepest ocean cell within her – as the wind gusts, the water sprays, the gulls cry, the fine sand glistens, its gold flecks shining. When it rains, the moments of sun are tenderly taken, or the rain takes over, its mothering cleansing, even when hard. The tension and flex of this ballet she knows. New is her awareness that these patterns inside her are the same. She is learning to know mimicry and truthful reflection, or a reflection of truth. What is revealed is always the truth as it is. The joy of self-discovery reveals the playful nature of creation. Belaboring over tools teaches the patience of precision, and joy teaches the pleasure of artful creation.

Camille Comes Back

I am a woman, she cries.
I have died inside.
This iron, these gloves,
The sparks that fly
Tell me life is fire, and burns,
that I will go with it.

I know better, she says inside,
Her head on her arm, the dark encroaching
All the way in, her candle glowing.
The force of Rodin, with the poetry
of marble inside, is both flame and stone,
a man like she has never known.

Her world is rocked with it,
This power that so depends upon his
Demand, his urge. Where are the gods
Now, but inside her playing havoc
With all she knows and wants to remember.

Make the clay mine, she whispers,
Then shouts, all urges coming together
Like the roar of the sea, her tools her hands,
The metal, the life in the wet clay forming itself
As she moves. Precision comes, as daylight does,
and extremities show the most
Awesome care.

They move me forward,
My hands, feet
. she says.
Caress, feel me there, she is
Frantic with the urge of clay.
At last she sleeps, dreams
Of limbs, beautiful, the sea roaring.
The tide is turning.

Camille Claudel

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

My Nod to Calder

I watch the woman of my dreams, the man who was the king, the child who lives through them into the stars and back through clouds into day, and it isn’t easy to pinpoint this day, this moment, when I hear a friend gasp from pain, when I think of others I love who struggle. What is easy is coming into view – the faces, the names, the thoughts we have been in other forms, as the dance of life goes on, changing.

Always, even tonight, the stars come clear and make themselves jewels in the sky. We drove the country highway after darkness came, and the headlights of cars shone as bright as spotlights over ocean waves sometimes.

I watch your face as pain comes over you, enveloping you from the inside like wings, or, more graphically, pain the way a knife must feel as it is inserted and quickly gone. I let the wave wash through me, painless but full of the texture and temperature of every ocean wave I remember, pains I have painted, vessel by vessel, nerve by nerve, blood drop to clean up.

The joy of what comes with morning, of where we go while sleeping, just as we can go while awake as we welcome it, is the art of life. When I study paintings, prints and pictures of them I mean, mostly, I feel the passion such fingers brought to the canvas, the stone, sometimes the twists and turns that each mind made to express that stroke. The harsh strokes, the jagged edges, the bright blights, all show our growing pains, breaking from the forms of thought we have engraved as the way things “are.” The beauty of rolling fields, the luster of skin that glows with life, the rich colors that are irresistible to the eye and all our rods and cones remember – the sky and water invite us in, and every way we express skin invites us to remember our creation.

Every picture does tell a story. Faces in paintings full of sadness, mourning, the patience which waits for the burst of life to revive again, with whatever morning is; faces in stiff sittings for commissioned portraits ready for hanging in grand entrance or doorway; faces in repose, with just the kiss of sunlight and shade; faces full on with the gaze deep as any well dug or imagined. Each color, stroke, detail – a vase on the table in the corner of the room, angled away from the first way a look may go, pulling you in, still – has its life and part of life, the composite opera which plays and plays, silent or not.

There are cycles of expression through time. How do we express honor? The glory of war, the patronage of an artist who will paint the picture as we see it, as we see ourselves? The complexity of life snaking through soil, into the celebration of creation, form after form, limbs curling, clouds wisping, even the whir of wings made by little fingers. This is my nod to Alexander Calder.

Calder Foundation

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Imagine - Overtreated?

Imagine, for a moment, that you have not yet been born. How you imagine life to be. What and how would you imagine “a life” if you did not already have some basis of relationship to what “a physical life” is. Without memory, as experience, how do we “know what we know”?

In her book, Overtreated: Why Too Much Medicine is Making Us Sicker and Poorer, Shannon Brownlee shares this “thought experiment” from philosopher Norman Daniels, author of Just Health Care. Her thought experiment relates to how we might imagine our health care system, and referentially to the whole of life and the kind of life we may live. This bit is from the next to last chapter in her book, so she has already told the story she intends to tell about “why too much medicine is making us sicker and poorer.” What system would we create if we had the luxury of starting from scratch? Imagine, instead, if we know we can use what we are designed to use. We know a lot about what we don’t like and don’t want, what doesn’t work. When we see no prospect of change, or are daunted by the energy and effort, and usually money, required to change, we feel helpless and frustrated by “the way things are.”

As I’m reading Brownlee’s book, flashes of insight from reading Kathy Oddenino’s book, Healing Ourself: Growing Beyond the True Cause of Disease (1994) come to me. “Our goal is not to understand each and every nuance of our physical function but to understand the relationship of our physical nature to our divine nature. Our focus of examination has been directed into our physical body as our fascination and intrigue with the unknown, so we ponder and explore our external approach to disease.” (426) Oddenino explains why we can learn more by studying our behavior, senses, and emotions with an open mind than we can learn from the mechanics of our physical matter.

As I think about Brownlee’s examples of doctors who began their careers with the kindness of their intention and desire to help people, and for whom the care of patients was satisfying and essential to the overall health and quality of life, and I read Oddenino’s book which explains the pattern of our evolution as thinking energy, I recognize ever more why it is essential for us to see the trees and the forest before us as One. Oddenino explains why we can never unravel the complexities of our human body until we can learn to accept ourselves as energy AND matter. Brownlee explains the great paradox that while managed care was a colossal failure in so many respects, it may also be the best thing to happen to American medicine, because it has made many Americans realize that they want and must make a change. She offers that old joke about how many psychiatrists it takes to change a lightbulb: just one, but the lightbulb has to want to change. We’re showing ourselves more and more clearly and emphatically what it truly means to have an external focus: to focus on “things” rather than people; on the busyness of life rather than the quality of life; on survival as only physical, rather than the integrity, beauty, and immortality of love (ourselves as evolving energy beings) and the memories of life that we cherish.

These are some of the ways I am showing my own mind the pictures, the images, of how we depend upon our own beliefs to guide us in our life, so often without even knowing what we truly believe and why. The reality of “hidden memories” proves itself to us all the time, once we begin to examine our behaviors, senses, and emotions, and also the dynamics of our interactive lives beyond the “visible.” This is what explains to us what it means to be “reflective beings.” My thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and sensory responses to life show me the energy of “me” at this moment in time. Why has that been such a challenge for me, for so many, to accept? I’ve learned to understand that it’s only a challenge because the beliefs I have lived for eons of time as a mind (as energy and matter), in my quest and urge to understand “physical life,” have changed very slowly or have simply been reinforced along with the need to continue living and experiencing change as the gift of life and learning. I understand now, at last, that wanting to change, being open to the energy of change, is how the mind frees itself from the prison of beliefs that have been reinforced and supported just as though they were as physical as the steel reinforcements of a straining bridge which carries more and more cars.

Starting from scratch doesn’t mean not knowing anything! It means feeling the power of creating “as I want it.” As with any recipe, it means beginning with the basics and creating your own variation. With this thought, and opening my mind to recognize, remember, the true pattern of life and the human body, I feel the warmth and excitement, the peaceful thrill, of remembering what it means to nurture ourself as living beings. All of our acts and images of tilling the ground, planting seeds, in the soil as Earth, in our bodies as creative beings, of birthing ideas and babies, of building computers and skyscrapers, of mapping the land masses of Earth and oceans from the dragons we imagined may be there, to mapping the human and Earth genomes as we harvest and examine the lifeforms we find there in our present moment in time- all are the same pattern and motivation when we remember that always the need to search for love is the mystery of life that we must solve and our body is the tool given to be used in that search. Nurturing, caring is the energy of us as loving beings, just as the Earth knows its own energy of growth and change through the nurturing that happens in its constantly creating process of balance and change.

Yesterday I attended a wedding, the second wedding of a close friend’s daughter. While there, celebrating the energy of this union, enjoying the energy of her family (she and her two young sons) creating a larger family with this new friend as husband and father, and each of their families expanding as the love between them is declared and their energies of life joined, I imagined again what it could be like to imagine not having been born. It is almost impossible (I never think “impossible” anymore – that is not a reality to my thinking mind as energy…!). When an acquaintance whom I had not seen in a long time told me, Whatever you’re doing, keep it up, you look great!, I laughed and thought about what happiness I saw in the faces and people around me. I thought about those in whom the life energy was suppressed and depressed. One person mentioned the bitterness of life, and this showed as a sadness, though not hopelessness. Another was “barely there” – sitting near motionless in her chair, not engaged in this energy of life that was so vibrant all around. A cousin of the groom, with Downs Syndrome, was totally full of life, expressed her love via microphone to her cousin and his new bride, and stayed on the dance floor for a few hours, whether or not others joined her. She was in constant motion as the life in her moved and changed. How did I feel? I felt the flux of life energy within me, too, swaying with a strong pulse, quietened at others. I was happy to be sharing the moment in physical time. At the wedding I was in a church for the first time in a long while. The beautiful stained glass windows glowed, the organ pipes vibrated and sent their sound into the air as only such pipes can. The cushions on the pews were comfortable. The air of it all was familiar, yet also placed in a time in my mind different from my current moment. I felt honored to know how and why we created the structures we have for ourselves, as we learn to honor ourselves, and the joy of being invited to share in celebrations as human beings. I felt less the sense of sadness and loss of my changing internal images of myself, born again and again, and more of the love that such knowing brings. Each image of sharing as families reminds me now of what this means to us as a human family.


It’s almost Leap Year, or Leap Day, this February of the year 2008. I’ve had so many streams of thought in the last few days that this leap-year seems a natural diversion. I’ve thought about health, about my own stability of thinking, what this means (as I have glimpsed the lunar eclipse, watched the depth of white clouds building, the blue clearing, felt the mighty wind blowing, and the sun of today after the chill of morning), and about the bonds that friendship, love create as we live. The “bottom line,” it seems, is to Know Ourself, and to be open to change, to love. I heard a friend relate, briefly, to her former life with her abusive husband, and how immediately, upon marriage, he began to make his presence known, to hit her, and how she felt about this reality. I listen to my parents, my siblings, I listen to all of life, and I smell the sweet scent of these yellow roses that I and my friends shared over dinner the other evening –

When we spoke of poetry, a friend emphasized the need to know our own voice, not in those words. Not to be swayed by the voices of others with languages not your own. I listened, and listened, too, to the story of how a friend followed the nuns’ request to ease a dying man’s way into “Heaven” by being sure he was baptized. You’re not Catholic, they said, so the family will not suspect. This is about the soul, not the body. Their intentions were pure, their compassion intact. I remembered work-times earlier in my life, when I was asked to be the “diplomat” to ease confrontation. Sometimes this was easy. Other times I got irritated when I felt someone else was "not doing their job," or that I was "having to do theirs."

Now I see what this pattern of thinking and feeling is: usually it meant I wasn't completely comfortable being completely responsible for myself as a thinking, feeling physical (energy) being. It was easier for me to point out what was wrong, than to think positively, with love, and communicate as that energy. I am coming to know the natural gradual blooming beauty of Knowing Ourself, the degree of bloom this shows, as we know the difference between the belligerence of rebellion and the fear complacency of conformity. This is what it means to know we are in constant bloom, the bloom of change and growth, when we can recognize and acknowledge this pattern of life and change.

A few sentences from our recent seminar handout fit in: “If we are not learning truth and constantly living our truth of growth and change, we are not yet learning knowledge that relates to ourselves, Nature, Earth, and the Universe. This means that we will continue to suppress our hidden memories and see ourselves in the perception of being ultimately controlled by life and by other people, which takes away our personal freedom.” (1, Eternal Lives seminar handout).

“Our design allows us to choose our focus of learning as we come back into each new physical life. Nothing about us is accidental or without meaning. “ (1)
Most of all we find negative hidden memories of our past lives being expressed in our attitude about ourselves and our physical lives today – (2) Become very conscious of our own internal “self-image” and how we project ourselves as energy beings. (3)