Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Off and Running

In his book, Creating Mind, John Dowling quotes Lewis Thomas (from The Lives of A Cell: Notes from a Biology Watcher ) writing about the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) in Woods Hole, Massachusetts: "The MBL in Woods Hole is a paradigm, a human institution possessed of a life of its own, self-regenerating, touched all around by human meddle but constantly improved, embellished by it....Successive generations of people in bunches, never seeming very well organized, have been building the MBL since it was chartered in 1888."

I like Thomas's description of this human institution possessing a life of its own - self-regenerating, it... Academic types drifting down, looked around, began explaining things to each other, and the place was off and running...
Many models and studies of life forms at MBL have led to breakthroughs in our understanding of the function of life at different levels, and therefore our appreciation of life at many levels. What we've learned about the nervous system from sea creatures has been invaluable. We've built upon it - though most of us are not aware of how this knowledge has helped us.

This has gotten me thinking about knowledge, the role of knowledge for us as humans, and what prompts us to seek and expand our knowledge as a thinking mind. I know that our greatest motivator is change, our internal need and design as energy. It is not only what I know, or think I know, but my attitude about this phenomenon that is so important. Not so much what I do, bu the energy with which I act. Confidence comes in loving what I know (Know Thyself!), trusting absolutely this love.

JUST THINK. I grew tired of not thinking! Or of rote thinking! This morning on the news I listened to a story about the man just awarded National Teacher of the Year acknowledgement. He was a narcotics police officer in New York for many years before becoming a Special Education teacher. When asked why he became a teacher, he said one thing great about being a policeman was the public service. Yet this focus was reactive, and being a teacher was proactive. Much of the population he served had already made mistakes that he felt could be corrected if people were helped, educated differently earlier. It was a wonderful story, and I applaud such compassion and service to our humanity.

When I read a friend's message telling me of the way honey from the honeycomb tastes, and the way the bees cooperate to create, I too imagine honey in different colors glistening in the sunlight. (She explained how the pollen comes in all different colors, depending on the chemical makeup of the plant they are harvesting at the time.) With another prompt, I listened again to David Bowie's Sound and Vision, taking it all in, and I heard "electric blue" all new - no waiting for sound and vision when I simply let love live in me, remember the rhythm of thoughts that feel and sound of harmony to me. My cells remember, and are happy for it.

Poetry makes itself known always, as we are open to expressing and sensing energy changing. Perhaps dancing. Knowledge of ourselves - the discipline, structure, order of our internal design as energy - lets us love!

Time with my mother teaches me, too, the simple way love is. She is one of my creators, after all. When her blue eyes turn to a milky grey, and her pointing finger shakes, I still see the smile inside, and the way she wants to go on. With others, I hear the hope, acceptance, the compassion, and I feel the love we all share shining through our sometimes clumsy ways.

We laugh and let ourselves feel the love that lights our way, as we make our own ways. Kathy Oddenino wrote, "As we allow our loving emotions to live through the energy fields of our Ethical Values, we raise ourselves into a higher level of thinking than we have ever lived before."
When we know we have to "save ourselves," we will seek knowledge to help ourselves. Love is our protection! We're not excited about what we don't know. Within ourselves we find our lessons and our strength.

Monday, April 13, 2009


"I suppose the pleasure of country life lies really in the eternally renewed evidences of the determination to live."
V.Sackville-West, from Billie Hinton's March 8, 2008 blog post (With a Bow to Virginia Woolf)

Billie Hinton has a blog on writing, which she invites "locals" to share. I sent her a post, which she kindly added today. She has another blog camera-obscura with a picture I love, to begin, and a wonderful way of sharing her natural world. I look forward to reading more. I hope you'll visit and take them in!

Mystic-lit is dedicated to conversation about writing. New content is sporadic these days, and dependent on someone sending me a post that knocks my socks off. If you're interested in blogging here about writing craft, process, publishing, or lifestyle, send your post to blog-owner and regular contributor, Billie Hinton. Meanwhile, enjoy your writing journey!

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

I Decided I Should Take Pictures

"Photographer Helen Levitt, best known for her lyrical depictions of New York City street life, died in her sleep at the age of 95. Brooklyn-born Levitt dropped out of high school and in 1931 took a job working for a commercial photographer in the Bronx. "And I decided I should take pictures of working class people and contribute to the movements," she said in a 2002 interview with NPR. "Whatever movements there were—Socialism, Communism, whatever was happening. And then I saw pictures of Cartier-Bresson, and realized that photography could be an art—and that made me ambitious."

That's something of an understatement. Levitt soon met Cartier-Bresson (during his 1935 stint in New York), befriended Walker Evans, and through him, met Ben Shahn and James Agee, who both proved to be major influences on her work. In 1943, she had her first solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art and went on to show in Edward Steichen's landmark 1955 "Family of Man" exhibition and many, many other shows, including retrospectives at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the International Center of Photography, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Upon visiting her apartment, a reporter was surprised to find none of Levitt's photographs on display. "I know what they look like," she said. "I don't want to look at them all the time."

Chemical affinity
Near infinity
The brain understanding itself

Laughs at its shenanigans, its poetry in motion,
Even the missed step, misstep,
The Trip on the near ladder rung or near the top railing,
The Unfortunate standing on a dance partner’s toe safely covered in shoe.

Even in the Old Days, as ancients prepared to visit the Oracle,
They were reminded to Know Thyself; know what you want to know,
Before you ask for answers, and be ready to hear the answers,
already known.

I’ve always had this affinity for infinity, this dalliance with what I thought was brilliance, teasing it out,chasing it down, the light at the end of the hallway, or the Shakespeares, the Sherlock Holmes among us, moving fast with lantern in hand, eyes on the next prize, the answers always ready to be shown, as asked for.

When I read of someone like Helen Levitt dying, and a quick postcard view of her life affinity for photographing the common man of her world, the people on the city street, how she came to know this documentation itself was its own art, her way – I’m reminded of how beautiful it is when we follow, live the art of our heart through the tenacity of our thinking mind. The obituaries and tributes I read of Helen Levitt brought Grace Paley to my mind. I love images, documentation, especially when images are appreciated in their own detail. Certain minds appreciate certain images, because our emotional memories are what they are to us, and our thinking evolves as we develop those relationships within us, honor them as the eternal flames they are, in life.

Recently I watched part of a UNCTV program about linguists. Two young scientists documented their journeys around the world, in their commitment to preserve dying languages. They traveled to Siberia, Bolivia, among other places. They did a wonderful job sharing their commitment to this preservation of life. My memory may be inaccurate, but I think I remember that in Siberia, fewer than 10 people still speak Chulym, and 4 of those had died since the four years of their documenting. Some of their subjects had never seen a video camera or computer, nor, then, themselves upon the screen, played back. One man wiped tears from his eyes as he remembered his mother encouraging him to keep the language. He spoke of his disappointment and shame when he tried to write the language, using Russian letters, and offended people when he showed it to them and they did not understand it. It was another great example to me of how much damage we create, with its many ripple effects through history and culture, when we fear something “unknown” to us, and we are unwilling to embrace new thought, knowledge, learning ,change - and how much wonderful memory, joy, we create when we acknowledge and cherish our memories.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Joanna Catherine Scott and her new book

Joanna Catherine Scott is a fascinating woman. She is passionate about humans and our history, and she is passionate about justice.

Here is a great bio bit from her web site (go to her site and read the "rest of the story"):
However, since I have been accused of being snooty because I have no personal data on my website, here is a brief summary of my life for those who like to know about such things: I was born during an air raid over London, raised in Australia by a mother who had been a stage and radio actress but got saved in a panic due to Mr. Hitler’s bombs and eventually became a Pentecostal preacher, exorcist and healer.

My father had a hand in raising me as well. As a young man, he took his degree in engineering from the University of Melbourne, then worked his way to England as a ship’s engineer, where he took up a post-graduate apprenticeship with Metropolitan Vickers in Manchester. When WWII broke out, he joined the British Royal Engineers (or Sappers), which went ahead of the army into France and Belgium. Later, he took over production of the Bailey Bridge, the “instant” bridge used by British and US troops all over Europe. Back in Australia, he went into the steam combustion engineering business, managing a company that built boilers for electric plants. He was a phlegmatic man and adored my mother to the end despite her proselytizing religious fervor.

On Friday night I went to listen to Joanna Scott as she "launched" her new book, Child of the South, at Market Street Books in Southern Village (Chapel Hill), where she had launched the first (The Road From Chapel Hill, to which this one is sequel) two and a half years ago, according to Kathryn Henderson (owner of Market Street store and good friend of the author's). I met Joanna through Kathryn, when Kathryn invited Joanna to attend Kathy Oddenino's book event at Market Street a few years ago.

The room was full at Friday's book launch, and many seemed familiar with Joanna's work. I was fascinated with her stories, full of her researched details of the Old South - in particular, North Carolina's south, which her characters embody. I learned of Abraham Galloway - a handsome (mixed race), imposing, bold activist whose funeral, in Wilmington, drew 6,000 people or more, the largest in the state's history. He was only 33 when he died, in 1870. (Apparently, descriptions of people dying from "sudden illnesses" were common.) Galloway had a dramatic passion for justice and the dream of justice being real, every day, for all. Scott described the silence as the thousands of people marched in procession, when the streets in town were white sand and all that could be heard were the feet as they marched and the wheels of the carriages as they made their way. Her obsession with Galloway began her interest in writing this sequel, Joanna said. She loves to read history, and read excerpts from local newspapers following the passage of legislation when Negroes were given the right to vote. No one was "PC" then, she said, and the views were bold and, to me, shocking. Southern Historical archives are full of the treasures of our past, and this Australian-bred local author writes with great humor and compassion about the human dynamics of our history. What a treat it was to hear her and learn more about this land we call home. Thank you, Market Street, for hosting this event, sharing treasures from home and abroad.

A Few Spring Snapshots, First bright Sunday in Pittsboro