Sunday, October 31, 2010

I Never Met a Door I Didn't Like

Perhaps it's become apparent to some of you, due to the oohing and aahing I've done over images in your own postings, that I go ga-ga over doors. I love what they represent and have spent a lot of time taking their pictures, especially those that have been around awhile, as they seem to have developed a patina and a wizened look that is particularly appealing, sort of the elders in the tribe of doors. If they've been left ajar, so much the better.

I'm certainly not alone in my love for them. They seem to speak to many folks, and speak they do if we take the time to listen. They've seen things. They know things. The first building that popped into my head is the Dakota in New York City. I've not seen them in person, but can you imagine the tales those doors could tell?  Then there's the quiet rusticity of old farm doors, or those that aren't really doors but passageways that allow for the constant flow of energy, transcending any notion of time even while appearing to define it.

Here are a few of my favorites from images I've taken here and there along with some quotes that I've also collected - some years ago, some more recently. I've always loved Aldous Huxley's quote. And then there's Michael Bridge, the last quote. I don't remember the context in which I found this so cannot determine who he is exactly, but that's okay. I don't think he'll mind if I pass his very thoughtful quote along to you. It's a powerful statement on the creative process, a process in which we all participate every moment of every day.

"If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear as it is, infinite." ~ Wm. Blake

"Follow your bliss and the Universe will open doors for you where there were only walls."
~ Joseph Campbell

"There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception." ~ Aldous Huxley

"Let everyone sweep in front of his own door and the whole world will be clean." ~ Goethe

"The outward man is the swinging door; the inner man is the still hinge." ~ Meister Eckhart

"Don't ever slam a door. You might want to go back." ~ Don Herold, American humorist

"When our eyes see our hands doing the work of our hearts, the circle of Creation is completed in us, the doors of our souls fly open, and love steps forth to heal everything in sight."
~ Michael Bridge

 My images from scanned 35mm photos:

Northern Mexico
Taos Pueblo, New Mexico
Pueblo Bonito, Chaco Canyon, NM
Pecos National Monument, NM
Maplewood State Park, Minnesota
My barn, MN
Lee's Ferry, near Page, Arizona
Morenci, AZ

Friday, October 29, 2010

I Click for Art

Every morning, when I open my email, it's set to a homepage that shows the headline news. This is not news I normally check into as it's almost never worth it. Every once in awhile, though, I see a headline that piques my curiosity and I click on it. This morning, an article about a beach community that has become derelict and is now returning to its natural state caught my eye. It's located on a barrier island off Connecticut.

I love that artists moved in to create art out of what was left behind, despite the trespassing involved. Perhaps that's the little anarchist in me. But, I also love art that is created out of found objects, ephemera, and such. What I love even more, is that it is becoming home, once again, to a variety of birds and other wildlife. When you read the article, you'll understand the progression that this place has been through and perhaps feel a sense of camaraderie with the artists who could not resist the impulse that brought them there, and find some joy in knowing a small piece of land is returning to the natural state for which it was always intended.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Two Sisters and Their Adventure at Guerrero Viejo, c. 1996

Back in 1996, before Trouble took over large areas of Mexico, one could travel there unimpeded, other than the occasional checkpoint, and feel relatively safe. I, being a gringo and unaccustomed to life in any foreign country, still felt a little uneasy when my sister and I decided to drive into Mexico from near her home at the time, in Progresso, Texas, and check out the old town of Guerrero Viejo. Christy knew how much I loved ruins and the history that goes along with them, and she is as adventurous as I, so away we went.

Guerrero Viejo is a colonial village dating back to 1750, serving briefly as the capital of the Republic of the Rio Grande in 1840. It has a rich history dating right up to the early 1900's, when it was known as an international tourist resort, complete with a grand hotel and rose gardens. That, however, is not the town that exists today.

In 1953 Falcon Dam was built, creating Falcon Lake, and the result was the flooding of many villages along the Rio Grande. Villagers were forced to relocate to higher ground. Guerrero Viejo was one of those towns.

Perhaps you've heard of this place in the recent headlines. Two Americans, a couple, rode their jet skis down the river hoping to get photographs of the oft-photographed old church lying half-submerged by the new water levels, as it was after the building of the dam. The man was shot and killed, apparently by those, uh, familiar with Trouble, as a further warning that Americans are not welcome there. My first response was, 'What in the hell were they thinking?'  But, I don't want to linger on that question. Too much grief to be explored here. What I would like to do, is introduce you to the Guerrero Viejo I visited in 1996, in the Before-time.

We drove down the highway, probably twenty miles or more, before we saw small, old signs pointing off to the right. We turned down a dirt road and were soon met by maybe a dozen Federales. I might not have gotten a real good count. They had AK47's, at least that's what they looked like to me, as well as machine guns on the roofs of their vehicles, and those definitely were machine guns, aimed at us. Now, I have to tell you, that American tourists had been going down this road for many years, as the lake had receded and the town was no longer under water. This was not an entirely unusual event. Still, I was sweating bullets, much like the ones in their weapons pointed at us. We stopped the car and my sister rolled down her window, using her minimal familiarity with Spanish to ask permission to go ahead and visit the town, still ten miles down the dirt road. I was praying. Hard. A brief discussion took place between this soldier and another, with the result, as we understood it, that permission was being denied. I can't say I was entirely disappointed. I wanted back on terra familia. And soon.

We turned the car around and, as we did so, another Federale stopped us again. Again, I sweated bullets. And prayed. Hard. I was trying to keep my thoughts from the fearful scenario that wanted to unfold in my mind. This time, the Federales granted us permission. It seems there was a misunderstanding, ours or theirs, not certain, but we made an almost instantaneous decision to go ahead, turn around again, and head to the abandoned village. Needless to say, I do not have any photographs of the Federales. But, this is the road leading in:

As we traveled that dirt road, I tried to let go of my fear and settle into what we knew would be an interesting experience. Foolish, you say. Maybe. But, at that point, it seemed like no matter what we chose, we had to trust. Not much else to do. So, well-armed ourselves, with a whole lot of trust, we arrived at Guerrero Viejo.

Much to our relief, there were two other cars that looked like they were on the same adventure. However, we never saw another soul in the village the entire time we were there, except for the single family still inhabiting a roofless stone house on the corner of the first street. Chickens and goats roamed in and out at will; the family itself just looked at us with mild curiosity. We felt safe.

Our first stop was an old cemetery on the edge of the village, a cemetery that had no Perpetual Care Plan, that's for certain, and had not been attended to, in any fashion, for what looked like forever.

We wandered the deserted streets, stopping for the countless photo opps that presented themselves. Eventually, we found our way down to the church, Our Lady of Refuge. That church has definitely not lived up to its name, at least not in its original intention, but I can't blame it. It was a casualty of the dam. What was once, from what I've read, a beautiful interior, is now just a ghostly memory. I paused before passing through its entrance, as though I wasn't sure I belonged there. I felt a bit like an intruder, walking among its stone arches, taking photos and imagining what was, what might have been.

We spent the afternoon, exploring and photographing, reveling in an adventure we knew, as it was taking place, we would always remember.

On the way out, we stopped for a minute so I could photograph this horse, grazing on the only oasis for miles around.

When we came out, the Federales were gone.

I feel more than sadness at what has happened right across our borders. Since 2006, over 28,000 people have been killed due to Trouble. Our trip to Guerrero Viejo will not ever be repeated, nor will the equally fine trip we made to the city of Monterrey. I can't imagine ever returning. But, I will always be grateful for this little journey. What fun, having this adventure with my sister.

She called me, when news of the American being killed came out. We reminisced about our day there, and talked of the changes wrought by time...and, I just wanted you to know, there was another Guerrero Viejo, once upon a time. Wouldn't it be nice, if that one would emerge again?

The photographs are my own, taken with my 35mm Canon AE-1, now resting forlornly on a closet shelf, displaced by its digital cousin. I shot these with available light, far poorer than the preferred, optimal time for photos. Early morning or evening was not a consideration, and I can't say I'm sorry. 

Saturday, October 23, 2010

By the Light of the Silvery Moon

I stepped outside for awhile last evening and stood in the back yard. The light from the full moon was casting a cool, almost blue glow over the road that leads to the cabin and I started thinking about indigenous people and how they found meaning to their lives, there among the stars, the moon and its companions. I was thinking particularly of Polynesian navigators. They found their way, often across thousands of miles of ocean, using only the motion of the stars, the ocean currents and wave patterns, the flight of birds, the wind and the waves to guide them. That, and their finely honed intuition.

When you live intimately with nature, one can learn to navigate through life using the universe itself as guidance, often arriving at that place where conscious reasoning, and even knowledge passed down from generation to generation, gives way to that finer form of guidance. It's a form of guidance that has always been available to us, but, instead of sharpening our senses, we have allowed ourselves to fall into a sort of cultural stupor.

What if we didn't allow culture - magazines and books and all things flat-screened - to inform us, to tell us how we're supposed to feel, what we're supposed to think, even what direction our lives should take, literally and figuratively? What would that feel like? Look like? It's an insidious thing, this thing called culture, and we fall prey to it without even being consciously aware that it's happened. I'm not outside the boundaries of this phenomenon myself, obviously, but I am trying to understand it and step back often enough and long enough to imagine life without these contraptions, and they are contraptions. I'm sitting here, writing this on my computer, deeply appreciating the fact that I can communicate instantaneously with friends on the other side of the globe. So, am I giving this up any time soon? Not likely. Can I give up television? Perhaps. But, I would miss Sheldon and the boys. I wonder what they would think of my desire to develop my inner Polynesian navigator? I can hear Sheldon saying again, "I'm a physicist, not a hippie!"

The first time I recall hearing of Polynesian navigators was about a dozen or so years ago. I was participating in a group that discussed metaphysical and spiritual topics. There was a couple, probably in their eighties, that came to these meetings, and I was taken with how fully engaged they were with life, all the phenomena and possibilities they still wanted to explore. He mentioned one evening that he'd had a very vivid dream in which he was in a boat, moving through the night by the light of the moon and the stars, very aware that he was with, or was himself, one of these navigators. I found the topic intriguing, both from the standpoint of what our dreams can tell us about ourselves and with the notion of navigating in this way. It has stayed with me, and I look at it occasionally as a personal checkpoint: where am I in the process of learning to be a better listener, a better reader of the world around me?

What if we all learned to move through life like Polynesian navigators? Finding our way by watching the patterns in nature, listening to our inner selves, guidance that is always present. To let the world, the natural world, settle in around us, inform and enlighten us, keep us apprised of all that truly matters. To learn the lessons life offers inside a leaf, the stars, the water, the moon. To stand outside in the dark long enough to let go of any fear and learn to listen, to feel at a deeper level, to trust our instincts. To allow ourselves to be guided by the primordial intelligence of the universe, to trust it, knowing that it will always bring us to a place of peace and deep contentment.

What if?

As I write this, the moon just went down in the western sky. I hope I'm making even some small measure of progress.

The image is an early illustration by Edward Hopper, "Boy and Moon."

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Mystery Called Childhood

In the small town school I attended there was no kindergarten. We went from the safety of home right to first grade. The only introduction we had to that new world, besides our siblings who had gone before, was something called Spring Roundup. We went to school for part of a day in the spring to meet our teacher, our fellow classmates, and to get a sense of what it was all about. The only thing I now recall about that day was a circular game we played out in the schoolyard. You know, one of those games that appears to be designed so that we all feel a part of something, part of the circle, but then the singling-out starts. I did not like to be singled out. I'm sure I wasn't alone. Usually this meant a losing situation for pretty much every one in that circle. I couldn't tell you if I won or lost. Doesn't matter. All I knew was that I could feel the freedom of unstructured days slipping away.

I had gotten a taste of what this meant the previous year when one spring day, as I was playing some make-believe game with my cousin Mark under the clothes line (what is it with this clothes line?), his mom pulled up at the end of our driveway and Mark ran off to get in the car, hollering as he went that he was on his way to Spring Roundup. After the car pulled out of sight on that dirt road heading to town, I remember sitting there on the grass, feeling very alone. He was my last best hope and there it went, along with him, in a brown and tan car that I only and ever saw as our way to get to the lake for an afternoon swim on hot summer days. How could this be?  It was as though I was watching myself from a short distance away, watching the life of someone else unfold.  On that day, I knew everything had changed.

The next year, when I found myself at Spring Roundup, it was something no more to be resisted, but an inevitable bridge I had to cross.

As I looked around at that small sea of unfamiliar faces, my eyes kept going to Marlene, someone new, from somewhere else. She was dressed in a fancy, white ruffly dress and had long brown curls with a white bow, in what can only be described as a Lillian Gish look-a-like hairdo. Out of synch, and out of time, I was intrigued, but quietly embarrassed for her, in her out-of-place attire and her slightly southern accent. What was she doing here, in north central Minnesota, in our circle of mostly farm kids? She wasn't a distant cousin and she didn't go to our church. Could I be friends with this puzzling little thing? I was already desperately wanting to fly under the radar. Have you heard the saying that goes something like,  "Don't draw fire. The people next to you frown on it?"  No, friendship didn't appear to be an option. She stayed to herself pretty much anyway and so I didn't feel an obligation. Not as enlightened as I wish I'd been, I kept a safe distance and watched this strange little being in the midst of us.

Now, in retrospect, from the distance of many years, I see it differently. Maybe she was me, that part of me that needed to create someone else, someone even more out there, someone who could be a buffer between myself and the real world, the world I wasn't quite comfortable in yet. I'm starting to look at the possibility and even to embrace her. Now, she'd be the person I'd gravitate towards, knowing she might possibly be the one who held the key, the key that would help me unlock the mystery called childhood.

I did not sit down this morning to write about Marlene. I was planning to write about Dennis, who sat across from me in both first and second grade. But, the Universe had other plans. I think I needed to look at this, to see aspects of myself more clearly, that self that's part of the Greater Self, to make friends with that little girl that's me, and to know I hold the key, and always have.

Forgive me. I appear to be on a Winslow Homer bender again. They are:
"Sunlight and Shadow"    
"Girl and Daisies"     
"Shepherdesses Resting"  

Sunday, October 17, 2010

To Indian Pow-wows and First Loves

Up until the age of 13, I lived on a small farm between two small towns, here in Minnesota. The small town to the south of us was where we went to school. Most of our winter activities took place somewhere between house and town, sliding on Old Baldy, or ice-skating on Mud Lake. Some winters, we'd use the frozen pond that formed in the hollow of our yard, where my sister and I vied for our rightful place next to Peggy Fleming. In the summer there was swimming, riding our horses - sometimes with saddles, but usually bareback - and playing "Kick the Can" late into the evening, with our cousins who lived up the road. We spent most of our time outdoors.

When I was 8, our parents bought a small cafe in the town five miles to the north of us, called the Chat N Chew. That's correct (it's now defunct, but I know of others, including one in NW New Mexico, which I always passed en route to the canyons of Utah). We, "us kids," only went there occasionally, for dinner after church mostly, dinner being the noon meal. The evening meal was supper. The other event was Thursday evenings, which I'll get to in a minute. When I turned 12, this was where we spent many of our summer days. We met new friends to hang out with, and we swam. We'd hang our swimsuits to dry in the storage room behind the cafe, where they sometimes never even got dry before we put them back on in the afternoon and headed back down to the lake. We lived in the water for a good part of each summer.

Thursday evenings there was an Indian pow-wow, held as a tourist attraction, this being a town dependent on them. Remember, this was the early 1960's. It was an evening of running around with friends, acting like typical adolescents, stopping long enough to watch the pow-wow. A small group of drummers would sit in a circle in the middle, drum and sing, more of a chant, really, while the dancers moved in a circle around them. Some of the men wore spectacular feathered headdresses that captured my attention and my imagination. There was an elderly Indian woman  (quite possibly younger than I am now), who always wore a dark green dress with intricate beading at the neckline and along the sleeves. Jangly silver bugle beads circled her skirt, and real turtle shells hung from the hemline. Her dress mesmerized me. I wanted one.

These pow-wows were the highlight of my summer week. It was partly the pow-wow and partly because a boy named Billy was always there with his parents, both of whom were teachers at our school, ten miles to the south. They also owned a resort on a nearby lake, so they coordinated and emceed these evenings. I watched the dancing, while keeping an eye out for Billy. In the cloak room of our third grade, murmurings of marriage had taken place, and so I had daringly written in one of my reading books, "Teresa Enger + Billy," then, "Billy + Teresa," (just to keep things even in my mind) inside two hearts.  I kept an eye on him not out of serious expectation, although there may have been some of that, but because he was just so nice to look at: black hair, with a certain sadness in his dark brown eyes that I found mysterious and appealing. Ah, young love.

When I returned to school in the fall, Billy was not in class. He had moved away just before school started. I didn't know where, which left me feeling a bit adrift. My parents, unaware of my unrequited love, made vague references to Arizona. I didn't see him or hear anything about him for over thirty years.

Then, I read where his father, Bill, Sr., had written a book about his own growing-up years in northern Minnesota and I decided to buy copies for myself and members of my family who had expressed interest in it.  In a review of the book, I had read that he was teaching at a university in Idaho. So, I got brave and called him there. We had a very nice visit, remembering a bit of shared history and catching up on family. I inquired about Billy. He had never married, and was living out west, not too far from his parents. He spent his summers as a fisherman, on the Queen Charlotte Islands of northern British Columbia.

A week after our conversation I received the books I'd ordered, which I gave to my parents and other members of my family as Christmas gifts.

Life went on.

A few years ago, Bill, Sr. passed on while they were at their summer home in Bemidji, the town where I had graduated from college back in the '70's, and where Bill, Sr. had received his Bachelor's degree. When I heard the news, I sent a card to Billy's mom expressing my condolences and we began a correspondence, which culminated, two summers ago, in a plan to get together for lunch, along with my sister, Judy, while I was back from Santa Fe for a visit. We would meet in the same town where the pow-wows had been held, all those summers ago. She said Billy would be home from the Queen Charlotte's for a couple of weeks and would join us.

We planned to meet at a local church luncheon, put on during a celebration that had been held in this small town for as long as we could remember. When the big day arrived, I was a bit anxious. It had been over forty years since I had seen either of them.  But, the anxiety melted away, along with the years, as we sat down to lunch. During our visit, I told them how I had been at that same local church for a rummage sale a few years earlier, where they were selling a few old, "discarded" school books, readers for a younger age. I had recognized the blue cover of one and opened it up. There, on the inside cover, I had written, "Teresa Enger + Billy," then, "Billy + Teresa," inside two hearts. Needless to say, I bought the book and still have it to this day. We laughed as I recalled this, and marveled a bit at the way life moves sometimes.

We talked only a little about the past. Mostly, we talked about the world we inhabit now. He told me about his life among the Haida Indians and the friendships that had grown during his summers there. His sensitivity to these native people - their creativity and their way of life - was apparent, and very inspiring. One had created a beautiful ring for him, which he took off to show me, then encouraged me to try it on. The simple workmanship was beautiful. It felt nice, like the energy from its creation was still very present. It was nice to know that throughout those years we had shared a deep appreciation for Native American culture, he on the islands of northern British Columbia, and I in the canyons of Utah.

No, this is not a silly love story, with a Notebook ending. It's waaay better. It's the story of a childhood friendship that had a chance to come full circle; it was a gift, for which I'm very grateful.

I spoke with his mother recently, and Billy is still spending a few weeks each summer on the Queen Charlotte Islands, fishing, among his Haida friends.

And we keep moving, down the river of life.

                                                    Queen Charlotte Islands, BC

The pictured artwork is from the Haida culture, both past and present, and is courtesy of  google, along with the final image of the islands. The reader is, of course, my own.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Dance Called Time

A new film by Julie Taymor coming out in December

If you've been reading my blog for any time you probably know that from time to time I take a look at the past: my life yesterday, my life a few years ago, my childhood. I look at the past to illustrate the present, to see where I've been and what brought me Here. I don't spend much time there, in the past, not a good habit, nor do I have the desire to do so. I don't yearn for what was, whether it was six days ago, six months ago, six years ago, or my childhood (not six decades, but getting close). I prefer to spend my time in the present and I strive to stay present to each moment, to what Life offers Here. But, I have some mighty fine memories and sometimes they get called up in this process of writing and they seem befitting, appropriate for the ideas that are percolating in my noggin.

I was thinking about how we view our lives, individually and collectively. It's a notion that gets a lot of press, this notion of staying in the Now, and I'm a firm believer that it's essential to our well-being, on every level. I love the book, Be Here Now, by Ram Dass. I like the format and what it teaches about staying in the Now. Published in 1969, it was originally distributed as a pamphlet by the Lama Foundation, then gifted to the Hanuman Foundation for more widespread distribution. But, consider if you will  (Twilight Zone?): try having a conversation that is totally in the present. I mean it. Try it. Try it with your significant other, a friend, or a small group of friends. See where the conversation goes, watch the words you use. Be honest about what is happening, no caveats. I've done this with a small group of friends and it's an interesting exercise. It gets kinda boring. Actually, it gets real boring. And real repetitious. How much can you say about the present moment?

To wit: it's another beautiful moment here in north central Minnesota. The sky is blue, the sun is shining, it's rather chilly. The light falling across my living room chair is lovely, soft and warm against the polished stump I call an end table. Oops, now it's gone. My coffee maker is gurgling, reminding me to shut it off. Oops. Too late. It's done. A squirrel is in my yard. Oops, he's gone. That was then. This is now.

See?  It ain't easy. And did I mention kinda boring?

Let's use another somewhat larger example: the stars. I was thinking about the stars (imagine that!) and I remembered that every star we see is long gone, burned out a looong time ago. Should we stop looking up at them, "recalling" them, honoring them? I don't plan to any time soon and I bet you don't either. It's fun and brings meaning into my life. Along with a whole host of other ideas, memories that are in  "the past."

Remember my post two days ago? The video ended with the phrase "the future is now." Or, how about a more widespread  and probably more well-known example: "what is past is prologue." It comes from Shakespeare's play "The Tempest."  I like to look at the entire exchange, but for this purpose, the entire phrase: "What is past is prologue, what to come, in yours and my discharge."  As I see it, it's all really aspects of  Now: the past, the present, and the future. Our personal history shapes our present and our future. Our collective history does as well. Can we outrun it? Outwit it?  I doubt it. Can we transform it ? Transcend it?  Darn tootin'. It's been done. Time and time again, on a personal level. Saul, as he was transformed into Paul on the road to Damascus, is my favorite example. All traditions, spiritual and otherwise, have them. Collectively, it seems to be taking a bit more time...or is it?

                      "The Tempest"  Eugene Delacroix

I love witnessing the unfoldment of life, mine, yours, ours. It's all the same. Perpetual beauty, if we choose to see it. Yes, it sometimes appears challenging, Very challenging. But, I have said this before and will say it again: it all brought me Here. Now. To this fine moment, to this beautiful place. I hope you find yourself  here, too, in this fine moment, in this beautiful place.

I circle around God, the primordial tower, and I circle ten thousand years long; and I still don't know if I'm a falcon, a storm, or an unfinished song.

~Rainer Maria Rilke

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Leonard Cohen and Time Machines

Sometimes I start out looking online for one thing and pretty soon I have wandered far, far from home, or the place I started from, anyway. This happened to me last night in a most intriguing web-ride. It started with Leonard Cohen, segued into Pink Floyd, then on to Federico Garcia Lorca, which conjured up Frida Kahlo, and then back again to Leonard, who happens to be one of my favorite songwriters. Yes, he's a singer, too, but it's the poetry of his lyrics that have been a source of inspiration, asking me to look more closely, to feel more deeply, to surrender to the sounds and internal images that arrive almost unbidden. It's a world I love to visit.

I had known of him for many years, but had not become firmly attached to his music until he recorded his album, "Ten New Songs." I started listening and have never stopped. After almost ten years now, it continues to speak to me in ways I cannot articulate. But I'll try. I never tire of the music or the words, always hearing or seeing something new, a phrase or an image that had escaped me in previous listening. Every song is, as they say, a gem, a finely cut and nuanced gem, that allows the light to come through as you hold it up again and again with fresh eyes. His work with Sharon Robinson, on both the writing and the performing, is one of those perfect pairings that music finds every now and then.

I was sitting at Pasqual's in Santa Fe, several years ago, waiting for a friend to join me for breakfast, when his song, "In My Secret Life," quietly came over the sound system. I had heard it many times before, often listening to this album as I drifted off to sleep under those star-filled, New Mexico nights. But that morning, it caught in my memory, and that moment is now etched there, one of those magical moments that remain long after the rest of the memory is gone.

Last night, as I was looking and listening, I came across another song on that album, "Love Itself," which has an amazing video that  dovetails with another long-held interest of mine: Time. I have mentioned this before, in other posts, most notably the one titled, "Joanne," from April 19th of this past spring. I love looking at the myriad possibilities.

One of my favorite movies when I was young was,  "The Time Machine."  The notion of building a time machine that could take you back in time, or forward, was beyond intriguing to me. Talk about myriad possibilities.

So, when it was remade in 2002 with Guy Pierce, one of my favorite actors, who happens to be in another movie that looks at time and the nature of reality in a most interesting way, "Memento," I was champing at the bit to see it, to see this new version. I was not disappointed. Here is Guy in a scene from  "The Time Machine,"  the scene in which he realizes that he has, indeed, built a workable time machine. It's paired with Leonard's song, "Love Itself."  I couldn't decide whether to concentrate on the lyrics or the video, so I had to watch it more than once, three times so far, to see all it offered. The real visual payoff is in the last thirty seconds, with an interesting final scene/message that I loved. I hope you like it, too.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Indian Summer in the Foothills

As this past Saturday night segued into very early Sunday morning, I found myself unable to sleep. An emotional issue I had been wrestling with had turned into a physical problem, as they sometimes do, and I became a bit, well, afraid. Let's call it what it was. Fear. Not-so-good, old-fashioned fear. I had earlier, with the help of a friend who is a spiritual healer, found much relief but the middle of the night can sometimes trigger renewed fear and there I was. I didn't want to call and wake her so I sent out a request for some help, specifically from what I have come to know as my spirit guides. These can take a variety of shapes and forms but lately they seem to come in the form of animals or some other aspect of nature. This night, I had a strong sense of three coming into my thought. No form, just the presence of three.

Within a few minutes I heard a distant sound coming ever closer. I recognized it as coyotes passing through, passing through so close they could well have ran right through my yard. As they yipped away, perhaps three - no way to know for certain - I got up and went down the hall to see if I could get a visual but they had already moved into the field beyond. I had heard them only one other time while here in my new place and that was shortly after I moved in. This was a real treat. I went back to bed feeling better and remembered how coyotes have always spoken to me.

While living in Santa Fe I would often see them outside my window playing in the arroyo, looking for rabbits. They would even come onto my patio occasionally, looking in my window as they passed by. At the last place I lived in Santa Fe, a month or so went by and I had not yet seen any there so I asked for a visit. Within an hour or so a pair were outside my window, running around and playing, and then resting under a nearby juniper. I was so grateful for the quick response, then and now.

When I awoke in the morning and went into the kitchen I had another affirmation of being cared for. There on the bird feeder, right outside my window, were three very large crows. This is the same feeder the ruffed grouse had sat on several days earlier. I had never seen any there or even in my yard all summer; I had only heard them in the woods and fields surrounding my place. But, there they were. They hesitated for a second or two after I came up to the window then flew off into the woods.

I hesitate to share the rest of the story but will because it's a part of my life, a part that has come to mean a great deal to me although I don't fully understand it or know what to make of it myself.

I was never one for getting "readings" from an intuitive or seer, I just never felt drawn to that, but I had felt led to do so just before leaving Santa Fe last summer. An opening occurred in this woman's schedule and I was called to see if I wanted it. It was a very interesting experience. Then, I had another "reading," from an intuitive here in Minnesota, this summer. Neither woman was given any information regarding the others reading. Both readers told me they could see next to me one of my guides, a Native American ancestor of mine by the name of Falling Crow.

If you're still with me please hang on. This is a three part story.

Yesterday, around 10:00 in the morning, I was wanting to be outside, somehow participating in an international day of working with the earth, attempting to bring attention to the need for caring for Her. I went out to gather rose hips in the garden and was met with a swarm of gnats. I walked down to the river. More gnats. A lot of gnats. It was as though, I was not supposed to be outside, something I had trouble accepting. I went inside and got the nudge to get in the car and head for an area known here as the Foothills - twenty miles of forest roads,  "Minimum maintenance, Travel at your own risk,"  a place I had not driven through for many years.

En route, just before getting to the sign that says, "Pavement ends," I was thinking about picking those rose hips earlier in the day, where, at the top of a long stem, two pink roses were in full bloom. I had almost buried my nose inside their velvet softness with that intoxicating scent. There in the car, I likened it to my love of horses and how much I like feeling and smelling their velvety noses and necks.

As I was thinking about this I drove over the next rise in the road and there were four horses, quite near the fence. I don't like to interfere with animals belonging to other people but I felt I should stop and acknowledge their presence. I got out of the car and walked through the ditch and over to the fence line. Three of the horses stayed just outside my reach while a fourth horse came over and quietly offered his soft black nose for me to touch. He did not make his neck available and I didn't push the issue. I was grateful for this moment, this gift.

I drove on through the Foothills, all twenty miles of almost-hidden ponds and woods of old white pines and quaking aspens, stopping by Green Lake, one of my favorite places from years before, to smell and feel the day. I saw it as an opportunity to honor nature, to see her whole and healthy. I also saw it as the perfect opportunity to meet and conquer my fears, especially around the issue I had been unnecessarily wrestling with the night before. I went by two small groups of four-wheelers who didn't seem as happy to see me as I was to see them, but that's okay. I silently affirmed that the Foothills belong to all of us, but mostly to the wild things that make it their home.

When I got back to my place, a couple of hours later, I decided to spend a few minutes in the garden and walking around the yard. My fear was gone and there wasn't a single gnat anywhere to be found.

Bill McKibben founded which organized this international event for 10/10/10.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Shine On

Quotes by some of my favorite writers have appeared from time to time on my blog and occasionally, before posting them, I discover that their origin is not always what I had first thought. Many quotes that are quite well-known are incorrectly attributed. I'd like to share one of my favorites with you.

I first read this while under the impression that it originated with Nelson Mandela in his inauguration speech of 1994. In fact, these words have never been spoken by him, although many powerful and life-affirming quotes are correctly attributed to this very fine man. I have since come to know that it originates with Marianne Williamson, and comes from her book, A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles, published in 1992. You're probably familiar with it, but I share it today as a reminder to myself and for others who may not remember or be familiar with it. It bears repeating. Often. It's titled "Our Deepest Fear." She states:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you Not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people  permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

It's another gorgeous day in Minnesota.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Italian Sorbettos and the Illusion of Control

Just a few doors down from the gallery I worked at in Santa Fe there was a jewelry and gift shop with a great little coffee bar in the back. It was there I fell in love with Italian sorbettos in the form of a slushy iced coffee drink that was highly addictive, at least for me. I arrived at the gallery early enough to make a quick run before people made their way up Canyon Road.  On my weaker days, and there were far too many of those, I also got a cranberry/orange/pecan muffin. These were not your ordinary COPM's. These were from The Chocolate Maven, over on Second Street. They take baked goods to a whole 'nother level.

One summer, the Italian sorbetto machine went on the fritz. Beside myself with grief, and heading into withdrawal in what can only be described as delirium tremors, I almost grabbed Bill by his lapels and threatened to do him or myself bodily harm if a solution couldn't quickly be found. 'Wheeeennnn?' I whined, to no avail. One more day, I told him, and I would be out on the street corner asking everyone who went by if they knew where I could score an Italian coffee sorbetto.

One day after another went by. Still, no sorbetto machine. The Fixer couldn't fix. One week turned into two weeks.  Summer was going by.

I would drive up Canyon Road to spend my days among beautiful and interesting art created by some very cool artists from all over the country, meeting amazing and interesting people from all over the world. You know, Michael Caine, Chris Rock, Woody Harrelson, Valerie Plame. Like that.

Eventually, I almost forgot about the broken sorbetto machine.

Here is where my story becomes somewhat more interesting: every day that I walked into this shop and made my way to the back for my fix, or to check when my supplier would be back in town, I walked by a display of wooden wall hangings. These were not your ordinary wooden wall hangings. They were painted with the magical images and words of  Brian Andreas. I was like a child, face tilted up, mouth undoubtedly agape, eyes glued to the small and deeply true stories they told. They always caught my attention and they always had a message I needed to hear. I even learned to listen.

One day, I realized I had let go of my belief that I needed Italian coffee sorbettos.

I was free!  Free!  Free at last!

And then the machine got fixed.

But, by that time, I didn't need them, and only wanted them now and then.

Here is Brian's little story, in animated form, that helped me get through that difficult summer:

Monday, October 4, 2010

Energy, Alliances, and Going With the Flow

This past weekend Minnesotans around the state participated in the Minnesota Renewable Energy Society's annual Solar Tour. It's held in conjunction with the National Solar Tour every October. This non-profit organization was founded in Minneapolis in 1978. Thirty two years ago. It's a good thing that perseverance is listed among their values. It gives me yet another reason to feel hopeful about our tomorrows.

My neighbors, who have several photovoltaic panels on the roof of their house with which they heat their home and their water, participated in this year's tour. He is an electrician who also installs panels with the local company, RREAL, the Rural Renewable Energy Alliance, which is devoted to "making solar power accessible to people of all income levels." Honorable people, with a really fine objective.

An old friend stopped in while on the tour and then came over to see my place. I hadn't seen Alison since last winter. She has retired from many years of service as an employee of the local and regional library, a place I worked at briefly in the late '70's. For several years we both belonged to a woman's book discussion group. She and her husband just returned from a month in Africa. I look forward to hearing about it over coffee someday soon.

The rest of the weekend was spent on outdoor work, getting things prepared for the coming cold, as well as gathering flower heads for seeds in next year's garden.  The zinnias finally went into "that good night,"  but not before I gathered a final bouquet for my nightstand.

I had to do what is probably the last mowing for this year, adding the leaves and grass clippings gathered in the bins to the covering over the septic line. I followed with the straw. Straw comes apart in what are referred to as "books," small segments that are easy to handle, once separated from the bale. It was an enjoyable way to spend the afternoon and I find it oddly attractive, in a simple and efficient sort of way.

A pair of ruffed grouse have been feasting from time to time on the crab apple tree outside my kitchen window, stopping to sit a spell on the bird feeder next to it. They take turns eating and keeping a lookout from their perch on the feeder as they survey their kingdom. I tried a few days ago to sneak around the corner of the house to take their picture, but they weren't having any of it. I captured a few poor quality images this weekend, from inside, and will share a couple of them just because I love their looks and it was such a treat to be visited by them.

The squirrels, who appropriated the feeder earlier this summer, have recently formed an uneasy alliance with several large blue jays, all jockeying for position. I decided to adopt the  "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em," philosophy, putting the birdseed out for whomever showed up. It feels more tolerant and doable for everyone. A large number of chickadees apparently have a similar philosophy, going about life in their quiet and unassuming way, unmoved by the alpha behavior that seems to be going on around them. Watching interactions in nature is often amusing, always interesting, in many ways mirroring human behavior.

The neighbor, who is a true gardener, explained to me how to prepare my squash for storage. I washed them with a "nine parts water to one part bleach bath," followed by a light coat of vegetable oil. I ended up with seventeen regular winter squash and nine Turban, or Turk's Cap, which I have been referring to as gourds. I found out they are, indeed, edible, often used for soups. I will continue to display them for awhile before storing them for future eating. I am still considering the possibility of drying a couple and then carving them for birdhouses. I think they'd make nice additions to the little development I wrote about this summer in, "The Queen of Birdland."

My sister, Chris, just called from her home in Texas Hill Country, wanting to say good morning. She was outside on this beauty of a day, doing some weeding, and thought of me and my summer of weeding. I never thought I'd hear myself say that I'm looking forward to winter, but I can see that nature has a way of providing for those much needed respites.

A black squirrel is making his way across the yard outside my window. What used to be a very rare sighting of these has turned almost commonplace. A few have made my yard their home.

A little chipmunk is living under my front porch. Many times I've encountered him en route. I assured him I don't mind sharing the space with him. Besides, he was here first. Perhaps it's a she and some young 'uns will someday appear on the scene and it will start to lose its charm, but I'll reach that bridge when I reach that bridge. I have said it before and will say it again. And often. It makes everything so much easier when you go with the natural flow of life.

The photographs are mine.

Friday, October 1, 2010

A Long Time Ago in a Galaxy Far, Far Away

The first thing that caught my eye in today's news was not Rahm Emanuel leaving the White House, nor the NATO convoy in Pakistan being attacked, not once but twice (I don't even want to go there). No, what caught my eye was that today is the 50th anniversary of The Flintstones! The reason that seems to stick out for me is that I recall it being the first television program I watched on our new television. Well, it wasn't new, it was given to us by Aunt Gertrude, my dad's sister. Up until that day, about the only television we had watched was when we walked to our cousin's house near Easter time and watched The Wizard of Oz. There we were, all gathered around that small brown box of black and white images. We thought we'd died and went to heaven. Why that movie was shown at Easter time is still puzzling, but it was a holiday, of sorts, and holidays required something extra. Maybe it was the message it seemed to be heralding, "There's no place like home."

During the warmer months we would occasionally walk down to our grandparent's house, half a mile away, and watch Bonanza on Saturday nights. On late fall days we would walk home in the dark and hope against hope that we wouldn't hear the cry of the lynx that made its home in the woods next to our grandparent's pasture. It sounded to us exactly like the cry of a baby, which sent chills through us and a deep desire to run like hell. The problem with running is, it tends to create more fear and we were trying hard to contain it. Once the running started bad things could happen. Like me getting left behind, my short legs unable to keep up with my older siblings. A very unpleasant prospect for all concerned. 

So, we finally got our own TV.

Here I am, fifty years later, with the same number of channels I had then. I will save myself, and you, from my diatribe about television. Instead, I'll just remember Fred and Wilma, Barney and Betty, when life was simpler and it all still seemed like a good idea.