Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Cave You Fear to Enter

The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.  
~ Joseph Campbell

The second year I lived in New Mexico, I lived about twenty miles north of Santa Fe, in a little area called El Rancho. I know, it sounds like a no-star motel on the edge of the Mojave Desert, but it was a small settlement of folks who had probably lived there, or their families had, for a good many years. It is situated between two mountain ranges: the Sangre de Cristos to the east and the Jemez to the west. The views were outstanding and the sunsets to die for. Well, maybe not to die for, but they were awfully nice.

Perhaps it's the four fresh inches of snow outside my window, and more coming down (which I don't mind a bit; it's sort of nice and cozy), but I've found myself mentally wandering around in the area near the Jemez. It holds some wonderful hiking and exploring opportunities, which JB and I took full advantage of (JB and I were divorced by that time, but were working out our friendship). It was a playground of fine proportions.

Just up the road a few miles was an outlier of Bandelier National Monument called Tsankawi. It's one fine walk, culminating in some pretty spectacular views of those same two mountain ranges, plus the Pajarito Plateau. The real pay off is the Anasazi habitation site at the top of the climb, almost a thousand years old, complete with remaining evidence of their lives: pottery sherds, depressions where kivas had been, and some low rock walls. On the sunny side of the hill are several small caves and even a few petroglyphs.

Across the road from Tsankawi, caves that were once inhabited by other folks who had lived there line the face of a cliff made of volcanic tuff. They provided several other days worthy of exploration. These were not deep caves, just large rooms carved out of the soft rock, large enough to provide a living space, a place safe from the elements, where they could keep an eye out for uninvited visitors. Several of these were connected inside by narrow passageways. Black charred ceilings gave a sense of their very spartan lives.

We once set aside our fears of scorpions and other inhabitants, sat down inside one of them and had lunch. Looking out from inside gave me an acute sense of history and the Anasazi who had lived there.

This morning, looking out at the snow and thinking of these caves, the opening quote by Joseph Campbell came to mind. I posted it on my Face Book page, back when I had a Face Book page. I wanted to share it here, as well. It's a reminder to not be afraid to look inside, to explore the interior of my life, along with the exterior, and the ever-expanding possibilities that are there.

Note the small spiral petroglyph in the second photo of me, just to the upper left, a common symbol found among rock carvings. The circle of life? A symbol of time? Just one of the mysteries that makes exploring their history great fun.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Saying Grace

Several times I sat down to share with you the very special day I had yesterday with my two boys, Trevor and Coleman, and Coleman's girlfriend, Britta, along with their two fine pups, Bella and Bruce, but all my words seemed so inadequate. Instead, I decided to share this with you, which really feels more like a prayer, a pathway to grace:

The Snow goose need not bathe to make itself white, neither need you do anything but be yourself.
~ Lao Tzu 

 Photograph by Ansel Adams

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Blue Moon on the Rise

It appears another myth I have long ascribed to our night sky has been debunked, depending on one's perspective or personal preference. Tonight is the night of the full moon, as well as a blue moon. I always thought a blue moon is the second full moon occurring in a given month, something that happens now and then in our lunar cycles. It turns out there's another explanation. A blue moon occurs when four full moons appear in a given season, the third one being the blue moon. At least that's what the Maine Farmer's Almanac of 1937 put forward as the explanation. Here is a link that describes these two definitions and how they came to be:

It doesn't appear to matter which explanation you choose. I'm sure all cultures have given it their own definition and perhaps with a more romantic if not metaphysical connotation. I'm going with the romantic. And, just to add to that notion tonight it's rising in my sign, Taurus.

When I was a child, I danced around the living room to Patsy Cline and, "Blue Moon of Kentucky." I would sing along with all the practiced twang I could muster there in the Minnesota north woods. In honor of tonight's blue moon, here's Patsy ...

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A Night With My Secret Boyfriend

Last night, I spent a couple of hours with my secret boyfriend. It's so secret, even he doesn't know. I have had a crush on him since I was ... quite young. He has always struck me as someone who, despite the outer trappings, has a vibrant inner life. There are qualities that seem to rise out of him that bespeak a kindness and innate goodness. You may have guessed his identity by now, photographs splashed all over my room and all:  HRH Prince Charles, the future King. I know, whoda thunk it?  He may not be the handsomest chap on the planet, but he cares about people and all life on planet Earth, and he wants to save the world. What's not to like?  Oh, yes, there was that thing with Diana. But, laying all judgment aside, what he offers the world has great value.

I repeat: what he offers the world has great value.

Sometime in the very early evening, I got the message to turn on the television. I don't get that message too often, so I listened. There was Brian Williams doing a preview of two shows scheduled for later. First, an interview, "Prince Charles: The Man Who Will Be King," followed by HRH new film, "Harmony: A New Way of Looking at Our World," in which he talks about ways in which we can protect planet Earth while creating an entirely new economy. He's been talking about this for a long time and even did a wonderful book and film on it many years ago. But did we listen?  I think we all know the answer to that. The good news is, it's not too late. Well, Charles, and a whole bunch of us commoners, hope that it isn't. Commoners, as in folks with common ground, that ground being the planet Earth.

I enjoyed the hour-long interview, but it was the film which followed that reaffirmed him as my Secret Boyfriend. Well, not so secret anymore. I hope you can handle this bit of information. I promise there will be no stalking involved, just quietly cheering him on and finding ways I can incorporate more of his ideas into my daily life.

The thing I especially like about him is that he doesn't just talk about it. He walks the talk. Organic farming is a way of life for him, and he is encouraging all of us to follow suit. Yes, he has a gardener, but that does not negate his point. He feels the world economy could be completely revitalized if we started understanding that nature offers us all that we need in the way of renewable energy and other resources, in an ongoing symbiotic relationship where everyone's needs are met - and he does mean everyone - and nature doesn't suffer at our hands. Around the world he is involved in projects that point to this as a very real possibility. It's happening for some already and he hopes it will become a movement. He states,  "We cannot sustain our human economy without sustaining nature's economy."

Did you have a chance to watch it?

I loved the part of the Cajun farmer in Louisiana who is now doing organic farming. And seemed very happy about it. At the end of his segment he said, with a smile,  "You'd think me and the prince went to school together ... but we didn't."  Then a really big smile.  It was so sweet, and his love of what he does was so apparent. He knows he's part of something that matters.

There were segments in India and Indonesia, all pointing to ways in which people are introducing these ideas into their lives and their villages and it's making a very real difference. I was torn between taking notes and just becoming enmeshed in what I was viewing. I finally set my notebook down and just watched and listened.

A woman in India who is leading the movement there, talked about the nine seeds she planted, representing nine planets. She feels this goes beyond our planet and includes a cosmic view in her vision of the possibilities. That struck a deep chord with me. Anything that talks about protecting our planet should include a universal vision, seems to me.

The other aspect to Charles that I've always been drawn to is his spirituality. He's looked into many of the world's religious traditions and those that are not so traditional. Although the program last night didn't go into it very much, he's a believer in alternative methods of healing, including spiritual healing. He talks of, "our interconnectedness with nature and a world beyond the material."

He's also an artist, with watercolor as his usual medium, including the two here, above and below.

Another aspect of his life that the film did not cover, is that several years ago he created a project in which an English village was built that did not allow cars on the brick streets. Houses, shops and such, all within walking or bicycling distance. It's a complete, self-contained, self-sustained village, not unlike the old English colonial villages, but a tad more upscale. Just a tad. Last night, he said he's been accused of being a dilettante. Call him what you will, this man has not sat idly by, twirling his sceptre.

And that's all I'll say about that.

Those two hours with Charles last night just flew by. I had such a good time. It may sound way too idealistic, but I hope the world starts listening. I think he has something to say, something to show us. Hope has kicked in again, just when it was starting to wane. Thank you, Your Highness. And I do mean Your Highness. Something we can all aspire to. Our higher selves, with a higher purpose.

Alas and alack, these are not my personal photographs. I borrowed them all from The Great, All-knowing Google.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Children of Atlantis

I tend to be late for the party, only buying my first computer a little over two years ago, so perhaps you've seen the videos of these underwater sculptures by Jason de Caires Taylor. A few weeks ago I watched one showing his latest installation, near Cancun, Mexico. He creates them out of cement and glass and has installed them in various locations around the world. They are works of art, but they also serve as a place for marine life to proliferate, particularly for the growth of new coral, which has been severely damaged by tropical storms, as well as human activities. I think the one near Grenada is my favorite. I can imagine moving among them might be very much like moving through a dream, observing the strange and wondrous. Like the possibility of Atlantis, one of the mysteries of life, I find them hauntingly beautiful.

I would suggest clicking on the You Tube logo in the lower right corner and watching it there, as it seems to flow better, pun intended.

Addendum: Here are additional photos from various installations, some of which are just exquisite in their detail: http://www.24flinching.com/word/gold-seal/inspiring-artists/drowning-beautiful/?red+nf
A big Thank You to Linda Myers for pointing this out in her comments!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

From Evening to Morning at Lonewolf

This morning, I woke up to a lovely message from Grethe, in Denmark, also known as Thyra, here in our blogging community. She shared in her comments a small video excerpt from the movie, "Bambi," accompanied by a "winter song" sung by a Norwegian singer living in Denmark. She even included her own translation of the first verse for which I'm very grateful.  I love how we are all connected. Her translation speaks right to the heart of my previous post, "What Peace Feels Like."

I remember watching "Bambi" at the Marlowe Theater when I was very young. I was sitting with my cousins, and with the news of Bambi's mother being shot tears welled up. I'm pretty sure they spilled over, too. My cousin, Mark, asked me if I was crying. Well, of course I was. Silly boy. I think he just wanted permission to do so also. We both quietly let the tears flow down our cheeks.

Here is Grethe's translation of the first verse in this video:

"There is nothing in the world as quiet as snow
while it softly through the air is falling
softens all your steps
shushing, shushing sounds
of the voices
speaking all too loudly."

I love the notion of softening our steps. It can apply in so many instances to how we walk here on the earth, as well as how we respond to others.

I try to quiet  "the voices speaking all too loudly," the ones from the world and those that sometimes seem to take up residence in my head. If I don't they'll take over and nothing good can come of it. I'm learning to let go and simply surrender them back to the nothingness they come from, knowing they're not my true voice, the voice of my higher self, the one that brings me that oh-so-essential inner peace.

Hearing the song being sung in another language really appeals to me. It crosses any and all barriers to love. Thank you, Grethe, for this video and for your lovely translation. I found it interesting that the production company, which has a very brief introduction to the excerpt, is "Singing Wolf."  I named my place, through dream guidance, Lonewolf. One word indicating no separation. We are one.


I took the photographs during my evening walk around Lonewolf.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

What Peace Feels Like

It was an Ansel Adams kind of morning, the kind with soft snow resting on the branches of every tree and a stillness settling on everything. The only thing moving besides myself was the small rabbit I accidentally scared out of the lilac bushes that form a hedge in the back yard. I saw several sets of animal prints, some of which had wandered onto my back patio in the early hours of the morning, then through the snow to the apple orchard, stopping next to the barn.

I started with the notion of writing about Ansel Adams, but then I got this strong nudge to go out with my camera and see what I could see, noting those moments of grace that come when you take the time to look. I've always loved the details of any scene. Yes, the grandeur of the snow-capped mountains and the vista of a river valley with a ribbon of water winding through offer their own beauty, but give me the details, the close-ups of nature or of a ramshackle building, and that's when my eyes really start to see.

I walked around my yard, drawn by the prints that were leading me to the shed back by the barn. Unlatching the garden gate, it was fun to see my little patch of garden in quiet repose, all bedded down, "for a long winter's nap." Even in the silence of the oncoming winter something was happening in the non-happening. Maybe that's where everything that matters truly takes place.

Walking around its perimeter, stopping to see the barn and the garden from the far side of the fence, offered something different. I've always enjoyed seeing things from a new perspective, something I try to cultivate in all aspects of my life. 

In attempting to describe the feeling I had while walking around, I recalled something I had written down a few days earlier.The Greek philosopher, Plotinus, said, "Everything in the world is full of signs. All events are coordinated. All things depend on each other. Everything breathes together."  That's sort of how it felt, like I was a part, just a part, of something larger, something of a deeply quiet significance. Breathing in harmony with the earth, I felt what was happening in the non-happening, and I realized this is what peace feels like.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Great Turtle Rescue of '93

Back in the summer of '93, while living at our farmhouse in Ansel, Coleman and I went for a day adventure with my sister, Jane. A day adventure usually consisted of getting in the car and driving, seeing where the road would take us without a lot of forethought. We would decide which way to turn when we got to a crossroad.

On this morning we turned to the left and headed down Highway 64. The ditches on both sides were lined with wildflowers so our first stop happened just a few miles from home. I used to carry a vase in my car for these spontaneous stops; our kitchen table had an almost constant array of whatever flowers were available at any given time during the summer. Coleman had borrowed a library book to identify these Minnesota wildflowers and it was fun to see if we could match them with those we'd found. It was something I'd enjoyed doing with his older brother, Trevor, as well.

Back on the highway, bouquet firmly ensconced in the cup holder, we found ourselves heading, in a roundabout fashion, to the small town where we had attended elementary school. On the outskirts of this town there's a back road leading to the farm where we'd grown up. We thought it might be fun to revisit our old neighborhood which consisted of woods and fields and a smattering of houses set back from the road. About five miles down, where the road takes a sharp turn to the right, sits our grandparent's farm. Farther up that road we would drive by our farm. We decided to turn left and go past what we knew as The Frederick Place. It would lead us to one of the lakes of our childhood, not a swimming lake but better known for duck hunting, wild rice, and the occasional UFO sighting. You heard me. A small road with trees almost enveloping it would lead us there.

Just before we got to the lake we felt a strong urge to stop and walk to the creek which runs into it. It, too, was a childhood haunt, and we were curious what time had done to it. We had heard the story, when we were children, of how our mother had saved the life of her cousin, Aaron, when they were young and the creek ran deep. She had been sitting on the bridge when Aaron got into trouble and couldn't hold his head above water. Our mother, a strong woman and undoubtedly a strong child, had reached into the water, pulling Aaron up by the hair and then onto the grassy bank. It was a story we coerced out of her from time to time. Perhaps we wanted to hear stories that confirmed what we already knew about our mom, but we also liked hearing about her own childhood. It was intriguing to see our parents as young once and how life was for them before we came along. That creek held our family history.

It was believed that a Native American encampment had once existed in the area around the lake. It made sense to us as it was on the edge of the foothills with ready access to water and game, and there appeared to be burial mounds in the woods where we spent so much of our time. This was never confirmed, to my knowledge, but it captured our imagination. Several artifacts had been found in the area; neighbors tilled up arrowheads in their garden every spring. Although rarely talked about, we had grown up with an awareness of our own portion of Native American ancestry. It was a portion I secretly cherished.

As we got closer to the creek, the most obvious change was that the bridge crossing it was gone, replaced by a small beaver dam now in disrepair. To describe the surrounding greenery as lush is not hyperbole. The tall, green grass almost towered over Coleman, who was seven at the time and already pretty tall himself. Youthful energy propelled him forward, so when we got to the creek he had already spotted it.

'It,' was a large snapping turtle. Apparently, in crossing the dam, it had caught one of its rear legs between two branches that would not yield. It was underwater when we arrived. How long it had been in that predicament we could only guess, but its leg had turned a pale color, almost white. Our guess was it had been quite some time. It had survived, we supposed, on whatever bugs and such floated down the creek, catching them in its mouth as they passed.

Coleman bent down, carefully moving the underwater branches around its leg, and with a few simple movements the turtle was released from its wooden chains, swimming slowly away but able to move through the water and into freedom. We celebrated his release, talking excitedly about how wonderful it was. We even speculated that perhaps the turtle had sent out a message and we had listened! I can still recall the joy we felt. It was hard to leave. We wanted to stay a while longer and just bask in that feeling of being a part of something that might seem pretty small in the face of nature but we knew was pretty darn big to that turtle. And to us. Back in the car we talked again about how great it was, that we had listened and followed our hearts down to the creek.

After driving a little further to check out the lake, we moved on. We knew the rest of the day would be epilogue. A peacefulness had settled over us and in the car as we drove down the road.

After passing by our old farm we headed back out to the highway and down to the grocery store outside of town to pick up something for lunch. Inside the store was a large barrel of fortune cookies wrapped in plastic, free for the taking, the kind you find in most Chinese restaurants. Coleman reached in and retrieved one. When we got out to the car he opened it. It said, "You will witness a secret ceremony or ritual." And so it was and had already been. We saved it. We didn't want to forget.

And we haven't. I have a picture of him on my desk standing on the dam as a reminder of that wonderful day, a reminder to listen and act on those nudges we get that can change our lives, or the lives of someone else. In this case, the life of a snapping turtle, here on Turtle Island.

Coleman, standing on the dam at the Great Turtle Rescue of  '93.
Map of  "Turtle Island," as it was in 1491, courtesy of Mr. Google.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Pollyanna, Meet Private Benjamin

Well, I spent the week deep in denial, hoping against hope that the next subject I would write about would not be politics. I promised myself when I started blogging that I would try to keep any strongly political posts to a minimum. I have wanted to stay outside the fray, not get caught in the machinations. And I've done fairly well, so far.

As you probably know, I talk a lot about hope and change, change for the better. I even believe in it and try to practice it every day. Again, I've done fairly well, so far. Today, I'm struggling to hold my head above water. It seems I've sent my inner Pollyanna away to camp for a week or two.

But, instead of having fun, participating in all sorts of mayhem around parental issues, she's found herself in what appears to be basic training. Pollyanna, meet Private Benjamin.

No merit badge again this week.

First of all, I'm having trouble with an America that appears to be schizophrenic (in the traditional, not clinical sense). We swing from a vicious pendulum, not knowing what we want. We just know we don't want what we have. In an age of instant gratification, we want change. And we want it now. Nothing even slightly slower will do. Yes, the economy is in dire straits, and not of the musical variety. But, change doesn't happen overnight, at least not usually, and certainly not in the realm of politics.

I've made a few notes, appropriate for the occasion. Such as this one from our old pal, Bertrand Russell:  "The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt."  Remind you of anyone we know?

I wonder what Aesop would have to say ...  Oh, yeah, "We hang the petty thieves and elect the great ones to public office." 

Then there's the quote erroneously attributed to our man, Gauis Petronius Arbiter, c. 27 - 66 AD (Boy, they don't name 'em like that anymore, eh?). Anyway, apparently he didn't say it, some soldier in Korea or such is now attributed with it, but I like to tinker with reality now and then, and it could have been said by Gauis Petronius (heck, it could have been said by David Petraeus), so for the sake of my point, let's pretend it was spoken by Arbiter himself. It is just so timely. Like, suitable in any time.  He said, "We trained hard ... but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form up into teams, we would be reorganized. I was to learn later on in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganizing; and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency, and demoralization."  Is any of this ringing a bell?  I'm hoping the answer is 'yes.'

I'm also having trouble with an America which stands to lose the most from the conservative agenda, always voting these folks back into office. Again and again. It's not like they don't have proof. I swear, a bunch of cave people, sequestered for the last few years, were released to vote this past Tuesday. Apparently, we haven't been hit hard enough. We're so curious to see what rock bottom looks like, we're doing all we can to ensure that we get to see it.

I'm also wondering, how can a state, that state being Minnesota, which elected Al Franken to the Senate, writer of such should-be classics, Lies (and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them), and, Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot, also elect Michelle Bachmann (to the House)?  How can this be?  And not once, but twice, in Michelle's case. Heavy on 'the case.' And, we're not going to talk about the pink feather boa wearing ex-wrestler we elected governor. I still like Jesse. I still think it was a good idea. That didn't work out. The good folks of Lake Woebegone couldn't handle that much change. I go away to Santa Fe for a few years and come back to Tim Pawlenty. As in Pawlenty of bullshit. As of this writing our new governorship is still in limbo between Mark Dayton and Tom Emmer. Emmer referred to Bachmann as his "mentor."  I can't even go there.

Instead, let's look at a couple more outspoken folks who say it better than I. And they can't get in trouble. They're dead. This is one of my favorites: "Democracy is four wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch."  Ambrose Bierce

Here's another of my favorites: "Anarchism is not a romantic fable, but the hardheaded realization, based on five thousand years of experience, that we cannot entrust the management of our lives to kings, priests, politicians, generals, and county commissioners."  Edward Abbey

And, we can't forget George Carlin: "When you're born, you get tickets to the freak show. When you're born in America, you get front row seats."

I suppose I should quit while I still have the illusion of being ahead.

But, nooooo. Not me.

So, while we're at it, or I am, let's hear from Mark Twain:  "If Christ were here, there is one thing he would not be: a Christian."  I'm just sayin', there's a whole lot of folks out there who are not practicing what they preach. Yes, I know, I'm one of them. Please bear with me. I'm using this self-granted, once-in-a-blue-moon, free rant pass, while those folks will still be delusional, mistaking their "Onward Christian Soldier" attitude for the Truth, and taking it all the way to the White House. And that's scary.

I am not anti-Christian. Quite the opposite. But, I do have a problem when people don't demonstrate the tenets, as taught by Christ Jesus, but instead hijack a term for political gain, i.e. power, all the while demonstrating intolerance, prejudice, and hatred. Uh, folks, the Bible says, "God is Love." It really doesn't get any clearer than that.

I know, I know, I'm not practicing what I preach. How do I love both Al and Michelle?  It's just soooo hard sometimes.

I was going to write about skipping down a woodland trail a few days ago, happy and hoping, despite all sorts of evidence to the contrary. What I was doing was hanging on to hope for dear life. And I will continue to do so. I'm a hope-a-holic. If there's a cure, I don't want it. There's a lesson in everything and we'll just have to see what this one is. Really, what else can we do?

I saw a quote by Martin Luther King, Jr. the other day, and realized it spoke to me, asking me to drop my resistance to writing this. He said, "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."  This matters.

Next time we have a desire for change, let's be careful what we wish for. And how we state it.

I'll leave you with one more saying, a Turkish proverb, it goes: "If you speak the truth, have one foot in the stirrup."

I have to go check on Pollyanna, see how she's doing at that crazy camp.

In Pollyanna, as well as The Parent Trap, a movie set at camp, the main characters are portrayed by Hayley Mills. I was a big fan when I was young.

The wooden plaque and the bottom image are by Brian Andreas.

And, we all know Mr. Twain. If you don't, you've been living in a cave.