Of a Different Feather

daiga-ellaby-h43VqtlnV7U-unsplashA cup of steaming tea in hand

From my padded perch with propped up pillows

I gaze out the bay window

Observing morning activity at the feeder

 

Among the usual finches, chickadees, & nuthatches

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Author’s photo

Unusual activity catches my eye

A petite junco carefully feeds seeds to a juvenile robin

Three times its size

 

Wait, this cannot be!

This bird is of another feather

With no natural obligation

But my eyes do not lie

 

This little junco is clearly committedimage2977637_web1_shaw-1

To care for this young robin

As another to its own

From mindful feedings

To standing by at the edge of the concrete bath

As the youngster bathes and drinks

 

I wonder, what is the story of this orphaned robin

And how did it come under the junco’s care?

I would like to think mercy to save another not of its kind

2018_bird_week_15_dark-eyed_juncoI can only conjecture

But still, I find hope

In the actions of this tiny little bird

And its very big heart

 

*Note: According to the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, “cross-species” feeding is a very rare thing to observe.  You can read more about it here.

 

 

A Serving of Good News for the Environment

Remote rives in GAARYou don’t often hear positive news of the environment- especially in the U.S. these days, so when an email from the Natural Resources Defence Council of a similar title showed up in my inbox yesterday, I thought I would share some heartening tidings.  BTW, the NRDC is one of the strongest environmental lobbies in this country, if not the strongest.  I have been a monthly contributor for years and am also one of their email activitists.  That means numerous times a month I send out emails to urging government officials to support environmental legislation.

The NRDC has filed 87 lawsuits against the current administration since its inception 2 1/2 years ago.  On average that is one lawsuit every 10 days.  Of those, 47 of those have been won in favor of the environment with only 3 setbacks. The others are still in litigation.

Some recent  groundbreaking legal wins include: (Copied directly from the NRDC newsletter)water-3340044_1920

  • Defending our natural heritage in the Southwest: A federal appeals court ruled in our favor, finding that the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) illegally approved the drilling and fracking of oil and gas wells in the Greater Chaco region of New Mexico, a spectacular landscape sacred to indigenous tribes. The court reversed the approval of 25 drilling permits, and the landmark case has national implications for BLM decisions to allow drilling. Read more here
  • Forcing energy giants to pay up: Another court blocked the Interior Department from trying to repeal regulations closing loopholes that enriched fossil fuel companies at the expense of taxpayers. The repeal would have let oil, gas, and coal companies avoid paying millions of dollars in royalties for mining and drilling on our public lands. Read more here
  • Upholding President Obama’s permanent ban on offshore drilling: A judge ruled that Trump illegally sought to reinstate oil and gas leasing in the pristine, sensitive Arctic Ocean and wildlife-rich Atlantic deepwater canyonsRead more here
  • Opening the door to protecting threatened giraffes: An NRDC lawsuit finally forced the Trump administration to concede that giraffes may warrant protection under America’s Endangered Species Act. Giraffe populations have plunged by 40 percent in the last 30 years. And America is a big importer of giraffe hunting trophies and bone carvings. Read more here
  • Protecting whales on the brink: In the face of NRDC legal pressure, the Trump administration finally listed the Gulf of Mexico whale as endangered after dragging its feet for years. An estimated 22 percent of the species were decimated by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and there are only 33 of the whales left on the planet. Read more here

The NRDC is still waging dozens of other critically important courtroom battles: lawsuits to save the Clean Power Plan, protect national monuments like Bears Ears and Grand-Staircase Escalante, restrict the use of bee-killing pesticides, stop the climate-busting Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline, and so many more.

Consider contributing to environmental causes no matter what country you reside in.  I like the NRDC since most of the money received from donors goes directly to the cause.

Together we can make a difference.  For more information go to NRDC.org

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BE A FORCE FOR NATURE

Defending our air, water, communities, and wild places requires more than a single voice. Join the movement.

On Not Minding My Own Business

erika-fletcher-YfNWGrQI3a4-unsplashI’m going back to just making art and not being an artist.  Having had the goal for years of being a successful artist, I recently woke up to the fact that indeed, I had arrived.  That means I’m good with where I’m at.  It’s kind of like where to stop on a painting without overworking it.  Once I attained the label of “Artist” it came with art fairs, shows, social media, websites, marketing, basically business.  I am NOT a business person and am an introvert on top of it. Looking back I had way more satisfaction when I was just playing around and gifting my work to friends and family. Seeing looks of delight on their faces was payment enough.

I used to think that being accomplished was something akin to notoriety, copy-3129360_1920profit, fame, status or similar. Now, I’ve come to the conclusion after many years, that for me, fulfillment is in the creative process and the sharing. Monetary gain is just an added bonus. It’s kind of like fishing.  It’s great being out in nature no matter what and if you catch a fish- even better.

Now that I have less of my life before me than behind me, I am becoming very mindful of how I spend my life’s energy.  Do I want to spend hours at my computer marketing my work on Facebook, Instagram, & Etsy?  What am I giving up to do that?  After experimenting withbranding_131 all that the last few years, it’s felt too sleazy, like dressing in clothes that aren’t me. Do I really need to brand myself?  Seriously, I don’t want to fit in a box like Ritz Crackers. Art galleries are there for a reason.  They take 50% of sales but they could work on the selling while I could be out hiking.

Author Marsha Sinetar, famously said in her 1989 book titled the same, “Do what you love, the money will follow.”  Well, maybe.  For me, it’s turned out to be “Do what you love because you love it- and get a day job that you can tolerate”. Retirement works too. Otherwise what you love may turn out to be another form of the daily grind.

It’s an individual thing crafting a creative life.  THEY (whoever THEY are) may say do this and that, but ultimately it’s very personal what being successful is.  For some, they are content with the time invested in marketing themselves.  Their time is justified. I applaud them. But for me, creativity is a spiritual experience. Monetizing it takes away the joy.   So with that realization, I am taking the priority of selling my art out of the img_2831equation.

My last public show will be the local Art Harvest Studio Tour in the first two weeks in October.  Lately, I’ve been in the studio doing lots of work.  I will have an array of mixed media prints, found object sculpture, and ceramics on display.  After that, my remaining pieces will be in local galleries and online light.  Then, I’m going to design that patio and walkway I’ve always wanted, write more, play more music, and do more hiking. See you on the trail!

To check out my page on the tour go here

follow your nose

 

Twelve Breaths

spiral-1000782_1920“Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts. Whenever your mind becomes scattered, use your breath as the means to take hold of your mind again.”
 Thich Nhat Hanh

There is power in the breath and it is so easily forgotten.  Sure you get reminders in yoga and exercise classes but once in a while isn’t enough.  Earlier in the week, I had a profound connection with my breath.  I was feeling a migraine coming on, not too surprising with stress over medical issues and an elderly parent.  Oh…then there’s that whole the state of the world thing and the anxiety that often comes with the creative process.

I examined my usual options- ride it out for a couple days of excruciating discomfort or take the prescription for it, which works, but gives me a hangover the next day.  I decided to try a new option- lie down and deep breathe through it.  When I say breathe, I mean deep belly breaths that seemingly fill my body.  Amazingly enough, my headache was gone in about 15 minutes.

This was a huge breakthrough for me.  What if I used breath throughout the day as a preventative to keep stress and headaches away?  Now I have adopted a practice (in keyboard-393838_1920addition to my 12-minute daily meditation ) of focused breathing.  Three times a day I sit or lie down, close my eyes and take twelve DEEP breaths. Inevitably my shoulders relax and I get back in a centered space.  I set a reminder on my phone.  Try it.  Even one time a day can make a difference.  Air (for now) is free and no mantra is required.

For added stress reducers I’ve deleted the news app, and social media apps on my phone (too much information). Often have my phone in the “do not disturb mode” and keep it out of my bedroom at night.  There is also great power in taking charge in one’s own brain…

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The Toilet Paper Times

frog-1037251_1280Usually I don’t read the monthly National Resources Defense Council newsletter “The Voice.”  You know..the too busy thing, don’t want to be depressed.  This time I read it and was shocked by their feature-length article “From Trees to toilet Paper:  Canada’s Great Boreal Forest is Being Wiped Out.”  Pardon me, I never thought I’d be blogging about toilet paper but this information I felt should be shared.

The gist of the article is that to fuel  all our wiping and sneezing needs, the major suppliers of toilet paper, paper towels, and facial tissue suppliers are purchasing ALL forestry-960806_1920their content from virgin timber in the from the N. Boreal forests of Canada, the “lungs of N. America” Essentially they are wiping out a major ecosystem and contributing to climate change rather than investing in recycled content or alternatives such as bamboo and wheat straw.  About a million acres are logged a year for tissue and other disposable products.  Proctor & Gamble, Kimberly –Clark & Georgia Pacific thus far use ZERO recycled content.  Costco gets their tissue from the main suppliers.

This is one thing we can do to help climate change and the planet-  change your toilet tissue brand and make your voice be heard.  Yes, it is more expensive to buy 7th Generation or equivalent tissue, but investing in Mother Earth is worth it.  I think if all the products we used had labels listed their carbon footprints, we would all be more conscious consumers.

To read the full feature-length report online including a more detailed buying guide than the one below go here.  Contact COSTCO at Costco.com.  To make your voice heard to Procter and Gamble (1 minute of your time) go here.

Here’s a copy of my letter to Costco you can use:

Recently I became aware that your Kirkland brand toilet tissue and paper towels received an F grade in sustainability.  Kirkland facial tissues received a D.  The production of your tissue products as with all major manufacturers is having devastating effects on the Northern Boreal Forest.  I am switching to brands that are made mostly of recycled content.  As a major supplier of tissue, you have an obligation to be more environmentally conscious, set an example, and give consumers the option to buy sustainable products. I am sharing this information with friends, acquaintances. Please read more about the devastation that toilet paper production is having at nrdc.org/tissues.

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FOMO vs JOMO

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“It’s a FOMO thing”, my new 22-year-old teaching teammate responded.  I had noticed her phone on top of the copy machine as she was running copies for the day and I asked why she had it always within arm’s reach.  “FOMO?” I asked.  Close to retirement, I was not literate to millennial buzz words.  “Fear of missing out.” She responded, not missing a beat. I remembered that feeling in high school and college but now it meant in a social media sense as well.  The whole posting, sharing, liking, commenting, and texting thing was sort of passing me by.

Since that time I have become a smartphone user.  For a while, I dipped my big toe in the world of Instagram and Facebook and I text when needed. As an artist, the word is “document, share, share, share, like, like, like”.  But being a person easily distracted and easily overstimulated I backed off the social media thing.  As a maker who does not have to make a living from my art, now I keep it to a bare minimum.  I am not  ”branded” so to speak. The trade-off is enjoying being in the moment.

The FOMO thing came back to me in another incarnation two weeks ago when I was at Craiceann, the weeklong bodhran camp I attended in Ireland (see my previous post).  After a full day of classes and activities, I was pretty wiped-out. Being an introvert and in my 60s, I need a lot of recharge time and a good night’s sleep.  I knew if I went out to catch the great music at the pubs that started at 9 PM and join in I would be a mess for my classes the next morning.  It was difficult knowing what fun I was missing out on, especially hearing about it the next day from my new friends.  I decided to compromise, making a deal with myself to go out the last evening for some late night fun.

Herein lies the concept of “JOMO,” the joy of missing out (this word was coined some free-time-2040679_1920years after FOMO). When we are so involved with FOMO & social connections we miss out on ourselves.  We have no time to reflect, breath, savor, & notice.  Those nights I stayed in were so lovely.  I wrote in my journal, read, took dreamy walks at sunset and went to bed at a decent hour.  I have no regrets.  The last night I did go out and had great fun out playing in a pub.  I rolled into bed at 3 AM exhausted.  That was a great memory too but I suffered for it during my two days of travel time back to Oregon and had horrible jet lag after.

I’m glad I respected myself with a JOMO mindset during my holiday, not missing out on my own well-being (with that one exception).  Sometimes missing out can offer the greatest gifts.

A view from one of my walks

MISSING OUT

You missed out on all the music

Yes, but did you see the patterns of clouds dancing overhead?

You missed out on all the fun

Yes, but did you see the swallows dart about in the evening sky?

The spotted horse grazing peacefully in the paddock?

The hush of the summer evening?

The sea breeze blowing through my hair?

The long light of midsummer?

Yes, I’m afraid you missed out.

 

For the music I didn’t miss out on click here!

 

 

 

Between the Beats: Six days at a Bodhran Camp in Ireland

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Two years ago when I purchased a bodhran (an Irish drum pronounced “baren”) during

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Kathy Jordan playing the Bodhrán with Dervish at the Birmingham 2016 TradFest. Photo: Bob Singer

travels in Ireland, I was also told about Craiceann (pronounced “Cracken”) an annual summer camp for bodhran and aspiring bodhran players on Inis Oirr, the smallest of the Aran Islands.  It sounded like an experience not to be missed.  I swore to myself that in two years I would return as a participant. I did just that last week with a much better bodhran in my possession and enough online experience to qualify myself as an advanced beginner.

I arrived via ferry to join about 90 other souls coming together to celebrate this instrument which provides the percussion part of much of Irish music.  The bodhran is a rapidly evolving instrument that began as a img_2669goatskin over a wood frame, beaten with the hand. Now it’s evolved to a more sophisticated, tuneable drum that is played with a tipper, or beater made from wood or bamboo.  Currently, it is finding its way out of Irish traditional music into other genres. The better players perform solo as well as part with of a band.

Ireland is a land full of soul, spirit, rich history and culture. All of that comes out in its lively music often with some sort of combination of fiddle, guitar, mandolin, concertina, accordion, penny whistle, bodhran, singing and sometimes more. I wanted to play bodhran simply to be able to be involved in Irish img_2711music sessions, which are informal gatherings of musicians playing Irish music- usually in a pub.  As I am not skilled enough on guitar I thought this percussive instrument would be a relatively quick avenue in. Well, yes and no. As with any simple looking thing, there is a myriad of complexities to be mastered not to be seen at first glance.

The week far exceeded my expectations.  There were three-hour classes a day taught byimg_2726-1 some of the finest players in the world, plus special lectures and performances.  I met students from all over the world including the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Czech Republic, Hungary, Japan, Germany, Brazil, and all over the US. Quite surprisingly there were a fair number of older women as myself coming solo.  It was an easy place to make new friends. At night if you had the energy the three pubs on the island were full of musicians playing traditional Irish music and you were welcome to drum along. In Ireland music is not just a spectator sport. I saved my energy for the last night and rolled into bed at 3 AM exhausted and bleary-eyed for the last day of classes (as with everyone else).

img_2729-1.jpgThe island of Inis Oirr was a delight in itself. It is only 4 miles in circumference and has about 200 permanent residents. Irish is the first language of many of the residents. Like the other two Aran Islands, it is made of limestone and is divided by a web of limestone “fences”  that serve both as enclosures for livestock as well as places to deposit rocks when fields are being cleared. The weather was fine and sunny during the week giving the opportunity to take many scenic walks and explore ruins from pre-Christian to early Christian times.  The wildflowers were blooming, some being only native to the islandsimg_2728-1 like the pyramid Orchid. There was a lovely swimming beach and on the last morning, despite my late night, I went for a swim in the chilly, turquoise water of the North Atlantic – a spiritual end to my stay.

On my return, I am trying to digest the huge volume of information picked up from over 15 hours worth of lessons and presentations.  This Tuesday night I will return to the Irish session I’ve attended at a local pub hopefully a better bodhran player. I will never be a great player but that’s not my intention. Learning and playing music with others is the goal.  I traveled thousands of miles to become more proficient but also to be with people of like mind who appreciate this instrument and Irish music.   It was magical.

Now being a part of the music at home and keeping the beat is enough for me.

P.S. To see videos of Craiceann performances go here 

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