The Art of Reciprocity – Earth Day 2020

earth-day-50-logo-finalOn this, the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, consider this…

Most of us are taught when we are young:

  • It is better to give than to receive
  • Don’t be greedy – leave some for others
  • Be a good neighbor

These principles seem to apply except when it comes to the earth we live on.  Our culture looks to nature as something to devour rather than something to honor and celebrate. Consider the term “natural resources” rather than “natural gifts.”  As our society has lost its connection to the land, the messages we are given now are:

  • Profit trumps sustainability and the well being of our fellow species
  • Increasing consumption not thinking about environmental consequences
  • Gross national product vs gross national happiness & health

We shrug our shoulders about Climate Change, the great garbage patches in the ocean, microplastics in the water supply, mass extinctions of species, loss of our forests, clean air, and clean water.  It’s uncomfortable to think about.  It’s too big.  Someone else will take care of it. Actually no and for certain, apathy will not.

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Rebooting 2020

keyboard-393838_1920Let’s just start over, look back to the resolve we had at the New Year and reframe those goals and hopes into the context of Covid 19.  They may still apply- but if they don’t, convert them into something simpler, kinder, from lofty accomplishments to simply a better state of mind.  My word I set for the year 2020 was “acceptance”, still so applicable but now I am thinking about it in different contexts than I originally intended

At first, I thought that was lowering the bar, but maybe for our culture by slowing down and taking time to reflect we have somehow raised the bar to what’s really important?

  • Being happy with what you’ve got
  • Taking good care of yourself and family
  • Reaching out to others in need
  • Unwinding ourselves to the forces beyond our control

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Finding Order by Planting Seeds

When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.    John Muir

There is a verse in Ecclesiastes which says,” a time to plant a time to mourn.”

This would seem to be a good time for both.

img_3580I’m always amazed that every spring no matter what mess the human race has gotten itself into, the crocus pop up in their bright colors followed by daffodils, and fabulous tulips in my yard.

I planted cool crops such as peas, kale, onions & lettuce earlier than usual this spring.  It seemed more urgent to get things growing as we face this Covid 19 pandemic.  The growing of plants affirms order in an uncertain world.

The first garden I grew was when I was a college student in N. CaliforniaIMG_2158.  I grew up in suburbia and had never grown anything except an avocado tree from an avocado seed (which was actually pretty exciting).  Each student in my horticulture class was given a garden plot.  Our semester-long project was to grow a vegetable garden.  I remember being so nervous as I planted the seeds in my plot- were the seeds deep enough, too close together, watered too much, or not enough?  To my delight, everything came up and I feasted late in the spring and summer.  I discovered that seeds wanted to grow. I still peak every day to see what seedlings might have emerged from my garden plantings- such a delight when they do.

As a 6th-grade science teacher I purchased a grow light and had my students plant pea seeds in paper cups they filled with soil.  Every day they would come in and check their “pet peas” and such a hubbub when those pea sprouts poked their heads out of the soil!  Of course, they named them. Eventually, they proudly brought their pet peas home complete with a blossom on the plant.  This was cheap magic and full of learning opportunities.

If you (or your children) need a little magic in your life right now, go out and buy some seeds, soil and plant them in pots or even paper cups.  Flowers like zinnias and marigolds are very easy to grow- or if you are more ambitious, try a tomato. Water and place in a sunny location in your home and in 7 days or so watch the show begin. You will not be disappointed.IMG_2148

In Every Seed a Promise

A germ of possibility

Tucked into a tiny package

Waiting to unfurl its cotyledons

Up in the sunlight

From the depths of fertile ground

 

The sprout will grow vigorously

With the right conditions

Beneath the sun’s rays and the spring rains

With the breath of nature whispering

“grow, grow”

 

Tend it with care

Lest it be choked by weeds or eaten by pests

Then feast from your labors

and natures’ mystery

The wonder of a tiny bit of matter

That waited to reveal its purpose

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Pandemic Poetry

Bringing light in these uncertain times is a plethora of poetry being shared.  It’s amazing the power that poetry can have bringing our attention to the matters of humanity. The last of these is mine.

And the people stayed home.

And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply.

Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows.

And the people began to think differently. And the people healed.

And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.

And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.”

– Kitty O’Meara.

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The Art of Launching a Second Blog

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IT’S A BLOG!!

Now, why would I want to do that to myself? Like building and maintaining a blog with almost weekly posts isn’t enough of a responsibility? The short answer is that I have more to say about an entirely different subject than this blog on my personal meanderings can handle. My new genre is on how to take action to preserve the health of the planet in the age of climate change and other environmental degradation.  This form of activism is by making small lifestyle changes.

I started chipping away on the concept of my new blog “One Sweet Earth” in late 2019 with the hopes of a New Year’s launch.  That was wishful thinking as I forgot how daunting building a new blog can be.  Selecting the right theme, how to build a menu with categories and pages is daunting enough without wrestling with WordPress’s new block editor.  Then there’s writing content and in this case illustrating it. A good portion of “One Sweet Earth” is in my sketchbook.

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The Art of Surrender

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I spent several years working and exploring in remote corners of Alaska as a young woman.  This required transportation in floatplanes and small boats to rocky shores, arctic lakes, meandering rivers

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and remote airstrips.  The weather played an important part in determining departure and pickup times. It seemed that the pickups were often the most delayed.  Maybe that’s because it was the end of a trip when I was tired, cold, and desperately in need of a shower and my own bed.

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An Old Take on Going Viral

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My university education steeped me enough ecology and natural science where I developed a different view about modern humanity and our dismal treatment of our natural environment.  A couple years back I wrote this poem to give myself some comfort (in a sciencey kind of way) that the Earth will be just fine without our presence.  I never shared it until now as it seems so appropriate to the times…

 

 

STARTING FRESH

Beyond the scope of our perceptions

They live, thrive even

Unseen

The precursors of life 

That once rose out of primordial goo

Giving rise to our modern-day selves

In the span of millennia

 

Now they keep house 

In the dark soil

On doorknobs

In the lining of our guts,

Or riding on the currents of air and water 

 

They are the good guys and the bad guys

Working the magic of digestion, decomposition, disease 

Keeping life on Earth in a delicate balance

As they go about their quiet business

While we humans multiply and innovate

Thinking the planet is ours to consume

And ours to fix

 

In the end will come the justice of Nature

Indiscriminate of zealot, terrorist, or model citizen

From microbes, having no other intelligence 

Than the genius of mutation

A plague perhaps, unleashed with a single sneeze

 

Our technology, heroes, and gods will not save us

The Earth will rest, then heal in its time

Nature will learn from her mistakes

And new life will rise

Our presence recorded in a layer of rock

Six inches thick

 

On that note…

Be well everyone and make the most of your social isolation! 


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How to Fall in Love With Poetry in Eight Minutes

“Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.”

Robert Frost

His voice made me halt abruptly as I walked my dog down a country road. I was listening to a new podcast on my phone. It was a most comforting, soft Irishman’s voice, padraigotuama_headshot-300x300-1the kind you know the speaker has depth, an old soul worth a listen with total commitment.  That voice was that of Pádraig Ó Tuama, the host of the podcast “Poetry Unbound”, part of the On Being Project  He was introducing himself and the podcast.  Then he began to read the poem  “What You Missed That Day You Were Absent from Fourth Grade” by Brad Aaron Modlin.  Not only was I was utterly transfixed by the way he read the poem, his interpretation that followed illuminated this piece in a way that I never could have in my own reading.

I came late to poetry, the reading and writing of it.  To be honest there are few poets and poems I really love. I have been guilty of quick reading,  passing over an author’s words like speeding down a road without noticing the scenery. But with Padraig’s reading and interpretations, I am finding new love in unlikely poems.  He pays attention deeply to what the author is saying in each line and then makes the poem come alive to the listener.  After his guidance, he reads the piece again so you can fully appreciate the poem’s magic.

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The View Beyond Beginner

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I am in my 2nd year of learning tenor guitar – in my mid 60’s.  I heard Richard Durrant play “Skye Boat Song” on the tenor guitar about 1 ½ years ago.  I was smitten. Something was rekindled down deep within me and I knew that even though late in life, I had to start playing music again on the guitar. 

I traded my standard (now vintage) guitar that I played as a teen for a beautiful tenor IMG_1543guitar handmade by the local music store owner. (See my post “Breaking up With my Guitar” for the backstory.)  With a neighbor, roughly the same age and in a similar situation we signed up for guitar lessons and attend alternate weeks in the same time slot.  Finding we both had a love of traditional folk tunes, we got over our shyness and started playing and singing together. Now we have a repertoire of about 8 songs that we have memorized and informally have played with other folks.

We are still not too polished but looking back but hey, I know the chords and the notes on this instrument.  I am learning music theory, am learning how to sing harmony and am performing with another person. It’s a musical adventure.

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A sweet beginner! Wintergrass 2020

The most difficult part of being a beginner is getting over the myths of learning as an adult, some of them being- I’m not talented enough, I can’t remember anything, or it’s too late for me.  I’m not “good”, (yet) but I am sooooo much better than when I started.

We just returned from attending Wintergrass, a huge 4-day music festival in Seattle that had the best of the best in this genre and beyond.  It was inspiring to hear all these fabulous musicians and then amateurs (including children) jamming in the hallways. There will be no fame in the future for us but that’s not the point.  It’s but there are fun and joy of the

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Hallway jammers- Wintergrass 2020

process of playing music that is what truly is important. An added benefit is keeping those brain cells firing.

Ultimately you can begin anything at any age if you have enough commitment to PRACTICE.  Show up every day and you will improve. having a buddy will help but is not necessary.

Don’t ever think it’s too late to begin and just know that the first step is the hardest.

P.S.  The best investment in life is in yourself

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The Barefoot Connection- Wintergrass 2020

 

 

Elizabeth Gilbert on Writing and the Creative Life

This is a repost from 2017.  I have been traveling and have not had the time to create fresh content.  This essay of Gilbert’s is timeless no matter if you are a writer, artist, or musician.  I reread it from time to time just to give myself a reality check!

elizabeth-gilbert2I’m a huge fan of Elizabeth Gilbert.  She became instantly famous with her novel, Eat, Pray, Love but many readers don’t realize that she was a writer way before that and has published other noteworthy books.  She writes a lot about creativity.  If you haven’t read her book “Big Magic, Creative Living Beyond Fear” it’s a great read on the subject.  Also, she has a riveting TED Talk that is well worth a watch.

A friend forwarded this essay of hers on writing.  I enjoyed this so much and thought I’d share.  You could substitute the words creative, artist, or musician for the word writer and it would still apply.

Thoughts on Writing

(https://www.elizabethgilbert.com/thoughts-on-writing/)

Sometimes people ask me for help or suggestions about how to write, or how to get published. Keeping in mind that this is all very ephemeral and personal, I will try to explain here everything that I believe about writing. I hope it is useful. It’s all I know.

I believe that – if you are serious about a life of writing, or indeed about any creative form of expression – that you should take on this work like a holy calling. I became a writer the way other people become monks or nuns. I made a vow to writing, very young. I became Bride-of-Writing. I was writing’s most devotional handmaiden. I built my entire life around writing. I didn’t know how else to do this. I didn’t know anyone who had ever become a writer. I had no, as they say, connections. I had no clues. I just began.

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