Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Miracle of Failure

There's Always One (Click for more info)

For almost ten years now, I have failed at something I wanted a lot.

Actually, I don’t like the word failed. Let’s say that through the process of not achieving the goal I had set for myself, I learned a lot.

The thing I learned that is most relevant to this post is: I want my life to be about something other than searching for someone to live my life with. Most of this searching process has been done through OKCupid.

This morning I deleted my account.

The problem wasn’t with OKCupid. I love OKC and it’s basically free.

The problem wasn’t with the guys I met. There are amazing people in the online dating world and I never met anyone who wasn’t who he said he was in his profile. I made some great friends and learned more about the world and the challenges of relationships in this stage of being a “modern elder” (a term I just learned).

The problem is time. And vision. And statistics. I don’t know how much time I have left on this journey, but I know it’s less than I had ten years ago. The question I’ve chewed on for the past ten years is, “What do I want to do with the rest of my one wild and precious life.” (Thank you, Mary Oliver, and please forgive the adaptation.)

One of the best gifts of OKCupid was reading the profiles of people who are living very different lives and being able to ask myself if I would want to live that life. Would I want to expat to Panama? Would I want to live on a houseboat in southern France? Would I want to be an activist in the intellectual milieu of the Bay area?

This morning, and a long time coming, clarity arrived. Bless her soul.
I now know what I want. And, I also know that the chances of finding someone whose life dovetails with what I want are somewhat like the odds of winning the lottery, the mega-million kind.

I believe in an abundant, miraculous universe, though, so I’m not ruling out the possibility of finding a life partner whose path is compatible with mine. However, I am giving up the search and the time consumed by it. If there is a match in the cards, the Universe will have to make it happen.

The miracle in all of this is that I’m pretty sure that, had a “match” happened before now, it would have been before I was clear about what I truly want for my future. Therefore, it probably would have been doomed.

In case you’re wondering: I want to spend the rest of my days writing stories about issues that I’m passionate about. This means spending a lot of time researching, thinking, writing. It’s time to minimize draining distractions in order to focus.

Boulder: 2016 Winner - US Earth Hour Capital

Boulder's multi-generational approach to action
While politicians at the national and state level bicker over the existence of climate change, cities are quietly working to implement real change. World Wildlife Federation (WWF) calls cities "the frontlines of climate change hazards and sources of climate leadership."

To highlight and support local action on climate, WWF has created the Earth Hour City Challenge,
The central goal of the City Challenge is to highlight and reward city governments that are making substantial long-term efforts to combat climate change such as transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy, preparing for the impacts of extreme weather, and working with residents to create programs adapted to their specific needs.
 This year’s U.S. winner in the World Wildlife Federation sponsored initiative is Boulder, Colorado. (Runners up: Evanston, Illinois and Boulder has set a goal of powering the entire community with 100% renewable electricity by 2030, one of the most ambitious targets of any city in the country. To get there, Boulder is addressing both how electricity is produced, with, among other programs, a community solar strategy process, and reducing demand for electricity through new energy efficiency standards for commercial and industrial buildings.

“The wellbeing of our community and of future generations depends on our willingness to take action now" said Boulder Mayor Suzanne Jones. "We have not just a responsibility but a great opportunity to rise to the climate challenge and power a vibrant future, and we hope what we do here in Boulder inspires other cities to do the same." Details here.

Earth Hour Participating Cities
Boulder is one of more than 120 cities that joined the challenge this year. For more information about Boulder's approach to climate change, click here.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

I Crave Stories

Update: After ranting that I couldn't find a book, today I picked up one that satisfied my story-tooth. The Pull of the Moon by Elizabeth Berg is a brilliantly conceived, beautifully written story about a woman's journey, from what happens to us at 12 to the transformation that comes with our 50s. Nan is none of us, yet my guess is that each of us will find something to identify with as she goes walkabout from her marriage. She doesn't leave her husband as much as she goes looking for her lost self.

Talking about being part of the "bridge" generation, she says, "We flowered in the sixties, but the spirit of the fifties was deep in us." As Nan travels about, she connects with strangers who help her find pieces of herself that got lost along the way.

One of the heart-breaking stories she hears comes from an 86-year-old farm woman who shows her poems her husband wrote to her. After he died, she found them buried in a drawer, apparently not thinking they were actually good enough to give to her.

I take back my rant ... apparently I haven't been looking in the right places.

PS ... if you look at the reviews, they are pretty split. Some people think Nan was a spoiled, self-involved whiner others think she was a courageous explorer into her own self. Which side you come down on might be related to age and generation.

My morning rant: (which, thankfully, has nothing to do with politics): I can’t find a book!

Of course, that’s a galloping overstatement. I can find a book, millions of books, millions of books coming out every year. 
What I’m having a really hard time finding is a well-written, intelligently researched, fresh and interesting story relevant to my life.

There is a rumor going around that the baby boomers are a significant segment of our population, and they are now in the process of retiring. Unless I’m mistaken, somewhere close to half of that group is women.

My rant seems to be related to the common wisdom in the book world:
- women buy most books
- women under sixty buy most of the books sold to women
- women readers don’t want heroines who are over 50, therefore, publishable books need to focus on issues common to readers under 50, or better still 40 … or 30 … or, hey, young adult fiction is HOT!

My problem:
- I am a reader, a life-long, books-were-my-best-friends-and-taught-me-most-of-what-I-know reader.
- I am a mid-spectrum reader, to the right of romance novels and fluffy mysteries; to the left of literary explorations of the rarefied machinations of the universe in story-less prose.
- I am 70-years-old … and, believe it or not, I’m still engaged with life, interested in new adventures, and would love to read stories about what other people my age are doing with their lives.
- I am no longer interested in the sex-drugs-and-rock-and-roll lives of infantile souls; or the tribulations of the young-way-too-tired married, the bored-into-cheating married, or the vengeful divorced; or thriller stories of macho, know-it-all heroes of any gender; or disaster stories focused on the fifty ways to destroy the planet; or fantasies about the superpowers of vampires, werewolves or a teenage spider.
Question: Do women over 60 stop buying books because we suddenly aren’t interested in reading anymore … or because there are so few books that offer us anything relevant to our lives? Movies seem to be able to successfully tell interesting stories about older people. Why can’t books?
What I crave: Stories. Stories of triumph over the conditions that are part of life … death, disease, disappointment, delusion. "Coming of age” stories where the “age" is the incredible approach of the end of life, what I now think is far more interesting and challenging than merely “growing up."

I want to read stories about women over 50 living interesting lives that include service, adventure, romance, humor, both success and failure, grace under pressure, wisdom, learning and contribution to the world.

I want to read stories about women having conversations with each other about something other than their "boyfriends" (or "girlfriends") … and, if at all possible, featuring women who would never even use either term.

I want to read stories about women who are wrong, misguided, misinformed, maybe even temporarily stupid but not irredeemably fucked up or mean and bitter because they're old.

I want to read a story about my friend Maggi who died recently. I couldn’t be there at the end, but I would bet money she had a bright scarf wrapped round her head, four giant rings on her fingers, and cracked a joke on her way out. 

I want stories that help me know how to dance the end of my life like Maggi did. If you know of such a book, please let me know.

End of rant: I’m now going to go write a book I would want to read.

Friday, April 22, 2016


Probably one of the least admired birds around, cowbirds have neither color nor character ... at least according to some observers. Female cowbirds drop their eggs in another bird's nest and jet off to the next fling. Of course, the male had long since moved on to greener pastures, so what's a girl to do?

Actually the story has little to do with character, as is almost always the case in the world of the undomesticated. 

The way some tell the story, cowbirds like a moveable feast ... seeds and insects in the coats of buffalo, cows and so on. Long before there were fences that kept the feasts in a confined area, cowbirds got used to being transported long distances away from a home nest. 

With a choice of either commuting home every night or changing their child rearing methods, they opted for change. They outsourced their nesting chores and gained a sullied reputation.

Why am I going on about cowbirds?

Several years ago I was sitting on my front porch when I heard an enchanting bird song. It was like a watery, gurgling whistle. I went searching for it and found ... a black bird. No color or beauty. Just that sound that seems to touch some part of me that isn't quite domesticated either. 

The video above will give you a sense of what the cowbird song sounds like ... and just to make things interesting, think about how the baby birds learn "their" song when they're being raised by who-knows-what birds singing who-knows-what song.

As I've been researching my new novel, Yellowstone Howling, and looking at more animal symbolism, I wondered what the symbolism would be for this less-than-admirable bird. Here's what I found at
The cowbird, like the cuckoo, deposits its eggs in other bird's nests. This totem reminds you to ask yourself: how are you dealing with abandonment? Are you paying enough attention to your parents, or children?

What about your relationship to your inner child, inner parent, and inner adult selves? Imagine a grounded, golden, triangle between the three. What does the relationship look like between the lines of communication? The first step in establishing healthy inner spaces is to say hello to what is already present.

The cowbird reminds us to take care of responsibilities and to stay grounded.
Interestingly, the character I was thinking about in relationship to cowbird was abandoned as a child and, decades later, is still working through those issues. And, while I was never actually abandoned, I know those feelings are part of my make up.

So, first, cowbird speaks to me in my front yard, and now he comes to me in fiction. I just love this stuff. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Niki de Saint Phalle

Several years ago, in San Diego’s Balboa Park, I fell in love with the mosaic work of Niki de Saint Phalle. She has inspired me in so many ways and I’m delighted that Artsy now has a Niki page and encourage you to check it out.  

Niki’s work is playfully and magically mythical and mystical. Her huge installations overwhelm our senses, but you can look at the tiniest piece of any one of them and find absolute perfection. If you’re ever in the Escondido area, I highly recommend checking out Queen Califia’s Magical Circle.  Here’s a description and an image from the Escondido city site
Snake Wall ... Queen Califia's Magical Circle
Queen Califia's Magical Circle is the only American sculpture garden and the last major international project created by Niki de Saint Phalle (born France, 1930-2002). Inspired by California's mythic, historic and cultural roots, the garden consists of nine large-scale sculptures, a circular "snake wall" and maze entryway, sculpturally integrated bench seating, and native shrubs and trees planted within the interior plaza and along the outer perimeter. The garden bears the brilliant, unique mosaic ornamentation that is an unmistakable part of Saint Phalle's later work.

Queen Califia's Magical Circle is situated within a 12-acre natural habitat in the Iris Sankey Arboretum in Kit Carson Park on a parcel of land donated by the City of Escondido. The park's entrance is located five minutes from I-15 (Via Rancho Parkway Exit) at the corner of Bear Valley Parkway and Mary Lane.
There are repairs going on in the garden so be sure to check the site, to make sure it’s open.
Coming Together

Coming Together: This huge piece of hers at the San Diego Convention Center became part of a montage I did called City Dreamtime. 
City Dreamtime
Thank you Niki … and thank you Artsy for honoring her. 

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Spiritual Purpose of Relationship

This powerful video from Marianne Williamson is part of Oprah's SuperSoul.TV:

Click here for video

Here are the notes I took. Quotes represent her specific (and somewhat exact) words.

"The spiritual conversation is about us, about ‘we.'"

The Universe is like electricity and we are like lamps that let the light shine through. Unless we’re plugged in, we don’t shed any light.

"Enlightenment is a shift in self-perception. From body identification to spirit identification."

“If I identify with my body, my circumstances, I’m identifying with the lamp. If I identify with my spirit, I’m identifying with something much bigger than me, something which flows through me, and lights up the entire Universe."

Change thought of intention from “my intention” to the intention of the Universe.

“The Universe intends that you become the highest possible creative manifestation for this life."

If we allow ourselves to be used for the intention of the Universe, that is how we find our highest actualization, our purpose.

Three processes natural to the Universe:
1. Actualization
2. Collaboration
3. Service

“We either say ‘use me natural intelligence,’ or we don’t."

"That is wrong with the human race. We have been infected by a spiritual malignancy. That spiritual malignancy is that it’s all about me."

“When we’re not operating from that natural intelligence, we’re like lamps that aren’t plugged in."

“The sickness of our society is that we have become transactional rather than relational."

May all loving thought for all living things, past, present and future, occur here. When love is present, natural intelligence flows through.

"If your intention in any situation is to give love … "

“The highest expression is, ‘Dear God, use me.’"

"If your spirit is your primary relationship, then your relationship with other people will be correct."

“Any time I define myself, I see myself as separate from others."

“On the level of spirit, there is no place where you stop and I start."

“Every relationship is actually an assignment made by natural intelligence to foster the intentionality of the Universe."

“Relationships are laboratories of the spirit.” friction in relationships offers opportunities for soul growth. “They are the places where the wounds that we hold will be brought up because that is the only way they can be healed."

“When a person shows you their wounds, and we all have them … “  “As adults, that wound on the body (small child example), manifests as a character defect or neuroses, and instead of kissing the 'boo-boo,' we reject the person."

Right relationship to the Universe, is to be an instrument of Love. Otherwise, I’m not actualized. And, if I’m not actualized, I cannot collaborate with you. "This relationship is so that we might be collaborative in serving the flow of love through all living things."

"The reason relationships don’t work is because we are trying use them for our purpose only."

“Our purpose here is to be used for something higher than ourselves and to greet everyone we meet with that with that namaste consciousness where we know this is something holy going on here."

“We wake up in the morning and we ask that our intention be to ask natural intelligence, “Where would you have me go? What would you have me do? What would you have me say? And, to whom?” This puts you in right relationship and intentionality with the Universe.

"Either God is in everyone or God is in no one."

I’m just like everybody else. I’m just as wounded as everybody else. I’m just as hurt as everybody else. I’m just as hungry for love as everybody else. - that gives you empathy. That gives you compassion.

In that condition, relationship isn’t something you have to strive for. Cells are in relationship with each other. And then we heal.

In cancer, the body gets confused and starts protecting the cancer. We do that with our wounds. We coddle them, examine them, protect them.

“I might be wounded but I can choose not to act from my wound.” I am NOT my wound. My wound was a gift to help me learn.

If I’m having an awful, negative, critical, blaming, victimizing thought, I can surrender it. I am willing to think about this differently.

There is no devil “out there;” it’s in our mind. What there is in all of us is the tendency to perceive without love.

How do we make our relationships better? Pray for their happiness. That’s plugging in the lamp.

"We can take a stand for love. We can take a stand for the Universe, We can take a stand for enlightenment, We can take a stand for God, We can take a stand for our own self. That is self love"

I am a lamp through which this light is meant to shine.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

For Maggi

Maggi in blue
Yesterday, a spirit left her physical body. I’m sure there were many across the planet who did the same, each leaving holes in their small circles of friends and family. Each leaving a wake of loss and grief.

My focus today, though, is Maggi Butterfield-Brown. It’s hard to capture Maggi in words; pictures of her are so much better. Seeing Maggi meant seeing her laughing, dancing, twirling in any of the outrageously unique and beautiful outfits she put together with an artist’s eye. Maggi’s energy was a vortex that pulled people in and made them feel bigger, better, more creative, and more alive.

Maggi's Buddha
Without her, without knowing that I will see that smile again, I feel smaller, somehow deflated. Yet, I know that’s the last thing Maggi would want for her flock. She was a builder-upper, an encourager. She topped off our mugs of love until they overflowed. No one went unloved in Maggi’s presence. 
Maggi, Angelo Pizelo and me at the Positive Living Center
When we talked and Maggi told me her stories, I tried to figure out where all that love and overflowing generosity came from. She didn’t have a safe, loving childhood. She didn’t have a “normal” marriage-and-children life. She was an accountant, for heaven’s sake. 

The only thing I can figure is that she brought it with her. She came swaddled in love and bright colors and her purpose was to share those things with as many people as possible. She did her job with pizazz and such incredible grace. Just watching her laughing dance was enough to make me want to climb new mountains.

Maggi at Art Walk
I’m sure there are many of us this morning trying to figure out how to go forward without Maggi’s colorful self as part of our physical world. To say she will be missed doesn’t begin to describe our loss. However, with that grief comes an overwhelming gratitude for having been in Maggi’s presence even for a short while.

Perhaps, it’s that gratitude that we have to hold onto. Also, for me, I feel a call to step deeper into my own spirit and life and try to pass along some of Maggi’s love and generosity, some of her colorful energy, some piece of that incredible gift that she gave so many of us. 
Searching for Thanksgiving pie in Costco

Thank you, Maggi … I hope you know how many of us love you and how wide your gift of love has spread. Dance on. 
 PS Another memory of Maggi: The story of pie. First, we decided to be good. Then we decided to be sorta good. Finally, we threw caution to the wind and bought a 58-ounce Costco pumpkin pie (and a half gallon of whipping cream!) and tossed the gluten-free "healthy" version where it belonged. Plus Maggi got her first in-store driving lesson. (kids beware!)