Saturday, March 25, 2017

It's a Four Agreements morning

Facebook brought me news of a death yesterday, a friend from high school. It hit me hard, harder than I would have thought considering I had not seen or heard from her in over 50 years. She was a bright light from my high school years, someone I considered one of my best friends.

I don’t often dream of people, but, over the years, I occasionally dreamed of her and those dreams had a special quality. They were like reunions. I would always awaken with a joy of reconnection as well as a mourning of the lost friendship. We were separated the summer before our senior year when both of our families moved. We wrote for awhile, but those were the days before Facebook, and eventually life separated us and the tie was broken.

I tried to reconnect a few times over the years but met with unspoken rejection. For a multitude of reasons, I took it personally. This morning I poured my feelings of being unloved, unwanted, rejected into an Evernote file until the Four Agreements shouted: Stop the pity party!
The conversation continued: Yes, you were rejected by someone you once loved. Yes, that person didn’t approve of the way you lived your life. Yes, she’s now dead and you will never be reconnected in this life. Yes, she was hard-hearted toward you. And, yes, you’ve probably been equally hard-hearted toward someone who loved you. She was human. You’re human. People aren’t perfect. You’re still alive … try to do better. Keep your own heart soft. Be kind to yourself and others.

Remember: Don’t take anything personally!
All right already.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Forty Days of Memes: Day 2 Happiness and Wonder

Soap bubbles: Sticky water molecules sandwiched by a surfactant with a hydrophilic head and hydrophobic tail expanded by breath into a sphere-seeking, slippery, thin film reflecting color wave interferences which samba through kaleidoscopic patterns of iridescent colors while compressing the most amount of air into a minimal area  capable of withstanding the forces of gravity and evaporation before collapsing into a never-more, liquid pop.

Soap bubbles fascinate and delight for their beauty and fragility. A couple of years ago, when invited to participate in an art and science show in Fresno, I delved into the science of soap bubbles and came up with the 62-word definition above. Obviously, it doesn’t adequately capture either the wonder or the happiness created by these momentary delights.

This particular soap bubble has fascinated me since the bright, shiny San Francisco day when I took the photo. Many years ago, Richard had a device that would make these elongated gossamer rainbow catchers. It always irritated him when children delighted in popping them. And, you have to wonder what that impulse is to pop something beautiful that is going to self-destruct within seconds anyway.

I also wonder if it’s the very fragility of soap bubbles that takes our breath away. Soap bubbles are NOW. We have a second to be awed by them before they disappear never to be seen again. We can’t store them (except in photographs), we can’t say, “Oh, wait a minute, I’ll get back to you.” We have to pay attention while they’re in play. We have to let ourselves be thrilled by their shimmering colors during their glimmer of life.

What if soap bubbles offer us the most realistic of all metaphors of life? Savor it now, for in a second it will be gone.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Forty Days of Memes: Day 1 The secret destination of all journeys

Secret destinations. What an interesting concept. As if all journeys know a secret that we don't.

But, isn't that true? We start out intending to go to grandma's house and on our way, we meet a wolf.

I am starting a new journey, moving to Ajijic, Mexico. My intentions are to have a more outdoor, walking lifestyle by a beautiful body of water where community will grow naturally. What will I actually find there? I have no idea. And, that's a bit disturbing to the control freak that lurks within each of us.

We like change. But, we like it more when it happens the way we want it to happen and brings us stuff we enjoy. However, change is it's own master and it brings us whatever it decides is appropriate.

As I spend the next several weeks letting go of the present in order to embark on the new journey, I have to wonder about this secret destination that I am unaware of. Will it be joyful beyond my expectations or will it challenge me to the bone? One nice thing about living long is I know that, whatever the secret destination is, I will be able to deal with it. Pain or joy, it will be my life.

A man I once loved and still treasure said it better than I:
"Isn't life interesting~!  The paths we choose, the challenges we face, the hardships we endure and the joy of living.  They are all connected."

"Meme" is a relatively young member of our word family, but a useful and intriguing one.  Launched by Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene, it now means an idea that can spread from person to person somewhat like a virus, generally carried by a few memorable words and an image.

 With the advent of Canva which makes it easy to combine words and images to share on social media, I began creating memes. For the next forty days, I will explore these small potent messengers of ideas.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Sea Protectors

Ceramic Face - Ajijic, MX
Sometimes a piece of art just grabs you and doesn't let go ... like this ceramic piece found in Ajijic. Unfortunately I never know which piece will have that effect until long after, so I didn't capture the artist's name. But, there is something about that fish coming out of her head and the coral growing around her face, her sad eyes ... and that incredible blue.

Of course, hanging on that complementary background helped. Anyway, after several days of too much: too much walking, too much looking, too much confusion (strange language, unknown streets, and unfamiliar customs), it was time for art making.

When I came to San Miguel de Allende to be part of the writers' conference, I was hosted by Leslie Mann, a wonderful, generous woman. I expected a bed but found myself in an incredible gallery of folk art. I knew that some piece of the beauty of her home would wind up in a piece of art.
Balcony overlooking San Miguel
Little did I know the first to jump into the mix would be a rather ordinary, but lovely and colorful end table on the balcony. However the two came together and began to play.

The result turned into a statement about our seas, the tragedy of the dying coral, and the strength, determination and shear brain power it is going to take to undo the damage that has already been done. The thought that the beauty and abundance of our oceans may not be available for our children's children and their children, is indeed a sad one.

We all need to be Sea Protectors.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Martin & Rosa

Posted each year in honor of two people who changed our world.

Martin & Rosa

Twenty-six he was when destiny crooked its finger,
beckoning the still-green minister-scholar into the world.
Forty-two she was when she pounded on the door
Theoretically opened ninety-four years before.
It was the first of December, 1955, when history wove
Their fates together into a multi-colored tapestry of change.

“Tired,” she said, “Bone tired. Tired of giving up.
Tired of giving in,” she said and sat in the front of the bus.

Montgomery, Alabama, shivered as the temperature rose.
The old ways could be heard keening long into the night
As 42,000 people left the buses to stand by Rosa’s side.
381 days they walked: nannies, maids, carpenters, all.

Two hundred years of anger rose up to shatter the silence
And from this deafening roar came a molasses-rich voice
Spinning a song of hope with a melody of peace and love.
“I have a dream,” boomed and echoed across the land.

The young minister-leader painted a picture of a life
without color lines, a world without violence.
His voice lifted the dream: Richmond, Little Rock,
Dallas opened their buses, took down their signs.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent
about things that matter," he said, never silent again.
He took our hands and led us step-by-step onto a new path,
Brothers and sisters connected by heart rather than skin.

“Always avoid violence,” he said.
“If you succumb to the temptation …
unborn generations will be the recipients
of a long and desolate night of bitterness,
and your chief legacy to the future will be an
endless reign of meaningless chaos."

Thirty nine he was when one man with a gun silenced the voice,
But not the words …those four words branded into our brains:
“I have a dream …,” saffron-rich messengers left behind to
Carry forward the dream of a color-blind world of hope and peace.

Dedicated to Martin Luther King, Jr. born January 15, 1929;
Assassinated April 4, 1968.
And Rosa Parks, civil rights activist, born February 4, 1913
Died October 24, 2005

-- Joyce Wycoff, copyright, 2011

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Extreme Gratitude and a Failed Experiment ... ?

A friend recently recommended two of Pam Grout’s books: E-Squared: Nine Do-It-Yourself Energy Experiments that Prove Your Thoughts Create Your Reality (free to Kindle Unlimited members) and Thank & Grow Rich, a 30-Day Experiment in Shameless Gratitude and Unabashed Joy.

Pam has a delightful, casual, practical approach to spiritual matters as well as a marked fondness for experimentation. I’ve fallen in line like a duckling, embracing the extreme gratitude she encourages.

available from
I’m reading both books at the same time, writing in my Gratitude Miracles journal every day and then topped it off with what she calls a 2-step party plan:
  1.  Proclaim as you get out of bed that “something unexpected, exciting and amazingly awesome is going to happen to you today."
  2. Come to believe in blessings and miracles.

Pam’s Recommendation: To keep from falling back on old habits, she recommends posting three gratitudes to the world (such as Facebook) every day, making sure they are different every day and watching carefully for the miracles and blessings and note them as they show up. 

Then I decided to add her 48-hour “field of possibilities” experiment to the mix. This experiment requires that you spend 48 hours looking for evidence of the “all-knowing, all perfect FP (her term for the field of infinite possibilities). She adds, “To up the stakes, you’re going to ask the FP for a blessing or what I call an unexpected gift.” She emphasizes unexpected. This is not you asking for something. This is you setting aside skepticism for 48 hours"

Here are the steps:
  1.  Start the experiment.
  2.  Note the time and date.
  3. "Ask the FP to make its presence known. Ask for a blessing."

Okay, I read this at 4:37 Wednesday morning (one of those difficult sleep nights and thought, “Why not?”) I started the clock on the experiment and proceeded into my day (which included periodic naps.)

Last night there was a meeting of Sierra Writers, but it was raining, hard. But, I had promised to be there and I wanted to hear the speaker, a poet. Did I mention that it was raining … and cold? Finally, I bundled up and went.

This morning, I did my gratitudes for the day and was thinking about the experiment which, so far, was a bust. “Maybe I need to repeat my request,” I thought.

Backstory: Several years ago, poetry came into my life. I don’t remember inviting it, however, all of a sudden it was flooding me. I enjoyed the flood although it was time-consuming. I thought maybe poetry was “my thing.” Two rejections from the Squaw Valley Community of Writers for their Poetry Workshop and a rejection from the Antioch MFA program convinced me that poetry wasn't my thing. And, soon after that, the poetry stopped flowing.

The poet who led the meeting last night, Chris Olander, led us through a long writing exercise, using a series of prompts. I had no expectations of outcome. However, almost immediately I fell into a space I recognized, a space where words are in charge, somehow doing what they want without much input from me.

Chris gave us pointers on editing and told us to take our writing home and work it. This morning I started putting it into Evernote and realized I was liking it. And, after a bit of work, it was speaking to me, taking me someplace new. Suddenly, it occurred to me that this was what Pam was talking about. This was that field of possibilities taking me back to that feeling of joy that happens when words are flowing easily and effortlessly.

That was the blessing!

I’m not judging the poem that came as good, bad or indifferent. I do know that the feeling that came with it was one I have missed and I'm delighted to see it show up again. Happy first poem of 2017!

In case you’re wondering, here’s the poem … obviously influenced by the rain/snow/sleet that has been our state for the past several weeks.

Sky River

by Joyce Wycoff

Eagles swirl in dark squads
Shake feathered spans
in rusted rhythms 
tolling lost hopes and
melancholy dreams.

Day wet and confused.
Rain? Snow? Sleet? Fog?
Curtain. Cold and damp
blocking sunlight.

Dust turning to mud
as storm dances
across determined desert
racing to a destination
not marked on the map.

Drums reverberating 
beside  lonely campfire
casting shadow fingers               
across leafless black limbs.

Dreams slip through
mud-dark gaps
bringing stories 
Love found, love lost
Glory days, dreary seconds.

Dust stars form a marching band
playing in four/four time
kaleidoscope harmonies
shimmer, sparkle, shift. gone.

Evening drops moments from Sky River.
Nested eagles murmur quietly
Stilled drum skins hold vibration
Embers glow warm radiating
Glistening bits of life remembered.

(c) 2017

Sunday, January 8, 2017

What are you going to do about the current chaos? Two sure-fire answers.

There is a spiritual state capable of feeling gratitude for the person recently elected to lead our country. I’m not there yet. 
However, after two months of anguish and confusion, I am beginning to appreciate the chaos this election has created. Watching the great pain, fear and anger that prompted such an unlikely election has opened my eyes about how people react when they feel rejected and neglected.

Watching the newly-empowered making plans to dismember the social net we have pieced together over the past 80 years has made me more aware of the millions of hungry, homeless, jobless, elderly, sick and/or disenfranchised neighbors among us. In countries where this has happened before, people have learned to take care of each other when they couldn’t depend on their own governments. This may be where we’re headed.

Watching hatred flare unchecked has reminded me that we have yet to live up to the grand experiment that began when our country was formed. We were to be diversity in action. We were to be freedom and equality for ALL. We were to be a people who respected life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness … not just for rich, white, male, straight, land owners, but for all people.

We cannot wait for government to act in accordance with these principles; we must each live these values every day and with every person we connect with, regardless of political persuasion, color, religion, gender, or non-violent life-style preferences.

Kindness is a political stance. 

Individually, we must be the government we want, and perhaps kindness is one value that might bring us together, at least we, the ordinary people trying to raise our families and do the best we can to be good, solid citizens. We’ve fallen far short of our original vision and, unfortunately, it has taken a badly flawed human appearing at exactly the right moment, to wake us up. Now that we are awake, it’s time to recognize that kindness is a political stance.

Gratitude is a form of activism.

At times I want to rail at the misinformation, fight the hatred and bigotry, become a warrior for peace. And then, I realize that railing, fighting and warring is not part of a peaceful life. Finding gratitude for the chaos of these days reminds me that appreciation for all that we have is the way forward. We need to honor and celebrate every moment, every action of love, compassion, trust, and kindness, reminding ourselves that, basically, we are a kind, generous people. We’ve just forgotten who we are and gratitude helps us remember.

Almost everyone I talk to is trying to figure out what to do in this chaotic time. That wave of concern and activism is something to be grateful for. This is our country. Perhaps we have delegated too much of it to our government … or assumed too much. Perhaps the time has passed when we could assume our elected officials were citizen statesmen interested in the well-being of the nation.

So, what do we do now?

Every time we express our gratitude for the incredible gift of living in this country, we are actively fighting the mindset that this country needs to be made great again by closing the doors to all but the already rich and privileged. This country has flaws almost as big as its beautiful geography, however, as long as we are a democracy and revere a constitution created by wise people who knew that it would need to be revised and renewed over time, we have hope of moving toward a more perfect union.

I believe each of us who have benefited from being a citizen of this prosperous, democratic country needs to decide what we can and will do to insure its future and the well-being of our neighbors.

For myself, I’ve decided that my call is not to political activism. However, I will speak up against bigotry and hatred. I will advocate for kindness and fairness. I will use my words and my financial resources to support the founding ideals of our country and the rights and well-being of every woman, child and man and for this planet we call home.

I will remember that kindness and gratitude can make us whole again. The Dalai Lama said "My religion is kindness.”  If it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for me.