Saturday, June 10, 2017

My Four Agreements and naming the full moons

"New World Coming" **
One of my new neighbors and I have started a small ritual of reviewing our intentions on the night of the full moon. Last night’s incredible Strawberry Moon (see below for more info) prompted a lot of thoughts about personal agreements and the keeping of them. 
With gratitude and deference to Don Miguel Ruiz who gave the world Four Agreements that have changed lives for millions, I have decided to set down my own four agreements for this place and time in my life.

 * Connect Deeply … with my self, my spirit, my body, with others, with my environment and the world.
* Express Gratitude … for everything that comes to me and everything that exists in our world.
* Give Generously … of my time and resources, to myself, to others and to the world we live in.
* Celebrate Beauty … honor the beauty of the world and let it flow into my actions and art.

However, what are the actions that support those agreements? 

Thought without action is a seed on the wind. Or, as my elders used to say, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” What actions will I take to give life to my agreements, to plant these seeds in fallow ground where they can grow and thrive?

The agreement that most calls to me now is  Connect Deeply. I want to know my new environment, its culture, its history, its people, its language. I also want to slow down and take time to connect to my spiritual and physical self.
Action: learn Spanish. I’ve embarked on a self-study course but need to speak the language more. I need to find a native speaking tutor.

Action: practice yoga. Getting ready for this move to Mexico, I sprained my foot (mildly). In the process of hobbling about, I threw my hips out of whack. While my foot has mended, my hips hurt and it is taking away from my joy of walking. I’ve been seeing a chiropractor, which has helped, but I need to practice yoga and allow my body to regain flexibility.

Action: meet mural artists. I am fascinated by the wall art I find here in Mexico and I want to know more about the artists and their work. So, go meet them.
So, that's my plan for this moon. We'll see where we are at the next full moon.
If you are fascinated by moon names, here’s some additional information, which makes me think that we should get to name our moons according to life in our particular environment. Since I am now living on Lake Chapala, Mexico, I am renaming Strawberry Moon to Return of Rain Moon.

Thank you, Return of Rain Moon for these insights and I look forward to your next appearance, which, for now, I will think of as New World Coming Moon. 
** (I recently started a new Photoshop Artistry online class and this is one of the first images from that class.)

More full Moon names: 
JanuaryFull Wolf MoonThis full Moon appeared when wolves howled in hunger outside the villages. It is also known as the Old Moon. To some Native American tribes, this was the Snow Moon, but most applied that name to the next full Moon, in February.
FebruaryFull Snow MoonUsually the heaviest snows fall in February. Hunting becomes very difficult, and hence to some Native American tribes this was the Hunger Moon.
MarchFull Worm MoonAt the time of this spring Moon, the ground begins to soften and earthworm casts reappear, inviting the return of robins. This is also known as the Sap Moon, as it marks the time when maple sap begins to flow and the annual tapping of maple trees begins.
AprilFull Pink MoonThis full Moon heralded the appearance of the moss pink, or wild ground phlox—one of the first spring flowers. It is also known as the Sprouting Grass Moon, the Egg Moon, and the Fish Moon.
MayFull Flower MoonFlowers spring forth in abundance this month. Some Algonquin tribes knew this full Moon as the Corn Planting Moon or the Milk Moon.
JuneFull Strawberry MoonThe Algonquin tribes knew this Moon as a time to gather ripening strawberries. It is also known as the Rose Moon and the Hot Moon.
JulyFull Buck MoonAt this time, a buck’s antlers are in full growth mode. This full Moon was also known as the Thunder Moon, because thunderstorms are so frequent during this month.
AugustFull Sturgeon MoonSome Native American tribes knew that the sturgeon of the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain were most readily caught during this full Moon. Others called it the Green Corn Moon.
SeptemberFull Corn MoonThis full Moon corresponds with the time of harvesting corn. It is also called the Barley Moon, because it is the time to harvest and thresh the ripened barley. The Harvest Moon is the full Moon nearest the autumnal equinox, which can occur in September or October and is bright enough to allow finishing of all the harvest chores.
OctoberFull Hunter’s MoonThis is the month when the leaves are falling and the game is fattened. Now is the time for hunting and laying in a store of provisions for the long winter ahead. October’s Moon is also known as the Travel Moon and the Dying Moon.
NovemberFull Beaver MoonFor both the colonists and the Algonquin tribes, this was the time to set beaver traps before the swamps froze, to ensure a supply of warm winter furs. This full Moon was also called the Frost Moon.
DecemberFull Cold MoonThis is the month when the winter cold fastens its grip and the nights become long and dark. This full Moon is also called the Long Nights Moon by some Native American tribes.

There are many names for full moons … here is a plethora of names from different cultures:

From the Native American Tribes:

Jan Old Moon,    Wolf Moon,    Ice Moon,    Moon after Yule,      Winter Moon
Feb  Hunger or Starvation Moon,  Storm Moon, Trapper's Moon,    Moon of Ice,  Tree Moon
Mar Crow Moon,  Sap Moon,   Worm Moon,  Moon of Winds,  Fish Moon,   Chaste Moon, Death Moon
Apr  Egg Moon,    Seed Moon, Frog Moon,   Pink Moon, Awakening Moon
May  Flower Moon,     Milk Moon,  Hare Moon,  Grass Moon
Jun  Strawberry Moon,    Planting Moon,  Green Corn Moon
Jul  Hay Moon,      Summer Moon,  Thunder Moon,     Buck Moon
Aug   Sturgeon Moon,      Corn Moon, Green Corn Moon,    Dog Days Moon,  Lightening Moon
Sep   Singing Moon,     Barley Moon
Oct   Travellers' Moon,      Blackberry Moon
Nov   Frosty Moon,    Beaver Moon,  Dark Moon,     Tree Moon, Snow Moon
Dec   Cold Moon,    Long Night Moon

Or these - special ones from the Siouan (Assiniboines) Tribe, Montana ....  the March 'Sore Eye Moon' comes from long days watching the glare of the sun on the snow - and 'Gophur Looks Back' from the little Gophur looking behind him at lost summer days.

    Hard Time Moon
    Long day Moon
    Sore Eye Moon
    Frog's Moon
    Idle Moon
    Full Leaf Moon
    Red Berries Moon
    Black Cherries Moon
   Yellow leaf Moon
   Gophur Looks Back Moon
    Frost Moon
   Younger Hard Time Moon 

  How about these - from the Inuit peoples of Northern Canada?

   Dwarf Seal Moon
   Seal Pup Moon
   Snow Bird Moon
   Snow Melt Moon
   Goose Moon
   Hunting Moon
   Dry Moon
   Swan Flight moon
   Harpoon Moon
   Ice Moon
   Freezing Mist Moon
   Dark Night Moon
Here are the old Celtic and Medieval names attributed to Britain
Wolf Moon,  Stay Home Moon,  Moon after Yule
Storm Moon,  Ice Moon,  Snow Moon
Plough Moon,  Wind Moon,  Lenten (lengthening) Moon
Budding moon,  New Shoots Moon,  Seed Moon
Mothers' Moon,  Bright Moon, 
Mead Moon, Horse Moon, Dyan Moon,  Rose Moon
Claiming Moon,  Wyrt or Herb Moon,  Mead Moon
Dispute Moon, Lynx Moon, Grain Moon
Wine Moon, Song Moon, Harvest Moon
Hunter's Moon,  Blood Moon.  Seed Fall Moon
Mourning Moon,  Darkest Depths Moon,
Oak Moon,  Full Cold Moon

 Then, there are the beautiful and ancient names for their much celebrated Moons, given by the Chinese people
       Holiday Moon     
       Budding Moon     
       Sleeping Moon     
       Peony Moon
       Dragon Moon
       Lotus Moon
       Hungry Ghost Moon             
       Harvest Moon
       Crysanthemum Moon             
       Kindly Moon
       White Moon
       Bitter Moon

 Here are Muddypond's Faery Moon names

    Wolf Moon
Dec 21st - Jan
     Icicle Moon
Jan - Feb
    Snowdrop Moon
Feb - March
    Waking Wood Moon
March - April
    Birthing Moon
April - May
    Moon of White Petals
May - June
    Wild Cherry Moon
June - July
    Dancing Delight Moon
July - Aug
    Blackberry Harvest Moon
Aug - Sep
    Chestnut Moon
Sep - Oct
    Moon of the Wild Hunt
Oct - Nov
    Mistletoe Moon

 Stop.  The rest of this is formatting I can't make go away. Sorry.





Inuit Protrait - Inuit Library of Congress


Celtic design - Courtney Davis


Dr Ho ©Q T Long


Hindu Girl -© Margaret Bourke White
   Lunar Month














Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Going away present

One of the things I will miss about the Grass Valley area is the Nevada County Camera Club. Every month we had a chance to learn from a stunning photographer and have two pieces of work critiqued. The critique sessions were always golden, not only for the suggestions received on my own work, but for new perspectives on all the works.

April was the last meeting I got to attend and I was thrilled to find out after I got down here that both of my photos submitted for that month were picked as best in category. 

Here are the photos which were honored:

 Casa DeBlanc (best color) - friends stayed at an incredible house when we were here in Ajijic in February. As we were walking to the door one day, the light coming through a window bowled me over.

San Francisco Magic (best creative interpretation) - This beautiful city is a dance of fog and light. Compositing two separate photos helped me capture the magic. 

Thanks, NCCC for all the great lessons and friendship and the going away present.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Golden anniversary of a different sort

Fifty years ago I married my first love. He was on his way to Vietnam and had three weeks at home. We wanted to spend as much time as possible being married and would have eloped, but his mom insisted on being married in a church, with real invitations. 

 So, we told our folks they had a week to get ready. It wasn’t a glamorous affair but we did it and headed out for a 2-day honeymoon on Mount Magazine, at 2,753 feet the highest mountain in Arkansas. We wanted to spend most of our precious time just being married. We didn’t understand the realities of war, but we did know that there was a possibility that this would be all the time we would be given.

On this Memorial Day coinciding with the anniversary of that day so long ago, I mourn for the ones who didn’t return from that war, the ones who are honored on walls around the land. But, I also mourn for the ones who did return, some visibly wounded, some wounded in ways that couldn’t be seen. And, I also mourn for the families torn apart by all they lost.

We were babies then. I, barely 21. He, still 20. There was so much we didn’t know about life and making a life together. About ourselves and what we wanted from life. I could blame the eventual ending of our marriage on Vietnam, and it definitely played a role, but I believe it was all those things we didn’t know that took the biggest toll. We weren’t yet baked as human beings and the 13 months he spent in Vietnam was a hotter, more violent fire that changed things … changed him ... in ways I could never comprehend.

Sometimes I have conversations with friends about what we regret in life and often the response is that the person has no regrets. I think that generally means they have made peace with the way their life unfolded. While I honor my life and my journey, I do still have regrets. I very much regret my youthful ignorance. And, I regret the reception we as a country gave our returning soldiers. We didn’t understand the horrors they had gone through nor the pain they were in. We just wanted to go on with our tidy lives. I didn’t understand the hidden wounds of my too-young soldier-husband. I don’t know that being wiser and more compassionate would have changed the outcome of our marriage, but I truly wish I could have been wiser than I was.

The only way I know how to make that regret more bearable is to resist more conflicts that consume our young. 

Sometimes, love is not enough. Always, war is too much. 
On this Memorial Day as we honor those who have served, let us pledge: Never again!

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Mexico laughs at expectations and cries over its lost children

San Cristóbal de las Casas
I hit the wall in early evening when I landed at Tuxtla Gutiérrez airport in Chiapas. It was 2014 and at age 69 I had embarked on a grand adventure. The plan was two weeks of language immersion in San Miguel de Allende, three weeks of snorkeling and swimming in cenotes in Maya Riviera, and then a final week of language immersion in Mérida where I would also follow the trail of a story that had intrigued me for years. Six weeks. I expected that would be enough time to ground me in Spanish well enough to travel with the Spanish-fluent guy with whom I was making happily-ever-after plans.
I expected to take a bus to San Cristóbal de las Casas, a place I knew absolutely nothing about other than it was at 7200’ and should be cooler than Playa del Carmen which was where I was supposed to stay for three weeks but lasted only two days. What I didn’t expect was that no one at the Tuxtla airport spoke English any better than I spoke Spanish. My abysmal Spanish skills had gotten me by so far but now it seemed that I wasn’t going to be able to just walk over to the bus stop and get whisked to San Cristóbal.

This adventure was my first extended trip not prompted by work and the first by myself. Already my carefully constructed plan looked a bit tattered and I could feel tendrils of panic rising as the non-conversation with an airport woman about how to get to San Cristóbal failed. I had been told to take the bus because taxis were expensive. However, I wasn’t even sure how to find a taxi.

As I stood there, somewhat frozen, a young woman joined our conversation. Her English was limited but a smidge better than my Spanish. After a long back and forth, most of which I couldn’t understand, I finally understood that she was inviting me to share her taxi to town. I wasn’t sure, but I thought she might also be able to drop me at the bus station. While I didn’t realize it at the time, she was my introduction to the kindness of strangers in Mexico, a pattern that would repeat itself regularly as I blundered into interesting situations.

The Tuxtla Gutiérrez airport is relatively new and built on the far outskirts of town. As I was riding in the cab with this young woman on the long trip to Tuxtla, I realized that I had no idea where we were actually going. She seemed friendly enough, but I didn’t know if she really understood what I had been trying to tell her about the bus station and San Cristóbal. And, it was getting dark. Finally, we wound up in front of a small, concrete building where, apparently, I was supposed to get out. So, I did even though I saw no buses and felt a sudden wave of desperation as my new protector drove away in her taxi. I was on my own, in the dark, in a strange city. No one knew where I was  and I couldn’t speak the language. I had heard enough stories to be nervous.

Finally, I entered the little concrete building where a man at a battered desk understood my words enough to take my money and point me toward a small van already filled with people. I squeezed myself into a seat and gave myself up to the belief that this might actually take me to my destination. I was almost relaxed when I realized I’d left my backpack with laptop and other necessities in the office. Fortunately, it was still there and I relaxed into the long drive through the night until we wound up at the San Cristóbal bus station where a bunch of taxis waited. I had arrived.

I breathed a sign of relief as I handed the taxi driver the address and expected the rest to be simple. Clearly, the taxi driver did not speak English but, since he had my carefully printed address, I wasn’t worried. We wound through town and then into a darker neighborhood and soon the driver was glancing around in a way that concerned me. Finally, we pulled up at what seemed like the right address and a couple came out. However, the place didn’t seem right from the pictures I had seen. More language fumbling and it was clear that they didn’t know anything about a guest arriving in the middle of the night.

The driver seemed confused and asked me questions that I didn’t understand. By now, it was about 10:30 and I was getting nervous again. The driver didn’t have a phone or a map or apparently any connection to a home office and I was trying to figure out what I was going to do. I had no resources, knew no hotels and didn’t know how to ask the frustrated driver for help. 

Together our frustration was rising rapidly as we stood in the street speaking but not communicating. Suddenly, out of the shadows, a woman in white appeared. Completely in white. Long, white robe-like dress and white turban. She walked over to us and said in perfect English, “Can I help you?” I now believe in angels.

Angel Blanca and friend.
After talking for awhile with the woman named Blanca, we decided that if I could show her a picture of the house, she could help us find it. We needed a computer. At Blanca’s direction, we piled into the taxi and went back about three blocks to an undistinguished row of concrete buildings. Blanca knocked on one of the many doors and an eight-year-old kid let us into a room full of twenty-year-old computers. With a high level of skepticism about the functioning of these systems, I waited as he warmed up the antique PC, logged onto the internet and I pulled up my airbnb site. Blanca recognized the house and within minutes and a few pesos, we were at my destination.

During this time, I learned that Blanca lived in the neighborhood. I was so grateful for her help that I invited her to lunch and she accepted. Gradually, I learned about her life as a Mexican hippy living with her partner, the father of her three children, making clay flutes and trying to live by principles that set them apart from the “normal" culture. She introduced me to new foods and new places and new ways of thinking about life and amazed me with the breadth and depth of her English, which she had "picked up” on a job.

I expected to go to San Cristóbal as a comfortable place to continue studying Spanish. What I didn’t expect was to meet such fascinating people such as Blanca. However, throughout my time in San Cristóbal I continued to meet amazing people. The house I stayed in belonged to a woman photographer who had just left for a six-month stay in Israel. We never met but talked a lot by email and became friends. Her book on the various textile styles of the Mayan villages made me fall in love with weavings and I quickly developed a favorite … Zinacantan, which had a distinctive style and incredible blending of colors.

On my first day walking around town, I stopped into a coffee shop and met a US woman married to a Mexican man. We quickly became friends and she introduced me to so many interesting people: Women from Mayan villages, a nun who started a photography project for the local villagers, a Muslim man who left the US after being continually harassed after 9/11 and now rescues street dogs and cats as well as lame horses, cooking seven pounds of rice every day for his ever-expanding flock.

From the top of Tonina ruins
As my planned six-week trip expanded into four months, I met a British woman living in Spain, when she stayed for two weeks in the same compound where I was staying. We traveled together to Guatemala where we explored the villages around Lake Atitlán, met a US woman helping Mayan women sell their weavings, and fell in love with chicken buses. On a trip to the ruins at Tonina, we met a young Mexican entrepreneur with the most beautiful dreadlocks I’ve ever seen and an older world traveler from New Zealand. We formed an unlikely foursome as we explored the ruins as well as an incredibly beautiful swimming hole and local restaurants. They also introduced me to Posh (the local intoxicant) and I became a fan.

Gringos in foreign places tend to recognize each other and often fall into conversation as they explore the standard where-are-you-from, how-long-have-you-been-here questions. One of these conversations resulted in an ongoing conversation with an older woman artist traveling the world on $600 a month with no safety net. Her confidence and cheeriness about her financial situation reminded me of how fortunate I am. 

As it became clear that my language skills were not racing ahead, I asked a charming, young guy to be my language coach. Our Posh-fueled sessions definitely improved my confidence as we explored life in San Cristóbal and our challenging love lives in mostly broken Spanish.

I had expected to make rapid progress learning Spanish. I felt like I had a head start having lived in California for decades and having started several adult-ed Spanish classes (perhaps it would have been good if I had finished a few of them). Since I had been listening to Pimsleur CDs for months, I did not expect the wall of meaningless sounds that I found when I arrived at the Mexico City airport. Even concentrating, language was a sound blur with only an occasional word like “pero” (but) rising to the level of recognition. Not extremely useful.

When I had arrived in San Miguel at the beginning of this adventure, I expected to be put into an “intermediate beginner” class at my language school. I expected to work hard and learn fast. I expected it to come easily. It was immersion, supposedly the magical panacea of learning a language. How quickly so many expectations can be dashed. My “immersion” seemed to be limited to waiters and taxi drivers. There were plenty of people around all too happy to speak English. I expected myself to be a good student, to do the worksheets and sit in the cramped student seats in a stuffy classroom. I didn’t expect myself to chuck it all for the “escuela de las calles” as I called the fascinating, colorful, exciting sights and sounds I found in the streets.

The first mural I fell in love with.
I didn’t expect myself to fall in love with the murals and wall art I found just wandering about. There are many things I didn’t expect, but probably the biggest happened one day while I was wandering through the plaza in front of the Cathedral. There was almost always something going on there so at first I thought it was a concert or something. There was a man's voice booming over huge speakers and there must have been a thousand people wandering around the plaza.

As I walked through the crowd, my chest began to hurt and I felt like crying. The words were just sounds so I didn’t know why and started trying to figure out the words on posters. I saw a row of pictures of young men and on the ground children were putting flowers on pictures of the same young men laid out in a grid. I realized that what I was feeling was grief. That something horrible had happened to these young men.

Finally, I ran into someone I knew who explained that 43 students from Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers' College went missing in Iguala, Guerrero. They had just disappeared twelve days earlier. Over the next several weeks in San Cristóbal, Tuxtla Gutiérrez, and Merida, I saw heartbreaking marches demanding action and information about the students. At first the students were called “Los Vivos,” the living.

The story that gradually came out was horrifying. It remains unclear who all was involved but the story that I heard most was that the ambitious, cartel-related wife of the mayor of Iguala was going to give a speech in Mexico City before announcing her candidacy for office. She heard that the students planned to protest her speech and she had them kidnapped, apparently with the assistance of local police and government officials. This incident set off massive protests in Mexico as well as worldwide and led to the arrest of more than 130 suspects, 44 of whom were police officers. It also significantly stained the administration of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.

By later in October, the most common signs included the words:

nos enterraron (they buried us)
pero no sabían (but they did not know)
que estamos semillas. (that we are seeds)

The inquiry remains open.

I didn’t expect to see the underbelly of this beautiful country. I didn’t expect to feel the pain of a system where human rights often disappear under the weight of power, money and greed. 

I didn’t expect to return almost three years later when life turned once again toward Mexico. I hadn't expected to experience the underbelly of my own country as human rights began to be attacked in a way we thought we had left behind decades ago.

When I left San Cristóbal, I was innocently planning my future ... reconnecting with my guy, traveling and creating a nest together in New Mexico, settling down in a new dream. With all of these expectations clanging around in my head, I didn’t hear Mexico chuckling while it also cried for its lost children.

Morning in Ajijic, Mexico
Now, three years later, as I return to Mexico, I have fewer expectations, fewer illusions about the shadow side of the human experience. But, I still have the expectation of learning the beautiful language of this country and soaking in more of its natural beauty and culture.

Monday, May 22, 2017

An incomplete thank you for the miracles of the world

Morning in Mexico
On this day as I begin my second year of gratitude practice, I give thanks for where I am and where Ive been and hope this poem makes up for some of the moments of gratitude Ive missed along the way.

for all the people I never thanked:

the authors, teachers, artists, carpenters,

the fighters of fires, the doctors of disease,

those who built the roads through the mountains and deserts,

those who grew the vegetables and fruits for my table,

all the meals and makers-of-meals who went unblessed,

all the garments and sewers and sellers of them 
that kept me dressed,

and the thousands, millions, of other unthanked souls

who have made my life possible, made it a joy.

for all the beauty I forgot to acknowledge:

the mountains, meadows, moonglows and manatees,

the soft summer days, the snow-covered pines,

the cactus blossoms of spring, the yellow aspens of fall,

all the trees I never thanked for my breath,

all the clouds I never thanked for their beckonings,

all the rocks I never thanked for their stories,

all the rivers and lakes, puddles and ponds,

the oceans of water that refreshed my days,

never once asking for my thanks.

for all the people who made me laugh or cry:

the jokesters, writers, actors, makers of movies,
the merry whistlers and designers of Tilt-a-Whirls,

all you bubbling fountains of mirth and magic
who brought forth giggles and guffaws, chuckles and chortles,
tears and torment, glimpses into alien worlds and other hearts,
graciously accepting my laughter and tears as thanks enough.

to all of you ... friends and family,

those recognized and total strangers,

finally and utterly incompletely,
thanks. ... Thanks! ... Thank YOU!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

What do you do when the Universe rejects what you thought you were supposed to do?

Fleeting Shadows
A few days ago I received the news that my application to the Squaw Valley Community of Writers had been rejected - again. This is the fourth rejection I’ve received from that prestigious writers’ conference, two for poetry and now two for fiction. Because I know, slightly, one of the organizers of the conference, I also received a personal, apologetic note saying only 38% of the applicants were accepted. Somehow, that made it worse. 4 out of 10 got in and I wasn’t one of the four. I’m not even in the top 40% of the applicants. That stings.

The creative life overflows with rejection. It’s part of the course. We’re supposed to suck it up and keep making our art and putting it out into the world. That’s what everyone says. That’s what I’ve always thought and said. But now I wonder. Now, I’m in this new world, in a new beginning, facing a clean slate. Which way to go?

I never expected this path of writer and artist. Nothing in my childhood labeled me creative. There were no early accolades or unexpected successes. Creativity has been like a quiet shadow that just showed up one day and followed me as I wandered through life. I’ve never known quite what to make of it or if it was even real. For some reason, one of my first poem friends, “Eldorado" by Edgar Allan Poe (printed in full below) comes to mind: 
 ‘Shadow,’ said he,   
   ‘Where can it be—
This land of Eldorado?’

But, no answer comes. I feel like I have journeyed long, in sunshine and in shadow, and still don’t know
if I’m on the right path. The desire to be be a writer came in the fourth grade … also accompanied by
rejection as my first recess play was rejected because no one could read my writing. And, art sprang out
of the dark days after Richard died. No one was more surprised than I when my art showed up on the
walls of a gallery, where it largely remained unsold.

Part of the angst of the creative life … for me … is the belief that art is, or should be, a conversation
between artist and observer. What the artist makes needs to be received, accepted, understood,

But, what if that’s not true?

What if making art is just something we do, like making the bed, cooking a meal, kissing a child's boo
boo, or planting a flower? We do it because it’s who we are. What if the world’s reception is basically
meaningless. Would it change who I am if the great Squaw Valley deemed me worthy of their conference
or something I wrote suddenly went viral or a piece of my art caught the eye of a critic?

I know the answer is “no.” I know what changes me is the act of writing, struggling to tell a story in the
best possible way. What enhances my life is the daily search for beauty and understanding with my
camera and words. What feeds my spirit is that deep intake of breath that happens when I see light
playing with the world or find words tumbling out of my head as if from some other place, bringing me
insights beyond my own puny thoughts. That is the critical acknowledgment, the acceptance and
valuing of a piece of myself that has somehow connected with the Universe through what I do,
regardless of what form that takes.

Poe ends “Eldorado” with the exhortation:

Ride, boldly ride,’ 
   The shade replied,—
‘If you seek for Eldorado!’

My take on this is that whatever I do, to do it boldly. Maybe the creative conversation I seek isn’t with
the world, but simply with myself. I write and make art to know who I am. If others come along for the 
ride, that just makes it more fun. 

Más tarde, por ahora audazmente ir.

Gaily bedight,
   A gallant knight,
In sunshine and in shadow,  
   Had journeyed long,  
   Singing a song,
In search of Eldorado.

   But he grew old—
   This knight so bold—  
And o’er his heart a shadow—  
   Fell as he found
   No spot of ground
That looked like Eldorado.

   And, as his strength  
   Failed him at length,
He met a pilgrim shadow—  
   ‘Shadow,’ said he,  
   ‘Where can it be—
This land of Eldorado?’

   ‘Over the Mountains
   Of the Moon,
Down the Valley of the Shadow,  
   Ride, boldly ride,’
   The shade replied,—
‘If you seek for Eldorado!’