Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Exploding microwaves

This guy doesn't worry about icky microwaves.
A week or so ago (or maybe two or three), I had a microwave exploding incident. One of those where the whatever being heated took flight and covered the inside of the microwave. Now, in the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t such a major event. It wasn’t totally gross and didn’t interfere with the operation of the microwave. It just looked yucky. Three or four times a day it looked yucky.

Years ago Malcolm Gladwell popularized the theory of broken windows in his book The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference explaining how small, unresolved incidents of crime leads to a breakdown in social norms and a mindset of crime. Broken windows became a symbol of minor disorder leading to a major issue.

I believe the metaphor extends to other areas of human behavior. I tolerated my dirty microwave day after day. Finally, I broke down and cleaned it. Suddenly, I could feel the difference. Without blowing it completely out of proportion, I felt cleaner, more in control of my world and my environment.

It surprised me how differently I felt about myself. I’m not a clean freak. My psyche doesn’t get a lot of self-worth from the cleanliness and orderliness of my environment. However, opening the now-clean microwave creates a visceral sense of well-being and control. I have to wonder if this is related to the outside world where wildfires are raging and I know I have zero control over them. Cleaning my microwave is within my sphere of control.

I’m not sure where this is going but just writing about it makes me want to get up and straighten the towel which is hanging akimbo on the oven rack. So far, I’m controlling the impulse.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Love Letters to My Life #37: Creative Turmoil

Turmoil

by Joyce Wycoff
 
(We know the day we were born, but most of us do not know the day we will die. This love letter to my life is written on the day I've designated as my Death Day: the 17th of every month, and which reminds me to be grateful for my incredible life.)   
 
Turmoil: a state of great disturbance, confusion, or uncertainty and perceived as a negative word and experience. Searching my database of about 5,000 quotes didn’t turn up a single entry. That seems odd since into every life a bit of turmoil always falls; why aren’t the philosophers waxing poetic about how to deal with it?
 
Right now, I’m in a state of turmoil, a boil-and-bubble cauldron of uncertainty and confusion, stirred by a new course from David DuChemin. I’ve been learning from David for several years now and have come to respect his art and his approach to the creative life. (His podcast A Beautiful Anarchy is one of my favorite 15-minute creativity boosters.) 
 
Recently, David patiently guided me through a push-back to one of his messages. I was absolutely sure he was off-base, at least for me and my situation. He asked a few questions and made some gentle suggestions, which I rejected until I woke up one morning with an aha that what he was saying was exactly what I needed to hear.

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

A Forest Walk with Kimberly Ruffin

 

Pedestrian walk-way over Hamilton Branch

My new favorite source for wisdom and stories is Emergence Magazine, especially their podcasts which almost always touch a deep place within. On my walk this morning, I listened to Kimberly Ruffin’s podcast, “A Forest Walk.” You can do this meditative walk in your back yard, a park, or in a forest if you happen to have one handy.

This morning was cool, sunny with a dotted, white cloud sky. As I walked along a route that has almost become routine, Kimberly’s voice invited me into different ways of engaging in what she calls a “walk of faith.”

From Emergence Magazine: Kimberly Ruffin is a Certified Nature and Forest Therapy Guide and author of Black on Earth: African American Ecoliterary Traditions. As a companion to Kimberly’s past Emergence essay “Bodies of Evidence,” she created a guided practice of walking through the forest. For Kimberly, faith is a continuous exchange of belonging, an experience that’s palpable among trees.

Click here:  A Forest Walk Podcast 

Along the walk she invites listeners to engage all their senses, witnessing the world around them. I felt a heart tug when she invited me to engage with all the life witnessing me and found myself pulled into words  …

I am water and stardust
walking through sky
treading on earth
receiving a cedar branch
receiving belonging

watching sunlight make sugar
in the graceful, bright Ponderosa needles
watching a bee gather nectar in a yellow flower

me witnessing him
he witnessing me.

When I sat in a small picnic area next to Hamilton Branch, I thought …

Time is not what the world wants.
It wants my attention,
my devoted, passionate attention. 




Thursday, June 17, 2021

Love Letters to My Life #36: Denim Carpet to My Wild Twin

My cooling-feet, sunset-watching spot.
by Joyce Wycoff

(We know the day we were born, but most of us do not know the day we will die. This love letter to my life is written on the day I've designated as my Death Day: the 17th of every month, and reminds me to be grateful for my incredible life.) 

75 seems like an odd age to start taking my life seriously. Perhaps because this is the 36th monthly love letter I’ve written to myself or because I can feel the sun lowering toward the horizon on this one wild and precious life, I know it is time … time to do the things I truly want to do, time to be the person I truly want to be. 

So what does that mean? Three questions in one. 

What does it mean to take life seriously? 

What do I truly want to do with the rest of my life? 

Who do I truly want to be? 

Definitely a denim carpet question … which deserves some backstory. 

Every week for the past ten years, with few exceptions, my friend Pat and I have had phone conversations which wandered without direction from dinner recipes to the state of our souls. Recently, for some unremembered reason, Pat said “denim carpet” … a twisting of carpe diem, the popular call to seize the day.  

That silly phrase tickled my funny bone and lodged itself in memory until I began this love letter and it popped to the surface and seemed to be the absolutely perfect phrase. I want to seriously seize the day … but with a grin. Denim carpet!

Another thread to this tangled tale comes from a wild man, a myth teller, a mystic, a weaver of enchanted language. Martin Shaw, where have you been all my life? 

Shaw’s book Courting the Wild Twin popped onto my Kindle store front and intrigued me enough to save the sample for later.  Samples seldom turn into sales, but this one hooked me on the first cast. Shaw’s language snipped the sinews binding me to the rational world and left me swirling through clouds of mythical images. One example comes from a way Shaw describes a character in a story:

"Hawk-nosed, thistle-haired, spark-eyed, yolk-fat with cobra-knowledge, pockets a-clatter with magics, brown fingers dragging rooster blood from the heart of the moon."

According to Shaw, "there is an old legend that says we each have a wild, curious twin that was thrown out the window the night we were born, taking much of our vitality with them."

He invites us "to seek out our wild twin––a metaphor for the part of ourselves that we generally shun or ignore to conform to societal norms––to invite them back into our consciousness, for they have something important to tell us."

 I hadn't read far before my wild twin jabbed me in the ribs and said … I WANT THAT!

In one of the myths that Shaw tells, a barren woman is given advice by an old woman (there’s always a wise old woman in these ancient tales). The old one says: “walk to the north-west part of the garden and, as you go, speak everything you wish to see arise.” 

Because this is a fairy tale, all that she spoke came to pass (with, some unexpected twists since this is, after all, a myth.)

It struck me that we aren’t adept at speaking what we want. We’re taught to live in the real world rather than a world that brings us what we want just because we speak it. How are we supposed to know, though, what we truly want if we don’t speak it? And, how does the world around us know what we want if we don’t say it out loud? That, of course, doesn’t mean that we will always like what arrives, even when it’s exactly what we thought we wanted.

The wild twin knows what she wants

and speaks it out loud.

Shaw says the wisdom of the old ones is available to all of us if we convince them that we’re serious. We do that through fidelity, by continuing to show up for what we are passionate about. Fidelity is a sign post of seriousness. Which made me wonder: to what have I shown fidelity?

One answer came immediately. While I tend to be prone to many enthusiasms and shifting whims of focus, I have been faithful for many years to my creative life of art and writing. In spite of not being showered by much interest or financial rewards from the outside world, I have created a steady stream of art and words documenting my personal exploration of the world’s beauty. 

Because I've taken this part of my life seriously,  the ancients may giving me a nod.

Shortly after arriving here at Lake Almanor, while looking for a guest artist for the next volume of The Granary Tree, I went into a rather remarkable local co-op art gallery … the Blue Goose. In the process of talking about which artist might fit, I showed the gallery owner a copy of The Granary Tree and Corona Wisdom. One thing led to another and I was invited to join the gallery. Delightedly, I accepted.

 
For the first time in several years, I once again have a gallery home. I’ve been in other galleries; however, this time, I’ve matured enough in my life as an artist that I actually feel like I belong. Something of that “imposter syndrome” seems to have dropped away. Regardless of how I’ve gotten here, I now consider myself an artist … seriously.

Maybe I’ve merged, just a bit, with my wild twin. She brought me this advice to share with you:

Take your life seriously.
It’s the only life you have.
You are the only you YOU have.
You are the only you the world has.
You came here to be someone special.
You came here to do something specific.
Do it.
Give yourself the gift of being YOU.

Denim carpet all the way down!

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Octavia Butler’s Precipice is Now

In the early 1990s an American science fiction author wrote her way through a vision of dystopian societal collapse. More nuanced than Mad Max but lacking the Hollywood-handsome and heroic Mel Gibson, broader in scope than The Handmaid’s Tale but lacking the fetching costumes, Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower, published in 1993, and set in the near future of 2024, is a bone-chilling cousin to the reality of 2021.

In the beginning, many readers dismissed Butler as a naysaying pessimist telling an unbelievable and impossible story. Twenty-seven years later, many of us wonder:  How did she know?

In case foretelling the future as if it were a YouTube video in a crystal ball weren’t enough, Butler launched a religion; real or fictional depends on your perspective.

Wikipedia: Earthseed is a fictional religion based on the idea that "God is Change". 

GodIsChange.org: Earthseed is a real religion inspired by the science fiction of Octavia Butler, specifically her books, Parable of the Sower (1993) and Parable of the Talents (1998).

Story: Near Los Angeles is Lobredo, an isolated community walled against ever-increasing crime and violence resulting from the crashing waves of greed and corruption, climate change, and rampant, isolating technology. As the foundations of society are eroding, hope for the future is lost.

Teenager Lauren Olamina tells the story of the disintegration of her world and her family in her journal, while also writing verses for a new religion she calls Earthseed.

  • In 2024, Lobredo and the world around it is sliding toward a precipice.
  • In 2021, we are coming to grips with massive change and the enemy within, seeing the unimaginable happening in real time.

The catalyst of this collapse is a basic lesson we’ve yet to learn, and is the first precept of the Earthseed religion:

"All that you touch
You Change.
All that you Change
Changes you.
The only lasting truth
Is Change.
God Is Change.”

In the “rational” world, we call this The Law of Unintended Consequences and believe that if we just think through the situation carefully enough, we can outsmart it. We can’t. The minute we touch it, it’s changed and requires changed thinking.  Rinse. Repeat

Butler’s prophetic insight crystalized 

in her words about power: 

“All struggles are essentially power struggles.”

This is the essence of the struggles of 2021. Our country’s attempt to balance power with a two-party system is crumbling as one party weakens and becomes desperate to hold onto power by using whatever means necessary. We are becoming bifurcated in too many ways: Republican/Democrat, black/white, rich/poor, male/female, urban/rural, straight/gay, old/young, violent/non-violent … an endless game of this or that, them or us, where what is lost is our sense of connection to our neighbors and unity of purpose as a country.

"All struggles
Are essentially
power struggles.
Who will rule,
Who will lead,
Who will define,
refine,
confine,
design,
Who will dominate.
All struggles
Are essentially power struggles,
And most are no more intellectual
than two rams
knocking their heads together."

Butler’s answer is science fiction: head for other worlds. This is the third precept of Earthseed, the religion: The Destiny of Earthseed is to take root among the stars.”

In spite of Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, I don’t believe colonizing other planets or space offers us much of a solution. We are earthlings … and there are too many of us. The only real choice we have is to collaborate, work together and take care of each other. However, in a world with too many guns and a climate growing more hostile to agriculture and economies, desperate people will resort to violence and self-protection. The more desperate people there are, the more violence we will experience.

We in the rich nations of the world talk of rising seas as if we might lose a few coastal mansions. In Bangladesh, however, the next several years will see as many as 18 million people forced to leave their homes. 18 million people without homes, without jobs, without resources. We give it a scientific sounding term: climate displacement.  However, it’s as if everyone in Florida were forced to move to Georgia (population 4 million). They wouldn’t fit.

Two-thirds of Bangladesh is less than sixteen feet above sea level. But, Bangladesh is over there. They’ve always been poor. We can’t worry about them. The question that affects us all though is: where will they go? Europe? India? India is already trying to build a fence around their overpopulated country. And, Bangladesh will not be the only victim of climate change. Change is God in action (Earthseed). And, change is not benevolent nor malevolent; it just is.

The COVID-19 pandemic gave us some hints about how we might handle future massive changes. Some people sacrificed, hunkered down, protected themselves and their family and friends, made do with less. Amazing generosity flowed from unexpected places. Other people grabbed their guns, burned their masks, and blamed everyone outside their small circles. 

Most likely, this is the way it will go. 

More division rather than less. 

More fear. More violence. 

Less all for one, one for all.

This is the precipice. Now is the moment when we still have a possible alternative future. We still have time to think of Earth as a neighborhood and all of us on it as neighbors. The Biden/Harris administration has committed to making 80 million doses of COVID vaccine available to the world in the understanding that COVID is a global challenge requiring vaccination in Bangladesh as well as Florida.

None of us are safe unless all of us are safe.


 

 



Wednesday, June 2, 2021

The Granary Tree, Volume 3 - Flower Moon

LINK: https://issuu.com/joycewycoff/docs/granary_tree_vol_3_pdf

 This issue of The Granary Tree could be summarized by the back cover quote: "The whole of life lies in the verb seeing." -- Teilhard de Chardin.

I've seen a lot in the past three months ... from snow in Julian to the peaceful expanse of Lake Almanor. From black oak spring to scarlet snow plants. From a crab on the northern coast to a lost feather to a story about trying to give a pill to Major Bear. Also, two color master guest artists and two photographers who hiked into the Eastern Sierra in order to capture the supermoon eclipse of the Flower Moon.

Click here to receive your free digital copy:


Photo: Vahé Peroomian
Art: Gerald Stone

Palomar Mountain granary tree

Artist: Carol McIntyre

Journey through Northern California, including FreakOut



Major Bear

Peaceful Lake Almanor


Snow Plants

Biophilia 

Spring black oak leaves

The digital version of the The Granary Tree is free, however your support is always greatly appreciated. Feel free to share your generosity through this link: paypal.me/joycewycoff1

And, if you would like a full-color, autographed printed copy, they are $20 including shipping within the  U.S. Use the above PayPal link and include your shipping address.

Click here to receive your free digital copy:



Start Imperfect on Day Two

This is a perfect Scotch Broom flower ... one of the most hated, invasive plants in California.
 

Day One

There’s always a Day One … the first step … a new beginning.
Day One comes battery charged, full tank, bug-free windshield,
carefully-folded map, Valhalla highlighted.
Day One comes with shoes shined, bright bow in place,
face all aglow with roses and lollypops.
Day One comes with pencils sharpened, bright idea aglimmer,
perfect metaphor forming, audience waiting, breath bated.

Day One:
24 hours of magical perfection
followed by Day Two,
the back-to-it, oh-you-again,
smudged-faced step-sister who cleans the hearth,
eventually claiming the glass-slipper prince,
before going on to another
Day One.
#

Today is Day One … again.
Scratch that.
Let’s start on Day Two.

Beginning another cycle of the Gratitude Miracles Journal, this time starting on a Wednesday, on the second day of June, deliberately trying to avoid the perfection demon who grins ear-to-ear while gripping the seeds of defeat behind his back. 

He’s a sly one, Mr. Perfect. Color outside the lines and the party’s over, headed for the abyss of abject failure. Blame the slip. Enjoy the plunge. Binge and flagellate all the way to purgatory.

Or.

Why not start imperfect on Day Two? Why not know there is no perfect ... there’s only a road from here to there with a thousand side roads and lemonade stands begging you to stop … just for a little while, just for a cool drink, just for a quick email peek.

Who cares if you hop, skip, jump, or take a quick nap along the way? Wake up and begin again.

I have a friend who raves about the Gratitude Miracles Journal. She calls and reads me quotes from it and what she’s written as her gratitude. She doesn’t start with Cycle 1, Day 1. She goes wherever she wants, follows whatever catches her fancy. I imagine her journal filling up one random pages at a time while she overflows with joy and gratitude. 
I want that freedom to follow the breadcrumbs of  happenstance and joy.
So, today I’m starting on Day 2 with a resolution to write a gratitude somewhere within the journal every day.

Thank you, Barbara.