Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Sweet Peace #2 - Guidelines

Barbara's Camelias

Sweet Peace. What does that actually mean? Whatever it is, I think it eluded me this week. Travel, holidays, and weather disrupted normal routines and left me feeling scattered, vulnerable ... and entitled to sugar.
However, I’m here, reflecting on the week and realizing that while I want to report perfection … some magical state of sugar-free equanimity … what really happened was an increase in awareness, some small wins, and a wave function of peaks and valleys. The distractions of the week left me without a clear definition of my intentions; so maybe clarifying what I mean by Sweet Peace is the goal for this week.

What I know: 
  • Taking care of my health is critically important, especially now as I've entered the latter part of my 70s. I’ve been blessed with good health and want to maintain that as long as possible.
  • Several creative projects call me and I need energy and focus to pursue them.
  • All of the motivation for those projects comes from myself. The world has no expectations of me; I could do nothing and it wouldn’t make a ripple in the pond.
  • In order to maintain energy and motivation, I need to eat right, stay physically active, get enough sleep, and stay emotionally and spiritually balanced and positive.
  • Food, especially sugar, has long been a way of avoiding my feelings, especially when I’m tired, feeling lonely or disconnected. It is a way to fill up the empty places.
  • Food is a particularly tricky aspect of life. We need it to live; it is a central actor in our cultural and social lives; it is ubiquitous. It is a pleasure, a necessity, and a siren song of hunger, both physical and emotional.
  • Indulging in food which is not particularly healthy, especially in quantities beyond that needed for health maintenance, is a form of self-sabotage, abuse for the sake of a momentary taste-bud pleasure or emotional distraction. It may also be a form of a rebellion or magical thinking that I am beyond the universal laws of physical balance.
  • I am not willing to be a diet martyr. I am beyond thinking that I can be perfect … or even wanting to be. 
  • Monitoring my blood sugar is an important form of feedback while the scale can be a form of feedback but is not my measure of my self-worth.
  •  I am willing to grow into workable guidelines that allow me to make peace with food and my body.
Defining Sweet Peace Guidelines

With those things in mind, how would I define Sweet Peace? It is a calm and grateful state of emotional and physical balance where food is an important element of health but not a source of emotional support. It is a recognition that sugar in our culture has become kudzu, growing out of control, crowding out healthy foods. I can quit feeding the kudzu.

What are some of the Sweet Peace guidelines that I am willing to follow at least for the next week?

- Create emotionally supportive non-food rituals and celebrations.

- Avoid eating in a moving car.

- Avoid solo sugar … allow it to be a small treat saved for social settings.

- Understand that if I buy it, I will eat it … all of it.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Sweet Peace: Week 1

Forest Sacrament

Today is Solstice, the day the sun returns. It is also Tuesday, a day which gets its name from the Anglo Saxon god of war and is perhaps best known for Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, the day before Lent begins. Normally a day of excess, I’ve chosen it as my day of sweet peace.

Yesterday, my friend Barbara and I finished a significant project: redesigning her peace magazine. We were both pleased with the result and wanted to celebrate. I have been thinking about celebration for several weeks as I worked on the revision of the gratitude journal, looking for ways to celebrate life events without resorting to food or drink. Unsuccessful in that attempt, we opened a bottle of champagne and ate sweet treats as we watched the final episodes of Frankie and Grace.

The excess of sugar, carbs, and alcohol left my stomach almost as disturbed as my mindset. Sleep came slowly and fitful. Around 3:00 a.m., I heard the invitation of Solstice to begin again. Sugar has always been a central character in my drama: a reward, a treat, a temptress, a siren song leading me toward the rocky shores of a toxic desire. 

Sugar toxicity seems to be a scientific fact, and yet it is still the center of our cultural rituals and celebrations. Yesterday convinced me to break this tie, so for the next 52 weeks, I am going on a journey to find non-food/drink replacements for the desire for sweetness. This does not mean replacing sugar with sweeteners. It means finding sweetness in life, indulging in joy and celebration, focusing on gratitude and connection rather than taste bud ecstasy.

I don’t know how to do this so it will be a learning journey. All ideas and suggestions will be appreciated. I found my first piece of advice in my quote file …

MarĂ­a Sabina, Mexican healer and poet states:

“Heal yourself with the light of the sun and the rays of the moon. With the sound of the river and the waterfall. With the swaying of the sea and the fluttering of  birds. 

Heal yourself with mint, neem, and eucalyptus. Sweeten with  lavender, rosemary, and chamomile. Hug yourself with the cocoa bean and a  hint of cinnamon. Put love in tea instead of sugar and drink it looking at the stars. 

Heal yourself with the kisses that the wind gives you and  the hugs of the rain. Stand strong with your bare feet on the ground  and with everything that comes from it. 

Be smarter every day by  listening to your intuition, looking at the world with your forehead. Jump, dance, sing, so that you live happier. 

Heal yourself, with  beautiful love, and always remember ... you are the medicine.”  

Image: Forest Sanctuary ... while wild and colorful life swirls around him, the person in this story focuses only on wine and the table before him. I want to look up and see the rest of life.

Friday, December 17, 2021

Love Letters to My Life #42: Aspiration for 2022 emerges: Just for Joy

(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 joy-filled life. Once a year I get to celebrate both my birth and death days on the same day.)

This week as I left Julian for the five-hour drive to Santa Barbara, I reviewed my newly loaded audio books to see which would be my companion on the drive. I passed by the I-should-learn-this tomes and clicked on Miracle and Wonder, Conversations with Paul Simon, which sounded like fun. 

These conversations focused on Simon’s creative process and the specifics behind the development of some of his most memorable songs. Soon, I was buzzing with delight, coming alive in a Just for Joy moment which had no real purpose, outcome, or expectation. However I was transported, energized, and held in the grip of music and story from an artist I have grown up and old with, a remarkable artist who has invented and reinvented himself for six decades.

For some reason, the word confluence came to mind. When two or more rivers come together, it’s called a confluence. Sometimes life is like that; things flowing together from different places, emerging into one. Heraclitus said you can’t step twice into the same river, wisely observing that the river is always flowing and you are always changing; therefore, it’s not even the same you who’s stepping into the not-same river.

For the past 15 years since Richard died, I’ve traveled in a fast-moving river through isolated, high canyon walls. I’ve seen a lot, done a lot, learned a lot, following the rapid flow of gravity. Now I seem to be merging into a meandering stream, spreading across a flat plain, drifting below leafy cottonwoods, joining new waters. 

As I reinvent myself in this different pace and time, my body feels like it is pulsing, adapting in waves: advancing then pulling back as new meets old; old trying to stay contained, hold its shape, while new whispers invitations and swirls diaphanous, inviting patterns that pull me forward. It's almost like a three-dimensional chess game played by an unseen hand … one old friendship moves to a higher level while a different one is removed from play. An improbable square opens up, revealing a path to a new, possibly game-changing direction while the river behind me turns down a different canyon.

 I’m not sure where this confluence of rivers is taking me but I am grateful for the journey. I’ve never felt in control of my destiny and feel no need to try now. There may be rapids in my future … or I might wind up on a beautiful, sandy beach … or both … or something completely unimagined. 

As 2021 winds down, I want to follow my own internal music, being in harmony and grateful for everything that comes my way, for all that I learn and create, for all the people I connect with, and all the ways I share what I’ve picked up along the way. I want to do more joyful things, feel more joy, share more joy, and help this beleaguered world heal its divisions by nurturing the joy surrounding us.

All of this brought me to my aspiration for 2022: 

Just for Joy.

Thought from 
the Wisdom Cave:

We are just specks on a speck, 

yet each of us specks on this speck 

is a unique, one-of-a-kind original. 

Presumably, living beings on other specks 

are also original and one-of-a-kind. 

Therefore, each of us right here, right now 

is an original, never-before-here and never-to-reappear 

entity in the endless Universe of specks on specks.

So go forth the and enjoy your one life, 

be kind to the unique specks around you

and let joy light up every day

of your life.

Monday, December 6, 2021

An Enchanted Question leads to more questions

In her newsletter, Sam Horn challenged us with the question
of who the author of this quote was.

 My chest hurts and tears fill my eyes. I feel like I have just lost something very dear, someone I was somehow connected to, and yet, until earlier today, I had never heard his name even though I was familiar with one of his songs: eden ahbez.

To make sense of all of this, listen to this song, “Nature Boy” by Nat King Cole.

Click here to listen.

Then think about this comment from Tactictoe 7 years ago

"A song written by a man who lived his adult life outdoors - reportedly under the second L of the HOLLYWOOD sign, no less - a man who refused royalties, preferring to divide them up and hand them to strangers...yes ladies and gentlemen, eden ahbez had the right to write this poem, later adapted into a song...I'm genuinely tearing up to think that there was such a selfless soul out there. You don't hear much about them anymore. But they're out there.

- Should have said in the OP, his name was eden ahbez, and the lack of capitals are intentional, as he didn't believe in capitalising names that weren't righteous IE God."

eden ahbez was part human, part myth ... part adopted-kid from Kansas and part other worldly being drifting in on dandelion fluff, living in a pre-hippies dreamscape. Somewhere along the way, perhaps in a cave, perhaps under the Hollywood sign, he wrote a song. Somehow, in a story worthy of a Horatio Alger novel, he left his song at the feet of the great Nat King Cole and a legend was born. The song became a #1 hit and swept the country and became the crossover song that endeared Nat King Cole to audiences black and white.

This strangely compelling story kept tugging at me and I eventually found an article with another video, a trailer for  a documentary by Brian Chidester,  called As the Wind: the Enchanted Life of Eden Ahbez.

Click here to watch

The article includes a quote from ahbez: “All the money in the world will not change my way of life. Because all the money in the world could not give me the things I already have. Anna and I have learned that nature and a simple life will bring you peace and happiness. We sleep on the ground in sleeping bags in the California mountains and deserts.”

In a different article he is quoted as saying, “I may look crazy but I’m not. Others may not look crazy but they are."

ahbez continued writing and making music, working with many of the greats of his time and died in 1995 at age 86 from a car accident. Just as I was about to stop following this trail, I found a 3-part behind the scenes series on YouTube:

Behind the Scenes of "As the Wind: The Enchanted Life of Eden Ahbez" (Part One)

Behind the Scenes of "As the Wind: The Enchanted Life of Eden Ahbez" (Part Two)
Behind the Scenes of "As the Wind: The Enchanted Life of Eden Ahbez" (Part Three)

And then more:

My chest still aches ... I now know who eden ahbez was and more about his music. I don't, however, know why I feel so much for this person I never met, nor why it feels like grief.

Maybe because he was such an authentic person?
Maybe because he lived a life we all yearn for?
Maybe because he touched a chord that millions of us feel and felt with his line ...

“The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.”

Friday, December 3, 2021

Been There Voices: Susan Larson - Singing while the glue dries

Singing Cobbler

A few days ago, my dog, Paco, chewed through yet another expensive new leash. I sighed and looked at all of the unusable leashes draped over the railing. Then I realized that I could take it to the little shoe repairman whose shop was nearby. Of course, here in my little village of 11,000, everything is close at hand.

When I got to Humberto’s dark, dusty shop, I found him watching something on his phone, with shoes,  belts, and all sorts of leather things stacked up, filling the tiny shop. But the back walls were covered in posters advertising the events where he had performed. Some posters showed a very youthful and handsome man, while others were of a proud older gentleman.

Using my broken Spanish, I explained my dog had chewed through yet another leash and could he sew it up? Smiling at me, he answered in English that he could, and I could just wait. His first step was to apply industrial strength glue, and while we waited for the glue to dry, I asked him if he sang? Putting the leash in the sun to dry, he picked up his guitar and serenaded me, looking into my eyes the entire song.

The glue had dried by then, and he patiently started stitching the leash over and over again, sharing with me the great difficulties local musicians had during the pandemic when everything was shut down. People weren’t getting shoes repaired, and there was no music in his life or money in his pocket. Of course, I bought a CD too.

Reflecting on this later, I realized how different life is outside of the hustle in the USA. Every activity is monitored by computers, from doctors to check out people, Woe be it, to those who can’t keep up. Yes, I am grateful for my simple life here.

No one is going to serenade me back “home” while the glue dries. 

*** Susan Larson, Ajijic, Jalisco, MX, explorer of the edges

Click here for more about Susan and other Been There Voices  


Been There Voices is about us, our lives, our successes and failures, our joys and sorrows, our lessons and our gradual, hard-won wisdom. We have survived and thrived throughout whatever has come our way.

The reasons are arbitrary and not intended to dismiss half of our population, however, this project focuses on the stories of women, and begins with fourteen women, well-polished grains of sand on the beach of life, tumbled by the waves of time until their light shines through, offering their stories, joys and sorrows, to the ocean of wisdom.

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Been There Voices: Becky Ripley - Uprooted Miracles

We recently drove to western Maryland where Mother Nature was in full glory. In my Gratitude Mojo Journal, I gave thanks for ten mini-miracles I experienced that weekend. For these and so much more, I am grateful…


  1. Hillsides of golden trees in mid-wardrobe change
  2. Pine needles strewn on the forest floor, creating a blanket for passers-by
  3. Rushing surge of waterfalls
  4. Cozy-looking lichen-covered rocks, roots and tree trunks
  5. Layer upon layer of distant hills, Maryland’s version of a Jerry Schur painting
  6. An uprooted tree showing off her labyrinth of lacy roots
  7. Six friends professing gratitude for shared time and the gift of each other
  8. Wet leaves underfoot, softening the path with intricate shapes and a range of colors
  9. Families soaking up Mother Nature, where everything sparkled after yesterday’s rain
  10. Blue skies peeking through my surround of autumn tree branches


** Becky RipleyColumbia, MD, lover of life and card making

Click here for more about Becky and other Been There Voices  


Been There Voices is about us, our lives, our successes and failures, our joys and sorrows, our lessons and our gradual, hard-won wisdom. We have survived and thrived throughout whatever has come our way.

The reasons are arbitrary and not intended to dismiss half of our population, however, this project focuses on the stories of women, and begins with fourteen women, well-polished grains of sand on the beach of life, tumbled by the waves of time until their light shines through, offering their stories, joys and sorrows, to the ocean of wisdom.