Sunday, October 31, 2010

Joy 35/82: Notes on Fate

Today was amazing and inspiring ... from the ancient stories told by Michael Meade while drumming to the life stories told by members of the workshops, to the poetry and shared song.  Meade's message is that each of us comes into this world with a gift (fate) that inclines us in a certain direction and calls us to that activate that gift, to turn it into something we share with the world.  Here are a few thoughts:

"The ungiven gift becomes a weight."  -- Michael Meade. 

Question:  What mistake(s) shaped your life?  Meade tells a story about his aunt who intended to give him a history book for his 13th birthday but accidentally picked the wrong one from the bookstore shelf.  The book turned out to be Edith Hamilton's "Mythology."  When his aunt offered to return it for the right one, Meade refused since he had already been struck by the pictures of the gods and goddesses on the cover.  He devoured the stories and they became part of him.

"Life is lived forward but understood looking backwards."

Hafiz from the "God of Four Words" -- "Come dance with me."

Hafiz:  One regret, dear World, that I am determined
          not to have when I'm lying on my deathbed:
          That I did not kiss you enough.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Joy 34/82: Great Question

Yesterday began with my friend Emily and I talking about living authentically and since we were headed toward a workshop on Fate and Destiny, it wasn't too surprising that more layers of the same onion were peeled back.  During the first session of the workshop, Michael Meade told a story about the Rabbi Zusha who admitted to his friends that he feared death.  When they asked why, he said he wasn't afraid that God would ask him why he wasn't more like Abraham.  He would just say to God, "I am not Abraham."  He said he wasn't afraid that God would ask him why he wasn't more like Moses.  He would just say to God, "I am not Moses."

"What I really fear," he stated, "is that God will ask me why I wasn't more like Zusha."

That story shortened into a most intriguing question that might be asked of us as we exit this life:  Did you become yourself?  Contemplating that question now rather than later might help us live into our true self.

About the image:  There was a beautiful rainbow this morning ... not this one ... this one is in Taos ... but a lovely beginning to the morning nonetheless.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Joy 33/82: All Our Selves

One of my favorite sources of inspiration and information is Bob Genn's twice-weekly newsletter.  Theoretically, it's about art ... and it is a rich source of information about art, art processes, and the business of art ... but it is also about life.  This morning he is talking about procrastination and states that it might not be a character flaw as much as it is a "war of selves," one self wanting to make art while another wants to organize the spice rack.  Knowing our selves and who's running the show can be helpful in our efforts to be more effective.

Here's what Bob says:
Recent studies tell us we need to get to know all our different selves. We need to make a list. FYI, here's mine: Responsible Bob. Loves-painting Bob. Hates-business Bob. Daydreaming Bob. Irresponsible Bob. Strategic Bob. Fooling-around Bob. Birdwatching Bob. Imposter Bob. Loves-writing Bob. Old-car Bob. Analytical-guru Bob. Doesn't-like-to-be-taken-advantage-of Bob. Helpful, loving Bob. Philatelic Bob. Lazy Bob. Leave-me-alone Bob.
Knowing these Bobs helps Bob see when one Bob is caving in to another Bob or pushing another Bob around.
It seems like an interesting exercise in self-acceptance, so I'm going to do it this morning and, if it interests you, invite you to do the same and comment about any insights you have.  I'll post mine tomorrow.

One of the most interesting sections of Bob's newsletters comes in the P.S. and with what he calls "esoterica."  About this topic of procrastination, he states:
PS: "You can't build a reputation on what you are going to do." (Henry Ford) 
Esoterica: The Greeks called it akrasia--"Doing something against one's better judgment." The condition is of great interest and puzzlement to motivators because of its irrationality. Surely we should all be getting positive things done in a steady, rational manner. I've gone blue in the face telling artists to "steadily chip away at your statue." But chipping isn't always steady. There's sweeping up to do. And birdwatching. And cleaning the lake.
About this image:  Why do we expect our lives to run in straight lines?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Joy 32/82: Fate and Destiny

Today I'm off to Santa Barbara for time with a friend and to spend the weekend at a workshop with Michael Meade, a renowned storyteller, author, and scholar of mythology, anthropology, and psychology.  The title of the workshop is "Facing Fate, Finding a Destiny."  I had the opportunity to experience a brief workshop with Michael Meade several years ago and was enchanted by his storytelling (often while drumming), so I am very excited about this weekend.

The description of the workshop includes this interesting distinction between fate and destiny:
Although often treated as interchangeable, fate and destiny are two sides of an archetypal dynamic that shapes each life from within. An old idea identifies fate and the soul as the same thing, for fate includes the persistent limitations and distinct complexes of our psyche as well as the tangled threads of family and ancestry within us. Our destiny is also woven within, appearing as a bright thread of the soul's deepest intention and original purpose in coming to life. 
Fate is there at the beginning as each soul's seeded pattern, and fate is there at the end; fate is purpose seen from the other end of life. Fate appears in the curious twists that define a life and mark it indelibly while destiny is the only way through fate's exacting pattern. What begins as limitation or even fixation becomes the vital plot line of the soul's necessary story. 
Life's genuine callings involve the golden thread of destiny that grants us specific gifts and talents; but the unfolding of fate requires that we also handle our deepest wounds and unhealed traumas. Only in facing our fate can we find our deepest resources and the destiny the soul longs to know.
About the image:  Toad Hall, Santa Barbara Botanical Gardens -- this is one of my favorite Santa Barbara pictures.

Joy 31/82: Reduction of Media Overload

The chaos of my life the past few years has had some unintended consequences ... one joyful outcome has been the reduction in my media involvement.  My addiction to television and newspapers dropped away (although I am still addicted to Grey's Anatomy which I can watch on my computer).  For awhile I worried about becoming too ignorant of world affairs but I find that the important stuff finds its way in.   What doesn't get in is the daily overload of crime and violence.

I didn't really notice the change that much until I started hearing people complaining loudly about being bombarded with political ads.  This morning I leisurely completed my absentee ballot and actually had to look for information to make my decision in several cases.  Few of us believe completely the political ads that come our way anymore ... which is a shame ... so being able to quietly look for objective sources of information was interesting and reminded me to be grateful for our system. It may not be perfect but it is peaceful and it is free.

About the image:  Cycles of Change

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Joy 30/82: My Camera

Our mosaic class visited a tile artist's house today and it almost made me dizzy.  Every place you looked was a work of art ... an exuberance of color, line and form.  The woman who opened her home to us lives her art and reminds me of this quote from David Whyte:
What you can plan
is too small
for you to live.

What you can live
will make plans
for the vitality
hidden in your sleep.

David Whyte, House of Belonging
Engulfed by color and form, I took over 70 photos in about an hour and could have taken three times as many except there were so many people walking around, I couldn't get clear shots.  Several years ago I started carrying a small but high-quality point-and-shoot camera with me everywhere I go.  On days like today, it gives me great joy to be able to easily capture the beauty and inspiration that comes my way.

About the image:  Shower ... just one example of her tile work throughout her house.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Joy: 29/82: Prayer

Prayer is powerful and because of its power, I wonder about it ... how to pray, what to pray for.  Many years ago, a friend of mine was struck by an aneurism at age 42.  He was one of the healthiest people I knew, a loving husband and father, and a bright light to his friends and community.  I got the news while traveling and prayed feverishly for his recovery all through the night.  He survived in a limited, severely damaged state and lived that way for 25 years.  It made me wonder if my prayers had been for the right thing.

I have recently joined a church community that believes in the power of prayer and often extends prayer for healing of all types.  It has refreshed my concerns and I wrote the following from a purely personal perspective in an attempt to get some clarity about what prayers I would want from others.

Prayers for Me

Please ...

Do not pray for my body to be healed
For we know not what gifts this illness brings.

Do not pray for abundance to flow my way
For we know not what lessons poverty offers.

Do not pray for my relationship
For we know not what joy solitude might bring.

Please pray only for my peace of mind,
for my openness of heart and
my growing understanding of myself as part of the One.


I guess it all boils down to "Thy will be done."  But, then, isn't God's will always going to be done?  Here's another, probably better thought out perspective:

12 Reasons to Pray and 12 Things to Pray For
By Living Life Abundantly

Reasons to Pray:

1.  It encourages others.
2.  It reminds you of spiritual values.
3.  It gives hope.
4.  It helps you feel better.
5.  It allows you to let go of situations.
6.  It provides comfort.
7.  It relaxes you and reduces anxiety.
8.  It builds faith.
9.  It deepens character.
10. It broadens your perspective.
11. It brings you closer to God.

Things to Pray For:
1.   For a growing relationship with God.
2.   For positive relationships with your family members.
3.   For energy and enthusiasm for your work or career.
4.   For wisdom to make right and wise decisions.
5.   For your service to your community and/or church.
6.   For the special needs of your family and friends.
7.   For the spiritual lives of your church leaders and congregation.
8.   For wisdom for our government leaders.
9.   For the moral integrity of today’s young people.
10. For the safety of those serving in our armed forces.
11. For a lasting peace among peoples and nations.
12. For the opportunity to be a blessing to someone today.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Joy 28/82: Internet

Back in the dark ages (1996), a friend came to me and told me I just had to have a website and I had to send out an email newsletter.  I asked him why but his tech-oriented answer didn't make sense to me so he finally just said "trust me."  He was a really smart guy so I did.  My first, light-hearted weekly email message called, "Wake-up, Brain ... it's Monday again!" had over 2,000 subscribers in just a few days.  I know that's peanuts these days but back then, it was pretty darn cool.  Within a few months, the list was up to 15,000 subscribers and I was a believer.

It's hard to remember those days when people talked about all the stuff that would be on the Internet "someday."  Now, hardly a day goes by without my checking Wikipedia for some lost or never-had bit of information, reading reviews on any contemplated purchase, googling areas of interest, checking in with friends on facebook ... or finding out the time of the new facebook movie.  There's an odd swing in the way I feel about the Internet ... on one hand, I feel smarter because I can check facts and scratch my curiosity itch instantly ... on the other hand, I feel infinitely ignorant as I continuously discover a wider and more amazing world out there. 

It does make me wonder if our collective intelligence is rising ... even if our collective wisdom may be lagging behind.  Will the Internet make it less likely that we will continue making war or indulging in our passion for greed or power?  Or will it simply provide a faster way of accomplishing all of the above.  The larger questions aside, I love the Internet even when it makes me feel dumb.

About this image:  It has been raining here the past two days and I needed to look at something sunny so I pulled out all my sunflower pictures from Colorado.  I do miss those fields of sunflowers.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Joy 27/82: Beautiful Books

In today's world when electronic books are outselling paper books, it's a challenge to remember the days when books were created slowly, by hand, by the finest graphic artists of the time. But, the pendulum of change continuously swings and two recently published books make me wonder if the plethora of mass-produced, minimally designed books has created a pull back toward beauty and ornamentation. Here are the two examples of this pull and I would love to hear about others.

I Wonder by Marian Bantjes -- this beautiful book is part philosophical musings, part graphic design manifesto. It is a joy to touch, to feel and to sink into ... slowly ... with wonder. Bantjes states: "Every single illustration is new, created for the book, and the content is not about my work (i.e. not a monograph), but instead combines graphic art with the written word, and lends my own contemplative but frequently amused voice to my observations of the world."

The graphics are whimsical (some made with macaroni), densely repetitive and incomprehensible (there are 10 pages called "Secrets" just waiting for a code-breaker), personal (several pages from her mother's daily journals which the family called "Mum's Brains," and reverently irreverent (in a section on Santa, she simplifies him to just a red triangle and a green square).

The Red Book by Carl Jung -- this anxiously awaited book written and illustrated by the Swiss psychiatrist is one of the most amazing books in existence. Begun as a journal in 1913 after a falling out with Sigmund Freud and as a way to confront the disturbing pre-war images that he was experiencing, every page, with its calligraphic writing and highly symbolic paintings, is a complete work of art based on his inner images. Biographer Barbara Hannah, who was close to Jung later in his life, said Jung "made it a rule never to let a figure or figures that he encountered leave until they had told him why they had appeared to him."

About the Red Book, Jung said:
The years… when I pursued the inner images, were the most important time of my life. Everything else is to be derived from this. It began at that time, and the later details hardly matter anymore. My entire life consisted in elaborating what had burst forth from the unconscious and flooded me like an enigmatic stream and threatened to break me. That was the stuff and material for more than only one life. Everything later was merely the outer classification, scientific elaboration, and the integration into life. But the numinous beginning, which contained everything, was then.
The N.Y. Times calls it the "holy grail of the unconscious and states:
This is a story about a nearly 100-year-old book, bound in red leather, which has spent the last quarter century secreted away in a bank vault in Switzerland. The book is big and heavy and its spine is etched with gold letters that say “Liber Novus,” which is Latin for “New Book.” Its pages are made from thick cream-colored parchment and filled with paintings of otherworldly creatures and handwritten dialogues with gods and devils. If you didn’t know the book’s vintage, you might confuse it for a lost medieval tome.
Here is a brief video about the making of The Red Book.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Joy 26/82: Artists

One of the things I truly love about artists is that they see the world in different ways.  Here's an example:

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Joy 25/82: California

It's official!  I am once again a full-fledged, registered-voter-driver-tax paying Californian.

I fell in love with California when I was 22 and my husband, who had just returned from Vietnam, and I moved to Oceanside to finish his Marine Corps service.  What a magical place ... palms that looked like giant pineapples, stick trees with red bows (coral trees), eucalyptus that sometimes smelled like a cold remedy and other times like a cat fight, fog and foghorns and, of course, the ocean, the mountains, the desert, the rivers and lakes. 

We had a tiny place on the river bottom and quickly found out that "it never rains in sunny California" was a bit of a lie.  It flooded us twice that first year ... not that we cared a lot ... the furniture wasn't ours and all we had to do was carry out the ugliest, heaviest-when-wet braided rug in the world and sweep out the mud.  The river bottom gave us endless paths for the daredevil dirt biking we did back then.  Ahhh, youth!

I still love California ... not only the diversity of its geography but the wide diversity of its peoples.  Our diversity is often a challenge ... teachers, business owners and social services have to deal with a baffling array of languages and the political spectrum runs from the far right wackos to the far left nut cases.  But, somehow it creates the most intriguing and stimulating stew and I am delighted to be back.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Joy 24/82: Seeing

Today was the third class on the book Secret Splendor and we focused on seeing Reality.  The author states:  "If the universe is infinite, it is likewise changeless and eternal, therefore we do not see it as it is."

Years ago, I was at a shopping mall and noticed a crowd of people around a vendor cart.  I went to see what was so interesting and found people looking at "magic 3D pictures."   You probably remember them ... they looked completely abstract until you looked at them in a certain way and then a hidden picture would emerge.  Or, at least that's what they told me.  I looked and looked but couldn't see anything except the abstract picture.  I went back to the cart time after time and still couldn't see what they were talking about.  I finally decided it was a case of mass hysteria and that there really wasn't anything there.

But, one day I was in a book store and found a book of postcard-sized examples and an instruction about bringing it up to your nose and then pulling it slowly away.  I tried it and suddenly a sail boat emerged out of the abstraction.  I was stunned ... and humbled.  That became a defining experience for me as I realized that there were undoubtedly many things I couldn't see and many ways to be blind.  Scientifically we know that there are ranges of light and sound waves that we cannot see or hear so it seems entirely possible that what we perceive as "reality" might, indeed, be very different.

It reminds me of a service station on U.S. 395 that runs up the Owens Valley on the eastern side of the Sierra.  It was always one of our favorite stopping spots because it had a tube mounted on a pipe and when you looked through it, you could see which peak was Mt. Whitney.  What if we are all looking through a fixed tube and outside that limited view, there is a Universe that we never see at all?  The "tube" is the constraints of our human perceptions.  My dog smells things I cannot smell and hears sounds I cannot hear.  In some way her Universe is as incomprehensible to me as the possibility of a "changeless, timeless, infinity" that questions everything I think and believe about "reality."

About the image:  View of the Sierra from the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest.  I didn't have my tube with me so I don't know if Mt. Whitney is in this view or not.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Joy 23/82: Health

In mosaic class today there was quite a long discussion about arthritis (which half the class seems to suffer from significantly) and the remedies people were taking (oil of evening primrose seemed to be the favorite).

I may not have been born with a silver spoon in my mouth (a really odd metaphor if you stop and think about it), but was apparently standing in the right line when they handed out healthy genes.  I've generally appreciated my health but, now that I see others contending with the lack of it, I remind myself of how fortunate I am every day.

In looking for quotes about health, I found this one:
“In health there is freedom. Health is the first of all liberties.”
-- Henri Frederic Amiel quotes (Swiss writer known for his masterpiece Journal intime, 1821-1881)
"The first of all liberties ... " I had to ponder that for awhile.  And, even looked up the definition ... here are the pertinent ones from
3.  freedom from control, interference, obligation, restriction, hampering conditions, etc.; power or right of doing, thinking, speaking, etc., according to choice.
4.  freedom from captivity, confinement, or physical restraint:
I agree with the statement for the most part but every once in a while I think about Stephen Hawking who has reached the ranks of the greatest physicists of all time in spite of being severely disabled by ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) which began when he was 21.  Hawking definitely did not have the "first of all liberties" so it makes me wonder if the first liberty might be our attitude and our determination.

Regardless of whether or not it's the first liberty, I am immensely grateful for my extremely good health.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Joy 22/82: Sleep

While I was sleeping, a passing spider
wove a strand of web from the finial
to the edge of the lamp shade
where it glows with a collection of dust
as I sit across the room reading my book.

Where did he ... she? ... go?
And why just that one strand?
Did his telephone ring?
A friend inviting him to lunch,
making him forget his intended chore?

While I was sleeping, a passing spider
called and left his card,
and now that I am awake, I wonder
who else visits in those dark hours
when my awareness visits the cave of sleep.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Joy 21/82: Soup

Right now the foothills are confused.  With green grass sprouting and leaves falling it doesn't know whether it's spring or fall.  But, there is just enough crispness in the air, that, at least for today, I'm going with fall and making the first pot of soup for the season.  I love the color and smells and abundance of a big pot of soup.  Enough for today; enough for tomorrow; enough to freeze for chilly days when I don't feel like cooking or share with a neighbor.

Something to keep in mind:  our forefathers did without sugar until the 13th century, without coal fires until the 14th, without buttered bread until the 16th, without tea or soup until the 17th, without gas, matches or electricity until the 20th.  (From, soup quotes)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Joy 20/82: Stand For

I love it when things you don't expect come from places you wouldn't expect them.  Copyblogger is all about blogging but it somehow manages to weave a healthy dose of life philosophy into the mix.  Yesterday's post included this quote from Madonna:  I stand for freedom of expression, doing what you believe in, and going after your dreams.

I'm not exactly a Madonna fan but I love her statement and think we should all be able to state so clearly and succinctly what we stand for.  So I decided to write my "stand for" statement.  Here it is (elaborated on, of course) and I'd love to hear yours.

I stand for joy ... it is our divine gift, the creative life force breathing through each one of us. 
It is there when we love and laugh and learn.
It is there when we sing and dance and play.
It is there when we share and listen and pray.
It is also there when we weep and falter and fail.

In the midst of loss, there is the joy of having loved.
In the midst of defeat, there is the joy of having tried.
In the midst of shame, there is the joy of being human.
in the midst of error, there is the joy of learning.
In the midst of anger, there is the joy of passion.
In the midst of fear, there is the joy of abundance.
In the midst of hunger, there is the joy of desire.
In the midst of illness, there is the joy of compassion.
In the midst of disaster, there is the joy of sharing.

In violence, there is anger without joy.
In greed, there is hunger without joy.
In hate, there is self-pride without joy.

In war, violence, greed and hate form a joyless team.
Madonna also says:  I am my own experiment. I am my own work of art.
Maybe I am a fan.

About the image:  Detail from a Niki de Saint Phalle mosaic.

Joy 21/82: TED Talks

One of the most amazingly generous offerings on the Internet is TED Talks, short informative, inspiring videos from the TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) Conference.  The conference itself is very expensive but videos from the conference are offered to all of us for free.  Billed as "ideas worth spreading," these short talks come from some of the most interesting thinkers in the world.

The video below is just one example of the incredible wealth you can find there.  Be sure to watch this to the end ... it is awesome and humbling.  Are we truly the smartest kid on the block?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Joy 19/82: Curiosity

Maureen at Writing without Paper has a series of posts that I love.  Titled "Facts, New or Not," it follows Maureen's trail of curiosity and almost always piques my own.  This week she introduced me to Gregory Smith who entered college at age 10 and was first nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize at 12.  This prodigy wants to help the world and already shows great wisdom. Here's a piece of his writing:

by Gregory Smith 
When I approach a door and find that it is locked
or being slammed in my face,
I do not stand there and pound upon it.
I step back
and examine the hinges, evaluate the frame,
and measure the keyhole.
There is no door that is locked forever;
however, it is up to us to find the portal of entry. 
There are several choices:
  1. Knock it down
  2. Bang on it until they surrender begrudgingly
  3. Beg, cry, and plead for someone to help
  4. Sit and wait for the day the door opens
  5. Go build another door and leave it open for others to enter 
I choose to build another door so all may enter!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Joy 18/82: Real Generosity

"Real generosity toward the future lies in giving all to the present."       
-- Albert Camus

I love this quote and would love to hear how each of you "give all to the present."

About the image:  Woman dancing on the beach, Sarasota, Fl.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Joy 17/82: Rock

In each of the dozens of times I've moved in my adult life, a ridiculous number of rocks have come with me.  The house that I almost bought ... the one that was a guaranteed money pit ... had the most beautiful rock outcropping.  I wanted those rocks. 

Now, I have discovered the most amazing thing ... I can buy rocks ... big rocks ... big, beautiful rocks.  I went to Oakhurst Rocks today to look for flagstone and fell in love with a giant rock ... it's quartz with veins of crystals running through it.  They can't even weigh it but know that it's more than 5,000 pounds (the scale limit) and about the size of a small truck ... without wheels. 

They will sell it to me ... and deliver it for about what a low-end iPad costs.  I want this rock ... but where to put it ... hmmmm ... it's not like you can just stick it in the corner of the yard.

About the image:  this is the flagstone I'm thinking about for the patio ... actually a mixture of two.  It reminds me of the canyon lands in Utah.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Joy 16/82: Guardian Angels

My backyard is destroyed ... deliberately.  It was a chaotic hodge-podge; now it's a muddy wasteland.  There were five different surfaces ... ugly hand-made brick, concrete, pea gravel, river rock and, in the middle, a square of red pavers under a free standing pergola that had no rhyme or reason.  Oh and a prize candidate for the ugly fountain contest.

My first thought was to just bulldoze everything and start over, but then reason took over so I started taking things out.  A raised garden, an apple tree with no room to grow, a small pine tree that would take over the yard if it did grow, all the ground surfaces.  I thought I'd be able to stop there, but, no, the pergola has to go and also the patio overhang.  Next week the bull dozer comes after all.

But, the fun part is trying to figure out what to make out of the blank canvas that's left.  Conversations with several landscape people have made my head spin ... deck, flagstone, pavers, french drains, retaining walls, etc. etc.  But tomorrow I get to go shopping for rocks ... how cool.

Probably the most joyous part of this is that it is the only thing that really needs to be done to this house.  The one I tried to buy, the one I thought I was in love with, the one the bank owned and refused to negotiate on, had a list of projects like this that would have kept me busy, and broke, for years.  Every once in awhile I just say a quiet thank you to the Universe, or my Guardian Angels, for having more sense than I had.

About the image:  This is one of the before pictures ... it doesn't give you a complete sense of how jumbled it was.  We'll see if it looks better when everything is done.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Joy 15/82: Walking

Not what we have, but what we enjoy, constitutes our abundance.   
-- John Petit-Senn

If that quote is true, I am truly blessed.  I love to walk and I get to do it every day.  This morning was one of those incredibly perfect fall days that just make every cell in your body sing.  Missy and I went for our "long" walk which we haven't been able to do for awhile because of the rain and too many other things going on.  The combination of the cool morning air and the bright warm sun made walking along the creek through the oak and the pines a true joy.

About the image:  This isn't where I walk ... it's actually a path in Colorado.  I love taking pictures of paths but haven't taken one of my daily walks yet.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Joy 14/82: Photoshop

"Inside everyone is a great shout of joy waiting to be born."  -- David Whyte

I love playing with Photoshop.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Joy 13/82: Secretariat

Like most people, I love underdog movies.  In the case of Secretariat, the underdog isn't just the horse, it's the owner, trainer and jockey.  What a joyous story about believing in something enough to risk everything for it.  Even though we know how the races turned out, the movie makes each one of them a heart-stopper.  And, when Secretariat does the impossible in the last race of the Triple Crown, the entire audience was in awe at the power of heart and determination. 

This may be the best feel-good movie of the year.

About the image:  From a wall in Santa Fe.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Joy 12/82: Secret Splendor

Yesterday I started a new 6-week class called "Secret Splendor" based on the book of the same title by Charles Earnest Essert.  The first surprise was that the homework included meditating 40-minutes per day, ideally in two 20-minute sessions.  I've been wanting to develop a regular meditation practice but didn't know it was going to be part of this class.  Ask and ye shall receive.

The second surprise came when I started reading the book.  At my age, with as much as I've read through the years, not all that much surprises me ... but this book did in the very first pages.  Perhaps it was such a surprise because I'm also in a small spiritual book club and we're reading Buddhism Plain & Simple by Steve Hagen.  In that book we are focusing on impermanence and the constancy of change.  Secret Splendor states that at the Soul level, there is no change.  Essert states:
"The possibility of change is precluded by the very nature of infinity;  it could not become less, nor more, nor could it undergo any kind of a transformation since the "less" and the "more" and all other possibilities are contained within it."
I have spent an interesting few days since I first read this trying to comprehend how these two relate to each other and the closest I can come is two metaphors.  The first is the Ultra Deep Field experiments of the Hubble telescope.  In 1996 and again in 2004, astronomers pointed the Hubble telescope at "nothing" ... at two empty points in the solar system.  Both times the images that developed after 10 days revealed thousands of galaxies that were previously unknown.  My guess is that, with even more powerful telescopes, we might point at one of the empty spots in those pictures and find more galaxies even further away.  Infinity truly means infinite, without end. (The video below is the very interesting story of the Hubble experiments.)

The other metaphor is a bit of leaf falling on a pond.  The bit is so small that it doesn't even make a ripple yet to a mosquito larvae, it might seem like a tsunami.  We are such small bits in the infinitude.  While our world seems tossed and turned with change, the infinity, the Core of Being, does not change, is not changeable.

I think this is going to be an interesting class.

About the image:  This photo reminds me of all the splendor we don't see because we're looking in the wrong direction.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Joy 11/82: My Bench, Part 2

It rained.  A lot.  And, I learned something about one of the materials I was using on my bench ... it's not waterproof.  It was 3/4 done; now it's not begun.  I had to scrape everything off, clean each tiny tile and piece of glass and count the lessons I had learned.

When I began this bench, it was just a practice project.  I didn't really think it would turn into much ... but then it started to get pretty cool (see the "before the rains" picture below) and I got attached to it.  I was looking forward to seeing it done and looking beautiful in the back yard.  But, I was also having a few niggling thoughts about the way I was doing it.  I knew I hadn't prepped it as well as I should have and there were a few places where I wished I would have done it differently.  So, now I get to start over.  I also know how to do it so I can keep it out of the rain.

It was nice to go to mosaic class yesterday so I could get the sympathy I wanted and the advice I needed.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Joy 10/82: Nirvana

Why can't this be Nirvana?

There is suffering and there is joy.  That is reality.  And the reality is that everything changes and all suffering and joy is the creation of our own perception.  I am in a particularly joyful period of my life ... yet some people might perceive my life as suffering ... and I know that "this, too, shall pass."  Life may not always be this joyful but I am at peace with that reality.  The challenges of life have not passed away ... there will be more to come but I feel more equipped than ever to accept whatever shows up. 

I am part of a small, spiritual book club and we are reading, at a very slow pace, Buddhism, Plain & Simple by Steve Hagen.  The reading pace and the clarity of the writing give me a lot of time to contemplate and I recently wondered if this is Nirvana.  That seems like an outrageously arrogant and ignorant thought ... and, yet .... 

I've always thought of Nirvana as something like Heaven ... if not exactly a place, at least a fixed state of being ... a state to strive for and, perhaps, some day achieve.  But, if everything is impermanent, perhaps Nirvana is also.  Perhaps it's possible to have "Nirvana moments," to gain it, lose it, gain it again and lose it again.  Perhaps as we experience it even for a fleeting moment, it reveals its face and tells us it is truly possible so that we keep walking, even in baby steps, toward its call.  Sometimes I feel such a deep calm that my entire body feels hushed ... and I wonder if this is Nirvana and in that moment of wondering, the calm is broken like a small pebble dropped into a pool.
Wikipedia says:  The Buddha described Nirvāna as the perfect peace of the state of mind that is free from craving, anger and other afflicting states (kilesas). It is also the "end of the world"; there is no identity left, and no boundaries for the mind. The subject is at peace with the world, has compassion for all and gives up obsessions and fixations.

In the Dhammapada, the Buddha says of Nirvāna that it is "the highest happiness". This happiness is an enduring, transcendental happiness integral to the calmness attained through enlightenment or bodhi, rather than the happiness derived from impermanent things. The knowledge accompanying Nirvāṇa is expressed through the word bodhi.  It carries further connotations of stilling, cooling, and peace.
About the image:  After a winding drive on the backroads as part of the Sierra Art Trails, I was greeted by this statue by Norma Rogers

Monday, October 4, 2010

Joy 9/82: Reflections

This weekend as I was traveling from art studio to art studio, I came across a bank of solar panels.  The sun lit up patches of blue frost that were truly beautiful.  I had never seen solar panels up close so I decided to capture the beauty but the angle of the sun made it impossible to take just the panel without getting my shadow in it.  I kept trying and finally just decided to make it a self-portrait.

Later I thought ... what a metaphor.  Any time we do an act of creation, it is a self-portrait.  It's impossible to not put our "self" into what we create.  Things like this just make me laugh.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Joy 8/82: Artists

Artists see things differently.  This weekend is Sierra Art Trails and it's a chance to see new parts of the foothills, explore artists' studios and see things from their perspective. 

Yesterday I followed the trail and met many artists including:
-- a bird lover who honors them by picking up their dead, scanning them and turning the images into luminous, detailed portraits.
-- a metal sculptor who creates metal art pieces including a life-sized elephant and says he has never bought material for his art ... everything he makes is from trashed metal
-- a painter who does "live paintings" at weddings, capturing the essence of the celebration and all of the guest names on treasured canvas
-- an acrylic sculptor who makes lights that paint an entire wall with reflected color
-- a sculptor whose life is her canvas ... everywhere you look in her surroundings "found objects" have become art.  Empty picture frames hang from trees, a tractor seat is the body of a turkey, paint can lids form a colorful collage and a tree stump is a canvas for bright metal flowers.
Inspiration and awe overflow.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Joy 7/82: Roommates

I haven't had a "roommate" since college but I am relearning the joy of comraderie without complication.  Lynne and I have been working associates and friends for over twenty years.  We wrote a book together, went kayaking in Belize together and when I was at loose ends about where to go after Arkansas, she invited me to try the Boulder area.  Later, when I realized that the pull back to California was too great to resist, she decided to help me move.

While I was living alone in Colorado, people kept giving me the same great advice:  learn to live alone without being lonely.  And I did ... pretty much.  I kept busy, jumped into a lot of activities, met some great people and was no longer actively "lonely" but I missed having someone to share stories with and the feeling of being connected.   So, when Lynne took one look at these foothills, the lakes, the milder climate, weighed it against her failing relationship and decided that this was where she wanted to be, too, I was delighted.

Both of us have lived life as a compromise (as all relationships require, good and bad) and are now committed to supporting each other in "radical selfishness" and becoming as authentically who we are as much as possible.  We have a lot in common ... photography, kayaking, spiritual beliefs ... and a lot of separate interests that take us in different directions.  We have few expectations other than sharing our living space and enjoying life and the beauty of this part of the world with our three dogs and two cats.

I have always believed in the "forever commitment" of marriage and I did that for almost 40 years.  Now I'm content to savor one day at a time and am blessed to have a caring, supportive friend and roommate to share it with ... without the pressure of that forever commitment.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Joy 6/82: Choice

While Missy and I were on our walk this morning, I started thinking about choice.  The choices that brought me to this place I feel so connected to, the choices, good and bad ... and even the ones made by others ... that are reflected in my life today.  The freedom to make choices is a part of our lives that we often take for granted while a great swath of the world lives with far fewer choices.

As my inbox fills up with requests for contributions for the upcoming election campaign, I think about the choices that face us as individuals and as a country.  The tea party explosion has given us even more choices, more options to think about and consider.  And, as I think about their cry for less government, I walk on a paved road (government), pass banks of mailboxes (government), think about the incredible beauty of Yosemite National Park (government), breathe clean air (government), in a land unmarred by war on our own soil (government), and head back to my cozy home paid for in part by my Social Security check (government).

Like most of us, I don't like paying taxes and often think that government policies are screwy.  But, all in all, we are blessed to live in this country ... it is far from perfect ... but it's my home and it's my choice to live here and pay the taxes necessary to keep it functioning in a way that keeps us safe and free.  It's also my choice to support everyone else in their choices ... because freedom was one of our first choices as a people.  But, as we enter into this season of contention and strife, wouldn't it be nice if we would all choose to listen ... with courtesy and civility ...  to all the possibilities and then make the best choices for our collective future and the future of those who follow us and who will live with the choices we make today?

I often think about what the world will be like when my granddaughters (9 and 5) grow up and wonder whether they will have the same abundance of choices we have enjoyed.