Wednesday, August 31, 2016

One Afternoon in a Forest

One Afternoon in a Forest

One afternoon I dozed in a dappled grove.
Somewhere between
here and there,
Somewhere between
light and shadow,
Somewhere between
word and image,
I dreamed.

I see a shimmering veil of green and yellow stripes
Flow behind the daughter of water,
Flow like silken hair as she steps onto the bridge,
Flow under the divide between yesterday and tomorrow,
Flow like amber trapped in the eternity of now.

I hear the lonesome creek ripple across pebbles,
sing a snaking song line between tree roots,
sing golden notes across mica-flaked sand bars,
sing hosannahs to the day-night-day journey,
sing not at all of the beginning or end.

I touch a pink petal dropped onto the isle of separation,
drift on the cool, clear water,
drift in lazy circles into a timeless eddy,
drift, warmth hungry, against a sun-lit boulder
drift, unknowing, toward the unseen fall.

I smell sweet peas, tangled and wild,
twirl past permission, boundaries and beliefs,
twirl into riotous, unbridled abundance,
twirl toward some unknown destination,
twirl perfume into the sweetened water.

I taste the conjoining of orange and purple,
wake as passion draws a measureless breath,
wake to the first sweet swelling of creative abandon,
wake to the crack of the boulder of expectation,
wake to the birthing ...
                                       of freedom.

by Joyce Wycoff

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Book Review: The Painted Drum (fiction)

Click here to order.
I've been looking for stories about fascinating women doing interesting things where the love relationship wasn't the only thing going on. This definitely filled that bill. The Baltimore Sun says it is "Her most gloriously lyrical and harshly beautiful book." It is definitely both.

This may not have been my favorite book but I knew from the beginning that I was in the hands of a master story teller and a verbal artist.

I was drawn to the subject and I loved that part of the story even when it is very harsh. And the author's and thinking is captivating. For instance:

"Ravens are the birds I'll miss most when I die. ... If only we did not have to die at all. Instead become ravens. I've watched these birds so hard I feel their black feathers split out of my skin."

I was fascinated by Faye's life as an estate appraiser. The idea of sorting through the detritus of a life is probably not as glamorous as it sounds, but it sounds like a treasure hunt. Faye sounds weary, though, as she says, "All I have is other people's lives."

When she takes an action that is very unlike her normal self, she states, "I have stepped out of rules and laws and am breathing thin, new air." I think all of us have that yearning, once in awhile, to breathe thin, new air.

I had difficulty connecting with Faye's life although I recognized her statement about her complicated relationship with a professor when she states, "I am not inexperienced in love, I just haven't been successful at it ... "

The book is filled with nuggets:
"Today, my art is blackberry jam." "Brush jewelweed and its seeds pop six feet." "The mind is a wolf." "The knowledge was there, in the tiny black eyes sharp as bitter stars.

The Washington Post Book World reviewer Donna Rifkind makes a comment that I think captures the flavor of this book: "Her (Erdrich) fictionalized version of the real Ojibwe tribe is a brilliant creation: it possess the instantly persuasive strangeness of something faithful to life."

The Painted Drum: A Novel (P.S.) Paperback – August 22, 2006 by Louise Erdrich (Author) 4.3 out of 5 stars 128 customer reviews
Amazon writeup: When a woman named Faye Travers is called upon to appraise the estate of a family in her small New Hampshire town, she isn't surprised to discover a forgotten cache of valuable Native American artifacts. After all, the family descends from an Indian agent who worked on the North Dakota Ojibwe reservation that is home to her mother's family. However, she stops dead in her tracks when she finds in the collection a rare drum—a powerful yet delicate object, made from a massive moose skin stretched across a hollow of cedar, ornamented with symbols she doesn't recognize and dressed in red tassels and a beaded belt and skirt—especially since, without touching the instrument, she hears it sound. And so begins an illuminating journey both backward and forward in time, following the strange passage of a powerful yet delicate instrument, and revealing the extraordinary lives it has touched and defined.

Compelling and unforgettable, bestselling author Louise Erdrich's Painted Drum explores the often fraught relationship between mothers and daughters, the strength of family, and the intricate rhythms of grief with all the grace, wit, and startling beauty that characterizes this acclaimed author's finest work.

Useful review:
4.0 out of 5 starsSlow start, but then beautiful writing and storytelling take over
ByKindle Customeron May 3, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The novel starts in the present day and is very sluggish at first. Erdrich assumes too much and does not clearly place the reader in an understandable community -- at first. The same is true of the narrator's living situation. She is clearly a grown woman, living with her mother, carrying on a discreet affair with a neighboring sculptor. But why is it so discreet? This is never made clear. One is far into the book before beginning to understand why mother and daughter are together. Indeed, the answer to that question is central to the plot yet it is answered very abruptly, I thought.

Nonetheless, once the drum is introduced, the writing and the story jump to a whole other level. The stories about the drum are truly magical, mesmerizing. I went from slogging through the first part of the book to not wanting to put it down. The creation of the drum and the way in which it is imbued with the spirit of a young girl are the heart of the book and beautifully written. I highly recommend this book, even though you may have to do some work at the beginning to get into it. 

Book Review: Creating a Life Together (Co-Housing)

Click here to order.
In my travels, I find more and more of us "of a certain age" are talking about ways to build community, live together, support each other ... and avoid the dreaded institutionalized lives that face so many people.
I'm exploring a local co-housing project focused on expressive arts and the organizers insist on all interested parties reading this book.
It is a bit daunting as it rigorously strips the romance away and puts all the financial and organizational challenges in the spotlight.
I continue to be intrigued by the possibilities but am gradually becoming a little more informed about the pros and cons. More to come. 
 Creating a Life Together: Practical Tools to Grow Ecovillages and Intentional Communities Paperback – 2003 by Diana Leafe Christian (Author), Patch Adams (Foreword)
4.8 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

Amazon write up:
Creating a Life Together is the only resource available that provides step-by-step practical information distilled from numerous firsthand sources on how to establish an intentional community. It deals in depth with structural, interpersonal and leadership issues, decision-making methods, vision statements, and the development of a legal structure, as well as profiling well-established model communities. This exhaustive guide includes excellent sample documents among its wealth of resources.
Diana Leafe Christian is the editor of Communities magazine and has contributed to Body & Soul, Yoga Journal, and Shaman’s Drum, among others. She is a popular public speaker and workshop leader on forming intentional communities, and has been interviewed about the subject on NPR. She is a member of an intentional community in North Carolina.

Useful Review:
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As a member of a group of folks currently planning an intentional community, I can testify to the fact that a million and one totally unexpected questions (not to mention the expected ones!) leap up to bewilder anyone thinking about creating an alternative living experiment. There are philosophical questions--what do we stand for (not just what are we against)? what's our vision?--and there are the nitty-gritty questions that have to do with land ownership, trusts, zoning permits, nonprofit status, and so on. Until you're actually in the process, you have no idea of how complicated the creation of an intentional community can be. No wonder fewer than 10% of planned communities actually get off the ground!

That's why Diana Leafe Christian's book is so invaluable. Written by someone who's been part of the intentional community movement for years, and a member of an ecovillage, "Creating a Life Together" could easily be subtitled "everything you always wanted to know about forming an intentional community but were afraid to ask." Especially valuable is its discussion of composing vision statements, thinking through what kind of land is right for your group, dealing with bankers who are likely to be wary of intentional living in the first place, and different strategies for conducting initial meetings and making group decisions--you'd be surprised how foreign consensus-style decision-making is to most of us.

A growing number of folks are searching for meaningful, peaceful, self-sufficient, and eco-friendly lifestyles-in- community that offer alternatives to the consumer-driven world. But building these communities is hard and sometimes perplexing work. Take all the help and advice you can get-and Christian's book is at the top of the list.