Tag Archives: life

Water, Words, & Grief

The simple sentences from these grieving parents touched me like poems. From The Daily 360° from nytimes.com

Miguel:
I’ve had a lot of problems
on the water and the land.
I recently lost my daughters…
I used to think only of fish when I came out here.
Now I see my daughter’s faces in the water.

Juana:
This beach is my home.
I leave my problems in the sea.
I watch my husband fish
and we support each other to leave everything behind.
I focus on my work and it relaxes me.
I’ll never leave this beach
because I forget about my problems here.

Miguel:
I live for the water
and I try to move forward.
There is no other way.

A Whole New Life

I’ve been posting here less often for a very good reason: after five years of under-employment, I landed a job.

NOAA logoDream Job

I’ve gone to work for a company called Earth Resources Technology, a prime contractor for NOAA.

The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration is under the Department of Commerce. That’s because the agency’s sections, oceans and weather, are vital to the American economy.  Because of this, I have high hopes that NOAA will escape the worst of EPA’s fate.

Word Games

Alas, we learned today that the word “science” has been removed from EPA’s mission statement. It find it confusing that people can decide that the tradition of scientific method, patiently carried out over centuries, can suddenly be discounted.

Restoring Harmony

I’m working in the Restoration Center, part of NOAA Fisheries division, whose mission is restoring damaged wetlands and marine environments. Below is an article of the sort I hope to be creating in the near future.

Six Things to Know About Coastal Habitat Restoration

For instance, restoring habitat not only improves the fishing, it creates over 15 jobs for every $1 million invested.

So expect more musings on things of a watery nature from me. From Harsen’s Island, Michigan, to the Everglades, from the Great Dismal Swamp to Piscataway NP (where I live), the wet places have always had my heart.

By the way, I heard the first Spring Peepers yesterday!

 

February Highs & Lows

It’s just past Imbolc, candlemas, Groundhog Day. The time we witches dwell on the quiet of winter, halfway to spring equinox, when the fields lie quiet beneath the frozen ground.

swirlingearthweatherMost of my life, in New York and Michigan, winter arrived and laid down it’s coating of snow and ice, transforming the world. This year in southern Maryland, Winter and Spring are doing a see-saw dance, from frosty to balmy as the temperature swings from the teens to the 70s.

My body can’t help but respond with joy to the warming temps. Physical happiness arises as I relax outside the bookstore, comfortable on a bench without my coat, absorbing the sunlight. The animals can’t either; I hear the hawks chittering their nesting talk to each other in a nearby tree.

But my mind knows it’s not right. There should be a thick blanket of white insulating the ground. The fallow season may feel harsh, but it’s been the rhythm of life for millennia. That wintry state has its own pleasures, after you’ve hauled the wood and stoked the fire.

vincent-van-gogh-kylva%cc%88ja%cc%88

So my unease isn’t just north or south, past or present, but Rural or Urban.

The rhythm of ancient life is recorded deep within me. I feel out-of-sorts when I can’t heat my home with fire, nor draw my water from nearby. Without a garden, fruit trees and wildlife I feel incomplete.

There’s a lovely song for this moment, when the seeds that feed us unfurl quietly below the ground, that I love. It’s a round:

Small brown seed
Deep dark earth 
Hungry for the light of fire
Driven by a deep desire
Grow, grow. (Repeat)

The Unknown Artist that Everyone Loves

Despite it’s tragic ending, most of us of a certain age remember with great fondness the Disney film Bambi.

Originally released in 1942, it’s considered one of the finest examples of animation from the 20th century.

bambi_tyrus_wongYet the artist responsible for the backgrounds, the atmosphere, the ‘look and feel’ of the film is still largely unknown. Tyrus Wong, 104, died Friday Dec. 30th, yet another remarkable artist to pass on in 2016. You’ve probably never heard of him, however, due to the lack of acclaim offered to Chinese Americans of his generation.

Wong worked as a staff artist in Hollywood beginning in the 1930s. He created storyboards and concept art for both animated and live-action films, many of which are  beautiful paintings in their own right.

bn-hn773_bambi1_j_20150323042621

Born in China in 1910 he arrived at Angel Island at age 9 and was promptly detained under the Chinese Exclusion Act. Eventually he was aloud to join his father. It took until 2001 until Wong received  recognition for his remarkable work.

Fortunately for him, and us, he lived a long and creative life.

Read more about Tyrus Wong, here:

 

Harvest, Gratitude & Balance

We’ve crossed the Equinox into the autumn season, and Friday last my Circle gathered to celebrate Harvest, Gratitude and Balance. As the day and night became equals we honored the bounty in our lives, the miracle of our journey through time, and the harvest on our tables in the following feast.

Fall Equinox or Mabon is one of the celestial holidays follow the seasons on which the lives of our ancient ancestors depended.  But, how ever far removed from our ‘modern’ life, This is still the ground truth: the elements must cooperate for the miracle of growth and life to occur. I bless the organic farmers and sustainable agriculture movement for their life-giving work.

In the ancient stories, the tale of Persephone journeying to the underworld uses a Mother’s grief to express the shriveling of the lush greens of summer. Her daughter has gone down into the Underworld taking her Maiden’s love with her.

Yet it is ultimately the third of the Triple Goddesses that rule this time: the Crone. This chant, which repeats and repeats, describes her transits thus:

She cuts the cane and gathers the grain, the fruits of Fall surround her.
Her bones grow old in Wintery cold, she wraps her cloak around her.
For she will bring the buds in the Spring, and dance among the flowers,
Her kisses are sweet in Summery heat, she sings in leafy bowers. (repeat)

to the tune of traditional English ballad  Nonesuch; lyric by Hope Athearn

These days the Witch of pop culture is appearing everywhere in preparation for Hallowmas, Samhain, Holloween, Tous Sant. I think the trope of the ugly, wicked witch describes how our culture feels today about the aging and aged woman!

But in that lies in a cruel misunderstanding of the dance of light and dark in our World: all life cycles. Our Priestess reminded us that we’re not just spining around the sun, we are spiraling through the universe, creating incredible energy as we go.

We spiral through space singing  of youth and age,  dancing between fear and joy, moving from innocence to ignorance to wisdom.

croneHow would the might oak from acorn grow, if the tree and her leaves never fell to rot and enrich the forest floor? The mushrooms wouldn’t grow, the worms no shade and the robins no breakfast. Life cannot continue without the death and decay that creates rich composted soil to receive it. Life cannot arise without the dark womb to nurture it.

Six months of light, and six months of dark.
The earth goes to sleep, and later wakes again.
O dark mother, we honor you this night,
And dance in your shadows.
We embrace that which is the darkness,
And celebrate the life of the Crone.
Blessings to the dark goddess on this night, and every other.

 

The Monarch’s Incredible Journey

The iconic Monarch butterfly certainly made an impression on my young self. Late in August we’d be out floating on the pristine marsh rivers of Ontario, picnicking after a swim, and in the balmy afternoon breeze a flutter of orange would catch my eye, brilliant against the teal green water.

In those days I didn’t realize the Monarchs traveled from Canada to Mexico on their monumental migration. I was impressed enough it would head out across the 30-mile span of Lake St. Clair.

Visit the Forest Service page to get all the details about their incredible journey:

Eastern North American monarchs fly south using several flyways then merge into a single flyway in Central Texas. It is truly amazing that these monarchs know the way to the overwintering sites even though this migrating generation has never before been to Mexico!

Monarchs are Threatened

These beautiful and inspiring creatures are facing multiple survival challenges from commercial agriculture, deforestation and climate change.

What you can do:

•Create a habitat in your own garden and in your community. Plant milkweed (Asclepias L), the only species that Monarch caterpillars will cocoon upon. Invite and protect the flashy caterpillars and their homesand you can enjoy the Monarchs rebirth in late summer.

•Support the work of National Wildlife Federation and other organizations that have habitat projects, protecting and replacing lost habitat along highway corridors and agricultural lands.

Support World Wildlife’s efforts to preserve Mexican forests by supporting alternatives to clear cut lumbering.

DO NOT USE PESTICIDES

Please do not use pesticides or herbicides in your garden or lawn. These chemicals have a devastating effect on not only monarchs but all pollinators, the creatures that make our food grow. For assistance with organic gardening practises click HERE.

And, tell me your Monarch stories. I’m sure you’ve got some!

To Stand Under

How do we learn to live with people who aren’t like us?

Mahzarin Benaji researches unconscious bias at Harvard. She discussed her fascinating and important research  this week on the podcast On Being.

Dr. Benaji uses the word “implicit” instead of “unconscious,” because of

“the implication that the unconscious is this incredibly motivated, smart process that is constantly trying to do things that are in my interest and shove away the deep dark secrets of my childhood that I don’t wish to remember. And the science has not produced good evidence for that.”

Her book, Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People asks the question:

“‘Are you the good person you yourself want to be?’ And the answer to that is no, you’re not. And that’s just a fact. And we need to deal with that if we want to be on the path of self-improvement.”

 

Who is ‘Other’?

According to Dr. Benaji’s findings, distrusting the ‘other’ has provided, until recently, an evolutionary advantage: discernment about who to embrace into one’s community was a useful filter in an agrarian culture.

But in today’s global world, this inner program doesn’t serve us when we are, for instance, hiring someone, or choosing the best candidate for a program. Someone who looks and speaks in strange-to-us ways is quite often the best choice. Yet those who haven’t experienced multiple cultures in a community like a university, urban life or the workplace still operate from this ancient, implicit view. This might explain some of the Trump phenomenon.

Apparently without direct experience of ‘others.’ we are not inclined to consider their humanness. In the wake of the horrifying Orlando shooting, teaching tolerance is clearly an urgent need.

Instead of the word tolerance Dr. Benaji prefers the word understandingUnderstand comes from Old English and is literally stand, read as viewpoint, and under meaning beneath or unconscious.

You are the Unreliable Narrator!

For an example of how unreliable our automatic perception can be, have a look at the Selective Attention Test video. If you haven’t already, watch the vid and follow the instructions carefully.

Are you willing to challenge your automatic assumptions?

Please share your insight!

Thanks to Univ. of Haifa School of Social Work for the header image.

My Heart Flow with the Waters

I live on a lovely little bay off the Potomac River, downstream from Washington, DC. It’s alive with turtles and catfish and migrating water birds. Bald eagles nest in the woods nearby, along with osprey, woodpeckers, red-tailed hawks and many other birds.

it blocks the light, killing plants below, rotting makes a stinking black mess

But my bay, and the larger Chesapeake, is choked with foul rotting algae much of the year, the result of excess ‘nutrients’ from farms, sewage, run-off and lawn fertilizers. The sewage plant has recently had to absorb the waste outflow from a gigantic new development over 12 miles away, with more than 5,000 residents and 13 million  visitors annually.

While National Harbor has brought jobs and tourist dollars to Prince Georges County, which has never benefited as much as surrounding counties from DC’s economic growth, this overwhelms the sewage treatment facilities resulting in more filth in my bay.

Few people consider how their toilet flushing, lawn chemicals, street run-off or local farm waste are affecting our natural environment.

And yet our river is quite healthy for an urban river, as the birds and  the fish who still live here will testify. In many places the situation is much, much worse.

The voracious habits of the developed world, now exported to China and India’s millions of aspiring workers, are only accelerating the pace. In my lifetime we’ve destroyed most of the ancient forests on the planet, and killed half of the wild creatures that roamed the earth.

Consider this, from Joanna Macy & Jennifer Berezan:

Please be thoughtful in your choices that impact our world. Consider what you can do and give to help reverse the damage our people do to the world.

Alice Ferguson Foundation
Chesapeake Bay Foundation
Indigenous Environmental Network

Even the Desert Blooms

The March Equinox Arrives

At this moment of Equinox (latin ‘equal night’), the Northern Hemisphere crosses out of winter. Preparations for Passover and Easter are underway. Dormant buds are preparing, or indeed bursting, into bloom. I’m poised for my annual cherry blossom painting frenzy. The ospreys returned last Thursday, immediately busying themselves with nest-building.

All living creatures respond to the change. Bob Wells, long time van dweller, (he writes the blog Cheap RV Living) heard that Death Valley was experiencing an unusual ‘Super Bloom,’ and earlier this month pointed his mobile household west.

from the NYT: a Desert 5-Spot. Read about it at http://nyti.ms/1Qv5hGA

From Bob’s Blog:

“Once you’ve spent some time in the desert and opened your soul to hear it’s unspoken message, you quickly come to see how very tiny and puny we are in the grand scheme of things.

“The desert has stood in one place with very little change not just for tens of thousands of years, but for thousands of millenniums. It’s ancient wisdom laughs at our insignificant discoveries. In a moments time it could snuff us out like the locusts we are.”

“When I step out of my van in the morning and look around in a 360 degree circle, the sheer immensity of it’s size humbles me. It would take me days of walking to reach the distant mountains and many more days of walking to reach the next distant mountains. To reach them all would take me many months of walking and I would be dead before I reached them unless I give the desert the respect it demands and learned and followed it’s ways.”

 

Read more at Death Valley Superbloom

How to “Not-go” to that Dark Place

“You have to not-turn to anger, not-turn to resentment.”

That advice comes from a man who spent 26 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, to kids who find themselves entangled in the juvenile justice system. He’s helping them know themselves through writing, and to learn to manage their chaotic lives and hopefully survive the system.

Stay

I was intrigued by his negative verb:  ‘not-turn.’

What is the parallel positive equivalent? My friend pointed out that ‘not-go’  is really ‘stay.’ But stay where?

I think when we’re anxious or angry or stressed, the place we seem to be in isn;t a good one. And we don’t necessarily wake up to what’s happening until we’re already reacting. If we wake up at all.

Mindfulness

So where is it we’re supposed to stay? That’s where the mindfulness comes in. In my own story, it has taken me many years to become aware of the vicious self criticism that undermined my sanity. It operated without my awareness, defeating my confidence at every turn. I looked in the mirror and I looked terrible. I created something and it was pathetic. I offered myself to people and awaited harsh criticism, because that’s what I lived with all the time, inside my head.

Clearly I couldn’t ‘stay’ there!

I’ve finally learned, imperfectly, to ‘not-turn’ on myself, ‘not-turn’ to the excoriating self-talk. In order to do this, I had to learn go back to before it was activated, so I could halt the process before it got underway. Which was tricky when I believed that self-critical voice to be a true part of me. That voice seemed so real when I began this quest. Which is why it was so difficult to gain control over.

I am Not My Thoughts

Through meditation, particularly mindfulness techniques and body centered methods, I learned to be with myself in a way that allowed me to observe the self-talk arising. It’s a process of recognizing a mind pattern and realizing that it’s ‘not-me.’

Now I have a place to ‘not-go.’

for more on mindfulness I recommend the books and videos of Pema Chodron and Eckhart Tolle

*featured image from the installation Lyon Art, the Abode of Chaos