~ from cats, dogs and nature to the flowering of body, mind and spirit ~

Wednesday, December 2, 2015


In the movie Serenity, one of my favorites, River Tam as a child says: “We meddle. People don't like to be meddled with. We tell them what to do, what to think. Don't run, don't walk. We're in their homes and in their heads and we haven't the right. We're meddlesome.”

I rarely talk or blog on politics. I’m making an exception, one that might continue. 
Why do people condemn anyone who seeks to understand “why” terrorism happens or empathizes with the plight of another culture or even tries to point out our (not an individual but us, all of us) part in the problem, our responsibility. After all: WE MEDDLE. America and Great Britain and other European countries have long meddled in the Middle East, we’ve repeatedly stuck our noses into a tribal culture about which we comprehend so very little. And though we do need to defend ourselves against terrorism, we also need to step up and take responsibility for our part in the current mess. We meddle. Maybe for good reasons, or what we erringly believe are “good,” but often purely out of fear disguised as morality or righteousness. We try to impose, even force, our ideals, society, and/or morals upon another culture. 
With consumerism having gobbled up most of the world, is it any wonder that some cultures may not want it and/or may have a hard time keeping up and become angry? Maybe they haven’t had time to assimilate or grow naturally into the market at a pace that is acceptable to their religion and society. How many times has colonial arrogance viewed the other as savage?
Most people, including me, have only a gossamer grasp of history yet in our conversations we are eager to blame others from this limited perspective of what it means to be human in various cultures and we try to dictate how long it takes for change to happen. Even many history teachers or scholars focus upon a narrow time period—just as other professionals like doctors become specialists—rarely venturing into a broad spectrum of history. In our time, the vastness of global history is overwhelming, and yet we must make an effort to see beyond our personal narrow vision when we speak and act but, most of all, in the first framing, when we listen. 
Reading books is an excellent form of deep listening. Not just reading blips in articles or newspapers, which are far too limited or skewed to allow a substantive perspective on an issue, but reading books from various “sides” and immersing oneself in a subject dear to one’s heart but from an opposite shore. Usually we choose to read confirmatory books that reinforce our already existing beliefs and that result in a greater polarization. We feel good when we read that others agree with us, it confirms our sense of place in the world and affirms our sense of identity and belonging that feed our instincts for survival. But this kind of one-sided reading also can contribute to rigidity and radical judgmentalism: they’re wrong and I’m right. And, yes, I admit that it can sometimes be uncomfortable reading — and thus “listening” — to the “other side.” But if there is even the slightest chance that we can live together peacefully, respectfully, with dignity, then I’m willing to be uncomfortable once in a while.
Now, of course, someone might say that all of this psychology, philosophy, sociology, and trying to understand the other is moot because if we don’t control/kill “them,” then they will do it to us. All I can say to that is again…look at history. War leads to more war. Every great nation falls. We no longer have the option of “discovering” another continent upon which to expand and build a new nation. Our planet is finite and unless we find a way to all get along, it’s very possible that humans will become extinct. I don’t want that for my nieces and nephew; I want them to enjoy a beautiful, abundant, and safe world. 
Humans have the ability to change. We can choose to do so.
So the question remains: How do we help without meddling, without forcing ourselves?

Friday, August 14, 2015

The Other

As I continue softening into understanding the Other, I have been comforted to know that there are other women also moving through this process of non-judgment and compassionate presence. Today's article, At the Intersection of Other & Friend, by Kate Brunner at Feminism and Religion, was one of those helpful connections that elicit a feeling of community, even though it is through cyberspace.

A book that I recently finished reading has been good for helping me understand the polarization between mindsets, between people who lean with intensity toward either a liberal or conservative view. One aspect of this is understanding that our beliefs "lean" first through intuition and are then followed by rational thought, and our human tendency is to find supporting evidence for what we already believe or are leaning towards. As Jonathan Haidt says in The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion:

"If thinking is confirmatory rather than exploratory in these dry and easy cases [via various referenced studies], then what chance is there that people will think in an open-minded, exploratory way when self-interest, social identity, and strong emotions make them want or even need to reach a preordained conclusion?"

I think that the first step into open-minded views is by simply knowing ourselves better and being more aware of our own tendencies prior to judging the Other.

Then, imagine ourselves sitting on a porch swing with the Other and really, truly listening to where they have come from and where they are now. Where can we meet?

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Where is home?

“A track is not the shape of a foot; it is the shape of a foot in the ground.” ~ Mary Pipher

The above sentence clarifies my sense of the path I’ve already travelled as well as the one that remains in front of me. It reveals a vital image of context. My tracks are not just mine but encompass where I have placed my feet. And the image also provides discernment toward where next to step, because I will leave my imprint in that place while also receiving its imprint upon me.
Pipher reflects upon how “place is identity” when she refers to a painting and interprets the artist’s message to be that, “we are landscape internalized. Our souls are etched with the geography of a particular place.” Every place I’ve lived has done this, has etched itself upon my soul. A new place will do this, too.

It is difficult if not impossible to separate culture(1) from community(2). Because community is a place that is inhabited by people (in this instance, though, I also know the power of being in community with beings of the more-than-human world), those people bring with them their culture. My personal yearning for a specific place in which to feel at home is by its very nature tied to whoever lives there and what their beliefs are.
While I am simply an American moving from one state to another within the same country, reading Mary Pipher’s book The Middle of Everywhere: Helping Refugees Enter the American Community has provided tremendous perspective. Pipher’s book is eye-opening and heart-breaking; she says that “it is difficult to describe or even imagine the challenges of getting started in a new country.” Not only do refugees and immigrants have to decide how much of their traditional culture they want to maintain, while also building a new life and community in a foreign country (and concurrently learning a new language), they are also dealing with past trauma that is nearly incomprehensible to me. I’m grateful for the blessings of being an American and having access to so many diverse resources, and Pipher’s book offers lessons in compassion as well as resilience.

I have spent a lifetime shying away from conflict and yet, not surprisingly, still find myself occasionally in the midst of it in one way, shape or form. Pipher says that, “Community does not mean ‘free of conflict.’ It’s inevitable and even healthy to have great differences. Diversity in community is as healthy as diversity in any ecosystem. Without diversity in age, ethnicity, and ideas, we don’t have communities; we have lifestyle enclaves. Even conflict can lead to closeness.” I find myself wondering if this is true. Can conflict indeed lead to closeness? I try to recall examples of this in my own life but come up empty; maybe I need to spend more time on this one. However, I don’t see that diversity has to result in conflict. Am I naive?

I am encouraged by Pipher’s expression of how cultures can flow, because it reflects my own desire to understand all sides of a situation. She says: 
“Cultural traditions are not set in stone. Cultures are not monolithic. Rather, they are processes, or sets of negotiations between members. Cultures are practical, active, and creative responses to specific conditions. They are constantly changing, and within any given culture there are many points of view and many different groups and members. 
“Culture isn’t the property of just the leaders or the powerful. The right to interpret the cultural values doesn’t belong to any one group. It is important to ask whose interests are sever and whose are violated by a tradition. Who profits from maintaining the status quo in a culture? Who stands to gain with change?”
The above is great to ponder because it invites into the conversation the theories of cultural evolution. These theories, in turn, provide new ways of looking at the difficult and sometimes violent gaps between the Northern and Southern cultures of America.

The further we move into a global society, I agree with Pipher that “we need a home to hold our lives in place” because I have felt this deep need in my bones the older I’ve gotten. Pipher quotes Bill Holm: “The love of your own country hasn’t to do with foreign politics, burning flags, or the Maginot Line against immigrants at the border. It has to do with light on a hillside, the fat belly of a local trout, and the smell of new-mown hay.” This emphasizes how important individual landscapes and their communities are to our identity. America is a huge country, populated over hundreds of years by immigrants from diverse cultures who created their own unique communities. Many of these original communities have all but vanished, and those of us who moved away during our youths can often feel like we are displaced or culturally-bereft when it comes to specifics. Pipher goes on to say that “The refugee experience of dislocation, cultural bereavement, confusion, and constant change will soon be all of our experience. As the world becomes globalized, we’ll all be searching for home. There are two intertwined components to home: people and place.” 
I seek somewhere I can call home again. 
Me with Mom, younger brother, and new puppy in Missouri in the late 1960's

1 Culture is defined as: “the customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or other social group” and “the attitudes and behavior characteristic of a particular social group.” [Apple Dictionary]
2 Community is defined as: “ a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common” and “a particular area or place considered together with its inhabitants.” [Apple Dictionary]

Monday, July 20, 2015

Introverts, Misfits, and Community

My Brothers & Me in Missouri:
A Tree Planted When We Were Toddlers
I have been puzzling over the curious concept of community. How has it changed or remained the same in the past five decades? How much of community is fed by our similarities as compared to our differences? More specifically, how does community manifest for deep introverts (like me)? 
A lot of my curiosity has arisen because of an epiphany I had while writing Desert Fire, which was the realization that I had slowly and gradually become part of a community in Maine. And that it’s only upon reflection that I’ve realized how my soul was nourished by that subtle ebb and flow of community. I lost most of those tangible threads when we moved to Arizona, and, after nearly four years, have been unable to feel welcomed into a strong sense of community here.
Is that loss of community why I feel this tug to return to the landscape where I was born? To return to the land where both sides of my family-of-origin have lived for generations?
It feels strange to me to want — or at least be open to, for the first time in my life — to place myself in the midst of a culture that is predominantly the opposite of my own belief system. For me, as a pagan-liberal, to consider the value of living around Christian-conservatives is an enigma swirling in my mind. Will I be welcomed or ostracized? And yet, to continue growing in my understanding of Self and humanity through conscious placement into diversity holds a tantalizing energy. It’s almost like choosing to live in a  foreign country as an observer, an anthropological endeavor, while unable to detach from my emotions. Yet, within the southwestern Missouri Ozarks reside my own genetic and blood-roots, foreign as they may seem.
Big Spring, MO
(courtesy Wikipedia)
It is easier in many ways to settle in a place where everyone, or at least the majority, thinks as we do (Oregon, a state we are also considering moving to) than to be where the mindset is alien (Arizona and Missouri). And yet, if one’s purpose is to grow and share the beauty of diversity, what better way than to live on the edge, at the perimeter? If we live in separation — segregated — the gap becomes wider and the bridge more flimsy due to the distances between us. How do we nourish community within diversity? Precious Diversity in her “coat of many colors that my Mother made for me.” Will I be able to stay focused on my path and also find the community’s core goodness, our commonality?
Will the land support and soothe my fears and nurture our differences? At least in the Ozarks, I would be living in a moderate, lovely landscape (in spite of the occasional tornado) and climate where my husband and I can afford to live comfortably as we age closer to retirement. I want to walk barefoot upon the land and within my own mind — free from aversions to my past. 
My Grandparents' Farm in MO
I yearn to sink down, to ground — even if it is into my own blood-roots that I swore I would never return to. I never felt I fit in — with family or culture or religion — and yet, now, I also feel a kinship arising within me like the ancient sap of an ancestral core. Is it the simple process of aging that does this? Or is it self-realization? An acknowledgment and acceptance that I am spirit; genes, and uniquely woven — all of these? What are the gifts held within genetic memory and the people who are my family-of-origin?
Is it possible for the moist verdant rolling hills, the vibrant vegetation, and the multi-generational roots of family and community to be nourishing enough to offset the strain of living a culturally misfit presence?

During the past couple of months, as the potential for moving has become clearer, I’m reading a variety of related sources that touch upon family, community, diversity, and how we view our historic past. The books written by psychologist Mary Pipher have been extremely helpful; they have provided me with insights I’d not previously considered regarding our American views of family and community. (I wholeheartedly recommend her books, I’ve read all of them, though I find myself disagreeing with some of her more rigid views.)
For me, this research also entails trying to understand why some of us attach so strongly to the past and its symbols, while others can detach, even when we are born into the same families.* Most southern Missouri people were allied with the Confederacy, and yet, somehow, from a quite young age, I personally felt more like a Yankee. Because of this desire to comprehend a different perspective, I’m also reading books like Beyond Revenge: The Evolution of the Forgiveness Instinct by Michael McCullough, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt, and The War that Forged a Nation: Why the Civil War Still Matters published this year by James McPherson. 


* I am an American hybrid, an example of the genetic melting pot; my ancestors are mostly 17th century immigrants from Ireland, Scotland and England, as well as from the Netherlands and Germany, blended with a couple of Native Americans. Is it possible that my different views (from my family) are also a product of genetic memory? In Beyond Revenge, the author points out that most of the American South was originally settled by “livestock herding” immigrants from Ireland, Scotland and Wales; these traditional cultures held a strong “honor mentality” due to their original way of life (their livelihood — herding animals — were portable and could be stolen away). This imprint has held firm even when they moved into agricultural pursuits. This is in contrast to the settlers of the American North who were a majority of European, England and Germany for example, established farmers in traditions (their livelihoods were predominantly agricultural and, therefore, could not as easily be stolen therefore emerging a different culture and mindset). Is it the German genes being expressed more strongly through me? McCullough’s book is absolutely fascinating, even though I don’t concur with all his findings. Nevertheless, it helped me to think outside the box.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Changes Coming

I say to the southwest landscape
"Soon, you will be a memory."

I bless the space where I live
"Thank you for your gifts."

I turn my gaze northeast and hear
"Your roots will guide you."

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Desert Fire

I'm please to share that Desert Fire is finally finished.
It is available in print and digital
should you dare to enter the desert,
and the strangeness of my mind.
In brief, what do you get when you combine a transplant to the Sonoran Desert
with mind-created monsters, living landscapes, elemental impressions, Ayurveda,
flower essences, earth-centered spirituality, dogs,
history, geography, archaeology, desert denizens,
and writing therapy?
You get Desert Fire.
I could easily have spent another six to twelve months fine-tuning Desert Fire further,
but felt that its time has come to go out into the world just as it is.
Now I can move on to other writing projects pressing to be heard. 

Friday, May 8, 2015

Within The Creases

His DNA is in the creases,
in flecks of skin that fell.
Open the pages and feel a life
that once was here. Tell
me his dreams, crooked symbols
marking fading paper we've both seen-- 
whisper stories of past and present
and futures where our minds have been.
My cells blend with his, 
my finger turns the page, 
waiting for another generation
to join us in imagination. 

I recently got home from a several-week trip to Missouri, where I helped Mom settle into a retirement community. There, she has a beautiful back yard, but one that she isn't responsible for maintaining. Dad died in 2008 and Mom was finally ready to sell the last home they bought together. This one is her house, and I wanted to help her unpack, to lend my love and support to this huge endeavor. May she be happy in her new place.

During the unpacking, we came across a couple of boxes of old books, vintage books. One of the rare things that Dad and I had in common was a love of books. I'm grateful that he had kept these boxed books during the past five decades as he and Mom moved around the country and stored them while they were overseas. A few were familiar, like 1955 copies of Black Beauty and Heidi, those were Mom's, and even the worn Camp Fire Girls Go Motoring published in 1916 by Hildegard G. Frey. I remembered reading those. The unfamiliar in the thirty or so dusty volumes included an 1888 copy of Tom Temple's Career that I cannot imagine reading, and a 1906 edition of Jack London's The Sea-Wolf that I'm looking forward to reading. I'm researching how to keep several dozen of these books from deteriorating further; they aren't of monetary value, rather they are priceless. Mom agreed that both of my brothers would approve of me becoming the Keeper of the Books. So I am. I'm taking it seriously. Until the day that a niece or nephew, or one of their children, might express a devotion to books and ask to be the Keeper.

The dogwoods and redbuds were in full glorious bloom during my visit, a beautifully cool, moist spring. I was born two hours south of where Mom now lives, and when I drive through the Ozarks I smile at the memories.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Writing for Shimmer

I often wander down side paths and find unexpected delights. Especially in reading and writing.

Now that I've finished writing Desert Fire: Befriending the Monster in my Mind*, I'm looking forward to immersing myself again in my novel. However, I've taken a side path in its creation because I found it starting to shimmer with touches of magic. I probably ought to have known that I couldn't write a novel without bits of mysticism or fantasy.

When I was listening to Krista Tippett's conversation with Maria Tatar, for a second time I might add, I realized that a soft voice was whispering to me from a barely visible trail leading into a thicket off the main path that is my manuscript. Is this why I haven't been able to finish it? There was some sparkle missing?

The dialogue between Tippett and Tatar was "The Great Cauldron of Story: Why Fairy Tales Are for Adults Again." (give it a listen, or read the transcript -- I'm sure you'll enjoy it!) Their chat led me to consider not only my interest in adult stories (books, movies, TV) of fantasy and fairy tales but also into my dimly recalled childhood. Unfortunately, while I remember having a passion for reading and books since before I started school, my poor memory leaves a vast vacancy of details. The rare foggy peeks into my early childhood seem to guide me toward Wind in the Willows and, as I wrote about earlier, to Little Burnt-Face. How could I resolve this loss or revive some missing memories?

I have decided to explore children's literature. See if perhaps I could revive some childhood memories and, even if not, create a new association with or appreciation for the stories that I'm sure had an impact upon me -- even if I don't recall the experience. My first step was to buy Maria Tatar's Enchanted Hunters: the power of stories in childhood. Marvelous book! I enjoyed how she wove together the histories of oral storytelling with that of children's literature, and presented a wide range of authors and tales. In addition, she addressed how we think that children may be understanding and using stories differently than adults do, and how the writing itself varies.

I'm going to tip-toe into classic children's literature and see what happens. Maybe my child-self will allow me to wander in wonder for a while … and allow some magic to flow freely through my writing.

"The world of print, like nature, offers many points of entry to feelings of wonder. When we retire to the fabled armchair or turn on electronic devices such as Kindle (the name is telling), we have the chance to enter story worlds constructed by words and images--a second nature that helps us recapture a sense of wonder. Most children in this country begin reading on their own around the time that the real world begins to lose its magic." 
~ Maria Tatar
* Desert Fire will be available in June.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

With Kindly Eyes

Look back on Time, with kindly eyes — 
He doubtless did his best — 
How softly sinks that trembling sun
In Human Nature’s West — 

~ Emily Dickinson (#1478)

We need a more compassionate view of all humans; where the focus is upon small gestures and we see with Kindly Eyes. We need compassion for ourselves, too. 
And yet, I judge myself as harshly as I do others, never putting myself aside from what “we” have done to the world, recognizing my part in the actions of my species: war, violence, projection. We keep repeating in spite of reflection and philosophy and waking up to our responsibilities. This huge unwieldy machine of the over-culture taints my every effort until all I want to do is disappear into folds of paper where possibility emerges. 
I get further behind with every step I take and Time is always cutting me off at the pass, making sure I don’t cross into the other realm. Maybe in my next life will be Peace? That’s something hopeful to consider. On the other hand, if I cannot help us shift our trajectory, if I cannot be part of the solution, will I find my next life a horror? Am I doing my best or hiding? Is solitude equal to my best effort? Am I enough? Am I doing enough? How do I lift up my Self toward a kinder life? Has my writing helped or hindered me or someone else? So many questions. I know nothing. That is my new beginning each time I collapse inward. Ask and open, listen.

Sit right here rest your bones. No one's ever so alone. 
You can take the world down off your shoulders.
I don't know why and how. All I know is here and now.
You can take the world down off your shoulders.

Out of the midst of my confusion, a warm little fellow curls up on my lap and my heart fills with love. This. This response of love is what keeps me going. When I feel my heart swell with love, it’s okay. I can get through another day. I say grace.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Fading Flowers

photo courtesy Kerry N Barlow,
all rights reserved
I hide myself within my flower, 
That fading from your Vase, 
You, unsuspecting, feel for me — 
Almost a loneliness.
~ Emily Dickinson

When we absent our insights from the people and world around us, what is left is the ghost of a fading flower that was briefly seen. Perhaps I’ve been plucked from my nourishing garden to die more quickly in your vase as an object of curiosity, a thing to glance at even as I fade away and you wonder in a hidden corner of your mind where I went to. This is mere reflection of how we feel but don’t suspect when people die who haven’t left their stories behind except in snippets of someone else’s distorted memory. 
When I do not offer my story, and my body grows frail toward a fast-approaching death (relative to the vast expanse of time), you wonder where this vague uneasiness and loneliness comes from as a part of you remains forever curious about my life, my thoughts and feelings. “What?” you ask. “What was your life inside the walls around your heart?” As my soul pulls away from our relationship and the material world, my fading energy is unrecognized, obscured, fleeting.
Even if we don’t have the whole picture, we can immortalize particular moments. In my novels, there are parts of people I’ve known; I’m less lonely for them and others will see them, too, see glimpses of a life that made a difference … as we all do. However, I imagine how marvelous it would be if every person wrote at least one memoir of a pivotal transition or transformation in their life. This flower would be fresh forever, unfading.
A photograph doesn’t reveal soul or share story; after a generation or two passes, the photos tossed loose in the aging maple chest lined with cedar strips mean nothing. But dig through and pull up from below a sheaf of letters, a journal, a slim volume of preserved memory and the person is fresh, telling a tale of insight, of passage through the past.
Unless and until the reciting of oral history returns, books are best, paper is tried-and-true in its longevity. The books survive hundreds of years, maybe even longer now — they provide an opportunity to speak to an unknown great-great-grandchild or stranger who would be unsuspectingly lonely without having met your legacy. Maybe the paper will fade like the flower, though more slowly, your story rooted in the pages-once-living … like you were. Your body decays in the earth or your ashes are scattered, but your story means someone is less lonely for having known you beyond your death. Your descendants don’t have to access you through an archive or require electricity to read you digitally. All they need to do is open the cover, turn a page, and there you are — speaking to them, showing instead of hiding yourself, revealing the flower of your life in what may be a single petal through which they can, hopefully, hear your voice and know the essence of who you were.
And the world is a little less lonely.

More programs are being developed every day that preserve personal stories for generations to come. From StoryCorps to hospice programs to personal historians, writers and storytellers are attempting to make more voices heard; a particularly good article is “The Beneficial Effects of Life Story and Legacy Activities” by Pat McNees

Side Note: I often use the poems of Emily Dickinson as a portal into reflection and/or writing. Because I’m not trying to understand her meaning when writing it, the poem can become something unique to what is already simmering in my mind (whether conscious or subconscious) — kind of like dreamwork. There’s a lovely, and different, interpretation of this poem at The Prowling Bee.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Little Altars

I'm a stranger here
I'm only passing through
But everyplace I go leaves its own tattoo.
That's how it is laying stone on stone,
Building little altars by the side of the road.

~ lyrics by Carrie Newcomer, from "Writing You a Letter" on the album A Permeable Life

This music, the music of Carrie Newcomer - the mystery and metaphor softly embedded within each song - continues to support me as I edge closer to finishing my latest book, which is a reflection upon my relationship with the Sonoran Desert.

Saturday, January 31, 2015


A train — each car a fragment, a piece of the whole — took me away and brought me home, with fresh
insight and renewed love. A peculiar sort of journey that allowed extended periods of focus upon thought and idea, upon reality and our place within those spaces.
I’d never ridden the train before, and Amtrak was the perfect option for this particular trip because I didn’t want to drive up north during January. As the train pulled out of the Tucson station, I was pleasantly shocked at how smooth and quiet it was. While the side-to-side rocking motion was an adjustment, after a few hours I barely noticed it except for the occasional rough bit of track. Although, sleeping on the top bunk took a little more time to get used to. The 48 hours of travel between Tucson and St. Louis was peaceful and mostly solitary; I had reserved what is called a roomette in the sleeping car, and ended up spending most of my time in that little room reading, relaxing, reflecting, and writing. 
The train took me to visit my mom. Originally planned so that I could be with her during and after kidney surgery, which was cancelled a few days prior to my scheduled departure, I decided to go up to northeastern Missouri anyway. Mom, my brother, and my nieces were expecting me so we simply turned it into a social visit. I carefully selected two books for the trip; one for going and the other for returning home. I had my Kindle with me as well, but far prefer reading paper books.
Because of the initial circumstances behind the trip, my book selection for the journey up was A Bittersweet Season: Caring for Our Aging Parents—and Ourselves by Jane Gross. The time had not yet arrived for my brothers and me to step into a position of elder-care, but, since my dad died a few years ago and my mom was turning 77 this month, I felt compelled to do a little research on the subject. The author’s book is well-written, part memoir and part expose, but provides a bitter pill to swallow: the plight of the elderly in our medicalized, fragmented, and what I consider inhumane, approach to “sick care.” Much of what I thought I knew was wrong, and I was nearly overwhelmed by what I didn’t know.
One benefit, though, was that while I was visiting my mom and staying in her house with her, I was much more aware of the varied aspects of her current lifestyle and how quickly it could potentially change. Too many of us live in denial and I would advocate waking up sooner rather than later when it comes to this topic.
The book I chose for the return trip was Finding Beauty in a Broken World by Terry Tempest Williams, another
profoundly moving and deeply disturbing book. I confess that I almost turned to my Kindle for refuge in some lighthearted fiction, but the unique quality of traveling by train with its gift of relative isolation kept me glued to these subjects of depth. There are often so many distractions at home that making steady and rapid progress through difficult subject matter can be challenging.
At first glance, the blend of topics chosen by Williams — the art of mosaic, vanishing prairie dog towns, and African genocide — seemed bizarre. But since I’m a fan of this author’s work, I was determined to read the book. I found myself quickly falling under her spell, though my heart ached throughout the process of reading; I often needed to close the book and take some deep relaxing breaths before continuing. Even the style of writing is fragmented, a fitting example of how the author is trying to make sense of the world we have developed -- and damaged.

As I rode the train home to Tucson, I could feel myself to be fragmented — an angry witness to a broken medical system, a shard of pottery in rubble, a bleached bone. And yet, I choose to allow the anger to melt, I choose to soften into love. I choose to continue finding my own way to create a beautiful, healing mosaic out of my own life and the world around me, knowing that I am also a fragment in someone else's mosaic. 
My Nieces
P.S. There's something funky going on with the text in this post -- my apologies! 

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Haunted ... and An Antidote

A few days ago, I watched a movie that has continued to haunt me. This happens sometimes, as I'm sure it does for everyone; a movie touches us in an unexpected manner that is fathoms-deep. And, curiously, it's hard to uncover exactly why this particular one has done it … the topic is not unfamiliar in our war-torn world, and yet it goes inside and shifts something.

Usually, after this happens to me, I never watch the movie again even if I consider it was extremely well-done. I just can't go "there" again. Three movies that have done that to me in the past are: Where the Red Fern Grows, Gorillas in the Mist (with Sigourney Weaver), and Instinct (with Anthony Hopkins). Interestingly, though no big surprise, these three involved animal situations, a major trigger for me. And, therefore, even more confounding was my reaction to the latest movie to be placed into this "haunting" category.

The recent movie was In the Valley of Elah (with Tommy Lee Jones). I was drawn to the movie not because of the plot, per se, though it intrigued me, but rather because I enjoy Jones' acting and the supporting cast was excellent. However, this movie did not go the way I expected, and I found myself deeply disturbed. I don't want to give anything away, so I won't share details. I do highly recommend this film -- to watch once.

Like most trailers, this one highlights the "action" … but there is tremendous slow nuance in this film, every scene strips away at what we might think this story is about. 

So, after a day of being haunted by the movie (if you watch it, perhaps you will understand what I mean), I decided I needed an antidote. I found what I was looking for in the simple, sweet voice, music and lyrics of Carrie Newcomer. Every song brought me home, safe, optimistic, and inspired new faith in living a good life is the gift each of us has to offer -- this is our gift to counteract the horrors in the world. 

I'm a brand new fan of this artist, and adore every song I've listened to thus far. I can recommend Kindred Spirits: A Collection as well as her latest album A Permeable Life.

I found her through OnBeing when she was being interviewed by Krista Tippett. And it's not only her music. Listen to her recitation of one of her poems:

May your day be blessed with knowledge of the Whole of our World, the sadness and the joy, and the tremendous opportunity for grace within each of us.
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