Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Takin' a Chance on Life...

"To dare is to lose one's footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose oneself." ~Soren Kierkegaard

I did something wildly exciting today - I applied for a job that I really, really want! How scary is that?

When I was about 14 I lived in the Philippines on a Naval base. To keep the teens entertained and out of the local bars they had lots of activities for us. My favorite was when we all went out on a launch to one of the hundred or more islands in the area. Generally these were small islands with perfect white beachs and aqua water covering colorful coral reefs. O Paradise! And I knew it even then. But a couple of times we went to Corregedor - this was long before it became a park with a museum and tours for the tourists. We teens had the run of the place. At the end of the day our ritual was the daring dive off the high pier. Now, I am one of the world's most beautiful swimmers but I never learned how to do a proper dive. But I was not going to let the pier win the day and off I went only to do the world's biggest belly flop. It hurt. It knocked the wind out of me. But I did it! I overcame my fears and inhibitions and leapt...

So, I've done it again. Only this time the warm ocean is the cold void of a major career change...gulp. A life lived in fear is no life at all. I've learned that lesson ~ and so I jump!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Jeffers, John Muir, Carmel and British Columbia

Connecting...connections. From the great northwest came a man to talk of Jeffers and John Muir and Nature. Fate denied me a seat for the lecture so I will pursue this clue on my own with books ordered, etc...Ron Dart in pursuit of a copy of Jeffers' Hungerfield poem brings me words of understanding and comfort and makes the ordinary Friday extraordinary. The Spiral turns once again for Nature is wonderful, mighty, and frightening ~ but She is our guide and our ultimate teacher. It is moments like Friday that remind me even as I am awed by Her work that this is the source of my lifeblood.

Peter, Peter...we should have gone to the mountain. Such a simple act. All we needed to do was follow the River...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Blessings to the Earth ~ from Ella Young

"Ogma brought the Sword of Light from Findrias the cloud-fair city that is in the east of the De Danaan world; Nuada brought the Spear of Victory from Gorias the flame-bright city that is in the south of the De Danaan world; the Dagda brought the Cauldron of Plenty from Murias the city that is builded in the west of the De Danaan world and has the stillness of deep waters; Midyir brought the Stone of Destiny from Falias the city that is builded in the north of the De Danaan world and has the steadfastness of adamant. Then Brigit and her companions set forth.
They fell like a rain of stars till they came to the blackness that surrounded the Earth, and looking down saw below them, as at the bottom of an abyss, the writhing, contorted, hideous life that swarmed and groped and devoured itself ceaselessly.
From the seething turmoil of that abyss all the Shining Ones drew back save Midyir. He grasped the Fiery Spear and descended like a flame.
His comrades looked down and saw him treading out the monstrous life as men tread grapes in a wine-press; they saw the blood and foam of that destruction rise about Midyir till he was crimson with it even to the crown of his head; they saw him whirl the Spear till it became a wheel of fire and shot out sparks and tongues of flame; they saw the flame lick the darkness and turn back on itself and spread and blossom ¬murk-red — blood-red —rose-red at last!
Midyir drew himself out of the abyss, a Ruby Splendour, and said: "I have made a place for Brigit's mantle. Throw down your mantle, Brigit, and bless the Earth! "
Brigit threw down her mantle and when it touched the Earth it spread itself, unrolling like silver flame. It took possession of the place Midyir had made as the sea takes possession, and it continued to spread itself because everything that was foul drew back from the little silver flame at the edge of it.
It is likely it would have spread itself over all the earth, only Angus, the youngest of the gods, had not patience to wait: he leaped down and stood with his two feet on the mantle. It ceased to be fire and became a silver mist about him. He ran through the mist laughing and calling on the others to follow. His laughter drew them and they followed. The drifting silver mist closed over them and round them, and through it they saw each other like images in a dream—changed and fantastic. They laughed when they saw each other. The Dagda thrust both his hands into the Cauldron of Plenty.
"0 Cauldron," he said, "you give to every one the gift that is meetest, give me now a gift meet for the Earth."
He drew forth his hands full of green fire and he scattered the greenness everywhere as a sower scatters seed. Angus stooped and lifted the greenness of the earth: he scooped hollows in it; he piled it in heaps; he played with it as a child plays with sand, and when it slipped through his fingers it changed colour and shone like star-dust-blue and purple and yellow and white and red." "The Earth Shapers" by Ella Young. In Celtic Wonder Tales, 1923.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Haunted by Hoffman

It all started last October driving home from Bellingham with Peter's ashes safely tucked away in my red carry-on suitcase. After glimpsing a Borders from Hwy 5 I exited in search of a tall soy chai - my current addiction. I found the chai and on my way out picked up my first Alice Hoffman novel The Ice Queen for the motel room in the hopes of taking my mind off what the trip was all about. And thus began the haunting of Denise by Alice Hoffman. The story unfolds as a librarian (libraries figure big in Hoffman books) learns how to live with the "be careful what you wish for it might come true" curse. Me? I'm still working on that one...
Then last January while trying to shake off a nasty virus I found a well-worn copy of Here On Earth in my nightstand. Thanks, Alice, a book about love and obsession as timeless as Wuthering Heights. A book about wounded men...thanks, Alice.

And now I am working my way slowly through Skylight Confessions that truly is about haunting. Sam, a young boy - a gifted, brilliant young boy - loses his mother on the earthly plane but she remains with him - through the drugs, through the destruction. Thank you, Alice.

Not sure what this all means but I am drawn into her writing because of her use of myth as a mirror for our world and our lives. Heady stuff that makes one think - makes one examine ones own life and relationships. Go for it, Alice - somehow I don't feel the Haunting by Hoffman is quite over.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Can we live without bees? At least 90 food crops are dependent upon bees - and we are dependent upon food crops. Bee experts say it is stress from ag business - treating the bees like industrial factory workers. Then, of course, there is the poison factor - the pesticides dumped upon the food you eat poisons you, poisons the bees, poisons the Earth...
get the connection?

A documentary is in progress on the loss of our bees hopefully entitled "Return of the Honeybees" - here is what the filmmakers say:

From the dawn of human society, the nature and origin of the honeybee has awakened the curiosity and interest of man. For the past five million years, this furry insect has been a creature of special sanctity, representing many things such as the human soul, industry, cooperation and the sacred feminine. Our relationship with bees also denotes the most ancient form of agriculture. Pre-historic petroglyphs depict women on honey hunts and Ancient Egyptian farmers floated beehives on rafts down the Nile to pollinate their crops.

And yet today, we live in a state of disconnect. The average consumer has no idea where things originally come from, not even something as vital as our food. They think edibles come naturally shrink-wrapped on a shelf and that the bees are merely stinging insects that make honey, when in fact these prime pollinators are responsible for one third of the food we eat, including most of the fruits, vegetables, nuts and even alfalfa used to feed livestock. In America, this amounts to about $18 billion in annual sales.

Yes, all life is sacred. Many cultures worshiped the bee - the Greeks in particular. One of my favorite books is "The Secret Life of Bees" by Sue Monk Kidd that richly illustrates the healing power of honey flowing into the healing energy of a special group of women. The Queen Bee as High Priestess.

Life is Sacred.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Tea For One...

Last night I heard an interview on RTE Radio with English poet Carol Ann Duffy. Poetry just keeps getting in my way these days - sidetracking me from that thesis statement I seem only to be able to compose in my head at 3 a.m. The words never make it to my iMac. So here it is - one of Duffy's deceptively simple poems that reminds me it is often the ordinary acts of love I miss the most...


I like pouring your tea, lifting
the heavy pot, and tipping it up,
so the fragrant liquid streams in your china cup.

Or when you’re away, or at work,
I like to think of your cupped hands as you sip,
as you sip, of the faint half-smile of your lips.

I like the questions – sugar? – milk? –
and the answers I don’t know by heart, yet,
for I see your soul in your eyes, and I forget.

Jasmine, Gunpowder, Assam, Earl Grey, Ceylon,
I love tea’s names. Which tea would you like? I say
but it’s any tea for you, please, any time of day,

as the women harvest the slopes
for the sweetest leaves, on Mount Wu-Yi,
and I am your lover, smitten, straining your tea.

by Carol Ann Duffy in Rapture - Macmillan UK (September 1, 2006)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Seamus Heaney and the Gifts of Nature

RTÉ Television this week presents a tribute in honor of poet Seamus Heaney's 70th birthday:

"Seamus Heaney: Out of the Marvellous explores the key personal relationship in Heaney's life, that with his wife Marie, through a fascinating interview with both of them. It also follows Heaney to Harvard, New York and London, to readings, signings and public interviews, encountering friends and colleagues such as writer and fellow Nobel laureate Derek Walcott, Pulitzer prize-winning poet Paul Muldoon, American critic Helen Vendler and Stephen Page, Chief Executive of Faber and Faber. These encounters reveal not only Heaney's gift for friendship and collegiality but also give many compelling insights into the working life of a major writer... digs deep into the rich store of Heaney's poetry to reveal key periods in his life: the raw pastoral of his childhood in Mossbawn, County Derry..."

This is one of my favorite poems by Heaney:

Personal Helicon

for Michael Longley

As a child, they could not keep me from wells
And old pumps with buckets and windlasses.
I loved the dark drop, the trapped sky, the smells
Of waterweed, fungus and dank moss.

One, in a brickyard, with a rotted board top.
I savoured the rich crash when a bucket
Plummeted down at the end of a rope.
So deep you saw no reflection in it.

A shallow one under a dry stone ditch
Fructified like any aquarium.
When you dragged out long roots from the soft mulch
A white face hovered over the bottom.

Others had echoes, gave back your own call
With a clean new music in it. And one
Was scaresome, for there, out of ferns and tall
Foxgloves, a rat slapped across my reflection.

Now, to pry into roots, to finger slime,
To stare, big-eyed Narcissus, into some spring
Is beneath all adult dignity. I rhyme
To see myself, to set the darkness echoing.

There is a small grassroots movement afoot called "No Child Left Inside" that sprang from the thought provoking book Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv. Ella Young, an Irish poet from a time before Seamus Heaney, knew the value of Nature in all our lives. She worried that children of her day were too caught up in their "mechanical toys" and needed time to sit in the garden - to be still and to listen and to let their eyes see the smallest creature crawling beneath a leaf and the wonder of tree tops swaying against the clouds.

Oh, Ella, if you saw the toys of today and the children with ears iPod-ed against the real music of the winds and the birds and eyes that only know the illsuion of the pixelated screen how you would weep. I weep now, Ella, for the disconnected children who have never known the pure joy of wonder and the grown-ups who do not understand that our imaginations need nurturing and that comes from the stillness - from the quiet moments when our souls begin to whisper to us. How can we hear when we are so distracted...take a child into the woods or into a garden where the lady bugs build their it soon and do it often.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Wise Women

Long ago I owned a bookstore - a special nest to nurture women's creativity and the ongoing quest for their "authentic selves." It thrived for a time and so did I because daily I came into contact with women and men seeking something new to ease the pain, to fill up the emptiness, and to give their lives meaning. I was given as much as I received...and today I found a book that once I sold in the store. Today in a thrift shop I found Susan Cahill's anthology Wise Women: Over 2000 Years of Spiritual Writing by Women and when the 70-something volunteer who took my $3.00 commented "Wise women?" and looked at me with more than a question in her eyes - she was asking me to give her what all her education, all her family, and all her churches had failed to give her: a sense of honor for the fact she was a woman and a sense of connection to all the mothers of her mothers and all their grandmothers back to the very dawn of human life.

And so the Spiral - like the River - flows on...

Monday, April 13, 2009

For Peter - who gave to me the deepest more in exile.

Ezra Pound


O helpless few in my country,
O remnant enslaved!

Artists broken against her,
A-stray, lost in the villages,
Mistrusted, spoken-against,

Lovers of beauty, starved,
Thwarted with systems,
Helpless against the control;

You who cannot wear yourselves out
By persisting to successes,
You who can only speak,
Who cannot steel yourselves into reiteration;

You of the finer sense,
Broken against false knowledge,
You who can know at first hand,
Hated, shut in, mistrusted.

Take thought:
I have weathered the storm,
I have beaten out my exile.