Sunday, April 22, 2012

Earth Day 2012

Originally uploaded by John&Fish
Happy Earth Day!

This is a photo of a River Kingfisher taken by John&Fish. I happen to think he is one of the best bird photographers at Flickr. I am posting this in honor of Earth Day. We are going to hear both sad and happy news about Mamma Gaia today, and I offer these photos as something to inspire you to formulate your own plans on how to best protect the future of our planet.

Happy Spring to you and yours,



翠鳥.攝於台灣 台北外雙溪
River Kingfisher, taken at Waishuanghsi, Taipei, TAIWAN

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Yule Blessing

Origionally posted 12/09. Posted again in 12/11 with gratitude and thanks for loved ones, health and hope.  My thoughts today are with those less fortunate who could use our help this season.  Do what you can. Sia. 

This Yule blessing comes to us courtesy of the good folks at the Portland Revels. It is a poem for the New Year by Irish poet and spiritual teacher John O'Donohue. I would encourage everyone who reads this to make a donation to a charity of your choice - the need this year is very great.

A Blessing for the New Year

On the day when
The weight deadens
On your shoulders
And you stumble
May the clay dance
To balance you

And when your eyes
Freeze behind
The gray window
And the ghost of loss
Gets into you,
May a flock of colors,
Indigo, red, green
And azure blue,
Come to awaken in you
A meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
In the curragh of thought
And a stain of ocean
Blackens beneath you,
May there come across the waters
A path of yellow moonlight
To bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
May the clarity of light be yours,
May the protection of the ancestors be yours.

And may a slow
Wind work these words
Of love around you,
An invisible cloak
To mind your life.

from To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings, Doubleday, 2008 by John O'Donohue

If you would like to hear the words of this blessing spoken with a lovely Irish accent by the poet himself, here is a link to a youtube recording: Beannacht
Wishing the blessings and peace of the Winter Solstice to you and yours,


Welcome Yule!

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Hogswatch Stocking from the Discworld Emporium

Our friends at the Discworld Emporium have a nifty new offering for Hogswatch.

Links to this page have been flying around the net, often with the word "WANT" in the subject line.  


Monday, October 10, 2011

Terry Pratchett in Seattle, New York and D.C. for new book, Snuff

Road Trip!

 I leave soon on a road trip to Seattle where  I'll be meeting old and new friends who are gathering to attend Terry Pratchett's event at the Town Hall.  We'll be picking up our copies of his new book, Snuff, at this event, enjoying the great clam chowder and then reading, reading, reading after that.

Dates and notes on his American Tour can be found at the NADWCon 2013 Facebook page. 

You might also like the page for the North American Seamstress Guild.

Notes on the next North American Discworld convention can be found at It Bodes.

I'm traveling next week, as well, and I'll be in a city with some well organized protests.  I'm tempted to attend and to bring a sign that says,

Truth! Justice! Freedom! Reasonably priced Love and a hard boiled egg
or how about this?
There Is No Justice. There's Just Us
In the meantime, I'll leave you with this marching song from Nightwatch.

...All the little angels rise up, rise up.
All the little angels rise up high!
How do they rise up, rise up, rise up?
How do they rise up, rise up high?
They rise heads up, heads up, heads up, they rise heads up, heads up high!

Be careful out there, 


Saturday, October 08, 2011

Nobody, But Nobody, Can Make It Out Here Alone

"A witch speaks for those who cannot speak for themselves." - Terry Pratchett 

Beth Owl's Daughter and Maya Angelou's poem said it all today.

We are the 99% and nobody makes it alone. 


Update: A man named Derek Batchelor wrote this on his Facebook page today: 
No one has been able to explain to me why young men... and women serve in the U.S. Military for 20 years, risking their lives protecting freedom, and only get 50% of their pay. While Politicians hold their political positions in the safe confines of the capital, protected by these same men and women, and receive full pay retirement after serving one term. It just does not make any sense.

... the staffers of Congress family members are exempt from having to pay back student loans...
35 States file lawsuit against the Federal Government

Governors of 35 states have filed suit against the Federal Government for imposing unlawful burdens upon them. It only takes 38 (of the 50) States to convene a Constitutional Convention.

...For too long we have been too complacent about the workings of Congress. Many citizens (have) no idea that members of Congress could retire with the same pay after only one term, that they specifically exempted themselves from many of the 6ylaws they have passed (such as being exempt from any fear of prosecution for sexual harassment) while ordinary citizens must live under those laws. The latest is to exempt themselves from the Healthcare Reform... in all of its forms. Somehow, that doesn't seem logical. We do not have an elite that is above the law. I truly don't care if they are Democrat, Republican, Independent or whatever. The self-serving must stop.

Related Links: 

Untying Injustice: A review of Thich Nhat Hanh's story, The Novice

Amplifying this resonance of folk story with the author’s own story, his long-time friend along the Path, Ven. Sister Chan Khong brings to light how he’s dealt with incredible adversity, much probably unknown to most readers. This ranges from lethal violence leveled at his grassroots, nonpartisan social work during America’s war in his native land (aka the Vietnamese war), to the recent brutal repression of his disciples there, after he’d weathered out his 40-some-year exile. The volume is capped with his own summing up.

Art: She Who Watches

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Thank you, Steve Jobs

As I write this tribute on my MacBook Pro, I am reminded of what I tell everyone I know who is thinking about buying an Apple product:  "Remember how hard it is to date and how wonderful, easy and simple it feels when you finally meet the right person? Well, that's the difference between a PC and a MAC.  PC's are the ones who gave you so much grief and trouble and wasted so much of your time.  Once you've worked on a MAC you feel like you've found your true match; you are finally with someone who respects you and thinks like you do.  Trust me, you'll never go back.". 

Today, while the world is considering the life of this man and mourners are creating impromptu memorials,  my 85 year old mother (who hated her old "smart phone" and would rarely use it) is rocking her iPhone, and sending me texts and photos on a daily basis. There again is the genius of Apple; it resides in the realm of connection.  Other companies made phones for 20 years and they were never, ever as user - and elder - friendly as the iPhone.   The ease of this enhanced communion,  through words, pictures and sound, is a grace note for both my mother and me.  Multiply that intimate effect by millions and we are closer to groking the enduring, world-changing legacy of this remarkable and very driven man.

As we consider the impact that Steve Job's life and work has had upon our own lives, it is useful to consider the metaphysical, cultural and literary thinking that influenced him. As Susan Donaldson James notes, his mantra, "Focus and Simplicity", was rooted in Buddhism.  She writes:
Jobs used Dalai Lama in one of Apple's most famous ad campaigns: "Think Different."

... Jobs could have just as easily taken his philosophy from the hippie movement of the 1960s. The Whole Earth Catalogue was his bible, with founder Stewart Brand's cry, "We are as gods."
The catalogue offered an integrated and complex world view with a leftist political calling. Jobs later adopted the catalogue's mantra: "Stay hungry. Stay foolish."

The catalogue also delved into spirituality. In one 1974 article, author Rick Fields wrote that Buddhism is "a tool, like an alarm-clock for waking up." 

That may have been the case for Jobs. He said in his now-famous 2005 Commencement speech at Stanford that he lived each day as if it were his last, admonishing graduates not to "live someone else's life." 

"Don't be trapped by dogma -- which is living with the results of other people's thinking," Jobs said. "Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your own inner voice."
There are many reasons why Apple users loved him.  I think Chris Taylor said it best: Steve Jobs saved technology from itself.   I recommend his article; it gives us a vivid picture of the tech world if he had not existed. 

Steve Jobs wasn't a perfect man by any means.  His verbal abuse of Apple employees is legendary and one hears very mixed reviews of what it's like to work there.  (1) As a eco-feminist, I have often wished - and said publicly - that his products could and should have been more green in their design, especially when it came to recycling. Thanks to a Greenpeace campaign and thousands of Apple fans, Apple's environmental record has improved.

There was, as Bryan Walsh notes in Time, a very dark side to Steve Job's dream.  Let us not forget that his innovative designs were affordable for us because they were made by poor people working low hours in terrible conditions for obscenely low wages in China.   A rash of suicides in one Apple factory there finally pushed both Apple and China to address the conditions of their workers but their record, their awareness and their response to such issues  remains mixed, at best. The company says it is working to improve conditions and become truly green.  Those who care for Mamma Gaia and her creatures are keeping their eye on their progress

Stories emerged this year that Apple's child labor issues in China had worsened.  Apple fans and the company Jobs founded would do well to remember that the tech revolution and a global economy means that we are all, now, citizens of the world.  What hurts one of us, hurts us all.  The linked article notes that Apple investigated these allegations and has since terminated it's contract with that company.

On the plus side, Apple is doing a great deal to make their products available - and useable by - people with disabilities.  They have been at the forefront of accessible design for decades and this includes the new version of the iPad.

Tonight, while Apple users and newspapers react to the the death of Steve Jobs,  I will light a candle for his spirit and will remember with gratitude that an Apple II allowed a humanities major entry into the male dominated, math wizard world of computers in the 80's. The skills I learned on this cranky and amazing machine have allowed me to make a living ever since.  Today his products enrich my life in ways that only a mind like his could have imagined.  Thank you, Steve.  Enjoy your next adventure.


Updated 10/7, 10/8

Recommended Reading: 

What Steve Jobs Understood That Our Politicians Don't

Steve Jobs: The Power of Taking the Big Chance

What It's Like To Work At Apple 


(1) There is another way. It is called a servant leadership culture. 
Job's Profile on Apple Logo: Image Credit: Jonathan Mak
Hat Tip to this website for the links to tributes 

Monday, October 03, 2011

The Evolution of Beauty

This is one of my favorite TED Talks. Enjoy

Dr. Dutton's book, The Art Instinct, is now in paperback



Here are some more videos illustrated by Andrew Park

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Writing To My Younger Self

A friend's daughter just started college and I wrote her a letter to congratulate her on taking this great leap. I later realized that I was writing to my young self as much as to her: 


Dear -----

I am writing to send my best wishes for your highest good and to wish you many great adventures at college. One thing I learned that helped me back then was that the best and brightest minds learned by falling down and getting up again. Those who never, ever risk, rework and try again never learn how to learn. May you be a Learner and a Doer like your amazing Mom, and may you find joy, both in your own unique path and in working with other good minds and hearts.

I hope that the your process is as rewarding as reaching the goals you've set for yourself.  Don't be surprised if your road takes a few, unexpected turns. Over the years, I've found that the the most interesting and creative people make left turns when they least expect it, so now, when I hit a wall, I turn left. ( I used to dig a rut, furnish it and move in, but I got better.) I could wish that the universe spoke a bit more clearly at times (a freeway sign? a ticket to Europe?) but that's the way it works for me. I've found that offerings of creativity, attention, dedication and a willingness to question everything we think we know, and to tell our truth to power, can be made on the altar of learning at any time of life. When I listen, and I'm brave enough to make the difficult and compassionate choices, I find that my life and my work are made richer and deeper as a result. I was lucky enough to learn from my mistakes and, better still, I learned not to fear making them. Because of this,  I enjoyed my 20's a great deal, and I now revel in my 50's even more. May it be so for you.

All good things,



School - and learning in a wide variety of ways - has always been the best commitment I've ever made. As she starts down this road, I wish her, and all that young ones out there with her, the strength to ask the questions they need to ask, the courage to deal with the answers and joy throughout. 


Sunday, June 05, 2011

Caregiving and Truth Telling

How are you? I am fine.

Oh, we're telling the truth, are we?

Well then, I am truly, madly, deeply fine for varying values of fine which on some days means I've survived the day intact and not done any of the hundred and one uncivil, unhealthy, or violent things that occur to my tired, angry lizard brain when I'm under a lot of stress. 

I've been working on a large and complex project this year and wearing a lot of hats. I am trying to use my best skills and not work from my negative sides, which as a child of an alcoholic, the survivor of a dysfunctional family, religion and culture, and a recovering addict and alcoholic myself (1), I have in spades.

The project in question calls for discernment, not judgement; tact and truth telling, not harsh blaming and resentment; hard work and wise delegation, not being a door mat or a martyr. Most of all, I need to lead by example. I need to exhibit creativity and flexibility, not control. In dealing with people of all types, I am working to present my best self, the one with a wicked sense of humor, who shows a calm presence under pressure and who knows how to best use the skills of my team and how to support, appreciate and reward their great work.

I keep my Inner Eye out for the lessons here, knowing that life never lets us focus on just one thing, that Her timing is not the same as mine, and that spiritual wisdom is most often (for me at least) to be found in paradox.

My mother has been ill again, unexpectedly (although it is never really unexpected these days, which is why I keep a bag packed). When I got The Call We Dread I jumped in the car with dog and drive snack,  and headed out on a half-day road drive to see her.  As I pulled out of drive I thought of that old joke: "What's the secret of comed-TIMING!": I was leaving home just as my husband was coming back from a long business trip. 

I adore my Mom. She is strong, funny, smart, creative and kind.  She also makes me crazy.  I make her, crazy, too, so we're even.  I was at Mom's place for a week. We were both glad I was there.

I was blessed with sunny weather on the drive, and took joy in seeing the varied beauty of my state in spring time.  I've learned to look for joy amid the worry  (survival tactic #3) and the sight of clean, sparkling rivers, the profusion of color from spring blossoms, and a drive that took me past small family farms filled with lambs, calves and playful colts showed me the joyful life force I needed to get through that day.  Madame the dog approved of the unusual sniffs at all the rest stops and made some new friends. I had a great book on tape, and so by all these things the drive was blessed.

When I got there Mom was out of the hospital having refused an overnight stay.  She was breathing better than she had all week and was glad to be back in her home.

We spent a week doing tests, talking to doctors and getting her what she needed, including a nebulizer for her COPD, which she hates. She hates having that machine in her home just as she hates taking all those pills; to her they are a sign of weakness.  To this we have added a blood test kit to her medicine cabinet as we are told she now has diabetes. Happily, she only has to use the breathing machine on really bad days.  She can still be active and mobile, which is vital to her.

Whoever said that "getting old is not for sissies" had it right. 

I updated her friends and my husband on her status, and did whatever was needed, sneaky or otherwise, to deal with this new state of affairs and keep her cheerful. She has six major things wrong with her, any one of which could kill her. The doctor says that she could be with us another five months or another five years. My meditations now are around acceptance and I take it this roller coaster ride day by day.

I am not alone in this, and I take great comfort in talking to friends.  I need the perspective I gain by sharing the joys of people I love, cherishing my own joys and in knowing that there are many, many people in this world who are hurting and a great many, too, who are healing and helping.  The people I admire most are doing all three: helping others while healing their inner selves even as they're hurting.

Sick people are grumpy and often angry. Wise Elders can turn bratty and difficult when they feel less able and under threat. I knew that going in. The trick was not to match these moods with more of the same, which, by and large, I avoided.

I bought her an iPhone while I was there (the 3g on sale for $49) and taught her how to use it. She now has a lot of fun texting me photos and messages and getting them from us. If you have an elder, I recommend it. They are so user friendly that lots of older people have them now.

Despite all the stress of dealing with her when she was upset and ill and the constant tongue biting, tooth grinding frustration I encounter whenever I  deal with the American medical establishment, I stayed on my food plan. I cooked for us both - or took us out to places where both of us could eat - and (I'm learning) I brought my own food from home.  Like a lot of older people, she stocks her house full of cookies and junk food so eating healthy there is a challenge. My mother is a size 2, always has been. I ... am not.  It wasn't an issue when I smoked cigarettes and used drugs but those days are far behind me and midlife hit my waistline like, well, like a ton of cupcakes.  Like many people from dysfunctional families I've used food to stuff down anxiety and anger for most of my life.  I gave up sugar and flour this year and it's been the best thing I've ever done in terms of my mood, my energy and my mental clarity so it was important to me that not to let the stress of caring for my mother make me care for myself any less.

I found other, simple ways to cope. I took our dogs to the dog park and we enjoyed long morning walks by the river. I spent spent time in my mother's wonderful garden, wrote in my journal, and made sure that I saw every sunset I could. I meditated for brief periods, which helped me listen to my mother with my heart and not my head.  I listened to myself, as well. So often my own form prayer is to go outside and say "Thank you" and for me, that is enough.

I do not need "martyr points" for this. (We collect and trade them in my family).  I gave all that up long ago.   Nor do I need the anger I used to feel when I'd look for support from people I'd helped in the past only to be disappointed.   In other words, I no longer go to a hardware store for a loaf of bread.  That fact in itself is freeing in the best possible way. When I look for support now I go to the right places and I get what I need.

Again and again I went back to my Gratitude List. My husband is at the top of this list. He loves her as I do, and is as involved equally in her care. He has taken time off work to be with her as often as I have. Because he's not her daughter, she actually listens to him so he sometimes has to be the one to give her the respectful but firm reality check she does not wish to hear. He does that willingly with great love and grace.  How lucky am I?

I am lucky in so many ways. I am lucky to be loved, befriended and have choices. I have my own health and enough personal freedom and abundance to allow me to do this. As frustrated, overworked and powerless as I sometimes feel, my life contains, if I would but see it, beauty, creativity, laughter, love, joy, connection and meaning, as does my mother's.  The older I get the more I see these things as some of the greatest gifts this life has to offer.

Go well, stay well


(1) Clean and sober since 1987

Art: Brian Froud's Lady of the Waters