Sunday, February 18, 2018

Experiencing Relief From Shame In The Nick Of Time

When I was a little girl, my mother said to me, out of the blue, "Have you ever noticed that your nose is not centered over your teeth?" I had not noticed.  I looked in the mirror at myself.  Sure enough. My nose deviated to the left.  Hmmmm.  I felt like a freak.  She would refer to my "droopy eye." What to make of that?

When I was at Girl Scout camp, another Girl Scout joked about my "ski nose."  I was devastated.  I felt ashamed of my nose and myself. Why did I let another young girl determine my self image?

When I was in my late teens, a young man that I thought was extraordinarily handsome and who had told me that he thought his nose was too large said, "Looks like someone tweaked your beak." Not a particularly sensitive thing to say.  He seemed to like me anyway.  But why the comment?

When I was in my late 30s, a so-called boyfriend said to me, "You look very different, depending upon whether I look at you in profile on the left or on the right."  That didn't sound flattering, and I'm sure that, observing my reaction to his words, he tried to make things better by quickly saying, "But both sides are pretty." Still the damage was done.  I felt like a freak.  What was going on there?

When I was in my 40s, a co-worker asked me if I had had a stroke. Hmmmmm.  There it was again.  I had been feeling good about myself and suddenly my positive image of myself was undermined by her insensitivity.  So what if I had had a stroke?  Why would that cause me to feel shame?

Around the same time, my father asked me, out of the blue, "Why can't you be normal, like your sisters?"

So what if my face is asymmetrical?  So what?  Why would someone who supposedly loved me or someone that I thought was a friend look at me so clinically and without compassion for my feelings and point that out in such a cold way?  Why would I react with such tremendous shame?

And worse, why would I grow to hate myself for having an asymmetrical face? What is that all about?  Everyone has an asymmetrical face to some degree.

Before I began my recovery from self-hate and other related problems in 1987, I hated what I saw when I looked in the mirror, as well as in all photos that were taken of me.  I felt immense shame about the appearance of my face.  So much so that I was occasionally unable to leave my house.  All the shame that had once been connected to my entire body and manifested as eating disorders was focused on my face.

In my 40s, I took a series of self-portraits in a mirror with my Minolta camera.  It puzzled me that I when I took photos of myself in a mirror, I liked myself.  I liked the way I looked.  I wasn't on guard.  I could relax with myself in a way I could not relax with other people.

In recent years, as I approach my 70s, I don't hate my appearance at all when I look in a mirror.  I like what I see, despite the fact that I am aging, and I have heard women my age say that they find it hard to look in the mirror and see all the signs of aging. For me, the experience has been that of liking what I see more than I ever did up until now!  I don't hate my appearance anymore!

I'm not sure what happened to change my self image so radically from negative to positive.  It seems to have happened gradually.  Perhaps it came from meeting a great number of people since 1987 who weren't ashamed of themselves and didn't hate themselves because of the way they looked.  Maybe I accepted myself as a member of the human race and stopped thinking of myself as different from anyone else and deserving of contempt.

After experiencing dismay at the recent photo of me taken by a former co-worker in an unguarded moment, I found it interesting to learn that most people prefer their mirror image to the image they see in photos, which is the way they are seen by other people.  However, according to this article, most people see the way they look in photos as less attractive rather than ugly.

"Ultimately, when we dislike a picture of ourselves, it's not that we think that we look necessarily ugly (italics by the writer of the article). It's just that we find our other self -- our inverse self -- more attractive."

I am seeking the self-love and self-compassion that will allow me to stop regressing to that default perception of myself as being ugly and unloveable when I see myself in a photo. Why did I develop such a perception of myself as ugly? Why did neither of my sisters who look very much like me develop that? Why has that perception diminished in recent years, except for short relapses into self-loathing?

It is astounding progress that I can now look in a mirror without experiencing shame and emotional distress.

As a scientific experiment, I took a photo of myself in the mirror a few days ago and then flipped it. When I look at at the two photos above, I do like the first one (the mirror image) much better!  I think, "Yes, that's me.  What a good photo." Oddly enough, I didn't notice that my bangs were longer on one side until I looked at the flipped photo of my mirror image!  I felt a startle reaction when I saw the flipped photo!  I thought, "Yikes!  Is that what I look like? And my bangs are higher on one side than the other! How awful!"

Very peculiar that identical images, though flipped, look dramatically different to me.  I am assuming that I look the same in both photos to everyone else!

The fact that I could write these thoughts down for others to read is almost unbelievable to me, considering the shame I have carried about my appearance.

The miracle is that my shame is, for the most part, fading into memory. For some reason, my parents were ashamed of something that they projected on me, and I carried their shame.  It was never mine to carry. Now I question that shame reaction, that self-hate that went so deep and became so disabling.  I wonder if Michael Jackson would have related to what I have written today.

I am not asking to be told that I look just fine.  I am asking to be heard on the topic of shame about one's physical appearance, where that shame comes from, and that healing from such intergenerational shame is possible.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Talking about love in action / Introducing a timely book of poetry


She rides a bicycle in her dreams
on the country lanes of County Meath
pedaling her way to dances:  gossip
with the girls, flirtations with the boys
smelling of soap, hair slicked back,
shyly standing across the dance floor,
jostling one another as young men
will do.

She rides a bicycle in her dreams
the season is always springtime
the hills are never steep
she speeds along, until a cock's crow
creates a schism splitting the
dream world into memory,
she awakens with a curious
longing, at home, but far from home.

She listens to the hum of the Interstate,
contemplates her morning cup of tea.
Once more the rooster sounds his
rousing call, turning the world into
countryside, but nothing like the
country lanes of County Meath.


Afraid they'll be scolded,
they want to go home.
Fearful they'll be late for dinner,
they edge towards the door.
The passage of time has been reversed,
twines back on itself to yesteryear
with decades lost along the way.

The family home, wherever it was,
has a powerful pull and draw.
If we could only take them there,
delivering them from their longing,
in an instant we would.
To give them that pleasure,
to give them that solace.
To give them bounding steps
to replace their shuffling gait,
to once again race down that
familiar street, turn at their own house,
spring up the front steps, bang
the screen door behind them,
call out loudly, I'm home, I'm here."

Steering them back to their rooms,
sometimes feeling more like wardens
than nurses, "Home Sweet Home"
stitches through our hearts.

Christine M. Kendall's blog is here.

"The Care Center" is from her first book of poetry, self-published in 1998.  I treasure my copies of both books and visit her poems again and again.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

The power of love in action

Jacob Lawrence.

From whiskey river:

"We have not overcome our condition, and yet we know it better. We know that we live in contradiction, but we also know that we must refuse this contradiction and do what is needed to reduce it. Our task as humans is to find the few principles that will calm the infinite anguish of free souls. We must mend what has been torn apart, make justice imaginable again in a world so obviously unjust, give happiness a meaning once more to peoples poisoned by the misery of the century. Naturally, it is a superhuman task. But superhuman is the term for tasks we take a long time to accomplish, that's all.

Let us know our aims then, holding fast to the mind, even if force puts on a thoughtful or a comfortable face in order to seduce us. The first thing is not to despair. Let us not listen too much to those who proclaim that the world is at an end. Civilizations do not die so easily, and even if our world were to collapse, it would not have been the first. It is indeed true that we live in tragic times. But too many people confuse tragedy with despair. "Tragedy," D. H. Lawrence said, "ought to be a great kick at misery." This is a healthy and immediately applicable thought. There are many things today deserving such a kick." (Albert Camus)

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Sharing Unguarded And Guarded Moments And Dreams On Valentine's Day

A few nights before Valentine's Day, one of my former medical transcription co-workers organized what has become a yearly get-together at a local Asian restaurant. Twelve of us showed up.  None of us work as medical transcriptionists anymore.  I was the holdout until last October, when I gave up working as a medical transcription editing subcontractor for less than minimum wage and no benefits in a field that once gave us all a good income with excellent benefits.  The oldest of us is 70.  The youngest seemed to be in her late 20s or early 30s.  She brought her 5-month-old daughter who seemed to thoroughly enjoy the social occasion.  We certainly enjoyed her unguarded presence. The youngest former transcriptionist started working at the hospital sometime after I left in December 2003.

Until I received a group email with attached photos, I didn't realize that another somewhat younger former co-worker had taken out her cell phone and had taken pictures of all of us that she could see from her place at the far end of our long patched-together table, including a selfie with the woman sitting next to her.  That was the only photo that was at all flattering to the subjects. She caught us all in unguarded moments, none expressing how much we enjoyed being together.  It puzzles me that she would send photos that, for the most part, show us looking unhappy or tense.  Although I was enjoying myself and feeling good about myself, in that unguarded moment I look distant, remote, unengaged, possibly like a sad drunk, although I was drinking water.  I see myself with very critical and judgmental eyes, I know.  Near the end of the dinner, she called my name.  When I looked up, she had her cell phone aimed at me.  I quickly put on my best guarded photo face.

In the photo from my childhood with my middle sister and my older step-cousin, I have a rare unguarded smile.  As an adult, I have never been able to smile so freely in photos.  I wish I could.  I freeze when cameras are pointed at me.  I remember being told as a small child by my mother that my shy little smile was not good enough.  I would contort my face to have the "good enough" smile she desired.  As I grew older, my smile in photos became guarded, frozen, tight, expressing that I felt hopelessly ugly, awkward, inadequate.

This year as Valentine's Day (after what would have been my father's 104th birthday on February 11) approached, I felt at odds with myself, uneasy, unsettled, edgy, feeling that I needed more sleep than usual and drifting into the old low self-esteem, even self-hate, that I lived with from early childhood until I was 37 years old and began to recover from bulimia, anorexia, and alcoholism.  Although I haven't seen my mental health counselor for two months, something prompted me last week to make an appointment.  My mental health diagnosis is related to past trauma.  I have come a long way.  My current counselor is the best one I've ever had.  Her first opening was on Valentine's Day at 10:30 a.m.

These last two weeks have been particularly difficult.  Nothing difficult happened that hasn't happened many times before, but my emotional reactions seemed way out of proportion to the circumstances.  Those emotions that I guard so carefully were exposed, and I could not escape the reality that I felt hurt, jealous, sad, ashamed, and angry --very angry.

When I was a little girl, my father told me that I looked ugly when I was angry.  My mother was angry on a regular basis, but I didn't observe him telling her that she looked ugly.  Perhaps taking the cue from my mother, I was angry much of the time, although I tried to hide my anger.  I concluded that I was truly ugly when I was angry.  As much as I tried, I could not hide my anger.  I could not hide what my father called ugly.  I told myself at 6 years old, "Boys don't like me because I am ugly.  No one will ever marry me." When we were 7 years old, a Roman Catholic friend of mine had a nun doll.  I wasn't sure what a nun doll was, but the doll seemed to bring happiness to my friend.  My friend didn't look angry.  I wished I were as pretty as she was.  She looked kind.  I asked for a nun doll for my birthday.  My mother bought me a blonde bride doll instead.  The bride doll looked miserable.  The doll was only a child, a child bride.  My father used to joke that my mother was his child bride.  She would get angry and say, "That's not funny."  My father seemed to enjoy making my mother angry.  I started thinking that my mother was ugly, too.  She looked like me.

Of course, no one was ugly.  It was all a lie that I believed because there was no one to tell me otherwise, and then a few years later my youngest sister told me that an older boy had told her that she was the only pretty girl in our family.  That cemented the lie for me.  A boy said I was not pretty.  My father said I was ugly.  I was convinced.  When I was 10 years old, I went on my first diet, sensing that my parents were not pleased with my body that was developing earlier than most girls. Now I felt that I was both ugly and what I thought was fat.  I was always on one diet or another until I was 37 years old.

At 10 years old, I was prescribed glasses for nearsightedness.  Already feeling ugly and fat, I refused to wear my glasses.  As a result, I could not see people's faces unless they were in close proximity.  Other children thought I was what we used to call "stuck up."  I assumed that boys thought that I was ugly, even without glasses.  They kept their distance from me.  I did not put them at ease.  I was painfully shy and awkward and never had a boyfriend until I was 17 years old and met a charming 17-year-old high school dropout who smoked cigarettes and marijuana, took LSD and other hallucinogens, uppers and downers, and used intravenous drugs, all because he didn't want to become an alcoholic.

He told me I looked pretty when I was angry.  He said, "How could somebody NOT love you?" He won my heart.  I idolized him.  I won his heart.  We broke each other's hearts.  I thought the problem was that I was fat and ugly.  Nothing he said could convince me otherwise.  I could not believe that I was worthy of love.  He couldn't believe he was worthy of love.  He proceeded on a path of self-destruction that ended with his death at age 58.

The only time he sent me a Valentine was when we were about 40 years old.  He wrote on the inside of the card, "I love you.  Always will."

I remember listening to this song on one of the first Valentine's Days after I met him:

Last Valentine's Day I dreamed a dream about him that brought me joy.  My dreams seem to be a series of unguarded moments, both mysterious and enlightening, even those that are nightmares.  They can bring me joy, and or they can bring me absence of joy along with insight.

May our dreams bring joy and if not joy, then insight.

I'm not sure why painful memories from the past came up this Valentine's Day, but I do know that I can't let go of what I don't acknowledge.  When I tell the stories from my past, I feel myself being healed in the present.  When I find myself reverting to childhood self-hate, I seek help.  I am not alone anymore.

"There are some of us who in after years say to Fate, 'Now deal us your hardest blow, give us what you will; but let us never again suffer as we suffered when we were children.' The barb in the arrow of childhood's suffering is this: its intense loneliness, its intense ignorance."  (Olive Schreiner, from The Story of an African Farm)

The sky just cleared, and there is snow in the hills where I saw the light a few days ago.

May we all be loved and love ourselves in our guarded and unguarded moments.

Sunday, January 28, 2018


Pileated Woodpeckers are 14 to 16 inches long.  It is fairly unusual to see one on my porch.  On the rarest of occasions, there were three on my porch at one time.  That was years ago.  I do see them at times when I am walking in the woods.  There is something about seeing a Pileated Woodpecker that feels auspicious to me.  This might be the first time I have been able to photograph one.  They are skittish.

"Occupied by living"

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

No Time to Spare

The news of Ursula K. Le Guin's death at age 88 just came to me.   It was a few days ago that I had finished reading her book of essays, No Time to Spare, borrowed from the public library.  Each essay was taken from a blog she started a few years ago.  As always, since I was 21 years old and read A Wizard of Earthsea, she challenged me to think deeply and she brought me to tears and to joy.  What a lively free spirit, living on through her writing.

From a post I wrote in 2010 on the writing of Ursula K. Le Guin:

"We have to learn what we can but remain mindful that our knowledge does not close the circle, closing out the void, so that we forget that WHAT WE DO NOT KNOW remains boundless, without limit or bottom, and that what WE KNOW may have to share that quality of being known with what denies it.  What is seen with one eye has no depth ..."   

(Quote from Always Coming Home, by Ursula Le Guin, but the capitalization is my mother's.  She typed that out for me on a little piece of notepaper with a drawing of Rattlesnake Grass from California's North Coast and enclosed it in a letter she wrote to me during the 1980s.  I may have posted this quote before, but I feel like posting it again because I love it.  The photo was taken a few days ago from the trail just before the small bridge over Whatcom Creek at Derby Pond). 

And this:

"They walked softly here. So will the others, the 
ones I seek.

The only way I can think to find them, the only 
archaeology that might be practical, is as follows:
You take your child or grandchild in your arms, or
borrow a young baby, not a year old yet, and go 
down into the wild oats in the field below the barn.
Stand under the oak on the last slope of the hill,
facing the creek. Stand quietly. Perhaps the baby
will see something, or hear a voice, or speak to
somebody there, somebody from home."
                 Towards an Archaeology of the Future

Thank you, Ursula. 

Monday, January 22, 2018

Bellingham People's Movement Assembly 2017 and 2018

The second Bellingham People's Movement Assembly took place all day this past Sunday.  Although the transcript for the first assembly takes some time to read, it is well worth reading.  The people in the above photos are identified in that transcript.  Most all of those pictured in the transcript were present again. The first assembly was held on Inauguration Day 2017.

The second assembly followed similar guidelines and was held a year and a day after Inauguration Day 2017.  It is heartening to see that more members of the Whatcom and Skagit County communities attended this year than last year.  A delicious rice dish for lunch was donated and served by members of the Sikh community of Whatcom County.  Bellingham is in Whatcom County.  Skagit County is directly south of Whatcom County in the Northwest corner of Washington State.  Whatcom County borders British Columbia to the north.  Both counties have numerous Indian reservations of various sizes, as do many counties in Washington State.  Because a portion of both counties is comprised of farms, there are several generations of farm workers.  Most of the population is white.  My impression yesterday was that most of those who attended were white.  The ratio of attendance by ethnicity closely matched the demographics for Whatcom and Skagit Counties.

The local issues that were addressed in the first assembly were:

1.  Food Sovereignty.
2.  Sanctuary City / local citizenship and citizenship.
3.  White Supremacy and Settler Colonialism.
4.  Racial Profiling / Mass Incarceration.

This year an issue involving a 5th group of local people who have been impacted by the current presidency was included and the issues this year were identified (to my recollection) as:

1.  Food Sovereignty / Economic Solidarity.
2.  DACA.
3.  White Supremacy and Settler Colonialism.
4.  Racial Profiling.
5.  Homelessness.

Here is how counties in Washington State voted in the 2016 presidential election:

County Results

There is reason to believe in the power of community and dialogue in these challenging times.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Rosalinda Guillen / A Local Voice of Love in Action

"... We are not saying, like many other organizations and many other political leaders and farm worker leaders about moving farm workers out of farm work into career enhancement or success, which is only translated as out of agriculture.  What we want to do is ensure that farm workers are respected within agriculture for what we do, which is helping the industry to raise food.  We are core to the production of food.  Farm workers have keys to improvement of the food system in the United States, to protect the soil, protecting Mother Earth but also feeding people in a healthy manner.  I believe farm workers should stay in farm work, but they should be respected for it, valued for it, and paid for it.  We need better wages, better treatment, to be recognized in this country, just like farmers are recognized."

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Friendship / Light

From Maria Popova at Brain Pickings:

... Shortly after the American painter was hospitalized for a nervous breakdown and instructed by doctors not to paint for a year, Kahlo sent her an epitome of what Virginia Woolf so aptly called "the humane art."



Was wonderful to hear your voice again. Every day since I called you and many times before months ago I wanted to write you a letter. I wrote you many, but every one seemed more stupid and empty and I torn them up. I can’t write in English all that I would like to tell, especially to you. I am sending this one because I promised it to you. I felt terrible when Sybil Brown told me that you were sick but I still don’t know what is the matter with you. Please Georgia dear if you can’t write, ask Stieglitz to do it for you and let me know how are you feeling will you? I’ll be in Detroit two more weeks. I would like to tell you every thing that happened to me since the last time we saw each other, but most of them are sad and you mustn’t know sad things now. After all I shouldn’t complain because I have been happy in many ways though. Diego is good to me, and you can’t imagine how happy he has been working on the frescoes here. I have been painting a little too and that helped. I thought of you a lot and never forget your wonderful hands and the color of your eyes. I will see you soon. I am sure that in New York I will be much happier. If you still in the hospital when I come back I will bring you flowers, but it is so difficult to find the ones I would like for you. I would be so happy if you could write me even two words. I like you very much Georgia.


(Interesting that Frida handwrites her name as "Frieda.")

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Children learning about songbirds and ducks / Teaching Children and Learning From Children / Goodness


“All the goodness and the heroisms will rise up again, then be cut down again and rise up. It isn’t that the evil thing wins — it never will — but that it doesn’t die.” (John Steinbeck)

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Facebookistan? / Icy Foggy Morning / Red Cedar in Flight, Refusing to Die / Update on Facebook issues

"There are a lot of people who don't trust Facebook but use it anyway because everybody else is on Facebook, but I think they recognize that there could be a tipping point where suddenly, you know, everybody just leaves." (At 56:21 -- Rebecca MacKinnon, a Facebook user, author of Consent of the Networked, internet activist, and co-founder of Global Voices)

My Facebook page is only deactivated, not deleted, and this video gave me much to think about in our connected world today.  So much depends on being on Facebook, often including being able to get a job. I have not yet left Facebook completely, but if there ever were to be a fee to use Facebook, I would leave.  There are other options for being in touch with those I want to be in touch with.  I am grateful for the option of blogging.  May it always be free and allow us to be as anonymous as we wish to be.

Then, of course, there is the issue of loss of net neutrality and the real possibility of less freedom on the internet and beyond.  There is also the possibility of more freedom in the realm that has nothing to do with the internet.  I'm going to focus on that possibility.

We grieved when this extraordinary Red Cedar tree, which had survived against all odds, was cut down this past summer because someone from the local parks department with power and a chainsaw determined that it was "dead."  A few days later, we noticed the two young trees that had been growing from its side for some time.  Our Red Cedar tree is not dead.

Here, in Red Cedar language, is the story of the tree that is not dead. May the two young trees that are growing from it like new wings carry on the Red Cedar tradition of storytelling far into the future.

Update.  Mark Zuckerberg accepting responsibility for problems with Facebook:

"We won't prevent all mistakes or abuse, but we currently make too many errors enforcing our policies and preventing misuse of our tools. If we're successful this year, then we'll end 2018 on a much better trajectory."

May it be so.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The Healing We Took Birth For

It has been almost two years since Stephen Levine died.  Sometime in the early 1980s, a friend told me about his book Who Dies?.  I read and re-read that book over and over again.  My copy is full of underlines and stars and my comments.  From then on, I read every book he wrote, up to Unattended Sorrow in 2005, a book that spoke to me in a deep healing way.  While meditating early yesterday morning, I remembered something Stephen Levine had said about the heart's role in meditation.  When I finished meditating, I began to search for that online and found the moving update from Ondrea Levine.  I have now ordered a copy of Stephen's last book, Becoming Kuan Yin:  The Evolution of Compassion.

Ondrea's story, The Healing I Took Birth For, which was told by Stephen Levine in a way that reflected Ondrea's dyslexia, is a book I can recommend.  It is my understanding that both Stephen and Andrea had serious health problems at the time they made the YouTube video. Ondrea's health improved.  Stephen's health didn't.

"Buddha left a road map, Jesus left a road map, Krishna left a road map, Rand McNally left a road map.  But you still have to travel the road yourself." (Stephen Levine)

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Mandala #28: Family Alchemy

On December 24, I completed my 28th mandala.  According to my book on Chinese calligraphy, the character at the center of my mandala signifies "family name." My family of origin has had numerous broken places in it for many generations.  Those broken places played out again in my generation and the two generations that follow mine.

My mandala is a vision of my family of origin being healed, resulting in a new family name that reflects the healing of who-knows-how-many generations of brokenness.  At this point, I cannot imagine how that would happen, but I want to see it as possible.

As of today, I deactivated my Facebook page in hopes of alleviating some of the pain that I experience in connection with my family.  I have not posted on Facebook for over a month now and have several other ways to keep in touch with friends and family I am close to, many of whom are not on Facebook.

I am grateful for the healing that I have experienced within in connection with my family of origin, much of it in connection with having a family of choice.  There is much less pain for me than there used to be.  It is a gradual process.  Facebook has not been contributing to healing in my family of origin.

May all families be healed and whole.  May all beings be healed and whole.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

"... meant to be sung, not read on a page ..." / 1966 and 2017: Through me tell the story / With Addendum

(a cover from "Tempest," released on September 10, 2012, the last collection of songs written and released by Bob Dylan before receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature)
"... When Odysseus in The Odyssey visits the famed warrior Achilles in the underworld – Achilles, who traded a long life full of peace and contentment for a short one full of honor and glory –  tells Odysseus it was all a mistake. "I just died, that's all." There was no honor. No immortality. And that if he could, he would choose to go back and be a lowly slave to a tenant farmer on Earth rather than be what he is – a king in the land of the dead – that whatever his struggles of life were, they were preferable to being here in this dead place. 
That's what songs are too. Our songs are alive in the land of the living. But songs are unlike literature. They're meant to be sung, not read. The words in Shakespeare's plays were meant to be acted on the stage. Just as lyrics in songs are meant to be sung, not read on a page. And I hope some of you get the chance to listen to these lyrics the way they were intended to be heard: in concert or on record or however people are listening to songs these days. I return once again to Homer, who says, "Sing in me, oh Muse, and through me tell the story." (am's italics)
(from the concluding words of Bob Dylan's Nobel Lecture, including the first words of Homer's Odyssey)
From nearly 30 years ago:
The final words of Homer's Odyssey, with the goddess Athena calling for an end to the war:

And now would they have slain them all, and cut them off from returning, had not Athena, daughter of Zeus, who bears the aegis, [530] shouted aloud, and checked all the host, saying: “Refrain, men of Ithaca, from grievous war, that with all speed you may part, and that without bloodshed.” So spoke Athena, and pale fear seized them. Then in their terror the arms flew from their hands [535] and fell one and all to the ground, as the goddess uttered her voice, and they turned toward the city, eager to save their lives. Terribly then shouted the much-enduring, goodly Odysseus, and gathering himself together he swooped upon them like an eagle of lofty flight, and at that moment the son of Cronos cast a flaming thunderbolt, [540] and down it fell before the flashing-eyed daughter of the mighty sire. Then flashing-eyed Athena spoke to Odysseus saying: “Son of Laertes, sprung from Zeus, Odysseus of many devices, stay thy hand, and make the strife of equal war to cease, lest haply the son of Cronos be wroth with thee, even Zeus, whose voice is borne afar.” [545] So spoke Athena, and he obeyed, and was glad at heart. Then for all time to come a solemn covenant betwixt the twain was made by Pallas Athena, daughter of Zeus, who bears the aegis, in the likeness of Mentor both in form and in voice.

This post came about after I read the text of Bob Dylan's Nobel Lecture, which I read while thinking about a drawing I did in the early 1980s from a photograph taken in Vietnam of my R and sent to me by R in 1970.   The drawing was returned under mysterious circumstances a few days ago, December 14, nearly 40 years after I had given it away.  

I was not going to post anything more about my R, feeling that I had told the story too many times already.  However, when my drawing was returned a few days ago on the anniversary of the day I met R in December 1966, there is something new to tell.  Another coincidence? (I had mentioned the first words of Homer's Odyssey on Valentine's Day of this year in connection with a dream visit from R).

"When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe." (John Muir)


("Self-Portrait Of An Old Friend As A Young Man," chalk pastel on paper, 18 x 24, by am -- returned to me on December 14, 2017)

Addendum:  This morning I found an extraordinary cover of a lesser known Bob Dylan song.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

A song from the early 1980s by Bob Dylan sung in Italian

Included in the English lyrics is this which caught my attention today:

They say that patriotism is the last refuge
To which a scoundrel clings
Steal a little and they throw you in jail
Steal a lot and they make you king

Thursday, December 14, 2017

On the top of my list of books to read / The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia, by Masha Gessen

"Putin and Trump are 'a new generation of monsters' claims journalist, Masha Gessen.  In her new book, she argues the totalitarianism has gripped Russia again and discusses whether something similar could happen in the U.S." (from Channel 4 news on Facebook)

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Shedding Light

Love the body of water sparkling and the birds singing as Laurie Anderson speaks to us.  Hope you enjoy this as much as I did.

And this:

Still, it is sobering that U.S. voters (given that only a portion of the population chooses to vote) are so evenly divided and polarized.  Life in the balance.  Light alternating with darkness.

Here's what Rachel Barenblat of Velveteen Rabbi wrote:

"Whatever clothing we wear, whatever persona we adopt, it's our job in this world to be human candles.  To shed light in the darkness, wherever we go."

Monday, December 11, 2017

Sweet Potatoes / Haiku / Four Generations / December 8, 2006 and Gratitude

I've been enjoying sweet potatoes on a daily basis for some years now. Currently, I cook several pounds of them for 10 hours in a slow cooker and keep them in the refrigerator until I am ready to slice and heat them in oil in a cast iron skillet.

Yesterday morning I discovered a haiku that I wrote last year on December 10:

December snow mixed with rain
Heart knows the way
One with the ocean

Today I am looking out at an ice fog.  It is 32 degrees outside.

Yesterday I discovered this, too, written by an unknown person about Monarch butterflies:

These fragile creatures make a journey of thousands of miles, but it takes four generations to complete the trip.  No single butterfly ever flies the full route, yet somehow the species continues to pass on the pattern of migration.  If butterflies can be part of a pattern that they never fully know, I think that the same may be true for us.

My blog began on December 8, 2006, with the name "Old Girl Of The North Country." December 8, 1970, had been the day the man I loved returned from Vietnam, and early that morning I had to face the reality of the devastating consequences of war.  In December 2006, a perceptive woman suggested doing something different on that date that had been a source of emotional pain for the previous 36 years, since I had been 21 years old.  I made the decision to start a blog and post a retrospective of the art work I had done since 1966.  Here is what I posted for the month of December 2006.

Blogging has been a healing experience for me for 11 years now in this community of kindred spirits.  I am grateful to everyone who blogs along with me, no matter what happens, and much has happened in these 11 years.

Thank you!

If butterflies can be part of a pattern that they never fully know, I think that the same may be true for us.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

"War is never holy, just a greedy man's dream"

A friend brought this to my attention via Facebook, where there is an extraordinary video of Buffy Sainte-Marie singing 'The War Racket." There is an interview, too.

I'm recommending the biography of Buffy Sainte-Marie.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Still learning to play the autoharp

Several years ago I bought a used Oscar Schmidt autoharp (made in the 1970s) from a local music store and enjoyed trying to teach myself to play it, not realizing that it was too large for me to play effectively. Because I wasn't making much progress and felt discouraged, I stopped playing it.  A friend loaned me a smaller autoharp recently, and I have been practicing again, using the songs with chords from here (scroll down the sidebar on the left).

Tuesday, November 14, 2017


Thanks to Beth, one of my first blog friends (our friendship beginning around 10 years ago) for bringing Virginia Mae Schmitt to my attention this morning.  The 11th anniversary of my blog is coming up on December 8.  When I started this blog, I didn't realize how much I needed the experience of worldwide community that has unfolded over the years through blogging.  It has enriched my experience of local community.  And today it has brought a new dimension to the voice of Walt Whitman.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Morning Meditation 12 November 2017: Bob Dylan and his Heart and the Door / Warren Zevon (Heaven's Door, Your Heart)


Forgetful heart. 
Lost your power of recall 
Every little detail
You don't remember at all
The times we knew
Who would remember better than you

Forgetful heart
We laughed and had a good time you and I
It's been so long
Now you're content to let the days go by
When you were there
You were the answer to my prayer

Forgetful heart
We loved with all the love that life can give
What can I say
Without you it's so hard to live
Can't take much more
Why can't we love like we did before

Forgetful heart
Like a walking shadow in my brain
All night long
I lie awake and listen to the sound of pain
The door has closed forevermore
If indeed there ever was a door.

Copyright © 2009 by Special Rider Music and Ice-Nine Publishing

Update:  Just after posting, I found this about doors in Jewish tradition.  Coincidence?