Sunday, July 29, 2012

Thursday, July 26, 2012

"Just Breathe"



Just finished watching Buck. "Just Breathe" is part of the sound track.


This is the time of year that I might see a hummingbird or a Steller's Jay or an immature Red-Winged Blackbird on the railing.  This is the time of year that it might be 80 degrees on the porch, and the cattails might be moving in the breeze.  The sky might look white rather than blue because of the moisture in the air.  I might walk out in the early morning and think to myself, "There is a hint of fall in the air."

It's something about the change in the angle of the light.  Summer days are brief and sweet here in the Pacific Northwest.

Thanks to Whiskey River for this:

"People are frightened of themselves. It's like Freud saying that the best thing is to have no sensation at all, as if we're supposed to live painlessly and unconsciously in the world. I have a much different view. The ancients are right: the dear old human experience is a singular, difficult, shadowed, brilliant experience that does not resolve into being comfortable in the world. The valley of the shadow is part of that, and you are depriving yourself if you do not experience what humankind has experienced, including doubt and sorrow. We experience pain and difficulty as failure instead of saying, I will pass through this, everyone I have ever admired has passed through this, music has come out of this, literature has come out of it. We should think of our humanity as a privilege."
 - Marilynne Robinson
The Art of Fiction No. 198
the paris review
settled things strange

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Book review: MATTERHORN and WHAT IT IS LIKE TO GO TO WAR


From Matterhorn:  

Mellas's throat ached.  Tears crowded close behind his eyelids.  But the ache was never released, and the tears never broke through.  Emptiness filled his soul." (p. 378)

For the first 378 pages of Karl Marlantes' 566-page novel, Matterhorn, I was numb, distanced, and without tears.  From page 378 on, I was with Mellas and his rifle platoon of Marines in Vietnam in 1969.  Now I'm remembering a time in the early 1970s when a friend, a Navy veteran, seeing my tears as he drank himself into oblivion,  said, "You'll have to cry for me. I can't." While still reading Matterhorn,  I bought Karl Marlantes' What It Means To Go To War.  The woman who sold me that book said that she had tried and had not been able to finish reading Matterhorn, but that she planned to try to read What It Means To Go To War.  Her face tightened with pain. 

Karl Marlantes' two books show the influence of his study of Carl Jung's writings.  This comes to mind:
If you imagine someone who is brave enough to withdraw all his projections, then you get an individual who is conscious of a pretty thick shadow. Such a man has saddled himself with new problems and conflicts. He has become a serious problem to himself, as he is now unable to say that they do this or that, they are wrong, and they must be fought against. He lives in the "House of the Gathering." Such a man knows that whatever is wrong in the world is in himself, and if he only learns to deal with his own shadow he has done something real for the world. He has succeeded in shouldering at least an infinitesimal part of the gigantic, unsolved social problems of our day.


"Psychology and Religion" (1938). In CW 11: Psychology and Religion: West and East. P.140

From What It Is Like To Go To War: 

"Maybe some veterans did feel horrible and sick every time they killed another man, just the way many people think they ought to.  I'm also sure some of the people telling me they'd feel horrible and sick could very well feel that way if they ever had to do it. But they didn't have to.  I did.  And I didn't feel that way.  And it makes me angry when people lay on me what i ought to have felt.  More important, it obscures the truth.

What I feel now, forty years later, is sadness." (p. 27)

From the back cover of What It Is Like To Go To War:

"What It Is Like To Go To War is a courageous, noble, and intelligent grapple with myth, history, and spirituality that beautifully elevates the cultural conversation on the role of the military in today's world. It is an emotional, honest, and affecting primer for all Americans on war and the national psyche, and we ignore this book at our own peril." -- Ed Conklin, Chaucer's Books, Santa Barbara

After Karl Marlantes' decades-long search for a publisher for Matterhorn, it was a woman, Kit Duane, senior editor and managing editor of El León Literary Arts, who read his book and loved it and passed it on to the publisher, Thomas Farber,  and they decided to buy it.  In an extended interview on C-SPAN, Marlantes notes that it was a series of women who first read the novel and recognized its worth, which led to it being published by Grove/Atlantic in 2010.

From What It Is Like To Go To War:

"She and my first wife shared the not uncommon and deeply disturbing experience of living with a man with post-traumatic stress disorder without knowing where all the craziness was coming from.  These women are veterans of a different war. (my italics) 

These are not easy books to read.  I woke up at 2 a.m. this morning with a delayed reaction to reading the following from What It Is Like To Go To War:

"Two nights later a dark presence entered my bedroom, waking me from a sound sleep, a presence so malignant and evil it seemed to fill the room with dark oppressive liquid, squeezing the very air from my lungs." (p. 199)

This early morning I felt that dark presence for the third time in my life.  The first time was while Richard was in Vietnam. The second time was in September of 2001 when I was on my way to visit Richard after he had been given a terminal lung cancer diagnosis.  This early morning when I felt that dark presence again, larger than ever,  I called to mind and heart Karl Marlantes and his veteran friend, Bear, the nephew of a Chumash shaman.  I recalled their courage and the way with which they dealt with that presence.  I was no longer alone.  The dark presence left.  If that's not a good enough reason to read Karl Marlantes' books, I don't know what is.

(The three paintings above were painted in gouache and watercolor by am, from my experiences as "a veteran of a different war.")

(Blogger is messing up again.  In preview, this looks fine, but when I publish it, there are a variety of fonts.  Oh well.  I'm getting better at using the new Blogger)

Update from July 27, 2012 -- Listen to Bill Moyers and Karl Marlantes:

http://billmoyers.com/segment/karl-marlantes-on-what-its-like-to-go-to-war/

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

"... transmuted into a power that can move the world"


I have learned through bitter experience the one supreme lesson to conserve my anger, and as heat conserved is transmuted into energy, even so our anger controlled can be transmuted into a power that can move the world. 
  – Mahatma Gandhi


(Two untitled gouache and watercolor paintings by am, early 1980s)


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Teresa of Ávila and the tempest


"Most artists work all the time. Especially the good ones. I mean, what else is there to do?" (David Hockney) 

(Photo taken of a section of the therapy garden area at St. Joseph Medical Center, South Campus, Bellingham, WA)

Looking out the window in the morning from the Community Food Co-op: 

video

New from Bob Dylan, to be released on September 11, with Teresa of Ávila on the CD cover.


"So it is, in truth; for I used frequently to recollect how our Lord, when the tempest arose, commanded the winds to be still over the sea."
(Teresa of Ávila)

Update from September 2, 2012:

Thanks to Michael Gray Outtakes for the correction.  It isn't Teresa of Avila after all, although it is reminiscent of her.  

Lyrics from "When the Deal Goes Down":

In the still of the night, in the world's ancient light
Where wisdom (am's italics) grows up in strife
My bewildering brain, toils in vain
Through the darkness on the pathways of life
Each invisible prayer is like a cloud in the air
Tomorrow keeps turning around
We live and we die, we know not why
But I'll be with you when the deal goes down

Saturday, July 14, 2012

"Intuition Free" (a partial view)

video

Near the end of my 1-1/2 hour walk up the hill and back, I stopped in at Big Rock Garden to see a large sculpture by Ann Morris of Lummi Island.  The young horse stepping out moves me every time.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Looking at the sun shining in and thinking about what I eat and what the world eats


Take a look here.

This summer I'm eating generous amounts of a wide variety of delicious vegetables (including lots of fresh ginger root) and fresh salmon.  I've been cooking up a rich broth from salmon scraps and creating delicious soups full of vegetables and salmon.  I've been introduced to coconut flour and coconut oil recently and am enjoying them, too.  For me, food is one of life's pleasures.  It didn't used to be that way.  Learning to live in peace with food and with life has been an ongoing process for me.

 Here is some of my story from past blog posts.

I took this photo with a self-timer when I was 34 years old and had been actively bulimic since I was 17 years old.  Next to me is one of my paintings, "Woman Trying to Remember What She is Trying to Forget."


This is a photo taken at the Mt. Baker Ski Area when I was almost 36 years old.  My lowest adult weight was 10 pounds below this.  At the time, this photo was taken, I was still hoping to lose 10 more pounds.  People were beginning to comment on my weight loss in a concerned way.

There are no photos of me at my lowest weight.  That was in the spring of 1970.  I was 20 years old.  At my lowest weight, my goal was still to lose 10 more pounds.

Last fall, I discovered a world-wide community of bloggers who have had many of the experiences I had and survived to tell their stories.  I am deeply grateful for these blogs.  

If any of my readers have friends or family suffering from eating disorders, my hope is that they, too, find healing in this supportive community or in whatever way works for them.

Thank you, in particular, to the writers of these blogs that I have been reading since last fall:


and this new one:

Friday, July 6, 2012

Oboe: Cat From the Pacific Northwest Country

This is Oboe's strategy for keeping cool

My new shades were installed just in time for the relatively warm weather here today.

I hope that people living in unbearably hot places get some relief soon.

"Whatever you're meant to do, do it now. The conditions are always impossible." -- Doris Lessing

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Noonday rain and then noonday sun

Walking by Bellingham Bay on July 3rd
video

Walking up the hill from Lake Whatcom on July 5th -- View of Bellingham Bay and Lummi Island
video

Note the odd duck at the pond near Northridge Park
video

Rufous-sided Towhee
video

Heading back down the hill
video

Almost home
video



Monday, July 2, 2012

The "Where Will Your Spirit Walk?" Koan

video

One does not love a place the less for having suffered in it, unless it has been all suffering, nothing but suffering -- Jane Austen, novelist (1775-1817) 


Some of the most painful days of my life were spent at the ocean or in my own home, including my childhood home as well as the place Richard and I lived for about five months after his return from Vietnam, and other places that I called home, the last of which is this place I have called home since October of 1984.  

Jane Austen's quote opened up something in me -- the realization that even when my perception was that I was experiencing nothing but suffering, it was in contrast to having previously experienced transcendent joy. 

Richard has never been far from my thoughts since we met as 17 year olds.  If we had had a traditional marriage and a long life together, today would have been our 44th anniversary.  

In this moment, though, I can feel something shifting in connection with the suffering I experienced in relationship to him.  The suffering is in the past. There is an unexpected opening for joy in its place in the present, born of that timeless transcendent joy I experienced so long ago when I first met Richard.    

My experience is that one does not love a person the less for having suffered in connection with that person's alcoholism, drug addiction, or mental illness. 

All suffering, nothing but suffering.  All joy, nothing but joy.  I can remember experiencing moments of both with Richard.  Without our joy, our suffering would have had no context. Without our suffering, our joy would have had no context.

In recent years, I have met others who have suffered in ways I can't even imagine, and yet they speak of the joy in their lives as well as the suffering.

The film clip ends in the place in my living room where I practice the asanas.  For me, yoga is where joy and suffering meet in a place of love. 

Did you hear birds outside, Oboe's voice, the sound of the electric fan in the kitchen, and the sound of the clock ticking?  It wasn't until the third time I watched the clip, that saw I Oboe!

Now I am reminded of an old post of mine, "Like a rolling koan," and William Blake came to mind:

"Man was made for joy and woe
Then when this we rightly know
Through the world we safely go.
Joy and woe are woven fine
A clothing for the soul to bind."
(William Blake)

and this, which was playing on the radio in my VW in July of 1968:


We were married on a Tuesday afternoon, a few minutes walk from this section of Miramar Beach, California.  Half of Richard's ashes were scattered by his brother not far from this place where we met as 17 year olds:

Photo credit:  Ana Preza

As Leonard Cohen observed, many loved before us.  Many will love after us.  Love is a story that keeps unfolding through the generations.

For my 63rd birthday in October, I'm looking into a visit at Ghost Ranch in New Mexico, the place where Georgia O'Keeffe first stayed for a month in 1934 when she was 47 years old.  She moved to New Mexico when she was 62 years old.  That was in 1949, the year I was born.  She lived in New Mexico for 37 years until her death at 98 years old.

Georgia O'Keeffe said, "When I think of death, I only regret that I will not be able to see this beautiful country anymore ... unless the Indians are right and my spirit will walk here after I'm gone."

Where will your spirit walk?

"... what is your Original Face?" (Eno, Sixth Patriarch of Zen)

(Today I can't seem to figure out how to get the fonts and font sizes to match.  Perseverance furthers.)

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Richard used to laugh and say, "It's always NOW."






I remember 
being 5 years old and how excited my mother was when I 
showed that drawing of a horse to her.
We've looked at it before here on this blog.

Listen to Einstein's theory explained.
(Thanks to Doonesbury's video archive for the inspiration) 
It's a treasure. That's where
I found the Robb Armstrong video, too.

Still reading Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes. 
I'm a little more than halfway through the 566 pages.
My perspective is being transformed.

"The numbers would eventually 
lead a somber man, sickened
by the job he had to do, to 
some woman's door, to let
her know that her husband
or son would be coming home
wrapped in rubber.  The body
would arrive in the early morning
hours so that the people at the
airport wouldn't be disturbed."
(p. 361, Matterhorn)

Remembering the early morning of
December 1970
at the San Francisco International Airport 
when Richard arrived home from
Vietnam.  By the time I got there, airport was empty
except for us.  

Remembering 
that Richard signed up for art and music
classes at the local community 
college for Winter Quarter of 1971.  
Remembering that
in his last months on earth he painted. 

Remembering his laughter, his exquisite sense of humor,
and that there were 
things that he could never talk about,
except to 
say that he could never talk
about them,
 things that are coming to light through 
Karl Marlantes' novel.

Only now beginning to walk the miles
in my shoes, not his.  

(I'm not trying to write poetry here. Blogger has made it much
more difficult for me to arrange things in the way
I would like to in paragraph form.  
Today I am simply surrendering.)

video


Yesterday I looked out to see 
a single swallow fledgling
resting on the porch railing.  
This morning I sat in my rocking chair on the porch
and watched the day lilies blooming.

video

(Why won't the YouTube video stay put in the middle like the other one?  I haven't figured it out.  Yet.)

I figured it out (-: