My birthday poem by Robert Okaji!

My poem “It was 10 A.M. When the Angel Said You Have to Go Now” is among today’s offerings of the Tupelo Press 30/30 Project (9 poets have agreed to write 30 poems apiece in 30 days, to raise funds for Tupelo Press, a non-profit literary publisher). I am grateful to D. Ellis Phelps, alum of the 30/30 […]

 

via Day Twenty-six, Tupelo Press 30/30 Project, August 2016 — O at the Edges

So, I’m a bit tardy at sharing this fun yet poignant piece written for me by Robert Okaji on the occasion of my blankety-blank-eth birthday.  I love it!  The poem brought me both laughter and tears.  Thank you, Robert!

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#RRBC Interview with #IndieAuthor Mary C. Simmons; Part Three, Beast of Belonging (or not)

Mysticaltree1024

image:  “Mystical Tree” Used with permission of the artist, Sya at Deviant Art

Because, as an artist, I work in multi-media (prose, poetry, painting, mixed media collage) and because my creative process is the tether to my sanity and sense of purpose in the world, I wanted to know about this author’s process.

Because my own dreams (and power animals) are my guide, the way, if you will, I  receive from “between the worlds,” and because much of my work is conceived in the Dreamworld, I wondered if the same is true for this author.

Because I stand in solidarity alongside women and men who have experienced misunderstanding and persecution for using their innate powers of intuitive wisdom; because I stand alongside women and men who have experienced sexual abuse at the hands of those in religious authority, both unconscionable misuses of power, and since these themes recur in Corvus Rising, I wanted to know what personal experiences this author has had with these intense social issues.

D:  Does your own experience of the creative process mirror that of your character Jade?

Mary:  In many ways, yes. I bury myself in art like she does, though I do not paint. My mother was a painter, and I opted for the 3-d art forms of ceramics and jewelry.

I am haunted, like she is, with a great many creations pushing to get out of me and into the physical world. Note: I did not say “real,” as this inner world is every bit as real as this surficial one that has its own illusions.

I live in this “underneath” world where Jade does, where the mystical and intuitive are the ways of knowing. And I am often haunted by the beings I encounter.

I fret less than she does and I don’t consciously remember most of my dreams.

D:   Are the dreams Jade has actually dreams of your own or adaptations of your own dreams? Describe your relationship to the dream world.

Mary:  Waking dreams, perhaps. There is such a fine line, you know. I have a vivid and energetic imagination and that underneath world I live in probably would seem like a dream state to someone else. I like to tear away at that boundary between the real and the imagined. There are secrets behind the curtain of illusion in which the real world cloaks itself.

D:  Have you ever feared or experienced being locked away for perceived “insanity,” for being different?

Mary:  If only they knew….bwahahahahaha!

Remember that Waylon Jennings song: “I’ve always been crazy but it’s kept me from going insane….”

Me to a T.

Seriously, I have never been afraid of being locked away or of being different.

My fear all comes from a profound sense of not belonging. In my book, Charlotte’s graying tells about that. I can see, hear everything, but people are all speaking a whole different language that everyone understands but me. Nobody sees me, no one understands me. I belong nowhere.

That is the lock up: a tremendous illusion that seems to have run my whole life.

Crows Rock by Hartwig HKD flickr CC

image:  “Crows Rock”  Used with permission of the artist, H. Koppdelaney via Creative Commons.  Rights Reserved.

D:  What is your own experience with “animal speak?”

Mary:  I speak to cats all the time, as I believe I am part cat. We just get each other, cats and I.

I’d love to have a crow start hanging around me. I do speak to them (and ravens too) and sometimes it seems they hear me.

I do believe we have misunderstood the speech of animals. If they make any sound at all, we think it’s a mating call. This is a pretty weird idea, considering that animals that make any noise at all do it all year long, not just in their mating season.

Sometimes I wonder what the crows think about our language. All they hear is what we shout at each other. Perhaps they think we lack vocabulary. Or that “F*** YOU! is a mating call.

D:  Have you ever experienced a trance-like state like the one you describe in “The Keeper’s Trance,” like an Ayahuasca ceremony or other hallucinogenic states of consciousness?

Mary:  Not sure I would call it a trance, but I do get carried off by Gregorian chants. It helps to NOT to understand the words.

The trance sequence in my book came from an unknown corner of my imagination; it is outside of any experience that I am aware of, and just came as I was writing.  I hadn’t been thinking of trances or hallucinations at all. That is so cool when that happens.

I was thinking of brains: ours, that of Crows and how we know so much more than we think we do. We have it all in there, but use so very little of it. I imagined our brains as a vast lattice of space that you could walk around in, like a library of sorts. I think we carry a good amount of collective knowledge of our complete history on Earth, if we knew how to access it.

That’s where the trance came in. In the book, the early Patua’ gave the crows and ravens their entire history to preserve as they went underground.

More on that in Book Two.

D:  Have you studied Reiki or any other form of energetic or healing practice?

Mary:  No. My path seems to be through art and writing. Reiki and the other healing practices are a life-long effort, and I am engaged elsewhere. But, because I live in the “underneath,” I know there are different ways of knowing, and different ways of healing than what is out there in the “real” world.
Do I believe in ‘laying on of the hands’ as a way of healing? Absolutely!

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image:  “church at Abiquiu”  New Mexico, d. ellis phelps.  Rights reserved.

D:  You mention the “sex abuse” issues “the church has been sweeping under the rug” more than once in this writing. Do you have personal experience with this unconscionable misuse of power about which you would be willing to speak here?

Mary:  I grew up in New Mexico, where they sent the pedophile priest for rehabilitation. New Mexico is the place where the lid blew off Hell, because a great many of these rapists were sent there. The first prosecutions of priest sex abuse were in New Mexico.

I had no idea that the place in the mountains my family and I passed on our way to a picnic—it is still there, called the Servants of the Paraclete—was where they were sent for rehabilitation before being turned out into the parishes of NM.

New Mexico is very poor and very catholic and the American bishops of the Roman Catholic Church cynically sent these rapists into New Mexico churches as Spiritual Leaders. I say ‘cynical’ because I think these self-serving bishops sent the troublesome priests to New Mexico, to sweep them under the rug.

Though it infuriates me, I have no personal experience with sexual assault from priests.

The subject comes up in my book because of one of my main characters, a Jesuit priest who is deeply flawed, but is not a predator. I wanted to confront it head on, as this is not what the book is about at all.

I admire the Jesuits more than the other orders, as they’ve always been about science and education and they haven’t engaged in the exploitative and hateful, bigoted practices of say, the Franciscans, who were quite brutal to native populations (including those in New Mexico).

D: Are the Patua’ a non-fiction tribe in history or a fictional tribe?

Mary: I invented the Patua’–a fictitious and ancient race of humans who spoke to the crows. They do represent what I think we all look back wistfully to: a Garden of Eden where we were one with all of Creation.

Patua’ is a real word, however—it means ‘dialect’ more or less.   They were humans who were more attuned to the natural world of growing things and they figured out the secrets of the plant world. Because they were so connected, they had not forgotten everything humans were given when we got here. They didn’t forget the language of the crows.

Book Two will have more about the history of the Patua’, the Church, greed, hubris, and how their agricultural prowess got them to the same place we are now with corporate farming (a euphemism for ‘starving the people’).

D:  Are the fictional Patua’ in your book symbolic representatives for shamanic and witchery practitioners that were forced underground and persecuted by the rise of Christianity?

Mary:  Yes. There will be more of that part of the story forthcoming in Book 2.

In Corvus Rising, Book One, however, the Church as an institution does not pay the Patua’ any attention at all. Two characters who are priests are actually Patua’ allies, but not on behalf of the church, at least not officially.  Another character who is the elder priest, however, is aghast at the very idea that the other animals are intelligent, sentient and can communicate with humans.  This concept is heretical to Church teachings of all stripes, both in the story and in reality.  The church teaches that humans are God’s chosen, therefore the animals are here for us to use and eat.

The Patua’ were looked at as heretics. Humans are not supposed to speak the tongue of the crows, or any other animal. But they also knew how to grow things far, far better than anyone else. Some thought this was unnatural and perhaps portended an unholy alliance with the powers of darkness.

Though they guarded their secrets, the Patua’ weren’t doing anything magical; their botanical lore was based on many centuries of observation and experimentation.

But what is magic? The thing we point to when we don’t understand how something works. I heard a Baptist professor once comment that scientific knowledge over the centuries has shrunk the ‘God of the Gaps’—meaning that we attribute to God (or magic) what we cannot explain.

D:  Have you experienced building a wilderness abode such as the tree house you describe?

Mary:  I have not, though I was happy to spend six weeks sleeping in a tent when I was in graduate school. I’ve fantasized about caves as well. When my father took me and my brothers to Carlsbad Caverns when we were kids, I fantasized about getting lost from the group and disappearing.

I would LIKE to build an ‘off the grid’ place far enough away from cities to have animals and quiet, but close enough for companionship.

D:  How far along are you on Book Two? When do you anticipate it will be ready for readers?

corn farmer digging by hand

image: “Smallholder farmer prepares maize plot for planting with CIMMYT improved varieties, Embu, Kenya”  Used with permission via Creative Commons.

Mary:  I am hoping to publish Book 2 within the next four to six weeks.  Its working title is Teosinte after the ancestral plant that got bred into the corn plant we know today, more than 7,000 years ago in southern Mexico. By the time Columbus showed up, corn as we know it, properly called maize, was all over the Americas.

D: Tell us how you really feel about cookies.

Mary:  Mmm cookies! In fact, I am more a chocolate freak than cookies. Really, I like to bake, so I gave that to the priest. I bake the most awesome sourdough bread. So does he, thanks to me!

D: In a few words, tell us who you are.

Mary: Enthusiastic. Obsessively creative. Curious. Outspoken. Raucous. Irreverent. I am an extroverted reclusive. Or perhaps an introverted socialite. I love freedom.

D:  Ahhh!  Methinks you are part crow!

Dear Reader: 

Do you have a special relationship or kinship to certain creature-beings?  Does your daytime or nighttime Dream World guide you?  Do you experience a profound sense of not belonging?  How does this show up in your life and work?  Please, tell us about it here.

d. ellis phelps is the author of Making Room for George, Balboa Press, 2013.

#RRBC Interview with #IndieAuthor Mary C. Simmons: Part Two, City Mouse or Country Mouse?

Avatar Grove gnarly tree - full blend 1 - 1 Thomas Dawson pd 4 1 time use

image:  “Guardian of the Grove” Used with permission of the artist, Thomas Dawson.  See more of his STUNNING images here.  OMG!!  All rights reserved.  You can interact with this talented photographer more on FB here.

Thick and imposing, rich with humus and root, a lifting mist, palpable silence:  this image personifies wildness.  It is what I saw as I read about Wilder Island, a mythical place in Corvus RisingI can hear the Raven calling.

Since childhood, I have been drawn into the woods, playing in an Oak grove behind my grandmother’s house in Central Texas for hours, swinging from the trees on ropes, building tree houses out of sticks and grapevines or hiking with my grandfather in the East Texas Piney Woods, listening to the crush of pine needles underfoot, listening to him call the birds.

To this day, I fantasize a simple life:  a wooden bowl, a rudimentary shelter, a fire and solitude.  And reading Corvus Rising allowed me a few precious moments in such a life.  As I read, I wondered if the author felt the same, so I asked her:

D:  Have you ever lived in or wished to live in a forest or jungle? Where do you live now?

Mary:  Yes of course! Not a jungle though. Forest, yes. As a young girl I fantasized about living on an island with a black bird and a cat. And a rowboat so I could go into civilization when I needed food or other necessities. I reckon that was a huge inspiration for Corvus Rising!

I live in the North Fork Valley of the Gunnison River in Colorado, at the foot of the Western Slope of the Rocky Mountains. Only about 5500 people live in this valley; it is very quiet—people complain about crickets…sheesh!

Mountain lions and bears stalk the streets of our towns (really), raising a stir, but strangely no one has tried to shoot them, strange, because this place has a goodly share of gun freaks.

Politically, we go from wingnut to wingnut here. Plenty of everyone. I like it that way.

D:  How do you think living environment— personally and ancestrally— influences who we are and how does this influence our relationship to the planet and other humans?

Mary:  I was born and grew up in New Mexico, as an adopted daughter of the desert—

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Both my parents were born in greener places (Mom in MN and Dad in NJ). They moved to NM in the late 1940s/early 50’s. My mother lived in Roswell during the ‘alien invasion’ of 1947.

Wilder Island in my book was inspired not only by my girlhood dreams, but by Nicolette Island on the Mississippi River, which cuts through Minneapolis. There is no other resemblance, however to this fine city. Minnesota calls to me sometimes, the green land of plentiful water, lots of fish. Hard to be hungry in a place like that—ghastly cold winters, though (Did you hear that MN closed schools last week? Never heard of them doing that before).

In New Mexico, white people are the minority(not by much)—but they are the dominant culture in terms of money and privilege. However, the influence of the Mexican and Indian cultures is prevalent everywhere, and it makes for a richness that is absent in other places where white people dominate the population as well.

I taught geology at the University of Southern Indiana in Evansville for four years. Can we talk culture shock? Flattish land of cornfields and few rocks exposed—a nightmare for a geologist! No mountains…no green chilé, which is not only grown in New Mexico in great quantities, and the air is full of the aroma of roasting green chilé in the fall. I grew some chilé here in Colorado last summer. Not bad! It’s tasty, and hot enough.

Astounding humidity in Evansville, something that is hard for a woman of the desert to get used to. I spent summers in dry, mountainous New Mexico and Colorado.

Evansville is about 98% white. I missed the Mariachi music blaring out of open car windows.

I think growing up in the West had a profound effect on my life. Would I have loved rocks and mountains as much had I grown up in Minnesota or New Jersey?

Brooklyn Eagle by Gary H. Splelvogelimage: “Brooklyn Eagle” (composition) Used with permission of the artist, Gary H. Spielvogel. Via Creative Commons. Some rights reserved.

My son lives in Brooklyn now (he grew up in NM also). It is noisy and exciting, the city that never sleeps. It has no crows. I surmise this is true due to rat poison used by people to rid the buildings of rodents.

Crows would eat a dead rat long before they’d peck at an apple.

I have mule deer nibbling at everything in my yard and a flock of wild turkeys that stroll through every day or so, and I hear an owl in the early morning. My son never hears or sees any of that.

In New York, there is plenty of noise and art and coffee shops and theaters and all the great and awful things that humans do. We live at opposites ends of all that, my son and I.

I think being a Boomer probably had the most effect on my attitudes toward the Earth and the environment. The rights of the earth have been part of our collective unconscious ever since the late 1960’s, as is also true for civil rights and women’s rights.

What do you think about how living environment effects one’s attitudes toward or love of nature & other humans?  Tell me where you live and how you feel about it.  Post a link to a photo of your favorite spot on earth!

d. ellis phelps is the author of Making Room for George, Balboa Press, 2013.

#RRBC An Interview with #IndieAuthor Mary C. Simmons: Part One

Scars Self-Portrait Run Jane Foximage:  “Scars Self-portrait” by Run Jane Fox. Used with permission via Creative Commons.

What happens in this eco-fantasy happens in reality: women stand up for their sanity and autonomy (with help or without it);…

D. Ellis Phelps

From page one of Corvus Rising, I was enchanted, its pages calling me into the world of dreams & of wildness and justice reclaimed.  As I read, I wondered how much of the story was autobiography written as engaging fiction and whether or not the strong social commentary I was reading was aligned with the author’s own opinion.  So, I wrote my questions down as I read and corresponded with Ms. Simmons regarding an interview.  She graciously agreed.

I anticipated a juicy dialogue and I am not disappointed.  I will be posting our interview in parts over the next few days.  I hope you enjoy getting to know Mary C. Simmons as much as I have.  Read on…

D:   Are you a “woman of faith?” If so, would you describe your faith? If not, can you describe your cosmology?

Mary:  I am a woman of faith.

But I am not a woman of religion, in spite of my upbringing in catholic schools and church. My mother’s catholic family emigrated from Northern Ireland, and my father’s from Poland—there is no country on Earth more catholic than Poland….my father’s sister was a nun, could speak fluent Polish, had a PhD in theology and was Pope John Paul’s liaison to the US for a while.

I don’t go to church, but have all kinds of time for the teachings of Jesus.

While I was in geology graduate school, I was fortunate enough to be a crew member on a river trip in the Grand Canyon, which mostly amounted to cooking for a group of twenty-two men from an organization called Young Life, which is a Christian group that outreaches to youth.

Sunrise at Grand Canyon Florian F via Flickr

image:  “Sunrise at Grand Canyon.” Used with permission of the artist, Florian F. via Creative Commons.

I learned that you can cook just about anything in a Dutch Oven, when the captain of my boat baked me a birthday cake in one. Eight coals in the top is all it takes.

Food is a big deal in the Grand Canyon. For five days you’re hundreds of feet below the known surface, a long way from anywhere in any direction. Food service, then is huge. Breakfast, lunch, snacks in between, and dinner.

Enchiladas, Beef Stroganoff, Lasagna.

We geologists thought these twenty-two men were pretty weird with their noses stuck in Bibles after dinner rather than gazing in awe and wonder at the five hundred million years of time towering above us, pygmies as we were in the scale of a half billion years of rocks.

stargazin zach dischen flickr

image:  “Stargazin”  by Zach Dischner.  Used with  permission via Creative Commons.

I had a few discussions with the two younger men on the trip, and one of them said: “Jesus gave but one commandment for us: Love One Another. There is nothing in the Bible about excepting anyone from that love…”

As a person who has studied geology, I cannot make a distinction between the Creator and the Creation. I love the Earth, the animals and plants, the rocks and water, landscape and sky. This is my temple.

This is my faith, my religion, and in this Creation, I too speak the language of God.

Wonders Never Will Cease

image:  “Wonders Will Never Cease” by Brian Wolfe.  Used with permission via Creative Commons.

Look for the rest of Mary’s interview with me, appearing in parts over the next few days.  In the meantime, I wonder:  Where do you speak “the language of God?”

 

#RRBC Book Review: Corvus Rising Book One The Patua’ Heresy by #Indie Author Mary C. Simmons

Corvus Rising Book Cover

This is a book of dreams: tree-houses; talking birds, the lost feminine, found.
Wilder Island, a mysterious, mythical island that symbolizes (in my mind) the earth herself, is inhabited by the Corvus (crows or ravens), keepers of an ancient, almost lost language. Almost lost, that is, to humans.
Fortunately, there are humans known as Patua’ who can communicate with the Corvus in this language. Alfredo Manzi, the lone Jesuit priest and professor of ornithology who comes to Wilder Island with the intention of turning it into a bird sanctuary, is one of them.
As the story begins, we witness Jade’s nightmare: crows, shattering glass, a precious medallion given to her by her unknown mother (we think) who disappeared when Jade was very young. Jade’s husband Russ, an academic peer of Manzi, comforts her, tries to convince her that her dream is merely an echo of the previous day’s events and conversation.

But Jade, an artist and believer in beauty, knows her dream means much more.

H. Koppdelaney raven image

image:  “Reflections of Winter”  used by permission of the artist, h. koppdelaney via Creative Commons license.

As a student of dreams, a lover of earth and believer in beauty, I am often one who speaks a language almost lost. I often find myself at odds with what is: too much noise, too many things, too much doing, so I deeply identified with one character in particular, Charlotte, she having been institutionalized her entire adult life and unable to communicate with most humans in language they could understand.
What happens in this eco-fantasy happens in reality: women stand up for their sanity and autonomy (with help or without it); money changers pollute and plunder the earth; people, acting alone or banding together, go to war over pieces of this planet (who owns it or how to treat it), all the while trying to understand or completely ignoring the language of the other.

Enter: the hero.

ravens at the tower 2000 Stephen B Whatley

image:  “Ravens at the Tower” 2000  used with permission of the artist, Stephen B. WhatleyView more of his work  here.  Read his profile on Wikipedia here.

The author of this layered allegory, Mary C. Simmons, has successfully given the role of hero to her crow characters. They are funny and wise, silly and sly and believable. These savvy creature-beings indeed point the way.

I don’t know about you, but I have to believe that together we can make the kind of relationship between animals (human and creature-beings) and between animals and earth happen that this author postulates can happen.

I loved this book.  -&-having never dreamed of crows before, and after reading the first few chapters of it, I did dream of them and then wrote the following verse:

for Mary C. Simmons

crows

carry
fallen oak

trunk of peace
these
do not
fly

they rise

~

such
a thing

i have
not seen

but dream

~

of trees
& crows

constructing

—architects
scrubbing

sky

~

how
(i wonder)

what if

dreams
are crystal

what if

feathers

ruled:

soft
curious
gesture

clever
ubiquitous

aim

~

// men //
are stone

ether

gathered
stacked

& after?

Look for an interview with Mary C. Simmons coming soon on this blog!

D. Ellis Phelps is the author of Making Room for George, Balboa Press, 2013.

mourning: lost & found

mourning mother flickr image attributionimage:  “mourning mother” by Jinterwas.  Used with permission of Creative Commons, some rights reserved.

Yesterday, I met a young woman whose only child died last year.

Through tears, she told me that those close to her want her to “just get over it already.”

If you are one who feels uncomfortable when in the presence of pain being experienced by another and so you tell them to buck up and move on, please know that in an emotionally healthy individual, the grieving process takes time.  Lots and lots of time.  What is lost, is lost forever.  And mourning is never “over.”

The pain comes in waves, unexpectedly, profoundly.  And sometimes, for years.

As for me and my own experience of grieving, most recently the loss of both of my parents, and within that context, the perceived permanent loss of any possible reconciliation with them, the process has been ongoing since I first realized they were both in the process of leaving their bodies, until this very day.  It has been more than five years.

The pain has subsided.  It is distant now and thoughts of my loss do not always cause me to dissolve into tears, but I do still mourn for them, for myself, and for this planet full of others mourning.

I continue to allow myself whatever form of process-release I need:  wailing, talking out loud to the deceased (believing they “hear”  and respond to me),  furious dancing, receiving bodywork and energetic intervention, talking with a trusted friend, writing and making art.

Hard-Times-Require-Furious-Dancing-Alice-Walkerimage:  Walker, Alice.  Hard Times Call for Furious Dancing, (New World Library, 2010), book cover.  Illustrations by Shiloh McCloud with Michelle Noe

I am clear on this point:  relationships do not end when one “dies,”  but they do become more difficult to navigate because the other now lives on another plane of existence, communicating in non-linear dream-time, thought waves and forms, scents, signs, nudges, and yes, even visions.

For me, writing and making art are the most significant way I move forward–toward the Light.  The point is movement, not resistance to apparent darkness.  Seeking new insight and understanding regarding what is lost and moving gently toward integration of the new understanding into my life-view and way of being in the world, in relationship, transmutes all negative energy into positive, allowing all experiences to be used for the Highest Good.

When I can truly assimilate and put into practice what I have learned from a relationship and from purposeful, deep reflection on its relational qualities and nuances, studying and accepting which is my part and which is the part of the other and how we became who we are (were) together, then the essence of the relationship is not lost but found because the essential life of it lives in me and, indeed, in all whose lives I touch.

touching water by Augustine Ruiz flicker creative commons attributionimage:  “espejo” (mirror) by Augustin Ruiz.  Used with permission of Creative Commons.  Some rights reserved.

This process work is a profoundly spiritual experience.  My most recent series of art,” the surprising” and my full length book of poetry, what holds her (under submission) are both examples of living this process

Further, when this kind of profound interaction between the worlds takes place, each of us heals and can then, and only then, organically move forward with living our lives as they are now, resurrected in this new form, moving more freely within and between the realms and planes of existence toward Harmony and Love–the Highest Vibrational Frequency.

Om symbol creative commons attributionimage:  “OM” symbol by Karen.  Used with permission of Creative Commons.  Some rights reserved.

New art & Maui Trip Photos

Hawaii ocean view from 4 seasons balcony
View from the Four Seasons balcony, Maui, Hawaii

We stayed at the Four Seasons Hotel in Mauai in May, as my husband and I vacationed there (He won this trip for us!!).

One day we drove a jeep around the island exploring Twin Falls and the Haleakala Crater.  I was disappointed by the falls and exhausted by the hike (but I’m in terrible shape).   I ldid love the floral photo ops, the results of which you cansee here.

The day we drove up the mountain to see the Haleakala crater was windy, cloudy and cold (as were three of the days we were in Maui), so the views were limited.  Unfortunately, I became so dizzy with the altitude and motion sickness that as we approached the 10,000 foot entrance to the park, I asked my husband to turn around.  Bummer.

As these two stops on the Hana Highway took us most of the day to complete and we didn’t really have the experiences the sights we were seeing might present as opportunities for others, I recommend allotting an entire day for going up the mountain so that you can see sunrise or sunset. You have to leave very, very early to see the sunrise, of course. There are tours for this, but I would HATE to ride a bus around all those hair pin curves.  If you are the least bit prone to motion sickness, don’t do it!   As for Twin Falls, that’s another day as far as I’m concerned.  Wear hiking shoes you can get wet.  Beware, this is a mildly challenging hike.  The trail is rough, not paved; there are no picnic sites, no bathrooms (except at the trail head), and access to the first fall requires some delicate balancing moves and can be quite slippery.  Plus, for me, there were way too many folks doing this at the same time.

We spent most of our four days lounging by the pool overlooking the ocean under a cabana, allowing very attentive wait staff to bring us drinks and food, give foot massages, and tell us how wonderful we looked that day.  We tipped well.

Every day, several different artist’s work was on display in the lobby and as we passed.  I was drawn to the vibrant color in Carrie Lee Brady’s fish prints and asked her about her process.  She actually acquires live sea life from local fishermen and paints them, then prints them onto various supports then works the printed images with various media, finally returning the live fish to the fishermen for sale.  She says, “Otherwise, they would never bring me their catch!”

Sand Dollar print Brady

Sand Dollar Print by Carrie Lee Brady.  View more of this artist’s interesting work. Find her on Facebook.

This piece now adorns my studio wall and I think of her friendly face and the gracious way she invited me in to her work every time I look at the image.

Aloha! Carrie!  & thanks for doing your lovely, most unique work in the world.

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Waiting for Love

 

Image used with permission by and gratitude to Firoze Shakir.  Please view more of this artist's poignant work here.
Image used with permission by and gratitude to Firoze Shakir. Please view more of this artist’s poignant work here.

“They are all waiting: waiting for food…; waiting to go to work…; waiting for the system to help them help themselves achieve a better way of life.”

D. Ellis Phelps (2013)

Once a month, I practice Healing Touch with staff and members at Haven for Hope in San Antonio, Texas.  This urban center provides temporary shelter, food, counseling, medical and other services to people in need and seeking to transform their lives.  Here, I am privileged to touch people with Great Love.  But is this enough?

Writing about “re-vision[ing] and re-member[ing] [his] relationship… with the people and land of Israel,” Aviva Joseph (Joseph, 2010) writes, “How can I continue to ignore or morally justify my privileges, my actions, the actions of my government, in the face of so much human suffering?”

I feel this sentiment at my core, especially on days when I visit Haven.

Between visits, however, I suffer from a kind of amnesia or denial that helps me settle comfortably back into the lifestyle to which I have become accustomed.  I have plenty.  Let me say that again so that I can hear it. I have plenty.  And more, so much more than I need.

Most days, I feel and express deep gratitude for my lifestyle, for my wellness, for all of these blessings.  But  will you ever hear me complain?  Yes.  Sadly.

Do I consume too much?  Sometimes:  just one more scoop of Hagen Das. Do I fail to give freely of what I have?  Sometimes:  This is mine.  Get your own. 

Am I alone in this greed?  Not at all.

According to American Heart Association statistics, “among Americans age 20 and older, 154.7 million are overweight or obese” (AHA, 2013).  Further, “[t]otal self storage rentable space in the US is now 2.3 billion square feet…[approximately 210 million square meters].  That figure represents more than 78 square miles of rentable self storage space, under roof – or an area well more than 3 times the size of Manhattan Island (NY).” (SSA, 2013)

What are we doing here?

Some days, I expand with Great Compassion for all this misunderstanding.  I think to shave my head, discard all my garments save one white robe, take to the streets begging like the Buddha.  Then I remember the fate of Great Teachers of Love: Ghandi, Martin Luther King, The Christ, and I shrink.

Would it serve the world for me to do without?   Many have taken this vow and yet, here we are, still impoverished, still wanting…something.

What is it that we really want?  What is it that we really need?

It is Great Love.

Not like, “I LOVE Hagen Das,” or “I LOVE my new Mercedes Benz.”  But Great Love, that which infuses and enlivens us, that which is pure and uncreated, that which is unconditional acceptance, harmony, beauty intelligence, and peace.

My individual purpose is to notice, here in my small life, moment to moment, breath by breath, word by word what I do and do not do, what I say and do not say that is in alignment with Great Love.  And then, by grace, to bring to Light Great Love, manifesting it in as much as I am able.

A few years ago, my husband and I purged and released a storage unit we had rented for at least ten years.  Not only does this save us $70 a month, we also freely re-purposed all of those possessions back into Universal Circulation.  This effort may seem like a small action toward ameliorating human suffering and greed. I agree.  It is a small action in the global scope of actions that can be taken, though the doing of it required great effort and determination on our part.

But, I say, this is all we can individually do:  take one small action after another that seems in alignment with the Highest Good of All.

I cannot change you, your habits, or the cultural habits of the world.  I can barely change me and my own habits, and that I can do only by grace.

I cannot travel to India and rescue this “Fallen Woman” (featured photograph).  There are so many suffering.  But I can, like Firoze Shakir, point to the suffering.  He writes:

i shoot beggars
the undernourished
the children of a lesser god
beneath the ivory tower
i won’t shoot sunrise sunsets
or bees liplocked to flowers
i shoot those whose dreams
have soured…pictures
move mountains with
faith as their power.
 
welcome to a poor man’s bower
a moment a golden hour

I can only make change happen in my own life one small action at a time by cleaning out my own closets and clutter, eating one less scoop of my beloved dessert, driving a few miles extra once a month to practice present, compassionate listening.

I can lay all my guilt and worry down believing Great Love is enough.  It has to be.  And that the collective expression of this Great Love one small action at a time has power to “move mountains” and change lives.

Reflection:  What small action can you take in your own life today that creates more alignment with the Highest Good of All?

References

American Heart Association (2013) “Overweight & Obesity – 2013 Statistical Fact Sheet”

Joseph, Aviva  (2010).  “Jerusalem:  Know Hope” in Chalquist, C., Ed., Rebearths: Conversations with a World Ensouled (p.126).  California: World Soul Books.

Phelps, D. (2013, Sept./Oct.). “Healing Touch at Haven for Hope.” Energy Magazine, pp.16-19.

Self Storage Association (2013) “Self Storage Industry Fact Sheet”