Audio reflection and meditation (click MP3 to listen):
Audio reflection and meditation (click MP3 to listen):
The first in a series of brief guided, intentional meditations.
Click on the audio link for a gratitude interlude.
Each meditation in this series will be accompanied by a list of resources; I’m not certain how this project or list will organize itself, or if it will.
It’s an evolving enterprise.
(Game Of Thrones spoilers in the audio.)
We’ve had a much too late spring in Maine, the landlord cut down a dead tree and left a disaster of chaos, and I saw no way to move ahead with soil, seeds, and planting given the budget.
I saw my dream of my most glorious garden yet disappearing.
But then like dominos falling, one by one, things started coming together. My landlord came out, hauled the wood, cleaned the loam pile for me, and he then used the tiller to make a nice big mound of usable soil.
No delivery required.
Friends delivered a flat of pansies that they weren’t going to use. Though I’ve never been a pansy fan, the molted, variegated colors work as painterly splashes to my entry.
They look lovely, inviting, cheery — glad singing color.
Bags and beds are filled and fed with compost tea. Garden Tower has been uncovered, cleaned, and compost prepped. Seeding has started. Crabgrass has been removed from around the beds (most of it, this is a Herculean project that needs several days, muscle, and grit).
Tomorrow I walk down the road and purchase my first batch of plants; hopefully, the plant guy will have plenty to get me started.
Lettuces, herbs, flowers, veggies.
This year, though, I’ve seeded a massive amount of mixed wildflowers.
I’’m feeding our pollinators.
The wild bergamot photo came up in my Facebook feed this morning.
This was one of the first plants I cared for as I discovered the gardening art, from my first year of watching things grow.
Funny that it came up, because it was taken in July. Not how those Facebook memories work, but there it was to greet me.
Not a bad picture for my pre-iPhone days.
Every year the growing (and photos) gets more voluptuous; every year I grow with my garden in ways I never would have dreamed.
Today I’m exhausted the way that one ought to be when we work and watch life lead us — in this case, gardening.
I’m exhausted, But here is this week’s entry: a testament to how things come together when we least expect it, that we can accomplish more than we believe, and a reminder of how Life takes care of things in unexpected ways.
I hadn’t a clue how to make this week’s entry work given my level of physical and mental exhaustion.
But here I am, and here is the entry.
And this sweet little bee balm plant reminds me of how far I’ve come, and how beautiful has been the journey.
This week, I started painting my commission, though it’s been percolating for a couple of months.
The title is “Aurora Leigh,” a reference to Browning’s epic poem. Browning’s poem is organized into nine chapters, the use of nine is her reference to the Divine Feminine. Specifically for Browning, the Sibylline Books. The number nine is cross-culturally associated with Goddess traditions, and it’s also the number of completion. The inter-webs have buckets of information on the mystical significance of nine. Joseph Campbell elegantly discusses this symbolism in ‘‘Sukhavati’.
The work comes together magically. When my friend offered a commission, I had a set of ten blank canvases waiting to be opened. I put out five, thinking of a dialogue between them. I didn’t want to take on too much, as I do.
But it struck me with clarity: no, this work needed to be nine canvases.
Nine canvases connected by elements, including a Sacred Circle: one work, nine canvases.
I knew this work would carry the Divine Feminine.
I gessoed the canvases inside (like priming walls before painting), but had to wait until Maine’s weather let me work on the porch.
The weather was warmer this week, the river is swollen with music, and the birds are chatting it up nonstop after the winter.
A thought flashed in my mind: wouldn’t it be lovely to go on the porch barefoot and start painting. Barefoot seemed important.
And that’s what I did.
I hadn’t read the ‘Aurora Leigh’ quote yet, hadn’t decided on the work’s name, didn’t even think it would have a title.
Nor did I consciously realize that I was starting the painting under an approaching full moon. A Blue Moon, no less — that fact occurred to me while writing this entry.
The only thing I did have in mind, while choosing the base colors, was sky and earth — merging a richness of blues and greens as how we experience the natural world: sky and plant life.
My porch crammed with heaven.
The bliss of losing myself to color, rushing river, budding trees, birds singing, and Purcell’s Fantasias streaming from the Bose.
Heaven crammed into a porch, a day, each conscious breath.
The other details, the title, the quote, how this thing might play out, started giving themselves to me in unrelated ways (business phone calls, accidental web discoveries) as the day went on.
Here are the first layers — more to come. It looks scary because I have an thing for layering my works with textures and light. Read: glitter and shimmer and metallics and color saturation that strain against kitsch.
“Stained glass like,” my friend has said.
May She prove him right.
And because there is no end to light, here’s a detail from a small mandala that is almost finished.
Until next week, may joys lead.
After my mother passed, a friend of hers told me that Mom hated Mother’s Day.
According to her friend, a woman of good character, one day when they were together Mom broke down crying, because she said every Mother’s Day she felt like a failure, “I hate Mother’s Day.” I suspect Mom’s reason was that I was so different (and, then, unhappy, i.e., clinically depressed) from what she expected.
She wanted her daughter to be making a good Christian family, with a husband, going to church every Sunday, and making her a grandmother.
I’m sure there was also a flag waving somewhere in this myth.
You see, I was her miracle. The doctors told her that she’d never have children. So Mom prayed for just one child, a little girl. I was the answer to that prayer, but I didn’t turn out she hoped or expected.
Here we get to religion. Specifically, America’s version of Christianity. Gender norms, so-called family values, sexual stereotypes, and cultural habits that have less to do with Incarnate Love than symbology, rituals, and cultural habits.
So Mom suffered from missed expectations about her only begotten, so much so that when I went through her stuff after her death, all my photos and baby pictures had been relegated to closet floors and a spare bedroom. She came to replace my photos in the living room and well-trafficked hospitality spaces (she was everybody’s best friend, and always had lots of dinners and get-togethers) with comforting pictures of her friends whose values were ”Christian.”
I’m certain all of this was a way to deal with her pain and disappointment with her perpetual student, sex worker daughter.
Her expectations were Christian crazy, not just in terms of Jesus and Company, but who we were and how I was raised. She confused her Jesus and her faith with a cultural heritage, and there was no way in hell that given our marginalized years and lives, I would end up buying an easy, comforting script. Being poor, marginalized, bullied, and sensitive, I saw through collective hypocrisy way too young.
Then there was Mom: a single working mother of singular strength and courage — a force of nature who really hated being that woman, because of her faith, and the stories she believed about that faith, again, mostly normative.
My role model was a force and a fury, a woman who wasn’t nurturing, but who got stuff done no matter what, and not through polite subservience.
She was a feminist by circumstance, not choice: she wanted a myth (read, mainstream Christian, stay at home Mom) but had to live a reality.
Because of that myth, she never saw the miracle of me that was right in front her — and she did better than she ever gave herself credit for.
It never occurred to her that my life was her prayed for miracle. My extraordinary journey of education, dealing with mental health issues, my spiritual pilgrimages, and the healing art of sex work have been filled with miracles galore.
For the extremes of this strange creature that I call my life demand either more miracles than can be counted or the grave.
So many miracles, I keep tripping over them in joy.
For her sex work meant shame. Education was threatening. Other religious beliefs were . . .not Jesus, not the Bible.
But I think that these were easy projections, and that there was a deeper shame for her. One that she never confronted. During those years of busting her backside as a nurse‘s aide at minimum wage, to get her miracle baby into braces as well as paying the rent, she carried too much pressure that spilled out in corrosives abuse, verbal and physical.
All that life force she had — which I have inherited — was Joan Crawford like.
Just as severe, and just as traumatic.
She never acknowledged the abuse, never saw that she never nurtured her miracle.
Notably, I wasn’t breastfed, she had no milk.
Now that’s a symbol, right there.
Three years ago, I had the excruciating realization that no one ever read me a story growing up — ever. I always read to myself, by myself. She bought me books when she could, and she proudly boasted to her friends about my reading test scores, “she’s only in fifth grade and already reading at twelfth grade level.” But this poor woman never knew the joy of holding me in her lap and reading.
I mourn my loss; but I mourn hers more.
There were realities and behaviors in herself that she could never own, for they eviscerated a more important narrative: I was a miracle, proof of God’s love for her. And the only thing she could allow in her story was the extraordinary work and sacrifices she made to honor the miracle.
How do you reconcile a story of perceived failings to the gift from God (and his only Son, Amen), especially when the thing you hate the most is emotional and intellectual complexity?
You don’t. Ever. And by riding a boat down the river of denial, she made life even more complicated and full of unnecessary pain than it needed to be.
I am better for loving her without expectation, finally. And letting go of expectation allows me to do the real work: holding my pain with gentle kindness so that I may move through it. Only in this awareness can I give as I would receive
A part of me still wishes this could have been her Christ, but I check my expectations and then love us both a little more, a living honor.
Audio embed, click here:
“Eu falo português” means, ‘I speak Portuguese.’
I don’t really. But I’m learning.
Acting “as if,” I’m learning Portuguese on Duolingo, expecting to not only travel there someday, but maybe spend winters in its mild climate.
Portugal is Europe’s most affordable country, offers breathtaking scenery, and, despite its conservative religious bent (Roman Catholic), it offers some of the world’s most progressive politics.
—Portugal is the world leader in renewable energy.
—Portugal offers its LGBTx citizens full rights and protections.
—Portugal turned itself around from one of Europe’s most heroin addicted countries to one of the cleanest, though decriminalization and treating addiction as a medical issue, not a criminal one.
—Portugal recently mandated that all catering, restaurants, schools, universities, prisons, hospitals, etc., offer at least one strict vegan option. The mandate stated: “[The law] will promote diversity of eating habits and encourage more people to choose the veggie option as it become more widely available. This of course is predicted to have a significant impact on the population health foremost, but also on animals and the environment in the long run. Promoting the rights of the vegan population is as important as campaigning and informing people to adopt veganism, in our perspective. This law seems to be an important first step on the political level.”
Not only is the country forward thinking, it’s breathtakingly beautiful. Much like my beloved Wales, it’s a buried gem that few [Americans] think of when they think of Europe.
And then there are The Azores. The Azores are often called the ‘Hawaii of Portugal’ (see bottom insert, map). Like Hawaii, The Azores are far from the country’s mainland, but I think the comparison stops there, based on my reading. What I have read treats a visit to The Azores as an experience unto itself. One travel writer suggests picking only one island to visit, as each island is so diverse, beautiful, and rich, it’s a waste to spend time commuting from one island to another. Pick one then lose yourself to its natural splendors, this travel expert recommended.
Portugal is as inexpensive as it is beautiful, even in Lisbon, its largest city.
We had Portuguese neighbors for several years when I was a teen — an elderly couple, who were the sweetest, hardest working folks in the neighborhood. Their home and yard were gardened and groomed like a picture book, with flowers and trees and tender care as if from some other time and place, which I’m guessing it was.
My father’s mother’s family were Portuguese immigrants. The first generation were also some of the hardest working, cleanest, and most charming people one could hope to meet.
I remember visiting Auntie Alice and “Honey” (his name was Sal, but I heard Auntie Alice call him Honey, and so I called him Honey until he died, when I was three) and loving how neat and simple and well cared for everything in their home seemed.
And their garden — lush and bountiful. Their home was high on the big hill in Crockett, California overlooking the bay. Crockett was the C and H sugar hub, boats came in from Hawaii with sugar cane. The C and H plant in Crockett was a major American sugar supplier. Sal worked for C and H his entire life. The family was devastated when he died a few months after retiring.
Auntie and Honey’s home overlooked the waters of the Carquinez Straight, and to the side of the house, on a deep terraced slope, they grew vegetables, herbs, flowers. There was usually something growing, as the winters are brief and mild in the Bay Area. And there was usually something fresh that could be thrown in the soup pot.
The kitchen always smelled like soup and home cooked comforts, and 4 foot 11 crippled Auntie Alice never missed a beat when throwing something together for us to snack on while the adults gossiped and talked family politics. Portuguese linguiça was my favorite, before I gave up meat. And I loved her good cheese on saltine crackers — Auntie’s cheeses were always sharp and crumbly, or creamy and rich. Not Velveeta.
Auntie Alice, her sister, the woman I called Grandma Mary, and Honey were old world gems, models of thrift, hard work, and devotion to the family (working class Corleone strangely comes to mind) — I never connected much to my Portuguese quarter (my father’s father was Hungarian, German Jew) because my mother’s stories were rooted almost exclusively in her father’s family. She was a Daddy’s girl, and while I have a trove of Guthrie – Chappelle history, not much else. Not even her mother’s family tree provided her with too many stories. Tidbits here and there. I know that from the Portuguese I have Madeira blood (see map above), but I think that’s like telling someone they are a Jones.
Click here for 30 surprising facts about Portugal, including a true shocker: Japan did not invent tempura, it’s a Portuguese colonial invention..
And if you’re really curious, 78 Cool, Hidden, and Unusual Things to Do in Portugal
There’s an emerging confluence going on in my newly developing yearning, no doubt — blood, politics, and the mysterious pull of wanderlust that always leads to magic.
The Camino de Santiago can be walked in Portugal; boats from Lisbon to Morocco (Morocco!), The Azores, or Maidera are inexpensive. It’s 1,000 miles from Lisbon to Paris, a beautiful train trip through Spain. The Pyrenees are at the back door. And transport to Scotland (!) is inexpensive and fast . . . Though we’ll have to see what happens with Brexit.
I don’t know where life will lead. Most Portuguese in Lisbon are bilingual and speak English — but learning a country’s language is a sign of curiosity and respect.
More important, learning a language is a very practical way to dream.
On a side note: I love Duolingo. It can be used for free, though it’s slower. To fast skip levels you must have a subscription. It is feasible to get your foot into a different language every year — you may not master it, but what a resource for memory and learning. So many folks play app games, but on Duolingo you can join others if you want (I haven’t, yet), while language learning.
This level of easy to use, even free, skill building and language learning gives me pause: how many millions of people can benefit from something so simple as learning a second, third, or fourth language by practicing a little everyday? We live in a wealth of resources.
Until next week, “Obrigado por se inscrever” (Thank you for subscribing)!
Images in this entry used with license from Adobe PhotoStock; map is Encyclopedia Britannica public domain.
This week’s entry:
“I am no ordinary woman. My dreams come true.”
— Daenerys of the House Targaryen, the First of Her Name, The Unburnt, Queen of the Andals, the Rhoynar and the First Men, Queen of Meereen, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Protector of the Realm, Lady Regent of the Seven Kingdoms, Breaker of Chains and
Mother of Dragons
I envy those who have not yet watched Battlestar Galactica (Reimagined), and I envy those who have not yet read One Hundred Years Of Solitude.
Both are sweeping epics of high mythology coupled to master storytelling. To allow a great story to embrace and penetrate you is to lose yourself to larger realities. It is to enter the perennial, irreconcilable themes of good and evil, the misery and atonement of our human frailty, and to participate in the collective DNA written wisdom found in first-rate storytelling’s grand themes.
One thing that great myths-as-stories do is take the story wheel and fashion it in new, unexpected ways, and with unpredictable results. Battlestar Galactica and One Hundred Years of Solitude weave stunning mythologies of character, religion, and cosmology in novel, inventive ways. In One Hundred Years, poetry and metaphor permeate every history as myth element; in BSG sci-fi’s small screen imaginative limits blow wide open.
Both works have knock-your-socks-off, breathtaking endings.
Some people love these brilliant if unexpected endings, some people hate them. Howard Stern loudly hated the ending of Battlestar Galactica. I suspect he was too literal about the storyline, and he wanted some things clearly answered. (His biggest gripe was about Starbuck, which tells me he missed the point.)
Grand mythic cosmologies require an appreciation for ambiguity and the irresolvable; some cannot tolerate their stories without clean seams. They need distinct lines drawn from point A to point B. Others not only love the empty space between A and B, they think that’s what makes the story magical, memorable, compelling, unforgettable, repeatable, enviable.
It’s in the space of the unknown that one “leaps beyond” what can be known. This leap is what these big stories invite: embracing those things that keep us searching, questioning, creating, the things that will always elude our grasp.
To enter worlds like Battlestar Galactica or One Hundred Years Of Solitude for the first time is like falling in love: in those narrative moments, you want to be nowhere but in that world, you want to be only with those characters, and you yearn to see what the next chapter or installment brings
[BSG spoiler follows below. Scroll down to the asterisk break to avoid.]
I stumbled on Battlestar Galactica well after it originally aired. I remember even in the early episodes it had an odd personal resonance, a resonance that soon became clearer. My life in Cambridge was dissolving; everything was falling apart on every front. It’s as though my life and Galactica’s were connected, we were both coming undone, and we were both looking for a home.
Starbuck became a metaphor for my survival.
She died. I died. She resurrected then completed her mission.
I believed that I could, at the very least, resurrect yet one more time.
“Just trust yourself. . . There must be some kind of way out of here.”
And BSG has incredible music by Bear McCreary that along with brilliant editing ties film, story, acting, and special effects together in superlative ways.
Music, story, character, cosmology — all these came together for me in a creative, empowering, dare I write, redemptive Big Bang.
Sunday night, another epic begins its finale, Game Of Thrones season 8 episode 1 airs.
I’ve not read any of Martin’s books. My reading list is a century-long, and my time is filled with enough. I’m content to guiltlessly sink into HBO’s Westeros reality.
What an adventure it’s been.
For those of us besotted of high Sci-Fi and Fantasy, Game Of Thrones has been a bloody, incestuous mythic joy-ride.
“Hold-the-door” is now a metaphorical reference in my repertoire, and I think it is a perfect metaphor in the era of 45, even if the reference is only understood by the GOT faithful.
“Hold-the-door,” one of the small screen’s greatest moments, no exaggeration.
It’s bittersweet knowing that Westeros’ history will end, soon. Within the next couple of months, we’ll have the story’s resolutions, and a great myth’s circle comes to a close.
I envy those of you who haven’t seen it yet. When the time is right, you have truly great storytelling moments waiting. To experience for the first time the thrill of the unexpected twists, the pleasure of imagination pushed to the limits, the glory of big characters, the delight of gorgeous scenery and costumes, the discovery of great heroes, the resolve of even greater heroines, and the tense bucking up to endure truly hideous and complex villains.
Oh, yes, and most important, dragons!
Dragons! Dragons! Dragons!
If you haven’t seen it yet, maybe watch the first episodes of Season One. It’s an epic, so you need to start where all great epics do, “In the beginning . . .”
For those of you who have watched the series, I invite you to share your season 8 theories.
I’d enjoy reading your take on what you think will happen on the way to The Iron Throne.
(Images taken from public domain .gif and .jpeg sources.)