Thursday, July 31, 2008

VA to CA to ......

Back in California: a quick time warp, five hours on a plane, five hours with my head buried in a book, a few babies crying around me, unruly luggage, small talk and cramped naps, five hours and I’m on the other side of the nation - in the arms of a different family with different rules and different scenery. I never quite understood what they call culture shock, maybe this is it.

It's as if I’ve just entered and just left a memory. My family, their world, habits, and even that little town are like returning to a memory heavily buried in my mind. A cherished memory that I wish to hold on to, but know dwelling there would be idle. There is much more to this life and so with fortitude, we must press on.
To Cambodia in a months time..

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Before the Morning Comes

I helped move my cousin into an assisted living facility yesterday. She is 91 years old, very sharp in the mind, but with some health problems that are complicating her living situation. Though it probably wasn’t safe, she had been living alone in her rather poshly positioned house with a million cats, still driving her car. A bad cat scratch caused her to lose mobility in her left hand. She was so weak she couldn’t start the car. At 91 and barely able to walk across the room, driving was not such a good idea anyway. I understand, giving up driving would be a hard milestone to cross. It's just one more little nod to the immobility of age.

If I reach that age - what quality of mind will I possess? What does it mean?

I wonder what is in her heart at this moment in time. I wonder what she thinks about. I wonder what she knows now that the game in its final play. I want that insight. It’s like a jewel that the aging carry with them to the other side.

Life is a cruel game if you let it be, giving you the answers to the test 2 seconds before the bell rings. I wonder if she is full of ideas, full of contentment, full of resignation or regret. Perhaps the feeling is just tired and unplugged. I guess we will see soon enough.

She is one remarkable woman. For her trip to the nursing home, she had packed just a stack of classic Jane Austin novels, a hair brush, and a tiny container of Tiger Balm. She pulled it out, "Do you have any idea what this is? I don't know I got it in Nepal and just carry it around."

She trekked across the Apennines Mountains in Spain when she was 86 years old. I watched her settle in with one of her novels about society life in genteel Old England - a lifestyle that would suit her regal manners. This was until she realized she couldn't concentrate with all the blaring televisions. Nursing homes are a depressing place, people comatose in front of game shows all day long. I don't blame her for closing the door and shutting it all out.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Nature Walk

Photo of Rockcastle Creek by Roy DeHart

Hiking is good for the soul. Or let it be qualify that - nature is good for the soul. Hiking can be downright torture, haha.

I hold true to the Quaker principle that there is that of God in everyone. In fact, I have come to believe that the real core of the human spirit - the heart and soul - is more than the individual. I have always believed intellectually that human spirits are bonded in someway. Yet I was struck with the notion in my sleep last night - that we are organisms run partly on flesh, but just as tangibly on interlocking spirits, emerging from the same mysterious pool.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Home Sweet Home

A whippoorwill softly hums at night
And the fireflies rise in mass
from the green sea

The leaves and trees
The birds and bees
Are home sweet home to me

Saturday, July 19, 2008


Knowledge is power. That's from Reading Rainbow, right?
The pursuit of knowledge has a tricky stronghold on what we deem worthy in society. Unfortunately knowledge is a happy currency for exploitation and greed. There are so many opportunities for learning to evolve into a mechanism for widespread individual and social development. But so rarely is it used in this way. "Higher education" is to mean higher worth. Everyday conversations are tied with sloppy plagiarism to up a point and down a listener. The undercurrent of society is a steady manipulation of the less-educated.

Heart vs. Brain. Virtue vs. Knowledge.

*img from

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Electronic Snake

My Cat was sneaking up on this computer cord. She was going to pounce, but found after pawing it that something was amiss....

Friday, July 11, 2008

Peace Pilgrim

Peace Pilgrim was an amazing woman. One of my heroes. At the age of 52 she gave up everything: all of her possessions, all of her money and security and took to the road to become a pilgrim of peace. With nothing but the shirt on her back, she walked over 25,000 miles in the name of peace, speaking to people all over the United States. Her message was simple: overcome evil with good, hatred with love and falsehood with truth, and she lived it everyday of her life.

In the spirit of Peace Pilgrim, Friends of Peace Pilgrim Organization sends out a booklet or newsletter for every season. This particular edition had a good article that I wanted to share, written by Bo Lozoff, a peace activist and musician who has spent much of his life working in the prisons system.

I sense that one of the biggest obstacles in our development as people is having the discipline to make time for the spiritually uplifting aspects of life. There are just too many distractions, too many things we should be doing. We hurry through our daily activities. There’s no time for reflection, we can barely find time to eat, let alone eat slowly and peacefully, we squeeze the all of these tasks in a day. Usually the few minutes we might spend in silence, prayer, or inner quiet doesn’t make the cut. That’s why I thought this idea was pretty insightful.

Lozoff discusses brain function and talks about how repetitive acts quickly become imprinted on the mind. We drive to work on autopilot and sit in the same chair at school. The human body is almost wired to take the path of least resistance. Forming habits is actually fairly easy. The morning just doesn’t seem right with out the cup of coffee. And sitting at a different chair just feels weird.
Lozoff takes this idea of habit and suggests using it in our favor.

The moment we realize we are awake – not after getting up and going to the bathroom, or after lying there thinking of all sorts of things; the first moment we realize “I’m awake..” – the brain is in a very raw and open state and can be imprint very deeply. So in those first few seconds of “awakeness” everyday, say a prayer or state an intention that reflects your spiritual goals. Something like, “may I be less selfish today than I was yesterday.”
Or, “I dedicate my life to others today; please show me how, all through the day.”
Or, “I commit my every thought, word and deed to the greatest good today. May I cause no harm.”
It takes fewer than five seconds to say any of these thoughts. And then lay there for another ten seconds or so to let it sink in. The brain very powerfully imprints this thought as your first identity of every day. All through the day it will come back to you and challenge you and remind you of your intentions. Before you are busy with all of the weight of your day, you have imprinted a profound thought into your brain.

Try saying the same words for a few months just to get a rhythm and pattern formed.
And if you can, try continuing this habit by ending the day on the same mantra.
Beginning and ending each day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, concentrating on our spiritual nature is one good what to begin to understand how to “be in the world, not of it.”

No matter where you are with your journey this is a good training for the mind. To shift the focus from all of the distractions back to what you consciously choose is real. What’s the purpose, what’s the goal of all of this? What do I want to do with my time here? Getting into the habit of saying it every morning is a good first step to changing the course of each day. Practice is the key to everything, but it’s the step that we all seem to avoid.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

More Waterhouse

I got into John W. Waterhouse after the Lady of Shalot painting yesterday

If he had been alive now, he's probably be a model photographer... He likes his ladies.

And one more by John Everett Millais - I think you will agree it belongs with these others.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Lady of Shalot

I loved this ever since Anne of Green Gables and this Waterhouse painting captures it all.

The Lady of Shalot

Part I

On either side of the river lie / Long fields of barley and of rye,
That clothe the wold and meet the sky; / And through the field the road runs by
To many-towered Camelot; / And up and down the people go,
Gazing where the lilies blow / Round an island there below,
The island of Shalott.

Willows whiten, aspens quiver, / Little breezes dusk and shiver
Through the wave that runs for ever / By the island in the river
Flowing down to Camelot. / Four gray walls, and four gray towers,
Overlook a space of flowers, / And the silent isle imbowers
The Lady of Shalott.

By the margin, willow veiled / Slide the heavy barges trailed
By slow horses; and unhailed / The shallop flitteth silken-sailed
Skimming down to Camelot: / But who hath seen her wave her hand?
Or at the casement seen her stand? / Or is she known in all the land,
The Lady of Shalott?

Only reapers, reaping early / In among the bearded barley,
Hear a song that echoes cheerly / From the river winding clearly,
Down to towered Camelot: / And by the moon the reaper weary,
Piling sheaves in uplands airy, / Listening, whispers "'Tis the fairy
Lady of Shalott."

Part II

There she weaves by night and day / A magic web with colours gay.
She has heard a whisper say, / A curse is on her if she stay
To look down to Camelot. / She knows not what the curse may be,
And so she weaveth steadily, / And little other care hath she,
The Lady of Shalott.

And moving through a mirror clear / That hands before her all the year,
Shadows of the world appear. / There she sees the highway near
Winding down to Camelot: / There the river eddy whirls,
And there the curly village-churls, / And the red cloaks of market girls,
Pass onward from Shalott.

Sometimes a troop of damsels glad, / An abbot on an ambling pad,
Sometimes a curly shepherd-lad, / Or long-haired page in crimson clad,
Goes by to towered Camelot; / And sometimes through the mirror blue
The knights come riding two and two: / She hath no loyal knight and true,
The Lady of Shalott.

But in her web she still delights / To weave the mirror's magic sights,
For often through the silent nights / A funeral, with plumes and lights
And music, went to Camelot: / Or when the moon was overhead,
Came two young lovers lately wed; / "I am half sick of shadows," said
The Lady of Shalott.

Part III

A bow-shot from her bower-eaves, / He rode between the barley-sheaves,
The sun came dazzling through the leaves, / And flamed upon the brazen greaves
Of bold Sir Lancelot. / A red-cross knight for ever kneeled
To a lady in his shield, / That sparkled on the yellow field,
Beside remote Shalott.

The gemmy bridle glittered free, / Like to some branch of stars we see
Hung in the golden Galaxy. / The bridle bells rang merrily
As he rode down to Camelot: / And from his blazoned baldric slung
A mighty silver bugle hung, / And as he rode his armour rung,
Beside remote Shalott.

All in the blue unclouded weather / Thick-jewelled shone the saddle-leather,
The helmet and the helmet-feather / Burned like one burning flame together,
As he rode down to Camelot. / As often through the purple night,
Below the starry clusters bright, / Some bearded meteor, trailing light,
Moves over still Shalott.

His broad clear brow in sunlight glow'd; / On burnished hooves his war-horse trode;
From underneath his helmet flowed / His coal-black curls as on he rode,
As he rode down to Camelot. / From the bank and from the river
He flashed into the crystal mirror, / "Tirra lira," by the river
Sang Sir Lancelot.

She left the web, she left the loom, / She made three paces through the room,
She saw the water-lily bloom, / She saw the helmet and the plume,
She looked down to Camelot. / Out flew the web and floated wide;
The mirror cracked from side to side; / "The curse is come upon me," cried
The Lady of Shalott.

Part IV

In the stormy east-wind straining, / The pale yellow woods were waning,
The broad stream in his banks complaining, / Heavily the low sky raining
Over towered Camelot; / Down she came and found a boat
Beneath a willow left afloat, / And round about the prow she wrote
The Lady of Shalott.

And down the river's dim expanse / Like some bold seer in a trance,
Seeing all his own mischance — / With a glassy countenance
Did she look to Camelot. / And at the closing of the day
She loosed the chain, and down she lay; / The broad stream bore her far away,
The Lady of Shalott.

Lying, robed in snowy white / That loosely flew to left and right —
The leaves upon her falling light — / Through the noises of the night
She floated down to Camelot: / And as the boat-head wound along
The willowy hills and fields among, / They heard her singing her last song,
The Lady of Shalott.

Heard a carol, mournful, holy, / Chanted loudly, chanted lowly,
Till her blood was frozen slowly, / And her eyes were darkened wholly,
Turned to towered Camelot. / For ere she reached upon the tide 150
The first house by the water-side, / Singing in her song she died,
The Lady of Shalott.

Under tower and balcony, / By garden-wall and gallery,
A gleaming shape she floated by, / Dead-pale between the houses high,
Silent into Camelot. / Out upon the wharfs they came,
Knight and burgher, lord and dame, / And round the prow they read her name,
The Lady of Shalott.

Who is this? and what is here? / And in the lighted palace near
Died the sound of royal cheer; / And they crossed themselves for fear,
All the knights at Camelot: / But Lancelot mused a little space;
He said, "She has a lovely face; / God in his mercy lend her grace,
The Lady of Shalott.