Panoply

Sometimes I hear a word and I put it in a holding place if I don’t look it up immediately. Panoply was one of those words. I liked the sound of it…how it looks and yet I had no idea what it meant. If I were to conjecture a meaning I might say it’s an abbreviated way of saying piano play perhaps? There are many words that have become archaic…we hardly ever hear them and they go to the ancient graveyard for rarely used words. I had a boyfriend once who used archaic words regularly. He had been an early reader. Both of his parents were deaf. He got his amazing vocabulary from the classics and other books that he encountered at an early age. And, sadly, most people wouldn’t have an understanding for some of what he was saying.

Panoply: pa-ne-plea/noun/Greek panoplia, fr. pan-+hopla arms, armor, pl. of hoplon tool, weapon–more at Hoplite. (1632) 1. a: a full suit of armor b: ceremonial attire 2. something forming a protective covering 3. a: magnificent or impressive array (the full-of a military funeral) b: a display of all appropriate appurtenances (has the – of science fiction…but it is not true science fiction–Isaac Asimov)

Pan…Greek from pan, neut of pant-, pas all, every; akin to Toch B pont-all) 1. all: completely (panchromatic) 2a: Involving all of a specified group b: advocating or involving the union of a specified group 3: whole: general.

Hoplite: A heavily armed infantry soldier of ancient Greece.

Merriam-Webster

How many of us remember, if we were even taught, how to translate a dictionary definition? Reading the above definition, there are parts I can relate to and other parts that I really don’t understand the reference. My father was a wordsmith–he loved looking up words in one of those huge dictionaries that was placed upon a wooden lectern-like stand, accessible and for quick reference…though not as quick as Google. He loved thumbing through the dictionary pages to find the word of choice and then to study the etymology of that word. The definition of etymology being “the study of the origin of words and the way in which their meanings have changed throughout history.” He believed that a deep understanding of a word was a clue to a deeper meaning to whatever he was reading. An understanding of a word’s origin could tell him so much more than what the author of the book might have intended. It could also take him on a vicarious journey as to where that word had traveled from originally.

Do we take words for granted? If we are avid readers, and especially women, we shouldn’t take words or literacy for granted. And, if we are women who write, we should have a devout relationship to words. There was a time, not so distant, when women were not allowed to learn how to read or write. A literate woman was an exception. It’s hard for me to comprehend this. If it wasn’t for me being able to read and write, would I find another way to express the feelings and thoughts that well up in me begging to be scripted? My answer to that question would be “yes.” However, what I expressed through art, embroidery, sewing, quilting, tatting and other womanly arts might not be so translatable by the highly lauded logical mind. It wouldn’t be so credited in the male-oriented versions of history.

Honestly, in my life, when I get caught in a circular pattern of words and thoughts, I toss the mighty pen aside and look for another way to express what is inside of me. I look for an escape route from the tyranny of thoughts that go nowhere! There are countless ways to quiet the mind–knitting, quilting, gardening, drawing, painting, etc. Staring out of a window on a snowy day in the mountains, like today–there are no words…

Seal is too a Power Animal!

The seal as a power animal is both a land animal and a sea animal, symbolizing adaptability to the water and earth elements. Seal Energy taps into the intuitive while helping you to stay grounded. Some of the other qualities that it represents are playfulness, protection, imagination, strength, good luck, dreams and movement.

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My brother said that this seal looks “somber.” He added “…but who wouldn’t be with one’s habitat being destroyed and population dwindling.”

I told him that if he could see her in person he might think that she embodies power.

“The canvas is 24-inchesx24-inches,” I replied

He texted back, “Yes, I might have misspoken by using the word somber–maybe defiant (which could imply power) would be a better adjective.”

I texted back: “Interesting. I posted the photo on my artist page on Facebook. A friend wrote back: “He is so cute. He looks like he came out of a child’s story book. Beautifully done.”

I guess it is in how one sees it.

I didn’t plan to paint a seal. I didn’t plan to paint an animal. I mostly paint intuitively. I painted what emerged from the canvas and today, it is this seal.

I grew up by the ocean in San Francisco, CA. There was a big rock that we called Seal Rock because that’s where the seals loitered. There was a coin-operated tower viewer through which we could watch the seals as they clambered over the rock, as the waves dashed the rock, as the fog drifted in over the rock and hid it all from our sight.

According to Wikipedia

Seal Rock (or Seal Rocks) is a group of small rock formation islands in the Lands End area of the Outer Richmond District in western San Francisco, California. They are located just offshore in the Pacific Ocean, at the north end of the Ocean Beach, near the Cliff House and Sutro Baths ruins.”

As I type these words from Wikipedia, a nostalgia washes over me like a soft salty ocean wave. And then drifts across the sand into ocean’s memory. I knew these places and like the seals we grew up beside, we took them for granted. It’s often in memory that things take on a lovely patina and sometimes we linger there over the words and the images that they conjure. Lands End, Sutro Baths, Cliff House, Ocean Beach, Seal Rock–all in my backyard as we lived four blocks from Ocean Beach and The Great Highway that ran the length of the beach from the Sunset through the Richmond District. We rarely could see sunsets in the Sunset District. The fog was so thick! The foghorns played our nightly and daily lullaby.

We weren’t allowed to go to the beach on our own. As I got older, I got permission to take my younger siblings there. We walked from Moraga Street, crossed Lawton, Kirkham, then Judah where the streetcars ran. We turned down the street from 44th Avenue to 48th Avenue. At Judah and 48th, there was a tunnel which ran under the Great Highway. We ran through the tunnel, screaming, our voices echoing. The tunnel smelled of urine and the ocean. We probably ran and screamed to chase off any unsavory characters who might be lurking nearby. And then, like a light at the end of life’s tunnel, there was the ocean big, bold and vast. We were so small beside her.

When I was a young mom, I used to take my daughters to Ocean Beach and we’d sit on a cement wall gazing out to sea having our hot chocolate in thermoses with doughnuts. We would sit beside the mesmerizing ocean. The constancy of the waves, the intrusion of the foghorns, the taste of salt on our lips mixing with the bittersweet chocolate. People of all ages and sizes bundled against the cold, running, walking their dogs, walking with a companion or alone. I never really felt alone when I walked solo beside the ocean. I considered the ocean like a mother to me. Familiar and all-embracing.

Memories…a friend is writing her memoir. Mine would be wrapped in sea salt, waves, barking seals, my siblings, fog, and yearning.

This painting of a seal has taken me back in time and conjured up these memories.

Plan and be Flexible

In the past few years, many of us have hesitated to make plans. If we did, frequently something came up to alter our course. Flexibility is fast becoming a new practice. If we can’t gather as planned, then hmmm, what can we or I do instead? I’ve heard the phrase in the foreseeable future, and even that doesn’t come with a guarantee. These days, when someone asks me what a typical winter in the mountains is like, I say that it no longer has relevance as to what the weather is going to be like this winter. Things have changed, are changing, and I’m learning how to be flexible in the face of this.

When I’m asked what I’m going to do for the holiday, I hear myself answering “I don’t know.” I had a plan for Thanksgiving and then, it changed. Then I settled on another plan and at the last minute, I changed my mind about attending as I wasn’t feeling good.

We do plan things…but then, how are we when things don’t go according to plan? There are many possible responses. I was disappointed when my first Thanksgiving plan didn’t work out. I scrambled around searching for another gathering to attend. I found one, but then, I reneged at the last moment. The hostess was insistent that I take care of myself and didn’t make me feel bad for not participating. I did bring over a loaf of home-baked saffron bread and apple crumble as promised. The day after the gathering, she brought me a generous serving of the turkey dinner.

It is helpful to be able to adapt to change, to be flexible. We’ve all heard that change is the only thing that is constant…but the phrase doesn’t complete itself. It could be therefore it is wise to learn how to be flexible.

In the ancient philosophy, The Tao, there is a discussion of flexibility. This philosophy considers that everything is relative. There is the belief that any choice we make is dependent upon the circumstances in the moment and not on preconceived notions or plans. Digging in my heels and feeling upset about a change of plan makes me unhappy. Applying the principle of flexibility, calls on a creative solution in the face of a change of circumstances.

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Here’s a fun poem that I wrote about how to be with some of life’s choices when I wasn’t sure in which direction to go. I titled it The Obvious Next Thing.

Naked, I sit on a hot rock beside the calm lake,
drying my toes.
The brilliant chartreuse elephant leaves crowd around
like curious spectators.
I need additional reinforcements
a growing awareness of my own expertise.
The sincere blue of the sky
contrasts my cloudy thoughts.
In myself, what must I nourish?
A concerned moon is rising over the water.
“Go left, go right, go to Peru, find true love”–
if only it was that easy, if each day I could be
presented with specific directives–
“Eat a salmon-colored mango,
paint leaves the colors of gumdrops,
eat them, their crunchy Autumn texture.”
“Don’t be a little old lady
wearing a particularly strong perfume,
not yet!”

I find a pot of tea is a solution
to most problems.
I put on my socks,
wrap a towel around my nakedness
and stumble home to the beckoning pot
the obvious next thing.

****



The Big Bad Wuss

This really happened a few years ago–although I took poetic license at times. I wrote this from the biker’s perspective. Enjoy.

The Big Bad Wuss
by
Chris O’Brien

I’m the big bad wolf to  her.  I glide my left leg over my Harley, unzip my black leather jacket and pull a pack of cigarettes out of the jacket sleeve all in one well-practiced move. 

Her car window is rolled down, her arm resting on the window frame.  She pretends not to notice me, but I’m watching her watching me as I go through the motions.  She looks like one of those prissy girls.  And I happen to know that Miss Priss’s have fantasies about bad boys.

I saunter over to her car.

“Looks like it’s going to be a long wait.  You might as well get out and stretch.”

“So you think it’s going to be a while?” she says her voice enticingly shaky.

“Could be up to thirty minutes,”  I said slowly exhaling cigarette smoke, squinting my eyes, taking her in.

As she got out of the car, she tugged at the bottom of her red tee shirt.

Cute, I thought.  She’s wearing her blue jeans and a little red tee, but my guess is that she’s a girly girl, more comfortable in a frilly dress and high heels.

The wind caught her long hair and wrapped it around her face.  She pulled a scrunchie out of her jeans pocket.  Bunching her hair in one hand, she wrapped the scrunchie around it with the other.

“Where you heading?” I growled.

She hesitated, “um, Reno.”

“What do you know, me too!  I’m staying at the Nugget.”

She looked up abruptly and blurted out “So am I!”

‘My name is Michael and you’re…” I prompted.

“I’m Michelle.”

“Michael-Michelle,” I said turning the coincidence over in my mind.

Let’s meet for a drink later, I nearly commanded.

“Well, I’m meeting my sister in Reno. It’s actually my Grandma’s 85th birthday.”

“Yeah, well if it works,” I said suddenly casual, not wanting to scare her off.  “The last name is Dalton.  You can call the front desk and get my room number.”

Then, “Say, what’s that puddle under your car?” I asked.

She raised both hands to her face and squealed “A puddle!  Is that coming from my car?”

“Step aside,” I said stoutly.

I squatted.  She squatted close beside me, trembling.  I dipped my fingers into the puddle and rubbed the fluid between my fingers. 

“It feels like oil and water.  Could be the water pump.”

“Maybe I should turn around and go back home.  I’d forget the whole trip but I’ve baked my Grandma’s birthday cake,” she nearly cried. 

It was then and there that I transformed into the valiant prince.

“Don’t you worry, Michelle, I won’t abandon you.  I’ll make sure that you get to your Grandma’s birthday party.” 

“Well, I don’t know,” she said haltingly.  “I don’t want to slow

you down.” 

“I’ve got nowhere to be in a hurry.  That’s it.  I’ve made up my mind, Michelle, I’m getting you to Reno.”

A blend of relief and fear seemed to fix on her transparent face.

Then, I blew it.

Squatting as we were beside Michelle’s car, this amazing intoxicating scent floated on the soft summer breeze.  Leaning in closer to her, unable to help myself, I spoke in a whisper, “Michelle, the better to smell you.” 

She stood up abruptly.

“What are you talking about?  What are you doing?”

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry.  I’ve been in the hospital for over a month.  I had heart surgery.  My heart has lost thirty percent of its function the doctors said.  Your smell, your perfume was so lovely.”

I felt like a fool, everything came blurting out.  I knew that I was out of control.

“I nearly died on the table!  Now, I notice things that I never noticed before.  It’s like I have this extra sensory awareness.  Like, fuck, even the butterflies on that pile of bear shit over there.  Pardon my language.  I used to only notice the shit on the road, now I notice the butterflies, their colors, the way they waver in the air with a delicate uncertainty.  Their fragility.  Life’s fragility.  Your transient beauty!  That fragrance!”

Michelle looked around, seemingly embarrassed by my passionate rush of emotion.

I looked down the road at the long line of cars.  All of them were waiting for the road to be cleared so that they could continue on their way.  Michelle and I were the only ones who ventured out and made a connection.  Everyone else was so damn isolated.  I felt the need to apologize but at the same time, I felt I was being the most sincere that I’d ever been.

Michelle looked at me disdainfully. 

“You’re, you’re an impostor,” she said.  “You’re not a bad boy at all, are you?”

“I never said that I was a bad boy, Michelle.”

“You were playing the part.”

“At first, I admit it.  Michelle, meet me in Reno for a drink, please.” 

“I just want to swing my car around and go home,” she said.

Then she looked into my eyes and kissed me hard on the lips.

She’s on her own

You pay more for a room with a view. This is a commonly known fact. As if the view would not exist without the room faceted just so. This enables the proprietor of the Crest Motel to charge $50.00 more per night than for a view-less room facing the parking lot and highway. I begrudgingly admit that it is special. A tanker or barge or a large vessel, not know by name to a landlubber like myself, passes through the channel. Three black crows preceded by their barking caws swoop down, fanning their wings with a sudden shudder and then pulling them in tight to their shiny black bodies.

I like vistas such as this; they make me want to cry. The view is accompanied by the soothing sound effects of the constant ocean. I know the ocean mostly from the shore. I called her mother when I was in the womb. I grew up five blocks above the Great Highway in San Francisco, beyond which the ocean stretched as far you could see.

An impatience lays upon me as I sit in the chair in this room with a view, writing. I must go down and sit outside in a chair overlooking the sea–the chair the three crows occupy. My coming chases the raggedy crows away as their calls remain overhead. A bridge stretches across a broad expanse of bay. From this distance the glint of a car crosses from one side of the bridge to the other. The manmade landmarks are foreign to me, but not the sea.

It is both sad and strange to travel alone. And, I have to admit, I feel slightly depressed. Most of my life, I held someone’s hand–a sibling’s, rarely a parent’s; infrequently, a spouse’s hand, often, my daughters’; sometimes a boyfriend’s, now my own. Keeping my own company. The bird chatter sounding like a slightly squeaking brake, the wind rustling the coastal trees, the silent bay and the noisy highway together create an oddly restful ambience.

I could explore. I could go to the office and get directions to a path which would take me onto the beach or out to the breakwater wall, perhaps. Movement, physical movement, often helps to shift sadness. I’m curious. It looks like one could walk down there and be right beside the water. I have a plan.

The desk clerk in the office tells me that there is no trail down to the beach. She directs me to the river trail. I can catch it behind the Safeway parking lot. “It’s really nice,” she says, “it’s all paved.” She doesn’t know that I prefer the feel of the cushy earth to unyielding pavement. I thank her.

The fog begins to roll inland with a certainty, hiding the small mountain range on the opposite shore and the longest bridge. I must go before I disappear as well.

Later: Everything is an adventure or at least something to write about. Like the discovery that this is not the ocean that I’ve been looking at and writing about. This is the Columbia River! And it’s huge, like an ocean! The fountain in the center of the courtyard below has colored lights in the bottom of a scant pool which splashes colors up though the now-dribbling water. The river trail was paved as foretold, a small trolley ran beside it for those who didn’t want to walk, jog or bike ride. It’s 7:35 in the evening now. The sun is making a slow descent in the west. It hasn’t reached the fog bank yet which is going to surely douse the sun and send me inside.

Sitting on the upper balcony outside of my room, I’m aware of how much I live inside myself. There are five neighboring sliding glass doors opening onto this balcony. The deck streams from one end to the other without dividers. It’s a narrow deck; no one else is out here and I’m glad. I’m not in a sharing mood. I’d nod and go inside if someone emerged.

I distract myself. The Astoria Pier runs ramps down to the vessels below. Small dinghies, moderate-sized fishing boats and a hulking steel fishing boat, orange and rusting–these line the pier.

And the seals, there are signs on every ramp–“Danger, Seals on Pier!” Their mossy green-brown bodies have taken the sun into their hides and claimed it. They have an air of “don’t mess with me.” Their barking. Unlike the crows, they won’t be scared off–if someone gets too close, their echoing barks intensify. Are they complaining? Staking territory? Merely chatting?

I wonder if I’ll always be alone. When do I stop feeling like a stranger to myself? Omigod! A huge tanker like a floating gray whale passes in this very wide river. Spontaneously, I wave, shouting “I’m here, over here!” A small, less significant boat scuttles past the tanker, lost beside its bulk. The fog interferes with the sun’s warmth but not it’s light. The tanker moves slowly but steadily. Watching it is better than watching television; the mind is not assaulted. I learned today that each blast of a ship’s horn has a meaning. One blast means passing on starboard, two means passing on the left. Five short blasts is an alert “If we don’t change course, we’re going to crash!”

This woman, myself with wild golden brown hair sits in the setting sun on a green plastic chair clutching a fat blue Dr. Grip pen as if my life depended on it. The hot tub invites but two young women are filling it up with their high esteem
–no room for me. Now the sun is flirting with the fog and the air has a sudden nip. I’m going inside.

Here and Now and Change

I am here. It is now. Now has challenges. The climate changes and devastations, the ways we’ve been misusing the earth. There is a price to pay. Civil unrest. Political themes and schemes. A pandemic that seems to be ongoing without an obvious resolution.

There are things that bind me to life. There are times when part of me wants to escape. I have no wisdom for others. None. Today looks like winter due to the cast of smoke. I find myself craving winter. Winter like an oasis in a too hot, too fiery, too smoky, too long summer. We’re coming to dread summer in the mountains and in the lowlands of the west coast of California. Carefree times–no more.

How can I impose happiness these days? Where in my psyche is there an understanding of how to be in these very risky, uncertain times? I can’t feign happiness.

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“The Only Constant in Life Is Change.”- Heraclitus

This seemingly opposite quote was coined by French writer Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. Translation: “The more things change, the more they remain the same.”

There are times in our lives when we choose change. They are choice points and there can be an easy flow towards the choices. When I met the man I was to marry, it felt like I was in the flow–grown up, living at home, working at a steady job, meeting a man who wanted to marry me…accepting his proposal, moving away, having children. All of these seemed to be in a natural flow. However, in retrospect, I realize that I didn’t give a great deal of thought to the choices. I followed the strictures of a too restricted childhood. Everything was virtually mapped out for me and I complied without a great deal of thought. So while I made choices, while they seemed natural, in many ways, they weren’t my free choices.

At other times in my life, change was forced upon me it seemed. “Grow or die” sort of imperatives. I can look back and see where I made choices that supported growth. Returning to college in my thirties, taking creative writing classes through a woman’s re-entry program. These were self-empowering choices that helped me to make the next changes in my life. Through the creative writing class, I became enamored of poetry. Poetry became the connecting force to my deepest feelings and desires. This deepening of self-knowing helped me to make the choice to leave my marriage, finally. A change, a leap that I knew I must make.

How are you with change? If it is a guarantee that change is the only constant, why do we fight against it? I suppose it is a fear of the unknown. We have the familiar…it’s like the security of the womb before we’re pushed out into a larger world. What awaits us? We want to know something before we can really know it. This then calls upon our adventuring spirit. The admission of: “I don’t know. I am curious. Let’s find out what’s next.”

Then the second quote, “the more things change, the more they remain the same.” One understanding is that yes, change can be thrust upon us by outside circumstances, turbulent times. However, in order to truly go forward, we must meet that change with our own deepest understanding and heart-wisdom. All of this is easier said than done.

I am, you are, we are enigmas to ourselves, aren’t we?

Assimilation–some thoughts

It fails…everyone.



“Cultural assimilation is the process in which a minority group or culture comes to resemble a society’s majority group or assume the values, behaviors, and beliefs of another group whether fully or partially.”

Wikipedia

Alchemy of flowers, spices, vegetables and a drop of wine makes an all too wonderful sauce. Melting pots are different because they separate the one from her identity. The things which make her and him unique dissolved into a stew. What advantage is there in homogenizing immigrants–what is lost to them, to us, to the wholeness that loves variety?

What remains is the longing for what you’ve abandoned in yourself–grief, you bet, yes!

Assimilation has also been referred to as Cultural Homogenization–It is an aspect of cultural globalization intending a reduction in cultural diversity.

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What then is the story that wants to be told through anyone’s uniqueness? through me? through you?
Weren’t we all once immigrants?
Weren’t we all once hostile invaders?
Weren’t we invaded?

I was never really ‘white’ never really wanted to be that generic, one-size fits all milk-toast identity grouping on applications. Applications for jobs, apartments, housing, surveys, sundry forms, what have you. Checking ‘Other’ didn’t cover it for me either. Other planet? Other Galaxy? Other sexual orientation, other dimensional, another type of animal, homo-erectus or feline. Yet, doesn’t someone love to classify, label, name and segregate disorienting one from their origins/ancestry and the wonder of diversity?

I can agree that I’m female, belonging to the largest and least represented category (along with children), the culture of woman. Doesn’t that culture span the globe? Don’t we have more in common than not? We search for the exotic and foreign through travel and outside of ourselves, when, in fact, the terrain within is vastly foreign, exotic. Carl Jung was one of our navigators through this landscape but he died and we were left stranded in a sea of distractions and technological advances. All of these diversions from what is going on inside and in the larger world over which we feel helpless to make a difference.

I would have felt more shame had my ancestors been the first to arrive on the Mayflower. I wouldn’t have wanted to claim that perceived glory. It was too close to the extermination of a race of people with whom I feel empathy. The indigenous ones only wanted to protect their lands, their people and the pristine quality of their lives–their connection to the earth–indigenously wise.

Nov.16, 2015
My ancestors came over from Italy and Ireland a few generations ago.
I am third generation here not so long–
Immigrated, assimilated–
but the dreams persist and
I resist the memories they convey.
I am here–America–
born in America.
Why then this strange chanting
in a language that makes me tingle
yet I don’t understand?

Nov.17, 2015
Because when she let go of her heritage, she let go of her birthright and the inherent magic.

Skin–shades of various tones. Beneath it, ah, bones, blood, organs–skin, what perceptions do we have based on shades of skin?

What perceptions do we have based on how much money? Having more money, or with less money, or without money?

Years–accumulation of years–what perceptions do we have based on how many or how few years one has lived on planet earth?

What perceptions do we have based on sexual orientation?

What perceptions do we have based on physical appearance? Height, weight…

On and on it goes, our limiting perceptions.

Once upon a time, I married a young Hispanic man. I gave birth to two daughters. They resemble their Mexican heritage physically. They are also Irish, Italian, French and German. Their father did not grow up speaking Spanish although both of his parents were fluent native speakers. Was there a shame in bringing the language forward? The dream was to have your children be assimilated, an American, and it was presumed that the native language would link them to something undesirable.

Today, when my daughters are in the company of other Spanish-speaking Hispanics and it is discovered that they don’t speak the language, they are looked down upon by the native speakers. Yet, because of their appearance, they are devalued by the “White” ones. It’s all very peculiar, isn’t it?

Poetry and the Common Ground

Poetry takes the everyday events and elevates them. Poetry takes the extraordinary events and translates them into something relatable. Poetry can be anything from passion overflowing on a page to a quiet meander beside a forest stream. Poetry is inherently an avenue for self-discovery and deepening. It fosters relationality with the reader.

Where do poets come from? Years ago, in my late thirties, I returned to college. I signed up for a women’s re-entry program with a designated curriculum. Creative Writing was one of the classes. Within this writing class was a segment on poetry. Poetry had always seemed unattainable–both in deciphering what the poet intended to say and in writing my own pen-to-page poem. I hadn’t realized that at this single moment in time, poetry was exactly what I needed. In the morning, I’d roll out of bed onto the floor. Poems gushed from me into my notebook! I was astonished. Suddenly, I who had been brought up to be seen and not heard couldn’t stop writing poetry. Poetry provided an opportunity to write about my life and to integrate the experiences of my life. The poetess in me was born!

Awhile later, I read some of my poetry in intimate circles, then in front of larger audiences. Typically, the women in the audience connected with my words, with me through my words. While the poet and/or writer writes alone, the words of one woman’s experience, my experience, created a common ground–a place of recognition for the listeners. When shared, the poetry became a link between me and other women who know what it is to be a woman in these times. The struggle to claim one’s own identity, to find her voice, to grow out from under the societal expectations of what it is to be a woman–i.e., the common ground. Bringing light to what has bound us, vanquishing the inner shackles that don’t encourage our wholeness, our truth–now laid out before you and me through a poem. How grateful I am to have found this voice in me.

Writing poetry, we don’t merely look and see something objectively. We become deep see-ers. The writer connects with her subject in a visceral way. The poem then has the capacity to bring the reader into the experience. Another crucial thing, when we see deeply and connect with something outside of us, we establish a relationship with it. From that perspective, we begin to see it’s value and the part that it plays in our lives.

Poetry has the capacity to connect us to the themes of our lives–and there lies the common ground once again. We each have life themes that we share in common–birth, death, love, angst, hope, freedom, faith, fear, trauma, renewal, grief, quandaries, and more.

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What is the value in claiming your inner poet in the world today? Your inner poet is a soulful creature. Engaging soulful awareness of yourself widens the opportunity to do so with others and of what we name as inanimate. Everyone and everything becomes more than merely players and props. The inanimate is then valued and we begin to care more deeply. Things are not there only for our pleasure, entertainment or consumption. They are appreciated for what they intrinsically are. And then, there’s the possibility of fully embracing the earth that is our very sustenance.

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What is the poetry that connects you to yourself, your neighbor, to other women or men, to the earth, to life? Trust poetry to provide the common ground.


Forecasting the Weather

I wonder when people first began forecasting the weather.  When did it actually become a science with some predictability?  I learned that “It was not until the invention of the electric telegraph in 1835 that the modern age of weather forecasting began.”  It became more of a science through the research of two men in the Royal British Navy, Sir Francis Beaufort and Vice-Admiral Robert FitzRoy.  As is typical with any new discovery, these men were initially ridiculed in the press until their work gained scientific credence.   Their findings are the basis for today’s weather forecasting knowledge.

I imagine that indigenous cultures have always been and continue to be in touch with this phenomena. They lived and live their lives in close connection to the earth, to the land from which they’ve risen.  They have an understanding of this planet and its intrinsic relationship within the entirety of the cosmos.  They certainly related to the moon and its cycles.  While there may have been superstition around extreme weather patterns–thunder and lightning storms, tornadoes, hurricanes and other natural disasters–they had a sense of their place in the earth’s unfolding story as told through nature’s cycles and rhythms.  I can only imagine what that would be like, to have such a deep connection.

Every man I’ve ever dated understood weather-forecasting and the terminology associated with it.  They  described what it meant if a storm rolled in from any of the four directions.  Each one of them explained this all with great seriousness and in detail…”This storm is coming from a westerly direction.  You see, at different latitudes, the earth has conveyor belts of air which affect weather like the westerlies and the trade winds.”  At which point, my eyes would glaze over because, let’s face it, I’m not a weathergirl in that sense of the word.   “That storm was unlike the one that is forecast for today”…a man at the video store said “it’s coming–see those clouds piling up–the storm is coming from the south.”

Just tell me if we’re expecting rain or snow, how many inches, high winds or sun, thunderstorms, temperature extremes–How many degrees Fahrenheit?  The rest is beyond my comprehension.  That said, I look daily at the ten day forecast. I’ve done this over the past ten years at least, maybe twenty since I first moved to the mountains.  In San Francisco, my home for nearly fifty years, the weather was predictably foggy where I lived.  Although, of course, I can’t explain why fog forms.  The rare sunny day was a surprise, a pleasing one.  Anything above 80 degrees entitled every San Franciscan to go to the beach!

Anyway, our meteorologists have the ability to forecast when a storm is coming, how big of a storm (how many inches of snow or rain), the temperatures–freezing or moderate, how long the storm is going to last, etc.  When I first moved to Mt. Shasta, CA, I often heard the refrain:  The mountain makes its own weather.
In other words, regardless of the forecast, the mountain has its own climate.  They also say, If you want to know what the weather is, go outside.
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Things are changing though–climate change is real–are we comprehending that now?  Do we see how the way that we use the earth, is affecting some of these changes dramatically?  We are in summer where I live in the mountains of northern California.  We are noting that it is fire season.  A time of wild fires and uncertainty, high risk.  We have had many drought years.  This, I can understand without elaboration.  I’m in the middle of it.

It’s not too hard to see that we don’t want to go in the direction of the choices that we’ve made heretofore in regards to climate change.  What, my dear reader, are you and I going to differently?  When do we begin
to be the change that we want to see?

How Wise Are You?

Is wisdom reserved for the elders? Can anyone, at any age have wisdom worth sharing?

How does one measure wisdom anyway?

I define wisdom as learning from experience and applying it to how you live your life.

One dictionary definition is “the soundness of an action or decision with regard to the application of experience, knowledge, and good judgment.”

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Do we learn from our experiences? Are we able to coalesce all that we have learned into a body of wisdom from which we make future decisions? That would be ideal. Then, I surmise, we would be able to learn from history. Even though something hasn’t been part of our personal experience, every historical event is held in the collective memory. Somehow, deep within, we know that we don’t want to repeat what lead to World War II, for instance. We’ve seen enough films and read enough books about the atrocities, haven’t we? Some of us have had relatives or acquaintances who’ve lived through those years. We might have heard their stories.

Yet, one can only wonder how far we’ve come when we see egocentric leadership who fans fervor in his/her followers. When division and dissension are made to look appealing, necessary or as the only way to make change–any wisdom seems to go out the window.

So, we don’t really have wisdom then. We’re wishy-washy, easily lead and already traumatized. We’ve lost touch with a grounded sense of truth that comes from honoring oneself and the other with compassion and creativity at its basis. By a grounded sense of truth, I mean the ability to sit quietly, go inside and ask the questions that lead you to deep (perhaps universal) truth. Compassion because it really is true that until “you walk a mile in my shoes,” you won’t know what my life has been. And creativity because creativity says “let’s do this differently…let’s collaborate…let’s figure this out together.”

Wisdom, that elusive exotic bird, the prize of a lived life or occasionally recognized in the naivete of youth. We should be praying for this. For leaders who have this quality. For leaders who love life and all of its inhabitants. For those who love the earth, our home in the universe. And we need to cultivate it in ourselves. Daily.

One way is to get out in nature as often as you can. And sit there. Sit there until you feel a deeper and truer rhythm.

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Do you claim your learned lessons? Have you freed yourself from the pretense that you don’t know what you do know? As a woman, there have been times when I let myself be smaller and didn’t own the wisdom I have. Perhaps I didn’t want to make someone else, usually a man in my life, feel inferior. That, I now know, serves nothing and no one. We don’t have to pretend to be less wise than we are. I don’t have to be less wise than I am. You don’t have to be less wise than you are.

Enjoy your day!