Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Home / The beauty and the terrible realities we face / Finding balance


Krista Tippett:
I usually start my conversations with an inquiry about the spiritual background of your childhood. And however you would define that. And, as I look at the sweep of your writing, I see so many elements that to me are profoundly spiritual, a long sense of time or a robust commitment to hope. You describe your childhood in so many ways, and in one place — these are words you use, “A scrawny, battered little kid in a violent house.” And I wonder how you would think about that notion of the spiritual background of your childhood. And it occurs to me that perhaps some of these things were seeded by absence, as much as by presence.

Rebecca Solnit:

I think that’s true. And when you asked that question, what comes to mind is kind of a map of where most of my childhood took place. I wrote somewhere that I had an inside-out childhood, because every place was safe but home. If you went just on the other side of the backyard fence was a quarter horse stud farm and then dairy farms and open space. And the landscape and the animals, domestic and wild, were this huge refuge, and really fed encouraged me, and there was a sense of community with the non-human. And so that was if you went north, even just to the other side of the fence and beyond, just endless open space, and oak trees, and grasslands, and wildlife.

And then if you went south, there was a really great public library. And the minute I learned how to read, it was as though I’d been given this huge treasure. Every book was a box I suddenly knew how to open, and in it, I could meet people, go to other worlds, go deep in all kinds of ways. And I spent my childhood in the hills and in the books. So that was not maybe what people think of conventionally as spirituality, but that was my company, my encouragement, my teaching, my community.


Rebecca Solnit:
I want better metaphors. I want better stories. I want more openness. I want better questions. All these things feel like they give us tools that are a little more commensurate with the amazing possibilities and the terrible realities that we face.


Rebecca Solnit grew up in much the way I did, walking in the hills of Northern California, reading books.  Northern California is her home and one of the two places I can call home.  Her writing continues to inspire me.


My friend, Yom, came alone from Vietnam after the fall of Saigon in 1975.  Along with other refugee women, she was given a job doing industrial sewing for Columbia Sportswear at the place where I was working as a sewing machine operator.  We were both in our mid-20s.  We have been friends for nearly 50 years.  For many years, Yom saved her money and bought a home for herself in Seattle and began to create a garden.  Yom married Chris.  Yom and Chris adopted a baby boy from an orphanage in Vietnam nearly 20 years ago.  He just finished his first year of college.  Chris made this video of Yom's beloved garden.  

Sunday, July 3, 2022

Meditation: Imagining Interdependence Day

Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons -- b. 1944

Krista Tippett -- b. 1960

Rev. Lucas Johnson --  b. Late 1970s or early 1980s

This conversation from 2014 (including transcript) with its talk of community and coalitions and change and not giving up, generation after generation, against all odds, has lifted my spirits today.   

Nothing has given me a better perspective on the current state of the world than listening to all the conversations from the On Being Project under the heading of Across Generations.  


All the goodness and the heroisms will rise up again, then be cut down again and rise up. It isn’t that the evil thing wins — it never will — but that it doesn’t die. 
(John Steinbeck)


First Streptocarpus bloom yesterday, coinciding with a day that I will always remember when I was at the ocean with R.  It was 1968, another turbulent year in the history of the world.  We were 18 years old and in love.  




Revisited in 2022

"... So let us not talk falsely now / the hour is gettin' late ..."


"Sometimes when you are devastated you want not a reprieve but a mirror of your condition or a reminder that you are not alone in it.  Other times it is not the propaganda or the political art that helps you face a crisis but whatever gives you respite from it."

Thanks to Beth from Alive On All Channels for these words from Rebecca Solnit.

Friday, July 1, 2022

Breakthrough and Gratitude

After watching a copy of this documentary that I checked out from our public library, I was able to sit down at my drawing table and go forward in drawing with my non-dominant left hand, deeply moved by the undying spirit of Jean-Michel Basquiat in the context of all that is presently surfacing in our beloved and always challenging world.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Update: Heiroglyph sky in the early morning / Fast-moving clouds and swallows in the deep blue sky / Against all odds


 Recorded in the last year and up to the last few days.  The younger generations taking up the power of imagination against all odds:


A local friend of mine has a Spanish language tutor who lives in Guanajuato.  In their study session they talked about the overturn of Roe vs Wade.  My friend sent a link to the Guardian article which included this link to Las Libres.

Against all odds.  

Sunday, June 26, 2022

"Is America Possible?"/ "... Whatever you do, we are going to let our light shine ..." / Young tree finds a home / "... A passion so intense ..."


While doing my yoga practice this morning I listened to "Is America Possible?", an interview with Vincent Harding by Krista Tippett from 2011 and then read the transcript because there was so much I wanted to remember.  I've been going to the "On Being" archives nearly every day and listening to the interviews under the category of "Across Generations."

Vincent Harding:  "My own feeling that I try to share again and again, Krista, is that when it comes to creating a multiracial, multiethnic, multireligious, democratic society, we are still a developing nation. We’ve only been really thinking about this for about half a century. But my own deep, deep conviction is that the knowledge, like all knowledge, is available to us if we seek it ...

... That was so much part of the way in which the songs try to encourage us not simply to be reactors. So that instead of saying, “You honky governor, you’re no good, and we’re gonna do this or that to you,” the basic, deepest word was, “Whatever you do, we’re gonna let our light shine ..."

....Whenever somebody jokes about “Kum Bah Ya,” my mind goes back to the Mississippi summer experience where the movement folks in Mississippi were inviting co-workers to come from all over the country, especially student types, to come and help in the process of voter registration, and Freedom School teaching, and taking great risks on behalf of the transformation of that state and of this nation. There were two weeks of orientation. The first week was the week in which Schwerner and Goodman and their beloved brother Jimmy were there. And it was during the time that they had left the campus that they were first arrested, then released, and then murdered.

The word came back to us at the orientation that the three of them had not been heard from. Bob Moses, the magnificent leader of so much of the work in Mississippi, got up and told these hundreds of predominantly white young people that, if any of them felt that at this point they needed to return home or to their schools, we would not think less of them at all, but would be grateful to them for how far they had come.

But he said let’s take a couple of hours just for people to spend time talking on the phone with parents or whoever to try to make this decision and make it now. What I found as I moved around among the small groups that began to gather together to help each other was that, in group after group, people were singing “Kum Bah Ya.” “Come by here, my Lord, somebody’s missing, Lord, come by here. We all need you, Lord, come by here.”

I could never laugh at “Kum Bah Ya” moments after that because I saw then that almost no one went home from there. They were going to continue on the path that they had committed themselves to. And a great part of the reason why they were able to do that was because of the strength and the power and the commitment that had been gained through that experience of just singing together “Kum Bah Ya" ..."

Krista Tippett:  I was listening to the BBC in recent weeks, and they’re watching us from afar. They were interviewing a journalist about this moment in American history, which seems very tumultuous and the question was, “Is it really more violent and more despairing than it’s been before or does this happen repeatedly?” And the comparison was made with the 1960s.

They said, look, there was a lot of social turmoil then. There were assassinations, right? I mean, many assassinations. But this journalist said — and I just want to know what you think — he said that he thought the difference between the 1960s and now was that even though there was incredible tumult and violence, it was at the very same time a period of intense hope, and people could see that they were moving towards goals. And that that’s missing now. What do you think about that analysis?

Vincent Harding:  Hmm. Krista, I think that is such a complicated kind of issue that I can only pick at it and tease it out and play with it in the best sense of play. I think that what I see now is the fact that all over this country, wherever I go, and, of course, where I go tends to be sort of self-selective because I am most often going into situations where people are operating out of a sense of hope and possibility, where in their local situations, whether it be Detroit, or Atlanta, or a campus someplace, or a church community in Philadelphia, that there are women and men and young people who are operating out of hope.

My sense is that, in the ‘60s, there was probably a larger kind of canopy of hope that we could see, and we could identify, and that people could name and focus on. Now, we are in particular spots, locations, sometimes seemingly isolated. But I feel that there are points, focal situations, where that is still available and where people are operating from that.

So I think that it is not simply the matter of hope or no hope. I have a feeling that one of the deeper transformations that’s going on now is that for the white community of America, there is this uncertainty growing about its own role, its own control, its own capacity to name the realities that it has moved into a realm of uncertainty that it did not allow itself to face before.

And I think that that’s the place that we are in, and that’s even more the reason why we’ve got to figure out what was King talking about when he was seeing the possibility of a beloved community and recognized that, maybe, for some of us, that cannot come until some of us realize that we must give up what we thought was only ours in the building of a beloved nation. Can there be a beloved nation? Why don’t we try and see?


In the last few days, I woke up in the middle of the night with the thought that I would buy a Coral Bark Japanese Maple and donate it to Big Rock Garden to take the place of another Japanese maple that had died.  I'd been watching the frail ailing Japanese maple for some time and kept hoping that it would spring back to life.  I talked with one of the many volunteers who give their time to various sections of Big Rock Garden and gave her my phone number.  I was contacted by a retired couple who volunteer their gardening skills and who had also hoped that the maple I was watching would rebound.  I brought a young tree for the couple to see and we walked around Big Rock Garden, looking for possible locations for it.  My hope was that it could be planted in the same area as the one that had died.  Yesterday I went up to Big Rock Garden to see where it had been planted and made a video with my cell phone camera,

Here are the photos the volunteers sent to me:


(Once again, the fonts resist uniformity.  Why not?)

When to my melancholy
All is folly

                 then the whirr
of the hummingbird
at intervals throughout the day

is all that’s sure
to stir me, makes me
jump up, scattering

papers, books, pens—
                                    To the bay window,
and certainly,

there he is below it
true-aimed at the minute cups of
Coral Bells, swerving

the fierce, brilliant faith
that pierces the heart all summer

and sips bitter insects steeped in nectar,
prima materia
of gleam-and-speed-away

A passion so intense
It driveth sorrow hence ...

Friday, June 24, 2022

Update: It's A Troubling Day as Roe vs Wade is overturned / "... Receiving Hexagram 54 often reflects a very insecure, frustrating situation ..."

Yesterday was a beautiful day in Bellingham, much like the days I remember in the summer of 1972, living on the San Francisco Peninsula.


Yesterday's early morning light


My Japanese Coral Bark Maple gift to Big Rock Garden yesterday


Yesterday, this part of the summer sky reminded me of California


This late afternoon sky yesterday is more typical of Western Washington on the occasional sunny summer day.


Today, stunned.  Remembering January 22, 1973, and the years that followed.  

Another harsh reminder that I cannot take anything for granted.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Extended Meditation on Fathers and Missing Fathers and The Orchardist, by Amanda Coplin / Update with additional relevant photos added / And now an update when a relevant quote appeared

1.  My father during World War II.  There was something about my father that was missing, although he was present.

2.  My father's father in the early 1900s.  First child in the family to be born in the United States, his two older brothers having been born in Norway.  Two of his younger siblings died during a smallpox epidemic when my grandfather was a young boy.  The family had a farm on what had recently been Dakota land in Western Minnesota.

3.   My father's mother's father and grandfather (first on the left in the top row and on the far right).  My great grandfather was born in the United States.  My great great grandfather was born in Norway.  They had a farm on what had recently been Dakota land south and east of Minneapolis. 

My great grandmother is the second person from the right in the top row.  Her mother came with her family from Norway when she was a young woman.  A few years after their arrival in Iowa, she became pregnant while working as a domestic servant for a family in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin.  There is a record of the birth and christening of my great grandmother and the name of her father who disappeared from her life.  He was said to be German.  My research shows that his mother was either English, Irish, Welsh or Scottish (I have recently found a distant cousin on who looks very much like me and my first cousins on my father's side).  My great grandmother's mother died when she was 6 years old.  She was raised by her grandparents and then her mother's brother and his wife.  She went to college and became a teacher.  She met my great grandfather at St. Olaf College in Minnesota.

4.  My fatherless great grandmother, a few years after her mother died.

5.   I have no photo of the younger sister of the great great grandfather who settled on Dakota land south and east of Minneapolis and have often wondered about her life.  That sister remained in Norway and, at age 30, gave birth to a daughter whom she raised alone, working as a laborer on a farm near where she was born. 


1.  My mother during the years her father was serving as a doctor in the U.S. Army in World War I in France.  She was two years old when he left for war and 3 years old when he returned.

2.   My mother's father as a boy soon after his father disappeared in the 1870s.  He had a younger sibling who died as an infant in a cholera epidemic in Boston some years before my grandfather was born there.  My grandfather's parents were both young people from Germany -- his mother from the Achern in the Black Forest and his father from Stadtlengsfeld.

3.  My mother's father in his Army uniform in 1918.

4.   My mother's father arriving home from war in 1919.   Before returning to the United States, he had spent a short time in England and Ireland. My grandmother brought my uncle and my mother to Boston to meet him.  I just noticed how my mother is holding my grandfather's finger and how lost my uncle looks.  I wonder who took the photo.  Could it be my mother's grandfather, seen in the following photo?

5.   My mother's mother's father who had roots in London in the 1700s, with the family leaving England for Canada and then leaving Canada for Boston.  At one time my great grandfather was the president of the Theosophical Society in Boston.

Boston was built on what had been the land of the Massachusett tribe.


When I visited a friend last week, she had three books that she was giving away.  She said that The Orchardist was the best of the three and so I took it home with me.  Something prompted me to begin reading it immediately.  It wasn't long before I wondered if I should keep reading.  The story was becoming disturbing to me on a deep level, but then I remembered how many times I started reading Beloved before I was able to read beyond about the same place in that book.  I kept reading The Orchardist and, at times, felt that there was much about the story that reminded me of Beloved.  There was also something of the beauty and melancholy of Richard Brautigan's writing and that of his daughter Ianthe, something universal, archetypal, unsettling and yet filled with an odd clarity about missing fathers, shattered families, hard-won healing in later generations, and strong families that can be formed by people unrelated by blood.

It turns out the young woman who wrote The Orchardist was strongly influenced by Beloved.  

One of the main characters in The Orchardist, Clee, is Nez Perce and a childhood and lifelong friend of Talmadge who, along with a woman friend of his, steps forward in the role of parent to two young girls who are alone in the world.  The fruit orchard he tends so lovingly is on Wenatchi land, about 300 miles from where the Nez Perce live today.  The story begins with the death of Talmadge's father.  His mother brings him and his younger sister to live and work in an apple orchard near the Columbia River in Eastern Washington State.

The story takes place in the years that my fatherless great grandmother was growing up on her grandparent's farm in Iowa, where Winnebago, Sauk, Fox, and Oneota people had once lived and brings into focus so many family histories of settlers and indigenous people.  So many missing fathers, along with men who step forward to father the children of other men.  

The Orchard, like Beloved, is a book I will read again.  Not immediately but eventually.  I first read Beloved in the 1980s and then again in this past year.  I don't have time to wait that long to re-read The Orchardist.


Synchronicity?  Just now I was given more to meditate on via Beth at Alive On All Channels:

Sometimes when you are devastated you want not a reprieve but a mirror of your condition or a reminder that you are not alone in it. Other times it is not the propaganda or the political art that helps you face a crisis but whatever gives you respite from it.

Recollections of My Nonexistence :: by Rebecca Solnit

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

This first bloom appeared on Summer Solstice 2022


This is one of my four flowering indoor plants and the only one that is currently blooming.

After many cloudy days, the sun is shining.

The birds are singing.

Can anyone identify this flower?  I was told that it was called a Poor Man's Orchid and also that it is not called a Poor Man's Orchid.  I cut it back in the fall, and it is dormant during the fall and winter.  It comes to life again in late winter and then blooms in late spring or early summer until the following fall.

Monday, June 20, 2022

Juneteenth Federal Holiday Meditation 2022

Today's Google Doodle is illustrated by Jerome and Jeromyah Jones, father and son.

Here is their website.


“When you hear me play that long intro, it’s me stalling. I was thinking, ‘What the hell am I going to sing?’ I think the word ‘freedom’ came out of my mouth because I saw it in front of me. I saw the freedom that we were looking for. And every person was sharing it, and so that word came out.”


"...  this is the ballad of our freedom the day you realize we are more than free.  We are loved."

-- Kevin Burns, Jr., on Juneteenth 2021

Saturday, June 18, 2022

We were young women from the high school class of 1967 / Being there then and now, here and now

55 years ago today, my best friend, an acquaintance of hers who asked if she could ride with us to Monterery, and I, all having just graduated from high school, were in the audience at the Monterey Fairgrounds, astounded and fully engaged by the timeless sacred music of India.    

The three of us were all in the same Advanced English class during our senior year.  Our teacher had connections to poets in San Francisco and a poet named Hilary Ayer Fowler came to our classroom to read her poems.  She and our teacher encouraged all of us to write poetry.

My best friend moved out of her family's home and was living in the Haight-Ashbury a few weeks after we saw Ravi Shankar in concert.  Today she is a grandmother and still actively using her MSW in her practice as a family counselor.  We wrote letters for a number of years after graduating from high school and were somewhat out of touch when she was raising her three sons but keep in touch now with phone calls and emails.  We have not seen each other since the 1970s when she moved to New York State and may not see each other again.  Who knows?  Anything is possible.  

With some internet research, I was saddened to find the 2008 obituary for the Advanced English classmate that we never saw again as our paths diverged.  Now I remember that she was a dancer.  The obituary said that she graduated from San Francisco State University and that she studied at Martha Graham's school in Connecticut and had a good marriage and a full life, dying of ALS at age 59.

In fall of 1967, I began college at the University of California at Irvine.  I had met R the previous December on the beach at Half Moon Bay.  My best friend was with me that day in 1966, just a few months after we had seen The Beatles at Candlestick Park, at what was to be their last concert except for the unannounced rooftop concert in 1969 in London.


Walking in the woods yesterday, I saw another (or the same) Great Horned Owl fly across the path just ahead of me.  Farther up the hill, I looked up and was astonished to see the splendid gift of blue sky.


Thursday, June 16, 2022



My kitchen table is your kitchen table -- I will always have a chair for you.

-- Debra Lekanoff, Representative, 40th Legislative District, Washington State




Debra Lekanoff and Alex Ramel are the State Representatives from Washington State's 40th Legislative District, which is where I live.  Liz Lovelett is the State Senator for the 40th Legislative District. They give me hope for the future of the Democratic Party but even more for the future in general.  


This morning's view from my porch: