Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Oboe's Haiku

When I adopted Oboe from an animal shelter around this time of year in 2006, the first thing I became aware of after bringing her home was that she is a talking cat. Could this be a series of haiku by Oboe?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Waterfall on Whatcom Creek / Beatles 1963

Listen. It must have been in the summer of 1963, when I first heard "Please Please Me," on the radio, before the Beatles came to the United States. Didn't know who was singing but immediately loved the song and felt like dancing.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

48 years ago today / Something more powerful than the mountain of despair/ Nonviolence

On August 28, 1963, I was an almost 14-year-old girl, living 25 miles south of San Francisco, who had seen very few African-American people except at the distance that was generally maintained at that time, and on television as entertainers or as sports figures. Throughout my school years to that point, all the students were white along with a few Mexican-Americans. When I started high school that September, there were, as I recall, 3 Japanese-American students in my large high school. That was before President Kennedy was assassinated and before the Beatles but not before the Civil Rights Movement.

I remember walking into our family living room on what was probably a very hot California summer afternoon and hearing Bob Dylan singing on our black and white television set. I was only vaguely aware of Bob Dylan at that time, mostly through his songs as sung by Peter, Paul and Mary. I stopped to listen to him sing and understood that he was part of something powerful and peaceful that was happening at that moment. In my memory, I am alone in the living room. My parents had probably turned the television on, but I don't remember them sitting there watching the events. I don't recall my younger sisters, 13-years-old and 9-years-old, being there. Sad to say, I don't recall listening to Martin Luther King, Jr., speak, but I do remember a feeling that is very similar to what I am feeling today as I turn to video news sources (I don't have a television) and hear again something powerful and sustaining and nonviolent that has brought us through these last 48 years. Something that has probably always been with us and always will be with us, and which was voiced so eloquently by Martin Luther King, Jr., and those people who formed the American Civil Rights Movement and worked together. Not alone.


Friday, August 26, 2011

A sunlit wood where the true way was a koan

At 20 years beyond what may have been the middle of the road of my life, I awoke in a sunlit wood where the true way was a koan.
(with many thanks to Dante Alighieri)

This film clip shows the approach to the children's fishing pond and the little bridge over the fishing pond dam on Whatcom Creek You can hear the water rushing over the dam as well as a small waterfall just beyond the dam. You can see a little of the fishing pond. Nice surprise to see a man and his young daughter out enjoying the sunny day.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

"...not in anger, but with anxiety and sorrow in my heart..." / A Memorial Koan

Listen to Martin Luther King, Jr., on April 30, 1967:

"Let me say finally that I oppose the war in Vietnam because I love America. I speak out against this war, not in anger, but with anxiety and sorrow in my heart, and, above all, with a passionate desire to see our beloved country stand as the moral example of the world. I speak out against this war because I am disappointed with America. And there can be no great disappointment where there is not great love (am's italics). I am disappointed with our failure to deal positively and forthrightly with the triple evils of racism, economic exploitation, and militarism. We are presently moving down a dead-end road that can lead to national disaster. America has strayed to the far country of racism and militarism. The home that all too many Americans left was solidly structured idealistically; its pillars were solidly grounded in the insights of our Judeo-Christian heritage. All men are made in the image of God. All men are brothers. All men are created equal. Every man is an heir to a legacy of dignity and worth. Every man has rights that are neither conferred by, nor derived from the State--they are God-given. Out of one blood, God made all men to dwell upon the face of the earth. What a marvelous foundation for any home! What a glorious and healthy place to inhabit. But America's strayed away, and this unnatural excursion has brought only confusion and bewilderment. It has left hearts aching with guilt and minds distorted with irrationality.

It is time for all people of conscience to call upon America to come back home. Come home, America."

In this speech, Martin Luther King, Jr., remembers and relates to the anxious and sorrowful Jesus taking up his cross and then a few moments later speaks of an angry God. The angry God part of Christianity and Judaism has always troubled me. People are asked to be nonviolent. The violence is left up to God? I don't think so. The whole thing sounds like a koan, doesn't it?

Still meditating on Buddha's empty hands and Mahalia Jackson singing "He's Got The Whole World In His Hands," remembering that Martin Luther King, Jr., nominated Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, for the Nobel Peace prize in January of 1967 and that Thich Nhat Hanh had urged Martin Luther King, Jr., to publicly and peacefully oppose the war in Vietnam.

Meditating on the thought that it is not easy for any of us, including President Obama and Martin Luther King and Thich Nhat Hanh, to live up to these ideals, and that a memorial to Martin Luther King during the troubled presidency of Barack Obama speaks of the inner koans that President Obama and all people of conscience must live with each day no matter what their spiritual perspective.

From the Nobel lecture by Martin Luther King, Jr.:

"We will not build a peaceful world by following a negative path. It is not enough to say "We must not wage war." It is necessary to love peace and sacrifice for it. We must concentrate not merely on the negative expulsion of war, but on the positive affirmation of peace."

"The truth was obscure, too profound and too pure. To live it you have to explode. In that last hour of need, we entirely agreed, sacrifice was the code of the road."
(Bob Dylan, lyrics from "Where Are You Tonight? (Journey Through Dark Heat)"

"Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes."
(Walt Whitman, from "Song of Myself")

(Pastel on paper, "Self-Portrait of an Old Friend as a Young Man," drawn by am in the early 1980s from a photo sent to me by my friend, Richard, taken of him in Vietnam in 1970)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Reconciliation meditation

Listening to the old songs by Donovan over the last few days has brought up unexpected feelings of grief and loss, and the realization that when I was 18 years old, I listened to Bob Dylan and Donovan in equal measure, with immense gratitude.

"I rejoice to hear he's well, but I must go inland. Thank you for the words you've brought of my banjo man."

"Two riders were approaching. The wind began to howl."
(Bob Dylan)

"It ain't so bad. I'm just a lad. So many more things to do. I intend to come right through them all with you."
(Donovan, lyrics from "Celeste")

"Let us not talk falsely now. The hour is getting late."
(Bob Dylan)

My gut feeling is that it's not too late to be that hopeful and vulnerable and honest again. I am feeling a reconciliation of two parts of myself that had been estranged for 40 years.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Song of Wandering Aengus

As a teenager, I listened over and over again to Donovan's early albums along with Bob Dylan's albums and could never understand why some people couldn't hear the difference between their two distinct voices. Sometime around 1971 when Richard returned from Vietnam, I stopped listening to Donovan.

It was Bob Dylan's music that spoke to me then and continued to speak to me. He was not ethereal. He was deeply human and was making some serious mistakes, just as I was. He was also playful and paradoxical. He didn't appear as fragile as Donovan. I was fragile. I wanted whatever it was that Bob Dylan had that keep him going. Listening to his music kept me going.

Yesterday I spent some time watching the many YouTube videos of Donovan's early work. This is the one I liked the best. I love the old Donovan songs. That was a time of relative innocence for me and for many of us.


by: W.B. Yeats

Went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;

And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.

When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire a-flame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And some one called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.

Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.

'The Song of Wandering Aengus' is reprinted from An Anthology of Modern Verse. Ed. A. Methuen. London: Methuen & Co., 1921.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


So far this summer, there have been two Convolvulus blooms from my "Children's Garden" seed mix. I love the mix of delicate flowers that I planted in May around my lavender plant in a planter on my porch.

"Most twining plants seem to follow the course of the sun and bind round a support from left to right, but the convolvulus will always twine against the sun, confounding all attempts to train it, even dying in the process. Characteristics: The flowers close in damp weather. Habitat: The plant is indigenous to Europe and eastern U.S. Production: The upper part of the herb is harvested during the flowering season and dried at temperatures of no more than 40°C in a well aired place."
- Joerg Gruenwald, Ph.D., PDR for Herbal Medicines


Monday, August 15, 2011

Tangled Up in Blue / The Old Guitarist

Then she opened up a book of poems
And handed it to me
Written by an Italian poet
From the thirteenth century


The only thing I knew how to do
Was to keep on keepin' on like a bird that flew
Tangled up in blue.


But me, I'm still on the road
Headin' for another joint
We always did feel the same
We just saw it from a different point of view
Tangled up in blue.

(Bob Dylan, from "Tangled Up in Blue")

"The Old Guitarist," by Pablo Picasso:

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Imaginary Brothers / No Easy Walk

In Broken Images
Robert Graves
24 July 1895 – 7 December 1985

He is quick, thinking in clear images;
I am slow, thinking in broken images.

He becomes dull, trusting to his clear images;
I become sharp, mistrusting my broken images.

Trusting his images, he assumes their relevance;
Mistrusting my images, I question their relevance.

Assuming their relevance, he assumes the fact;
Questioning their relevance, I question the fact.

When the fact fails him, he questions his senses;
When the fact fails me, I approve my senses.

He continues quick and dull in his clear images;
I continue slow and sharp in my broken images.

He in a new confusion of his understanding;
I in a new understanding of my confusion.

Thanks to wood s lot, July 26, 2011, for the poem by Robert Graves.

“You can see that ‘there is no easy walk to freedom anywhere,’ and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountain tops of our desires.” - Nelson Mandela, quoting Jawaharlal Nehru, from a presidential address to the ANC Transvaal Congress (also known as the “No Easy Walk to Freedom” speech) Transvaal, South Africa, Sept. 21, 1953.

("Self-Portrait with Imaginary Brothers," painted by am in the late 1980s)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Fair Nottamun Town / Passion / Paradox

“Passion rebuilds the world for the youth. It makes all things alive and significant.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson


In fair Nottamun town, not a soul would look up
Not a soul would look up, not a soul would look down
Not a soul would look up, not a soul would look down
To show me the way to fair Nottamun town

I rode a grey horse, a mule roany mare
Grey mane and grey tail, a green stripe down her back
Grey mane and grey tail, a green stripe down her back
There wa'nt a hair on her be-what was coal black

She stood so still, she threw me to the dirt
She tore -a my hide and she bruised my shirt
From saddle to stirrup I mounted again
And on my ten toes I rode over the plain

Met the King and the Queen and a company more
A-riding behind and a-marching before
Came a stark naked drummer a-beating a drum
With his heels in his bosom come marching along

They laughed and they smiled, not a soul did look gay
They talked all the while, not a word they did say
I bought me a quart to drive gladness away
And to stifle the dust, for it rained the whole day

Sat down on a hard, hot cold frozen stone
Ten thousand stood round me and yet I's alone
Took my hat in my hand for to keep my head warm
Ten thousand got drownded that never was born

(Medieval English Folk Song)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Nothing was delivered / Something was delivered / Yoga Nidra

A few days ago when walking in the woods before work, I saw a man and a woman about my age (almost 62) walking slowly with trekking poles, coming up the trail from the fishing pond in Whatcom Falls Park. We smiled and said hello as we passed on the trail. When I reached the little bridge at the far edge of the fishing pond, I stopped to look over at the water spilling over the small dam and then turned around to go back home the same way I had come. It wasn't long before I saw the couple with the trekking poles, ahead of me on the path. As I approached them, I was looking in curiosity at their trekking poles. Just as I was about to pass them, I looked up and noticed that on the back of the man's dark blue T-shirt was a fairly recent image of Bob Dylan in concert with the words "Bob Dylan" above the image.

In wonder and delight, I said, "Bob Dylan," and they both turned around to look at me. The man said that they had seen Bob Dylan in concert in the last year. He said that he loved Bob Dylan's music but that Bob Dylan shouldn't be touring anymore. He said the concert was awful, and that he felt ripped off. He said Bob Dylan should just give it up. He sounded both angry and sad.

As far as he was concerned, it was the "Nothing Was Delivered Tour" (lyrics and audio clip).

A few weeks ago, a dear friend of mine died peacefully in her sleep at 86 years old. She was a member of Alcoholics Anonymous and had been sober for the last 14 years of her full and rich life. She was one of the few women of her generation to earn a PhD and had a successful career in her field of psychology and active retirement years. She was a professed atheist, but said that even though she didn't believe in God, there was something that had removed the demons that had haunted her until 1996, at age 72, when she realized that she was a real alcoholic and, in her words, "It would be insane for me to take a drink."

Part of the Yoga Nidra meditation I have been listening to suggests considering that both of the following thoughts are true in the same moment:

Nothing needs to be done.
Something needs to be done.

Bob Dylan said:
"Nothing is better, nothing is best
Take heed of this and get plenty of rest"
(lyrics from "Nothing was Delivered")


"Sometimes somebody wants you to give something up
And tears or not, it’s too much to ask."
(Bob Dylan, lyrics from "Floater (To Much To Ask)"

As Solitary Walker commented on my last post, "And 'nothing' is always 'something', after all."

And that seems to be what Yoga Nidra is about.

("The Composer," drawn with chalk pastel on paper by am in the early 1980s)

Friday, August 5, 2011

Masked and Anonymous

The apparent dilemma rests upon a false impression about the nature of nothingness as a state of mind. The ability to accept ourselves as nothing is not easily developed. It runs counter to all our desires for identity, for an apparently meaningful existence, one filled with hope and promise. To be nothing seems a form of psychological suicide. We cling to our somethingness with all the strength at our command. The thought of being a nothing is simply not acceptable. But the fact is that the person who does not learn to be as nothing cannot feel that he is but a plain, ordinary, everyday kind of person, who merges with the human race — and as such is humble, lost in the crowd, and essentially anonymous. When that can happen, the person has a lot going for him.
(Harry M. Tiebout, MD)

"I'm ready for to fade / into my own parade." (Bob Dylan, lyrics from "Mr. Tambourine Man")

"Mona Lisa and the Clown and the Cool Rain of the Law"
(watercolor, gouache and chalk pastel on paper, by Amanda Wald Rachie, from the early 1980s)