Saturday, December 28, 2013

*"This ain't 'Dances With Salmon,' you know"

If you have 39 minutes and 20 seconds and want to listen, this interview is well worth your time.

Excerpt from the interview with Sherman Alexie, a poet, short story writer, novelist and performer who grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Eastern Washington State and who currently lives in Seattle:

Bill Moyers:  So what do you mean by blasphemy?
(note:  Sherman Alexie wrote a book called Blasphemy)

Sherman Alexie:  I don't believe in your God.  And "your" means the royal "your."

Bill Moyers:  Do you believe in your God?

Sherman Alexie:  No (laughs).

Bill Moyers:  What do you believe in?

Sherman Alexie:  Stories.  Stories are my God.

* This blog post title is a quote from "Smoke Signals," a film by Sherman Alexie.  There is a clip from "Smoke Signals" during the introduction.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve meditation / There is Something, and everything is possible

"You undoubtedly know that Martin Luther King, Jr. was a progressive Christian and champion of civil rights and the social gospel. You may also know that he spoke out against the Vietnam War, harshly criticized U.S. foreign policy, and questioned the capitalist system that produced poverty. But do you know his theology?

Right up until Dr. King's assassination in Memphis, Tennessee, where he had traveled to support striking sanitation workers, the civil right leader worked--not as a secular activist but as a Baptist minister--to awaken the conscience of a nation. What was the meaning of Jesus for Dr. King? Did he see Jesus as divine? How did he interpret the Bible?"

(from the Tikkun article ,"King's God:  The Unknown Faith of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.," by Robert James "Be" Scofield)

Transcript for the speech above:  A Christmas Sermon on Peace (1967)

Then I got to thinking about Mavis Staples and the Staple Singers' connection with the Civil Rights Movement and Martin Luther King, Jr.:

And Bob Dylan and Santa Claus:

And the Sufi dancers at the end of this video that was released the same year by Bob Dylan:

And Chief Seattle:

"Our religion is the traditions of our ancestors - the dreams of our old men, given them in solemn hours of the night by the Great Spirit; and the visions of our sachems, and is written in the hearts of  our people."

And Rosa Parks:

"God has always given me the strength to say what is right ... I had the strength of God and my ancestors with me." (from The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks)

And I remember the words of an elderly Jewish woman who was a friend of mine, "I don't have to be a Christian in order to be moved by the life of Jesus."

I have no religious affiliation, and I am not Buddhist, atheist, agnostic.  I am among those who can relate to what an elderly atheist friend of mine said in her last years -- that she didn't believe in a traditional God, but that she did experience, in her heart, Something that had brought peace to her in the last 14 years of her life.

"... And to see you're really only very small / And life flows on within you and without you..."
(George Harrison, from "Within You Without You")

"... the possibility that there might be something significant in the little things around them."
(from A Winter Walk, by Tolbert McCarroll)

"Thanks to impermanence, everything is possible."
(From Going Home:  Jesus and Buddha as Brothers, by Thich Nhat Hanh, Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk)

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Winter Solstice 2013 / Picasso painting with light / Woman Turning Toward the Light

I stood out on my porch as the sun rose at 8:01 this
Winter Solstice morning.  There was melting snow
on the ground below.

Later I checked some of my favorite webcams for
Winter Solstice Day images.

Yosemite Valley:

Big Sur:

Laguna Beach:


Ocean Beach (San Francisco):

Then I found this photo of Picasso painting with light:

One never knows what one is going to do. One starts a painting and then it becomes something quite else. It is remarkable how little the 'willing' of the artist intervenes. 
(Pablo Picasso)

Woman Turning Toward the Light (1985, chalk pastel drawing by am):

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Seven years of healing through blogging

December 8 was the seventh anniversary of my blog.  Some of you know the history of my blog.  For those who don't, I'll tell that story again. Look here for my first posts in December 2006.  My blog's first name was "Old Girl of the North Country."  After being haunted by memories dating back to December 8, 1970, when my Richard returned from almost a year in Vietnam, it was suggested that I do something new on that day, something to give me another way of looking at December 8.  I decided to create a blog where I could present a 40-year retrospective -- my art work up to 2006.  My hope was that by looking carefully at my art work and sharing it, there would be insight and healing and that perhaps I would be inspired to paint again.  I had no idea if anyone would ever read my blog.

In September 2001, Richard's mother had told me that Richard had written down the lyrics for "Girl of the North Country" and had written my name next to them.  He was living with his parents during a time he was undergoing chemotherapy for what was thought to be terminal lung cancer.  By 2006,  Richard's cancer had been in remission for four years.  For my own physical and emotional safety, I was not in touch with him but thought of myself as his Old Girl of the North Country.

Although blogging has brought unforeseen healing to me, including a change in the name of my blog, I have had an usually difficult time this December, with unexpected edginess and anger and grief surfacing.  I hadn't been able to come up with a idea for a post after December 5 and the death of Nelson Mandela, until today when I saw the Doonesbury strip with Alex and Toggle and their twin babies.

Alex and Toggle are dear to my heart.  Their life is unfolding in a way very unlike the way my life with Richard unfolded, and I am grateful to witness other possibilities for veterans and their loved ones than those Richard and I experienced:

During Richard's first nights home he had nightmares, and to his immense dismay and to my bewilderment he punched me in the eye in the midst of one of his nightmares, as I lay sleeping beside him.  In 2008, Richard died in a VA hospital from complications related to Agent Orange exposure, tobacco abuse, drug addiction, alcoholism, and cancer.   I was able to be with him in the ICU during the last days of his life.

Toggle met Alex about a year after Richard died.  Toggle reminds me of what I loved about Richard.

Richard gave me a copy of "All Things Must Pass" for Christmas in 1970.  This morning I had just happened to listen to "Wah-Wah" and was listening to the rest of the songs when I went to the Doonesbury website to see the comic strip for today.




"Is that ... harmony?"

I love the smile on Toggle's face.

Thank you for reading my blog.  Thank you for your blogs.  Blogging is a way of my life for me now. I haven't gotten back into painting, but I am beginning to do some weaving and am playing the autoharp, dulcimer and ukulele and am happy to be spending time taking care of babies in a volunteer position.  I have plans to take classes and take care of babies as a job in the future.  I wonder if Alex would hire me.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Nelson Mandela (1918-2013)

For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains,
but to live in a way that respects and enhances the
freedom of others.
(Nelson Mandela)

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Time for a walk

Here you can see where the creek becomes a waterfall.
Just beyond this is the WPA bridge.

Just a few minutes walking distance from my home I can enter Whatcom Falls Park by way of the trail that goes alongside Scudder Pond, which is what my porch looks out on.  On a full day, I may just walk for about 10 minutes and then turn around.  Other days I can walk for several hours on the forest trails and beyond to the acres of cemetery to the south of Whatcom Falls Park.  On the day after Thanksgiving, I walked a loop that takes about hour, going down the west side of Whatcom Creek and circling back across the WPA bridge to the east side and heading north from there.

From pages 9 and 10 of A Winter Walk, by Tolbert McCarroll:

A nineteenth-century farmer referred to winter as "our season" because daily life was not dictated by when to plant or harvest.

It is in the cycles of the year that many of us find our spiritual paths -- not in the doctrines or dogmas of religious institutions.