Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Mandala #28: Family Alchemy

On December 24, I completed my 28th mandala.  According to my book on Chinese calligraphy, the character at the center of my mandala signifies "family name." My family of origin has had numerous broken places in it for many generations.  Those broken places played out again in my generation and the two generations that follow mine.

My mandala is a vision of my family of origin being healed, resulting in a new family name that reflects the healing of who-knows-how-many generations of brokenness.  At this point, I cannot imagine how that would happen, but I want to see it as possible.

As of today, I deactivated my Facebook page in hopes of alleviating some of the pain that I experience in connection with my family.  I have not posted on Facebook for over a month now and have several other ways to keep in touch with friends and family I am close to, many of whom are not on Facebook.

I am grateful for the healing that I have experienced within in connection with my family of origin, much of it in connection with having a family of choice.  There is much less pain for me than there used to be.  It is a gradual process.  Facebook has not been contributing to healing in my family of origin.

May all families be healed and whole.  May all beings be healed and whole.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

"... meant to be sung, not read on a page ..." / 1966 and 2017: Through me tell the story / With Addendum

(a cover from "Tempest," released on September 10, 2012, the last collection of songs written and released by Bob Dylan before receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature)
"... When Odysseus in The Odyssey visits the famed warrior Achilles in the underworld – Achilles, who traded a long life full of peace and contentment for a short one full of honor and glory –  tells Odysseus it was all a mistake. "I just died, that's all." There was no honor. No immortality. And that if he could, he would choose to go back and be a lowly slave to a tenant farmer on Earth rather than be what he is – a king in the land of the dead – that whatever his struggles of life were, they were preferable to being here in this dead place. 
That's what songs are too. Our songs are alive in the land of the living. But songs are unlike literature. They're meant to be sung, not read. The words in Shakespeare's plays were meant to be acted on the stage. Just as lyrics in songs are meant to be sung, not read on a page. And I hope some of you get the chance to listen to these lyrics the way they were intended to be heard: in concert or on record or however people are listening to songs these days. I return once again to Homer, who says, "Sing in me, oh Muse, and through me tell the story." (am's italics)
(from the concluding words of Bob Dylan's Nobel Lecture, including the first words of Homer's Odyssey)
From nearly 30 years ago:
The final words of Homer's Odyssey, with the goddess Athena calling for an end to the war:

And now would they have slain them all, and cut them off from returning, had not Athena, daughter of Zeus, who bears the aegis, [530] shouted aloud, and checked all the host, saying: “Refrain, men of Ithaca, from grievous war, that with all speed you may part, and that without bloodshed.” So spoke Athena, and pale fear seized them. Then in their terror the arms flew from their hands [535] and fell one and all to the ground, as the goddess uttered her voice, and they turned toward the city, eager to save their lives. Terribly then shouted the much-enduring, goodly Odysseus, and gathering himself together he swooped upon them like an eagle of lofty flight, and at that moment the son of Cronos cast a flaming thunderbolt, [540] and down it fell before the flashing-eyed daughter of the mighty sire. Then flashing-eyed Athena spoke to Odysseus saying: “Son of Laertes, sprung from Zeus, Odysseus of many devices, stay thy hand, and make the strife of equal war to cease, lest haply the son of Cronos be wroth with thee, even Zeus, whose voice is borne afar.” [545] So spoke Athena, and he obeyed, and was glad at heart. Then for all time to come a solemn covenant betwixt the twain was made by Pallas Athena, daughter of Zeus, who bears the aegis, in the likeness of Mentor both in form and in voice.

This post came about after I read the text of Bob Dylan's Nobel Lecture, which I read while thinking about a drawing I did in the early 1980s from a photograph taken in Vietnam of my R and sent to me by R in 1970.   The drawing was returned under mysterious circumstances a few days ago, December 14, nearly 40 years after I had given it away.  

I was not going to post anything more about my R, feeling that I had told the story too many times already.  However, when my drawing was returned a few days ago on the anniversary of the day I met R in December 1966, there is something new to tell.  Another coincidence? (I had mentioned the first words of Homer's Odyssey on Valentine's Day of this year in connection with a dream visit from R).

"When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe." (John Muir)


("Self-Portrait Of An Old Friend As A Young Man," chalk pastel on paper, 18 x 24, by am -- returned to me on December 14, 2017)

Addendum:  This morning I found an extraordinary cover of a lesser known Bob Dylan song.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

A song from the early 1980s by Bob Dylan sung in Italian

Included in the English lyrics is this which caught my attention today:

They say that patriotism is the last refuge
To which a scoundrel clings
Steal a little and they throw you in jail
Steal a lot and they make you king

Thursday, December 14, 2017

On the top of my list of books to read / The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia, by Masha Gessen

"Putin and Trump are 'a new generation of monsters' claims journalist, Masha Gessen.  In her new book, she argues the totalitarianism has gripped Russia again and discusses whether something similar could happen in the U.S." (from Channel 4 news on Facebook)

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Shedding Light

Love the body of water sparkling and the birds singing as Laurie Anderson speaks to us.  Hope you enjoy this as much as I did.

And this:

Still, it is sobering that U.S. voters (given that only a portion of the population chooses to vote) are so evenly divided and polarized.  Life in the balance.  Light alternating with darkness.

Here's what Rachel Barenblat of Velveteen Rabbi wrote:

"Whatever clothing we wear, whatever persona we adopt, it's our job in this world to be human candles.  To shed light in the darkness, wherever we go."

Monday, December 11, 2017

Sweet Potatoes / Haiku / Four Generations / December 8, 2006 and Gratitude

I've been enjoying sweet potatoes on a daily basis for some years now. Currently, I cook several pounds of them for 10 hours in a slow cooker and keep them in the refrigerator until I am ready to slice and heat them in oil in a cast iron skillet.

Yesterday morning I discovered a haiku that I wrote last year on December 10:

December snow mixed with rain
Heart knows the way
One with the ocean

Today I am looking out at an ice fog.  It is 32 degrees outside.

Yesterday I discovered this, too, written by an unknown person about Monarch butterflies:

These fragile creatures make a journey of thousands of miles, but it takes four generations to complete the trip.  No single butterfly ever flies the full route, yet somehow the species continues to pass on the pattern of migration.  If butterflies can be part of a pattern that they never fully know, I think that the same may be true for us.

My blog began on December 8, 2006, with the name "Old Girl Of The North Country." December 8, 1970, had been the day the man I loved returned from Vietnam, and early that morning I had to face the reality of the devastating consequences of war.  In December 2006, a perceptive woman suggested doing something different on that date that had been a source of emotional pain for the previous 36 years, since I had been 21 years old.  I made the decision to start a blog and post a retrospective of the art work I had done since 1966.  Here is what I posted for the month of December 2006.

Blogging has been a healing experience for me for 11 years now in this community of kindred spirits.  I am grateful to everyone who blogs along with me, no matter what happens, and much has happened in these 11 years.

Thank you!

If butterflies can be part of a pattern that they never fully know, I think that the same may be true for us.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

"War is never holy, just a greedy man's dream"

A friend brought this to my attention via Facebook, where there is an extraordinary video of Buffy Sainte-Marie singing 'The War Racket." There is an interview, too.

I'm recommending the biography of Buffy Sainte-Marie.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Still learning to play the autoharp

Several years ago I bought a used Oscar Schmidt autoharp (made in the 1970s) from a local music store and enjoyed trying to teach myself to play it, not realizing that it was too large for me to play effectively. Because I wasn't making much progress and felt discouraged, I stopped playing it.  A friend loaned me a smaller autoharp recently, and I have been practicing again, using the songs with chords from here (scroll down the sidebar on the left).

Tuesday, November 14, 2017


Thanks to Beth, one of my first blog friends (our friendship beginning around 10 years ago) for bringing Virginia Mae Schmitt to my attention this morning.  The 11th anniversary of my blog is coming up on December 8.  When I started this blog, I didn't realize how much I needed the experience of worldwide community that has unfolded over the years through blogging.  It has enriched my experience of local community.  And today it has brought a new dimension to the voice of Walt Whitman.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Morning Meditation 12 November 2017: Bob Dylan and his Heart and the Door / Warren Zevon (Heaven's Door, Your Heart)


Forgetful heart. 
Lost your power of recall 
Every little detail
You don't remember at all
The times we knew
Who would remember better than you

Forgetful heart
We laughed and had a good time you and I
It's been so long
Now you're content to let the days go by
When you were there
You were the answer to my prayer

Forgetful heart
We loved with all the love that life can give
What can I say
Without you it's so hard to live
Can't take much more
Why can't we love like we did before

Forgetful heart
Like a walking shadow in my brain
All night long
I lie awake and listen to the sound of pain
The door has closed forevermore
If indeed there ever was a door.

Copyright © 2009 by Special Rider Music and Ice-Nine Publishing

Update:  Just after posting, I found this about doors in Jewish tradition.  Coincidence?

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Veterans Day 2017

Although I've posted Jimi Hendrix' version of the Star-spangled Banner four times before over the years on my blog, I'm moved to post it again today.  My beloved veteran was a high school dropout who was drafted into the U.S. Army at age 19 in the spring of 1969.  He did his basic training at Fort Lewis, Washington, and was sent to Newport News, Virginia, for helicopter mechanic training school.  He and his buddies had a plan to attend Woodstock and see Jimi Hendrix, but it didn't materialize.  I am sure that there were veterans in the crowd at Woodstock.  Jimi Hendrix had been drafted into the Army and served in the 101st Airborne Division, which was the same division my veteran was in, although Jimi Hendrix did not serve in Vietnam.  My veteran loved the music of Jimi Hendrix.

In late January 1970, I drove R to Oakland Army Base on the day before he was to fly to Vietnam.  He asked me not to cry when I said goodbye to him.  I honored his wish but cried hard on my way home across the San Francisco Bay Bridge.  That night he called me and asked me to come back and pick him up and take him to a draft resistance office.  I sat in the hallway while he talked with a draft resistance counselor.  When he returned to the hallway, his heart was heavy.  He said, "I will meet the defeat of her challenge."  He didn't believe he could be granted conscientious objector status.  He didn't want to go to Canada and doubted that Canada would accept him anyway because of his lack of education or skills valued by the Canadian government.  He did not want to go to prison (although he ended up in prison later in his life). He made the fateful decision to go to Vietnam. He was against the war when he left and against the war when he returned home on December 8, 1970, but when he returned he was broken by his experience of war.  He struggled for the rest of his life. We separated for the last time in early October 1971.  In one of the last letters to me in around 2006, he wrote. "All we are saying is give peace a chance."

May all veterans and their families, all over the world, find peace.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Just because

With gratitude to an anonymous friend who brought Robert Desnos to my attention today through an article by Susan Griffin which included the following:

"Like artistic and literary movements, social movements are driven by imagination. I am not speaking here only of the songs and poems and paintings that have always been part of movements for political and social change, but of the movements themselves, their political ideas and forms of protest. Every important social movement reconfigures the world in the imagination. What was obscure comes forward, lies are revealed, memory shaken, new delineations drawn over the old maps: it is from this new way of seeing the present that hope for the future emerges."

Le pélican

Le capitaine Jonathan,
Étant âgé de dix-huit ans,
Capture un jour un pélican
Dans une île d'Extrême-Orient.
Le pélican de Jonathan,
Au matin pond un œuf tout blanc
Et il en sort un pélican
Lui ressemblant étonnamment.
Et ce deuxième pélican
Pond, à son tour, un œuf tout blanc
D'où sort, inévitablement,
Un autre qui en fait autant. 
Cela peut durer pendant très longtemps
Si l'on ne fait pas d'omelette avant.

The Pelican

Captain Jonathan
Being eighteen years old
Captures a pelican one day
In a Far-Eastern island.
Jonathan's pelican
lays an all-white egg
from which emerges a pelican
Which looks just like the first.
And this second pelican
Also lays an all-white egg
from which emerges, inevitably
Another, who does the same.
This can last a very long time
Unless we make an omelet.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Remembering 1965 / Living Now

Set list taken from YouTube comment by Brinley Zhao:

0:17 I'm A Rambler, I'm A Gambler 2:35 There But For Fortune 6:26 Copper Kettle 9:22 Mary Hamilton 15:30 Don't Think Twice, It's All Right * 19:00 I'm Troubled And I Don't Know Why * 22:12 We Shall Overcome * 26:31 With God on Our Side 34:07 Plaisir D'Amour 39:37 Oh Freedom 43:32 She's a Troublemaker 45:48 The Unquiet Grave 50:35 It Ain't me Babe * 54:39 Isn't It Grand * 57:43 500 miles 1:01:10 Te Ador/ Ate Amanha

Images from mid-October to today (mostly taken in the morning during my yoga practice). I ended my final contract as a medical transcription editor on October 16 and am now finding out how to live on my Social Security check. I know it's possible to do. Several of my friends have been doing it for years. Anything is possible. My relief at being free from the pressures of being a medical transcription editor for pennies is immense.

(The unexpected early snow has melted. No snow in the forecast)

(Hard to believe that our generally unwanted president is still in the White House after this long strange year since Tuesday, November 8, 2016)

Here's Ursula K. Le Guin's version of #9 of the Tao Te Ching:

Being quiet

Brim-fill the bowl,
it'll spill over.
Keep sharpening the blade,
you'll soon blunt it.

Nobody can protect
a house full of gold and jade.

Wealth, status, pride,
are their own ruin.
To do good, work well, and lie low
is the way of blessing.

Here are The Roches. An appropriate song for today:

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

In these times

Fearless and Asymmetrical Mandalas (For William Blake) / Mandala #27:  Total Eclipse in Fossil, WA

(Faber-Castell colored pencil on Bristol board. Drawn by am between July 2017 and October 2017)

October 3, 2017:  From my porch, looking toward the foothills that lead to the Cascade Mountains.

October 13, 2017: Early snow in the foothills.

(Tentative lyrics from YouTube comment by Hige)
[5x - Chorus] Hanawena ha wen hey Hanawena ha wen hey yo wa It's one man rich and another man poor. Why we ain't satisfied, why we gotta' have more? Why the suicide rates on the rez so high? Why? I tell you the truth, but you see only lies. Why is being a good father at all time so low? Why is it so bullsh... Why? I don't know. Why she blame him and he blame her? It's useless. Ask yourself this question: why you making excuses? Why do parents gotta bury their kids? Why we text and drive and not caring how scary it is? Why is it so hard to forgive and leave the past behind? And if you did, that's divine. Why don't you help your brother when you see him fall? Why don't we act like god and try to see it all? Why do we call them black and white and asians and use labels? Now that's racism. [4x - Chorus] Hanawena ha wen hey wa Hanawena ha wen hey yo wa wa Why is the reminiscence (?), people locked up for life? Why some people can't say something nice? Why do we always gotta' question what all of it means and why won't you follow your dreams? Tell me why that night when you took my dad, why you let me see my grandpa cry? And tell me why, why did you choose to hide, even though you were born to fly? And tell me why, and why don't we turn from all the hate? Why don't we learn from all mistakes? Why do I keep on wrecking these fat beats(?)? And teachers don't make more than professional athletes. And why? Hée why? Hée why? Hée why? Hée why? Hée why? [4x - Chorus] Hanawena ha wen hey wa Hanawena ha wen hey yo wa wa

“When I’m invited to a nonnative school, it’s an amazing opportunity to share music and culture with them,” he says. “I feel like I have a responsibility to educate about Native people, and the history of the United States, and basic things like breaking stereotypes of Native people. Like, ‘Hey, I’m drug- and alcohol-free, believe it.’ I invite all of them to my reservation because they’ve been taught not to go to the rez, [or they’ll] get killed.”
“When it’s all-Native it’s great too,” Supaman continues, “because you get to share your accomplishments with them. You get to say, ‘Hey, I’m a fancy dancer. I embrace the culture and I embrace this other culture, which is hip-hop.’ We have the opportunity to share our heart and tell them that it’s good to stand up for these rights; it’s good to be drug- and alcohol-free, and embrace culture… I want to show Native youth that it’s okay to embrace other cultures, so long as you don’t forget who you are and where you come from.”
Read more about Supaman here.