Wednesday, May 30, 2018

"Piper" / Speaking of the ocean ...

One of my neighbors, a walking friend who was also born in San Francisco, emailed a link to "Piper."

We grew up watching these little birds on the ocean coast of the San Francisco peninsula.  Sweet memories.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

To live

On page 91 from The Living Mountain, by Nan Shepherd,

"For falling asleep on the mountain has the delicious corollary of awaking.  To come up out of the blank of sleep and open one's eyes on scaur and gully, wondering, because one had forgotten where one was, is to recapture some pristine amazement not often savored.  I do not know if it is a common experience (certainly it is unusual in my normal sleep), but when I fall asleep out of doors, perhaps because outdoor sleep is deeper than normal, I awake with an empty mind. Consciousness of where I am comes back quite soon, but for one startled moment I have looked at a familiar place as though I had never seen it before.

Such sleep may last for only a few minutes, yet even a single minute serves this end of uncoupling the mind.  It would be merely fanciful to suppose that some spirit of emanation of the mountain had intention in thus absorbing my consciousness, so as to reveal itself to a naked apprehension difficult to otherwise obtain.  I do not ascribe sentience to the mountain; yet at no other moment am I sunk quite so deep into its life.  I have let go my self.  The experience is peculiarly precious because it is impossible to coerce."

Although I have not had that experience in the mountains, I had a similar experience when I was in my early 20s while sleeping in a nest I had dug for myself in a steep slope of warm sand when I was alone on the north end of Montara Beach on a cool windy sunny weekday. Although I have looked for a photo in Google images showing the steepness of the beach, I couldn't find one.  Perhaps the nature of that beach has changed in nearly 50 years.  Perhaps the nature of the beach changes from summer to winter.

Nan Shepherd's words brought back my experience.  That place and time was where I experienced paradise.

It's been 10 years now since I've visited the ocean.  That was also the last time I visited the Sierra Nevada.  I have lived closer to mountains than to the ocean for most of my adult life here in Northwest Washington and yet I rarely visit the mountains except in my dreams. Reading Nan Shepherd's book was like revisiting the recurring dreams I've had of walking in the mountains.  Some of my ancestors lived in Scotland.  Maybe some memories of the Cairngorm mountains of Scotland are in my DNA.  I am grateful to Nan Shepherd and John Muir for their celebration of life in the context of walking and resting in the mountains.

For now, I walk close to home near the shore of a 14-mile lake with a view of mountains, surrounded by woods, just a few miles from the Salish Sea, finding a measure of peace and celebration in doing that.

(Thanks to Brain Pickings for inspiring me to arrange to read The Living Mountain through our local library's interlibrary loan program.)

Monday, May 28, 2018

Memorial Day 2018 Meditation / Brothers and Sisters in Arms

On Memorial Day in 1975, along with women of various ages, I was working as an industrial sewing machine operator in a small factory that produced ski wear in Bellingham, Washington, where I still live. Among my co-workers were at least a dozen Vietnamese women of various ages who had been among those who had been evacuated just prior to the fall of Saigon.  I became friends with a Vietnamese woman who was the same age I was.  We had both lost our first loves in that war.  Her boyfriend's throat was slit by a Viet Cong.  My boyfriend returned physically from Vietnam in 1970 but never found the peace he sought and believed in for the rest of his life.  His gifts were lost to the world.  I lost him as a result of the Vietnam War.  He died many times before his death in a VA hospital in Palo Alto, California.  He was against the war when he went to Vietnam but saw no way to avoid going.  Each succeeding war troubled him deeply.

My friend went forward with her life in a way that I was unable to do. In the 1980s, my friend traveled to India as a single woman as part of a church group.  She hoped to adopt a girl from India named Karuna. My friend commissioned me to make a portrait from a photo of her and Karuna.  She was not able to adopt Karuna.

My friend was raised in a Catholic orphanage after being abandoned by her mother who had married a man who did not want her because she was not his child.  She was never adopted.  When she was old enough to work, she was hired by the U.S. Army and worked as a gym attendant in Saigon before being evacuated in April 1975.

In the early 2000s, she and her husband went to Vietnam and adopted an infant boy from an orphanage.  She and her husband and her son traveled back to Vietnam in the 2010s to meet with her mother and siblings that she had not seen since childhood.  Her son met his birth mother and siblings.  During the years I have know her, I have learned from her about living in the present.  She led the way.

Here is a photo of us in the mid-1970s:

and a photo of her on my porch in the 1980s:

From a previous post:

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."

The true end of a war is the rebirth of life;
the right to die peacefully in your own bed.
The true end of war is the end of fear;
the true end of war is the return of laughter.

-- Alfred Molano

Memorial Day is not only about those who have died in war but about the living.

To jog my memory, I visited these previous posts:

Thursday, May 24, 2018

"... and the fishes will laugh as they swim out of the path and the seagulls they'll be smiling ..." / "... Wouldn't take nothing for my journey now ..."

(the blog post title is from "When The Ship Comes In", lyrics by Bob Dylan, 1963)

"... A song will lift
As the mainsail shifts
And the boat drifts on to the shoreline
And the sun will respect
Every face on the deck
The hour that the ship comes in ..."

The rest of the set list for the above includes:  "Only A Pawn In Their Game" (lyrics by Bob Dylan) and "Keep Your Eyes On The Prize"

Here's a more recent cover of "Keep Your Eyes On The Prize":

"... Well, the only chains that we can stand
Are the chains of hand in hand
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on
Got my hand on the freedom plow
Wouldn't take nothing for my journey now ..."

(lyrics from "Keep Your Eyes On The Prize"

"... May you always know the truth and see the light surrounding you / May you always be courageous, stand upright and be strong..." 
(lyrics by Bob Dylan, from "Forever Young," written in 1973, when he was 32 years old)

Bob Dylan is 77 years old today.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Twenty-one Gun Salute Meditation / A Show Of Peace / Fistful of Rain / Train of Thought

From an article titled Forgiveness 2018, from a Parabola magazine article by Tracy Cochran:

"Like many men of his generation, my father was a veteran of World War II. At the conclusion of his funeral, an honor guard fired a Twenty-one Gun Salute. This ritual came from the custom of ships firing off all their guns to show that they came in peace. With no time to reload before they were in range of the shore, the ship was voluntarily defenseless. To ask for and offer forgiveness is to put down arms, daring to show ourselves as we are without defenses. This New Year, may we all dare to put down our guns–to take off our armor. Why not sail into the New Year disarmed and vulnerable? The unknown. The unknown is our own greater potential. May we and all beings be forgiven and peaceful and begin again. ♥"

I had no idea that the 21-gun salute ritual came from a custom indicating that the men with guns came in peace, defenseless.

Mama put my guns in the ground
I can't shoot them anymore
That cold black cloud is comin' down
Feels like I'm knockin' on heaven's door
(lyrics by Bob Dylan)

"... In a heart there are windows and doors
You can let the light in
You can feel the wind blow
When there's nothing to lose
And nothing to gain
Grab a hold of that fistful of rain ..."
(lyrics by Warren Zevon)

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Emmy Lou Packard and Denise Levertov Meditation

"Children with Pigeon and Sunflower Seeds" (Emmy Lou Packard, who was a friend of Frida Kahlo)
Human being—walking
in doubt from childhood on: walking
a ledge of slippery stone in the world’s woods
deep-layered with set leaves—rich or sad: on one
side of the path, ecstasy, on the other
dull grief.Walking
the mind’s imperial cities, roofed-over alleys,
thoroughfares, wide boulevards
that hold evening primrose of sky in steady calipers.
Always the mind
walking, working, stopping sometimes to kneel
in awe of beauty, sometimes leaping, filled with the energy
of delight, but never able to pass
the wall, the wall
of brick that crumbles and is replaced,
of twisted iron,
of rock,
the wall that speaks, saying monotonously:
Children and animals
who cannot learn
anything from suffering
suffer, are tortured, die
in incomprehension.
The human being, each night nevertheless
summoning—with a breath blown at a flame,
or hand’s touch
on the lamp-switch—darkness,
silently utters,
impelled as if by a need to cup the palms
and drink from a river,
the words, “Thanks,
Thanks for this day, a day of my life.”
And wonders
Pulls up the blankets, looking
into nowhere, always in doubt.
And takes strange pleasure
in having repeated once more the childish formula,
a pleasure in what is seemly.
And drifts to sleep, downstream
on murmuring currents of doubt and praise,
the wall shadowy, that tomorrow
will cast its own familiar, chill, clear-cut shadow
into the day’s brilliance.
When I am out walking early in the morning, I see high school students walking to the bus stop that takes them to what we used to feel was a more-or-less safe place.

Monday, May 21, 2018

"A Spiritual Sanctuary for People and Nature"

From Starcross, where my mother volunteered many years ago as a Sunday morning babysitter for adopted young children whose mothers had died of AIDS.

Helping Hands

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Las Madres Cansadas

This song came to mind last night before I went to sleep.

May all the weary mothers and daughters and sons of the earth find peace.


Thursday, May 10, 2018


A birthday in May

Bob Dylan Always Had the Right Words to Say Corrina Corrina, Lay down your weary tune When you gonna wake up, Step it up & go Talkin WWIII blues, No time to think Everything is broken, Disease of conceit but Chimes of freedom, Meet me in the morning I shall be released, Cause the times they are a changin As I went out one morning, Tangled up in blue Sign on the window, Blowin in the wind Quit your low down ways, Death is not the end I'll remember you, When the ship comes in Chorus With God on our side, A hard rains a-gonna fall Thunder on the mountain, Like a rolling stone The levee's gonna break, Gotta travel on The gates of eden, Shelter from the storm chorus All along the watchtower, Masters of war Day of the locusts, When the deal goes down Not dark yet, Changing of the guards Paths of victory, Where teardrops fall Bob Dylans blues, Bob Dylans dream I'll keep it with mine, when I paint my masterpiece

(Collage of Bob Dylan song titles by Adelle The Great)

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

"... It is not despair ..." (James Baldwin) / "... so let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late ..." (Bob Dylan)

Thanks to the Doonesbury video archive on May 9 and Brain Pickings for the inspiration for this post.

After reading about A Rap on Race at Brain Pickings, I downloaded it for free and have been reading it in the last few days.  Although I usually find it difficult, if not impossible, to read anything book length from a computer screen, Open Library's format is easily readable for me.  I'm more than half finished.  It's sobering, well worth reading, provoking a meditation on what has changed and what hasn't changed since 1971, when James Baldwin was 47 years old and Margaret Mead was 70.

It's an entirely different experience to listen to the conversation and hear the emotion in the two voices.  I located the end of the edited conversation (below at what was transcribed for page 256) from the YouTube video for anyone who would like to read along.  Otherwise, I was unable to match the transcript with the quotes I selected below:

Page 25:
James Baldwin:  I realized I was looking at death.  That man wanted to kill me.


Page 117:
Margaret Mead:  No. We only talk about ignorance of something that is known.  We don't have a word for the impossibility of knowing something yet.

James Baldwin:  Exactly.  There isn't a word for that, is there?  No word that I know.  And yet that is where everyone begins.


Page 135:
James Baldwin:  The life of everybody on this planet is menaced by, to put it too simply, the extraordinary and even willful ignorance of people in high places.


Page 138:
Margaret Mead:  And how are we going to -- at a period when there are so many people who have failed to be fitted into the social system in any way, so they are going around shooting twenty people or throwing bombs at random -- how are we going to protect this system which is so vulnerable?

James Baldwin:  I don't think, in this case, that it can be protected.


It's a conversation with a growing edginess to it, a difficult conversation.  Curious, I just turned to the last page to see who had the last word.

Page 256:  (Listen beginning at 1:43:46.  Interesting that the transcript doesn't quite match what was said)
James Baldwin:  We're talking about that.  I have to talk about my beginnings, and I did begin here auctioned like a mule, bred as though I were a stallion.  I was in my country, which I paid for and I'm paying for.  Treated as not even a beast is treated.  Died in ditches not even as a mule is murdered.  And I have to remember that.  I have to redeem that.  I cannot let it go for nothing.  The only reason I'm here is to bear witness.

I don't really like my life, you know.  I don't really want another drink. I've seen enough of the world's cities to make me vomit forever.  But I've got something to do.  It has nothing in it any longer for me.  What I wanted is what everybody wanted.  You wanted it, too.  Everybody wanted it.  It will come.  It comes in different shapes and forms.  It is not despair, and the price one pays is everybody's price.

But on top of that particular price, which is universal, there is something gratuitous which I will not forgive, you know.  It's difficult to be born, difficult to learn to walk, difficult to grow old, difficult to die and difficult to live for everybody, everywhere, forever.  But no one has the right to put on top of that another burden, another price which nobody can pay, and a burden which really nobody can bear.  I know it's universal, Margaret, but the fact that it is universal doesn't mean that I'll accept it.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Coast Protectors

"7 arrested as faith leaders protest Kinder Morgan pipeline in Burnaby.

'We have a spiritual obligation to care for the land and uphold the truth and reconciliation calls to action.'"

Coast Protectors

Monday, May 7, 2018

Turlough, by Brian Keenan

Thank you, Sabine, for bringing Turlough, by Brian Keenan, to my attention recently.  Our public library didn't have a copy, but the interlibrary loan system borrowed a copy for me from the Western Michigan University Library.

From the dedication page to the epigraph by N. Scott Momaday for Part One through the journal entries of Mrs. McDermott-Roe and letters of friends and critics and storytelling and the final part of this quote by Chief Seattle to last page of the book, my attention and emotions were fully engaged in the life of Turlough and with the challenges of life in Ireland in the 1600s and 1700s and the power of music and all the light that the blind can see.

From page 5, from the journal of Mrs. McDermott-Roe who was a lifelong friend, patron and confidante: ... I explained to him how over all these years I have pressed flowers in my journal and how their shape or color transports me back to some incident that my memory had overlooked.  He stopped and turned to me, then said curiously, "Yes, I know, colour has memory, everything has its own color ...

From page 21:  ... she (am's note:  Turlough's mother) insisted that anyone who drank the flower's juice would be enabled to write poetry. In his imagination he saw fields of words stretching out into the distance.  When he told his mother she laughed and said he was already a poet without drinking any flowers.

From page 34:  .. Nervously he began chuckling to himself.  The idea came into his head that the fish were singing.  Somehow an outburst of life was coming from the silent fish ..."

From page 104:   ... One day she entered his room and placed a harp in his hands.  "Let this speak for you," she said simply as she turned to leave the room ...

From page 136:  ... He wanted music to convey a sense of the person and of the musician's response.  There would be no tortured plucking of the strings, no bitter regret.  He wanted the harp in his hands to be Bridget.  The music was to be about acceptance, a celebration of love, another way of loving ...

From page 224:  No law, no matter how pernicious, savage or inhuman, can obliterate the culture of a nation ... "

From page 270:  For the dead are not altogether powerless.  Dead did I say?  There is no death, only a change of worlds.

(Chief Seattle of the Duwamish tribe on Puget Sound, Washington Territory)

From page 296:  ... This was the secret that old Fionnuala Quinn (am's note: the teacher who placed a harp in his hands) had tried to impart to him.  Only blindness could release him to see more fully.  Blindness allowed him to stop living in front of things and begin to live with them, as part of them ...

From page 332 of 333, where a friend relates a dream Turlough had related to him:  ... Again he heard the peasant song, plaintive and full of exile and longing.  It seemed more than human.  It was compelling and intense, and pulled him to the great door of the waiting room.  He surveyed the cracked symbols and figures carved on wood.  To him the door was a manuscript of sound.  He seemed to hear its meaning, like a great sounding board reverberating in his senses.  As he stood before it, it opened silently.

Beyond it was a swirling fusion of unformed colour ...

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Visions of the Humpback Whale / Against All Odds / Survival Prayer

(Delay at beginning, starts at 0:05)

About 30 miles north of Bellingham in the Salish Sea.

Photo from Peace Arch News.

It was in 1970 that I was first made aware of the plight of the Humpback Whale through Judy Collins' version of "Farewell to Tarwathie":

This songis by George Scroggie who lived in Aberdeenshire in the middle of the 19th century. At that time men would sign on to the whaling ships to earn money when times were hard on the land.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Open-Mindedness / Prayer / "... ready to face anything ..."

This morning my thoughts return to April 4, 1968, when the news arrived in our college dorm at University of California, Irvine, that Martin Luther King, Jr., had been assassinated.  We were 18 years old and, for the most part, white middle class, some of us the first women and men in our families to attend college.  I can only speak for myself. I was and wasn't surprised by this assassination, and I remember experiencing the startling and profound silence that has filled my mind upon shocking news of only a few deaths in my lifetime, before thoughts and feelings rush in.  That I was growing up in a world with a long history of violence was becoming increasing apparent. Among too many others who had died recently in violent deaths in the United States only were Medgar Evers in 1963, followed by John F. Kennedy, Malcolm X, the eight murdered student nurses in Chicago, and the University of Texas tower shootings which resulted in 16 gun deaths. Two months after Martin Luther King, Jr.'s violent death, Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated.  With the Tet Offensive, 1968 was the bloodiest year of the Vietnam War.  Exactly a year before, Martin Luther King, Jr., had spoken out against the war in Vietnam.  

The American Indian Movement was founded in July 1968:

"Indian people were never intended to survive the settlement of Europeans in the Western Hemisphere, our Turtle Island.  With the strength of a spiritual base, AIM has been able to clearly articulate the claims of Native Nations and has had the will and intellect to put forth those claims."

Although I agreed with Martin Luther King, Jr., on everything else, I was baffled by his belief in God.  Although I agreed with what I understood of the American Indian Movement, I was baffled by their talk of a spiritual base.  Nothing in my experience of going to church throughout my life until just months earlier had fostered in me a foundation in Christianity.  I had stopped going to church.  My parents stopped going to church soon after I stopped. Most of my Jewish friends were atheists.  A high school classmate told me she was going to convert to Islam.   A close friend identified as a Buddhist.  My Catholic friends left the Catholic church within the next few years.   For me, all religious and spiritual traditions were suspect.

And yet, there it was, Martin Luther King, Jr., and so many in the Civil Rights Movement found strength and inspiration from Christianity. Curiously, it was through Martin Luther King, Jr., that I was introduced to the Vietnamese Zen Buddhism of Thich Nhat Hanh. Although I didn't become a Buddhist, I realized that there was a sacred way of being in the world that did not include the concept of a traditional god or gods.  I began to see, too, that many of the people I respected, including the poet, Robinson Jeffers, had a firm foundation in their sense of awe and gratitude as they looked around at the natural world.  I have been moved by the power of the spiritual foundation of the indigenous peoples of the Americas and throughout the world as well as the thoughts of a Native American atheist I found just now through some quick Googling.  There are too many spiritual and religious, as well as skeptical, traditions to mention here.  They play a major part in the history of human beings.

Martin Luther King, Jr., had an open mind.  He was a Christian in the best sense of the word, one who respected the beliefs of his friends, not all of them Christian, including A. Philip Randolph, who were ready to face anything.

Prayer was a wellspring of strength and inspiration during the Civil Rights Movement. Throughout the movement, we prayed for greater human understanding. We prayed for the safety of our compatriots in the freedom struggle. We prayed for victory in our nonviolent protests, for brotherhood and sisterhood among people of all races, for reconciliation and the fulfillment of the Beloved Community.

For my husband, Martin Luther King, Jr. prayer was a daily source of courage and strength that gave him the ability to carry on in even the darkest hours of our struggle.

Protesters kneel in prayer and reflection during non-violent protest
Non-violence in action. US Library of Congress
I remember one very difficult day when he came home bone-weary from the stress that came with his leadership of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. In the middle of that night, he was awakened by a threatening and abusive phone call, one of many we received throughout the movement. On this particular occasion, however, Martin had had enough.

After the call, he got up from bed and made himself some coffee. He began to worry about his family, and all of the burdens that came with our movement weighed heavily on his soul. With his head in his hands, Martin bowed over the kitchen table and prayed aloud to God: “Lord, I am taking a stand for what I believe is right. The people are looking to me for leadership, and if I stand before them without strength and courage, they will falter. I am at the end of my powers. I have nothing left. I have nothing left. I have come to the point where I can’t face it alone.”

Later he told me, “At that moment, I experienced the presence of the Divine as I had never experienced Him before. It seemed as though I could hear a voice saying: ‘Stand up for righteousness; stand up for truth; and God will be at our side forever.'” When Martin stood up from the table, he was imbued with a new sense of confidence, and he was ready to face anything (am's italics)