Friday, December 27, 2019

Gracias a la vida in the last few days of 2019

Violeta Parra

Mercedes Sosa

As far as I can foresee, my traveling days are over.  Most of my travels were solo journeys by car between the northwest corner of Western Washington and Northern California.  I've driven as far north as 100 Mile House in British Columbia (a 6-hour drive from Bellingham) and ridden in a car as far south as Nogales, Mexico.  I've been as far east as the coast of Maine in a car and as far west as Oahu, Hawaii, by plane.  It is unlikely that I will ever travel to a country where Spanish is the official language, but with the growing population of Spanish-speaking people living in Whatcom County, I have already had opportunities to practice my limited Spanish.  Part of my motivation to learn Spanish comes from knowing how many Spanish-speaking people are currently learning to speak English under difficult conditions, in order to survive and hopefully thrive in the United States. 

Gracias a la Vida!
Thanks to life, which has given me so muchGracias a la vida que me ha dado tanto

He gave me two stars that when I open themMe dio dos luceros que cuando los abro

Perfect I distinguish black from whitePerfecto distingo lo negro del blanco

And in the high sky its starry backgroundY en el alto cielo su fondo estrellado

And in the crowds the man that I loveY en las multitudes el hombre que yo amo
Thanks to life, which has given me so muchGracias a la vida que me ha dado tanto

I have heard that in all its widthMe ha dado el oído que en todo su ancho

Every night and dayCada noche y días

Crickets and canaries, hammers, turbinesGrillos y canarios, martillos, turbinas

Barks, showersLadridos, chubascos

And the voice so tender of my well lovedY la voz tan tierna de mi bien amado
Thanks to life, which has given me so muchGracias a la vida que me ha dado tanto

He has given me the sound and the alphabetMe ha dado el sonido y el abecedario

With him the words that I think and declareCon el las palabras que pienso y declaro

Mother, friend, brother and light shiningMadre, amigo, hermano y luz alumbrando

The soul path that I am lovingLa ruta del alma del que estoy amando
Thanks to life, which has given me so muchGracias a la vida que me ha dado tanto

It has given me the march of my tired feetMe ha dado la marcha de mis pies cansados

With them I walked cities and puddlesCon ellos anduve ciudades y charcos

Beaches and deserts, mountains and plainsPlayas y desiertos, montañas y llanos

And your house, your street and your yardY la casa tuya, tu calle y tu patio
Thanks to life, which has given me so muchGracias a la vida que me ha dado tanto

He gave me the heart that waves his frameMe dio el corazón que agita su marco

When I look at the fruit of the human brainCuando miro el fruto del cerebro humano

When I look at the good so far from the badCuando miro el bueno tan lejos del malo

When I look at the bottom of your clear eyesCuando miro el fondo de tus ojos claros
Thanks to life, which has given me so muchGracias a la vida que me ha dado tanto

It has given me laughter and it has given me tearsMe ha dado la risa y me ha dado el llanto

Thus I distinguish joy from brokennessAsí yo distingo dicha de quebranto

The two materials that make up my songLos dos materiales que forman mi canto

And the song of you that is the same songY el canto de ustedes que es el mismo canto

And everyone's song that is my own songY el canto de todos que es mi propio canto
Thanks to life
Gracias a la vida

Source: LyricFind
Songwriters: Violeta Parra Sandoval
Gracias a la Vida lyrics © Warner Chappell Music, Inc

Friday, December 20, 2019

As December 21, 2019 approaches / "Remembering the Deer Mother"

Remembering The Deer Mother of Winter Solstice from Danielle Prohom Olson on Vimeo.

Thanks to Zhoen.

By the way, my blog was 13 years old on December 8.  I'm still immersed in my Spanish studies and not posting much lately but experiencing much gratitude for old and new blog friends and doing my best to keep up with your blogs.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

The day the Buddha sat down

Maybe some of you have seen this already.  It just came to my attention yesterday.

Today while beginning my December tradition of reading a chapter a day of A Winter Walk, I saw that some December since 2006 (when the book was published), I had made a note about Bodhi Day, which comes on December 8.

I had written:

The day the Buddha sat down.  He was 29.

On first watching the video and not paying close attention, I didn't realize immediately that the walking person was a young woman.  I was struck by what I thought was the vulnerability of a very delicate young white man whose physical presence seemed to have little to do with the voice of an edgy elderly Jewish/Buddhist man as his death approached.  Now that I know that the walking person is a young woman, everything shifts.

This November was the month when I finally cried long and hard and felt relief.

Here is what November looked like in Bellingham, Washington, this year:

Another yearly tradition is purchasing a Nikki McClure calendar.  I bought my 2020 calendar as soon as it was available.  The November page for 2019 celebrates a quiet family moment, and it gave me a sense of peace each time I looked at it.  Maybe I will give it a permanent place on the wall next to my drawing table when January 2020 arrives.

It was only on a second viewing of "Happens To The Heart" that I saw that the sitting figure rose into the air.  Too much like Mary's Assumption.  Oh well.  I experienced that rising with a sinking feeling. I wonder what Leonard Cohen would have thought of that image accompanying the end of his haunting song.

Then I remembered William Blake's words:

You never know what is enough unless you know what is more than enough.

And this:

If you don't realize the source, 
you stumble in confusion and sorrow.
When you realize where you come from, 
you naturally become tolerant, 
disinterested, amused, 
kindhearted as a grandmother, 
dignified as a king.
Immersed in the wonder of the Tao, 
you can deal with whatever life brings you, 
and when death comes, you are ready.” 

 Tao Te-Ching

Saturday, November 16, 2019


Revisited in the Davidson County Sheriff's Office jail in Nashville, TN.

And sung by women:

Early version:

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Celebrating Mandalas Made By High School Students / Mandalas As Blessings / Little Wheel Spin and Spin / Intense joy and sadness co-existing inseparably

Click here:  Mandalas!

That is something else new for me to listen to while working on my next mandala.

Buffy Sainte-Marie came to mind, too, from all those years ago:

One thing leads to another.

"This song comes from a strange zone where intense joy and sadness seem to co-exist inseparably."(Brendan Barry comment on YouTube)

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

Sunday, October 27, 2019

La Casa En Mango Street

In studying the Spanish language, Sandra Cisneros has come to my attention.  I hope to work on Mandala #46 later this week while listening to our public library's copy of the CD titled "La Casa En Mango Street."  Now I have a goal of being able to read Sandra Cisneros' books in Spanish in the future.

Grateful to have met another kindred spirit through the magic of words, I'm almost finished reading our public library's copy of this collection of stories from Sandra Cisneros' life:

A House of My Own - Cisneros, Sandra


Thursday, October 24, 2019

Joy Harjo / "She Had Some Horses" / "Fear Poem" / Mandala #45: Starry

This extraordinary 1:42:53 event begins at 6:30, with only anticipatory audience sounds previous to that.  If there isn't time for listening to something of that length, I hope there is time to listen to this:

and this:

(both of which are performed during the inaugural reading)

Stepping away from my Spanish language studies, I listened to Joy Harjo's inaugural reading as the current U.S. poet laureate and at the same time was able to complete Mandala #45, my third mandala for 2019.  Nine more to go.  That would be at least one a week until the end of the year. 

Hmmmm.  It's been a complicated year on so many levels.

We'll see.

I'm grateful that I first learned of Joy Harjo's poetry in 1997 and that her poetry will be heard by more and more people in these days when her voice is needed more than ever.

Although my social time and energy is currently limited, I continue to read your blogs and send love to all from the land of cloudy skies of great beauty:

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Learning Spanish has become a full-time job as I work on my mandalas and everything else

Y antes de morirme quiero
Echar mis versos del alma.

Listening to songs in Spanish helps me in my learning process.  The world feels new.  I think of you, Sabine, knowing several languages, several ways of being in the world.

Twelve of my framed drawings and paintings (dibujos y picturas del alma) from the 1980s are on display and for sale at a local independent store.  Legendary Vinyl sells vinyl record albums and turntables on consignment.  

So much to do, so little time.  And yet, it is enough.  More than I ever expected.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Mandala #44: Some say "elsewhere" and some say "within" / Esperanza

"Hope, in this deep and powerful sense, is not the same as joy that things are going well, or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously headed for early success, but, rather, an ability to work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed. The more unpropitious the situation in which we demonstrate hope, the deeper that hope is. Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out. In short, I think that the deepest and most important form of hope, the only one that can keep us above water and urge us to good works, and the only true source of the breathtaking dimension of the human spirit and its efforts, is something we get, as it were, from “elsewhere.” It is also this hope, above all, which gives us the strength to live and continually to try new things, even in conditions that seem as hopeless as ours do, here and now." (Vaclav Havel)

For years, the words in orange were taped to my drawing table.  My experience since then is that my deepest form of hope comes from withinDoes it matter where hope comes from?  That it came to me at all at this time of year in 1987 after years of hopelessness is astonishing.  Just now I'm recalling once again what an English professor at UC Irvine quoted in 1967 or 1968 (my first year of college), "Words do our thinking for us."  Is there something that exists without words?  All the light we cannot see?

We were talking
About the space between us all
And the people
Who hide themselves behind a wall of illusion
Never glimpse the truth
Then it's far too late when they pass away
We were talking
About the love we all could share
When we find it
To try our best to hold it there, with our love, with our love
We could save the world, if they only knew
Try to realize it's all within yourself, no-one else can make you change
And to see you're really only very small
And life flows on within you and without you
We were talking
About the love that's gone so cold
And the people
Who gain the world and lose their soul
They don't know, they can't see
Are you one of them?

When you've seen beyond yourself then you may find peace of mind is waiting there
And the time will come when you see we're all one
And life flows on within you and without you

Saturday, September 28, 2019

"We are the survivors of the great flood" (with update on October 1, 2019)

Update on Tuesday, October 1, 2019:

Go directly to Freddie Lane's YouTube channel to see the above video as well as "We're Running Out Of Time" (Billy Frank, Jr., interview) and "Protecting Our Heritage," and other videos Freddie Lane has posted that are worth taking the time to watch.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

James Baldwin and Ocean Vuong / Leah Siegel covering Buckley covering Buckley / Learning Spanish / NAMI class

Ocean Vuong's book On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous was brought to my attention in the last month or so, and I put a hold on a copy at our public library.  I found the book to be extraordinary as well as difficult and worth the difficulty.  Ocean Vuong, like Toni Morrison, took me to places I've never been before (but not as "a tour guide to pre-made worlds" but as a "world maker," to use Ocean Vuong's words from the interview) and changed the way I see the world.  Before finishing the book, I took a 50-minute break to listen to Ocean Vuong and Jacqueline Woodson.  Previously, while reading the book, I had listened to several other interviews with Ocean Vuong in which he reminded me of a young Bob Dylan.  In the above Strand Bookstore interview, Ocean Vuong lights a James Baldwin votive candle before the interview begins, in honor of James Baldwin's illuminating presence.  In that moment, I realized that what I was perceiving as a similarity to Bob Dylan was actually a similarity to James Baldwin.  Bob Dylan's work and way of being in the world were strongly influenced by James Baldwin.  That is what I was seeing in Ocean Vuong.  James Baldwin lives on through his literary descendants.  Ocean Vuong is one of the most recent in that literary family tree.

Some quotes from Ocean Vuong:

"... the merciful light in the midst of all this darkness ..." (from the interview)

"Let no one mistake us for the fruit of violence--but that violence, having passed through the fruit, failed to spoil it." (p. 231, On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous)

This morning, I discovered this version of "Once I Was A Soldier" by Leah Siegel and wanted to share it.  I've never heard a woman sing that song before.

Beginning on September 4, I made a commitment to learn to speak Spanish, building on two years of Spanish in high school (escuela secundaria) 52 years ago.  There is a Spanish Conversation group that meets weekly at our local Senior Center around a table in a small meeting room and is facilitated by an engaging woman in her 60s from Mexico.  It is immersion in Spanish rather than a formal class.  I speak like a baby and that's okay!

In addition, I signed up for a evening class offered by our local branch of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness).  The class is for families and friends of people who suffer from mental illness and meets two nights a week for six weeks.  My hope is to learn how to take care of myself in the numerous encounters I have regularly with people who suffer from mental illnesses and to learn how I can be supportive of those who suffer from mental illnesses.  Once again, there are no easy answers, and I am open to learning what I can.

The next six weeks will be full, with not much time for posting.  I will be reading your blogs, sending love as always.

Here's a volunteer Mimulus that appeared on my porch:

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Rep. Debra Lekanoff -- 40th Legislative District of Washington State

The above is from a message sent through the U.S. mail to all those who live in the 40th Legislative District.

Listen to Rep. Debra Lekanoff here.

Our Legislative District is fortunate to have Debra Lekanoff representing us.  There is cause for hope.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Never Give Up / Listening to Three Women On Labor Day 2019

When I was in my late teens in 1969, I worked for the telephone company in California as a long distance operator for AT&T before dropping out of college.  In my early 20s, I was a letter carrier in California and belonged to the Postal Workers Union.  I spent one year working in a factory that made pacemakers in Massachusetts and three years here in Bellingham, Washington, as an industrial sewing machine operator, first in a union shop as a member of the International Garment Workers Union, then in a shop where I sewed backpacks together, and finally in a sailmaker's loft where I sewed sails, spinnakers, and boat covers.  Because I am tall, I developed neck and back problems from bending over to work on industrial sewing machines. When I was 30, I returned to college to finish a degree in English Literature and Studio Art and then found myself unemployable in our small college town until I forced myself to learn to type and then became a medical transcriptionist at the local hospital.  Through most of my working life, I was a production worker, working hard for only modest compensation.  I am proud of the work I did.  Watching "Union Maids" is an emotionally powerful and empowering experience.

(1970 -- telephone operators)

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Never Give Up: "... to dance close together / In this land of water and knowledge ..."

Speaking Tree

Some things on this earth are unspeakable:
Genealogy of the broken—
A shy wind threading leaves after a massacre,
Or the smell of coffee and no one there—

Some humans say trees are not sentient beings,
But they do not understand poetry—

Nor can they hear the singing of trees when they are fed by
Wind, or water music—
Or hear their cries of anguish when they are broken and bereft—

Now I am a woman longing to be a tree, planted in a moist, dark earth
Between sunrise and sunset—

I cannot walk through all realms—
I carry a yearning I cannot bear alone in the dark—

What shall I do with all this heartache?

The deepest-rooted dream of a tree is to walk
Even just a little ways, from the place next to the doorway—
To the edge of the river of life, and drink—

I have heard trees talking, long after the sun has gone down:

Imagine what would it be like to dance close together
In this land of water and knowledge. . .

To drink deep what is undrinkable.

Joy Harjo

(thanks to beth for bringing Joy Harjo's poem to my attention)

(thanks to S Alexander for posting her videos on YouTube)

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Further thoughts this morning / "Somebody, after all, had to make a start ..." (Sophie Scholl in 1943)

In the words of Sophie Scholl, "Somebody, after all, had to make a start.  What we wrote and said is also believed by many others.  They just don't dare express themselves as we have."

After posting on my blog earlier this morning about what Never Again Action experienced in Rhode Island and remaining unsettled, an image came to me of a small group of German people gathering at the entrance to Buchenwald one summer evening in 1943 to nonviolently protest what they could not ignore, with the goal of blocking any employees who attempted to enter.  I see the Nazis who ran the camp mobilize immediately to threaten the lives of the people at the gate.  I see a man in a truck attempt to intimidate the nonviolent protestors by driving forward in an aggressive move that could result in serious injury to them.  When they don't disperse, the Nazis in the towers kill them.  The momentum of the Nazi mentality continues to build until World War II ends in 1945, and it never completely dies.

I became aware of Sophie Scholl and the White Rose only recently.  To my mind, she and her young friends did the equivalent of protesting at the gates of Buchenwald.  She and her brother Hans and and another student, Christoph Probst, were beheaded by the Nazis for "treason."

On the day that the three young protestors died, Else Gebel, Sophie's cell mate, has stated that Sophie said, "It is such a splendid sunny day, and I have to go.  But how many have to die on the battlefield in these days, how many young, promising lives.  What does my death matter if by our act thousands are warned and alerted.  Among the student body there will certainly be a revolt."

When I look at the photo of Sophie Scholl, I am reminded of this photo of Greta Thunberg.

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

There is no action any one of us can take that is too small to matter.  There is no action that is too small to matter when we join together.

I am reminded of the words of Toni Morrison,

“This is the time for every artist in every genre to do what he or she does loudly and consistently. It doesn't matter to me what your position is. You've got to keep asserting the complexity and the originality of life, and the multiplicity of it, and the facets of it. This is about being a complex human being in the world, not about finding a villain. This is no time for anything else than the best that you've got.”

A message I received early this morning from Starcross Community in Sonoma County, California

Dear Friends of Starcross,

We think there is something our friends should know.

It was a hot evening, Wednesday, August 14, 2019, when a peaceful group of almost 500 people with NEVER AGAIN ACTION gathered to demonstrate outside of the Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls, Rhode Island. Since March 2019 local activists have been calling for the closure of this private, quasi-public prison that has been acting as an ICE detention center for hundreds of immigrants. On Wednesday, just before 10 pm a truck, unprovoked, swerved forcefully toward a line of protesters who were seated peacefully blocking the entrance to the facility parking lot, singing songs and talking. The driver was identified as a captain of the corrections employees of the Wyatt Detention Center. He drove into the group—sending people screaming and scattering for their safety.  The truck jolted forward again, hitting some folks, while other protesters gathered to surround the vehicle.

Some moments later, the driver of the truck was joined by other correctional employees who came from inside the facility, to confront and forcefully move out of the way those who were a part of the nonviolent civil disobedience. In a mere matter of minutes, people were suddenly and unexpectedly pepper sprayed by the guards as protesters scrambled to flee the immediate area. Many were affected as people fell to the ground in pain. Several individuals needed to be taken to the hospital—one for an injured leg and all for extreme effects from the debilitating pepper spray.  All were later released.

This news has been carried internationally by the BBC along with national news outlets, such as NPR. Brother Toby says he is sickened by how close the event in Rhode Island came to the 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, where a participant drove a car over and back over nonviolent counter-demonstrator, Heather Heyer, murdering her.

Among these peaceful protesters were two of Starcross’ long-time friends and advisers, Cathy and Lee Clasper-Torch. Lee is an ordained minister and a retired professor of Religion and Philosophy, who works closely with civil disobedience and nonviolent action groups in Rhode Island. Cathy is a professional musician, and daughter of Paul Clasper, a friend who was instrumental in the establishment of Starcross half a century ago. He was someone who was greatly influenced by his many years living in Asia, building bridges between Western and Eastern spirituality, a path Cathy and Lee have followed. Their daughter Chloe, has recently begun working here with us at Starcross.

In the days following this news, Lee and Cathy wrote to us, sharing their experiences. Lee, who was hit by the pepper spray in an attempt to protect others explained,  “We were there in large part on behalf of the children.” Cathy added, “We'll all be there again.  I feel so strongly that our presence, now as Elders and keepers of so many memories/so much cultural knowledge and experience, have an important role to play simply in presence and witness.”

Just before the demonstration on Wednesday, August 14th, Aaron Regunberg a young organizer of the movement, and former Representative for the State of Rhode Island, wrote about the upcoming protest at the Wyatt Detention Facility,
“Once, a young girl wrote in her diary, “Terrible things are happening outside. At any time of night and day, poor helpless people are being dragged out of their homes… Families are torn apart: men, women and children are separated. Children come home from school to find their parents have disappeared.”

It sounds like this could have been written in 2019. But it wasn't - it was written by Anne Frank in 1943. That's why we are coming together on Wednesday to repeat that Never Again means Never Again for everyone.”

In next Friday’s reflection Brother Toby is asking, “Has America reached the point where it doesn’t really care about its kids anymore?” It’s clear that while there are many in power who do not, there are a multitude among us, that care very, very much. This is a time when we must speak up, speak out, and in solidarity with protesters as those did last Wednesday evening in Rhode Island, and with many people around our nation, who assert,  “Never Again means Never Again for everyone.”
We are in a crisis and it doesn’t seem as if its getting better. We may all feel ourselves, where our friends Cathy and Lee were on the 14th. It’s important to remember that we are not alone.

As St. Francis would have closed, “Pax et bonum” -- Peace and all good things to you.”

Then this appeared in my email box:

Friday, August 16, 2019

Linda Rees: Tapestry Weaver

One of the first people I met when I moved to Bellingham, Washington, was Linda Rees.  She and her family lived several houses down the street from where I first lived in Bellingham.  Not knowing that she was my neighbor, I bought one of her early tapestries.  You can see that tapestry and read the story connected with it here.

Since last spring a small group of her friends in conjunction with the Whatcom Weaver's Guild have been working together so that Linda's tapestries can be featured by the Whatcom Weaver's Guild in the Wool Room at the Northwest Washington Fair and then at the Jansen Art Center, both in Lynden, Washington.  These photos were taken by one of Linda's friends who took her to the fair to see her tapestries exhibited.  In the photograph with Linda is Carol Berry, the current president of the Whatcom Weaver's Guild, who did a great deal of footwork to make it possible for Linda's work to be shown at the fair and the Jansen Art Center.

Linda began weaving tapestries 50 years ago, the year her daughter was born.  For most of those 50 years, she woke up early in order to weave, including the years when she had full-time employment.  In the past few years, she found it more and more difficult to figure out how to warp the loom herself, and friends who weave stepped in to do that for her.  In the past year, it became clear that her cognitive difficulties had increased to the point that she needed to move to an assisted living residence, and this past spring she moved to a memory care residence.  Although she finds most activities of daily living to be challenging, her passion for tapestry weaving and her enjoyment of family and friends is intact.  Her sense of humor is delightful.  She laughs heartily.  She has always been aware of and upset by the troubles in the world and until the past few years always held a volunteer position in whichever community she was living in, wanting to do what she could to make a positive difference in the world.

Her tapestries will be featured at and for sale through the Jansen Art Center, beginning in September, if anyone is interested in purchasing one of her beautiful tapestries. 

Thursday, August 15, 2019

"These are hard won lessons spoken by people who have been there and are not crushed."

(Because I didn't have time to sit down and listen in one sitting, I listened over several days.)