Saturday, July 31, 2021

Blog friends / Writing letters / Finding a Home in the World


Thanks so much to Beth at Alive On All Channels for introducing me to so many writers from diverse traditions all around the world.  Pádraig Ó Tuama is one of them.


From Pádraig Ó Tuama in my email inbox this morning:

Dear friends,

I’ve always loved writing letters. The older I’ve gotten, the less reliable I am in replying quickly. But there were enough years — perhaps from the age of ten to thirty — when letter writing was such a significant part of my life that I know it’ll always be part of me. In fact, I’m trying to do it more. Letter writing is often predicated on distance, and it takes time — not just to arrive, but to read, too; often when I get a letter, I wait for a good time to read it properly. I’ve kept all the letters I’ve received. They are a treasure. 

I wrote letters to people who’d never reply, too, notably to Saint Augustine. Reading his Confessions made me want to know him, so I decided to write. While he never replied, I did get more of a sense of him knowing that whatever I read in his writing was likely to come up in a letter. The distance between us was, of course, unbridgeable: time and death are certain barriers, but that didn’t stop me. Utterly complicated as he is, I retain an extraordinary love for Augustine. I hope he’d say the same for me.

This week’s On Being episode feels like a letter. One of the things that the pandemic has done has been to remind us of distance. No longer able to call around to a house, or arrange a visit while on a work trip, the qualities of connection are nonetheless strong between us: Zoom calls, or texts, or cards, or other ways continue to bridge the distance with love and well-wishing. 

For this hour, we get to eavesdrop on a conversation between two friends: Krista and the young leader, Rev. Jen Bailey. Jen is in the conversational driving seat this week, asking questions of Krista. Together, they engage in a discussion about belonging, healing, what the past year has planted in us, and what that might look like as we progress. Listening to the show, it’s evident that Krista and Jen’s deep friendship is nurtured by both their similarities and their differences. 

Jen paraphrases the Oscar Romero prayer where he says, “It helps, sometimes, to take a long view,” and this long view of time is something that they explore: Krista reflects on her years in divided Cold War Berlin; Jen calls to mind 9/11 and Ferguson, becoming a mother during a pandemic, and the murder of George Floyd. The combination of tenderness and brutality, possibility and anxiety in these events are held together in their conversation. What does it mean to live in this time, now? And what can we do that will be beneficial for the future? 

Sharing in common a love of theology, Krista and Jen riff on Moses, who never got to see the Promised Land he was leading his people toward. Krista says, addressing Jen from the vantage point of a different generation, “What I’m going to do for the rest of my life, I will not see the end, the final fruits of. And that is fine. And it’s the way of things. But I’m also partly able to just embrace that, because I see you.” Jen brings Toni Morrison into the conversation, paraphrasing Morrison’s line: “We live and then we die.” Having experienced a lot of grief in her own life, Jen is wise in speaking about how the recognition that life can be short is a protection against apathy and cynicism. In part, what Krista and Jen are doing by this is bringing ancient text into conversation with contemporary reality, and using literature — whether ancient or contemporary — to speak to the question of what it means to live, and how we can find out who to be with one another. “Belonging,” Jen calls this as their conversation begins. The “Beloved Community,” too. 

To return to how we began, it is friendship and care that hold this conversation together. That isn’t just because Krista and Jen know one another, but because the posture of care they model — toward self, others, and the world — is necessary for this good work to continue. Jen wishes to see a time when every movement-based organization in the U.S. would employ a chaplain to look after the spiritual and emotional wellbeing of the workers. Those organizations work for policy and legislative change to improve the lives of individuals. But policies and laws will not be enough. They need care, “that tender, tender work,” Jen calls it. 

Friends, in all your work, friendships, connections, readings, and energies, we wish you this tenderness, too, in order to shore up the strength for the good work that’s before us. 


Beir bua, 

Pádraig Ó Tuama
host of Poetry Unbound

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

"Lo and Behold" / Oddly enough


Early this morning I watched a library copy of Werner Herzog's "Lo and Behold:  Reveries of the Connected World."  Fairly quickly I realized that I had seen it before.  This time I took extensive notes, including noting my body sensations and emotions -- nausea, feeling chilled, feeling scared, feeling fear, feeling chilled, feeling chilled, and feeling chilled.  

After watching the film in which all the "experts" laughed nervously when admitting how dependent we have become on something as truly fragile as the internet, I went to my laptop and HA!, I abruptly lost my internet connection for the second time in the past two weeks.  Two weeks ago, several thousand XFINITY subscribers on my side of our town had no internet for most of a weekday at a time when more and more people depend on the internet in order to be able to work from home, not to mention working from anywhere else.  So much now depends on an internet connection.  I began to wonder if widespread internet outages are the wave of the future, like fires and floods and water shortages.

This time, though, it seems that it was just my very own corner of the internet that was down.  A kind XFINITY tech named Grace (!) spent close to an hour with me on my cell phone doing diagnostic tests.  It was determined that she needed to send an XFINITY technician to my home, and it was arranged for a technician to appear within the hour.

Within a few seconds of thanking her for her help and clicking on "End Call" on my cell phone, the internet connection was mysteriously restored and I cancelled the tech visit.  

Hmmmm ...

This experience has not been reassuring.


Gonna save my money and rip it up!
Lo and behold! Lo and behold!
Lookin' for my lo and behold,
Get me outa here, my dear man!

(Bob Dylan, "Lo and Behold")

Monday, July 26, 2021

One thing leading to another / "Blue Horse with Couple"


There were two blue horses at the top of the mandala that I just finished.  Before the mandala was finished, a friend of mine suggested that I put horses in the mandala.  I laughed at his suggestion because I couldn't see any place to add horses.  Before long, though, I realized that there was a place that I could put one or two horses that were like that red horse I had drawn at the center (the beginning) of the previous left-handed mandala.

Once I decided to add a horse or two, the next question was what color would I use?  Nothing seemed right except blue.  One horse didn't seem right but two did.  When I showed the finished mandala to my friend, he said something about blue horses in art history.  I could picture a painting of a blue horse but I felt embarrassed because I could not remember who the artist was, only that he had been a member of Der Blaue Reiter.   My friend tried to remember the name of the artist that came to his mind.  The only artist's name that came to mind for me several hours later was Delaunay and when I Googled "Delaunay," I got my answer -- it was not Delaunay but Franz Marc who painted the blue horse that was still in my mind.  That was about a week ago.  Yesterday my friend texted me, "MARC CHAGALL!"

Early this morning, I Googled "Marc Chagall" and "blue horse."  O my goodness!  There were numerous blue horses in Marc Chagall's paintings!

In September 1982, when I was 32 years old and had just graduated from college with a degree in English Literature and Studio Art,  my father offered to take me and my mother to New York City and Washington, D.C., with the main goal of seeing as many art museums and art galleries as possible.  The experience was one of the high points of my life.  Among so many other wonders, we saw Marc Chagall's "I and the Village" which you can see here.

We visited the Stature of Liberty.  My father took a photo of me and I took a photo of him where he had stood in September 1936.

My father's father, a professor friend of his, and my father began an extensive road trip from Minneapolis in the first week of September 1936, just before my father's junior year at the University of Minnesota.  The purpose of the trip was to visit historical places and photograph them for a lecture the professor, T. E. Odlund, planned to give.  My father was to be the driver and photographer. They drove through Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Upstate New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Main, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island,  New York City, New Jersey, Delaware, Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky and Illinois and back to through Wisconsin to Minnesota during the next three weeks.

Somewhere there is a photo of my father taken by his father in the same place we stood near the Statue of Liberty in 1982 and a street scene taken in Harlem where a relaxed-looking young man smiles at my father who is taking the photo.  Where could those photos be?  I thought I knew, but they aren't where I thought they were.


The week that Marc Chagall died in 1985 was the week when I was visiting my parents in Northern California.  Friends of my parents, a couple who were in their late 80s stopped by to visit my parents and when I showed them photographs of my drawings, the man said, to my great surprise, "Ah, a new Chagall!" That, along with R. Allen Jensen's appreciation of my drawings, was the encouragement that I needed.  I had taken a series of drawing classes from R. Allen Jensen at Western Washington University between 1980 and 1982.  I liked my drawings but continued to be startled when other people besides family and friends liked them, too.  

"The dignity of the artist lies in his duty of keeping awake the sense of wonder in the world. In this long vigil he often has to vary his methods of stimulation; but in this long vigil he is also himself striving against a continual tendency to sleep."
(Marc Chagall)


I'm grateful to my mother for introducing me to the paintings of Marc Chagall when I was in high school.  I believe that he was her favorite painter.  Along with Jacob Lawrence, Marc Chagall is high on my list of beloved artists who have inspired me in my art work.


My friend who suggested adding horses to my most recent mandala attended art classes taught by Jacob Lawrence at the University of Washington.


Take what you have gathered from coincidence -- Bob Dylan

“We know that attention acts as a lightning rod. Merely by concentrating on something one causes endless analogies to collect around it, even penetrate the boundaries of the subject itself: an experience that we call coincidence, serendipity – the terminology is extensive. My experience has been that in these circular travels what is really significant surrounds a central absence, an absence that, paradoxically, is the text being written or to be written.”

― Julio Cortázar, Around the Day in Eighty Worlds

Sunday, July 25, 2021

"... That's how the light gets in ... / Rings of Fire and Bells and a Shadow Kingdom


5 a.m., looking to the southwest, with and without flash.  Look closely for Jupiter.


July 2021, age 71


Post inspired by this and this (which, after all, I decided to pay $25 to see online -- worth every penny):

Friday, July 23, 2021

O my goodness. With gratitude to Robin

"... Beyond all reason is the mystery of love: you know we are all equal, no one in truth needs any help from anyone else, no one needs to be told anything or given anything—and then you do the most compassionate act anyway, do the best for your brothers and sisters that you have in you.

I'm relaying what was given to me when I felt I needed it: if I felt that way, maybe someone else does, too. This is a letter to my brothers and sisters, a love note to try to show how, when we thought love wasn't working, it was working perfectly ..."

(Thaddeus Golas)

Thursday, July 22, 2021

The mysterious process of one thing leading to another


In one of the interviews in "Encounters" when a young man speaks of having found his "tribe" in the eccentric community at McMurdo, that led me to remember a local artist who lived for two years in McMurdo and to see if I could find a video about him.

"In 1997, he embarked for Antarctica where he spent two years managing a general store at McMurdo, an American science station. He says in Antarctica, all distractions were stripped away, and the desolate windblown landscape left him with little else to do than fill his sketchbooks." (excerpted from an article about Ben Mann.  Click here)

Had I not found a copy of "Grizzly Man" on DVD on the free table in the mailroom of the condominium where I live, I doubt that I would have watched it all the way through but in the context of having just seen two other Werner Herzog films and thinking back to the first Herzog film I saw in my 20s, "Aguirre the Wrath of God," "Grizzly Man" had unexpected lessons for me about the consequences of living in delusion, much as "Aguirre the Wrath of God" had taught me the same lesson in a disturbing and unforgettable way so long ago.  

With all this in mind, I met with a neighbor friend and took a 3-mile walk on the trail on the north shore of Lake Whatcom before coming back to work on this post until I could click on "Publish."

Perhaps the truth depends upon a walk around the lake.

-- Wallace Stevens

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Sand Talking

 Thanks to Beth at Alive On All Channels who introduced me to Sand Talk on her blog.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Trees Moved By Summer Wind / Mandala #62 (left hand)


This may or may not be finished.  I'm 99.9% certain that it is.  I wish that my camera could show this mandala's true colors -- the way it looks to me as I sit at my drawing table.  This will have to be good enough until I get it professionally scanned.


Your culture is not what your hands touch or make -- it's what moves your hands.

(Tyson Yunkaporta, page 242 of Sand Talk)

Monday, July 19, 2021

Early morning in July with almost finished mandala / "... the enormous invulnerable beauty ..." / Painting Dream / The horse I drew when I was 5 years old / "Wild Things Run Fast"


This early morning I suddenly remembered a poem I first read when I was 18 or 19 years old, at which time I had determined that I was decidedly not religious.  From that poem I understood that one does not need to be a religious person to live gratefully and fully in the presence of beauty.  My desire all those years ago was to become an artist.  

I remember reading this that Hokusai wrote when he was about the same age I am now.  It was early in my blogging days, when I was 57 years old, that I came across that quote.  Although I had experienced an extraordinary amount of creative energy for art work and poetry during the 1980s and early 1990s, I could no longer find it in me after the abrupt death of my mother in December 1994.  There were brief periods where I thought the energy for art work had returned.  

It is occurring to me today that my creative energy was totally channeled into blogging until September 2014 when something prompted me to do what my mother had done when she was about the age I was in 2014.  Inspired by Carl Jung, my mother began a series of mandalas.

This morning, as I look at my almost-finished mandala, #62 in a series, I have found an expanded version of that quote by Hokusai and an unexpected gratitude to my mother for inspiring in me a love of art and books and the beauty of the world:

"From the age of six I had a mania for drawing the shapes of things. When I was fifty I had published a universe of designs. But all I have done before the age of seventy is not worth bothering with. At seventy-five I'll have learned something of the pattern of nature, of animals, of plants, of trees, birds, fish and insects. When I am eighty you will see real progress. At ninety I shall have cut my way deeply into the mystery of life itself. At one hundred, I shall be a marvelous artist. At 110, everything I create; a dot, a line, will jump to life as never before. To all of you who are going to live as long as I do, I promise to keep my word. I am writing this in my old age. I used to call myself Hokusai, but today I sign myself The Old Man Mad About Drawing."


This is the poem I read in 1967 or 1968:


That Nova was a moderate star like our good sun; it stored no
doubt a little more than it spent
Of heat and energy until the increasing tension came to the
Of a new chemistry; then what was already flaming found a new
manner of flaming ten-thousandfold
More brightly for a brief time; what was a pin-point fleck on a
sensitive plate at the great telescope's
Eye-piece now shouts down the steep night to the naked eye,
a nine-day super-star.

                                        It is likely our moderate
Father the sun will some time put off his nature for a similar
glory. The earth would share it; these tall
Green trees would become a moment's torches and vanish, the
oceans would explode into invisible steam,
The ships and the great whales fall through them like flaming
meteors into the emptied abysm, the six mile
Hollows of the Pacific sea-bed might smoke for a moment. Then
the earth would be like the pale proud moon,
Nothing but vitrified sand and rock would be left on earth. This
is a probable death-passion
For the sun's planets; we have no knowledge to assure us it may
not happen at any moment of time.

Meanwhile the sun shines wisely and warm, trees flutter green
in the wind, girls take their clothes off
To bathe in the cold ocean or to hunt love; they stand laughing
in the white foam, they have beautiful
Shoulders and thighs, they are beautiful animals, all life is beautiful.
We cannot be sure of life for one moment;
We can, by force and self-discipline, by many refusals and a few
assertions, in the teeth of fortune assure ourselves
Freedom and integrity in life or integrity in death. And we know
that the enormous invulnerable beauty of things
Is the face of God, to live gladly in its presence, and die without
grief or fear knowing it survives us.

-- (John) Robinson Jeffers, (1887-1962), Poet, writer; born in Pittsburgh, Pa. He attended six colleges and universities in Europe and America, studying medicine and forestry among other subjects.


Painting Dream (2000 -- 50 years old)

No one can paint this desire.
No one can paint this forgiveness.
Her hand drawing his.
His hand drawing hers.
They carry silence between them
as if it were a newborn child.
In my dream we were an old man and an old woman walking by the ocean.
Who painted this desire?
Who painted this forgiveness? 


I remember looking up from drawing and hearing my mother praising me for this drawing of a horse I made when I was 5 years old.  I am grateful that she saved it.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

One thing leading to another (again)

Following a series of long winding paths on the internet, I was surprised to discover the photography website of a woman who worked for decades in the Children's Library section of our public library where I volunteered as a shelf-reader for several years in the early 2000s.  Her husband plays the autoharp and appears on the album of an Irish musician.  What a joy to see her photography and find these videos on her website just now.


Monday, July 12, 2021

Winged summer visitors / Murmuration / Aoife O'Donovan

Northern Flicker feeding a young one who soon
after makes the mistake of bumping into my
window before flying away


Hummingbird and Salvia


One needs to see this full screen and  then look very 
closely for the starling murmuration at the beginning 
of this video.  Toward the end I zoomed in, making 
it somewhat easier to see the small murmuration.  In 
the last few seconds of filming, I heard the whirring 
sound of a hummingbird and looked up and was startled
to see a hummingbird directly in front of me.  One can
see the equally startled hummingbird flying away at the 
end of the video.  This is the second morning in a row
 that I have looked out my east-facing window and seen
a murmuration and one of many mornings in the past 
week when a hummingbird has flown close to me as 
I stood on my porch, both of us looking around in the 
early morning.


When the universe is silent we listen with great pleasure to a bird that suddenly sings.
-- Hong Zicheng

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Elders / Spiritual Friends / High School Class of 2021

It is under the greatest adversity that there exists the greatest potential for doing good, both for oneself and others.

-- His Holiness the Dalai Lama


Do your little bit of good where you are; it's those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world. 

--Archbishop Desmond Tutu


We, the Sehome class of 2021, are children of uncertainty.  We've spent the last four years of our life with question marks and what ifs clouding our skies, and we've embraced every minute of it.  We navigated life as teenagers in isolation, each of us dealing with our own struggles, searching for signs of hope.  But despite the turbulence, many of us learned, grew, and got to know ourselves.  We accomplished a lot in the midst of uncertainty.  We didn't just survive our four years, we lived every moment.

-- Izzy Jones, Sehome High School student speaker (Bellingham, Washington)

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

¡Hello there! / Northern Flicker Meditation


Yesterday I heard a bird's voice coming from my porch.  I wouldn't have identified it as the voice of a Northern Flicker but when I looked outside I saw the tail end of one at the corner of the floor of my porch.  The vocalizing continued as I went to get my camera.  After I had taken the first photo, the Northern Flicker turned around.  When it saw me, it flew away.  

I've not put my suet feeder out during the summer for some years but decided to keep it stocked with suet through the summer this year.  I'm not sure how many Northern Flickers are visiting my suet feeder -- if I am just seeing one or two or a family or various families.  

Despite some initial resistance, I was able to slow myself down enough to relax and spend 20 minutes with the Northern Flickers in the following YouTube video.  I was rewarded with hearing the vocalization (at 9:09) that had caught my attention.  If you don't have 20 minutes, I'll just suggest looking at and listening to the Northern Flicker nestlings at 1 minute and at 19 minutes.

Now I'm wondering if the Northern Flicker in my photos was an immature one.  I've noticed immature Red-winged Blackbirds crouching in a similar posture with their beaks open, vocalizing that they wish to be fed.

Sunday, July 4, 2021

Freedom Meditation / beginning with "... we carried you in our arms on Independence Day ..."

Come to me now, you know we're so alone
And life is brief

-- Bob Dylan and Richard Manuel  ("Tears of Rage," late 1960s)


My heart is not weary, it's light and it's free
I've got nothing but affection for all those who've sailed with me

-- Bob Dylan ("Mississippi," 2001)


I feel the holy spirit inside
See the light that freedom gives

-- Bob Dylan ("Crossing the Rubicon," 2021)


Last night as I was beginning to drift into sleep, I heard something like gunshots and then realized that someone in my neighborhood felt compelled to celebrate the 4th of July early, knowing full well that fireworks are illegal inside city limits.  I remembered the 4th of July in 1972 when my friend, Roger, a non-combatant Navy veteran,  24 years old at the time, said, "Why do they do this? It sounds like war.  Some of us who have lived through war are traumatized by what sounds like gunshots."  Tears of rage, tears of grief.  Roger killed himself on his 50th birthday in December 1997, leaving behind his wife and two daughters, and friends who loved him.  He was fond of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, fond of this song:

Like a bird on the wire
Like a drunk in a midnight choir
I have tried in my way to be free
Like a worm on a hook
Like a knight from some old-fashioned book
I have saved all my ribbons for thee
If I, if I have been unkind
I hope that you can just let it go by
If I, if I have been untrue
I hope you know it was never to you
For like a baby, stillborn
Like a beast with his horn
I have torn everyone who reached out for me
But I swear by this song
And by all that I have done wrong
I will make it all up to thee
I saw a beggar leaning on his wooden crutch
He said to me, "you must not ask for so much"
And a pretty woman leaning in her darkened door
She cried to me, "hey, why not ask for more?"
Oh, like a bird on the wire
Like a drunk in a midnight choir
I have tried in my way to be free

(Leonard Cohen)


"... Well I got a hammer
And I got a bell
And I got a song to sing
All over this land
It's the hammer of justice
It's the bell of freedom
It's a song about love between my brothers and my sisters
All over this land ..."

(Pete Seeger and Lee Hays, 1949)


And then there's the possibility of Interdependence Day.  


We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.

(Martin Luther King Jr.)



Sending love near and far.  Today and always.

Friday, July 2, 2021

Speaking of shadows

It's been a long long time since 1971 when I first heard Bob Dylan sing "Watching the River Flow."  It's one of my favorites among his lesser known songs.  Now, 50 years later, I am curious but not willing to pay the $25 dollars to watch him sing as I sit at my laptop.   ¿What's the matter with me?  (-:


Coincidentally, this morning I finished watching two excellent films by Martin Scorsese that moved me deeply:

In the darkness of my night, in the brightness of my day.
(Bob Dylan)

She knows too much to argue or to judge.
(Bob Dylan)


I find hope in the darkest of days, and focus in the brightest.  I do not judge the universe.
(Dalai Lama)

I'm nothing special, just an ordinary human being.  That's why I always describe myself as a simple Buddhist monk. 
(Dalai Lama)


"... I'm just average, common too
I'm just like him, the same as you
I'm everybody's brother and son
I ain't different from anyone
It ain't no use a-talking to me
It's just the same as talking to you

I was shadow-boxing earlier in the day ...
(Bob Dylan)


by Tenzin Gyatso

The New York Times, November 12, 2005, Washington
SCIENCE has always fascinated me. As a child in Tibet, I was keenly curious about how things worked. When I got a toy I would play with it a bit, then take it apart to see how it was put together. As I became older, I applied the same scrutiny to a movie projector and an antique automobile.
At one point I became particularly intrigued by an old telescope, with which I would study the heavens. One night while looking at the moon I realized that there were shadows on its surface. I corralled my two main tutors to show them, because this was contrary to the ancient version of cosmology I had been taught, which held that the moon was a heavenly body that emitted its own light.