Category Archives: Regional

Another Biggish Work

This is my second painting done on a larger canvas. A friend of mine bought a townhouse in the area, which is a big achievement out here in the almost-most expensive housing market on earth. I offered a painting as a housewarming gift. Gradually the ideas of a colorful life and the density and intensity of urban living came to life in this work.

"stained glass city" / 2' x 4' stretched linen canvas with acrylic paint

“Stained Glass City” / 24″ x 48″ stretched linen canvas with acrylic

Women’s March San Jose

It’s late, and I’m exhausted. I volunteered as a Peace Ambassador at the San Jose march. The march was vibrant with loving and festive energy, creative and clever messages, and a wide diversity of people. About 25,000 activists attended. The Resistance has begun. At the end of the march were speeches, and there were many non-profit booths there. Because after the march comes the nitty gritty work.

Women's March - San Jose, CA - 2017

If my album doesn’t show above, here’s a link: Women’s March – San Jose

And here is a link to the attending and supporting organizations for the Bay Area marches. Scroll down for San Jose.

I Cannot Believe

This is not the United States I thought I lived in. I am ASHAMED of this country.

What I learned on #ElectionNight: Being a racist, bigoted, prejudiced, lying sexual predator is still more acceptable than being a woman.

-Allen Clifton

What’s even more demoralizing is knowing how hard Hillary’s worked and how qualified she is, and yet… And every woman knows this feeling.

-Anne T. Donahue

A perfect ending to the tale that asks how averse is America to being led by a woman who they don’t want to fuck.

-Paula Pell

Be Mighty, Be Daring

I enjoy creating in so many ways. My friend L (mom of one of Claire’s friends) and I are developing an informal girl group. After spending many years driving to see friends (which we’ll continue doing) we want to create friendships and develop deeper connections in the neighborhood.

After careful consideration, we decided to forgo Girl Scouts for a number of reasons:

  • They require parents having contact with girls to take training (online and in-person) and get fingerprinted. Our intention is to create an informal group of people we know and trust and make it easier for mothers to be involved.
  • Secondly, GS is divided by age, and we believe there are benefits to girls interacting across multiple age and grade levels. We hope the girls will be involved as they grow up and develop good friendships.
  • Lastly, we want to avoid the pressure of selling things to raise funds. We prefer to focus on developing activities and sharing the cost rather than have our activities defined by how much money the girls earn.

We plan to meet monthly. We have ideas of home-based activities to do; we also want to incorporate outings. For outings, each parent pays for her children and herself (if there are fees). To cover supplies for at-home activities, we suggest a nominal annual amount per child. We are researching the supplies and calculating costs.

While we want to have fun, we’re reaching beyond play dates. Our goal is to help our daughters become vibrant, confident, and engaged with the world. We want to nurture the development of their minds, souls, and bodies (and mother earth), and foster qualities such as integrity, curiosity, resiliency, and creativity. We are using several resources for ideas (adjusting for age with some activities):

A Mighty Girl
The Daring Book for Girls & The Double-Daring Book for Girls
What Do You Stand For? A Kids Guide to Building Character

So the girls and moms have a unifying element and develop a sense of belonging, we’re looking for inexpensive yellow t-shirts (a color that is sunny and gender-neutral). The quote we’re using is from Shakespeare: “Though she be but little, she is fierce.” That will be on the front, and on the back will be our group name: Mighty Daring Girls.

Our first meeting is March 2, and we have 8-9 girls interested!

DSC03799

Exploring Outdoors – One of our Planned Activities

Can’t Go Back

It was 3 a.m., July 6, 1994, at my parents’ home. I woke up, dressed quickly, and ate a light breakfast. It felt like a secret to be awake at that hour. My parents had also woken up. (I was leaving before dawn because it was summer, 600 miles lay ahead, and my car had no air conditioner.) My mother, still sleepy, enveloped me in her arms. It was a long embrace; I felt her sweet warmth and her grief. My father said to her, “Come on, let her go.” She did, and I turned to hug him. We were not a hugging family, so each embrace always felt new. As we separated, he said, “Go on and live life. Go make a million dollars.”

I climbed into my blue Eagle Summit, which I’d packed to the walls and ceiling with my belongings, and started out. I felt sadness and tremendous excitement. I cried for about 15 miles as I headed west. I was leaving Syracuse — my home of 31 years — for a new life in Austin, Texas. I’d sold all my furniture and most of my collection of 600 books. After sifting through all my belongings and discarding most of them, I’d packed 20 U-haul book boxes with items I deemed essential and shipped them to my brother in Austin for storage. My car was paid for; I had $2000 in the bank. I had no place to live and no job once I arrived. With each mile I felt the delight opening up to whatever presented itself. I was done with Syracuse and gladly moved on. On the third day, I rose again. Then I descended upon Austin.

I never looked back. I have never wanted to go back. It was one of the best decisions of my life. This song by The Weepies captures the heart of that experience. I imagine one day I, too, will envelope my daughter in a long, sleepy, poignant hug as she ventures into the world.


If the embed fails, click here.

In Memory of Snow

Taken last year at Yosemite… This year we are not going to the snow. There are some resorts open that are making artificial snow, and a few high peaks may have snow left from last year. But there has been no snow this season. None anywhere.

Look up at the miracle of the falling snow,—the air a dizzy maze of whirling, eddying flakes, noiselessly transforming the world, the exquisite crystals dropping in ditch and gutter, and disguising in the same suit of spotless livery all objects upon which they fall.

-John Burroughs

after the snow
snow blossoms
stream at crane flat
getting ready to go down
vivid blue sky

For comparison: photos of 2013 and 2014

The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event. You go to bed in one kind of world and wake up in another quite different, and if this is not enchantment then where is it to be found?

-J.B. Priestley

Flow

A whole month passed without a post, though I’d thought about it. I’ve been immersed in some personal work and stepping out into new areas that feel exciting. The depression has abated. I feel a need to write but am doing so with interruptions by my little girl and husband every so many minutes, so this post will be less polished.

We’ve been camping twice and will go again soon for the last summer trip. In June we went to Pfeiffer Big Sur, and in July we camped at Prairie Creek Redwoods. Our next trip is to Calaveras Big Trees. We like big trees and rivers a lot, and we like the ocean some. Camping is uncomfortable and requires more work, but it’s also relaxing and restful. My body aches in the morning from the less-than-ideal sleeping arrangement, but the peace I feel compensates. I am bathed in Being, in nature, in the Mystery; living outdoors brings complete contact with the world that creates itself.

After exploring the Quaker Society of Friends, I talked with Hub about where I’m at and what Claire wants. She wants to go to church. Hub was raised Unitarian Universalist and I attended as one years ago. It’s the best fit as far as spiritual community goes. Claire loved it the first time we visited two years ago. The Quaker group only had children’s program once a month, and unfortunately the one time I brought her no one else with children came, and there was no program. I realized, too, that I need and enjoy the ritual of a service. The Quaker service was traditional silent meeting with socializing after. The UU service includes the usual ingredients of a service: hymns, readings, sharing of joys and concerns, a sermon. Hub isn’t a seeker and doesn’t have the same community needs, but we came to the conclusion that the UU church is good for me and Claire. I attended the UU Fellowship in Los Gatos the past two weeks; both Claire and I enjoyed it, and the members are very welcoming.

I had a pilot zazen session on the first Saturday in July. I got cold feet and cancelled on the one person who’d signed up; then another friend last minute showed up. As I set up the small altar on my coffee table, it felt right, like putting on a perfectly fitting outfit. I also reached agreement with Hub that I will go to Hazy Moon Zen Center a couple times a year to attend sesshin and meet with my teacher.

I’ve continued attending salons called Intimacy With Truth, led by a dear friend. They occur in a format similar to Honesty Salons but move into deeper exploration within and between ourselves. I’m learning to listen to, trust, and speak from my intuition and truth. I’m also sitting with the idea of becoming trained to facilitate Honesty Salons or becoming a Getting Real Coach with Dr. Campbell.

I’m re-reading and incorporating the practice that Eckhart Tolle’s books explore. One thing I appreciate about his work is that he echoes my favorite quote, a koan I have cherished for years:

The secret is within your self. – Hui-Neng

Tolle claims that he’s not teaching anything that we don’t already have within us. His work is guidance to excavating it.

In conjunction, I’ve started to explore the process of healing offered by Al-Anon meetings.

After years of thinking about it, I attended a mixed-media collage Meetup at Lori Krein Studios. I immersed myself in the process and enjoyed it, as well as enjoyed the other people who attended. I’ll be going back.

This encounter with collage at the studio prompted me to rearrange my art supplies so they are stored in the same room as my work desk. Proximity will probably inspire more play!

I gathered my many small pieces of art into a binder, and I was astonished at the variety and amount. Seeing them all together gave me a surge of excitement to make more. A friend has suggested I have my own art show at home; I’m not ready to do that yet, but I’m ready to show and share from the binder.

I enrolled in a November training to learn a process called SoulCollage and to facilitate in groups. SoulCollage is a creative, meditative process of exploring one’s inner wisdom in all the ways it manifests. It’s rooted in Jungian psychology.

I’ve emphasized boundaries in certain relationships by limiting what I can listen to and discuss. The immersion in repeated stories about the problems of people I love when I cannot do anything to help was contributing to the depression.

Lastly, I’m contemplating becoming a volunteer at a hospice. For many years (since the mid-1990s) I’ve felt a pull toward it, and in 2004 I took steps in a parallel direction by training to provide grief support to survivors. It was the Centre for Living With Dying. However, my father-in-law was dying of cancer at the time, and I just didn’t have the energy to serve. Since that time the Centre was bought by another social service provider, and it seems they don’t use volunteers any more. But hospice does.

The call to hospice coincides with the sad news that a friend — Jen Bulik-Lang — who is only 35 is dying of stage-IV lung cancer. She began feeling ill in October 2012, and it took awhile for professionals to come to the correct diagnosis at the end of January 2013. She’d been shopping in December for engagement rings with her boyfriend, Jeffrey Lang. She got aggressive treatment, and there was hope they eradicated it, but in mid-June she received news it had metastasized to her spinal fluid. My insides quicken with grief and love as I watch her live with this news. She chose to celebrate life, and she and Jeff got married in a marvelous wedding. I admire Jen for embracing what is and fully experiencing it as a transformation with the faith, as she says, “that [it] will benefit the highest good for all those concerned.”

So in all, the shift in my life is toward community and participating in healing myself, others, and the world. As I wrote that last sentence my self-talk was, “Boy, that sounds lofty and new-Agey, and grandiose.” And yet… The world is broken and insane and aches for love.

harvest

Harvest / 9″ x 12″ mixed media collage on canvas

About The Unspeakable

I protect my child as much as possible. Therefore, I have chosen not to tell her about yesterday’s tragedy. At age five, she simply does not need to know. What happened is incomprehensible to me, an adult; she would only personalize the information and worry for her own safety. I cannot make the world safe, but I limit media exposure at home. If she hears about it elsewhere and asks, I will answer her questions as simply as possible keeping in mind her age and ability to understand.

Eventually she will lose her innocence, but I won’t hurry it along.

My heart aches for the children and families on whom this horror was thrust, and I pray for their solace.

Wherever you can, let children have their innocence.

There are two ways of spreading light; to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.

– Edith Wharton

advent candle

Something else to remember:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers–so many caring people in this world.”

-Fred Rogers

Nothing Is Lost, Only Transformed

God pours life into death and death into life without a drop being spilled.

-Author Unknown

Until I attended graduate school at St. Edward’s University, I didn’t know much about Dia de los Muertos. In 1997, after I’d left the fundamentalist non-denominational church I’d been with for years — and with it my entire social network — I struggled greatly with loneliness and depression. Thus I found myself sitting frequently in the Our Lady Queen of Peace chapel, trying to root myself.

On November 1, I discovered an altar covered with painted skulls, candles, photos, and flowers. A number of people gathered, including Dr. Edward Shirley, Professor of Religion and Theological Studies. He led a meditation and gave a little talk about the meaning of this day. I remember at one point asking, “Is it possible to miss someone you never knew?” I was thinking about my maternal grandmother and paternal grandfather; both died long before I was born. Ed answered that yes, he thought so.

After that introduction, I got to know him and spent time talking with him. He was one of the most loving people I’d encountered. His laugh was infectious. His presence was healing. His friendship and guidance were a balm and ballast for me at this time of transition. He accepted people wherever they were at; at that point I was an atheist, certain that traditional Christianity was not my path. I searched for a way to connect with the universe and to find a vocabulary to voice this connection. It was Ed who called my attention to Buddhism.

Ed died suddenly in mid-August, leaving behind a devastated family and community of friends. His impact in the world was deep, and he was much loved. I miss his presence in this world, but his departure brought me to a threshold of understanding what Zen Buddhists call Big Mind.

So, in honor and remembrance of Ed, I offer this tribute on the day that brought us together.

shirleyobit_1541400c

Let children walk with Nature, let them see the beautiful blendings and communions of death and life, their joyous inseparable unity, as taught in woods and meadows, plains and mountains and streams of our blessed star, and they will learn that death is stingless indeed, and as beautiful as life.

-John Muir

Dance of Life

Lately I’ve been going dancing every Wednesday night — one of my best decisions of late. Called ecstatic dance, it also involves something called contact improv dance. Here’s a sample of how beautiful it is. The man in the video, Brandon, is visiting various cities in a search to relocate, and has come to Silicon Valley. He taught a class on Wednesday; I participated, despite my reservations, and it was — well, healing.


If the embed doesn’t work, try this link.

Brief Notes of an Adventure

I just returned from my first sesshin at Hazy Moon Zen Center. It was fruitful. I’m tired and glad to be home. All that I experienced is settling, so I hesitate to write extensively about it. Here are some brief reflections. The first one is from my drive down, when I stopped at San Luis Reservoir for a break. The entire drive leads through two mountain ranges (the Diablo Mountains with the Pacheco Pass and the Tehachapi Mountains with the Tejon Pass) and the central valley; it’s beautiful country. It’s a six hour drive (one way) — which is just right.
—–

Brief Notes of an Adventure

The lake — a bowl of glitter!
Winds whisper to water,
waves murmur replies.
A crow flies, snail snared
in its beak.
—–

Rooster crows, broom sweeps.
A car growls to life.
Helicopters thump the sky.
Pigeon wings slap air.
Sirens keen, dogs bark.
Zazen in L.A.
—–

My food – Advil.
My nectar – water.
My balm – sleep.
—–

Now the cushion
Now the breath
Now the work.
Samadhi does not
come in a box or book.
It cannot be imagined
or conjured.
Bells, incense, bows, chants
bring dignity and form
to the formless.
But above all,
it is about the work.
Breath.
Samadhi.
—–

Cresting the mountain,
valley a blanket spread low;
slices of miles served –
feast towards home.

–Kathryn Harper

How Not to Be Bored

“Sometimes, if you stand on the bottom rail of a bridge and lean over to watch the river slipping slowly away beneath you, you will suddenly know everything there is to be known.”

–A.A. Milne

What do you do on a restless Monday afternoon? You drive to Chesbro Reservoir to throw sticks and leaves in the water and watch them float away, pushed by the breeze. You gather more driftwood to expand your fairy land. You stand at the edge of the road and say hello to a few cows. (If the embedded video doesn’t show/work, here is a link to the movie.)

You make a silly face to try to get them to moo.

hanging out

On the way home, you stop at Spina Farms produce stand to buy fresh green beans and corn on the cob for dinner. You tell the lady at the counter all about the cows and how they were having quiet time. Then you head home, unload all the treasures, and make a fairy meeting room. (If the embedded video doesn’t show/work, here is a link to the movie.)

And you situate your gathered wood, ferns, and grasses just so.

fairy land, new construction

After all this, you eat five slices of whole wheat bread slathered heavily with real butter and a few green beans for dinner, followed by a brownie for dessert. Then you take a bath, listen to a story, and say farewell to the day.