of wild violets and whale tales

Our lawn is adorned with wild violets.

Most people treat them like the weeds they are categorized as. Others, like us, welcome them into our yards:

….it has chosen to live here and delight my senses. And be a host to the lovely fritillary butterfly.

For violets suit when home birds build and sing,
Not when the outbound bird a passage cleaves;
Not with dry stubble of mown harvest sheaves,
But when the green world buds to blossoming.

~Christina Georgina Rossetti

As with so many ideological positions that humans embrace, there often is no right or wrong. Wild violets are weeds. It is OK to enjoy them, ignore them, or eject them. Whatever works for you.

What works for us is letting them grow wherever they want and then mowing them along with lawn AND transplanting them where they make beautiful borders or mounds in strategic places. I just transplanted some to grow at the foot of our little sitting Buddha and to top off this goofy head/planter that guards a little side garden plot.

I wonder if they’ll grow happily all year in a globe of water, the way my Prayer Plant and various ivies and vines do. I’ll probably give it a try.

(If you are interested in prayer plants and the correct way to grow them, you should read this.)

Which leads me to the tale of the whale.

While I do not believe in a god of any kind and, therefore, by definition, am an atheist, I do believe that there is a wisdom — a kind of energy — deep down in each of us with which we easily lose touch. Or maybe we never actually found it to begin with.

And, it’s possible (given quantum mechanics stuff) that such wisdom is connected somehow to everything else in the universe. What I call wisdom or energy, many people call SPIRIT. But that word conjures something close to a being, and so even that word doesn’t work for me.

So, where does the whale come in, you might ask.

There have been times in my past when I felt in touch with that inner wisdom, that energy. (If anyone was able to explain that feeling of connection it was Carl Sagan:)

“Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality.”

“Atheism is more than just the knowledge that gods do not exist, and that religion is either a mistake or a fraud. Atheism is an attitude, a frame of mind that looks at the world objectively, fearlessly, always trying to understand all things as a part of nature.”

“Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were, but without it we go nowhere.”

So, in my pursuit of what I have lost touched with, I’m seeing a therapist who uses “active imagination.” I have engaged in this practice many times before in my past and have found it useful, helpful, and creatively engaging.

One of narratives that can be introduced into an active imagination exercise is the “Personal Totem Pole,”, a technique developed by Dr. E.S. Gallegos. I participated in a Totem Pole workshop that he led more than 25 years ago, and I still remember how the experience energized me and helped me to begin resolving issues that I had with myself.

Oh yes, the whale.

Well, that’s the image that appeared in my chest (my heart chakra), where I have been physically feeling a great deal of constriction. Apparently, the whale is not the usual image associated with the heart chakra, but there he was, looking more like a Disney cartoon than a real whale.

The thing about these “inner journeys” is that whatever comes up is the right thing to come up. So, a cartoon whale is as valid and as powerful as the image of a singing humpback.

So, now I both spend meditative time with this whale as well as time googling around for information about whales in general and whales at totem animals. I also popped over to Itunes and downloaded some whale songs. Sometime this week I will dig out and again watch our DVD of Whale Rider.

The process that starts with a guided imagery/active imagination exercise fascinates me. It takes me down learning paths I never would have gone otherwise. It uses my affinity for symbols and metaphors to stimulate journeys into my unconscious that always wind up unleashing some of that inner wisdom/energy that is hard to consciously tap into.

With wild violets and whales, I launch myself into Spring.

this strange world

Each week, Harper’s offers its “Weekly Review—a digital newsletter that distills the world media’s discharge into three simple paragraphs.”

Here are some discharges (some amusing, some downright scary) from this week’s Harper’s Weekly Review. The links will take you to the original stories.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi denied accusations that he paid a teenage runaway for sex, explaining that he gave $65,000 to a bellydancer who goes by the name of Ruby the Heartbreaker to help her escape a life of prostitution by launching a beauty parlor, and that he thought she was Hosni Mubarak’s granddaughter. link

Donald Trump, who is giving “serious, serious thought” to running for president in 2012, outlined his Libya policy: “Either I’d go in and take the oil,“ he said, ”or I don’t go in at all.” link

Previously unseen emails revealed that BP tried to control independent research into the consequences of the Gulf oil spill. link

Hydraulic fracturing companies, an investigation revealed, injected hundreds of millions of gallons of hazardous or carcinogenic chemicals into wells in at least 13 states between 2005 and 2009, as well as salt, instant coffee, and walnut hulls, to stimulate the release of natural gas from underground reserves. link

Bolivia prepared to pass the Law of Mother Earth, which will grant nature rights equal to those of humans, although it is not yet clear how the legislation will be implemented. link

Scientists identified the part of the brain integral to embarrassment by asking subjects to listen to their own karaoke renditions of the Temptations’ 1964 hit “My Girl” played back without the musical accompaniment. link

A retired greengrocer from Southampton, England, spent 400 hours knitting a three-tier wedding cake to celebrate the upcoming marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton. “It’s not based on a pattern,” said 74-year-old Sheila Carter. “I just made it up. link

While I have to admit that, being an fanatical knitter, I was intrigued by the story of the knitted wedding cake. But only for a moment.

What really caught my attention was the Wired story about Bolivia.

Bolivia is one of South America’s poorest countries and is seeing its rural communities suffer with failing crops due to climatic events such as floods and droughts. Temperatures are set to rise by up to four degrees celsius over the next 100 years, while most of its glaciers are likely to melt within 20 years.

The Bolivian government — under president Evo Morales — will establish a ministry of mother earth and commit to give communities the authority to monitor and control the industries and businesses that are polluting the environment.

I hope the media keeps track of this story to see if what Morales proposes can work, given corporate greed, even in Bolivia.

morning dreams

Since there is no urgency for me to get up mornings, I tend to lie abed for hours, drifting in and out of sleep. During that time in the morning is when I dream — complex narratives always set in the same dream universe, consisting of the same winding urban streets that rise up from a river and move out into an area that is reminiscent of the neighborhood where I grew up. Somewhere in the mix is a school/college campus and a hotel on a lake where there is always some kind of social dancing going on.

It is as though when I dream I move into a life in some parallel dimension where the topography reflects a mixture of places I have known in this life. They are recognizable places, but they are enough off-kilter to become problematic. I am often unsure or lost in this dreamscape, which is populated both with people I know and don’t know, and always fraught with distressing situations.

I dream these dreams almost every morning and wake up tired and disoriented.

Of course, the answer is to get up early and avoid the dreams. Somehow I can’t. I’m always curious to find out what is going on in this other life of mine.

This morning I dreamed of my cousins who are in Florida — two couples whom I haven’t seen in several years. In real life, one of their sons and my son were born a month apart. In my dream they were both the age of my grandson, now — around 9 years old. And my son was also my grandson. And there was a frisky puppy — a long-haired reddish puppy whose fur I could feel — soft and silky — as I held onto its collar to keep it from jumping on my son/grandson.

In the dream, one cousin was showing me around her opulent apartment. There was really no point to the story. (Even as in this life, there seems to often be no point.)

Nothing was resolved before I woke up with one of my favorite Mary Travers’ songs from the 1970s — “Morning Glory” — running through my mind. I spent some time today doing an internet search for the lyrics, but couldn’t dig them up anywhere. I remember them as something like

Morning glory, glory in the morning.
I wish that I could show my face like you.
I wonder where you go to every afternoon.
Sometimes I wish that I could go there too.
Sometimes I wish that I could go there too.

I’ve got to figure out how to make myself go to bed earlier and get up earlier. I wonder if it’s just how my biorhythms are?

on turning 71 today

It’s March 11, 2011.

There was a terrible earthquake in Pacific Ocean today, and Japan is being hit with 30 foot waves. Tsunamis of various sizes are headed toward both North and South America. Untold lives are being destroyed even as I write this.

Rebellion and unrest in the Middle East and Africa continues to escalate, as untold lives are being destroyed even as I write this.

The state of Wisconsin is leading the way toward an America I’m not going to want to live in, and untold lives are being destroyed even as I write this.

It is my 71st birthday today, and, as I watch and listen to the devastating events going on all around me, I am grateful for the life I have right now, uneventful ‘tho it often is.

And that’s why today, on my 71st birthday, I am filling out forms to be a hospice volunteer — because I am used to doing useful things and need to do something useful with the time I have left.

When I moved here to be with my daughter and family two years ago — after almost a decade of care-giving and 40 years of various other “useful” jobs — I thought that I would be happy hanging-out, relaxing, reading, doing my crafts, gabbing with my daughter, playing with my grandson.

Well, I’ve been doing that for two years, and now I’m ready to get on with some kind of more useful life.

There are about five nursing homes in my immediate area, all of which have hospice units. I’ve been on the receiving end of hospice services as a family member through both my dad’s and mom’s illnesses. I know, from experience, what kind of support people in that situation need. And, since I was an undertaker’s daughter, death has been a part of my life since I was born. It is as though I am coming full circle.

I’m not doing this for altruistic reasons. My reasons are rather selfish. I need to interact with and meet other people (and I discovered that the gym and senior citizen center are just not my style); I need to do something useful.

And that “usefulness” might even spill over to my creative crafting, since I would be interested in making the kind of “memory pillow” that I made for my mother for others who might find them comforting.

So, at 71 I’m shifting gears yet another time so that my time here has meaning for me. My mother lived until she was 94. I don’t know if I’ll last that long, but, while I’m here, I want to be engaged with the world in a more meaningful way.

For my birthday dinner, my daughter is making my favorites: shrimp scampi and key lime cheesecake.

It’s my 71st birthday, and, even as I write this, my life is good. But as I watch the news on CNN, I wonder — for how long?

The Whole Truth

We never really know the whole truth, we ordinary people who try to survive in a context over which we have no control. We try to follow the trail of newsworthy events, forgetting that news and histories are written — well, by whoever writes it all up.

And, sometimes acknowledged fiction writers, creating a fictional story line, seem to come closer to the truth than what we are fed as the truth.

The Whole Truth, David Baldacci’s 2008 international intrigue novel, might have a story line metaphorically closer to the truth than what we are being fed by the “news. There is a character that might well be an (only slightly exaggerated) embodiment of the Koch Brothers and a story line that takes the premise farther than Wag the Dog.

One commentary piece that everyone should read that accurately and succinctly gets to some of the bottom-line truths about what’s happening in America today is Ronni Bennett’s (Time Goes By) post, “Something’s Happening Here.”

She supports the following statement with factual links and graphs:

Although citizens of the U.S. are not detained, imprisoned, tortured, executed or shot in the streets as in some Arab countries, we are nonetheless oppressed. Our government, in long-time cahoots with the corporate elite, started decades before this current financial crisis to steal for themselves all but the shirts on our backs.

And, in addressing the incendiary situation in Wisconsin, she says what I hope lots of us are thinking:

If I am right about what they and their supporters are doing, the protests will spread throughout the land, particularly when the weather warms up in a few weeks. Massive street protests are the only power we the people have left against the corporate/government plutocracy.

God, I hope I’m right, that these people are the vanguard of what is coming. If so, it will be a long and bitter struggle against Mr. Jones, but I don’t see an alternative. We must fight back even if, in the end, we lose.

They’re doing it in the Middle East, setting a standard for the value of human rights and freedom,

Of course, in Baldacci’s novel, there’s a “hero” who determinedly figures it all out.

But we have no heroes. We only have ourselves.

don’t know about any handbasket
but we’re going anyway

You can’t convince me that life (especially human life) on this planet is not on a downward spiral. The following disturbing news clips are from Harper’s Magazine Yearly Review.

Not only are we screwing with other lives on this planet….:

Exposure to antidepressants in the ocean was making shrimp suicidal, and female snails exposed to the chemical TBT were growing penises from their heads. A pair of swans stunned staff at a British wildfowl sanctuary by becoming only the second couple in 40 years to divorce. Seventy-five starlings fell from the sky in Somerset, England, and 10,000 birds were trapped in the twin beams of light projected up from the World Trade Center site, dazzled and unable to return to their migratory paths.

…we are screwing up our own:

A three-year-old girl in South Korea died of starvation while her parents played a child-rearing game online, a Kentucky man was charged with wanton endangerment after he got drunk and put his five-week-old son to bed in an oven, and a Georgia mother punished her 12-year-old son for his bad grades by forcing him to hammer to death his pet hamster. The body of a registered Japanese centenarian was found in her son’s backpack. A video surfaced of an Indonesian two-year-old smoking and propelling himself around on a toy truck because he is too out of shape to toddle.

And here in America, where it’s “don’t think, don’t care”:

“Not to be funny about it,” JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon told the FCIC, “but my daughter asked me… ‘What’s the financial crisis,’ and I said, ‘Well, it’s something that happens every five to seven years.'”

The Texas State Board of Education voted to revise its social-studies curriculum, mandating that the U.S. government should not be called “democratic,”

A Texas newborn with a heart defect was denied health insurance because of his pre-existing condition.

There’s even more such frightening 2010 news bits at the above link to Harper’s.

And you think 2011 is going to be any better for the likes of us?

Did you ever hear of one red ear?

When my grandson came to say goodnight to me yesterday, I noticed that his right ear was a flaming red.

“You have one red ear,” I told him, looking at my daughter to see if she knew.

“Yup. He gets it every once in a while,” she tells me. “Lots of people do. You can Google it. It won’t last long.”

And so I do a search, and find “red ear syndrome.” No one knows exactly why it happens, but apparently it happens to all kinds of people. And if it weren’t for the internet, we would have never known that it was as common as it is. One mystery solved.

It’s kind of like my seeing 11:11 periodically over the years. I blogged about it several times. It’s a number that lots of people keep seeing (Google it and find out).

But that’s not the weirdest thing. The weirdest thing is that if you add up the numbers for the day and time my mom died, you get 11 (for the date) 11 (for the time).

If you add up the numbers for the date she went into the hospital, you get 11.

Like the red ear syndrome, we don’t know why it happens, but it happens.