Fairy tales for our time

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Sarah Winman is a terrific writer and story teller. In fact my granddaughter who is reading Hunger Games and I had a hard time agreeing to put our books down for conversation during our take out supper on my back deck Saturday night.

This morning sitting in the blazing sun, I was reading the last few chapters of When God Was a Rabbit and my cynicism reared her ugly head.

Why cynicism? Because 9.11 entered the last chapters and I didn’t see it coming. Arghh I groaned. Like my mother who used to ask “can’t we have a family picture without a beer?” I’ve begun to ask “can’t we have a modern novel without 9.11?” This led me into a rabbit hole, no pun intended, thinking about why so many novels written in the last ten years include reference to 9.11.

With this event all the monsters came out of our forest and showed us in living color that we, the chosen ones, are not invulnerable. It got worse. Our reactionary behavior showed up like my foster dog’s, appropriately named Boy Dog, who chose to fight with a close-by bigger dog because he couldn’t get to the terriers nearby who aroused his flight or fight heart. He had 10 stitches; we got thousands of boys and girls killed.

I could get myself into a real downer sitting here with the sun shining on the apple trees thinking about our cultural ways of blocking out “war” and avoiding anything real that aides any survival on this blue planet. My mind is jumping around to the algae on Lake Erie and allegories in the movie Beasts of the Southern Wild and the Huger Games –which by the way Phoebe said “terrorized her” the first time she read it. It should. She’s 11!

Kristen Lamb who writes about writing, recent blog is about why zombies “are consuming our culture.” Lamb writes ‘horror’ often reflects what we’re facing as a society.” http://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/2014/07/25/why-are-zombies-consuming-our-culture/. Yikes!

And then this morning Christine Valters Painter in her blog wrote, “I am reminded of a powerful poem by Jack Gilbert about how in the midst of the world’s madness we must ‘risk delight.’ He goes on to write that ‘there will be music despite everything. The songs of the cosmos continue to ring forth no matter how much we resist.’ Valters Painter continues,
“In these days when the news offers little of solace, see if you might hold your own narrow and judgmental places with compassion, and in that softening see if you might slip slowly from their grip. Notice if that moment of inner Exodus brings the desire to dance, and if you can offer yourself the generous permission to say yes.”
www.AbbeyoftheArts.com

My sister tells her dog when he begs at the table,“live in hope.” Like the dog begging at the table we write and hope for our happy endings. Yes, the book has a “hope-filled happy ending.” But remember hope is a verb. Think about it…

“A fairy tale is a story-literary or folk-that has a sense of the numinous, the feeling or sensation of the supernatural or the mysterious. Fairy tales are sometimes spiritual, but never religious.”Lane, Marcia. Picturing a Rose: A Way of Looking at Fairy Tales. New York: H. W. Wilson, 1993.  ©Heidi Anne Heiner, SurLaLune Fairy Tales www.surlalunefairytales.com, http://www.surlalunefairytales.com/introduction/ftdefinition.html  

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On plum splatters, the dog is back, books, birthdays and the shiny red bike

20140728_093219We picked half a ton of beautiful yellow plums on Monday for the Bellingham Food Bank. The purple and red plums were so ripe we each brought some home for jam.

Summer or on turning 71

The kitchen floor is grubby, that dog’s been back for a month

Instead of washing up I go out with friends for lunch

Books are piled on the couch, and lay all over the floor,

The library phoned, new books were in, and I flew out the door.

There is a list, bills to pay, sheets out on the line,

Summer’s here, the hammock calls, so many books

so little time.   `mm, 2014

So far this summer I haven’t done what I thought I’d do. I’ve read a lot. It’s been hot then rainy and now it’s hot again. I didn’t attend my writers’ group today. Usually before I go to bed I at least do the dishes and wipe off the kitchen counters. Nope, not last night. I’d fixed a late supper for me and my son’s family, walked with the dog, he’s back, and worked on a quilt. So I woke up not only to dishes in the sink but purple plum spatters on the stove and yellow plum juice leaking onto the kitchen counters from the bag I left them in.

While my coffee water boiled I wiped up the plum juice, set the crock pot on simmer to finish the purple cinnamony plum butter, then took my coffee and Brian Doyle’s book the thorny grace of it to the deck. Brian begins his book with an essay written remembering a Good Friday church service. He begins the short piece wondering do we remember who we’re talking about, “…this prince of light … a thin Arab woodworker, a most devout and committed Jew… a footloose vagrant on Roman roads, troublesome and strange… the last kid picked, the homeless guy with dirty feet?”

The essay ends with his description of a little girl asking at the end of the service, “but, did he die? Does he get born again?” The mom answers tomorrow as they walk out from “the haunted darkness into a crisp redolent spring afternoon.” The little girl’s father, says “almost under his breath, Today.”

After I wiped my eyes on my tee shirt sleeve, that was my thank you for this glorious day and it has been with me all day. Today!  While I cleaned the kitchen, then walked in the sun spattered woods with the dog then rode my shiny new-to-me red bike the few miles to Sally’s then to the library and back home again. Later I wrote to my kids saying I was grinning so hard it’s a wonder I didn’t eat a bug! 

There’s a bit of a story around the bike. A week ago I was trying to beat my land speed record walking to Sally’s. Three blocks from her house I tripped and fell flat on my face. I’ll spare you the pictures. It wasn’t pretty. There was blood. After some ice and ibuprofen and laughter about mom going out for walks in a helmet with face guard, knee guards, wrist guards, I was concerned that “the kids” would decide Mom shouldn’t have the bike I asked for for my birthday. A week later my nose is no longer green and blue with large scabs – only little scabs. We didn’t take birthday pictures this weekend except of the shiny new to me, red “girls bike” with a bell and flashing light!

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As for the dog who came to the Alternative Humane Society with the name Boy Dog who is now Boyd, or Droyd to my grandkids, he’s back with me after a sojourn at a kennel, then time with another foster home then a scrap with a bigger dog. He needs a forever home but is happy here walking in the woods or on the couch beside me. His prayer too is Today!

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I just finished reading Charles and Emma, the Darwin’s Leap of Faith, about their married life and how it affected his life; Juliet, by Anne Fortier, a novel that jumps back and forth between the “real” Romeo and Juliet and a present day hero and heroine. Fortier is the author of The Lost Sisterhood written in the same style about the Amazons – this book led me to Juliet. Currently I’m reading The SpyMistress, by Jennifer Chiaverini, author of Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker which I enjoyed; and, Matt Fox’s newest book Meister Eckhart, A Mystic Warrior for Our Time.

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Shifting consciousness

Well said, Wangari. Prophetic wisdom!

For a Mother’s Day present my children and their partners signed me up for the local Chuckanut Writer’s Conference. I spent my weekend workshop/breakout times focused on memoir.

When I was finishing my doctoral dissertation, my daughter Sally, a really really good writer, gave me the best advice about a draft of the work I’d suffered over for at least 4 years; “Mom, take out all the quotes and see what you’ve got left.” That advice turned the tide. I whittled 150 pages down to 100 – that’s an exaggeration but then I was able to move toward a finished piece of writing in my words.

This morning I’m hanging out in bed with a cup of coffee, my laptop, and a pile of books from my library pick-up, plus my notebook filled with ideas from the conference. I’m whittling down my years of consciousness imposed by years of input, to see what’s left of me. This is not an eureka moment. I’m trying to do what my friend Trish did and write a letter to my birthday-is-almost-here self.

The first books I poured over were 3 quilt books. Yes, quilt books. They were a break from words words words to color, pattern and visual art created from contrasting fabrics.

I thought about that as I walked from the living room, where my sewing machine is on a fold-up table, into the kitchen past the room I call the whatsitroom. Paper litters the desk and floor. Nearby fabric scraps are neatly (well that’s a description we don’t all agree on) sorted into colorways on shelves at least for a moment.

Contrast. Eight published authors and one over the top in a fantastic way high school teacher, slam poet competitor, talked about their work and shared exercises to help make our writing sing. Not one person directly used the word “contrast.”  Those of us who dabble with the color chart know that contrast makes a quilt or painting “sing.”  I am at the point in my life, with limited years left, when the contrast between who I was and who I want to be is the key to making my heart sing.

The papers on the floor and nearby cupboard overflowing with paper and other arts materials stacked willynilly are reminders of “someday I’ll get to that.” I’ll create those collages – not. I’ll frame those photos or at least get them into albums – someday.  Contrast that with the somewhat ordered quilting fabric, sewing supplies and yet to be finished for people I love quilts and my expanding scribbled list to write about ideas that keep my heart beating – and we all know I need to do everything I can to keep my heart beating.

My dad died when he was 97, 6 months ago. Every day from the time he was close to 70 years old, he wrote a story expressing his thoughts and memories about his life. These stories are gifts to me and my family.

A sense of joy and connection serve as my compass in all things. My writing and my quiltmaking are not profound pursuits. They are ways to express who I am. It is time I do my part to give up cynicism and wrestle down my fears for the world; specifically for my grandchildren.  

It’s also time to see if I can find the floor in the whatsitroom.

You can call me Still Moving out Granni.

4 of 54 of the 5

“For our hearts are not pure; our hearts are filled with need and greed as much as with love and grace; and we wrestle with our hearts all the time. The wrestling is who we are. How we wrestle is who we are. What we want to be is never what we are. Not yet. Maybe that’s why we have these relentless engines in our chests, driving us forward toward what we might be.” ~ Brian Doyle

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mugged by perfectionism

 

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my mom at 16 in her band uniform – she played flute and piccolo 

On Mother’s Day I called my sister because, “you are the only other person who looks in the mirror and sees Mom.”  Laughing she responded, “yes, and I hear her voice all the time too.”  Carol and I talked about a quilt I’m working on that is a bit outside my competency. I often “bless” it –  a confession our mom shared each time she gave one her beautiful quilts to a grandchild at their wedding.    

phoebe quilt progress 004may quilts 002

I’m continually mugged by perfectionism.  Frustrated working on an internet newsletter demanding a high learning curve, I gave up and washed the dishes piled in the sink. Then fried some bacon for lunch – not the food most favored by a healthy heart diet – but I was tired of trying to “get it right.” 

Last Saturday, the first day it was activated, I took my new “smart phone” to a family picnic. When I got to the sprawling park I needed to call a family member to figure out where we were gathered – that’s when I realized I hadn’t transferred any phone numbers! The first time my 8-year-old grandson picked up that “smart phone” and texted his mother, I remembered this stuff is in their DNA and mine was formed with rotary dial.

   we learned: the “double helix” kinda like the long twisted phone cord when I dragged the phone into the broom closet for privacy.

They learn science: DNA Found to Have “Impossible” Telepathic Properties

Dna47_3_2 DNA has been found to have a bizarre ability to put itself together, even at a distance, when according to known science it shouldn’t be able to.

 

I follow this blog because I love fabrics all patched and mended; after all I am a collage artist. ( http://blueandwhitetokyo.com/2014/05/21/mending-my-ways/)mend1In our accelerating and disposable world, have we lost sight of the preciousness of things, the importance of keeping them safe and honoring them?

I gave up my “old” cell phone because I want the magic of “Face Time” with my Michigan grandson and his parents and I love trading photos and texting with my Oregon grandkids.

I’ll finish this blessed quilt because my granddaughter chose the pattern for her birthday present. The imperfect newsletter was broadcast on time via the internet and the next one is in the works. NPR recently talked about surveys that show quilting and other puzzle solving is good for the brains of “seniors.” Maybe I “still have it” whatever “have it” is. Mostly I think “it” is about my sense of the ridiculous.

 

the art of surrendering  by Liza M. DiNunzio

to surrender
does not mean to give up.
for me,

it is about finding the grace and the strength within

to try a different way…

a different way of seeing,

doing,

feeling.

and then,

letting go of the outcome

and expecting the best.

Thank you Lisa.  http://www.pritistudio.com/2014/05/the-art-of-surrendering.html

The Prayer Flag Project  

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squander

 

A new friend recently introduced me to someone as “she has so many gifts.”  Driving home I began to wonder “how many of my gifts have I squandered?”   What am I even talking about?

Squander: 1589 (implied in squandering), “to spend recklessly or prodigiously,” of unknown origin; Shakespeare used it 1593 in “Merchant of Venice” with a sense of “to be scattered over a wide area;” Waste (something, especially money or time) in a reckless and foolish manner, or to use something valuable that you have a limited amount of in a bad or foolish way.

“riddles of the heart”

A dear friend is sad because 6 of the 13 tiny ducklings who hatched  at the edge of their pond, even with the close care of the mama duck, have disappeared. We know they fed the hawk or large snapping turtle or other nearby animals. 

Of course money immediately came to mind; money not saved or spent on things that have been lost or given away, or things bought that are not being used – we read about people who get along with one pot and no hot water. That’s not what I’m thinking about.

This parable is closer to what I’m thinking: 

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. 2 Large crowds gathered around him, so he got into a boat and sat down, while the people stood on the shore. 3 Then Jesus used stories to teach them many things. He said: “A farmer went out to plant his seed. 4 While he was planting, some seed fell by the road, and the birds came and ate it all up. 5 Some seed fell on rocky ground, where there wasn’t much dirt. That seed grew very fast, because the ground was not deep. 6 But when the sun rose, the plants dried up, because they did not have deep roots. 7 Some other seed fell among thorny weeds, which grew and choked the good plants. 8 Some other seed fell on good ground where it grew and produced a crop. Some plants made a hundred times more, some made sixty times more, and some made thirty times more. 9 Let those with ears use them and listen.” *

I attended a workshop last weekend titled “We Are the People of the Resurrection.” Alexanda Kovats, the facilitator was adamant that we must embody certain gifts that are felt; We must make them known before we can move onto other discussions of the Spirit.  She used a circle to model G-d as center of the self, with the following gifts surrounding the center: anger, ego, control, desire, play, wounds, gratitude, patience, trust, fear, and delight. (We can name many more.)She gave us little monster finger puppets to aide us in taking a look at our own circle of gifts.

These felt emotions are the gifts I was born with and squander recklessly. Being a gardener I was reminded that The Dali Lama, Angeles Arrien, Mother Teresa – add a name here __________  and the Buddha, Jesus and Mohammad all remind us those elements can create compost for the rich soil, humas, that transforms that central seed to living vine. I’m going out into my messy backyard to work in the garden…

 “Our culture cherishes fantasies about how economics and technology can ‘fix’ our situation: that the marketplace will engineer solutions to the woes of population and climate change. … But one technology we don’t talk about enough is that of the imagination. The world changes only as we reimage it; when we restructure, dream, allow, celebrate. The mechanisms of imagination are a key element to heaven, I think, and of all the elements of education so lacking in our culture, it is the most sorely missed. Imagination is the field in which true transformation is rooted. As the Gnostic Gospel of Mary would tell us, we are saved from our old, wounded selves through a new vision of ourselves.” – David Wallace, “Foreword” to Charlene Proctor, The Oneness Gospel

*http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+13&version=NCV

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Re-Wilding

house with plant

Blessings of wind be upon me. May my sails billow wide, May I breathe deeply the gift of inspiration…

This spring I’m using Christine Valters Paintner’s book Water, Wind, Earth & Fire, as my morning reading and lectio. In the first chapter “Wind,” She writes: Begin each day by intentionally setting aside your plans and offering a prayer asking for direction from the flow of the Spirit present in the wind.

There is warm sunshine in Bellingham, Washington. I sat outside with my coffee, facing East toward the rising sun. There was a slight breeze rustling the ready to burst buds on the apple trees.

The ground in my backyard is squishy when I walk across it. The foster dog comes in and out with muddy paws so often I’ve given up wiping the kitchen floor with more than a quick swipe with a dog towel; it is dirt colored anyway.

My next door neighbor and I looked at the water pooled in holes where there was pampas grass along our shared fence. She exclaimed laughing, “you could grow Koi.” This year will be dedicated to figuring out where the water flows and dumping dirt and stones in the yard to create a water garden – gardening in a wet backyard with thirsty plants. 

My studies of permaculture have encouraged me to create a bit of a “woodland garden” in the area already blessed with 2 apple trees. I will add fruit bearing bushes, and an array of plants that love shade and dappled sunlight and that draw bees and birds and butterflies.  

The idea of not having “lawn” in my back yard seems not loony but a lovely, sensible idea. The noise of mowers has already begun in my little neighborhood. I added to it with the electric “weed wacker” earlier this week. That noise multiplied by the dozen houses on my street will be a part of every weekend from now until at least October!  But I rant. 

The term “wilding” or “rewilding” has recently come to my attention.  I’m reading Rambunctious Garden, Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World by Emma Marris.

Wilding : a plant growing uncultivated in the wild either as a native or an escape; especially : a wild apple or crab apple. b : the fruit of a wilding ~ Merriam Webster.

At one time a “wilding” was a child “run wild.” Clearly I and my brothers grew-up wildings.  We played in the near-by woods and at the edge of Loon Lake – forbidden areas – unbeknownst to our mother who every summer morning admonished us “get outside!” We were free until the porch lights came on at dusk.

In her new book From the Forest a Search for the Hidden Roots of Our Fairy Tales, Sara Maitland, bereft that the language of computer games is our children’s magic,  quotes Robert Macfarlane:

A basic language-literacy of nature is falling from us. And what is being lost along with this literacy is something perhaps even more valuable: a kind of language magic, the power that certain words possess to enchant our imaginative relations with nature and landscape. 

I am a most fortunate realist. I live in an older neighborhood that used to be an orchard so old fruit trees abound. I also live very close to an ocean and a block away from the interurban trail that leads to a “wild” area within the boundaries of a sprawling “park.” My grandchildren here, and in Oregon, live in neighborhoods considered “safe” with some parental restrictions on their wandering/wilding. 

I don’t have answers to any of the current issues of our Earth environment. I just like Emma Marris’s ideas about keeping/creating some wild areas in neighborhoods and leaving more wild spaces in our backyards as well as all over our one small planet.

Paradise is in our minds and hearts. Mine is seeing my grandchildren and the kids in my neighborhood “running a little wild” with trees to climb and birds and bees and butterflies fluttering around them. In the larger world my paradise is kids not worrying about land mines when they play, or not spending their days picking through my garbage or not being poisoned by the elements in my cell phone. But, again I rant.

Chilten Pearce believes our hearts are electromagnetically enmeshed with the energy of the universe. If so, we can access the universe through our hearts. We can feel our oneness with the earth as Meister Eckhart did when he wrote: “If I put my cheek against the earth’s body, (or maybe a tree trunk) I feel the pulse of God.”

moving 008

I have no plans for this beautiful day except to go where the breezes take me…

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Returning

P1090931 at the American Visionary Museum

They (fools, the clowns, the tricksters) are constantly in the throes of metanoia, disturbing the undisturbed, comforting the uncomfortable and freeing the unfree.*

Return to me with your whole heart *

As the days lengthen we return to thawed ground and new growth.  The Abrahamic religions all have rites of repentance and returning in preparation for spring festivals – Easter in Christianity, Passover in Judaism, and Ramadan for Muslims. 

Each of these practices include periods of introspection and consideration of actions that require metanoia, which is not translated as repentance but literally means to go “beyond the mind,” or “into the larger mind.”*

During Lent Christians reenact the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert fasting and praying. The desert journey is one where our comforts are stripped away so we can see more clearly.* During Ramadan, also a period of fasting, repentance is a period of return to a state of renewal – metanoiaIt means moving into the nondual knowingness of the heart which can see and live from the perspective of wholeness. Cynthia Bourgeault. 

Passover is retelling the story of leaving mitzrayim, the narrow place. We all have places within us that are narrow. These are the places where our self-judgment lives and where our judgments of others thrive. Our narrow places are the spots where our fixed beliefs rest.

I just read and watched an article and film *The Path of the Sacred Clown and thought about my grandkids as tricksters and sacred clowns, full of life energy – eros – pushing me to rethink, not from the mind but from the heart about the narrow places where I am stuck.

In his book Falling Upward, Richard Rohr says transformation is more about unlearning than learning. These practices during the transformation from darkness to light are all meant for transformation of consciousness – the seed deep in the soil transforming into the plant – a resurrection, a returning to our immaculate, new born, lighter-hearted selves/souls. 

http://fractalenlightenment.com/25726/spirituality/the-path-of-the-sacred-clown-where-trickster-and-shaman-converge

The italics indicate places where I used, and abbreviated quotes, or combined overlapping ideas from Christine Valters Painter, Abbey of the Arts.com; Richard Rohr’s book Falling Upward, A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life; and The Wisdom Jesus, by Cynthia Bourgeault. Their work, thinking and writing are infiltrating my heart and my mind.

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