Sometime when I’m walking
the breeze shifts, blowing from
the mouth of the universe
Whispered waves of indigo
and bluebonnet perfume
seeping into every pore
Lifting my heart into bliss and
flowing back into the sea of flowers
in a waterfall of love
I’ve been looking forward to seeing the new Central Library, an evolutionary leap into the future of community reading and reflection. To get the most from my visit, I walked from the hike and bike trail, a luxury I truly enjoy.
There is always construction in downtown Austin, an eager beaver metropolis bent on eliminating the very things that made it so delightful. The new Central Library, however, is an investment in our collective soul. It’s shiny and new, but mindful of our need to find a shared sanctuary. This is a cathedral of libraries, a stadium among warehouses. The reading rooms are varied, the design flows aesthetically and there are good reading nooks everywhere.
Art and music spaces and rooms to write and collaborate are sprinkled throughout. The Lance Letscher and the Armadillo Art Squad exhibits were authentically weird and brought back fond memories of great Austin eras in music and art.
With so many nooks and crannies to explore, the Austin Central Library is a perfect place to rediscover your joy in reading. For many screen junkies, this will be a great way to fall in love with a good book and get off the endless cycle of bad news. Saunter over, it’s a beautiful day.
It’s impossible to resist the allure of a sunny autumn day, so I took my camera with me to the hike and bike trail at Ladybird Lake. Since you never know what will catch your eye, I started architecturally and flowed into the colors of fall vegetation. Rest in joy Chris, remembering your sweet smile and SRV tearing it up at Auditorium Shores.
From Cannon Beach, I headed south to Yachats, often referred to as the Gem of the Oregon Coast. The beaches got rockier and towns dotting the coastline smaller and more picturesque. Depoe Bay, where grey whales come to graze along the shoreline, is a magnet for tourists. I caught a glimpse of a whale back nearby and two spouts offshore, which I heard was a mother and her calf.
You can’t have too many transporting moments on a nature trip. But, it was at the Drift Inn, while enjoying a rare offering of Mediterranean mushroom crepes, that I experienced that special feeling of connection. Maybe it was the waitress with the blue hair, the murals keeping it weird, or Richard Sharpless on guitar, but I felt a gemutlichkeit as I listened to the music and watched people of all ages and kinds enjoying a communal meal. Nothing like a warm, golden glow and friendly people to make your visit memorable.
Another beautiful sunset greeted me on my way back to the hotel.
The next morning I was off and sauntering, in search of tide pools and sea creatures. The wind rippling the water created some fabulous painterly effects, an unexpected bonus.
All in all a wonderful, rejuvenating jaunt. When one experiences major life changes, it always helps to pause, recenter and find your compass. Between the ocean’s roar, the towering forests and the gorgeous beaches, I found mine in resonance with the beauty of the Oregon Coast. I’ll be heading back, sauntering north along Washington’s Pacific Coast trail and looking forward to taking the train into Vancouver.
I didn’t really remember the Pacific Ocean’s booming, rowdy surf and immeasurable depth. It’s very different from my usual haunts in the Gulf of Mexico. The vast horizontal embracing the towering vertical of mighty spruce trees resonates through the coastland in a deeply grounding spiritual wave.
This is what I came for – to put my tap root into the earth – to remember that I am. My reset begins in Forest Park, on the way to the Oregon coast.
The drive to Cannon Beach on Hwy 26 is an easy ride, rolling through sun-dappled forests, reminding me of biking through the woods as a kid in Germany. The breeze is cool, the forest fragrant with earth and the sap of evergreens, and the sun beams through the trees painting my skin with warm and cool stripes. The joy of being a kid – the energy, the excitement of discovery and delight – kindled a light in my bones that flowed out into the woods in waves of gratitude and love.
My first view of the beach in Seaside reminded me to play.
When I got to Cannon Beach, Haystack Rock was just outside my balcony. It is a beacon to people from all times and traditions. The ancient ones abide.
The moon rising over Haystack rock
the waves caressing the shore
bring me back to Center
where I am
So much green, lush old growth forest and elegant, unobtrusive meditation paths in Portland’s Japanese Garden park. The Bonsai Garden is exquisite, with trees ranging in age from 35 to 500 years. Beautiful.
I’m lucky. I retired from a community I loved when I was ready to with a basic monthly stipend. After 21 years at the University of Texas (thirteen managing the graduate program in the Sociology department) I can now grow a business that I already started developing. This gives me direction, an opportunity to explore new social networks and collaborations (skills that I honed in my former job and the part I liked best). Will I be as staunch an advocate for myself as I was for others? We’ll see. In the meantime, I am two weeks out and slowly unfolding in the immensity of space and time.
The day after I retired I was sitting on my back porch staring into a meadow of swaying, native grasses and tall clouds sailing a big, blue sky. I was facing north, in the direction of the university and felt I was in a vacuum, like a tree that had been uprooted. I imagined my mind’s projections into all the relationships and collaborations, the structure of the yearly cycle, as roots torn from the earth. I had a frantic last few weeks, but this feeling of being bone tired was heavy with a feeling of loss.
So much of our identity is framed by “What do you do?” Loss of income, status and relevance can follow quickly, and suddenly we are no one. While some cultures honor their elders, the good old USA values productivity, not wisdom. Extended family and friend networks help a lot; feeling useful is good at any age.
But why rush through an existential moment? The feeling that I’m a raft floating in an ocean of time will go away soon enough. I can let synchronicity be the current my raft will follow. That spirit animated my youth, led me down many light and penumbral paths, to dreams that would foreshadow events or people who offered advice or an opportunity. With intuition as my guide, I can once again become a pilgrim in search of the wholly spirit.
I had such a moment while visiting the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center the other day. Part of my plan is to encourage people of all ages to saunter, a reminder to see the beauty in the things that often go unnoticed. Clearly, it’s something I go on and on about, so no problem making this my mission. Connecting with the earth, resonating with the vibrancy of life in simple ways promotes well-being. Engage a child’s sense of discovery and let them lead the way. The fox boy I met on the trail agrees.
Synchronicity led me to the wildflower center, the first place I’ll volunteer. It was not my plan, just looking for a good place to walk in Southwest Austin. My camera and I are headed west in search of . . . ? Let’s see what Portland and the Oregon Coast will bring.
Is it time to have the conversation about adaptation, our quintessential nature? Huemans of every color and persuasion have become increasingly connected, resulting in a dawning awareness of our inescapable togetherness. Frightening, apparently to many. Re-cognizing our shared humanity will move us through this dark cloud of fear, the deep and abiding lack of trust in ourselves and each other. It is more than a journey of faith, it is the embrace of our wholeness. It is the way forward.
In the meantime, we have created a nightmare we can’t seem to wake up from. Swinging between self-loathing and hatred of whoever’s handy, our endless wars will keep the savvy interplanetary traveler at bay, until we admit we’re all in this together and stop fighting. Those who think they exist above the rabble are still a part of us, there truly is no escape. As human beings, we have always relied on our adaptability for survival. Adapt and evolve or decline and die. That’s our choice and it affects the entire world.
We have been trained to hate each other. Perched on the fulcrum between animals and angels, huemans are clearly confused. Everyday we choose to express our bestial or spiritual natures. Like toddlers who hate a particular vegetable, we hate someone for the color of their skin. We don’t even question the absurdity anymore. Dominant white European/American cultures have assumed the role of planetary antibodies, attacking “invaders”who dare threaten their empire. White people (I am one) have some heavy karma and we need to face it. Time to truly make amends.
The movie Arrival raises the specter of what can happen when more evolved beings come a calling. There are many things I love about the movie: the way Dr. Louise Banks used her intuition to communicate with the visitors; learning their language and evolving beyond linear time; the way our hands and the 7 fingered others bring our mutual sense of touch to the foreground. I also really liked the army listening to a smart woman who kept us from destroying ourselves. A winning strategy we should try more often.
Touch lights the path to intimacy, feeling and empathy. In Arrival, Louise’s intelligence and her sensitivity allowed her to access the complex language of advanced, alien beings. She dared to trust her feelings and accept her vulnerability. As a result, she evolved. It gave her the courage to have and to love a child, even though she knew her daughter would fall ill and die too young. Her husband was not able to accept this impossible choice and left, unwilling to deal with his own vulnerability and heartbreak.
In the movie Moonlight, we see Chiron (aptly named) trying to stay alive, bullied for being gay, chased and beaten whenever his persecutors could catch him. Touch, for him, was not tender. Intimacy came wrapped in shame, when his first kiss turned into betrayal and more pain. Even the love of his mother was tainted by her addiction and neediness. When he was taken in by Juan (a drug dealer) and his girlfriend, Teresa, Chiron found temporary refuge from the consuming hunger of his body and soul.
Juan took him to the beach for the first time and taught him to swim, his baptism into trust. Imperfect love is love nonetheless, and Chiron was starved for human tenderness. While he quit his friendship with Juan, after realizing that he supplied his mother with the drugs that were killing her, Chiron found ongoing refuge with Teresa, who provided sanctuary and acceptance, no questions asked.
Chiron’s sexuality and his blackness (shining indigo in the silver light of the moon) mark him as a dangerous other. When he finally attacked and beat the bully who tormented him, he went to jail and transformed his body to remove any trace of the vulnerability that haunted his childhood. After his release, he took the path of least resistance and started dealing drugs, claiming respect and money, burying his emotions and his sensitivity.
That changed when his first love and childhood friend, Kevin reached out to him and they met at the diner where he was the cook. Over a blue-plate special and a bottle of wine, they reconnected. One was a father and both were ex-cons, living on opposite sides of the law. One of the most moving scenes in the film is Chiron’s confession that he never let anyone touch him after his night on the beach with Kevin, many moons ago. He was so vulnerable in that moment and Kevin felt it. He reached over and took Chiron’s head onto his shoulder and held him, stroking his hair. Touch can heal a heart hard as glass, ready to shatter at any moment. We fear our vulnerability, but without it there is no comfort, no connection. It’s time to take care of each other and knock down the walls of fear and hatred. Adapt, people. We’re all in this together.
In 1985, I was one of many bohemian artists hanging around Dixie’s Bar and Bus Stop, a music video show that aired on the now defunct Austin Music Channel. Working at the Amdur Gallery, creating satirical videos, drawing and painting, playing soccer and riding my bike (see Riffing on Patti Smith) – life was good. And Austin was great! In honor of International Women’s Day, I offer the many faces of Sydney Wallace, starring in MirrorMirror.
Human progress may unfold more obliquely than forward and back, but life is change. I suspect one of the reasons we have generations to discover who we are is because mortality is a key to our humanity. As David Bowie said, we can’t trace time.
Between fear and love, our greatest sins and most beautiful creations define us. We are so close, yet so far from our best – lost in the desert with God the angry Father, who is too busy putting his fingers in the dyke of our Abrahamic religions to teach us human kindness. The son of God made love the foundation of his message, with limited success and the caveat of a second coming, flaming sword in hand. That has certainly given man’s inhumanity some deep cover, and something to look forward to: a Day of Judgement, the End Times. Warrior cults are really death cults, despite their promise of resurrection.
Time to take another look at the Man in the Mirror
Michael Jackson 1988
After watching I am Not Your Negro and seeing the sneering, hate filled faces and the violence of white, American men, it’s easy to understand why James Baldwin lived abroad for so many years.
James Baldwin Paris Review No 78
It wasn’t so much a matter of choosing France—it was a matter of getting out of America. I didn’t know what was going to happen to me in France but I knew what was going to happen to me in New York. If I had stayed there, I would have gone under, like my friend on the George Washington Bridge.
You say the city beat him to death. You mean that metaphorically.
Not so metaphorically. Looking for a place to live. Looking for a job. You begin to doubt your judgment, you begin to doubt everything. You become imprecise. And that’s when you’re beginning to go under. You’ve been beaten, and it’s been deliberate. The whole society has decided to make you nothing. And they don’t even know they’re doing it.
Yet we do not give up hope, despite our cruelty and our greed. It’s time to wake up and give our children a world built on peace, on respect and on kindness. Let the patriarchy go, make a place for all people and change is gonna come.