Beauty in all directions

As part of the practice of being in beauty, I sauntered Ladybird Lake during our fall butterfly season. On such a gorgeous day,  walking in beauty came easily. I was surrounded.

Sometimes you just feel like dancing. This town.

Clawing Back Beauty – from Consumption to Sustainability

The phrase “clawing back” surfaced during the congressional hearings about Wells Fargo bank account manipulations.  It refers to taking back a portion of the golden parachute entitled CEOs receive once they leave a company, trailing a raft of shady deals behind, made at their employees’ expense.

Clawing back because men have set the standards, defined the form, the value and their desire to possess beauty for centuries. In this “men’s world”, beauty is visually focused and sexualized. It’s about having your cake and eating it too. Beauty, defined as:

an object that portrays a combination of qualities, such as shape, color, or form, that pleases the aesthetic senses, especially the sight.

It’s the shiny skin, the package, but mostly the wrapper.  We see it, we want it, we will have it.

From 10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman:

Dominant culture directs men to access beauty through the other, in sexual union with women.  Even inner beauty is largely portrayed as feminine. Those stereotypes are changing, but the current state of political discourse has shined a spotlight on men’s fears that electing a woman President will put the brakes on grabbing what you want.  It’s a threat to beauty as a commodity, which is used and then discarded like any old  wrapper. Their entitlement is waning and an increase in misogyny and violence against women reflects this resentment.

Beauty is different for women. Women are encouraged to embody beauty and have a more nuanced and relational visual representation, as portrayed in Romanian photographer Mihaela Noroc‘s Atlas of Beauty.

We come closer to being in rather than consuming beauty as:

the quality present in a thing or person that gives intense pleasure or deep satisfaction to the mind, whether arising from sensory manifestations (as shape, color, sound, etc.), a meaningful design or pattern, or something else (as a personality in which high spiritual qualities are manifest).

In our current culture,  beauty’s spiritual qualities are largely ignored, save the occasional nature scene or an emotionally tender moment that evokes the union of love and beauty.  Again, the visual element predominates but the feelings sparked by love or awe bring us to the threshold of another kind of union, less tangible but powerfully moving. Being in beauty calls us to experience the connection we have to life in all its forms.  Less object oriented and individualistic and more part of the greater whole.  In a world that seems more fragmented and conflicted every day, wholeness seems out of reach.  This has not always been so.  This Navajo prayer reflects life rooted in wholeness and in beauty, a more sustainable approach:

Walking In Beauty (Blessing)
Today I will walk out, today everything unnecessary will leave me,
I will be as I was before, I will have a cool breeze over my body.
I will have a light body, I will be happy forever,
nothing will hinder me.
I walk with beauty before me. I walk with beauty behind me.
I walk with beauty below me. I walk with beauty above me.
I walk with beauty around me. My words will be beautiful.
In beauty all day long may I walk.
Through the returning seasons, may I walk.
On the trail marked with pollen may I walk.
With dew about my feet, may I walk.
With beauty before me may I walk.
With beauty behind me may I walk.
With beauty below me may I walk.
With beauty above me may I walk.
With beauty all around me may I walk.
In old age wandering on a trail of beauty, lively, may I walk.
In old age wandering on a trail of beauty, living again, may I walk.
My words will be beautiful.

How healing would this life in beauty be? I will follow the beautiful words of this blessing for a month and let my words tell the tale. May your words and your walk be beautiful as well.

Inside Out

Willow Seeds
Inside the soft fluff of the black willow blooms lie the seeds, little black dots that might become a whole new tree

Why do we live life on the surface,
reaching for the next shiny thing
forgetting the fruit that lies within?

The juicy sweetness obscured
by the color of our skin
and the place we call home

So, we starve for love
and hope is scarce,
because you are a banana
and I am a pear

The fruits of our thoughts
the kindness of our deeds
can heal the wounds of hate
and fear

If we embrace both many and one
our hearts will grow enough
for all the love we have to share

P1030625Turn down the noise,
go outside – listen
Make neighbors friends
and smile at the old
for many are alone

The world is our teacher
she is the source of every
gift we give and get

So treat her gently and
thank the stars for all we
are and all that we might be

Barton Creek and Blunn Creek – January 2016

It’s always nice to enjoy the trails along Barton Creek in January, when the weather is so very fine. Kids of all ages and their dogs swarm the greenbelt like happy bees with spring almost in the air, sun shining down like honey .

There were fewer people on the trail at the Blunn Creek Nature Preserve, an urban oasis in South Austin and one of several ancient volcanoes that dot the area from St. Edward’s University to Stacy Park in Travis Heights. My favorite oak, probably 500 years old, is queen of the forest and was too big to fit into my camera’s frame.

Water Meditation – Flowing

Healing Beauty

I was coming home one day and noticed a rose blooming by the front door.  It was facing the wall, bent over and neglected.  When I turned it around I saw the most beautiful bloom and brought it inside to enjoy the life and color of its unfolding.

In these times of sorrow, of war and disaster, let us choose to be healed in many small ways.  Thank you little rose friend, for giving me the gift of beauty to remind me that I am still blooming, still beautiful and full of love. Do not pass beauty by as you saunter the world.  It will heal our spirits and help remind us of our humanity.

Big Sky Love

I’ll miss you, Texas
You and your giant clouds,
close enough to touch
Blue sky wrapping round
the mighty oaks standing tall,
like broccoli on the horizon

And dragon flies, big as goldfish
skimming waves of grass,
rippling like an ocean
in the golden afternoon light

I can’t say goodbye to cypress trees
and limestone springs, reminding me
that dinosaurs roam these lands
when the seas come and go
You have sunk a taproot deep in my heart
and perfumed the forest of my mind

Krause Springs cypress stand
Krause Springs cypress stand

In This Place – the poetry of Constantine Cavafy

Many thanks to Eric Banks of Conspirare for introducing me to Constantine Cavafy, a Greek poet who lived primarily in Alexandria and Instanbul in the early 20th Century. From poets.org:

Perhaps the most original and influential Greek poet of the 20th century, his uncompromising distaste for the kind of rhetoric common among his contemporaries and his refusal to enter into the marketplace may have prevented him from realizing all but a few rewards for his genius. He continued to live in Alexandria until his death on April 29, 1933, from cancer of the larynx. It is recorded that his last motion before dying was to draw a circle on a sheet of blank paper, and then to place a period in the middle of it.

Cavafy’s poem below is the inspiration for this tribute to our field, which is where I am “In this place”

In this place (1929)
This is my home, the heart of my neighborhood,
The houses and cafes of my quarter,
These are the buildings that stand all around me,
And the streets that I wander every day;
In this place, year after year.

I have recreated these surroundings
In my joy and in my sorrow:
Through a lifetime of experience,
And in abundant detail.
This place has been entirely transformed
Into pure emotion, for me.

While Cavafy often writes from an urban perspective, his love of nature shines through in The morning sea, reflecting his sauntering eye and heart, as these photos reflect mine.

The morning sea (1915)

Let me stand here.
Let me enjoy this view for a while.
The morning sea
And the cloudless sky;
The brilliant blue
Against the pale yellow shore;
these colors are utterly beautiful,
As they shimmer in the sunlight.

Let me stand here.
Let me pretend that I can take this all in.
(I will tell you honestly
That this is what I saw when I arrived.)
And I will not be distracted
By my daydreams,
By my memories,
And those images of my past delights.

The first verse of this next beautiful poem is one of the most sublime of any I have encountered.

Beside an open window (1896)

On this clear autumn night,
Beside an open window,
For hour after hour, I remain,
In the perfect, voluptuous quiet.

The rain drips lightly from the leaves,
A sigh from this delicate universe
Resounds within my own vulnerable nature;
It is a sweet sigh, and rises up like a blessing.

My window looks out upon an unfamiliar world.
A murmuring spring evokes memories
That are fragrant and indescribable to me.

Near my window, a pair of wings flutters by;
The dewy spirits of autumn
Approach and encircle me,
And in the purest of languages, they speak.

I begin to feel a vague and widespread hope;
And in the sacred silence of creation,
My ears encounter faint and distant melodies,
I hear a crystalline, mystical music,
From the chorus of the stars.

Sunrise in Galveston to Sunset on the Big Muddy

On my way to Baton Rouge, I stayed in Galveston for an evening and sunrise walk on the beach.  It always feels so simply human to be on the ocean (or the gulf) waves lapping over my feet as the sand surrenders my soles to the earth.  Pulled out of thought and into the joy of being.

A great tip led me to take the ferry across the strand to the Bolivar peninsula, bedecked in flowers and candy colored homes raised high on stilts.  It was a refreshing spring saunter that helped me survive the onslaught of driving rain and maniacs on Hwy 10.

 

Palomino and the Dream Machine

Jim OstdickMy friend Jim Ostdick has just produced an e-book available on Amazon with vignettes from several thousand road miles  circumpedaling the US on his Long Haul Trucker touring bike: Palomino and the Dream Machine: A Retired Dude’s Bicycle Tour Around the Lower Forty-Eight United States 

He has chronicled some of this journey on his blog, but how much better to find them in one place for download on your kindle? And so reasonable!  Here are excerpts, reprinted by permission of the author from two of my favorite yarns:

Santa Barbie Land

2-20-15

The cool morning fog had nearly lifted by the time I exited Hwy 101 and headed south on Hollister Avenue into Goleta CA. Goleta is a suburb of Santa Barbara, a sprawl that includes Isla Vista and UCSB.

I was starved due to the previous night’s grab bag dinner, so I pulled into the first strip mall shopping center on my side of the road and started scouting for breakfast. Dismounting, I pushed the Dream Machine along a crowded row of businesses. Sushi. Subway. Phone store. Beauty salon.

Just as I was approaching the salon, with its neon signs flashing “Nails” and “Waxes” and “Tints,” the door popped open and out came Little Miss Perfect, Santa Barbie herself.

This early 20s girl was just the right height, just the right shape, < 5% body fat, tanned, toned, waxed tantalizingly bare except for her shining straight brown just right shoulder length perfectly trimmed model hair, color-matched, with upper and lower nails perfectly formed to easily slip into expensive slithery garments. She probably had perfect teeth, but I couldn’t tell you that because she didn’t show them to me.

She smelled really good. Her battery operated green eyes, though, were avoidance tools, focused on some plane unattainable to those mere mortals who poop and pee.

As she passed – glided – in front of me, her perfect little nose wrinkled slightly, disapprovingly, as if to announce “eww, it sweats” not to me personally but to me as part of that general population of beasts that are not shaped, waxed, toned, trimmed, polished, and related to hedge fund managers.

She disappeared and I continued, suddenly a lot more interested in the Cajun Kitchen Cafe and breakfast. I, as you know, heart breakfast.   Continued 

Bunkie Rhymes with Funky 

4-4-14

Bunkie LA is dead in the center of Louisiana swamp country. It is the home of Zutty Singleton and that, for some people at least, says it all. Bunkie, my friends, put the “o” in “oh nooooo.” It put the “ew” in “mildew.” It put the “ick” in “icky.” And long, long ago, Bunkie LA put the “eak” in “freak.”

This is where the woodsy woods woodsy meets the swampy swamp swampy. The result, of course, is the creepy creep creepsy. The landscape has some charm in the daytime if the Sun is out and the humidity is reasonably low, but generally that’s not the case. Usually, the sky is overcast and the air stunningly muggy or else lightning bolts are flying through the air alongside baseball-sized hail stones.

At night, you can forget it. This place is just plain haunted by dusk. You’ve heard of voodoo and all that. Hmphh, that’s for amateurs. Your average Louisiana grandma can turn a frog into a panther and back just by picking her nose and looking cross eyed. Everybody here is somebody else at least half the time. They live in two towns simultaneously and delve into nefarious mischief with rats and boars. Just this morning there was a picture in The Acadian of a boar with a boar body and a rat’s head. Maybe it was a rat with a rat’s head and a boar body, who knows. The editor of the paper, who went to newspaper school in AMERICA, implored citizens to cut this stuff out. It’s making him look bad to his college buddies.

Chicot State Park is just down the road. I rode through the park this morning during a brief break between the overnight tornado and the afternoon hurricane. A narrow asphalt road bisects the Park’s woods for about five miles. Beautiful pines and cypresses and palmettos grow in giant puddles of dark, shiny water with sunbeams shooting through gaps in the canopy. As nice as it appeared, I just knew it was a ruse. The Park was like the pretty girl in the horror movie whose hair goes all stringy right before her face melts and her teeth turn green. I was sure that if I parked the Dream Machine and set one foot in the woods I would be instantly covered in water moccasins and yanked into the murky depths by red-eyed rat boars.

Bunkie LA holds the Louisiana Corn Festival every June. Do not go. The corn is really opossum snout that just looks like corn until you get up close to it. And you know what happens after that. Stay home and find something constructive to do.

Peace, Love, and the Sheer Terror of Bicycling Through the Bayou,

Palomino

Speaking truth to fear – A Neolithic perspective

The hashtags keep multiplying: #Ferguson, #EricGarner, #CrimingWhileWhite, #ICantBreathe. The list has no real beginning and there’s no end in sight to media presentations of social pathology – rape, murder, war or our immanent destruction of the earth. It’s depressing and real, although imbalanced. For every step forward, must we take 4 steps back? How can we gain and maintain ground in our struggle to become more humane people?

Alicia Keyes’ new song is a powerful reminder of many who have given their lives for the advancement of love. Paul Alexander Wolf, half a world away, reminds us that civil rights has always meant rights for all people. Our political legacy holds both the best and the cruelest of our intentions. My friend Licia Berry writes about being broken open, something we experience both personally and culturally.

The proliferation of inflammatory “news programs” spewing racially charged misinformation has never been so successful, with recent November ratings for Fox News far surpassing its rivals.   Hate speech is fear mongering.  White America is losing all the ground it gained during the industrial revolution and a series of highly profitable wars, a real bummer for the lower 99%.   Judgement Day may become very unappealing for Christians who aren’t taken up in the Rapture. rapture  Post apocalyptic fantasy is big money at the box office, yet another sign of the decline of Western civilization.

How do we avoid creating a world held captive by the exquisite corpse of our unexpressed guilt and shame?  Perhaps we can start by looking at where we came from.  If we can face that truth, it might give us the platform we need to move beyond our fear of immigrants, people of color and the many other excuses we cling to for denying our shared humanity.

AncestryComposition_IllustrationPictured here is a sample map of the genomic composition of someone’s ancestry.  It’s similar to the maps my family and I have from the DNA tests we ordered from 23andMe. My own chart is largely Northern European, but my primary MtDNA (mother’s) genome is from a very early Neolithic migration from India/Anatolia into Southeastern Europe.  These were farmers, bringing agriculture and livestock to the hunter-gatherers who had survived centuries of glaciation in caves.  Interbreeding with small populations of Neanderthals, these cave dwellers also included other early Homo Sapiens populations like the now extinct Heidelbergensis and the  Denisovans.

Modern homo sapiens sapiens can be traced back to an original pair of humans we fondly call Adam and Eve, in Africa, roughly 150,000 – 100,000 years ago.   out_of_africaThe map to the right shows broad patterns of migration out of Africa, everyone’s original homeland.   Human beings are travelers, we are immigrants who have explored our world for hundreds of thousands of years.  Migration is the human condition, it was then and it is now.  Trying to stop the flow of humanity as we continue to seek shelter: #WeCantBreathe. It might be a good idea to come to some kind of peace before we seriously consider colonizing Mars, which is fast becoming more science than fiction.settlement-mug-trans As one who grew up reading Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter of Mars series, I appreciated the diversity of life forms in those stories and hope we will meet teachers who will help us outgrow our barbaric reliance on war and violence. A girl can dream.

Time will tell whether we can love the Earth enough not to destroy her.  Aside from a common history of love and war we must acknowledge that once homo sapiens were all dark skinned.  It’s the Neanderthal influence that gave Europeans their light hair and eyes.  WilmaWe also received genes that boosted our immune systems and helped us survive the cold. Over time, as more people settled in cooler environments, our skin and hair paled as an adaptation to lower UV levels.  But our common heritage is both African and dark brown.

Before I took this trip back in time and opened the horizon of my imagination to pre-history, I felt burdened by the violence, the racism and the lack of charity we show one another.  Passing laws that prohibit the feeding of the poor, that malign migrants or other races while proclaiming Christian righteousness?  We are so afraid that the centuries of colonial domination will turn against us, so afraid to look an American Indian person in the eye and realize we have committed genocide, decimating the native population by 97% in our heedless conquest of the New World.  Afraid to stand before a black person and acknowledge the undeniable and ongoing history of violence and racism  American European immigrants have perpetuated.  CrushOurEnemiesThe more we hate ourselves, the easier it is to hate each other.  There is another choice.  We can choose love, as the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King states so passionately below.  How to make amends? Time to find out.