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
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.
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.
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:
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
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,
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. 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.
Pictured 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. The 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. As one who grew up reading Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter of Marsseries, 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. We 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. The 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.
There is an international indigenous council of 13 Grandmothers who travel the world to bring healing prayers to the earth and her inhabitants. I met Hopi Grandmother Constance Mirabal in 1998, which I’ve written about in my post Magically Real and took part in a wisdom circle that Grandmother Florademayo led at the gathering. There were a number of indigenous women leading wisdom circles, which is a testament to the many programs at Ghost Ranch that honor our sacred connection to the earth. The opening prayer was led by Florademayo, who prayed and wept as she entered into spirit. Tears flowed often from our native presenters, sometimes as they felt personal grief and always on behalf of the divine mother. I’ve been in sweat lodges, sun dances, pow wows and meetings with Native American medicine people. I have witnessed the ways in which they enter other dimensions when the visions flow. Some of the dream symbols Florademayo shared with us were the healing power of triangles (shout out to Bucky Fuller) and her vision of the coming renewal of humanity, symbolized by the birth of the golden baby. The baby is a cross-cultural motif seen by people the world over. Florademayo’s passion for collecting seeds is another part of the renewal and the protection of heritage plants. The blue corn pictured here is a symbol of the Hopi people. There is a compassion, directness and humor about many of the indigenous people I’ve met. There is also a reservoir of sorrow, released in tears that often flow in healing ceremonies. For those of European descent, white guilt is no stranger at these gatherings. We had moments when it was the elephant in the room and others when it was on full display. It’s hard to avoid – the collective unconscious is burdened with pain and unspoken apologies for the sins of our fathers, which continue to this day. When she was asked by Hyun Kyung how she dealt with the anguish of her peoples’ genocide, Florademayo said, “You accept the past, move forward and quit looking back.” Perhaps our only hope for our planet and our humanity is to come together in healing for our past, our present and thus, our future. The collective shadow is in dire need of integration. It can no longer be projected onto the other, for we are all other and we are all one. Our world needs us to become the humane beings we really are. I shared my poem, these tears of joy with Grandmother Florademayo, affirming our connection to the beauty of the living light. May we continue to heal in love.
I sat in the morning sun watching the garden grow
Light glistening on spider webs
spun in moon’s rays just hours ago
Hummingbird gulped nectar
fueling its dizzy, spiraling flight
The light found me, seeping into my essence,
opening the eye that sees behind the veil
I saw the breath of the earth, rising up in radiating
needles of light, knitting the fabric of life
growing around and through me
So infused was I, witnessing this moment of creation
that tears fell softly down my cheeks
Moving beyond sorrow or joy
Naked in the presence of my Soul
The breath and the light, commingled
In loving recognition that moments
such as these are rare glimpses beneath
the endless parade of dos and don’ts
that occupy our daily lives
In the garden, sipping the wine of early morning’s light
I am moved to see what loving hand molds
This day into being
When women come together, we dance. We dance our thoughts, our sorrows and our joy. Flowing like water, drops in an ocean – we recognize that we are one. Gloria Steinem said empathy arises when all five senses are present and engaged. It was impossible not to feel and embrace otherness – all we will never know about ourselves and each other.
Ghost Ranch, set in the high mesa of New Mexico is best known from the paintings of Georgia O’Keefe, whose home is on the ranch. She spent years traveling through the box canyons, painting the cliffs from many perspectives. They transform dramatically during the day and night and are as varied as the people who call New Mexico home.
The Deepening Women’s Wisdom workshop, led by Alice Walker, Gloria Steinem and Hyun Kyung Chung was supported by Indigenous women’s healing circles for humankind and for our mother the earth. Many of the attendees were ministers, therapists, teachers and feminists who came to share their story and to renew our commitment to move forward in the face of decades of creeping inequality. This was the first time I attended a gathering of women and didn’t know how easy it would be to flow with the stream of our relational energy. I felt illuminated by new friendships unfolding in the vibrant beauty of the land. We respected our leaders and each other in equal measure. The conversation embraced us all, no matter our hardships, privilege or age. I felt the gentle grace of the holy spirit settle upon us like a soft cloud when we gathered in the evening to reflect on the day’s activities.
Connecting with the earth was part of this renewing journey, something that typically encourages me to wander away from humans. Making new friends, dancing with abandon and learning with and about the amazing journeys of the women who attended opened up my heart to people. The stars filled the sky with dancing lights and streaming galaxies. Our songs and stories filled my heart with love. Thanks be to all that is and special thanks to Dr. Leona Stuckey-Abbott, the (Ir)Reverend Shannon A White, and Licia Berry for making this journey so heartfelt and memorable.
Ghost Ranch (beloved by Georgia O’Keefe) rolls over red cliffs and yellow cottonwoods clattering alongside quaking aspen trees in the sparkling light of the high mesa. Most of the posts to follow will feature talks from the Women’s Deepening Wisdom Retreat with Alice Walker, Gloria Steinem and Chung Hyun Kyung. But for me, nothing is more centering than the sound of wind blowing through the grass and leaves. Part one of my journey here at the ranch.