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 across a bright 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.
I was introduced to the Graeber House at 410 at It’s Environmentally Inspired, another pop up show featuring a variety of artists, sculptors and potters. This weekend show: Color Pops – Portals Within in partnership with Pecan Street Gallery, featured visual artist Jim Waltrip in his first solo show.
Jim, a native Texan, grew up in San Antonio and has lived in Austin 20 years. He captures organic imagery such as flowers, fruits, herbs, and leaves using high resolution digital scanners and macro photography. The images are rendered onto metallic substrates and mounted under acrylic glass and resins. The resulting pieces are detailed, vibrant, colorful images that celebrate the infinite complexity of life.
Jim is the owner of the Graeber House, an architectural marvel tucked between the 512 Bar and the Museum of the Weird, at once in the thick of the action and yet, a sanctuary of good taste. If you have been to dirty sixth lately, you know what a rarity that is. Fortunately, it’s a block away from 5th street with Antone’s, Eddie V’s, Russian House and Trinity Hall.
Keep an eye out for more weeknight pop up shows and cultural events from Jim Waltrip and Suzy French. The Graeber House is well worth the visit.
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.
Vernon “Spot” Barnett carries his eighty years like a gentleman, his storied career working with Ike and Tina Turner, Ray Charles, James Brown and closer to home – Bobby Blue Bland and the West Side horns with Doug Sahm and Augie Meyer, gracing decades and genres with his signature style. A native of San Marcos, Texas, Spot is a local icon and friend of our hostess, Becky Tomblin, who has sponsored many musicians from San Antonio to Austin. Lucky Tomblin, bandleader and producer of the Clifford Antone biopic Antone’s, Home of the Blues was a beloved patron of artists and musicians who continue struggling to make it in towns that have become far too expensive for them to live.
Enjoy this master sax man and storyteller, a wise and shining soul of eighty years, still in love with life.
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.
It’s been a long time coming. Since Europeans came to the New World (new to them) and started killing the indigenous people, our collective shadow has loomed large, often obscuring the idealism that created our republic. During and after the decimation of Native tribes, European Amerikans captured and enslaved Africans, who were then used, abused, bought and sold. Women were also subject to the rule of white men, the only persons deemed worthy of owning property, voting and governing. So, it’s not surprising that another white male will soon be installed as “the leader of the free world.”
Despite her qualifications, Hillary Clinton and untried Donald Trump polled as two of the most deeply disliked candidates in history. They were ripe for shadow projections from people angry about many different things. The voters picked the candidate who best reflected their anger, fear and aggression, one who capitalized on a willingness to ignore important precedents like releasing tax returns or refusing to disavow the Ku Klux Klan. PEOTUS did insist that these acts stop only after he was elected by pandering to white supremacists. And he still hasn’t released his taxes.
When we try to explain “wha happened,” it defies reason. Truth took a back seat to propaganda and there is no apparent end in sight. Propaganda targets the emotions, those racist dog whistles and fake news stories that were so successful in driving fearful, angry voters to the polls. They speak directly to the unconscious. We chose to repress guilt, shame, truth and let territoriality and greed light the way back to Amerika’s greatness again. Rather than facing our ourselves in the twisting labyrinth of our collective unconscious, we project our fear, anger and hatred onto each other, manifesting the collective shadow.
‘‘The shadow,’’ wrote Jung (1963), is a primordial part of our human inheritance, which, try as we might, can never be eluded. The pervasive Freudian defense mechanism known as projection is how most people deny their shadow, unconsciously casting it onto others so as to avoid confronting it in oneself. Such projection of the shadow is engaged in not only by individuals but groups, cults, religions, and entire countries, and commonly occurs during wars and other contentious conflicts in which the outsider, enemy or adversary is made a scapegoat, dehumanized, and demonized. Two World Wars and the current escalation of violence testify to the terrible truth of this collective phenomenon. Since the turn of the twenty-first century we are witnessing a menacing resurgence of epidemic demonization or collective psychosis in the seemingly inevitable violent global collision between radical Islam and Judeo-Christian or secular western culture, each side projecting its collective shadow and perceiving the other as evil incarnate. As it becomes harder to tamp down the strong emotions that remain unexpressed, autonomous complexes are created. These complexes can act independent of reason, morality and even self-preservation.”
This election was bought and sold by every trick of our collective shadow. Half of eligible voters stayed home and half of the remaining voters succumbed to our collective bias toward bipolar rule. Unconscious sheeple are easy pickings for the big bad wolves of Wall Street. Didn’t we just learn that lesson? Wake up already. The shadow demands our attention so we can become whole.
About that ray of hope. Thanks to the leadership of the water protectors at Standing Rock, American Indians confronted corporate Amerika and won. The world was watching, and many came to help. Then hundreds, thousands of war veterans marched to serve as human shields for those who stood up for the river. They were willing to shield the water protectors from the water cannons, the dog bites and the rubber bullets of the storm troopers, to protect the right of the people to resist incursion. These veterans then publicly acknowledged the genocide, the broken treaties, the brutality.
They apologized and were shown forgiveness. Our soldiers fought the shadow: the guilt, shame and horror and were forgiven by its victims. This is an act of consciousness, a light shining in the shadows that threaten to control us. Tears streamed from my eyes as I watched Wesley Clark Jr. name the violence we wrought on the Lakota Nation. As he kneeled before Chief Leonard Crow Dog, everyone was moved to tears. His radical act of bravery, of truth began a healing, “World Peace” as Leonard Crow Dog announced with his blessing. We are indebted to the indigenous people who should receive reparations from the government instead of more betrayals.
Owning the truth begins withdrawing the shadow projections, the blame and the shame and offers hope for beginning anew. The shadow is in and all around us. It thrives on ignorance, fear and rage, in violence and despair. Calling it out, naming it and beginning to make amends goes a long way in repairing the damage our denial perpetuates. These warriors and community activists will go to Flint, MI next, where poor people (largely African American) do not have potable water and the mayor is talking about not providing drinking water for his citizens who have suffered from lead pipe contamination for years. White Amerika must also acknowledge the horror perpetuated by slavery. It is time to make amends to our people who continue to suffer the sins of white entitlement, of privileging the few over the many. Only when we confront our ongoing immoral, opportunistic policies will the shadow begin to lose it’s power and be integrated into a mature, responsible society. It’s up to us, this battle is worth waging.
After an interminable, almost two year primary and presidential election battle, Donald J. Trump prevailed with the majority of electoral college votes. His opponent, Hillary Clinton is still gaining popular votes in California and will likely have one to two million votes more than Trump. The electorate is divided almost equally between men and women; those with or without a college degree and urban and rural voters. Voters who were disenfranchised from both parties wrote in candidates or chose from the Libertarian or Green Party, which racked up more than 4% of the combined vote. Ralph Nader, who helped to ensure George W. Bush’s victory over Al Gore, garnered 2.7% of the vote for the Green Party in 2000. For more details, see this Washington Post article. Of course, only half of eligible voters voted in this election.
Click the map to create your own at 270toWin.com
The election’s urban/rural divide is discussed in Helena Bottemiller Evich’s article in Politico Revenge of the Rural Voter:
“A lot of us in rural areas, our ears are tuned to intonation,” said Davis, who lives in Whitesburg, Kentucky, a Trump stronghold. “We think people are talking down to us. What ends up happening is that we don’t focus on the policy — we focus on the tones, the references, the culture.”
Intonation over policy suited Trump’s campaign strategy to a T.
A Pew Research article on changing demographic voting trends in presidential elections since 1980 shows white voters sticking together with a growing split in non and college educated populations. A 30% showing of Latino voters breaking for Trump also warns against conflating various groups (those of Cuban and Mexican origin, for example) which diverged in their choices and helped deliver Florida to the Republicans. While turnout was down from the Obama elections, Black voters were solidly Democratic.
Issues of race, trade and gender dominated election coverage, with little or no attention paid to environmental concerns or to substantive policy discussions. The race to the bottom has further estranged Democrats and Republicans and both parties are likely to suffer fragmentation and serious realignment. So in this messy, polarized America, what is to become of the children?
When rural and urban cultures are almost exclusively self-replicating, we need to find ways to communicate our commonality. If we don’t, the same pattern of lurching from dispossessed right to left and back again will prevail. Aren’t you sick and tired of those who are in power pitting us against each other? Will they ever have enough?
The American chessboard is littered with corporate robber barons competing for public resources from: Nestle, who is buying water and claiming it is not a fundamental human resource, to legislation opening protected parklands for oil and gas drilling and privatizing taxpayer funded entitlements to bankroll the empire. Global movements toward authoritarian regimes are accelerating and aspiring oligarchs are circling. Everyday people are suffering the consequences, yet refusing to join together because the incessant rhetoric of fear and hate on 24/7 news cycles ensures mistrust. Those news outlets are also owned by a few billionaires.
There are so many issues to discuss, this city and country divide is just one. But, it is a conversation that must begin. I’m thinking around food and maybe farming. In the meantime . . .
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.