Gloria Steinem – The Power of Air – Connectivity

GloriaSteinemGloria Steinem is 80 years old, tall, unbowed and aging naturally. Her voice is strong and despite chronicling the setbacks women have faced in the last number of decades, she retains a light, dry sense of humor.  Ms. Steinem took us on an historical tour of patriarchy – in religion, government and culture.  Coming to the conference from Austin, TX (where women are fighting to retain control of their reproductive rights) I resonated with her statement that men control women by controlling reproduction.  Patriarchy has institutionalized rape, genocide and created a capitalistic system in which fealty to God, King and husband have been legislated for centuries.  She views monotheism as religious imperialism with an imperative to subjugate nature and thus, women and children.  It’s hard to argue when women are still fighting the battle for fair and equitable representation in the workplace, at home and in government.  What would the world look like if women were in charge?

In Texas, many of us have been struggling to get out the vote.   Three of the young people in my office (students at a university) either were not registered to vote or did not know who was on the ballot.  Among other important considerations, we are electing a Governor and Lt. Governor who will control the money and the laws that will represent the wishes of the people or those of powerful elites.  Ms. Steinem rightly said that successful social movements are like a tree, starting with the roots and spreading upward.  Our power lies in how and where we spend our money  and in exercising our right to vote.

One of the most powerful stories Gloria told was the story of how Clarence Thomas eventually came to be appointed to the United States Supreme Court. In 1982 John Danforth, a Congressman from Missouri narrowly defeated his Democratic challenger, Harriet Woods, by roughly 2,000 votes in his bid for reelection. He had earlier appointed Clarence Thomas as his aide, introducing him to highly placed Republicans in Washington DC.  Thomas was subsequently appointed to the United States court of Appeals by President GHW Bush. Then, only 16 months later he survived a hard fought confirmation hearing by a 52-48 vote (after Anita Hill accused him of sexual harassment). He was now the most conservative supreme court justice in the United States and has cast pivotal votes in electing George W Bush, among other decisions that have changed the course of history and will continue to do so.   This is one of the best arguments I’ve heard for voting.   Gloria Many people feel disenfranchised and unrepresented by their elected leaders.  But I agree with Gloria; we really can make a difference by using our dollars wisely and by voting. There was a 13 year old girl at the conference who stood up on the last evening as we were summarizing what we would take home from our experience.  She spoke passionately about how grateful she was to know that feminism is alive and well and that she now knew that whether or not she was considered weird by her friends, she had people.  Let’s continue to fight the good fight for we are not done.

Shelter from the storm

Seduction is the opposite of freedom. The promise of release, satisfaction and pleasure fueled the fantasy of sex, drugs and rock n’roll. It was fun, it was tragic, it was (often fatally) flawed. The hangover was a real bitch and by the time it was done, so was I.

My friends were beautiful, younger and still clubbing. They introduced me to the man who would become my husband, a man I loved and hated and eventually left, to save my soul. There were good times, many fantastic shows and a great community of friends who made sure the party never ended. It’s hard to write about a time that arouses such longing and even more regret. In the end I admitted that our love was truly in vain and that train left the station.

If you ever find yourself hating someone, you will pay the price in self-loathing. I’m still working through the dark grottoes carved into my soul, honoring the good, releasing the bad and mending the hole in my heart. If only it were this simple.

Beware of seduction, it is a lie. The only freedom is found in truth.

The Shadow Knows

This poem The Elusive Shadow is from Michael Jackson’s Dancing the Dream. While remaining a step ahead of its looming presence he finally turns to face it and sees his soul.

We fear the unknown, the numinous and the dark but it is the womb from which we spring, a well of dreams. The shadow, like a thief in the night offers many possibilities, not the least of which is love.

Long associated with the feminine, many shadow motifs reflect our preoccupation with sex, seduction and the femme fatale. femme-fatale-lauren-bacall-nakedmonkey-tumblr

I love the way this dance of the moon by Yang LiPing brings grace and power to the shadow in night’s light.

Yet the shadow looms large, even grotesquely in our minds eye. All the things we cannot accept about ourselves can progress from morbid fascination, shame and resentment to autonomous complexes, wrecking all kinds of internal havoc.

There are times it demands our attention, forcing us to deal with a problem or reminding us to laugh. Here, Fred Astaire projects both collective and personal shadow elements, dancing with his shadow in black face, in 1936 a tribute to Bill Bojangles Robinson from Swingtime.

And of course, there’s our favorite mutual shadow projection, romance. Love, what’s not funny/tragic/chaotic/comforting?

They Came Together – Paul Rudd, Amy Poehler by teasertrailer

I Am One and Many

When we are at home with ourselves, peace finds a heart in which to grow.  It is a light we can share, compassion. So much fear is projected onto the “other” that hate spreads like a contagion on the news.  It just doesn’t stop, that heart numbing chatter, the internet offering images of school shootings and cute baby animals in the blink of an eye. Imagine you were a peaceful space explorer who tuned in to the projected psychosis of the human mind via waves of social media.  Would you stop?

Bowie_TMWFTE The ego’s job is to stake out territory we describe as “me.” Sometimes, that’s all we see.  Yet, I AM. Not the giant Me, the human being (I) of which we are all members.  It is not an exclusive club; we are one in space and time.  And I would argue, we all add to the human experience, transcending time.  Sociologists have debated the pros and cons of “The Social Organism” for centuries. MIT has a Center for Collective Intelligence that seeks to harness the power of computers to encourage cultural evolution, creating a more civilized society.  But the social pathology we are bombarded by every minute of the day is rooted in emotional suffering more than the symptomatic ideologies that compete for supremacy. 9384bec680c46a6c5f6f05f610827c09b78e879f

I remember reading about Pando, the trembling giant, an 80,000 year old stand of Aspen trees once thought to be the largest living organism in the world. Aspen trees are clones, sending out new tree shoots from the connected root of the whole.  Pando, identical male trees covering 107 acres in Utah has not only been dethroned, it is dying.

The reigning largest organism lives in Oregon, It is the Honey Mushroom or Armillaria ostoyae. Scientists have estimated a single specimen found in Malheur National Forest in Oregon to have been growing for some 2,400 years, covering 3.4 square miles (8.4 km²) and colloquially named the “Humongous Fungus.”

tumblr_mueucbrJeK1qh85kyo1_1280 One step closer to humanity, this parasitic mushroom reproduces sexually and absorbs nutrients by sending fibrous tentacles through the root systems of conifers, in plate like sheets, sucking the life from the land and its host trees.  One of the best ways to produce disease resistant forests is to plant mixed species.  This creates myriad, symbiotic life forms that control predatory dominance.

And what of the human organism?  We are a mixed species, adapted to every nook and cranny of our host, the earth.  If we are to avoid paraciticism, our diversity must be celebrated, survival stress reduced and efforts made to integrate the individual into a healthy whole society.  It’s time for sane, compassionate acceptance of our differences.  But we are stuck fighting the symptoms, the political, economic and religious beliefs that create enemies in every direction.  Fear, anger and love are forces for societal cohesion.  We saw how powerful the angry Fuhrer became, moving a nation to war, building a core around hatred of the “other”.   It seems that the part cannot overcome the power of the whole, so eventually the fury of the Nazis fell to the union of allies.  How many other tyrants have since come and gone?

Every religious tradition extols peace and the primacy of human love, yet many will not recognize that which they share.  The omnipotent, omnipresent God remains ineffable, somewhere out there, like a holy shadow.  It is the shadow – that which we reject in ourselves and others – we must integrate, both personally and collectively.  If we don’t act on the need to create a common center, recognizing our inner flame of love for humanity, we will continue to move in a parasitic direction, devouring our planet and each other.

It is up to us

What goes around comes around – Saturn, time and Frances Ha

Frances Ha is a film co-authored by Greta Gerwig (Frances) and Noah Baumbach.  Frances aspires to be a professional dancer, interning with a modern dance troupe in New York City, hoping for an invitation to join the company as a full-time member. But Frances, who is 27, lives hand to mouth and sees her options dwindling. This period (27-30) can be among the most creative times of life, Shelly's Mirrorcoinciding with the return of Saturn‘s birth position in one’s astrological chart.  The natal and progressed charts are maps of the psyche as it unfolds in time.  Pioneers Dane Rudhyar and Carl Jung used psychological astrology to reveal the Self as a path for becoming whole, building on a tradition that has historic roots around the world.  I am now approaching my second Saturn return and facing another widening field of possibilities as I look to retirement.  It begs the perfect Saturnian question: Are my dreams real? Which dreams can I realize?

In my mid 20′TreeEvs to early 30’s I rode a wave of art, music and love in Austin.  It was a time of energetic and fluid potential.   I valued time over money, (much as Frances Ha) living the halcyon days of my youth with carefree abandon. Those days of grasshopper summers are long gone. Several lifetimes later I roost above an open field, perched at the desk of my upstairs studio and seek a creative path forward. Deskview  As we age, nostalgia exudes a powerful scent, lulling the mind into reverie, often of the past rather than the future.  Are there fresh fields to plow, new adventures that decades of 40 hour work weeks have not entombed?  Saturn demands that we look to the present while incorporating the lessons of the past.  It is now that the spark of creativity ignites. We are admonished to stay active, to exercise and eat right and to maintain and cultivate new friendships.  Clearly, this is sage advice and research supports the crossword puzzle approach to mental acuity.  But dare we lose the mysterious beauty of life’s little delights?  I’m fortunate to have discovered digital photography in round two of my tango with the visual arts.  It’s easy to keep a small camera handy to capture often fleeting glimpses of beauty peeking out from behind the banal.  HatChairWhile not everyone gets excited about seeing a hummingbird tongue, it was a charming early morning novelty and one that I may never see again.  I do not underestimate the power of little victories or of nature’s desire for connection.  Going outside to smell the sweet grass, perfume rushing out with the rain – sublime.  It is that which seeps into my blood, calling my child into the present and reminding me to really be who I am on this earth.  Watching clouds sail through gorgeous blue skies hoists my soul like a kite, feeling the breeze caressing my body. rainfield When the senses grow weary and overwhelmed with media input – get thee outdoors.  I’m aware of the irony here, but my quest to reveal beauty in the little things is shared in good faith. beach featherThat sense of appreciation for life, the gratitude one feels when realizing how fortunate we are to live like kings and queens of yore, provides existential context.  Is this the fountain of youth? Perhaps so.  I do know that when I perceive a light infused scene or feel the light moving through me, I feel vibrantly alive.

So, while some see Saturn’s limitations, I see an opportunity to dig deep into the beauty of everyday life. It might not be exciting, but moments of opening, of appreciation and connection are food for the soul. Truly, in Beauty it is Finished.


Moved to tears

I sat in the morning sun watching the garden grow
Light glistening on spider webs
spun in moon’s rays just hours ago
Hummingbird gulps 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 earth, rising to meet 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, commingling
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
The day into being

The Accidental Pilgrim Part II

Sometimes, just before an epiphany, a feeling of discomfort, even torment occurs. Like birth, a deep realization can move slowly through its narrow canal until it is born into the light of one’s awareness. There are Eureka moments that splash into view occasionally, apparently out of nowhere. But in some deep bovine level of mind, that cud has been chewed until its bliss point ignites. Such was my mood as I grappled with BBQ Jesus in the blue room in Santa Fe, surrounded by icons of the Virgin Mary with my sacred soil from Chimayo on the table next to my bed. This room was unusually peaceful, with a cool breeze blowing through the window as I drifted into dreams while praying for help in understanding why the bloody image of Christ attracted people oppressed by Christian conquerors.

No dreams brought me an answer, at least none that I could remember. I awoke with a clear vision of Christ as a liberating force in the world. It wasn’t just the aspect of death and then resurrection; it was being in the trenches with the downtrodden and overthrowing tyranny. I can’t convey the unexpected force of this awakening. After years of steeping myself in the failure of Catholic and Protestant churches to truly minister the gospel of Jesus, grace found a way to open my heart. I do believe in the wholly (making whole) spirit, the comforter who has delivered me from various circles of hell, sometimes with a swift kick in the behind. I certainly did not expect to see Liberation theology playing in the theater of my mind. The next morning I talked with my friend Ralph about my new found realization – that by seeing and understanding crucifixion, we find a path to resurrection. He told me that his cousin (a nun who works with the poor in New Mexico) meditates and sleeps in the blue room when she visits Ralph and Danny in Santa Fe. I had been following the Nuns on the Bus tour, which gave me hope that there were good Catholic leaders willing to step forward on behalf of the poor. The nuns courted severe consequences from the church fathers, who felt they had become tainted by feminist ideologies, but they were determined to walk in faith. The nuns drew a line in the spiritual sand when they declared they were following the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit.

This spirit moves us to comfort the suffering, including the wounded savior. In Jungian terms, healing the wounded God (and thus ourselves) includes a growing exchange of energy between the ego (me) and the psyche or Self (I), aided by spirit as ally. For those interested in exploring this in depth I recommend Jeffrey Raff’s wonderful book Healing the Wounded God. As cells in the body of Christ, we share all the joy and suffering life offers together. This gift in which we are asked to grow beyond our assumptions, even of who and what we are, never stops giving. There are always moments in which we yearn for peace. Sometimes they come through grace and sometimes we must make the effort to find sanctuary. But this discomfort goads us to move and grow. It’s hard to believe the changes in my perception of the suffering Christ since I awoke in the blue room. The agony that life can bring when we see our neighbors suffering invites compassion, toward oneself and others. In each moment of pain we seek solace. Finding comfort, sharing compassion and healing brings a resurrection of spirit, of faith that we are loved. Since we began crying as babies, we learn to give and receive the comfort of love. I see the tears of Mary, the blood of Christ in the pain of the world, in every child, old person, victim and soldier. The choice to seek and to give comfort, to grow in compassion leads to resurrection in love. Love lifts us up with every glorious and tragic aspect of this crucifixion called life.

For those who wish to cultivate the presence of wholeness, of love, Christian contemplatives offer the Centering Prayer, a daily practice in which one opens to the indwelling presence of God. In the literature it is described as simply resting in God beyond thoughts, words and emotions.

Buddhist meditation goes beyond desire (including the desire for union with God) to cultivate detachment and objectivity, mindfulness – beyond the illusion of life into reality. Taming the mind by a mental focus of one-pointedness and following the natural in and out breath creates an inner calm, allowing one to withdraw the senses from the world. The awareness of three stages of being: impermanence, suffering and non-self arises as the practice takes one beyond the body and into the intuitional realm. Much preparation is done before deeper stages of meditation are taught.

All cultures have contemplative practices that help us center our focus inwardly. For those who have found themselves at the intersection of in and out, up and down, us and them, words do not explain. It becomes a way to anchor our restless mind as we stumble through the complexities of life, allowing humility to keep us on the path of love. Listen to your heartbeat, it’s synching with the pulse of the universe, or as Joseph Campbell would say, “Follow your bliss.”

New Mexican dining simply enchanting

Decades have whizzed by since I last sauntered New Mexico. In the halcyon days of my youth, camping and hiking, I wasn’t thinking about what New Mexican cuisine had to offer. The mountains called to me, horny toads bounded at our feet and the air was crisp and clean. The only pictures I have from those trips are in my mind’s eye, as reliable as my new love of photography but harder to share. These days my sensibilities are more bourgeois, and I look forward to the comfort and elegant aesthetic of adobe haciendas and fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables. The bright energy of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains infuses inhabitants with both a spark and sangfroid that’s truly revitalizing. I was very fortunate to have hosts in Taos (Lucky and Becky Tomblin) with exquisite taste who introduced me to some wonderful, very diverse dining experiences. I arrived in Taos on Thursday, in time for Music on the Square which attracted both tourists and locals for free family fun. Already the light had captured my imagination. Perfect weather demands patio dining, which we found at Antonio’s, a charming garden restaurant filled with hollyhock flowers. It didn’t hurt that tame hummingbird moths flitted about, entirely comfortable with diners enjoying guacamole salad made fresh at the table and many more and less traditional Mexican inspired dishes. I ordered the Huitlacoche and mushroom enchiladas with a smooth, slightly spicy green mole sauce. They tasted a little like wilted kale or spinach enchiladas, a very pleasing and aesthetically sublime supper in the Taos twilight with nary a mosquito in sight. Fresh fruits and vegetables were as vibrant as the mountain air. Honestly, who can argue with a land in which apricot and pinon trees grow wild? Another stand out for happy hour and lunch was the KTAO solar radio station’s daily bar and food truck outdoor get together. While the lemonade and rice and mushroom cheeseburger with sweet potato fries satisfied my burger craving, the friendly service and multi-generational Gemütlichkeit at the foot of Wheeler Peak was memorable. Whether breakfast, lunch or dinner, every dish I was served included fresh sauteed vegetables. The Saturday Farmer’s Market was a testament to the quality of locally farmed produce. Accompanied by mariachis, we gathered peaches, apricots, plums and fresh greens to compliment the pasture raised chicken eggs we enjoyed for breakfast. Quirky, tasteful with a discerning clientele, restaurants in Taos jostled for attention and did not lack for an appreciative audience. The Love Apple, a repurposed yet not quite renovated organic restaurant (see link), provides the perfect window to the Taos food ethos. It was monsoon season, which brought the rain daily around 3:00 to keep things green. The apricots and plums were smaller than we’re used to seeing in Tejas, but sweeter in handy single bite servings. I left Taos with a firm resolve to return soon and took the High Road to Santa Fe, with only one day to see my friends and the city. I stopped at the Rancho de Chimayo Restaurant and had a delicious lunch of shrimp pesto enchiladas with a refreshing sangria blanca to put me in the mood for El Sanctuario de Chimayo. I’ll cover that more in a follow up posting, but suffice to say that the side trip to Chimayo was worthwhile. Arriving in Santa Fe, I enjoyed the warmth and hospitality of the Poster Boyz of Santa Fe, my great friends Ralph Lopez and Daniel Link, both Austin ex-patriots. Danny’s pozole was a homemade delight so I only ate breakfast at one Santa Fe restaurant, the Plaza Cafe before heading back to Albuquerque. One of my favorite dishes on the trip was a short stack of blue corn pinon nut pancakes. Eggs cooked just right, homemade turkey sausage with fresh herbs and fresh fruit aside, don’t leave New Mexico without trying them. I will be looking forward to my return saunter to both Santa Fe and Taos, certainly something wonderful to explore in every season.

Vital Farms gets it eggxactly right

I love following my symbolic use of the egg in the Shell and Kernel post with the entirely somatic experience of Vital Farms, a kind of Elysian Fields for chickens. Humans flocked to the tour yesterday allowing us to mingle with pastured chickens and their protector humans and canines. Vital Farms uses moveable coops to ensure fresh fields for foraging and organic feed for optimum health and hen well-being. For those of us who remember the movie Chicken Run it’s confirmation that chickens really do win! For more information about Vital Farms and other organic and local foods initiatives visit their website and blog. Chicken and human flocks shown mingling below.

Wifebiz for your Lifebiz

Tis the season for errands galore but who has time to work, shop and cook?  Then there are the inevitable gift returns, holiday meals and care for children, pets and parents.  Calgon, take me away! I don’t know what happened to Calgon, but in its stead, let Wifebiz offer you the support you need during the holidays and beyond. “What can Wifebiz do for me?” you ask. These days, who has time to cook nutritional meals? By the time you finish making a shopping list, grocery shopping looms, wedged between small grabs at sanity like yoga or working out. What if someone could put it together for you?

As I perused the web looking for wifely material, I discovered that nutrition has come a long way from the 70’s. Give babyboomers props for surviving:

The Gallery of Regrettable Food
and from the Institute of Official Cheer we are reminded of some of the more psychologically compromising effects of interior design, correctly identified as Interior Desecration in this lovely site. I just can’t stop myself now, how about making a fashion statement? See what you missed? Is it any wonder we turned to drugs?

Wifebiz consultants offer value pack errand services but are not offering fashion consulting or interior decorating tips at this time. Take a moment and “like” Wifebiz on Facebook. And consider giving yourself or a loved one the gift with no calories, a gift that makes everyone’s life a little easier: Call or email Paloma or Amy at: 512-222-WIFE (9433) You’ll be glad you did.

Sunday Stroll and the Farmer’s Market at Community Renaissance Market

Braving the heat, I stayed on the South side of the hike and bike trail Sunday for my midday stroll. Courting the shade has its advantages, but it was still a little daft to wander out at noon. In need of refreshment, I stopped at the Sunday Farmer’s Market at my neighborhood Community Renaissance Market and visited with Don Morrow, the chef of Tomorrow’s Meals Today and food distributor for the farmers’ produce. They have a nice collaboration going with Native Nom Nom Cafe, profiled earlier, and great deals on food boxes, local olive oil and bakery products and mixes. Natural meats and prepared meals are now also being offered.

Inside, I lucked into Roz’s Red Hot Tamales. Roz is a third generation tamale maker and has preservative, gluten and lard free tamales, both savory and sweet. I tried the spinach and feta, the black bean and corn and the chicken tomatillo tamales. Bueno! She had already sold out of the pumpkin and sweet potato so I’ll get there a little earlier next time. Speaking of sweet, check out the key lime mini cheesecakes and the cupcakes from the Sugar Tooth Bakery and Sugar Pops. You will want to stop by sometime and sample the cafe and food table delights, both natural and home grown. This community space is rocking South Austin!