Friday, February 26, 2010
Oliver loped out onto the dark stage, white hair in a shoulder length bob, mom-jeans a little too short for her rangy long legs, and a simple sweater. She stood at the podium cracking jokes, telling funny anecdotes betwixt and between her poems that at once transported us into a deeper appreciation for the little, important things of life, grasshoppers, how a dog speaks love, the waves parting to allow you in, and then challenged us: "Tell me, what is it you want to do with your one wild and precious life?"
Her voice is beautiful, I heard others commenting on its quality as we left en masse. "I have a dog and it's my intention to make him famous," Oliver said as she introduced us to the first of four poems about Percy (named for the poet.)
Our new dog, named for the beloved poet,
ate a book which unfortunately we had
Fortunately, it was the Bhagavad Gita,
of which many copies are available.
Every day now, as Percy grows
into the beauty of his life, we touch
his wild, curly head and say,
"Oh, wisest of little dogs."
I have a little dog who likes to nap with me.
He climbs on my body and puts his face in my neck.
He is sweeter than soap.
He is more wonderful than a diamond necklace,
which can't even bark.
I would like to take him to Kashmir and the Ukraine,
and Jerusalem and Palestine and Iraq and Darfur,
that the sorrowing thousands might see his laughing mouth.
I would like to take him to Washington, right into
the oval office
where Donald Rumsfeld would crawl out of the president's
and kneel down on the carpet, and romp like a boy.
For once, for a moment, a rational man.
In honor of her friends in the audience, she read "The Journey," which is what made me cry:
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
their bad advice--
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do--
determined to save
the only life you could save.
And, an excerpt from Flare:
I mention them now,
I will not mention them again.
It is not lack of love
nor lack of sorrow.
But the iron thing they carried, I will not carry.
I give them--one, two, three, four--the kiss of courtesy,
of sweet thanks,
of anger, of good luck in the deep earth.
May they sleep well. May they soften.
But I will not give them the kiss of complicity.
I will not give them the responsibility for my life.
Did you know that the ant has a tongue
with which to gather in all that it can
Did you know that?
The poem is not the world.
It isn't even the first page of the world.
But the poem wants to flower, like a flower.
It knows that much.
It wants to open itself,
like the door of a little temple,
so that you might step inside and be cooled and refreshed,
and less yourself than part of everything.
(Read the whole poem here.)
"A poet should be a good reporter," Oliver replied to a question during the brief Q&A. "Pay attention to a lot of things and write it down, and sometimes you don't realize it's your own story."
"Have You Ever Tried to Enter the Long Black Branches"
Have you ever tried to enter the long black branches
of others lives —
tried to imagine what the crisp fringes, full of honey,
from the branches of the young locust trees, in early summer,
Do you think this world is only an entertainment for you?
Never to enter the sea and notice how the water divides
with perfect courtesy, to let you in!
Never to lie down on the grass, as though you were the grass!
Never to leap up to the air as you open your wings over
the dark acorn of your heart!
No wonder we hear, in your mournful voice, the complaint
that something is missing from your life!
Who can open the door who does not reach for the latch?
Who can travel the miles who does not put one foot
in front of the other, all attentive to what presents itself
Who will behold the inner chamber who has not observed
with admiration, even with rapture, the outer stone?
Well, there is time left —
fields everywhere invite you into them.
Monday, February 22, 2010
"The spirit, by its very nature, is Slow. No matter how hard you try, you cannot accelerate enlightenment. Every religion teaches the need to slow down in order to connect with the self, with others and with a higher force. In Psalm 46, the Bible says: 'Be still then, and know that I am God.'"
Slow Cities: "... a Slow City is more than just a fast city slowed down. The movement is about creating an environment where people can resist the pressure to live by the clock and do everything faster. ... Despite their pining for kinder, gentler times, the Citta Slow campaigners are not Luddites. Being Slow does not mean being torpid, backward or technophobic. ... A Slow City asks the question: Does this improve our quality of life?"
Slow Thinking: "True, the brain can work wonders in high gear. But it will do so much more if given the chance to slow down from time to time. Shifting the mind into lower gear can bring better health, inner calm, enhanced concentration and the ability to think more creatively. ... Fast thinking is rational, analytical, linear, logical. It is what we do under pressure, when the clock is ticking; it is the way computers think and the way the modern workplace operates; it delivers clear solutions to well-defined problems. Slow Thinking is intuitive, woolly and creative. It is what we do when the pressure is off, and we have the time to let ideas simmer at their own pace on the back burner. It yields rich and subtle insights."
(From In Praise of Slowness, by Carl Honoré)
Photo from A Backyard Wedding, OnceWed.com.
Friday, February 19, 2010
Free 2 Be Me Dance class provides exactly that, in person. As their kids learn ballet and boogie to drum beats and pop music, their mothers (mostly) spend the hour talking, sharing stories and ideas and parenting tips. Read the whole story of my visit to the class here.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
But the universe is nudging me tonight. One person posted on facebook that he and his wife are giving up bad attitudes for Lent. I picked up a copy of Vision Magazine (a freebie I picked up outside The Bodhi Tree bookstore) and read Marlene Buffa's words about thinning out: "From people who no longer empower us to bad habits and needless possessions, we consciously make decisions for our new year by thinning out the herd of our lives.
"Forgiving, removing and releasing the old worn out patterns speaks loudly as a resolution for change. No matter what you choose to discard in your life, it all points to your spiritual center, what you allow — or don't allow — to affect you in your world. ... While we cannot control what life puts in our path, we hold the power to determine our reactions. By thinning out that which negates our highest life experience, we declare our focus and intention to live fully within what matters."
In the same moment I opened Etsy's finds celebrating Carnival with an array of masks. Which is exactly what I want to practice giving up, each moment of each day, the masks I wear who are not me. Though this masked woman actually inspires me to play with how I express who I am — to let my freak flag fly.
"To be nobody-but-yourself — in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else — means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting." ~e.e. cummings
Sunday, February 14, 2010
This Sunday's show included her interview with UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie, who visited the SOS Children's Village in Haiti, bringing attention to the great work SOS does around the world. SOS focuses on raising the children in their own country, providing a family through a mother, aunties and siblings, for life.
Check out Amanpour's podcast here, and the UNHCR story here.
Mother & Child 1965 - Stephen (2001) by Stephen B Whatley, originally uploaded by Stephen B Whatley.
Reading this passage the same day I watched "The Lovely Bones" — and I'm not sure I have the words to express what I'm feeling, thinking, now. So I defer to Annie. This passage follows her description of a plane crash in the community an accident that burned a little girl, a little girl who looked much like her.
"She saw me watching her and we exchanged a look, a very conscious and self-conscious look—because we look a bit alike and we both knew it; because she was still short and I grown; because I was stuck kneeling before the cider pail, looking at her sidewise over my shoulder; because she was carrying the cat so oddly, so that she had to walk with her long legs parted; because it was my cat, and she'd dressed it, and it looked like a nun; and because she knew I'd been watching her, and how fondly, all along. We were laughing.
..."It is the best joke there is, that we are here, and fools—that we are sown into time like so much corn, that we are souls sprinkled at random like salt into time and dissolved here, spread into matter, connected by cells right down to our feet, and those feet likely to fell us over a tree root or jam us on a stone. The joke part is that we forget it. Give the mind two seconds alone and it thinks it's Pythagoras. We wake up a hundred times a day and laugh.
"The joke of the world is less like a banana peel than a rake, the old rake in the grass, the one you step on, foot to forehead. It all comes together. In a twinkling. You have to admire the gag for its symmetry, accomplishing all with one right angle, the same right angle which accomplishes all philosophy. One step on the rake and it's mind under matter again. You wake up with a piece of tree in your skull. You wake up with fruit on your hands. You wake up in a clearing and see yourself, ashamed. You see your own face and it's seven years old and there's no knowing why, or where you've been since. We're tossed broadcast into time like so much grass, some ravening god's sweet hay. You wake up and a plane falls out of the sky." (Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm)
"Love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence" - Erich Fromm
Friday, February 12, 2010
Not your typical horoscope, Daily OM is more of a reminder each day, to stay awake, to pay attention. Reading today's at the end of a Friday:
"The conversations you take part in today may seem more amusing and engaging than usual. You may be more aware of your surroundings, people’s feelings, and worldly matters, and thus able to deftly put your thoughts and feelings into words. Since you are likely feeling alert and energetic, you may derive great pleasure from simply observing the world around you."
My observations from today as my cube-mates and I left the building for lunch: a rollerblading dancer, spinning and twirly and dipping to the sound of his headphones, oblivious to us or the traffic on Santa Monica. As we ate our Tender Greens salads, a dude in short shorts skipped by, kind of jog-skipping, weaving his way along the sidewalk. I think he was even sporting a sweatband. It's good to get outside.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
However, I've begun a job casting for a reality web series called "Bud House." It promises to be super fun, and a great opportunity for a die-hard football fan. Sponsored by Budweiser, thus the beer component, Bud House is sending a representative (crazy, football / soccer loving fan) from each of the 32 countries represented at the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ on an all-expense paid adventure to Cape Town, South Africa. Luxurious accommodations, thrilling excursions, and the opportunity to have the kind of access few fans ever have.
And on the even more positive side, some of the "thrilling excursions" mentioned include volunteering with local, South African non-profits.
So if you're from one of the 32 countries competing in the World Cup and are interested in applying for the series, go to www.budhouse.com to learn more and download the form. Please pass along to your friends and family, especially that one woman/man who won't show up to family functions if there's a match on.
And if you have a non-profit for the show to consider, thus receiving more exposure to the world, comment here and I'll pass on your information to my colleague Lauren.
Go (insert country's team name here)! And cheers to raising more awareness for non-profits in South Africa.
(Photo courtesy 2010 FIFA World Cup™)
Tuesday, February 09, 2010
Check out the rest of Huffington Post's Funniest Folks To Ever Be On Sesame Street
Sunday, February 07, 2010
The mission of Project Angel Food (PAF) is clear and simple, to nourish the body and spirit of women, men and children affected by AIDS/HIV, cancers and other life-threatening illnesses. Started by Marianne Williamson in 1989, PAF first focused on those suffering from HIV/AIDS, as the disease still held a stigma about it, and those diagnosed were often deserted by their families and ostracized by the community, and medicines were not yet readily available. It has since expanded into an organization that serves meals to anyone who has trouble feeding themselves because of illness, serving approximately 1600 meals per day. The meals are lovingly created by chefs and volunteers in the PAF kitchen, designed to be beautiful and thus tempting to someone who may not feel up to eating, and nutritious (they have 19 meals based on specific needs, from vegetarian to low sodium or low sugar).
It's easy to volunteer. Even if you don't have a lot of time, you don't have to commit to serve on a regular basis. There are options from delivering meals (between noon and 3 p.m.), staffing special projects and events (spend your summer Tuesday nights at Hollywood & Highland - $10 for a glass of wine, cheese plate and KJAZZ music), office work, or helping in the kitchen. The kitchen work, while requiring a hair net and plastic gloves, can be a great way to learn more about food prep and cooking, although they STRONGLY discourage you from adding your own special touch to the tried and true recipes (see video).
While performed by PAF volunteers and staff, the song in this video was written by film composer Marc Shaiman, known for his work including "A Few Good Men," "Patch Adams" and the 82nd Annual Academy Awards, as well as the hilaaaarious, star-studded "Prop 8: The Musical." The fact that he composed this song for Project Angel Food is befitting for a Los Angeles-based non-profit.
Check back for updates as I join my friend volunteering. I'm car-free, so I'll be the passenger, fellow meal-deliverer, and we plan to try on those kitchen hair nets sometime soon. Share the love!
Friday, February 05, 2010
As I waited for the bus, a woman passed by, speaking Spanish into her cell phone, her daughter in tow. Still talking, she backtracked a few steps to pick up an aluminum can left perched on the display window of a shi-shi Melrose Ave shop. The little girl was oblivious to anything but folding and opening a handmade cootie catcher, those little paper pyramids that predict hopes and dreams, as her mother caught up with her, shaking the last of the liquid from the can, worth a few cents at a recycling center.
I went on my way to LACMA to see the film "Song of the Dunes," a documentary about "untouchable musicians trapped at the bottom of India’s caste system." A gorgeous film of the colors and music of India, expressing both the frustration of the situation and the beauty of their music.
During the Q&A after the film, a professor responded to a question, nonchalantly making the statement that the caste system in India is a fact of life, and will never go away. This may be the current reality, but can anything ever change if that is the way we address it? The words we use and put forth into the world have power, why not choose hopeful words for change?
Qué Sera Sera? Is it really what will be, be? I'm fascinated by the tension between fate and free will. Do our words and actions have power to change, even the smallest circumstances?
(I love Pink Martini, but this has to be the creepiest version of this song ever. It grows on you though. Give it a chance.)
Thursday, February 04, 2010
Tuesday, February 02, 2010
"But the mountains are, incredibly, east. When I first came here I faced east and watched the mountains, thinking, These are the Ultima Thule, the final westering, the last serrate margin of time. Since they are, incredibly, east, I must be no place at all. But the sun rose over the snowfields and woke me where I lay, and I rose and cast a shadow over someplace, and thought, There is, God help us, more. So gathering my bowls and spoons, and turning my head, as it were, I moved to face west, relinquishing all hope of sanity, for what is more."
~Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm
I cannot think of a worse year than my 29th. 14 was ugly, but 29 seemed all the more cruel because I did not have adolescence and hormones to blame. Today I learned, without having ever heard of the astrological phenomenon of "Saturn Return," that I experienced it, by the book.
According to astrology.about.com, "this is when the planet Saturn comes back to meet your natal Saturn. It takes about 29.5 years for this slow-mover to return to where it was when you were born. The Saturn return hits in the late twenties, and its impact is felt into the early thirties. There's a second (and possibly a third for the long-lived among us) Saturn return that hits between age 57-60."
What are the coming of age films for 29 year olds? It's not only teen angst that defines one's life (though I highly recommend you see both films "An Education" and "Fish Tank").
"The first Saturn Return marks the end of youth and the beginning of the productive adult years. It is now that you truly become an adult—not at eighteen or twenty-one. You realize your need to define yourself as an individual within society and to demonstrate what you've learned.
..."This transition into adulthood is often accompanied by a sense of urgency, a feeling that you must try to accomplish everything you've ever wanted or planned to do now. Goals start to come sharply into focus. If you have not settled into a definite career, or have been pursuing one that is inappropriate for you, you'll experience a strong push to establish yourself in a more fulfilling occupation. Sometimes this means a complete change. During his first Saturn Return Vincent Van Gogh decided to be a painter rather than a minister. More frequently it means a new direction or specialization within your chosen field.
"If you have been building steadily toward a goal that's right for you, Saturn Return can be a time of achievement and rewards. Your labors bear fruit. Runner Bill Rodgers' Saturn Return marked the first of three consecutive Boston Marathon wins. William Faulkner published his first novel at age twenty-nine.
"According to California astrologer Stephen Arroyo, author of Astrology, Karma and Transformation, 'The quality of the entire experience and the extent to which it is felt to be a 'difficult' time depends entirely on how one has lived during the previous twenty-nine years.' If you have been pursuing an unsuitable vocation or merely fulfilling someone else's expectations, Saturn can be relentless in prodding you to make adjustments." (Skye Alexander, "Saturn Return: The 29th Year")
I experienced this so fully and yet had no idea there was an explanation in the stars/planets. Two statements from Skye Alxander's description ring especially true for me:
"Sometimes this means a complete change."
At age 29, I was angry, frustrated and depressed. I can't remember now how it happened (and I can't find my journals from that year) but I was between apartments, housesitting and working temp jobs. Shortly before my 30th birthday, I sold my my car and booked a ticket to move to Kosovo for three months, to collect more stories to add to my first trip there, to pursue what I wanted to do and to be, a writer who gives voice to the voiceless.
I stepped onto the plane the morning of December 8, my 30th birthday, and have never felt such a change in who I was, the direction I was heading.
"If you have been pursuing an unsuitable vocation or merely fulfilling someone else's expectations, Saturn can be relentless in prodding you to make adjustments."
I don't advise people pleasing as a life path, but that was the one I was on, basically since birth. As I've told others approaching their 30th birthday, so far, this has been my favorite decade. I've learned, as Anne Lamott writes, that "No" is a complete sentence. Every year I feel I know myself better, who I want to be, accepting and sometimes making small changes in the path I am on.
Some other interesting notes about Saturn return.
"Saturn Return almost always requires some major adjustments in lifestyle, attitudes, and relationships. Anything you have outgrown, or have tolerated but not found satisfying, must end now or be altered to meet your emerging needs. According to Hand, "Consciously or unconsciously, you are pruning your life of everything that is not relevant to what you really are as a human being."
"Often interpersonal relationships are deeply affected by Saturn Return. Gail Sheehy writes in Passages: Predictable Crises in Adult Life that during this period "Almost everyone who is married will question that commitment." The U.S. Census Bureau lists the peak divorce years as ages twenty-eight to thirty. Some people experience more subtle or private adjustments in their patterns of relating, such as shifts in responsibilities. Many couples decide to become parents, not only altering their relationships but their financial obligations and perhaps their vocations as well.
"If a relationship is sound, based on mutual respect, honesty, and sharing, it will probably survive the test of Saturn Return and become even stronger. But a relationship begun before the partners knew what they really wanted is likely to fall apart. Relationships that start during this period may have a "fated" or "karmic" quality about them."
(Apparently I'm in for another Saturn return or two, it comes again between ages 57 and 60 and 86 - 88.)
Monday, February 01, 2010
"Poverty is the absence of all human rights. The frustrations, hostility, and anger generated by abject poverty cannot sustain peace in any society. For building stable peace we must find ways to provide opportunities for people to live decent lives. Once poverty is gone, we'll need to build museums to display its horrors to future generations. They'll wonder why poverty continued so long in human society and how a few people could live in luxury while billions dwelt in misery, deprivation, and despair."
Such powerful imagery of museum visitors staring in horror and confusion at pictures of the poverty of the past. Visit Des's blog here.
(Photo: Merkato slums, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia)
In Frankie Colmane's article "How Can We Talk About Transformational Change Without Losing Hope?" she references Rob Hopkins' Transition initiative, and his ideas on gently walking with people through the necessary changes of our world as we walk, garden and grow our way out of our oil dependency.
Reading about the trauma people can suffer from sudden change in lifestyle, I recognize that I'm not exactly average, in fact, I've been a change junkie. I've sold my car to move overseas. I've moved apartments on average once a year. I specifically look for jobs that have an end in sight, so the Sagittarius in me can move on in search of those greener pastures. But I acknowledge that not everyone lives in this way, and in fact, I've grown quite comfortable in my apartment of almost three(!) years. But I've also easily adapted to living with no car, the time it takes to walk to the bus or subway, the community you build by traveling in such close proximity to fellow humankind. I can't wait to pick up The Transition Handbook, to read about the best ways to embrace more change and live more local lives.
"If 'The Head' portion of Rob Hopkins' book, The Transition Handbook: From Oil Dependency to Local Resilience, educates people on the combined effects of climate change and peak oil in our lives, 'The Heart' advocates the importance of compassionately leading people into an uncertain future. Influenced by Richard Heinberg's book Powerdown: Options and Actions for a Post-Carbon World, Hopkins uses recent events like the 2000 UK truck drivers' dispute to make his point that without oil the country was "a day away from food rationing and civil unrest." He cites psychologists D.D. Winter and S.M. Kroger who in their book The Psychology of Environmental Problems, warn that 'Damaged trust can lead to four neurotic reactions: narcissism, depression, paranoia, and compulsion.' Hopkins argues a nation suffering from what he calls "Post Petroleum Stress Disorder" will not be able to cope with uncertainty. Hopkins advocates addiction recovery methods to help wean ourselves off of oil dependency (no wonder his plan has 12 steps), reclaim our well-being and a sense of control over our lives.
"...After conducting their Community Oil Vulnerability Audit, Transition members in Totnes, guided by Hopkins, drafted an Energy Descent Action Plan, a modern-day Declaration of Independence. The first EDAP was concocted by Hopkins in Kinsale, Ireland, in 2005. The Gourmet Capital of Ireland, '90% of the food consumed within Kinsale comes from outside the area,' he writes. The plan looks at Kinsale's current state of oil dependency, then fleshes out in intricate detail an optimum vision of what Kinsale should be in 20 years and outlines the practical steps to achieve it. Flash forward to 2021 and 'all landscaping in the town comprises of edible plants, fruit trees line the streets, all parks and greens have become food forests. Lawns are a thing of the past.' Kinsale has its own currency and is in a position to independently fund local community services and initiatives, has car-sharing clubs and ride-sharing bulletin boards, alternative and conventional medicine for all and from underachieving and bored, youth has become 'empowered, skilled and focused.'"
~Frankie Colmane (Read the full story here.)