Monday, December 31, 2007

The Call: To A Year of Living Dangerously

At Costco I flipped through The Daring Book for Girls parked right there beside The Dangerous Book for Boys. These books are all about knowing how to do stuff - using a compass, sewing on buttons - things like that. They invite kids to an acoustic life. Hands on. And they must have got me thinking.

I made the SoulCollage card (pictured left) just before the Winter Solstice. It’s entitled The Call. "Called to what?" I’ve wondered. This morning I woke with the sense that I was called to a year of living dangerously*, but I doubt I’ll be heading off to Indonesia. I think my dangerous life includes a component described in the books above, a willingness to engage with life, not as a consumer, but as a learner, with all the floundering and failure learning implies.

Failure makes me very nervous. I was never angrier with my sister, Barrie, than when she entered a swim meet at The Club and came in dead last. Buying a book and reading it is safe. Working on a project that matters could be a real mess. A friend once hurt my feelings. I told him I was scared to write, and he said, “You are afraid to find out you aren’t as good as you think you are.” Blunt, maybe, but accurate.

So I’m ready to live dangerously. Just being myself (in whatever floundering way that can happen). Risking that I will be accepted and loved anyway. Risking that wobbling and a few falls are worth it to learn to write a story or bake bread or whatever else Life calls me to. The Velveteen Rabbit had it right, being Real is not for sissies.

Blessings, Dear Reader, for a creative, perhaps daring, 2008.

* Homage to that great Peter Weir movie of the same name. Remember? Sigourney Weaver, Mel Gibson, Linda Hunt.

Intrigued by SoulCollage? See more at SoulCollage talkabout.

Sunday, December 16, 2007


I felt uplifted reading Al Gore's Nobel Prize acceptance speech this week. As my friend, Nancy, said, "He has moral courage and integrity."

Gore ended his speech with these inspiring words: We have everything we need to get started, save perhaps political will, but political will is a renewable resource. So let us renew it, and say together: We have a purpose. We are many. For this purpose we will rise, and we will act." Full speech here.

Two other blessings hit the news this week:
1) The United States will cooperate more fully with the world community to deal with climate changes.
2) The United States Senate passes an energy bill with some teeth still in it.

And that's not all! I'm getting ready for a visit from my daughter, Sally, and grandchildren, Eli and Evelyn. It is the first time they have been to Oregon for Christmas.

Plus, just this morning, I found a most delightful series of online posts by Maira Kalman The Principles of Uncertainty (also available as a book). A little extra reading gift for myself. And for you, Dear Reader.

So let's celebrate! Ashland is so beautifully lit for the Holy Days. Photo of the Plaza by Sam. And here is a song by the Threshold Choir. It's called Listen. (Click twice.) Relax for 2+ minutes.

This song is from the album Listening at the Threshold .

Sunday, December 9, 2007

What Are Old People For? The Book

For some reason I’d put off reading What are Old People For? Perhaps I thought I knew (or had read) it all. Nope. Author and gerontologist, Dr. William Thomas, has added historic perspective I’d never even considered. On page 64, Dr. Thomas says “…old age is the single greatest achievement in the history of human kind.” He goes on to say, “We remember Caesar, not Caesar’s grandmother. But what would Caesar have been if he had been born into a world without elders?” Right on!

In the early chapters of the book Dr. Thomas is making the claim that societies flourished when they became complex enough to include elders. One of the specific elder roles was, and still is, the transmission of culture. A 21st century example is found in the magazine Natural History where Sarah Grey Thomason describes the heroic contributions of John Peter Paul. (The title of the article is At a Loss for Words, in case you have to search for it.) Paul, a ninety-one year old elder in Montana, puts the welfare of his tribal language, Salish–Pend d’Oreille, above his own health.

But major sacrifices are not necessarily a requirement. Just telling family stories makes us part of the process. I've loved hearing about how my grandmother, Bessie Bruner, always made a wreath when someone in Round Praire (Texas) passed on. No one died without notice, without flowers. Knowing that makes a difference in how I choose to live.

Other elder roles are also Big. It turns out that all this doting on our grandchildren is marvelous, not only for them, but for the whole society. Read all about it in What Are Old People For? And check out that picture of my grandson, Eli. I'm sure he is destined for Carnegie Hall.

Hank Mattimore, blogging at yagrowsoryadies, has his own take on Thomas's book. Check it out.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Action and Other Antidotes

Don't it always seem to go, that you don't know what you've got till it's gone......*

I don't think of myself as a highly sensitive person but reading Naomi Wolf's The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot sent me into despair. I put it aside while I considered how to stay informed without becoming depressed. Here is what I came up with:

1) I recognized that the fear I was feeling about losing freedom was similar (identical?) to the fear that is driving those who would pass laws to protect us from The Terrorists. They are as worried for their children, and grandchildren, as I am. Just feeling that empathy was enough to add some perspective.

2) Perspective was what I needed. I had focused too tightly on the spectre of Big Brother. My wonderful NIA teacher, Rachael Resch, reminded me that we should always hold something we love in mind. When I was little my mother would sit with me if I was scared, usually at bedtime. She would quote from the Bible, "What so ever things are beautiful, what so ever things are pure, think on these things." OK, so there is a power grab by the neocons, but good things are happening too. I pictured the wonderful time I'd had in Boston with my daughter Sally and grandchildren, Eli and Evelyn (cartwheel above). And the warm Thanksgiving with my son Fred, his wife Amy, and Sam's daughter, Jennifer, in Eugene. I picked up my Gratitude Journal.

3) I also needed to take political action. Nothing like a dose of helplessness to fuel a bleak mood. So I wrote a letter to the editor regarding Senate Bill 1959. I took a copy of the bill to a friend who teaches government at Ashland High School, so he could talk with his students about it. Plus I offered to mentor a senior project regarding governmental moves toward dictatorship as outlined in Wolf's book. And I left a copy of the book for his class. And I asked our library to get a copy. And I called/faxed the members of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs registering my opposition to S 1959. Whew!

You can read a summary of Wolf's 10 steps to close down an open society here, or watch an excellent interview with Wolf posted on Time Goes By and read more about S 1959, the Thought Crime bill. You can download a copy of the introduction to The End of America here. I encourage you to buy a copy if you can. Give them for Christmas!

We've been warned. Let it fuel something positive.

*Joni Mitchell, Big Yellow Taxi

Monday, November 26, 2007

For the Want of a Nail

Home grown terrorists? Violent radicalization? Big Brother is about to stop all that nonsense! Senate bill S 1959 is out to set up a commission that could dismember our First Amendment rights all in the guise of “protection”. Stopping terrorism is fine, but this bill is so broad it could prevent even writing about the need for health care or protesting oil prices. The Ones In Charge get to decide who might be "dangerous". Without trial.

Two women in Medford, Oregon were forced to leave a public gathering where President Bush was speaking because they wore t-shirts protesting the war in Iraq. Of course I was appalled. With the witch hunting potential of S 1959, they might have been arrested as enemy combatants (homegrown!) as well. My outrage meter is running.

There are two places to learn a lot more about S 1959 (full text of bill). One is a series of posts by Ronnie Bennett at Time Goes By. She lays out the background of this bill which flew through the House of Representatives with only 6 dissenting votes. The other is by daveinchi at Daily Kos.

Perhaps this bill will simply die in committee, but it could just as easily swing in under the radar as did The Patriot Act. After all it is only to study how to muzzle demands for change.

Remember that old story: For the want of a nail, the shoe was lost; for the want of a shoe, the horse was lost; for the want of a horse, the battle was lost, etc. Well, for the want of “nailing” our senators on this one (shout NO) we could lose the right to be blogging, and talking, about dissent at all.
Edit 11/28/07 - more on S 1959 here.
Return to Home page.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Cooking My Life

We saw a good movie last night. It's called How to Cook Your Life. When I bought the tickets, I asked for a ticket to "How to Eat Your Life". That says a lot about me and food. I often think about eating and seldom about cooking. But that will change now, from having this wonderful model of mindful cooking (and living) in my brain bank.

The movie is slow. Beautiful photos of a snail on a wall and Edward Espy Brown cutting carrots. Not everyone will like it. Brown, chef and Buddhist teacher, talks about his own process in learning to accept his human frailties, particularly anger. He also talks about the joy our hands feel when they can be of use, especially in the many movements and rhythms of food preparation. Now when I enter my kitchen I feel part of a larger tradition. I forget the name of the Zen cooking disciples. It starts with a "T" (or is it "D"?) What I do remember is the feel of their dedication to the art of bringing nourishment to the community.

In the film are clips of Brown's teacher, Shunryu Suzuki. In one talk Suzuki Roshi tells of hearing a noisy blue jay. Rather than chafing at the dissonance of the bird's squawks, the monk imagines blending with the sound and becoming a blue jay. At home I went to bed early. Sam was practicing his guitar in the living room. I have to leave the bedroom door open for our cat, Luna, to come and go. Hearing that guitar just flat out annoyed me. I was tired. Wasn't it my right to have a quiet house? So unfair blah blah. Then I remembered the blue jay story. I settled down into the sound: plink, strum, plunk. I was asleep in no time.

Siel, at Emerald City has a good review of the movie-more detail and link to the trailer.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Is Blogging What's Wrong With America?

Following my talk on blogging to a senior computer user's group, a woman remarked, "I just came to see what this group was all about. Actually, I think blogs are what's wrong with America today. People just want to talk about themselves." I may have paraphrased that last sentence, but the rest is a direct quote. Of course the first thing out of my mouth was about the good information on blogs such as Time Goes By, Changing Aging, The Lazy Environmentalist and many others. She didn't care.

I angsted over it all afternoon. Here is what I wish I'd said:

1. Blogging is writing, and writing is good. Writing for the Internet is as valid as writing for any publication. True, there is no editorial gatekeeper deciding what the public should (or will pay) to read. You'll need to think for yourself. I browse blogs the way I browse the magazines in the library, and I subscribe to my favorites. With the comment options blogs provide, we can even interact with authors and other readers.

2. Personal stories are good. Not only for the insight and meaning it offers the writer (like all journaling), but for the insight and meaning it offers readers. Ronni Bennett has a interesting post discussing the importance of sharing about our private lives. Here is an excerpt:

Even if you “only” got married, raised children and tended the backyard garden, you have stories to tell. You especially have stories your children, grandchildren and beyond will care about. Everyone wants to know who and where they came from and what those people were like, how they lived, what they did. Link to the full post.

3. Personal opinions are good. Opinions give us something to chew on, challenge or applaud. Jay Rosen of Press Think has called blogs, "little first amendment machines".

4. Photos are good. Period.

Hey! And what's wrong with talking about yourself? We just need to take turns. It's called conversation.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Cats as Co-workers

Sam and I went to the Southern Oregon Humane Society on Friday to hand over our little red festiva to their Critter Cars program. Several retail stores in Ashland have cats as mascots, but this was over the top! Everyone was busy getting ready for a big fund raising event--the cats didn't seem to slow them down a bit.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Anything worth doing is worth doing...badly

Anything worth doing is worth doing badly. Yep, that's my new affirmation. When my inner perfectionist comes up with some admonishment regarding what I'm doing, I just say my affirmation.

This might not work for everyone. I remember a story by my tennis coach, Scott Draper, about 20 years ago. He said that often people will hear something like "people need to keep their racket face open" so they do that. Well, if their racket face is already open, then that won't improve their game at all. It will probably make it worse. The advice about an open racket face is for people whose racket face is closed, eh?

However, if you are someone like me with lots of projects (someone Coach Barbara Sher calls a scanner) then this could do you some real good. Expecting gold stars on everything is crazy making. Doing some activities "badly" leaves you enough time to do them all. Bingo!

Or perhaps you are a One* on the Enneagram, often called The Perfectionist. Try my motto.

*I believe myself to be a Nine with a strong One wing, but I'm a mere dabbler in the Enneagram world. I read several books on the subject, but the one I found most helpful was full of cute cartoons: The Enneagram Made Easy by Elizabeth Wagele. I notice I'm feeling ashamed of this admission. Quick: Anything worth doing is worth doing badly!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Guest blogger: My mom!

Dear Sharry. I like your new blog.

I would like to add a few thoughts that I have at age 90.
Don't live in the past or look too far into your future.
Do not dwell on what you could do in the past that you can no longer do.
Do what you can do and realize how blessed you are.
Try to keep up with changes in the world.
Realize that change will come and try to adjust to change.
Dealing with loss is another MUST!
Look out beyond self and try to do something for someone else.
I am sure there are many more truths but these are a few I have found to be helpful.

Love Mother

Some notes on this SoulCollage card. The photos are of my mother, of course. In the bottom left she is pregnant with me. One of her son-in-laws dubbed her the Texas Tornado, but in my experience her energy produced much more beauty than mayhem.
Return to Home page or visit SoulCollage talkabout for more SoulCollage cards

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Train saga

Dear Eli,

This morning I was sitting in my offic, meditating. I heard what sounded like a train crash! When I went outside I found that the train that runs near our house had malfunctioned. The noise I heard was the train backing up so it wouldn't block Walker St. All the middle school kids have to cross Walker St. to get to school! However, now it was blocking Normal Ave.

I went over there with my camera because this was a particularly interesting train--many open cars. I'm adding photos so you can see what it was like. I wish you had been here with me. We could have crawled under or explored by climbing through. One woman climbed over the couplings to get back home.

There is a warm wind blowing this morning. Around here we call it a Chinook wind.


Gramma Sharry

Train stalled on Normal Ave.
Train mural

Climbing back home


Sunday, October 7, 2007


I just returned from a week at the Santa Sabina Center in San Rafael, California. What a beautiful place. It was a nunnery located at the edge of Dominican University. The Sisters now live elsewhere and allow groups to hold conferences, retreats, seminars, and performances at the Center. I was attending the first session of a three year course, the Embodied Life Mentorship Program led by Russell Delman. Twenty-seven of us met to deepen meditation, body awareness, inner inquiry, and interpersonal communication.

I felt tipsy most of the week. When I lay down for an ATM (awareness through movement) lesson, the world seemed to swing wildly east and west. Ditto on standing. Some days I felt off-balance even while strolling through the gardens or sketching in the basement art rooms. As I sat in meditation our last evening (nowhere close to bliss, mostly struggling not to fall off my chair as I nodded off) I felt a clear "click" of understanding. My whole life is out of balance.

A few days before heading off to Santa Sabina, a friend sent me an interesting youtube clip called Did You Know? ? It suggests some of the reasons so many of us are speeding along the information highway with too few stops. For me this looks like: checking e-mail every 30 seconds, knowing more about China than my neighbor and getting computer chair back strain. I'm retired for heaven's sake. I create my own schedule.

So how to restore balance? How to maintain balance? For starters I'm going to revisit Santa Sabina virtually. The slide show is located just below this post.

Santa Sabina Photo Album

See the complete album HERE on

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Library Heaven

When I got my e-mail saying Amazon was shipping 3 more books, I realized that I have been on a book buying frenzy all summer. My book budget is so shot! Thanks goodness our library will re-open in November.

Yes, you heard me, our library has been closed for months. It's been humiliating, as well as personally expensive, not to have a library open in our very liberal and well read town of Ashland, Oregon (home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival). Loss of federal revenue plus a twice defeated levy left us high and dry. Finally the Jackson Country Commissioners came up with a scheme to open all county libraries for 15 hours a week. How did they do it? Hire a private company on the opposite coast, non-union, to operate them. Some of us are not taking this peacefully.

I've heard people say, "Big deal. Libraries are passe. People just use the internet now." In our town people who don't own a computer use the computers in the library! Rather, they did.

The City of Ashland, with the backing of a wonderful band of library loving volunteers, had already stepped in to be sure Ashland's library re-opened. We were able to pass a levy that required a 50% voter turnout. This makes it possible for the Ashland branch of the Jackson County Library System to be open 40 hours a week. Hallelujah!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Slowing it down

Wow! The book I ordered called Ten Zen Seconds (another by Eric Maisel ) arrived in today's mail. Great timing, since I'm determined to become more centered even as I swerve from one project to another.

Here is a quick summary of Maisel's centering technique. Breathe. A deep inhale lasting five seconds. Pause. A slow exhale lasting five seconds. While doing this, you think one of his 12 incantations. They are really affirmations, but he wants to emphasize the magical effect they'll have. The first one is (on the inhale)"I am completely" pause (on the exhale) "stopping". So simple. The book gives the details of each incantation and lots of examples of their use.

This afternoon I was Focusing, an inner awareness process, with my friend Nancy. She came up with her own affirmation. "Slowing it down" (on the inhale) pause "taking it in" (on the exhale). You can use Maisel's words, Nancy's words, or make up your own.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Mediated Mania

I woke at 4:30 am, my mind full of Great Ideas. A bad sign. I got up, fixed coffee, and settled down with one of my favorite books: Eric Maisel’s Coaching the Artist Within. He has a chapter on Mental Energy that describes both the benefits and the dangers of a pre-dawn flight of ideas.

Maisel says that to be creative we must be passionate. So far so good. He concedes, however, that passion can morph from a divine spark into an up-canyon wild fire. To mediate our mania he suggests we temper our enthusiasm with something that brings our feet back to earth. For me, that starts with awareness of what's happening in my body--what my hands and feet are touching, the pace of my breathing, the drum beat of my heart. Gardening works too.

The real value of having lived more that six decades is that I've been here before. Hypomania, that state just short of mania, can’t hijack me as easily as when I was 20. Here is my plan for today: meditate, pick raspberries, skip chocolate, and get to work on one of those great ideas.

The pictures above are SoulCollage cards I've made for the energetic and over-energetic parts of myself. One is called the Go-Getter. She operates full throttle, but with controled energy and power. The other is Alice, towed by the Red Queen. She's at the mercy of all that energy! Perhaps I'd better switch to decaf.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Wise Women

This is my SoulCollage card depicting the Crone or Spiritual Elder. I imagine this archetype as a force for wisdom, something like Yoda in Star Wars. She sees the big picture. She thinks of the good of the next seven generations, not whether her hair should be gray or nay. She knows the road to peace or health or creativity (anything of importance) requires work, patience, acceptance, and humor. I invite her to be my Guide.

See more of the archetypal SoulCollage images of the Wise Woman, Crone, or Elder at Walking Toward Wisdom.

Note: For PC's to open a link a new window, hold down the shift key while you click on the link. Or "right click" on the link and select "open in a new window".

On a Mac, you can hold the control key while you click on the link. Or use your right mouse button. Either way will offer you the opportunity to "open in a new window." Home page

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Gray or Nay?

Here is a great read about letting hair gray or coloring it. Writer Anne Kreamer does an interesting experiment by posting her photo with brown hair on and then with gray hair and the same profile. Results? Read for on....

Sex and the Gray-Haired Woman in More.

Edit: Since writing this I found a very complete review of Anne Kreamer's book Going Gray over at Time Goes By. It's is definitely worth checking out before you rush out to buy the book.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Seniors Rule!

Seniors. I like this word. I remember the seniors from my high school in Texas: Patty Powers, Sara Brewster. They were like movie stars! I taught/counseled at Grants Pass High School for 23 years, and seniors were a big deal there as well. Beyond life as a senior? Graduation. Commencement.

I also relate to Crone and Elder but not everyone does. Perhaps Boomers will become the new term for us folks over 55. That works for me. I'm a Pre-Boomer with a bit of Boomer Wanna Be. I watched, with awe, from the sidelines as the 50's became something I would never have imagined.

PS Some thoughts since my original post
I am of a generation squeezed in between the Great Ones and the Baby Boomers. It's as if those of us born between about 1939 and 1945 are a mini generation with no real handle. Obviously I'm a bit of a wordsmith, so I chafe at being nameless. Playing with labels gave me a few more, somewhat silly, ideas.

Seniors and Boomers. (I will always be in high school)
The BB's and the BBB's (Baby Boomers and Before Baby Boomers or Beyond Baby Boomers)

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Italian view

My friend, Alberta, came for a visit this afternoon. She brought along this wonderful photo which hung in her Great Aunt's home when A. was a child. Most serendipitous! It seemed perfect for my musings about life's journey.

Friday, September 7, 2007

It's not too late!

Naturally I want to keep my memory intact, but since puzzles are out—never could do them—I’ve turned to memorizing poetry. My memory has definitely improved. Tuck one in your pocket for something to do in the post office line. Added bonus: pick the right poem and your attitude improves along with your mind!

It’s not too late to memorize this poem by Mary Oliver, The Summer Day.
Don’t let Labor Day fool you. It’s still summer!

The Summer Day
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean--
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down--
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Who am eye?

I'm on the track of something--something very mysterious and important. My teacher, Russell Delman, calls it Awakening.

My guides are:
Books (of course)
Embodied Life Mentorship Program

And blogging! Journals are good.

This blog is to chronicle my aging up and downs. I'm sure I must surrender some things. Smooth skin is already gone. But I'm equally sure that there are possibilities to be discovered, new adventures to undertake, and a sense of perspective that will make this journey a joy. I've recently memorized the poem The Way It Is found on the sidebar. It speaks to me of that deeper Presence that is there for us at all times. Home Page