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