Friday, April 27, 2012

Hold On

c. Sharon Willen
Hold fast to dreams,
For if dreams die,
Life is a broken-winged bird
And cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams,
For if dreams go,
Life is a barren field,
Frozen with snow. 

This is one of my favorite Langston Hughes poems. And it makes me think of a metaphor I used when doing corporate training and organization development years ago. In front of a group of high-powered managers and executives, I'd ask them each to make a fist and experience the feeling of control we associate with that gesture. And then I'd ask them what power that kind of control actually afforded them. What can you really accomplish with a closed fist? On the other hand, literally, I'd ask them to leave their palms open, and wiggle their fingers and opposing thumbs, the special feature of the human hand. "Now consider the amazing progress you can shape with this kind of more flexible control." 

What kind of power are you most comfortable with? The power to dream, the power to control or some other power?

Holding, holding fast, holding on, different. Here's a poem on a related note that I wrote several years ago.

Hold On

Hold on. Hold on. Hold on.
No, I will not hold on.

I will not “hold on for a minute”;
I will fully experience each minute with a glad heart,
the good and the bad of it,
because this minute is all I have.

I will not “hold on to my tongue”;
I will speak of what fills my mind and overflows my heart,
because the positive grows when released,
and the negative kills when kept silent.

I will not hold on to people or things;
I will gratefully accept the abundance that surrounds me,
as a dynamic, satisfying illusion
that comes and goes.
I will not hold on to dreams or goals;
I will ignore that single-focus habit of my youth.
Instead, I will feel for the roots of the trees as I wander,
listen for the wings of the hummingbird as I sit in the sun,
and join with the voice of the wren out on a limb.

I will not hold on to myself,
for the “self” that can be “held” is merely
an identity I have learned to believe is me.
I will rest into the pure potential
that is now, was and always will be,
beyond mind and emotion,
beyond words and knowing.

Hold on. Hold on. Hold on.
No, I will not hold on. I cannot hold on.
I already have let go.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Day After Earth Day

Here's an excerpt from a blog I follow by Charles Eisenstein, an author, public speaker and part time faculty at Goddard College. His book Sacred Economics  "traces the history of money from ancient gift economies to modern capitalism, revealing how the money system has contributed to alienation, competition, and scarcity, destroyed community, and necessitated endless growth." Quite interesting.
Posted: 18 Apr 2012 07:53 PM PDT
Here is (an excerpt from) my review of the U.N. conference on happiness and economics, convened by the government of Bhutan, that I attended on April 2.
Economic growth turns social reciprocity and gift relationships (two components of GNH*) into paid services. It converts pristine ecosystems into sources of timber or minerals. It converts silence into noise, starry skies into urban lights, kitchen gardens into supermarket purchases, mom’s cooking into fast food takeout. It replaces the village storyteller with the TV cartoon, mothering with day care, outdoor play with video games. A society that still has these former things intact, and meets its needs without much money, is called, by economists, an “undeveloped market.” The process of liquidating social and natural capital is called “development.” Clearly, our conception of sustainable development is begging for scrutiny.    *Gross National Happiness"
I couldn't agree more. Did you know there is a whole body of "ecological economists" who believe we should be moving away from an economy unrealistically striving for constant growth (clearly unsustainable in a finite world) toward a steady state economy, one which "aims for stable or mildly fluctuating levels in population and consumption of energy and materials. Birth rates equal death rates, and production rates equal depreciation rates." 

If you're interested in exploring this idea, check out the Center for the Advancement of a Steady State Economy. "Conventional economists tend to overlook physical and ecological principles when considering the effects of economic growth. These economists, along with politicians, business leaders, the media, and the public at large, are not seeing the big picture when it comes to economic growth. That’s where CASSE steps in."

It used to be that I would immediately say, "back" when asked the question, "If you had a time machine, would you set the dials so you could go backwards, to meet those who influenced the world we live in today, watch as history unfolds, or would you want to see the unknown future?" Imagine watching Michelangelo at work, sitting in on the constitutional convention, sitting down in the agora to listen or debate with Socrates, look in on how my ancestors' daily life in Eastern Europe and Israel. 

But now there are such huge forces seemingly at odds with each other that the future may hold cataclysmic changes impossible to imagine based on what we know to date. I wish I could be around to see what paths humanity takes and how the Earth and all our fellow creatures fare in our wake. 

What would be your vote? Forward or back in the time machine? Cast your ballot in my poll or simply comment. I'll post results at the end of next week.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Times Change

My sweet husband sent me the quoted article below via e-mail, kind of a "return the favor" since  I am always encouraging him to increase his environmental awareness. He's become quite the "convert" lately. Besides turning off the water when brushing his teeth, reducing the length of his showers, turning lights off and unplugging electronics more consistently when they're not in use, he's taken a most active role in leading our community garden. Yesterday, after several sleepless nights obsessing about the plan and the process, he directed a team of volunteers in marking off all the individual garden units and community crop areas. Now we're really ready to roll. Next weekend the garden officially opens. And now, back to the seed catalogs.

Mike on the left - the boss man
Measure, mark...

...and flag



 I know it doesn't look like much in the photo, but the flags denote garden units and walkways and soon the space will be filled with activity and burgeoning life!

Times Change
Checking out at the store, the young cashier suggested to the older
woman that she should bring her own grocery bags because plastic bags weren't good for the environment.

The woman apologized and explained, "We didn't have this green thing
back in my earlier days."

The young clerk responded, "That's our problem today. Your generation
did not care enough to save our environment for future generations."

She was right -- our generation didn't have the "green thing."

Back then, we returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to
the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled.

Grocery stores bagged our groceries in brown paper bags, that we reused for numerous things, most memorable besides household garbage bags, was the use of brown paper bags as book covers for our schoolbooks. This was to ensure that public property, (the books provided for our use by the school) was not defaced by our scribblings. Then we were able to personalize our books on the brown paper bags.

We walked up stairs, because we didn't have an escalator in every store
and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn't climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks.

We washed the baby's diapers because we didn't have the
throwaway kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy-gobbling machine burning up 220 volts -- wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing.

We had one TV, or radio, in the house -- not a TV in every room.  And the TV had a small screen, not a screen the size of the state of Montana. In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn't have electric machines to do everything for us. When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap.

We didn't fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power.   We exercised by
working so we didn't need to go to a health club to run on treadmills
that operate on electricity.

We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water. We refilled writing
pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull.

People took the streetcar or a bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service.
We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to
power a dozen appliances. And we didn't need a computerized gadget to
receive a signal beamed from satellites 23,000 miles out in space in
order to find the nearest burger joint.
But the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks
were just because we didn't have the "green thing" back then. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

My Watercolors

As promised, here are the watercolor sketches I completed in Elizabeth Ellison's class, "Go With the Flow" at the North Carolina Arboretum this week. I'm going to mat and hang the lady slipper. The others I'll just keep in the studio to remind me of color lessons learned.


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Learning New Tricks

The past two days I've been taking a watercolor class at the NC Arboretum called, "Go With the Flow," instructed by a master watercolor artist, Elizabeth Ellison

Elizabeth Ellison - she reminds me of Joni Mitchell in this photo.
The tuition fees and materials for this workshop were all birthday gifts to me from my husband and children/grandchildren in New Jersey. I'm so lucky for their support and to have made the decision to register now, because it's the last program like this that Elizabeth will do at the Arboretum. The class is chock full of technique and art theory and Elizabeth's demonstrations are both instructive and inspirational. Here is a glimpse of some "sketches" she turned out in class, but I'm not posting any of the work I've done until after we're done.
Joe Pye Weed
Lady Slipper
The Arboretum is already one of my favorite places on the planet and it's fast becoming one of my favorite places to develop new skills. Several years ago I learned silk painting from another wonderful teacher, Jamie Kirkell. Here's a link to the hand-painted silk scarves I completed as a result of his mentoring. They've all been sold or given as gifts.  I also took fabric collage and paper making workshops, and had fun with both those crafts as well.
The Blue Ridge expressed in cloth
I so love to learn something new, but I'm really feeling good about working with water color. It's challenging and satisfying at the same time and easy to clean up - always a plus. Doing the work forces you to become very observant, and to truly "go with the flow" - definitely a reinforcement of my values and beliefs. I'd love to stick with this medium for a while and get really good at it. We shall see if my curious spirit can be contained.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Chill and a Thrill

Freeze warnings for last night and tonight, and indeed, it looked like exactly 32 degrees on the thermometer as I raised the shades this morning. Good thing that we hauled the potted blueberry bush and hanging strawberry basket into the sun room before nightfall. 

For the past month, I've been keeping in step with the unusually warm weather, getting ready for the full on outdoor season. Once we returned from our "spring break" trip to New York/New Jersey, I transplanted the wintered-over cuttings of impatiens and coleus I've been rooting throughout the winter. My goal is to give them a head start in the window boxes before they get moved to the big world outside.

 I've even brought the border dahlias out of their winter hibernation to begin sprouting before going out.

And tomatoes - the little guys I've started from seeds. The bigger ones were gifted to me by Barbara, a New York girlfriend and Master Gardener with a backyard greenhouse. I'll tend them indoors until I can put one or two in big pots on the back deck; the rest go to the community garden where we'll plant the majority of veggies this summer.

The best news of the day, though, is that we spotted a hummingbird at the feeders yesterday around five o'clock.

It may be too chilly for a dip in the pool, but apparently not too chilly for a dip in the sugar water. I'm thrilled to see our little friends move in for the season.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Feeling the Spirit

I've always resonated with energy in this season - the season of rebirth, the season where evidence of a beneficent universal force is front and center. As a child, I loved the Passover Holiday. It meant coming together with our extended family, playing with favorite cousins I didn't get to see every day, eating special foods prepared by Grandma, Mom and her sisters, participating in rituals I knew dated back to early history. Basically, Spring is a time when I feel connected - to nature, to family, to tradition - and this connection fills and renews me after bearing up under the dreary weight of winter. 

The Passover story and the Easter story seem related by their common message: Have hope; always have hope, because there are protective forces operating behind the scenes which can help ease any burden and sometimes even eliminate it all together.

In 2006 - 2007, I directly experienced the Grace of God or the unfathomable forces of the universe (whichever way you feel comfortable "tagging" it). I'm not referring only to the miracle of making my way to the top of the list of people waiting desperately for a liver transplant or surviving and recuperating from the eleven hour operation to return home just a week before Passover. Throughout that year long ordeal, I felt the connection to spirit in the form of the clear thoughts, resilient emotions, and guiding dreams that came my way. Before then I would have said, "I wouldn't be strong enough to face that kind of challenge." But now I know better.

When we are most vulnerable, if we let go of "holding on" to old ways of seeing the world and perceiving limits, we open ourselves up to a force that parts the waters and returns the dead to life. Consider in your life the moments when you've felt that extra help which turned a bad situation around or at least nudged it in a new direction. Let's celebrate this season with gratitude for that universal power which is accessible to and connects us all.