Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Common Ground, Holy Ground - Working for Peace One Thought at a Time

I want to live in a peaceful world.  The whole world, not just my little spot on the hill here in Tennessee. Jim and I have managed to bring our dream of a peaceful, welcoming home into reality and we're grateful...but it's hard not to feel helpless and overwhelmed when we look at the larger world and realize we have no control over events. I can't transform the whole world.

Or can I? 

I've stated my belief here before that we have very little control but enormous influence, and that we are shirking our responsibility when we don't use what influence we have for the good of all.  If the world is, as I believe, an interconnected web...if we really are all made of the same stuff, connected and influenced by the actions of all in that web...then we influence the whole with every action.  And if, as I also believe, thoughts are things ...that what we choose to think about will make its way into reality...then we influence the whole with every thought and that influence grows exponentially stronger when we think about something repeatedly and with intent. And if I can influence the thoughts of others with words, spoken or written, am I doing all I can to use my influence for peace? 

I don't have the data, but I'm making an educated guess here that there are more people in the world who want peace than there are people who don't.  Theoretically, with all of us thinking about peace, we should be able to influence the world in that direction, right?  Obviously we haven't succeeded yet, so there's a fly in the ointment somewhere.

The problems start with the fact that violence, even a small amount compared to the whole, creates fear and fear keeps us from thinking peaceful thoughts. You can't be afraid and not think about what you are afraid of. Hatred directed toward you, even if you don't return it, is so emotionally overpowering that we can't seem to help thinking about how unfair it is, how wrong, how damaging. Those are not peaceful thoughts.  Doubt, grief, envy, jealousy, depression, anger, attachment...how many other detractors from peaceful thought enter our lives every day? 

And we, in our infinite wisdom, add to the problem by selecting entertainment that puts images of violence and misery into our image-processor brains and call it good.  Many movies feature more violence, cruelty, and pain in ninety minutes than many of us will experience in a lifetime. While we consciously know that the images on the screen are not "real," they're still there, saved and stored and cataloged.  I watched two movies with my husband this weekend that gave me a stark reminder of why I made the decision years ago to not watch such things. "Dark Knight" and "The Happening" were both good movies; Heath Ledger's performance as The Joker was astounding. But I have replayed over and over in my mind scenes from those movies, pictures of madness and horrifying death. Why did I think it was a good idea to put those images in my mind, images that weren't there before and serve no good purpose? I'm still trying to shake my mental Etch-A-Sketch clean.

What if we all made a conscious decision to think about other things? What if we, on purpose, with will and intent, choose to think about things that promote peace?  If the world is filled with conflict and we want peace, focusing on the conflict isn't going to get us there. What if we made a concentrated effort to turn our attention away from the source of the conflict and look for the common ground? 

It will only be a ripple. I know that the horrible mess in Gaza and Israel won't disapper tonight even if the whole world takes up the cause. Peace won't greet the dawn in Afghanistan...hatred and bigotry and genocide and senseless violence won't fade from the world and leave great peaceful holes in their wake. But my looking for common ground in my own interactions will affect me and my personal actions on the great web. I am the only thing I can control, and by controlling my thoughts I alter the influence I have on the world. If enough of us exert influence, what might we accomplish?

Today I will focus my thoughts deliberately on words, actions, and images that promote peace, understanding, coexistence, and joy.  Where there is potential conflict in my life, I will look for common ground and resolution. I will use discernment in my entertainment choices. I will choose words that promote peaceful thoughts in others.  I will make every effort to use what skills and talent I have to influence the web for the good of all.

I challenge you to do the same, and post a comment back here with your thoughts. Can we change the world, one thought at a time? I believe we can.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

No Secrets - Just Scraps of Honesty

Yvonne Perry of Writers in the Sky has honored me with an Honest Scrap Award. The award is for bloggers who blog honestly and from the heart, and I'm really flattered. There are no medals, no trophies, no big checks to cash...just the opportunity to share ten of my deepest secrets with you. I also get to nominate seven additional bloggers for an Honest Scrap Award, which I will do at the bottom of this post.

So here goes...more than you ever wanted to know about me:
  1. I love to cook and hate to clean. Since I'm a very messy cook, this can be a problem.

  2. I rarely use recipes. They're like coloring books - someone else has already had all the fun creating the pictures. I like a blank canvas!

  3. When I was in my early 20's, I was a singing waitress and I loved it!

  4. I have firewalked (walking on a bed of hot coals). It was a turning point in my life and an incredible experience.

  5. I believe panang curry is quite possibly the most wonderful taste in all the world.

  6. I recently lost over 75 pounds following Weight Watchers and have gained 22 of those pounds back. Food and I have an interesting and challenging relationship.

  7. Until I was an adult, I never ate pecan pie. We used hickory nuts instead.

  8. My father could not read or write, but he ran his own business successfully for years. He was one of the smartest and hardest working men I've ever known. He worked full time, raised a BIG garden, always had some type of livestock (pigs, cattle, chickens) that he raised for both food and sale. He worked all the time.

  9. I was raised Baptist until I was about four, then as a Jehovah's Witness. I later joined a Presbyterian church so I could sing in the choir. I left when I could no longer pretend to share the same beliefs and explored some more, finally finding my way home to an eclectic neo-Pagan spiritual path. I believe that all the "truth" in the world, should we ever find it, will amount to no more than two or three grains of pure thought; the rest is just fluff and bother. If we look for what we have in common instead of focusing on our differences, we could eliminate the hatred and misery associated with religious intolerance.

  10. I believe that people act on what they believe, even when they don't know or understand their own beliefs. I don't get mad too often because 99.9% of the stuff that might make me angry really isn't about me at all. It's just people doing what they do.

Ok...that's my ten things...not exactly secrets, but chances are you didn't know them all. Now it's time to pass the torch. I'm nominating the following honest, gutsy bloggers for the Honest Scrap Award:

Alex (Deaconblues1982)

Julie Ann Dunn

Sitara Haye

Mark David Gerson

Robert Girandola

Josie Thane


Katherine Turner

Ok, folks...show us your honest, scrappy selves. You're on!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Humility, Gratitude, and Friendship

I never cease to be amazed at the revelations and lessons life offers...and what a slow learner I can be.

When I fell and injured my arm last week, I was with two friends I dearly love.  I know, too, that they love me. They made their love a verb by making sure I was cared for and working together to get me back to the office, to the ER, and back to connect with my daughter (who, along with her boyfriend, verbed her love, too).  Both friends offered to drive me home, one following in another car so my car could get back to my house, too.  I did everything I could to keep them from having to make that trip, even though they were more than willing. 

Why?  On the surface, the answer is I didn't want them to have to make a forty mile round trip on a Friday night.  But if I'm honest, I know there's something more, something in me that makes me just about willing to stand on my head in poo before I let someone just help me like that. 

Fast forward to yesterday.  I had to be in the office and my steady stream of pain meds meant I shouldn't drive.  Daughter got me there but had to work last night, so I needed a ride home.  That meant I had to call on the same friends from whom I had turned down the ride on Friday.  One was working from home that afternoon; the other had plans for a holiday outing with her work team.  Both willingly and graciously agreed to help anyway.  But here's the thing:  I turned them down on Friday when they were all ready and lined up to take me home without having to jump through too many hoops.  When I finally swallowed my stubborn pride and false sense of independence and called on them, it meant a change of plans and extra trips.  The friend who ended up bringing me home had to bring her son out with her on a rainy, foggy night after dark, even though she doesn't see well at night.  The other was "on call" when she should have been free to just enjoy her party.

Humility and gratitude are favorites lessons of the Universe. I believe them to be among the most important spiritual values we can possess...and I still fall so short.  Humbled by the reminder that I have much work to do, grateful for friends who love me anyway, I stand once more in awe and wonder...and sheepish chagrin at my own foolishness.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

I Fought the Law and the Law Won

My recent brush with the law (more of a collision, really) has reinforced once again that crime doesn't pay. Apparently, neither does confident, joyous exhuberence...the kind you feel when you're out with two of your best friends and enjoying the conversation so much that you turn and walk backward on the sidewalk to keep talking and fail to see the big chunk missing which your foot finds nonetheless and you are no more able to stop yourself falling than you are able to stop this sentence from going on forever until...BOOM! BOUNCE! SLIDE! The law got me. Gravity is REAL!

So what's a right-handed writer with a broken right arm to do? So far, the only answer that has presented itself is to put my left hand to double-duty and do a lot of extra proofreading. I'm surprised at how quickly I can type with my oft-neglected left hand. Mr fear that my blog might languish unattended is rapidly disappearing.

Showering remains a concern, but I have my priorities. The blog is safe.

More to come. Time for pain meds.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Wisdom in musical form...

$1.45 a Gallon - Hold Me Back!

No...really...hold me back.

Take my car keys away. Help me remember how committed I was to driving slower, consolidating trips, and working from home when gas was $4.00 a gallon. And while you're at it, don't let me buy ice cream.

I feel a little like a child who insists on playing with a sharp knife. I cut my finger, just a little; it hurt and it bled and it scared me. But then the bleeding stopped and I didn't need stitches and it healed and now the knife is looking all shiny and pretty again. If I ignore the painful but relatively gentle warning and play with the knife again, will I cut my finger off next time, or fall on the blade and impale myself on my own stubborn refusal to behave?

When gas went to $4.00 a gallon, I heard the warning and put the shiny toy down. We drove so much less and so much slower. I didn't run to the store every time I had a creative urge to cook something and needed just one more ingredient. My employer was gracious enough to let me start working from home part of the time, cutting another 45 mile round trip out of every day. Not only did we save money, but I could almost feel the trees on our hilltop property breathing easier, saying, "Thanks!"

Ah, but as soon as gas went down again, I saw the shiny and started reaching for it. Filling my tank for $30 instead of $80 made me feel all healed up. With giddy, guilty glee, I pointed my full to the brim mechanical chariot toward unnecessary destinations at unduly high speeds because it only cost me $30 and it was shiny and pretty and fun.

I'm getting the same warnings about my hard-earned weight loss. I've put back just a few pounds of it and I can feel the effects. Not good. Not good at all. I lost all that weight and got to feeling good and in control and smart enough to know I could splurge a little now and then...and then again...and now...and now and again. Now I'm struggling to get back into a healthy eating pattern again before I have to go wrestle my friends for all the too-big clothes I gave away. That would not be pretty.

Everything about my life right now feels like I'm at the, "Ok, I warned you!" stage, that split second of decision time just before your common sense takes over and pulls you back or you go for it anyway and the tale, should you live to tell it, starts with, "See, what had happened was..."

The gas spike had a domino effect at our house. At nearly $80 a tankful at peak prices, our budget took a hit. Prices on some items we buy regularly, like diet soda, went up and have stayed up. We made adjustments, switched to store brands, bought less. We didn't suffer, mind you...just shifted to a more conservative spending pattern. Same with the weight loss. We didn't suffer. I cooked more at home, made healthier meals, smarter snack choices, exercised more. Because we went out less, we spent more time at home getting stuff done and being together.

It probably comes as no surprise that we actually enjoyed ourselves. Driving slower is less stressful; driving less is bliss. Spending less wasn't painful; it was kind of fun to see how creative we could be. Healthy food is delicious, fresh and light and tasty. I looked forward to my daily walks. So why oh why would we go back to the old ways?

For that matter, why would any of us? Did you make adjustments when gas was so pricey? Have you kept them up? At $4.00 a gallon or $1.45, driving is no bargain. You could make gasoline free and it wouldn't reduce the damage we do every time we fire up Bessie in the driveway. And just because I have the money back in my budget now that gas has gone back down doesn't mean I have to spend it. If we were happy and healthy on less, why spend more? I have plenty of bills and debt that would benefit from the application of a little more cash each month. And before you raise the, "We need to spend to stimulate the economy!" flag, I'm not talking about hording money under my mattress (though I really wish my 401K had been under my mattress); I'm talking about spending wisely and paying down debt. Reducing debt is good for any economy, and environmental and health concerns don't experience recession.

This is my public commitment to not going back to my pre-warning ways. I'm going to drive less, spend less, eat better, and exercise more. I'm going to start right now by walking away from the computer and getting in a light workout before I start work. I'm working from home, keeping one vehicle off the road today.

We've all been given plenty of warning and now the warnings are getting dire. I challenge you to look at where you are now. Are you playing with the shiny knife again? Put it down! Walk away! There are lots of fun things to do without impaling ourselves on our bad habits.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Religion and Politics Do Not Mix

These are not my words; they are my thoughts. I could not have said them better myself.

Religion and Politics Do Not Mix
By Yvonne Perry

You may have been taught in school that America was founded upon Christianity, but proof of such is not reflected in the writings of our founding fathers. In fact, the first six American presidents were actually opposed to the doctrine and dogma of Christianity.

Would you refer to prejudice and premeditated murder as Christian traits? One of our forefathers was so prejudiced against the American Natives that he once described them as "having nothing human except the shape" and as "a beast of prey." Known as the "Father of our Country", President George Washington was known as "The Town Destroyer," and "The Killer of Women and Children" among the Onadaga Indian People whom he and his militia killed in cold blood. Did good ol' George (who couldn't tell a lie) believe this country was founded upon Christian fundamentals? Washington is quoted as saying, "The United States is in no sense founded upon Christian Doctrine."

John Adams, the second President of the United States, had little use for religion when he said, "The divinity of Jesus is made a convenient cover for absurdity. Nowhere in the Gospels do we find a precept for Creeds, Confessions, Oaths, Doctrines, and whole carloads of other foolish trumpery that we find in Christianity."

Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States and the principal author of the Declaration of Independence "found not one redeeming feature in orthodox Christianity" and added:

Christianity------the most perverted system that ever shone on man. ------Rogueries, absurdities and untruths were perpetrated upon the teachings of Jesus by a large band of dupes and imposters led by Paul, the first great corrupter of the teaching of Jesus. The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the Supreme Being as his Father, in the womb of a virgin, will be classified with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter. But we may hope that the dawn of reason and the freedom of thought in these United States will do away with this artificial scaffolding, and restore to us the primitive and genuine doctrines of this most venerated Reformer of human errors.

Jefferson also called for limitation on the power of the Government, and was an advocate for the separation of Church and State.

James Madison, fourth president of the United States, thought no better of religion when he said: During almost fifteen centuries the legal establishment known as Christianity has been on trial, and what have been the fruits, more or less, in all places? These are the fruits: pride, indolence, ignorance, and arrogance in the clergy. Ignorance, arrogance, and servility in the laity, and in both clergy and laity, superstition, bigotry, and persecution.

Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth President of the United States, was no doubt a religious man who is remembered as a Christian President; however, some say Lincoln was a skeptic of Christianity. He is quoted as saying, "The Bible is not my Book and Christianity is not my religion. I could never give assent to the long complicated statements of Christian dogma." His views did not change during his political career. He was later noted to say, "My earlier views of the unsoundness of the Christian scheme of salvation and the human origin of the scriptures, have become clearer and stronger with advancing years and I see no reason for thinking I shall ever change them."

After Lincoln's assassination an American author and the editor of Scribner's Monthly named Dr. Josiah G. Holland wrote about Lincoln's religious views:

"------He believed in God, and ------believed himself to be under his control and guidance. ------This unwavering faith in a Divine Providence began at his mother's knee, and ran like a thread of gold through all the experiences of his life. His constant sense of human duty was one of the forms by which his faith manifested itself. ------He recognized an immediate relation between God and himself, in all the actions and passions of his life. He was not professedly a Christian-that is, he subscribed to no creed-joined no organization of Christian disciples. He spoke little------of his religious belief and experiences; but that he had a deep religious life, sometimes imbued with superstition------."

Perhaps Lincoln recognized the difference in spirituality which is our connection and relationship to our Creator, and religion which is the very thing that attempts to separate us from one another and our Creator.

Aside from presidents, other founding fathers of notoriety agree that Christianity has little merit when it comes to governing a nation of people. When Benjamin Franklin was asked about his religion, he said:

As to Jesus of Nazareth, I think the system of Morals and his Religion, as he left them to us, the best the World ever saw or is likely to see; but I apprehend it has received various corrupting Changes, and I have, with the most of the present Dissenters in England, some doubts to his divinity. ------ I do not perceive that the Supreme takes it amiss, by distinguishing the unbelievers in his government of the world with any peculiar marks of his displeasure.

Deism is a seventeenth- and eighteenth-century religious philosophy and movement prominent in England and the United States. Deists normally reject supernatural events and divine revelation common to organized religion. Disregarding holy books and religions that affirm the existence of such things, deists support religious beliefs must be founded on human reason observation of the natural world which reveal the existence of a supreme being. Deist Thomas Paine had a strong opinion about religion:

I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish Church, by the Roman Church, by the Greek Church, by the Turkish Church, by the Protestant Church, nor by any Church that I know of. My own mind is my own Church. ------Of all the tyrannies that affect mankind, tyranny in religion is the worst.

The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States is part of the Bill of Rights which prevents legislature that establishes a national religion by Congress or that prefers or supports one religion over another. The First Amendment reads, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." This part of the First Amendment is sometimes referred to as "the separation of church and state" which means that the state or national government should be kept separate from religious institutions.

I doubt the Ten Commandments were posted in courthouses during the early days of U.S. history. Our founding fathers proposed the First Amendment and rejected Christianity as a ruling factor in government and political issues. After being ruled by a government which tried to synchronize the beliefs of the entire population, they were fed up with being told what to do and what to believe. They wanted religious freedom. Today, we as citizens still want religious freedom, but there can be no religious freedom when one religion controls the masses through government. Yet, this is exactly what has occurred in our nation. Religious groups attempt to control the government by imposing laws that decide what a marriage is, what can be grown in our backyard and what medical research can be federally funded.

Every time a law is passed that gives jurisdiction over what happens in a person's home, marriage, healthcare or religion, we lose another personal right that was assured in the laws used to found our country. It's time to stand up and vote against bills and amendments that take away the one thing our founding fathers did have in common-freedom from religion.

Works Cited:

The Encyclopedia Brittanica, 1968, p. 420







Yvonne Perry is a freelance writer and the owner of Writers in the Sky Creative Writing Services (WITS). She and her team of ghostwriters are ready to assist you with writing and editing for books, eBooks, Web text, business documents, resumes, bios, articles, and media releases.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Yvonne_Perry

Monday, December 08, 2008

The Perfect Family

What is the perfect family unit? Western culture has firmly embraced the notion of the one-man-one-woman-plus-children as the ideal family, the one to which we should all aspire. Is it? Is that the family you grew up in, the family you live in now? Is it the family of your friends, neighbors, relations?

In "The Perfect Family is a Myth", Cornell University anthropologist Meredeth F. Small suggests that our narrow definition of family is not universal nor is it historically true. She makes the point that, even in a Western culture that idealizes one family model, families that actually conform to the model are rare.

How do you define "family?" Is there an ideal family unit? Does your family fit that ideal?

Among my own family and our circle of friends...my husband and I have children from previous marriages, one of whom lives with us, the other two with their mother. Among our friends and relatives are single parents, childless single women and men, married and unmarried committed couples of various gender pairings, with and without children, and a triad or two. Each of their families are filled with love, laughter, conflict, challenges, sadness, support, and every other aspect of family life. We also refer to our spiritual group as family and share enormous love and support within that group. My husband and I have had many conversations about the concept of line and group marriages. We both embrace, at least on a philosophical level, an idea of family beyond the limited Western definition, yet even we struggle at times with long-held beliefs and norms.

What about you? I'd love to hear your thoughts on what makes a family. The definition of family in our society is changing whether we talk about it or not. Dialog gives us an opportunity to participate in the change, not sit dazed and confused on the sidelines watching the landscape shift. This kind of social evolution can be a long, bumpy ride. I don't know about you, but on a trip like that, I like to drive.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Gay Rights - Newsweek Poll Results

I don't get it.

More Americans than ever, a pretty clear majority if a recent Newsweek poll is any indicator, are in favor of granting gays and lesbians virtually all the legal rights associated with marriage, but not allowing them to get married. Read the full poll results to see the numbers.

Actually, I do get it.

It's the same issue I've railed about in previous posts. We have allowed the word marriage to be defined in a religious context. That definition has become so ubiquitous that people who favor granting gay and lesbian couples all the legal rights associated with marriage through civil union can't take the final step and say, "Yeah, let them get married."

Let them inherit property...have visitation rights...adopt or use assisted fertility and have children...make them eligible for dependent insurance benefits...just don't let them get married. All the legal rights and responsibilities currently granted through legal marriage are fine; only the moral definition of marriage, a definition rooted in religion, is still holding up the show.

Wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. And a really bad precedent.

What about divorce and remarriage? Many Christian sects teach that divorce is against God's law except in cases of adultery, and some teach that it's wrong in any case. Shall we decide then, that divorce is illegal? What if we held a vote and your marriage to your current or perspective spouse hung in the balance while other people decided if it was moral or immoral?

How about procreation? There are those who teach that marriage and sex are primarily for procreation. Why don't we vote on whether birth control is moral enough for America? And while we're at it, let's make marriage between partners who can't have children illegal, too, since they can't fulfil the true purpose of marriage.

So if you're a post-menopausal woman and meet the love of your life, you can have a civil union but don't try for a wedding, 'cause we're not standing for it. If you've been divorced and meet someone new, go ahead and live together and we'll sanction it legally so you can have insurance and stuff, but we reserve the right to maintain our moral superiority and smug self-righteousness intact by not calling it marriage because America is a Christian nation.

Wait a minute...what did I just say? America is a Christian nation? When did we get a state religion? When did we ratify a Constitutional Amendment and adopt an American morality?

Oh...that's right...we didn't. My bad.

No. It's bad, but it isn't mine...and I'm not going to stop talking about it until we get over it.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

My Twitter Addiction - the #whoandwhyifollow post

I am a Twitter junkie.

There, I've said it...and I'm not ashamed. Twitter is just about the coolest tool on the web right now (among the ones I've tried so far; the web's a big place and I haven't gotten around to all of it...yet).

What makes Twitter so twittalating? Short (140 characters or less), frequent posts about whatever you're moved to share, and some Twitterific people! Some are purely social; some are marketing products or services; the best share freely of themselves, their knowledge, and their view of the world.

Now @David_N_Wilson and @SarahJL have started an avalanche of shout-outs to the Tweeters, Tweeple, TweetiePies...well, you get the idea...the people we enjoy most on Twitter. In the spirit of share the wealth, here are my favorite people in the Twitterverse. To keep from making a 20,000 word blog post, I've restricted myself to just a few. I enjoy everyone I follow on Twitter for one reason or another; these are the ones with whom I've made an extra connection, professionally, socially, spiritually, or all of the above.

Without further ado, here's my #whoandwhyifollow list:

@SarahJL - "I'm a Twin Cities Radio DJ, Voiceover coach & Belly dance teacher and performer. I love my husband @QuantumGood, our cats & spiritual freedom!" Who wouldn't want to follow Sarah? She's fun, smart, talented, and has a wide range of interests that she shares freely. Her blog rocks, too!

@firehorse_ij - "Cubicle dweller, voracious reader, slightly neurotic" Another smart, funny person; we share a professional interest in training development and an enjoyment of commercials that say something so unexpected and out of place that you spew coffee out your nose. She blogs, too.

@writersinthesky - "Published author, writer, editor, podcaster, owner of WITS Creative Writing Services. Gardening, marketing, stem cell research & spiritual discussions." Yvonne uses Twitter to market her writing services business, to promote causes she's passionate about, and to share her knowledge with others. Her website is cool; her blog about writing is informative and a good read.

@markdavidgerson - "Speaker, workshop leader, creativity coach, spiritual mentor and award-winning author of The MoonQuest & The Voice of the Muse: Answering the Call to Write" Mark is inspiring! I've never met him, but even his 140-character Tweets give off a gentle, caring vibe. Check out his website, too.

@Judith12 - "Neither artist nor poet. Quasi-retired. Oft reclusive. Seasoned. Wiccan. Innkeeper. Equity: stage manager." I disagree with Judith's profile; she IS both artist and poet. She paints little 140-character word pictures of her beautiful home every day and I just love them! Judith is one of the first people I found (or who found me) on Twitter and I'm glad.

@DatingGod - "health freak, world phreak, parttime recluse, shamanic healer, writer, earth mama, bee-hybrid, couch tuber, will tweet for organic red wine . . . " Cool writer chick with a great blog, a wicked sense of humor, and a beautiful "Yes!" approach to life. I haven't forgotten that I owe her a response to something she asked of me a long time ago and hope she hasn't given up on me! Check out her very personal, very interesting blog.

@deaconblues1982, @NPMMDad, @rickbaldwin - Three very interesting gentlemen. Deacon's a personal friend, NPMMDad and Rick Baldwin are local guys. They're all smart and funny. Deacon and NPMMDad share day to day thoughts and life; Rick Baldwin posts short, funny quips all the time...nothing earth shaking or of any real importance, but witty and fun.

There you have it; my Twitter A list. Everyone I follow on Twitter brings something good to the party, and I enjoy the whole shebang. If you're not on Twitter, I recommend it. Just be aware - it's habit forming.

Happy Tweeting!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Not a Poetry Lover...and Yet...

A poem begins in delight and ends in wisdom. -Robert Frost, poet (1874-1963)

I am by no stretch of the imagination a student of poetry. A large portion of the poetry considered worthy of study in my school days was filled with obscure references and imagery I had no frame of reference for. Teachers weren’t satisfied with how the poem affected me or what I thought it meant. No, there was a right answer that most often lay somewhere just outside my vision and grasp. Having to work that hard just sucked all the life out of the art for me.

Ah, but there were a few, a rare collection of poets and poems that did touch me. Robert Frost, Walt Whitman, Carl Sandburg and, later, Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes, Rabindranath Tagore, and Rumi, penned words that could have come from my own mouth, my own heart, or made real for me an experience I can never know first hand. They wrote poems that offered immediate recognition, like being reunited with old friends. My husband has that magic, too; several of his poems paint images more faithful to the truth than any camera can capture. And my Master List of Influential Poets wouldn’t be complete without the songwriters whose lyrics have been my constant companions for so many years…Lyle Lovett, John Prine, Paul Simon, John Mellencamp, Neil Diamond, Melissa Etheridge, J. D. Souther and other alchemists who made gold out of words and rhythm and fire.

The poems and songs that move me all begin in delight and end in wisdom. They delight with rhythm, a cadence and flow that lives and breathes with the words. The poems I love best can be read out loud, the meter echoing the heartbeat of the message. I delight in the sound and the words and the imagery all the way to the end and then there comes the wisdom…the resonance, the fire and passion and soul of the poet, the emotion, the experience. It’s like eating delicious oats, eggs, butter, sugar, walnuts, and raisins…and getting a warm cookie. What a gift it must be to have that magic!

Today, in honor of the many poets who have enriched my walk so far and the many more to come, I’m sharing one of my favorites with you. It’s hard to choose just one. I consoled myself with a reminder that I can always share more later. I invite you to share your own favorites, too, in comments. We’ll create our own mini-anthology.

From Gitanjali, by Rabindranath Tagore:

The same stream of life that runs through my veins night and day
runs through the world and dances in rhythmic measures.
It is the same life that shoots in joy
through the dust of the earth in numberless blades of grass
and breaks into tumultuous waves of leaves and flowers.
It is the same life that is rocked
in the ocean-cradle of birth and of death in ebb and in flow.
I feel my limbs are made glorious by the touch of this world of life
and my pride is from the life-throb of ages dancing in my blood this moment.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Which comes first - the smile or something to smile about?

Another amazing video from Nik Askew, lifted once again from Luminous Inspirations (thanks, 2Da1, for your beautiful posts!).

What a beautiful smile this woman has! She exudes grateful, heartfelt joy and reminds us that, "I'll see you tomorrow..." isn't always true. We don't have tomorrow. We hope to have it. We plan to have it. But it's not a given.

Watch...enjoy...and smile.

'smile' from Nic Askew on Vimeo.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Fun at Home

Grow some fun at home today with the people you love. You have all you need to raise a bumper crop of laughter and lasting memories that will be sweeter, more nourishing, and juicier than anything you can cook up elsewhere.

I was sitting at the dining room table tonight making Yule cards (see the pictures below), listening to the sounds of my husband and two of our daughters watching a movie in the other room. Their laughter was beautiful! We've done a lot of things together as a family, but nothing comes close to the fun we have at home.

Speaking of fun, I've been growing some of my own the last couple of days. I'm no graphic artist, but I'm an avid doodler and love to make my own greeting cards. From the time I was old enough to hold a fat crayon, I've gotten giggly, giddy enjoyment out of stacks of colored paper, scissors, glue, and bright, shiny pens. What fun! Here are some of my off the wall creations, nothing award winning - just homegrown fun at its finest. And since most fun is better shared...I'm sharing. Enjoy!

Photos by Autumn Heartsong. "Good Times" greeting card copyright Autumn Heartsong. 2008.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Energy, enthusiasm, and engagement - and LIGHTS!

Check out this amazing holiday light display on Sarah Jones-Larson's blog, What a Wonderful World.

Richard Holdman has created this dazzling, computer-controlled, wind-powered, synchronized lights and music show for several years. His efforts have raised more than $10,000 for Make-A-Wish. His gated community voted last year to close the gates during the holidays because of the traffic, but he had little trouble finding volunteer hosts and the show goes on.

It really is worth a look. The videos are short and they will make you smile! Mr. Holdman has even created an FAQ and some do-it-yourself tips and a behind-the-scenes tour.

Thanks to Sarah Jones-Larson for sharing so many examples of what is truly a wonderful world!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Wise Old Owl

I was running through some photo archives this morning and ran across this one. I took it almost exactly one year ago when the owl made a rare daylight visit to a tree just outside the building where I work, right in the heart of downtown.

Owls are associated with wisdom in many cultures, and with death and dying in some. Greek, Native American, and Celtic mythology are filled with references to owls. What is it about the bird that creates such powerful connections?

Owls appear to be silent watchers. With eyes focused straight ahead and 360 degree field of vision, they observe without speaking. With faces that don't show expression (at least not that the majority of us would recognize), they appear detached, remote, just watching, waiting for the right moment to snag a meal or move along to avoid danger.

I supposed we all recognize on some level that observation is one of the keys to wisdom and that talking all the time doesn't leave much room for observing. It's possible we even recognize that, no matter how much you observe, much of it doesn't require comment. There have been many times in my life where I would have been wiser to remain silent!

Maybe our younger self knows, too, the wisdom of detachment. We are all connected, all made of the same stuff, and yet we all move and live and operate separately. We have an enormous amount of influence and very little control over all but ourselves. Maybe the owl teaches us to know the difference.

To not use our influence where we can is cowardice; to attempt to control what is not ours to control is madness. Wisdom is in knowing one from the other, acting with skill and courage where we can, and gently detaching from those things that are not ours to change. I think Owl might have been influencing the original author of an old Mother Goose rhyme:

For every ailment under the sun
There is a remedy, or there is none;
If there be one, try to find it;
If there be none, never mind it.

May we all have the courage to exert whatever influence we have for the good of all, and the wisdom to let go of what is not ours to control.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

In My Own Words, From Henry Miller's Mouth

How many times have you read something so profound, something that resonates with truth so deep and sure that you know you could have said it yourself if you could have found the words?

I ran across just such a quote today by author Henry Miller. Ironically (or maybe by Divine plan), the quote is about that very thing:

Every day we slaughter our finest impulses. That is why we get a heart-ache when we read those lines written by the hand of a master and recognize them as our own, as the tender shoots which we stifled because we lacked the faith to believe in our own powers, our own criterion of truth and beauty. Every man, when he gets quiet, when he gets desperately honest with himself, is capable of uttering profound truths. We all derive from the same source. There is no mystery about the origin of things. We are all part of creation, all kings, all poets, all musicians; we have only to open up to discover what is already there.

My wonderful 3AC Writer's Guild sisters and I were talking last night about the voices in us that still ask, Are you really a writer? What makes you think you have anything to say that anyone cares/needs to hear? Your work doesn't sound anything like his/hers/theirs. How can you be a writer? Those voices try so hard to drown out the one true voice inside, the one that knows, the one that aches to be heard.

Today I'll be brining a turkey, baking biscotti and shortbread, and making a last-minute grocery run for tomorrow's feast. I'm setting my intention right now to listen and observe and let my true voice speak without censorship or reservation. I think I'll carry the camera with me, along with a pen and notepad to record the dozens of things I see each day and want to write about. And in my kitchen, I'll light a candle for myself, my 3AC sisters, and everyone whose tender shoots have ever been stifled from lack of faith.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Perfect Score: Thanksgiving - 1, Gratitude - 364

Why do we only have one day a year set aside for giving thanks? I used to ask that question and often said that every day should be Thanksgiving. But I've changed my mind. I think one Thanksgiving Day is enough. What we need more of are Gratitude Days.

Thanks and Gratitude are related but they're not the same. Thanks is the daughter of Gratitude, and the granddaughter of Awareness. Along with her sister, Humility, Thanks is the natural descendant of the true gran dames of a rich, joyous life.

When we say "thank you" for something, we are acknowledging a gift, a blessing, a current state. It's a nod to the universe that says, "Yep...I got it...and I know it's good." Giving thanks is a good thing - the right thing - to do, but the real power comes from gratitude.

Gratitude is a state of being, the result of awareness, and is the doorway through which the gifts and blessings we are so thankful for enter into our lives. To be grateful is to be open, to choose an arms-flung-wide-in-wonder way of walking through the world, open to experience, to receiving all there is to feel and do and know.

A beautiful website, Gratefullness.org, refers to gratefullness as, "...the simple response of our heart to this life in all its fullness," and adds, "The practice of gratefulness moves us in four directions: It restores courage, inspires generosity, reconciles relationships, and has the potential to heal our Earth." (Please visit Brother David's website and learn more about what Gratefullness.org is doing to move the world in those four directions.)

Gratitude starts with awareness...not filtered awareness of "the good things in our lives," but full awareness, without judgment, of All There Is and our place among that All. When we practice conscious awareness, we see the world differently. As Dr. Wayne Dyer says, "When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change." When we choose to be aware of All, All opens up to us, and we are the recipients of more gifts than we could possibly imagine. Grateful eyes see beauty everywhere.

I think the score is perfect. One day set aside to practice thanksgiving is enough...as long as we spend the other 364 days each year practicing gratefullness. In the words of Dag Hammerskjold, "For all that has been - thanks. For all that will be - yes."

Here's to one day of, "Thank you!" surrounded by 364 days of, "Yes!"

Thursday, November 20, 2008

7,000 beautiful words...

...pictures from recent weekend jaunts. Nature saves her finest garments each year for the next to-last-dance...then does the last one naked and unashamed. Enjoy these photos from her all-dressed-up dance!

Photos by Autumn Heartsong; 1 - 6, Little River Canyon, Alabama, USA; 7, Cloudland Canyon State Park, Georgia, USA

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I am a good citizen of the world when I ...

...support the rights and work for the benefit of everyone.

This country will not be a permanently good place for any of us to live in unless we make it a reasonably good place for all of us to live in. -Theodore Roosevelt, 26th US President (1858-1919)

Well said, Mr. President...well said...change "country" to "world" and you're dead on target.

Everybody’s Got a Right…

…and we keep them or lose them together.

All the buzz around gay marriage has been a catalyst for debate and has sparked Americans everywhere to think about the issue and figure out just where they stand. That’s good; we need to be shaken up now and then. Unfortunately, most people are so focused on the specifics in this debate that they’re missing the real issue.

It’s not about gay and lesbian marriage. It’s about personal and spiritual freedom and the separation of church and state.

I’ve written about this issue before, but today I saw a quote that very eloquently captured the real heart of the matter, the thing we should be talking and writing and shouting on the street corners about.

I protect my right to be a Catholic by preserving your right to believe as a Jew, a Protestant, or non-believer, or as anything else you choose. We know that the price of seeking to force our beliefs on others is that they might some day force theirs on us. -Mario Cuomo, 52nd Governor of New York (b. 1932)

That’s it. That’s what should have us all standing up and saying, “Enough!” The stakes in this game aren’t whether same sex couples can say, “I do!” At stake here is whether or not we will legally allow the religious beliefs of one group to determine the rights of every citizen. And the very people who are most adamantly opposed to the gay marriage issue are among the most religious people in this country. They’re the ones fighting the hardest to win when they have the most to lose.

When we protect the rights of anyone, we protect the rights of everyone. And if we allow the rights of any individual or group to be taken away, we chip away at our own.

“…the price of seeking to force our beliefs on others is they might some day force theirs on us.”

Those who oppose gay marriage on religious grounds are attempting to force that opposition into law. The same thing is happening with abortion laws, stem cell research, and how we teach science, literature, and sexuality in our schools.

People are taking a frighteningly shortsighted view. They believe they’re winning when they get their way. Look further down the road; what damage can be done by the precedent we’re setting? Winners and losers can change places in a societal heartbeat. You may be thrilled to defeat the gay marriage issue now, but what issue will come up next and whose beliefs will win that one? What if your cherished morality becomes unpopular? Are you willing to put your spiritual path up for vote?

I’m not. And I’m going to keep talking about it as long as I have a voice. I hope you’ll add your voice to mine and to all the voices already speaking up about the dangerous erosion of personal and religious freedom. It’s a bigger, scarier issue by far than having two grooms on a cake topper.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A View of the Mountain - Autumn in my Life

Looking out my kitchen window this afternoon, I caught the first glimpse of White Oak Mountain in the distance that I've seen since late March, maybe early April. In spring and summer, the trees completely block the mountain view, so much so that you wouldn't know the mountain was there if you didn't know the area.

Not exactly earth-shatterng news, is it? Trees shed their leaves every fall, graceful branches standing naked and unashamed, revealing sky and views hidden when they're all decked out in foliage. What struck me as I was looking out that window was how the trees and the mountain view were mirroring my own life right now.

I'm 52. My birth daughter is days away from 28, and my two step-daughters will soon be 20 and 18. The nature of my role as Mom has changed dramatically in the last few years. My baby girls are now beautiful young women, quite self-sufficient most of the time, and are actively pursuing their own interests. There are spaces in my life now that used to be crowded, spaces that reveal views I've missed for a long time.

I've reached the early autumn of my life and the leaves are falling. As those leaves drop away, the me that I used to know when I was a child is coming back into view.

I like her. She's creative, thoughtful, a writer and a photographer with an eye for beautiful things and a desire to share them with others. She's smart and she has a sense of humor She loves to cook and likes to eat, sometimes too much (some things never change). And she's learned a lot of things through her life's spring and summer, stories and lessons and memories that beg to be told, so she writes daily and loves it.

My friend and fellow writer Sitara says, “Give me an eight-spoked Wheel and I’ll show you the wisdom of the world.” She's so right. I can feel the Wheel turning, through the day, through the year, and throughout my life. The wisdom is found in paying attention, listening, and staying in synch with the Wheel.

I'm paying attention as the leaves fall and the views are revealed, some familiar, some new. Unlike the seasons, my own life is not infinite. My wheel will eventually stop turning. Time is short and I'm going to enjoy every vista along the way.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Bittersweet Progress

I received the following story in an email from a cherished friend and heart sister this morning. She and her nine year old son, Bo, had taken a walk in the woods near their home, woods they both love. Her story touched me deeply. I have tasted bittersweet progress and know that Cherie is right - sometimes you can't go back.

Thanks, Cherie, for allowing me to share your poignant words with my readers. May your tiny seed of life grow tall and strong and safe.

Many things in life are bittersweet, but one of the hardest for me is the loss of the wild places. Urban sprawl fueled by greed is quickly shrinking them in the name of progress.

Bo and I decided to take a walk in the woods behind our house yesterday. We made our way behind into the woods and onto a small path made by cows in another time. The sun came through the canopy of reds and yellows, its rays dancing off of the leaves and lighting up the leaf strewn floor of the forest in a magical way.

After walking for a few minutes, we started to see signs that people had recently been though the woods. There were blue ribbons tied around trees; other, smaller trees had been hewn down with a machete or small axe. Then we came to a clearing.

We could see that earth movers had widened the path, uprooting and mowing down everything along the way. We followed the path to a clearing. What was once a lush meadow now contained a tractor trailer loaded down with cut trees. We skirted the rig and continued along the path, now a wide swath of devastation running through the woods. We followed the path upwards, and as we crested a hill, stared in horror at the scene in front of us. Acres of wood had been cleared of all vegetation. What remained was dry clay and rock.

“I want to go back” Bo said, sadly. His words hit me like a thunderbolt: sometimes you can’t go back.

We turned around and walked back into the woods. We lingered there for a while, capturing as many trees as we could on film. We passed a young maple, whose leaves seemed afire with glorious bright red. “Come closer” she seemed to whisper. I made my way through the underbrush towards the tree. As I adjusted the lens of my camera to capture her brilliance, I saw something I had never seen before. Hanging from her branches were bright green spiky seed pods, the kind that turn brown and children throw at each other during recess.

Before we left, I plucked one seed pod. “Thank you” she whispered.

When we got home, we planted a seed pod. We will watch it grow and tend it in honor of what was, and what is.

Life continues.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

In The Life of Another

Extraordinary video by Nik Askew...might we not all have an impact on the life of another?

I got this from Luminous Inspirations, a wonderful blog by 2Da1. Visit and see all the inspirational, moving, uplifting pieces collected there!

'in the life of another' from Nic Askew on Vimeo.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Marriage, the Law, and Doing the Right Thing Twice

Did you happen to catch Keith Olberman's Special Commentary on the passage of Prop 8 in California? It's passionate, articulate, bordering on brilliant. I can't figure out how to share it directly in this blog so please click on the link to watch.

I cannot be silent on this issue. Like Mr. Olberman, I'm not gay nor is anyone in my immediate family. But this isn't just a gay issue. It's a human issue, universal and timeless. And unless we keep the momentum headed toward positive change, it will remain a universally unfair, unjust, and just plain wrong issue.

My stance on this issue is simple and straightforward:

Marriage should be defined by federal law, consistant in all states and territories, and should consist of a set of binding legal agreements to which applicants agree and are held accountable. The government should not get involved in defining the relationship or who can participate. As long as all parties meet the legal requirements (primarily age and the ability to contract), government has no responsibility and no right to place any further restrictions on the arrangement.

If faith-based organizations want to further define the relationship according to their beliefs, so be it. As precedent, the Catholic church has long refused to recognize marriages that don't meet the requirements of the faith, even when those marriages are perfectly legal from a civil perspective. The consequences of the Church's approval or disapproval are only relevant to the practitioner from a personal, spiritual standpoint. Any religious institution should be free to use whatever moral compass they possess to decide if they and their god(s) approve of the union, but they should have no say in the legal aspects.

Here's how I get there:

Legal marriage in the United States is first and foremost a property agreement. Under our current system of employer-sponsored health care benefits, it also provides a consistent framework for determining who can be considered a dependent for the purposes of insurance coverage. It establishes a next-of-kin relationship wherein spouses have first and final say in certain health care decisions, hospital visitation rights, and so forth. And there are tax provisions for married couples to lessen the tax impact on two income families.

Nothing about legal marriage as it is currently defined has anything to do with relationship, love, comittment, or morality. It has to do with legal rights and contracts. And nothing about those legal rights and contracts has anything to do with the gender or orientation of the participants. People of the same gender are just as capable of fulfilling all the obligations inherent in legal marriage as are one-man-one-woman couples.

Where we've gone astray is allowing the religious definition of marriage - specifically the mainstream Christian definition - to creep into the legal definition. We have abandoned the constitutional principal of separation of church and state and given that power over to religion. Shame on us!

Interestingly, that influence seems only to have gone so far as to restrict who is allowed to participate. It hasn't done anything at all to enforce the other ideals of Christian marriage. The government doesn't care one bit whether people who apply for a marriage license have been married before, as long as they've fulfilled the legal obligation to divorce. There is no government mandate that individuals share the same faith, that they love, honor, cherish, or respect one another. Marriages of convenience or for economic considerations are common. The only absolute requirements are that the couple be of legal age, not currently married to someone else, and that there be one man and one woman.

The age requirement makes sense from a legal standpoint; binding contracts require that parties be of legal age. Not being married to someone else is debatable, but the argument can be made that allowing multiple partners would require rewriting estate law among others, so I'll concede that one temporarily even though it, too, is a moral judgement. The one for which I can find no sustainable argument whatsoever is gender.

Why? Why does the government care who enters into the agreement? Why do we insist on denying the legal rights of marriage to anyone who is willing and capable of agreeing to the terms of the contract? We let anyone with decent credit and income buy a house, a contract that lasts longer than most marriages. When you strip away the moral fru-fru attached to marriage, what's left is no different than any other contract. If you can buy a house without a genital check, why can't you enter into a marriage contract without one? From a legal standpoint, the government has no business checking genitals for a contract that has to do with property and taxes.

As important as this issue is to gays and lesbians who wish to enter into legal marriage, it's even more important in the bigger picture. If we allow religious beliefs to shape government policy, we will eventually be a religious state. Notice I said we. America is a democracy and we are responsible for blurring the line between church and state. If, in fact, the majority of people support something so clearly unconstitutional, we have lost our own compass. We're giving up our rights as we wander blindly, thoughtlessly accepting what has seemingly always been. Every erosion of that all-important separation erodes the ability of each of us to choose our spiritual path and live it without fear.

I support the right of every adult in this country to marry whomever they choose. If I believed it morally wrong for same sex couples to marry, I would still support their right to do so. It harms no one and the disapproval of it is based solely on religious beliefs which, under the Constitution of the United States, are not to be imposed by governement. In protecting the rights of gays and lesbians to marry, we're protecting our own rights to worship and live as we choose.

It's doing the right thing twice, a double good too important to be quiet about.

I don't want to be a groan up anymore!

I'm tired of being a groan up! Yep...I'm done. From now on, all my groan up activities are banished from my life and I'm going to be a grin up.

I've been a groan up for a while, so this is going to take some work. I'm making a list of groan up traits I want to get rid of. It's a work in progress, but for starters:

Groan Up: "[groan]Another Monday...back to the grindstone!"
Grin Up: "Whoohooo! Monday's here! I survived the weekand and I still have a job!"

Groan Up: "Time to get up already? [groan] I just laid down!"
Grin Up: "Is it time to get up and play yet?"

Groan Up: "It's five o'clock and I've got to make dinner...again. [groan] Maybe we can order pizza."
Grin Up: "Hey,it's almost time for dinner. Maybe we can have pizza! I love pizza!"

Groan Up: "The car looks like crap. [groan] Didn't I just wash it last week?"
Grin Up: "I've got a car! And look at all the fun places I've been!"

Groan Up: "[groan]I hate my job!"
Grin Up: "I've got a job!"

Groan Up: "I look and [groan] feel so old!"
Grin Up: "Hey, look at that - I'm still above the dirt!"

Groan Up: "[groan] What now?"
Grin Up: "What's next?"

Want to be done with your groan up life? Join me! Comment with your groan up/grin up lists! Leave your Twitter ID and link in the comments and I'll Tweet your lists, too. The world has enough groan ups - let's start something!

Come on...grin up, already!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Stop the perfecution!

Oh, the power of a typo now and then!

I read an email post by my friend Raventalker today about perfection and our obsession with it. The subject line read was "Perfectuion." With the addition of the mistyped letter U, my mind read, "Perfecution," and I thought, "What a GREAT word!"

There are areas of my life wherein I'm anything but a perfectionist. There are other areas where my desire...some would say obsession...with getting it "right" all but paralyzes me. I become my own worst enemy, persecuting myself for failures large and small, real and imagined...anything short of perfection. "Perfecution" is the "perfect" word for the act of persecuting oneself for lack of perfection. I'm adopting it immediately!

Along with my new word, I'm adopting a renewed committment to not "perfecuting" myself so much. Perfection is wonderful as a goal; it pretty much stinks as a standard. Gratitude is being able to accept and enjoy what is, as is, without reservation. That includes me. I am enough.

Thanks, Raventalker, for both the wisdom of your words and the unintended gift of one little typo - a small imperfection that led to the perfect word and a perfect reminder to see the world - including myself - through grateful eyes. Grateful eyes see beauty everywhere.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Ups and downs...

...on the road of life.

Yeah, I know...couldn't be cheesier if it was melted over a pizza...but sometimes truth is cheesy. There's a reason phrases become cliches. Words that capture truth resonate with us; they encapsulate something complex into a compact package we can wrap our minds around. In the best of times, my life resembles the ups and downs of a mountain road; at other times, it's been more like a roller coaster. In any case, the photo made me smile and the cheesy cliche holds true yet again.

My husband and I spent the weekend with friends at a cabin on Lookout Mountain. We hot tubbed, ate too much, and took time to enjoy the most beautiful fall I can recall since childhood. My friend Peggy and I took a scenic drive and hiked up and down hills, over rocks, and across No Trespassing signs to get better views, leaving me with sore thighs, good pictures, and great memories.

As good as the weekend was, I found myself a bit overwhelmed on Saturday night. Even the best of sounds - good music, honest conversation, and the laughter of friends - can be too much if delivered in an unbroken stream, and by Sunday morning, I needed to recharge my batteries.

I rose before everyone and took a walk, enjoying the cold and the gentle morning light. Finding my way into the woods, I was invited by a centuries-old rock to have a seat, and for a half hour or more he and I enjoyed wordless companionship. Have you ever felt a rock's pulse? It's slow...deep...like a throbbing, basso profundo wave that begins imperceptably and rises gradually so that you're not aware of when it starts or stops but you feel it. And if you sit long enough and listen with all your senses your own energy rises and falls with the wave and your thoughts slow down... slower... deeper...until finally you're heart and breath and mind are humming with the rock and all else fades to the background. When the press of time once again quickens your senses and you rise, you realize that the rock, while aware of you and maybe even grateful for your company, is not diminished or troubled by your arrival or your departure and will be right there when you come back.

And if, like me, you find yourself without anything to offer in thanks for that most precious gift except the grateful tears on your face and the wordless song rising in your throat, you tilt back your head and sing to the rock and the morning and the light and leave your song behind as an offering, knowing without a doubt that it was heard and welcomed and remains for the next person who comes to draw strength from the rock, to be heard not with the ears but with the heart.

I hope they'll sing along.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Good morning, America!

Good morning, world!

I am 52 glorious years old today and celebrating a brand new morning in America. How cool is that?

"This victory alone is not the change we seek. It is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were." - Barack Obama

Last night, I watched as the votes, includine mine, were tallied and Barack Obama became the next president of the United States. I listened to John McCain, a man I admire and respect even though I don't want him running the country, give a gracious, energizing, and unifying concession speech. And I watched Barack Obama speak to the country - and the world - from his heart, with fire and passion and conviction. I cried and clapped and chanted with all the happy people in Grant Park:

Yes, we can!

We did.

And now we must.

The election was the easy part. Barack Obama is an inspired and inspiring man, but he cannot transform this country alone. It's not his to transform. America is all of us. We have to be the ones who put an end to the poisonous name-calling, the fear-mongoring, the talk-radio inferno that whips up anger and resentment and fear-based reactionary rhetoric that small-minded listeners play in an endless loop until they're enraged over imaginary evils.

Stop listening to that junk! Stop! Turn it off! They are not nice kids and you can't play with them anymore. They're greedy show-biz folks who are willing to rot the country at the root to make a living. Blech! Ack! Phooey! Spit! Yuck!

To fill the silence when the radios are turned off (not that all silence needs to be filled), let's make happy talk. Let's talk about getting along, getting together, and getting things done. Let's talk about how we can all prosper. Let our conversations be about what we can do that really matters. And let's talk to - no, with each other. Bring back real conversation and listening skills. Hear what your neighbor is saying, feeling, doing. Pay attention. Engage.

Finally, I leave you with this from Rabindranath Tagore, the most beautiful prayer I can think of for a post-election morning in America:

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action --
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

So mote it be!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

My eyes look to the west...

...to the crossing of Madelyn Dunham...and the sad, human drama of Barack Obama's loss. I have a candle burning for all who loved Madelyn Dunham, and particularly for Barack and Michelle Obama. The weight of such a loss and the fatigue of a long campaign must seem a burden too big to carry. They will carry it, of course, and I will hold them in my heart as they do. May they find comfort often. I cannot help but believe that Madelyn Dunham will choose to stay around at least until the election results are in. Would you want to miss that? When she's ready, I hope Mrs. Dunham crosses gently and peacefully to whatever awaits her.

Our eyes look to the west today...sail smoothly and rest well, dear lady. Well done.

If you haven't voted yet...

...go now! Go! GO!

I will turn 52 years old tomorrow, and this presidential election means more to me personally than any of the other eight since I've been old enough to vote. Maybe that's not a good thing...maybe I should have been more involved all along. I've paid attention, cast my vote, but I've never felt such a visceral connection before.

What's different about this one? Well there's the obvious...a black American running an impossibly close race for President of the United States. The smart, strong woman who gave him one hell of a run for his money in the primary. Eight years of recent history screaming for change. A female vice presidential candidate who some say was selected because she was female. The polarizing issues of faith-tinged politics that leave me feeling queasy and fearful. Environmental concerns...an economy in turmoil.

Yes, I'm engaged in this election...for all the reasons above...and maybe because of the shifts happening in me, too. I've felt myself riding the line between Mother and Crone for a while now, and I am definitely moving to the Crone side. There's a certainty in my life that I've never known...a more convicted stance on issues. I struggled with politics all my life because issues have so many gray areas. I still see the gray, yet I find myself taking stands and speaking up in ways my younger self wouldn't have.

Why is that? Do we just get crankier and more likely to take positions as we grow older? Have we finally learned enough to feel more confident in our opinions? Or do we carry some crazy I've lived this long so you have to listen to me because I've earned it nonesense?

While I like to believe I've picked up some wisdom along the way, I think the real reason for the change in me is a lot simpler. I'm running out of time. At 52, I have most likely lived well more than half my life. My remaining years will see a (hopefully slow) decline in physical, maybe mental, ability. If I'm going to affect positive change in the world during this lifetime, I've got to get on it...now. No more waffling on issues, no more fence-sitting. There are still gray areas, lots of them, but it's time to quit waiting for clear black or white answers and throw in with the closest gray on hand. Let's get the job done and worry about perfecting it later.

So, yeah, I'm fired up about this election. I've already voted, my first early voting ever. I'll be watching the results tonight and I'm fairly confident I'll be celebrating tomorrow. But I promise, whether I'm celebrating or shaking my head and asking, "Why, America?"...I won't stay in either state for long. There's too much work to be done.

Monday, November 03, 2008

To everything a season...

Mists on the lake, originally uploaded by Heartsong Images.

(Photographed on my way to work early last week)

It was so cold this morning...and for a moment I thought, "I miss summer." But as I drove to work, this sight greated me when I crossed the lake. Every season has its beauty. I don't have summer's warmth in October; but I don't see this in August. I'll take them all, please...everything Nature has to offer...and pray that I can stay in the moment enough to enjoy them.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

The color returns...

My mom and I took an afternoon drive today to check out the fall colors. What an amazing sight! We drove up Lookout Mountain to Cloudland Canyon, part of Georgia's excellent state park system. It was a beautiful day with the setting sun playing golden light games all over the canyon.

All the way up the mountain, Mom was squealing...yes, literally squealing...with delight. Mom hasn't had a lot of delight in her life since my dad died almost six years ago. When my oldest brother crossed the veil early this year, the small recovery she had made was yanked out from under her and she fell hard into the dark again. She also suffers from memory loss and has a lot of difficulty with word recall. There are times when loneliness and frustration over her mental confusion combine forces to all but paralyze her.

But today she was happy. She loved the trip up the mountain and enjoyed walking along the canyon rim. For all of her mental struggles, she's strong and moves well for eighty-one. She clambored up and down steps like a pro! She also had company - friends from her church - earlier this weekend, and we dropped in on old friends today before we drove to the park. I don't know if it was the company or the drive or both, but Mom had a good day today. She even wanted to sing together on the way home..."Red River Valley," "Birmingham Jail,", "Summertime,"...she even added a nice harmony to "You Are My Sunshine."

The colors of the seasons are beautiful gifts. Fall leaves always make me smile, but seeing a little color return to my mom's life may just be the best gift yet.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Sign, Sign, everywhere a sign...

...I love this one!

Is there any doubt how this small town feels about firewater? (Thanks to Amy Davenport for the photo.)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Simple pleasures...and four little treasures

What is it about kids and pumpkins? Is there some mystical kinship there, some secret language that alleged grownups don't know that passes easily from the big orange balls to the ears and hearts of children?

I stopped for fresh produce Saturday and was about to leave with my purchase when I saw four tiny tots and two beaming women playing in the pumpkins. It was an instant smile-maker! Little arms wrapped around pumpkins bigger than their whole bodies; tiny feet toddling off in all directions. I spoke to one of the women who told me the babies were quadruplets, her grandchildren and the offspring of the younger woman, who at that moment was retrieving a particularly adventurous tot. Both women graciously agreed to let me photograph the babies for the blog, and I'm grateful. You're looking at two of the four, half of what was a very fun sight indeed.

Just wanted to share the photos and the fun, along with a shot of the colorful corn and gourds that made my eyes so happy. Here's wishing you and yours all the glorious colors of autumn and the wonder of a baby (or four) in a pumpkin patch.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The road to yes

I often have days when my mind flits from one topic to another all day. Today was one of them, and my mental transitions made a funky pattern of twists and turns that left me filled to the brim with gratitude and brought me back here to talk about it. Follow me for a bit and you'll see what I mean...

This morning, I left the house a little late but in enough time to get to work by 8:00 AM. For some reason, traffic was insane today and I ended up getting to work closer to 8:15. It made me think about how easy my morning commute usually is and how what I called "insane" this morning was nothing more than a slight slow-down. People in Atlanta, a mere hour and a half from here, would throw back their heads in maniacal laughter to hear me complain about traffic in Chattanooga on any day. Thoughts of Atlanta traffic removed any desire I had to complain about a little congestion on my way to work this morning.

As I was thinking these thoughts, I watched a driver playing dodge-and-dash, trying to get ahead of the car in front of him, to scoonch up just a little bit more, to get where he was going faster. He passed me on the right, one hand in a death grip on the wheel, the other clutching coffee and cell phone. We ended up stopped at the same red lights and I was right beside him as he made his exit...which is odd because I wasn't doing any of that dodging and dashing, just going with the flow, and I arrived at the same time. I was glad I didn't have to work that hard.

Thinking about working hard reminded me that I had a pretty full day ahead of me. When I got to work, the guy in the next cube greeted me with, "Hey, welcome back!" Not that I'd been away - I was in the office yesterday. He just always seems to have a cheerful good morning phrase at the ready and uses them freely. I appreciate the nice start he gives my day.

Nice...that reminded me of how nice it was to stop by the Election Comission yesterday to do my early voting and not have to wait in line. There were only four people ahead of me. Those four people were elderly; although they moved a little slower, needed a little more time and a bit of help, they were there, making their voices heard in the election process. I felt really happy to be there, taking part with them in an election of so much historical significance. I still remember quite clearly the "Whites Only" signs on the little cafes in town where my dad stopped for coffee. I remember the first time I had black classmates in my elementary school. I have friends my age who, as children, had their houses fire-bombed because their parents were active in the civil rights movement. If I remember that much, what did those beautiful old people remember? How different is our world from when they were young? Regardless of who you vote for, seeing Barack Obama's name on that ballot and knowing that it is entirely possible that he may be the next President of the United States...knowing that he had to fight a hard battle with a female candidate to get that far...has to make you think about how far we've come. We still have much work to do in combating racism, sexism, and all forms of discrimination, but I couldn't help pausing for a moment to just soak it in before I slipped my ballot in to be counted.

Counted...that reminds me of one of my favorite quotes:

Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted. (Albert Einstein)

I can't help but think when I read those words of just how full and rich my life is with things that really count. I have all I need, much of what I want, and the means to get what I don't have if I'm willing to work for it. I have love, friendship, meaningful work, blue skies, rain, stars, sunshine, babies laughing...everything this beautiful world has to offer. I can slow down and go with the flow. I have a voice in my government and the means and will to exercise it. I have an active, agile mind and I can share my thoughts with you through the miracle of language and electricity and your own intelligent, inquiring mind reaching out, exploring. We may never meet, but you are inside my head and we are engaged and connected.

I think about how grateful I am for all of this and more...and I remember two more quotes by men who must have felt the same welling of gratitude and wonder, and who left their words behind as a gift, a reminder:

You pray in your distress and in your need; would that you might also pray in the fullness of your joy and in your days of abundance. - Kahlil Gibran (1883 - 1931)

For all that has been, thanks. For all that will be, yes. - Dag Hammarskjold (1905 - 1961)


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The death of the Perfect Parent Plan

Watching my friend help her daughter with her homework takes me back to my own days as a young parent. What an eye-opener that was! I found that my knowledge of parenting was far greater before I had a child. Something about childbirth shook the Etch-a-Sketch on which I had drawn my Perfect Parent Plan.

Yes, I had a Perfect Parent Plan. Doesn’t everyone? I didn’t take it lightly, either. I spent much of my young life observing – no, experiencing – my own parents and making copious mental notes about what I would and wouldn’t do to my children. I conferred with my friends and swapped horror stories of parenting gone awry, adding to my list of pitfalls to avoid. We all agreed that if we could just manage to not do the stupid, mean, insensitive, clueless things our parents did to us, we should be in great shape, raising perfect, happy kids, and sailing into the sunset of parental bliss.

Of course, what we didn’t know at that point is that while we may avoid the major mistakes of our parents (and they really did make some lulus), we would counter with our own original blunders. We could not predict in our teens that in our 20’s or 30’s we would be blindsided by moments of incomprehensible thickheadedness which we would stubbornly insist were the result of our progeny’s shortcomings. We would confer with the same friends we consulted a decade before and reach the same conclusions – it’s not our fault.

My daughter, now 27, is constantly editing and revising her own Perfect Parent Plan. She’s been working on it for at least as long as she could speak. I know this because she’s been telling me about it all along. Unlike some children, my beautiful girlchild was never one to suffer in silence. She made sure I knew what I was doing wrong at every turn. One of her favorite pretend games was the one about having been mysteriously separated from her real parents, the good ones, from upstate New York, and adopted by these misfits from Tennessee. On particularly bad days, she would dramatically rock back and forth, her arms folded protectively (almost psychotically) around her, chanting, “My real parents will come…my real parents will come.” Her friends’ parents fell under her scrutiny, too, and it affords me some small comfort that I was, in general, considered by herself to be somewhat less clueless than most....but not enough to brag about.

Nowadays, she’s in a serious relationship and the noises she makes about having children of her own have taken slightly more serious tones. And as I anticipate becoming a grandparent, I am resisting the urge to create a Perfect Grandparent Plan. It’s liberating to realize that there’s no such thing as a perfect parent or grandparent.. My daughter hasn’t come to that conclusion yet, and the entertainment value of the days ahead is promising. It still stings a bit when she tells me, “If it’s not one thing, it’s your mother!” but not so much that I can’t smile and bide my time, sure in the knowledge that her children will eventually sting her with their own clever catch phrases. When they do, I’ll have the tea ready, speak a comforting word or two, and try hard not to gloat.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Time to pay the piper...

...and it's a bill I'm more than happy to pay!

Thanks to everyone who took me up on my money-for-comments challenge. I've gotten about 15 new comments (some of which were my own replies but I'm counting them anyway!) and will be making a donation to the food pantry of at least $15. Thank you for participating with me!

If you liked anything you read, please come back often. If you didn't like something, come back and tell me about it. The best conversations have a nice balance of, "Yes!" and, "Yes, but...", with a dash of, "You've got to be kidding!" and a sprinkle of, "What? Are you nuts?" Bring it on!

Finally, I leave you today with something beautiful. From Maine to Tennessee, Autumn's showing her colors beautifully. Thanks to my friend Cathy Wardwell for the photo from Maine; the Tennessee shot is from my back yard yesterday morning.

Blessings to all!

Autumn Reflections in Maine

Autumn Morning in Tennessee