Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Fall Gift

So often Nature stirs the maternal in me. Today on the bluebird house, unoccupied all summer, sat a bird. Binoculars confirmed what we thought was a sparrow was a bluebird. Throughout the day three bluebirds went about taking turns flying in and out of the house preparing their winter's nest. There's something perfect about seeing the hummingbirds off last weekend and finding other feathered kin moving back in. (The blue birds have been absent all summer.)

I was reminded of Valentine's Day three winter's ago when it started to snow. Knowing we had the drive to Nashville in uncertain conditions before us we prepared to leave early. Just as we stood at the back door to say good-bye a bluebird flew into the bird house, followed by another, then another. We watched amazed and delighted as six bluebirds piled into the little house seeking warmth from the sudden snow. For two people who love birds, this little blue brood was a perfect Valentine's gift.

Today a fall gift landed in my lap thanks to the blue birds. Hopefully they're as happy to find their home awaiting as we are to find them.

What gifts of Fall landed in your lap today?
-Dawn, The Good News Muse 23 October 2011

Brought to Life - Brief Thoughts on Joy

I came initially to the country alone this weekend for the first time in nearly a year. In the quiet Friday night I felt my insides stir as I looked out the window. The deer, a doe and her two fawns have passed through several times this summer yet this night the three of them bring tears of joy to my eyes. Being here is such a gift. Seeing sunset, hearing a wren, covering tomatoes, herbs and ferns for the predicted frost, all simple things these beautiful Earth gifts.

I am happy to be able to feel. It's not always been this way. Those on the outside would never know the fears and tears that have filled my insides.

Something flies past the window, a bat or an owl. Last weekend, three bats flew up from the rocky bluff below darting and dipping nearing the ground as we sat before fall's first fire. Then three herons flew just over the tree tops calling and later an owl quietly passed through on a whisper.

To feel joy is such a gift. Joy is what I heard in the voices of a South African choir in a tiny homeland church in the 80's. Joy is what I saw in the faces of Russian people, young and old, in the 80's before the wall came down. And joy is what I will feel this weekend as I turn eighteen pounds of organically grown Roma tomatoes from just over the North Carolina boarder into salsa. Just the thought of tomatoes everywhere makes me smile. Even as I write tears come again to my eyes.

I came to tears of joy late in life. Better late than never. I want to have cried tears of laughter, joy, sorrow, why, gladness, goodness and sadness. I want to have lived without regret, to have paid attention to the ritual and rhythms of nature.

I came to the country alone and am reminded when I am listening I am never alone. Through Earth's simple, beautiful gifts I am brought to life.

What brings you to life? What brings you joy?
-Dawn, The Good News Muse 23 October 2011

Friday, October 21, 2011

Lupine, Foxy and A Work-Out for My Attitude

Early this morning I sat at a busy Nashville stop light on my way to a work out, a work out I missed earlier in the week and didn't want to miss today. At the opposite corner stood a young woman, her bike on the ground, a phone in one hand and a dog by its collar in the other. The woman was either trying to help or find the owner of an uneasy beautiful, big German Shepherd which anxiously watched cars speed past. The dog got away and zigzagged among the cars toward my side of the street just as an SUV rounded the corner. The driver slowed with his window down, his face showed a concern similar to mine as the panicked dog ran up a side street.

In a split second I knew finding the dog was more important than exercise so I drove around the block uncertain how I would coax it to me and into my car but determined to try.

Nearing a complete loop of the block, I discovered I was not the only one. There on the sidewalk sat the man in the SUV, Steve a Vanderbilt resident new to Nashville and just off from work, realized the dog was alarmed. Rather than force himself on the dog, he sat down on the sidewalk and the dog came to him.

Just as I got out my phone, up walked a young woman from across the street. Lupine, a shelter dog, had lived with her for two weeks. She thought his owner had died. Unaccustomed to being outside, he had gotten out an gate left accidentally open moments prior.

Lupine returned home as Steve and I talked about dogs and the students in his prior town who would leave on fall or spring break and abandon their pets in neighborhoods hoping they'd be taken in as well as the earlier rescue of over 100 puppy mill dogs not far from Nashville.

I eventually made it to my work out having worked out my attitude gifted by this little chain of interactions starting with the girl I'll never know who initially found Lupine at the stop light and continuing through Steve, me and Lupine's new owner. I feel for this dog adjusting to new life without his former owner.

I flashed on another dog encounter a mile down the street when a neighbor strolling her son came upon Foxy darting in and out of traffic as drivers yet again seemingly oblivious passed. My neighbor got Foxy and was strolling her son home while calling the owners when Foxy ran into our backyard. I happened to hear my neighbor outside talking to someone so I stepped out. I stepped out as Foxy in just a few seconds walked up the steps into my house. Having been stuck writing, I welcomed the diversion, quickly shut two doors to keep the cats away and sat on the floor as Foxy first nuzzled her face under my arm then lay down exposing her belly so I could pet her.

That day I was reminded of how blessed I am to have neighbors who are kind, thoughtful and love animals. This day I am reminded of how blessed my neighborhood and the world are to have people willing to exercise their heart's and extend themselves to animal kind, nature and human kind. Both days I've been struck by the many people who seemed oblivious and drove past, not even slowing down. These are the people with whom I am impatient. Does speeding past keep them from presence and from feeling? These folks and the recent events in Ohio were why my attitude needed a 'work out.'

It's hard at times to extend myself to humankind when any animal is hurt or neglected be it by random drivers or as happened with the man in Ohio who freed animals he should have never had (in my opinion) then killed himself.

While out of town, I periodically saw a tv headline referencing "Wild animals". As usual when I see this phrase I thought, 'Man could learn from so-called wild animals.' We could learn lessons of getting along from the wolf valuing family and the pack or from the multitude of internet photos that circulate of seeming 'enemies' as companions like my favorite of the the baby bobcat with a fawn during a West Coast fire. I often feel the animals and Mother Earth are trying to wake us up and get our attention to what's really of value in this world yet most of us, including myself drive past like those in their cars of whom I complain.

I was deeply sad to learn more about what happened in Ohio. I've since read the man was in much debt yet I still considered his letting the animals out such a selfish act. Surely he suspected they would be killed which outraged me too, that and how people panicked rather than just shut their doors and keep their kids inside. To read of the tigers, bears and lions killed by the authorities got my day off to a really bad start which continued until meeting Steve and Lupine, seeing the girl with the bike on the corner and recalling Foxy, Jo, Clare, the Humane Association where Lupine was left, the Animal Rescue Corps and all the folks I know who value, care for and love animals in our world.

Those who exercise their heart's compassion in a myriad of ways bring me back to a place of peace and gratitude for this walk on Earth.

How will you exercise your heart today?
-Dawn, The Good News Muse, 21 October 2011

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Sound and Sight Bites - What fills you with wonder?

For nearly a month I've been out of the usual birdseed for our feeder and have resorted to using millet which I usually leave on the ground for mourning doves. The sparrows haven't seemed to mind. They've flocked to the feeder, crowding themselves on the little bar while the cardinals, blue jays and chickadees have vanished. Their absence has been because of my neglect.

Yesterday I finally made the short drive to Berry Hill's Wild Bird's Unlimited. Within thirty minutes of replenishing the feeder a cardinal came to feed. Why does it take me so long to do the things I know feed not just the birds but me? I sat in wonder considering how it is the cardinal knew there was fresh seed.

This morning just as I got up a blue jay showed up. I sat on the sofa coffee in hand watching as questions also arrived, questions I've heard in writing circles for sometime.

From the mists of morning mind I heard, "What's my platform?" and "What's my message?"

In the past I've resisted trying to distill my message into a sound bite or for a particular audience known in the writing world as a platform. To do so seems more like a gimmick intended to impress and capture the attention of an agent, publisher or Oprah. This also requires having a mind. Navigating menopause has deleted my old mind for now at least.

Morning mind is fresh and uncontaminated by the build up of thoughts from the day. This morning those two questions came and resistance had not yet shown up for work.

In this freshness I knew my message at least for today is being open to love and wonder. That is certainly what I was as I sat watching the blue jay, chickadee, a cardinal and yes, the sparrows. I wondered in wonder how it is the birds know the seed has been replenished?

For now I am my platform, an audience of one for what matters most is that I listen to me and be mesmerized by the sound and sight bites of birds, falling leaves and the changing colors of the trees.

By what are you mesmerized? What fills you with wonder? Imagine the Shift.
-Dawn! The Good News Muse, 13 October 2011

A "platform" may be comprised of an Internet or media presence, a very strong reputation in a particular field, a TV show, affiliation with a popular brand, a connection to a popular writing collective, celebrity status, or ownership of the world's largest soapbox.

When it comes to platform: publishers want authors to have it, especially for nonfiction, and it doesn't hurt for fiction either.

That's because especially for nonfiction, we trust and consider brands when making our purchasing decisions. We want to buy our books from the world's foremost authority on the subject. But just as importantly, a big platform allows an author to effectively promote their work.

Hence, publishers want you to have it. It's not everything, and don't get carried away trying to build platform at the expense of writing your book. But in your spare time as you're writing, it can be helpful to get to work building that giant soapbox.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Naming of Trees

Recently I sat on the deck under moonlight naming trees all around me. Aloud I called out "Oak, Maple, Apple, Elm, Cedar, Pine, Birch, Dogwood, Walnut." I named trees because trees love to be named.

Earlier in the day I had gone to the Frist Art Museum to the curator's talk for "To Live Forever" the new exhibit of Egyptian artifacts from the Brooklyn Museum. I was fascinated to hear the importance Egyptians placed on remembering a person's name especially after their death. I pondered how many Americans do just the opposite. Someone dies and we avoid the saying of their name for fear it will upset someone if not be upsetting to oneself. The importance of names and naming I suspect is what got me to naming the trees later that night.

I named the trees around me and wondered what happens when we stop naming things? Do species begin to fade, do they forget who and what they are because they need the interface with us, the relationship experienced through our naming them? Do things actually become extinct because we stop appreciating them?

I recall thinking something similar when my grandmother was in a nursing home years and years ago. We called her Granny. The staff called her Mrs. Young. Her name was Sarah. Sarah. Sarah. Sarah.

I wondered then if dementia occurred because our elders slowly begin to fade as they stop hearing their names. When their parents, peers and spouses pass, who's left to call them by their name. We say it's a sign of respect to use Mrs. or Mr. yet do we really respect our elders? If we did, wouldn't we sit and listen to their stories, ask them questions, desire their wisdom?

I named aloud the trees and thought in this Tree-and-Me relationship as I honor them they in turn share their lessons and energy. Ours is a love relationship which reminded me of how partners forget to name one another and the distance that ensues. How often do I think I know my partner of twenty years when in truth I suspect I've only begun to know him.

I named aloud the trees and thought of folks who act in ways that wound. Do they forget their goodness because those who know them forget to name and call out their love, their light? Slowly separated from who they came here to be, do they become something other?

I named aloud the trees and considered how ceasing to name is sign of being disengaged and disconnected. I get busy, focused on things I must do and forget the things before me. There's another layer though stirring here, something related to intimacy. If I let myself not just say the word, but actually feel the experience of my relationship to what I'm naming then I am open to a fuller engagement and relationship. I am vulnerable to feel the loss of a love, the cutting of a tree, the breaking of my heart yet I carry with me the experience we have shared and I carry more of me.

In naming aloud we remember and re-member. We bring back into ourselves aspects ignored and forgotten. We remember more of who we fully are. An honoring occurs when naming is done with deep consciousness. We honor the person or entity being named and we are honored. Life doesn't get more holy than this for me.

I named aloud the trees and now realize the trees allowed me to share in the sacred, the gift of keeping things alive through sound, experience and name. This is a shift I want to embody and embrace.
-Dawn! The Good News Muse 12 October 2011

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Boot Camp Reflection - Who's Watching You?

During Monday morning's boot camp, our instructor shared how sometimes in sessions with clients at the gym, he'll notice a non-paying person observing, trying to sneak peeks of what he's teaching an individual. We laughed about this as folks referenced similar scenes in sitcoms and movies.

Class continued as we Bill-boed (Bill's version of tae-bo) our way through a series of moves that made me laugh inside. In the Parthenon's glass doors, I saw my own reflection as I pushed to do side kicks on gradually weakening legs. Although I persisted, it was hard to maintain form. By Bill-bo's conclusion, I only hoped no one was sneaking a peek, wanting to emulate me.

Class ended yet Bill's story of being watched while instructing others stayed with me. How often are others watching us and we are unaware? Children especially watch and model parents, siblings and those around them.

I found myself wondering if hidden in this simple story was a bigger clue as to the seeming unraveling of integrity, honesty and joy in living, from political scandals and the home mortgage meltdown to the alarming rate at which anti-depressants and pain killers are prescribed? Is this simple story connected to what happens to politicians who feel called to public service then once elected or while campaigning they watch how things are done, the selling out to lobbyists for votes and making promises to others for gain on the outside that goes against the grain of their insides? Is this simple story connected to how corners are cut, white lies are told and manipulations occur as happened in the mortgage and banking industries?

To bring this home personally I wondered if someone were watching me what might they see? Of what am I a model? I wish I could say I'm a personal trainer for living and loving all out but much of the time I'm a model for mediocrity. I'm unknowingly lulled into thinking life's routine forgetting every moment is new and every breath a gift, that life is a gem polished in life's gym through exercises in loving, feeling, risking, losing, laughing, crying, being and doing.

If others are watching you, what do they see? What qualities do you model in the way you live and be? Imagine living the Shift you'd like to see in the world!
-Dawn, The Good News Muse, 12 October 2011

* Nashville readers: I the walker and non-exerciser highly recommend Bill Crutchfield's "Crutch Camp" at this site
Classes are mornings on MWF at 6, 8:30 and 9:30 at the Parthenon, an amazing place to get your day started with a fun, focused group. Bill will push you and you'll enjoy it. How strange does that sound? Three weeks in and so far this is true. Bill's routines are just like life, filled with change and never the same.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

On Filling, Feeling and Being Fed (Inspired by an Art Binge and a Bird Stuck in Our Feeder)

(A couple of years ago, I awoke one morning hearing: Teach people to feed themselves. I found this strange, yet as time’s passed and encounters have fed me, I find that message not so odd after all. Here’s what happened recently in the form of a story that will continue to take form.)

This weekend while sitting outside I looked up and noticed a tiny bird, a sparrow I suspected, at the feeder eating. Other birds would come and go yet this one remained.

I watched. It stayed. Something was different as to its position. I neared not wanting to cause alarm and realized it had pushed just a bit too far into the feeder and was stuck. I found a pair of gloves and opened the lid. A little eye looked up at me. With one finger I gave its little bird head a nudge. The bird flew away and I realized how it had gotten stuck.

What little seed remained had been pushed away from the front toward the back of the feeder’s opening. The bird was just trying to reach the food. I filled the feeder then from my chair watched birds crowd around like people lined up at troughs, breakfast lunch and dinner bars, across America. I wonder if folks who frequent food bars have a deep awareness for the specifics of what they're eating and the behavior in which they’re engaged or are they on some deeper level like the sparrow just trying to get fed, fearing food will go away.

I then promptly went on a binge myself starting at the Belcourt with a Noon movie about Yves St. Laurent. Although I'm not a fashionista, I was quickly taken with this man's creative genius, the bond between him and his business and life partner and the art they collected over 20 years. I fed on beauty and creativity through film.

Then I went to Watkins to see "Handmade and Bound" (on view through Oct. at Metro Center) an exhibit of handmade books, discovered zines which I didn't know existed and bookmakers, men and women making new books from the covers of old books and repurposed leather. One young woman made books with etched wooden covers while another made miniature book necklaces. I fed on creativity while discovering the new and the old becoming new.

Then I ventured downtown to the Symphony Hall for chamber music, trombones, the youth symphony, and Nashville in Harmony before walking to Fifth Avenue to revisit paintings and photos from the night prior. I fed on bites of sound and color.

By the time I returned home nearly 12 hours later I wondered if he hand of the Muse should have pushed my head from the trough, from the feeder of creativity a little sooner.

I wasn’t numb nor like folks after holiday meals who complain of having over eaten but I did wonder: What just happened as I fed and fed and fed? Did I need Art AA?

I reminded myself not just of those at food bars, but of people who shop and shop then have to rent storage units to store their stuff. I’m not a shopper or a big eater. I collect experience yet if I'm not fully engaged in the experiences I'm having I’m no different from many lined up at food bars or renting storage units - buying, eating and stuffing my body as a bin.

The phrase ‘History repeats itself’ is attributed in various forms to different people. I know personally I’ve judge how we collectively repeat history on the big plane, different players, similar story lines of unconsciousness, greed and the haves versus the have-nots, trying to control and reacting in fear. Yet if in my personal script I’m going through the motions and not fully taking in life’s moments then I’m like the sparrow eating from life’s feeder afraid seeds of experience are running out.

As I’ve reflected on that day, I’ve remembered my heart opened by a movie as well as the sense of home I felt seeing the French countryside. My insides were moved hearing trombone players fill a room with sounds evoking rich dark chocolate and old growth redwood forests. I was inspired and held hope hearing “One by One” a Zulu song sung by Nashville’s only GLBT choir as well as the young musicians making up Metro’s Youth Symphony. And I was physically drawn to a painting by Tony Breuer titled “A Crack in Earth: New Openings” of ghost horses emerging from blacks and blues to oranges and yellows.

In memory I was re-fed the beauty of creativity through music, voice, color, story and texture.

Learning about being fed has taken time, awareness and curiosity. I suspect I arrived here like most kids with the knowledge of how it is to feel and fill. I was nourished while playing in the woods and being out doors, while creating or sitting in the floor of the small elementary school library repeatedly reading books of poetry referencing nature.

Then I neglected the feeding and feeling of my insides partially because it was too painful to tend within. Gradually I forgot how and in turn forgot this Self.

Self-Feeding 101 wasn’t offered in school. School involved learning from the external, the teacher, not ones’ insides or an inner authority. (Having been a teacher for two years in what seems like another lifetime, I’m embarrassed to admit I didn’t teach students to think for themselves.)

Forgetting how to listen within I didn’t realize I was hungry or reaching for something like the bird at the feeder. Actually I forgot life was a feeder from which to feed. I didn’t know I was remembering how to fill and feel until it was happening. I began to listen, to recognize energy in my body, moving energy responding to the external playing upon my senses. I began to let myself feel, to cry with joy and sorrow when moved by music or a moment. I began to listen to the sensations evoked by smelling rosemary growing by the door, noticing the sun’s path across the sky, hearing the wren before daybreak and at dusk, stopping to watch the tiny owl that perched outside my window just after 5:00 every afternoon as winter arrived one year. I learned to be fed, to fill and feel, by paying attention to my inner experience as teacher.

Having been asleep through so much of my life, I suspect on Saturday I gobbled up art-related experiences while making up for lost time. That’s not necessarily bad.

What I’m certain of for now is in this season of harvest, there is a parallel creative harvest of which to partake. How profoundly beautiful is that? Earth is an artist as are people teaching us how to be filled and feel, acquainting us with our insides, with the soul and what deeply satisfies. What I am certain of for now is as long as I’m awake within, life’s feeder will never run out of experience. (You can feast on experience too by clicking on links above for info on music, art and more.)

-Dawn, The Good News Muse 6 October 2011

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

From an August Hike -The Leaf

In summer's heat, this sole leaf lay on the trail at my feet.
A pioneer showing the way for those to come.
"This is how it's done. Let go. Leave home."

Leaves are astronauts in reverse, adventurers from trees, floating down to experience and explore Earth.

I've read that human astronauts in space look back on this floating orb and feel deep awe for their Earth home.

Does the leaf likewise look to branches so far removed and feel a similar appreciation for its once home?

This sole leaf lay on the trail at my feet.
The soil on which I hiked that day would soon become its universe.

How might our lives change if we realized this universe at our feet?
-Dawn, The Good News Muse, 4 October 2011

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Journey of the Moon Flower

I've been watching these two moon flower blossoms for a couple of weeks as they pass through various stages.

Two months ago in the dry July heat, I planted seeds. Squirrels managed to eat every sprout that pushed itself
through the soil but this one. One seed survived squirrels, drought and my negligence in watering to climb its way up through the clematis on our deck and the next thing I knew there were two blossoms.

One evening this week as I tried to stay on task before company arrived, I looked out the window and realized the beautiful spiral blossom had opened revealing the moon flower in its glory. I smiled, headed upstairs to prepare our guest's room then stopped. I turned around, went to the deck, pulled up a chair and sat face to face before this divine gift.

I sat that evening off and on for over an hour exchanging something palpable, experiencing what I call an I-can-die-now moment. I hadn’t been wanting to die, but it would be okay if I did, not because I’ve just accomplished some lifelong goal or feat, but because I experienced such deep satisfaction in the quiet wonder and presence of Nature. For me, life doesn’t get any better than this.

I thought of the scientists at CERN who had just revealed neutrinos may travel fast than the speed of light. My experience will not make their radar or the news but I sensed something traveling, something palpable in the space of three feet between the moon flower and me.

Rather than rush to prepare room for company, I opened a room within for the company of the moon flower. I’ve continued to savor this divine experience as it now enfolds a day later into a tightly cupped miracle which I imagine holds my energy as I hold it.

I imagine my energy trekking through its green veins down into the dark soil infusing Earth with my love while I likewise trek through my day, sharing the light of the moon flower with all I meet.

-Dawn, The Good News Muse, 1 October 2011