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"For me, and, I am sure, for most of you, to be human is to always be in the process of becoming, to be in quest of openings, of possibilities." ~ Maxine Greene

Friday, November 26, 2010

Christmas Shopping Frenzy ~ What to do?

Every year, I am more and more baffled about what to do about Christmas ... All of that SHOPPING! According to one news source, 1 in every 3 Americans goes shopping today, "Black Friday." That is an absolutely astonishing statistic. There are a 310,792,445 MILLION people in the U.S. as I write this; if one-third of them go shopping, that means there are 110 million people driving to big-name stores, for the most part, and spending money on STUFF. We see them on TV, camping out the night before, hoping for some great deal ... or not:

There was a young man interviewed on the Seattle news last night; he was camping in front of a Best Buy at Southcenter Mall. When asked what he was hoping to get, he replied, "Oh, I don't really need anything. I just thought it would be fun." This is the face of the future of our nation.  Even in other countries (primarily Europe), people are losing their minds. Watch this, and pay particular attention to the women riding the escalator, who suddenly covers her mouth in surprise ... god only knows what she sees in the mass of bodies below (then click on the back arrow to return to this page):

So, this whole Christmas shopping thing confuses me more and more each year. I am repulsed by the notion of shopping for Christmas, yet I enjoy giving gifts to people. But the pressure from manufacturers to give things to people all at once (i.e., once each year) rings so hollow for me. At no other time of the year do I feel compelled to buy gifts simultaneously for every person in my family, or every coworker, friend, or neighbor, so why should I do it now? Just because everyone else is doing it? It's not that I mind showing love and appreciation for others through a small gift, by why should it be all at once? The whole thing feels so obligatory and, therefore, meaningless.

And then there is the question of the conditions under which all of those items were produced: Was the sweater for Aunt Louise sewn in a sweat shop? Was this perfume tested on rabbits? How much damage to the environment occurred in the manufacture of these shoes, or this TV screen, or that laptop?  So, every year, I go back and forth between "buying into" (pun intended) the rampant consumerism or rebelling against it completely. People who go shopping retort, "It's good for business! More buying creates more jobs! But look at how much money I saved by buying this! Look at the great deal I got! And it was the last one!" But no one asks the question, "Where is all of our consumerism taking us?" I mean, what's the point? Couldn't we show love and appreciation for each other more often throughout the year, and leave it at that?

I have seen the website for "Buy Nothing Day" (today), which I heartily support. And then there is the "Small Business Saturday" approach, which can help to ease some of that frenzied pressure by simply encouraging people--if they are going buckle under pressure and shop--to shop at smaller, local businesses, as opposed to the larger chain stores.

I really don't know what the answer is for me ... As I move through this life, endeavoring to find ways to live more intentionally, I have to say that the Christmas Shopping Frenzy leaves an increasingly sour taste in my mouth. But to not follow the crowd labels me a Grinch or a Scrooge. The search continues.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Enjoying the Fresh Air

In this photo, Duke and I had just returned from his afternoon walk in the neighborhood.  The sidewalks were crunchy and slippery with snow and ice!  In spite of his years (13.5 and counting), and some arthritis in his hips, he did very well negotiating the challenging conditions.

It always amazes me that animals can just acclimate to the temperature, regardless of how hot or cold it is. Duke didn't need anything but his collar, while I had to put on leggings, snow pants, a turtleneck, fleece sweater, ski jacket, hat, and wool socks and boots!

Chilling Out

Kuan Yin, Goddess of Wisdom and Compassion, after the snowfall. 

She is content, and contemplating the meaning of "cold." 

Or perhaps she feels warm under the blanket of snow ...?

Snow in Seattle ~ November 23rd

Here's the Duke Meister, looking rather serious in the snow!  But he enjoyed coming outside to watch over me as I snapped a few photos of our yard and the icy street.

Seattle got hit hard with snow on Monday, and then a blast of Arctic Air last night; it's in the low 20s and clear today, but much of the city is shut down due to icy streets.  There is no school or work to go to ... 

We are having fun baking muffins and cookies, and making the house smell really really good!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Mind BEFORE Meditation

Here is my mind,
a snapshot before sitting down
on my meditation cushion ~
filled with ideas,
colorful and bright,
fun to look at!

But a bit overwhelming;
hard to take in
just one thing.
Focus?  Hardly.

The Mind AFTER Meditation

Here is what my mind is like
after 30 minutes of simply
my breathing, in and out ...

Thoughts still arise, but are less
frequent, and there is S P A C E. 

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Song Lines

I was recently in Boulder visiting some friends and colleagues at Naropa University and, after speaking about my trip to Australia and showing them pictures, I received on loan a book titled “Stories from the Origin,” by Ann Parker (another Naropa faculty member).

In this book, written 30 years after her own travels in Outback Australia, the author provided vignettes and musings about the Aborigines, about her own perceptions of life “in the bush,” and the juxtaposition of those perceptions with the continual unfolding of a different reality ~ a reality that has been described by Aborigines as “The Dreamtime” (and they refer to it as many other things, as well, but that’s too much to go into here).

What struck me about the book were the similarities between the author’s experiences and insights and the experiences and insights I had when living in a small village in northern Alaska about 25 years ago. I was there only 9 months as a high school teacher, but hardly a day goes by that I don’t remember something from that space and time; it profoundly altered my perceptions of myself, of my students, and of the greater cosmos. My recollections from those months have been working inside of me all of this time, continually shaping my trajectory, much like water has shaped the Grand Canyon over hundreds of thousands of years.

For a long time, I have wanted to take my journal entries and sketches from that Alaskan experience and publish them. But, as the years dribbled one into the next, other things took precedence and I figured that no one would want to read about them anyway. But, now, after reading Ann Parker’s book, I realize that those stories are timeless; they need to come out. Somehow, I feel as though giving them a voice will further that trajectory (whatever it is) in a powerful way. I don’t know what it will look like, but it feels urgent now in a way that it didn’t before. I am excited about writing my stories, and will endeavor to publish some posts about my process as I go along.

In Ann Parker’s book, she writes about “song lines” and “singing the world into existence” ~ I found all of this incredibly intriguing. The concept of a “song line” parallels my inner yearnings to publish my stories; I feel like I am trying to listen very carefully for my own “song line” into the rest of my life, and somehow through writing about things that happened a quarter of a century ago, I will finally hear my own tune.

It goes like this (and I am paraphrasing and quoting Ann’s writing here, while she also quoted from a book published in 1997 by Bruce Chatwin, titled “Songlines”):

“The Aborigines believe in the existence of ‘song lines,’ which are like ‘energy lines’ that guide them across the landscape in search of each other, in search of another encampment, or some yams, or a watering hole. The belief is that the totemic ancestors (those from the Dreamtime), while traveling through the country, scattered a trail of words and musical notes along the line of their footprints. These dreaming tracks lay all over the land as a means of communication between tribes. The song is the map as well as the direction finder. If you know the song, you will always find your way across the country” (pp. 76-7).

I love this idea of song lines … Who knows, we might ALL have “song lines” of one sort or another ~ an inner map and compass ~ but the continual cacophony of our daily lives drowns them out. I certainly do not mean to co-opt the Aborigines’ ancient beliefs, but there must be something universal and connected about their song lines, and my resonance with them. Such an experience leads me to ask, “If there is a song line for me to follow, what is it be saying? Where did it come from?  Where will it lead?”

As the title of this blog asserts, the answer will come while I evolve … intentionally.

(The picture above was created by Damian Frost; I found it at his website: http://www.dfrost.net/illustrations).

Monday, November 8, 2010

Last photo from Darwin

Here we are, smiling in spite of the fact that we were minutes from parting ways and leaving the lush, tropical, and humid air of Darwin.  It really was sticky!  But everything was so GREEN.  I will post some more pictures of the trip on this blog, but for now I am bringing closure to this amazing trip.  The dust of Australia got into my bones, for sure, and I will go back.  To see so much of the country in two weeks was truly remarkable ... from the breezy and warm air of Sydney, to the rains and cool grasslands of Canberra ... through some snow (!), and then into the sugar cane, macadamia nut groves, and incredible beaches of the Gold Coast ... then to the Bundaberg Rum Factory (yum!), and then west, into the red and scrubby Bush, where the air grew thicker and thicker with dust, and the heat reached 90-100 degrees (Fahrenheit) -- or 32-37 Celsius by mid-morning ... to the hot and humid streets of Darwin.  It was all amazing, and I will indeed be digesting this trip for a long time.  There is so much more I want to see.

Digesting Down Under

Just look at this beach!  The miles and miles (kilometers) of warm, smooth sand, the sun on your face, the soft breath of wind in your hair ... I wish I could have had 30 minutes of footage!  Juliette, Michael, and I walked on a number of beaches; this one was just a 2-minute stroll from our apartment in Noosa, which is just north of Brisbane on the Gold Coast.  Absolutely LOVELY.  I will always remember the feeling of being fully satisfied; there was nowhere else I wanted to be.  Sigh ...