The power of yellow to defy gender roles

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This is one of my mother’s rare collages, which I’m sharing today in honor of her birthday. It reminds me of how much she loved blues and greens. I have a theory about favorite colors, related to this post about the chakras. What if we wear and surround ourselves with certain colors, out of an unconscious need to balance our energies, or because of how dimly they resonate in our body? Maybe our favorite color points to a deficiency or some other fraught relationship with the energy of that chakra.

For me, it’s red, the vibration of the root chakra. I do struggle with being grounded. I have a history of questioning my right to exist, my worthiness. For much of my childhood, my presence felt tentative, provisional, like waking up in a strange place and you don’t know how you got there. We moved every year or two, uprooting and relocating, making it difficult to feel at home anywhere. Our wider circle of relations was far away. We saw them once or twice a year, feeling like outsiders to the close-knit extended Italian family of cousins and in-laws. Continue reading

The humility of yielding and being led

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Yielding is not well regarded these days. To give in to the will of another, to allow oneself to be led in an unknown direction, to withdraw from conflict—these are all seen as signs of weakness in a culture obsessed with leadership and action. This is at odds with the messages I keep getting to slow down and be still. To, as this turtle recently showed me, pull into my shell and wait until it’s time to continue.

I am a student of the I Ching, the ancient Chinese “Book of Changes.” As an outside source of wisdom, it teaches me to trust my own intuition and be more present to the many lessons I can learn just by showing up more authentically in my life. I use it not so much as an oracle, but as a reminder to stay open to situations as they arise. Continue reading

Be a prism: let color have its way with you

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The vibration of energy, of waves, color and sound is the secret signature of all things. Both science and spirituality say this. Artists, musicians and poets have understood it for millennia. I’ve been working with a friend to produce a set of meditation cards based on the chakra system. It has heightened my awareness of color in so many ways, from simple mood shifts to the resonance in my body of a particular color. How much do we really see of the colors we encounter as we move through our day?

Different colors and sounds vibrate at different wavelengths. Being a part of this system, our body acts as a prism, connecting to the White Light of All Consciousness, and refracting it into the individual colors of the spectrum. When you delighted by a rainbow or the dancing colors of a crystal hanging in a sunny window, your body is recognizing its kindred. When I pay attention to the color red or violet or green, I feel an immediate pull of connection. Continue reading

On stopping time and help arriving just when you need it

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I am one of those cautious people who resist speed. I harden up in fear and can’t relax into it, let alone feel the thrill and joy of being on the edge or out of control. I had a flash of insight this morning after a heart-opening yoga class that my problem with speed extends to a wish to stop time from passing so quickly. The correlation drew me in and showed me something surprising.

I had had a late night, one of those unavoidable parenting experiences that at first I resisted. Once I acquiesced, the night was quite revealing. Our 13-year-old son had taken the light rail with a friend downtown, to attend the Orioles game. The O’s (who’ve been in a long downhill slide since July) scored ten runs in the bottom of the eighth inning. That’s two grand slams and a couple more homers just for good measure. All those at-bats take a lot of time. My son’s friend had already fielded his own father’s warning that they must leave after the seventh inning or find another way home. The friend volunteered me; they stayed, and were rewarded with a spectacular homer-fest. Continue reading

Take two sunsets and call me in the morning

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I made this painting last evening during the sunset. We were in Hawk Cove, just outside Middle River where we keep our boat docked. With only a slight breeze, we were able to poke along with the mainsail instead of going to the trouble of anchoring. I was attracted to an amazing bulge of shockingly white cloud erupting from the bank of blue-gray on the horizon. The tinge of yellow and peach from the descending sun would be interesting to try to capture in watercolor.

As soon as I began, circumstances conspired to annoy me. My husband was feeling too relaxed after a nice picnic dinner to steer, so the boat twisted slowly away from my view. Since the sunset would soon be over, he wanted to start the engine and be on our way. As soon as he made this known, I protested. One of the best things about a sunset on water is the stillness that settles over everything. It’s also almost impossible to capture it in a painting, because the scene is constantly changing. Continue reading

In search of maps for the territory ahead

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“For Plato, the allegory of the cave implied a journey beyond the realm of the body and the senses to the realm of immaterial ideas. But its meaning has been hijacked. For materialists, objective reality is not the realm of ideas but mathematicized matter. In the modern version of this allegory, scientists alone can step out of the cave, observe reality as it is, and come back into the cave imparting some of this knowledge to the rest of humanity, confused by rival subjectivities. Only scientists can see reality and truth. The philosopher, and later the scientist, have to free themselves from the tyranny of the social dimension—public life, politics, subjective feelings, popular agitation, in short, from the dark cave—if they want to accede to truth. Back within the cave, the rest of humanity is locked into the realm of multiculturalism, conflict, and politics.” ~ Rupert Sheldrake, Science Set Free

Years ago, I had a fascinating conversation with my nuclear physicist uncle, who spent his career on fusion (the way the sun works), rather than fission (which is how commercial nuclear power is produced). I asked him how he could consider nuclear power to be “clean” energy, when it produces radioactive waste that we hardly know what to do with—other than bury it in sacred mountains and saddle future generations with the problem. He stated that President Carter had ruined the purity of the science by agreeing via treaty never to reprocess spent fuel. The way it was designed originally, spent fuel could be recycled virtually ad infinitum and fed back into reactors, thereby creating a closed loop. (This is my own layman’s interpretation.) He was well and truly offended that politicians would meddle in things they don’t understand. Continue reading

Listening to the song of the Chesapeake

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As a resident for the last 25 years of Baltimore, Maryland, I have spent many days on the Bay, usually in a sailboat. I, like many Marylanders, am acutely aware of the state of the Chesapeake Bay and her many tributaries. My son has been studying water quality in his 7th grade geography class, which included a trip to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s study center on Smith Island—a truly special place, one of only two inhabited islands in the Bay. Tom Horton’s wonderful book about his time living on Smith, An Island Out of Time, is aptly titled.

The recent Report Card issued in late 2014 by CBF gives the state of the Bay a D+, the same grade as in 2012. Hard-won improvements in water quality were offset by losses in other areas, the impression of no progress defying the efforts of thousands of people and the expense of millions of dollars. The Bay is a complex ecosystem, its watershed sprawling over parts of six states, including major urban areas, two shipping ports, intense suburban development, industry and farmland. As the Report Card says: Continue reading

A simple way to reconnect: experience awe

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It’s been a busy week of writing deadlines, so I’m taking a shortcut today to share this wonderful article, “Why Do We Experience Awe?” from last Sunday’s New York Times. I love their suggestion, based on years of social psychological research, for how we can feel more connected to each other and the world around us. It’s simple: experience awe on a daily basis.

“ . . . awe is the ultimate “collective” emotion, for it motivates people to do things that enhance the greater good. Through many activities that give us goose bumps — collective rituals, celebration, music and dance, religious gatherings and worship — awe might help shift our focus from our narrow self-interest to the interests of the group to which we belong.”

The world we’ve created for ourselves is so complicated, fast-paced, hyper competitive, and stressful. It’s a profound relief to encounter a couple of scientists who’ve taken the time to test, and prove, this simple hypothesis: Continue reading

Alive: the extravagant vitality of the late-spring forest

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This guest post is by Lindsay McLaughlin. You can read a bit about her on the “Denizens” page.

The fields of our residential community: the little one behind Pinestone, and the larger one that embraces the garden and often hosts the sheep, are awash in shades of green. The grasses are growing, it seems, more than an inch every day. The hummingbirds are back, dancing in the azaleas; the whippoorwill sings like a fool in love outside our windows and doors every night. Rabbits and squirrels hop and scamper. In the garden, radishes are busting out of the earth, lettuce and kale and an array of other growing things make a thick green blanket from fence to fence. Insects buzz and hum and chirp and whirr. The wood frogs trill and the air is thick with pollen dust and the smell of warm earth. The rain and chill of only a couple weeks ago is another world.

All this heat and bother is waking up the reptilian, cold-blooded creatures in our neighborhood. Scot, who seems by some charm to find or be found by such as these, has encountered (so far) a milk snake in the sheep field, a black snake in the wood shed, a ribbon snake by his front door, and a very stubborn copperhead in the woodpile. Each time Scot tried to catch this copperhead, it slipped the noose and dropped down into the woodpile, wrapped in a cloak of invisibility.   Its disappearing act forced the practice of patience, as Scot waited for it to emerge and settle on top once more. This dance went through four revolutions until finally, after re-designing the snake stick, Scot was able to catch the snake and escort it far up the power line. Continue reading

What the river says

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. . . We know
the current is there, hidden; and there
are comings and goings from miles away
that hold the stillness exactly before us.
What the river says, that is what I say.
~ William Stafford, from “Ask Me

When I go out into a forest with awareness of my senses, I find myself being called by one of the Others who dwell there. A hawk may circle overhead. A spring wildflower may signal its curiosity. A stately poplar tree may entice me with its craggy bark. Whatever encounters I have will leave me with a sense of wonder, marveling at the intricacy of this tiny part of the animate world. At its unique perfection, a beauty that extends far beyond physical qualities. It is an invitation to the peace of belonging.

A marvelous thing happens when I compare what I have heard in wild places with what others hear. When we gather for Restorying retreats and send people out on the land, they return with movingly personal stories that are also messages to all of us, individually and collectively. It is not unlike working dreams with a few friends. Even though the dream may seem at first to be meant only for me, after some consideration its universal themes begin to emerge. There is the distinct feeling that the dream was sent through me to benefit others, as well as myself. Continue reading