September 14th, 2006

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Ann Richards

I wake up to see that Ann Richards died.  Here is a glowing tribute to her.

This morning I am considering the form of the blog.  It is an online journal.  I post what is happening for me in the moment.   I usually do not go back and read what I have posted.  Yesterday, it was odd  to go back in and read what I had written, and know that though the purge was, perhaps, beneficial for me, information could be presented in a just as accurate, but kinder form.  I softened what I had written.  I suppose we can do that with all our memories, tenderize.   

The fog is still in, and the wind, and yet, the sky has a pink glow.   May each of us experience a rose-colored day.
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Thich Nhat Hanh -

"In April we cannot see sunflowers in France, so we say the sunflowers do not exist. But the local farmers have already planted thousands of seeds and when they look at the bare hills they may be able to see the sunflowers already. The sunflowers are there. They lack only the conditions of sun, heat, rain, and July. Just because we cannot see them does not mean they do not exist."

Thich Nhat Hanh, b. 1926
Vietnamese Buddhist Monk and Peace Activist
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Joy is what happens when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are.

    Marianne Williamson

I believe that one reason I felt so much joy during the chemo process was that I was aware of exactly that.  I saw how loved I was, and how much I loved.  I had friends, family, and incredible medical care.  I would go out in the world,  and see people who were much worse off than I.  It was a wondrous opportunity to see how good things really are, and experience the full rainbow range of joy. 

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just in case -

Just in case your morning is not yet seen  through rose-colored glasses, I offer a poem of cure.


             Ginger Andrews

Lying around all day
with some strange new deep blue
weekend funk, I'm not really asleep
when my sister calls
to say she's just hung up
from talking with Aunt Bertha
who is 89 and ill but managing
to take care of Uncle Frank
who is completely bed ridden.
Aunt Bert says
it's snowing there in Arkansas,
on Catfish Lane, and she hasn't been
able to walk out to their mailbox.
She's been suffering
from a bad case of the mulleygrubs.
The cure for the mulleygrubs,
she tells my sister,
is to get up and bake a cake.
If that doesn't do it, put on a red dress.

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more Ann Richards -

I am saddened by the passing of Ann Richards, and refreshened by the reminder of her wit.   Here is another delicious quote of hers that will reverberate through time.

In her speech to the Democratic convention in Atlanta, she said,  “Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did. She just did it backwards and in high heels.”
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Raising children -

It does feel different to have a married son.  I come across this poem on being a parent, and feel well-satisfied.   The poem is by Frances Cornford, who lived 1886-1960, and was the granddaughter of Charles Darwin.


       Frances Cornford

The spirits of children are remote and wise,
They must go free
Like fishes in the sea
Or starlings in the skies,
Whilst you remain
The shore where casually they come again.
But when there falls the stalking shade of fear,
You must be suddenly near,
You, the unstable, must become a tree
In whose unending heights of flowering green
Hangs every fruit that grows, with silver bells;
Where heart-distracting magic birds are seen
And all the things a fairy-story tells;
Though still you should possess
Roots that go deep in ordinary earth,
And strong consoling bark
To love and to caress.
Last, when at dark
Safe on the pillow lies an up-gazing head
And drinking holy eyes
Are fixed on you,
When, from behind them, questions come to birth
On all the things that you have ever said
Of suns and snakes and parallelograms and flies,
And whether these are true,
Then for a while you'll need no more
That sheltering shore
Or legendary tree in safety spread,
No, then you must put on
The robes of Solomon,
Or simply be
Sir Isaac Newton sitting on the bed.  
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The fine line -

I receive an email from my friend Vicki commenting on the blog and the place of censorship and glossing and the place to note the detail where we all find life and delight.  I am reminded in her words of the words of, and now, I google the words, "God is in the details," and come up with Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, as the originator.   Hmmm, anyway, the point is this.  I took out some details of the behavior of Jan's parents.  I consider on that now.   My sense is that, in this particular case, I did the right thing.   Yes, I was giving my opinion, and I think the subject is sensitive.   There is a question of sanity in this, and I think, I stand by, in this one case, the change, and I hear distinctly what Vicki is saying, and want to honor her words and thoughts as to including as much as is humanly possible of my life and thoughts.

She brings up how much Jane and I are noticing as we go back through what we wrote in January and February and this is true.  We were not able to feel it then.  We struggle even now to feel it.  We continue to see each time we read the words how much more is there, and it may be that in including more of the details of the wedding day, I make it more whole.  It is true that Steve and I walked on the rose petals and did not disturb them at all, and my sense is that I need to honor the privacy of the pain of those who did come to the wedding, though, for them, it was betrayal, and, therefore, brutally difficult.  They had to hold themselves together.    

What I see and feel, upon reflection, is that the whole group expanded in love, to hold the pain of the anguished two.  Somehow everyone seemed to understand, at some level, how some pre-conceived idea could mean an inability to accept what, to the rest of us, was only lovely and beautiful.   Perhaps, each of us learned to honor that small place in ourselves that is conservative and unable to accept or change.

I have long struggled with the subject of tradition.  I think I am, at heart, a very conservative person.  I love my tribe, and am loyal, and in defense.  I have, until recently, been proud to be an American.  I do not know what China Jan's parents and the parents of some of Jan's friends hold in their minds as to be worthy of such loyalty.  Of course, I know that an interracial child may be judged by some ignorant souls, but each of us may be judged in some way by an ignorant other.  We cannot live our lives fearing judgment, and I do see that the narrowness of the vision of Jan's parents allowed us each to feel some compliment to ourselves that we are not like that, and yet, I am not so unrealistic as to believe that there is not a place where I am just as narrow.  I do not want to be judged for my narrow places, (unfortunately, my narrowness is not in my hips,) and so, I try to back away from judgment of the narrow places of others.  I know Jan's parents love her, and their way of showing it may be different than mine, but, if I judge them, I set myself up for judgment, and I think, perhaps, that is the point.  I am trying to include a space for my own narrow-mindedness, and to be kind to myself.   That is why I backed off, for myself.

Also, when I read my words again, I felt anger.  I was re-building a fire that is now extinguished.  

Steve's brother used to investigate the accidents of Porsches.   People would sue, when they had an accident in a Porsche, and blame the car, when, in reality, they should not have been driving such a high-powered car.   They hadn't a clue.   Steve's brother was down south one day, trying to re-create what happened in an accident.   He kept asking questions, and the sheriff kept saying,  "Son, it's all burnt up," and that's how I feel about this.  The fire is out.  They have stopped calling Jan and leaving angry messages.  "It's all burnt up," and now, we begin again.   Thank you, Vicki, for helping me sort myself out, and also, letting me know I understand what you say, and, still, in this case, sit with what is, for me, in this moment.  The rose petals are swept up, and the fire is out.
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Upon reflection -

I re-read Vicki's words and, am again struck at the excellence of what she says, and how she says it.   She was playing devil's advocate and that is what we need.   Without it, we have rigidity and prejudice, and those who struggle with the choices of another.  I have asked her permission to place them here, and I am hoping she says yes.  She is an incredibly strong and tender intellect, and a powerful writer, and I would like to see her words here as a counter-point, or, perhaps, augmentation is a better word,  to mine.
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more thoughts -

Vicki and I continue our discussion.  She has given me permission to post her words, and I will.   She thinks my original postings were kind, and that was true.  I was circumspect.  I think part of erasing what I originally wrote is wanting to erase their effect on me.   Their attitude feels poisonous, and I am trying to expand around it, and not, be affected or poisoned by their attitude.  It has taken some work, as, at times, I have felt like a voodoo doll being poked by their inability to understand.  Venom can be spread in many ways.  I am struggling to move so it falls harmlessly into sand.

Each time, I read Vicki's words, I am struck by their honesty and integrity.   Richly, I  partake.  

Here are Vicki's words:

Good morning, dear one. I'm glad to read that the wedding was all you had thought it might be and more, your happiness for these two people you love, and your pleasure in being around their lovely friends.

I also want to play devil's advocate just a bit in regard to your regrets, or second thoughts, about posting what you did about Jan's parents. To me you said nothing slanderous or poisonous, you just stated the truth of your perception of their choices in how they would behave and how they would respond. Certainly as a reader, after all these months of suspense around them, they were one of the key bits of information I wanted in your recap. Had you simply glossed over all that entirely I would have felt very frustrated.

Conflict and difficulty often make for more interesting reading, or listening, than paeans of joy and happiness. Maybe that's because we all have areas of difficulty in our lives and we not only can relate to what others go through in that way, it often gives us insight into our own dilemmas and even provides us a sense of relief--yes, others, too, have feet of clay, do foolish and sometimes hurtful things. It gives us permission to be the full human beings we are, warts and all. So much of our behavior is aimed at looking good before others. It's a gift to know that things are not so perfect as they might sometimes seem when we look around us at other lives. It helps us know we don't have to be so perfect, that no one is.

You said something yesterday about would you want your grandchildren to read what you had written. What happened happened, it's a true story. Whatever path her parents take towards reconciliation and forgiveness, or not, surely that is part of the legacy of the grandchildren, something they have a right to know--not so they can blame and be
angry, but so they know the truth that is part of their own story. Otherwise one breeds secrets, hides skeletons in closets and thus breeds an atmosphere far more poisonous to the soul than open acceptance of reality could ever be.

Furthermore you were careful, as you always are, to note that you were writing from your own perspective of the situation and from your own responses to it. You didn't try to psychologize their process, you simply looked at your own and touched briefly on what you noted other's responses to be.

Speaking from my personal perspective, I relate much better to you when you're telling me the whole picture. Endless beauty, happiness and joy is so outside my own experience that I have difficulty responding to it. When I read about the struggle to get to those moments and that kind of awareness, that gives me a way in to the experience. I think here of what you also posted yesterday about the work you and Jane were doing where you look at what you wrote in January and then speak of what was actually going on. You crack the sugar coating of that January day and it's in the crack that the interest lies for me. I also think it's absolutely necessary in terms of the book, for otherwise some
person going through that whole thing could end up worrying about why they were struggling so when for you all was bliss.

You say you're re-evaluating what the blog is, what you want it to be. I have and have had a lot of thoughts about the idea as well-- what does it mean to post a blog? A journal, in and of itself, seems to me a private thing, a place where one writes unfettered whatever comes through. When the writing is posted for public consumption, you've added in another dimension, the reader. Perhaps it's important to fully acknowledge that dimension is part of the equation. It undoubtedly does influence what you write anyway. You've mentioned several times to me in the past that you try to be positive and cheerful on the blog and are careful about what you say. So already in that sense it's not the
same as keeping a personal journal. At the same time, if one is writing for other people, there's some sort of unspoken contract that one wishes to hold their attention, to be of interest and perhaps to teach, to share insight.

I heard a great dharma talk last week, given by one of the members of the sangha here, not a regular teacher. I was so impressed with the very particular scrutiny and honesty with which he told a story. This summer he had three terrible events happen to people very close to him--there was a sudden death, a lingering and painful illness, and a
young man permanently paralyzed after a motorcycle accident. He spoke about trying to use his practice to be fully present, to bear witness and recognize that often that is all we can do for each other in the presence of suffering. But then he also talked about having moments when he'd recognize that along with his grief was this sly little addendum to it that was quite proud of how well he was grieving, how empathetic and loving he was being. And he talked about when he would notice that, how he'd try to work with it, realizing that was the constructed ego and it was serving to actually remove him from the real experience of grief, putting him instead into the idea of grieving. Sometimes the realization was all he needed. But also, it was something that came back over and over in many guises, that intervening layer between actual experience and an idea of how one is experiencing it, behaving through it. I thought it took tremendous courage for him to acknowledge that voice to himself, and even more to speak publicly of it. And it was what made his story compelling and insightful and awakened a particular awareness in me as well.

I guess I'm telling you this because of that idea of audience, of reader. The interest, the lessons, are in the struggle to open to real awareness, real experience. It's the process, not the end point, that's compelling.

I went to a Thich Nhat Hanh sitting group last week also, and realized in comparing my experience with the two groups, why his approach is only minimally helpful for me, even though he of course speaks to the same core truths that other buddhist practices do. He makes it very simple. Breathe. Smile. Let go. But he doesn't really tell me how to work with sloth and torpor, with greed, hatred and delusion, how to break the seductions of those powerful five and be willing to choose Breathe, smile, let go. I learned much more from this guy's scrutiny of his own ego mind about how to get there. The freedom isn't necessarily in getting to a place of joy, the freedom came in the moment of noticing--ah, here I am feeling proud of how well I grieve. Noticing, and then being able to let it go, even if only for a few seconds, and drop into the actual experience.

I read Vicki's words, and, think of times I've watched myself grieve, rather than being in the experience.   At my father's funeral, a wonderful soprano sang Ave Maria.  I felt myself sobbing more because it seemed right, than because I was really there with, or for,  it.   Ah, sad, emotional song - time to cry - I hadn't thought of it as ego, but,  perhaps, more as some kind of theatrics that might satisfy and fulfill the occasion.   Certainly, I was stunned and numb, and not really there.  He died in an accident.  I flew back from Mexico City, and, there I was, standing in a blue dress at a funeral.  Who could make sense of that?   And so, I performed.  

Anyway, what do I want to say here?   Oh, just to again reiterate, that we are here in this game of life, and, I believe we are each struggling to fully partipate with as much joy and sorrow, love and compassion, understanding and kindness, as we can, and if that means beating a punching bag to a pulp, so be it.   Whatever works for you, and for me,  is fine!    Punch this day into the living you need, and that may be a pillow or a bag, silk or rags, but fit yourself in and move as you bleed.   
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more and more thoughts -

Vicki also says this:

    "I never seem to intend to write you a long letter but there's something about writing to you that unleashes a torrent of thoughts and words in me. Your openness, I think, to exploration and possibilities, is what does it."

    I hope this blog is that to many of you, a place of openness, a place to explore and open possibility.   One of my domaine names is about touching possibility.  I love the world of imagination, and creating what I believe.   May this be so for us all.

    I should be working on my taxes - I can't put it off any longer, and, yet, this has felt important to fully explore.   In Rosen, we often ask, after someone has spoken, "Is that all?" and a whole other torrent may unleash.   I think here, in these last few days, I have done a great deal to release my feelings on Jan's parents, and crush them, like grapes into wine.
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and now this comes -

I finish posting and check my email and there is the new edition of Heron Dance.   I post it here.   You can also check it out at:

ALL I CAN go with is my personal truth, my integrity, and my intuition. I try to tap every day into that higher voice that I hear and trust. That is more than enough. I feel good when coming from that place. If I don’t come from that place, I get lost in the darkness and the despair. You cannot know what the outcome is supposed to be.
Cielo Myczack, from Issue 4 of Heron Dance

IF YOU WANT to create, you have to sacrifice superficiality, some security, and often your desire to be liked, to draw up your most intense insights, your most far-reaching visions.
Clarissa Pinkola Estes, from Women who Run with the Wolves

THE REWARD FOR conformity was that everyone liked you except yourself.

Rita Mae Brown, from Venus Envy

Dear Heron Dancers,

I clearly remember how hard I worked as a young woman to get people to like me, to get teachers to give me an A, to get a boy to ask me out. I wanted, above all else, not to be voted off the island. I wanted to be on the inside. I got really good at it. So good that I put a lot more energy into responding to what other people wanted than figuring out what I needed. So good that after many years of it, I forget who I was.

I’ve often looked on this as a weakness. Now I look at myself back then the same way I look at how hard a young pup works to stay with the pack—to be left behind or kicked out would mean starvation. Alongside the urge to procreate is the need to belong.

But … the day comes when we need to actively encourage the awkward rebellion of self. It needs to be coaxed into the light and invited to speak its truth.

Now I will state the obvious truth that I’ve often ignored: You can’t be a wild soul living your truth AND please everyone at the same time.

Speaking our truth is scary. We wonder if the people we love will leave us or if we will have a job. In my experience, honest heartfelt words are at first greeted with awkwardness, maybe fear or even anger, but ultimately they pave the way for much deeper and richer relationships. Often, those close to you sigh with relief as they see you finally come into your own.

As Dr. Seuss said:

Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.

In Celebration of Ourselves,

Ann O'Shaughnessy


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more thoughts -

Jan's parents perceive us as "white devils."   There is nothing we can do about their perception, except perhaps feel sorry for them and what they miss in not seeing, as individuals,  such a large percentage of people in the city in which they live.   I am reading the book Papillon by Henri Charriere.  It is a true story and Steve and I saw the movie based on this story  when it came out in 1973.  It starred Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman.   The connection is this.  Though Papillon is innocent, he is sentenced to a life sentence, and yet, when he escapes and meets different people from different islands and countries, many of them don't see him as a criminal, they see an honest man.  It is a fascinating read.
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A sobering article from the SF Chronicle -

Alarmed scientists warn that polar thawing threatens wildlife and is 'strongest evidence yet of global warming' in region

Jane Kay, Chronicle Environment Writer

Thursday, September 14, 2006


The vast expanses of ice floating in the Arctic Sea are melting in winter as well as in the summer, likely because of global warming, NASA scientists said Wednesday.

"This is the strongest evidence yet of global warming in the Arctic,'' said Josefino Comiso, a research scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

And if the ice continued to melt at the current rate, Comiso said, it could have profound effects on all life in the Arctic and other consequences around the world.

Particularly hard hit would be the polar bears, which live on the ice, he said. Sea ice also provides oxygen-rich cold water needed for the growth of phytoplankton. A decline in the number of the tiny plants could have a cascading effect on the food supply of fish and crustaceans, seals and the other marine mammals.

The size of this summer's Arctic ice won't be known for a few weeks because it usually reaches its smallest size the third week of September. Last year, scientists found that polar ice twice the size of Texas had melted since NASA started compiling satellite data 27 years ago. Scientists said there could be no ice left in the Arctic in the summer by the end of the century.

Until 2005, the wintertime sea ice -- which is thick and multilayered -- had been relatively stable. In the summer, the ice is thinner, more mobile and melts at the edges every spring before freezing up again in the autumn.

In the last two winters -- 2005 and 2006 -- the size of the sea ice was 6 percent smaller than average, the data show. The sea ice in the Northern Hemisphere covers nearly 10 million square miles in the winter. The melting -- most of it occurring in the eastern Arctic near the North Pole -- correlates with a rise in the ocean's surface water temperature.

The melting period is growing by 15 days each decade, meaning less time for ice to grow back, experts said.

When Comiso saw the decline of winter sea ice in 2005, he said, "it was only one year, and I didn't think it was so serious.''

However, based on NASA data, his computer simulations and two years of melting ice, "this has a very large chance of continuing," he said.

Already a greater number of polar bears have been showing up in Inuit communities in the Arctic, apparently searching for food, said NASA researcher Claire Parkinson.

The bears use the sea ice to hunt seals and other marine mammals. "When the ice retreats, they have to come on the land. Normally, when they're on the land, they're not eating,'' she said.

The bears come on land more often now, she said, because they're probably hungrier and afraid of being stranded on a retreating floe, she said.

Parkinson and Ian Stirling, a biologist in the Canadian Wildlife Service, published a study in the journal Arctic this month showing that the polar bear population is shrinking, even though there have been more sightings. Instead, the Hudson Bay population has declined from 1,200 bears in 1989 to 950 bears in 2004, and the weight of adult females has dropped. None of the 18 other populations in the Arctic has grown, either, she said.

It's not impossible that the sea ice could recover in coming years, Parkinson said.

"The possibility is there that the Arctic will recover, but that is not as likely as that it will continue to decrease,'' she said.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering listing the polar bear as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act and is conducting studies in the North Slope of Alaska and elsewhere in the Arctic.

The loss of Arctic sea ice has global effects, scientists say.

Sea ice is made of frozen ocean water, and when it melts, it doesn't raise the ocean's level as do melting glaciers and ice sheets. But less sea ice means a smaller area of ice to reflect radiation away from Earth, and the dark, open water absorbs heat. Both phenomena could accelerate the world's warming, scientists say.

"We're seeing an overall pattern of global warming,'' said Mark Serreze, senior research scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo., which joined NASA scientists in a telephone news conference Wednesday.

Ice core borings in Antarctica have produced a record of historic carbon dioxide concentrations over the last 600,000 years. The borings show that the levels of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, are at their highest ever because of the burning of fossil fuels, Serreze said.

Serreze said he was surprised to see a new lake, or polynya, the size of Maryland, opening up in the sea ice north of the Beaufort Sea.

In 20 years of looking at sea ice, he has never seen anything like it.

"If you asked me five years ago if it was human activity (causing global warming) versus natural variability, I was a fence-sitter,'' Serreze said.

"The magnitude of the changes is starting to rise above the noise of natural variability. There is a continuing trend. What we see in the Arctic is part of a much larger picture. We hate to say, 'We told you so.' But we told you so.''

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the modern world -

Jeff and Jan call from Hawaii, and they are in front of the Duke Kahanmaku statue, and I can watch them on a live webcam on Waikiki Beach.   Is that amazing, or what?

What fun!!   They are now going out for a mai tai, as we shiver here in the cold needing hot toddies.   It  is a fascinating world!