Sunday, November 16, 2014

A Visit to La Gruta Spa and San Miguel de Allende

One of the thermal pools at La Gruta

A group of us who study Spanish at La Escuela Falcon went on an outing with Alberto, one of the school's teachers. Alberto is very sympatico and it was fun to have him as our guide. We drove about 1.5 hours through a landscape of rolling hills ornamented with cactus, passing through a couple of small towns along the way.

Our first stop was La Gruta Spa. La Gruta Spa is one of four hot springs in the Guanajuato region, and it is the one closest to the city of Guanajuato. It's a beautiful, tranquil place with many trees and flowers, and of course, the hot water. I am a dedicated lover of thermal springs and I could have stayed at La Gruta all afternoon, but was happy to be able to relax there for an hour and a half.

La Gruta has three outdoor pools fed by thermal hot springs. The hottest of the three is accessed down a long (well-lit) stone tunnel of water . Once you have floated or walked down the tunnel, you find yourself in a dome shaped cave with water dripping from the stone ceiling.

Ginny, Klaus and I tried out three of the pools and the tunnel. The tunnel was quite a mysterious experience, and the dome at its end is dark and womblike. Very relaxing to be in that hot water in the dark. I would love to return there before I leave Guanajuato, but if I do not have another chance to enjoy La Gruta, I will look forward to visiting some hot springs near Oaxaca soon.

Ginny and Marsha
Ginny and her father Brian are in my class at Escuela Falcon. They are both great people and they also have a wonderful relationship with each other,  so I was looking forward to meeting the mama of the family. On the day of our outing, Brian stayed at home with their four toy poodles, and Marsha came on the outing with Ginny. As I suspected, I enjoyed being with Marsha as much as I enjoy being with Brian and Ginny.

They live in Arcata, California and are traveling in Mexico for a couple of months. I recognize fellow bohemian types of people when I see them!

Yes indeed I do. They are an artistic, can-do family of people who make beautiful things, (they have fixed up and sold many houses), have horses and dogs and enjoy the extended family style of living. Oh, and everything is leavened with a good sense of humor.

Lunch at El Pegaso in San Miguel

Klaus suggested we eat at El Pegaso, one of four restaurants that Alberto recommended. It was a good choice. I just had fish tacos, which are not a remarkable way to discover how good a Mexican restaurant is, but I enjoyed them and the company of the group.
Alberto makes a call, Marsha and Klaus talk and Ginny smiles

We didn't spend enough time in San Miguel for me to make definitive comments, but I did notice these differences between Guanajuato and San Miguel.

It is more elegant and upscale in San Miguel than in Guanajuato and it appeals to stylish Mexicans as well as to gringos. There are many beautiful antique shops, art galleries and clothing shops, all of which carry goods that are much more chic and expensive than those found in Guanajuato.

Alberto took us to a wonderful chocolate shop, which produces marvelous truffles and ice cream that is also quite delicious. I have seen nothing of this sort in Guanajuato, where the dulcerias sport delicious, but much more traditionally Mexican, types of sweets such as candied squash (marvelous), and others whose names and tastes I have not yet been introduced to.

San Miguel has a large gringo population. Around 20,000 American and Canadian expats live there.   The presence of so many gringos influences the tone of the town. Waiters and store owners speak English as a matter of course. Not so in Guanajuato. And the gringo influx has driven prices up, so that it is said that things cost twice as much there. Certainly housing does.

While we sat chatting and enjoying our lunch, a very fancy wedding party passed our window. A band in full costume was followed by the bride and groom and then by their friends and family.

Looking at the scene, Alberto commented, "That is a special wedding of rich people."

I certainly enjoyed my brief visit to the town, which is lovely. I decided to stay in Guanajuato for a month rather than in San Miguel because I knew Guanajuato would be less expensive and more authentically Mexican. But that doesn't mean I wouldn't enjoy spending a bit of time in San Miguel, among its wonderful arts and crafts, foods and clothing. Perhaps in the future, perhaps not.

San Miguel has many old doors made of fine wood and ornamented by small hands and other decorative objects that serve as handles or knockers.

La Aurora 

It's too bad that our visit to La Fabrica La Aurora happened at the end of the day when we were tired from the thermal springs as well as walking in the streets and the mercado.

La Aurora  is one of San Miguel's most unique destinations, a beautiful art and design center housed what was a textile factory at the turn of the century. Before its renaissance as an art and design center, Negociacion Fabril de la Aurora, known as La Aurora, was a leading manufacturer of premium cotton "manta" and textiles for almost a hundred years.

I loved this flood of white paper flowers overhead

Like the hot springs and the downtown area of San Miguel, La Aurora is a place to which one could devote more time than we had that day.

Many paintings, much sculpture, beautiful crafts, ceramic flowerpots, and much more. Too tired to really give it the appreciation it deserves.

Marsha and Ginny said that they would return with Brian and Ginny's friend, who will visit soon.

 What a beautiful day.

It was dark when we got back to Guanajuato. I was the last one to be dropped off. The relaxed, kind Alberto drove me all the way up the hill to Lucy's. I was grateful because I was quite weary and the idea of slogging up the steep hill in the dark was not appealing.
Today, I decided to rest before plunging into my third week of Spanish studies at the school.

I took a walk on the Panoramica in the morning, then went food shopping to the Mega in a taxi with Lucy.  I had some lunch and actually took a siesta. It was a quiet afternoon.

Marsha at La Aurora
There have been other visitors at Lucy's in the past few days: a businessman from San Francisco who stayed for one night, a couple from Frankfort who left this morning and a musician/lecturer from Russia who is here until tomorrow.

Tonight others are rumored to be about to arrive for one night, though Lucy is acting as if they may or may not show up. Something about a family with a bunch of kids. I am instructed to move my bath items into the downstairs bathroom, which I can have to myself.

We are having classes tomorrow even though tomorrow is a national holiday--Revolution Day. I imagine it could be something like the 4th of July, Mexican style. Two big holidays in one month!

As they have said, the wise ones, "Where ever you go, there you are."  And it's true, here I am. What I notice when I look in the mirror is that I have aged in the past few months. Either that, or I simply have not been paying attention. More wrinkles, more sagging skin.

I am not complaining. I am noticing. One thing I love about Mexico is the way aging is accepted as a natural part of life. The desperate attempt to look young is not the main music here. And old people are treated with respect. What a relief.

As for the upcoming holiday, more news in the next post.

Hasta luego...que te vaya bien.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Guanajuato in November

Cobblestones of Calle Antigua Sirena, high above the town
I am going to place the blame on Mica Miro, my friend Carolyn Myers' younger daughter, who loves Mexico and is currently living in Oaxaca.

Why? Because Mica is the one who suggested that I might enjoy Guanajuato, which she described as an authentic, relaxed Mexican town. And here I am, having followed Mica's suggestion.

I arrived on October 29th in the late afternoon, and was met at the airport by Aunt Lucy, a woman a few years older than I.  Lucy is the widow of a well-known Guanajuato artist and her big house is high above the town on Calle Antigua Sirena, the street of the ancient mermaids.

This is a view of the cobblestone road near her house.

Big trucks lumber slowly up, people riding on horses go past enjoying the fresh air and sun, and humans from toddlers to ancianos can be seen walking along on their daily errands. Of course there are many dogs barking, roosters in the morning and up the road, some creature that sounds like a goose with laryngitis or a donkey with impaired vocal cords.

There was a lot I did not know when I took Mica Miro's suggestion. I did not know that Guanajuato was located at an altitude of from 6,200-6,600 feet, depending on who is reporting. Most places agree on the elevation, but not in this case.

I had some idea that the city had many cobblestone streets and hills, but as with many things in life, you just don't get the full experience of what that means until you are walking those steep cobblestone streets at that 6,000 foot elevation. Invigorating! Great for the lungs!

I am a very nonlinear woman, but I have been put to the test here. It's easy to assert that you are nonlinear, but what happens when you arrive in a town with streets that make you realize what nonlinear feels like when applied to city design? Though I have no idea how much of Guanajuato streets, alleys and tunnels has anything to do with design, and how much has to do with the necessity of working with the landscape, a narrow valley surrounded by steep hills.

The Jardin de Union, a delightful central plaza
Predictably, even though two local women named Mariana and Laura kindly guided me on how to descend into the Zona Central easily, the very next day I took another route! I can be that way, sometimes to my own dismay. That day, I wound up in a maze of alleys and very steep staircases that I assumed would eventually lead me down to the center of the city. It was quite a grueling experience physically. If my legs could talk, they would tell you a story. They are still talking to me about it several days later.

Along the way, a young man who spoke English reassured me that I would eventually reach the city center, which was quite a relief at that moment. I wonder what part of the city that was. I may never know, but yet.....

Guanajuato is an amazing jumble of tiny alleys, steep staircases and streets, many of them cobblestone. There are no parallel streets, no grid as we are accustomed to in other cities.  Crazy nonlinear and confusing, but not a bad place to get completely lost in.

A number of the alleys have no names and some have whimsical names such as “Sal si puedes” (Exit if You Can). I know the feeling.

 I am studying Spanish at Escuela Falcon, and the street it is located on is Calle Cabecita, the" street of the little head."  I just know there must be more wonderful street names and I am keeping an eye out for them.
This is the Plaza de Barratillo, which is very near Escuela Falcon, the language school. There are many plazas in Guanajuato, places where people gather to relax and talk. They are all beautiful and each of them has its own special quality. I may do a plaza story later, but for now, this is Plaza de Barratillo.

Today I got a delicious gordita for 12 pesos from a woman who has a very popular street stall near this fountain!

At lunch,  I went with Bashka, a young woman from Poland who is in my Spanish class, to a restaurant on the plaza that serves Indian and Mexican food. We had samosas, pakoras and chai. It was delightful in that place. I should take some photos of it. Later.

There are patches of wild fields, flowers and herbs growing in the midst of the houses, especially higher up in the hills. This is at the base of Calle Antigua Sirena, as it joins a bigger street.

On November 2nd, this couple was among the costumed celebrants for Day of the Dead. All the young people wanted to get their photos taken with them.  I love the culture of the young people here. Their energy is so ebullient, happy and also respectful.

I have seen serious young people, but not sullen ones. One doesn't see the kind of smirking or disrespect one sees in the States. What a marvelous change that is. I like to imagine that all young people may be able to enjoy the camaraderie, openness and joy that I see in the youth here.

I find it sympatico to see the way generations relate-- both in the family and in the wider community. There is so much love, connection and empathy.

These are some of the things I love about Mexico. People are warm and authentic. On the other hand, Marie, an expat from New York whom I met the other day, pointed out to me how dour the shopkeepers are. New Yorkers are often good at providing this kind of counterpoint. I notice that some of the shopkeepers are dour. I think it is a minority though. Or maybe they really do it up for Marie, giving her the New York kind of experience.

There were exhibitions of art and artisanal foods and crafts on display for La Dia de los Muertos. Caterina, the figure pictured here, is one of the most common archetypal images associated with the Day of the Dead. She brings her flamboyant feminine style out to flaunt,  though she is nothing but a skeleton. Something to think about.

Vanity. Impermanence.
 Not to mention the color fuschia!

Viva la Vida! as one of the many pieces of street art proclaimed. There were many large pictures, made literally on the surface of the street itself, and composed of dyed wood shavings, seeds, flower petals and other materials. All of them were created by university students (perhaps there were some high school students, too but I cannot be sure.) Groups of students began in the morning and continued on into the afternoon until they had finished the particular work they were creating. Each of the street paintings was so well done and it was fun to see how much the students enjoyed each other and what they were creating together.

Here is one I particularly liked.

I couldn't resist taking a photo of these sisters, the older one so serious and the younger one showing her winsome smile.

What a delightful day, the streets filled with people enjoying themselves, the churches filled with music and worshipers lighting candles and praying, the sky full of clouds, and as for me, I was and am full of delight that I am on this journey, something I have wanted to do for many years.

Should I tell you about what happened on the plane? Across the aisle, there was a young couple with a small child. They were both very good looking. She was swanlike, with her hair in dreads and wearing hippie clothes.  The child was very busy nursing so I didn't get too much of a look at him, but he probably will grow up to be a looker, too. The young father was certainly Hispanic, a very handsome chap with cafe au lait skin and long hair.

In fact, I have to say he looked like Johnny Depp but even better.

There he was coming toward me in the aisle of the plane. When you are in your 70s, some events are far more intense and quite different from when you were in your 30s. Such as this example.

And I was thinking, hopefully not in too obvious a manner, or what the hell who cares-- that is one gorgeous dude, with those bright dark eyes and that authentic real hombre feeling, a real Hispanic mensch. Seemed to me his eyes widened as he approached and said to me, "I like your scarf!" The guy was just being totally cool, not a let's be nice to the old lady vibe in his aura. Praise be to the Goddess.

Well I liked a lot of things about him, as you might imagine, if you like to imagine things, which I certainly do. I considered this brief encounter a good omen. The magnetic resonance of male-female continues to be vivid.

The aging body and the ageless spirit.

That is the end for today, and may you have beautiful dreams, amigos and amigas.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Wearing Autumnal Robes

Sonnet 73

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west;
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the deathbed whereon it must expire,
Consumed with that which it was nourished by.
This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

 -- William Shakespeare

This Shakespeare sonnet is one of my favorites. It speaks so poignantly of the kind of thoughts one tends to have as an older person. The autumn season, glorious and pensive, accentuates our contemplations of impermanence and aging. Or perhaps I should just speak for myself. It accentuates my contemplations of aging and impermanence, of this later stage of life which moves toward the inevitable end. Of course, right now, I am right perky, but as Jane Kenyon noted at the end of one of her marvelous poems titled Otherwise:
I slept in a bed
in a room with paintings
on the walls, and
planned another day
just like this day.
But one day, I know,
it will be otherwise.

Shakespeare says, "To love that well which thou must leave ere long." What a wonderful line. I loved it so much that I included it in Sex after Sixty, one of the 20 songs in A New Wrinkle, the musical revue on aging that I created with composer Laura Rich. (You can read the lyrics for that song at the end of this post.) 

I have not forgotten about our as yet unproduced musical revue, though I have not written about it in many months. The revue is very close to my heart,  a piece of social change theater with important messages about the power and beauty of aging. I imagine it being well produced and shared widely. I hold that vision steadily in my heart.

Yesterday Laura Rich and I went to see The Tempest at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. It was a gorgeous production. Great acting, costumes, set and choreography. Completely delightful. Of course, I loved spending the afternoon with Laura, who is very dear to me. My imminent leavetaking has galvanized meetings with other friends, too. I had lunch with dear Barbara C. the other day, too, and spent time with Lisbeth as well. 

I'm not sure whether I will return to take up life here again, or whether I will decide to live mainly in Mexico. I imagine that is why my friends are wanting to say goodby, not knowing when we will meet again. The flurry of get-togethers with friends reminds me of how fortunate I am in that territory.

Up the street from where I am staying with Franny, another woman whose friendship I am grateful for, there is a lovely house, elegant and warm. The folks there have put a skeleton who sports a big feathered hat on their porch to welcome the Halloween season. Halloween is well-celebrated in Ashland. A wonderful parade of children and adults in childlike moods appears on Main Street, followed by dances and other events. I will be in Guanajuato then, settling into Aunt Lucy's Guesthouse. Today, that seems a little surreal, as I look around at my messy half-packed room. It will be real enough in a week, when I board the plane.

Early this morning,  I read a message on Facebook from a young woman I have never met. She is a friend of a friend. She was sounding quite desperate and suicidal. I had to write to her to encourage her to go on, to relax into the darkness and befriend the one inside who is so sad and scared and angry. I hope she finds the help she needs to climb up out of the abyss she's in. I really do. I am praying for her. She is on my list.

Every day there is something. A friend, a family member, a stranger. Today on the bus a man who sat nearby told another man that his daughter had just been stabbed 5 times by her former fiance. "It's hard," he said. "She's in the hospital in Eugene in intensive care. One stab hit a lung, another her heart." 

Suffering is pervasive. I feel for that father, for the young woman, and for everyone, because we all suffer. And yet, and yet..... In a recent teaching in the Bay area, Khenpo Namdrol uttered one sentence that shocked me open. "There is no suffering." This is the work. This is the work. Having an expansive, open view and also not turning away from suffering. 

There is a story of one Tibetan master who never stopped crying and I can understand why. And yet, and this difficult time on the planet, I aspire to maintain an uplifted way of being in the midst of everything. I aspire to that, but it is not easy sometimes.

This Tibetan calligraphy was done by the previous Karmapa, and it is the word Compassion. It is a beautiful reminder of what a boundless quality compassion really is.

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”
        ---Dalai Lama

"If your compassion does not include yourself, 
it is incomplete."
  ---  Jack Kornfield

The Radical Age Movement

If you have been reading the Sage's Play blog for awhile, you know how passionate I am about shifting current attitudes about aging to those that are more positive and uplifted. 

I want to share news about a new website called The Radical Age Movement created by Alice Fisher MSW, who works in the office of New York State Senator Liz Kreuger and Sheila Roher MPH, a veteran of the feminist and LGBT movements. Both women see aging as an issue that requires a social movement approach to catalyze change. 

I have always felt this way too. That is the main reason why I created our musical revue A New Wrinkle, to communicate issues and topics in a format that could reach a lot of people. 

It is great to see the work of Liz and Sheila expand and gain a wider audience. Take a look at what they are doing. It is exciting to see more and more advocates of radical, positive, creative aging appearing....the more that happens, more easily change is gonna come.

Here are the lyrics to Sex after Sixty, a song I wrote in response to hackneyed popular attitudes about sex and intimacy in later life. Sending a warm smile to each of you, wherever you may be.

Some old people are like Sophocles
They think it is a big relief
That as they age, libido leaves.
It’s just as well, some will say.
O lalalalala
“Too old for that. They’ve had their day.
Their sex life’s in the past. It’s gone.”

Correct me if you think I’m wrong
you don’t expect the ancestors
to roll out in the meadow grass
under the trail of shooting stars
voluptuary luminaries.
That’s how much you know
about love’s  glow—shine.

Peace to those who find it muy placido
To be released from their libido
And to those who still smoulder—a little bit slower—
While doing the fandango and tango
with their well-seasoned mango
from here to Durango.

Don’t you think it’s good news
that pleasure’s not reserved for use
the beat goes on
so even when you’re old
you still like your jelly roll? Uh huh.

Ahhh s-e-x….a passionate embrace
a gift that opens out to brilliant space.
Within it all, this is our song
“To love that well
which thou must leave ere long.”

Friday, October 10, 2014

In the Midst of the Mystery

Full moon over the mountains, 3 Sisters, Oregon

I Looked Up

I looked up and there it was
among the green branches of the pitchpines -

thick bird,
a ruffle of fire trailing over the shoulders and down the back -
color of copper, iron, bronze –
lighting up the dark branches of the pine.

What misery to be afraid of death.
What wretchedness, to believe only in what can be proven.

When I made a little sound
it looked at me, then it looked past me.
Then it rose, the wings enormous and opulent,
and, as I said, wreathed in fire.

                                                                                 --Mary Oliver

People are telling me that they want to follow my adventures. The ones I will supposedly be having when I start traveling. What about the adventures that I am having right now? My homeless, car-less woman adventures.  I am walking everywhere and also taking the bus, which makes me feel I am in a new town, rather than one I have lived in since 1977.

A beautiful moment during Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal's teachings at Tashi Choling.
It's slower moving around this way. You have much more opportunity to look at the sky and the clouds, what's growing in people's gardens, kids playing ball. Everything seems a lot more immediate. Today I got lost. I was on my way to get some bodywork. Two words: Beth Heller. She has long experience and combines Feldenkreis and Aston patterning work. Amazing, subtle, effective work.

Anyway, I was on my way to that appointment, walking up a steep hill and apparently I made a wrong turn. I saw a man who was polishing his truck. He looked like a good guy and I said, "Excuse me, can you tell me how to get to Peachy Street?" He must have thought I looked like a good woman because he said "Oh, you're a long way off. Let me give you a ride." I was happy to accept and he got me to the appointment on time, and in good company.  When I thanked him, he told me with a smile, "No good deed goes unrewarded."   He was a real mensch.

Later I ate some sushi while I waited at a bus stop at the south end of town. I wrote some poetry on a receipt from the grocery store. On the bus, I met a woman who lives in Estes Park, Colorado. Turned out she taught at Eagle Rock School, where my daughter attended high school. This doesn't happen when you are in a car.

I don't think of myself as a traveler, though I have been to a few places, including Japan, Hawaii, Canada and Mexico and various states in the US. For the past few years I have been telling myself I have to get out and explore the world a bit more to see if there is another place I might live more affordably. I am very fond of Ashland, Oregon and it feels right to be taking a break.

It is hard for me to imagine living away from Tashi Choling, the Tibetan Buddhist center I helped to found many years ago. Especially as I age, I want to have the companionship and friendship of others who are on the same spiritual path as I am. And their support at the time of my death, which is an important time. Speaking of adventure! Wheee! Nothing can match death for adventure, except maybe birth.

As Mary Oliver says it is wretched to be afraid of death and to believe only in what can be proven.  I have never had much problem with the second part. I don't think I am afraid of death, but I would prefer to die in the midst of my spiritual community. So is it likely I will relocate to Mexico? Probably not, unless I find a congenial place where there are other Tibetan Buddhist practitioners, which there are in Ensenada, Cholula and Mexico City, according to my current research.

Why does everyone equate travel with adventure? Is it because we become so accustomed to living our everyday lives in our familiar environments that we lose the crisp and surprising qualities that can occur in travel? I think it must be that. And we are longing for new vistas, new peoples, new dances, new foods, new and strangely wonderful landscapes. These elements, we feel, will teach us new things about ourselves. I'm sure it is all true. As Danny Kaye once said, "To travel is to take a journey into yourself."

I will be in Guanajuato for Day of the Dead. I know only a little about this ancient holy day. Maybe that's good. I know it is about honoring the ancestors. That could be enough to begin with. I can learn more.

I know very little Spanish. Since I like communicating, that makes me a bit nervous. I will learn some Spanish. I can learn more.

Mi siente muy feliz!

Yes, and probably I will meet a lot of other people learning Spanish, too. Who knows who I will meet?
Hopefully, some of them will be marvelous.

I know absolutely nobody in Guanajuato. That is bound to be interesting. One reason why I am taking this trip is to challenge my limitations and stretch my imagination. So no problem not knowing anybody, right? Right.

A street in Guanajuato
I will be staying at Aunt Lucy's Guesthouse. Did I choose Aunt Lucy's Guesthouse because the name sounds so comforting and reassuringly friendly? Well yes that was part of it.

I am waiting to see whether Aunt Lucy is around my age. I have a hunch that she is.  She speaks no English, but everyone says that is not a problem.

Here's one person's comment: "Aunt Lucy was very kind, always helpful; we spent hours talking about each other's life, she is a well educated person with lots of knowledge, she's a life counselor, in just two days that I stayed there I really feel affection for her, I felt like home. I give her 20 out of 10, without a doubt the best part of being in Guanajuato was to meet her."

So this and other similar comments make me feel that I am going to be settling into a good place in Guanajuato for a month stay. And that's grand.

It's past the autumn equinox, and in the northern lattitudes the light is decreasing. What will it be like to be that much further south in the winter season? I am looking forward to finding out.

I will be in Guanajuato in November and Oaxaca in December. I want to find a beautiful beach place for January but so far everything I see is beyond my budget.  I am hoping I make some good connections in that regard once I am in Mexico. Or if any of you readers have any ideas, do tell.

Last but not least in any way , how wonderful that the 17-year old Palestinian woman Malala Yousafzai won the Nobel Peace Prize! It is a good reason for women to dance around the fire. May peace increase throughout the world, and may it begin within me.

Friday, September 26, 2014

With Wings Outstretched, Lifting Off

A great white egret in full flight, wings stretched out in the big blue sky

Each of us has an affinity with certain other creatures. My own animal kinships are with the whale, coyote, frog and the bird tribe.  When you are with the whale, you are swimming into the vast waters of ancient memory. The coyote is bawdy, foolish, shrewd, shocking and sometimes wise. The frog has secrets, including the magic of bringing water and increasing fertility. And the bird tribe, feathered, winged, they take us up up up into the bright sky,  far from the weight of earthly concerns. Birds, the way they spread their wings, the way they lift off and fly, birds remind us of our spiritual essence and they remind us of the kind of freedom that easily opens up when we come to joy.

Birds like to stretch their wings out. They like to lift off and FLY-- and I am no exception. I've had two bird names, Blackbird and Laughingbird, each of which provided some unusual adventures and insights.  I've written about those in my book Songs of the Inner Life. 

Now my Blackbird and Laughingbird monikers are hidden within me. I walk around in the world as Gaea Yudron, a name filled with its own treasure.

It's time for this bird to stretch her wings, to get up off her usual perches and out of her familiar habitats.

The bird woman has no house and no car

I sold my flower cottage at the beginning of September and the other day I sold my car, too. Some people have exclaimed that I now have FREEDOM! Ha ha ha I want to say, considering everything. I mean it's relative. It's true that I have no house, car, family responsibilities or job.

But being a bird with a philosophical bent, I ask "Does this equal FREEDOM!!? Now don't get me wrong, I place a high value on freedom. When I think of freedom, I think of the sky, of the ocean, of the forest, of the meadow. I think of health, contentment, calm, awareness. I think of lovingkindness, the freedom that comes from deep inner richness, something I have seen in the spiritual masters I have learned from.  The freedom that comes from inner development and refinement is the most wonderful kind of freedom.
Is this the famous bluebird of happiness?

There are other beautiful freedoms--the freedom of good health, the freedom to travel, to create, to pray, to help others. I have a fair amount of freedom, and I am grateful for every morsel of it.

The bluebird of happiness

In my first week without a car, I've been walking around or taking the bus. Being without a car gives me a new vantage point.  First of all, without having to focus on driving, I have much more awareness of the landscape, the big fields filled with goats and cows, the light, the clouds, and the people who are on the bus with me.

The people who are on the bus with me are also people without cars--students and other young people, Latinos of all ages, disabled people, drunks, people who do not seem very healthy, folks who might not have much education. The bus is a lot like Walmart-- Good places to pray in. Because a lot of those bus riders and Walmart shoppers do not have it very easy at all. When I am riding the bus, or walking around town, I am thinking like this: for the bus riders, the Walmart shoppers, and all beings who are troubled, may there be ease. May there be prosperity and love.

 The Mythic Firebird

I'm heading for Guanajuato on October 29th. It's Ashland's sister city, but that is not why I am starting my journey there. My friend Carolyn's daughter Mica told me that it was just more relaxed and authentic than nearby San Miguel de Allende, which is a genuine expat watering hole. Of course I will visit there, but I want something less gringoesque.

I'll be in Guanajuato for about a month and hope to learn some Spanish at a highly regarded language school. Oh, there will be many other things, and I will tell you about them along the way.

One woman said that what I am doing is not what women my age usually do. All I can say to that is, I was not called the class nonconformist in high school for nothing, people. I think nonconformity has been a lifelong preference.

As Grace Slick of the old  Jefferson Airplane said: "In school, I learned about artists and how they were free to express themselves. I was allergic to conformity, and the lifestyle attracted me. I wanted to express myself in a way that slammed people up against the wall."

Whew, alright. I've never thought of my own creative expression in that precise slamming type way, but I understand what Slick is saying. I have always valued the awakening, shocking, surprising and opening power of art. When I can do that in my work, I know I have done something good.

The firebird is a magical luminous bird that brings blessings, but it does not bless its captor. Like creativity, it must be free.

Van Gogh's Kingfisher

I love this painting by Van Gogh of a kingfisher in the reeds at the edge of a body of water.

The kingfisher is an old symbol of peace and prosperity. They say that if you come across a kingfisher,  it could mean success and prosperity are coming your way.

May it be so. May the bird tribe bless you with its many gifts.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Might as well start right here....

In 1977, my then husband and I bought this house in Ashland, Oregon. Our next door neighbor, a colorful, crochety old guy, called it a railroad flat because it was built when the railroad came through, but actually it was the parsonage of the church next door. It is now honored with a historical building plaque, but when we moved in, it lacked that kind of special notice.

I recently listened to an interview someone did with a friend about those times. In it, he described my ex-husband and I as "new age proslytizers." I had to laugh. He has a funny sense of humor. We certainly were passionate about natural, spiritual and holistic healing--of that there is no doubt. We created a healing center and brought a variety of healers to teach and work, as well as doing healing work and workshops ourselves. Our center was called Gathering Together. Many of the classes and healings happened in the house.

When we first bought the house, with the generous help of a family member, we heard about a woman named Anne. She had a new baby and no place to live. It seemed natural to invite her to live with us. I loved having them in the house. It was nourishing for all of us to spend that time together.

I hadn't seen that baby for many years-- until yesterday. He came over to my friend Franny's house, where I am staying for a couple of months. 

He was hired by the landlady to install new linoleum in the bathrooms. 

Now he's a tall, handsome  37-year old blond guy with a 4-year old daughter and a son on the way. He told me that his mother, who died a few years ago, always told him how much she enjoyed that time with us. I guess I have done a few kind deeds in my life and that is one of them.

Some wonderful art projects celebrate aging, and this is one of them, a stunning collection of photographs focusing on older womens' visibility. Visible: 60 Women at 60--check it out!

It's very smoky here again because of a BIG wildfire in Sunny Valley, which has burned over 110,000 acres. They say it will be like this for a few days because of the way the wind is blowing. I took a ride out to Emigrant Lake the other day. The only water left in it is a long puddle right in the middle. All the lakes here are the same. It's scary. And having said that, should I go into a big rant about the state of the planet? I certainly could. But I will spare you that. Most everyone alive today can see what kind of severe difficulties we face.

I'm looking forward to the upcoming People's Climate March in New York City on September 21st, and its associated events across the country. I know several elders that are traveling to the east coast to participate. May this and other forms of activism propel the kind of changes we need to protect all beings on this earth.

In spite of everything, the natural world continues to be astonishingly beautiful. This photo by Grants Pass photographer Jasman Lion Mander shows an aurora he captured the other day at Crater Lake. It may be the first time we've had an aurora in Oregon.

Word is that the sale of my flower cottage will conclude in a few days. The buyers have already moved in, thanks to an agreement we created. They needed to move in. They were without a home. They had already moved out of their previous home, thinking that the sale was about to close. But repairs delayed the closing. I'm glad they are in my old house now. That makes me feel happy.

Sometimes people say to me, "Now you are free." While being free is a relative and changeable thing, I certainly am free of home ownership, or will soon be, and I am free of family responsibilities.  It's true that I do think about my musical revue, A New Wrinkle, as yet unproduced. And my book Songs of the Inner Life, which I have neglected to market as it deserves. I am not free of wanting to complete and propel those efforts forward to connect with others.

But I am taking a break from that and other creative projects to explore who I am now and what my life is about. And that is something  learned through experience. As part of the process, I am re-educating myself about how to float about without a home of my own, as I did in my late 20s, when I journeyed in the Pennsylvania countryside and then traveled west to California and Oregon. We called it dropping out in those days.

Now it feels more like dropping in. Dropping in, settling in, getting more comfortable with the inner home and the way that it manifests in the world. No doubt I will have more to say on the subject soon.