Saturday, December 29, 2012

At the Year's End


“Spring passes and one remembers one's innocence.
Summer passes and one remembers one's exuberance.
Autumn passes and one remembers one's reverence.
Winter passes and one remembers one's perseverance.” 
                   
 --Yoko Ono


“Winter is not a season, it's an occupation.” --Sinclair Lewis

Both of these quotes speak to me. It's winter, and the end of another year. A time to reflect on the year that is ending and imagine the year to come.  That is what I will be doing the next few days, while I enjoy the company of my daughter's dog Samo.

This morning I woke way before the dawn. I am glad to be in my dear little cottage, and glad to be breathing in and out and feeling quite fine.  The white narcissus on the dining table are finished blooming, but the lovely coral-colored Christmas cactus and the happy purple blossoms of the African violet enliven my kitchen. I have a box full of persimmons my daughter gave me as she left to visit one of her good friends in Atlanta. I am thinking of making some persimmon pudding to begin with. Perhaps I'll freeze some of them. I love cooking, though I don't usually talk about that much here.

My circle gathering at Skylark Assisted Living yesterday went very well. I will be doing another circle there in January. It is different from gathering a circle in the wider community, because many people at Skylark have various forms of cognitive impairment. Four of the seven people who came to our circle yesterday "had their lights on" as my friend Kate describes it. We reflected, played, and laughed. It was tender. It was also sobering to be with several others who were not easily able to participate or keep track.

Kate is one of my oldest and dearest friends. She lives at Skylark now because she has a hereditary neurological disease that affects her movement and balance. Her mind remains keen. Our friendship has bloomed since she arrived at Skylark. She is a wonderful example of relaxing into a radical life change with grace. She sheds light as she goes. She has paradoxically also gotten more ascerbic as she ages. Her observations on human foibles, including her own, are often funny and trenchant. Bless her. I am so glad that we are friends.

Yesterday on Facebook, I found out about a movie titled How to Live Forever. Made in 2009, it is a documentary whose underlying theme is embracing aging. I ordered a copy and I'm excited about viewing it and reviewing it, too.

I wanted to share this positive aging poster that I learned about on Ronni Bennett's blog Time Goes By. Ronni covers many topics and issues of aging, and her blog is well worth reading. This poster is available from Syracuse Cultural Workers. It was developed by Portland, Oregon elder care attorney Orrin R. Onkin, who writes for Ronni's blog from time to time.

I like the positive messages it promotes. Many older adults internalize negative stereotypes about aging without even realizing it, and like any kind of prejudice, ageism has a negative impact on mental and physical health. I plan to get a copy of this to share at my upcoming classes and circles.







I am preparing for a 3-session class I will be offering in January and February--it is titled Retirement, Refirement and Successful Aging. It will meet at OLLI, our local Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, which is based on the campus of Southern Oregon University.

I will also be offering a class titled The Adventure of Aging in Ashland, starting in February. It will meet twice a month on Saturday afternoons. I'll share some of what we will be doing in an upcoming post. Or email me. I plan to start offering online courses sometime soon, too.

My friend Serena gave me a hand reading before we left on our Mayan cruise trip together. She says the lines on my hands indicate more travel, teaching, leadership, public speaking, performing and visibility, among other things. All that is just peachy with me. I love working with groups in class and workshop settings, and I love performing, too.  I want to move out with the messages of creative, conscious aging.

In terms of mood enhancement, it is inevitable that I contemplate images of spring and summer during the winter. It keeps me moving along when the weather is gray, rainy and snowy. Both of these places pictured below are quite appealing to me on this cold morning. I am getting an acupuncture treatment this morning. That helps, as do soaks in the hot springs, dancing, laughing and having a meal or a movie with friends, taking a walk up in the hills and getting some exercise at the Y. 

Those are some of the things I do to enhance my wellbeing in the cold season. How do you take care of yourself and bring joy into your life in the winter?


Oh, I also wanted to mention that my talk about creative, positive aging with Craig Comstock for his show Like Wow! is available at our website home page, www.sagesplay.com

That's the story here. I am going to mull over the past year, maybe with some mulled wine. Oh, and the persimmon pudding.

I am going to spend time dreaming up my vision for the year to come.





I am going to welcome helpers, partners and allies to this creative, conscious aging work. I am dreaming up a colleague or partner who is excited about this work and who has the skills to help with marketing, pr and outreach.

Who knows, I could travel to a sunny beach before the winter is over.
 
Whether that happens or not, I wish each of you a beautiful new year full of blessings and happy surprises.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Winter Solstice at the Mayan Ruins


There was a great deal of hoopla and some unfortunate fears about the "end of the Mayan calendar" on the winter solstice this year. There were people who believed that the world was going to end on that day. Actually, the winter solstice marked the shift from one Long Era of the Mayan calendar--over 5,000 years--to the next, and it is predicted that this new era will  be influenced and guided by more feminine and beneficent energies. May that be true.

The Castle pyramid at Chichen Itza in the Yucatan area of Mexico
Well, left to my own devices I never would have dreamed up going to Mayan ruins at the time of the winter solstice. Thousands of New Agers were headed there to celebrate.  It promised to be a real dense crowd and that would mean a lot of concern among the local police. Not appealing.

My friend Serena invited me to come on the trip as her guest, all expenses paid. Serena went to Woodstock and she imagined that visiting the Mayan ruins at the solstice might be just like Woodstock minus the mud.

I thought her invitation was quite generous and it seemed a good idea to get out of the winter cold for a few days, see some Mayan ruins, spend some time with Serena (whom I had not seen in over 25 years) and see what there is to see, learn what there is to learn.  I agreed to go.

The enormous Carnival cruise ship held over 2,000 people and our Mayan Galactic Shift (don't you love that?) group on the ship numbered 200. There was a roster of speakers who talked about the Mayans, spaceships in ancient times, past life regressions, prophecies, intuition and psychic knowing and various other metaphysically oriented topics.

I went to several of the presentations. I especially liked one by author Robert Sitler, who has spent many years with various Mayan groups. I liked his focus on the cooperative lifestyle of the Mayans, the positive ways they raise their children, their connection with Nature, the value they place on respect, humility and gratitude.

I also sat in on a talk given by Newton Kondaveti, an MD from India who led us in a past life regression. (I have done past life regressions many times. I am of the opinion that whatever pops up in my mind is useful information for further growth, whether I believe it is "actually" a past life experience or not.) My experience was being a 14-year old native American boy, going on a vision quest, growing into a healer, living a long life and then dying. When I died in that lifetime, people said "His life was a blessing."   I would be happy if that were said about me at my death in this current lifetime.

From that experience of a healer who was powerful and humble, I recognize the value of humility. In this next year, I want to place my attention on cultivating humility in myself.

We spent a couple of hours at the Chichen Itza archeological preserve. It was far too short a time to relax into visiting that site.  The movement of the serpent can be seen  on the steps of the temple at the time of the winter solstice. I did see that movement.

It is a beautiful place, and I wanted to spend more time there, but being part of our cruise group herd, I had to move along.

Columns of ancient temple at Chichen Itza

I have been decompressing since I returned on December 23rd. The experience was so different from what I would have chosen on my own. That was good in the sense that it took me into new territory, where I had a chance to view the world from a different perspective.

When I got back, I had to work through some serious disappointment about spending so little time at the sites and about some of the behaviors of members of our group, whose "offerings" at the sacred sites seemed so disrespectful and full of ego. Embarrassing.

I can only imagine what the Mayan elder who led our group into Chichen Itza thought of us, people who could not or would not follow the simple directions he gave about forming two lines, walking in rows of four or making a nice round circle.  Instead, I heard a lot of grumbling and irritation about following the directions. Oy vey.  More work to do here, people.



It was marvelous to be in the sun and balmy sea air. I loved sitting on the balcony outside our cabin and looking at the nighttime sky. I am drawn to Mexico, and often think of moving there, so I enjoyed those days we spent in Mexican waters and on Mexican land.


At Chachanaab, a site of the goddess Ixchel







From left to right, Serena, Quicksilver, me and Shima


Serena and I met in the 70s--we are both part of the Church of the Gentle Brothers and Sisters, a group of healers now dispersed in various geographies. There were two other GBS members on the cruise--Quicksilver, who played a major role in organizing our Galactic adventure and Shima, who works with him. It was delightful to reconnect and to spend time with each of them.

I could say a lot more about why I am severely disinclined ever to go on another cruise. How about a summary? Too many noxious chemicals, too much loud noise and music, too much alcoholic inebriation, too many dumb activities, plus the glitzy awful decor. You see, I am a gal who thinks a journey in a gypsy wagon on summer back roads  is just the thing.

I am glad that I had that time to spend with Serena. As she noted, "Who knows when we will ever see each other again?" At this time in life, every meeting is flavored with the fullness of time.

Now I am back in my home ground. Back in my sweet cottage. Back to completing some wonderful creative and conscious aging projects. I'll share more about these in a future post.

Today, I am going to Skylark Assisted Living, where my dear friend Kate lives, and I will be offering a circle gathering. When people are in assisted living facilities, they often have very little or no opportunity to reflect on the inner tasks of this time of life, to be playful, to make deeper connections with themselves and others. They grow accustomed to diverting themselves or to resigning themselves. They become isolated, even in the midst of living so closely with others. I already did two poetry events there, but this event will be a bit different. I have a variety of tools at the ready, but I will have to play a lot of it by ear, and by heart.

I know there are at least two people there at Skylark who are open to what I have to offer. Perhaps it's like performing for an audience. Focus on those two, and bring the others along. Wish me luck.


Thursday, December 13, 2012

New Moon gifts




Freedom, the freedom of an Andalusian horse

Openness-- every moment new

The joy of running freely across a meadow, on sand at the edge of the sea

Being in the body fully and happily

Power, an experience of wholeness, integration, pleasure





Magic

Welcoming magic!

Setting sail on new journeys
and partaking of adventures in new landscapes seen with new eyes

Surprises! 

Breaking up old structures with no effort

Transformation--going deeper
being more real



Living in the midst of the energy, radiance and mystery of this world with a sacred perspective









Deep stillness

Quiet
The pleasure of solitude
Rejuvenation
Spiritual deepening













Playing and playfulness
Being with others in joy and discovery
Dancing, singing, laughing
Spontaneous connection through the heart 

These are the gifts I am giving to myself at this new moon. I am sending good wishes to you that you receive the gifts your heart desires, too. 


Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Matter of Life and Death

In the night, there is time to contemplate matters of life and death
At 71 years, one may find that the subject of  life and death is a regular and ongoing contemplation. At least this one does. Many humans live to 90 or more these days, yet at 71 one wonders how many more years will be given to this particular life.

I wrote a song about death for my musical revue A New Wrinkle. It's titled Death is Right Around the Corner, which it is. Ignoring or denying death is quite usual in this era, but I felt it was essential to have a song about death in the revue.



Part of the song goes:

"Late at night when in the dark
the whole world disappears
there are times when I can hear
the radiant music of the spheres
a resonance that’s calling me
from time into eternity."

I have been contemplating death for many years because I am a Buddhist. Buddhists have an ongoing practice of meditating on impermanence and the immanence of death. We don't know when death will come, the teachings tell us. Last night at 3:45am I spent an hour or two in the dark reflecting on my life and my certain passing from this world. This is something that pops up from time to time in my nocturnal experience.

I like lying quietly in the dark. I am glad to have the time and quiet to muse about dying. And I know that there is a world of difference between contemplating death and actually dying. When I gave birth to my second daughter, I thought in the midst of the oceanic and all-absorbing experience of birth, "Oh, this must be what dying is like, this extinction of everything external into the gigantic pulse of the moment, the sensation of being poised at the edge of life and death. "If only I could practice this experience a few more times," I thought to myself then, "I could become more skilled in letting go."

I didn't have the practice of birthing any more children, but I do practice what I think of as a sacred exit strategy. It's the Tibetan Buddhist practice of Phowa, in which one visualizes one's consciousness shooting out of the top of the head, the fontanelle area, and merging with the immeasurable light, in the form of the Buddha Amitabha. I've been fortunate also to have had Tibetan teachings over the years on the dissolution of the earthly elements at the time of death and various emotional//psychological experiences that tend to arise with these aspects of our letting go.

You don't have to be a Buddhist of course to recognize how important a territory death is, especially in the later years. Carl Jung once said, "Shrinking away from death is something unhealthy and abnormal which robs the second half of life of its purpose."  In this film clip, Jung talks about death as a fulfillment of life.

Emma Thompson in the movie Wit
 It so happened that yesterday my friend Diane gave me a DVD of Wit,  a movie starring Emma Thompson playing an intellectual scholar of the poetry of John Donne. This woman discovers that she has stage 4 ovarian cancer. We are witness to her experience in hospital during a radical course of cancer treatment, which has no useful effect on her cancer. We see  her pride, isolation, wit, humiliation, regret and sorrow. We are privy to the crisp impersonality of much of hospital culture. We share in her experience as she realizes that she is dying. This is quite a profound movie, wonderfully acted by Emma Thompson. I highly recommend it.

Isn't it a great puzzlement how we appear in this world from simple joining of sperm and egg, how we come in with particular gifts and limitation, live this life and then vanish, leaving our body behind?

Marcel Proust on his deathbed
 When Allen Ginsberg died, I remember seeing a photo of him on his deathbed, right after his passing. This photo, which I could no longer find in my Google browsing today was published I think by some Buddhist magazine. Though you might find it strange, I found that photo comforting and generous. How like Ginsberg I thought, a poet whose life was so outrageous and provocative, to request publication of his deathbed photo in a culture so fearful of looking at death. I felt comforted by his generous last gesture to me, a stranger and a fan.

Everyone dies. Beauty, fame, wit, must all be surrendered up.

So it seems to me to be a great time for giving things away and practicing letting go. I am grateful to be part of the sage-ing community, as its founder, Rabbi Zalman Schacter, points out the importance of various later life tasks, including preparing for death.

Of course,  it's not advisable to climb into the coffin while still alive! (I will be cremated however.)

These later years can be a time of fullness, deeper understanding, growth and healing. I am such a different person from who I was in my earlier years. Though far from sainthood still, I have learned a great deal about compassion and kindness.

This morning, pouring cream in my coffee, I am immersed in the world of the living.

What shall I do with these years? How shall I live, and where? I think about my friend Shari, who is on retreat in a monastery in Nepal. Retreat is a compelling possibility, as is moving to Nepal, a country so enriched by Buddhism.

But for now, I am sitting on the couch in my cottage in Oregon, looking at this photo of Santa's clothes hung up to air out on the clothesline of a charming old wooden lodge. I imagine Santa is sitting inside by a good blazing fire.

It's the holiday season and the winter solstice is approaching. This winter, some of the buzz is about the Mayan calendar shift. I think I will be learning more about this topic because next week at this time, I will be boarding a cruise ship that will take my friend Serena and I into the Gulf of Mexico and down to Mayan ruins in the Yucatan. The cruise organizers call the adventure the Mayan Galactic Alignment. I am the kind receiver of Serena's gift, being her guest on this journey. I imagine it will be pretty darned interesting.

Isn't life amazing, strange and wonderful? I find it to be so.

Monday, December 3, 2012

After the poetry, more poetry

In the midst of the poetry, out in the wild blue yonder



Yesterday I did a performance reading titled The Poetry of Aging at the Ashland Library.

It went very well, with an enthusiastic audience of 15 or 20 people. Some of them were avid poetry buffs, and knew many of the poems I shared.

The poems were quite varied. Some were reflective, some were humorous or sardonic, some lyrical, and some were laments.


I thoroughly enjoyed sharing that feast of  poetry,  as you can see from the photo here which shows the truth of something Stanley Kunitz said, how "The poem comes in the form of a blessing...like rapture breaking on the mind."

One of the folks who attended asked me to share the titles and authors of some of the poems I presented, and I am doing so here.

I read several poems by W.B. Yeats, including Sailing to Byzantium, When You are Old and John Kinsella's Lament for Mrs. Mary Moore.

I sang Fern Hill by Dylan Thomas. I set that poem to music many years ago and always love to share it with others. Poetry was sung or chanted in the old days, and even today, when you hear poets "read' their work, many still do it in a musical, bardic way. I think that's even more true in places outside of the US, where we have adopted a rather flat-earth relationship to language.

One woman left while I sang Fern Hill. I wish I could have asked her whether it was just too much for her, too strange or difficult. This kind of singing is so different from the style of vocal presentation we are familiar with. I suppose that is one reason why I like it. I long for more variety, subtlety, more open and expansive voice that can lead us into deeper regions of the psyche. Bardic poetry. People used to sit for hours together and hear the deep songs. I am happy that some of us kindred spirits gathered to commune in that way yesterday.

I shared the humorous and poignant poem Forgetfulness by Billy Collins. You can listen to it while watching a  You Tube video.

I shared several poems by Polish poet Anna Swir, from her book Talking to My Body.

I presented Sonnet 73 by Shakespeare, some poems by May Sarton about becoming 80, the wonderful poem Otherwise by Jane Kenyon, Affirmation by Donald Hall, In View of the Fact by A. R. Ammons, With a Wave of Her Old Hand by Kathleen Raine, Touch Me and Passing Through by Stanley Kunitz, Past by Pablo Neruda, Lines on Retirement, After Reading Lear, by David Wright. I shared Break the Mirror by Nanao Sakaki and Maya Angelou's poem On Aging.

We did call and response for the poem Ancestors, the choral piece which begins my musical revue, A New Wrinkle. That was lovely, too. It gave me a glimpse of what that poem may sound like set to music and sung by a chorus.

I learned, as one often does in doing things. I felt fine about the way I shared the poems, but afterwards, I realized that I did not give the audience enough introduction to me or my work with creative aging, or tell them enough about the musical revue I'm working to finish and produce.  I was a bit disappointed in that and I will do better next time.


Playfulness and Wellness
The other day, I somehow (did someone send it to me?) found a video about Stephen Jepson, an active elder who likes relating to life as one big playground, as you will see from this video on Growing Bolder, an Internet community that focuses on positive aging.

Jepson is passionate about playfulness and physical activity and their role in happiness, health and wellbeing. I hope that he succeeds in sharing his methods and philosophy widely. Playful physical activity can build a set of skills that help coordination and prevent falls. Not only that, look at this fellow. He is having a wonderful time. His happiness is quite contagious. He has a Never Leave the Playground website you will enjoy, too.

Here we are in December!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Farewell to November

A delphinium grew in my garden in November!

This young delphinium stalk in my front garden was determined to spring up and flower, without waiting for spring to come. When I pruned a nearby rose bush, some of the branches knocked the delphinium over, so I brought it in and put it on the kitchen table in order to savor its wonderful color, a delicious departure from the autumnal tones that can be found all around, though the rain and wind storms we've been having will mean the end of the last bright red and gold blazes of leaves on nearby trees. I love that blue color on flowers. It is so ethereal, so like the summer sky.

This week I've been musing about my upcoming event,  The Poetry of Aging, which I am offering in two days at the Ashland Library. Years ago, I was rather shy about performing, but now it is one of my favorite ways to share with others. I have come to understand that it is a gift to be so relaxed about it and to enjoy it so much.

I haven't figured out an organized menu for presenting the poetry. I do have some poems grouped by themes. I'm still deciding whether I need to have a set order for the poems, or whether to be more fluid in the way I bring them out.  Either way, it is going to be a lot of fun and I think the audience will enjoy it. Poetry allows us to share in ways that are not possible with our everyday language. "Poetry heals the wounds inflicted by reason," the poet Novalis said.

I am happy that I found a woman to film the event. I'm planning to create a DVD and make it available through our website and at Sage's Play events. Stay tuned for more on how The Poetry of Aging transpires.

We'Moon

Louise Pare, Ph.D. Women's Spirituality






 Last weekend, I attended a celebration offered by We'Moon, a group of women who publish a calendar and a daybook filled with womens' art, writings and astrological observations. We'Moon has been publishing for over 30 years and is based here in southern Oregon. My friend Louise Pare was very happy to have an excerpt from one of her poems published in the 2013 calendar.

We'Moon contributors come from all over the country. It was wonderful to meet some of the women who contributed, to see their beautiful paintings and prints and to hear their poetry and essays. I met Bedo there. An artist that reads this blog, Bedo came down from Cottage Grove to celebrate having some of her art in the calendar.

Congratulations Louise, Bedo and all the other women whose work is collected in this beautiful and inspiring resource. By now, the longtime organizers, such as Bethroot, have become elders, and they are excellent models of how to inspire, engage and contribute.


This is in the "you never know what is coming next in life" department

Much to my surprise and delight, my old friend Serena invited me to accompany her on a cruise to the Mayan ruins at the time of the winter solstice, which is the time some people call "the end of the Mayan calendar." The Mayans view it as a shift into another era of Mayan time. The notion of taking a cruise is not something that probably would have occurred to me on my own, but thanks to Serena, I will be having a new adventure. So far I have only glanced at the materials about where we are going and what we are doing. I may wind up reading more about it, but maybe not.


I know there is something about the goddess Ixchel. I know we will be meeting a Mayan shaman at one of the ruins.

I am really looking forward to this unexpected new experience.

I've known Serena for many years, but we haven't spent any time together for a long time.  We met as part of a group of healers called The Church of the Gentle Brothers and Sisters. A couple of other members of that group will be on the cruise, too. It will be great to connect with each other.

What a generous gift she is giving me in inviting me to be her guest.

This is the cruise ship. We leave in mid-December. I will tell you all about it when I get back.

Have your checked out Retirement and Inspirement Coaching, a service we are offering to help people maximize their later years?

You can read more about it at our website.
http://www.sagesplay.com/coaching.shtml

Friday, November 23, 2012

Living In the Community

The Greensprings area
 I've been here in the Ashland, Oregon neighborhood since 1977--the years have accumulated. The town and surrounding area has changed considerably in some ways, with many more new residents from urban places like SF, LA and NY.  It's speedier than it used to be, and more sophisticated.

Southern Oregon is a beautiful region and a healthy place to live on many levels. I think that there is a greater variety of high-quality organic food available here at lower prices than anywhere else. There are wonderful hikes, swimming holes, dance, yoga, marathons and other ways to be physically active.

The Ashland community is artistic and educated; there's plenty of workshops, performances and other gatherings to choose from. I have a lot of dear friends here. Yesterday I drove up to the Greensprings to visit two of them for Thanksgiving.  It was a marvelous meal and it was a sumptuous repast to be with them, too.

I had a tour of our grassroots media world this week. It was an easy tour because this is not a big city. We have only two community media outlets here. First I went on Craig Comstock's show Like Wow! which airs on RVTV, a cable station whose offices are part of Southern Oregon University. Craig and I talked about positive aging. It was a lot of fun. I will post a link to the show when it is available. I believe it's airing on December 3rd at 8pm for those of you who are in the Rogue Valley.


Craig Comstock

 Craig is a great interviewer. He has a nice sense of humor and moves from topic to topic very easily. I don't get nervous when I speak in public or in media situations, but he made me feel even more relaxed and comfortable than I already did.

We talked about stereotypes, misconceptions, positive solutions and inspiring elders, among other things. Of course, I talked about A New Wrinkle, our musical revue. I had the chance to sing Baba Yaga's Raga (wow, I am looking forward to seeing how that looks) and Craig and I did some alternate line reading of part of the song Ancestors, the choral piece that begins A New Wrinkle.
The front door to KSKQ, our  homegrown radio station



I also went on Lavelle Foos' KSKQ radio show Wonderful World of Women.

Both of these venues, RVTV and KSKQ, are arranged in a low-budget, minimalist style. Keynotes are make sure you dress warmly enough, the rug is tacky but it looks okay on camera, watch out for that shelf or you will hurt your head. RVTV's studio is roomy, but KSKQ's studio is quite tiny.

I loved the entry door at KSKQ, ornamented with a small windmill and some plastic chairs.

I am glad that community and grassroots media exist!  Our print and broadcast media have become rather monolithic. It's refreshing and important to have the freedom to share a wide variety of expressions, not simply those that align with high profile people and mainstream views.

It was great to connect with Lavelle via her show. I've known Lavelle for decades. She is a sculptor, coppersmith and musician. She plays beautiful native American  flute and she is a wonderful artist.  You can learn more about her art at her website.

Lavelle Foos
Lavelle and I enjoyed talking with each other for an hour about creative, conscious aging. It was invigorating for both of us, and hopefully for the listeners, too. During the show, Lavelle played Sex after 60,  one of the songs from A New Wrinkle. You can hear an mp3 of that song and three others at our website, www.sagesplay.com

That was my brief grassroots media blitz, at least for now.  This weekend, I'm back to writing more songs and developing a new class series for 2013.

The Poetry of Aging

I'll be offering The Poetry of Aging at the Ashland Library on Sunday, December 2nd at 1pm.  I will be performing poems about aging by many different poets, including Yeats, Shakespeare, May Sarton, Dylan Thomas and others.  The event is presented at no charge by the library. Please join us if the spirit moves you. It is going to be a lot of fun!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Poetry of Aging


If you are in southern Oregon, you may like to participate in The Poetry of Aging, an event I am offering on December 2nd at the Ashland Library.

I am jazzed about it! For several reasons. One, it is a marvelous program that will move you, stretch you and give you food for thought.  If you are thirsty for the deep song that poetry brings, it will bring to your ears a refreshing music.

On a personal note, this event is a wonderful chance for me to offer my thanks for having lived in the Ashland area for over 30 years. It's a wonderful place and I have experienced many blessings and much growth here.

Actually I moved here in 1977. I notice that I am often saying "for over 30 years." It's not confined to remarks about how long I've lived here. Instead, the phrase "for over 30 years" seems to have entered my vocabulary as a way of talking about various items in my past. I've been a Buddhist for over 30 years. I've been involved in holistic and spiritual healing for over 30 years. You get the picture.

Back to The Poetry of Aging--I am glad to have this opportunity to share my passion for creative aging and to engage my own creative gifts through the medium of poetry. I've been collecting poetry on aging for several years, but it just occurred to me recently to develop a performance event to share it. Some of the poems are well-known by poetry lovers, such as W.B. Yeats poem Sailing to Byzantium and Dylan Thomas' poem Fern Hill which I set to music many years ago. But most are not much known. It is going to be wonderful, and it will be even more so if you are there.

As Stanley Kunitz said, “The poem comes in the form of a blessing—‘like rapture breaking on the mind'."

Be advised!
Poetry is nearer to vital truth than history.  ~Plato

Poetry heals the wounds inflicted by reason.  ~Novalis


Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Week That Was

Some of the very last roses from the garden





A quiet, cold Sunday punctuated with a few sunny interludes. The golden leaves of the cottonwood tree ornament the yard with a delightful carpet.

Was it just Election Day on Tuesday? It seems so long ago already. I had already voted by mail two weeks before. I felt rather confident that Obama was going to win. He did win, thankfully.

We are in a big enough mess in this country and on this planet without voting in a person more like a replicant than a human being, or a political party with such harsh, antiquated stances as Republicans seem to have right now. Why are they called parties, I wonder. They are hardly party like. I myself could use a good party. That would include good friends, good food, dancing, laughing and singing, and sun would be a bonus.

Yay! Obama won.  On Election Day, I headed for the Enneagram class I've been taking at OLLI (Osher Life Long Learning Institute--do you have one in your community?) I enjoy reflecting on the Enneagram, a system of personality typing that comes out of Sufi teachings, yet the class has left me rather bored. But it is almost over. That's the thing one can count on--things will end. Just as I would like to attend a really excellent party, I would enjoy being in a challenging class. I am looking for both of these items.

On the eve of Election Day, I headed out to Tashi Choling, the Tibetan Buddhist temple that I belong to. It was a holy day and we celebrated with a wonderful puja. I have been practising with this sangha for over 30 years now. Ah, what a fortunate woman I am. When I got home, I found out that Obama had won the election.

The next day, I went to the assisted living facility where my dear friend Kate lives. I presented The Poetry of Aging, a program I will be offering soon at the Ashland Library.  Most of the people who live in that assisted living facility have cognitive impairments. In the group that attended, only one person was cognitively impaired. She was 66. Other people told her that. She didn't remember it herself, though she was quite lively and engaged. There were also 3 people in their 90s, a retired college professor who loves poetry and my friend Kate who is a mythic figure in my book of life--maybe 8 people in all. I read poems from Neruda, Yeats, May Sarton, Anna Swir, A. R. Ammons, Donald Hall and others--all on the subject of aging.  It was quite wonderful. You can convey things by reading poetry that go far beyond ordinary conversation.

Kate told me that I was like the person bringing water to the people in the desert. I have thought a great deal about that, how people can be cared for physically, but suffer because their psyches are neglected. The dumbing-down process, Kate calls it. It pervades our culture, but is especially obvious in the way we care for or relate to older adults. I would like to offer another program there sometime soon, creating a space where people can talk about their inner lives.

Performing poetry is something that I enjoy tremendously. I plan to offer this program through Sage's Play.


An autumn still life in the kitchen
The 93-year old yogini and dancer Tao Porchon-Lynch
I create still lives throughout my dwelling. They change with the seasons or because I feel the urge to shift things around. This is a still life that collected itself in the kitchen near the stove.

This week flew by. I went to a yoga class at the senior center (which could stand some philosophical updating as far as I'm concerned--the senior center, not the yoga class). I love the yoga teacher who is probably in her 70s and is very sensitive to the limitations that many older adults have when doing yoga. She teaches people to pay attention to their bodies and not stress their bodies out to the point of pain.

 Someone posted this wonderful photo of Tao Porchon-Lynch on Facebook the other day. I wrote about her a year or two ago in this blog. She's 93 now. Just look at her vibrant beauty. Tao has been doing yoga since childhood. She has a yoga center on the east coast. I think she is a wonderful example of positive outlook and lifestyle.

This morning, I got to Skype with Ina Albert, one of my Sage-ing friends. Ina lives in Montana, where she teaches Sage-ing classes at the local community college. I love connecting with her. I also connected with Carol Scott-Kassner, who is the current leader of Sage-ing International. She suggested that I might like a creative movement called InterPlay. I went to their website, and boy, it sure sounds like a lot of fun. Like a big party! I plan to get in touch with them and see how I can connect with their very interesting creative work soon.

 I've been working on a new song for our musical revue. It's about Social Security and Medicare.  The title is When I'm 65.  I am nearly done. That was my week, or part of it. I finished reading Rick Moody's book The Five Stages of the Soul and started in on Connie Goldman's book Secrets of the Late Bloomers. I played with my daughter's dog, whose swift and hilarious runs in the yard were quite delightful. I lay in my bed and gazed out the window at the chartreuse striated leaves of the lilac bush and the shiny dark green leaves of the climbing rose and the gray green of the fir tree. I looked at the sky at night. I baked corn muffins. I meditated. I mused about the brevity of life. I thought about my daughter traveling in Europe. I put my hands in the wet earth. I put my face up to the rain.  What about you?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Playfulness, Sage-ing and A New Wrinkle

When we play, we step out of ordinary time, and get free of self-consciousness.
Playfulness is wonderful because it lifts us out of mundane concerns and sets us free in a beautiful open field, where we have a chance to express ourselves spontaneously.

I offered a workshop on Playfulness and the Art of Aging at the Sage-ing International conference. Wow, was that fun! Over 30 people participated. The sharing we did on our childhood play experiences was marvelous, and sometimes very touching. We made faces, funny sounds, told stories, made believe in various ways and we laughed and laughed.  What a pleasure.

I also had a chance to perform some of the songs from A New Wrinkle, our musical revue on aging, at the conference.  I love performing. It is a form of play that I find very freeing. And to perform in front of such a welcoming, loving audience was very exhilarating indeed. I sang Baba Yaga's Raga and excerpts from Sex after 60, and shared the lyrics of Death is Right around the Corner, too. Dr. Rick Moody and I were sitting next to each other that evening. His comments really made my heart sing! When I came back to the table after performing, he was enthusiastic. "Genius!" he exclaimed. Wow, okay, that's a good review in my book. Later he told me, "Your performance was the capstone of the conference."

Thank you, Dr. Moody. That kind of affirmation and encouragement is helpful to me as an artist and human being. He gave me some other feedback too, suggesting that I could add stand-up comedy to my repertoire. Ha ha ha. Seriously. I do love being funny, silly and foolish. I appreciated his comments and the self-reflection they afforded. And yes, it felt great to have the songs from A New Wrinkle so appreciated by the Sage-ing folks.

Composer Laura Rich and I continue to work on new songs we are creating for A New Wrinkle. I'm working on one about Medicare and Social Insecurity right now. I've written lyrics for another song titled The Silver Tsunami as well as two songs that are meant to contrast with each other on ways of perceiving the aging body. One is sung by a woman who thinks plastic surgery will solve her problems, and the other is a gospel song The Body is the Temple of the Soul. I know they are going to be fun together. That's what's happening with A New Wrinkle at the moment.

I wanted to share some comments from Sue Shoemaker, who came to the Sage-ing conference from Michigan. I first met Sue on ElderwomanSpace, an Internet community we both belong to. It was delightful to meet her in person. I think that her comments are insightful, especially since this conference was her first experience with Sage-ing. Now she is headed to Indiana to take the Sage-ing Leadership training! You go, Sue!

Sue liked  "the consistent references to storytelling ... right from the beginning, we brought our voices into the room by telling the story of the water we brought from home. Gaea's workshop really brought out the storyteller in each of the participants. When they talked about their joyful childhood memories, it was clear they found enjoyment in the remembering and telling. I attended the workshop The Power of Storytelling, and it was clear that we all are natural storytellers. We had lots of opportunities to share what we we thinking and what we have learned."

Sue continues, "In all of the sessions, there was a healthy blend of listening and sharing.  It was extremely participatory.  For me the opening session, singing that beautiful song BY BREATH  touched me deeply. Then to be welcomed by the gentleman from the Cherokee Tribe, realizing we were meeting in the part of the country that they inhabit. I also appreciated that all of the people who were fairly renowned were as friendly and approachable as anyone else. LAUGHTER -- from the session on Playfulness to the various Plenary Sessions, humorous comments and stories led to lots of laughter.  Don't think I heard any complaints, gripes or curmudgeonly comments the whole time I was there. I also did not hear about any health issues, surgeries, or aches and pains."

Sue also pointed out the spiritual quality that was an important part of the conference. "I am sure that is why the opening and closing sessions resonated so deeply with me.  I felt a connection that moved me deeply inside. Having been disconnected from "religious" experiences for several years now, the music on that first night moved my being in the way that certain spiritual music has touched me in the past."

Thanks, Sue.  Your comments tell a good story about the conference.

I also met Ina Albert in person for the first time at the conference. Ina is a Sage-ing leader who lives in White Fish, Montana. She and I we realized we were kindred spirits and started connecting by email and phone.  I asked Ina to send me some of her observations about the conference to include here. They will be part of my next blog essay.

We are familiar with the various ways people dress up and decorate themselves in our culture in an every day way.  Halloween is nearly here, and people are getting ready to go even further, take on alter egos and make believe they are Elvis, the upstairs maid,  Mary Poppins or some chap from Transylvania.

I think the Omo culture has magical ways of dressing and ornamenting themselves. This one image will give you some idea of what I mean. If you want to see more gorgeous Omo costuming from natural materials, get thee to Google and do a search.
The Omo tribe's traditional ways of dressing and ornamenting is very beautiful/.








On another note entirely, I love this funny Halloween group therapy cartoon.


Just before I went out to a meeting this afternoon, I headed to the mailbox and found The Five Stages of the Soul, by Dr. Moody and his co-writer David Carrol. I began to read it before I left for the meeting, thinking of one of Rick Moody's comments to me. "Let yourself go even more," he said. Yes, indeed. Letting go of the so-called self is one of the big jobs of aging.

I know I'm going to love this book, which explores the wish for meaning in life, especially later life. But more on that anon.




Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Sage-ing International Conference: Gathering at the Lake



The conference was held at Lake Junaluska, a Methodist Church-run conference center outside of Asheville, NC
I just returned from the Sage-ing International conference, which was held at the Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center, a Methodist facility  in the mountains outside of Asheville, North Carolina. It felt good that we were gathering at the big, peaceful lake.  Lakes have a strong association with the Feminine, with healing, fertility and growth. The surface of a big lake can be seen as a mirror for contemplation, consciousness and revelation. In Chinese symbology, the lake represents receptive wisdom and absorption. And the work of sage-ing contains all of these elements. 


Some Sage-ing History

The organization that is now called Sage-ing International began through the pioneering work of Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, whose classic book From Age-ing to Sage-ing sets forth a powerful new vision of aging. At first, the organization was called Spiritual Eldering Institute. Then its name was changed to The Sage-ing Guild. The new name, Sage-ing International,  was chosen after considering many names submitted by members. The new name was announced at the conference.

Do you know anything about sage-ing and Reb Zalman's pioneering work? I encourage you to read his book if you haven't done so yet, and to learn more about him as a model of eldering. His contribution to the development of a new paradigm of aging is enormous.


A walking path circled the lake. We had sunny days--beautiful autumn weather.
I arrived at the lake in time to relax and unwind after travelling cross country. I took some long walks in the autumn sun.
 
I had hopes when I signed up for the conference, and they were met and sometimes even exceeded.  I wanted to meet people in the aging field that  I had heard about for years. I wanted to get to know how others in creative, conscious aging did their work. I wanted to learn more about the Sage-ing movement itself.

And I wanted to have the opportunity to share some songs from A New Wrinkle, our musical revue on aging, with an audience that I believed could give me useful feedback.

Bob Atchley


I met people.

Many wonderful people who touched my heart.


For instance, I met Bob Atchley. My friend Susan Bosworth studied with him at Naropa, and was always talking about him so I had wanted to meet him for years. Bob is a really delightful human being--funny, warm and engaging. After retiring from his academic career, he has taken up an encore career as a singer-songwriter. It was great fun to talk with him and see him perform his wonderful songs. Check out his website for more information on his music and workshops he offers.

I wanted to meet H.R. "Rick" Moody and Connie Goldman, too-- and I did! Connie began her career at NPR and has spent decades writing about aging. Her interviews and observations are well worth reading. You can check out her books and other services at her website.  

Rick Moody is Director of Academic Affairs at AARP.   I found Rick to be a generous, thoughtful and funny person. He made himself available to talk with people about a wide variety of topics, including marketing. It was a real joy to meet all three of these delightful folks.  I  hope my life and work brings me into contact with them again. 

H.R. "Rick" Moody (seated on left, in back) generously shared his wit and wisdom with us, including at two breakfast meetings devoted to marketing. 



The presentations I attended were all very well-done. I enjoyed learning more about storycatching from Christina Baldwin of PeerSpirit. I resonated with Ina Albert's workshop on the energetics of the heart and how we communicate through the heart.  I learned more about the intersection of spiritual direction and life coaching from Rev. Nancy N. DeStefano and Carol Scott-Kassner.

I was touched to be with those who have been involved in the evolution of the Sage-ing organization for many years, whose dedication has supported the organization as it has changed and grown. Thank you, all of you for your generosity and kindness.

I loved the plenary sessions where we all gathered  to brainstorm and create. The speakers were delightful, introducing topics with insight and humor. I especially liked the work we as a group did together on shifting the aging paradigm. The plenary session on spirituality and wisdom was quite wonderful, too.

Rituals were an integral part of the conference, and they were enriching and beautiful. During the final ritual,  the most elder among us were honored with ceremonial scarves representing the elements. The love in that room was resonant, let me tell you.

I joined Sage-ing International because I suspected the people in it might be kindred spirits. And I am happy to report that my suspicion was right. It felt very, very good to be so at home with scores of folks who had been strangers only hours before that. I met some people who moved me a great deal, with whom I shared deeply, and some of them will probably be my friends for years.

When you hang out with people in Sage-ing groups, you introduce yourself by name and then you say "and I have 71 years of life experience." Or whatever number of years it is you do have. That feels good, doesn't it? It did to me.

 Sage-ing International is a great place for you if you are an older adult who longs for meaningful connection, community and personal//spiritual growth.  In other words, you may want to join Sage-ing International yourself!

I want to write about Playfulness and the Art of Aging, the workshop I presented at the conference, and also the performance I did of some songs from A New Wrinkle, and I will do that in my next blog. I am feeling encouraged, stimulated, supported and loved, thanks to my conference experience.

These are some of the women I first met through ElderwomanSpace, an international internet community. It was wonderful to meet them in person at the conference!


Friday, October 5, 2012

The Elder Hall of Fame: Vandana Shiva

We have a Baseball Hall of Fame and a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but as yet we do not have an Elder Hall of Fame to celebrate elders who are remarkable, outstanding examples of what human beings can be in their later years. I hope we don't have to wait too many more years before an Elder Hall of Fame is created.  I wonder what city it will be located in. 

 I like to imagine attending the yearly award ceremonies designed to honor elders in different fields. Can you feel how wonderful this would be, too? Having an Elder Hall of Fame that acknowledges the significant contributions of elders in the arts, science, the environment, philosophy, athletics, business, etc...It tickles me to imagine it coming into fruition.







I have quite a list of elders I want to nominate for the Elder Hall of Fame. They are people I deeply admire for their passionate commitment to their life work. Dr. Vandana Shiva is one of them. At 60, she is still a young elder.

Do you know of her and her work? Let me tell you something about it, and in the course of that, you will understand why I admire her so. Perhaps it's best to start by recognizing the breadth and depth of her vision.  Well-known as an environmental activist and author of numerous books, Shiva is inspiring, a brilliant thinker and a tireless advocate for the wellbeing of the Earth and its creatures.

To me, it seems that ecological/-environmental issues are the main issues of our time. We utterly depend upon the Earth's integrity, diversity and health in order to continue living here as a species. Most of us are quite aware of how the  globalization of corporate power has affected the Earth and its creatures. This is the arena in which Vandana Shiva chooses to work --exposing how global corporations are plundering the Earth, and developing solutions for that depredation.

Vandana Shiva was born in Dehra Dun, India at the foothills of the Himalayas. Her father was a conservator of forests and her mother was a farmer.  Both parents were staunch supporters of Gandhi and Shiva herself espouses Gandhi's philosophy, saying "I have tried to be the change I want to see." This statement is simple enough, but when a human embodies it as Vandana Shiva has done, it is deeply moving. That is to say, I am deeply moved by her vision, her dedication and the profoundly integrative understanding she brings to the biggest issues of our era.

Before becoming an activist, Dr. Shiva was one of India's leading physicists. Troubled by what she calls the dark side of science, she decided to become a theoretical physicist rather than a nuclear physicist as she had originally planned.  If it were not for her enormous curiosity about social issues, she might have settled into a rather quiet life in academia. That was not to be.

The listing of her books, research and organizations she has created is long. She has received many honors and much recognition, and rightly so. She is described as an eco-feminist because she speaks to the inclusion of women. She has fought for change in the way we view agriculture and food. She created Navdanya, an organization that has developed native seed banks on 57 areas of India, as a response to corporate attempts to control what is grown and how seeds are passed along. Do you know how important an issue seeds are? Without biodiversity and free native seed exchange, we are imprisoned in corporate control of seeding, subject to dangerous GMOs and prevented from growing food in a natural, local way.

The Utne Reader) describes Shiva as "a one-woman movement for peace, sustainability and social justice."  I have to agree with that description. She is a person who has plunged into major social// environmental issues and applied her intellect and passion to creating solutions. I have only touched on some of her interests, involvements and accomplishments.

If you are inspired to learn more about her and her life work, you can Google her books or read some of her Resurgence Magazine articles.

If you wanted, you could even get more involved than that in her work to support global biodiversity, 
small, decentralized and local agriculture other sustainability efforts. As is stated in a website devoted to her green work, "Ecological recovery cannot be based on centralized and globalised control over resources. It has to be based on the decentralized logic of Gandhi’s “ever-widening, never ascending’ circles."

Vandana Shiva: an elder worthy of praise and support. I nominate her for the Elder Hall of Fame. 


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Just after the Autumn Equinox: In the Middle of the Night

Waking at 2am....the sound of the cars on the freeway like breaking waves....

I went to the chiropractor on Friday and hoped he put my rib back in place, but it still hurts.  I'm sure that had something to do with me waking up at 2. But even as I began to come up from sleep, words appeared. Three words, specifically--catastrophe. legacy. lucidity. I better write those down, I told myself, knowing that they might belong in a song I just wrote a couple of weeks ago.

That song is currently titled Can't Remember Shit. It will be sung by a man in the early stages of Alzheimer's. I didn't want to get into writing a song about Alzheimer's in A New Wrinkle, the musical revue I started writing 3 years ago. But now that we've decided to add a second act, it seemed inevitable, and also important, to include it. It's an ironic and of course heartbreaking song.

We'll see if those three words make their way into it soon enough. I'm not going to do anything about it tonight, but I will soon.

I had lunch the other day with Carolyn Myers at Taj, an Indian restaurant with statues of voluptuous goddesses. The walls are painted aubergine, which makes for a mysterious feeling of being cloaked and held by the room. The food is very good. I haven't seen Carolyn for too long. She is one of my dear old friends. We go back. Carolyn has been helping me with script development for the revue since I began the project.

"You might consider adding some more lyrics that show the singer trying to find his way back into the song," she suggested. "I remember my mother trying to do that in some of our conversations," she recalled. I know that those 3 words are a response to her suggestion.

The subconscious likes to play. Its nature is play, its myriad dancing neurons full of radiant color and beautiful ever-changing patterns. To me, creativity means letting go into that surge and flow. I often ask my subconscious to find solutions for me. It's so good at that, far better than the logical mind most of the time. It makes everything so much easier to have a warm, friendly relationship with the subconscious mind.

These days, I am aware of songs waiting nearby.  It's been like that since I began writing A New Wrinkle. And it seems to be even more so these days in this last part of the development process. I can feel their presence. They are waiting until I turn my attention to each of them. But sometimes one of them gets impatient, and wakes me up. Not like tonight, with just a few words. A song will show up in the middle of the night and just start talking to me. I have to pay attention. To ignore it is not only rude but artistically inadvisable. So I get up and spend some time with whichever one of them is visiting.

I have always happily enjoyed deep restful sleep. But in the midst of the creative process, sleep sometimes gets happily interrupted. So be it.  I am sure not going to complain about it.

Tonight, after I made a cup of tea with umeboshi and honey, I thought about the autumn equinox. How fast the summer sped by. Now the leaves are already starting to fall. I hope that all the seeds I planted for winter greens flourish.  Spinach, chard, mustard greens. They are still so small.

There is a lot to do in the garden. The garden is always a mess at the end of summer. Straggly. It's fun to take breaks from writing, to get out in the dirt and transplant, weed, rake things up.

I don't like to say goodby to summer, but I really have no say in the matter. Now we're headed into bundling up in more clothes to keep warm. I'm glad I will have a respite from winter in December when Serena and I head to Mayan ruins in Mexico on a cruise ship.

It's been a month since you wrote a blog, woman, I told myself. So here I am, drinking a little tea and talking to you far away strangers in the night.

 I had a reading with astrologer Salina Rain recently, and she told me that I would be working very hard for the next year. I know that to be true. The songs are only one aspect of my creative work right now.

I am developing a brochure and self-evaluation form for Retirement and Refirement Coaching, which I plan to launch soon. I want to develop a curriculum for creative and conscious aging, too. I am creating some presentations and classes for OLLI, the life long learning program at our local university. I feel a whole new level of creativity opening up, and with it, new ways of connecting with others. Plus I really want to work with photographer Mary Landberg on a book.

Of course, there's more/other  to life than work, no matter how much that work seems to be the harvest of decades of experience.

I had a visit yesterday with another dear old friend, Kate Maloney. We had a splendid time as usual. This period of our lives we are closer than we have ever been and it is rich, and because it is transient, it is poignant, too. Then after I brought Kate home I stopped by to visit dear Frannie, whom I love very much. She is one big-hearted, brave woman.

When I acknowledge how full my life is with incredibly deep and beautiful friends, I feel amazed and grateful.

I hope that each of your lives is full of love and beauty.  Read some poetry. Dance around. Bask in the delight of being with dear old friends. Be silly sometimes. Laugh. That's my advice.

Now I hie me back to bed.





Sunday, August 19, 2012

Recent Items that Caught My Attention

Swimmingly

AP reported today:

"HAVANA (AP) — American Diana Nyad endured several jellyfish stings as the 62-year-old endurance athlete sought to become the first person to swim unaided from Cuba to Florida without a wetsuit or a shark cage."

I admire older athletes and love witnessing their beautiful efforts and experiences. It's inspiring.


Heart Songs and Happy Music

Recently, I enjoyed spending a day in a workshop with singer/songwriter Laurence Cole, an elder who lives in Port Townsend,  WA. A group of about 25 people gathered to take part in it. Spending a day singing positive music together is my idea of a very good time.  It relaxes the body and mind, and connects us easily and happily.

Laurence's original songs are beautiful and uplifting. I highly recommend his work if you want to sponsor an event  that is heart-centered and regenerative. You can learn more about his music and work here.

http://www.laurencecole.com/


Movies: Octagenarian Agnes Varda's Film Memoir

I was at Video Explorer the other day. That place is my favorite and in fact only local venue for finding good flicks, thanks to the quirky, knowledgeable proprietor. He recommended The Beaches of Agnes, a film made by New Wave filmmaker Agnes Varda when she was 81. "She just keeps creating and creating. It's wonderful," he told me.

The film is a meandering, whimsical, journey into an artist's creative process and is simultaneously an exploration of a long and successful artistic career. Be ready to slow down and relax into it.  I am glad I watched it for several reasons. She does just keep creating and creating as my friend at Video Explorer said. She shares her career, family, loves and losses. She does it all with a lovely aplomb and aliveness.

This article gives a longer review of the film.

http://www.indiewire.com/article/wave_goodbye_agnes_vardas_the_beaches_of_agnes

Or you can watch a clip here.

http://video.pbs.org/video/1524974427/


Reflecting on Death--A New Film from The Institute for Noetic Sciences and Deepak Chopra

I liked this clip on a new film being developed by the above-mentioned folks.  Death is an even bigger taboo than aging in our society, and it's great when attention is focused on the topic in a positive way.


http://vimeo.com/39787736

Happy Sunday to you! Here, the valley air has cleared after days of smoke from nearby fires. And the three digit temperature has dropped, too. Marvelous!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Slow Blogger's End of Summer Reflections

At Goddard College in Vermont for my daughter Sophia"s graduation
 This summer I have transformed into The Slow Blogger. No apologies, just some end of summer reflections on life, family, aging, and development of Sage's Play's programs.

In early August I traveled with my beautiful daughter Sophia to attend her commencement exercises at Goddard College in Vermont, where she graduated with a Master's from the sustainable business and community program.  I thoroughly enjoyed attending the presentations of learning that each graduate did. Fascinating and informative stuff on positive solutions in areas of agriculture, housing, new sustainable business trends, art and more. I find it astounding at times to realize that my younger daughter is now 30. Most of her education has been focused on independent and holistic learning-- from her years at Waldorf from kindergarten through Grade 8, into Wilderness Charter School and Eagle Rock School in Estes Park, CO in high school, then a stint at the Southern Oregon University, where she experienced conventional education formats and on to Goddard, a longtime bastion of independent thinking and learning. Now I hope I live long enough to see more of her marvelous evolution--how she moves out more into the world. I am proud of her.



Wildflowers by the railroad tracks, Montpelier, VT
 In Burlington, Vermont, I  had one of the best meals I've enjoyed in a long time at a restaurant called The Farmhouse Tap and Grill. It was simple, made with locally grown ingredients, and completely satisfying. A bowl of tomato soup, rich and rounded flavor, two slices of freshly baked bread, a delicious salad. Plus a rather wonderful beer from a local brewer Sophia loves. I've forgotten his name. If you get to Farmhouse they can tell you about him, though. He is well-known in those parts.

We stayed in Montpelier at an old, overpriced, stodgy hotel right by the capitol. Montpelier has a thriving food co-op and I visited that a few times to soak up the good colors and interactions, and to look for the delicious maple kefir you can sometimes find there, though it disappears quickly because it is so good. I took walks, including along the river and railroad tracks. Northern Vermont reminds me a lot of southern Oregon culturally. Both have a strong focus on organic agriculture and a farm to table focus. Both are largely rural, with towns and cities that are warm and full of cultural innovation.
A graffiti in the Music Room at Goddard

After the graduation festivities were over, I took an Amtrak train from Montpelier to Newark, NJ. That ride, moving from the bucolic green cornfields, meadows and woods of Vermont through Massachusetts and  the desolate industrial towns of Connecicut with their abandoned factories, past affluent towns in  Connecticut and New York state, led me to disembark in Newark, where I met my dear brother and Kimmy, one of my four nieces. Her beautiful little son Maximo was there, too, bawling his head off.  Usually he is a sunny, happy little fellow, but at that moment, he wanted to be somewhere else.

I usually feel like bawling my head off and being somewhere else when I am in environments like northern New Jersey, where I was born and raised. It seems like Mordor to me, just a couple of steps above Hell. Traffic, pollution, unhappy people, with a deep condensation of ugliness and despair coating it all. Nature is eclipsed, eradicated. For me, it takes effort to continue to bless it all. And that effort is a useful one.

May these horrid, toxic environments be transformed into clean and liveable places that are safe and comfortable.  May these people be uplifted and happy. This is a prayer, one among many that I put forth for the congested, miserable confines of that geography. Prayers make no sense on the rational level. They don't have to, thank goodness. How can we change this world? The world manifests from our collective thought, belief and intention. What a time to be alive. It's tremendously challenging and full of opportunities. It takes courage to meet those sometimes.



I asked my brother Phil to take me back to Lambert's Castle on Garrett Mountain in Paterson, NJ (what passes for a mountain is actually a hill), where my father used to take me when I was a child.

How magical those woods were to me on those childhood excursions.

 It wasn't the same, of course.  There were open fields where folks were playing ball. The woods seemed small and tired,  and the castle-- which was empty and full of the resonance of memory when I was a child-- had become a museum. Unfortunately, it was closed the day we visited, so I never had the chance to see how they dolled that big stone structure up.

I am glad I saw it again. Those times with my father looking at leaves, rocks, bugs, stones and sky were very special.








My brother Phil and my niece Kimmy
It's emotional to visit family and the place where you were raised, especially if you visit seldom. Here my brother is looking at an album that his daughter Kimmy put together. It contains photos of both my brother and his wife when they were young.

What waves of feelings washed through as I perused that collection of images. Long in the past, still evocative.

I love my brother and we are living very different lives in very different places. He is a loving, hilariously funny, intelligent guy. It was beautiful, touching and deeply informative to spend time with him, his sweet lady friend and my nieces and their kids.

Yet overall, I have to say that I would be quite happy never to return to northern NJ again. I hope my brother and my nieces make their way to Oregon instead.

I was glad to return to Oregon. I am grateful for so much in my life here. I enjoyed the respite, but was looking forward to returning to the work of Sage's Play and its conscious, creative aging programs.

I've been working on revising the script for A New Wrinkle, in preparation for an upcoming meeting with composer Laura Rich, business advisor Gary Einhorn, and Larry and Joy Marshall, who have a wealth of theater and fundraising experience.

I had a meeting with photographer Mary Landberg, who is going to start taking photos of elders for a book project we are collaborating on. I'm developing an outline for an afternoon workshop in September, "Playfulness, Pleasure and the Art of Aging." A lot of development is going on, in other words.

My main project is networking and preparing for the launch of our fundraising campaign on IndieGoGo on August 25th. I hope that you will help us raise the $15,000 we need to produce a staged run of our musical revue A New Wrinkle, and film it.

We need the help of many people to increase our visibility, community and audience. I will be sending out a blog with the IndieGoGo campaign link on it soon.

Thank you for any help that you are able to provide. Your donation of $5 will be a big help!

If many people donate $5 we will reach our goal. Of course, you are welcome to donate more, too. In fact, the sky's the limit on that.

Sharing news and information about A New Wrinkle's IndieGoGo campaign is another way you can help us move forward with this important effort. Thank you for whatever support you contribute. It's all about building a broad community that supports positive, conscious aging.

I hope that you have had a marvelous summer. It has gone by all too quickly for me. I went swimming and soaking at Jackson WellSprings yesterday and took a walk in Lithia Park.  Friday I am going to Betsy Lewis's Walkabout Woman launch, which is combined with her radical downsizing and going away party. She's off on a walkabout adventure, she is. What are you up to?