Sunday, July 19, 2015

Getting Up in Front of People

I met Harry Moody, gerontologist and author, at the Sage-ing International conference in 2012. I liked him immediately for his intelligence, empathy and easy humor. I've talked with him a few times since then, and consider him a mentor. When we first met, he was very appreciative of my performance work and told me that I should "get up in front of people."

In terms of fears, public speaking is at the top of  the list for most people.  I used to be afraid in that way, but not any more. So that is not one of my problems, though I still do have a few problems. I am trying to recall when it shifted. Hmm. It must have been at the very moment that I recognized how powerful it is to be vulnerable, make fun of yourself, and be a Fool. An awareness that has appreciated over time in my case. I don't want to make it my main shtick of course, but I always find it a reliable way to deal with mis-steps, or even deliberately orchestrate a pratfall or two. In other words, I used to be very serious, and now I am making up for it. In addition to the holy rascal play,  I love the performer-audience interaction, the collective energetics of it, the business of establishing rapport and connection, the potential there is for uplifting and opening up the field of energy.

But I have to say even though I always enjoy and am invigorated by getting up in front of people, I have not done enough of it, in terms of following Harry Moody's advice, or in terms of really enjoying myself. So I am planning to do more. Because old women want to have fun. At least this one does. She wants to have fun, most certainly, and she wants to fly into meadows of heightened awareness with others, to plunge into the deep waters of the psyche and spirit, to come up for air drenched and ecstatic, and of course she wants to Set a Good Example (SAGE).

I loved giving a talk at Unity in Ashland last Sunday, and today I am going to perform a wonderful collection of poetry at the Ashland library in a program I've been calling "The Poetry of Aging." I got a nice writeup in the local paper the other day about it. If you like you can take a look at Angela Decker's article here.

I plan to present "The Poetry of Aging" again this fall at the Medford library, and I would love to give my rousing talk in praise of old age at more churches. But to really get up in front of people, it looks like I am going to have to write and produce my one-woman show Bolder and Wiser. I still have the gypsy wagon fantasy, and I can imagine doing a road trip and performing Bolder and Wiser in various places. Yes, I can imagine that. In fact, it feels like it would be wonderful fun. So stay tuned.

"Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life."
             --Pablo Picasso

This evocative painting was posted on Facebook the other day.  Its title is "Evening Seed Bubbles," and it was created by British artist Emma Sian-Pritchard. You can view some other paintings of hers at this site. If you are a fan of decorative art, you will enjoy Folt Bolt a site created by Hungarian artist  Kriszta Kemeny who currently lives in Australia.
Eighty Year Old Pop Idols
Okinawan pop idols in Japan
Dahlias, zinnias and lavender from Kate's garden
Another article that bemused me recently is one from The Guardian, a British paper.  It tells the story of a group of women from Okinawa who have become pop idols in Japan. All of the group members are over 80!  Click on the link to read the Article about a group of older women 
from Okinawa, a place where people live a long time and apparently know how to enjoy themselves in the process.....I do suspect those two things are linked. Don't you?

Difficult Vegetables
To change the subject ever so slightly, my last blog regarding using difficult vegetables in a tasty way elicited two responses from readers--one was a great recipe for chocolate zucchini cake and the other a suggestion to make zucchini chips. The second reader told me of her fondness for lavender butter over green beans. Some people are so exotic. I wish she were cooking for me, at least occasionally.
Thanks to both of you for sharing your difficult vegetable suggestions.

Friends,  I hope that your artful life is going well. Keep in touch!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

At the Moment: Elder Housesharing Report

My housemate Kate Nehrbass has done aikido for 30 years
I was still traveling in Mexico early this year when Kate Nehrbass emailed me asking whether I would like to share her house. Kate and I have lived in Ashland for many years and we have a number of mutual friends, but we never really spent any time with each other.

The idea of living in her big, welcoming house up in the wooded area of Ashland was appealing, and I sensed that Kate and I could get along as housemates just fine, so I agreed. It felt good to have such a sweet place to land when I returned from Mexico.

And it has turned out to be an excellent experience. Kate is easy to live with and getting to know her better is delightful. She loves to travel and to garden, and she loves kids. Her young friends are often at the house, and she is generous in taking them to camps, plays, and other outings. Kate is also engaged in Buddhism, and that is a beautiful common ground.  I admire her generosity and kindness. Since I arrived, we have been getting along with each other quite well. Harmony in the house! That is so good. And living here with the myriad birds that appear, and the beautiful big garden and nearby hiking trails is also so good.

A beautiful line of old lavender bushes blooms at the side of the garden
I've been engaged in elder housesharing for about 7 years. To me it makes sense. It keeps housing expenses down, provides companionship and friendly engagement and exposes me to new perspectives and people. I imagine that I will keep doing it. It's like a return to the communal days of yore in some ways. But without the constant partying and late nights.

Yes, to be successful the house share must meet your basic requirements in terms of beauty, orderliness, comfort and welcome, and the housemate must be sympatico.

Kale on its way into the oven to become kale chips
 House sharing is becoming more and more popular with older adults. There are a number of national and regional organizations that help match compatible housemates, such as the National Shared Housing Resource Center, a clearinghouse to help folks find a shared housing organization in their community--or start one. There's even an international homeshare organization based in London, which shares news about organizations in eight countries.

Confession Regarding Kale

My friend Sondra can make delicious things with kale, but I have never discovered how to do it. We have some beautiful kale growing in the garden, and I was happy to discover that not only could I make kale chips, but that they are incredibly delicious, so delicious that I simply finish them off in one meal. I am not one of those fanatics who eats kale 3 times a day, but now that I have found kale chips, I make a batch a couple of times a week. It is very easy. Just cut the center spine from the kale leaf and coat the kale leaf with olive oil. I like to do it with my hands, but you could use a brush. Put the kale on a cookie sheet and bake it in an oven set to 350 degrees for about 10 minutes. Stay nearby and check it. It can burn easily. Very tasty and of course nutritious.

Butterflies, flowers, the beauty of the summer garden
The Dread Time of Much Zucchini Approacheth

I love vegetables. Kale and zucchini are not at the top of my list though. Now that I have discovered kale chips, I will endeavor to find some delicious ways to present zucchini, which is already very abundant in our garden. This is a good problem to have. We enjoy bountiful foods here. May all beings be this fortunate.

About the Earth

I just finished reading Joanna Macy's memoir Widening Circles.  What a life she has led, and what beneficial work she has created to restore and heal humans and the Earth. Though I do not speak of it much in this blog, I contemplate the state of our planet and our species every day. Lacking omniscience, I cannot foretell what will happen on the Earth. I do pray about it. I pray for those peoples displaced from their homelands, now so many millions of them, for the rivers, jungles, mountains, oceans, creatures, for the elements, for all of us living now in this era. And I highly recommend this book, and the engaged Buddhism of Joanna Macy. She is a real bodhisattva.

Severe Resistence to Oldness--May the Right Medicine Appear to Cure It

The other day I had a meeting with someone I admire and in the course of our conversation he told me that his 85-year old neighbor got very insulted and upset when someone in a social gathering complemented her on being an elder. Vehemently, she insisted that she was not an elder. She was a sailor and a tennis player. Ah, my goodness dearie. Some kind of soul sickness. I want to read her this quote from the African author and teacher Malidoma Patrice Some--but maybe she just wouldn't get it immersed as she is in grasping onto her vitality. Ah, I have plenty more to say on the subject of Elders in Denial, but will save it for another time. Here is the quote.

“Elders and mentors have an irreplaceable function in the life of any community. Without them the young are lost, their overflowing energies wasted in useless pursuits. The old must live in the young like a grounding force that tames the tendency toward bold but senseless actions and shows them the path of wisdom. In the absence of elders, the impetuosity of youth becomes the slow death of the community.”

Monday, July 6, 2015

Summer bliss waves and creative fireworks

Crater Lake and the Milky Way: Photo by Tiffany Nguyen

Monday, July 6th. The 80th birthday of HH the Dalai Lama.  I celebrate his beautiful presence in this world. He is a being who inspires love in countless people, no matter their religion. What a pristine example of what a human being can be. What an outstanding elder, statesman, pacifist, living Buddhism so fully, so present, so open. I bow to him and thank him. Year after year, I continue to learn from him, no matter where he is, no matter who he is with, always the radiance, the love. It is wonderful.

Oregon is a very beautiful place, and the photo of Crater Lake above shows it in all its glory. The sky these summer nights is utterly marvelous.  I continue to be astounded by its beauty.
The Healing Waters of Jackson Wellsprings 

If I am at all fortunate tomorrow, I will make my way to Jackson Wellsprings, which to me is one of the best things about Ashland, Oregon.

This is the pool itself. Usually I head there around 9 or 10 when it is quite unpopulated. I love the quiet, the sky, the birds, clouds and of course, the healing waters, a mix of mineral spring water with well water in the big pool.

Here is a statue of Ganesh that sits at the head of the swimming pool there. And the photo below shows one small part of the gardens that sit behind the pool area.
Gardens behind the pool area

A story from long, long ago

I love this photo of Swami Satchidananda sitting with a tiger. Swami Sachidananda was the first holy man I ever saw. I was living in NYC in the 60s and working for Conrad Rooks, who had just made a film called Chappaqua. Rooks was hosting a huge party in a nightclub to celebrate the opening of the film. Satchidananda was in the film and made an appearance at the party. As I wrote in my book Songs of the Inner Life,

"...a man dressed in a long saffron robe walked into the room, walking slowly and gracefully. His long silver-gray hair spread over his shoulders and his long silver-gray beard flowed down over the front of his saffron colored robe. I don't think he looked directly at me as he passed, but I remember his dark, peaceful eyes. I had never seen eyes like those on a living person. The most remarkable thing about him was a golden light that seemed to radiate from his entire body."

Yes, that is something one does not see every day, more's the pity.....

Meanwhile in the laboratory.....
Our new online course on life review, Into the Mystery, has begun and will run through the month of July. Now I am working on developing a one-woman show, which I plan to call Bolder and Wiser....It will include some of the songs from our musical revue A New Wrinkle...Stay tuned....hope all is well with you in this gorgeous time of year.