Friday, December 30, 2011

Welcoming New Experiences in Slow Time

New experiences make time stretch out. That's why time goes so slowly for children. Everything they encounter is all fresh and new. The heart and brain get a workout with new experience; it slows time down.

The more familiar and routine the world becomes, the more quickly time seems to pass, according to neuroscientist David Eagleman, who wrote about our perceptions of time in a fascinating New Yorker article published earlier this year.

Time goes quickly when we have no fresh unexpected, unfamiliar experience. I've been musing about this at year end. I've lived in the same area for over 30 years. My life does have a familiar routine. I don't make resolutions for the new year, but I am certainly willing to say that I am open to fresh, challenging, healing, invigorating, provocative new experiences that stimulate growth and engagement, while bathing me in the beauty of slow time. Does that sound good to you too? She grins. It does to me.


For example, take this image of a cobalt blue bowl and five bright yellow lemons. It made me quite happy when I found it. It's an image I never saw before and it's so full of light, color and chi. It makes me think of Greece or Mexico. It makes me feel alive. I like feeling alive.


Another thing that gets me going are images of sailing ships. I can smell the salt air! The feeling of the wind in the sails and the possibility of new waters and new lands invigorates me.

Sometimes I like to imagine taking a voyage aboard a sailing vessel with red sails like this Vietnamese ship. Or sometimes I muse about sailing in a dhow somewhere off the coast of Kerala in south India. Nothing out there on the open sea, thank you. Not until I have a little more experience anyway.


The celebratory use of color and pattern always livens me up. And there are times when I think it would be so delightful to spend some slow time in a country where they decorate their buses and trucks with all manner of fanciful patterns and ornamentation. They look so much more playful and festive than our vehicles. This is a picture of a bus in India.

Wouldn't it be fun to travel in a gypsy caravan, as I believe I asked in another post a year ago or more. My father had a persistent fantasy of doing that, so perhaps I inherited it from him. People do this you know, in England and Europe. I love the thought. It wakes me up.

Or how about visiting some eco-villages where people are living cooperatively and growing their own food in beautiful gardens? That would be lovely. We do have some beautiful farmers right here, too. I must remind myself of what is right in my own environment. You know it's sometimes seeing the same thing with new eyes.


This hot spring in Costa Rica looks rather wonderful to me, especially in the midst of winter. Ahhh, there is nothing like a hot spring to rejuvenate the body and soul. We have a hot spring right here in Ashland, Oregon where I have lived most of the time since 1977. And it would also be great to visit some hot springs farther afield. I'm open.

How can I infuse my life with new experiences in 2012? Will these new experiences come through travel, new people, new creative adventures? Will I seek new music, new ways of singing and new dances? New foods, a new language? How can I find ways to experience each day in fresh ways? What allows me to slow down into the magical attention of the child?

The truth is I have no idea what new experiences await in 2012. But I welcome them! So hark, ye new experiences, and hie thee hither into my life, which is ready to celebrate thy refreshment.

Thank you all for your interest in my work with creative, conscious aging.

Wishing for you that 2012 be a year full of delight, health, growth and profound enjoyment.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

What the heart knows

If I keep a green bough in my heart, then the singing bird will come. --Chinese proverb

Listen and attend with the ear of your heart.-- Saint Benedict

We think of the brain as the seat of intelligence. When my Tibetan friends talk about the mind though, they don't point to their heads, they gesture to their hearts.

The heart seems to be a big part of my end of year contemplations.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in our culture. A person who has a heart attack may be brought back to earthly life with the help of a fibrillator, which no matter what else you can say about it, is not a subtle instrument. Our attitudes about the heart are not subtle either. We often consign the heart to sentimental purposes, ignoring its profound energetic qualities.

Isn't it possible that the prevalence of heart disease has something to do with the way that we dismiss the real power of the heart as a source of inner knowing and guidance, relying instead upon the cognitive inventions of the brain?

I love this Carlos Casteneda quote. "All paths lead nowhere, so it is important to choose a path that has heart."

Thinking about a path with heart
naturally brings me to the Hopi prophecies. I first heard about them over 30 years ago and have reflected upon them ever since. According to the Hopis, humans undergo a continual struggle between their left and right sides-- the left being wise but clumsy, and the right being clever and powerful but unwise, forgetful of our original purpose.

The Hopis say that the three worlds before this present world were destroyed because humans
chose the clever inventions of the intellect, the right hand way, over the clumsy wise innocence of the left hand way with heart. Now we're doing it all over again in the fourth world-- which is of course a big subject, and one that is on most of our minds--and our hearts.

So I do think about heart disease, in ways that are both collective and personal.
My father died of a heart attack and my mother died of congestive heart failure. Theoretically that makes me prone to heart disease. Whether I physically die of what is called heart disease is much less important to me than cultivating the deeper health of my heart.

I practice t
o become truly good-hearted. I want to free my heart of the real heart diseases --malice, anger, and hatred.

These long winter evenings, I light candles and set my heart at ease.
I set my heart at ease. Like this.

"I looked inward and the beauty of my own emptiness filled me until dawn." --Rumi

Did you know that the heart is the largest electromagnetic generator in the body? The electromagnetic field of the heart is 5,000 times stronger than the electromagnetic field of the brain. The heart is the real seat of consciousness.

I mentioned in a recent post that I was reading The Heart's Code by Paul Pearsall, Ph.D. There is some marvelous stuff in that book. I love the stories that the author presents about heart transplant patients. Thousands of people have heart transplants each year. It seems that many recipients have heart to heart experiences of the person who donated their new heart. The new heart may bring personality changes, new food preferences, different kinds of sense perceptions and memories that belong to the person who donated the heart. Researchers say that this is the rule rather than the exception. "I feel the other little boy inside me," one young heart recipient said. Fascinating.

Sending a warm greeting from my heart to your heart. May your heart be happy.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Artist's Life: Wearing a Bold Headdress

One of the things I love to do most is to lie on the grass and look up at the sky. Everything immediately slows down. Concerns, thoughts, feelings--it all relaxes in the face of that vast openness. During the day, I can count on the processional of clouds and at night the constellations of stars to align me with the beauty and pulse of nature.

It's too cold for prolonged skygazing these days as we head toward the winter solstice so brief sky glimpses must suffice for now. Very early this morning, while the world was still cloaked in darkness, I went out to take a look out at the dome of heaven. A moment after I stepped out onto the deck, a brilliant shooting star curved across the dark sky.

What a marvelous start to the new day. A new day. Each day seems quite a blessing to me. I enjoyed some coffee, did some meditation and then turned my attention to my To Do List.

I have a few big items on it. I'm planning to run a crowdfunding campaign through IndieGoGo and have to make a short video to introduce that. Have to develop the concept, write the script, plan the shots.

I'm searching for a keyboard musician who has a recording studio in order to record an instrumental soundtrack for 8 songs in A New Wrinkle.

I'm sending out letters and copies of our preview CD for A New Wrinkle to some folks in media and the field of aging as part of the effort to introduce people to the project, stimulate interest and get some of the songs from the revue played on the radio.

I'm preparing for some photo shoots in January with photographer Helga Motley. The resulting images will be used in A New Wrinkle's promotional materials. I am having fun imagining the costumes, poses and people needed to make this a reality.

In the midst of cooking this creative soup, I've been thinking of creating a headdress that says BOLD with the OLD a different color from the B.

What would you do wearing that, walk around on the street? my business consultant Gary Einhorn asks. I can't tell what he is thinking. Yes, of course I would I tell him.

But I know that if I am wearing a BOLD headdress, the experience will start to assume a life of its own. It will involve more than walking around on the street, though that is certainly interesting to consider in itself. By the time I finish imagining and creating the BOLD headdress, I will know a lot more about the persona(s) who want to be seen and heard while I wear the headdress. I'll know more about how to present the BOLD elder story.

I have to admit that I'm not 100% gung ho about this idea of the BOLD headdress, the way a successful movie star is when she has just signed a fabulous contract for what looks like a sure-fire movie. Because first of all I am not a successful movie star. I am a 70 year old non-celebrity writer/Buddhist/creative aging artist and activist. Sure I have the gift of an imagination that likes to run wild, and certainly I have some chutzpah and curiosity, but still.

Not only that but doing the BOLD thing out among the populace is not like signing a contract for a sure-fire movie. There's no contract. Instead it means stepping into unexplored and sometimes highly charged territory--the landscape of growing old, a place that many people fear, deny or find quite uncomfortable. It's not at all certain this will be a box office hit or what it will be.

Yes, sometimes I think what are you dreaming that up for? Yet I do notice how it perks me up to imagine stepping into the adventure of wearing a BOLD headdress.

What would it look like? Would it have jewels, sequins, feathers, veils, brocade, dried grass, seaweed or what?

I did a little research into headdresses and found some that I really liked, including these exquisite ceremonial headdresses from different cultures.

I love the pom poms on this one and the mirror up top center.

Wearing a headdress is like walking through some kind of doorway.

When you put on a headdress you are no longer operating in the confines of the mundane world. You have entered the surprising and more dreamlike world of theater, ritual and magic.

That is certainly one of the things that draws me to daydream about creating the BOLD headdress.

It's afternoon and I am making some sketches of possible headdresses just for fun. I am imagining what materials I might use to fashion one. That is as far as I have progressed. I have no idea whether I will get to this or when. The other items on my To Do List are making noises, talking to me about why I need to finish them first.

I am going to sign off for now. I'm cooking some wild mushroom soup and making some Italian swiss chard patties (there is probably a wonderful Italian name for this recipe, which I learned long ago from the mother-in-law of my first marriage). A few friends are coming over for some poetry and a potluck sharing of food....I'm looking forward to hearing and uttering some poetry tonight. And I know the food will be wonderful too.

Solstice blessings to you.

"Fortune befriends the bold." -Emily Dickinson

"Freedom lies in being bold." -Robert Frost

“Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius and power and magic in it.”
-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Saturday, December 10, 2011

When It's Too Late to Say Thank You

"Gratitude is when memory is stored in the heart and not in the mind."--Lionel Hampton

"If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, "thank you," that would suffice." - Meister Eckhart

I am a person who likes to say thank you to those who have helped me in any way. I think I am pretty conscientious about it. I have not been able to say thank you to several people who have been very important to me, and that has caused me to reflect on impermanence even more than usual.

I became motivated to write some songs about aging in 2009 because I wanted to debunk noxious stereotypes and illuminate some of the pleasures and richness of old age --with which many people, including older adults themselves, seem to have lost touch.

I had plunged into doing independent research on aging in 2000 when I began developing educational materials designed to teach caregivers of elders for Medifecta Healthcare Training. One document I read and reread was a report from the International Longevity Center titled Ageism in America. This is a thoroughly-researched, sobering look at the ways that tacit and unchallenged ageism affects elder's health care, longevity, work opportunities, economic status and representation in the media.

Robert N. Butler MD, one of the real pioneers of the field of aging, was a key figure in the development of that report. As the time passed and the songs accumulated, I wanted very much to say thank you to him and to tell him how much his work influenced the development of A New Wrinkle. I especially wanted to share with him the song Hip Hop Elder's Rant, a scathing indictment of the way we relate to elders, especially frail elders. I never got the chance to thank Dr. Butler though because he died earlier this year.

The incredible work that Dr. Gene Cohen did to shed light on the powerful capacity of the older brain and the links between creativity and wellness also inspired and influenced me deeply. Cohen's books The Mature Mind and The Creative Age are powerful and life-affirming ventures into the potential inherent in later life. Those books were like good friends. We talked a lot together and the conversation we had resulted in the song Scintillating Secrets of the Older Brain.

It was one of the first songs I wrote and I was looking forward to sending Dr. Cohen a recording of it, thanking him for his wonderful work. I didn't get the chance. He passed away in November 2009.

James Hillman's book The Force of Character and the Lasting Life has been and continues to be a powerful, provocative exploration of aging that draws me back to its pages again and again. Hillman's writing is extravagant, far-ranging, layered with myth and poetry.

In The Force of Character Hillman points out that in modern society, the longer we live the less we are worth. He speaks of our disconnection, the speed of our lives, a superficiality that we take for granted. He points out how even though we scorn and fear old people, we yearn for the deathless, ageless qualities of oldness--old cities, paintings, gardens. He speaks of the origins of the word old and its roots in the meaning "to nourish."

His writings on oldness sparked me to write a song I titled Reclaiming Old. It's a very lyrical, even mystical piece, sung by a chorus. It praises oldness and suggests that we reclaim the word old from the trash heap, that we embrace being old and oldness rather than continually trying to pass for young.

Rescuing language and reclaiming it from perverse and stereotyped uses is always part of raising awareness. Old is one word I definitely wish we would reclaim. Composer Laura Rich created a wonderful score for the song and I was happy with it. Wouldn't it be great to send a copy of it to Dr. Hillman? I mused. I didn't get a chance to do that as a way of thanking him. He died two months ago in October.

I am sure that all three of these men knew how valuable their work was and recognized their role in promoting an expansive, vibrant view of aging and later life. They had no need to hear my songs and recognize in them the resonance that came from their work. Perhaps they would have loved the songs, perhaps not.

The moral of the story is: we are mortal.

How excellent to have the opportunity to thank those who influence, help and love you while they are still around to have the conversation. If it's too late to say thank you to them while they are still in the flesh, then thank them in spirit and by carrying forth in your own work and life whatever life-enhancing, beneficial connection drew you to them.

That's what I tell myself.

Hmmm, to change the subject ever so slightly, did you see the lunar eclipse early this morning?

Thank you for your emails on these blog posts and my creative aging work. It is always great to hear from you. Here's to this precious moment and this precious life.

"Behold the turtle: He only makes progress when he sticks his neck out."

James Bryant Conant
1893-1978, Educator and Diplomat

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Creativity is Ageless: Peaks and Long Planes of Light

"If you would be a poet, discover a new way for mortals to inhabit the earth."

--Lawrence Ferlinghetti

“Poets peak young,” the creativity researcher James Kaufman maintains. The Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner, a leading authority on creativity adds, “Lyric poetry is a domain where talent is discovered early, burns brightly, and then peters out at an early age.” These quotes appear in a wonderful article titled Late Bloomers written by Malcolm Gladwell for the New Yorker. Why do we assume that genius arises only in the young? Gladwell asks, fueling the conversation with observations about artists whose genius peaked early in life and others who continued to create marvelous art later in life.

The presumption that brilliant creativity ends in youth has a hollow ageist ring to it.

W.B. Yeats wrote gorgeous lyrical poetry in his later years. Beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti is till going strong with creative work and life in his 90s. What about May Sarton? Her book Coming into Eighty is a classic work by an elder poet delving into the themes and issues of age.

Stanley Kunitz said something wonderful about the difference between writing poetry in youth and age. Kunitz won a National Book Award at 90 and became poet laureate of the U.S. at 95.

"In youth, poems come to you out of the blue," Kunitz told Mary B. W. Tabor in the New York Times. "They're delivered at your doorstep like the morning news. But at this age," he added, "one has to dig." He dug most beautifully. Here is a film clip of Kunitz reading his wonderful poem Touch Me. I highly recommended taking a couple of moments to experience him reading this poignant, sensuous poem.

I have contemplated the vividness of some older poets for years now. My interest in the subject was revived when I read Ruth Stone's obituary. Sometimes one learns about people only via their death. It's better than never hearing of their work at all, certainly.

I just bought two of Stone's books and have been getting acquainted with her work. Stone wrote poetry her whole life, but did not become recognized for it until she entered her 70s. She won the National Book Award at 87 and died very recently at 96.

Are you a lover or writer of poetry? Do you read poets who wrote marvelous poetry in their later years? If you haven't done so yet, there's still time. Older poets often impart fascinating insights into the aging process. As Plato said, "Poetry is nearer to vital truth than history." Or the daily news.

I wanted to share something else with you today. This Old on Purpose trailer describes the work of David Carey and the Aging Film Project. Carey's film explores the importance of meaning and purpose in later life. He investigates forging a new paradigm of aging through the lives of a variety of very alive elders. Take a look-- it's well worth it.

Carey is raising money to complete his film via the online fundraising platform Kickstarter and if you care about changing the stereotypes our society has about aging being an airless cul de sac rather than a vividly potent time of life, consider sending his Kickstarter fund some money so that he can finish this important work.

Third day of fog and hoarfrost here. Yes, the hoarfrost is very beautiful, and yes the fog is rather dank. Hope you are staying warm and happy.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Blessing of Friends

"Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us." -- Albert Schweitzer

The other day I was contemplating various subjects. As usual I found myself musing about the brevity of life and my unfinished artistic and other projects. Will I live long enough to finish?

Of course not. One always pops the cork in the midst of things. Ha ha.

So I find it useful to practice bouyancy and detachment as well as passionate engagement. It's a paradox like so many things in life.

My thoughts turned to Occupy Wall Street-- a ray of hope for this sorry country. But even the unfolding saga of OWS cannot stop me from entertaining my escapist fantasies, which become more pronounced as the weather gets colder. I get the urge to pack everything up and move to Belize, Equador or Bali. The darker the days get the more attractive a leisurely expat life in some warm clime becomes.

Then my thoughts turned as they often do to the Tibetan master Gyatrul Rinpoche, who has been such a precious example and presence in my life since 1976. He continually lights the flame within me. He reminds me of the kind of being I aspire to become--thoroughly generous, kind without reservations and deeply wise.

I began to think of my other friends. I am blessed with some truly marvelous friends. Their character, qualities and the ways in which they respond to their lives also light the flame within me.

These beautiful flower images were taken by one of my friends, Melani Marx. Melani works with energy and helps people accomplish inner/outer change. She's a gifted healer and feng shui consultant-- she's brilliant on many levels. One of the gifts she shares is her ability to capture pure moments of beauty in photographs.

What a blessing it is to have real friends, who love, appreciate and accept everything you are -- and even give you a bit of constructive feedback sometimes on your habits or activities. (which can be shocking but is so useful when offered with all that love).

I think of my friends as a gorgeous mandala or bouquet. Each flower is gorgeous by itself, and altogether, quite a splendid display.

What is it that I find so beautiful about my friends? I began to reflect on their qualities and realized that my dearest friends are all complex and deep.

They are each committed to the process of healing and spiritual awakening.

Every one of them has a ridiculous and wonderful sense of humor.

My friends are insightful and creative. They are kind and sensitive.

They can be fierce if they feel it is needed.

Most of my friends have a marvelous capacity for storytelling.

One of my friends speaks in language that is so beautiful, rich and poetic, so ironic and incisive that when I'm conversing with her we enjoy a respite from the awful sound-byte style of communication folks ordinarily engage in these days. Instead, we venture into another more delicious way of being, exercising our poetic language muscles to row our boat far out into the ocean under the moon. I love that!

My friends have beautiful gifts and they share them with everyone they meet in the river of life. I am moved by each one of them, by their courage, their openness and their love.

Tesoro de mi vida--my friends are that to me.

One of my friends sent me this beautiful video clip of Mercedes Sosa and Joan Baez singing "Gracias a la Vida." Can you listen to this without crying? It sure moved me to tears the first time I heard it.

Now there are two sages at play!

"A friend is one before whom I may think aloud."

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Yes'm, old friends is always best, 'less you can catch a new one that's fit to make an old one out of."

- Sarah Orne Jewett

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Poetics of Aging

"As a white candle in a holy place so is the beauty of an aged face."

---the Irish poet Joseph Campbell

The Poetics of Aging conference had already been going on for 2 days when I arrived at the Unitarian Universalist Church in San Francisco where it was being held. Described as "a gathering to celebrate elderhood and value aging as the basis for depth and wisdom," the conference featured some wonderful older artists, authors, psychologists and pioneers in the field of aging.

I missed some of the heavy hitters who were scheduled during the first two days. I was sad to have missed dancer/choreographer Anna Halprin's performance of The Courtesan and the Crone. I missed poet Judy Grahn's reading and the reading of old friend/poet Julie Rogers and her new husband David Meltzer, a well-known poet in the Beat school. I missed Marion Rosen, who developed the Rosen Method of bodywork. Halprin remains a vivid presence in her 80s and Rosen is still going strong in her 90s.

I've been to some big aging conferences, but the mood of those conferences never engaged me the way that The Poetics of Aging did, right from the start. I think it is because of the sensibilities and vision of Dr. Nader Shabahangi.
Dr. Shabahangi is a psychotherapist and the CEO of AgeSong, an organization that operates several residential centers for elders as well as a training institute. AgeSong was the main sponsor of the conference.

I think that if I share a few excerpts from a recent interview with him at the SevenPonds blog you'll understand more about why I was so drawn to The Poetics of Aging, which certainly was a vivid expression of Dr. Shabahangi's philosophy and work.

In the interview, Dr. Shabahangi said, "When I got thrown into the world of assisted living in my mid-30s, I thought, this can’t be true; how is it possible that you have these beautiful, deep elders, tucked away, not part of society? I looked around and saw very few elders on the street, mingling with young people. I have lived in Italy, where you can go to any park and see people of all ages, but here I did not see any of that. I would tell elders, you have all this experience and knowledge; why are you tucked away? Often, I would hear, oh, I’m useless, I have no purpose. This came to me as a shock."

I am pro-aging. I want to age because the more I age or mature, the better of a human being I become."
--Dr. Nader Shabahangi

"I was raised by my grandparents," he continued. "From early on, the highlight of my day was to sit on my grandfather or grandmother’s lap and have them tell me stories about their lives. Just to look at my grandfather’s 70- or 80-year-old face and think, wow, look at how much this person has lived. So from childhood, I had this incredible appreciation and love for elders," he said.

I was very happy to learn of the work of Dr. Shabahangi, whose perspectives on aging are very much like my own. May his wonderful work continue to flourish and may his positive influence expand. What a beautiful person from the inside out.

It was marvelous to have the opportunity to sing in the church's sanctuary with its high, vaulted ceilings and beautiful stained glass windows. That architecture drew me to give voice to some wordless singing and it resonated beautifully in the space. I also rocked the place with Baba Yaga's Raga, shared a little from my book Songs of the Inner Life and talked about why I am so engaged with moving the musical revue A New Wrinkle out into the world. I had two other opportunities to share songs from the revue at the conference. Wearing the Baba Yaga wig, I played and sang along with songs from our new preview CD. It was a terrific experience on many levels. I enjoyed performing there and learned quite a bit by noticing the ways various people present.

John Gray was one speaker. Author of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus and other Mars/Venus books, he has been on the lecture circuit for years. He was a skillful, engaging speaker. Even though I agree with much of what he describes about the differences between men and women, the man just pushed my buttons. Bless his heart. I just don't see that the role of woman can be confined to sitting in the well-feathered nest waiting expectantly for her shining hero to return. Be that as it may. Not my cup of tea.

At the end of the first day, I joined my old friend Carolyn Myers and her theatrical colleague Terry Joan Baum, who had just run for mayor of SF on the Green Party ticket. We attended a retrospective celebration of the work of Krissy Keeler, founder of Wallflower Order and Dance Brigade. This was an absolutely astonishing event, far beyond easy description. I count it as one of the most outstanding artistic experiences of my life, period. What a fervent, amazingly varied, provocative artist Krissy Keeler is.

I enjoyed all the speakers at the conference, especially one cluster of presentations by Norm Amundson on metaphor, imagination and creativity really engaged my interest. I loved the improv comedy troupe from Stagebridge Theater and storytelling by Bob Kanegis and others, and the jazz singing by Faith Winthrop, who was celebrating her 80th birthday that day.

It was great to hear about the work of Barry and Debbie Barkan who have created warm and innovative ways of working with elders through Live Oak Institute in Berkeley. (I shared a house with Debbie at the time when she met Barry and haven't seen either of them since then, so it was wonderful to learn about how they have used the past 30 plus years.)

All in all, I think the Poetics of Aging conference was an auspicious beginning. It brought a wide variety of people together in order to contemplate aging in very fresh ways. I certainly hope that this conference is the first of many. I have so many ideas about what could enrich and expand the next gathering.

I was glad to spend a couple of days in the midst of the tribe of pro-aging elders. It was rejuvenating, stimulating, delightful.

The ride back up to southern Oregon was wonderful, too. We stopped in Mt. Shasta where the bright snowy mountain shone in the sun. We breathed in the fresh mountain air and collected some delicious water from the headwaters pool.

It's amazing how much can change while you are somewhere else for a couple of days. When I got home, I saw that all the leaves had fallen from the trees in wonderful deshabille, as this poetic image of Lithia Park by Graham Lewis shows.

That's the news from this cottage. Hope your Thanksgiving holiday is full of love and joy.

I am thankful for many things. For poetry. For awareness. For this strong wind that blows the trees around my house tonight.

Monday, November 14, 2011

A New Wrinkle's preview CD is here!

Monday morning and we are jazzed by the arrival of the first shipment of our preview CD for A New Wrinkle! Here is the back cover with its listing of songs and contributing artists plus a funding appeal and the front cover where the beautiful octagenarian Jonnie is blowing the seeds of a dandelion puff.

The 4 songs sound great and the whole package looks good. We are pleased.

The sun is out, the leaves are drifting down off the big trees on this quiet street, and I am musing about what we've accomplished so far as I prepare to attend the Poetics of Aging conference later this week in San Francisco.

I am very excited about the conference, because I suspect it will be an amazing gathering of exciting older artists, psychologists and other pro-aging people. Ahhhh! I'll give you a report when I return.

We've already sent out some copies of the new preview CD to our current donors and we are selling copies for $10 to local supporters we connect with in person in the Rogue Valley. I investigated listing the CD on but decided not to do it when I realized that we ourselves would still be doing the mailing of the CD. So we will let people know about it through the Sage's Play website and other forms of networking.

If you'd like a copy, we can send you one for $14 including postage if you are in the US...Send your check to Sage's Play, Box 484, Ashland, OR 97520. International friends, if you want a hard copy, postage will be more of course.

Now more fun is in the air, as we begin to develop a promotional package that will include the CD. The promo package will contain a series of photos that portray characters in the revue--- I am starting to look at costumes and talent for that. That is going to be so much fun to put together--getting Baba Yaga, Hip Hop Elder and others in the revue out photographically.

And I am planning to send a copy of the CD to a variety of people--people who are well-known older adults like Betty White and Clarissa Pinkola Estes, as well as media folks and possible funders.

Anyone have good contacts at AARP or any other ideas on media to move this forward? Please do share.

Several readers of this blog and my monthly newsletter (you can subscribe at have suggested that I do a crowdfunding campaign through Kickstarter.

My fiscal sponsor, Fractured Atlas, is affiliated with another crowdfunding platform called IndieGoGo. I am looking into developing a campaign through them. Crowdfunding is a great way to raise money. We may not be quite ready to apply for foundation grants so crowdfunding could be the most effective way to develop the funds to produce and film the revue.

I always appreciate your taking the time to write to me and present your thoughts and ideas. Thanks for your support of my work to raise awareness about the rich potential of later life and to catalyze positive change in our society's views on aging.

For breakfast this morning with my coffee, I had some of the delicious sweet Italian pumpkin bread I baked last night. That was wonderful, and I enjoyed it thoroughly even though I realize that I must return to my low-carb diet because I am puttting back on some of the weight I lost due to pasta, grains and yes the sweet Italian pumpkin bread.

There have been so many wonderful experiences in the past week or so--there was some ecstatic dancing with Rachel Resch at a NIA gathering. I loved making dinner for my daughter and her boyfriend. I received a beautiful gift of wild mushrooms from my daughter from her recent foray into the woods. Chantarelles, hedgehogs and false matsutakes. What delicious and potent foods they are. I visited my dear composer colleague Laura Rich and talked with her about next steps to move A New Wrinkle forward. I also reconnected with some old friends who run a lavender farm/ garden in nearby Williams, and had a visit with another cherished old friend here at my new home. An article I wrote on A New Wrinkle was just published in the current issue of Elderwoman News, Marian Van Eyck McCain's e-zine. Thanks to the amazing Barb Barasa who cares for my website, we now have snippets of some songs from the revue posted at

Gary Einhorn, my business consultant, suggested at our last meeting that I tend to focus on everything I have not gotten done yet, rather than acknowledging what I have done. Acknowledge your accomplishments, he gently urged. I've started to do that as part of my work life. I've found that it makes quite a difference. Now my attitude about my work is more balanced with my attitude about the rest of my life (if it's possible to make those distinctions since everything is so interconnected.)

Overall, I am quite aware that I am blessed in so many ways. I experience a great deal of love, beauty, inspiration and peacefulness in my life. That is leavened by the stimulation and challenge of my creative aging work which includes bursts of creativity and invention, uncertainty, wondering how to move forward, puzzling about this and that. Uncertainty, hesitation and puzzling over things add spice to life!

This morning I am sitting here wondering what new treasures, challenges and surprises this week will bring. Maybe I'll dig in the garden or take a walk in the park to break up my work day.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Memento Mori: Impermanence and Death

"Life's most awesome event is death...Death is inevitable, but how you die--terrified and confused, or peacefully and with spiritual mastery--is within your control."
--Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche

"Forgetfulness of your real nature is the real death;
rememberance of it is the true birth."
--Ramana Maharshi

In my early 30s, I became fascinated with Tibetan Buddhism and began attending teachings given by Tibetan lamas in Berkeley. My
first teacher was Tarthang Tulku Rinpoche. I attended heady seminars populated with leading intellectuals like Charles Tart and Claudio Naranjo. Studying with Tarthang Tulku, I had experiences of non-ordinary reality that opened up my perceptions about what actually is real. I've written about some of this in my book-in-progress, Songs of the Inner Life, but here in this blog essay I wanted to share one particular event that had a profound impact on me.

One day, two young women who lived near Tarthang Tulku's Berkeley residence knocked on his door, distraught. They wanted to talk with the lama because their father had just died with a tormented expression on his face. His daughters found that expression unbearably painful. They came to ask if there was anything that they could do to help their father. Tarthang Tulku went upstairs and came back holding in his hand a round mandala made of several kinds of metal. He gave the young women the round disc and told them to put it on their father’s heart. He gave them a simple prayer to recite. The two women returned an hour later, very happy. As soon as they put the mandala on their dead father’s chest, they reported, his body relaxed, and the expression on his face changed to a peaceful one.

What changed the torment of a dead man to peace? Was it the metal mandala? The power of the lama’s meditation training? The daughter’s faith? Or some mix of all of that? These were the questions I asked in the months after I heard the story. And though no one ever gave me an answer that could pass for scientific, I didn’t care, for the event itself described the kind of science I valued. I wanted to find ways to engage in positive spiritual practices with practical results.

A few years later, I moved up to Ashland, Oregon with a man that became my second husband. We started a healing center. A year later, we were fortunate to help to found Tashi Choling, a Tibetan Buddhist center in the mountains outside of Ashland, which remains a vital source of Tibetan Buddhist teachings today. One of the teachers who visited Tashi Choling in the early days was Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche, whose photo is above. He was a truly beautiful, warm, humorous and profound being--a meditation master, physician and artist. One of the teachings I received from him was Phowa, a method of transferring one's consciousness at the moment of death. Chagdud Rinpoche became well-known during his life for sharing the Phowa teachings.

A group of us gathered together in the Tashi Choling shrine room and practiced Phowa meditations with Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche for nine days. It was a delightful time. At the end of the retreat, Chagdud Rinpoche tested each person for the results of the practice. With successful Phowa practice, the fontanelle at the top of the head opens and softens. A straw can be inserted into it. Some clear fluid or blood may come out, too. Every person in the group successfully displayed the results of the practice. Even the young daughter of one practitioner who came into the shrine room occasionally to sit on her father's lap had the fontanelle opening.

I have a great many things to be thankful for in this life, and my connection with Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche and the blessing of his Phowa teachings is certainly one. The closer I come to my own death, the more grateful I am for that time we spent together.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Inspired and Inspiring Elders

Since I started writing this blog, I have covered a variety of inspired and inspiring elders. Some of them are elders whose lives and work I already am aware of and others are folks I have found in articles in major newspapers. This week on the NPR site, I saw an article on a 100-year old man finishing the Toronto marathon. Here's a photograph of Fauja Singh after he crossed the finish line.

Singh, a British citizen born in India, took up running at the age of 80.

I was saddened to note the passing at 83 of James Hillman, a brilliant thinker, fascinating writer and Jungian psychologist whose book The Force of Character and the Lasting Life is one of my favorite books on aging. The New York Times obituary provides some details of Hillman's life. I spent months contemplating Hillman's writings as I developed Sage's Play and began to write A New Wrinkle. He was a major influence for me.

I wanted to review some of the people I've featured in this blog because lately people have been talking to me about how hard they find it to locate positive news about elders. I am very aware of ageist prejudice but I also manage to find wonderful stories about inspired and inspiring elders in major media.

In my October 23rd post, I mentioned 92-year old folk singer Pete Seeger appearing the other day at Occupy Wall Street. In June, I linked to Dominique Browning's great article on natural aging The Case for Laugh Lines, which appeared in the New York Times.

In May I featured the 82-year old British model Daphne Selfe. "Your face is your history," she commented. "If you have a few lines, it's your life that you've lived, and people should embrace that. Some [models] want to alter themselves and I hear talk about getting all this wretched cosmetic surgery done, but I don't want to do that myself as it costs too much, it might go wrong and what's the point? It won't stop you from getting old."

Also in May I mentioned a great article from the New York Times on 100-year old Bel Kaufman, author of Up the Down Staircase, a lively gal who likes to dance the mambo and tango. Another blog from May links to a New York Times article about comedienne Betty White.

In my April 8th blog, I covered the cross-Atlantic sailing voyage of the An-Tiki whose crew was led by 85-year old captain Anthony Smith. The rest of the crew of three men were between 56 and 71. They successfully completed their 2,800 journey across the Atlantic on April 7th when they reached St. Maartens on their raft made of pipes after 66 days at sea. The expedition was intended to raise awareness about lack of clean water on the planet and to raise money for WaterAid. The An-Tiki voyage--yet another example of late-life adventure and altruism.

In that same blog I featured a 91-year old retired dentist who took up body-building at the age of 85. I found out about both the sailing trip and the body builder in the Guardian, a paper from the United Kingdom.

In February I featured 91-year old track star Olga Kotelko. I read about her in the New York Times. Yes, the New York Times prints many wonderful articles on inspired and inspiring elders.

However, the New York Times also has an editorial policy that favors the use of the word elderly as a generic way of describing older adults. Ronni Bennett in her great blog Time Goes By posted on October 25th a letter she wrote to NYT editor Arthur S. Brisbane protesting the Times' prejudicial use of the word elderly. As she pointed out in her letter, elderly is a word that implies frailty and does not apply to the vast majority of elders. Hopefully the New York Times will see the light and change its generic nomenclature to older adults, which is neutral.

Over the past two years, I've written about dancers, painters, sculptors, political protesters, explorers and writers. All of these folks are in their 70s or better.

I consider it great fun to explore the media and find positive, inspiring stories about older adults. This time of life is an adventure on both outer and inner levels.

How do you find the good news about inspired and inspiring elders?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Things you can do at 92 when you're Pete Seeger

Here I am sitting in my casa in Phoenix, Oregon watching some You Tube clips of 92-year old Pete Seeger walking in the crowd of protestors at Occupy Wall Street. Last night Seeger, Arlo Guthrie and a few other musicians did a short impromptu concert there. The crowd was singing This Little Light of Mine and We Shall Overcome, songs that Seeger helped to popularize during the anti-war and civil rights protests of the Sixties.

That was 50 years ago. Some of us have been waiting for a long time. It seemed that the U.S. populace was lulled into stupification for so many decades. But finally here we have a bona fide popular uprising. Hallelujah. Long time coming. It's impossible to know what will come of it, but as Occupy Wall Street protests continue, it does my heart good. I feel my cynicism melting a bit, exposing how deeply I long for real, positive change to take place in this country. Starting with a radical change in the power and structure of corporations and the terrible corruption of Congress.

That phrase I don't know anything about art, but I know what I like comes to mind when I think about politics. I don't know much about politics but I know what I like. I like peace and ecological diversity. I like it when people have plenty to eat and when they enjoy life and each other. On this earth plane, it seems that those simple riches can involve a terrible amount of struggle. I rejoice that so many people are inspired to stand up for change.

Take a look at the crowds that are gathering at Occupy Wall Street, and notice the white heads among the younger folks. That is real sage's play in my book. Like Seeger at 92, an elder with decades of commitment to cultural change.

I really enjoyed what journalist Chris Hedges had to say about various revolutionary movements he witnessed firsthand and how he views the current Occupy Wall Street movement. It's moving. I'm moved. Are you? What's your take on this popular uprising that we find ourselves in the midst of?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

In Medias Res

In medias res is a Latin phrase that means "into the middle of things." The story begins in the middle or towards the end, with flashbacks.

The phrase came to me this morning as I woke, which was a pleasant change from waking with the music of Baba Yaga's Raga or Sex after Sixty going full tilt boogie in my mind as they have been each morning for over two weeks. I suppose they will fade back one day soon, or at least that is my hope, much as I enjoy those two songs of mine. Having songs you've written greet you that way as soon as you wake is a bit like having your kids wake you up by jumping around on the bed.

Jack Leishman's photo--"The View from Grouse Gap on Mt. Ashland"

Well, I couldn't wait until winter to re-read Thomas Wolfe's Look Homeward Angel, as I said I would in a recent post. I went to the library immediately and took the book home. I can see why I loved it so much when I was 17. Decades later, I am weary of contemplating grotesque families seen through the eyes of a sensitive misunderstood artistic genius. I confess I skipped parts of the story. It may be great writing but it just doesn't captivate me the way it did.

Instead, I content myself with reading Jane Kenyon's Collected Poems. She suffered from depression but had a very happy marriage. Her poems are wonderful. There are so many of her poems I love. Like this one.


I got out of bed
on two strong legs.
It might have been
otherwise. I ate
cereal, sweet
milk, ripe, flawless
peach. It might
have been otherwise.
I took the dog uphill
to the birch wood.
All morning I did
the work I love.

At noon I lay down
with my mate. It might
have been otherwise.
We ate dinner together
at a table with silver
candlesticks. It might
have been 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.

I much admire anyone who can take wonderful photographs. I have not mastered that art myself. I love Jack Leishman's images of our regional landscapes. Jack was kind enough to allow me to include a few of his photos here. These two are taken at Crater Lake, one of the most magical places in Oregon.

May you find such beauty in your home ground.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Freedom of Nothing to Lose

Steve Jobs's eloquent speech at Stanford University's 2005 commencement ceremony has been widely circulated since Jobs's untimely death at 56. Perhaps you've already perused what he had to say more than once. I know I have. Some comments are worth reading over and over.

"Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose."

I'm struck by how direct Jobs was in discussing the keen edge that death brings to human life. Death is a subject that is often concealed or denied in our society. But there he was at a celebratory commencement ceremony laying out the basics.

"No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because death is very likely the single best invention of life."

"It is life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.""Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma -- which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary."

What passionate, honest and liberating advice. I join millions of others in feeling saddened that he's gone. He was a brilliant, independent artistic genius.

How many of us live with the fierce, joyful freedom of having nothing to lose? Of being unconcerned with the opinions of others? Of following one's own heart and intuition? I reflect on these questions fairly often.

There's a keynote for one homeopathic remedy (I don't recall which one) that goes "half dead on one side and buried on the other." I can relate because that phrase describes how I felt for many years.

I cared far too much about the opinions of others. I helped others to fulfill their goals rather than fulfilling my own. I didn't understand how to engage my gifts or offer them.

I recognize that this slow and late-flowering understanding about the innate freedom we all have was my own necessary way of maturing--though it would have been grand if I found my way out of the various confines that held me decades earlier. I wasn't ready for that yet or so it seems.

Now that I'm in the final stretch, I appreciate life as an exhilarating adventure in ways I never did earlier. I enjoy engaging in challenges that I would have dismissed as impossible decades ago. Impossible? Oh, really? Hmmm....let's see if that's really so.

I'm not saying I have no resistance to learning new things or that I flow effortlessly into the fresh assignments that appear as my work and life evolve. I can be found digging my heels in pulling back at the idea of learning how to use webinar technology or calling philanthropists I've never met to describe my musical revue and its funding needs. But if it is part of what I want to engage, I engage it after a bout of hopefully not too obvious kicking and screaming.

What a gift it is to have this freedom and the time and energy to engage in the deeper meaning and purpose of life. Work/play in creative aging and healing work is one part of that for me, and engaging in my inner or spiritual life is another. Doing and being--two aspects of one big adventure.

What about you? Do you feel more free in the ways that Steve Jobs described in his speech? What makes you feel free and fulfilled?

P.S. My first Healing Power of Memoir and Life Review workshop takes place this Sunday, October 16th in Ashland, Oregon. There are two places still available. This flyer gives some details. If you'd like to join us, call or email me to register.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Of Time and the River

"All things on earth point home in old October; sailors to sea, travellers to walls and fences, hunters to field and hollow and the long voice of the hounds, the lover to the love he has forsaken."
--Thomas Wolfe

I was 18 when I read Thomas Wolfe's wonderful Look Homeward Angel, a book written in a passionate, gorgeously poetic stream of consciousness style that I found absolutely thrilling. This morning I tell myself firmly I must get a copy of the book this winter and read his chronicle of "the strange and bitter magic of life" again.

Put it on your list, Gaea says that one inner voice. Yes, another voice within replies. I imagine you have various inner voices too.

It was Thomas Wolfe's writing that inspired Jack Kerouac to start writing. Kerouac later abandoned Wolfe's romantic style to forge his own version of stream of consciousness chronicles. Now Kerouac is much better known. Such are the vagaries of literary fashion.

Incidentally, I mean Thomas Wolfe who is often considered one of America's great mid-century writers, not Tom Wolfe the journalist known for Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test and Bonfire of the Vanities.

I never read Thomas Wolfe's second book Of Time and the River, but that did not stop its title from dancing into my mind this morning as I was musing about how quickly the summer streamed by-- and how quickly the years have streamed by.

This is a recurring topic of late. And it's perfectly natural that as one ages, one sits by the river and contemplates the flow of time.

Now it's autumn already. It's 2011 already. I am 70 already. Protesters are occupying Wall Street, the president of Brazil postponed (hopefully forever) flooding a huge swatch of the Amazon rainforest and we are in the midst of gigantic global, political and economic changes. These are the times we live in.

So of course it is a perfect time for an ancient Japanese poem about autumn.

The hanging raindrops
have not dried from the needles
of the fir forest
before the evening mist
of autumn rises.
--the monk Jakuren

P.S. For more news about Sage's Play projects and events, please visit my website and subscribe to my monthly e-newsletter. I wish you would.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The value of late life journeys into memoir and life review

I no longer remember the exact day I began an archeological expedition whose purpose was to delve into my life history in order to understand it better. I was in my mid 50s and I was living in a rustic house at the foot of Tashi Choling, a wonderful Tibetan Buddhist temple I had helped to found years before.

I am a person who relishes an occasional riotous discard of papers due to the misplaced hope that their destruction will bring freedom from onerous details of self and mundane life. Because of that habit, I have no notebooks from that time.

Fortunately, that habit has not reached my computer records so I do have a chronological set of files that describe the scope of my themes and how I approached them over time. Writing this particular book Songs of the Inner Life has occupied my imagination for the past 15 years. I've worked on it intensely for months at a time, then set it aside and taken it up again, over and over. I've written three quite different drafts. When one has spent that much time on a project, it assumes a dreamlike quality. Will it ever emerge as a finished book? That's certainly my firm intention. And now at 70, I finally feel mature enough to do it.

There is a marvelous exhilarating energy about setting off on a voyage, though that excitement may be mixed with certain misgivings and fears. That was my mood as I began exploring my psyche and personal history, intending to dig as deeply as needed to unearth new insights and healing artifacts. I had no idea when I started that I had plunged into the process of life review, which is considered an important developmental task of later life.

I began the first draft of the first chapter by contemplating the mysteries of how a singular human being precipitates from light into matter.

"A baby is still close to the angels. Its newness melts us. Its skin soft as a flower petal, its sweet breath, tiny hands and feet move us to wonder. Babies sometimes seem as if they are not quite in their bodies yet. We suspect that they may be lingering in luminous realms which have become invisible to us. Perhaps that's why being with a baby brings us back to the state of beginners’ mind, beginners’ eyes, beginners’ smile. And when we look into a baby's eyes, we feel that we are gazing out into the spacious reaches of the universe, or deep inside the secret wisdom of the uncreated.. A baby brings us into the ecstasy of the present moment."

I was working up to exploring some difficult terrain, and it helped to start by remembering original grace. After that, I spent months exploring and writing about my deepest childhood wounds, the beliefs and experiences that led me to feel worthless, isolated and deformed. It was hard going, but I kept on slogging through it, infusing the process with breaks for meditation and walks in Nature.

I agreed to engage in a continued encounter the Shadow because I wanted to heal. As they used to say in that old radio show about The Shadow, "The Shadow knows!" It's true. Digging into those layers was not an easy job, but I am very glad I did it.

"Writing memoir is not for the meek," a fellow writer wrote recently on Facebook, that beautiful mandala of offerings from other humans (whose management manipulations are sometimes terribly annoying.)

Of course, there were times on the journey when I felt as if I had become lost in a labyrinth. Not a labyrinth as beautifully green as this one but a forlorn rocky confusion of dead ends, isolation and being walled off from the rest of life.

I endured the hopeless confinement of one who felt she would never find the way out.

Is the way out, or in--or just relaxing and sitting still in the moment?

I am looking forward to returning to this book during the reflective months of winter. I am about to publish an excerpt preview of the Introduction and first three chapters of Songs of the Inner Life soon. I will let you know when it is available on

My recent article on memoir and life review (mentioned in my previous post) was mentioned in the September News Briefs of the National Center for Creative Aging!I am pretty pleased about that.

Because I believe so much in the powerful integrative and healing qualities of memoir and life review, I will be offering workshops devoted to that exploration through poetry, movement, deep relaxation, storytelling, voice and prose. A one-day workshop is coming up in Ashland, Oregon on October 16th. Please email me at or call me at 541-535-3084 if you would like to register. Fee is $50.

I plan to develop an online version as well so that friends in far places can participate.

Interested in walking through fire, discovering forgotten talismans in long forgotten sites, finding understanding and resolution that provides release from old issues, coming face to face with original grace, recognizing and engaging your deepest gifts? Memoir and life review is a way to do all of that and more.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Happiness is The Old Magic

One has to start somewhere after a blog absence of over a month (or even of a day), so I will start with happiness and with these lines by Jane Kenyon, who is one of my favorite poets.

"There’s just no accounting for happiness,
or the way it turns up like a prodigal
who comes back to the dust at your feet
having squandered a fortune far away."

Kenyon suffered from bouts of serious depression and that certainly colored her view of happiness as a prodigal returning home at last. I can relate to the prodigal returning image. The appearance of happiness sometimes feel like that.

This morning I'm musing about what makes me happy. I find pleasure and happiness in creating beauty. This vista at my kitchen window gives me an inner smile. I feel happy looking at this beautiful image taken one day in late summer at the Umpqua River on a beautiful summer day with dear Frannie and her family. Nature makes me very happy. It's rejuvenating and endlessly fascinating. Meditating makes me very happy. Dancing, gardening, cooking, singing and writing make me happy. Being with good friends makes me happy. Helping others with healing work makes me happy. I generally feel happier now that I did earlier in life. People say that happens as we age. It's paradoxical. Is it the keen edge of mortality? Is it letting go of many things that troubled us when young? Is it slowing down and enjoying the moments more fully? Seems to me it's all of those elements. Humans have an innate capacity for happiness and contentment no matter what the circumstances. Pursuing happiness sounds terribly tiring but I like relaxing into it. It's always there in the awareness of the present moment. Drinking the coffee. A hummingbird zooms past the window. The leaves on the birch tree twinkle in the breeze. Oh my, summer is nearly over already.

We are headed into the season of harvest. Today I head over to Dave Scoggin's studio again to lie on the couch as a very interested but musically unschooled observer while my composer colleague Laura Rich and Dave continue their fascinating work to mix the song tracks for the promo CD for A New Wrinkle, our musical revue about aging.

This beautiful photo of Jonnie Z is one of a series that photographer Helga Motley took. One of those images will grace the CD jacket very soon. Yes, that CD project will come to completion.

Tomorrow I will host the first Sage's Play salon of 2011. I did not do very marvelous publicity for it, and so I have no idea who will show up for it. The topic is "Is Aging a Terrible Disease or a Valuable Stage of Life? The salons are a way for elders to talk about how they think and feel about aging and will naturally support a more vigorous community of elders. This is a flyer that Christer Rowan designed for Sage's Play's fall programs.

It's rewarding to move forward with these projects and to see them come to a successful conclusion. Even if not many people show up tomorrow for the salon, I have the opportunity to do a better job next time.

And today my essay on The Healing Power of Memoir and Life Review appears in Inner Peace column of the Daily Tidings, Ashland's paper. I am going to be offering a on-day workshop on that topic on October 16th.

It is satisfying to harvest--whether it's creative projects or garden bounty. After seeding, cultivating and nurturing for months, there's a lot of pleasure from reaping the bounty. Hope that your harvest, whether inner or outer, is a beautiful one.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

A Cottage Embraced by Roses--and Ivy

For years I imagined living in a place surrounded by flowers-- and now here I am--this is my second week in my new home, which I call Casa de las Flores. Perhaps it sounds a bit magical to womanifest a home from the imagination and there was certainly magic in it-- but it was also three months of uncertainty dealing with brokers, banks and paperwork-- adding up to the most stress I've experienced since my second marriage broke up 14 years ago. I personally like to keep a low stress profile.

Real estate is crazy these days, as my agent said several times. Since the fiscal meltdown in 2008 things have gotten wacky. Real estate being just one small example of the wackiness at present. But finally everything worked through to a successful finale and with the help of Guatemalan Carlos and his friend my precious treasures, Important Papers, unfinished manuscripts, kitchenware, books and memorabilia were schlepped here to Phoenix, two towns away from Ashland.

The garden in front of the house is filled with roses, herbs, daylilies, crysanthemum, beebalm, daisies--in fact I haven't completely surveyed all the myriad plants that ornament this piece of ground, attracting butterflies and bees. There's an old-fashioned swing that seats two people in the front yard, too.

I want to paint those black shutters blue! They are not actually working shutters but decorative reminders of real shutters. No matter, I want to paint them blue.

The front of the house was built in the 30s, and then an addition of another bedroom and bath was added 15 or more years ago. I am a fan of cottages from the 30s and 40s. They have a cozy, welcoming quality. That feeling of welcome-- in addition to the marvelous garden-- was what magnetized me to this place. It was the only place I looked at and the only one I was interested in living in. So I suppose it was already arranged in the realm of the imagination. But one still has to go through all the hoo-haa because we are on the Earth Plane.

I've been told that there are 25 rose bushes here. I haven't counted them yet, but I have begun to get acquainted with each of them. Even in August, some of them are blooming splendidly.

The woman who put together the front garden 30 years ago did a beautiful job. I don't know if she was the same person who planted the many varieties of ivy in the back yard. I am going to try to find that out from the next door neighbor, who has lived here for a long time.

Now there are many things that you can say about ivy. It's a beautiful plant and one sacred to Dionysus and no doubt other Greek gods. It's famous for being invasive. Yesterday I felt that there was about an acre of ivy I was dealing with. It has not been pruned for many years. I divested a cedar tree and a pine tree from great circles of ivy that wound far up their trunks, not a healthy thing for those trees--or for any of the other plants that wild Dionysian ivy is smothering. I am amassing great piles of cut ivy. Big as haystacks. Satisfying.

This morning I had an insight while drinking my coffee and thinking about the ivy.

All that ivy!

Not only in the yard but also festooning the wallpaper of the kitchen!

There are even little decorative tendrils of ivy twining on the overhead light fixtures. Hmmm....someone really did have quite a passion for the stuff.

One thing is certain. That wallpaper has got to go.

Dark outside now, the sound of crickets. Time to rest. Tomorrow in the morning there may be the sound of a dove.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Two Pictures on a Monday in July

For the past months, I have been busy with a project that I have kept to myself until now. It's still not a fait-accompli, but hopefully it will be very soon. I am purchasing a sweet house in the nearby town of Phoenix and very much looking forward to moving there. For now, I am calling my new place Casa de las Flores. It has marvelous old gardens. The whole enterprise has taken much longer than I wished, but I have to keep the goal in mind and relax about the delays--which can be rather challenging some days. The transaction should be finished by July 22nd. Oh, patience is a virtue. Mother always told me that. This is certainly giving me some practice.

Rather than regale you with photographs of the boxes that are accumulating chez moi, I thought I would share these two images instead. I find this one rather idyllic. An elder gentleman sitting under the tree reading, surrounded by ripe fruit that has fallen around him. It has a wonderful fairy-tale like quality, rather timeless, as if he has been sitting there for ages. And perhaps he has.The second picture captivates me, too. I love the easy intimacy it portrays-- two unique older people simply enjoying a moment with each other.

I am always on the lookout for great images of elders for Sage's Play. I also search for photos for Medifecta Healthcare Training, to use on the covers of DVDs the company produces. It is much easier to find interesting photographs of elders taken in other countries than it is to find interesting images of older adults in America. The photos of older adults widely available in America tend to be terribly stagey and stereotypical. You have the blissed out older couples walking on the beach or bicycling or dancing. Or the other extreme, an older person in a wheelchair being tended to by a solicitous caregiver. Should I mention those abysmal images we have to endure on the internet or print of older adults looking completely foolish and laughable? Those pictures are totally ageist! Take my word for it, it's slim pickings in terms of artistic images that show the range of experience of older adults, depicting real people in the midst of their real lives.

I searched and searched but I never could find a suitable image for the cover of our A New Wrinkle promo CD. So the other day I hired photographer Helga Motley to take some great photos of an about to be 85-year old elder woman named Jonnie Zheutlin. I'll share a couple of those images in my next blog post. I know, promises promises... I will. Promise. We should be finishing up with the recording for A New Wrinkle's promo CD soon, too. Dave and Laura both took off-- for Hawaii and Europe respectively-- but they are headed back home soon. It will be wonderful to complete that project. Why does everything take so darned long? For a variety of reasons, it seems.

There's actually a lot going on here in the midst of the packing because I am working on developing a fall-winter program for Sage's Play that will include a series of salons and workshops. That is going to be a lot of fun.

Meanwhile, the trees shine green in the sun and the pool at the hot springs beckons me. It is utterly beautiful here.