Saturday, September 30, 2006

Autumn along the creek

By this time of the year, the creek is low. Reflections, like the one above, can make telling which side is up difficult. The creek, like the land is waiting for fall rains which have yet to come. The forests are dry and logging is shut down again as until the real rains come, fire risk is still great.

Wild blackberries are almost finished, but the last ones are sweetest. As I walked back to take photos, the ravens cawed loudly in dismay. Who are you? Get away from here! I wish I could have caught them with the camera as they are gorgeous, big black birds with huge beaks. These are not the young ones that grew up down the creek from the house, but rather their parents. When they are not flying, or in a tree looking down on me with disdain, they stalk around the pasture as though they own the place; and more than once, due to their size, I've looked through the scope to be sure they are a bird and not a coyote.

The coyotes are mostly loud at night. During the day they sneak in, hoping to not be noticed. They killed one of our smaller lambs last week; so I am out several times during the day with my .22 in hopes of shooting them before they kill another. Temporarily the sheep have lost pasture privileges (they have always been brought in at night) and are being fed extra hay and kept around the orchard, barns, and house. Even getting a shot at the coyote will help dissuade it from coming in. Killing it will do better.

I don't like shooting coyotes as they have to eat. They are beautiful, but they also will not stop killing without being forced. Killing isn't a moral issue to them but rather one of necessity. So is my shooting one if it comes into the pasture.

In nature, like it or not, might makes right. Without me around, they have might over the sheep. With me, it will depend on how good a shot I am that day and how fast the coyote can run.

This picture is the cow and her calf from this summer. Junior keeps up with mama just fine now. And good he does as he's not large enough to be safe from the coyotes either. Mama with her horns would be a good dissuader though-- as good as me with my .22.

books like In the Meantime

The last few blogs have been on books I have read and enjoyed. Another in that category is "In the Meantime" by Iyanla Vanzant. It is about finding yourself and the love you want to be in your life with good suggestions on how to get there.

The main thrust of the book is that we sometimes live on floors in our houses that will never help us live as we wish-- floors that won't let us keep a good relationship healthy if we find one. We are running around all the time cleaning up our messes-- or that of someone else. We move up floors by dealing with our problems and growing as a person with our goal being third floor living.

The meaning to the title is that sometimes we mistake permanent relationships or situations in our lives for ones that are not meant to be forever. Some relationships are meant to be in the meantime and ones that can help us grow. Maybe even one that will someday be permanent is for now in the meantime.

It's been quite awhile since I read the book but would like to think I have continued to apply what I read. To give you an idea of what the book is like, here are a few of the many passages I highlighted:

"Everyone will find out what love is not on their way to finding out what love is."

"When you hear someone or yourself say, 'I have no choice! I have to do what I have to do!' know that you are in the company of someone who is having a meantime experience in the basement of life's house."

"When you know a thing, you do it, you live it."

"You overcome self-deception on the second floor."

"We must be willing to give up old notions, incorporate new information, change the direction in which we are traveling, and most of all take the strings off love. You can never love anyone to your own detriment. That is not love, that is possession, control, fear, or a combination of them all."

As you move up the floors, you will grow as a person with more and more capability to love as well as to know who you are. One suggestion she had that I particularly liked was taking the time to ask yourself questions-- and then even more importantly, wait for the answers. Too often we don't give ourselves time to even consider the questions, let alone wait for the inner voice to reply. She suggested if you ask a question and honestly receive no answer, don't ask a second question but come back to it another day.

"In the basement, you did not know you had a problem. On the first floor, you knew you had a problem and you learned the nature of the problem. On the second floor, you knew the nature of the problem, but you did not know what to do about it. On the second floor, you learned what to do about the problem. Now, in order, to be elevated to the third floor, you must learn how to do what you know."

More exactly what that means is why you buy or borrow the book from the library and take your time as you read it. Vanzant writes entertainingly and uses her own life for examples as to how this all works, and I personally will never look at houses without thinking of my own desire to live on that third floor in all my relationships.

I am currently reading The Second Half of Life, Opening the Eight Gates of Wisdom by Angeles Arrien. So far so good on it. Fran from Sacred Ordinary had mentioned it awhile back, and it seemed very apropos for my own thinking at this time.

When I am finished with it-- which might be awhile, as it requires considering how it applies to my life-- the next book is waiting, God Laughs and Plays by David James Duncan-- churchless sermons in response to the preachments of the fundamentalist right. This one was recommended to me by my daughter. As you can tell, I get a lot of my books by recommendation.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Of Women and Horses

Women have often found, at one age or another, they have a thing for horses. There are many explanations for this from suggestions riding a horse rubs us sensually (not in my experience) to the control of the beast is allegorical to the control of the man who we all know will never be controlled-- at least not the kind we often secretly covet.

I admit it-- horses are one of my fantasies. I put their thought aside for most of my adult years, but the dream of them and those who ride them returned with a vengeance in my senior years. They are a fantasy unlikely to be fulfilled in a physical sense, but they are satisfying to my imagination even if that is all they ever are.

As a girl having a horse was impossible as my father was allergic to them. He did give it a try once, having a horse on our farm. Even bringing the clothing into the house after our being with the horse soon made him sick, and the horse had to go.

Before the horse was sent away, I remember saddling him and taking him for a ride to the back of our property. I got a little nervous part way back and turned him around which was great with him, and he took off at a run. I pulled hard on the reins which stopped him as he was actually an obedient horse. Unfortunately I didn't stop as quickly and went right on over his head-- with no injuries except to my pride.

As a young married woman, my family and I took a trail ride back into the tall pines near Camp Sherman, Oregon. It was lovely, a dirt road and nothing but peace; until we turned toward the barns and the green horse I was on got in a tiff with another horse, did a little kicking, and took off at a gallop for the barns.

I recalled my earlier experience of going over a horse's head and knew the highway ahead was not where I wanted that to happen; so I just slid off the side of the horse to the ground, rolling (perfectly I might add) and avoiding any serious injury.

The dream of horses didn't end; and there were a few more trail rides; but for a lot of years, I put aside the idea of a horse of my own until a few years ago when I began to think what an ideal life would be like for me and realized it had a horse in it.

The current farm I am on does not have the right places for riding, has too many animals now, nor is the wet soil the best for horses; but in the back of my mind is that someday thinking-- even though I am almost 63 and know it's probably not wise someday thinking.

Thinking I should learn more about them, I have collected a lot of books on horse care, horsemanship and just the enjoyment of horses. One of my favorites in the latter category is Of Women and Horses. GaWaNi Pony Boy has put together a series of essays by various horsewomen on what horses have meant to their lives and art. The book is full of beautiful photographs, paintings of horses and the women of all ages who love them.

One of the passages in the book by Sarah Lynn Richards might explain the appeal of horses to so many women:

"As human beings, we, too, must make our choices, build our fences and remain safe or forsake safety for the riskier and more fulfilling life without them."

"Does this resemble in anyway the modern woman's struggle to exist? In her quest for safety, has she accepted the restrictions offered by her society? Don't bite, don't kick, eat this, drink this, look like this, walk like this, talk like this. Perfection equals protection? Has she internalized these complex familial and cultural standards and made them her own? If this is so, she has (unconsciously) struck a bargain. She will occupy only the space that is prescribed, she will take up less space than her natural or whole self would, but she will be safe. It is a trade-off, and may seem like a fair one, if choices are few. It is, however, the very state of this safety that prevents wholeness and growth for the individual."

Horses challenge safety. They are a risk. They offer something along with that risk-- as will most challenges we choose to face.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


Spending by Mary Gordon was a gift to me from a friend who mailed it to me because she thought I would relate to the characters and story. She was right. The female protagonist is a middle-aged, divorced, moderately successful New York painter. The plot is a bit of an adult fairy tale in that what happens seems unlikely but how delightful for a little while to imagine it could. The book is well written and sweeps you away into an interesting lifestyle.

One of my favorite aspects of the story was that the heroine had an idea for repainting classic religious works of Christ by updating them to say something for our time. That, of course, offended fundamentalist Christians, but it led to her traveling to where the works would be, studying them, and reinterpreting them to suit her theme. It led me to look up the original paintings when they weren't ones with which I was familiar.

The woman who wrote this book understood artists and very nicely portrayed a creative life. It is a sensual read with the art, lifestyle, food, and eroticism as it starts with the heroine finding a lover (or rather he finds her) who believes so strongly in her talent that he offers to become her muse, providing her a place to work and money to allow her paint full-time-- that is when they are not making love or she isn't wrestling with her relationship with her grown daughter.

The following gives you a bit of a feeling for the writing--

"I began sketching him. That sounds like a simple sentence but the two pronouns, I and him, were actually very complicated when they were connected to my sketching. I was his lover, someone who knew something of his life that could be called his biography-- but I was looking at him as merely a series of planes, a series of angles, a series of shapes whose relation to one another I was trying to make manifest. He was a form that I would try to reproduce.

"But that's not really true either. I'd wanted the image of him because his form was saturated in desire. I wasn't Matisse in his white pharmacist's coat."

Monday, September 25, 2006

Yaqui Woman

Understanding the meaning behind my dreams has been one of my spiritual goals. Last week I had one that still has me considering. I was tending sheep and cattle. A pretty common theme for me, but then it began to turn unusual. Some I don't remember except for thinking-- what was that? One incident I recall was pulling a drowning calf from a water barrel, then realizing under it was another, and I was able to save it also.

Then the dream shifted to sitting in a room with a woman across from me and a man behind. I knew there were others nearby but unseen. The woman told me they all were part of my Yaqui family. She said the man was my Yaqui father and in the other room was my Yaqui lover. I saw none of these people in the sense of being able to identify who they might be today.

I had the feeling she was saying this was a bit of a magical family that went farther back than the Yaqui time; and yet Yaqui was how she identified it to me so I would understand.

She said, when magical things happen, they are only to get our attention for the message; so we will listen to what comes next. The magic is not significant other than as an attention-getter. Magic is for the message but not the message.

This is a truth that maybe should be obvious. When Jesus did miracles, he did them to get people's attention, to show who he was, to get others to listen to what he had to say. This is true of most mystics. They are not caught up in the power of the supernatural event but see it for what it is-- a way to help ourselves and others be open to listening.

I woke with a couple of feelings about the dream. First was wondering if it applied to one of my regressions (which I wrote about last fall and reposted for anyone who would like to read it-- here) regarding a possible past life, one which I had thought was most likely Apache because of the area where I thought it took place. Perhaps the people were Yaqui instead. The Sonoran Desert is still homeland to the Yaqui as it was to the Apache during the time of that possible lifetime. It is also where I have a part-time home, a land I have long called one of my spirit homes. Maybe a past life was there. Maybe not.

If it was, it would add to my understanding of what that regression lifetime might have been like. I have felt for a long time that what I did in that time had cost me a soul family's respect. Did I lose touch with who they were, and the dream was a way to reconnect us? As is often the case with dreams, one can wonder more than prove such possibilities-- at least for now.

Second possible purpose in the dream was nudging me to finally read the Carlos Castaneda books about Yaqui mysticism and learn more about the ways of the shaman, something I have read some on through the years but only limitedly. The book I will begin with is called 'A Yaqui Way of Knowledge, The Teachings of Don Juan.'

Shamanism has appeal to me because as best I understand it, it's about those who heal, who help others into oneness with the land and spirit. Perhaps I will soon know more about it.

As most strong dreams do, there could be a third reason for this one, and that might be combining the mysticism I can learn through these books into the story I have been slowly building from dreams. Maybe.. could be.

(This kind of, maybe, could be computer portrait, Yaqui Woman, is mixing some reality from this lifetime with that regression of 1998 in a bit of a dreamlike image.)

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Aging naturally -- kind of

Recently Nora Ephron came out with a new book, title of which escapes my mind, but in it she claimed the reason women today look younger for their years is hair dye (as well as surgical anything and everything). Her clear goal was to look younger for as long as she could-- which makes sense given she is surrounded by those who believe you can never been too young and that old age is something to be hidden and denied.

No matter what a person does to try and look younger, I believe, it'll fail. I have seen photos of women who have had many thousands of dollars worth of surgery and the question is asked-- how old are they? I usually am right with my guess. In my opinion it's better to be who you are and that in the end will make you happiest. I do not want to turn my face into a mask. Plastic aging Barbie does not look young. The things I do are for helping my face not sag until it absolutely must, look refreshed, relaxed, and as I get older, that takes some effort.

My first and biggest tips are the obvious-- drink lots of water. It sounds simple but it's so true. If I don't like how my skin looks, I increase my water intake and the next day it's better. There is no moisturizer you can take that will duplicate what drinking water does. To go with that, when I have had much sugar, my skin always shows it for the next few days. Healthy diet is definitely a factor in good looking skin-- sunscreen too but everybody knows all of those things. So what! We still sometimes want chocolate or to be out in the direct sun and it's worth paying the price but there is a price and the skin shows it.

For me, next comes facial exercises. I began them maybe as much as 10 years ago. I bought a paperbook on suggested exercises for a natural face lift. It made sense to me because we exercise the rest of our body. We do exercise our face by our expressions, but sometimes those don't lift but rather sink our faces.

I ended up not sticking with the ones in the book but have my own that I do relatively religiously-- like especially after I have looked in a mirror and saw something sagging that wasn't. Mine are what I call isometric. They are very simple and a bit like yoga for the face. You concentrate on moving the muscles you want lifted or built up. Lift, tighten, hold, repeat.

If you have not worked with your facial muscles, it might take a bit of doing before you can feel the muscles tightening on command, and possibly that would be helped along by starting with the book to get familiar with controlling them.

My practice is to lift cheek muscles, nose, corners of mouth, under jaw, around eyes, and forehead. You can do some of those at the same time or concentrate on first one area, then the other. Ideally, you would do these with your hands on the forehead to block more wrinkles from forming there, but to kind of show what it looks like, I am not doing that. It's hard to get a photo that shows how you would take your mouth, extend it some to both sides, tighten and lift at the same time under the jaw.

The beauty of isometric is, although one looks a little peculiar doing them, basically it's not too odd-- not enough to have someone, who saw you driving down the road, wondering what the heck that was all about (I saw a picture of Goldie Hawn doing the ones in the book I have, and they made the tabloids online with what the heck was that all about).

If this is new to you, you will see a secondary benefit in that these are good for feeling more relaxed afterward. It's a release of tension. Facial exercises are not going to have anyone looking like they are in their thirties-- unless they are-- but they don't cost a dime (even the paperback book was pretty inexpensive) and in my experience, do make a difference. You can do them reading, driving or watching TV; so they aren't even time consumers.

They say our lips narrow as we age. I think this is mostly because we press them tightly together from tension, pain or habit. I can increase the width of my lips by relaxing them. I will catch myself (as I just did) tightening up with discomfort or from something I just read in a newspaper. If I purpose to relax my mouth, it increases the width of upper and lower lips. Check it out for yourself.

I did try those lip plumpers they advertise and to me they did nothing except make my lips sticky, tingle and give them an odd color. Better by far is practicing relaxing the mouth, let the lips loosen and release the tension. If you then turn up the corners, nothing is more attractive to others than a smile.

I don't know if it matters which moisturizer someone uses; except do find one that works for your skin. I have not found expensive meant more effective. My personal favorite is Oil of Olay simply because, even in my 60s, if I use anything with oil in it, I get a pimple. How attractive-- wrinkles and pimples side by side! I wash my face with Cetaphil cleanser, use either Oil of Olay moisturizer or right now am trying StriVectin-SD, which is supposed to improve skin condition (more expensive but available from Costco for anyone wanting the lowest price I have seen for it). Oil of Olay puts out quite a variety of products and I've played with many of them just for fun because at their prices, I can afford to try this or that.

For about five years, involving more effort and cost, I have off and on had fotofacial treatments when I can work one into my schedule as well as afford it. They are light treatments that improve skin tone, texture, and tighten some. While there is a bit of discomfort to them, for me it's been mild, and does not leave sores nor is there any healing times (there is a lot of information about them online if you are interested and the spelling changes with the patent). After a fotofacial treatment, I walk out looking like I went in (when there is any redness, it can be covered with a concealer stick); then my skin improves over the next weeks. They say it stimulates the collagen.

Fotofacials are not cheap. Usually they start with a series and run from a hundred to several hundred each depending on where you live and if there is competition. I began them because I had a mild case of rosacea, and I didn't want it to get worse. They help that, shrink small veins around the nose, reduce pores, and take away age spots. For me, they have tightened my skin but not changed my looks. My last one was about 6 months ago and I am overdue.

On the comment Ephron made in her book about hair dye being the secret to looking younger. I don't necessarily agree. It could in some cases but generally it's easy to see who dyes and who doesn't. If it's an unflattering color, it doesn't look better than natural gray, silver or white. I had colored mine in my 20s for fun, went through the process of growing it out and then began again in my late 50s until I again tired of doing it. Over a year ago I began stopping by streaking less and less color through it hopefully avoiding the telltale skunk stripe down the part. My hair is now a mix of the natural ash brown, gray and white with the dyed ends slowly losing their color. It takes awhile to grow out hair this length.

I think whether a person dyes or not, it should be what lets them have fun and feel good. If we do color, they say it's more flattering to use lighter shades than when we were young. Having seen Gloria Steinem on Bill Maher last week with her hair blond and knowing she is about 73, I think they might be onto something. She is a good example of an older woman who looks great but doesn't remotely look young. She has sags and wrinkles but, at least to me, they didn't make her look unattractive-- didn't to Maher either.

Nothing I have mentioned is a miracle cure. I have lines, some sagging. When I was younger, I said I'd get my first face lift before 55; then I found out what they do with face lifts; and the idea of having my facial skin peeled open, cheek muscles restitched, sleeping upright if it's around the eyes, healing for two weeks or longer, oozing... I could go on... was a major yuck. Not to mention maybe I wouldn't look like me when they got through. Doing what I can in a non-invasive way has been fun and generally (other than the foto facials) not expensive.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Earth Cycles

Most likely anyone who pays attention to earth cycles, religious seasons, or uses full and new moons already knows we are approaching a particularly powerful time with not only the new moon and equinox on Friday but the first day of autumn and Rosh Hashanah beginning Saturday. I received this in my email this morning from Stephanie StClaire and thought some others might enjoy reading it:

"New Moon with a solar eclipse is Friday, September 22 at 5:45 AM and the Fall equinox is at 4:24 PM US Mountain Time. This is a very powerful day and provides an opportunity to reset anything in your life that needs it by being clear about what you are leaving behind. Spend time on and around this day in spiritual practice and setting intentions for the future. Beware of possible mechanical or electronic malfunctions. Watch for dissolving of certain support structures as you reset areas of your life. Be proactive with this time and you will get a lot of mileage out if it."
from Jose and Lena of Power Path.

(I have read their emails through Stephanie before but have not visited their site other than to get this link to let you know from where it comes.)

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

being old means what?

For me, comments were especially interesting on the last blog regarding aging. I liked the diverse opinions others had on this topic. For some people old age seems to have a different meaning than it has for me. It appears to be seen as a time where a person is decrepit, maybe losing mental skills. Young is good. Old is not. I believe that is a product of our culture more than anything else, which Ronni Bennet over at 'Time Goes By' (linked alongside here) comments on regularly.

I am comfortable with calling myself old, and I think there are several reasons for that. The first comes from having been close to a lot of elders in my life. They were people who took vacations to Europe and Hawaii for the first time in their 70s and 80s. People like my mother, who learned to drive at 68 on a stick-shift truck. When my mom was in her 80s, and looking after this farm when we weren't here, she chased the young bulls back into their pasture, breaking a hoe over the back of one. Why would I worry about calling myself old with examples like those?

On the personal side, I have come to see old age is a time where I can relax and not have expectations for what I should do or be. Before that, there were so many and they got me through the years-- not in a negative way but just it's what was. Get an education. Get married. Choose careers. Build homes. Have kids. Raise the kids. See them in college. Help them start their own families. Fail at any or all of those. Suddenly with old age there was nothing more I 'had' to do. That did not mean life was over but just a freeing up. Expectations were behind me.

As Old Lady in the Hills mentioned in comments and I have also been aware given my own family, I could have 30 years ahead. Elders choose all kinds of options for those years. Some start a career they wanted before but for assorted reasons were unable to do. Given much of the attitude in the workplace to the old, this works best when you can start your own business. Others put time into charitable work that their earlier obligations didn't permit. Some get a degree, move to a foreign country, learn to ride a horse properly and go on a trail ride into the wilderness (that was a 70 something in Tucson). What we can do will relate more to general conditioning, accidents, diseases, and staying as active as possible than it will to old age alone. Anybody can lose all of their abilities at any age to disease or accidents-- or even to losing enthusiasm for living.

What is unique to old age is the body does wear out. There is no denying it happens; and if we try to do all we could have done at say 30, after we get old, our body will rebel. There comes a time, even for marathon runners, where denial of the aging body will lead to injuries. Some of what that involves will be dependent on what you like doing. Katherine Hepburn could swim daily in the ocean off Maine coast well into her 80s. For playing professional football, you are out of the game far earlier. Little by little I have seen that I don't have the strength I earlier had. It's not a big deal yet, but it's the beginning of a process.

Where it comes to food, not only can our body abruptly let us know something we always ate no longer works, but also find out it is going to put pounds on us because of metabolism changes. To eat a lot of fat as a kid seemed to work; to eat fat as an elder leaves me not feeling so good and with heartburn. I think this awareness of recalibrating our activities comes gradually but denying it won't stop it.

Writing about this has made me wonder if women are more comfortable with the stages of life than men given we come into womanhood (our culture would still call us girls) with menstruation. When we get past our fertile years, the monthly cycle stops. Bodily production of hormones is reduced and stopped. Is that related to attitude? How we react to it is, but basically it's a product of getting old. Men have less testosterone, although it's not as big an immediate shift for them. Women even have ours named by somebody-- The Change.

What I believe is that physical old age is a fact, not an attitude. The attitude so many fear is that they will stop being able to enjoy life. That can happen in their 20s. We don't have to claim we are still young at 60 to see old age as a fun time, a place to try new things, to learn. It is our choice what we make of it. Whether you say your body is old, it is what it is; and you can't fool others even with plastic surgeries. You can call yourself young at heart if you see youth as the ones to admire in terms of their hearts, but why isn't it the old at heart? I like old people, always have; and therefore, see their hearts as the ones to admire because they have the compassion and wisdom of experience behind them. Are all old people like that? Of course not, but they were the ones I now want to be like.

At the other end of old age is death, and old age should be a time of preparing for that in the most positive way through working out our spiritual beliefs, so when our time to pass over comes, we are not afraid. We can make arrangements for how we want to have our bodily remains dealt with, how much end of life care we want. Those things can be dealt with when we are at the beginning of old age and unless we change our minds, forgotten until it becomes an issue.

I have found some really cool things about being old. I dream dreams. I have time to dream them, paint them, and research them. I can take more time to think through ideas, to learn things. Through writing and art I can share what I have seen of this life with others. There are advantages to this period of life physically. For instance I don't have to worry that I don't look good in a mini skirt. I am not supposed to look good in one; so if I do, it's a bonus.

Next blog will be a bit superficial, I guess. It will not be about aging attitudes, which I think are key to changing the meaning of old age-- things like staying flexible, interested in life, taking risks, experiencing new things, and most of all not so much looking backward but rather forward. However, the next blog will be purely on facial looks-- what I do to keep my face looking as good as possible cuz having had an old, sexy grandma, with boyfriends still after her in her 70s, I know you don't have to stop looking attractive just because you got old. And on a personal note, I still like seeing a man watch me and knowing I pleased his eyes. I don't plan on giving that up until I have to!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Grokking It

Once in awhile, sometimes from out of the blue, others after working through a problem, I have moments I used to call epiphanies. They come when I suddenly know something so deeply that it's a part of me. I think today a better term comes from the book 'Stranger in a Strange Land'-- I grok it. Although I am always a little uncertain when I use a science fiction term, since it is not a genre I am familiar with generally. I did read this book and liked this word. It is a verb and means a knowledge and understanding that goes to the core being and lets you not only see something but use it. In the book, it meant to drink and refers to taking into yourself an understanding that becomes part of who you are.

Epiphany is a good word too but grok is better for what I feel right now. One could have an epiphany, and it might not impact their daily life. It could be a momentary awakening that sank back into forgetfulness. A person could know something but not use it for themselves. The ah-ha moment could end being nothing. But if I grok it, it means it went deep within and became part of who I am.

When I was a young woman, I was sitting in Mass with a baby on my lap and a toddler beside me. I could feel the length of my hair against the wood of the pew when I moved. My body and spirit were strong. I had borne two children, was raising them and knew how to do that. I felt female power surge through me with who I was and what my role, at that time, was in life. I knew what it meant to be a woman in the purest essence of that word. I savored the moment. I also knew it was but a moment but one to live fully.

Although I have had such moments since then, the one now is the most like that earlier time. As I grokked what it meant to me to be an old woman, I saw it as the coming into the power of the old woman, the crone, the wise one. A woman who has raised her children, has lived a life, and could now look back on that or take what she has learned and look ahead. Does old have to be weak? Must it mean limitations? It means some of that but more.

Some of what I am thinking was added onto when I was waiting to pay for entrance to the renaissance faire. A woman walked down the line saying, if anyone had exact change, she could take their money. I had seen printed that seniors got in for a lesser rate but didn't see where they defined senior. Experience has shown me it can be anywhere from 50 to 65. I asked and she made a joke out of it. She asked what would I call senior?

"I don't know," I said. "I guess for a lower admittance fee, I'd make it 65, but it varies."

"If you are willing to call yourself a senior," she said laughing and nodding to the others standing there, "you may have the lower rate."

I laughed too. "What else could I call myself at almost 63?"

She took the lower rate. As I thought on it later, I knew she thought I'd be embarrassed to call myself a senior. Why should that have been? Has it been a thing to be ashamed of in our culture? Is being twenty all that is supposed to be good and from then on it's downhill?

What I have grokked is that being old is what I am and being old is not only okay but a rich time of life. It's not a time to give up on being vital, sexy, attractive, active, excited about life. It's not a time to quit learning new things, Not a time to say I always did it that way and cannot change. It is instead a time to be like that sunset from the other night. A sunset marks the beginning of the end of a day, but it can be with a lush fullness, a promise of richness and going out can be with a bang, not a whimper.

I am making choices today and in the next few years that will determine how I live as an old woman. I see these as part of grokking old age with a new paradigm. I don't want to accept someone else's definitions for what old means, nor do I want to deny being old. I instead want to make the most of the last cycle of life as I did with the time when I was a young woman full of the spirit of being young.

Yes, I could for awhile deny what I am, try to hide it, have surgery, inject poison into my face, dye my hair, refuse to admit my birth year, but why should I? Why should I not be proud I have done what I have and now am ready to live these final years, how many there may be, as a juicy old woman, full of vim and vigor. Not as strong as when young but sure not ready to give it up either-- not just yet!

Saturday, September 16, 2006


Discussing witchcraft, when I am not and never have been a practicing witch, makes me a little uneasy. Because it is often much misunderstood, I feel it something important to write about along with the other spiritual topics I have explored. I studied up on it some years ago to write a story where the lead character discovers her grandmother was a practicing witch. She comes to learn what that means-- as did I in my research.

Some think witchcraft is connected to Satan; and rituals, like with a stag's head, could be part of why, but it is not. It goes back to paganism, to Celtic practices, goddesses, the uses of herbs, rituals, and moon cycles as ways to help one's own life and that of others.

I find witchcraft interesting, always enjoy learning more about it, and have known a few witches. As I said, I am not a witch, but I have a few of what I call pagan practices like Tarot cards, astrology, using aromatic oils, and have been learning palm reading which are within witchcraft. The main reason I wouldn't be a witch is I am not into being part of any formal religion at this point in my life. I most definitely don't want to cast spells and take the responsibility onto myself for changing someone else's life-- even if I believed I could. But I don't see witchcraft as wrong if it's practiced properly. Naturally in all spiritual practices there can be wrong and right uses of power.

With the work of witchcraft, the beginning is casting a circle and within it will be done sacred rituals. I have read a lot of ways to cast a circle but the essence is an awareness and meditation on the four directions, four colors, and four elements-- fire, water, earth and air. For anyone interested in learning more about what that all entails, which is not my purpose here, there are a many books on the practices in metaphysical sections of bookstores. To cast a circle, there is no need to desecrate the land, to build temples. The ground becomes sacred for the time of the work. When the ritual is finished, the circle is released and the land returns to what it was before.

In olden times people thought to be witches were burned in Europe and killed in the United States. Some of that was fear, of course, but some was because midwives or healers competed with doctors and sometimes were more successful. Remember back then doctors would go from doing an autopsy, treating any manner of illness, and immediately treat the next patient without washing their hands. Their idea of medical care was bleeding an ill person. It's not surprising that a neighborhood witch, with a knowledge of herbs, might have had more success than the doctor was having.

After the times of the Inquisitions and burnings, a lot of wisdom regarding herbal medicines as well as spells went underground. Some might have been lost, but it is slowly coming more into the light at least for now. It is still often misunderstood; but if one thinks of it as an earth religion, basically a form of paganism, it might not seem so evil or frightening. Things many people take for granted today like astrology, tarot cards, palm reading, collecting and growing of herbs and flowers to be used for healing, aromatherapy, energy transfer, understanding of the earth and moon cycles are all part of basic witchcraft.

Do witches really fly through the air, change into animals, make their enemies sick? None that I know, but I don't know what is possible. It's not likely to be the average experience of most witches. Mystics of all religions have had supernatural powers that most of us don't understand or even want.

Perhaps some of how threatening the practice of witchcraft might be, even if the coven attempted to use black magic, would be dependent on the spiritual power of the ones they were attempting to harm. Whether you believe in Satanic power, black witchcraft or even the ability of a Christian to pray bad onto you as punishment, it behooves you to be strong spiritually yourself.

If a witch properly understands her craft, she would not do evil to another even if she could. The belief of some is whatever they do returns to them three-fold. That might or not be true for what would happen, but if some Christians, who are so free with praying God will smite some person they regard as evil, were as concerned it'd bounce back on them, they would regard prayer a bit more cautiously too.

When I saw the last Johnny Depp pirate movie-- Dead Man's Chest, I was taken with the imagery in it and in particular that of the soothsayer. I decided I wanted to do a computer painting of what some regard as the dark-side and that is what accompanies this blog.

I thought it was interesting that the woman in the painting came out looking like an older version of the girl in my dream painting for The Wild Ones. Perhaps this is where that girl went to gain power to protect herself from a brutal husband who was chasing her. In those times, a mixed blood, poor woman, would have had few choices for how to protect herself. Certainly the culture wouldn't do it for her. This new computer painting has made me more and more think that dream might have been intended for a book someday and pieces of that will keep coming to me.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Love Spells

"I do not unmarry Ahab. But I marry myself. I take my fate as within."
from Sena Jeter Naslund's book-- Ahab's Wife.

When I started to read Phyllis Curott's last book, The Love Spell, I thought it would relate to the subject of witchcraft, which I intend to write about, and I knew it was about a search for a soul mate but was surprised how deeply it went into relationships and what makes them work. It was one of those books I buy and set aside for the right day. That day came; and once I began reading, I didn't want to put it down as it was so apropos to what I had been thinking and just written about-- soul mate love. I see it as synchronicity when it happens and try never to ignore it.

While I have written about the practical side of soul mates-- the friends, family, and working partnerships that can benefit from such connections, I know for most of us, when the subject of soul mates comes up, the belief is it's the ultimate love connection, the kind of story about which they create myths, poetry, books, songs, and movies.

The Love Spell is an erotic memoir which means it might not be everyone's cup of henbane tea especially if you see witchcraft as evil, have a belief that sex outside of marriage is always a sin, or are offended by reading graphic sex.

The writer is a lawyer and practicing witch in New York City, and her memoir is about a spiritual and physical search for love, to find the man of her dreams to fulfill her life. She feels something is drawing her to him. Is it a daemon, Dionysus, or James Dean? Hey, it's a modern memoir. Since she is a witch, she uses what spells and potions she believes will work to bring a soul mate to her, and it works.... or does it?

Her book begins with a quote by Rainer Maria Rilke: "Ever since I heard my first love story I began looking for you, not realizing how futile that is. Lovers don't finally just meet somewhere; they are in each other all along."

I also believe with soul mates we feel them whether we are physically together or not; and if it's a strong connection, probably very like that quote. Does that mean the relationship itself will work out? Not necessarily. But it does mean it'll be quite a ride while it lasts. Soul mate loves probably aren't ones you would say were based on practicality but rather on strong feelings that can override good judgment. (They can be confused with lust with which they have a fair amount in common as in lack of commonsense accompanying desires.)

Her book tells a story of the kind of search where you begin with the burning desire to be with someone to fulfill you. If you do meet them and it's all you had hoped, the magical time of it being everything only lasts a set time. When the clock strikes twelve, the partner better be one with whom you can get along, where you have things in common, share values and goals, or it will be over. The magic can get you there but it can't keep you there.

Although she uses ritual to try to create magic, she makes it clear such rituals cannot bring a certain person to you. Eventually she sees ritual is not required to draw the right energy. It is (as my friend said in those earlier blogs) a way to focus and that's all. She writes witchcraft could become a substitute for real experience. Sound familiar? Religions of all sorts can help us focus, get on the path, be emotionally and sensually satisfying; but if they stay the end-all, be-all, they are going to cheat us of genuine spiritual experience.

She learns that to find her ideal soul mate love and have it work, she has to be the woman she was born to be. When she marries herself, the earth, all around her, then she is ready to have a lasting soul mate relationship. At that point, being complete within herself, she would not need one; but she might still desire it which makes it stronger if it happens.

Toward the end of the book, her mentor states it well: "You can have happily ever after-- all it requires is the right person to create it with. He exists-- you're not creating him, you're sensing him. You have your soul; you'll find your soul mate. That's the journey of love."

The quote I used at the start of this, it is what I have written on the first page of my journal as something I never want to forget. We have to be our own soul mate even if we are fortunate enough to find that special love and are blessed to have a full life with them.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


This morning I read Dharma Bums (linked alongside this blog) and they had this -- Keith Olbermann. I thought it was very important and wanted to put it here also. Please check it out. What Olbermann had to say was worth everyone in this nation taking the time to read or hear-- especially if they still support George Bush.

Renaissance Faire

Every couple of years, my family and I get to the Shrewsbury Renaissance Faire. I always find it an interesting experience with the mix of crafts for sale, entertainment, fortune tellers, artisans at work, and colorful costuming.

Those, who run the faire, dress and talk appropriate to the 1500s as best they know it. One booth rents costumes, but it seems each year more of the attendees come dressed up and having fun with their choices. A lot of time, money and thought goes into those costumes. When I was arriving, a wild looking bunch of Highlanders, in plaid pants and with swords were just ahead in the line.

Although I am not one who has been into Medieval times, sometime it would be fun to go in costume.-- play pretend and for a few hours be someone else. Since the usual garb for the Elizabethan wealthier classes involves rich brocades, heavy fabrics, many layers of clothing, not to mention corsets, if I do dress up, it'll likely be as a gypsy-- poorer but cooler.

The faire is currently being held on farmland, alongside a river, with timbered hills as a backdrop which makes it feel very authentic as well as picturesque. If you didn't have a field full of automobiles and an emergency vehicle parked alongside, you might almost convince yourself you had stepped back in time... almost.

While entertainment can be bagpipes, belly dancing, juggling, anything that might have been done back then, the highlight is the tournament which involves sword fighting and jousting. This year the group putting that on came from Seattle and had women as a part of the sword fighting and horsemanship skill events-- in everything but the actual jousting. Despite the fact the tournament is for entertainment, jousting is obviously an event that requires a great deal of strength, dexterity, and can be dangerous.

This faire is one sponsored by the Society for Creative Anachronism, which has information online for anyone interested. They meet regularly throughout the year, some have their weddings at their various gatherings, and from what I have read, many feel the 1500s is the time they would have most liked to live-- or perhaps the past life for which they have the most affinity. We also have such gatherings of mountain men and many of those people do feel they were born over a hundred years too late.

My grandson, who is two, left with a big smile, a dragon stick horse, a wand given to him by a strolling wizard (carved from a branch) and a peacock feather. Not sure where he got that. I left with some nice photographs, time spent with happy people, a full stomach (burrito renamed gypsy fare), and memories of a sunny afternoon enjoying the diversity of people and their interests.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Praying Mantis

This week-end, at a renaissance faire (pictures from that will come another day) I was sitting on a dusty slope covered with dry bunch grass to wait for the jousting to begin. Someone said-- a praying mantis is on your back. I have to admit, I was pleased. Really? It chose me? Wow. Let it stay there because with all these people around, it might be stepped on if it is brushed off. I handed over my camera and asked for a photo. It was in no hurry to leave.

Then they said-- it's crawling up your back and going to get in your hair. At that point I became concerned as if it got tangled in my hair, that could have caused it to lose a feeler or leg getting it out; so I asked the man to my right if he could safely remove it and put it on a small tree almost in front of us. He did so; and as it climbed up the tree, I took another picture, then lost track of it.

I believe the events in our life are like our dreams. We can dismiss them, see them as insignificant, or when something a bit unusual happens, become interested in learning more about the potential symbol.

Biologically, I knew they are a gardener's friend. Although they are named praying mantis for their front leg position, it is actually a deadly weapon. Their benefit to the gardener is their hunting ability. Aphids beware.

I had no idea they can also kill hummingbirds. When I did some research on them, I saw a photograph online, for which I am sure anyone interested can find, that showed a praying mantis with a hummingbird it had killed, and then devoured. It was a small hummingbird, but still who would have guessed that more than small insects should be wary around them.

Generally they are green when I have seen them, but they take on the color of their background which is why on this dusty slope, this one (not sure how you tell male from female but guessing it might be female) was the color in these photos. They live about a year. I did know that the female will sometimes kill the male after mating by knocking his head off before she devours him. Not always. Sometimes he's quick enough to get out of her way.

Researching the spiritual symbols, I learned in ancient Egypt it would have been greatly honored. The Greeks attributed to it supernatural powers. To some it has been seen as the guide into the underworld. It had been inspirational in creating some of the Eastern exercises to increase chi (energy). In Africa, a praying mantis is thought to bring good luck to whomever it lands on and even restore life to the dead. The Bushmen of Africa believe the praying mantis is a divine messenger and whenever one is seen, diviners try to determine the current message.

What message did I take for myself from its choosing my back over all the others around? I felt pleased that maybe it knew I would protect it-- which I did as best I could. If it had a spiritual message for me, I will be looking.

Fascinating insects. Also if anyone knows if they will eat lady bugs, who are also garden predators, please comment with the answer.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Hips Don't Lie

Awhile back, Winston from Nobody Asked wrote a blog on earworms. At the time I wasn't having a lot of problems with this phenomena although I recalled times I had; but then along came 'Hips don't Lie' by Shakira and her VMA performance on UTube, and I can't get it out of my head.

In case you aren't familiar with earworms and don't like links, earworms are when a song plays over and over again in your head. Sometimes you can get rid of it by introducing an equally powerful counter melody; but often when suffering a real earworm problem, you will quickly revert back to... oh baby when you talk like that, you make a woman go mad... uhmmm where was I?

Winston asked how his readers deal with it when this problem strikes. I am dealing with it by yielding and playing the actual song and video frequently on the computer and hoping it soon becomes too much. I tried to buy the CD, but my store was out. Could it be this is an epidemic?

Unfortunately for me the problem is spreading, and it's not enough to listen to it. It inflicted me with a need to photograph myself listening to it to see if I
could capture with camera the feeling the song was engendering. Then it led to my wanting to dance to it. Dancing to it is where I am now-- several times a day. The dancing might be good exercise if it doesn't throw my back out that is.

This is me listening to it . There will be no pictures of me dancing to it as I would not like to be responsible for injuries caused by readers falling off their computer chairs in laughter. However if you have not heard this song or seen her dancing yet, here is the UTube link... be forewarned-- this song is potentially addictive-- Hips Don't Lie

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Illusionist

If you like films to make you think, with mystical concepts, stories that unfold as you get to know the characters, and if you enjoy a movie that has you thinking about what really happened days later, I recommend you consider seeing 'The Illusionist' in the theater.

Given how far out I live, only rarely do I get to movie theaters. This is one I knew I should see as soon as I read about it. I saw it this last week-end, and it satisfied on so many levels that it's hard to know where to start explaining why it's so good. When it comes out on dvd, I will be buying it to add to my mystical film collection.

'The Illusionist' stars Edward Norton, Jessica Biel, and Paul Giamatti. The reviews I have seen have been mostly positive but it clearly is not everyone's cup of tea. For me it was a perfect film to consider supernatural questions, love, and mystery. I think calling it an adult fairy tale might be the best simple description.

Is it magic or illusion? That's one of the questions to be considered. The film doesn't answer it. Perhaps in the end, it's some of both. I would tell more about the story, but it's best to not know too much. Go expecting to be entertained but also to consider what is real, and I don't think you will be disappointed.

(Image from

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Negative Negatives

In my life, with my writing, I try to stay on the positive side (while not wanting to be a Pollyanna, who is not facing reality). That is why I don't write often about GW Bush. Oh I do a rant now and then, but I am showing self-restraint that those don't happen regularly. I believe in general we are better off if we can look to the good rather than the bad, but I can't always do that.

For me, this last week-end had a lot of good things in it; but it had some negatives too. The tragic one was a reminder of how abruptly life can end. That came from Steve Irwin being killed by a stingray. I felt sad about it and am sure others felt it more than me as I have rarely seen his programs. I knew he did dangerous things but was still shocked when he was killed. He seemed like a good man, trying to do good for the world, and just a shame his life ended in such a tragedy.

Did he die to feed the insatiable need for excitement that seems to be growing across this globe? Is this becoming a gladiator world where the risks must increase to feed that excitement? Is that why it's not enough to see a stingray swimming, but we have to see someone near it, someone facing danger, to make it worth our time? I have read that, as a naturalist, when he did what seemed reckless, it was to help others see the value in preserving the natural world. It sometimes seems the world is full of those who only get interested if there is some risk (but not theirs) added to the mix. I understand he wasn't forced into what he did, but maybe we need to think where we are heading.

For me this wasn't just about a sudden death of a young person who was contributing much to the world, but it was also why he was there. Yes, I know freak accidents happen, maybe it was his time; but he was swimming that close to make the pictures exciting and we all know it.

Then there was a personal negative that comes with raising livestock. I write about the beautiful and satisfying part of living on a farm, but there are other sides. Sometimes bad things happen.

This week-end, once again, the neighbor's dog showed up to chase the sheep. He's a big dog, a full-sized boxer, and he has killed their own chickens. When he comes here, so far he has only chased the sheep. One night that was right into the creek and if we had not been here, a lamb would have drowned. Another night possibly he did it when we weren't here as one of our lambs did drown in the creek-- something we can't prove as we didn't see him chase it in that time.

This week-end, the neighbor came to get her dog fairly quickly, but this has been a year and a half of them saying the same thing-- we just can't keep him in. This week-end he had been tied again with nothing but a piece of baling twine. He's a husky dog and he worries those things until they fray. Nobody was checking and why they figured a piece of twine would do it since it hadn't umpteen times before, I don't know.

The truth is they have not cared to keep their dog up. She said--well why do your sheep run? Why didn't your fence keep him out? What does it hurt if he chases them? I saw her reaction on her stubborn face when I told her it's not a question of if her dog will kill but only when. As a child, I grew up seeing sheep ripped apart by other people's pet dogs. She stared blankly at me. She simply didn't care. I didn't bother telling her all of the nights I have lain awake listening to hear if the sheep are running. She would not have cared about that either.

I was mad; so mad that to avoid saying more, I walked off. It was obvious words were not going to get either her nor me anywhere. I don't normally act rude. I try to keep good relationships with neighbors. But my sheep are scared and I am mad at her for not caring about her dog's rogue behavior.

I am also mad that, since they don't care, from now on every time their dog chases the sheep, the sheriff is going to have to be called. A formal complaint must be made, and these neighbors will get a call from an authority as well as a fine. Our county's law is that no dog is allowed to run off its own property, and any rancher having stock chased has the legal right to shoot the offending dog. Bringing the law into this doesn't make me happy, but shooting their dog would make me more unhappy. And it's not okay to keep having the sheep chased-- eventually to their death. The whole thing left me grumbling to myself and living in negative space.

So I am trying to put a positive spin back into my life energy. I know life ends abruptly as it did for Steve Irwin. I know we can't throw away precious days on anger that does nothing to solve problems, but sometimes... sometimes there just are negatives and this week-end, along with good things, had some of those times.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Seal Rock

When the valley is hot, the air along the Oregon coast can be nearly cold with a heavy fog blanket overhead, but today on one of the last days of summer, it was pleasantly warm. The rivers on the way down were full of boats with fishermen trying for the salmon as they return. The sidewalks in old Newport were crowded with tourists and families down for the last long week-end before school starts.

Here at Seal Rock State Wayside, there were not many people-- somewhat helped along by a small parking lot. A few lovers strolled hand in hand along the edge of the water. One family had built a fire to roast hot dogs while the kids and their father (grown up kid) got a kite high in the sky.

As the fog burned off, the sunshine was almost hot and full of the cries of gulls and cormorants, the bark of the seals hunting just offshore. The waves crashed against the rocks, and the air had that wonderful smell of salt. Some say it's also full of ozone and that's why it's so relaxing to be along the ocean. It was a day to wade in the surf, sit on the warm sand and just be.

I have had many days along this coast. There were those when I was a little girl, my father holding my hand in a wind storm when I was afraid I'd blow away. Then with my own children, brushing tarry sand from little feet, watching sand castles grow along the edge of the sea. And now the world changes again and I'm growing old; but the sea and me, we are still both here-- for awhile.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Illustrating the process

My paintings for the last few years have been from imagination and dreams. Reality is only a starting point-- if that. Because this is a blog intended to encourage creativity, I thought I would show the thinking behind how I work. I am not a professional artist but rather one who uses art for her own growth as a person. The process, for me even with oil painting, is not really so different except with an oil when I get somewhere I like, I quit. With the computer I know I can save that stage as one solution and work on without risk of destroying it all.

For this one, the theme I had in mind was someone searching for direction. Going through my files, I found a personal photo from several years ago to use as a starting point. For me, a photograph provides only grounding. I am not a landscape or portrait painter and don't try to duplicate locations where I have been or what I have photographed. My goal with anything I paint is to capture emotions with the objects in the paintings only vehicles.

To start, I chose a size that would roughly duplicate the proportions in the photo, sketched in the ocean, roughed in the sky, headland, and then began making changes. I wanted a woman with long, graying hair, didn't want a bulky coat, wanted a black dress, and wanted her arms bare.

As I finished, I saw a solid gray sky added nothing to the painting. It was too big of an element to write off. I played with clouds, wind directions, added dark spots, took them out, and came to the point where a bit of blue sky along with the lighthouse, represented the hope for which the woman was looking.

Critically looking at it again, it seemed this painting was supposed to be about a woman but she had no energy-- just a blob. And how come, if there were stormy seas, there was no breeze to blow her hair a bit? If she wore a dress, I'd at least have a more interesting shape.

The advantage of doing such a work on the computer is there is no problem to change 'canvas' size. I have done that with actual stretched canvas boards by cutting them down when the original composition didn't work, but the only way to increase dimensions relative to the figure, is to scrape it away, and then shrink the figure. With the computer, there is another option. I chose a new dimension, copy pasted my original work into it and began to build sand, ocean and a black skirt.

That looked better but it now seemed the sky had lost power by not being large enough. She is looking toward it for answers, shouldn't it have more importance? I resized again, copy pasted the work onto its new space, and began building sky with more ocean and sand to keep it all in proportion.

About that time, I couldn't remember ever being at the shore without birds all around-- so a few distant birds had to be added.

One thing with computer art, any of these changes are easy to try. When this is done on canvas, purer work or not, you would be painting the same thing 5 times to get to the same eventual place. and maybe ruining much along the way with changes that didn't work. I know of painters who do paint the same subject again and again. I have never done that because of the feeling of wasting canvases, not to mention where do I store them? I don't like reworking the same canvas as it seems the energy underneath works against the new idea.

Just when I thought this piece was finished, I had another idea. I wanted to see the woman's legs and feet; so she could wade in the surf. I never go to the beach without some wading. A couple of sea birds came next. I understood then why the black dress had been important-- my subconscious had been ahead of me. The woman was to be one with the birds-- 'Woman and Gulls' was the last version.

I ended up with two poems and if I eventually paint this in oils (which is where I had been thinking this was heading), I think 'Woman and Gulls' is the one I'd choose, but the one just before it, 'Looking for Answers' seems strong with a different message. In the past I have done drawings, color notes, and worked from them. That works better when it's a portrait, landscape or still life. When it's an idea, I have been discovering the computer is a very creative place to work it out-- where the process is as important as the product.