Saturday, May 23, 2015


As I have written a number of times before, I like to meditate on names I identify with.  Today and yesterday, we have:

Laurel -- A flowering shrub found in the forest, so woodsy, and the joy of spring.
Sierra -- wild, strong, windswept
Sage -- Person of deep wisdom.  Also an herb, so an earthy person.  An herb used in ritual, so a spiritual person.
Skydancer -- one who dances reaching for the sky, like tree branches

And, also on the theme of seeking things to identify with, I think of this photo:

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Lost skills of the modern age

I finished dinner.  It was not quite bedtime.  I was tired.  How to spend some quiet restful time until bedtime?  In the winter, I would go to the computer.  But now it is warm.  I went out and sat on the balcony.  The wind was whooshing in the trees.  Space for thinking.  In winter, I don't make space for thinking.  Unless I do meditation.  I did meditation for about two weeks last January and February, but soon fell out of the habit. 

And what I saw in my moment of contemplation was an economy of specialization.  Not Far From the Tree by John Bunker is a book about apples in a small town in Maine, but what I found most striking in it was the way that Maine farmers grew things for there own use, and then transitioned to growing them to sell.  For  millenia, humans have been so much more capable of taking care of themselves than we are now, at least those of us in developed nations.  If we want something, we buy it.  We have no idea how to create something ourselves. 

A few months ago, someone wrote on Facebook complaining about neighbors who put everything out as trash, rather than separating out the recyclables.  Another person, a local community organizer, posted a link to a pdf flyer listing what can be recycled.  He suggested that the original complainer print out some copies and distribute them in his neighborhood. 

Actually do something? Unheard of.  We expect everything to be done for us.  Have a problem with the neighbors? Complain to Code Enforcement or the police.  Let them fix it.  We wouldn't want to actually talk to our neighbors.

We talk to our coworkers.  My coworker is supposed to organize staff meetings once a month.  She consistently screws it up.  I told her last month where the problems were.  She forgot, so this month, I tried again, and really walked her through it.  There are three different calendars, and each lists a different location.  When she sends her email announcement, she just says the meeting is in the conference room, but she doesn't say which conference room.  Then she gets annoyed at people for not knowing where the meeting is, feeling as if they did not read her email.  So I walked her through each calendar, telling her what it says now, and discussing how to fix it.

But I would not do that with neighbors.  I don't know my neighbors.  I don't want to know my neighbors.  They are very different from me.  I don't know how to talk to them.  Sometimes people who try to communicate with neighbors get shot for it. 

I don't know how to communicate with neighbors.  I don't know how to build a house.  I don't know how to build a fire for cooking.  I don't know how to grow my own food.  I don't know how to find food in a forest.  I don't know how to make clothes.  I don't know how to make fabric.  I don't know how to make a pot.  I don't know how to make a musical instrument.  My ancestors knew how to do these things. 

If civilization fell apart, we would be lost.  The Transition movement tries to remedy this.

Arrival of warm weather

Three things:
  1. The feel of the sun on my skin
  2. The feel of the air on my skin
  3. The sight of leaves on trees
At this time of year, I experience these three things as drinking in health and healing.

I don't know if they are really the things that give me health this time of year.  It could be some other thing that I don't notice.

The sun on my skin actually can give me sunburn, so just because it feels healing doesn't mean that it is.

One thing that does seem to influence my health is that my asthma is better when it is not so cold.

On the other hand, the pesticides they put on the grass at work Thursday hurt my asthma.  

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Okay to be who you are

Last Saturday, I read Web of Air by Philip Reeve.  It was terrible.  The main character abandons the children for whom she is the only parent figure, and her love interest leaves, feeling that she has betrayed him.  It left a bad taste, so I looked at my shelf looking for a sweeter book.  I chose The Changeling Sea by Patricia McKillip.  At the end of the book, Lyo kisses Peri.  That moment stuck in my mind.  What stuck was a sense of myself as Peri, being loved by Lyo. 

 I'm not insecure in the sense of doubting my worth.  I know I'm worthy.  What I doubt is whether other humans on this planet can see me worth.

I always feel like I can't quite be myself, because other people couldn't handle it.  This past week, I've been reading A Blue Sword.  The parts that jumped out at me were the same parts I quoted in this blog in February 2013:
she was adapting to her new life as best as her energetic self could. She might have screamed, and hammered on the walls with her fists...but she was trying her best to be good. So she was merely first to the breakfast table.
 it wasn't her size or her coloring that held him beyond the first startled flick of notice; nor was it her beauty. There was too much strength in that face and in the long bones of the body for beauty. Something about the quietness of her, perhaps? Or her self-contained the contained straightness he himself had learned, knowing well what could happen if he relaxed. 

 A song that resonates with  me is "Janie" by Alien Folklife.  It's about a girl who spends her life working to please her mother, but feels like she can never be good enough.

What I saw when Lyo loved Peri, I wondered, can I imagine that someone loves me that way? Can I live as if someone loves me that way? Can I walk in the world knowing it's okay to be who I am?

But I don't think that I can.


I dreamed I was talking to my cousin, who was a senior in high school.  I told her that what I do is I pick out colleges for people, pick out careers for them, and pick out names for their children.  I was thinking about what college she might go to,  maybe Oxford, NYU, Columbia, or Vassar.  She told me that she had already picked out a husband. 

I had the sense that we were just south of New York City, but we were also adjacent to the Skidmore College campus.  Her lacrosse team often played against Skidmore, and her chosen husband was a Skidmore lacrosse player.

Then we were traveling in a car or a boat or something.  I was menstruating.  I thought I was sufficiently protected, but it turns out I wasn't.  My cousin and I noticed there was a lot of blood on my cousin.  I said, "That's from me," and I could see the stream of blood from me connecting to the blood on her.  I said that I would change my protection at our next stop.

The next stop was a hospital, mostly a mental hospital.  One person in our group went with the doctor to get checked.  I was just there waiting, so I went to look for a bathroom. 

While I was walking through the hall, another doctor stopped me.  He said I shouldn't be walking around.  He was acting okay, but I knew that he was being inappropriately nosy, and wanted to find out what our doctor, who was good, was up to.  I figured it was a mental hospital so he didn't expect me to be sane, so I acted kind of dumb and crazy.  Basically, I was being blunt in a way that exposed his inappropriateness, but I was acting as if I was too naive to realize that he was being inappropriate.

In the  next scene, I was with the person I had come with and our doctor.  The intrusive doctor was at the next table, trying to spy on us.  I saw the red dot of his laser pointer, and it was like his surveillance.  The bad doctor was fumbling with a device.  It was actually a surveillance device.  Our doctor pretended not to know what it was, and pretending to be helping the nosy doctor get it out of its case, but our doctor was fumbling it a lot, messing it up, being clumsy with it, under the guise of helping, because he wanted to hinder.  Meanwhile I went on with acting crazy and too naive to know what was going on.  I was singing a song, apparently naively, which threatened to draw attention to what the nosy doctor was doing.  Meanwhile I was sauteeing cheese, flipping over slices with a spatula.  That's just what I happened to be doing at the time.  It wasn't part of my crazy act.

Then it was some days later and I was away from the hospital.  I was really grateful to our doctor for protecting us from the nosy doctor, and I wanted to send him a thank you card.  I did not know if it would get read through the surveillance program, so I just wrote thank you on the card.  I did not dare write explaining what I was thankful for. 

Friday, May 1, 2015

Administrator free path

A professor commented:

"That's what I am thinking: how much sourpuss I am."


"I am taking the administrator free path."

He was considering whether to go to the hooding ceremony for his student who just completed a PhD.  He did not want to go because he would have to see administrators there, and he usually manages to avoids seeing administrators.  Theoretically, he should put the interest of his student above his own interests, and just go.  But he is thinking that he will be so miserable about being there, that he will be a sourpuss, so he will not be good company for his student.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Alumni magazine notes

I have been reading the Winter 2015 Haverford alumni magazine.  Mostly it makes me feel like these are not my people.  It's about a bunch of rich, prestigious people.  In spite of that, a few things caught my interest:
  1. Emma Copley Wisenberg's article at  This article, "Why I Helped Search for Missing UVA Student Hannah Graham" was published in The New Republic November 18, 2014.  She writes that people are moved by missing white women more by missing men or people of color.  I would add that people are particularly moved by missing young white women, and by missing children.  
  2. Norman Bramall, tennis coach for 41 years, quit in June 1968 because he objected to a change of rules.  The old rule was, "An athlete must be shorn and shaved to suit the needs of the coach."  College president John Coleman removed this rule.  He said that, "Neat beards, or neat but long hair, could not automatically be used to exclude men from teams."  Many journalists praised Bramall, such as one who hailed him for "refusing to be stampeded into submission by this weird new breed of hippies which infest many of our campuses today." 

    What interests me is how people respond to change.  Once people were appalled by beards.  Now they are appalled by same sex marriage.  What will attitudes be like 50 years from now?

    What I find interesting is that people believe that they are against a particular thing, but their arguments sound just like arguments that have always been used against change.  They don't even realize  how they echo the arguments of people who were against other things in the past.

    It seems that sometimes people are against things not because these things are inherently bad, but because change is unsettling.  But that is not to say that change is always good.  How do we evaluate changes based on their merits, when we are so affected just by the fact that it is change?
  3. There was an article about the research of John Kounios and Mark Beeman, who just wrote a book called The Eureka Factor: Aha Moments,  Creative Insight, and the Brain.  Answers can be found either analytically or by a flash of insight.  Everyone does both, and it's not that people should do one but not the other, but this research focused specifically on the flash of insight. 

    The insights come in the moments when our brain is free of outside distractions.  What I am thinking about is how people tend to fill their empty moments by looking at their smart phone.  To me, it seems like they are limiting their brains when they do that.