Monday, January 31, 2011

A tree in winter

Another thing that I read in A Guide to Nature in Winter was, "winter trees already contain the coming year's leaves and flowers, continually respond to light and temperature in the environment, and in their silhouettes, graphically represent the reaching out to life to absorb energy from the sun."

I like to think that in times of dormancy and stagnation, I have within me the potential to blossom and grow.

Perhaps I live a more withdrawn life now because the world out there is not so hospitable. When I do find more hospitable conditions, I do reach out to absorb the sunlight (for example, enjoying time with friends and family).

The endurance of pine

I read in A Guide to Nature in Winter that pines are one of the oldest kinds of trees, and that they were around before the dinosaurs. The book said that the reason is because they have evolved to endure such hardships as climate change and forest fires. I hope that like the pine, I can remain strong through whatever tempest rages around me.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Three moods

I've been through three different moods in the past few days. I think I have something to learn from each:
  1. Late Friday afternoon, I got a call regarding the job I had applied for. It was a job that I thought I would love, and thought I was qualified for, but I told myself that that for all jobs, there are many candidates, so the odds of anyone getting a job they apply for are low. I was prepared for their choosing another candidate over me. However, that's not what they did. They found me so unsatisfactory that they decided to do another search rather than offer me the position. When I got the news, I thought of two other rejections I had experienced:

    One was that two days before, I had been to tai chi class. My tai chi teacher always tells me to drop my shoulders. On this day, she also told me open up my collarbone. She pressed on the places she wanted me to adjust, to show me the posture I was supposed to adopt. She demonstrated exercises to practice at home. Unfortunately, my body does not know how to adopt and maintain the desired posture upon command. She seemed quite exasperated, and went into scolding mode. She said, "If you keep doing that, you'll get frozen shoulder and you won't be able to move your shoulders at all." I was a bit shocked. She has always seemed like someone who is patient with beginners, who knows that we can't be instantly perfect. I assumed that she teaches because she likes to teach. I take the class because I want to learn. In our society it is, unfortunately, considered acceptable for adults to scold children, and some supervisors actually seem think it is appropriate to scold employees, but in an adult education setting, when students and teachers are both there because they want to be there, why would scolding come into it? In scolding me, she deflated my interest in tai chi. I thought about quitting the class. I had been practicing tai chi almost every day, but after that day, I went for three days without practicing it.

    The other thing I thought of after hearing about the job was something that happened some months ago, when I joined an e-mail list. I was excited about joining a new community. I fantasized that they would be impressed by the wisdom in my contributions. Instead, they hated my contributions so much that the moderators blocked my posting.

    What these incidents told me is that no one wants what I have to offer.
  2. Friday evening, I went to a friend's house. I enjoyed family time with a couple, their toddler, and their dog. The dog was very excited to see me. Being with them, I was restored to feeling like a normal person, rather than like someone no one wants.

    In addition to enjoying the warmth of the chaotic family time, I also enjoyed the more reflective time I had talking with my friend's husband when my friend took the toddler upstairs to put him to bed. My friend's husband mentioned that he never had to look for a job. He has had two jobs since finishing school, and in both cases, someone told him, "Hey, you are needed over here. Apply for this job."

    I know a lot of people in his career field, and I've always been jealous of how they are in so much more demand than people in my career field, jealous of how they are wanted, while I am not. But when he mentioned the way he had gotten his jobs, I didn't take it that way. The way I took it was that it's hard to get jobs by applying to them and being chosen from a pool of applicants, so hard that he's never done it successfully. And I also know that his wife came to him -- he did not have to learn the skill of courting, and apply it until he won someone over. She chose him first to be her boyfriend, and later to be her husband.

    I felt that all that stuff -- looking for a job, looking for a mate -- is really hard, and I am not skilled at it, but here is someone who is also not skilled at it, and he has a good life, and he is not some loser that no one wants, so maybe there's hope for me too.

    I left their house feeling inspired. I knew what I wanted to do. I realized that networking is the way that people get jobs, and that I should do things that get me out there involved with other people. I realized that everything I do, I do on an individual level. I don't work with others to create something together. At the community garden, I talk to the other gardeners, but they have their gardens and I have mine. At the radio station, I have made some friends, but they have their shows, and I have mine. At tai chi class, I talk to my classmate (there are only two of us in the class), but I'm learning tai chi for solo practice. It's not like a dance troupe where you coordinate with others. In my job, I do what I do, but no one is really a partner with me, and one one really understands what it is that I do.

    After visiting my friends, I wanted to do three things: a) Get involved in the local sustainable living community to co-create something with others, b) Get involved in the professional association for the type of job I'm trying to move into. Participate in something related to conference organizing. c) Apply to graduate school.
  3. Saturday, I was tired and depressed. I was fed up with doing chores all the time. I'm always getting groceries, preparing food, washing dishes, doing laundry, reading nonfiction for my druid studies, and trying to work toward doing something other than the job which is sucking the life out of me. I wanted to rebel against chores and indulge myself. I was standing in line at the library to check out a nonfiction book. I got out of line and headed for the fiction section. I checked out Fire by Kristin Cashore, and spent the rest of the day reading it. It was very good. What it conveyed was that life is difficult. We can't live the peaceful life we wish for, because we have responsibilities to fulfill. People get injured. People die. People we believed in turn out to be imperfect. Within ourselves, we have the capacity to hurt others, and to kill others. Life is difficult, but we get through it by loving each other, not only through romantic love, but through the love of friends and family, and family is not limited to our biological family. After reading the book, what came to mind were the words from the refrain of a traditional song:

    The water is wide I can not get o'er
    And neither have I wings to fly
    Give me a boat that will carry two
    And both shall row my love and I

    What that means to me is that life is too hard alone, but love gets us through it. Also, the song has a captivating sadness to its sound, which expressed the sadness I was feeling when I finished reading the book.
That was my Friday and Saturday, a journey through feeling 1) discouraged and unwanted, 2) encouraged and inspired, and 3) rebelling against chores, indulging in relaxation, and sad for all the hurts of life. Now where am I? I hope that yesterday's vacation from chores has restored me, and that I can return to the inspiration I felt Friday evening, but I'm not there yet. I'm still tired. Thus is my life -- my body is rarely up to the ambitions of my mind.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Shaping nature or letting it run wild

I currently have four books out of the library. Three are about bonsai. I have been reading about the ideal shapes, and how to use wire, pruning, and re-potting in order to work toward creating bonsai trees that match one of the shapes that has been deemed ideal.

In contrast, in The Urban Homestead, Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen say (on page 40):
...bread dough made from wild yeasts and given time to raise slowly is a living thing. It is not cookie dough. Real bread dough crackles and pulses between your hands, full of invisible life. You want that kind of quality in your garden: full of crackling, invisible life and secret happenings. There's bugs in the soil, bees in the flowers, roots being formed, compost breaking down, all sorts of things you can't see going on, but you feel it. This kind of state comes in one way only -- by you doing as little as possible. When leaves fall, let them lay. They're mulching!....Are you getting the idea that your garden is not going to look like Martha Stewart's garden? Good.
I prefer the approach taken in The Urban Homestead. I think bonsai is not really for me.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

God is Love

The song "God is love" by Steve Gillette says

God is love, only love
Nothing more, nothing less

The song also says

Stories of faith sustain us
As long as we don’t claim that they’re true

(For the full lyrics of the song, go to and search for "God is.")

I believe in love. Sometimes it helps to conceptualize an abstraction by telling stories about a God, or about many gods. I think this can be useful. Any mythology or theology which inspires us to live a life of love is good in my book.

Today, one of my Facebook friends posted the question, "what do you think of a secular humanist, non-deist, who is deeply, and profoundly spiritual?"

My reply: "I don't care what someone's theology is. Whether it's monotheism, polytheism, pantheism, humanism, atheism, etc. people have done good in the name of every religion, and people have done bad in the the name of every religion. If a person's theology moves them to hate, that is bad. If it moves them to love, that is good. Like Fred Small said, "the only measure of your words and your deeds will be the love you leave behind when you're done."

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Druids as members of the intellectual caste

I think I got about 16 Christmas presents, of which about 8 were from my dad. Among the things he got me were two books about the history of druids. So far, I am partway through one of them, A Brief History of the Druids by Peter Berresford Ellis. One of the things this book says is that the Druids were the intellectual caste of the Celts, comparable to the Brahmins as the intellectual caste of the Hindus. (The book notes many similarities between the Celts and Hindus, indicating these peoples had common origins.)

Druidry means different things to different people, but I think that this is an important part of my own personal path. To me, Druids should collect and pass on knowledge and wisdom. If Druids are members of the intellectual caste, then the Druids of today are the teachers, librarians, and historians.