Saturday, April 14, 2018

Devotions: Mary Olivers Artual for living

Photo by Rachel Giese Brown
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Mary Oliver

“Instructions for living a life. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” Mary Oliver

“Listen--are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?” Mary Oliver

Artual (Art + Ritual) for living

The following phrase is coined by Whitney Freya, spiritual artist and healer. Whitney believes that using the medium of art is a portal to merge healing, energy, and awareness thru the practice, ritual, and play of intentional creativity. We all are creative and ultimately artists.

Before you state, “I’m not creative nor an artist,” I argue that you are. Any time you put your heart and soul into any activity or a cause you are creating art. Art can take its form as: completing a data program for quality assurance, teaching a class, showing up at a demonstration, writing an article for our newsletter, singing in the car, gardening, making colorful cupcakes for a meal train… It is a piece of yourself that you share with the world.

Think about it this way. What do you like to make? And, if you could make it all day long.... that is your art.

April is national poetry month. One of my favorite Ohio born, Pulitzer Prize winning poets is Mary Oliver. She recently published a collection of her favorites spanning over her more than fifty-year career: Devotions. What I like about Mary’s poems is her ability to make them accessible to all audiences. Her poems are powerful observations that bridge the natural world with everyday emotions—some tender and some full of joy. When I read one of her poems, I feel like I'm there with her walking in the woods or looking across the lake and can hear her inner dialogue.

Since her partner of forty years died ( photographer Molly Malone Cook, 2005), Mary has become more open by sharing herself with the public. During lectures and interviews, she talks about her writing process: walking in the woods with little hand-sewn notebooks, scribbling thoughts which come to her, then turning these thoughts into poems. She states repeatedly, “the woods saved her life.” Mary talks about how nature gave her insight and strength and wisdom. Nature gave her strength to publish.

I hold the same thoughts about creativity as Mary: “It’s a gift to yourself but it’s a gift to anybody who has a hunger for it.”

Below is one of my favorite “Mary poems” found in Devotions and originally published in From White Pine, 1994. 
Blackberry Picking by Queena Stovall (1887-1980)

by Mary Oliver

When the blackberries hang
swollen in the woods, in the branches
nobody owns, I spend
all day among the high

branches, reaching
my ripped arms, thinking
of nothing, cramming
the black honey of summer
into my mouth; all day my body
accepts what it is. In the dark
creeks that run by there is
this thick paw of my life darting among
the black bells, the leaves; there is
this happy tongue.

Artual Activity:
Take a walk in the woods with a scribbling pad. Jot down your thoughts.

At home, review your notes and write a haiku.   Be bold and share it below.

Here is one for the season from me.

Flurried gusts
Saplings revel in the snow
Elders twist and groan

Quick review: a haiku is an unrhymed three-lined poem based on a Japanese poetic form. The first line and last line has five syllables each, and the middle line has seven.

Line 1: 5 syllables
Line 2: 7 syllables
Line 3: 5 syllables
Updated 4/16/2018

Monday, March 26, 2018

Demonstration, Marches, Cookie Making

The Women's March by Marietjie Henning (2014).  

“Colorful demonstrations and weekend marches are vital but alone are not powerful enough to stop wars. Wars will be stopped only when soldiers refuse to fight, when workers refuse to load weapons onto ships and aircraft, when people boycott the economic outposts of Empire that are strung across the globe. ” ― Arundhati Roy, Public Power in the Age of Empire

“Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” ― Martin Luther King Jr., Strength to Love

“There must exist a paradigm, a practical model for social change that includes an understanding of ways to transform consciousness that are linked to efforts to transform structures.” ― bell hooks, Killing Rage: Ending Racism

In her essay about Xi Wangmu, Max Dashu writes that the goddess was seen as a personal savior, protector, and healer. The common people would parade barefooted with drums and chants to plead for her help. "This goddess movement alarmed the gentry, and the Confucian historian presented it in a negative light. He warned the danger of rising yin: females and the peasantry stepping outside their place." As with many uprisings from the poor, the wealthy and aristocrats put the people back into their social order by not sharing power -- not sharing love. 

A privilege I have as a citizen of the U.S. is the right to "freedom of speech;" the "right of the people peaceably to assemble" and the right "to petition the (my) Government for a redress of grievances."  On Saturday, I walked with the youth of American to end this gun violence. (SEE U.S. Constitution and read it.)

Marches in the U.S. have long been used to plea for justice and bring awareness to a cause. Mary Harris "Mother" Jones, organized child factory workers in 1903 to march in front of city hall in Kensington, Pennsylvania. She had them wave their maimed fingers and hands up in the air for all to see.  The children were able to change the laws; no one under 16 could work.  On the eve of President Wilson's inauguration (1913) the suffragist held a parade in Washington, DC which lead to violence and hospitalizing over 200 people. The police stood and watched as this happened.  It was to be a "march in a spirit of protest against the present political organization of society, from which women are excluded." It was the press coverage of the violence against the women which would be the key.  These women acted non-violently and this gained support from the public for their cause: to be able to vote.  However, it would take additional public acts to get congress to ratify the 19th amendment in 1920.  In May of 1963, African American children took to the street to help end segregation.  The press covered their march showing dogs and firehoses blasting water at the youth.  The youth wanted to make a difference and were willing to make a sacrifice that would change the course of history.

Molly Pitcher at the Battle of Monmouth
lithograph, Library of Congress.
My first "political march" was my annual city parade.  My brothers and I dressed dramatizing the painting "Sprit of 1776."  The picture of Molly Pitcher was out of the question: 1) the cannon was unattainable and 2) three kids under the age of 13 rolling a cannon 2.5 miles along the parade route would be problematic.  I was assigned to play to flute, because that was what I played in my 7th grade band.    We were celebrating our countries 200th year birthday.  My siblings and I knew our family's history: our ancestor was an officer in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.  We were  demonstrating the need for the continued fight for our freedoms identified in the Constitution.  We were growing up in the thick of the Cold War.  However, in high school my teacher asked, "do you think the Soviet Children want the same thing too."  It made me stop and think.  In the late seventies, people shied away from marching for a cause in my city.  I found another way; I wrote my first letter to my senator.

My next march political march wouldn't be until the late eighties.  I pushed my friend M in his wheelchair in the PRIDE parade: a straight woman and her dying gay friend.  M had always wanted to march in a PRIDE parade.  He wanted to publically state he belongs without being oppressed and ridiculed for his sexual orientation.  M was concerned about my helping him be in the parade; but isn't that the definition of a friend?  Isn't this how you show love?  Since that march, I've participated in women's marches, anti-war marches and this weekend: the youth's March for Our Lives.  There is something about being with a crowd wanting a change to make the U.S. a better and safe place and place where love is acted on.


Written by,, Taboo, Justin Timberlake, Printz Board, Michael Fratantuno and George Pajon
Performed by The Black Eyed Peas


Bree Newsome 
At one of the local colleges this past week, I heard Bree Newsome talk about art and social justice.  Newsome, an artist, musician, and social activist, is known for climbing the flag pole in Charlotte, North Carolina to pull down the confederate flag.  Her act of civil disobedience followed the massacre of 9 African American's during a prayer meeting.  Newsome stated she was arrested along with a friend (white man), but her act also led to the flag being taken permanently down.  A key take-away from her lecture was everyone is responsible for making our world, our country a better and safer place to live.  Not everyone is called to put their lives on the line like Newman, but they are called to do something.  Newsome used an analogy.  The road to creating the beloved community is really a highway with many lanes.  Some are called to lay down their lives, others to write letters, others marchers, others creating posters and art, and others providing food and comfort for these activists.  You are only required to do something.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Peach Chakra

At the Market by Louise Moillon (1610-1696) Painting is a private collection

“Believe something and the Universe is on its way to being changed. Because you've changed, by believing. Once you've changed, other things start to follow. Isn't that the way it works?”  Diane Duane, So You Want to Be a Wizard

"When you reach for the stars, you are reaching for the farthest thing out there. When you reach deep into yourself, it is the same thing, but in the opposite direction. If you reach in both directions, you will have spanned the universe.” ― Vera Nazarian, The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration

“Through the practice of meditation, when the mind is quieted and the emotions are calmed, the Soul shines forth in all of its glory.” ― Genevieve Gerard


Last week I took a break, but I still thought of peaches.  In my quest for mixing the perfect peach color with paint, I found that there are many shades of peach: red-orange color.  You must be knowledgeable of each color's undertones.  Meaning, is the red made up of red tones or violet tones?  Your choice of yellow depends on the tones: Like goes with Like.  

In my google search for mixing colors, the peach chakra appeared.  (Chakras and mixing paint colors? I'm trying to figure out the connection.)

As you are aware, there are many chakras in the human body.  Most people are familiar with the seven.  The peach chakra is located within the heart chakra.  You have to pull away the green and you will find it in the center.  This chakra is associated with your soul.  It is your connection with the divine source and the universe.   It is a place of love and joy mixed together into a peaceful bliss

The peach chakra reminds me of the story of Xi Wangmu's peach orchard.  Her peaches took 3000 years to ripen.  Eaten they gave one immortality and access to the divine.  But, what if you didn't have to wait 3000 years.  What if you had access to bliss by meditating through your peach chakra?   


Wild nights - Wild nights! (269)
by Emily Dickinson (1830 - 1886)

Peach watercolor by Sharon Foster.  
Wild nights - Wild nights!

Were I with thee
Wild nights should be
Our luxury!

Futile - the winds -
To a Heart in port -
Done with the

Compass -
Done with the Chart!

Rowing in Eden -
Ah - the Sea!

Might I but moor - tonight -
In thee


Artural: Art + Ritual

Auntie Grace's Peach Cobbler is bliss especially warm and with ice cream:

1/2 cup butter
1 cup of flour
1 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 cup of milk
2 cups of cut up peaches without skins

Preheat oven 275 F

1.  Melt butter in a baking pan on the stove (9 inches by 13 inches dish)
2.  Mix flour, sugar and baking powder together in a separate bowl.  Stir in milk until there     aren't any lumps.
3.  Dump this into the melted butter pan.  DO NOT STIR.  
4.  Sprinkle fruit on top.  DO NOT STIR THEM INTO THE MIXTURE.
5.  Raise temperature of the oven up to 350F
6.  Bake 50-60 minutes or until the cake is lightly brown on top.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Longing for Peaches

Florence Dunbar Tending the Garden by
“The flavor the came to me was a luscious Sincerest peach that I once had in California. This heirloom variety needed time to ripen on the tree to achieve its peak flavor. Unlike other peaches that were picked unripe so they would ship more easily, Sincerest peaches had to be eaten right away. But they were worth it- fragrant, luscious, juice-dripping-down-your-chin perfection.” ~~ Judith M. Fertig, The Memory of Lemon

“Life is better than death, I believe, if only because it is less boring, and because it has fresh peaches in it.” ~~ Alice Walker, Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology

"The peach-bud glows, the wild bee hums, the wind-flower wave in gladness." ~~Lucy Larcom

Its a blue sky sunny day in March, but don't let that fool you into wearing a sweater and shorts.  It is in the high 30s.  By the time March rolls around in Ohio, I long for spring and the fruit of summer.  I was walking home from work this past week, and I noticed that the crocuses and daffodils leaves are pushing up out of the ground.   The effect inspired me to purchased tomato and pepper seeds to start in the house. Spring is coming.

A characteristic I share with Xi Wangmmu, we are gardeners.  Her garden is filled with peach trees; mine vegetables and raspberries.  Those who are gardeners carry similar characteristics.  We have patience to let a fruit ripen in the sun; can see patterns in the weather and try to understand what our plants may need to grow; and have a vision of what to outcome will be like--tasting a sun ripened tomato basil salad with mozzarella cheese, balsamic vinegar and olive oil.  


The peach tree on the southern wall 
by Christina Rosetti (1830-1894)

The peach tree on the southern wall 
Has basked so long beneath the sun, 
Her score of peaches great and small 
Bloom rosy, every one. 
A peach for brothers, one for each, 
A peach for you and a peach for me; 
But the biggest, rosiest, downiest peach 
For Grandmamma with her tea


Chinese painting: peach blossoms
Artual (ART + Ritual)

Peach Blossom Song (Chinese Folk Song)
Arranged by Yoshiharu Morokuma

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Being a Light for Someone

Big Dipper by Barbara Blasius McHugh (2015)
Polaris Statistics
Also Known As: Polaris A, Alpha Ursae Minoris, Pole Star, North Star
Distance From Earth: 430 light years
Constellation: Ursa Minor
Star Type: F Class Supergiant
Mass: 4.5 x Sun
Luminosity: 2,500 x Sun
Diameter: 44 million miles (70 million km) - 50 x Sun
Temperature: 5,700C (10,300F)
Age: Unknown
Rotation Period: 119 days


This past week we finally had an evening to see the stars.  It has been raining a lot, enough to bring the Ohio River to flood stages--the highest in 25 years--(my basement now has a small puddle in the center).  That night, I quickly survey the northern sky, and there it was the strongest point of light, the North Star.  Okay not the strongest, researchers rank it as fifty.  (How to find the North Star

Harriet Tubman, photograph by 
Horatio Seymour Squyer,
1848 - 18 Dec 1905 -
When I think about the North Star, I always associate it to Harriet Tubman.  She used the North Star to guide herself to freedom.  Once freed from slavery, she returned thirteen times to the south and rescued other enslaved people.  Each time, Tubman risked her life and freedom, and she continued using the bright North Star as her compass.  I want to believe she used this same North Star spirit to be the first woman to lead an armed assault during the Civil War.  The same bright spirit in the suffrage movement. 

Harriet Tubman was a woman who made a difference in people's lives then and now. 

Sarah Brown (1846 - 1916)

In her novel Mapmaker's Children, Sarah McCoy links the past and present together by paralleling two women's stories around a doll’s head. The reader learns of the characters (Eden and Sarah) struggles around infertility and how they become a beacon for other people in their lives.

The past narrator is Sarah Brown, daughter of abolitionist John Brown. McCoy uses Brown's personal letters and historical documents to support Sarah story. Sarah, we learn is also an abolitionist and an artist. She used her art to create cryptic picturegrams (maps) to help enslaved people find their way north to freedom. Historical evidence shows that some of her maps were hidden within dolls. McCoy uses the doll as a device to link her two character.

Eden Anderson, is the present-day character. She and her husband have moved into an old house in West Virginia in hopes to save their marriage. Eden is grieving over another miscarriage. The reader learns that this has become a cyclical: hormone injections, invitro-fertilization and miscarriage. She is the one who finds the doll’s head in the root cellar.

McCoy quickly shows us that Sarah also struggles from infertility due to an illness. As a result, Sarah chooses to never marry and devotes her life helping others. Thus, becoming a gifted mapmakers for the Underground Railroad.

Eden’s path to be a light for another isn’t clear cut as Sarah’s. For Eden, the pattern must be modeled by others.  In turn Eden's acts aren't great as Sarah's, but they do make a difference in the lives she touches.  

by Jessie Redmon Fauset

“I can remember when I was a little, young girl, how my old 

              mammy would sit out of doors in the evenings and look up at 
              the stars and groan, and I would say, ‘Mammy, what makes
              you groan so?’ And she would say, ‘I am groaning to think of
              my poor children; they do not know where I be and I don’t
              know where they be. I look up at the stars and they look up at
              the stars!’”
—Sojourner Truth

I think I see her sitting bowed and black,
Stricken and seared with slavery’s mortal scars,
Reft of her children, lonely, anguished, yet
Still looking at the stars.

Symbolic mother, we thy myriad sons,
Pounding our stubborn hearts on Freedom’s bars,
Clutching our birthright, fight with faces set,
Still visioning the stars!


I have always been taught that one of my roles on this earthly plane was to serve.  I don't envision that my work will be as dynamic as Sojourner Truth, Harriett Tubman, or Sarah Brown.  But, I can do small things.

This past week I was called up by a friend.  Her niece had suffered yet another miscarriage.  My friend was looking for resources.  See, I too had experienced several miscarriages and an ectopic pregnancy.  My friend was concerned, because the doctors had not offered any mental health care.  I was able to provide several support groups and a Japanese (Buddhist) ritual that helped my spirit.  I believe that day I was a shining star for my friend.

Artual:  (ART + Ritual)

Recipe for Stjerneskud: Danish Shooting Star open sandwich

1. Sliced, toasted and mayonnaise smear rye bread

2. one leaf of lettuce

3. fried fish fillet (your choice)

4. pile of shrimp

5. pile of steamed asparagus

6. wedge of tomato

7. garnish with lemon and dill pickle twist.

Mary Chaplin Carpenter: Between Here and Gone

Mary Chaplin Carpenter: We're all Right

Monday, February 19, 2018

Big Dipper: a vessel needing filled up

Little Dipper by Mira Scott, buy see her paintings
“Our body is a sacred temple/A place to connect with people./As we aren't staying any younger/ We might as well keep it stronger.” ― Ana Claudia AntunesThe Tao of Physical and Spiritual

“Your body is home for your breath, your mind, your soul—how can you treat it like the sacred container that it is.”— Kristin Diversi

“This is the time of the great weaving of women…To get her deepest truths, a woman doesn’t ascend but rather descends.  This is why she has feared herself where both her yes and her no, her strength and vulnerability create conditions for her whole self to be both leveled and raised up simultaneously as a vessel of the fiercest feminine power imagined. – Alisa Starkweather


In Max Dushu’s article about Xi Wangmu, she describes how the goddess gains her power from the dipper stars.   I’ve been contemplating this idea this week; what if this is a metaphor?  

A dipper is a ladle or a scoop by definition.  It could also be define as a vessel or container to carry a solid or liquid.  In this discussion, I'm talking about Xi Wangmu’s power.  And, what if the dipper was within Xi Wangmu?  Thus the dipper stars are there to remind us where she gets her power: within.  Maybe the dipper stars remind her to take time and refuel this power?  

My body is considered a sacred vessel and it too holds my power.  But, unlike Xi Wangmu, I don’t take enough time to refuel.  I give and give—depleting my energy.   And, if I do refuel it -- most often it is with junk.  Junk being: candy, reading a no think novel, or binge watching tv.   


blessing the boats
By Lucille Clifton (1936-2010)
(at St. Mary’s)

my the tide
that is entering even now
the lip of our understanding
carry you out
beyond the face of fear
may you kiss
the wind then turn from it
certain that it will
love your back     may you
open your eyes to water
water waving forever
and may you in your innocence
sail through this to that


Girl at Duck Pond, Paula Modersohn-Becker
See it at Museaum Belvedere
As you know, it’s that time of year again.  LENT.  LENT: 40 days of being solemn and reflecting and giving up to make space for the divine moments.    The word originates from Anglo-Saxon Lenten, meaning “spring.” or getting ready for spring.  This year, as in the past I will not be giving up, but bringing in.  I will be continuing a Lenten Season based on Candice Benbow’s article of how women already give-up.  

This past year, my sacred vessel doesn’t need to be emptied any more.  Turning it up-side-down, there isn’t much left.  I’ve worried about my son’s health issues, coped with my own health issues that haven’t gone away, worried about my dad’s health, worried about my friend who is homeless, worried about finances with a child in college, worried about yet another job responsibility added to my overflowing plate, worried about the working conditions of my job…worried about…  Then there are the worries from outside my home and are from my community and my country.  Each worry has taken a drink from my sacred vessel.  The D*** news gets worse each day. On the day of love (Valentine's Day), marked with tragedy. 

Friday, I cried at the computer.  My origami stars next to my desk reminded of my words I wrote on them.  Strong words.  Inspired, I choose one word to fill-up my vessel during Lent.  Spontaneous laughter.   

I promised to laugh – belly laugh—the kind that causes tears to run down my cheek and leg. 

ARTUAL (Art + Ritual)

This week I am working on those projects that have a little bit to go.  One is a tie quilt that needs its binding sewn and the other a pullover sweater that I knitted (I’m changing it into a cardigan).  Both have been drinking from the vessel by not being completed. 

Now is the time. 

Your quest – find those creative projects that you haven’t completed.  Do it now.  

Update: 2/19/2018:  Finished up a tie quilt by asking C over for an afternoon craft day.  Then watched a funny movie on Hulu.

Update: 2/21/2018:  I laughed at the Black Panther.  It was because of my age and the jokes were related to my experiences as an older woman.  Most of the audience didn't know Grace Jones.  (Link to her singing Slave to the Rhythm)