Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Black Friday


Black Friday, the American custom of mobbing big box stores in the early morning hours after Thanksgiving to score deals on over-marketed consumer goods, has finally stretched out of the confines of the the three days after Thanksgiving and into Thanksgiving itself. This means that in addition to drinking and watching football Americans can now give thanks by going shopping and spending money, much of it on credit. That our need to acquire new possessions occludes our desire to gorge ourselves is only small comfort. As with many things, the lack of ability to recognize the irony of all of this is the most startling aspect of this tradition. It seems that we have learned very little from the Great Recession or the clear indicators of climate change. Americans, it seems, remain as content to imbibe and consume and carry on as they always have. I wonder for what it is that we are thankful.


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Knock Out


There is a quiet roar beginning over what is being called the "teen knockout game" wherein a group of teens randomly assaults a complete stranger with the intent of knocking them unconscious. My interest in this is less in discussing teen violence or the pack mentality that drives it, but in the mainstream medias willingness to diminish their actions by calling it a game. That our young people are unable to tell the difference between games and criminal violence is certainly a problem, but when the rest of society struggles with that same distinction, it's indicative of something larger and more deeply ingrained. Are we, as a while, losing the ability to distinguish between play, imagination, fantasy, and reality? Have movies and video games so closely blended with our daily realities that we are no longer sure what is, in fact, a game? In considering this question I think about the many US service people who daily fight wars, remotely, with drones and joystick technology and then return to their suburban lives. I think about fight clubs, the violence of football and hockey, and the ways in which we celebrate the champions of these violent form of recreation. I wonder about boredom in our youth, and the obvious cry for stimulation that is calling a random attack on a stranger a game. I think about stories like The Hunger Games and Game of Thrones that place children in positions of power and reward them for their violence. I think about my own youth, filled with capture the flag and kick the can, and think about a time when dodge ball was considered too violent for the school grounds. Perhaps today is a good day to reevaluate our pastimes, recreation, and personal media choices. What do they say about ourselves and what we consider to play? What message do your choices send to those around you about violence and its role as an entertainer?


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Gone Dry


Much of the water used for irrigation, drinking, swimming pools, and misters in the Southwestern states comes from the Colorado river. So much water, in fact, is diverted from the Colorado that it no longer, and has not for many years, reaches it's own outlet, instead running dry someplace in the desert. The water diverted from the river is carried hundreds of miles through the desert in largely open-air aqueducts, a practice that can mean the loss of more than 60% of the water due to evaporation in the desert heat. That water is essential to our survival is a non-issue. So is the fact that it is a finite resource. For a country that bothers to advocate water conservation in the home to school children with concepts like turning off the water when brushing your teeth, the denial of the Arizona aqueduct as a problem seems like a massive amount of denial. Water, not oil, is the major resource issue of the 21st century. It's time we started acting like it. 

Where does your water come from? How long will it last? 


Monday, November 18, 2013

Business As Usual


There is something uniquely impressive about the American businessman. It is something in the way they stride, purposefully pulling their roller cases, designed especially for their needs, the sense of import they impart as the flick up the sleeve of their neatly pressed shirts to check the time on their polished watches. I love to listen in as they conduct meetings on their phones, issuing orders, making deals, doing business. I also appreciate their diligence and commitment to multitasking, unable or willing to simply look out the window and watch the planes the roll in, instead in a constant flutter of phone and laptop. I smile at the way they rush, only to get stuck in the same lines and stalling points as the vacationers with nothing better to do than toddle slowly through the terminals. The United States was built on the backs of men like these, determined, ambitious, driven forward, towards success, power, and promised wealth. I wonder though, about their health, their hearts furiously pumping, the veins in their temples always visibly pulsing. And I wander about their happiness, if their diligence can purchase joy or a life well-lived. I wonder, if born to a different time or place, a different set of expectations and ambitions, what they might do, or who they might become. I wonder, if released from these things, would it still be business as usual?


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Lao Tzu to Voodoo


There is nothing like leaving your familiar context to gain some perspective. From a distance it is easier to see pettiness, proportion, and what is really important. Travel is a great opportunity not only to rediscover selflessness and what you can let go of but also what things you really need and the importance of self care. Self compassion as a path to peace and the end of suffering is taught in one way or another by almost every faith system, but it takes recognition of the self as important, and an understanding of what we actually need for happiness versus what are just the trappings of our daily lives to be able to implement it for ourselves.  Self care and mindfulness come so easily when we are outside the pressing and pulling of daily life. Things and people that pull on us, press their own sense of import, obligation, and correctness on us are abundant from within our own small worlds but nearly disappear entirely when viewed from the horizon. The trick is to keep them there.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Sun, The Sun


Like the birds I am flying south in winter. I am fleeing the gray days, the low clouds and the press of winter cold for sun and cacti and the company of good friends. I love the vast deserts of Arizona, the rock yards, the saguaro, the stoic sense of endurance that comes with such harsh conditions. I relish the big sky and the forlorn cries of the coyote. I am grateful for the time to step away, slow down, and view the world from another context. The escape will do me good.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Put Down Your Phone


Put down your phone. Just put it down. It isn't helping you. You are not more connected, more organized or more present in your life. You are not good at multitasking. You are not paying attention or participating or really enjoying anything through the view of that tiny computer. Your life is not better or richer, it is more complicated and busy and full of stuff and you should really just put down your phone. You do not need to comment or like or send a text to let someone know you are running late. They will wait or not but that message probably won't change anything so you might as well just put down your phone. You do not need to record every moment of your life or constantly be playing a game. You carry with you a far more complex and amazing machine called your brain and you should try using it to store, retrieve, and create things. You should put down your phone. 


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

What Are You Reading?


I grew up in a family of readers. Ours is the kind of family in which everyone receives at least one book for Christmas and it is not unusual for all of us to be reading the same book at the same time, not just the same story, but the actual book. We snatch it up as soon as the first person sets it down to make lunch or run an errand and leapfrog our bookmarks past one another. By the end of the day, we can all safely discuss the first few chapters over dinner. I love talking about books. I love the way a good writer crafts stories that you fall into, that surprise or shock you, that are as familiar as my own memories or entirely alien but still somehow compelling and real. There are books that I have read just once but cherished throughout my life and books I return to over and over again. A good story can change the way you see the world.

Some novels that have been important to me, in no particular order:

Snow Falling On Cedars, David Guterson
The Shipping News, Annie Proulx
One Hundred Years Of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Me Talk Pretty One Day, David Sedaris
The Pilots Wife, Anita Shreve
The Bean Trees, Barbara Kingsolver
Nineteen Eighty Four, George Orwell
The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, Douglas Adams
Generation X, Douglas Coupland
The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan
Divine Secrets of the YaYa Sisterhood, Callie Khouri

What are you reading?


Monday, November 11, 2013

Sweet Silence


The world woke up cold today. The pines were still snuggled under their blanket of fog as we headed back towards town. For the first 36 miles we did not pass even a single car or speak more than a few words. Instead, we took the time be take in the bright blue of the sky, the gentle lilt of the trees, and the newly snow capped peaks. We held the silence between us, glad to share the morning with each other and a thermos of hot coffee. We looked forward, down the road, each of us mulling the tasks of our week, grateful for the time to think, grateful for each other. Sometimes the best thing we have to gift each other is silence; take some for yourself today.


Saturday, November 9, 2013

Girl Gone Wild On Air


HuffPost Live held a discussion with for outdoors women about being in the wild and featured Girl Gone Wild. It was an exciting opportunity for us to celebrate and promote the participation of women in outdoor pursuits. Check out the discussion here: http://live.huffingtonpost.com/r/segment/women-hiking-wild/5266813ffe344421b900002f

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Dirt and Dirt Dirt

***An Excerpt From Girl Gone Wild***

There are two kinds of dirt in this world, regular dirt, and dirty dirt.  Dirty dirt is usually living or chemical and encountered mainly in urban or developed settings.  This kind of dirt is the stuff that grows on molding food, toilets, etc.  Dirty dirt is generally avoided by simply keeping a clean and tidy camp just as you would at home.  Anything you run into in the wilderness that is dirty dirt can generally be avoided by simply not touching it and walking away.  The vast majority of dirt you encounter in the out of doors is simple, ordinary, harmless, run of the mill dirt.  It consists of clay, dust, and bits of organic material and is generally entirely harmless.  It also washes off of bodies and out of clothing.  The futility of wiping off a rock before sitting on it, trying to keep hiking boots clean, or limiting your activities to those which are dirt free is enormous, as is the magnitude of the experiences you lose out on trying to sterilize the environment.


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Thirty Days of Thanks


There is a modern tradition developing of expressing 30 days of public gratitude during the month of November. It is one of the few soulful consequences of social media I have witnessed and, I think, an important and healthy use of our technology and inter-connectedness. There is documented and scientific evidence pointing to the role of gratitude and its expression in the health of our relationships and ourselves. I believe that we can take that one step farther and say that the expression of gratitude is a pathway to peace.  In gratitude we recognize the compassion and value of the world around us and the people in our lives. To express gratitude is to recognize each others humanity and our own needs. It is a fundamental step in recognizing both how we wish to be treated and the way we wish to be in the world. It is worth speaking it out loud.

I am thankful for:

My health.
My relationship with my parents.
The fire.
My home and the person I share it with.
The love of a good cat.
Hot tea.
Friends that call.
Hot running water.
My ballet class.
The massage therapist that is fixing my back.
Outdoor pools.
Sun breaks.
The cabin in the woods.
Public broadcasting.
The silence function on phones.
Online banking.
People that give me a chance.
Black Magdalene.
My students.
Mac and cheese.
The people that listen.
My pen pals.
Strangers that are kind to me.
Authors whose books I fall into.
Serendipity and random acts of kindness.
Good food and folks to share it with.

Please share some things that you are thankful for:

Photograph Courtesy of:

Monday, November 4, 2013

Growing Old, Gracefully


For more than thirty years now I have danced. I have stepped to the barre to repeat the same exercises over and over again like a mantra, working the floor beneath me as a worry stone, over and over again. In my younger days I suffered, tormented by the mirror, self doubt, the pressures to be better, stronger, slimmer. Now, though my jumps are lower and my leg not quite so high, I find inside myself a centering and calm so crisp and clear that I turn more easily and perch for long periods in my balances. It is a trade off and an irony, it seems, that at just the moment we gain our grace we begin to lose our vigor. I, for one, am glad for it. What I have lost in youthful athleticism I have gained in presence and expression. I am no longer tormented, no longer concerned with rank or virtuosity. Now, I dance from the inside out and feel my soul stretch beyond the reaches of my fingers, grateful for the dance.


Saturday, November 2, 2013

Hot Stuff


An Excerpt from Girl Gone Wild

The heat from the hot springs comes from the volcanoes that make up the Cascade Range. The Earth is really just a cooling blob of magma floating in space. We live on the cooled outer crust of that blob on large cracked chucks of cooled rock we call tectonic plates. Every continent is a plate and every ocean has plates making up the seafloor. Where these plates meet, ocean plate to continent, is a subduction zone, a place where the heavy ocean plate meets and then plunges underneath the lighter continental plate. When this happens the oceanic plate melts sending up plumes of magma to the surface much like the rising blobs in a lava lamp. Eventually these blobs melt the continental crust above them and break through, erupting lava and ash and pumice and building volcanoes. A lot of the magma doesn't make it all the way to the surface, this magma fills in cracks and holes and faults and cools slowly over thousands of years. When it rains the water flows through the ground and encounters the heat from this leftover magma, it warms up and rises back up to the surface picking up dissolved minerals from the rock along the way, the closer the magma is to the surface, the hotter the water in the springs.

Photograph Courtesy of the USGS