Bark on Fire

Passing by a young river birch, I noticed that its bark was peeling off.

river-birch

The late afternoon sun turned the loose bark into tongues of fire running up and down the branches.

Or is it a papyrus scroll holding ancient secrets to be deciphered?

river-birch-bark

Ailsa’s Travel Theme: Bark.

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Beauty Break

An unexpected visitor – a debilitating backache – appeared four days ago. I suspect that over-consumption of toxic political news left the back door open for this unwanted house guest to slip in. It reminds me of another house guest that almost disappeared because it felt so neglected – self-care. I want that one to stick around, we really have a good time together and have gone through thick and thin. Self-care reminded me to let Beauty back in. And, already, I feel like I can breathe more deeply.

I have a very small collection of four orchids. One of them is this Miltassia hybrid which bloomed back in December delighting me with its intriguing speckled petals.

Miltassia hybrid orchid

Miltassia hybrid orchid

After a few short weeks, the petals began to dry up, now looking more and more like spidery insects.

Dried orchids

Dried orchids

With the help of a Photoshop artistic filter, it turned into a painting:

dry-brush-of-3-dried-orchids

and then into this, almost abstract image, still imbued with a strange beauty:

sumi-e-of-3-dried-orchids

If you ignore beauty,
you will soon find
yourself without it…
But if you invest in beauty,
it will remain with you
all the days of your life.

Frank Lloyd Wright

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Resistance and Re-Purposing our Lives

I cannot remember the last time I participated in a demonstration – before the Women’s March in Washington, DC, that is. It must have been decades ago. What is it that drove me and millions of others (women AND men) to ignite this new resistance movement? And how to understand that concept: to resist?

The dictionary tells us that resisting is about withstanding the action or effect of some other force; it is about opposing or striving against, to take a stand against. Synonyms include confronting, counteracting, and rebuffing.

DC Women's march

I resisted the idea of including this overtly political post into my blog for over a week, torn about whether it actually fits with the mission and purpose of my blog. Four years ago, I declared on my About page:

This blog is dedicated to the discovery of beauty in all its ordinary and extraordinary manifestations. May we all learn to become more present with what is inside of us and around us, the subtle nuances of experience, the savoring of simple pleasures, and the celebration of what makes us unique and life worth living.

Participating in the Women’s March in DC was an extraordinary experience – to witness and feel in my body the cohesiveness and solidarity of a huge crowd made up of people of all ages, religions, races, sexual identity. We marched as one, we cheered as one and booed as one. Where else in our day-to-day lives can we experience the power of a united humanity? When was the last time I felt so viscerally connected to such a large body of people? – this was the beauty of human connection and solidarity in its extraordinary manifestation. The values advocated by this crowd of people ranged across reproductive rights, immigrant rights, inmate rights, religious choice, equal pay, earth justice, and many more. These shared values are what “makes us unique and life worth living” as a multi-cultural society.

Today’s Daily Prompt “resist” was my final nudge!

Like millions of other people, I have been engaged in resistant acts in the last few weeks – contacting politicians to oppose the selection of unfit, unethical, conflict-of-interest ridden individuals for key positions in our new administration; spreading relevant information through social media; joining local groups of people interested in making a difference.

two-women-in-tree

dr-seuss

I thought of all the resistance movements and resistance symbols I have seen in my own lifetime. This anti-nuke pin has survived four decades that included cross-continental moves. The pin symbolizes the beginnings of my political activism in my teens, in Germany. It shows a nuclear reactor with the word “nein” written across it (the word “no” in German).

anti-nuke-pin

Of course there are many more symbols of resistance: Mao, Che Guevara, Steve Biko, Nelson Mandela, the keffiyeh (Palestinian black and white scarf), Black Panther berets and raised fists, coat hangers for illegal and dangerous abortions, and, most recently, images of Native Americans braving militarized police who defend the interests of pipeline companies.

How I see the current situation: the fire alarms have gone off, we have a fire emergency and the fire needs to be put out to prevent massive damage to our democratic structure and social system. So I will help carry water and try to douse the fire in whichever way I can – taking a stand and dedicating a substantial part of my life (re-purposing my life) to political activities.

However, I am interested in more than merely putting out a fire. I want to understand the underlying reasons that caused this fire and I want to assure that the remaining structure (our democracy) becomes more fire resistant. Some people are arguing that we need the fire to burn down what is not serving the people, that the fire has been smoldering underground, regardless of what political leanings the inhabitants espouse.

I don’t want to merely follow some group’s five-point program to engage in resistance – although that is valuable, important, and gives us a sense that we are actually DOING something. I want to re-read writings of the resistance movements of the past and understand the underlying principles, gleaning from the freedom fights of the past what might work for our contemporary struggle to regain true democracy (did it ever exist?).

In my mind, the end goal of this resistance movement is not to replace the Republicans with Democrats again. Politicians from both parties have been bought by the large banks and multi-national corporations and are unlikely to truly represent their constituents with the obligations engendered by so much corporate money. As much as I liked our previous president as a person, wars continued under his administration, drones killed innocent civilians, citizen surveillance was expanded rather than discontinued, the bankers who caused the economic crash of 2007/08 were never held accountable, police profiling and brutality against African Americans escalated, the upper one-percenters continued to reign and vacuum up even more of the wealth of the middle classes, government expenditures continued to increase to dangerous deficit levels.

Furthermore, we need to educate ourselves about the true nature and insidious power of the Federal Reserve System, which is a private banking cartel, not a government institution. We need to investigate and expose the behind-the-scene and difficult-to-follow machinations of the Federal Reserve that enable the crushing stranglehold of corporations over our political apparatus. When we start a movement to separate politicians from corporate money, we may have a chance at a functioning democracy again.

I was inspired by Amanda Witt’s passionate speech at the DC Women’s March. She left us with the question: “What will YOU do with your fire?”

our-rights-are-not-up-for-grabs

The Daily Prompt: Resist.

The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge: Repurpose.

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Transcripts of Gratitude

I kept a Gratitude Jar last year.

gratitude-jar

Whenever I thought of something I was grateful for I wrote it on a slip of paper and dropped it in the jar. About midway through the year, I stopped. I don’t know why. I was still grateful for many things during the second half of the year; they just didn’t make it into my jar in written form.

But here are the ones that accumulated over the first six months of 2016.

I was grateful for the small (and not so small) delights and luxuries of life: good coffee in the morning; regular bathroom visits; tasty dark chocolate; professional massages that helped my body feel better; fresh, organic produce and eggs; safe travel to places where I felt restored and re-energized.

golden-sunset-on-beach

I felt grateful for the exercise, beauty, and harvest my garden gave me and the help I received from a few young people with the more physically taxing tasks. I gave thanks for the warmth of sunshine on a wintry day; and finally being able to open the windows and doors again as spring blessed us; delighted to watch a bald eagle glide down the river valley; intensely purple hyacinths.

virgin bower seedheads

Beyond grateful, I was “deliriously happy” that my twin grand babies were born healthy and that my daughter recovered well from a challenging pregnancy.

miltassia orchids

I was grateful for being able to choose what I wanted to do on any given day – a rare kind of freedom after decades of study and hard work.

mockingbird

I was thankful for what money CANNOT buy: love, kindness, friendships that survived the decades, deep satisfaction, beauty, and connectedness to nature.

blue-shell

I was grateful for what money CAN buy: comfort, good food, services, attention, good will, a sense of security, a sense of freedom.

red-flag-on-sand

Out of all the paper slips, this one is my favorite: “Grateful for my loving and understanding husband.”

grateful

I love that frog sitting among the yellow daffodils – it reminds me of how he tries to make me look at the sunny side of life, especially when I am indulging in negative emotions that I wear sometimes like well-worn clothes. This slip of paper inspired an end-of-year letter to my husband in which I expressed my gratitude for who and what he is in my life.

I suppose it’s time to place that same jar where it calls out to me everyday to transcribe my flashes of gratitude on paper. This really makes me more mindful of the daily goodness I experience and helps me see my glass as half full or, maybe, even totally full by the end of the year?

The Daily Post’s Discover Challenge this week: Transcript.

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A Resilient and Creative New Year!

I found my theme for the New Year:   Resilience and Creativity.

Hurricane Matthew, on its path up the Atlantic coast back in October, must have swept this large tree branch onto this South Carolina beach.  The hurricane caused quite a bit of destruction and flooding, as these powerful storms tend to do.

tree-on-grey-morning

On a grey and dreary morning, this oversized driftwood looks broken and out of place…

…Like too many events in our human lives and within the political, economic, and environmental arenas.

What to do with the brokenness? with loss? displacement? with those inevitable setbacks and misfortunes that just cannot be undone?

When I returned to this tree later, just as the setting sun draped it in warm, golden colors, I noticed that a transformation had happened.

warm-sunset-colors-on-tree-branch

Look at what people did to this lost tree!

graceful-shell-arrangement-150

Someone had lovingly decorated this lonely, broken tree with treasures they found along the beach – shells, corals, sand dollars. They collected grasses to tie the ornaments to the tree, accessorizing and beautifying it with the gifts from the sea.

“Psychological resilience is defined as an individual’s ability to successfully adapt to life tasks in the face of social disadvantage or highly adverse conditions….Resilience is one’s ability to bounce back from a negative experience with “competent functioning”. Resilience is not a rare ability; in reality, it is found in the average individual and it can be learned and developed by virtually anyone.” Wikipedia

“Resilience is what gives people the psychological strength to cope with stress and hardship. It is the mental reservoir of strength that people are able to call on in times of need to carry them through without falling apart.
(Kendra Cherry)

From the moment I saw it, this displaced tree symbolized resilience and overcoming adversity. Beyond resilience, it captures the spirit of creativity – objects that we do not normally associate as belonging together found a symbiotic union thereby transforming and evolving into a work of art.

The DP Weekly Photo Challenge: Resilient.

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