Thursday, November 29, 2007

What matters most at the end of the day?

Hungry ghost collage by Lani.

I got some emails from Adela lately which were thought provoking and had great links to explore. I suspect that Adela is worried that the shallows of my soul may be greater than the depths. So in order to create a better balance, she sends me great things! Also she doesn't know why I like positive psychology. So I told her I'd try to put it in a blog.

One thing she sent was this interesting observation from Michael Neill's blog.
"...the true value of self-esteem is not in how good we feel about ourselves, but in what that good feeling allows us to do in the world."

Adela played with the thought a bit added this:
"Carried forward, the true value of feeling good is not that it's move comfortable, physiologically, but in what the pleasanter physiological state enables us to contribute to those whose lives we currently touch...and widen the circle."

And of course she may not know this but that is EXACTLY what I like about studying positive psychology. You get to read about and play with all of these endorphin releasing ideas, I turn them into art based exercises and release even more endorphins, and I can feel good, more comfortable, more connected to my inner artist, and just all around happier which of course enables me to contribute more to the lives or those who know me (hopefully).

Image:Okanagan Family Portrait.JPg From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In “Keepers of the Earth” the concluding chapter from Roszak, Gomes, and Kanner’s Ecopsychology; Restoring the earth, healing the mind,Okanagan author and educator, Jeannette Armstrong, describes the Okanagan language as being a language of connections which uses syllables to animate descriptions of activity. These syllables are combined to develop meanings that are close to what might constitute a noun or a verb in English, but livelier, more subtle and dependent on context, a language of connections. (A language of connections... I love that!)

It's not just the language that is about connections, everything is viewed in terms of connections. The emotional aspect of the self, or “heart” is thought of as the part with which we link to other beings around us. It is through the heart that we are able to bond and form attachments. Jeannette says that we stay connected to each other, our land, and all things by our hearts, that emotion or feeling is the capacity whereby community and land become part of us. This connection is a priority for Okanagan wholeness and well-being. She says the Okanagan criterion for leadership is that the individual with the widest circle of connection, with the greatest heart, able to bond easily with each other, the land, and all things. She sees the creative spirit and the arts as a celebration and affirmation of this connectedness.

When I read Jeannette’s words, it feels like receiving an amazing gift. While paying close attention to language differences, Okanagan descriptive syllables and English nouns and verbs, suddenly I find myself seeing my own culture, that one that is so fond of deconstruction, disconnection, and dissociation, from an Okanagan perspective. This view of mainstream North American culture is from a place outside but close enough to make sense, to resonate as true. In stepping right outside of our world view and looking through the eyes of the other, we can create a greater spaciousness for ourselves. In this spaciousness we can find knew meaning and possibilities, we can experiment, and we find hope.

There is so much in our mainstream North American culture which separates us from each other, which cuts us off from the land and teaches us that we are completely and utterly alone, and this isolation creates despair and loneliness. Our culture teaches us that the only way to assuage this loneliness and despair is to consume something to forget ourselves; another pill, drug, or opportunity for further debt. Adela sent me the article "Is Our Worship of Consumerism and Technology Making Us Depressed?" By Bruce E. Levine, Chelsea Green Publishing

In this article Levine imagines what Buddha, Spinoza and Jesus might have to say about our sorrows. He also reminds us of Eric Fromm's final work, To Have or to Be? (1976), in which Fromm contrasts the depressing impact of a modern consumer culture built on the having mode (greed, acquisition, possession, aggressiveness, control, deception, and alienation from one's authentic self, others, and the natural world) versus the joyful being mode (the act of loving, sharing, and discovering, and being authentic and connected to one's self, others, and the natural world).

Thank you Adela, that's exactly what we need, more Okanagan connections and more of Fromm's "joyful being" mode. To have or to be? Oh, please, please, please may I be??? I can't wait to revisit Fromm and for my first dip into his ideas, I can follow the link Adela kindly provided.

One last thing Adela sent was links to the hysterically funny Rev. Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping. Do you know Rev. Billy, a character developed by performance artist Bill Talen?

You can read all about him and his activities on his website and also read about him on the Art Heals website.

So what is it that really matters most at the end of the day? Dr. Ira Byock (authority in pallieative care), has made a study of just this. As a man is being wheeled into transplant surgery or a woman is facing chemotherapy for the third time, what is on his or her mind? Byock says that it is always something to do with the people they love that occupies their minds. Always.

He says the specter of death reveals our relationships to be our most precious possessions. Having met people in his office, emergency rooms, or hospice programs, he has noticed that there is often a deep regret over things they wish they had said before a family member or friend died. They can’t change what happened, but "without fail their regrets have fueled a healthy resolve to say what needs to be said before it’s too late – to clear away hurt feelings, to connect in profound ways with the people who mean the most to them."

How can we do that? Byock says that there are four simple phrases which may help, "Please forgive me," "I forgive you," "Thank you," and "I love you." These simple phrases "offer a powerful way to mend even our most troubled relationships and to nurture our cherished connections to the people we love. There is a transformative potential in saying the four things." You can read more of Byock's work here and here.

So in a further attempt to move from the shallows of my soul to greater depths, to move from the despair of the modern consumer to the "joyful being" mode of the creator and collaborator and community builder I have joined jaihn in creating a blog of the hungry ghosts where all this and more can be poured over. Curious? Come have a look!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

An art challenge!

Collage with eBay tintype by Lani

In honor of yesterday, Buy Nothing Day, I vow to buy less stuff, and if I must buy stuff I hope it will be consciously, making as light a footprint on our poor planet as possible. From now on, when I acquire some art supplies or eBay treasure. I will alter it immediately so that it can help me move from the realm of Acquisitive Addictions and to uncover the joy of Creative Contentments. This is partially jaihn's instigation and nearly all her language.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Do you know Storypeople?

Lore sent this one (Storypeople will send you Brian Andreas' wise words and images every day if you want).

Here's the Story of the Day:
Successful Holiday
Rules for a successful holiday: 1. Get together with the family 2. Relive old times 3. Get out before it blows

Thursday, November 22, 2007

More Links and Inspiration on this US Thanksgiving.

Hold on to what is good even if it is a handful of earth.
Hold on to what you believe even if it is a tree which stands by itself.
Hold on to what you must do even if it is a long way from here.
Hold on to life even when it is easier letting go.
Hold on to my hand even when I have gone away from you.
--Pueblo Blessing

Though my soul may set in darkness,
It will rise in perfect light.
I have loved the stars too fondly
To be fearful of the night.
--Sarah Williams

It's Thanksgiving in the States, and tomorrow is the start of the wild, crazy, consumerist, give-me-all-your-money-right-now nightmare that used to be my favorite time of year! I'm looking for ways to take it back, to recreate generosity, joy, and light in the season. So be warned, blogging may contain gingerbread and plumb pudding recipes!

(And remember tomorrow is Buy Nothing Day!)

I was poking around on jaihn's bookshelf (an EXTREMELY cool thing to do) and found John Lane's "The Spirit of Silence: Making Space for Creativity." Intrigued by the title, I went to Amazon and took a look inside. The table of contents lists chapters like Spiritual Space, Staying Quietly in One's Room (the creative use of silence), The Enemies of Silence (this chapter talks about the exaggerated importance of money and the myth of consumption among other things), Tools for Re-enchantment (The art of the commonplace), Just Live Right (about living in the midst of turmoil)

So I read what Resurgence writer Ian Skelly had to say about The Spirit of Silence.

What Lane argues for, rightly, is the restoration of a deep-seated sense of wellbeing. We should live in the moment rather than through it to take stock of what the moment holds. He suggests as a starting point “ the observation of sunlight on a blade of grass, the sight of a beetle crawling across a leaf; the worship of the day’s most commonplace events” . Beautiful images mirroring Blake’s precise advice to see “ a world in a grain of sand…eternity in an hour”, for it is there.

Lovely! I want to order this book right now, but in honor of buy nothing day I'll restrain myself.

From Resurgence I went to Care2 because they had 14 ways to refresh your life based on John Lane's "Spirit of Silence."

Refreshing Your Life - 14 Ways

"Many of us enjoy leisure, comfort and affluence, but have yet to find a way of discovering a life characterized by deep-seated well-being. Instead our lives are often marked by a void at their centers."

So here are their 14 SIMPLE SOLUTIONS to refresh your life:

1. Pay more attention to The Art of the Commonplace.

2. Give yourself more time for Creativity.

3. Don't forget to entertain Gratitude and Praise.

4. Explore the Healing Power of Nature.

5. Rediscover the Importance of Relationship.

6. Live in the Moment.

7. Spend time Looking for the Beautiful.

8. Consider the benefit's of the Meditative Approach.

9. Learn about Negative Capability (This is Keat's idea about being in uncertainty, Mystery, doubt "without any irritable reaching after fact & reason.") first hand.

10. Treat everything and everyone in your life with Reverence.

11. Don't forget the value of Seeing.

12. Explore the comfort of Simplicity.

13. Explore your world by Walking.

14. Celebrate the Virtues of Silence and Solitude.

From there I went over to New Dream and took a look at their Kids & Commercialism section. They have a lot of free inspiring downloads for parents (and really they are for anyone but I guess parents have the most stressful time during season.) New Dream is all about reducing stress and increasing personal fulfillment.

Here are some of their very lovely, generous, non-commercial gift ideas:

1: The makings for hand puppets: Brown lunch bags (or wild colored socks), googly eyes, stray buttons, scissors, markers, etc.

2: Box of dress up clothes: Old dresses, high heel shoes, cowboy boots, collared shorts, and millions of other fun outfit ideas can all be found at thrift or second-hand stores have great selections. (Here we have Frenchy's. I'd give kids a gift certificate for a trip to Frenchy's. Did this with a nephew, and it is a blast!)

3: Jewelry kit: All you need is string, beads, and metal clasps.

4: Upside-Down Day: Let kids set the day’s agenda (with parental supervision). Take off your watch, wear pajamas under your coat to the movies, eat dessert for breakfast, the list is endless when kid’s creativity is in control.

5: Homemade Bird Feeder Kit: Give your kids a big box of edible decorations (peanut butter, seeds, fruit, nuts, etc.) and some string and jars that they can use to build their own birdfeeders for the yard or balcony.

6: Teach a child to knit: Granted, you yourself must first know the tricks of the trade, but buying needles and yarn and spending the time to teach it can be a great way to spend time together and save on buying a scarf for the winter.

7: Write and illustrate a story with the child as the main character.

8: Booklet of your favorite memories: Write or type up your favorite memories of/with someone and lay it out in a book or on a page.

9: Personalized cookbook: This is a great way to pass along some of your favorite dishes, especially during a time of year when family gatherings mean lots of good meals.

10: Set up a monthly lunch date or phone call: Perfect for elderly friends or relatives.

11: Monthly care basket: Works really well for those who spend most of the year in separate places. Over the holidays send them their first basket of muffins or banana bread for January, and then each month of the year send something new to go with the theme of that month.

12: Gift of art: For grandparents, a framed picture drawn by a grandchild is the perfect present.

13: Make your own cards and send them to relatives and good friends.

14: Make your own calendar using cut-out pictures, photos, and/or drawings.

15: Special activities with a significant other--a candlelit dinner, massage, or outdoor activity.

16: A monthly lunch date with an elderly relative or friend.

17: Gift certificates: Dinner and a movie, a home-cooked meal, a car wash, a day of babysitting, etc.

18: Reconnect with someone: Call an estranged friend or write a letter to someone you haven’t seen in a few years.

19: Shovel snow for a someone, even if you remain anonymous, it will make their holiday season.

20: A jigsaw puzzle for the whole family.

21: Set up a family tournament in your favorite card game whether it is Gin Rummy, Hearts, Spades, War, Go Fish, Twenty-One, Speed, Spit, Uno, etc.

22: Tickets to a favorite cultural or sporting event

23: A family hike, game of capture the flag, tag, or hide-and-go-seek.

24: Buy renewable energy credits: Credits help offset the environmental costs of our energy needs by funding renewable energy sources, like wind and solar power, elsewhere on the grid.

25: Take a friend off of junk mail lists: Generate automatic forms with your recipient’s name and address at Do Not Junk site to reduce unwanted mail by 50 percent. Present the forms in stamped, addressed envelopes ready to sign and mail.

26: Assemble a Turn the Tide gift basket with compact fluorescent light bulbs, forms for getting rid of junk mail, delicious recipes and a note about how the recipients can log on to and see exactly how much of a positive impact they're having on the environment.

27: Buy a potted Christmas tree and replant after the holidays. (You can also have a tree planted elsewhere in someone's honor through American Forests.)

28: Instead of new wrapping paper, reuse old paper—the Sunday comics section, old maps, decorated brown grocery bags, or a colorful piece of material.

29: Alternative Gifts International offers a wide array of global gifts that can be given in the name of your friend or relative. Their partner organizations include 33 projects such as Fuel Efficient Stoves in El Salvador, Conquering Tuberculosis in North Korea, Literacy Training in Senegal, Land Mine Awareness in Vietnam or Organic Gardening in Belize. Contact Alternative Gifts at 1-800-842-2243, P.O Box 2267, Lucerne Valley, CA 92356. Free catalog from or

30: Give a donation to a local cause such as a soup kitchen, a shelter for battered women, a local environment group, etc. Call local churches, synagogues, and charitable organizations for ideas.

31: Give a friend a membership to a non-profit organization. allows you to donate online to thousands of charities.

32: Re-gift: Although many times the idea is misconstrued to be taken as a way to get rid of your junk, when done right it can serve as a great way to save your money, and the earth’s resources. When you re-gift, it makes it possible for that lonely blue sweater that you always try on, but that never looks quite right to become your friends second-date-brings-out-her-blue-eyes sweater.

33: Share a love of reading: Give away the last great book you bought and enjoyed to someone who shares your taste.

34: Shop thrift stores in your area or online: This serves as a large scale version of re-gifting where the options are endless. You’ll be amazed at what folks are giving away free or selling for almost nothing.

35: Cookie Swaps: Everyone loves cookies, but who really enjoys the giant, goopy mess of mixing a gazillion different kinds? Instead, bake in bulk and share. Invite a group of 6 friends over who each make six dozen of the same kind of cookie, and each can go home with a dozen of each kind.

36: Name Drawing: Instead of making or buying gifts for all your nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, grandparents, half-brothers, etc. try a name drawing. Place the names of everyone in a hat and have each person pick a person to give or send a gift to (If someone isn’t there you can pick a name on their behalf). This saves everyone the time, effort, and money of trying to find presents for everyone in the family and instead allows you to focus on doing/making/getting something for just one person.

37: Secret Gifter: To throw a little twist into the Name Drawing you can make it secretive and do lots of little things or give lots of small gifts to your person for a week and then on the last day, with the last gift, you reveal your identity. The secret name drawing is great for groups of friends or family that you see on a regular basis and who live in your area.

38: Dutch Auction: In the Dutch auction everyone shows up with one wrapped gift. You lay all the presents out on the table and then pick numbers from a hat. Number 1 starts by picking a present to open. Once everyone sees what is inside it is Number 2’s turn. Number 2 can either steal the present from Number 1 or pick to open a present from the table. If they take Number 1’s gift, then Number 1 gets to pick from the table again. This goes on with each successive person getting the option to either pick from the table or steal any of the already opened gifts. For example, Number 9 can take the presents of Numbers 1-8 or can pick a new one. There is one final rule. A present can only be stolen once, so once Number 6 takes Number 4’s present, nobody that goes after Number 6 can steal Number 6’s present.

39: Alternative gift fairs offer a chance to channel some of your holiday gift dollars to good causes, while sharing a little goodwill with others in your community. If, however, you missed the fair in your area, don’t despair. Online options abound.

Isn't that great?

Finally Lore reminded my of Sarah Fishborn's blog. Lots of lovely ideas and things to look at there. She even has free downloads from old children's books.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Links and Inspiration

Collage by Lani

My buddy jaihn sent me this wonderful link to an amazing bookbinder/paper maker, Joanne Kaar. She's got such inspiring images and ideas for everyone, but I loved all of the Taiwan images. Simple stone carvings of Puli! Do take a look.

And do you know Granny D? (HBO did a documentary which youtube has clips from) There's no moss growing on Granny D. And she certainly doesn't believe that grannies can be seen but not heard! The things she has to say...

This showed up in my inbox today:

The Greatest Danger Before You, Granny D
In the end -- and it will end -- your life will seem to have sped by like a fleeting dream. Much of your story will be the age-old but ever joyful human experience: romance, family, satisfying work, and happy completion. I wish you a great fountain of successes. You will also be provided with all the failures and tragedies necessary to deepen and widen your soul -- sufficient, I hope, to make you wise and forgiving of all human frailties. I pray that these necessary troubles will never long crush your optimism nor your love for this magical life.
The greatest danger before you is this: you live in an age when people would package and standardize your life for you -- steal it from you and sell it back to you at a price. That price is very high.
You have already been selected for this program. You have its credit cards and designer labels already expensively around you. In the months ahead, you will find yourselves working long hours, too exhausted for community life or even good friendships -- too compromised to take a stand against the abuses of the system you serve. A great treadmill has been devised for you, and its operators do not care much if it wears you out or kills you. A system is in place to steal your life from you, if you will let it. Don't let it.
Read, study, meditate and think for yourself. Let your most serious education now commence, if it has not already done so. Refine and hold your own values, and pay the high price necessary to live those values. Decide what is important to you, and hold your ground against all temptations and tortures. From the pink granite of your own values, build a fortress against the world's ethical compromises, or you will soon be among those dead of eye who stand next to you in elevators but who are not alive. Don't let them steal your life. This is the only warning you will receive.
--Granny D
“We have a duty to look after each other. If we lose control of our government, then we lose our ability to disperse justice and human kindness. Our first priority today, then, is to defeat utterly those forces of greed and corruption that have come between us and our self-governance.”

-- Doris “Granny D.” Haddock

My Artella buddy, Glenda Miles, sent me the link for a new SuziBluTube video.

So watch the video with your Muse, have some tea and sparkles, and then figure out how to grow up to be like Granny D! Make sure to be seen and heard today! Why not?

Between cod pieces and clean-up...

Collage by Lani.
So I've been a little quiet here between the clean up after the non-hurricane Noel, the Prospect Players new production, Death in Character, and my little ebay adventures in greed and covetousness. The Prospect Players are working on a little comedic mystery involving a theatrical troupe. The biggest challenges for me (so far) were creating my lovely Henry the V codpieces. Wikipedia defines codpiece this way (thank you jaihn): A codpiece (Middle English codpece = cod 'bag, scrotum' + pece 'piece') is a flap or pouch that attaches to the front of the crotch of men's trousers to provide a covering for the genitals. It was held closed by string ties, buttons, or other methods. It was an important item of European clothing in the 15th and 16th centuries. Nice, eh? So first I tried a soft, plush bag/pouch thing.

But Henry the V was a pretty waring kind of guy, more likely to have a metallic covering. So here's codpiece 2. Then there was ebay. Whew. I fell in love with a little Burmese puppet and learned all about bidding wars and greed. I'm sure it's very bad for the character. Any way this happy little fellow will be popping up in various places, I have no doubt!
Then there's the art work that can be created with some things found on ebay...
Collage by Lani. (What a face, eh?)

Thursday, November 08, 2007

We are still here...

photos by Edward

We just went through a non-hurricane called Noel which was worse in strength and damage than our Hurricane Juan which was bad!

So this is Michael's fishing stage before Noel and then again after...

Our morning walks are quite a challenge with new rocks and missing paths. And of course we carry plastic bags to pick up all the plastic bottles and junk that was left on the high water mark. What a lot of bottles! (I'm giving up bottled water, just using a Swiss metal bottle from Ideal Bite and refill as needed.)
More pictures here.