Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Quotes for the Last Day of August

Do not be too moral. You may cheat yourself out of much of life. So aim above morality. Be not simply good; be good for something.
Henry David Thoreau
1817-1862

Where is the life we have lost in living? Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
T.S. Eliot
1888-1965

The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook.

William James
1842-1910

Friday, August 26, 2011

Yoga

Well, today is my last day of summer. It has been wonderful and I will be returning to teaching on Monday. Every summer I fill with writing, seeing friends and family and doing household projects. This summer I added yoga. I have done yoga poses and positions, or asanas, for over 30 years. But this summer I learned the "practice" of yoga by attending classes 2-3 times a week. Each class is an hour and 15 minutes (and some of them kicked my butt!) Through the classes and all the wonderful teachers I learned the real meaning of yoga practice - but I am still a beginner. I see the value of classes because there are too many distractions at home.

Yoga is the state of union between two opposites - body and mind. Between individual consciousness and universal consciousness. It is a process of uniting the opposing forces in the body and mind in order to achieve supreme awareness and enlightenment.

As you go through the various asanas you are guided by the instructor in your thoughts as well as what your body is feeling. You become aware of every unique part of your body and each muscle's job. You find your mind clearing of all the worldly crap that may be taking up space there. At the end of the class there is always a time of mouna - or the practice of silence, when you can fully experience the relaxing effects of the past hour. You leave feeling strong and whole and united in mind and body. I will miss the mouna - the silence, the most when I return to the elementary school next week. But I will make an effort to continue my classes and practice as much as possible because I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of yoga this summer.

This is what the teacher said yesterday: You are a vibrant expression of infinite intelligence. :)

Monday, August 22, 2011

This Grand Show


This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never dried all at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor is ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal dawn and gloaming; on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls.
John Muir
naturalist, explorer, writer 1838-1914


Photo of sunrise on the Carribean July 2011

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Good Books

One of the wonderful things about summer for a teacher is the time to read. Somehow a good book is even more appealing while sitting on the deck (or beach) with a nice glass of wine or a cool iced tea.

I read four excellent books this summer and I want to share them with you.

Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese. I love books that are sagas, that span a long period of time. This story starts out in Ethiopia with the tragic and compelling birth of conjoined twins, brothers who are separated at birth while their mother, a nun, dies in childbirth. Their father, a doctor, witnesses her death and abandons his boys to an Indian doctor, who raises them as her own. It continues for the next 25 years of their lives, through loss and betrayal, but with an almost mystical bond that the boys have. They both become physicians and one ends up in New York City. The book has an unexpected and shocking ending. Well worth the read.

American Gods
by Neil Gaiman. I never thought I'd read a Neil Gaiman book. He is most well-known for writing a type of fantasy and the Sandman graphic novels. Not my thing, but curiosity got the best of me. Even as I was reading the epic American Gods I was shocked that I was loving it. I chose the 10th anniversary issue which advertised "author's preferred text". I just discovered that it contained 12,000 extra words from the original! I cannot even describe this book to you so I am giving you the Wikipedia description:
"The novel is a blend of American, fantasy and various strands of ancient and modern mythology, all centered on a mysterious and taciturn protagonist, Shadow."
Gaiman is from England and now lives in America. This is his take on what makes America spin.

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett. If I could write like anyone I might choose to be Ann Patchett. She is also the author of Bel Canto and The Patron Saint of Liars. Her books are wildly diverse in their topics. State of Wonder takes an American research scientist into the jungles of Brazil to check on the progress of an elusive scientist for a pharmaceutical company. She is also sent to discover what happened to a coworker who was reported dead. There, she becomes enveloped in the Amazonian tribe and their ways of living. It's a fascinating look into a world most of us know nothing about. Also, has quite a cool ending.

Life by Keith Richards. I can't really call myself a Rolling Stones fan let alone a Keith Richards fan, but I love autobiographies if they are well written and take you on journey into the person's life - and this one does that. He writes in a charming way. I particularly enjoy discovering how famous or successful people came to do what they have done, and this one is no exception. I did learn more about recreational drugs than I eve needed to know, but it was still a great read.

If you read, or have read any of these I'd love to read your comments. and of course, my own book The Desire Path is still available if you're looking for a good book:))

Monday, August 15, 2011

What is Not Expressed

This is an excerpt from a book called "The Book Of Awakening" by Mark Nepo. It is a book of inspirational essays for every day of the year. My poem, "Unopened" (see below) is about my confusion at sometimes feeling rejected and even disrespected for the ways that I am compelled to express myself. I have experienced the desire for self-expression to be a blessing and a curse. People react with anything from encouragement and support to indifference and bitterness. I am always taken aback by the range of reactions since I consider what I share with the world from my heart and soul - with no other agenda but to do what God has given me to do.

One of my favorite quotes is from Stephen King, who says - "If God gives you something to do, why in the world wouldn't you do it?"
Another is from Mark Twain:
"Keep away from small people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great ones make you feel that you can become great."

A recent discouraging experience was in extreme contrast to my friend, Gail, who is a writer and poet, who took the time the other day to call me just to encourage me to continue promoting my new book. She had put a great deal of thought into ways that I could market it and assured me that she found the book worth every bit of effort I could give it. Amazing generosity.

What is Not Expressed
It seems the more we express, that is, bring out what is in, the more alive we are. The more we give voice to our pain in living, the less build-up we have between our soul and our way in the world. However, the more we depress, the more we push down and keep in , the smaller we become. The more we stuff between our heart and our daily experience, the more we have to work through to feel life directly. Our expressed life can become a callus we carry around and manicure, but never remove. Experience can in effect lose its essential tenderness and poignancy, as we mistakenly conclude that life is losing its meaning. To a man unaware of the cataracts filming his eyes, the world seems dimmer, not his seeing. How often do we find the world less stimulating, unaware our heart is diminished because its encasement in all that remains unexpressed?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Unopened

It is only risking ourselves from one hour to another that we live at all.
William James

Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great ones make you feel that you too can become great.
Mark Twain


I laid myself open,
freely sharing what God had given me to do,

what, for years, had joyously been rendered
from within my heart and spirit.

But the gift was left unopened in indifference,
an experience denied in a poverty of the imagination,

erasing years of acquaintances,
making all former conversations moot,

leaving me a stranger when I longed for an embrace,
a sharing of spirits and souls and friendship.

But it cannot diminish me,
it will not remove the truth and beauty

of the unopened gift.
It will not vanquish what I meant for good.


Monday, August 8, 2011

My New Heroine


Dame Helen Mirren, 66 years old, was recently voted "Best Bod" by a fitness magazine. This is what she recently said to Women and Home magazine.
"My big complaint is, why aren't more dresses made with sleeves? I don't want to wear a frumpy jacket over a sleeveless dress, and it enrages me that it's so difficult to find anything beautiful with sleeves. If you think of Elizabethan dresses or turn-of-the-century fashions, there are some amazing things you can do with sleeves, so why do so few designers put them on dresses?"

My sentiments EXACTLY! Thank you Helen. I hope someone listens.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

So Sad - The End of Our Bookstores?


All I have heard is people expressing sadness over the closing of Borders. I feel the same way. Not just because it seems to be a frightening end of an era for all of us baby-boomers, but because I have personal feelings about our Borders as well.

There is a Borders right around the corner from my house. My husband and I went through some difficult years, in part, because we were restricted in where we could go and how long we could stay away from the house. Borders became a haven for us. It was sort of like our date night during the week where we could browse in the relative quiet with a coffee or a chai tea latte ( I never got over them changing my favorite chai tea to something much less tasty). We'd go our separate ways but end up back in the cafe sharing what we'd found on our journeys through the store. There was always something new to see. For a while my writer's group met there in the cafe as well. It just seemed like a natural place for writers to meet.

I completely understand the prominence and importance of electronic media. I have no problem with people who are enamored of their Kindles or Nooks. I think shopping on Amazon is fine if you know exactly what book you're looking for. But browse the Internet for a good book? I don't think so.

How many times has the cover or title of a book caught your eye? Then what did you do? You picked the book up, maybe read the cover, flipped through, felt it in your hands, noticed how many pages it had. Then maybe you put it back on the shelf - only to come back later when you realized you wanted to read it.

I can't imagine how many books I would NOT have read if I hadn't been able to peruse them in the book store. That is being taken away from us now.

The only bright spot I can see in the closing of so many "big box" bookstores is a reverse in the dwindling number of independent book stores. Did you ever see the movie - "You've Got Mail"? Your heart breaks when Meg Ryan has to close her mother's children's book store in the middle of New York City because she has been run out of business. Now the independent stores that have somehow survived those years I think will begin to thrive because book-lovers love looking at and holding real books. I think this is true for my generation and my children's generation as well.

When my daughter was a young girl she was in love with "The Babysitter's Club" books. It was an anticipated event to get to the bookstore on the day the new one came out to buy it. I had little money then, but nothing made me happier than buying a book for her that I knew she would read and enjoy. We would arrive at home and she would immediately crawl into her bed and start reading. How would that have compared to ordering it on the web for a 9 year-old?

I'm not sure what will become of actual physical books once the children born in this millennium grow up. All I know is that all three times I have opened a box and pulled out a book that I wrote and held it in my hands, I cried. Writing those books would have never felt complete without seeing it in someone's hands - or seeing it on my bookshelf.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Our Mexico Vacation

Last week I was fortunate to spend my days on the beach in Mexico. My husband and I have had two close family deaths in the past 6 months and we used the week to just BE together - in peaceful respite. Somehow the beauty of the Caribbean Sea, the sound of the relentless waves and the opportunity to leave the world behind for a few days was healing. I did not see a computer screen for 6 days and did not miss it at all, but I am happy to share a few photos from our week.

This was the view from our room.



I loved exploring the tidepools and finding all kinds of creatures - thousands of sea snails clustered together in their colonies.



The water is perfectly clear and full of lovely (and friendly) iridescent blue/silver fish as well as some yellow and black striped ones that would circle around me, presumably looking for food.


We arose early on our last day to watch the sun rise on the Caribbean Sea.

PS - I am unsure about the spelling of Carribean - Caribbean. The dictionary has the latter, but it was spelled with two R's in this morning's paper. I'm a spelling nut
.