Check out this article about a young man from Australia who plants miniature gardens in potholes all across Europe!
Check out this article about a young man from Australia who plants miniature gardens in potholes all across Europe!
Does anyone out there remember PlaNetwork? It was a fabulously geeky conference that had a good run back a few years ago now. I loved its combination of high geekery and values-based idealism. I remember meeting someone through pre-event communications that I collaborated with to build a beautiful altar/centerpiece in the middle of the conference room, and dancing afterwards to music I'd never heard before under a projected screen of Electric Sheep images. It was that kind of "happening". Definitely a bit "hippie" and not slick by any means, but deeply sophisticated on many levels, not least technologically, and extremely satsifying.
There's another event that has sprung up in the San Francisco bay area in the last couple of years called Wisdom 2.0, and I've been watching it with great anticipation.
Walking along Church Street in San Francisco with a friend the other day, I saw this lovely, vibrant mural that covered a concrete wall framing almost an entire block...
The artwork was so lovely and fine, and I admired it so much that I tracked down the artist. Her name is Mona Caron - and I was charmed to read this on her website:
"Looking at nature closely, one may notice the intricacy and beauty of even the most "valueless" and unseeming little plants, regardless of their color or drabness, their perceived value or usefulness, or stage in life.
These heroic-scale portraits of the seldom noticed and literally downtrodden, are my tribute to the resiliance of all those renegade life forms that may or may not fit within the designs of our society, but keep growing nonetheless. They are also an homage to beauty that is free and available to all, if we can claim the time to pay attention to it."
Here's to eveyday beauty; to how lovely and extraordinary it truly is, and to those who champion it! How they enrich all whose lives they touch!
Here are more images from the mural, a project sponsored in part by a grant from San Francisco Beautiful.
A month or so ago Deborah Goldblatt and I hosted a World Café out at Commonweal in Bolinas for a group of end-of-life practitioners. Leading up to that event everything I saw or heard seemed to relate to our subject in some way - perhaps unsurprisingly given my sister Karen's death at the beginning of this year and my friend Kay's passing in June.
To prepare, Deborah and I went to see Anna Deavere Smith's phenomenal Let Me Down Easy at the Berkeley Rep, which was obstensibly about the body and resiliance - and it was - but it was also about death and disease and how poverty (and wealth) effects people's access to health care. If that wasn't enough, the circle I meet with every week in Second Life began a 16 week journey exploring the subject of Death and Dying through the 8 directions of the Medicine Wheel.
Somehow the essence of my whole matrix of experience during this time is rendered immaculately by this poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins. We heard David Whyte recite it on one of his many CDs, this one about "apprenticing one's self to one's own disappearance" as we drove over the sacred mountain Tamalpais on our way to Commonweal.
It's called Pied Beauty:
Glory be to God for dappled things –
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Another reason the Solstice celebration was special for me this year was because this is the year my friend Gisela Wendling, who lives in Australia, brought the painting she has been working on for me since we launched her blog/site Liminal Songlines just before the last Solstice.
The name of this painting is "Businesswomen Doing Women's Business", and it reflects our collaborative efforts to support each other's work in the world. I had asked Gisela for something that would inspire me on a deep level, and to do that she drew on her experiences in ceremony with indigenous women in the deserts of Australia, powerful spiritual practice specifically described as "women's work".
While Gisela makes it clear that what she does is NOT Aboriginal painting, she uses some of the same iconography, which in Aborginal art is very literal, figurative and descriptive rather than abstract patterns as they may appear to a Western eye.
The two figures in middle of the central circle of my painting are Gisela and I, and we are surrounded by other circles of women sitting in ceremony. The circle in the top right is of men, also sitting in ceremony, and the circle in the lower right without people is what's "on the edge", or horizon. The flowing colored lines that frame the top and bottom are reminiscent of the snake that plays such a central role in Aboriginal creation stories, while the flowing lines in the background are the shifting sands of life at this time on earth as we come together in a sacred way while everything in our external world is changing.
Gisela and I were able to sit together for a few hours after the Solstice, reflecting on this beautiful painting and how it came into being. She was asking how what we did by supporting each other - me by helping her articulate her work through a web presence and her by creating a place of inspiration for me - reflects a way of being together as women that could inspire similar forms of relationship and mutual generosity in others. Unwilling to separate the sacred and the secular, together we recognized and affirmed that our work is sacred and that's the place we want to stand in the world.
I am blessed to wake up to this vibrant call to life every morning. Thank you, dear Gisela.
My friend Kay died last night at 7:02pm.
Regular readers may recall that I've written about Kay before in these pages - five years ago when she was first diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and just last year when she married Jeff in one of the most beautiful and heartful weddings ever.
I've been part of Kay's live-in caretaking circle for the best part of the last two weeks, my life simplified down to the minutia and routine of end-of-life care. Pancreatic cancer is one of the most painful forms of the disease and much of our time was spent trying to keep her comfortable. Thank goodness we were mostly successful.
Now that I'm back home I feel as if I've been floating in a state of grace. There was a one-pointedness to our days, a unified clarity and focus that brought us intact through some pretty difficult hours. Now that it's all over, I'm a bit disoriented and not sure how to shift back to the very different demands of "real life". But perhaps most of all I'm left with the sense of having been blessed - it was an honor to have been able to be there and to have shared an experience so profound and so intimate. It is such a gift (thank you to my patient husband and flexible clients too), to be able to respond when it really matters.
And Kay really mattered. To me, and to a lot of people. She perfected the art of deep friendship and had so many friends, so many people who loved her. A shining example of what a human being can be, when faced with a diagnosis that would knock most people to the ground, she responded with elegance and grace, compassion, strength and fortitude. She was grateful for every single day she was given. She lived a beautiful life and died an extraordinary death, surrounded by love and the tender devotion of family and friends.
May that be so for each of us.
I think I've mentioned that I have a fabulous women's group that meets in a sheltering cave in a mountain in Second Life. Every Thursday morning the five of us sit in circle and share the deeper levels of what's up for us.
In my case last week it was the final stretch of a long preparation period for the first event in the "Conversation for the 21st Century" series. This (material taken from our transcripts) is what I found myself musing upon:
These last few weeks have been so crazy that I am being forced to face how dysfunctional it is being this stressed. I am behaving in ways that do not serve me or anyone, even if I am getting a lot done. My impatience can be terrible. I'm not nice. ... well, not as nice as I can be anyway :-)
And it's ironic, because truly I think that's one of the most important things I could ever do; just be kind. Listen. To what people have to say, yes certainly, but perhaps more importantly to the stillness that is behind the words.
I have been realizing and valuing how important it is to be calm and clear and strong and unstressed, especially in these times when life seems to be moving faster and faster for all of us…
(William Yeats expressed the phenomenon so beautifully in his poem about modernism, Second Coming:
"Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold ..."
Those of us who can be the strong "anchor" or center points that CAN hold during these times are increasingly valuable. Sometimes I wonder if there is a role we're preparing for that none of us may even see clearly yet, but will turn out to be of far more importance than anything we could ever "do".
As of right now, there are over 500 people registered for the event I'm hosting tomorrow!! To me, that represents a responsibility as well as an opportunity...
To prepare for it - in the day I have between now and then - I'm looking for ways to create a sense of spaciousness for myself so that the experience of awareness and presence can enter my voice tomorrow and call it from others throughout the room.
As it turned out, it's a good thing I did...
The event was just wonderful - we had the most amazing conversation starters who conveyed real depth and wisdom about the subject (community), and the 200+ people who showed up to engage each other in conversation lept to it immediately as a shoal of flashing fish to water. Everything in the first hour and a half was all I could have hoped for ... and then... we had a massive breakdown in technology.
I've been using this software since November of 2009 and never seen anything like this happen before, but Tom Foolery was up to his April Fool's Day tricks during the last round of conversation when the 60-some small group conversations began to bleed into each other, causing people to hear others who were not in the room with them. Imagine how confusing that would be if your only sense perception was auditory!
It was definitely a test of equilibrium for me and my co-host Ben Roberts, as we managed to bring the situation back to center by muting everyone and trying to explain what was happening when we had no idea ourselves.
Luckilly they had been able to talk for 15 of the 20 minutes in that final round, but it was disconcerting nonetheless, and I really needed all my patience and presence of mind to keep the container of wonderful energy we had built up until then intact.
One of the things I drew heavily upon to do that was the positive intent in the room. Everyone there wanted to keep the energy alive and moving, too, so together we weathered the bumpy patch and moved into a wonderful harvest with full participation, and the rest of the event went smoothly.
These are the times we are preparing for.
May we all live into them fully, and be kind to ourselves and each other as we weather the bumpy patches.