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Who’s Your Best Friend?

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This is a special day, but not for the reasons I thought it would be.

Today my blog is one year old. I have drafted a half-dozen anniversary posts, but I’m going to trash them. They aren’t very interesting. I haven’t the time to navel-gaze right now (a collective sigh of relief from my readers) because I’m celebrating a bigger anniversary: fifty-five years with my oldest and best buddy, Elaine.

We became next door neighbors when we were three. We’ve traveled together from kindergarten through high school graduation and far beyond. I’m godmother to her first son, and I was Maid of Honor at her wedding . . . both times.

Hanging Out

Elaine has come to stay at my New Hampshire retreat. She used to spend a month here each summer, but hasn’t visited in forty-plus years, so we’re having a blast visiting old haunts and discovering new ones.

We’ve been blueberry picking and hiking and “thrashing in the kitchen,” as she calls our culinary efforts. We eat too much cheese, drink too much local mead, and stay up too late.

We watched the outstandingly bad 1972 “amphibious horror flick,” Frogs and then we watched Thelma and Louise.

Look closely — Elaine’s lurking in the blueberry bushes:

Lost in the Blueberry Fields

Becoming One with the Blueberry Bushes

We’ve been playing one of our favorite games, World Famous Nature Photographer:

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Stalking Killer Ferns

In the mornings, I work on my thesis and she works on her children’s story. In the afternoons, she does some serious work while I supervise. (Hey, my ribs are busted!)

Elaine Tackles the Apple Tree

Elaine Tackles the Apple Tree

Yesterday we visited Willa Cather’s grave, one of my holy sites, and then wandered around an interfaith peace garden called Cathedral of the Pines before taking in an outdoor classical music concert and a fireworks show in the shadow of Mount Monadnock.

That is happiness, to be dissolved into something complete and great.

That is happiness, to be dissolved into something complete and great.

I hope you have a friend like Elaine.

If you do, please honor them in my comment section!

Thank You!!

A big “thank you” to those of you who have followed my blogging adventure over the past year, especially those folks who were companions before my big Freshly Pressed moment in the sun.

Blessings!

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Cool Stuff I Saw in the Woods

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I wasn’t going to mention God in this post. I just wanted to share some cool pictures. Really. I know I’ve been doing a lot of God-posts lately, and I don’t want to alienate anyone. But what the hell.

God in the Woods

One of the main reasons I believe in God is because of the natural world. I came to know God outside in the woods, without any holy books or parental guidance or Sunday School teachers. When I see the damage “the church” did to many of my friends who grew up in the Christian tradition — all the healing and deconstruction of beliefs they’ve had to do — I’m very glad that I met God in nature before I ever cracked open a Bible or sat in a pew.

Still, there’s good stuff in that musty old black book. Here’s something that Paul, one of the first followers of Jesus, wrote in a letter to early Christians in Rome: “Ever since the creation of the world, God’s eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things God has made.”

(I know, I know, this brings up creation vs. evolution, which I humbly deem barely worth a parenthetical mention. God invented evolution. Why is this so hard?)

Paul’s not my fave biblical guy – his words have caused a lot of trouble. Being a human, he had his own issues to deal with, but even worse, his words are often taken out of their cultural context, and used as a weapon by people who are trying to make themselves the ultimate arbiter of truth. Used in this way, Paul’s words have done untold damage to women, gay people, marriages, and people who don’t call Jesus by name.

Rembrandt did a number of paintings of the Apostle Paul – this one’s my favorite.

But Paul’s words to the Romans ring true through the millennia.

“Ever since the creation of the world, God’s eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things God has made.”

Here is some divine artistry:

Mushrooms are Funny; Lichen are Awesome

Here’s a helpful tidbit from Wikianswers: “Why are mushrooms called mushrooms?” someone queries.

“Because that’s what they are called. That’s the way it’s meant to be. Mushrooms are funny.”

Thanks for that.

Frilly Fungus

Frilly Fungus

Solar Flares on Fungus

Solar Flares on Fungus

Totally LOVE lichen – the idea that algae and fungus at one point decided to get together to form one organism, a sort of co-organism, makes me happy. The alga brings chlorophyll to the relationship, so it does the photosynthesis thing and passes energy to the fungus; the fungus offers roots, which draw minerals and water from rocks and plants. Lichen can grow just about anywhere – from cooling lava to frozen rock and tundra.

Stunning Symbiosis

Stunning Symbiosis

Brown Frog, Red Moon

Here’s a frog. You can’t do photos of God’s fun creations without including a frog. Look how tiny he is in the leaves, and how perfectly camouflaged!

Camouflaged Critter

Camouflaged Critter

Here’s a blurry red moon that kind of looks like a Van Gogh if you squint your eyes. And no, it’s not the apocalypse – I messed with the color.

Red Moon
Red Moon

A Slice of Americana: Parades, Onions, Quilts, and Bibles

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We heard the musket fire first, and then around the corner came a troop of somber Yankee soldiers marching up Main Street to the sound of cheering crowds, patriotic band music, and American flags flapping in the wind.

The Yankees are Coming!

The Yankees are Coming!

The tiny town of Gilsum, New Hampshire (pop. 777) hasn’t changed much over the years, and you could almost believe these Yankees were for real. Until a guy in a tri-cornered hat wandered by, and then Uncle Sam showed up on stilts and further confused the centuries. When the Monadnock High School band marched by, we were firmly back in 2013, celebrating my adopted town’s 250th birthday with a parade.

Wobbling Sam
Wobbling Sam

One of Gilsum’s claims to fame is that President Calvin Coolidge once stopped at the local inn when his entourage was lost in these hills. The burning question has always been, “Is it legend, or did the proprietors really serve the president a plain onion sandwich?” Turns out a descendant of the innkeeper was here for the festivities; he confirmed that yes, that’s what they gave Coolidge. That’s what was in the garden. Then, to put the matter thoroughly to rest, Coolidge himself showed up at the old inn and expressed his gratitude for the sustenance.

Calvin Coolidge holding forth

Calvin Coolidge holding forth

I spent a good part of the afternoon at the Historical Society, sifting through old pictures and news reports. I’m told that there is only one Gilsum in the world; its name is a mix of the last names of the two guys who founded it: Sumner and Gilbert.

Gilsum has always been a place of import, as you can see from these newclips:

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My house was properly honored throughout the day — at 231 years old, it’s the oldest house in town. Quiet Hills is featured on a commemorative calendar, on greeting cards, and on the “town quilt” made by the local quilting club, which I most unfairly did not win in the raffle.

Not My Quilt

Not My Quilt

The most exciting moment came when I happened upon an old Bible that had belonged to “the widow Mary Baker” who died in the front room of my house in the 1800s. She is one of several ghosts that keep me company here.

gilsum 250th 024

I make the 500-mile trek to visit my Gilsum ghosts six or seven times each year. Next time  I’m stuck in New York traffic or driving through a downpour in deer country at dusk wondering why I keep this rickety old house, with its mice and mildew and cracked, drafty windows, I’ll rememberwith all the pomposity and punditry that comes with living in the D.C. area, it’s nice to be in the real America once in a while.

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Happy Birthday, Gilsum!

Give a Thought for the Honey Bees

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I’m about to hit the road again, having only just returned from cavorting with a bunch of wacky Christians in North Carolina, but looking forward to spending two weeks at my writing retreat in New Hampshire with my bestest friend EVER.

I’ll stock up on the local late-summer honey while I’m there. It’s dark in color and rich and complex in flavor — nectar gathered more from trees than flowers this time of year.

Honey Bee Appreciation Day

Since I’ll be driving and unable to blog, I wanted to give you a heads up that August 17th is Honey Bee Appreciation Day. As you might have heard, honey bees are in big trouble. And when honey bees are in trouble, humans are in trouble because bees pollinate our food supply and our trees.

My church raises honey bees, and our hives are struggling.

Church Bees at Work

Church Bees at Work

Several countries have begun to ban the pesticides that are killing bees worldwide. As usual, America is behind the curve – there’s a lot of corporate money in pesticides. Recently, though, a couple of lawmakers have introduced a bill in Congress that will require the Environmental Protection Agency to pull certain pesticides off the market until their safety can be proven. It’s called “Save America’s Pollinators Act.” Click here to urge your members of Congress to support this important bill.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons -- thanks!

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons — thanks!

How to Honor the Bees

Adapted from the National Honey Bee Day website, here are suggestions of ways that you can celebrate honey bees and make a difference for our buzzy friends:

  • Consider beekeeping as a worthwhile hobby and seek information to get started. The more beekeepers there are, the more voices there are speaking for the bees..
  • Support local beekeepers by buying locally produced honey and other beehive products. Honey is the best “green” sweetener you can buy.
  • Attend and support beekeeper association events held throughout the year in places like environmental centers, schools, and state parks.
  • Educate yourself on the dangers and risks of homeowner pesticides and chemicals. Whenever possible, choose non-damaging and non-chemical treatments in and around the home. Most garden and backyard pests can be eliminated without harsh chemicals, which many times are not healthy for the pets, the kids, or the environment.
  • Get to know the honey bee. Unlike other stinging insects, honey bees are manageable and non-aggressive. Don’t blame every stinging event on honey bees! Many times, the culprits are hornets, yellow jackets, and wasps.
  • Plant a bee friendly garden with native and nectar-producing flowers. Use plants that can grow without extra water and chemicals. Native plants are the best for any region. Backyard gardens benefit from neighborhood beehives. Here is a link where you can read more about “Backyard Wildlife Habitat.”
  • Understand that backyard plants such as dandelions and clover are pollen and nectar sources for a wide variety of beneficial insects, including the honey bee. The desire to rid yards of these plants and have the “perfect” yard results in chemical runoff and environmental damage from lawn treatments. A perfect lawn is not worth poisoning the earth!
  • Consider allowing a beekeeper to maintain beehives on your property. In some areas, beekeepers need additional apiary locations due to restrictive zoning or other issues. Having a beekeeper maintain hives on your property adds to the overall quality and appeal of any country farm or estate.
  • Know that beekeepers are on the forefront in helping with unwanted wild bee colonies. Every community should welcome beekeepers. It is not the managed colonies beekeepers maintain that cause problems, it is unmanaged colonies. You can rely on beekeepers and bee associations for dealing with honey bee related issues. Passing restrictive measures or beekeeping bans might mean nobody is around to help when needed.
  • Get involved with your community environmental center, volunteer programs, county garden center, and other agriculture and nature-based programs. No doubt you will meet a beekeeper. Beekeepers are part of your community and many love nature on all levels. Beekeepers give generously to affiliated programs and understand we are all connected.

Thanks for Caring!

Enjoy some honey today!

Holy Health Takes Wing

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We gather in the woods of North Carolina on the bank of the French Broad River, more than two thousand of us seeking the spirit of the Wild Goose — an ancient Celtic symbol for God’s Holy Spirit. We call ourselves The Fellowship of the Wings.

I know, maybe that sounds a little woo woo; but it’s not like we’re weird or anything, with our angel wings, hats of feathers, rainbow flags, and flaming Hula Hoops.

Just the usual Christian paraphernalia.

Just the Norm

Wild Goose 2013 026.fix Wild Goose 2013 033

I wasn’t sure how to share about the Wild Goose Festival until the WordPress blogmeister helped me out by asking: What does health mean to you? The connection is obvious, right? OK, maybe not to you. But bear with me.

Health as a Holy Pursuit

Health is a beautiful word – it means wholeness; being whole and sound. I believe that the only way a human can attain true wholeness is to connect with the spirit of life that animates us, and I call that spirit God. In fact, the Old Norse word for health is helge, which means holy and sacred.

If a person is intentionally open to the Holy, no matter what happens to their body, their mind and heart remain oriented towards a larger reality, and they flourish. Living in this larger reality means you can let go of the illusion of control and accept life on life’s terms, which leads to peace and a sense of well-being. Being fueled by the Holy means your own desires become aligned with God’s, and  as you become more and more the true self you were created to be, you find yourself bathed in grace and gratitude.

Down to the River Chapel

By the third day of the Wild Goose Festival, I was beat. I’d been trudging from workshop to workshop through mud and thick humidity, balancing my umbrella on one shoulder and my lawn chair on the other while juggling a cache of new bumper stickers, t-shirts, bracelets, and books.

Plus, I had stayed up too late at the “Beer and Hymns” gathering the night before.

Beer & Hymns

Beer & Hymns

So I decided to settle down and see what the morning might bring at “The Chapel,” a small clearing at the edge of the rushing French Broad River. Sure enough, being still and waiting for the Holy resulted in renewed health and wholeness for my body, mind, and spirit.

Quieting the Chatter in Your Head

First up: Centering Prayer, a Christian meditation I’ve been practicing for years but which I’ve recently let slide. About fifty of us sat in a semicircle listening to river rhapsodies and bird songs and facing an altar of candles set up on a picnic table beneath a cathedral of aged oaks, basswoods, and tulip poplars. Spiritual and political writer Phil Fox Rose led a twenty minute “sit” during which we each silently used a sacred word to release our chattering thoughts and distracting emotions so that we could simply rest in God’s refreshing presence.

I’ll bet you won’t ever need blood pressure medicine if you practice this regularly.

Letting Laughter Rip

After the quiet souls dispersed, a new set of people came traipsing down the shady dirt path towards The Chapel. The noisy procession was led by Kimberly Kirchmere Dinsdale, a boisterous life coach from California and a practitioner of Laughter Yoga. I’ve always wanted to try this Indian form of Hasyayoga because studies show myriad health benefits from regular laughter, even if it’s voluntary, planned laughter. Apparently, people who laugh habitually are 40% less likely to have a heart attack!

I probably will not die of a heart attack – I laugh a lot. So this workshop was tons of fun and had the added benefit of helping me to rise above my fear of looking stupid.

A Tradition of Dance and Song

My cheeks and belly were sore from laughing, slapping my knees, and hugging other laughers, so I was looking forward to sitting on my butt for the next workshop on Aramaic – the ancient language that Jesus and his friends spoke.

No such luck.

Reverend Elizabeth Reed, who runs a holistic healing and growth center in Ohio, got us up on our feet. Strumming her guitar, she soon had us chanting Aramaic words for God while doing circle dances similar to ones they might have done in the Middle East two thousand years ago. Totally, totally cool.

Get this: Abwoon is the word that’s traditionally been translated “Our Father” in the Lord’s Prayer. In Aramaic, it actually carries meanings such as creator, birther, breather and sender of spirit, here, and incarnate. Good Lord! How did those old guys who shaped the early Christian faith get “Our Father” out of that??

The repetition of the chant and movement was mesmerizing and soothing to my soul; the experience of engaging my intellect, body, and voice all at the same time reminded me that living life to the full is the best way to be whole and healthy.

A Healthy Prescription from a Wild Goose

Go outside into God’s dynamic and glorious creation – open your eyes and ears and breathe deeply.

Spend time in silence, soaking up the unconditional love and radical acceptance that surrounds you.

Wait for the Holy. Trust it. You don’t have to grab for it; it’s in the very air you breathe.

Live life to the full – engage your mind, body, and soul in becoming who you are truly meant to be. Don’t worry about looking stupid.

Laugh, learn, sing, and dance. Love each other.

Drink beer and sing hymns, but don’t drink too much beer or you won’t feel well.

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

Jesus of Nazareth   

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Stuff to do:

Why not participate in a challenge this week? Daily Post Challenge: What Does Health Mean to You?

This week’s WordPress challenge also highlighted a mental health blog where I have been a guest blogger: Broken Light: A Photography Collective. Check it out!

Come to the Wild Goose Festival next  year — you know you want to!  Christian credentials not required.

▶ You Hold the Key to Love and Fear

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“You hold the key to love and fear. All in your trembling hand.”

Do those words sound familiar? Do they unleash a rush of images and emotions? Probably so, if you are of a certain age. They surely do for me. Actually, the song “Get Together” by The Youngbloods makes me cry. It brings on a sense of longing that I’ve written about before.

Back in the sixties and seventies when I was growing up, there were these beings called hippies. They dressed in bright colors and denim and had big hair that smelled like patchouli oil, a scent that still intoxicates me and makes me feel instantly alive and in love.

Back in the day with George & Arlo

Back in the day; in love with George & Arlo

Mostly, though, hippies made beautiful music. They sang about love and peace and togetherness; and here’s the thing – they BELIEVED in it. They were imperfect people like you and I, and most of them were “just kids,” at least that’s what politicians and corporations supporting the Vietnam War called them to belittle their demands for peace.

Songs of Peace

Songs of Peace w/ Dennis & Mike

But  those kids believed. They thought if they just took over enough college admin buildings and held enough sit-ins and boycotts and rallies and marches on Washington that they could end that war. And they did. They dragged their aunts and uncles and mothers and fathers and eventually the politicians towards peace.

We Believed

We Believed

That’s why The Youngbloods song makes me sad. Because I still want to believe in the power of love and peace that they sang about; I still want to believe that if the people lead, eventually the leaders will follow.

Look at Us

But look at us now. Look. Look at the bombs, look at the destruction, look at the trillions America spends on spreading fear and death – I can’t even keep track of the number of wars we’re engaged in.

Lately I’m hearing dire warnings from the Pentagon that if their budget is cut, they “won’t be able to go as many places or do as many things.” Read: “We won’t be able to kill as many people.”

Look at the assault weapons spraying our schools with bullets and the arsenals being built up in private homes and the hate speech on the TV and the radio.

We are going the wrong direction. The Youngblood’s message didn’t take. Or it hasn’t yet.

Keep Hope Alive

I’m a Christian. I believe that Divine Love runs through every human being. If we allow it, this mighty river of love will wash away our pride and fear and ego so that we can become little rivulets of Divine Love in the world.

Rivulets run together and become rushing rivers that become oceans. This gives me hope.

That’s why I’m a Blogger for Peace — to join other rivulets of peace. This month, we’re issuing a challenge to raise the visibility of peace in the blogosphere.  If you blog, please join us by clicking here. You just need to blog about peace once a month – inner peace, family peace, world peace – just speak for peace. If you’re not a blogger, would you please consider stopping by the Be 4 Peace blog and “following” it? It doesn’t sound like much, but it didn’t sound like much when the hippies held their first sit-in either.

C’mon People — Unlock Peace

You hold the key to love and fear

All in your trembling hand

Just one key unlocks them both

It’s there at your command

So c’mon people now, smile on your brother – everybody get together, try to love one another right now.

This month Bloggers for Peace suggested we write about music and peace. That’s what prompted this post, and it’s why I’m asking you to listen to this beautiful anthem and then say a prayer that you might use your key to unlock love, not fear. Please listen:

 

Related Posts:

Here’s a nice post for peace from a fellow blogger for peace: http://bluegrassnotes.wordpress.com/2013/07/09/letter-to-divine-creator-monthly-peace-challenge/

http://bloggers4peace.wordpress.com/2013/02/11/kozo-cheri-asks-that-you/

https://melanielynngriffin.wordpress.com/2013/07/04/the-bombs-bursting-in-air-330000-lives-four-trillion-bucks/

http://everydaygurus.com/2012/12/20/we-can-make-a-difference-right-here-right-now/

I Don’t Like Poetry, but I’ve Written Some

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I recently went to a prose poetry workshop at The Writer’s Center in Bethesda. An oxymoron, right? I thought that prose and poetry were by definition different animals. Not anymore, not in the postmodern era when anyone gets to do whatever they want and call it whatever they want.

Prose poetry is basically poetic prose – regular ol’ writing with some of the elements of poetry, like rhythm and repetition and word imagery and  “compression,” which means getting rid of extra words. Obviously the latter is not something I’ve mastered. (Compressed that would read: I blather.)

I was excited to learn about this literary form; it changes the way I think about poetry and makes it more accessible.

I have never understood poetry and always wondered why writers can’t just say what they mean without getting all complicated and obtuse.

In recent years, I’ve come to appreciate poetry (or at least poets) through the Johns Hopkins Masters Writing program . . . but only the teensiest bit. I still have a problem with poetry, but at least I know it’s my problem, not the poet’s.

In fact, I want to be a poet. Then I could wear a beret, right?

Which is why prose poetry is good news for people like me. I love playing with words and sounds and flow and metaphor. Perhaps we non-poets can aspire to poetry?

Anyway, in celebration of doing whatever I want and calling it whatever I want (hey, in summer anything goes), I’m going to share these with you and call them poetry.

Planet Prose Poetry

Night Magic

A winking airplane is as magical as a firefly

If at first you think

it is a firefly.

Renewal

Where the trees stood,

Before the chainsaws came to kill,

Now raspberries and wildflowers grow

And deer come to eat.

Oh Well

The wells don’t dry up anymore,

And I can shower in August

Since the flooding began.

Climate change, they say.

Oh well.

I can shower in August.

Hello?

On the crest of the mountain

Grow two cell phone towers painted blue and green

To match the sky and trees.

How stupid

Do they think we are?

Thanks for humoring me. Poets among you — I would love your feedback in the comments!

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