Archive for June, 2010

I don’t want to play that now

Posted on June 29, 2010. Filed under: Health, HowTo, Musings |

I’ve had occasion to watch a young relative, while visiting his mom and dad. We’d sit on a bench and watch him in the park; a very energetic little boy. Sometimes, another kid would come to play with him. Have you met children who look like toddlers but sometimes, speak like adults? Rory was like that. He was about 3 at the time.

A kid would come by, and say “Let’s kick a ball”, or Let’s run around the playground”, and Rory would cock his head, as if considering whether to build an empire, or go back to the sandbox, and give the child his answer.

At some point though, he would tire of the activity of his new friend. He had a phrase which he used on almost every occasion: “I don’t want to play that now.” That was it. He was done. The other kid could say things like “Aw, cummon, just one more ride on the swing”, or just throw me the ball once more!” Rory was impenetrable. He would walk away, on to other things.

Life throws us balls, and swings, and people. We can choose to play, or not. It’s just that many of us, and many of the people who play with us, don’t recognize our right to say “I don’t want to play that now.” It’s a good analogy in my view, because when I observe, I can look at life as a game. This is not a new idea: “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players” wrote Shakespeare. It is a point of view one can engage. Just step back, and see how the players play their roles. See how you do, too. Perhaps it’s time to go to the casting director and be assigned a new part. After all, we’re in this play for a long time. And just because life is a game, doesn’t mean it’s always fun.

I am comfortable telling someone that I don’t want to play that now, or the equivalent phrase for the occasion. This happens sometimes when friends have a cause or a charity they support. They often feel that since they support it, I ought to as well. If I don’t, the reaction might be that I am a schlump*, or that I’m judging my friend for their interest. Neither is the case. I just don’t want to play that now.

Family friend; local head of blood drive to me some years ago:

She: So, when are you going to donate blood?
Me: I wasn’t planning to anytime soon.
She: What type are you, anyway? We really need some B+.
Me: It doesn’t really matter; thanks for asking; as I’m not planning to donate at this time.
She: You young people are so selfish! Don’t you know there are people dying out there? Are you scared of a needle or something?
Me: I have my reasons; I do care about the need; please ask someone else now.

I heard a lecture last weekend. I hear a lot of lectures as I work for an organization that facilitates them. This speaker addressed the very issue we’re discussing here, and caused me to remember the incident just related. The blood drive person had called me “selfish”. Now, I was peeved at this at the time, because, in fact, she did not know my motivation for not wanting to donate, and darned if I was going to tell her at that moment! ๐Ÿ˜‰ The weekend speaker asked “Have you noticed that when someone calls you selfish, it’s because you’re not doing what THEY want you to do? Isn’t that selfish on their part?” —Bingo!

The speaker went on to say: “It’s as if you are enjoying an ice cream cone. You lick it and enjoy it, and then your friend comes along. ‘This is such a good ice cream cone, you really must have some, too,’ you tell him. ‘But I don’t want any,’ your friend says. ‘Oh, but you must! It’s the best ice cream in the world! Here, have a lick!'”

Well, you get the drift. The ice cream can represent anything from a spiritual practice to the theory of evolution. It can encompass expected roles in society, and how to dress for dinner. It can even…gasp…speak to a person’s patriotism.

In the end, we have to let those eating their ice creams enjoy them. We can choose our own flavor without making theirs wrong. We can accept life as the strange and engaging thing it is. And if I don’t want to play that now; I will play it later, or find something even better to play. ๐Ÿ˜€

*Yiddish term meaning a person who is stupid, foolish, inept, boring, etc.
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Rainbows Across the Years

Posted on June 27, 2010. Filed under: Culture, Health, Philosophy |

I was reminded that in most parts of the country, there are Gay Pride celebrations this weekend. I felt a little ashamed that I hadn’t remembered, as I’d been active in Civil Rights for a long time, and still am, on certain issues. We have our Pride Day here in Southern Arizona in October, because people with sense (like, not me, for instance) ๐Ÿ™‚ are gone at this time of year. (Temperature is 109 today!) I generally follow the events in San Francisco, though, having attended in the past.

Gay Pride Day is an amazing, exhilarating celebration and exposition, with people ranging from the outrageous to the more mundane. Here are some of the things now going on in San Francisco; there are events all over the country. They celebrate the lives, accomplishments and contributions of gay, bisexual and transgendered people, and have a mission of education and joy.

It’s hard to believe it’s been 40 years since the Stonewall Riots; the official start of the gay rights movement. To make up for not remembering the occasion, I’ll share a story from my youth.

I’ve written elsewhere about how grateful I am that I grew up in a multi-racial; multi-cultural community. I also grew up with the notion that “gay is OK”. A girl in school lived with her uncles. She’d sometimes be questioned: “Your uncles? Are they brothers?”
“No” she’d sigh, as if answering this question for the hundredth time, as she probably had, “Uncle Fred is my mother’s brother, and Uncle Martin is his lover.”
“Oh.” pause “Why don’t you live with your parents?”
“My father ran away when I was a baby, and my mother is in jail for the third time on drug charges.” —This girl was unstinting; she’d look you right in the eye as she said this.

Jennifer grew into adolescence in a stable, loving home with her uncles. Many times, kids will taunt those who seem to be different. Somehow, that never happened with Jennifer. The kids rallied ’round, and wouldn’t take any guff from anyone.

My father, though very conservative in some ways, was socially progressive. When I was about 8 or 9, my parents’ business was destroyed by fire. This had been the work of an arsonist, targeting not the storefronts, but the apartment building above them. A person died in this fire; it was a neighborhood tragedy. While the buildings on both sides were scorched, my parents’ store was the one completely burned on the inside. I’d heard the fire truck in the middle of the night—we lived around the corner from the store—and I awakened my parents, as I knew something was horribly wrong. By the time my father got there, not only was his store reduced to charcoal rubble, but there was a good four inches of water from the fire hoses, and a terrible, acrid smell.

As soon as the building was declared safe by the fire department, my mother, father, a neighbor we knew well, my father’s employee and I were there sweeping, cleaning, and mopping up water as best we could. The only things left were those locked in the fireproof safe.

A few neighbors and customers poked their heads in, and said things like “So sorry, Mr. V. Let us know if there’s anything we can do!” and then, walked away quickly. After a couple of hours, two of my father’s favorite customers, Lenore and Lisa, walked right in. They wore rubber boots against the standing water, and carried a large tote bag. Lisa had two camp chairs under her arm, which she set up in a relatively clear space.

“You need some lunch!” Lenore said, and proceeded to take out a thermos of coffee and some sandwiches they’d brought. “We’ve got to keep going,” said my father, but Lenore insisted my parents sit down. “It can wait ten minutes for you to have some food!”

My family drank their coffee black, but the thermos they’d brought contained coffee with sugar and cream. Nothing had tasted better to me in my life. My parents, afraid; overwrought; didn’t have much emotional energy to spare for me. The magnitude of all this was sinking in—this was our family business! I burst into tears. Lenore put her arms around me and held me as I sobbed on her shoulder. At the same time, Lisa patted first my mother, and then my father on the back, saying things like “It’s OK, honey, you’ll get through this, you’ll see.” I knew that some of the neighbors referred to them as “those women”, and rolled their eyes. My father had explained to me that they were a couple, like mom and him, they just happened to fall in love with each other, instead of with men. Good enough for me.

One thing I remember is the look on my parents’ employee’s face. He’d brought his own lunch, as when he left home he thought it would be just another work day, so declined Lenore and Lisa’s sandwiches. He watched as we gratefully bit into the peanut butter and jelly, as if he thought we’d catch gay cooties from them, or something.

The business was rebuilt; I grew up and moved away, having only occasionally seen Lenore and Lisa. They must have passed on by now; they were older ladies at the time. Today I wonder: Were they able to visit each other in the hospital? Had Lisa, perhaps, lain there alone while Lenore stayed home, waiting for a phone call? Had she an opportunity for a few last words with her companion of 40 years?

To find love is a rare and precious thing. To love where you will, and celebrate how you will, seems basic to me.

Lenore and Lisa, you are in my heart today. And thank you P., for reminding me to remember.

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Thinking with our eyes

Posted on June 25, 2010. Filed under: Culture, Health, HowTo, Music, Philosophy, Travel |

Yesterday, I went to see the film The Karate Kid. I don’t generally do movie reviews, and won’t do an extensive synopsis here. I will say it’s a beautiful movie, and I recommend it. You will know the story: Kid gets bullied, kid learns Kung Fu, kid gains self-esteem. Every clichรฉ from every martial arts film is in this one (and I’ve seen most of them) and there are some situations that are not quite believable. But, you knew that going in, didn’t you? The title character is stunning, and while a couple of scenes seemed unlikely at his age, his quirkiness and dedication kept me engaged. Jackie Chan gives the performance of a lifetime. There were gorgeous scenes incorporating the Forbidden City and The Great Wall of China.

But that’s not what this post is about. I found, as I watched, I wanted to take the training that the “kid” had. I’m probably slightly less agile *cough* than the kid, but, you know, I could work up to it! ๐Ÿ™‚

At one point the kid is trying to ward off blows from behind a sheet. He wants to know how he could possibly do such a thing, since he can’t see where the punches are coming from. His instructor tells him he’s “thinking with his eyes”. I won’t give away any more of the plot, but this particular phrase struck me.

We’re a visually based society. Although I’m listening to a flute concerto as I type this, most of my attention goes to the computer monitor. I read; I type; I search the shelves to find my bread; I walk; I look; I dream. Even dreams are mostly visually remembered.

There are many stories of blind martial artists; this site has some, as well as a book to train the other senses. I haven’t learned Kung Fu, but I do some Tai Chi, and it’s a totally different experience doing the moves with eyes closed than with them open. As long as I have a safe space, and know I have enough room, I can do this.

When my eyes are closed, I can visualize how I want my body to be. When my eyes are closed, I reflect on the moment, without extraneous input, even from my own room, which I try to keep simple. When my eyes are closed, my awareness expands. There are no boundaries and anything is possible.

A wise man once told me: The Universe is Finite, but Unbounded.

Image from NASA, The Helix Nebula, also known as “The Eye of God”
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My toilet is singing; my window replies

Posted on June 23, 2010. Filed under: Culture, Games, Health, HowTo, Music, Musings |

Alright, this is going to be a strange one, even for me! You know how, when the water-fill mechanism begins to deteriorate inside the water tank on a toilet, it might start to leak? Well, mine is doing this. In the past, when this has happened, it sounded like an annoying, constant trickle. Not this time. I work in a large room which contains an attached bathroom. I was sitting here, typing away, as I will do, when I heard a mournful but uplifting tune from not far away. At first, I thought a neighbor might have the radio on. Both bubbly and mystical—what instrument could it be? It sounded a bit like panpipes+water fountain. I wanted to know which station was playing this music. I stood up, and noticed that the closer I got to the bathroom, the louder the tune became.

You guessed it; it was coming from the commode. The WC. The lowliest, yet greatly useful, appliance in the house. I’d patched in a couple of devices to regulate water pressure a while back, and the nice, clean water was spritzing through one of those. My first thought was I’d have to go to Home Depot and get a new thingy (technical term), but just as I was about to jiggle the handle (that’s the temporary fix for these things, right?) I drew back, as if from a hot stove, and realized I’d have to jot down the tune first!

You must understand I’m afflicted with a chronic sense of pitch recognition. When pouring a glass of water, I’ll hear a musical scale—all the pitches in the universe—as the water level gets higher. That’s why I used to think a container for serving drinks was called a “pitcher”, because it contained all the pitches!*

Perhaps you have seen the public television creativity promotion which features a composer sitting at a piano, looking for inspiration for his latest piece? He happens to glance out the window, and notices five electrical power lines arranged horizontally, like a musical staff. On the lines perch several birds. He plays the notes represented by the birds on his piano, and, voilร ! his new melody.

I was feeling rather like that bloke. Except, while he was inspired by birds! in nature! I was inspired by…a toilet. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Should I read something into that? {Insert joke/bad pun}

So… I’m writing the notes on staff paper when we get one of those desert “breezes” that can sometimes rattle the windows. (Yes, my windows need repair, as well as the commode.) The wind made this “whoosh” sound (rather glissando-like), then a rumbling (percussion), and the window rattled a beat just right to accompany the tune I was writing.

The harmony is emerging naturally from the tune. It’s in a plaintive, inquisitive mode. It forms itself as I sit here and take dictation, and mold it all into a coherent work. I like this work. It’s one of the best things I’ve written in some time. The thing is: What shall I call it? “Toilet Symphony”? I think not! ๐Ÿ˜• Somehow, “Ode to Water and Wind” sounds a bit…meh! Can you help me out with a title? If I choose yours, I’ll send you a Muse-o-graphed copy of the final score when it’s complete! โ™ช โ™ซ (Just promise me you won’t play it in the bathroom!)

*Actually, no I didn’t. I just made that up. But it seemed to fit. ๐Ÿ™‚
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Dogs, some humans and me.

Posted on June 22, 2010. Filed under: Culture, Musings, Philosophy |

[This is a continuation of a post I started yesterday, and which can be found here. I’d run out of pixels, you see!]

I sit down at the table; we begin to eat. I wonder if the interview portion of the evening is over. Dinner is good. Salad; tofu; brown rice; stir-fired vegetables. About what you’d expect. This is a “semi-veg” house; relatively vegetarian during the 5 meals shared together per week; anything goes on the weekends. There are now five of us at the table. I’m about to serve myself some salad when two people emerge from the master suite of the house. One sits next to me, and plunks a box of tissues on the table. “I have allergies” he says. His partner, a tall, sweet-faced woman rolls her eyes and asks him if he has to do THAT at the table.

This is the second male/female couple in the house. Am I going to fit in here? The man with the tissues clearly feels in charge. He’s one of the two whose “name is on the lease”. That gives him a modicum of power over the others. He asks me more conventional questions than the first fellow did; more like a job interview. (He wanted to be sure I had one, for instance.) He seemed to assess my place in the pecking order, as well. Apparently deciding I was no threat to the established order, he seemed to approve of me, with some reservations. I learned later that, because I was tongue-tied in this unfamiliar situation and didn’t say much, he thought the force of their collective personalities would overwhelm me. My friend told me he’d assured them I was not like that, although I did notice a worried look on his face at the time.

“You must meet the dogs” they said, when dinner was over. No fool, I—I knew my last vetting would be from them. I was shown downstairs to the basement apartment where the dogs lived, and where they allowed two humans to live with them. They examined me as dogs will; sniffing at my private parts, and after registering their initial approval, proceeded to ignore me until I did something interesting. The German Shepherd and a large white puffy dog of a breed I couldn’t identify lived downstairs, were let out in the back garden, and taken for walks. They did not come upstairs. Although I liked them, this was OK with me. I was to get to know the Shepherd very well; we would be good friends. The puffy dog remained an enigma.

Somehow, I knew I would cast my lot with these people. I had another week to go in my housesitting job, then took my meager possessions: books, music system, a futon, a table…that’s about it…and put them in my new, small room with the night-blooming jasmine bush right outside the window. I was the odd-one-out it many ways. All the roommates either had a partner in the house, or were dating someone outside it (including my turncoat friend who’d invited me in the first place! He swears he wasn’t already planning to move, but I’m still not sure!) ๐Ÿ™‚

During the next year, I worked, attended classes at a small college, went hiking with and without some of the roommates, tagged along at weekend yard sales with them, went out to dinner at the weekends, and observed their spiritual practices. The main one was “Universal Worship” where they honored and read a passage from various religious writings of different faiths. They did not subscribe to one of these faiths above all others. Some of them were studying traditional Indian music, and I learned to appreciate Raga. They took me spiritual dancing with them, a sort of free-form movement meant to connect with all-ness. I never became one of them, but I was a friend, an associate. It occurs to me that I am often that way with communities; on the outside looking in.

It seemed the best of both worlds to me during the time I was there: I had my own room; my own space, yet, if I walked out the door there were people to share with. I’m not that fond of pursuing friendships at the “maintenance level”—you know: phoning to arrange a meeting, calling to say hello—so having people just “there” was a boon to me.

I moved out. A year after that, I moved back in again. I’ll spare you the details of why. The second time around, there were people I knew, but half of them were newbies. The new ones asked: “Why do you want to live here?” The ones there before said “Don’t worry about it, Muse is OK.”

It turned out that I was there with Frank, the German Shepherd, on his last day of life. There were now three cats as well as the two dogs in the house; a gerbil, two birds, and a newt. But Frank was my favorite. I looked into his brown eyes, that last time, and found understanding and compassion; qualities I’ve learned to value since.ย 

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Solstice Reflections

Posted on June 21, 2010. Filed under: Culture, Musings, Philosophy, Spirituality |

It occurs to me as I contemplate the summer solstice that I’ve had a rather unconventional life so far. Most people start their public life attending some sort of school; then some sort of other higher education; get some sort of job; perhaps partner up; maybe have a family. Me; I’ve been a wanderer, sometimes physically, sometimes metaphorically.

The solstices for me are times of reflection, more so than other natural religious holidays. The summer one, particularly, is a time of feeling full; and I am! Not so much with food…although I like food…but with reflection; a personal reckoning. I feel as if I’m about to burst: With ideas; with disclosures; with life-changing revelations.

At Solstice time, not TOO long ago, I changed my life, again. It was shortly after the journey written about in this post. I had realized I would not be able to live within a traditional religious community and stay connected to my authenticity, so I sought elsewhere. I really hadn’t expected to get involved with the next community, either, but the end of a tumultuous relationship was nigh, and I found myself about to be homeless.

On this occasion I was not inclined to live alone, and as I was limited in funds, I also was looking for somewhere inexpensive and beautiful. Keep in mind that I was in the San Francisco Bay Area at the time: Beautiful=pricey.

A good friend told me there was a room available in his house. I knew him well enough to know he wasn’t speaking of a traditional family home. He lived with some people in an “intentional community“, whatever that was. I knew it was sort of spiritual, but in a tradition unfamiliar to me. My friend invited me for dinner, to “check us out”. It was in the most beautiful, woodsy, incredible area north of San Francisco; somewhere I’d always wanted to live, but felt I couldn’t afford. The rent was reasonable: For the same price I could have gotten a small snarky apartment in a bad neighborhood in San Francisco; here I’d have views of mountains and be walking distance from a peaceful lake.

There was just one thing. I would have seven roommates. Seven! Those of you who come from large families may think nothing of that, but I’d never lived with more than three people in my life, and those three were my family members. Seven. People. Six of whom I did not know.

I’m not generally an extremely outgoing, social person. I like to keep to myself a great deal; although I can share deeply in small groups, or one-on-one. What would it be like to live in a house full of vaguely hippy-ish spiritual seekers? Did I have to eat celery and wheat grass? Would I be required to chant and have a guru? Were there orgies every weekend? I agreed to dinner, as my friend was cooking that night. (They took turns cooking dinner, and ate that meal together; breakfast and lunch were on your own.)

Next: Let the interrogation begin! I didn’t quite realize I was being vetted. When I look back on it, of course they were interested in how I would fit into their household. It was an intimate setting, after all, and as I was not of their spiritual practice, they were even more wary of me. It turns out that they weren’t able to find “one of their own kind” to occupy their vacant room, or I’m sure they would have preferred that person over me. There was another “outsider” living there, but she was the girlfriend of a long-term resident, and lived with him in the garage apartment. I was somewhat relieved at this. I would not be the only one.

I parked my car. Took a deep breath, and since I was early, walked around the neighborhood a bit. I knew that this would be a temporary situation for me, until I “got my bearings” (still waitin’ on that one!) ๐Ÿ™‚ and told myself that I could live here; it would nurture my soul. I wondered what the potential housemates would be like.

Gathering my wits about me, such as they were, I knocked on the front door. After what seemed like a long while, a young man—I’d guess a couple of years older than I—opened it. “You must be Muse“, he said. I admitted this was the case. “Well, if you’re going to live here you should know that we don’t lock the door, you just walk right in.” (!)

Wasn’t sure how I felt about that. I’d lived in a city. I locked my doors there. He led me through the lounge into the kitchen, where my friend greeted me and waved a spatula in a friendly way. As my friend was busy cooking (had I known then that the only person I knew in this household would be gone in two months; off to live with his girlfriend, I might never have braved this scene) my potential new friend allowed me to sit and began to ask questions:

Why would you want to live here? What kind of food do you eat? What is your feeling about alternative religion? Have you ever lived in a community before? Why do you want to do it now? Do you have a lot of stuff?—this last, because the room he’d showed me was fairly small. Plenty of room for me, though, I can tuck myself away into a nice corner and be content. It had the most important feature of a room for me: A door. I’ve been like this my whole life; wherever I’ve lived, in relationship or out of it, I must have my own space, however small. Those times when I did not were not good for me or the person with whom I lived.

Noises began to be heard in other parts of the house. Roommates were returning from work. This was a rambling house, with several additions seemingly stapled on from necessity without regard for aesthetic sensibility, with at least five entrances.ย  Nevertheless, it had a pleasant feel.

I heard barking from below. There were dogs here! Soon, an intelligent-looking woman emerged from the staircase off the kitchen. She was the non-spiritual girlfriend of the fellow that had been questioning me. She said not to let them intimidate me, and told her partner to leave me alone and not ruin my dinner.

Part two: Dinner and Beyond coming soon to a blog near you. ๐Ÿ™‚

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MUSE in Space!

Posted on June 15, 2010. Filed under: Culture, Games, Science, Travel |

Part 1: Speculation. OK, so I have this friend, that I met through this organization, who is a physicist. He teaches physics at the local U, and he’s brilliant at explaining mysterious mathematical concepts to the uninitiated. During the course of helping to facilitate several of his lectures for the organization, I’ve become a fan. Here in the Sonoran Desert, many residents run away when the temperature begins to stay at 100F (40C) or more, consistently. (Can’t really blame them, can you?) So, when I heard that this excellent speaker was giving a talk “downtown”, on Astronomy, I decided I would enjoy going to hear what he has to say, and support his project during this slow time of year.

Now, granted, I’m a bit of a Space Nut, as you’ll know if you read this post about how I collected moonlight on my body (shameless attempt to drive traffic to a prior post; I really did that, though). I like science in general; it is one of the creative arts for me. I’m not among those who believe it has definitive answers (nothing has definitive answers in my opinion) but I see it as a tool or filter to examine the Universe. This is important: “examine” not “conclude”. Perhaps you will put on sunglasses when it’s bright outside, and therefore are able to see, in greater detail, the nude pool party over your neighbor’s fence. The “nature” of the “party” hasn’t “changed” because of the “tool”—namely, the “sunglasses”—they just give you the opportunity to examine it in detail from one perspective. [Now, stop that! And go back into the house!] If you are like me (which I wouldn’t wish on you) you certainly wouldn’t make any Universal Conclusions about your neighbors based on that one observation of that one event. You may, however, decide to move away based on the one event. After all, they didn’t invite you, did they? Who wants to live next to people like that?

I checked out the venue for tonight’s lecture. It’s called Sky Bar. My first thought: “Quaint name for an astronomy club, that. Probably a rented room somewhere with mismatched chairs and concrete floors where science geeks gather.”

It turns out “Sky Bar” is an actual, well, Bar. You know: drinks; tables; dark room; bartenders; loud music; big screen tvs. The kind of place I generally stay away from…but! This one has a telescope mounted on the roof, which projects the night sky onto the aforementioned big screen tvs. And! They have “Family Night” on Tuesdays (don’t know how old the “families” have to be in order to be accommodated; it is a “bar” after all) during which they have a guest lecturer on an astronomical topic. Do you know anywhere else that has an astronomy bar? It’s so fun to live here!

Tonight’s topic is: “A Voyage through the Universe”. How could I not want to go?

This is an unprecedented blog post for me, because I’m posting Part 1 before I go. I shall UPDATE with Part 2: The Actual Experience upon my return. I just wanted to write up a little background first. I can’t believe this Bar for Space Geeks has been open since late last year, and I’m only just now hearing about it! See you later, with impressions.


Part 2: The Actual Experience: I’m back! My first reaction to the experience is that it was hilarious! What are they thinking? I went with three friends, all of whom knew the speaker: (warning! switching tenses!)

We walk past an enclosed patio with university-looking-types waiting in line to peer through a HUGE telescope. Looks fun. Right inside the door, there are teenagers crowded around experiments from Tucson’s vegetable oil-powered Physics Factory, which was parked outside. Once inside we’re in what looks like a warehouse, with a very long bar along once side (Did I mention that this is a BAR? Yes, I believe I did.)

There were three very large televisions placed along the brick wall opposite the bar; #s 1 and 3 showing a basketball game, the middle with a live cam-feed of the local mountains. As it was still daylight, the Sky Bar was not yet featuring the night sky. We noticed a small platform, a piano, and a lectern near the middle tv, and figured that’s where the speaker would stand. Right next to THAT were two pool tables; even at this early hour getting plenty of use. We took seats at a one of the small tables scattered about, and ordered some drinks; waited to see what would happen next. Presently our average, yet overpriced pizza was delivered from next door, and the place started to fill. I looked around at the students, instructors, and other kinds of people, many of whom had their laptops out, working on this or that; others, though, beginning to speak louder and louder as their drinks began to take effect.

The speaker arrived, came over to say “hello”, and wondered out loud what he’d gotten himself into. They gave him a microphone and projector, and let him loose on the crowd. He began to speak about the wonders of the Universe, the relative sizes of the various galaxies and planets, and showed us what our sun will look like when it finally explodes sometime in the future. He told us we’d have time to finish our drinks, first.

A little girl, there with her family, stares at the slides and at the speaker in rapture. A little boy, with a different family, loudly declares: “This is so BORING! When can we go home?”

“Clink” go the glasses.
“Thwack” sounds the pool cue.
“Roar” yells the group that is watching the game.
“Born”—did I hear him say “spiritual globules”?
No, it was spherical: Baby star’s name.

Visit the Sky Bar…if you dare.
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This is How I Lived, then.

Posted on June 7, 2010. Filed under: Culture, Health, HowTo, Musings, Philosophy, Spirituality, Travel |

Awake, I slowly stretch, and look about the small room under the eves that is my home. I make my bed; I wash; I dress—quickly, as the world awaits. I’ve worn a thick sweater against the morning chill. I stop at the small station outside the main kitchen and fill my mug with fresh-brewed organic coffee, and walk about.

Most of the others don’t stir outside before breakfast, so I am pretty much alone. I don’t disturb the brothers working inside the kitchen. I begin my daily visit to those that are awake with me: several cows, two horses and some chickens. “Hello, Cow”, I say to one. She looks at me, only mildly interested, but it is enough.

I continue on my walk. There are acres to explore, should I wish to do so. I hear the bell. I slip into the chapel for the morning meditation. Then, it’s breakfast time, and my world is suddenly noisy. There are residents, visitors, and staff. I choose a table and try to blend in. I help to clean up. I don’t like to sweep the floors, but I don’t mind sorting the silverware and putting it into the powerful industrial-strength dishwasher.

It has warmed a bit. I take off the thick sweater and stretch; the remaining two shirts feel light and free. I spend the rest of the morning writing and reading; there will be a music class later this afternoon.

My next job is to chop vegetables. Apparently, we’re having vegetable soup for lunch, along with a variety of sandwiches. I’m very hungry, and lunch is very good. We have a quiet time after lunch. It’s one of the few places in California that actively observes Siesta, in my experience. I stay quiet, write letters…some days I fall asleep.

Now for the class: This week, there is a music camp here. The clear air and the beautiful rolling hills seem to inspire the singers to give it their all! After: shall I take a dip in the pool? Perhaps attend the Tai Chi class? Go for a really long walk? I try to move around every day; I like to stay fit. I extend myself, physically, in some way, and then have a nice refreshing shower.

The sun begins to lower in the sky. Evensong. I like the name. I’m not, totally, aligned with the belief system presented, but I am able to experience Evensong at the level of intention. My song this even’ is one of joy! I feel cleansed; purified, in a way I had not felt often in my secular life in the city. I amble over to the kitchen to help with dinner. This might actually be my favorite time of day.

In the evening, if there is a group, there is usually a party. I am an individual resident, neither a part of the permanent community, nor of the visiting group, but I linger on the fringe of the activity, sometimes worming my way in. There might be a movie, a dance, a lecture or a book discussion. If it’s not for me, or if there is no group this week, I am invited to join the residential community for television. They are warm and welcoming. I feel privileged to be included. If there is no group, we “say compline” right in the living room; otherwise we trudge over to the chapel.

Then, it’s bed time. I snuggle in; it’s gotten cool again. I read; write; contemplate. I actually go to sleep at a decent hour—unlike me these days. I love this life. This time, in that place, is one of my very cherished memories. Now, when I wish to capture the essence of at-one-ness, I remember how I/it was, when I lived among those who knew.

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