Posted on April 25, 2011. Filed under: Culture, Health, Music, Musings, Philosophy, Spirituality |

ย Blessed.

It’s a word.
How does a secular-oriented person reconcile feeling blessed?
But I do.

Blessed. (or Blest): Consecrated.

Consecrate: to make or declare sacred.

Sacred: regarded with reverence

Reverence: a feeling or attitude of deep respect.

Do you see what happens when one tries to go down the semantic road? Of course these are not all the definitions of each word, but they do bring me along a path that is circular; by the time I get to the “deep respect” definition; it describes adequately what I’m feeling.

The word “blessed” tends to be associated with spiritual concepts, but I’m not ready to give it up in secular life. There are times, and situations, when no other word will do.

This time, in my life, is one of those.

Although I have not been writing very much lately for many, many reasons (some of them interesting!) and though I want to share those interesting things with you but somehow have not, I have been blessed by people both on- and off-line, thinking of me and wishing me well.

There have been some occasions to occasion this in recent days. The week just past has been a holiday one for many. Some of my family acknowledged Passover last week, while others of my people celebrated Easter week, culminating in the spring renewal of Easter Sunday.

As I am eclectic spiritually as well as socially, ๐Ÿ™‚ my week went something like this: On Tuesday, I experienced a secular passover brunch, featuring my favorite dish of the season, matzah brei. On Saturday, it was, of course ( ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) World Tai Chi Day, so I celebrated that by watching wonderful demonstrations of several different forms of Tai Chi at the Chinese Cultural Center, including one I hadn’t seen before using a curved racket and a ball! This was performed by two masters from China who now live here in Arizona. There was good food to be had, and interesting companions. I was surprised how many people do Tai Chi here, and pleased that our local medical community is actively studying it for conditions such as recovery from stroke and heart surgery, and increasing mobility and flexibility in people with arthritis. I know from my own practice that I have better balance and flexibility.

This was all great; and I was having a good weekend, when later that evening I discovered I was being given a surprise birthday party! Orchestrated “behind the scenes” by a dear one, I had no idea; was attending a chat group I help with, and instead of just chatting, we danced, and had cake and champagne! What a lovely unexpected pleasure!

On Sunday I worked; co-facilitating a group. I work at several of these, each scheduled one per month, and the Easter Holiday did not interrupt the schedule. I was curious about the turnout on a holiday that generally has many visiting with family, but we had a very good turnout, and I felt useful to people; always a good thing. ๐Ÿ™‚ A potluck dinner followed.

Today is my birthday, and I kept my birthday tradition of brunching here with friends. It was a beautiful spring morning, and the surrounding gardens displayed our desert in bloom. It’s the absolutely best time of year to see desert fauna at it’s best. I was additionally treated to the company of many butterflies as I walked in amongst the splendour.

During the past few days, I’ve received greetings from two cousins I hadn’t communicated with in years, and from two good friends I’ve known since my childhood. I’ve also gotten messages from some blog friends—and this blows my mind and has generated the title of this post—this, after being “absent” from my blog space for quite a while! The fact that I am still thought about and cared for makes my birthday mean more than the passing of another year; it truly is a time of renewal.

Continual happy spring to you!

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Posted on December 18, 2010. Filed under: Culture, Health, HowTo, Music, Musings, Philosophy, Spirituality |

I want to get this down while it’s still fresh in my mind. Today, (and similar days in past Decembers), is one of the more emotionally devastating, yet ultimately satisfying days of my year. I’m exhausted, physically and emotionally, but, I think…in a good way.

I do free-lance administrative work for several arts and cultural organizations. One of them is a chorus I sing in as well. Today, we made our annual “Christmas Caroling” trek. I put that in quotes, as I don’t really know what “Christmas” means…more about that in a minute. I generally grumble and mutter under my breath when the group plans this expedition. Coming up to the time, it seems overly precious and sentimental; not to mention, well, more “religious” than I’m comfortable with. I’m the kind of secularist that, on one level, really doesn’t understand how someone can say something like: “I’m an atheist. But. I really like Christmas!” —what? What does that mean? To me, when I observe the society around me, I can’t define “Christmas” as any one thing. It is a pivotal celebration for some branches of religionists. It’s also associated with Pagan or natural celebrations of solstice; in fact the solstice observances of many cultures have been hijacked by the Christians in order to incorporate already existing holy times into the celebration of their leader’s birth.

The confusing thing to me is that in some countries, Christmas is also a cultural holiday; a time to share gifts and cards, parties and greetings, and perhaps a softer attitude than at other times of the year. Is there something in the darkest time of the year that causes us to slow down and reflect? Something beyond the religiosity of it all?

In times past, I’d tell people I don’t celebrate the holiday, as I’m not a Christian or a Pagan. I’d receive looks ranging from the quizzical to the hostile; from those who’d ask what either of those spiritual paths has to do with it (!) to those who are strictly Christian and don’t like the Pagans or secularists usurping “their” holiday. (Kind of ironic, considering)

So I grumble and complain and say I don’t want to do this “caroling” thing…and yet…I always do. We’re not the kind of carolers that go door-to-door. We visit care facilities such as today’s Alzheimer’s, Hospice, and Chronic Care units. I realize, as I always do, that most of the people who receive the gift of our songs have heard them all their lives, whatever their religious or lack of religious upbringing. These holiday songs are ubiquitous. You’d have to travel somewhere really remote, or never leave your home between November 1st and December 26th to avoid them. This becomes important in the saga of the caroling.

Our first visit was to an Alzheimer’s unit, a nice set of five cottages around a central courtyard. We visited all five cottages. In most, there were a mix of relatively alert, and pretty-much-out-of-it residents, with a few visiting family members thrown in. We never know what kind of reception we are going to get, because with Alzheimer’s patients, the short-term memory is the first to go, and they may not remember their son’s name, for instance, but they sometimes do remember all the words to a Christmas carol. I’ve seen this happen many times. The residents will look around in confusion as we enter their living space. Are they supposed to know who we are? Some of them give us hostile or suspicious looks.

And then: We start to sing. We sing very well, as we are from a semi-professional chorus. Rich, four-part harmony greets the residents as they listen to familiar tunes. Some of them open their eyes, and watch, with rapt expressions. Others keep their eyes closed, but, somehow, mouth the words. Still others wake up, as if from a long sleep, and start to sing along; voices beautiful; moving; emotional.

This is when the magic happens for me. For those few moments, there is no illness; no loss of cognitive function. We all share in these carols we know so well. We sing a mix of purely secular winter songs (Jingle Bells; Frosty the Snowman) Pagan (Deck the Halls with Boughs of Holly) to the overtly religious (O Little Town of Bethlehem; Silent Night) and we always end with We Wish You a Merry Christmas, and at that moment, I do; I really do!

As we ended with each group, we went to shake hands with those who were able to do so, and greet them. Two women and one man kissed my hand. ๐Ÿ™‚ We were told by their caretakers that they hadn’t seen some of them this animated in a long time. I felt blessed in my ability to share this gift. I was content. It was meaningful. We had another facility, a county nursing home to visit, and then…we had “a thing at the mall”.

“What a contrast”, I thought to myself, “between singing to these lovely folks who can’t get out for a concert, and singing for a lot of mall shoppers trying to get the best deal!”

At the county-run large nursing home facility, I recognized several residents from the prior year. Unlike at the previous venue, there were a variety of ages; many quite young, but profoundly disabled and requiring 24-hour care. The staff member that took us around to three main lounges explained that, although some residents would have their eyes closed, or otherwise appear to “not be all there”, they nevertheless just might be able to take the music into their inner lives. She told us that last year, a resident came out of a coma after we sang! This was the first I’d heard of that. Again, a few audience members sang or mouthed some of the words with us. Others sat still and unblinking with tears running down their cheeks. One man, relatively young, sat with his eyes closed, seemingly oblivious, until, during Jingle Bells, two of the singers actually jingled bells they had brought with them. He opened his eyes and stared and stared at us.

And so, on to the “mall thing”. I will say that, although I don’t frequent malls to begin with, this day is probably the last day I would have chosen to visit any mall. The parking lots, and the mall itself were packed with shoppers, hoping to be inspired just a week before the holiday that causes them to give.

Some, obviously, were enjoying the shopping. Many, however, had “that look” on their faces; the “concentrated; obligatory; let’s get this gift buying over with” sort of expression that makes me question the wisdom of this December Debacle.

I hoped that what we were about to do would ease their pain, if only a little! ๐Ÿ™‚

Inspired by a project born in another state, the Arizona Music Teacher’s Association decided to bring a “Random Act of Culture” to southern Arizona’s busiest mall on the busiest shopping day of the year. Fresh from my lunch of hummus and Greek salad, I wandered over to the large rotunda. There was an organ playing Christmas carols; not a terribly unusual thing in a mall in this season. It seemed there were many onlookers lining the railings from the floor above, and as I and my colleagues merged and mingled with the shoppers, we became aware that it was almost time. The organ stopped. And then it started again, at four times its previous volume. A conductor appeared on the landing between the floors. As the organ completed the introduction, several hundred voices, all mixed in with the shoppers, began to sing. Chills ran up my spine. Although under very different circumstances than in my morning activities, I still felt that I and the others “ministered” to these shoppers, perhaps victims of our consumerist culture; perhaps only trying to bring happiness to their families and friends.

As I contemplate my day, I’ve let go of feeling that any one group was more deserving than another. We’re all in this together, doing the best we can. As I was driving home from the mall (after taking 38 minutes just to be able to leave the mall!) I noticed a bumper sticker on the car ahead of me: “Don’t Postpone Joy”. Indeed.

Here is video from the project that inspired ours. We may make the local evening news with our event; if so, I’ll post an update here. We sang the same music as in the video, and received the same spontaneous applause.
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Random Confessions

Posted on September 22, 2010. Filed under: Culture, EFT, Games, Health, HowTo, Music, Musings, Philosophy |

This is a time of year I often evaluate aspects of my life. Some do it at Gregorian New Year; others in the Spring…to me, the fall is the best time, the time of the Autumnal New Year. I can look at what I’ve “harvested” over the past few months; evaluate what I want to tuck away for the winter (Don’t chuckle; though I live in the Sonoran Desert, we DO get winter. Or what passes for winter, here, anyway) ๐Ÿ˜‰

Another reason to evaluate in the fall is that it’s a tradition for part of my family. Although I wasn’t raised with this holiday; some of my family members celebrate the Jewish New Year; and I observe my own version of Yom Kippur in a September. I think the fact that I was not brought up in that particular religion makes me more able, objectively, to appreciate some of the ceremonies it has. I have a lot of religious baggage from the religious upbringing I did have; and am still reconciling myself with what was passed to me as truth.

Some random things I’m looking to let go of:

Hair! I’m sure I won’t really do this; but my hair has been bugging me lately. I’m sorely tempted to shave it all off. I’ve always been “into” my hair; it’s sort of long for who I am, and it gets into everything. During the long hot summer we’ve been having here, it’s particularly annoying. I know the more obvious solution is to just cut it short! But I can’t! That would be so un-me. I’d rather just cut it all off, if I’m going to change it…but then I’m afraid I’ll look like an melon or, worse, TweedleDum! (TweedleDee wouldn’t be as bad!) ๐Ÿ™‚ So, I’ll probably, as I usually do, just let it grow another inch while I ponder…

Papers! Seriously, is there any reason to keep old bills around any more? They are all accessible and stored online from every institution. I act as if I’m about to be subject to a tax audit of the last 78 years (!) and I’ll be one of those people that rolls in 24 carts of materials to be examined. In looking to clean out and simplify certain aspects of my life; both out of desire and necessity, I’m gingerly going through these old records and shredding away! I hope I feel better afterward.

People! Do you ever see people as baggage? Is that a rude thing to ask? Some of the people who have been in my life don’t quite fit anymore, while others are changing roles or adding to them. This is natural evolution in most cases; but we humans tend to hold on even as we evolve, sometimes. I’ve heard it said that if a relationship isn’t serving you, let it go! Much like you would and old vacuum cleaner that blows dusty air out instead of sucks it in. Some of my relationships are work-related, and I’ve noticed that, in most cases, when the working relationship ends, very often the personal one does too. Most of them need the glue of the common interest and activity to hold them together. There are exceptions, of course. It’s perfectly possible—and I have done—to find a long-term friend in these circumstances, but as I look back, I realize that, out of all the people I felt were extremely important in my day-to-day existence, only a handful have stayed in touch with me, or I with them. I am more guilty of this than most, I think. If someone calls, months after a project, and wants to have lunch, I’ll think “Why?” I may go ahead and have the lunch, but in these cases I’ll feel tongue-tied and awkward, and say things like “So, how’s your life been since we finished producing that art project 1000 balloons as Representative of Modern Angst?”

Thoughts! Here are things—and I have heard it said many times that “thoughts are things”–that are a bit harder to deal with, even more so than people. People will eventually go away if I ignore them long enough (I know I sound unsociable, and I sort of am!, but I only do that with people I want to go away), but thoughts! what can one do about thoughts? Really, for me anyway, there are only two ways to clear up the unwanted kind. One is to replace them with better-feeling thoughts, and make some new memories. After some practice, these will become my thoughts. It doesn’t do a lot of good to dwell on the unpleasant ones without some form of relief. This can be anything from vigorous exercise to energy techniques, but best for me is to imagine the kinds of thoughts I’d like to have!—Not to sound too Pollyanna-ish… ๐Ÿ™‚

English! By this I specifically mean the English language used in sacred choral music. A lot of people in the western world play in orchestras or sing in choruses. I have done both for many years. In the “classical” tradition (misnamed, but that’s another post) ๐Ÿ˜‰ most—by no means all, but most—of the vocal music consists of interpretations of western Christian liturgy. Many people can just sing those right along for years, regardless of their background or beliefs. In one of the choral groups I work with, there are a surprising number of spiritual persuasions and non-persuasions. I will confess that, for me, it is increasingly difficult to repeat phrases that have no place in my belief system. I could just continue to “suck it up” as I have been doing for years. After all, choral directors and coaches often tell us that part of our “job” singing this music is to be actors, to “sell” it. I do see this as important if accepting a role in a play (and I WAS a missionary, for the Save-A-Soul Mission, in the musical Guys and Dolls–ironic, huh?) but, there are a variety of roles in plays, whereas in traditional western classical music, there is mostly this adulterated religious expression. When these works are sung in Latin or German or French, I at least get some distance from them, even though I still know what every word says. I can more easily step into a “role” if I’m not using the language I speak and think in.

Ideas! You’d think this would have been covered in “Thoughts”, above, but ideas are different from thoughts. An idea is: “Hey maybe I’ll become a circus clown! That’s just what I’ve been needing to spice up my life!” or, “I’ve noticed that when I go into rooms painted Chartreuse I feel peppier! I think I’m going to paint my whole house Chartreuse!” (I never said “ideas” were necessarily “good” or “helpful”.) They are Proclamations rather than mere Thoughts. All of us have probably thought of a product or two from time to time that *does* seem to be a good idea. Some of them languish away on the back burner, while others are brought to the forefront. So I’m ready to let go of the not-as-good ones.

Fix-it Projects! My house seems to need a lot of work at the moment, some of which I can do myself, some not; some of which costs a fair amount of money, and some not. Everything from replacing the carpets to fixing the leak in the garage seems to need doing. The kitchen could use some work. The bathrooms scare me a little. But how to prioritize? Should I do the things that cost the least and that I can do myself first? Or should I make a list of things from most to least urgent and work my way down as best I can? I’m a bit unmotivated and disheartened, but if I want to leave this house for greener pastures, these things must be done. Even if I don’t…I deserve a nice place to live, don’t I? I’ve just thought of a third way to do my list, which brings me finally to…

Lists! I have a love/hate relationship with lists. When I travel, I obsess about them. I put everything I want to pack on a list, from underwear to nail clippers. After all, I’m traveling all the way to…California!, a primitive land where I’m sure they don’t have things like toothpaste, should I forget it, nor could I possibly borrow it from my native Californian sister, whom I will visit–backwards creature that she is! She probably scrubs her teeth with backyard sand! …And then there’s the other kind of list: “Things To Do”. I like to make these lists, but I rarely do what’s on them. My streak of rebelliousness comes out when I’m told to do something, even when I’m the one telling. I don’t really want to “Do” anything. I do often do things, but I’d rather just “Be”. Perhaps I should make a “To Be” list! Yes! I’ll put that on my list of things To Do. ๐Ÿ™‚

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An update on Amy the Artist

Posted on September 20, 2010. Filed under: Culture, Health, Music, Musings |

NaBloPoMo September

Another “Art Month” post here; this time a reference to an earlier post about a rather extraordinary relationship I’ve established.ย  The “update” part of this update is:ย  Recently the organization I mention int he original post started up rehearsals again after being off for the summer. I have no idea what Amy did all summer; she didn’t discuss it with me. When she walked into the room on that first night, though, an amazing thing happened. She allowed me to hug her! I never had done in the years we have known each other. A few years ago, when she told me her mother had just died, I patted her shoulder, and she recoiled as if my hand were a hot poker. So I have kept my distance. But, the group is a huggy crowd–at least after not having seen each other for a while–and I’d already exchanged a few with other members. When I saw Amy, I just spontaneously began to put my arm around her, and she hugged me back. It was quick, and hesitant, but it did indeed take place. ๐Ÿ™‚

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So, that was summer, then…

Posted on August 23, 2010. Filed under: Culture, Health, Music, Musings, Travel |

This is what summer looks like from where I sit. Autumn looks a bit like that, too. In late Autumn and Spring there are also incredible wildflowers—then the desert looks a bit like the poppy fields in The Wizard of Oz.

The official “summer over” signal for me is the start of the autumn semester at the University of Arizona. The students are back. The staff is back. Everything kicks into high gear. July, being “the most popular month to leave Tucson” is very slow and sleepy and hot. It’s probably a bit like living in a summer resort town in the winter (except for the temperature!)ย  Although the Tucson area is not a resort, per se, it has many of them, and is known as a winter destination because of the mild temperatures then.

The problem with autumn being NOW (almost a full month before the season starts officially) is that it is still amazingly warm, and predicted to be so for at lest a couple more weeks. New students at the U are quite shocked by this. They may have made their campus visits in April, and now wonder what they’ve gotten themselves into. We can only tell them it DOES, eventually, cool off; you WILL need to wear sweaters and jackets. It gets COLD here, even snows a bit! Hard to believe at the moment.ย 

The other thing about this summer for me is that I DIDN’T GO ANYWHERE! I usually do in late July or early August. I will sometimes visit my family in California, but, these days I’m kind of snarky about that. I will not go unless I have other reasons to be there, like a conference or seminar, or a family event like a wedding, or something. I rarely travel just to travel. I have friends who used to invite me to their summer place in the mountains, and have had some wonderful adventures there, like this one. It is beautiful there in the summer. Warm days; cool nights; hiking and dining and western history. But…they sold their cabin! Without asking me! Can you imagine? ๐Ÿ˜‰ They said they weren’t using it as much, and they had a good buyer, and in this economy they thought they ought to take advantage of that.

So, it’s been an odd summer. I’ve barely left my area, other than for a couple of jaunts; one up to Phoenix (even hotter) and one down to Tubac (not much cooler, but fun to explore.) As some fall musical activities have started, I found myself greeting people I haven’t seen since last spring. There is a combination of “back-to-school” and “settling-in” energy going on with a lot of these folks, and they inevitably ask me where I went this summer. When I say I was here the whole time, I get the look: “Only a complete moron would stay in the Sonoran Desert all summer without relief!” ๐Ÿ˜ฎ I am familiar with that look, and have steeled myself to be on the receiving end of if for another month or so. ๐Ÿ˜€

I will say that summer is a great time to hit the shopping centers and malls, if you like that sort of thing. In July, you can just about roller skate through Tucson Mall, for instance…try that in late November when the winter visitors and holiday shoppers are there! One can barely get a place to park, then. The other fun things are the restaurants. I haven’t taken much advantage, but they offer all kinds of specials and perks to get business in the summer. A couple of years ago a friend and I wandered into one of our favorites, and they were testing out their new menu. They served us two signature dishes for free! We only paid for our drinks. Good business practice, too, as this restaurant remains a favorite, and I often recommend it.

Now that work is starting to pick up again, I’m hoping the weather might mellow out soon. I’ll be able to hike here and here which I love, and perhaps rearrange my life a bit.

How has your summer been?

photo credits #1 eflon #2 Rick’s
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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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Look up…and dance!

Posted on May 3, 2010. Filed under: Culture, Health, HowTo, Music, Philosophy, Spirituality |

This is unusual for me. I went to attend a meditation at a spiritual center (OK, that part is not unusual) and it was a lovely evening, and several people had come early, including myself, and they were dancing on the lawn!

They invited me to come over and join them. We were in a secluded area (yes, this was of importance to me) and so…I did! It was free-form dance, to the sort of ethereal music coming from the center. It was wonderful. I was reminded of such moving meditation practices as Tai Chi Chuan, or Ecstatic Dance. I’m just not generally a body-oriented person, and I dislike couple dancing, although I like line dancing or ethnic dancing.

It’s kind of bizarre to think this, but in moving my body, I became less conscious of it, and almost out of it all together. It is a great practice, and I suggested we have a dance meditation once a month. Me! Suggesting that!

Of course, sacred dance has been part of spiritual practice for many centuries. When I lived in the “hippie commune” ๐Ÿ˜‰ some years ago, I was introduced to the film Meetings with Remarkable Men, about the life and quest of Gurdjieff. Although dated, and, well, “Man”-centered, it still is a remarkable film, and changed my viewpoint profoundly at the time. Here is a short clip of one of the dance sequences:

I was just always kind of shy, dancing this way, and until tonight, I no longer had anyone to dance with. I will leap about in my living room from time to time, but it’s not the same. ๐Ÿ˜‰ If the clip intrigues you, the entire film can be found here. It’s about more than dancing; it’s a deeply personal and fascinating spiritual journey through rather remote and esoteric mystical communities.

I looked up, looked beyond…and danced! ๐Ÿ˜€ National Blog Posting Month

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Look up: Amy the Artist

Posted on May 1, 2010. Filed under: Culture, Health, Music, Musings |

I arrive, as I usually do, about 50 minutes before the rehearsal was to start. She is there, as she generally is, comfortable behind a bush next to the wall of the school where the events are held. I see her shoes and part of her backpack before she emerges as if from a cloud.

“Hey,” I say. “Happy Friday.” I start to unlock the door of the conference room, as she gathers her possessions and brushes off leaves and pollen. She only waits there on nice days—not too hot; not too cold. In the rain, she stands huddled in the doorway, or if too hot, she finds some shade.

I enter the room, leaving her outside. My job at this moment is to arrange the chairs for the meeting to come. I know she will enter when she feels safe and ready. It is an OK neighborhood, full of interesting shops, but sometimes it attracts washed-out hippies and those who could use a good detox before they make sense. I’d be there by myself if it wasn’t for her. She has her horn, ready for the rehearsal, in one of her three bags. She comes early for the rehearsal because that’s when the bus comes.

I start to move chairs, as she claims her seat for the night. “Too much stuff”, she says as she finds places for the items she has with her. She helps me arrange the room. Tonight, it’s a little difficult; she sighs and takes breaks. “This seems a bit harder” I say, “when the weather starts to warm up.” We have a routine. She takes one end of a table, I the other. It takes two of us; if she hadn’t come, it would have had to wait until another orchestra member showed up.

“How’s your week going?” I ask, as I usually do. “Alright. I guess.” I tell her she needs to work on her delivery; her tone is not convincing. “I couldn’t get permission to serve on the committee,” she says, “There are an awful lot of rules.” I’d asked her about joining the planning committee last week, she was going to “see”. She’d been on the Board of Directors of the orchestra some years ago, when I first came to town, and always had good ideas, I’d thought. A couple weeks ago, she’d told me she lived at a “shelter”, quite to the east and south of where we now were. She’d gotten permission to come to the rehearsals, but they were pretty strict about curfew. “I can understand why”, she’d said, “Some people there need that kind of structure while they’re rebuilding their lives. If they were allowed to stay out all hours, who knows what trouble they’d get into?”

“Drugs?” I ask. “Or running around with the wrong crowd?”

“That, and just sort of forgetting where they live and why they want a better life”, she replied.

She: Besides, there are all sorts of things I need to do in order to live there. I have to clean, and attend all these prayer services. I’ve always been sort of an agnostic, but, anyway, I don’t really embrace their kind of religion.

Me: Have to pay the price one way or another, I guess…

She: Yeah.

She: One thing I really like that they do, though, is feed people.

Me: Oh yeah? Who do they feed, and where do they do it?

She: You know that vacant lot on Willow and 23rd?

Me: I know the general vicinity.

She: Well if you drive by there most days, you just see the lot. But on Tuesdays and Fridays it becomes a portable kitchen! We all have to work there, but I really like it. We feed anyone who wants to come up and get food, and then we give them each a food box, asking them what they need for their families that week. I like being able to help in that way, particularly the children. The food is donated, and they have toys for the kids. It’s funny, though. It seems the kids don’t really value the toys. You’d think kids that had so little would be thrilled to get a new toy.

Me: I wonder if some of that is because of feelings about their situation.

She: Maybe. These homeless kids are pretty hard on their toys. You might be right, maybe it’s suppressed rage or sadness or something.

She: I like working there, giving to the community. The part I don’t like is we’re all required to have a prayer together at the end of the day. None of the words are ones I would say, and it’s kind of embarrassing to have to stand in a circle and hold hands.

Me: Sounds really good, though, helping people.

She: Yeah. Makes me feel like I’m doing something.

We’re about to move a table out of the way, There’s a glass and a bowl on it, and I go to move them off, first, as I’m afraid they’ll fall as we’re moving the stand.

She: It wouldn’t be good if we broke their stuff!

Me: No. Another group I work with has meetings at a church. One of the members broke their offering bowl when moving some stuff. The group is a science organization, and I found it was sort of ironic that we broke their collection plate.

She: What did you do? (clearly alarmed).

Me: Oh, it was only kind of bent, really. One of the members was able to straighten out the metal, and polish it up. It looked pretty good, and the church wasn’t too mad at us.

She: What kind of science organization?

Me: Well, it presents various topics to general audiences. The goal is to provide speakers and discussions even a non-scientist can understand.

Me: We have guest speakers, and we just had one from the U. (named the name) getting ready for the science conference there.

She: Oh, I know him (she’d attended the U. Graduated from there.) There’s a science conference?

Me: There is! They have it every other year; all the even-numbered years right here, sponsored by our University. They study brain science and consciousness, and they’re very interesting.

She: I never knew. Are you going?

Me: For part of it. It’s kind of expensive…

She: Oh, yeah, that is a consideration.

Me: The lobby and exhibits are free, though. You could wander around and read cutting-edge research if you want. Just the seminars are kind of pricey.

She: Maybe.

She: I might get a place in my brother’s house in a couple of weeks. He had his kids living there, but they’ve moved into their own place now. His house needs some work, but he will eventually get around to painting a room I can stay in.

Me: Weren’t you living with your brother a few years ago?

She: Yeah. I had to leave when the kids moved back in.

She: Did you see those framed embroideries in the lobby? They remind me of Byzantine mosaics depicting the twelve disciples. (She’d been an art and music major at the University. She often offered up these gems when something in her awareness intersected with her education.)

Me: Really? I just knew I liked them. Though modern, they have a sort of old-world quality.

She: Sculpture in that era was also often….

She leaves off. A guest cellist has come early to the orchestra rehearsal. I introduce myself, and him to her. She greets him, but I know this is the end of our conversation for the night. As the Arts Administrator, I will be busy for the next 2 hours. I draw the cellist further into the rehearsal hall, a little anxious that he not notice her next activities. We have a deal. I pretend I don’t see her using the microwave oven in the small kitchenette, and she pretends I don’t notice her heating up what she’s brought for her dinner. (The use of the kitchen is not included in our contract with the school.)

I welcome our guest; show him to his place. More members start to show up, and I introduce them as well. The rehearsal proceeds; she plays very well. I catch her eye a couple of times, but, as is usual, I am approached by members as soon as the rehearsal is over. They need information, or to tell me how I might possibly do an even better job. By the time they’ve left, except for a couple who help me move the chairs back, and wait with me as I turn out the lights and lock the gate, she has disappeared into the night. She generally finds someone to give her a ride home. I have never done this; her shelter is miles away from where I live.

A friend who sometimes drives her home tells me that she has to be dropped off several blocks from the house she lives in. The administrators don’t want to alarm the neighbors with a lot of coming and going.

A couple of days later; I send the group an email about some vital information for the upcoming concert. She’ll get it today, or maybe tomorrow. She makes a point of going to the library to check her email several times a week. I hope the room at her brother’s works out. Things are looking up.ย  National Blog Posting Month

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Many Celebrations; One Heart

Posted on February 13, 2010. Filed under: Culture, Music, Philosophy, Spirituality, Travel |

Together we can heal the world. Continuing on the Path of the Heart, I was pleased to discover that two holidays I celebrate every year occurred on the same day this year; namely Chinese New Year, and Valentine’s Day. I have participated in cultural activities in my area for Chinese New Year including providing back up choral singing for the largest CNY celebration in Arizona! What a treat it was to be part of this.

Chinese Year of the Tiger begins on February 14, 2010 and ends on February 2, 2011.

The Tiger is the third sign in the cycle ofย  Chinese Zodiac, which consists of 12 animal signs.ย  It is a sign of courage.ย This fearless and fiery fighter is revered by the ancient Chinese as the sign that wards off the three main disasters of a household: fire, thieves and ghosts.ย  On New Year’s day itself, it is beneficial to celebrate, to be happy, to have smiling faces, and to refrain from scowling, quarreling, or criticizing anyone.

Generally, as part of my personal Valentine’s celebration, I spend some time remembering fondly all those whom I love. When I get well-entrenched into that heart-space, I then attempt to love everyone else. Not always easy, but always worthwhile. ๐Ÿ™‚

โ™ฅ โ™ฅ โ™ฅ English eighteenth-century antiquarians Alban Butler and Francis Douce, noting the obscurity of Saint Valentine’s identity, suggested that Valentine’s Day was created as an attempt to supersede the pagan holiday of Lupercalia.

Many of the current legends that characterise Saint Valentine were invented in the fourteenth century in England, notably by Geoffrey Chaucer and his circle, when the feast day of February 14 first became associated with romantic love. โ™ฅ โ™ฅ โ™ฅ

I’d already decided to post on the “coincidence” of Valentine’s and CNY falling on the same day, when I received emails from two different sources asking for support in spreading even more love; the first in Peru.

The Incan and Ayamara elders selected Feb. 14th (Valentine’s Day) for the ceremony to Activate the Solar Disk at Lake Titicaca. The cosmic ceremony heralds the physical re-emergence into the earth’s atmosphere of those called The Children of the Sun.

We ask you to join with us on Sunday, Feb. 14th in your services, your meditations, your practices, or in groups and hold sacred this day. Using the imagination, see yourselves entwined with thousands of us at Lake Titicaca. See the sacred fires being lit as the many elders and shamans perform ceremonies that call in endless blessings of spirit for the entire planet. See the web of humanity opening heart centers to the Source of All. Feel divine wisdom and love pouring through the portal that is being opened. Imagine all of us holding sacred space and activating loving joy into our own heart centers. See an infusion of love and joy releasing and eradicating the fears and anxieties that have burdened us for so long. See our heart centers anchoring Universal Love and Light into all the people of earth. See the global family finally soaring to its perfect spiritual state of joy and happiness.

My love of music allowed me to be extra pleased to receive the following. I try to put love into musical performance all the time. Chanting is a special form of healing, meditation, and music which amps it up even further.


Join thousands throughout the planet for the 8th Annual WORLD SOUND HEALING DAY on Sunday, February 14, 2010. At 12 noon Eastern Standard Time (EST–New York Time), sound forth for 5 minutes with the “AH”, created and projected with the energy of compassion and love, sending a sonic valentine to Gaia, our Mother Earth. At that time, please go to to enhance the vibratory effect as we sound together for planetary peace and harmony.

โ™ฅ Thank you for joining your heart to mine today and all days. โ™ฅ

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