The Old Homestead

Back in August, I did a blog post about Steve’s childhood home and his mom’s move out.  You can see that post here.  At the beginning of September, I traveled back to California to see my mother’s new digs and how my brother has renovated the old homestead and made it his own.  Our mothers are only 3 weeks apart in age, both are turning 80 this December.  This seems to be a rite of passage – relinquishing home ownership and the mental and physical effort it requires.  I’m happy to say that both our moms have found communities of vitality and interest and that they are enjoying new friendships, new activities, and comfortable surroundings.  Here’s a photo gallery of the Los Gatos trip (mostly for the edification of my kids who haven’t been there in a while). 

100 Thousand Poets for Change

As a core team member of The Bardo Group, I have been invited, encouraged, challenged to participate in the 100 Thousand Poets for Change event.  For more information about this event, and to be stirred and prodded in you own artistic lethargy, click here

I yearn to be a poet, an artist, a musician.  I often find a piece that seems so right, so seemingly effortless, so fitting that I think it can’t be hard to craft a work like that…it simply lays over its theme like a glove.  Not so.  Listening to music on my way to work yesterday, I heard a poet’s frustration: “I don’t know why I spend my time / Writing songs I can’t believe / With words that tear and strain to rhyme.” (Paul Simon: Kathy’s Song.)

I feel this theme of Peace and Justice coursing through my life, my thoughts, my work, my hopes, and I wonder how hard it would be to write a poem about it.  I talked to a young man half my age who has studied forensic justice and just interviewed for a position as a mentor, a parole partner, someone who will help perpetrators and victims get together and talk, face to face.  I thought it was a great idea, for both parties, for all parties.  Here’s my attempt to let that idea percolate:

Let’s Face It

Behind the veil, the dirty shroud, the black burka, the white Klan sheet,

the knit ski mask, the heavy gas mask, the transparent oxygen mask, the impenetrable death mask,

the dense fur, the redwood bark, the shiny scales, the matted feathers,

the protective shield, the official badge, the repeated slogan,

the coarse beard, the perfect make-up,

the injections, the implants,

the scars, the screen

 

There is a face, a viable being.

 

When eyes recognize

kin and skin, then peace begins.

Face to face is the starting place.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Nighttime

I gotta admit, my first reaction was something along the lines of “WTF?  Who takes photos at night when there’s no LIGHT?!”  But this is supposed to be a Challenge, right?  (an aside….Steve mentions in passing that he’d be great at making up one word photo challenges.  “Yeah, like what?”  “Crouton,” he said, not even skipping a beat.  I am glad that “Crouton” is not this week’s theme.  I have zero photos on that subject.)

Recently (well, almost 2 months ago now), we had a marvelous nighttime adventure in Chicago with my youngest, Emily.  We went to Ravinia, the outdoor musical festival, for a Brahms concert.  We bought only lawn seats, not the more expensive Pavilion seats.  It rained all day, not too fiercely, but fairly steadily.  We found that we were among the few diehard music fans that did not let that deter us from setting up a picnic on the wet lawn and dining happily under our umbrellas.  When the music started officially (after a brief practice during our picnic), we packed up the food and huddled beneath the umbrellas.  The rain was falling in earnest by then.  At intermission, an invitation came over the loudspeaker for anyone on the lawn to move into the pavilion, as most seats were empty.  A kind man handed us tickets to a box seat well under the shelter, and we moved in to warm up and dry off.  It was a thrilling evening, being out in the elements, listening to live music played by real, live, dedicated musicians from Germany…and the occasional roll of thunder.

But my photos from that evening did not come out as I expected.  Trying to adjust for low light is very tricky.  Still, the sparkle and color and blurry atmosphere is rather fun. Pretend you’ve had a few drinks before you look at them. :)

BTW – on the menu: 5 different kinds of cheeses,  3 salads, handmade chocolate-dipped strawberries (thank you, Emily!), a light Chardonnay and the best beer on the planet (from Belgium – Maredsous). 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Endurance

The Word Press Daily Post Photo Challenge states: “As we sift through fleeting status updates, toss yet another egg carton in the recycling bin, and watch as seasons change around the world, it can seem like life is made of constant change.”

Well, isn’t it?

And maybe, to step outside of constant change is to see constant continuation.  Thich Nhat Hahn doesn’t celebrate his birthday, he calls it a “continuation day”. 

If you look deeply into the palm of your hand, you will see your parents and all generations of your ancestors. All of them are alive in this moment. Each is present in your body. You are the continuation of each of these people. To be born means that something which did not exist comes into existence. But the day we are “born” is not our beginning. It is a day of continuation. But that should not make us less happy when we celebrate our “Happy Continuation Day.” Since we are never born, how can we cease to be? This is what the Heart Sutra reveals to us. When we have tangible experience of non-birth and non-death, we know ourselves beyond duality. The meditation on “no separate self” is one way to pass through the gate of birth and death. Your hand proves that you have never been born and you will never die. The thread of life has never been interrupted from time without beginning until now. Previous generations, all the way back to single cell beings, are present in your hand at this moment. You can observe and experience this. Your hand is always available as a subject for meditation.

–Thich Nhat Hanh, Present Moment, Wonderful Moment

Continuation and endurance are kindred concepts.  It’s not about effort, it’s about the flow of life: life to life.

And now, for my illustration.  Sequoia sempervirens, the coastal redwood.  Amongst the oldest living things on earth, the species includes the tallest living trees on the planet.  This particular tree is located in Big Basin Redwoods State Park, about 25 miles from the house I lived in as a high school student, where my brother lives now.  It’s nicknamed The Grandfather.

endurance

If these trees continue to exist in 50 years, they may exist for a thousand.  If they’re gone in 10 years, they’ll be gone forever. Redwoods reproduce by seed cone and asexually through lignotubers, called ‘burls’.  Redwood burls are beautiful swirls of richly colored wood when they are sliced open.  Unfortunately, poachers take these burls for decorative furniture and cut off the reproductive possibilities.  Here’s an article describing how 2 men were arrested and charged for poaching redwood burls in a National Park.

Redwood Poachers

This May 21, 2013 photo provided by the National Park Service shows wildlife biologist Terry Hines standing next to a massive scar on an old growth redwood tree in the Redwood National and State Parks near Klamath, Calif., where poachers have cut off a burl to sell for decorative wood. The park recently took the unusual step of closing at night a 10-mile road through a section of the park to deter thieves. (AP Photo/Redwood National and State Parks, Laura Denn)

What will endure for the next generation?  How do I choose my path, living in continuation and protecting continuation in all life on our interconnected planet?

© 2014, essay and photograph, Priscilla Galasso, All rights reserved

Wilderness Week continues!

September 3 marked the Golden Anniversary of the signing of the Wilderness Act into law by President LBJ.  I posted a kick-off essay about a recent trip to a designated wilderness preserve here in Wisconsin for The Bardo Group.  Subsequently, members of that blogging community posted essays, videos, poetry and photos on the wilderness theme.  Check out the daily posts beginning that week by clicking here.  Favorite pieces gleaned from that site include How Wolves Change Rivers, The Carpathians – “Europe’s Only True Wilderness”, and In Wilderness Is the Preservation of the World.

Just after my kick-off essay went online, I headed to northern California to visit my family and explore some of the natural places unique to that area.  I felt the presence of my father as I re-visited trails we had walked together and that he had walked after I moved out.  A quote that I had read somewhere kept surfacing: “In the end, we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught.”  Baba Dioum included this thought in a speech he made in 1968 In New Delhi, India, to the general assembly of the International Union for Conservation of Nature.  

My father was a teacher of Math and Science professionally.  He taught Religion as a volunteer in the church.  He taught me many things, but in his teaching about Nature, he was less didactic and more mystic.  He simply wanted to be there and to introduce me to a living thing which he loved…the planet. 

Camping in Alaska the summer after his senior year in High School: 1951.

My Dad in Alaska the summer after his senior year in High School: 1951. (photographer unknown)

Some of the things my father introduced me to:

September 21 is the date marked for the People’s Climate March in New York City.  The United Nations Climate Summit is two days later.  Please consider what your part may be.  What do you hope for our planet?  How do you want those hopes represented by our nations’ leaders?  How can you contribute to the teaching, the understanding, the loving and the preserving of our mutual home?  Thank you for doing your part, whatever that may be.

© 2014, essay and photographs, Priscilla Galasso, All rights reserved

Weekly Photo Challenge: Humanity

The slice of humanity that I know best: my family.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Adventure!

I am late jumping into this week’s challenge because I’ve been on an adventure!  I’ve been in California for the last week visiting family and taking excursions.  I lived in CA for 15 years, but it’s been 4 years since I’ve been there.  In the interim, they’ve established a new National Park.  The Pinnacles have been designated a National Monument since 1908, but 2 years ago it became a National Park.  And it’s still the newest one.   My father and brother used to hike there years ago and raved about it to me.  This week I made my first visit.  California condors have been reintroduced to the area, but I didn’t see one.  I did see a tarantula and a wild bobcat, though!  The tarantula was in one of the caves that was formed when giant boulders from the top of the Pinnacles crashed down into the canyons.  It was very dark under there, and it took me a while to figure out how to photograph the critter.  The CCC built some very helpful trails with stairs and railings in the 1930s that make exploring those caves and getting up to the rim of Pinnacles relatively easy.  What you might not notice in the photos is the silence.  Yes, even in California, one can find silence.  Solitude.  Space.  But those places seem to be shrinking every year as population and development boom.  The state has changed since I left in 1991.  And it will keep changing.  Some changes are good though.  It’s nice to know that condors live there now.