Weekly Photo Challenge: Partners, Buddies and Pals

When did you learn cooperation? When did you learn give-and-take? Who taught you? Your mother or father? How did it make you feel?


Did you have siblings?  Besides sharing parents, did you share a room? A closet? A bathroom? Did you share your emotions?

Have you ever had a partnership with just one very special person? How long did it last? How did you manage that?

Partnering isn’t easy…but it isn’t hard, either.  It takes concerted effort, for which humans are actually well-equipped because we have quite an advanced way of communicating. It gets more complicated with more partners involved, of course.  I think the rewards are increased in the process. Wouldn’t it be great if we could enjoy the partnership of all living things?  After all, we share one planet. 

contemplating colors

Small World

“There is just one moon…


…and one golden sun…


…and a smile means friendship to everyone…

…though the oceans are wide…

edge 3

…and the mountains divide…


it’s a small world after all.”

My thought is that since it’s a small world, we ought to stop competing over it and start respecting it and each other.  Stop playing Tug of War; join hands, stick together, and play nicely. Children figure this out. Why can’t adults?

Friendship and the Serious Introvert

This post is a feature article in this month’s Be Zine. To view the entire blogazine, click HERE.

I had all but disqualified myself from writing about Friendship this month. “I have no friends,” I thought, envisioning ladies’ magazine coffee klatch groups, beer commercials and Facebook statistics. I don’t have the requisite exercise buddy, shopping buddy, or the Oprah-sanctioned “5 Friends Every Woman Should Have”. That little childhood rhyme started playing in my head: nobody likes me, everybody hates me, I guess I’ll go eat worms.

I’ve decided to re-frame the topic.

I do not have a lot of friends. I do not make a point to get together with acquaintances to socialize. I am an introvert and was raised by introverts. I didn’t have birthday parties or play dates as a kid. I had one good friend who lived two doors down, and we played together almost every day. He was a year younger than I and a boy. When I was in 5th grade, a girl joined my Sunday school class, bringing the class total to three – myself, the rector’s son, and this new best friend. She still sends me Christmas cards. When I moved from Illinois to California the summer before high school, I had to start all over. After a year, I had made a good friend who was a year older than I. She was a bit bossy, but she connected me to the Girl Scout troop, the school choir, the Italian club, and my husband. I was 15 when she introduced us. I was 45 when he died. Later that year, I met someone online – a bookseller who’d just finished a course in Spiritual Psychology. I’d found my new best friend. We’ve been together for almost 8 years. 

photo credit: Carol Toepke

photo credit: Carol Toepke

What I know about Friendship is not about quantity. It is about quality. I think I have enjoyed all the important health benefits that Friendship adds to life distilled into a few precious draughts. To feel that freedom that creates well-being, we have to be able to establish a trust that allows me to be completely myself; we have to create a safe vulnerability. Honesty, copious communication, time, and kindness are the key ingredients. For me, this doesn’t happen easily. It takes concerted effort. More often, I find myself in relationships with mentors or students. I feel quite comfortable as a student or a teacher. Those are roles I can hide in. To be in a true friendship, I have to come out of hiding and operate in an arena of wholeness and equality…which is far more risky. A tremendous accomplishment of my 24 year marriage is that I know that I can survive and thrive while being fully open to another human being. Still, I suppose it has to be the right human being. And those are rare.

The love of a true friend is extraordinary. It goes beyond the giddiness of fun, beyond the pleasantries of companionship, beyond the nobility of human kindness, beyond the affirmation of attraction. The love of a true friend is challenging. It asks you to be entirely forthcoming. It asks you to question your habits and assumptions. It asks you to change and react to change. It asks you to be the best you can be. And it asks you to challenge your friend in return. Because of this dynamic love, life is never boring and your relationship never goes stale. Because of the trust you build, you can enter into the most intense realities of life with some security and the sense of adventure. As my husband used to say after another trip to the hospital, “Never a dull moment!”

My calendar is not full of lunch dates or parties; my phone doesn’t ring for days at a time. Still, I have tasted the best of Friendship and grown braver, healthier, happier and wiser. And no worms were harmed.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Dangerous Curves

The environmentalist in me immediately thought of the graph of carbon emissions from “An Inconvenient Truth” with Al Gore up on a scaffolding trying to get across the frightening point of our increasing threat to our planet. But I don’t have a photo of that.  I do have symbols of how man-made things are eclipsing the natural. I have playground curves with a very small moon…


and outdoor art thrown up against the sky…


and wheels, which have dominated the environment for about a thousand years now.

Finally, I have a symbol of Natural grace, curvy and sharp and wild. A yucca plant.

cactus curl

I think the most dangerous curves are the ones we humans impose. 


Weekly Photo Challenge: Pure, Pristine Wilderness

Untouched, virgin wilderness is perhaps an impossibility on Earth these days. Are there any places that haven’t been touched with acid rain, air pollution or light pollution? Not likely, even if they have never been trammelled by human footsteps. Still, wilderness is an idea worth supporting and fighting for. Pure may only exist in our imagination, but it can have an impact there. What would the silence of machines, herothe darkness of the night sky,

sunset 2 the solitude of a forest mean to you?

wildernessPure delight or pure dread?


Weekly Photo Challenge: In Respect To Numbers

Do numbers even exist in Nature?  I don’t think so.  They are human concepts, to which humans have attached meaning.  In Nature, things simply are as they are.  For example, there’s a tall flowering plant growing in the woodlands and by the freeways, blooming with pink to purple flowers in profusion right now.  Is it Wild Phlox or is it Dame’s Rocket?  The two look very much alike.  Wild Phlox, however, has 5 petals on each flower.  It is a native wildflower.  Dame’s Rocket has 4 petals to a flower, and it is an invasive species.  One is celebrated, the other ripped out at the roots in great handfuls and left to wither in the sun.  

We make a lot of judgments based on numbers.  What’s your SAT score?  Your credit score?  Your cholesterol level?  

Does it matter?  We live; we make choices; we die.  I think numbers are immaterial. I think character is everything.  A growing thing, no matter the number of its parts, is alive.  It deserves respect.