Earth Day 2022

“Earth teach me stillness, as the grasses are stilled with light…

Earth teach me suffering, as old stones suffer with memory…

Earth teach me caring, as parents who secure their young…

Earth teach me courage, as the tree which stands all alone…

Earth teach me limitation, as the ant which crawls on the ground..

Earth teach me freedom, as the eagle which soars in the sky…

Earth teach me resignation, as the leaves which die in the fall…

Earth teach me regeneration, as the seed which rises in the spring.

Earth teach me to forget myself, as melted snow forgets its life…

Earth teach me to remember kindness, as dry fields weep with rain.”

from the Ute people of North America, in “Singing the Living Tradition”

The international observance of Earth Day is for me the most important holiday on the calendar. I can’t imagine anything more important, or anything that makes as much a difference to everything that lives, as planet Earth. I am still working on how to make this day Holy. I want to marvel at, record, and lovingly share as many memories as I can. I want to be physically active outdoors. I want to help mitigate some of the damage that humans have done. And I want to invite, encourage, and implore everyone to join in the celebration and protection of our lives’ Host. We are all interconnected, living expressions of Earth-ness, alongside everything else on the home crust. What an amazing community to belong to!
This year, I’ve added a new page to my blog celebrating Oregon as my home Place. Please take a look! https://scillagrace.com/oregon-outdoors/

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Close and Closer

“Let each dawn find us courageous, brought closer, heeding the lights before the fight is over.” ― Amanda Gorman

This photo challenge is about moving closer to the subject and letting it fill the frame. There is something in this exercise that resembles the challenge of intimacy. The fear is – what if I find something up close that I didn’t expect? That I can’t control? That I don’t like? And what if I do find something I get very fond of…and then have to move away? Or it moves away…and dies?

My first subject is my sister-in-law’s Pomeranian dog, Kimahri. This little guy is an absolute charmer. He looks like a Teddy Bear and lives his life in the adoring arms of a human. But his health is not robust, for many reasons. He’s as small as a little baby, but he’s actually rather aged.

“Since you cannot do good to all, you are to pay special attention to those who, by the accidents of time, or place, or circumstances, are brought into closer connection with you.” ― Saint Augustine

Two weekends ago, my housemate noticed a cat by the side of our dead-end country road, drenched by the rain and terribly skinny. We guess that she was dumped by her previous owner as she was obviously an indoor cat and very affectionate. Yesterday, they had to put her to sleep due to congestive heart failure. I feel like my housemate braved the pain of getting closer and did the right thing. She works as a social worker in hospice care, and this pandemic has been exhaustingly difficult for her, but she still choses to move in closer and be a caring person. I very much admire that.

“With consistency, we become one step closer to our dreams, while witnessing small victories on the way!”
― Purvi Raniga

My next subject is some mushrooms growing on the side of a tree. Getting closer up to the face of death and decay is a scary prospect. And yet, you might be amazed at the beauty there. I am reminded of caring for my mother during her hospice journey alongside my two sisters. The intimacy of that precious time brought us all closer together and seemed like an eternal and mystical experience.

Thanks to Patti for hosting this week’s challenge and daring us to get close and closer.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Natural Light

“Wake! For the Sun, who scatter’d into flight
The Stars before him from the Field of Night,
Drives Night along with them from Heav’n,
and strikes The Sultan’s Turret with a Shaft of Light”
― Omar Khayyám

Our eternal message of hope is that dawn will come.― Martin Luther King, Jr.

“And when the dawn comes creeping in,
Cautiously I shall raise
Myself to watch the daylight win.”
― D.H. Lawrence

“Every morning was a cheerful invitation to make my life of equal simplicity, and I may say innocence, with Nature herself.”― Henry David Thoreau

“Spend the afternoon. You can’t take it with you.”
― Annie Dillard

“There is nothing more musical than a sunset. He who feels what he sees will find no more beautiful example of development in all that book which, alas, musicians read but too little – the book of Nature.”
― Claude Debussy

Natural Light, the Sun, traces an arc in the sky each day, reminding us of how perspective changes with the passage of time. In every 24 hours, we witness hope, newness, growth, diminishment, and rest. That pattern is extended in a widening scope throughout history. It was my intention to choose words from writers who have observed and experienced the place of human beings in that cycle. Their voices mark the awareness of our longing to take our rightful place under the Sun, to know the wonder and beauty of living in dignity and in harmony with all things in Nature.

Thank you, Amy (The World Is A Book), for inviting us to reflect Natural Light in this Challenge.

 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: The Holiday Season

When traditions meet transitions…

For most of my life, my Holiday Season was centered around traditions that originated in the Anglican community. We celebrated Advent, then Christmas, and finally Epiphany. For forty years, beginning when I was 7 years old, I sang in an Episcopal Church choir and spent a good portion of my Christmas break in rehearsal and in church. The birth of Jesus was the reason for the season, and I never told my children there was a Santa Claus. The first gift they unwrapped was always the wooden Christ figure for the creche, in a golden box marked “Unto Us”. These traditions were rich, comforting, and firm. I think they provided many benefits to my four young children. As the children grew, our family made Christmas about broader values. We supported needy families, donated to organizations that contributed to world causes, and gave gifts that were homemade or from sustainable sources. As my children became young adults, we approached our holiday traditions with hard questions about life and meaning and community. What is truly holy and valuable to us? How do we celebrate the divine spark in all of life? Perhaps the most poignant question became “What is our family now that Dad has died?” Transitions are the hallmark of growth. Things that are growing change; living things evolve. There are Universal transitions that are holy. December 21 is the Winter Solstice, when the Earth is furthest from the Sun and daylight is at its ebb. This year, Saturn and Jupiter will align on that day. And three of my children will be living in Oregon with me. The list of transitions our family has braved over the last year is weighty. It includes several moves, relationship changes, and my mother’s death. In the midst of all these changes, we remember and celebrate the thing that makes a Holy Season: the invitation to Love and the recognition of divine presence in every living thing.

I’m sure that for many people around the world, this will be a Holiday Season that seems very unusual, perhaps quite unsettling. I wish us all the Peace of knowing that transition and change is intrinsic to Life. May we reach out in holy Love and celebrate the divine presence in all living things, expressing our gratitude and committing to doing good.

Thank you, Ann-Christine, for hosting this week’s challenge

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: A Quiet Moment

“Live quietly in the moment and see the beauty of all before you. The future will take care of itself.” ~ Paramahansa Yogananda

Patti’s challenge this morning is to capture on camera a quiet moment. 

“All of our great traditions – religious, contemplative and artistic- say that you must a learn how to be alone and have a relationship with silence. It is difficult, but it can start with just the tiniest quiet moment.” ~ David Whyte

I am spending a quiet weekend taking care of my friends’ dogs in their home while they are away. Like me, they don’t own a TV, they are musicians, and they love walking in nature. Walking their dogs is a pleasure. 

Their dogs are very mellow in the daytime and rather vigilant at night. Nocturnal animals in the backyard bring them out of a seemingly sound sleep and propel them downstairs, barking. This is the first time I’ve shared a bed with dogs overnight. Hence, I’m enjoying a very quiet next day to catch up on my rest and take notes on how to enjoy silence and solitude. 

“In the quiet moments of your day, what do you think and do? When you are with your Self and no one else, how does life proceed for you? Who are you when you are alone? Self-creation is a Holy Experience. It is sacred. It is you, deciding Who You Are.” ~ Neale Donald Walsch

May your quiet moments bring you the joy of Self-creation.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: One Single Flower

“When the night has been too lonely and the road has been too long,
And you think that love is only for the lucky and the strong,
Just remember in the winter, far beneath the bitter snows
Lies the seed, that with the sun’s love in the spring becomes the rose.”
Amanda McBroom

Last week, we Lens-Artists were on the long and winding road. This week, hosted by Cee, we are in search of One Single Flower

In the first verse of the song The Rose (quoted above) there is the line, “I say love, it is a flower…”

 

“May our heart’s garden of awakening bloom with hundreds of flowers.”― Thich Nhat Hanh

What other flowers grow in your garden? 

The Lotus flower is regarded in many different cultures, especially in eastern religions, as a symbol of purity, enlightenment, self-regeneration and rebirth. Its characteristics are a perfect analogy for the human condition: even when its roots are in the dirtiest waters, the Lotus produces the most beautiful flower.

“Practice until you see yourself in the cruelest person on Earth, in the child starving, in the political prisoner. Continue until you recognize yourself in everyone in the supermarket, on the street corner, in a concentration camp, on a leaf, in a dewdrop. Meditate until you see yourself in a speck of dust in a distant galaxy. See and listen with the whole of your being. If you are fully present, the rain of Dharma will water the deepest seeds in your consciousness, and tomorrow, while you are washing the dishes or looking at the blue sky, that seed will spring forth, and love and understanding will appear as a beautiful flower.”
Thich Nhat Hanh

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: AT HOME

“Is this home?
Is this where I should learn to be happy?
Never dreamed
That a home could be dark and cold.
I was told
Every day in my childhood:
Even when we grow old
‘Home will be where the heart is’ –
Never were words so true.
My heart’s far, far away;
Home is too.”

April in Wisconsin is mating season for wild turkeys. And it still snows periodically. Looks like November, but it isn’t.

Amy picks a perfect topic for this week’s Photo Challenge, one that has been foremost on my mind lately — Home.

In November 2017, I moved into a rental house on 56 acres of Nature Preserve in Wisconsin with my partner, Steve, and the inventory of his online book business. 

My kids senior portraits from High School reside on the bottom shelf of my grandmother’s Welsh dresser, along with other “artifacts” from Steve’s collection.

Three of my adult children then moved from Chicago to Oregon. They had grown up in Illinois where we had a home in the suburbs before my husband died. We each had a tough time transitioning from that stable place, that nuclear family center, to our own individual lives and partnerships. Through it all, we have maintained our loving bond and our sense of belonging to each other. 

Finally, a year before the Coronavirus became news, I decided to separate from Steve and began planning a cross-country move to be closer to my kids.

I am deeply engaged in the process of establishing HOME for myself. I think the first step is finding clarity in its definition. If home is where the heart is, my home is with my family, with the children my husband and I loved into being. My heart is always with them. This is not an easy time to be a young adult. I want to be able to support them in their journeys toward maturity and purpose in this troubled world. 

I had planned an April vacation with my oldest child, who lives here in Madison, to visit the rest of the family in Oregon. Those travel plans got cancelled. We have been using social technology to share thoughts, pictures, videos, and “Game Night” instead.

The faces I miss seeing in real life.

“Is this home?
Am I here for a day or forever?
Shut away
From the world until who-knows-when.
Oh, but then
As my life has been altered once
It can change again.
Build higher walls around me,
Change every lock and key.
Nothing lasts;
Nothing holds all of me.
My heart’s far, far away,
Home and free!”
~ ‘Home’ from Beauty and the Beast, lyrics by Tim Rice

The driveway and our front yard are both expansive, for sure.

I probably have no legitimate reason for feeling stuck during this lockdown. I have plenty of room to move around. But my brain had been set on change, and the change is on hold. I have more time to focus on the status quo.

Steve plays the philosopher host.

I am still in this house with Steve. We are best friends, both helping each other as much as we can to learn who we are and where we truly belong. We both want happiness, for ourselves and for each other. We have lived together for 12 years and had amazing adventures. We have looked deeply at our hearts and discerned, without blame, that we find spiritual wholeness in different places.

That place of spiritual wholeness — I think that is home.

How do you know your Home?

 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Serenity

“You cannot perceive beauty but with a serene mind.” — Henry David Thoreau

Six months ago, I began taking yoga classes at a local instructor’s farm. I’d only done one yoga class before in my life, so I was an apprehensive beginner. The instructor and most of the students in this group were of retirement age, however, so the pace was slow and stately. I started going once a week, then twice, as many times as classes were offered there. I began to realize my intention for serenity, a less fearful and anxious state of mind about my body and my future.

During the six months of class, I was also transitioning out of a relationship that I’d been in for the past 10 years. That relationship had begun eight months after I was widowed. My “Monkey Mind” thoughts were often on my insecurities: my aging, appearance, losses, desires, loneliness.  

In times of uncertainty, I find myself reverting to the role of the achiever. I begin to compare myself to others and try for perfection, just like I did as a student. I look for the A+ that will define and validate me. This is not a place to take refuge, however. It is a place of internal stress. Letting go of that role and allowing myself to see myself with acceptance and love brings me closer to serenity. I believe that serenity will manifest as good health and inner beauty. Yoga integrates the awareness of breath, movement, mind. Practicing with intention is transformative. Accepting change with serenity is a very beneficial skill for life, as life is always changing. 

My instructor put his farm up for sale last week. He and his wife have been there 40 years. I’m not sure how many more classes he will teach, but this morning, I purchased another ten. I intend to keep practicing. And I intend to make big changes in my life soon, too. Still, I believe I can find Serenity, when I am open to it, in every circumstance. That is the position of tadasana, mountain pose. Thank you, Tina, for inviting us to find Serenity. 

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: The Nature of Grace

This is the challenge of a lifetime. Grace is my middle name – for reals! I have been striving to live gracefully ever since my parents explained to me what that name means, hence the blog motto above. I find subtle differences in the nuance of the definition now that I’m learning Buddhism and leaving the Christian world view that I was raised with in my background.

There is something of elegance, but not a worldly elegance. 

warm-rose

There is an element of casual generosity, an unearned favor and abundance.

lilacs

The Buddhist perspective lends the flavor of ego-less-ness to it; it is beauty without attachment, as ephemeral as frost.

now 2

To live a life of grace is to open yourself mindfully each moment to being in the flow of the kindness of the Universe, in a way. To walk in harmony with my surroundings – people, places, things – and to be a living benediction is my aspiration. It sounds pretty lofty and ethereal, like a cloud, and I don’t claim to be doing the metaphor justice. But I might as well aim high in my practice. 

graceful-cloud

 
Graceful

Armageddon and the Art of French Cooking

This article is featured in the December issue of The BeZine

“Truth is ugly. We possess art lest we perish of the truth.” – Nietzsche

Civilization kills. We are living in apocalyptic times. The Anthropocene is here; humans are dominating and destroying the Earth. Like all civilizations in history, though, ours will fall back into the dust, and Earth will absorb it in some fashion. I get angry with humans because of this. Our arrogance and hubris and stupidity is truly abhorrent. I would wash my hands from all association with my species if I could, but for two things: music and food. I am willing to forgive everything for Puccini and Marcona almonds sauteed in butter and thyme.

Thanksgiving sideboard

Perhaps it is nothing but hedonism to feel that my pleasure in a fine meal at La Reve on Tuesday might bring me back from the brink of utter despair. The “Holiday Train” event in the village late that afternoon had created horrific traffic congestion with black-clad pedestrians pushing strollers into the dark streets while some pop Christmas frenzy blared over a loudspeaker. I felt truly Scroogeish; humans are complete humbug. But then the ambiance of a Parisian bistro — chattering guests and tremulous accordion melodies — and the buttery oak in the Chardonnay spread its warmth over that cold, post-Truth fear surrounding my heart. I asked Irene, our Asian-American server, about how the chef prepared the pumpkin soup. We talked about how roasting brings out the deeper flavors of vegetables and stock bones and what items on the menu were gluten-free. By the time I had savored my way through triple-cream brie, salmon, lamb and chocolate caramel, I was ready to admit atonement of the human race was possible.

The next day, however, my thoughts turned dark again. How could I justify the expense of that meal, even though almost half of the cost to me was covered by a gift certificate? How had the animals invested in that meal been treated? How far had the ingredients traveled on fossil fuels to get to my plate? My awareness of suffering may have been dulled for a time, but it was not erased. I may have been treated quite well, but was I healed?

Healing. In Western culture, it’s about fixing pathology. In Eastern culture, it’s about making whole. Awareness is about opening up to understand the whole, the complete Oneness of the Universe. “Life is suffering” is the first noble Truth in Buddhism. Suffering is in the Oneness. Arising from the awareness of suffering are two responses (at least): Fear and Compassion.

victory

I experience my fear for the human race and my compassion for it as well, blended contrapuntally. To recognize that only as thoughts criss-crossing my brain might drive me mad. To see that reflected in a complex pairing of wine and cheese or in the first act duet of Mimi and Rudolfo in La Boheme saves me from perishing from the ugly truth. I will never comprehend the Truth, although I live it every day. Making, enjoying, or experiencing Art is as close as I may ever come to holding the Whole in my heart. I believe that those who practice Meditation seek to do the same, while sparing the harm caused in producing Art.

May we all find a way to happiness, a way not to perish from the Truth, a way to be at peace with the Whole.

arte

Text and photographs © Priscilla Galasso, 2016. All rights reserved.