31 May 2010

Viktor Frankl: Why to believe in others | Video on TED.com

I have admired this man for a long time and just found his talk from 1978 on TED. His name is Viktor Frankl, he's a concentration camp survivor and he wrote "Man's Search for Meaning." It's a good way to celebrate Memorial Day.
Viktor Frankl: Why to believe in others | Video on TED.com

29 May 2010

See with "First Eyes"

Your First Eyes

...Ordinary eyes categorize human beings.
That one is a Zoroastrian. This one a Muslim.

Walk instead with the other vision given you,
your first eyes. Bow to the essence
in a human being. Do not be content
with judging people good and bad.
Grow out of that...

My grandchildren are bi-racial. Their father is Trinidadian with indigenous Caribbean Indian and African ancestry. Their mother, my daughter, is American with Irish and Scottish ancestry. Issues about people of color are, therefore, deeply personal. Today I listened to a 1997 interview on New Dimensions with Melody Ermachild Chavis, author of "Altars in the Street: A Courageous Memoir of Community and Spiritual Awakening". She lives in Oakland, CA and works in prisons with men on death row.

Her information was scary so I looked up current stats in Wikipedia. They're scarier. The USA has the highest documented incarceration rate in the world, the highest total prison and jail population in the world- 2,304,115 adults and 92,854 juveniles. The number jumps to over 7.2 million when counting those on probation or parole. In comparison, England and Wales incarcerate 148 out of 100,000 residents, the USA 754 out of 100,000.

It gets scarier - 70% of prisoners are people of color. And nearly 1 million of those incarcerated in state and federal prisons are serving time for non-violent crimes. Men in jails swell those numbers even more since they are also usually non-violent offenders. From 1980-2008 the prison population quadrupled partially as a result of mandatory sentences that came about during the "war on drugs". This happened during a time when the violent crime rate actually went down 25%. California spends more on prisons than on education. Is this the best we can do?

These are our children, our future. Remember the line in Alex Haley's "Roots": "All your ancestors existed to produce you."? I think that when I look at my grandchildren. All my ancestors and I existed to produce them. They are meant to be here. I want a better world for them, where people see them with "first eyes". I want them to be able to develop their talents and make their contribution. I want them to be accepted, respected, recognized for the amazing people they are. I want them to know the freedom that I have known. I want them to be seen, really seen, not pre-judged.

Her's what I can think of to do:

- practice compassion
- do an act of kindness for 1 person each day
- look people in the eye, even the poor, homeless or immigrant
- see each person as unique and deserving of mercy
- volunteer- tutor a child, plant a community garden, tackle a problem, visit youth in prison
- wage peace
- believe that others can change
- be the change I want

Will you join me? What else can we do?

28 May 2010

Traditional Values

This is in response to the prompt: "traditional" from the 100 Word Challenge.

Traditional Values

It's a continuous love story.
See the world in a new way,
set my own course,
Yet carry on the traditional ways
of the ancestors,
rooted in their values,
linked through the generations,
connected to family, nature, Spirit.
Tell my story now:
"sometimes a person needs a story more than food
to stay alive."*
Weave in the mystical
visible in vivid hues
audible in the language of poetry.
Loss led the way to epiphany for me and for my ancestors.
We survived,
strengthened to speak out
in my own voice
but not alone-
one with all that is.

*Crow and Weasel, B. Lopez

27 May 2010

Each Wrinkle Tells a Story

This post is in response to the prompt "wrinkle" issued by Theme Thursday.

I speak in praise of wrinkles.
Wrinkles are the calligraphy of our lives.
They identify us as respected elders, wise mentors, ancestors in training.
Each wrinkle tells a story.

Would I erase these story tellers as if they didn't matter?
Which ones?

Not the ones earned in the birthing, raising, loving and letting go of a daughter.
Not the ones from building countless sand castles at the beach with my grandchildren.
Or those whittled over years of working with and coming to love
the severely and persistently mentally ill.
Or even the ones etched at the death of a child before she was born,
whole and perfect but not yet able to live.
Those wrinkles mirror my being carved into a woman capable of compassion,
connected to every other person suffering loss and collapsed by it.
Each wrinkle tells a story.

I honor the wrinkles on my beloved's face
hard- won as he tenderly cared for his dying sister.
I cherish the ones from his teaching our grandchildren to love the ocean as he does.
I am privileged to know the story told by each of his.

We instinctively have a sense of witnessing when we see an elder's wrinkled face.
Each wrinkle tells a story.
What might happen if we stop and listen?

25 May 2010

To Bee or Not To Bee

I was sitting and watching bees loving my lavender plant. At any one time I saw 6-8 bees swooning (as I do) over these fabulous blooms. Look closely and you'll see them. Then I read that bees are in trouble.

I hesitate to bring this up just now since it's day 36 of a major oil spill, but in my little corner of the world, the bees are dying by the millions. Their dying is signaling woe for the environment because they are sentinels of the environment, much like butterflies and fireflies. They are extremely delicate and will not adapt to a negative environment. They are being killed by a virulent new generation of pesticides that are also, alas, longer-lasting. Bees don't survive contact with these toxic substances and die before they reach their hive.

Why be alarmed? Because bees are flower feeding insects. They are beneficial since they produce honey and beeswax and they are essential in pollinating flowers. They have a symbiotic, life-giving relationship with the plants.

Do you know that bees communicate with each other by dancing? Or that worker bees (females) must visit over 4,000 flowers to make just a tablespoon of honey? Honey bees are social bees and live in colonies (not all bees do). The males are called drones and basically sit around and wait to mate with the queen bee. My husband thinks that's cool.

So I went from admiring these industrious bees who live their lives amongst the flowers and use dancing as a language to feeling really distressed at how much harm our species is doing to theirs. My husband said that if the bees died out, life as we know it would end. If people died out, all other life would thrive. How sad is that? How can we turn this around?

24 May 2010

What Are Calanchi Anyway?

Yesterday was a scrumptious day that invited exploration. Some friends suggested going to a WWF (World Wildlife Fund) site, Riserva Naturale dei Calanchi di Atri, highlighting calanchi in a nearby hill city of Atri. This area in the region of Abruzzo, province of Teramo, is known for these particular erosion patterns typical in Mediterranean climates. The soil is eroded by water and contains steep slopes, loose dry soil and deep sand. The erosion exposes the sedimentary layers and means there is scant vegetation cover. Turned out to be an wonderful combination of serene countryside and "far side of the moon" formations that were stark but fascinating.

We brought a picnic and ate under the pine trees. Some friends dozed afterward on the pine scented needle bed. A couple of us walked the dirt road to see the beautiful vistas at the overlooks as well as enjoy the yummy sun after a stretch of damp cold weather. These areas house fossil beds and I found 2 sea shells from the Pleistocene age when these 442 meters high hills were covered by the sea. My usual shell collecting takes place at beaches!

That combination of sun warmth, piny fragrance and new vistas etched itself into my consciousness. I realized again how I treasure seeing new places, learning new things, being confronted with radically new phenomenon that stretch and amaze me. I want to be a life-long learner. How about you? What are you learning lately?

21 May 2010

Portrait of a Writer

This is in response to the prompt: "Portrait of a Writer" from the Inferno at the Artist Challenge.


arrange words with assurance
calculated to break open minds,
a conspiracy of words
intended to lay bare the heart.
Writers decipher life, give back our breath.

When given chaos, writers make maps,
an overview when view is overwhelming.
When words elude, writers invade life in search of them.
They spot new words, ascribe powers to them,
chant them again and again,
and they work magic.

Selected words
cast upon the wind of breath
astound, confound and dazzle,
a deluge of words
to electrify, jolt and startle.

Writers devise words, revere words, mint words,
make veracity vivid.
Writers controvert and make a difference.
Some maintain, some negate, some rupture,
some pronounce their pounce
then take it.

Writers speak up , speak out and witness.
They touch, invoke, invite.
Writers slip from the pack
wipe lipstick from their mouths
splash speech across the page
ignite sparks to blaze
full of flame.

Mary H Warren 20/5/10

18 May 2010

"You Were Made for This"

My daughter sent me a wonderful quote from Clarissa Pinkola Estes that made me think and be heartened. It is good to feel heartened so I share it with you.

Reflections - You Were Made for This

My friends, do not lose heart. We were made for these times. I have heard from so many recently who are deeply and properly bewildered. They are concerned about the state of affairs in our world now. Ours is a time of almost daily astonishment and often righteous rage over the latest degradations of what matters most to civilized, visionary people.

You are right in your assessments. The lustre and hubris some have aspired to while endorsing acts so heinous against children, elders, everyday people, the poor, the unguarded, the helpless, is breathtaking. Yet I urge you, ask you, gentle you, to please not spend your spirit dry by bewailing these difficult times. Especially do not lose hope. Most particularly because, the fact is that we were made for these times. Yes. For years, we have been learning, practicing, been in training for and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement.

I grew up on the Great Lakes and recognize a seaworthy vessel when I see one. Regarding awakened souls, there have never been more able vessels in the waters than there are right now across the world. And they are fully provisioned and able to signal one another as never before in the history of humankind. Look out over the prow; there are millions of boats of righteous souls on the waters with you. Even though your veneers may shiver from every wave in this stormy roil, I assure you that the long timbers composing your prow and rudder come from a greater forest. That long-grained lumber is known to withstand storms, to hold together, to hold its own, and to advance, regardless.

In any dark time, there is a tendency to veer toward fainting over how much is wrong or unmended in the world. Do not focus on that. There is a tendency, too, to fall into being weakened by dwelling on what is outside your reach, by what cannot yet be. Do not focus there. That is spending the wind without raising the sails.
We are needed, that is all we can know. And though we meet resistance, we more so will meet great souls who will hail us, love us and guide us, and we will know them when they appear. Didn't you say you were a believer? Didn't you say you pledged to listen to a voice greater? Didn't you ask for grace? Don't you remember that to be in grace means to submit to the voice greater?

Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good.

What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take everyone on Earth to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.

One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these-to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity.
Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do.

There will always be times when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it. I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate.
The reason is this: In my uttermost bones I know something, as do you. It is that there can be no despair when you remember why you came to Earth, who you serve, and who sent you here. The good words we say and the good deeds we do are not ours. They are the words and deeds of the One who brought us here. In that spirit, I hope you will write this on your wall: When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But that is not what great ships are built for.

Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D, author of the best-seller Women Who Run with the Wolves

Mary's favorite points: 1. "We are needed. That is all we can know." (All of us.)

2. "One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to show up and show your soul." (Isn't that what we do in our blogs?)

3. "...to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity." (Fierceness and mercy- let's do it!)

What are your favorites?

16 May 2010

First Two-piece Swimsuit

This is in response to the prompt "swimsuit" at the 100 Word Challenge here.
100 Word Challenge

"It was an itsy bitsy, teeny weeny...bikini"

My granddaughter's first two-piece swimsuit came at age 3 1/2. She lives in the remote rain forest of Trinidad- no TV, no magazines. Her parents are naturalists, organic gardeners, hikers, live off the land.

My granddaughter is fascinated with clothes, outfits, styles and fashion. Are you getting the picture? She's a 3 1/2 year old fashionista with no role models.

Last visit, I brought her a two-piece swimsuit. She could hardly wait to try it on. When she did, she struck this pose as she modeled it. Her parents just shake their heads.

14 May 2010

Make Breakfast Beautiful

I don't usually think very much about breakfast but it occurred to me today to make breakfast beautiful. Stay conscious. Even eat the same thing, but consciously, with forethought to make it beautiful. So I got out a pretty place mat, put a cut rose in a little vase, mixed our own strawberries with the local ones, fresh squeezed my orange juice (from spring, red oranges) and opened the door to the balcony to enjoy the view. Usually I eat outdoors these days but I wanted to have the lovely crystal candle holders on the table for this meal.

The usual cereal tasted so unusually delicious. The juice and strawberries, so sweet.

12 May 2010

The Great Mystery

This week's prompt from Theme Thursday is "mystery":

We are surrounded daily
by the blessings of the great mystery.
We are part of that mystery.

We are connected to all that is.
With all our relations, we bring our gifts
to the sweet face of mother earth. Earth needs us.
We are gifted, clever, we have enough.

When we slow down, get in touch,
listen to that inner voice,
we re-dream our lives, heal, energize,
find new visions.

When we show up, pay attention,
we find our deep roots, discover mystery:
Our heart is dear and connected to all that is,
 all beings of all species for all time.

"I, I am the sacred words of earth. It is lovely indeed, it is lovely indeed." (Navajo poem)

Mary H. Warren

11 May 2010

Addition: Simple Joy #11

I forgot a very important joy on my list of May 10, which makes it uneven but HAS to be acknowledged none-the-less. Simple joy #11 comes to me courtesy of John, my honey. He travels out of the country regularly for business and do you know what he does for me? He makes meals and leaves them in the fridge. So I was eating one of them the day I composed my list. Plus, his cooking is in itself simple and flavorful using fresh local ingredients and the herbs that we grow on our balcony.

He's the cook for us - a most excellent cook. So when he leaves, he takes care of me by preparing meals ahead of time. He's thoughtful that way, special, and I'm spoiled. I mean, this man goes to cooking classes to become an even better chef and loves going. He reads cook books regularly- orders them online, reads them and gets excited: "What do you think about this?" he asks me. "Doesn't it sound good?" Then he experiments with delicious dishes to expand our already tasty repertoire.

And that's not the end of it. He even likes to shop to buy the food for the dishes he plans. Now that is LOVE. I'm so grateful to be his life partner, best friend and all round good buddy. I'm sure this simple joy of eating the food John makes is deeper because his secret ingredient is love. I can taste it.

10 May 2010

10 Simple Joys

Loving life's simple things today:

1. Ate strawberries from our own plant, sweet and delicious.
2. Measured the tomato plants (23 inches so far).
3. Welcomed 3 lovely new family members- rose, jasmine and lavender.
4. Finished a book that warmed my heart: "I Heard the Owl Call My Name" by Margaret Craven.
5. Cherished memories from yesterday's talk with my daughter and grandchildren.
6. Studied Italian and found a fun word game Italians play which will increase my vocabulary.
7. Agreed to help a friend finish a fun craft project.
8. Sat in the sunshine and enjoyed it.
9. Read a Rumi poem here.
10. Realized again the importance of gratitude.

It is a good day.

08 May 2010

Love's Consent

100 Word Challenge

This week's prompt for 100 words of prose or poetry is "consent."
This is my entry.
For more visit here.

The day was clear and cloudless the first day she saw him. Hot with the extreme heat of August in the rain forest. Sweet, she thought as she looked at him, beautiful. She spent a lot of time swinging in the hammock skin to skin. Counted fingers and toes, stroked the silkiness of him, welcomed this first grandchild. The soft awe, nurturing, cherishing felt familiar. What surprised her was the ferocity that overcame her. The head over heals, ready to die for, fierce bear, all out committed love. Her advice to grandmothers ever since: consent to fall utterly in love.

06 May 2010

In Praise of Mothers

Since mother's day is Sunday, I sent a card to my father's companion thanking her for her love of and care for my father (age 93). We've had a difficult time establishing a relationship long distance (they live in Massachusetts) until the last time I visited in October when we double- teamed my father to make sure my mother's engagement ring went home with me. We laughed and bonded finally, completely and positively. Happy Mother's Day and thanks, Helen.

Being a mother is my all time favorite role in my life so far. I love being the lover and best friend of my beloved Honey, John, for 36 years. I love being his companion through life, journeying life's paths and having adventures together, growing and deepening this love we share. But all that became flesh when I became a mother. Love, springing from my body, fed by my body, part of me but separate, too. It's an astounding miracle.

It has challenged me and changed me and made me better in ways nothing else could have. Of course, I did have the good sense and great grace to give birth to my particular daughter to mother. She made mothering easy. Well, not always easy, but, on the deepest level, mostly. Because I fell so in love with her again and again at each life stage. "Oh, this is the best stage!" I'd say to my husband. Then the next stage would come and I'd say: "Oh, THIS is the best stage!". She was easy to love. Fun, smart, interesting- providing a way to see the wold from an utterly new and different (actually very different) perspective.

The challenge part of it came from those differences. She announced at age 3 when we had a disagreement: "Mommy, You think your thoughts and I'll think my thoughts!" I knew then that I was in for it! Through the years, I frequently scratched my head, was flabbergasted, wanted to change her or felt like I was in over my head in mothering her. Of course, that was the grace too though, because it opened up a world that I couldn't know and that only she could provide me. And it taught me such important life lessons even when I didn't particularly want to learn them.

I love watching my daughter mother her own 2 children now. She's a great Mom, very thoughtful in her mothering and I admire her. She has again opened up new worlds to me in her choice of where to live and what to be passionate about. She makes great efforts to include me in her children's lives and I'm grateful to her for that. Grandmother is my new favorite role. Happy Mother's Day and thanks, Kelly.

Thanks to all mother's today. Thanks for your bravery in birthing this next generation of our species. Thanks for all you do to nurture these unique, precious, unrepeatable dear ones. Thanks for your efforts to share your experiences in these blogs to support and strengthen another who might be faltering and need that contact from one who understands. It all matters. We all matter to one another. Good for us for reaching out and making our world a little more of a community. I'm glad to be in community with you. Happy Mother's Day and thanks.