When I close my eyes, I see lichen

What do you get if you cross fungi and algae? Lichen! How is it different than moss? Moss is a plant. That means it has stems and leaves.

Why are people standing around in 39 degree weather motionless in a meadow, staring at itty bitty bits of things with an eye loupe?

Small bits of earthy matter are placed in your hand, and you are encouraged to look deeply at it and take a good whiff of it. You see things like reproductive spores, soft stretchy flesh, and many specks of bug poop.

It’s a lichen walk! At Mt. Pisgah arboretum.

Old Man’s Beard

Once you really look at lichen, you start seeing it everywhere!

Fishnet

The people on the walk were curious.

“How long can it live?” A thousand years.

“How much does this one grow a year?” One millimeter.

“Do they change colors?” Maybe a little with changes in moisture.

Overheard: what we often call Spanish moss, is something else, and it’s related to pineapple.

The lichen can reproduce asexually, sometimes referred to as cloning. It can also reproduce sexually, with nonspecific gender assignments. Their pronouns are they, them, theirs. It’s no big deal, lichen are pretty evolved around sexual identity.

To clarify the sexy part, spores must land on a surface and encounter an algal or bacterial partner to become a lichen.

This is not lichen. It is a fungus. I don’t know what kind.

Some lichen put out an acid that keeps the moss from growing over the top of it.

Some lichen grows in loops like chains connecting and collecting water and air to live robustly. The well-being of lichen can tell us much about the air quality around us. It doesn’t stay in areas of poor air quality.

One branch we saw had six kinds of lichen on it- all together- like a lichen garden floating high on a tree.

It was a highly educated, warmly dressed group of people, many consumed with knowing the details of the life and times of lichen. They had small notebooks and wrote things down, even with gloves on. They asked questions. I was too cold but I admired the curiosity and wonder of this smart and hardy bunch of seekers peering under the oaks, in the grass, and atop the rocks.

In review: symbiotic organisms live together for the benefit of one or both. In mutualism, both partners benefit- this is lichens. In parasitism, only one partner benefits- example: mistletoe on oaks.

My mom

Go to the empty places

January is empty for reservoirs. They hold the void. There is no water, wake, or waves. Hardly anyone is there. You’d see them if they were; there’s nowhere to hide.

I tromped around wondering about the emptiness. Which reminded me of the importance of being empty.

My friend recommends going into a room empty. Especially when offering support. Hold the space, but don’t fill it.
Here in this expanse void of water, I fill up on empty. I also feel it. It’s sort of nice to jump into. It radiates something, even if it looks barren and not promising at first glance.

January is not the same as July. No fishing, paddling, skiing, or swimming is happening. It’s a forced stop of action, or yang. The reservoir is taking a break, restoring its yin. And by being here now, I follow. I move in step with January. This is what’s happening.

What is there to do? Visit it. See it in its current state.  Without. This leads to about one thing- walking around and observing what is contained in the emptiness.

Things seen were old shoes,  wood, grasses, rocks, tires, beer bottles, plastic bags. Mud.

What to do when something doesn’t float our boat? Out of water? It does not fill any expectations.

When the water is low, or mostly gone, we can see the bottom. It’s a good reference point.  What I like about this connection is it feels closer to the Dao. The ancient advice went something like, “be low, like water. Be close to the lowest points.” Walking a more humble and quiet route was encouraged, nothing much about running up mountains, pumping your fists. Instead flow like water, adapt to whatever shape you encounter.  Just my loose interpretation.

The bits of wood gathered around the edges are connected to the earth this time of year. They lie there exposed. They are not covered by the muffle of water. There is no light and liquid creating beautiful illusions to mesh with. Most will float up again in a few months and ride the water and watch the sky.

What I like about the seasons is it’s not about me. It’s about everything. The status and state of everything, of which I am just passing through. I can appreciate it or I can complain about it. It’s a choice.

 

Kombucha: taste and perspective

If you asked me, here is what I’d tell you about the tastes of kombucha.

Pomegranate white tea brings out a burst of hope from each pomegranate seed involved. It’s a mix of blissed and blessed; straightforward and non-complex. A great one for the card-carrying kombucha naysayers out there. It is sweet and light and uncomplicated as well as non-threatening. It’s humble and doesn’t need to shout out its worth to you or anyone else. It knows its value and doesn’t beg for approval. This is an honest drink ready to make anyone’s glass half full.

Toss in pomegranate seeds for festive fiber and color

Assam has a great depth, a history to it. It’s the finely earned sweat from the sides of a muscled quarter horse pressed against your clenched legs. It then becomes the steam off that same horse. There is a kiln-dried, slight hickory flavor, as soft and soothing as a vapor from your higher self. The lighter side offers a sweetness- akin to an heirloom apple from 1905 Washington state. Lastly, what follows is a reminder of a root cellar somewhere in the Oregon coastal hills, maybe Chitwood- with a dark and fruity taste that comes from the underground and bugs.

A blend of pomegranate and white peony met, due to low tea supplies in the house. The main body of this drink is mystic over intellectual. It is a meeting of bold cheerfulness and wise sage. Combined, the elements of the liquids blend toward a field trip through honesty and freshness. You miss it once it easily slides down the esophagus. It absorbs into the tongue, triggering a sense of mature vision with a hint of playful mischief. It doesn’t incite trouble, it emboldens creative thinking. You just can’t get enough.

Not bad, but a bit much, Lapsang souchung tastes like smoked stable chips washed down with a coastal slew at low tide. It includes a backsplash of fossilized golden soil with a million ancient comments echoing past centuries. It finishes with horse hoof trimmings brushed with a light glaze of organic sugar.

Bad kombucha tastes like:

  • Bubbly brackish pond water
  • Foul fermented moss mold with a fizz
  • Carbonated sour plums that finish with a dirty thud punch
  • Sparkling swirling dervish sledge
  • Barrels of babbling bellicose berries battling good taste
  • Surly swill of swirly saturated sourness
  • Moist mushroom moonshine musty with regrets of the past burping forth from a murky muddy spring.

Set up your own station and make a brew that tastes like the smell of the tender paws of a spaniel that just ran through an heirloom tea shrub field. Or a swig that reminds you of a hot air balloon ride over a sweet and salty ocean on a planet yet to be discovered.

The possibilities are endless.

 

Adopt. Cats. Meditate.

Taken moments after the Oprah and Deepak 21-day meditation series, day 15. The theme: Being in the flow is effortless. Sanskrit: Sat Chit Ananda-Life is absolute bliss consciousness

I went out and got two cats the other day. I looked online at the local shelter and though the goal was one, I chose two. They did not know each other.

One radiated sweet, the other appeared cute and playful. After we got home, one was naughty, one was nice. The cute and playful one became moody and distant.

I saw her walking away a lot. At home, she was an emotional mystery prone to getting upset quickly. As in, don’t touch me, don’t pick me up. DON’T!

Neither cat actually behaved badly. I just had to get to know them.

She was a mystery, her personality and story taking form each day

I AM cute, yes, and thank you for noticing!

The sweet cat is the orange boy cat.

Lord Byron

After a couple days of being scared of a new place, he set his loving gaze upon me.

He approves of me. It’s a done deal.

How do you suddenly have two grown cats? Who don’t know each other? You follow the directions. The shelter offers tips and instructions on how to gradually introduce. The cats did great and I was committed. It took my attention. It’s not a “let ’em work it out” thing I remember hearing people say years ago. As the tribe leader, the human in the house needs to keep things respectfully organized and safe so the kitties can feel cared for in their new surroundings.

I learned to meet the cats where they were. I’m still doing that, about a month later. All this is a lot like getting to know anyone, even people. Time, space, place, boundaries, bonding, habits, preferences- these have meaning for all creatures.

Meditation turned out to be the best bonding activity, even equal to play. Spice Girl, named for personality and her hues of cumin, coriander, turmeric, chili, and ginger, likes meditation. She isn’t moody, she just needs stillness. She would rather sit in peace with you than bite and scratch, given the option. Really.

She wanted to connect but didn’t know how.

So, we learned.

The other arrived with peace and love, this was his truest nature.

Lordy

If their nature is not peace and love, that is o.k. This invites close attention! Observation.

Lesson #1, don’t do what they don’t like. When cat says no; not that; not here; not there; not this; oh hell no!….. listen. Because next they will tell you what they do like.

Yes, I like that toy! Yes! Yes! I like that touch! There, under my chin! By my ears! Yes! I like sweet talk directed at ME! Yes, I love the food you offer! Yes, I love the meditation when I sit with you and you don’t pet me but we are touching! Yes! Thank you! Yes, that purr is for YOU! O.k., I have to go now!

Cats have a great ability to relax if they think everything is basically o.k. It’s a good enough reason to keep a habit of creating a basically o.k. environment.

Big thanks to my loyal dog, Lily. She is an unlikely zen master with cats. Seriously, she diffused all feelings of worry and angst when introduced. It’s not that she particularly likes cats. It’s just a non-issue for her. She adapts to adoption. She was once adopted herself.

Lily likes leaves.

We are at one month now, and everyone is getting along well. There is still an occasional hiss, but it’s more of a warning than an aggressive act. More often I hear chripy recognition hello meows with a purr follow-up. Our daily meditation brings a contented silence, which naturally spills into regular non-meditation time. It’s great to share peace with all creatures!

 

The editorial board

What is mental health?

We went from headaches to mental health fairly quickly. I asked him what he did for his own mental health? His answer: “I don’t know what it is.” Fair enough. An honest answer! A few beats passed and he asked, what do YOU do for your mental health? Touché!

I told him that for my mental health, I exercise, hang out with uplifting people, do arty stuff, meditate.

He perked up about the meditation. He said he tried it but it didn’t work. He had done it twice, each time for 2 hours. I told him that was very ambitious! How about shorter, like 10-15 minutes a day?

He asked how does it feel, when you are in the zone of meditation? This is a good question and I wasn’t sure how to answer. English was not his first language so when I used words like peaceful, it didn’t fly. So, I motioned like I was unscrewing the top of my head, and said, “it’s like if you took the top of your head off and poured fresh water through it; rinsed it out with water and light.

His eyes lit up and he said, “oh!”

He left with a new approach to meditation.

© Mary Ann Petersen. Albany, Oregon

What is good mental health?

Here is a list of eight things I was told in school (Oregon college of Oriental Medicine, Portland, Oregon).

Signs of good mental health could be the ability to:

  1. Develop emotionally, creatively, and spiritually.
  2. Initiate, develop, and sustain healthy relationships.
  3. Face problems, resolve them, learn from them.
  4. Be confident and assertive.
  5. Have awareness of others, ability to empathize with them.
  6. Use and enjoy solitude.
  7. Play and have fun.
  8. Laugh at yourself and at the world (takes tremendous amount of self esteem and inner strength to laugh at oneself).

*We need enough life force to initiate and develop ourselves. Always look for and find ways to cultivate your life force.

The above list came from an academic course, which was directed toward working with addiction and mental health.

© Mary Ann Petersen

These are guidelines, points of reference. I think we need to identify in writing some concepts of good mental health. It’s time to be concrete rather than vague.

Why don’t more people have answers for good mental health? Why does it seem slippery? Lately, I see a need for solid footing in this subject. Let’s start somewhere. And go beyond, “see a counselor.” Some won’t get there, so what are common sense concepts in the meantime? As in, let’s get some movement on the ground floor, within our reach and not make supporting general mental health too confusing.

© Mary Ann Petersen. Dublin, Ireland.

My point is, we all need to bring this care into our own lives, even if we are not in the middle of a mental health crisis. If we wait for that, it’s a harder place to set up aid and self care.

© Mary Ann Petersen. The temple.

The next list is from a Quaker group I attended, so it has a spiritual leaning. The topic was Universal Spiritual Elements.

Universal Spiritual Elements

  1. Awareness of the “other.” What is valued or sacred? What do you value over yourself?

2. Sense of responsibility. How am I responsible for the world around me? How do treat my space, surroundings, people, pets?

3. Sense of vocation. What is my reason for being? What gives meaning or purpose?

4. Sense of community. Is there a sense of caring and being cared for? Who are my people? Who do I trust?

5. Sense of repentance. What is my capacity for reconciliation with self and others. Mistakes are entry points for healing forgiveness.

6. Ability to be present. Is my focus past, present, or future oriented. Soul lives in present. Past: ego. Future: ego.

7. Faith. What is the relationship between my small story fitting into the bigger story. To connect to a sense of the transcendent, what do you relate to?

Having trouble figuring out how to integrate all this into your life? That’s o.k., pick one thing and start there. Remember to have fun. Practice, practice, practice.

In my view, we should be having conversations and taking action everyday toward cultivating good head and heart space.

Leave a comment to say which or what called to you.

Back to meditation, if you want a great kickstart, go to https://chopracentermeditation.com/experience.
It’s a great 21-day simple guided meditation. It fits into any schedule! It starts Monday the 30th. The theme is Making Every Moment Matter.

The journey before take-off

You don’t simply board a plane.

You walk
ride a subway
escalator
elevator
airport shuttle train
more elevators, escalators,

go down hallways.
More elevators, escalators ,
stairs
walkways
to the line to get on the plane.

You walk into a tube and wait.
You find your seat
you wonder if this flight is still a good idea at this point.

Hours later, you land.
It’s a miracle.

Flying to England takes a while

I flew overnight, Seattle to London last night.

The airport contained, approximately:
100,000 sighs
80,000 coughs
50,000 sneezes

At a certain point, there were 1,000,000 micro droplets per square foot of:
1. Panic
2. Euphoria
3. Dread

I sat in a row of three. We were each in our own nests of personal belongings because there is no room.

We flew over the dogs Labrador and Newfoundland.

At 3:15 a.m., my home time, I saw Ireland below. Omigod! Omigod! Omigod! Look! That’s! Ireland! Right! There! It’s! Just! Sitting! There!

This is the magic of flight.

It isn’t the air inside the plane, which smells of:
1. Stale perfume
2. Fake food
3. Sedentary skin
4. Hair
5. Chewed-up enthusiasm

I didn’t know what to expect to exactly happen on this trip. So, I liked this quote:

“After you jump a net appears.”
-Vincent Lauria

A dream of the dying

Dream 9/2/17
Sitting with the dying and the brown cow

Someone asked me to sit with a woman who had just died. I sat down next to her, she was on her back, perfectly still. A few feet away, her brownish red cow lay down like a dog on the floor. It was huge and sleeping.

I pulled up a chair and put her hand in mine. Her hand gently responded, slightly gripped mine.

I was a bit startled and asked her, “are you here?”

She said, only her lips moving, “no, yes. I’m not here but I haven’t left yet. Would you mind staying here with me until I leave completely?”

I said, “of course, I’m totally with you, you’re not alone.”

She seemed greatly relieved and said thank you.

We sat for a several minutes but not an hour doing nothing. That time felt very powerful, like a highly dense plant protein absorption sit. We seemed to share energy with one another, but also Here and There. She sent some thoughts now and then, not using her lips.

She didn’t move physically. Eventually, she communicated that she could see the bright tunnel, the lights, and many sounds. It was true, she said, it’s like a cosmic lit up alive birth canal to the other side. She felt joyous, even ecstatic.

Her hand dropped from mine. She made it.

I got up and looked over for the cow. It wasn’t there anymore.

About an hour later, I had a rock of hers, or for her in my hands. I was asked to climb a ladder, and rope, up to a high place on a tree or structure and put it there as the final token to her that she was here once. So, I did that.

A friend of hers came by and she thanked me for doing this, she said she could not.

I said I was glad to do it, even though I only met the person after she died.

 

Orcas Island

 

I felt on the brink of magic. I was, Orcas island was next. Still, Anacortes is beautiful; you can walk on the beach or a boardwalk path if you have time before your ferry pulls in.

 

Anacortes is the place to drive onto ferries that go to Canada and the San Juan islands.

 

The original people of the San Juan islands were Samish. For more about them, go here:

https://www.samishtribe.nsn.us/

If you had been among these tribes, you might have spoken Samish, Semiahmoo, Lummi, Sannich, Songish, or Sooke. They had a good life. Then non-natives showed up and wiped them out with diseases.

A huge cannery was built in the late 1800s, where the ferry station is now.

Canneries were a big deal at the turn of the century to preserve meat. By the 1930s, refrigeration put many canneries out of business.

This is a little beach off Eastsound, in Orcas.

I got sick in Orcas, so spent 36 hours in bed. It kind of killed the adventures and stories. I listened to sounds from the room.

1. Men doing business calls from the balcony.

2. Kids screaming or laughing.

3. Housekeepers chattering and vacumming.

4. One Kingfisher shouting.

5. Dogs barking.

6. Unknown noise. I finally settled on 2 monsters gargling.

I stayed at Rosario resort. This is a short drive from Eastsound, a good spot for food and shopping. Robert Moran built his dream home on this land, and named it Rosario. Moran, based in Seattle, made a fortune building battleships. His mansion is the most elegant and strongest residence I’ve ever seen. Moran had humble beginnings, and as a young man was influenced by John Muir and Teddy Roosevelt. Though highly driven, he had a soft spot for nature, not just for the wealthy, but for everyone.

For more history go here:

http://rosarioresort.com/museum/

I highly recommend the show by Christopher Peacock, which is free. He plays the original huge pipe organ and tells juicy* historical stories, in between showing gorgeous vintage slides of the island and Seattle. It’s a one-of-a-kind show.

* {the wife of the second owner of Rosario would drive into town on a motorcycle to play poker. She often didn’t bother to get dressed, just went in her red nightgown}.

The reason we can all trot around so much of Orcas is because Moran donated thousands of acres. This was so unusual at the time that the state didn’t know how to accept the donation, so he went to work with the paperwork and procedural process to make it happen.

Cascade lake

Right above Rosario is Moran state park. Two lakes are within it: Cascade lake and mountain lake. Both are great for swimming or paddling or walking around. Don’t miss Mt. Constitution. Incredible views of all the islands below.

From a distance, it looks like the ferries eat cars then spit them out. Too soon it was time to take the ferry home.

The view from the front.

The tide was out when I got up early to paddleboard Eastsound before leaving. I didn’t feel like mucking thru 70 yards of thick gooey sand.

That means I have to go back, which I look forward to!

 

 

Random note- this was my theme song- just stuck in my head during the trip!