Tag Archives: writing

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.

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

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!

 

Time-traveling tortoise

 

We can time travel, but nobody writes about it.
It’s not what you think.
When you put me down on the floor back in the winter, you said I didn’t move for days.

It seemed like 5 minutes to me.

Summer is my favorite time of year.

I like to eat the Grandpa Ott morning glories. The bright purple flowers produce hallucinations, though the effect wore off after they became a regular meal. They told me their name, the first plant name I learned. Now I eat almost everything and I wait for it to tell me stories.

I don’t like cilantro.

Some plants tell folk stories using a specific dialect of their native language. Others connect to satellites and at certain times, play international news shows. This is sometimes what I am doing when resting under the blueberries.

Other times, I am meditating. By meditating, I mean I am exchanging qi with the universe, which is currently called qi gong. T animals, the tortoise and turtle are masters. We process the scattered qi that people are constantly flicking around. It’s a little bit like recycling.

Back to time travel. I don’t know how to explain it to you.

I come and go. It mostly happens when I relax. I sink down, drop out of my shell and wiggle down through soft slippery fibers. When I get to the bottom, it becomes the top.

I pop up out of water. I am washed onto a rocky beach where I hear birds singing and humans have not yet arrived.

This is one place I go when I’m not here.

 

Flowers wave at the traffic going by

I practiced 20 different introductions as I walked toward the Flower Garden of Mystery. This is a large plot of sunflowers and nasturtiums on the corner of Hilyard and E. 25th.

“Hi, my name is Mary Ann and I love your garden and I wondered if I could interview you for my blog, which has very few readers….”

“Hi, I’m Mary Ann, your neighbor, and I write about stuff, and I like your stuff, wanna chat?”

I walked up to the door and knocked twice to no answer. I felt hopeful as I looked at gnomes, a small plastic draft horse, and other fun odds and ends in the flower bed off the porch. As I walked away on the sidewalk, a woman opened the door and called to me. She said she is often hesitant to answer her door, but she saw me and decided to open it. It wasn’t her garden. She said it was her landlady’s plot. “Bonnie just turned 80. She is sort of a legend around here, I think she’d love to talk to you.” I was directed to walk two houses over, to Bonnie’s house.

Turns out, this booming flower garden is entirely volunteer. Nothing was planted. By now, it blooms by habit. It’s 50 years old. “I love the feel of dirt and the fairly amazing concept that a little piece of nothing turns into something magnificent,” said Bonnie Brunken, the one behind the garden. She moved into the neighborhood in 1949. At that time, the land was swampy and cheap; flooding was a regular thing.

Zinnias are her favorite flower. Next, she likes nasturtiums and sunflowers because “they want to live!” My faves too.
Several years ago, I was inspired to have the audacity to plant a huge zinna patch by yet another 80+ year-old neighbor!

Bonnie said she learned to grow things through mentors. “I was mentored by Wilma Crowe, who is in her 90s now.” Wilma and her mother, Mrs. Zahn, taught her about “moon planting and all kinds of things.”

The big patch of flowers cycles like this: tons of mulched leaves from her  Carolina Poplar trees are piled high on the bed in the winter. They are tilled into the soil in the spring. Next, she adds straw as the top layer. With some warmth and water, the soil pops to hundreds of flowers. After they are done, it all begins again.

What I like the most about the flower patch is its sole purpose is to be enjoyed. The flowers aren’t sold or eaten. They’re just there. The profit is in the eyes of those who notice.

Back to moon planting. Mrs. Zahn came by one day and checked in with Bonnie who had planted carrots about two weeks before. Mrs. Zahn gave her more carrot seeds and said, “plant these about 6″ out from yours, in the next row.” Bonnie said, sure, but why? “Because today is the right moon day to plant carrots.” In no time, the moon planted carrots grew stronger, faster, larger and didn’t have as much problems with bugs. Bonnie said, “I was a convert after that.”

Her mentors were organic farmers. She also read Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson in the early 1960s. Carson stands out as one who brought forth awareness about the harm caused by pesticides. She is credited with starting the environmental movement. At 56 and dying of breast cancer, she testified in front of the senate, “our heedless and destructive acts enter the vast cycles of the earth and in time return to bring hazard to ourselves.”

Upon this read, Bonnie said, “o.k, I’m not going to add to the problem.”

Besides seeing the results of moon planting, she saw a study done about 25 years ago by the University of Iowa. The final analysis ended up being about 500 pages with the conclusion: we understand a little bit about it; we don’t understand most of it; we just know that it works.

Sometime before this study, Pliny, the Elder, the first-century Roman naturalist stated that the moon “replenishes the earth when she approaches it, she fills all the bodies; while when she recedes, she empties them.”

Moon planting is also referred to as agricultural astrology as it relates to moon phases and astrological signs.

Bonnie has two great dogs: Dandelion, the Parson Russel terrier, and Sage, the very soft beagle. Before I left, she wanted to show me the third pet, who lives in the back yard.

Perched in a patch of dragon lilies, snap dragons, daises, and other grasses and flowers, was a huge metal dragon! Bonnie named it, “Joyful.”

Joyful

For more about organic and biodynamic farming, check out my article featuring draft horses:
http://ezine.takerootmagazine.com/HTML5/Duhn-Associates-TAKE-ROOT-Magazine-Fall-2016?pageNum=18

From email to poem

This is what happened when I wrote an email to a friend. He turned my words into this poem:
body aches and spirit moaning,
in the name not of love, but of dodge and shame,
held back, or only allowed to burn in the same fields
how can we nurture and flow
transform resentment into liberation?
hungering for intimacy
for those here and those not here
it’s a bit of a sparse playground
what an eye-opening situation!
leave the boat at the bank, after crossing the river
Thanks for the creative collaboration, Corbin Sweeny. I love the poem!