dum vivimus, vivamus

“While we live, let us live!”

images joie de vivreimages joie de vivreimages joie de vivre

What does this mean to you?  What does it mean to “live?”  Of course, if you are reading this, you are already “living.”  We breathe, we eat, we sleep, we think, we love, we do…and so we live.  Yes.

And yet…we understand, of course, that this “dum vivimus, vivamus” portends to something…more.  To a certain “Joie de Vivre” – that certain Spirit, intoxication, or fullness – of being richly immersed and present and in love with your life!  YES! That is our goal.  Yes?

The older I become, the more I believe that we must be our greatest ally in the making of our own lives.  That sounds incredibly obvious, doesn’t it?  And yet, all around me I bare witness to this very “obvious” fact of ownership, all but ignored, or disrespected, or…trampled upon.  We must protect ourselves from the insanity that prevails “out there” in the world…lest it begin to infect the “in here” of our own precious being.

There are times when I simply need to remove myself from the onslaught of “News” – ie: bad news about bad behavior regarding people who’ve been deluded and reside within the scope of “bad decisions. ” After the Bernie Madhoff scandal I stopped reading the newspaper/listening to the news on the radio/and refused to check the news headlines online.  I was filled up with the horror show of humanity and could consume not a morsel more.  I pulled the plug, and remained unplugged for roughly 2 years.  It helped.  But at a certain point, I began to feel negligent for my lack of knowing what was going on in the world, and so I returned…and it was pretty much the same as it was when I left. More bad behavior being reported, in depth and in great detail, on a daily basis.  This takes its toll…the way a river will slowly erode the soil along the banks…so too, this kind of “information” has the power to slowly erode the “warmth” inside our soul.  I’ve learned to listen to when I can absorb, and when I can not – so I “plug in” or “un-plug” accordingly.

In truth, however, I feel a strong repulsion to the bombardment and explicit attention given to the worst of human behavior, which is repeatedly given the lion’s share of bandwidth. There are a great many amazing individuals, doing amazing things for this world, culture, society of ours…and they remain, by and large, hidden in the shadows.  Why is “News” only that which is twisted, ugly, despicable? What is our fascination with the foul stench of human behavior gone bad?

What we feed our minds, feeds our souls.  Quite like food.  “You are what you eat!” – we are well aware of the “logic” of that slogan, and understand the direct correlation of a diet based on junk, creating a body that is junk! Or, in other words, a body “strongly lacking in health.”  And yet…somehow we do not care to admit, or even allow, for the possibility that if we continually feed our minds, our spirit, junk: violence (in real life, as well as “entertainments”: video games, music, movies, etc.) trashy news, celebrity gossip, porn, the onslaught of reporting that concerns bad human behavior, the overwhelmingly endless content that is absent of nourishing information… it will create a “junk” spirit, “junk” mind.  The lack of acknowledgement of this direct correlation is very puzzling.  Very puzzling, indeed.

So – I descend from the soapbox and ask you – how do you maintain a sense of vibrancy in your own being, in the midst of the nonsense that surrounds, and attempts to swallow us whole?  What secrets do you maintain in order to keep a sense of innocence, wonder, Joie de Vivre, as you exist in the culture and society of the United States of America?

IMG_1668  Here are some of mine:

* My kids!  They are such a beautiful lens for looking at the world anew, for seeing the “best” of what we can be, and what we can continue to strive for…as well as reason to continue to strive, always, for the best of who we might be.

*Art!  It is the manna of my spirit, the excitement of my breath, the salve for my wounds, the release of my “self” as I enter the larger arena of WE.  I mean Art in the very broad sense, of all things created, shared…gifts from humans – to other humans – that are meant to be shared, experienced, pondered, witnessed, felt, and…absorbed.  Bless All Artists in this world of ours, for continuing to strive to bring humanity Forward, Deeper, Wider, Higher…more Inclusive and Alive, as it profoundly asks that we be willing to Feel and Experience more than we think we are possibly able.

*Mother Nature!  No place releases my shoulders, my breath, my heart, quite like stepping outside, into the quiet, into the trees, the sun, the rain, the snow; into desert, into mountain, into ocean, lake, river, puddle; into dirt and seed and flower and tomato; into starlight and moonglow and sunbeam and unknown.  Expanse…I yearn for it so deeply that the mere image of wide open plains, moves me to tears.

Please, let me hear from you.  We are here for each other.  We are nothing without one another.  I would love to share what keeps you grounded and stable and alive and glorious, in these often times…challenging days.  Let us inspire one another.   Let us support and provide the scaffolding for one another.  Let us spread Joie de Vivre with all that we meet…It is contagious!  Let us change our world, one day, one breath, one wish, one act, one laugh, one good deed, one selfless moment, one shared moment, one intention, one resolution, at a time!


Getting lost…

“How will you go about finding that thing the nature of which is totally unknown to you?”  Menlo (pre-Socratic philosopher)


I have recently embarked on a delightful journey through the interior landscape of Rebecca Solnit and her wonderfully adventurous book called – A Field Guide to Getting Lost.  It is just the book for me, especially for where I find myself of late – longing for this very thing: to get myself Lost.

I stumbled upon this book through the beautiful blogsite called woodbirdthemmornings, which is written and tended to by a lovely gal named Robin – a renaissance woman who lives in Vermont, writes, sings, taps Maple trees, and rocks my world with her brilliant spirit.  Do check out her site, you will not be sorry.   Anyway, I digress – Solnit rambles through the idea of, and importance of, what it means to seek out the act of getting one’s self Lost – how this expands and deepens our inner life, and allows us to broaden our own understanding of the world around us, as well as the world inside of us.

the divine mystery of the desert
the divine mystery of the desert

It’s funny how life can lead you to the exact thing that you need, right?  I was talking with a writer friend of mine the other day – right before I started my journey through Solnit’s book – and he was saying how he outlines his novels prior to sitting down to write.  I am aware that this is a favored tool by many writers out there…indeed, one of my favorite mentors in grad school  – the wickedly talented writer Tara Ison, was the queen of this approach!  This is not my favored approach, however…it is indeed, one that I would find difficult to reside in.  One of the great joys for me as a writer is the act of getting lost as I write!  I start with a kernel…for example, when I began my novel The Burden of Light, all I knew was that my story would revolve around a  young man who was dying at a rather young age, and he would need to find a way to forgive himself for deeds done during his life.  From there, I simply began to write…exploring the world of this character – Raymond – as he led me through his journey.  This is a safe way for me to get lost – I trust the character(s) to tell me/reveal to me, what it is I need to know, and how to express their story.

IMG_1602 I do, however, have a certain fear of getting lost out in the wilderness, and I’ve always felt a bit “lacking” in this department.  I LOVE to hike, to camp, to be out in the wilds…I’ve gone rock climbing, spelunking, I’ve camped in the desert solo, hiked in many places around the globe by myself, traveled the Middle East alone as well…but my path in these cases has always been a “one way in, one way out” kind of experience.  I’ve always maintained a healthy fear of getting lost out there in the wild, and not knowing how to get myself home.  But there is a real reason for this: I do not have the skills needed to take on this kind of journey yet!  I do not know how to read stars, how to follow a compass, what plants are safe to eat, etc…but hey, these are skills I can one day learn – and then, look out!  I’m gonna get myself LOST in Mother Nature ya’ll! :)

Let me leave you with some meaty quotes from Solnit’s book: words of wisdom, and fat to chew on, as you explore your own relationship with what it means to get yourself lost.

“Lost (is) mostly a state of mind.”   Couldn’t agree more.  Think how easy it can be to feel lost within ones self…or is that just me? :)  This is a great nugget to carry with you – to pull out and remind yourself anytime you start to feel angst over being lost…in whatever form it presents itself.

“Not to find one’s way in a city may well be uninteresting and banal.  It requires ignorance – nothing more.  But to lose oneself in a city – as one loses oneself in a forest – that calls for quite a different schooling.” Walter Benjamin (yes!)  Solnit adds to this quote by saying – “To lose yourself: a voluptuous surrender, lost in your arms, lost to the world, utterly immersed in what is present so that its surroundings fade away.  In Benjamin’s terms, to be lost is to be fully present, and to be fully present is to be capable of being in uncertainty and mystery.” Rebecca Solnit.  And to this, I give an emphatic YES!  To me, this is precisely what I experience when I write – this residing in the presence of the beautiful mystery, the ever feast-able uncertainty that delivers us to mystery’s doorstep.  It is profound.

Getting lost is a leap of faith…it is a belief in something greater than yourself…it is to reside in the unbound…to surrender to that which we do not yet know, yet somehow, understand…it is to embrace the whole Shebang with intention, willingness, and a spirit of wonder!



“The true direction grows ever young.” – Gregory Corso, Poet (from “The American Way”)

I am harvesting an old Gratitude Journal of mine…it is instructive to read through past thoughts, observations, feelings…and sometimes awkward:)  Anyone out there know what I’m talking about?

Georgia and her beautiful hands...
Georgia and her beautiful hands…

“To see takes time.” Georgia O’Keefe reminds.  How true is this? oh my.  Life is a crowded cucumber these days and it makes the act of seeing much more challenging.  One has to be specific about these things – intentional.  Set out with a self-guided purpose of making it so.  I believe this with all my being, and I do believe also, that when life is a crowded cucumber, it makes it ever so more difficult to accomplish…the act of seeing, I mean.  Or creating intention.  Which makes the necessity of both all the more potent!

Hustle mode seems to surround our existence, everywhere one goes, and it is a reactive mode in many ways…the exact opposite of intentional.  It is a series of batting at fly balls that suddenly head your way, waiting to decapitate you! Or at the very least, send you sailing in the wrong bloody direction!  This can be an exhausting experience.  So how do we meet this head on?   There are certainly more ways than one to peel an onion. How about this…

Georgia late in life, ever guided by her calling...
Georgia late in life, ever guided by her calling…

Devotion.  Let’s look at this word.  LIsten to its sound.  The softness it carries within, the allowance it brings, the sigh of release it delivers.  Can we return to the realm of devotion?  Of spending countless hours wandering our own desert (as O’Keefe would do out there on Ghost Ranch) waiting with devotion to see the inspiration that will bring you to your page, your canvas, your…self.  The devotion itself CONTAINS you.  Extends you.  It is an active state, occurring only through our own intention, and determination.  Devotion.  The very word sounds a bit like a prayer…and I suppose it is, or can be…a prayer to those we love, a prayer to our greatest, deepest, self.  To act.  To move.  To be, that which we wish to be.

Cage busy making sound/not sound
Cage busy making sound/not sound

In my journal, I stumbled on a section that reminds me of something I have not thought about for some time.  “A touch of the familiar is calming; invites the Quiet so we are better able to approach that which is new, unexpected, unknown.”  This was written in response to John Cage and his beautiful book “Silence” (perhaps this quote above was not mine at all, but a quote from Cage in this book?  I can not say for certain, either way.)  Beside this quote I have an arrow pointing to the next page and my question regarding the contemplative space: Is this an endangered space? I wrote.  An endangered act?  It certainly is becoming harder in our culture to carve out space/time/silence, for contemplation.  To chisel out a guarded, private sanctuary, free of interruption, in order to Ponder.  Contemplate.  Be.  Contemplation and its importance is immeasurable; it creates…or allows a “largeness” in the human experience – expanding our own possibility of…possible.  Cage was a satellite for our collective experience, reminding us of the deeper, eternal elements of being, and there is deep truth to his ponderings both on the page, his art, and within his performances.

Gratitude is a choice.  Devotion is a choice.  Seeing is a choice.  A Contemplative Life, is a choice.  Aw hell, the very act of choosing, is a Choice!  I guess where that delivers us, is to the mirror, with our own reflection staring back at us, asking if we are willing to make a determination and live our life according to what that demands of us.  We are, after all, an accumulation of our choices and actions.  That is what builds the reflection that we see staring back at us.

“If your nerve deny you – Go above your nerve.” – Emily Dickinson

Yes!  Bless Ms. Dickinson and all her heart, and all the pearls she left behind for us mortal souls…like crumbs of bread, guiding us home :)

A poem of my own from a beautiful family trip up to the Sequoias, tucked up against a meadow rich with birdsong, wind, wild flowers, tall grasses, and roaming bovines.

The ancients lay in the sun, decayed interiors                                                                                       spilling to the soft green floor, giving themselves freely                                                                        to the endless passage of day and night,                                                                                              moon and cloud,                                                                                                                                  wind and water.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Youngers stand firm and upright all around,                                                                                        tender needles deep in green, moving when required,                                                                         still when allowed.                                                                                                                                                                                          We see no life, my son and I, larger than the dark cicada                                                                   alone beside the rock.                                                                                                                         Above, an invisible plane passes.                                                                                                         We watch the sky, endless.                                                                                                                  

There is mystery here, intangible, vast…                                                                                               It seems we no longer know what to do with it –                                                                                   This alone, explains so much.