Gratitude

I recently saw a quote on Facebook that stopped me in my tracks.  It said, “Remember when you wanted what you have now.”  In a society always trying to sell us something to improve our lives, rarely do we stop to appreciate what we have.  We are trained with an eye toward progress.  There must always be something better than what we have now.  We spend all our lives living for the future and forget to notice the benefits of the journey toward that golden future.

But, always wanting something more takes a tremendous amount of energy.  We stress about not performing well enough to get what we want.  We never seem to make enough money to buy the things we want to buy.  We never seem to have the time to do the things we want to do.  But we don’t appreciate the things we do buy or the things we spend our time doing.  Instead, we strive for some elusive goal, but never take the time to consider the value in the process of getting there.  In truth, we are always in that process and maybe we need to change our focus from the goal itself, to enjoying the time spent on the journey.

Living for the future does not help us achieve happiness, either.  Happiness becomes something that exists when we achieve what we want… sometime in the future.  In the meantime, we just make do with what we have.  It’s not the best-case scenario, but it is where we are right now, and we have to live with it until we finally get what we want.  The problem is, once we get what we want, we develop something new to want and so the cycle goes.  We are never satisfied.     

Practicing gratitude can slow down the pace of life and help us appreciate the process of living.  Notice I said, “practicing gratitude.”  Studies show that gratitude is a practice with effects that accumulate over time.  Just as the benefits of practicing meditation or exercising our muscles grow over time, practicing gratitude slowly increases our happiness over time.  One study, described in Psychology Today, showed that people who consistently think about what they are grateful for on a daily basis use more positive words to describe themselves.

Another study assigned groups of depressed college students three different courses of action.  The first group was assigned to write a letter of gratitude to someone every week.  The second group wrote about the negative feelings they had every week, while the third did not write anything.  The study found that the students who wrote gratitude letters demonstrated improved mental health after just four weeks and, even better results after twelve weeks.

They also gave the students MRI scans and found that the students who felt more grateful showed greater neural activity in the part of the brain associated with learning and decision making.  This indicates that people who feel gratitude might be more inclined to act on that emotion through an expression of compassion for others.  In other words, they may pay their gratitude forward.

So, how do we start a daily practice of gratitude?  Here are some suggestions:

  • Write Gratitude Letters

First, you can do what the students did and write a letter of gratitude every week, which, by the way, helps even if you do not give the letter to anyone.  Just thinking about what you are grateful for has results.

  • Keep a Gratitude Journal

Writing about what you are grateful for on a regular basis can help you think positively in the long term and you can go back and see how you have changed over time.

  • Keep a Gratitude Jar

Not a big writer?  Simply jot down a few notes of gratitude every day or every week on a scrap of paper and deposit it into a jar.  Pretty soon your jar will runneth over with the things you truly appreciate in life.  Take everything out once a year and examine the contents. 

Taking a little time out every day to remind yourself how lucky you truly are will have a significant impact on your emotional well-being.  If you start a gratitude practice now, I guarantee your outlook on life will change dramatically in just a few months, but keep in mind, the results are cumulative.  It will not happen immediately, but it will happen if you keep it up.  So, why not give it a try? What do you have to lose?

Stars

Known as the father of Environmentalism and the founder of the Sierra Club, John Muir said about his childhood in Scotland, “With red-blooded playmates, wild as myself, I loved to wonder in the fields to hear the birds sing, and along the seashore to gaze and wonder at the shells and seaweeds, eels and crabs in the pools among the rocks when the tide was low; and best of all to watch the waves in awful storms thundering on the black headlands and craggy ruins of the old Dunbar Castle when the sea and the sky, the waves and the clouds, were mingled together as one.” 

His parents punished him for running off into the wild, when there were better things, they thought he should be doing with his time, but it was no use.  Muir writes, “the natural inherited wildness in our blood ran true on its glorious course as invincible and unstoppable as stars.” 

Throughout his career, Muir would be called a wild man by many, spending many years in the primitive Yosemite Valley and advocating for the preservation of wild areas.  You could say, he was wild about the wild. 

In our modern civilization we have tamed the wildness right out of us.  To be wild, is to be uncontrolled, reckless and impulsive.  Things, a society founded on rules has no room for. 

The Japanese advocate the practice of Forest Bathing to destress from modern society.  By simply taking a walk in the woods, we find peace in a wild setting because we are reminded of our wild origins.  Once upon a time, in the state of nature, we were free from polite society, which requires conformity and compliance to maintain order.

It is easy to get bogged down in the pressures of our complex world and repress our inherent wildness, but in doing so, we lose the freedom that goes with it.

But what if we were to bring part of our wildness into civilized society?  John Muir turned his wildness into a lifelong passion.  This crazy, wildman would become a powerful champion for the creation of the National Park Service and prove fundamentally instrumental in preserving Yosemite National Park. 

By allowing his innate wildness to take over, Muir found his passion in life, which would become a guiding force for change in our modern world. 

If you feel like you are just going through the motions of life without purpose, maybe all you need to do is get in touch with your wild side. 

Go into the wilderness if you can, or if you can’t, maybe the wilderness of your mind. 

Know that the trees and butterflies do not judge and that every life form that exists differs from one another.  Respect that every being serves a purpose on this planet and you are no different. 

It is here, in this environment free of the constrains of society that we can express our true nature.  Allow yourself to go wild, occasionally.  Hug a tree.  Climb a tree.  Take your shoes off and run barefoot in the grass with arms open wide, kissed by the golden sun.

Now, think about what you truly want in life.  What makes you happy?  What is really important to you?

It is here, where your passion will speak to you, when all the complications of life are stripped down to their essentials.  From simplicity comes your drive to be who you are and make your unique contribution to the world that only you can offer. 

Maybe your passion for the job you already do, has just been re-enforced.  If that is the case, great!  Keep going. 

Maybe you realize your passion lies on a different path than the one you are currently on.  If this is the case, know you have the courage to make the changes necessary to pursue your new goals. 

Set goals.  Mini goals, at first.  With each accomplishment, your goals will get bigger, until you finally, find yourself living so completely on your new path, that you could never imagine doing anything else. 

Only when we let go of our convoluted and busy way of life will we have the freedom to find what drives our very reason for being on this planet.   

And when you do that, you will have a motivation, an eagerness, a wild passion “as invincible and unstoppable as stars.”      

Climate Change: It’s What’s for Dinner

Can we save the environment by changing what we eat?  That is the argument advanced by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released in August 2019.

 The report claims that plant-based diets can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and, additionally work to absorb carbon already in existence in our environment.  The report estimates that approximately 23% of greenhouse gas emissions come from animal agriculture and the land needed to produce feed for livestock. 

While all meat and dairy production create emissions, beef production far surpasses the emissions of all other livestock.  According to Matt McGrath from BBC News, cattle release five times more greenhouse gasses than poultry and that does not include the emissions created from the productions of feed. 

                        For a ¼ lb. burger, it requires:

1.5 lbs. of grain

150 gallons of water

74.5 square feet of land

1,036 BTUs of fossil fuel

In addition, cattle ranchers in Brazil have intentionally set fire to enormous portions of the Amazon rainforest to clear land for their livestock, not only destroying the largest carbon absorbing sponge on the planet, but then, use that land for an industry which will just expel more carbon into the environment. 

In the U.S., how we raise cattle has changed over the years, resulting in increased levels of air and water pollution.  In 2015, Food and Water Watch, released a report called Factory Farm Nation, in which they claim that large factory farms increased from 2002-2015. 

Previously, cattle were raised on small farms with fewer that five hundred head of cattle.  Now, as meat packers get into the animal agriculture business, controlling every aspect of production, more and more cattle are raised in huge feed lots. 

So, what does that mean for the environment?  More cattle crammed into smaller spaces produce massive amounts of hard to manage manure, simply due to the sheer volume.  As a result, water contamination has occurred in local regions surrounding large feed lots. 

Furthermore, cattle living in these cramped quarters become susceptible to disease which can spread quickly through the heard and contaminate the meat we eat.  In an attempt to prevent disease, ranchers often treat their cattle with anti-biotics causing immunity in humans. 

The answer?  Eat less meat, especially, less beef. 

I’m not sure I am quite willing to go completing vegan and, according to The Earth Day Network, a vegan lifestyle is not necessary, but a reduction in meat and an increase in plant-based foods can have a huge impact. 

For those of us who like meat, there have been a few suggestions on how we can change our diets.  New York Times journalist, Mark Brittman, advocates going vegan before six.  He eats an entirely vegan diet until six p.m. when he has meat for dinner. 

Another group promotes “Meatless Mondays,” arguing that, if we all go one day a week without meat, we can reduce emissions by 1.2 million tons per year.

As for me, I think I will start with beef.  I have not eaten beef in over a month and surprisingly, I really don’t miss it, which is really, quite astonishing because anyone who knows me, knows I am a meat and potatoes kind of person.  That is not to say that I will never eat beef again, but I think I will save that burger for my birthday once a year. 

Moreover, I am trying to increase the amount of vegetables I eat.  I never really paid much attention to my meat intake before, but now I realize that I eat a diet high in meat (especially poultry) and very low in plant-based foods. 

Through reducing my meat intake and increasing fruits and vegetables, I hope, not only to positively impact the environment, but my health, too.  The health benefits I hope to gain from this change can only be positive, hopefully reducing my cholesterol and providing more vitamins and minerals to boost energy. 

Changing our diets for the survival of the planet seems a modest lifestyle change in the broad scheme of things, when we consider the impeding destruction our current course of action will ultimately have.       

Cultivating Your Gardens

In 1759, the French philosopher, Voltaire, wrote a satirical story about a simple man named Candide. In it, he poked fun of Leibniz’ philosophy of optimism, through his character, Dr. Pangloss who taught Candide that this is the best of all possible worlds and everything that happens, always happens for the best.

It’s an appealing theory, right?  Stay positive no matter what, even when bad things happen.  For example, a person gets cancer and after the initial thought of “why me,” the positive person says, “God has chosen me for this experience, there must be a reason, hard as it may be.”  Leibniz would say, “it is for the best, in the broad scheme of things.”

Voltaire mocks this theory in Candide.  He says, if everything always happens for the best then we would never try to change anything. 

He does this by putting the poor and simple Candide through a series of horrendous events.  Candide is flogged, witnesses brutal battles, watches as his dear Dr. Pangloss is hanged, loses his love whose family is brutally murdered, acquires insurmountable wealth, and subsequently, loses it all.

Then finally, in an absurd turn of events, Dr. Pangloss somehow comes back to life, still able to convince Candide that everything they experienced has been for the best. 

The only problem is that since they believe everything is always for the best, they never tried to change any of it. 

We all know people who tell us to accept things as they are.  “That’s the ways the world is,” they say.  “You have to accept it and play the game in order to get ahead.”

Play the game.

Not only should we accept the world as it is, but you must join them – the people who created the game, that is.   

But what if we don’t?  No, the movers and shakers of the world do not accept the world as it is, do they?  

After years of torturous events, Candide finally settles down and starts a small farm with Dr. Pangloss and a few others.  Dr. Pangloss remarks that all the disastrous things that happened, occurred for the best, to which Candide simply replies, “I also know, that we must cultivate our gardens.” 

Some may argue, that, in that moment, Candide turned away from the world, and refused to see the good or the evil.  Instead of contemplating the world around him, he focused on his little plot of land. 

He simply, cultivated his gardens. 

But, in that moment Candide did something critically important.  Candide began to work. 

After years of things happening to him, he began to take control of his own life.  Candide suddenly had a goal, a mission, a purpose for being.  He began to work to improve his life and the lives of the make-shift family he created.   

Cultivating your gardens can also be a metaphor for growth.  Gardens grow into beautiful plants which sustain life. 

As we grow spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually, throughout our lives, we change and impact the lives of others. 

It is only when we give up or stop trying, that we fail.  If you look up the definition of “cultivate” you will find “to foster the growth of,” and, “to improve by labor, care or study.” 

Improve being the operative word.

If you believe that everything that happens in the world is always for the best, then you have no reason to improve it. 

But if you see things you do not like, for example, if you see the horrors of war and believe people should not suffer in this way, you will be motivated to prevent war from happening. 

You will be motivated to change the world as it currently exists to pursue a better alternative.  

Now, not everyone needs be an anti-war activist, but we all want to make a difference in our own way – somehow contribute to improving the world.  We know that we do not have to accept the world as it is because we have the power to make the world a better place. 

You have the power to change the world. 

Maybe you cultivate minds in a classroom, maybe you cultivate healthy bodies in a doctor’s office, maybe you cultivate crops, but you know that whatever you do makes the world that much better. 

We do not live in the best of all possible worlds, but, fortunately for us, we have the power to change it.  So, go forth and cultivate your gardens.             

Meet Sammy

This piece was rejected by a client of mine so I thought I would post it here.

Meet Sammy.  Sammy does not follow the rules, instead he creates his own rules.  When instructed what to do by others who refuse to acknowledge his individuality, Sammy ignores them. 

Sammy takes his own sweet time doing everything he ever does, and he does it the way only he can.  The allure of wealth and fame do not temp Sammy into being someone he is not because Sammy knows that the truly important things in life cannot be measured by someone else’s standard of success. 

Sammy creates his own standards and if anyone attempts to force their version of normal on him, he will snap your head off.  Do not mess with Sammy.  Sammy does not fool around.  He means business. 

Deliberate and mindful, Sammy appreciates the journey for the journey’s sake, savoring every delectable moment that his long-lasting life has to offer. 

He commits every action he takes with deep intent, rather than quick, fickle reaction.  Maybe that’s why he lives so long. 

He competes with no one because no one else is worthy of his effort and in doing so, Sammy gets and does exactly what he wants.

No, Sammy pays attention to no one else.  He steadily stays the course, always focused on his individual goals that no one else can match.  Who would even attempt to try?  Sammy’s goals are as unique as he is.  He stands on an untouchable path, solely his own.

Like Sammy, his friend, Colin refuses to play by the rules set by a divisive culture.

Like Sammy, Colin rejects competition with unworthy competitors for superficial trinkets when more important dilemmas exist.

Like Sammy, Colin acts deliberately, confident about every move he makes.

And, like Sammy, Colin will not allow anyone else to tell him what to do or convince him to be someone he is not.

Colin Kaepernick has a pet tortoise named Sammy.  What spark can Sammy ignite in you?

Depriving Our Children

I took my nieces on a camping trip to Oak Creek Canyon in Sedona, Arizona last weekend.  They rarely have the opportunity to get out of the city and I want to expose them to nature as much as possible in the hope that they will grow to appreciate the natural world. 

Just as I expected, they had no problem adjusting to play in nature versus the built playground.  They immediately took off their shoes and dug their feet deep into the sand of Oak Creek.  I kept insisting that they keep their shoes on, but the urge to feel the earth beneath their feet was too great to listen to their supposedly wise old aunt.  Instead, they ran around the creek in bare feet and I gave up trying to force them to wear shoes. 

When my mother saw the video I posted of them in bare feet in the middle of the woods, she scolded me for allowing them to run around with their shoes off, then sharing it on Facebook so everyone could see. 

But I’m not sorry.  Given the opportunity to commune with nature in this way seems only natural to want to feel the earth beneath our bare skin.  Afterall, John Muir ran barefoot through the woods, too.  Maybe we would all be a bit better off if we all did it once in awhile instead of spending all our time standing on concrete.

According to Richard Louv, in Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, children do not play outdoors as much as they did in previous generations.  Today, children stay inside playing video games and watching T.V. more often than they play outside, and when they do play outside, it is often in a man-made playground, rather than a natural area. 

Gone are the days when children spent hours exploring the creek behind their neighborhood catching tadpoles and climbing trees.  The modern childhood tends to be more experienced with the X-box than skipping rocks.

Part of the reason for this is due to safety.  Parents rarely let their children play unsupervised outside anymore.  Instead, they schedule their children’s outside time with structured activities like soccer practice and little league. 

These activities keep children out of trouble, but they lack the experimentation that unstructured play in natural surroundings can provide for children.  Louv cites several studies that demonstrate natural play areas enhance children’s creativity more than a man-made playground. 

Another reason children do not play in natural areas anymore is simply that natural areas are getting harder to find as we pave over meadows and clear forests to build parking lots or new roads. 

We are raising a generation of children who have less experience in nature than we have had.  You may think this is obvious.  You may think it is not that big of a deal, but it could have long term consequences. 

Louv argues that if we are not careful, we will lose the nature preservationists in our society as fewer and fewer children experience the wonders of nature.  Who will be the natural scientists of the future?  Who will go out into the back country of our National Parks and research the plants and wildlife?  If we don’t teach children to appreciate nature in childhood, how will they preserve it as adults? 

Who is to blame for this loss of natural values?  Well, in a word, we are: the generations who came before.  Through our grossly wasteful modern lifestyle in wealthy developed countries we treat nature as if it exists simply for our own use and exploitation. 

Those of us who grew up playing in nature suddenly turned away from it for the convenience of our SUV’s and single use plastics without realizing how we would impact future generations.  Now we wonder why Johnny would rather play video games than go outside. 

It is our own damn fault and you must wonder, do our children know what they are missing?  Do they know the childhood we are depriving them of?

For the answer, I direct you to Greta Thunberg, Swedish climate change activist and her army of young school strikers.  In 2018, Greta started a school strike for climate change by standing in front of the Swedish Parliament to urge politicians to take immediate action before it is too late. 

She argues that we have talked about the problem for thirty years, but nothing has been done.  Now, is the time for action. 

Her generation will see a direct impact from our wasteful lifestyle and, she asks, why should they attend school, studying for a future that does not exist? Clearly, she knows what she is being deprived of.

And she makes a good argument.  Humans cause the extinction of two hundred species per day.  How is it that we assume, we will never be one of those species?   

The earth has been here 4.5 billion years, while humans have only existed a fraction of that time, just 200,000 years, to be exact.  The dinosaurs went extinct before we roamed the earth, why do we think our fate will be somehow different? 

Species have gone extinct long before we came on the scene, but we may be the only species that directly causes its own extinction with complete knowledge of what we are doing. 

The planet does not need us.  It was here long before we were, and it will be here long after life on earth is destroyed.  We, however, desperately need it. 

In fact, it is all we really have.  Everything we have comes from the earth.  All our clothes, buildings, cars, even the money, which we are so consumed with, is made from trees.  If we do not have a planet, we do not have anything.  The earth is all we have.  No, let me rephrase that, the earth has us.  We are completely dependent on it.  It’s best not to bite the hand that feeds us.

And that is why I will be joining Greta Thunberg on September 20th for the global climate strike.  I know that my generation has contributed to the problem for far too long and it is time to change. 

Maybe, someday, my nieces will want to take their children to play in Oak Creek just as they did when they were children, but that won’t happen if we don’t ensure the survival of Oak Creek and other places like it. 

In my lifetime, the ecosystem of the creek has changed drastically.  As a child, I knew a much wider creek, full of gushing water, while today, only a thin ribbon of water trickles over rocks leaving a mostly dry creek bed along the sides; evidence of the abundance that once existed but does not anymore.  

If we do not do something to prevent the warming of the earth, I fear my beloved creek will run dry and future generations of children will never know the marvel of playing on its banks. 

Worse yet, our cities will run out of water forcing population centers, here, in the Western United States to migrate to places with enough water to support life. 

If I want my nieces to experience nature the way I did when I was a child, I need to make sure natural places continue to exist on this planet.  That will not happen if we continue to do nothing. 

We know the technology exists to provide clean energy to our homes and businesses through sources such as, wind and solar. 

We know the technology exists to power our vehicles with clean sources, such as electric and hydrogen fuel cells, eliminating fossil fuel emissions all together, but those in power refuse to transform their profitable industries into a more sustainable market because they don’t think they can afford it, when what we really can’t afford are the lives lost in disasters resulting from climate change like that of Hurricane Dorian. 

It is time to hold the big corporations causing mass pollution accountable and force them to find solutions that are sustainable for life on this planet.    It is time that our governments and businesses invest in the mass production of clean energy.  We have been complacent for far too long.

How can we deprive our children of the spectacular wonders of the world we know and love? It is time to change our lifestyle so our children can have the opportunity to experience this miraculous existence of life on earth that we have, so shamelessly, taken for granted.

Our Racist President

This week our illustrious president, if you can call him that, has yet again disappointed us by targeting four Congresswomen of color, claiming they hate this country simply because they were elected to congress as women of color. I do not need to tell you how his supporters responded: with a blatantly racist chant of “Send her back.” While he claims to disapprove of the chant, he did nothing to stop it and, in reality, provoked it in the first place.

This week’s actions represent an escalation in the hatred instigated by the Trump administration. Unlike the chant of “Lock her up” heard during the 2016 elections, the Congresswomen did nothing to provoke it. It was a matter of debate whether or not Hillary Clinton did anything with her emails. There was a specific event they were talking about when his supporters chanted, “Lock her up.” It was about something she may have done which they believed was wrong, but this time, the Congresswomen have done nothing, but get elected while being women of color. His attacks are clearly unwarranted. They have done nothing and Trump is accusing them of no inappropriate activities. He can’t. He has nothing on them because they have done nothing wrong. Their only crime is disagreeing with him, leaving him no recourse but to attack them simply on the pretense of who they are and his supporters are quick to jump on the bandwagon.

When people attack others and our leaders allow it and even provoke it, simply for being who they are, we plummet into a severely dangerous situation. These are the tools of fascism, the likes of which we have seen in societies plagued by genocide, such as Nazi Germany. If this is the new normal of the Trump administration, we have just tumbled one step closer to dictatorship. This is not the same as sending back undocumented immigrants. There is a national debate on immigration which existed long before Trump. We are talking about U.S. citizens being told to leave the country which is their home. All members of the U.S. Congress are U.S. citizens. They cannot be elected otherwise. This is a new level of hatred we are dealing with: indiscriminate attacks on U.S. citizens. Who will they come for next?

First they came for the Muslims by banning them from entering our country and I did not speak out because I was not a Muslim.

Then, they came for the undocumented immigrants by putting them in cages where children were killed and I did not speak out because I was not an undocumented immigrant.

Then, they came for the transgender soldiers and I did not speak out because I was not a transgender soldier.

Then, they came for the scientists by forcing the USDA to move or lose their jobs, erasing years of expertise and research on the environment and I did not speak out because I was not a scientist.

Then, they came for the American Congresswomen and I did not speak out because I was not a Congresswoman.

Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak for me.

Pretty Pretty Girl

I have been going through old journals and found this poem I must have written about twenty years ago.  I never did anything with it, but it seems relevant now with the Me Too movement.  Maybe I was twenty years too early.  Of course, I was full of anger and passion back then.  Now I am much calmer, but still angry over great injustice.

Oh pretty, pretty girl

Why are you so sad?

Pretty, pretty girl,

Why don’t you get mad?

You would be if you could be,

but you can’t

because there are bills to pay

and mouths to feed

and an asshole making promises he can’t keep

and doesn’t really want to.

And you want to believe him,

so you do,

but you can’t live on empty promises

in an old shoe.

But you keep on surviving

and your looks are fading fast,

but it’s your inner beauty and strength that lasts.

You don’t even know you have it in you,

but you could if you looked,

but you don’t,

because you might heal yourself

before someone else hurts you again,

then maybe you’d be happy.

Oh pretty, pretty girl,

Why are you so sad?

Oh pretty, pretty girl,

Why don’t you get mad?

You would be if you could be,

but you can’t

because the boys can’t keep their hands off you,

so you learn to like the attention

because they want you to.

Do you even know what you want anymore?

And it makes you feel good when they say you are pretty,

so you start wearing clothes that are skimpy.

Then you feel like a star,

until some scumbag takes if too far.

Violated, vomiting and victimized,

they taught you to blame yourself for their actions,

so you do.

Diminished, disgusted and desperate,

you learned your only value is your body,

so now what do you do?

And your whole life feels like one big struggle.

It’s like you were born stuck to the sticky floor of one of those open ended cardboard roach motels.

You can see the free world from here,

you just can’t get there.

So after awhile you give up.

Your legs are getting tired

and your not going anywhere anyway.

In fact, it is too painful to even look outside the box

when all you will ever know is inside.

Why tempt yourself?

And it’s all your fault anyway, right?

You took the bait and now your stuck,

so you stop your foolish dreams and give up.

Oh pretty, pretty girl

why are you so sad?

Pretty, pretty girl,

why don’t you get,

why, why, why don’t you get

why don’t you get

MAD!

The Story of the Stones

The sign at the trail head barely even mentions the Native Americans who inhabited this area on the Hieroglyphic Trail, named for the petroglyphs that can’t be missed at the top of the trail. These rocks tell a story of a time when people in the area knew they were interconnected to the animals that shared the same land.

Rock carvings of deer, snake, lizards, coyote, tarantulas, and scorpions demonstrate all the creatures who gathered at this waterhole; an oasis in the arid desert.  Today, it is just a pool of mucky water, but I have seen it after a rain when it is fed by a descending waterfall which collects in the pool, then moves on through the canyon.

Life granting water to the thirsty desert creatures. Shared by humans and animals alike, the Hohokam and the Apache knew they existed along side the many other life forms that belonged to this land.  There was no us and them. No human world versus the natural world. Humans were not separate from the nature. We were nature. A part of this mysterious thing called life on this planet. They knew not why they were here or where they were going, but they knew something brought them all together at the watering hole.

They knew everyone, animal and human alike, needed water to survive and they respected that.  Mother Nature provided all the resources needed for everyone’s survival. And when they killed, they did it out of respect for the cycle of life and death. They thanked the Earth for giving them the means of their survival.

They did not go to the grocery store and buy a pound of ground beef or get a taco from the taco truck. No, they worked for their food. They harvested plants and hunted deer for their meat.  Today, we are so disconnected from our food that we don’t realized where our food comes from. We need to see this. We need to be out in nature and see the animals, hear the birds chirp, see the art left by ghosts from the past and how they were, we humans, were once a part of it all.

The truth is we are still a part of it all, no matter how hard we try to disconnect ourselves from nature.  We cannot separate the human-made world from nature.  We are a part of nature.

You may think I am stating the obvious.  Of course we are a part of nature, everyone knows that, but the more time we spend in our cars and office buildings, the less time we have to observe how life really works on this planet.  We need to get out of the city once in a while and experience what life is like without concrete and plastic.

Nature finds ways of showing us that. There are little reminders infiltrating our cities, from falcons perching on high rise buildings to mountain lions and bears popping up in suburban backyards. We cannot escape from the natural world because it is our world; the only world we have.

The Story of the Stones

These stones whisper a story.

A story of the human animal living along side many other animals.

A story of a watering hole in the desert.

A gathering place for all.

Water cooler chit chat.

Water cooler art.

An acceptance of all,

recognizing fundamental need.

Trusting the Earth to provide enough without greed.

Respect the mysteries of life.

Hear the story of the stones.

Listen with your heart through the pages of time

and you will know you are home.

Imprisoned by our commodities,

we have forgotten from where we began.

Our complicated lives are really quite simple,

it has been the same since the beginning of woman and man.

Remember, we are still a part of humble beginning.

The truth is, we can be nothing more,

no matter how many black Friday deals you think you get at the store.

Even are “advanced” society cannot make a machine of a human.

We live, we breath, we eat, we drink.

We laugh, we cry, we anger, we think.

And if we ever do become a systematic, well oiled machine,

the odds are, we’re causing suffering.

So, remember the story of the stones.

Hear the whisper of ghosts’ past.

Know we did not get here alone,

and we will not be the last.

Getting Back on the Horse

I just read a blog by a woman a little younger than I am, but middle aged nonetheless, who wrote about the courage it took her to go back to school at her age and to follow her dreams.  It seemed sad to me that something so common place should take so much courage and that she would feel so much resistance in her path.  I know that such obstacles exist, especially for many woman, whose dreams get pushed aside for more important things, like raising a family.

While it seems sad to me now, I remember when I did something which I thought of as wild and crazy for my ripe old age.  I started taking acting classes at thirty-eight and while it doesn’t seem so crazy to me now, having done it, at the time, I felt like it was  a little crazy for my age.  I was in a class primarily full of twenty-somethings with big dreams.

Why do people assume we stop dreaming as we get older?  We assume that young people have the world ahead of them.  They have all the potential for success, but we rarely recognize the role of experience and failure as stepping stones to success.  As I see it, potential exists in experience and failure.  Maybe we do not see the potential in older adults because we know it becomes harder to get back on the horse the more you fall off.

The young person has not fallen yet, and no one knows if they will have the determination it takes to keep going.  Their optimism is inspiring, but they may not have the stamina it takes to endure.

The key to happiness, I have found, is the ability to constantly get back on the horse.  Putting your foot in the stirrup and pulling yourself up is the place where I live.  Success is sweet, but it doesn’t last very long, and then what?  You must create the next challenge.

The potential for the most growth exists in that moment when you are working toward a new goal.  You’ve experienced failure or maybe success, in the past, but in that place where you struggle to achieve a new goal, you learn the most about yourself.  This is the time when you must have an unwavering belief in yourself and your ability to conquer what challenges you.

All to often, as we grow older, we forget how satisfying challenging ourselves can be.  As we achieve success, we must continually strive for something better.  Add one more thing to the bucket list that never ends.  We can always find some new way to grow whether your eight or eighty.

I often see a ninety-eight year old woman in my mother’s retirement community who suffered a stroke and walks with a walker.  Her challenges look a lot different from mine, but she faces them head on.

Every morning she gets out of bed and walks her dog around the block at a snails pace, but she gets up and does it rain or shine.  She has a seat on her walker, but makes a point of saying, “I never sit down.”  She is always going.  May we all have the courage it takes to pursue our dreams and tackle our challenges to the very end.  I will always get back on that horse no matter how hard it is.
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