forces of life consciousness

windsofthewillow
image source: Winds of the Willow

Not too long ago thousands spent their lives as recluses to find spiritual vision in the solitude of nature. Modern man need not become a hermit to achieve this goal, for it is neither ecstasy nor world-estranged mysticism his era demands, but a balance between quantitative and qualitative reality. Modern man, with his reduced capacity for intuitive perception, is unlikely to benefit from the contemplative life of a hermit in the wilderness. But what he can do is to give undivided attention, at times, to a natural phenomenon, observing it in detail, and recalling all the scientific facts about it he may remember. Gradually, however, he must silence his thoughts and, for moments at least, forget all his personal cares and desires, until nothing remains in his soul but awe for the miracle before him. Such efforts are like journeys beyond the boundaries of narrow self-love and, although the process of intuitive awakening is laborious and slow, its rewards are noticeable from the very first. If pursued through the course of years, something will begin to stir in the human soul, a sense of kinship with the forces of life consciousness which rule the world of plants and animals, and with the powers which determine the laws of matter. While analytical intellect may well be called the most precious fruit of the Modern Age, it must not be allowed to rule supreme in matters of cognition. If science is to bring happiness and real progress to the world, it needs the warmth of man’s heart just as much as the cold inquisitiveness of his brain.
~ Franz Winkler
(Man: The Bridge Between Two Worlds)

summer nights

"The Mystery of a Summer Night" by Edvard Munch
“The Mystery of a Summer Night” by Edvard Munch

Whichever road I follow, I walk in the land of many gods, and they love and eat one another. Walking, I am listening to a deeper way. Suddenly all my ancestors are behind me. Be still, they say. Watch and listen. You are the result of the love of thousands.
~ Linda Hogan
(Dwellings: A Spiritual History of the Living World)

A friend posted part of the above quote on Facebook this morning and I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I put the book it comes from on my “to-read” list. Perhaps I will have more time for reading this winter.

My ancestors have been calling to me strongly since May and most of my time since then has been spent doing online research, and planning a research trip in the fall. It’s actually one of Tim’s ancestors who is calling the loudest and most persistently – I have discovered a clue that might lead me to her parents, who I have been looking for, off and on, for thirty-seven years!

It’s a struggle for me to balance research, blogging, gardening, housework, preparing healthy meals, de-cluttering, visiting my dad, enjoying the summer… Summer days are so long and mostly hot and humid, although we have had a few wonderful days here and there to enjoy onshore breezes and open windows. I quickly grow weary of the drone from the necessary air-conditioning…

But summer evenings are the best! Going to plays (Shakespeare-in-the-Park) and concerts (Dave Matthews Band) outside, seeing sunsets and starlight and the moonrise – the stuff memories are made of…

This past Sunday evening we went to Summer Music Sundays at Mystic Seaport for the first time. We dined and had drinks under a huge maple tree outside of Schaefer’s Spouter Tavern (named for the tavern in Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick), with a view of tall ships moored to the dock on the Mystic River, and smaller boats sailing by while the sun set across the river. We thoroughly enjoyed the music, guitar-playing singer Bruce Foulke, who treated us to some covers of old favorites by James Taylor, Carole King, Van Morrison, Eric Clapton… It was a lovely, perfect evening!

What do you love best about summer?

unity in diversity

"John Burroughs" by Edward B. Greene
“John Burroughs” by Edward B. Greene

Science tends more and more to reveal to us the unity that underlies the diversity of nature. We must have diversity in our practical lives; we must seize Nature by many handles. But our intellectual lives demand unity, demand simplicity amid all this complexity. Our religious lives demand the same. Amid all the diversity of creeds and sects we are coming more and more to see that religion is one, that verbal differences and ceremonies are unimportant, and that the fundamental agreements are alone significant. Religion as a key or passport to some other world has had its day; as a mere set of statements or dogmas about the Infinite mystery it has had its day. Science makes us more and more at home in this world, and is coming more and more, to the intuitional mind, to have a religious value. Science kills credulity and superstition but to the well-balanced mind it enhances the feeling of wonder, of veneration, and of kinship which we feel in the presence of the marvelous universe. It quiets our fears and apprehensions, it pours oil upon the troubled waters of our lives, and reconciles us to the world as it is.
~ John Burroughs
(Accepting the Universe)

light, simplicity, symmetry

“My Friends, The Carpenter & The Painter” by Carl Larsson

Now that Tim is back at work it is time to roll up my sleeves and restart the massive home interior improvement project. It was just before Tim’s heart attack in 2007 when we started by scraping the “popcorn” ceiling treatment off of the mold prone bathroom ceiling, and painted the ceiling with smooth mold-resistant paint. And the project has not proceeded much since then, time being consumed with elder care and one medical crisis after another.

And then there was the traumatic selling of our grandparents’ Cape Cod houses: Tim’s grandparents’ home in Provincetown in 2009 and the Dennis Port home of my grandparents in 2010. From each house we inherited furniture, keepsakes, paperwork (including boxes of someone’s poetry) and a baby grand piano, all of which have been stuffed wherever I could put them in a hurry. And I’ve tried to get it all organized ever since!

A home is not a lifeless object but a living entity, and like everything that is alive it must obey the law of nature.
~ Carl Larsson
(New Swedish Style)

I also have a vision of what I want this place to look like, and it involves the elements of Scandinavian style: light, simplicity and symmetry. One reason we bought this place is that we love the enchanting light here so close to so much water. Yesterday I spent some time with my paint color chip book and my collection of Scandinavian design books. When painting begins I now have chosen the colors for optimum reflection of light.

Simplicity and symmetry are proving more difficult to pull off, but I’m persistent if nothing else. Simplicity is getting there as I pare down – I’ve donated about ¾ of my books and many knick-knacks… I love de-cluttering, but it can be tiring as well as rewarding. Symmetry is getting there, too, although I think the kids may be tired of my calling them so often to help me move furniture up and down the stairs. If the furniture needs moving on the same floor I do it myself with those ingenious “moving men” disks. It’s not unlike a giant three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle!

FreeStyle is a no-cost design show where professional rearrangers de-clutter, reorganize and move furniture and accessories around a room to give homeowners a dramatic new look without spending a dime.
~ FreeStyle: Home & Garden Television

I love and used to watch FreeStyle when I got a chance and have adopted that philosophy while incorporating all these beloved antiques into our home. Especially since I’m blending them in with the contemporary pieces we already have. It’s been a challenge and an adventure and will continue to be as I keep at it!  🙂

Do you have a particular decorating style, or an eclectic one? What would you say is the mood of your home?

wars laid away in books

“Sailboats in Pourville” by Anna Bilińska-Bohdanowicz

Adrift! A little boat adrift!
And night is coming down!
Will no one guide a little boat
Unto the nearest town?

So sailors say — on yesterday —
Just as the dusk was brown
One little boat gave up its strife
And gurgled down and down

So angels say — on yesterday —
Just as the dawn was red
One little boat — o’erspent with gales —
Retrimmed its masts — redecked its sails —
And shot — exultant on!

~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #6)

Now that I have a Kindle and can read for hours on end without bothering my eyes, I have delved into a huge comprehensive biography of the life of Emily Dickinson, My Wars Are Laid Away in Books: The Life of Emily Dickinson. The above poem struck a chord with me.

What I’ve been learning is that Emily grappled with an exhausting spiritual struggle during her childhood and young adulthood. One by one more and more of her family members and friends experienced evangelical conversions each time a revival made its way to her mother’s church in Amherst, Massachusetts. Emily was never moved to convert, winding up a solitary holdout, and I suspect it was the hypocrisy and inconsistencies in the dogma as presented by her teachers and ministers that never sat well with her.

Some keep the Sabbath going to Church —
I keep it, staying at Home —
With a Bobolink for a Chorister —
And an Orchard, for a Dome —
~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #236)

Emily found spiritual fulfillment and ecstasy in nature. I think it can be found in the creative arts, too, and in healing. I will read on, as I just got to the “Adrift!” poem yesterday, but my feeling is that once she made peace with this realization, she was able re-trim her masts, re-deck her sails, and get on with her true vocation, her poetry, her spiritual expression, her own way of worshiping.

As a child my intuition rebelled against my father’s atheism. The first chance I got I latched on to a religion with just as much oppressive dogmatism as the scientific atheism from which I was trying to escape. But while ‘gurgling down’ in my spiritual struggle, it slowly dawned on me that religion and science are simply different ways of trying to make sense of and explain the world and the universe. The assumptions of both can be terribly flawed and misguided. Organized religion and organized science can both be dogmatic and self-righteous. People who worship science, in my opinion, give up their own experience of the divine to the men in lab coats, our modern-day priests. Ideally there is a balance between Logic and Wonder, however.

When I started reading Emerson and Dickinson I found myself home at last with the ideas of transcendentalists:

The transcendentalists felt the presence of God in their intuition, but they advised that intuition should be guided by reason, and not follow its own course unaided. They discerned that God speaks directly to the self within us. They stressed the value and importance of personal mystical experience over beliefs, doctrines, rituals, and institutions. All their insights derived from their inner life. Their movement was a reaffirmation of the inner way of introversion or interiority.
~ Wayne Teasdale
(The Mystic Heart: Discovering a Universal Spirituality in the World’s Religions)

How I admire Emily for holding on to her inner life!

fjøsnisse

image by Lennart Helje

It’s been some time since I’ve visited any other blog so there’s that “out of the loop” feeling… I offer here (to the left) a picture of my all-time favorite Christmas card – probably posted it last year on my Gaia blog, but I’d like to have it here on WordPress, for the record. There is comfort in the familiar.

Things continue to get ever more complicated and difficult to balance caring for our elderly ones. Auntie’s endless and capricious demands are making our heads spin. To say she is keeping us on our toes is putting it mildly. And Dad is completely bewildered by recent developments. I can’t fathom much more than he does the ups and downs of his sister’s puzzling ways of coping with each new setback. Since her surgery in September it’s been one thing after another, and I think she is having much difficulty accepting the inevitability of each bit of independence lost.

On top of all this Tim got sick last week, with, of all things, a bladder infection. His habit of ignoring messages his body sends him and carrying on in spite of any sort of pain caught up with him big time. (I won’t even go into the story of how hard it was to convince him that he was having a heart attack three years ago.) Having never had a bladder infection before, he didn’t understand how sick he was until we took his temperature on Wednesday night and it was 102.4°F! Even so, he thought the thermometer might be inaccurate and insisted I take my temperature to verify. Mine was normal. No more if-s, and-s or but-s about it, I promptly escorted him to the urgent care clinic.

After many tests, the doctor there was concerned about the infection reaching Tim’s heart so he gave him an hour-long antibiotic infusion before he sent him home with an antibiotic prescription. As of yesterday (Saturday) he was still getting temperature peaks of 101°F but today it’s finally stayed normal. He’s lost ten pounds. He insists he is returning to work tomorrow and I know there is no way I can stop him. Sigh….. Fortunately he has a follow-up appointment on Thursday to make sure everything is back in working order.

In the wee hours of Tuesday morning we hope to wake up and get a peek at the total lunar eclipse and Tuesday evening we’re having our winter solstice party. I didn’t think too many would be able to make it because it will be a work night, but so far we’ve got 18 planning to come, including us! I’m very excited and am planning on spending the next two days cooking and cleaning, hopefully without any new crisis developing.

Wishing everyone very happy holidays filled with magical moments and the wonders of the season! And don’t forget to leave a bowl of oatmeal out for your local Nisse!

praying mantis

8.29.10 ~ Groton, Connecticut
8.29.10 ~ Sound Breeze

This morning when I woke up I told myself, okay Lazy Bones, you are not turning that computer on today until AFTER you get some work done. Since the house got a real good cleaning last weekend I decided that weeding the garden would be a good project to tackle. Problem was, it was still dark, early bird that I am. So I decided to read until the sun came up.

A couple of weeks ago we saw the movie Eat Pray Love, and I enjoyed it so much I bought the book the next day and started reading. The spiritual journeys of other people are always of great interest to me. Many critics panned the movie, but I loved the subject matter and didn’t notice all the supposed faults the critics picked out. So be it! The book is even better than the movie because Elizabeth Gilbert shares her internal thoughts more intimately than can be done on film.

The book (and the movie) is divided into three sections, the first (Eat) focuses on Pleasure and tells of her experiences in Italy. The second (Pray) focuses on Devotion and tells about her time in an ashram in India, and the third (Love) focuses on Balance, and how she found it in Indonesia. This morning I finished the Pray portion and took some time to meditate on what she had learned about spiritual seeking. Then a phone call from Auntie woke Tim up and the day was beginning, so I headed out to the garden.

Tim left to do a couple of errands (coffee, newspaper, organic free-range farm-fresh eggs) and I started weeding with gusto and great determination. The moon was still out in the blue sky – welcome company. I filled one laundry basket with weeds and had another half filled when I happened to notice the huge insect in the picture above. He was six inches long!!! Not wanting to disturb him, and frankly, quite awe-struck, I stopped weeding and then realized it was a praying mantis! The synchronicity of a creature with this particular name appearing in my garden when I was immersed in thoughts about prayer filled me with wonder.

Tim came home to find his over-excited, hot, sweaty, filthy wife jumping up and down on the porch urging him to get the camera, get the camera. It was all I could do to point with my blistered finger at the cause of all this delirious joy! He went inside and got the camera and tried to hand it to me but I said my hands were too dirty he was going to have to get this picture for me! And I think he did a fantastic job capturing the well camouflaged creature with our undependable little camera!

Earlier this summer while sitting outside with Dad on his porch, I spotted what looked to me like a tiny green inch worm with legs. Next time Beverly passed by I showed it to her and she said it was a baby praying mantis! It was so tiny the pictures didn’t come out…

2006 ~ Woodbridge, Virginia

And back in 2006 we found a praying mantis (pictured above) on the side of Dan & Fran’s house in Virginia.

There are about 2,000 species of these carnivores world-wide! They eat insects and spiders so I hope ours will be staying in the garden – perhaps I should leave a few weeds for him to hide in. By the time I cleared away all the tools and swept off the porch he had moved backwards down the iris leaf he was on, but he was still there. Will be checking on him every time I leave the house!

So, here I am at the computer again, after a nice long shower, of course. Step away from the computer now, Barbara, you still have laundry to do. But maybe a little Scrabble first… Starting to keep an eye on Tropical Storm Earl – it might be around here as a hurricane mid-week if it keeps to its present course… Step away…

Eyjafjallajökull

photo by David Karnå
Eyjafjallajökull – Image: David Karnå

Watching the news last night, about all the flights grounded because it is too dangerous to fly through volcanic ash clouds, got me thinking… Years ago people used to respect the power of Mother Nature and they did their best to live in harmony with it. It seems like today we are determined to carry on with our plans with no regard whatsoever for the weather, the seasons, the climate, or natural disasters.

One of the things I loved about reading Kristin Lavransdatter and The Master of Hestviken was how Sigrid Undset portrayed the characters waking up in the middle of the night and knowing what time of night it was by the subtle sounds they heard outside and the feeling they got from the depth of darkness around them. Imagine being that in tune with the earth!

In Jane Smiley’s book, The Greenlanders, a mother poignantly explains to her son why his grandfather doesn’t have to do any chores:

After a long day, folk rest at night. After a long summer, folk play games and sit about in the winter. After a long life folk sit about the fire and stay warm, for the chill of death is upon them, and even the thickest bearskin can’t keep off the shivering.
~ Jane Smiley
(The Greenlanders)

Life is a mixture of positive and negative things, a delicate balance. On a walk in the woods we see the process of death and decay right along new growth and mature life. It’s more natural than a garden, where unwelcome plants are weeded out, and dead ones discarded as soon as possible. Once we went to a butterfly conservatory where my young friend asked a curator how long the butterflies lived. Usually a day or so was the answer. What happens to the ones that die? They’re swept up every morning. So all we see is the beauty, the dying part is hidden from our awareness.

I’ve been hesitant to blog the past couple of weeks because so many “negative” things are disrupting the rhythm of my life, and it seems a shame to whine about it. But perhaps negative things can be discussed without whining? More as part of the ebb and flow of life? Sometimes I think we pay a price for trying to carry on as if nothing has happened. Maybe we need to go to bed when it gets dark early, maybe we were meant to sleep more in the winter. Maybe we need to accept the universe and stay home when Mother Earth says we should not be flying…

Our little spaceship creates some very big dark clouds sometimes. So why should we expect to sail through our lives without limits on our plans and our share of disappointments and grief to endure? Yes, it would seem I’ve got a rather large dark cloud following me lately, but in the words of my favorite songwriter…

Isn’t it strange how we move our lives for another day
Like skipping a beat
What if a great wave should wash us all away?
Just thinking out loud
Don’t mean to dwell on this dying thing, but looking at blood –
it’s alive right now, deep and sweet within, pouring through our veins
Don’t beat your head, dry your eyes
Let the love in there
There are bad times, but that’s okay
Just look for love in it

~ Dave Matthews
♫ (Pig) ♫