Thursday, September 29, 2005

Book: Crones Don't Whine by Jean Shinoda Bolen

Jean Shinoda Bolen, Conari Press 2003
Crones Don't Whine: Concentrated Wisdom for Juicy Women
13 Qualities to Cultivate

"The third aspect of the ancient Triple Goddess was the Crone. The third phase of a woman's life is after menopause. To aspire to be a crone is to want the psychological and spiritual growth that she symbolizes. The crone is an archetype, an inner potential that we grow into becoming."

This little book left me feeling ambivalent in that it contains some wonderful wisdom but parts of it felt saturatingly sweet and a wee bit precious. I am not a Chicken Soup book kind of girl. However, the overall point is to make the third phase of life "a culmination time for inner beauty and wisdom," to use our time, energy and vitality well, and that is a powerful message.

The 13 qualities head each small chapter: Crones Don't Whine - Crones Are Juicy - Crones Have Green Thumbs - Crones Trust What They Know in Their Bones - Crones Meditate in Their Fashion - Crones Are Fierce About What Matters to Them - Crones Choose the Path with Heart - Crones Speak the Truth with Compassion - Crones Listen to Their Bodies - Crones Improvise - Crones Don't Grovel - Crones Laugh Together - Crones Savor the Good in Their Lives

Further chapters appear on "Exceptional Men Can Be Crones" - how men can acquire wisdom and compassion through humility and remorse in life experiences - and how "Crones Together Can Change the World"... that is, biologically the continuation of the species has been up to women. But that now it is up to crones - women and the exceptional men who deserve the name - to bring forth the sapiens [Latin: wise] in time to insure the spiritual, psychological, and intellectual continuation of humanity.

Bolen quotes the four guiding principles attributed to Angeles Arrien: 1. Show up. 2. Pay attention. 3. Speak your truth. and 4. Don't be attached to the outcome. She changes the fourth principle to: Pray for best outcome. Paraphrased: "It is an expression of crone wisdom aligned with the maternal or feminine principle, expressed spiritually. Speak your truth knowing it is limited, nurture and sustain those for whom you pray spiritually...Want (and therefore be attached to) whatever the best outcome for them may be - with their whole lifetime and soul journey in mind."

The few women I have known who really embodied the Crone for me were not all (or even mostly) women to whom I was very personally close, but their influence and power reached me beyond levels of acquaintanceship - if you know one of these women, you really know it in how you are touched by their wisdom and compassion and pragmatism. It seems antithetical to me that this can be something to which we aspire as a goal, but rather it is bound up in the moments of daily living. When I think about these issues and then I think about the many less-noble moments of my conduct through the day, I am humbled...but then that must mean there is progress for me on the journey? I am mindful of the influence we wield toward each other in a million small ways, with each word and deed, and I wish I was better mindful as these encounters happen instead of only in my contemplation afterward. Pray for best outcome.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Hunter's recovery, and Emma & The Evil Hat

Seems like it will take a while to catch up the journal (getting started on the Kenai Peninsula trip finally tonight - first entry on that is on Sept 17). Hunter is improving every day - his hair is growing back, thinly, but enough that now his backside looks merely afflicted with butt-pattern baldness instead of the technicolor baboon. I continue to veto the taking of photos - this chapter can go without documentation. Our friend Kapi in Vermont sent him a package of his very favorite treat - Icelandic Fish Skins - and tonight he swooned over one of them. (He also points out I could have brought him about 400 dead salmon from my Kenai trip, but this will do.)

The last few weeks have just been so out of control, with work, volunteering, family issues, health and other concerns - my whole schedule is out of whack. Hunter and I have barely gotten any walks in for weeks, I've gained ten pounds and am constantly feeling the need to get a grip, to reorder the world and get back to the things that restore me daily. Soon, soon...

...and something else soon is that Emma will be back to visit with us, the third week of October. She is such a joy. On her last visit recently, she modeled one of Phyllis's knit hats that she kindly donated for FOP's quilt auction this Saturday. This is evidently a hat with evil powers. As you can see, before the hat, Emma is a lovely, petite golden retriever enjoying her bed privileges at my house:

Upon donning the hat, she (1) shrinks, (2) suffers nearsightedness, and (3) becomes paralyzed.

Hat off, normal. Hat on, paralysis. Because of my dedication as a tireless and humane advocate for the protection of companion animals, I only played this game for my own entertainment for ten minutes or so.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Dog Tired

(I know I am but what are you?) Actually, Dog Tired is the name of the doggie daycare our friends Kari and Erin have started, and today was opening day. Knatolee created their adorable logo, and they took those colors through the paint job, the furniture, even the scrubs, and it's so darned cute you just can't help but love it. I get credit for providing their tag line. There's a virtual tour of the facility on their website. I'm just so thrilled for them as they embrace the hard work of following this dream.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

You know you're getting tired when... stumble in, sit down at the computer, and check your own blog to see what's up with you...

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

I'm baaaaaack

Took a quick trip down the Kenai Peninsula and am now shellshocked on re-entry, but will fill in the missing days once I get my photos back and my urgent to-do list handled... okay, when I get that to-do list even made....

Monday, September 19, 2005

Kenai Peninsula: Homer / Kenai / Hope

This placeholder is here to embarrass me daily until I write up the last day of the KP trip.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Kenai Peninsula: Seward / Homer

We woke up to a lovely sunny day and headed back down to the harbor for breakfast before touring the Alaska Sea Life Center. I am embarrassed that this has been here so long and I haven’t visited to know what a real jewel it is – the research, rehabilitation and hands-on stuff is so nicely combined and presented in creative and interesting ways. We enjoyed looking at so many species of fish and sea creatures, plus touching them in the Discovery Pool. I learned more interesting things about barnacles than I thought possible! We had fun watching the seals and sea lion and nesting birds too. There are a lot of activities going on that make this a good community center as well as a tourist draw, and I coveted the many quilts displayed on the walls with all sorts of imaginative interpretations of marine life - wish I could bring those back for FOP's auction!

The day grew more sunny and pleasant as we took a short drive along the road that hugs the mountains along the bay out to Lowell Point, where I planted a letterbox and played with a cute dog on the beach - you can just barely see him at the water's edge in this pic. All the while I'm thinking I just love it here - I've got to find a way to GET here for good...

Then we took the 8-mile side road through beautiful yellow leaves to visit Exit Glacier on our way out of town. One of 35 glaciers that come off the largest icefield in North America (Harding Icefield), Exit Glacier is named because it provided a relatively easy trail off the icefield for early explorers. In this picture with Exit still a few miles distant, consider that only a few hundred years ago everything between you and it was under ice as this glacier occupied this whole valley – it created this plain. It’s still a very actively surging glacier, advancing about two feet per year; however, the aggressive summer melt reduces it so that the net effect is a retreat of about six inches annually.

Mom was not sure she could make the whole walk (the round trip was close to a mile and a half, though most of it was a nicely paved walkway), but I knew that with lots of rest stops, she could do it. So with a combination of encouragement and browbeating, she did indeed get there, and even ventured out some distance across the rocks of the outwash plain to within 30 yards of the glacier face. I think she was a little scared to go closer (plus there are all those big ‘danger of imminent death’ signs – I'm not making light of that, as real tragedy has occurred here). I told her she'd regret not taking those last few steps, and sure enough a day later, she did. Anyway, this is one of the most picturesque spots in Alaska that is also this readily accessible to just walk right up to this ice mountain. To see what I mean, check out these photos in the Natural Born Hikers webpage as they take you up onto the icefield for a hike they rate at Purgatory for difficulty level. (My mother might agree.) I planted a letterbox along the trail before we left.

By then it was well after 3 pm so I just opened the throttle and got us down to the end of the road. Literally – the end of the road, down to the Homer Spit on Kachemak Bay (check out the slide show on this link!). On the way down the western peninsula coast, the string of volcanoes greeted us from across the inlet – Spurr, Redoubt, Iliamna and even Augustine visible in the late afternoon light.

Homer’s a quirky place (okay, so we have a lot of those), mixed about half artisans and half fishermen, and probably some who are both. I think the fishing charter operations may be outnumbered only by the espresso stands. The Spit extends about 4 miles out of town straight into the bay, and we got a room at Land’s End right at the tip, with nothing between our window and the beach. Scouted a few locations for letterboxing, got a quick dinner while watching a guy on the beach catching some little flounders and sole, and the state ferry Tustumena come past us to dock. Then headed back above town to Skyline Drive for incredible views of a gorgeous pink and purple and gold sunset. Back down to the hotel as the town lights came on, got settled in and then opened the door to our private deck, to see a full moonrise over the bay. Had I taken 15 seconds to pay attention to camera settings this could have been a gorgeous picture, but I just let that go, pointed it, held as still as I could and waited for the shutter to finnnnnnnnnally click - you get the idea anyway. Sat there quietly, sipping coffee and enjoying the light on the water and the sounds of the last few birds awake. The rooms are small and decked out like ship staterooms, so Mom settled into the captain's bed while I unlatched my berth hung from the wall, opened the windows and listened to the rhythm of the surf a few yards beyond, all night long.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Kenai Peninsula: Whittier / Seward

We left Anchorage in a roaring downpour early this morning to drive to the weird and wonderful - mostly just weird - port town of Whittier, crossing through North America’s longest land tunnel (you drive on the single one-way track shared with the railroad, so this is a tunnel you don’t really want to see a light at the end of), to get to what isn’t North America’s most anything really, but was once of military strategic use and now where everyone lives in one of two buildings (real estate development is an interesting proposition here, but tourism is big).

Hopped a triple-hulled catamaran tour boat to spend the day on Prince William Sound (of Exxon Valdez fame, though the closest we got to that part of things was still a good 40 miles away). The weather continued noxious but I much prefer that for a day on the water when the purpose is to look at wildlife and glaciers – too much sun makes it tough to see anything. I’ve taken the cruise out of Seward a few times but hadn’t had the chance to do it from Whittier before.

Had a yummy halibut lunch, took an amble straight through the commercial fishing fleet, moving slowly among the boats and nets, and past the nation's largest fish hatchery. No whales today but we saw eagles and otters and fish and birds and one sea lion hanging out at the hatchery (burp), and of course lots of Very Big Pieces of Ice. Spent much time on the deck in driving wind and rain - perfect. Even the intrepid Nana came out for a breath of fresh air.

Viewed literally dozens of tidewater glaciers and spent extra time stopped up-close to Cascade and Surprise Glaciers, hoping to see one of them calve but no luck. Just listening to the ice was incredible. On the cruise back, some Dall porpoises hooked up with us and played and played in our bow wake, leaping up and over and surfing along with us – I’m always delighted at the speed they can generate and the playfulness of their maneuvers.

We got back just in time to run for the 5:00 tunnel instead of waiting for the 6:00, so that saved us some time (well, an hour to be exact) on the drive south, as the clouds finally broke near Seward on lovely Resurrection Bay. The time saved allowed us a long dinner at one of my all-time favorite places, Ray’s Waterfront on the small boat harbor. Incredible fresh halibut, cedar plank salmon…shoot, just the appetizer of roasted garlic and warm gorgonzola on fresh baked sourdough washed down with some nice cabernet – I could have eaten a pile of it (okay, I pretty much did). Just took our time at our table by the window, looking at the splendid variety of boats as night came on.

Back to the room at the cute little Hotel Edgewater right next to the Sea Life Center on the waterfront. Watched a movie until midnight – such decadence – and didn’t even think twice about trying to log onto the computer in the hotel lobby (also would have been difficult to cut the line of senior citizens elbowing to email their, wait, now I've got a grandchild too! no more grandparent jokes!). Woke up in the night and slipped out for a walk through Waterfront Park in the dark, with just the sounds of the bay and the rain mostly having stopped.

I had just plain forgotten what a great little place this three-time All-America city is and how I've been so charmed by it always. It’s on my top ten list at “Find Your Spot” and suddenly I did feel very much like I'd been too long away from home.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

The Snowball effect

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the impact this disaster had on separating pets from their people, my friend Phyllis DeGioia has begun a grassroots effort to change the procedures at American Red Cross shelters so that pets can be accepted. She calls this The Snowball Effect, after the widely publicized case of the little boy and his dog who were forcibly separated during the New Orleans evacuation (and were later reunited).

I think this dialogue is critical to have. I see issues of feasibility, safety, liability and expertise that make me think having the same shelters accepting both people and pets is not the answer. I don't see one reason why evacuation should not include plans for both. Whether they are housed in the very same space to me is less important than to have them co-located in proximity, and more critically, to have a coordinated evacuation and intake plan. Animal welfare organizations tell people not to leave their pets behind. Human welfare organizations tell people they can't bring them. Meanwhile, there are people who risked their lives rather than abandon their animal companions, and for those who were left behind, there are other people out there risking their lives now. We have to talk.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Happiness in small things

This little girl greeted me on my desk yesterday, a gift from my boss Nancy. It's the "Happiness" figure from Willow Tree - she has this one and I'd admired it in the past. Until then I didn't know WT made anything besides their 'angels' series, which are very sweet but I am more drawn to plain earthbound beings instead.

It reminds me of two things. That despite pain and loss, my arms and heart must stay fully open if happiness is to find me. And to notice when it has found me already, since that touch may be as light as a bird's and as fleeting.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005


[Anchorage Daily News image from this week looking north from town.] About 5:15 am, our doggie guest Emma became restless so I got up to let her outside. I was surprised by an auroral display to the north, stretching all the way from east to west, and largely unobscured by the ambient light below. It was not terribly chilly outside either, warm enough to just be wrapped in a blanket, so I woke my mom and we sat on the back deck for 20 minutes or so, listening to the still-sleeping city and watching the colors wrench and twist in the sky. Every combination was there - the large hanging curtains, sometimes blinking off and on as though to a switch; then the ribbons that explore, twisting and curling brighter and then to fade; the concentrated spots like searchlights growing in intensity until they shatter into spikes and ribbons of their own. In ghostly pale green with just a hint of pink here and there, while the stars far beyond continue to twinkle quietly as though unaware of the pyrotechnics in their midst.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

The wheels on the bus go round and round

Here's a QuickTime movie of one of Nathaniel's many recent crawling attempts that actually resulted in nearly-apparent forward motion! Photos on his blog indicate the recent development of contradictory (and possibly extra) limbs that propel him in unexpected directions.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Time stood still

The week passed and the blog lapsed. It isn't that there aren't plenty of things that happened. It isn't that I wasn't present for quite a few of them too, and several may yet find their way here. But the last four days passed in a way just a bit beyond my full attention span, with my heart drawn constantly to worry about my little doggie boy. It has been a miserable week for him post-surgery, and today the worst so far. Our dear golden friend Emma is coming tomorrow to stay for a week and I'd hoped that Hunter would be well on the mend. He isn't. That's okay, it surely isn't the first time we've had a recuperating dog and in a bigger pack than this too.

But something has changed. There was a time when one or the other (or the other or the other) of the Gang of Four faced serious surgeries, several of them emergencies, in what seemed like every other week of Let's Play Build The Wing On the Vet Clinic, Ka Ching Ka Ching. And I was tough and rolled with the punches and wrapped love and support around those companions of mine and had all the strength to pull them through harrowing interventions and through recoveries that in some cases lasted for months. Except for a few times when friends arrived to be of support, I was alone on every trip to the vet clinic in 20 years, alone in making the decisions to cause pain in order to cause healing, or in making the decisions to kill my best friends. I was alone when their heartbeats ceased under my fingertips, and I was the one who loved them fiercely but never flinched.

But that was a different person, and my insides have shaken all week.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

The heart is a lonely Hunter

My sweet boy had surgery today and he wasn't allowed to come home tonight. I'm told he's resting okay but in some pain, and I am becoming more restless as the hours pass, because I know how it is when you hurt in the middle of the night. A few hours ago I was okay with leaving him and now I am just...not.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Book: Jenny Willow

Outdoor magazine writer Mike Gaddis' first novel relates the life and times of an English setter in backwoods West Virginia. The hunting dog Jenny is the savior of Ben Willow in his old age, who after losing his two greatest loves in the death of his wife and the last of his generations of hunting dogs, decides he has enough life in him for one more dog. I am no fan of hunting but have gotten some glimpses into that world through people that I've loved and respected, and Gaddis portrays this activity at its more noble, as a backdrop for the events that unfold after Ben dies of a heart attack on a hunting expedition, leaving Jenny to survive on her own.

To be honest, I almost didn't get past the beginning because of the construction of the first couple paragraphs... On just the first page alone I found such stirring combinations as

There was no answer
The room was empty
Poplar and maple were beginning to color
The grouse would find them
They would come
The air was bracing
Crows were about

I thought dear god, I can't possibly choke through this for 280 more pages if this man can't find an action verb. But the style soon expands, and if anything becomes an exercise in sensory adjectives, which a few times threaten to overwhelm the story, but if you make yourself reread them, are worth the linger.

I picked this up at the recommendation of a friend who was reading it, and had told me a few of the pivotal plot developments as he reached them in the book. As a result I was expecting parts of this drama to be somewhat unbelievable and over the top, but as I reached those moments they seemed quite balanced and controlled. In that sense, Gaddis uses rich language to tell an ultimately simple story.

The moments that Gaddis captures perfectly are the moments of connectedness one feels alone on a mountain with none other but a faithful dog. From my own West Virginia family roots, the people he describes are authentic, as are his descriptions of the mountain realm. I read the first two chapters - 18 pages - the first night. The next night I didn't stop reading until I reached the end.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

The thin line

Spent some time on the phone today with a friend, just processing the sights and sounds of this week. Talking about what are the best ways to offer support from our distant location.

Over and over I am arrested by the ways in which human behavior in this drama so quickly sorted itself into archetypes - into heroes and villains, predators and prey. And all driven by despair, and from within its center, no knowledge of what was happening in the world beyond...or even just where that world might begin. As it turns out, science fiction movies about a post-holocaust world do not actually seem to have exaggerated that part of the picture much. While we keep spending our money on terrorist paranoia that cannot reliably protect us from mayhem, I keep thinking that all that separates us from apocalypse is one big storm.

When the wind blows down this hard,

Many a bond is broken.
See the water lie on the ground
From where the heavens opened.
Lord, how will you get through this night
With your dreams departed?
And who alone will comfort you?
Only the broken hearted.

Eric Clapton, 'Broken Hearted'

Louisiana 1927

lyrics by Randy Newman

What has happened down here is the winds have changed
Clouds roll in from the north and it started to rain
Rained real hard and it rained for a real long time
Six feet of water in the streets of Evangeline

The river rose all day
The river rose all night
Some people got lost in the flood
Some people got away alright
The river have busted through clear down to Plaquemines
Six feet of water in the streets of Evangeline

Louisiana, Louisiana
They're tryin' to wash us away
They're tryin' to wash us away
Louisiana, Louisiana
They're tryin' to wash us away

President Coolidge came down in a railroad train
With a little fat man with a note-pad in his hand
The President say, "Little fat man isn't it a shame
What the river has done to this poor crackers land."

Louisiana, Louisiana
They're tryin' to wash us away
They're tryin' to wash us away
Louisiana, Louisiana
They're tryin' to wash us away

Friday, September 02, 2005


Of all of the unimaginable sights and sounds of the last week's hurricane disaster, possibly the most incomprehensible is the statement of the national FEMA director yesterday that they had been unaware that a situation was developing at the New Orleans convention center, and would begin to direct resources there. This was Thursday. So okay, now I know that I was not the only person not watching the television news - FEMA's honcho being the other - but even I knew those horrifying details through the web reports.

I keep playing that quote through my head trying to make it mean something different. Either it means that our country's leadership has no real ability to respond to a large-scale emergency, or it means that they are unconcerned with pursuing facts as applied to death in the streets among people who aren't of the right color or of the right economic franchise. I am not able to sort out which is the better explanation, or which is the worse truth.

The agony of de feet

I was thinking that was too obvious a pun, until I realized there are two younger generations who may not even know what that phrase actually refers to, and now I just feel depressed.

Anyway, these are my friend Phyllis's feet after her toe was stung by a bee. The way she tells it, this involved a visit to urgent care, steroids, emergency anti-anaphylactic, etc. The picture would certainly seem to support this, if it weren't for the disparate fact that she apparently had time to give herself a perfect pedicure in the middle of this emergency? Hmmmmmm, said the skeptic.

She is feeling better now, but still I'm very sure she would appreciate many MANY comments about her feet. Well, I would. Also I would like to point out that the difference between me and Knatolee is that she wouldn't have even asked before blogging this... (she's my hero).

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Quote for September

You have only to let the soft animal in you love what it loves. - Mary Oliver, 'Wild Geese'