Monday, December 26, 2011

Can Can Orchids

This photo is on my desktop. I took the picture at Matthaei Botanical Gardens. Every time I close out of a program, I smile because these flowers look like the Andrews Sisters doing le can can. Apologies to orchid fans, I added the legs and pistil stockings. I can hear the music that Shirley MacLaine danced to in the Can-Can movie - the one with Frank Sinatra? Or is it Louis Jourdan? Both and add Maurice Chevalier. Daah da de dah dah de de dah de dah dah...

2011 Wheel Comes Full Circle

Winter Solstice has been celebrated, the Long Night Moon rests until next season, we enter Candlemas, share Old Moon and meditate in the time of Spirit, contemplating North, listening to the Healing Warrior. Now are the days to smudge sweetgrass, to reflect on our journey this year, to calm ourselves as we wheel into 2012. Share quiet time with small gatherings of friends, journal the year and sleep long and deep.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Three Story Life: Christmas Eve

'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, the lights went out. Again. My brother sat on my Dad's unmade bed naked - and well - not entirely sit-worthy, and laundry had to be done. The power blew because I put the oven on to make grandma's coffee cake for tomorrow morning. Dad's Christmas shopping amounted to getting the serial yapper dog a new bed. He won't sleep in it, spent his awake time yapping about not sleeping, so the dog, Dad and the rest of us underslept a little. The VA called, had found a spot on Dad's lung, along with his vascular problems, his stents are plugged. Doctor said, maybe I should have waited until after Christmas to call. Dad doesn't want to go out tomorrow, so I had to go grocery shopping today for dinner then. I also had to call everyone and tell them we were not going anywhere Christmas day; and no, please, you needn't come here. Dad said take my debit card to the store. I did. I did not listen to my inner voice telling me now is an excellent time to see Ephesus and Constantinople, and maybe Antikythera and the other Greek Isles enroute. So, I did not need the debit card. Meanwhile, elsewhere in Michigan, the electrician I had called went to his office to get a little privacy to wrap Christmas gifts, saw the blinking message light and called us. He came, he checked, he fixed, and as I was writing his check, the neighbor banged on the door with an eggplant to tell us she, lucky woman, was on her way to Chicago, and did we want her eggplant? The serial yapper dog was power yapping, Dad was yelling "Linda!" while on the phone because our neighbor was banging on the door with an eggplant, and, of course, I was not doing anything. But wait! Power on! Fire disaster averted! Coffee cake in oven! Coffee in microwave. Laundry in washer. Laundry in dryer. Gifts wrapped and put under tree. Got the wrong stuff at the grocery store for dinner; went back and got the right, after having already gone back because I forgot to buy the [wrong] stuff, lit grill to cook now-right stuff, and no propane. Back in house, broiler on, smoke fills house, but power stays lit, Lions are winning, dinner consumed. Sheets out of dryer, beds made, clothes folded, brother shiny, dog napping, Dad eating coffee cake, my back squished. I hear Ephesus is lovely this time of year.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

12 Days of Caregiver Christmas

On the 1st day of Christmas, my true self gave to me:
A day free of left brain chattering.

On the 2nd day of Christmas, my true self gave to me:
Two thank you notes.

On the 3rd day of Christmas, my true self gave to me:
Three big hugs.

On the 4th day of Christmas, my true self gave to me:
Four special smiles.

On the 5th day of Christmas, my true self gave to me:
Five blissful sighs.

On the 6th day of Christmas, my true self gave to me:
6 bills a-paying

On the 7th day of Christmas, my true self gave to me:
Seven friends a-playing.

On the 8th day of Christmas, my true self gave to me:
Eight cares a-waying.

On the 9th day of Christmas, my true self gave to me:
Nine salsa dances.

On the 10th day of Christmas, my true self gave to me:
Ten peaceful glances.

On the 11th day of Christmas, my true self gave to me:
Eleven laughing hours.

On the 12th day of Christmas, my true self gave to me:
Twelve pretty flowers.

Eleven laughing hours
Ten peaceful glances
Nine salsa dances
Eight cares a-waying
Seven friends a-playing
Six bills a-paying
Five blissful sighs
Four special smiles
Three big hugs
Two thank you notes
And a day free of left brain chattering!

God bless us, every one!

A Three Story Life: Holidays

This year I understand that my life story is not the same story as my father's life story. Or my brother's. Who I am, how I operate in my world is about me. Our stories coincide, mesh often, and merge randomly, but the stories have their own lineage. In order to perform at optimum, I have to stay still in a swirl of episodes, a whirlwind of emotion, experience and realities. On holidays, that cyclone gets spinnier, when more family and circumstances expand the gear ratio. The wider the connections, the calmer I need to be. Perhaps all caregivers would find this feat daunting. Centering is necessary. Dancers can spin endlessly only by keeping eyes focused on a stationary object in the middle distance. Tightrope walkers can remain elevated by not looking down. Caregivers need to focus on their inner loci, the carer heart, the love that is central to being able to perform at all. Centered, calm, confident, compassionate. Compassionate first about you, and when you're calm and centered that compassion will shine out in a steady stream, rather than be scattered ineffectively to the gyroscopic distance. Take 3 deep breaths, focus, and calm yourself, and have a happier holiday season. Give yourself the gift of gently caring for you, and the care you give others will reflect that gentle regard.

Legislation to Include Home Health and Farm Workers

President Obama and Labor Secretary Solis introduced legislation to include home health and farm workers in the Fair Labor Standards Act. This will remedy the exclusion since 1937 of those occupational titles. If I'm going to lower my blood pressure, I need to stop reading New York Times articles on this or any subject. And government labor statistics about income. Republicans quoted are agin it because it will raise costs and cost jobs. Whatever. Isn't there a new argument in the GOP playbook? Or NYT reportage? The government indicates median incomes for home health care workers on the Bureau of Labor Statistics site. Median is an artificial percentage. A 4th grader can tell you median means the exact middle of the pack. To use another example, the median age of single people in Michigan might be 34. Ages above that number might average 68, and ages below average 6 months old, so the median age is 34, although there is not one single 34 year old person in Michigan. Or any age near 34. There are no statistics about how many people of any age who are providing care for those less fortunate or able are receiving no income at all. The government statistics only include those who are registered, employed by third party agencies that issue 1099s or W4s, or are union members of organizations like SEIU. I applaud President Obama and Secretary Hilda Solis, and hope this 112th Congress will somehow have a Christmas miracle delivered to them before the new year voting follies begin. There is one more blessing for me to count this holiday season: I am not an elderly relative of any of the Scrooges who want to deny minimum wages to caregivers, home health workers and farm workers.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Gifting The Empty Box

Organizing and wrapping the year in the waning days of 2011, I feel the greatest gift for me this year is an empty box. I've felt unreal for months. Now I think I know what that is. It's that I don't know me. My life as a perfectionist ended these last 18 months. The OCD stuff that littered my brain, world and ability to be calm and succeed is becoming the past. How can you fill your cup/realm/spirit when it's already full? Rife with perceptions, lies, and false realities imposed by everything external? We adapt to our family of origin, culture, schooling and career designed for societal success. We are trained in the roles that make it simple to keep a society asleep. I know nothing about the truth that is me. And that unknowing is a gift - a gift I can give only to myself. A big ol' box of the Linda to be. Already open. Infinitely enormous. Infinitesimally tiny. As 2012 dawns, I will treasure the not knowing in brighter light, quieter silence and joyicity.

Final Exams

For Michelle and Alexandra this day. And Thursday. And for everyone facing a final exam of any nature this week. Blessings, peace and a calming sense of hurdles leaped, obstacles overcome, and the finish line achieved.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Ants and Ant Plants

Last week friends and I visited Matthaei Botanical Gardens in Ann Arbor. Carol had sent an article she found about ant plants. Ant plants have a symbiotic relationship with the trees they grow on. As we were paying our entry, I told the woman we were there to visit the ant plants. She said we were in luck as the man who donated the plants was in the conservatory. Carol spotted one of the plants right away high in a tree. We wandered happily through the gardens, taking pictures and enjoying the beauty of nature collected at Matthaei. Pineapples & Pincushions is on display through January 8, showcasing patterns in nature. You can pick up a frame on a stick to help children focus on repeated displays. For math detectives - Fibonacci numbers are involved. Christmas trees were decorated with cactus slices, wood pieces, and pressed Queen Anne's Lace. Poinsettiias nestled close in the shape of a tree. As we walked back to the front a man on a ladder was putting a piece of wood up in a tree. I asked "are you Frank?" He said yes, and traded us a tour for carrying the tools back to the workroom. Frank Omilian is a retired biology teacher whose passion is ant plants. He donated some of his collection to the botanical gardens. Matthaei accepted the donation on condition that the plants survive a year in the greenhouse, which they did. The slugs eat the leaves on some of the plants, but a copper nail behind the installation keeps them away. Good tip for gardeners! In the workroom, we were able to see some of the ants when Frank tapped on a plant. Tiny and fast, I did not get a good picture. A beautiful magical day shared with nature, ants and friends. Do visit your local botanical gardens this holiday season. Susan said she'd bring her grandchildren; it's a lovely place to share an afternoon with children and greenery, and an inspiration for artists with lots of beads and wire.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Dollhouse Christmas 2011

The Christmas tree has been set on my desk for the last 6 holidays. I moved the dollhouse next to my workspace this year, so I decorated the living room of the house. I just have to open the front to see the holiday decorations. It's lovely by candlelight. A stocking is hung on the fireplace screen. The gingerbread man lost an arm and I'll make a new one before the decorations are put away for the year. The Christmas sheet music is on the piano, and Frosty the Snowman is up next. Wrapping paper, empty boxes, scissors and tape are on the coffee table, next to a glass of wine. There are more ornament boxes by the couch. It's my dream couch, made of copper leather. Friend Joel's Hanukkah gifts are on the right. Someone is getting Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass. The clock on the mantel is a replica of a clock I made. I bought the real clock in 1980; it's made by a Wayne State University woodworking teacher from padauk and white oak. The torchiere lamp is a dowel, with a 2 liter pop bottle ring as the base, and a piece from my sisters' toy bucket (tiny pieces taken away from gifts to their little children.) The halogen lamp bulb is made of crystal seed beads. The real torchiere is in the living room upstairs. I made the Christmas tree before I found out that you can buy a craft tree at Michael's or JoAnn's! I made each of the ornaments on the tree, from beads and jewelry findings. The rug is a 1:12 scale Turkish rug from Turkey. A poinsettia plant I made is now available at my etsy shop! The paintings on the wall are miniature prints of my own paintings. It's a special time in the dollhouse! Happy full scale holidays to one and all, and best wishes for a happy and safe new year!

Caregiving Cards-A Friend Indeed

The first card in my art series "A Friend Indeed" was created because I could not find a card to send to my sister's friend Stacy, who was fighting her way through terminal breast cancer. Her courage was amazing, and I wanted to honor her humbly. The first card I sent read Some day I may know what you're going through, and the inside read And I will remember your strength. 13 cards created. I love the heartfelt sentiment on each, the truth of a life struggle respected. Along my own journey, I abandoned the cards. Recently I wanted cards to send to other caregiver friends. The loneliness, the doubt, guilt and heartbreak of caregivers is profound, and I needed cards to encourage and support my friends. My Friend Indeed cards came back, but the art was dated. I rounded up the collection of dolls I'd rescued, packed a wardrobe case and my camera and went to the parks. I fell back in love with the cards, and cried more than once, feeling the love caregivers share. As I was walking to find another location in Kensington Park, a man popped up from crouching in the bushes. Oh, oh, I thought. He looked sheepishly around, shrugged and held up a cutout. "My niece sent me Flat Stanley to take a picture of in Michigan." I love Flat Stanley! I said. He sighed, "thank goodness." At Island Lake State Park, a mountain biker saw me kneeling over a log getting the dolls to sit upright, and almost fell off his bike laughing. For one photograph, I was so convinced the dolls were live acting talent, I posed two standing, and was surprised when they both fell over. I have listed some of the cards in my shop on etsy, and will be posting more. In any way you're able, please give thanks and appreciation to those loved ones and friends who are in need of support indeed, especially this holiday season.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Women & Film 2011: Sexual Violence

I love movies. Viewing, talking, researching, reading about movies. I like precode movies, screwball comedies, film noir, thrillers, westerns, sparklingly written film, studio, independent, animated, documentary, short, long, black & white, color. I have only walked out of one movie, and I have hit eject on two at home. That's it out of thousands of movies. I have enjoyed and rewatched movies that my feminist friends pan. There are cinematographers, production designers, directors, and acting talent I will watch repeatedly, and immediately see when a new movie is released. But there are fewer new movies I can choose to see. There are more schlocky films, juvenile films, weak franchise films, male buddy films featuring moronic losers and no soul. There are fewer strong male roles, and even fewer strong female roles. The newest feature plastic boobs and plastic brains, or depict women in violent and hysterical situations. Two new movies are particularly vile. The Twilight series is a cesspool of wrong-headed women characterization. Bella doesn't want to be herself. It's The Little Mermaid on steroids. The new installment, reviewed here by Linda Holmes, dehumanizes - literally and figuratively - the female lead, and adds sexual violence. Not surprising in the 2011 world of women as automatic commodities, Breaking Dawn made a pantload of money opening weekend. Dangerous Method is reviewed here. Freud as sexual predator, his victim a client diagnosed with hysteria. Hysteria. Trotting out all those 18th century ways of dismissing and abusing women because we don't have enough of that shit today, is that it? I am interested in Martin Scorsese's Hugo, although I'm not a Scorsese fan. Homage to film is enticing. I'll pay homage to Alice Guy Blache instead of Meiles in my head, and hope that some day really soon we stop plasticizing, ignoring, dismissing and torturing women in movies. I've had enough of this weak yang domination stuff, and it's about damn time we all abandon it forever.

My Shadow Soul and I

Squirrels are preparing for winter in Michigan. I can hear a squirrel shelling a black walnut and spot the diner on the ground, in a tree. I am preparing for winter in Michigan. I am beginning to be able to spot me. Clearing piles of paper and books in my office; discarding, filing, I found an old piece of art. We've come a long way together, my shadow soul and I. Sorting this year, and reveling in the clarity gifted, I think that all my writing and art for 50 years has been about duality. How many versions of me are there? Depends on who I read and what I think about that. Archetypes. Sorcerer, prostitute, rescuer, dilettante, inner child, judge. I brought past lives, sacred contracts, genetic predisposition, collective consciousness into a world of external. We all do. Wham. Here I am. I decided early I didn't like most of my selves, with help from the voices in my head, and the realm around me. I adapted best way, and as my abilities grew, so did the way improve. Fast forward 60 years. Like the Matryoshka nesting dolls, I am many layers. I am Legion. I am all, I am nothing. Nestled within the universe, I am infinite, I am infinitesimal. Today who I am, all of those beings, is just fine with me. I know my shadow soul, or at least where it hangs out in the dungeon and belfries of vision glimpses, and perhaps we're reaching singularity. I like me, nasty bits as well as sublime. We're all one, me and my otherness. There is no distance between who I am and the light that guides us all. I am preparing for winter like my fellow travelers, the squirrels of Michigan.

Grace in a Bottle

How do we keep grace? Do we hang out at the table in Whole Foods where we first experienced the feeling, hoping for its return? Whose grace was granted? Why did Carol and I share that moment? May we experience grace with others? Can we ever explain what happened? I don't know. Perhaps what is new for me is I am okay with never knowing. We have wonderful friends. We share. When I am with graceful women, I feel graced, too. We are compassionate and gentle with each other. This is grace. My sisters replenish my supply of philosophy's amazing grace bath gel each year. I love it (and them) for the fragrance, but mostly for the copy on the bottle. I borrowed a piece of the wisdom for my profile. On the bath gel, philosophy defines grace as compassion, gratitude, surrender, faith, forgiveness, good manners, reverence, and the list goes on. My therapist, the gifted and graced Rosemary Jozwiak, said years ago that all I was missing is faith in a good outcome. And thanks to friendship and belief, I now have the missing piece of the philosophy puzzle. I intend to keep grace alive and to grow the love.

State of Grace

Carol and I met on a Tuesday at Whole Foods in Ann Arbor. We had a croissant, a beverage and were sharing how we feel, what we understand is happening to us and the universe, and what, if anything, we can do to dissipate the year of spirit cloudiness we both are experiencing. I said something about locking ego in the closet in the basement. Carol softly spoke of the bittersweetness of aging. Then everything changed. One moment we were swathed in mist, and then we were alight in clarity. The experience was profound, dimensions beyond anything we knew before. What just happened? we asked each other. Lights had auras. The chatter in my head disappeared. We were bathed in an aurora borealis of calm warmed golden light. Carol pinched herself. Had we just ascended? I held Carol's hand. If she ascended, I was not going to be left behind. She handed me the dried seed pod from the vase on the table. This is a lotus, she said. We took off our glasses and stared at the ceiling. We laughed. We rejoiced, awed with serenity. What just happened? Carol said this is grace. We are in a state of grace. Amazing grace.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Pez Bunny Murder

From Pez police crime scene photo files, we note that the moo cow passed out from excitement. The picture of Marian's cat cat picture frame got its whiskers under the police line, thus violating the do not cross rule. It was arrested and both cats were released on their own recognizance, recovering from the shock on the monitor housing the bunny rabbit with carrot twins. Suspiciously the alligator is nowhere to be found, and the Siberian tiger has taken it on the lamb. Um. The lam.

The Pez Bunny Murder

Crowd control is a constant chore at a crime scene. We tried to keep the gawkers back from the police tape, but when our backs were turned, they inched closer. Some brought snacks. The Beanie Baby Siberian tiger kept falling over and annoying the other interested parties. The alligator kept inching its long-toothed snout closer to the victim. The picture of Marian's cat cat picture frame stared open-mouthed until other standers-by told it to move along.

Everyone Is Creative

We create our own reality. Inventing a reason not to go to work is creative endeavor. Every lie we tell ourselves or others is creative output. We're geniuses at the sideways compliment, imagining another's thoughts, storying our past. We tell stories to make sense of our world. Everyone is creative and we can change our lives with a tiny thought torque. My best friend Beckie and I worked together at two soulless management consulting companies: Joe Versus The Volcano with moderately better lighting. Eight creatives in a grey cubed room. We had to reinvent happiness every day. This time was Easter week. Victoria had gotten us each a seasonal Pez. It was a grim day, with false deadlines rushed by necktied zombies. We were cranky and overworked. I threw my bunny Pez against the cubical wall. The neck bent open and spilled candy on the counter. Oh oh, I said. I killed my Pez dispenser. I swiveled my chair around to see all eyes twinkling. Somebody shut the door. I stuck my xacto knife in the bunny's neck, drew and printed a blood stain, and a police line yellow tape. Somebody printed bloody pawprints. The Pez police drew a chalk body outline, while all the monitor toys crowded behind the police line. A pink slinkie became the murderer's escape route up the cubicle wall. We created for days. We made a wanted poster for a senior vice president we called Nick the Thumb. We buried my Pez bunny in my Giorgio Armani eyeglass case outside the building in a solemn ceremony complete with frocked minister and mourners. We attracted the building's security, who were zombies in security uniforms. We discovered the murder victim's grieving widow was having an affair with the minister. She was pregnant. We staged a rush wedding, and, oh joy! one day I came back from lunch to report an actual wedding was being set up in the atrium! We gathered our celebrants, the hugely pregnant bride and the groom, and ran downstairs with cameras. Flounder from The Little Mermaid saw the baked cod and fainted. For weeks we had color and light and joy in our corporate lives. We created a reality to share. All of us have this power, this majesty, this bliss, this sublime creativity. I am delighted today remembering the taste of joy, and I recommit right now to recreate it every day.

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Three Story Life: Blood Pressure

I've been on blood pressure medication for many years. I have no idea what year, but it was undoubtedly after cancer, my mother's valiant yet unsuccessful battle with cancer, and starting the caregiver role. A while. A couple years ago I almost got put on another med, but refused to take it. Last week my prescription ran out. To get a new one requires a 130 mile trip to the doctor, paying an office fee, and hearing that I need to lose 20 pounds. Another choice is to do the 8 hour free clinic wait. And then there's just stop. Walked to the homeopathy store and said I want to quit my blood pressure medication. He said good. I said can you help me do this? And he said sure. So I'm off. Research is my third favorite thing to do, so I'm researching. My BMI is good, but I need to lose 10 pounds to drop 14Hg blood pressure points. I need more effective cardio workouts. I already eat well, but I'll eat better. Raw foods are back on my menu, and I'm researching more alkaline foods. I told my sister what I 'm doing and she said, "Good for you. Where are you putting Dad and Scott?" Funny sister. What I'm doing to reduce the stress level for me in the house is put me first. Day one, I said maybe 1,000 times "I choose calm" and kept thinking about the movie Airplane. Picked a hell of a week to quit drinking. Day two, I said maybe 10,000 times "I am calm." Picked a hell of a week to quit sniffing glue. Day three, I said out loud "I am not going to argue with you," fled to check my blood pressure and it was okay! Pulse was a little high, but it was good. I know my body, I know when something is wrong. Now I want to know my body, and know when all is well. We make a choice every second in life, and I am training myself to choose calm, choose love, choose grateful, choose healthy: the next thing I'm going to do on purpose.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Epicurus and Me

I love good books. I like thinkers who make me think. I admire thinkers who share what they think, even if it means death. My brain was absorbed with The Swerve, which has a lot of thinkers in it, and thinkers who died for saying what they thought. Stephanie Mills introduced me to the real Epicurus [342-270 BCE] as a man who encouraged simplicity; not the Bacchanalian lout others reported him to be. Ataraxia was his wine. Tranquility. Freedom from worry. Freedom from fear. He thought the universe was made of atoms, flying around and occasionally getting together for a chat. He believed in gods, but did not believe the gods had any interest in earth. He practiced free will. He taught others to do the same. He lived a long life because he kept out of the way of people who might think what he thought was a killing offense. Some of his devotees weren't so blessed. I was fortunate to be able to read The Swerve, about a scribe who stumbled upon a copy of Lucretius' poem On the Nature of Things. Via a random route, Epicurus chatting with his friends in Athens thousands of years ago caused me to feel happier today. I felt confused and uncomfortable when I finished the book early this morning. Whenever my brain touches Inquisitorial practices, my mind reels. What written or spoken words are so dangerous that the writer/speaker needs to be snuffed out? So I left the house in the chilly dawn to get those thoughts banished. Today, as I walked in the frosted morning, I felt kin with the birds looking for food and a glimpse of the sun. We are the same. An oak leaf floated off the tree to be returned to the atomic chaos that created it. It does not judge nor is it judged. It does not fear, and is pain free. Whether it enjoyed a pleasant time in the tree or not, is not my concern or any other collection of atoms' concern. My drawing for this blog post is saved as Same. There is no difference between the two lines. Each has a start and an end point, and if in mathematics or philosophy, it exists on several geometric planes or not, is no matter for me. I won't ever understand that. Whether Epicurus and his friends in The Garden led in a straight line or a chaotic tangle to my brother having a new puppy is unimportant. That the puppy is warm and fed, and my brother is happy with Mr. Bilbo Baggins is what is important. That I don't have to think as much as I do to be happy is what is important and pleasant.

Friday, November 4, 2011

A Three Story Life: Smudge, Then Call a Friend

A little while ago, there wasn't enough smudge in the world to clear the negative energies. I could barely see the computer screen and was still cranky. My sister keeps telling me that fratricide is illegal in Michigan. So I called wonderful friend Nancy to help me. I just hollered at Dad that he's mean. He doesn't give a shit that I think he's mean. My father has his own demons to wrestle, and some of these I recognize. My mother told him what to do for 50 years and he's done being told what to do. By anybody. I understand that. I do not understand grabbing food out of a serving dish with your bare hand. When I asked him not to do that, he went off. I got up from the table and put my dish in the sink. He said, "what, you in a hurry?" I said, no, the grabbing and the yelling made me sick. He said, "then run away and puke." That's when I said "you're mean." And I called Nancy. Nancy gets doses of mean, too. We both are smart, capable women and we witness the frustration, anger, sadness of our parents losing control of their bodies, brains and their life. And we know in the back of our heads that none of this lashing-out behavior is personal. But it hurts in the front of our brains. And it feels like a knife to the heart. I told Nancy I want to slap my father when he acts like this. We agreed that's probably not the best course of action. And we decided that when we're told we can't cook, or told to go run somewhere and puke then, we'll call each other. And we'll know that even if we don't reach the other right then, help is on the way soon with love and deep understanding. Meanwhile, I'm running out of smudge. Cough. Cough.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

On the Nature of Things

Lucretius' poem, On the Nature of Things, saved from destruction by being not noticed, is the subject of Stephen Greenblatt's new book The Swerve. Lucretius himself named it, his Latin word was clinamen: an unpredictable movement of matter. I'm just on page 11, and Greenblatt is waxing enthusiastically about the Renaissance as the culture that best embodies, since antiquity, the appreciation, creation and enjoyment of beauty and pleasure. In Greenblatt's case, his love is Shakespeare, so The Bard's timeline would also shine brilliantly. What I am dazzled by is Lucretius wrote a love song to the way the universe actually is. One more example to my mind that physics and magic are coming to a singularity and dragging religions, reality, Occupy Wall Street, and tiny communities of people wandering and wondering at the sudden lightness of being into the vortex. I believe we are living at the daybreak of another Renaissance. As the Renaissance followed the Middle Ages, we are emerging from the Dark Ages of corporate soulsuits into a new enlightenment. All life has continued miraculously chaotic, now we notice, participate, appreciate. An excerpt here: ...to understand that humans are made of the same stuff as everything else, and are part of the natural order; to conduct experiments without fearing that one is infringing on God's jealously guarded secrets; to question authorities and challenge received doctrines; to legitimate [sic] the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain; to imagine that there are other worlds beside the one that we inhabit, to entertain the thought that the sun is only one star in an infinite universe; to live an ethical life without reference to postmortem rewards and punishments; to contemplate without trembling the death of the soul. The Luxury of Enough is the same, whether in Epicurus' and Lucretius' time, or in ours. The time is now. It is enough and it is beautiful.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Where the Wild Foods Grow New Offerings

Barb Barton has new good stuff for you to entertain your palette (preferably while listening to her music which will entertain your ears and brain.) Wild Sumac Jelly. Sweet with a foresty tang. Native Corn Cob Jelly. Yes, corn cob jelly. Wild Blueberry, Wild Grape, Wild Elderberry, Wild Elderberry & Wild Grape, and I gotta go get me some toast to spread some wild jelly around. One of my blisses this year has been creating the art for the jelly labels. Beautiful work promotes beautiful work. See Barb's Where the Wild Foods Grow website for how to wrap your tongue around some wild food, too. All foods are hand-harvested with respect, gratitude and ecological consciousness. The mission at Where the Wild Foods Grow includes educational programs to teach and encourage healthy living, conservation and the benefits of harvesting for personal consumption. Enjoy! Learn! Yum!

Justice for All Except Women

I may never understand what causes men to deny women freedom. The usual answer is denying women power, desire for domination. I think it's fear. Women do not take back their power because of fear, too. Men hold the governments, the religious leadership, the whip hand. I read an article by Laura Bassett today about the Catholic bishops and the lobbying to undo reproductive freedom, the church's minions using the ludicrous argument that allowing women birth control is an attack on freedom of religion. Tax the Catholic church. Lobbying against reproductive rights violates that tax-exempt status. Enough already. I'm watching Women War and Peace on PBS. Women are risking their lives to gain footholds in countries with horrific government-sanctioned and religious restrictions. Our country talks the talk, but do we walk with these women? U.N. Resolution 1325 was passed by the security council in 2000, resolving in a global body that women may not be excluded from peace negotiations. Are we holding any country accountable? Sanction governments that do not comply. Especially the bloody countries with our soldiers stationed in combat zones. While U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for global women's issues Melanne Verveer is working to get more women on peace counsels, our own legislatures are working overtime to deny women rights they are already guaranteed. I am mad as hell, and I want to do something that helps. I searched for an image of Justice, and was dismayed to find all passive images; a woman blindfolded, silently holding the supposed scales of justice, sword sheathed at her side, mute and powerless. Then I found this statue on a blog post from 2009. "...and Justice for All" by James N. Muir is installed at the St. Louis School of Law. Read the sculptor's thoughts about the statue. The law does not serve humanity, it serves power. Power can never allow itself to be subjugated to the individual. Holding space on my computer behind this magnificent statue is the Declaration of Rights and Sentiments, drafted by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and other women, and delivered at the women's rights gathering at Seneca Falls, NY in 1848. We have not achieved equal protection under the law of the United States, and we are under attack to remove those freedoms and rights we have secured. Muir's vision of Lady Justice is how I feel, my cells sing out a call to end the assault on women the world over. This is the time. We are the women. I claim my power, and celebrate other women who do in courageous and impactful harmony.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Mom Would Be 85 Today

In this picture she's 21. She was a bridesmaid many times, a bride once. I played in the dresses and hats - mint chiffon, peach taffeta, blue moire silk like a summer sky - the hats stiff net and ribbons. I wish I had played with Mom more, that her life had been more playful. She wanted to live to 100. She lived to 71. I'm sending birthday gift energies. No need for candles, or a pretty scarf, another rose bush, or a happy find I'm excited to give because I know she'll love the gift and the story about finding it. About how I went back to the place she had admired that item, and bought it to surprise her; just as she'd done for me often. No meeting for dinner somewhere with her witch hat on, no mistaking where she and Dad were waiting for us. She's playful and peaceful now, and I feel her love. Happy birthday, Mom. I love you.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Rhytisma Affects Maples This Year

This maple is typical color intensity here in southwest Oakland County. The brilliant yellows, oranges and reds are dimmed this year by Rhytisma, a genus of fungi called tar spot because that's just what it looks like. It affects silver, sugar, red and Norway maples and box elder. The fungus doesn't damage the tree's overall health, but it's nasty looking and it's everywhere. I noticed the spots early in the year, and thought it was just immature maples that were impacted, but big trees have it, too. Leaves not raked up will overwinter the fungus to appear next year as well. The sidewalks are strewn with green maple leaves covered in big black spots. Hopefully, these will be raked and destroyed. If your maple is ailing with the fungus, get the leaves away from the trees as soon as they drop.

Women and Water, New Mythologies from Old

Women and water are inseparable, just as women and Mother Earth are one. I've been struggling to merge my bookmarks, to find the experience in this realm that deserves my brilliant passion above all others (thank you, Rob Brezsny, and Pronoia.) This year I pared some tabbed finds. I eliminated two folders named Shopping and Jewelry. Last year I tried unsuccessfully to stuff the jewelry folder into the shopping folder leaving a trail of stuff I neither need nor want. Today it's all gone. My google profile is shortened, and sweetened. It will be revised again as blogger profiles are going away and some gobbledygoogled google + facebook knockoff is coming online. The stuff I'm looking up on the internet can be bookmarked into multiple folders. Michigan issues are World issues are Women issues are Water issues are Ecology and Economy issues. Even bookmarks are becoming One. I said out loud at lunch this week "water is a women's issue." Water and women are one. Water myths leave out women, but that women are left out is ancient. I'm putting her back in. Unktehi is a water creature. Mishibizhiw is a water panther who may have been a true creature back in the day, and lives in Anishinaabe, Potawatomi and Ojibwe Great Lakes oral history and pictographs. Glacial phenomena may be part of the oral tradition. Jökulhlaups may have been viewed as gigantic water serpents, in Iceland, the Missouri River geology, or anywhere else gargantuan water and glacial upheavals were witnessed. Walk in Lake Huron or Lake Michigan or Lake Superior sand, waved by the water and imagine an enormous serpent causing the ripples. It is Great Lakes women who must cause the ripples that will protect our fresh water habitat; that will allow us to still walk in and see the ripples in the water. I pictographically give us wings to speed our way.

Monday, October 24, 2011

In the Realm of Meant To Be

I hunted for a cabochon. I have hunted late nights for years, not knowing why I sought one. My internet bookmarks are loaded with saved search results, although there is always something else to take my meager funds. I dream. I search. I wait. And one night there is the cabochon. Like all serious searches, the vision arrived when I was seeking something else. The dream is a lampwork raku flower in the colors of the great waters of earth. Five petals like the five Great Lakes that surround my home. The artist is Deborah Lambson (etsy shop kenzee), a glass artist in Tel Aviv, Israel, near the waters of the Mediterranean. As I wait for the glass art to arrive, I collect what I'll use to make the ring. I ask Dad if what I have in mind will work. And then I numb my fingers in artistic creative bliss. Dremeling, polishing, fitting. And when these creations come together I have a ring of power. A warrior woman ring. To it will gather the meant to be realm of the rest of my life. This is art: experience, seeking, work, creation. Art is personal. When art and personal combine it is sublime.

More or Less: The Luxury of Enough

While our global leaders figure out how to make all those swell twisty charts in the news go away, we rely on our news sources to make sense of what is essentially senseless. Jared Bernstein argues that the nifty chart in the Sunday NYT isn't quite accurate because it is not gross debt that's the issue, but debt that's held by the public. Who is the public? You and me. EU meets on Wednesday. They were supposed to meet on Sunday, but nobody could agree on who gets to stuff the debt down their throats, so it's back to trying to make Italy do it. Or Germany. Or us. High school home economics teaches what you owe cannot exceed what you bring in. The world has been ignoring that simple accounting rule for decades. We always want more. Shareholders want more profit, so the marketeers shove more consumables at us. And we consume. But we still want more. Upgrade your phone, cable, wardrobe, car with a free trial offer. Buying an ecofriendly tshirt is not responsible consumerism; self-abnegation is. Government and corporations aren't people, despite what the coneheads on the U.S. Supreme Court may believe. Governments and corporations have been free trial offering us into this precarious global economy. But we are the global market; we live in the global marketplace. Unscramble those twisty charts in the newspapers and on the internet, and it comes down to us. We drank the MORE cocktails, as my father says. On the rocks.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Wheel of the Year

Turning through the end of the year. We pass from Libra to Scorpio, still in the time of Creator-Ethical Visionary, as we approach Samhain, All Hallow's Eve and the Hunter's Moon. This week the sacred plant is sage. Orange and black candles will be lit, good sleep wished for the goddess, as the god of winter wakes to watch over us for the yule season and the beginning of the new year. First frost will set the seeds in the ground, ready for rebirth in the spring.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

South Lyon Herald Council Picks

South Lyon Herald has endorsed incumbent Erin Kopkowski, Bev Dixson and Joseph Ryzyi for City Council, all eager and good candidates. There are two seats to be filled with first time council-persons, and four candidates for office. The Herald endorsed a young person and one older-than-young person which means the paper endorsed the only new young person, and chose one of the three older candidates, who met the editorial criteria, and "fill a role left vacant since the death of Councilman Dick Selden." There are a lot of retirees in South Lyon, who have different concerns than other constituents. This is the intriguing sentence for me: not one of the candidates for office mentioned anything about the different concerns of their age group. Not one. I read the candidate profiles from last week's paper again. Three are not young. Richards has been attending city council meetings for 3 years, and his concerns seem the same as the rest. Do older people view the business of their hometown differently? Not according to the profiles. Are people elected to represent their particular age group? Or do those who stand for office want the best possible hometown for all residents? My primary issue with improving South Lyon is traffic patterns. Public safety. We all need to be able to cross the street without injury, whether we're 85 or 4 years old. This is the issue I will continue to work to fix. We need a slower speed limit on Pontiac Trail and at least two traffic-stopping crosswalks in this town. We do not need our people knocked down by folks driving too fast through town on their way to somewhere else. You have choices, and your reasons for voting for your choices are the right choices. Please get to the voting booth on Tuesday, November 8 and make your choices for the city that is your hometown, no matter what age you are.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Brodmann's area 10

We don't know everything about how the human brain thinks. We know its shape and cellular composition (cytoarchitectonics), and some of its malfunctions when it goes haywire, but not much else. Sticking electrodes in living beings can tell us what fires up while we're interacting with various stimuli, but like the universe there's a big percentage of magical goings-on that we cannot see, record or reproduce. Now is a great time for science and magic. Dark energy and dark matter make up the bulk of the universe. And what our brains are up to is within the mystery. Humans have a realm in the prefrontal cortex of our brain named Brodmann's area 10. The boundaries are not defined: BA10 is a cloud on the back porch of the frontal cortex. BA10 is oversized in humans, compared to other sapient beings. It is involved in strategic executive decision-making. The most interesting piece is that it may be making decisions without the rest of our brains being aware. So, here is a big evolutionary step in the last 50,000 years, about which we know bupkes. Experimentation can reveal that we know what we're going to do before we know it, but how is a blank. How do we know what we know? Isn't it fascinating to be sapient right now?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Under New Management

I'm not ready to write about all the amazing experiences happening in Michigan these days. For the present, friend Susan called today to share that she is still feeling wonderful after the retreat this weekend, and she summed up the world of resonance. Under New Management. We are in accord. This drawn image is a representation of All Mother. She is mother of... all. Her symbol appears on Saami drums, and is burned on a medallion on my walking stick. Something - maybe everything - has shifted. Our awareness of expanding consciousness is increasing rapidly. We sense energies vibrating, leaping, glowing while we observe with our inner eye and essential self. The veil between is fading. Between what? Everything. Within and without. Dimensions, living beings, spirit, everything. We hear that a kindred planet has been seen orbiting twin stars and we say, of course. We watch as a praying mantis tries to speak to us, and we listen. We read of an archeological find in Rome: a woman chief, and we say, naturally. We watch while major media wonders how people can protest and not make demands, and we understand how. We meet our spirit guides and we believe we intuited them there all along. This is an exciting time to be alive, a beautiful time to be an elder, and awestruck space to share with others. Under New Management. Thank you, Susan, for sharing.

Black Hat Tea

Nancy hosted our writers' group for a Black Hat Tea at her house in Holly, Michigan yesterday. She has a gorgeous home, and she has dozens of Halloween decorations. Everywhere we looked was another magical treasure to admire. The copper bird cage hanging next to her sink had two top-hatted crows carrying trick or treat bags. The kitchen stove towel read "Eat, Drink & Be Scary." The witch on the powder room sink read "The hat is just to keep the halo straight." Teddy bears in costumes. Beautiful pointy hats, purple and black spiders, a proper witch's cauldron, a spider web tablecloth and runner to complement flickering candles on the mantel, and a black feather wreath above. Nancy served Leelanau "Witches' Brew" wine, with "Don't Drink & Fly" cocktail napkins. Carrots were served in a black dish. A jalapeno sauce dripped green and gooey (and delicious) on a serving plate. The wine corks were witch legs upside down, and one of the serving dishes as well. Beautiful blown glass pumpkins decorated the serving buffet. We each got our own stocking/shoe to fill with goodies, like a broom that reads "Black Hat Society." The windows were open, and the wind swirling the leaves crisply about was delightful background music. We had a wonderful time, laughing and sharing stories; good friends playing happily. I don't yet have permission to post all the beautiful women with their beautiful hats, but when I do, I'll feel back in better company.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

On the Origin of Tepees

Reading On the Origin of Tepees by Jonnie Hughes. The subtitle is the evolution of ideas (and ourselves). Hughes and his brother Ads are driving a Chrysler westward across America to find how Ideas evolve. The title is homage (and messing about with) Darwin's On the Origin of Species. So, here's Darwin mulling over and over the Idea of survival of the fittest. Hughes decides that the whole thing isn't so much Darwin had a great Idea, but a great Idea had Darwin. This is the nature of genius. But like cowboy hat design, barn roofs, tepee construction (3- or 4-pole?), most Idea[s] have tiny evolution steps and can be traced with careful study to a collaboration of ideas. It took hundreds of years to invent the wheel, design change by design change. And here we are in the 21st century, with human evolution tracing back billions of years to a one-celled something that started collaborating with other one-celled somethings to become a superorganism, made up of somethings we can't see but who make it possible for us to hang around shopping for groceries and reading books. On page 193, the footnote reads "That's why our chests never cease to rise; we are looked into an oxygen service agreement signed over a billion years ago between our ancestors and a class of wacky prokaryotes with an unequaled talent for getting hold of the energy in food." Life with a capital L goes on. We are an eukaryote. We are host to many organisms, working out of awareness, swapping stuff for other stuff so we can go on living. I think where we will travel in the rest of this book is into our next evolutionary phase. Noosphere territory. Maybe humans are transportation for Ideas. Can hardly wait to find out.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Weekend at Emrich Retreat Center

We shared a glorious Michigan autumn weekend at Emrich Retreat Center. 24 women - practitioners, healers, extraordinary humans carried the energy of awakening and awareness into the woods, grounds and around the bonfire. We shared the facilities with a group of breast cancer survivors in another building, whose dancing affirming healing laughter floated high in the catalpa trees and pines. I walked to the car in the fading light to check messages after dinner. As I listened to my friend sharing her experience with a transformation card she wanted me to hear, I raised my head, smiling and opened my eyes. There on a catalpa was a beautiful woman with long hair in the tree trunk. Home on Sunday, I told Dad about the weekend, and he remembered going to Emrich Retreat Center on a couples retreat with St. Gabriel's in the 70s. Yesterday we drove through the beautiful countryside back to Emrich, and talked with Lance Spencer, caretaker with his wife, Shari, for the Retreat Center. I told him I wanted a better picture of the tree. He said "isn't it spooky?" He thought it looked skeletal. I thought it looked divine. The tree is special whatever image comes to mind, and I love that people see the world in multiple ways. The center is open through the winter (Ayres and Winters buildings only) and I can envision a retreat with snowshoes, cross country skis and a more challenging commune with Mother Nature in her icy garb. Gratitude and hugs to Patricia Fero for bringing us together for her sister Nenie Beanie's birthday bash; Lance and Shari for their excellent care, Bev Fish for the sumptuous food, Leah Lambaria, Mara Evans, Andrea Evans, Deb Austin, Paula and Bev for great presentations, E. M. Spairow for the scrumptious cake; and the beautiful enlightened community of Michigan women who shared experiences, heart, and spirit; and created goosebumps and glowing memories.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Dollhouse Pumpkin Carving

Miniature Pumpkin Carving

I finished building my dollhouse in 1994, but have added items to it each year since then. The date on this newspaper under the pumpkin is 2001. I hollowed the pumpkin and reamed the eye hole with a drill. The pumpkin innards are thread mixed with sesame seeds. The dollhouse was my project to keep me sane during a divorce. I was divorced in 1994, and the house was ready in 1994. I wanted so to move in to it! It's not a traditional dollhouse. The decor is reproductions of furniture in my life, and items I would love to have but could not afford. There is a grand piano in the living room that my sister Carol saved from a display at her store. And my dream copper leather couch is next to the beautiful fireplace. The Black Mariah stove in the kitchen is a mini version of my great-grandmother Mariah's wood burner. The copper teakettle is the same as the one in our cabin on Drummond Island, handmade by a Finnish coppersmith. My grandmother's coffee grinder handle actually turns, and the drawer beneath has coffee grounds in it. The rug is hand woven by Ruth Wales, a Drummond fabric artist. I made the towels, hand painted the dishes, and every tile on the bathroom floor. The paintings on the walls are miniaturized framed reproductions of my paintings. I made the computer in my office from a bead box, and carved the keyboard from toothpicks! There is my old trackball mouse, with a coiled wire connected. The computer actually plugs into the wall. The landscape is all handmade, including the rosebush in front called Fair Bianca, after my beloved niece and a Jackson-Perkins rose that was in my backyard. The fish table is not 1:12 scale, but I had to have it! Pisces people are like that; when we dive in to what we love, we're long distance swimmers. Yes, we are.

Halloween Dollhouse

Halloween is the second most decorated holiday in America. I put out my favorite witchy tealight holder, my Halloween tree, both small enough to fit on the desk. And I add some seasonal features to my dollhouse. This picture is the front lawn.

Jane's Rose

This rose is from my sister Jane's garden. It was a tight little bud, and now it is a magnificent bloom, old world fragrant and majestic. The petals will soon tremble to the desktop. Now is when it is the most beautiful and precious. The rose is as lovely as Jane. I love both.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Why I'm a Candidate for South Lyon City Council

Because I love South Lyon. The eternal quest for women to change what they love notwithstanding. I want South Lyon to be the best small town it can possibly be. I asked Dad this morning why they retired here in 1992. He said because they needed inexpensive housing in a small town, he knew my cousin George lived here, and he liked what he saw. It was more rural then, but it is still a short drive to recreation areas, picture-postcard country. I love it because I walk to everywhere I need to do business. My dentist is in South Lyon. Eye doctor. Grocery store. Movie theater. Coffee shop. Hairdresser. I can ride my bike to the library. But why should voters consider any of that? I'm also tediously research-oriented and can dig into a project with absolute steadiness. I read the entire 2011-2012 city budget. There are line items that, baring legal requirements to do these things, perhaps can be cost saved. I want our citizens to be safe. Seniors and youngsters. There is no difference between these age groups in my mind, in terms of city services and function. We all need to be safe crossing the street. We all need recreation, good food and cool stuff to do. I volunteer a lot; but where and what I volunteer for is far away. I need to contribute to the community at home, in my hometown.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Katydid and Northern Red-bellied Snake

Life is getting ready for winter in Michigan on this gorgeous autumn day. Woolly bears are scooting their midsections down the road apiece. I watched a katydid, walking on the bike path among the yellow, red, orange and brown leaves, stop for a minute to sort out what was tree and what was tarmac. The crimson poplar leaves look like kisses on the sidewalk. A little snake that I thought was a stick moved just as I was about to squish it. Got my cellphone out to take a picture and got close in. The snake stiffened its coils and raised its head, rolled up its top lip and showed me the inside of its black mouth. Freaked me out enough to not get the picture. Confirmed it was a Northern Red-bellied Snake because a man wrote about the same behavior. It escaped into the grass, safe from walkers and bikers. An enormous hawk soared overhead, head up to the blue sky, not hunting, just soaring. This is a day for soaring in Michigan.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

#OccupyWallStreet

Romans abandoning Briton, colonial imperialism kicked out of India and Africa, young people quietly demonstrating in the South in the 60s, this year in the Middle East, and now New York: the minute law enforcement starts messing with protesters is the same minute the protests get bigger, brighter, more powerful and eventually, successful. Demonstrators know this. Guess law enforcement does not. The Wall Street protests are not nearly the gargantuan and holy offloading of repressive and nasty regimes as the other crises were; or is it? Wall Street came so damn close to taking the world economy down, and the shakiness is not over. Wall Street speculators and minions have pranced away completely unhindered to continue at will the practices that may yet demolish global world financial markets. When does the noosphere become saturated? What is happening in our country is the same thing that happens in our family. When we let bygones be bygones, when we shut up rather than speak our truth, when we forgive without forgetting, when we take no turn that will upturn the status quo; we allow the hurts, the dismantling of dignity and community to stop us from growing and healing. We need to call out the perpetrators, to name the criminals involved and either put those in the court system, or redeem them in the public square. We cannot shovel the damage done under the Brooklyn Bridge. It is our obligation as free citizens, as patriots, as human beings.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Pike Are Running in the Looking Glass

For the TweetPeeps @miseagrant with Michigan Sea Grant who thought the pike were really swimming in the Looking Glass River. *groan* Cheers!

PreCode Movies

Watched Baby Face (Warner Bros. 1933). TCM played the restored movie, re-released in 2004. The 4 minutes of cut footage, found in a film vault in Dayton, OH (removed by NY State Board of Censors before its release) were back in the film. Censors appeared more concerned about the morality part of Nietzsche's take on using feminine wiles to get to the top, than the actual sex content. Changing the speech from "Exploit yourself! Use men! Be strong! Be defiant!" to "Be clean, be strong, be defiant!" got it passed by the morality stiffs. The bit about Nietzsche is an example of what I like about precode films. Stanwyck is street tough, poor, but we see her with Nietzsche's book more than once. She can read. Complex philosophical concept is not unreadable to her. It's the babes hissing behind Stanwyck's back who contrast. Before Norma Shearer was America's wholesome wronged wife, she was a precode broad, too. Prior to self-appointed morality nitpickers getting their mitts into moviedom, there were marvelous wicked parts for women. The Motion Picture Production Code was a collaboration between the studio bosses and the prissy pants who make it their business to tell everybody in the country what's inappropriate. We have them today, even though the Production Code Administration went away in 1968. Wouldn't you love to know what Hays did in the Hays Office when he was screening all those questionable movies? I wouldn't, actually. But it's fascinating that the Hays Office was primly overseen by Joseph Breen, author of the Nietzsche rewrite in Baby Face.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Joy Arrives in a Recycled Box

I bought Pangea Organics Canadian Pine with White Sage shower gel at Organic Bliss in Ann Arbor a long time ago. Savoring the fragrance, I've smelled it more than used it. The aroma is natural and pungent and I can instantly transport myself to a Michigan pine forest, see sunlight flitting in the boughs, hear the wind in the tall pines and my own childlike laughter. Like most favorite things, it's almost gone, and expensive for my budget. I looked longingly on the internet once more, and was happy to find the washing-up and pine forest transport portal comes in a more cost-effective bar soap. The package arrived today in 100% post consumer recycled packaging. And the box the soap comes in has spruce tree seeds with instructions to plant. For the cost of a bar of soap, I can be clean, ecologically responsible and happy all in one package. Instant bliss, and more joy to follow as the spruce germinates, roots and grows.