How Do You Dance Your Life?

Some of you may know that among other things, I love gardening, writing, reading, traveling, and much more. What you may not know is that I am a recently retired college associate professor and a retired United Methodist minister. When I served a church in Tucson AZ, many of the funerals I conducted were victims of AIDS.

Because of my close connection with this population in my church, I have a special place in my heart for those who suffer from this disease. It is in honor of those who have the disease, as well as in memory of those I have buried, that I write this blog.

There is a special dance from the early church community called the TRIPUDIUM. I learned about it nearly twenty-five years ago when I took a workshop from Doug Adams who was a professor of religion and the arts at the Pacific School of Religion.

I had no idea that Doug had left this earth until I looked him up on Google. According to articles I read about his death, the memorial celebrations outdid Doug in creativity.

The following information on liturgical dance is something I learned from Doug that will stay with me always.

TRIPUDIUM actually means “three step” or “jubilate” in Latin. Later, dance in church was suppressed as being too sinful, and thus it came to mean “the Jubilation.”

It was a style of processing to church, symbolizing the progress of not only the individual, but of the whole church and community.

It is a process of three steps forward and one back – three forward and one back. Often someone could call out three signs of HOPE on the forward three steps, then call out one sign of SETBACK on the backward step.

In other words, the SETBACK becomes part of the dance. It isn’t outside the rhythm.

HOPE – HOPE – HOPE – SETBACK

HOPE – HOPE – HOPE – SETBACK…

We don’t want to include the back step in the dance. But it’s all part of the dance! It gives us a more optimistic spirit, helps us see setbacks in the context of life, of ongoing progress.

Another interesting fact is that this dance was not done in single file, but in processions with many abreast with arms linked, row after row. It is done in community – not alone. It is a deliberate moving forward.

The people would move through the streets and into the church and around in it during the songs of the service and back out through the streets as a recessional. The dance was a communal act of worship and celebration.

The Greeks believed in an afterlife, so they danced a ring dance to make safe passage for the deceased. The Greeks appreciated dance as an aesthetic experience. Everything was a dance for them – victory processions, weapon dances, displays of power, ball games, wedding processions, and funeral processions!

The early Christians drew on this custom. They circled the grave with lively funeral dances to celebrate the person’s birth into everlasting life. Rose petals were dropped on the open grave, as they sang, “Ring Around the Rosie…Ashes, ashes, we all fall down.”

When life and mortality seem difficult, I invite you to put on some music and dance the Tripudium, shouting out three signs of hope for every setback. This particular version of Lee Ann Womack’s song “I Hope You Dance” seems appropriate today.

A hui hou!

Act of Human Kindness

Since many of you are new readers to my blog, I have been updating older posts from over ten years ago. Today’s post is on the theme of MITZVAH. In an earlier post on “Mitzvah” I talked about the many young men going through their Bar Mitzvah at the Wailing Wall of the old Temple in Jerusalem.

The top photo is one a colleague took of me standing at the Wall, offering up my prayers. You can tell I’m the tourist by the backpack!

The photo below is one I took while there quite a few years ago on my first visit to the lands they call Holy.

The best meaning for Mitzvah I can find is that it means “to express an act of human kindness.” What a wonderful theme for today’s world! I think need as many acts of human kindness as we can provide, so I’ll do my share!

It is said that prayers written on a tiny piece of paper, folded, then stuck into a crack in the wall, are received and answered by the Almighty. If you want to know the origin of this, read this.

Every faith has some form of prayer. Even those without a faith are praying when they say silently (or aloud), “I hope I pass this test.” I believe that any desire or need is received and acted upon. Words that are commonly used for the receiver are God, Holy Spirit, Higher Power, Allah, Great Spirit, Universe, Almighty, Energy Flow, and so many more. Regardless of the word we use, the meaning is the same.

To me, prayer is not so much what we are asking for, but listening to what we are to do. It is when I stop the “asking” that I begin “hearing.” Someone once reminded me that the answers we receive are either “yes” or “wait, because I have something better in mind for you.”

When I stood at the Wailing Wall, I was listening. When I worked on the lava field that was my home on the south end of the Big Island of Hawaii, I was listening. When I stand before my classes, I hear. Every sound in nature is telling me something. Every word uttered by another person is the answer to a prayer, whether I recognize it as that or not.

If more of us listened before we spoke, it might be a better and more peaceful world.

A hui hou!

Thoughts for the Day

Canterbury Cathedral
Canterbury Cathedral

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was not only a Jesuit priest but he was well known as a palaeontologist. Among other accomplishments, he was involved in uncovering the skull of the Peking man. As someone with a mind of both the spiritual and the scientific worlds, he has inspired me in several ways.

A birthday can be a good time for reflection, so it is on this occasion I think about one of Teilhard de Chardin’s primary concepts. The way I understand it, we constantly are evolving or spiraling to a higher and higher state, which he called the Omega Point. He described it as a “transcendent centre of unification,” a convergence, rather than a divergence.

As I apply that concept to myself, I see that I have evolved over the past decades, although perhaps starting that process later than I might have wished. As he put it, in my life there was “a clear pattern of a rise of consciousness…a continual heightening, a rising tide of consciousness.”

Like his description of Time and the Universe, “in any period of ten million years Life practically grows a new skin,” I, too, have grown a new skin throughout my own quest. More than ever before I am aware of how my action or inaction affects my traveling companions, aware of the world around me and of its cyclic nature. It is my personal evolution – “a condition of all experience,” he would say.

There is another quote attributed to Teilhard de Chardin, although I’m not sure which of his books it is in. I use it as my own mantra.

“Our duty as men and women is to proceed as if limits to our ability did not exist.”

In his Hymn of the Universe, he writes “Happy the man [sic] who fails to stifle his vision.”

For the next several decades, I want to continue an upward evolution without stifling my vision!

A hui hou!

Too Old To Dream?

In the mid-thirties, The Night Is Young, a movie with Nelson Eddy and Irene Dunne, featured the song “When I Grow Too Old To Dream.” I suspect that most of you reading this will remember that song. I was a mere babe in arms at the time, but I know the song from having heard it over the years by various artists, including my parents.

That song floated through my thoughts the other day as I approach my birthday, and I decided Romberg and Hammerstein had those words all wrong!

The textbook out of which I taught a Human Development course at Hawai’i Community College categorizes the “young old” as 65 to 74, the “old old” as 75 to 84 and the “oldest old” as 85 and above. I won’t discuss my calendar age here, although I do admit to being over 65! In terms of the great site Real Age,  my physical age is about 10 years younger than my calendar age. Another fascinating site is Living to 100 where I learned that based on my health and lifestyle, I will live to 104, and with a couple of minor changes, I could increase that to 108.

So do you think I am too old to dream? Are any of us ever too old to dream?

I don’t intend to stop dreaming until they sprinkle my ashes over the ocean. And who knows? Maybe I won’t stop dreaming even after that.

Please! Let us not stop dreaming, just because we think we might be “too old to dream.” The world is full of dreams just waiting for someone with our talents, our openness, our persistence, our love – no matter our age.

Just for fun, here is the front of the old sheet music for the song.

A hui hou!

Sea Turtles

For quite a few years, I lived right on the ocean. I was so close that the salt spray covered everything in my home. But the view was unbeatable. I watched the surfers at both Banyans and Lyman’s Point.

The salt did a lot of damage to my belongings, but I didn’t mind it for the years I lived there. The surf roared and crashed twenty-four hours a day, and I loved it. When I finally left, it took me a while to become accustomed to the silence.

Some days, I watched dolphins play in the little bay outside my deck. Other days, I had the pleasure of the whales on their journey. There was always something going on.

There was one bit of sea life I could depend on every single day – the many honu, or sea turtles that sunned themselves on the rocks. Sometimes there would be as many as eight of them on the lava rocks.

As the tide gradually came in and covered the rocks, they would slip away into the water, then return as the next low tide began. Watching them, I learned the personality of each one.

This big guy is in the water part way. He was funny to watch. As the tide crept up, he would haul himself just a little higher up the rock until he finally couldn’t stay above the water. Reluctantly, he would slip back into the ocean and swim away.

Many times, I had to shout at visitors who tried to touch them. The turtles are protected and don’t react kindly to being teased. So if you are visiting Hawaii, please stay away from the turtles. Take pictures from a distance and go away knowing that you are helping to preserve our natural environment and care for our endangered honu.

A hui hou!

No Labor Day For All

1-machinery

We love Labor Day for giving us that last bit of summer for cookouts, beach trips, one last vacation day, and more. But not everyone gets to take off on Labor Day. You know who you are:

• medical personnel at the hospitals
• pilots taking you on your trips
• clerks in the grocery store for those few items you forgot
• farmers with animals who need care every day
• workers in any store that stays open today
• police who are always on the job
• radio and TV announcers
• and so many more . . .

It is to you who keep our world going even on holidays that I send a big MAHALO today!

A hui hou!
Lucy

My Cookbook Addiction

I confess! I’m addicted to books! But I have read all the books I own and continue to use them all as reference and/or for teaching.

My addiction carries over into cookbooks, and I doubt if there is even one of these books that hasn’t been used for at least one recipe. Like many cooks, I use recipes mostly for guidance to come up with my own variation. My cooking has never been an exact science.

The shelves of cookbooks shown above were in my kitchen/dining area when I lived in Ocean View, and I had another shelf of cookbooks in another bookcase, because there wasn’t room for them all here. I’ve even been known to borrow cookbooks from the library to read!

When I moved onto my boat from a large house in the late 70s, I gave a book box of cookbooks to each of my four children. This is what I have left!

I know I could probably find the same recipes online, but there is something deeply soul-satisfying about sitting down and reading through an old book of recipes that my mother, or grandmother used. Tucked into each book are other recipes given to me by friends, or that I have cut out of a magazine.

Yes, I think you can say I’m addicted!

Now, you may think that with all these recipes at my disposal, I’d be cooking delicious dishes every day. The fact is, I usually have only myself to cook for and if I ate the way I’d like to cook, I’d be as wide as the channel between here and Maui!

So this week, instead of sharing a recipe with you, I thought I’d tell you about my favorite books on these shelves, and even tell you about some of the recipes in them that I love.

Probably the oldest book I have is a little booklet from the Metropolitan Insurance Company; I think I inherited it from my great-grandmother. Several of my books date back to the 30s, and many of what I have date to the 50s, when I was a young woman. My first Christmas as a married woman in 1955, I received the Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook, a three-ring binder that is barely holding together.

I also love my specialty books, like Mme. Bégué’s Recipes of Old New Orleans Creole Cookery, from 1953. You wouldn’t believe how many pages are spattered with oil and tomato paste! One recipe from that book is “Shrimp Creole” and someday I’ll post that because I make it often.

I have quite a few Mexican cookbooks, but my favorite is Elena’s Secrets of Mexican Cooking by Elena Zelayeta, blind, but she kept on cooking. Her “Caserola De Pollo Y Elote” (Chicken and Corn Casserole) is full of green chiles and wonderful!

Farm Journal’s Complete Pie Cookbook is another tattered book on my shelves, also full of messy pages! And Farm Journal’s Country Cookbook probably has most of the comfort foods I make.

The Rodale Cookbook published by the Rodale Press is where I go for breads and other wholesome foods. I have several other of the Rodale books and they are all great.

As I peruse the books, it’s fun to see how many phases and stages of eating I’ve gone through. You will find vegetarian/vegan books, low-fat books, low-carb books, and all sorts of specialized diet books, all of which I still read and sometimes use. Then there are the regional books that show where I’ve lived – Guam, Alaska, Arizona, California, Down East, Deep South, the Orient.

Even though I still buy new cookbooks, I still go back to my old “tried-and-true” standards when I want to make something special for friends. Maybe someday I’ll stop reading my cookbooks like novels (which is what I do!) and actually use them for more cooking.

Now I’m anxious to go find a new recipe to try for you!

A hui hou!

Rollright Stones

Stones – or rocks – have an interesting background. Many myths talk about the petra genetrix, or the Motherstone, that births heroes and saviors. The stony deserts of the Middle East have been called the “Gardens of Allah.”

On a trip through the Cotswold region of England, I was impressed with the mythology (and longevity) of the Rollright Stones. The picture above shows a circle of knights with their king. Read more about them here. They were built by late Stone Age people over 4000 years ago.

One of the Knights close-up
One of the Knights close-up

Stones often represent obstacles or a certain barren quality. Yet those same “stones” can be viewed as a source of our strength and stability. I am reminded of scripture that talks about the stone the builders rejected becoming the cornerstone of something greater. Throughout ancient manuscripts we find that much of what we consider worthless, is actually valuable.

One of my homes in Hawai`i where I lived for about ten years was on an acre of a particular type of lava rock known as a’a, a lumpy, rocky substance that blew out of the depths of our volcano. I had no problem calling my “pile of rocks” (in which very little grows) a “garden.” But there are many nutrients in the seemingly useless lava that somehow can nourish our plants.

Rollright King
Rollright King

One weighty scripture says that if we are kept quiet, if we are not allowed to speak, even the stones will cry out! It is time for us to cry out for basic human rights.

The rocks in my garden were tossed out by Madam Pele,  our Volcano Goddess. I like to think she was demonstrating outrage.

When we feel the least valuable, when we feel our voice is not heard, when others cannot speak for themselves, we must become transformed, reclaim our strengths, and cry out!

A hui hou!

The Singer

Today’s post is a bit of my short fiction.
From time to time, I will post from my
Feral Fables and other sources.
Photo of lava flow taken at Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park, Hawai`i Island

The Singer

A primal aurora gives birth to color, from muted blues through brilliant sapphire to a deep azure, until the horizon is thick with cloudless black indigo. The awakening valley is surrounded by rough crags, whispers of creation are heard. Throughout the realm, the gauzy wrap is shoved aside to reveal an unimaginable panorama of fluid rock.

Pele, feral Goddess of the Volcano, pushes her creation process across the distant edge of the world, slithering forward over the solid ground, hot and bloodthirsty, greedy to expand and own a solid empire. Her pleasure sends vast fields of melted ash, smooth swirls of licorice fudge that can only be eaten by titanic warriors and calls it pahoehoe. Her raging and mercurial lunacy ejaculates nuggets from Her bowels, heaps them along the path and names it a’a.

The forlorn music of the harmonica drifts over the wind, telling tales of the legendary yet carnal Goddess. The watcher appears through the mist and haze to witness the birth of new land. This witness drops the harmonica on the promontory, lifts his head to sing, becoming another voice on the wind. The stories are heard by villagers beyond the fresh terrain.

“Let us go to see this virgin affair that has come to pass,” they murmured to each other.

“Yes, we must organize a quest to see the achievement of our savage Goddess,” one said.

“Who will coordinate the preparations for our journey?”

“How shall we research this phenomenon?”

“Who will finance such an enterprise?”

The Singer hears the confused deliberations and weeps for the paucity of their perception.

“No, no!” the Singer calls. “This quest must emerge from your hearts, from your intuitive and individual Self, not from your structures or formal institutions. Let the fire of the Goddess be your guide. Give yourself over to Her for strength and sustenance.”

“But She is a jealous Goddess,” the villagers cry out. “She will destroy us all.”

“She is a Goddess of Love,” the Singer reminds them. “It is She who created you, it is She loved you into being. It is She who loves you enough to make a new land for you so you can produce vineyards and forests.”

“And why does She seem so angry?” a leader asks.

“Love and anger are not opposites,” the Singer says. “If She did not care about you, She would not be angry with your lack of initiative, your abuse of talents, your shortage of foresight. It is Her way of providing a new opportunity to once again belong to Her, to be Her children. Bow down before Her and let go.”

And so it was that the land cooled and began the centuries of decomposition providing fertile fields for their needs. Each morning as the day breaks, the Singer once again calls Her forth with his music. Each evening, the Singer praises Her with song, and She calls it good.

A hui hou!

The Magic of Seven

There is a fairly long and involved treatise written in 1956 on the magic of the number “seven” by George A. Miller, Princeton University Professor of Psychology, Emeritus. If you are of a mind, you can read it here. At the end, he refers to the seven deadly sins, the seven wonders of the world, the seven days of the week, the seven seas, and so much more.

I would not presume to improve on that, even with my own degrees in psychology! But I do know there is something magical about the number seven. So here my own take on it.

It is a super busy time of year for many of us, with the beginning of the school year, fall garden work (yes, even here in Hawai`i), and a balmy breeze that seduces us into staying outside and working longer.

With school lectures to prepare, blogs to write, a house to keep clean, food to cook, laundry to be done, books to read, and papers to read, I never seemed to have time to do the things I love doing, or that constantly call out my name to remind me of a task I haven’t completed. Now that I’m retired from academic life, I still find I have too many chores calling out to be done.

I’ve taken the “Magical Seven” to heart and it is changing my life.

In my personal library are two books that I’ve put off reading, saying I didn’t have time. The first is The Seven Minute Difference: Small Steps to Big Changes by Allyson Lewis. The fly leaf states “You’re just seven minutes away from unlocking your purpose, knowledge and passion!” At some point, I must have been enamored with the title and the thought behind the book because I discovered that I own two copies – neither one had been opened!

The other book is 7 Minutes of Magic: The Ultimate Energy Workout by Lee Holden. The fly leaf here says that Holden “shows you how you can dramatically change your energy and fitness levels by performing two simple 7-minute routines…” Wow!

Somewhere on a blog or in a forum I occasionally read, I heard about the Fly Lady so I checked it out. She talks about setting up 15 minute time slots to clear up the mess in your house (or wherever your mess is located). I tried some of her techniques and they are great. I wanted to shorten it up even more and do it in seven minute bits.

Are you beginning to understand what I’ve been seeking and why??

You can pinch back seven shoots on a plant. You can spend seven minutes sitting in your patio to relax. You can toss out seven pieces of clutter. You can jot down seven people you need to call.

When I feel overwhelmed with magazines, I either go through seven at a time to discard or give away, or I take seven minutes and do however many I can in that time. The list goes on and on.

My time at the computer is long by necessity, but if I take seven minutes to get up and do something more physical every half hour, I seem to accomplish a lot more when I sit back down. There is a little free software program specifically designed to remind you to get up and move. It’s called “Workrave” (only for Windows) and it can be set for whatever amount of time you want. For Mac I use BeFocused (Apple app).

I have always been a musician, but lately I haven’t taken time to sit down and play the piano or pick up the guitar. By limiting myself to seven minutes, I could get back into something that lifts my spirits, and if there’s time, I can spend another seven minutes.

If there is a book that I need to read but I’m resisting, and if I tell myself to only read seven pages or for seven minutes, it doesn’t feel so boring.

I’m sure you can think of many more ways the number seven can work its magic in your life.

By taking all these activities in seven minute intervals or biting off only seven pieces of work, we are left with more time to enjoy those things we don’t want to do in only seven minutes – like eating a delicious meal, watching a good movie, listen to the ocean, have sex  . . . . . . .Sorry, my mind drifted off there for seven minutes!

A hou hou!