Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category
My internet connection was restored late yesterday afternoon.
Thus, inevitably, the weight of my ‘in-box’ prevented quiet writing times.
So for today’s post I’m going to do no more than republish an extract from a recent Terry Hershey mailing. I have included items from Terry before but for those new to him, do pop across to his website and catch up on what he writes. To give you a flavour of what you may find, this is from his home page.
TERRY HERSHEY is an inspirational speaker, humorist, author, organizational consultant and designer of sanctuary gardens who has been featured on The Hallmark Channel, CNN, PBS, and NPR. Terry holds a mirror up to our fast-forward, disconnected lives, and offers us the power of pause—the wisdom of slowing down and the permission to take an intentional Sabbath moment to regain emotional and spiritual balance… to find the sacred in every single day.
I’m sure that touches many people in these interesting times.
So on to Terry’s item. Written in Terry’s voice.
“Tell me the weight of a snowflake,” a coal-mouse (a small bird) asked a wild dove.
“Nothing more than nothing,” was the answer.
“In that case, I must tell you a marvelous story,” the coal-mouse said.
“I sat on a fir branch, close to its trunk, when it began to snow–not heavily, not in a raging blizzard–no, just like in a dream, without a wind, without any violence. Since I did not have anything better to do, I counted the snowflakes settling on the twigs and needles of my branch. Their number was exactly 3,741,952. When the 3,741,953rd dropped onto the branch, nothing more than nothing, as you say, the branch broke off.“
Having said that, the coal-mouse flew away.
You see, it takes just one snowflake to make a difference.
Every once in a while we are all pestered by the question, “Does what I do, or give, or offer, make any difference? Does it mean anything?” Sometimes it doesn’t take much to make me wonder.
It’s been an odd week for me, six states in ten days (close to two thousand miles, not one on an airplane). Translation: I spent a boatload of time in a rental car, with a boatload of time to cogitate.
My week began in Northern Indiana (Victory Noll Retreat Center, Huntington), the landscape an endless horizon of cornfields, still unharvested, the stalks acorn brown. I pointed my rental car north, toward Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, drinking in the progression of autumn color along the way toward Lake Superior. I had time with my Father. We began each day with breakfast at deer camp (his home-away-from-home, heated with an antique wood-stove/oven), an ATV ride from his house into the woodland, and only a stone’s throw from the Ottawa National Forest. (I will concede that this menu is neither found nor endorsed by any diet book.) After a few days, like the flocks of Canadian geese who escorted me on the way, my rental car headed back south, down through Wisconsin (passing on the temptation to buy cheese trinkets) and to a reunion dinner with a friend in Chicago. Again through Indiana, this time in a driving rainstorm–a heavenly show and tell — with thunder and lightning, and the night sky erupting with a rippling light spectacle. On to my weekend in Cincinnati (Transfiguration Retreat Center) where we talked about living our days from sufficiency instead of scarcity.
In case I wasn’t clear, I’m not an enthusiast for road trips, so I confess that my attitude is dictated by an agenda — an impatience to cross another state line, and cross another milestone off the list.
No, it’s not easy to savor the scenery when you have an agenda.
And yes, I don’t always practice what I preach.
Which means that surprises are nice. Like the view from Brockway Mountain Drive, above Copper Harbor Michigan; below a sea of autumn color framed to the north by Lake Superior’s cobalt blue.
I discover that driving long distances creates an ideal container for musing, which, somehow, in a rainstorm deluge, morphs into existential angst, questioning everything about life and the pursuit of happiness; an opportunity to weigh and measure, and find some reason why I’ve come up short on this road toward success. Lord help us and down the rabbit hole we go … So, just before the precipice of self-pity, I crank up my friend Bruce, and sing along; This Little Light of Mine, and smile, and laugh out loud.
Have you ever asked yourself the same question: Do I make a difference?
I have found that this question messes with me only when I assume that something is missing from my life. Or that I need to prove something to someone. And it doesn’t help that we live in a culture that assumes “enough is never enough.” (Only insuring that we will respond to the question with an even more frenzied lifestyle.)
In the airport before returning home to Seattle today, this question about making a difference still dogs me, so I peruse an airport bookshop. One book offers inner peace, another balance, another wealth, another a renewed sense of urgency, and yet another some comprehension about life’s most pressing questions. The variety made it awfully difficult to choose, so I settled for a bag of Ghirardelli’s dark chocolate. That seemed to help.
In the Gospel of Luke, a 12 or 13-year-old girl is given an extraordinary assignment. Her response, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.”
In essence, Mary said to the angel, “I am willing to be one snowflake.“
I am willing to do what I can, with what I have been given, with a full, grateful and willing heart.
I am willing to not worry about the outcome.
I am willing not to worry about what people think or say, or how it will be measured in the court of public opinion.
I am willing to literally, let it be.
So, why am I afraid to let this be enough?
To know that, even as a single snowflake, there is enough. In fact, there is abundance. The retreat group this weekend reminded me of this truth, and I gladly sent them forth, to know that one touch means the world.
You may doubt it if you wish. But know this, you still make a difference.
On the ferry ride home tonight, the sun is setting beyond the Olympic Mountain range. Back-lit, the entire range is art done in charcoal. And to the south, the moon–a day or two shy of full–shines down on Tacoma harbor. I breathe in the night air.
The scene is exquisite.
It is perfection.
Which takes me back to snowflakes.
The moon, after all, is just being the moon.
Here’s the deal: the journey to wholeness it not about me becoming something I am not. The journey toward wholeness is about reflecting what is already there. Inside.
It is about snowflakes, and making a difference by just being you.
Do you recall Terry writing of singing aloud the Bruce Springsteen song This little light of mine? Here it is.
Wherever you are in the world, have a wonderful weekend, and if you have a dog or two in your life reflect on the example of wholeness that dogs offer us.
The beauty of poetry.
In yesterday’s post, where I wrote about how Jean and I had the wonderful privilege of feeding a wild deer from our hands, I closed it with a p.s. This is what I wrote: “P.S. It is at times like this that we need poetry. So how about it: Sue? Kim? How would you describe in poetry what Jean and I experienced?“
Well, Sue, of Sue Dreamwalker, replied with a link to a poem of hers that she published back in 2012. I will say no more than republish, with permission, Sue’s beautiful words and close with one of the photographs from yesterday.
Be at One with yourself
Be at one with the world
Be at One with Nature
And see your life unfurl
Close your eyes and imagine
The beginnings of a New Earth,
And Open your eyes to your beauty
Breathe in and give Birth.
For you are One and part of the Whole
Not a separate Unit , but a Beautiful Soul
United within the One Divine love
And part of that cosmic hub.
Share your love along with your Light
And Rejoice in Gratitude
Use your sight
To see a world in Beauty and Grace
You are stronger than you think you know
Spread a little Love where ever you go
Shower your peace and sprinkle your heart
Into the rivers of life send a ripple a spark
Be Calm, knowing all is well
Keep breathing in Peace for inside it dwells
Know you are where you are meant to be
Open your eyes
Come on now See
For we are ONE and it’s time to Unite
Stop all your hating, and judging and strife
Find your heart and clear out your mind
Seek out yourself
And Wisdom you’ll find
Let go of torments and allow the Joy in
Come on now people
It’s time to begin
Be One with yourself
Be One with the world
Be One with nature
And Let the Universe Spin
For the Spiral is turning and
Peace will Win..
© Sue Dreamwalker – 2012 All rights reserved.
Are men’s brains the same as women’s?
Dr Michael Mosley and Professor Alice Roberts investigate if male and female brains really are wired differently.
New research suggests that the connections in men and women’s brains follow different patterns, patterns which may explain typical forms of male and female behaviour. But are these patterns innate, or are they shaped by the world around us?
Using a team of human lab rats and a troop of barbary monkeys, Michael and Alice test the science and challenge old stereotypes. They ask whether this new scientific research will benefit both men and women – or whether it could drive the sexes even further apart.
Now I haven’t a clue as to how long this fascinating programme will remain on YouTube, but if you aren’t in the UK or don’t have access to the BBC iPlayer then don’t hesitate to watch it now.
Essentially, science shows that the ‘hard-wired’ differences are minute and the vast bulk of the preferences between the genders, trucks versus dolls, for example, is subtle conditioning from parents and the wider world; for instance, advertisements.
One thing that did jump ‘off the page’ at me was the evidence supporting how malleable or plastic is the brain. In other words, we are never too old to learn.
As if to reinforce that aspect of the flexibility of our brain, just yesterday morning I read an item on the BBC News website about memory.
As someone whose memory is a long way from where it used to be, this item really caught my attention:
How to save your memory
By David Robson from Headsqueeze.
Are there ways to stop yourself losing your memory? The latest brain research suggests there’s hope for the forgetful…
Memory loss has to be one of our biggest fears. Names, words, facts and faces – nothing is spared.
As the latest video from the Head Squeeze team describes above, mental deterioration was once thought to be an inevitable consequence of ageing, thanks to the steady erosion of our brain matter: we lose about 0.5% of our brain volume every year. The hippocampus – the region responsible for memory and learning – was thought to weather particularly badly; by the time we are 90, many of us have lost around a third of its grey matter.
Fortunately, recent research has shown that the brain is not concrete, but certain regions can adapt and grow. In 2000, a study of London taxi drivers, for instance, showed that the 4-year training of London’s 25,000 streets showed a remarkable growth in the hippocampus compared to bus drivers who early learnt a fixed number of routes. The scientists think that, by memorising the maps of London, the brain had built many more of the “synaptic connections” that allow the brain cells to communicate with each other. In other words, it may be possible to train the brain to compensate for some of the neural decline that accompanies our expanding waistlines and receding hairlines.
Challenging your brain could be one way of preserving your recollections – though the value of commercial brain training apps is debatable; some experiments seem to show that while people may become a whizz at the games on their screen, the improvements fail to transfer to daily life. But other, more traditional activities – like learning a musical instrument or a second language – do seem to have some protective benefits, at least on short-term recall. Ideally, it is probably best to keep your brain active throughout your life, well before you begin to approach your dotage.
Exercise and a healthy diet are also thought to offer some protection against dementia. As can an active social life – since regular contact with other people is also thought to excite our neurons and preserve our synapses. Ensuring that you regularly get a good night’s sleep helps too.
Of course, nothing can guarantee health and vitality in old age. But these few simple measures might give you the best possible chances of preserving your wits against the ravages of time.
For more videos subscribe to the Head Squeeze channel on YouTube. This video is part of a series produced in partnership with the European Union’s Hello Brain project, which aims to provide easy-to-understand information about the brain and brain health.
So it’s clear now.
All I need to do is to learn a new language while in between my training to be the oldest trainee cabbie in London and applying for second violin position at the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and I’ll never forget anything else in my life.
Oh, anyone seen where I left my car keys?
Or perhaps, harking back to the opening question of the differences between our sexes, I should be closing, thus:
Anyone seen where I left my dolls?
The pet hotel entrepreneur who saved hundreds of animals post-disaster Fukushima.
An article sent to me by my sister who lives and works in Tokyo, Japan.
By Elizabeth Handover
Three years ago, in the days following the Fukushima nuclear disaster, a phone call from a woman in distress catapulted Isabella Gallaon-Aoki into an unforeseen selfless and courageous rescue of hundreds of abandoned animals.
Gallaon-Aoki, who is part British and part Italian, originally came to Tokyo to learn Japanese. She met her husband here, and after several years moved with him to Niigata, his native home.
After having two children, she became interested in animal welfare, joined a local animal help-group and was trained in animal rescue techniques. The animal group focused on saving as many abandoned animals as possible from the local welfare center, by getting them adopted or at least finding temporary foster homes.
After adopting a rescued dog of her own, Gallaon-Aoki personally observed how many animals were put down as the welfare center deadline hit before new homes could be found.
She became convinced that an animal shelter was the answer, as this would be more efficient and sustainable. It could save many more lives by providing a place to house animals for longer periods of time, until they could be adopted.
Isabella also saw a market need for a pet boarding facility. Many existing pet hotels, despite being expensive, only offered accommodation in small confined cages, and the care was unsatisfactory. Every time she travelled, she took her pets all the way down to Kobe, where they could have more space.
She felt that other pet owners, when given the opportunity, would naturally prefer to leave their pets in a spacious, pleasant environment with fresh air and opportunities for exercise.
This was exactly what Gallaon-Aoki and her husband were in an excellent position to offer; they could provide an enjoyable holiday for pets so their owners could enjoy their own trips with a clear conscience.
Gallaon-Aoki was also motivated to try her hand at an entrepreneurial venture, by establishing a profitable pet hotel business. This, in turn, could help fund an animal rescue shelter. Animal Garden Niigata was thus started.
All went well at first, business increased steadily, and the Animal Friends Japan shelter was set up shortly thereafter.
Call of duty
Then the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami hit.
Gallaon-Aoki’s first response to the disaster was to set off for Sendai and then go up to Iwate, to help animals in need. But when she got there, she found no animals to rescue. All had been swept away, together with their human owners.
Soon she started hearing reports about the situation in Fukushima. On March 21, a call came in from a woman whose dog had been left behind when the family was evacuated from Okuma. No one had been allowed to take pets, and evacuees had been told that they would be back in their homes within two to three days.
In reality, the family had been shipped out immediately to Nagasaki. The woman was crying with desperation as she described how her dog had been left chained up with no food or water. She begged Gallaon-Aoki to go to her house and rescue him.
With no thought for her own safety or the consequences of the actions she was about to take, Gallaon-Aoki immediately agreed to do whatever she could.
She realized that it would be hard to access the exclusion zone. But, having lived in Japan for many years, she gambled that barriers would be manned by police only during daytime hours. What she hadn’t reckoned on were the impassible mountain roads, which had been damaged or cut off by massive rock falls.
That first trip took many hours and involved inching along perilously narrow roads with no guardrails. This turned out to be more life-threatening than entering a radiation fallout zone. At nightfall, she successfully snuck in through a checkpoint, found the woman’s dog, and took it back to Niigata with her.
In the weeks that followed, the calls for pet rescues came flooding in, and she kept returning to Fukushima. She ended up rescuing a staggering 700 animals altogether, including cats, dogs, ducks, chickens, rabbits, and even a pig. This was far beyond anything that Gallaon-Aoki had expected.
She reached out to the community for funding, and many people kindly supported the shelter with donations, which made the huge project possible for the time being.
Gallaon-Aoki’s initial plan had been to take in the animals temporarily and care for them until their owners could reclaim them. She hoped to find homes for unclaimed animals in due course. But as time went by, she was faced with growing difficulties.
Many pet owners never returned to claim their animals, and very few people were willing to take in a pet that they feared had been irradiated. Furthermore, month by month, donations were drying up. Thus, a project intended as a short-term solution became a long-term logistical and financial burden.
Yet, Gallaon-Aoki has stayed true to her courage and convictions. Through dire necessity, she has honed her entrepreneurial skills, using creativity and resilience to keep the shelter going for over three years and to care for her huge extended “family” still in residence.
The accidental heroine is putting her entrepreneurial skills to good use in rebuilding her business. Times are changing, the economy is finally growing, and Gallaon-Aoki is gradually bringing her pet hotel back to commercial success.
With an increasing number of people going abroad for vacations, she is confident that more and more clients will employ her services.
There are many beautiful pets still waiting for homes at the shelter.
For more information on pets for adoption, visit www.animalfriendsjapan.org. To learn about the countryside accommodation at Isabella Gallaon-Aoki’s Animal Garden boarding facility, go to www.animalgardenjapan.com, or email Gallaon-Aoki directly at email@example.com.
Wonderful story – thanks Elizabeth for sending it to me.
Change of plans!
In last week’s picture parade I mentioned that today would be the final set of glorious pictures, courtesy of Su Reeves.
But that was before I realised that Jean and I would be popping in to our local old school house on Friday to enjoy a couple of hours admiring the quilting work on show at this year’s Hugo Ladies Club Quilt Show.
The theme of community has never been far from the pages of this blog and despite the provincial nature of this gathering I wanted to share a selection of photographs with you for today’s picture parade.
Puts the phrase “needle and thread” into a whole new world of meaning!
Maybe I’m becoming a soppy old fool but a couple of hours wandering around this event, just five minutes from where we live, made me feel, strongly so, that Jean and I and all our animals really do belong here!
… and the Canary – Breathtakingly creative.
Australian artist Andy Thomas specializes in creating ‘audio life forms’: beautiful abstract shapes that react to sounds. In this animated short, he visualizes two recorded bird sounds from the archives of the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision in Hilversum.
I was blown away when I came across that video. Then a quick search found this place, from where one reads:
Australian multimedia artist Andy Thomas makes bird songs dance with 3D animations. It’s the latest in his line of “audio life forms.”
Using 3D visualization software and other programs, Thomas breaks down photos of insects, orchids, and birds into their composite parts. He then reassembles the images in a sort of collage and builds trippy animations that react, based on rules he’s set, to sound – in this case, archival bird song.
The resulting multimedia visualizations are stunning. They also suggest what you might see if you stood in the forest listening to the birds, while tripping on acid. The psychedelic feel is enhanced by the constant shape-shifting of the form, which in turn encourages you to be hyper-aware of the full range of tweets and trills.
Thomas has been painting and drawing since he was a child. In 1997 he began exploring the realm of digital art, and in recent years started experimenting with “creating a visual fusion between Nature and Technology.” But he also describes this work a bit moralistically “corrupting nature with technology.”
Golly, there are some very clever people out there!