In Motion: Bellingham, Poetry, San Juan Islands, Ted Talks


Monday, August 27, 2012

Spider Home

This year a spider has made its home in the drivers side rear-view mirror outside my car.  It's a tiny little guy whose legs are just barley visible dangling down from the top edge of the mirror, in a hermit crab fashion. I only noticed it's web the first time in June, when the sun hit the silk's reflection.  What is even more interesting is that this is the second year in a row a spider has "moved in" to the same location.

This seemingly odd spot for a spider to spin its web brings up many questions:  Why did it choose this location?  Does the mirror give it an edge to catching flies?  How the heck does it hold on when I'm on the freeway?

As I marvel at my spider friends home, I am reminded that humans have built many homes in stranger places over the centuries.

Temples tend to be built in the most interesting locations on the planet.  Perhaps, for the believer, traveling to the temple is seen as a spiritual journey in and of itself.  Take for example the Hanging Temple in China.  This temple is the host to three different religions:  Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism.  Built out of wood and dug into the side of the Dacist Mountain, Hengshan, this precariously positioned micro village sits 75 meters above the ground with more than 40 chambers connected by corridors, bridges and boardwalks.  It is believe to of been built more than 1500 years ago at the end of the Northern Wei Dynasty by a monk named Liao Ron. Legend has it that Liao built the temple to suppress the monsters that caused the nearby river to flood often.
Xuankong Si or "Hanging Temple" in China

Then there is the Roussanou Monaste in Greece.  Tripadvisor claims "...this monastery is the most inaccessible of its kind."  Built in 1545 these monks wanted to get away from it all, including people.  What was it like if there was ever a knock at the door?  Did everyone crap their pants and shout "Holy cow!  They  found us!"  Perhaps the opposite occurred.  Balloons and glitter fell from the ceiling onto the head of the visitor in congratulations of surviving the trip.  

A gentleman named Maximos and Loasaph of Loannina (no less) founded the monastery. The site was dedicated to St. Barbara but the name Roussanou may be the name of the hermit who live on the rock during that same time.  Since 1988 it has been occupied by a small community of nuns.  The building covers the entire surface of the rock and consists of three levels:  the church, cells and guest quarters.  
(I think the cells were for the monks, maybe.)

 Roussanou Monaste in Greece
Thinking back to my spider friend, perhaps he is just giving the location a chance.  However, the web is almost always empty, no flies.  Sometimes when I am on the freeway I keep an eye on the little guy thinking he'll blow off.  Sure it's inconvenient and a bit anti-social but it is protected.  Humans build homes in remote areas to suppress monsters or find peace and quiet.  My spider friend is protected from birds and weather.  What a smart spider.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Ides of March and 2012 (again)

*My most popular blog post for two years running.  As we approach 12/21/12 are you more anxious or just taking it all in stride? 

Written: March 10, 2009
Edited: March 27, 2011

The Ides of March, per the Roman calendar is March 15th. In Roman times, the Ides of March was a festive day dedicated to the god Mars and a military parade was usually held. In modern times, the term Ides of March is best known as the date that Julius Caesar was assassinated, in 44 BC. .

Poor Caesar. In Shakespeare's play he was warned by a soothsayer, "Beware the Ides of March!" Caesar visited with the seer who had foretold that harm would come to him no later than the Ides of March. Caesar joked, "Well, the Ides of March have come", to which the seer replied "Ay, they have come, but they are not gone." Despite this warning he chooses to appear in court and face his fate. I often wonder when he went to “work”, what was he thinking? Perhaps, he thought, whatever happens I can fight it and live, or maybe he was so full of himself he thought no harm could come to him? Regardless, the senators knew he was a mortal, could be killed, and so proved it to the world with each stab.

In Roman times the expression “Ides of March” did not evoke a dark mood- it was simply the standard way of saying “March 15.” In my life I see many warnings. Soothsayers, or talking heads, are on the news every night trying to predict the future. There are even some conspirators that believe the exact day of a new age for the earth will be December 21, 2012!

If you Google “2012” you’ll find all sorts of sites that talk about this doomed day. One site sells books and T-Shirts, another gives you tips on how to survive it, there is even a “2012” movie coming out November 13th! What the heck is going to happen? Is December 21st our Ides of March? I decided to do some research.

The Long County Calendar of the Ancient Mayans ends on Monday, Dec. 21, 2012. There isn’t much information regarding what the Mayans thought would occur in 2012, but the consensus of opinion is that there will be a great change. To some people this means a positive, spiritual change, to others the end of the world. Ian O’Neill, in Universe Today, wrote that the Mayan calendar is just ending; the next day (our Dec 22, 2012) would start the year “0000” and thus the Mayan calendar just resets, much like a cars odometer rolling over. Astrologers say that the stars tell us: “The date December 21st, 2012 A.D. ( in the Long Count), represents an extremely close conjunction of the Winter Solstice Sun with the crossing point of the Galactic Equator (Equator of the Milky Way) and the Ecliptic (path of the Sun), what the ancient Mayans recognized as the Sacred Tree. This is an event that has been coming to resonance very slowly over thousands and thousands of years. It will come to resolution at exactly 11:11 am GMT. According to the Mayas the center of the Galaxy is the cosmic womb: the place of dead, transformation, regeneration and rebirth.”*

So the modern day soothsayers have said their part. They have thrown out this information and their interpretation to the public. And like Caesar, we are faced with a decision. Should we go on with life as normal, go hide in a cave until it’s all over, or maybe purchase more camping supplies and guns? Caesar was brave enough to face his fate, will I do the same?

This upcoming “event” reminds me a little of the Millennium Bug scare. In the years prior to 2000, experts advised that our computerized life as we knew it could end just one second pass midnight on January 1, 12:00 a.m. Anything that ran on computers including Air Traffic Control systems, banks and security system etc, would all fail us. This time around I’m going to choose to be strong like Caesar. I’ll just walk into that fateful day three years from now with my head held high. What happens will happen. Nothing is worth living in fear over; besides, I don't have a bomb shelter.

*Mayan Calendar site:

Friday, August 17, 2012

Poetry: Guardian

Put me to bed
Send me to sleep
'till the sun rises
Tuck me up in
sheets of silver beams
Warm me in your glow
Watch over my spirit
when it jumps out to dream
Be my guardian tonight

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Worm vs' Centipede!

I encourage you to take walks.  Whoever you are and wherever you live, you should take walks.  It is one of the few places in life where we are away from our home, office, TV, computer, phone.  Take nothing with you and just walk.  Before there was an iPad, or even electricity humans spent many hours just doing non-electric activities like reading, building things, knitting and playing cards. 

I'd like to suggest that our human brains need down time to process the world around us.  That one hundred years is not enough for us to adapt to electrical life, not after the millions of years we spent without it.  Seems a non-electric hour is the least we can do to keep our humanity.  Besides, if you did not take walks you may miss a ring-side seat at natures awesome spectacle; real life drama that takes place all the time, all around us.  Animals and insects living together and sometimes fighting for survival.   

I was out walking with my son towards the Whatcom Falls trails when we noticed a centipede fighting a worm on the sidewalk.  We discussed the possible strategy of the centipede and the hopeless efforts of the worm, fighting without jaws, claws or poison. 

Prior to our walk my mind was heavy in thought regarding my personal situation.  Recently divorced and unemployed my prospects do not look good.  Hope has carried me through the last four months but lately I've been a bit down.  I feel like I am living on the edge of a knife!  As if my next move needs to be a good one or I'll go "down with the count" and live out of my car or something.  The fear of figuring out what to do next has frozen me.  In nature I learned that creatures when cornered will either fight, flight or freeze.  I am frozen.  Should I go back to school and give up on returning to the television industry and get equipped for another field?  Should I get an entry level job in a new field and try to work my way up?  Should I move to another city or state for an opportunity?  I'm on a pivot point trying to figure out the direction of my next step that will re-align my life's vector. 

Staring at the worm wiggling for it's life as the centipede chomps off a third of its body-- I felt like the worm.  It moved me almost to tears to watch this silent episode unfold.  The centipede seem to be having trouble getting it's jaws around the worm to cut a clean piece off.  It used its feet and long body to get the worm at a better angle for cutting.  Such drama!  The worm was just out crossing the sidewalk, heading towards the grassy fringe of the forest, when the centipede, hungry, full of favor cuts the worm almost in half and drags its head (or tail) back into the grass to be consumed!  I went home and wrote a poem about it, then spent the rest of the week in a daze.

Just this morning, while out on my morning walk, I decided to go back to school.  After months of researching my options, I arrived at that conclusion.  I need to be equipped, polished and tooled up for the next stage of my life.  While pondering that choice my mind drifted to the attack witnessed earlier that week.  Worm vs' Centipede.  I don't want to be a human worm wiggling along life's sidewalk unprepared for a centipede attack. 
All we can do is be prepared. 

Worm vs' Centipede

Sweet centipede, you killed your cousin the worm
Those 100 legs and plier jaws cut off the tail (or the head)
dragging the rest back into the grass jungle
from which you pounced

Worm wiggles in pain
that same useless motion used to fight for its life
Wormy blood  exits out from the severed tail (or head)
Such magnificent drama unfolds on the cement desert
that is the sidewalk  on the edge of my block!

I hurt for the worm, gasp at each bite to it's body
I understand the centipede, natures attributes makes it the easy victor
I walk home in gray mourning
Pondering the events that nature takes for granted

Washington State Centipede

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Lead Belly

Since fall of 2011 I have been the hostess on a local classic blues radio show, "Boosie's Playhouse Classic Blues" that airs/streams on KMRE 102.3/ heard every Saturday night at 10 p.m. PST.  In doing research for the show I come across many interesting stories.  Here is one of my favorites about the classic blues artist, Lead Belly.

Lead Belly was born in 1888 as Huddie Ledbetter. He reached the top of his blues career later in his life during the 1930's - 1940's.

Lead, unfortunately, spent much of his early adulthood in a Texas prison for homicide. He got an early release after writing and singing a song for the State Governor. In 1925, he wrote a song asking Governor Pat Neff for a pardon. Neff, who had promised at his election never to pardon a prisoner, broke his promise and set Huddie Ledbetter free.

Lomax and Ledbelly
In 1930 Lead returned to prison, this time for assault with intent to kill. Reputation and talent follow you everywhere, even through prison walls. Good citizen or not his music was desired and according to a folk song collector for the Smithsonian, John A Lomax, needed to be documented. 

In 1934 John and Lead recorded for the Library of Congress the album now titled "Leadbelly's Last Sessions" Excited for this opportunity Lead let loose! He had a wonderful memory for music and folk stories. He played and sang songs from the Tin Pan Alley, dance tunes, prison work songs, mule-skinner hollers, rag songs and the "Mean-Blues". This jail bird did SING! Accompanied by his 12-string guitar he sang all of these in his signature roof-ratting high baritone voice.

Lead and Lomax
recording in prison

His style of "Country Blues" or "Folk Blues" made him in a minor celebrity at the time. Lomax arrange (another) early release for Lead. Despite the segregation social pressures at the time these two, a white man from the northeast and a black man from the south, were determined to preserve musical history, together. Lomax and Lead traveled all across the southern states collecting and recording rare and traditional music. Most of the folks they recorded were like Lead, too poor and unsure of how to get a recording contract. Folks who had memorized stories and songs from their friends and family and passed them down verbally. Songs that were distinctly American but most Americans would never of heard one note if it wasn't for this unusual "power team": Lomax with the equipment and cash, and Lead with the knowledge and connections.

Lead Belly~ his temper landed him in jail twice, but his music, the music of his people, set him free -twice. His biggest recorded hit "Good Night Irene" raised a revival for Folk Blues and influenced many.

Please visit these sites for more information:

Friday, August 3, 2012

Poetry: Walking Up Holly

The Maritime Heritage Park Fountain
and the Whatcom Museum
as seen from W. Holly Street
Sidewalk Desert
Walking up Holly Street
Life is alive with the living
Low tide wakes the senses
as mid-day traffic races by

Walk uphill towards Bay Street
Pass three homeless ones who 
wander camel-less like wise kings
searching for The Star

Man with a stroke-limp hobbles by
passing me on the right nods a hello
He fights each step for control
Warm smile in his eyes brings water to mine

A pink knit hat lays on the park lawn
No head wants to claim it theirs
too hot for anything knitted today

Farther up four coats lay out
on the curb like an offering of gortex.
Perhaps a Samaritan placed them
there early before work

Tea House Oasis
I walk in the sunshine
I walk in the wind
I walk when it's green
I stop when it's red

Inside the cafe I sip green tea
from a cup with no handles
at a table for six,
occupied by three

Warm tea on a warm day
I am comforted by the branches
moving in the wind outside
blown by Earth's cool breath