Friday, March 30, 2012

Patagonia, Wild and Awesome!

     Watching a photo presentation of Maria and Steve's trip this January-February to Patagonia filled me with wonder that such majestic, stark, wild and beautiful places do still exist.  No pollution, no crowds in sight, for this is a land for the courageous travelers who still have their wits and athletic bodies intact.  They stayed in huts that house 32 people with  simple dorm rooms (8 in each), down covers (at best it is in the 50's in summer, often with high winds and driving rains), and a simple kitchen to prepare meals.  Often travelers can enjoy unbelievable views from their windows or the decks on a good day.  The valleys look like Yosemite before the tourists.   The boulders as one ascends the mountains look like they come from a giant's playground, huge compared to what I was used to in the Sierras, and the trails often very primitive, narrow,  requiring trekking poles and very sturdy boots.  It is a land where world-class rock climbers come, with the most vertical, steep granite ascents I've ever seen, making the peaks in the Sierra look like child play.  There are lovely glacial-fed lakes, but not the aspen and huge healthy forests of the Canadian Rockies.  This is a land that looks like something from another planet, where basalt and granite co-mingle
to form mountains like giant pillars.  Some of the peaks are in national parks, and some in privately-owned parks; the Argentinian government hasn't realized what jewels these mountains are, in need of protection from private interests.
   Winters must be impassable, as summers look marginally a habitat for humans on foot; one needs Wellington boots for the deep, muddy terrain and sturdy hiking boots for any climbing.  Somehow I've missed National Geographic specials on this land, but it feels more intimate to see photographs from folks I know.  They still backpack in the Sierras regularly, and use the YMCA daily to be in shape for a trip like this.  It was stunning, and made me think how my dad, who died suddenly, run over by a car at 55, would have been enamored with this beauty and challenge, more so than the rest of the family!  Hats off to those with the conditioning, determination, resources, and courage to explore this mysterious, wild and free landscape.  Back to my more mundane pursuits as I make oatmeal with apples, nuts, and sunflower seeds!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Creative Women: Our struggle to find our voice

In Shakespeare’s Day, it was impossible for a woman bubbling with creative genius to find support for or a venue for expressing herself.   Women had no identity outside of being a servant, a caregiver to aging parents if she remained a spinster, or a wife.  In many of Shakespeare’s plays, strong female characters speak with passion and courage.  If he had a sister (we know so little about his family this isn’t known) with creative genius like his, she would have not been allowed enough schooling to write or read well. She would have faced poverty and real danger trying to live on her own in London. Even if she aspired to act on a stage, it was unheard of in his day.  All actors were men.
               If a woman dared decline the partner her parents chose for her, she would be beaten, for standing her ground was not allowed in affairs concerning her future.  It was accepted a husband could beat his wife and treat her as he chose.  Her protestations would have no audience, so she learned her lot, and kept silent in her misery.
             In the early decades of the twentieth century Virginia Woolf wrote a dozen novels, published six volumes of letters, and was a prodigious essayist, biographer, and literary critic.  E.M. Forester believed she was “the finest writer of her generation, pushing the light of the English language a little further against darkness.”  In 1928 she delivered a series of lectures to the women’s colleges of Cambridge, including a searing fantasy about a female Shakespeare.  She included this in her essay “A Room of her Own” where she used her wit, courage and pen to protest the overwhelming prejudice against women having any right to belong to themselves, much less express themselves in unconventional ways. Until recently, there are so few great women artists because of this prejudice and the male expectations of women.  It was fine for women to be obedient wives, great cooks and seamstresses, work beside their menfolk in the fields, give birth to and raise ten children.  It wasn’t acceptable to enter politics, the ministry, or aspire to be a great artist or composer. 
            In a recent performance in Ashland of this lecture about “A Room of her Own,” the actress invites the women in the audience to be the generations no longer shamed and silenced, as Shakespeare’s sister would have been, to become the poets, novelists, and playwrights we need to awaken our contemporaries to women’s artistic voices.  Virginia was a remarkable woman who did assert her right to express herself.  Like many great women writers, she suffered periodic times of mental illness (like Eleanor Roosevelt, too), and drowned herself in 1941.
            We no longer live in Shakespeare’s time, but even today, without  decent health, supportive friends, good education, a room of her own, and some degree of financial security, it isn’t common or easy for a woman to excel in the arts.  It isn’t easy for men either in a culture that devalues the role of artists, offering little external support so they can concentrate on creative ideas beyond survival. 
            However, we have come a long way from the sixteenth century, and we do have more role models like Virginia Woolf, Hillary Clinton, Gwen Ifill, Nancy Pelosi, Elizabeth Warren, Mary Oliver, and Meryl Streep.  It is a time for our voices to be on stage, in music, in writings, and on airways to make a difference.  The women of Shakespeare’s day were silenced and expected to be submissive.  This is no longer acceptable; we are finding our unique voices!

Carol Browning 3/26/12

Sunday, March 18, 2012

In A Moment

In a moment, we can change our lives
Allowing grace to erase judgment, doubt, fear we aren't up to the task at hand.
Maybe it's a day to be playful, contemplative, quiet
Honoring the rhythms within, trusting each moment is a new opportunity.

So much of our lives are responding to schedules and expectations, our own and others too.  It makes sense to slow down, pay attention to what feels nurturing instead of perpetuating busyness.  In a moment, we can shift gears, say no
To the doing we all get caught up in, and honor what works best for our own aging bodies.  What was easy at ten or twenty or thirty may simply not work for us at our current age.  So when we feel stressed, question the belief that says "I should" or he/she should."  We are all unique, and there are times for solitude we may need to recharge ourselves, doing less, appreciating with kindness and mercy the reality before us.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

What do we expect from Love?

Love is awakening in the night
Feeling the wonder, the magic and serenity of the silent full moon
Beaming her Light through the window, calming my restless spirit.

Love is music that comforts, uplifts, calms and inspires us
To come home, letting go the worries for these special moments
That bind us to the master artist as she or he weaves this creation.

Love dispels fear, envy, hate, self-doubt
Inviting us to the dance of a new day.

We expect love to take away our pain, make life easier.
Maybe love is our Inner Lover who embraces us, is there for us
Whatever we are feeling, binding our wounds, restoring our faith
Refilling our well when we are thirsty and in need of her life-giving waters.

Carol Browning

Inspirational thought:
“ Courage is contagious, so seek out friends, old and new, who take chances, stay open, and are willing to be different.  Befriend the part of yourself willing to be passionate, take a new direction, surrender to times of not-knowing, too.”

Living for Today: The Power of Healing Touch

Each day is a new beginning.  With our hands and smiles, we let our bodies know they are precious and valued, no matter how we may be feeling.  Self-massage is a great way to comfort an injury, alleviate tension, honor what feels good IS good. There are times we may be the only person at hand to do this self-affirming nurturing!
We touch when we give a friend, or even a stranger, a big smile, a word of encouragement, a gesture of kindness that lets another know this could be a brighter day.  We all need appreciation and encouragement. In our fast-paced world, it is too easy to be forgetful and dash from one project to the next.  Let the sun, rain, or snow touch your face when you go outside.  Let positive images on-line, in books or classes move you to respond in a way that may touch someone needing connection. The skin is our largest organ, our interface with the world outside our own body.  It protects us constantly.  Do we remember to bathe her with creams that soften the dryness?  Do we give ourselves a big hug for a job well done, or in empathy when things are not going well?  Do we choose to move like a small child does when great music comes on, suddenly becoming the dancer long neglected? Primal folks dance readily; many of us struggle with this as adults, for we’ve lost our spontaneity and free spirit.

Oxytocin is a vital hormone that helps us relax, get out of our heads, and bond with the object of our delight. It connects a mother nursing her baby, lovers kissing and sharing fond embraces, and the welcome gift of a lovely bouquet to honor a special day.  Without it, we can become hard and rigid, disconnected from those we care about and from ourselves.  Simple pleasures from a walk on the beach holding hands with a friend to watching a movie that makes us laugh and be glad again can release this important hormone. Sacred rituals can also release oxytocin, like a reception after a wedding where folks hug, dance, eat, drink, and let down their guard.

Rituals can honor a very difficult time too, like when a loved one dies, or we give away a newborn child in an open adoption, accepting our role as a parent is ending. Such times are poignant and touching, requiring courage, self-care, and compassion beyond anything we may have previously experienced.  Touch is a vital, lifelong need, too easily neglected when we may need it most, while drugs often deaden sensation and connection.  Touch indeed has the power to assist in healing whatever ails us!