Archive for the ‘Spirit’ Category

To feed and be fed

thanks.jpgA Thanksgiving reflection, from “Still the Eating,” a longer essay of mine published by Under the Sun Magazine. Best wishes for a wonderful Thanksgiving!

It’s late afternoon on Thanksgiving Day. November darkness hangs in window frames on the wall, and our family and dinner guests keep to the interior of the house, in the kitchen or by the fire in the living room.

My mother is here from Montana. She’s a widow and lives alone, which she insists suits her just fine. “I answer to no one,” she says.

John has arrived with his signature squash soup, small gifts for the kids, and several bottles of excellent wine. He’s single, and hasn’t missed a Thanksgiving dinner with us in all the years we’ve been hosting them. (more…)

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What makes a town? What do its buildings, its streets, its cafes and shops say about its inhabitants, who they are, who they want to be? Tonight is another chapter of our aspirations and fears: the final design presentation for the Winslow streetscape, 6:30-8:30 pm at City Hall.

Images of Winslow Today:

Places have to be planned with the possibility of things happening, but those things cannot be planned too explicitly…–Robert Venturi, architect. (more…)

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bloedel2.jpgUpdated: As if there’s not enough on our civic must-support list, the Bloedel Reserve is coming up short to the tune of $200,000 a year, according to a Puget Sound Business Journal story posted last week.

This 150-acre nature reserve, formerly the home of Prentice and Virginia Bloedel, has soothed many a Bainbridge soul with its gardens, wildlife and nature walks. For years it has maintained a genteel distance from clamoring tourists, open only to those with reservations–no pets or eating allowed.

As Bloedel Executive Director Dick Brown explains in his comment below, the Bloedel’s endowment is in good shape. But they need an extra $200,000 each year in order to pay for needed maintainance and improvements. Brown has sent out an appeal to donors for the additional financial support.

If you’re like me, your Bloedel membership renewal card has been floating around in your kitchen mail pile since last summer. Get it out and renew! You can also click here for online registration.  Consider making a larger donation while you’re at it. The Reserve is open space, wildlife habitat, community treasure, kids’ outdoor education, and Zen meditation rolled into one. And at least for now, we don’t have to beg our City Council to save it from becoming a high end development.


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The why of Bainbridge: step outside your back door and watch the corona-wrapped moon pass through the woods.

This island, with its endangered darkness, unpaved lanes, remnant forests, coyote howls, is one of the vanishing places that make it possible to believe the natural world still waits for us to learn to read its meaning.

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The evidence that we’ve surrendered our hearts, minds and common sense to the god of materialism just keeps mounting, the latest coming in the form of the Bainbridge Island Arts and Humanities Council study on the economic impact of the arts.

After participating in the study, part of a nationwide arts advocacy effort by Americans for the Arts, the BIAHC seems to have wholeheartedly embraced the All-New fad to promote art by killing it. And by killing I mean talking about the arts as if they’re a real estate investment. As the post-study BIAHC slogan has it: “The arts mean business.”

I know and respect BIAHC executive director Zon Eastes. His arts-as-investment hardsell says less about the arts, or Mr. Eastes, than it does about the begging game the non-profit world has to play. These days, it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that ka-ching. (more…)

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Remembering this day

Furious dreams, rivers of bitter uncertainty,
decisions harder than the dreams of a hammer
flowed into the lovers’ double cup,

until those twins were lifted into balance
on the scale: the mind and love, like two wings.
–So this transparency was built.

Pablo Neruda

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A community economy is not an economy in which well-placed persons can make a ‘killing’. It is an economy whose aim is generosity and a well-distributed and safeguarded abundance. — Wendell Berry

market.jpgOur Farmer’s Market is one part of Bainbridge Island that is neither relic nor theme park for the affluent. It is the public expression of a real economy that grows healthier, more abundant and more generous by the year, even as the numbers of farms dwindle and the island’s rich farmland is converted into housing developments and private estates.

Farmers like Betsey Wittick from Laughing Crow Farm, Brian McWhorter of Butler Green Farms, Rebecca Slattery of Persephone Farms, to name just a few of our long-time farmers, make their living from the earth—though increasingly, not on Bainbridge Island but in remaining rural locations in North Kitsap. They tirelessly share their love and knowledge with kids, interns, and passersby. (more…)

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Intellect eclipsed





Gone (almost).


We drove to Manitou Beach under the full moon around 2 AM, so tired I shouldn’t have been behind the wheel. But I woke up as we watched the moon redden into eclipse, awed by its beauty and darkness.

The physical science is fascinating. The NASA website, for instance, says that a lunar eclipse can only occur during a full moon. During an eclipse, the Earth passes between the sun and the moon, and the moon’s reflected light from the sun is temporarily in the Earth’s shadow. The moon appears red because of the filtering and refracting effects of our atmosphere.

An eclipse stirs more than intellectual curiosity. The hour we spent watching the clear, black sky, listening to the waves on the beach, wrestling with the camera, and exchanging quiet greetings with a couple on the porch of a nearby house, spun the moon’s magic of romance and madness, tides, danger and the supernatural. It suspended my disbelief in things unknown. All things seemed possible, even probable, under that devoured moon.

In Tibetan Buddhist tradition, the effects of our actions are multiplied by 1000 during a lunar eclipse, for good or for ill.

Another tradition has it that the eclipsed moon resembles a more human face than when it fully reflects the light of the sun, a symbol of how we are diminished when we see only our own intellect and achievements, rather than the greater light of the truth reflected within us.

The mystery of the moon, as it’s swallowed into blood-red shadow and then emerges anew, makes poets of us all, if only in the silence of our hearts.

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From Bainbridgebuzz.com, Monday, 10 July 2006
I thought I might send emails and notes from our family’s trip to England later this month, to post on the hometown Buzz. But it seems we’ve left earlier than planned, and to a place farther from home. We’ve slipped through a door next to the telephone, and now I sit at my desk or talk to my friends from an enormous, incomprehensible distance. I don’t even try to understand the life I left because this new one is so raw and beautiful.

The phone rang last week and I heard my husband’s voice, incredulous, saying he’d gotten news from our doctor. Our middle son, 17-year-old Nate, has a tumor near his auditory nerve. A brain tumor.We’ve traveled through this strange land of serious illness before. Eleven years ago, our youngest son, Jake, who was four then, was diagnosed with a life-threatening tumor on his optic nerve. Doctors tell us there’s no connection between the two tumors, but I claim a mother’s right to an irrational belief in the poetry of the human body. I don’t know the meaning of these growths near the organs of perception of two of our boys, but it’s significant to me just the same.  

When Nate was in middle school, the school nurse called us two years in a row saying his hearing tests showed some deficit in the left ear. We took him to his pediatrician who assured us there was nothing wrong with him. With the faith of someone who believed lightning does not strike twice, I let it go. The possibility of a tumor growing near his brain stem, invading his ear canal, never entered my mind.

Last spring Nate started to complain that his left ear was so clogged he couldn’t hear out of it. We thought he had a sinus infection so we took him to an ear, nose and throat specialist who ordered an MRI.

After we got the results, we spent the week of the fourth of July–which was unseasonably cold, like we were–in the demoralizing, clinical world of office lobbies and patient exam rooms. Doctors were cordial but not personal or compassionate. We grilled them and they answered. They grilled us and we answered. Yes, a tumor. No balance problems or facial numbness. Yes, hearing difficulty in one ear. Yes he should have surgery soon. No guarantees about his hearing. Balance and facial nerves should be fine. No football his senior year.

Nate was a condition, a surgery, a problem to be solved, a schedule to be accommodated. Not a young man with the world in front of him, beloved by his family and friends. The lack of warmth exhausted all of us.

When we spoke to Jake’s neurosurgeon so long ago, he told us he didn’t even want to meet Jake before the surgery. “I can’t do what I do if I have a personal connection with them,” the surgeon said. My husband and I complained to each other about the lack of kindness in the medical world, but in truth, we couldn’t have heard social niceties anyway. We were deafened by the sound of our own heartbeats, pounding out the frantic mantra all parents chant for a gravely sick child: “Makehimwell-makehimwell-makehimwell.”

One day last week Nate and I had to walk onto the ferry because it was overloaded with residual fourth of July traffic. Late in the afternoon, after two doctor’s appointments, we rode the bus back to Colman Dock. If we’d missed the point before, it was unmistakable as we lurched along in the plodding, stop-and-go bus with its kaleidoscope of weary, suffering, laughing, crabby, calm, burdened humanity: we’re not special, not God-protected, not too comfortable or too smart for sorrow. We belong to the same world as everyone else–the weathered, cheerful alcoholic, reeking of urban alleys and stale liquor, the old Pakistani man with with long fingernails and sores on his lips, the young woman staring straight ahead, hugging her backpack, the heavy matron sleeping on a bus that smelled like rotten garbage.       

Tumors and diagnoses and cold clinics have stripped us–again–of our confidence and self-importance, and for that I’m grateful. I remember from the days and long nights in intensive care with a screaming four-year-old that a profound healing begins in the realm you can enter only when you’ve given up all your pretenses, when you’ve met the limits of your intelligence, emotions, personality, and worldly position, when you’ve been driven to your knees and see that your very best efforts are not enough. I’ve forgotten so much about the blessing of humility since then.

We’ll go on our trip to England as scheduled, and at the same time follow this journey we did not choose. When we come back, Nate will have his surgery, and we’ll trust his doctors with his precious brain, his hearing, his face and his balance.

And I hope humility won’t be so hard to learn our second time through this unseasonably cold country. 

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