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Archive for March, 2020

Writing is a process of going inward. This critical moment of history presents us with the opportunity to go inward.  As I recently said to friend who loves her characters but has abandoned her writing — all she has to do to spend time with her beloved characters is to listen to them and to write down what they have to say and the time to do that is now.

There are plenty of ways and reasons, that our society does not encourage us to go inward — especially to reflect and write down what we think. This could be dangerous.  If we do this, we may encourage others to do the same.  Besides, does anyone really profit from us when we go inward? Yes! We do!

The path to publication can be long and arduous but whether or not to publish is something you can decide to later. Personally, I never start writing because I want to publish.  I embark on a new project because I am curious and need to know more.

 

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There are many reasons to write. I wrote a few down in a list that I will share with you:

— To understand ourselves better and to understand others more by expanding our empathy.

—To remember important things and people like our parents and our other ancestors —
And to preserve them for ourselves and also to pass along the stories to others   (including grandkids).

—To become stronger.

—To have a sustained experience of the joy of discovery.

—To let out the devil.

—To stay in the goodness.

—To tell the stories that haven’t been told.  (There’s a good chance that only we can tell     them.)

—It’s cheaper than therapy.

—It can help others.

—It’s an amazing way to pass the time!

 

To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon), click here.

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Here’s links to two funny videos addressing the current crisis. I’m posting them in order of hilarity. The first is an Italian grandma offering us her pearls of wisdom and the second is a song parody by Randy Rainbow.

 

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To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon), click here.

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I have been rather amazed at the resilience of people in my many communities — particularly in my queer community. Perhaps it is because we have been through this before.  The AIDS epidemic in the 1980s and 1990s left its devastating mark on entire communities; it was global; and we were at first not sure how it was spread. It’s important to remember that queer people fell in love and partnered in that era — including my partner and myself.

One of the ways that my partner and I are getting through this crisis is by staying connected to our faith based community. Kudos to our minister Reverend McKinley Sims (Kin) who went immediately to a digital format.  The Unitarian Univeralist Church of the Restoration (in Philadelphia) already had a live-streaming platform which has been strengthened and the minister also did the service via Zoom so we could hear people’s joys and concerns. Kin gave a rousing sermon and opened with a pre-recorded rendition of “I just want to celebrate another day of living.” Hope was inspired. I’m sure that was intended.  There was also excellent live music, with the musicians maintaining the new social distance in the church that was empty of the congregation.

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photo by Gloria Rohlfs

 

Another way that I am dealing with this period is by understanding the scientific history of this pandemic. Plant Based News just posted an excellent video (which you can see on YouTube). It featured a 2015 talk by Dr. Greger who is an important author, plant-based diet advocate and a physician with a background in infectious disease. His talk was spell-binding. Not only did he predict the current pandemic, but he connected the history of infectious diseases to the history of the domestication of animals for human consumption. In particular, he connects the spread of influenzas to the factory farming of chickens. I took away that if the Corona Virus hadn’t spread from wet markets in a region in China that it would have spread a different way. It still might. It’s up to us to change and stop providing a market for diseased chicken — or any chicken.

 

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Five things that I am doing while being quarantined:

 

1. Staying aware — but not too aware. I back away from the news periodically. Recently, I discovered on YouTube a Buddhist teacher (new to me) named Yongey Mingyur Rimpoche — who bases his meditation on awareness.

2. Staying vegan — ironically, perhaps, I feel better than I have in years (perhaps ever). It’s six months since I’ve gone completely vegan. There’s no conclusive proof, of course. But I’ve heard it said that a plant-based diet makes the body more alkaline and less susceptible to harboring a virus.

3. Staying positive — I’ve been watching Deepak Chopra’s talks and meditations (on YouTube) on the pandemic  and find them enormously helpful. I’ve also been listening to the Buddha Medicine Mantra on YouTube.

4. Maintaining my daily writing/revising schedule.  Aside from the fact that this is a necessity for me (like breathing) — it helps me to have something to focus on. This allows me to avoid the free-floating anxiety.

5. Practicing meticulous self care — this includes daily yoga, meditation and walking outside. I am also staying away from all alcohol and other sugar because this has been found to lower the immune system.

 

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To learn more about my plant-based journey and about my new novel:

https://tealeavesamemoir.wordpress.com/2020/03/01/a-uu-reflection-on-pigs-a-new-novel-and-becoming-a-vegan-nationalpigday-vegan-amreading/

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At this point in time, I’ve been harassed for my novel,  exactly ten times.  In full disclosure, I’ve received much much more of a positive response — so much more that I have lost count.  But it has been legion and for that I am grateful.

Just the other day someone online thanked me for my work, and I was filled by that statement of gratitude. But we are wired to the negative, and that is perhaps why I remember the exact number of harassments I have received.

Of course, it was expected that I would be told that I would be going to hell, etc., ad nauseam, and I did expect to upset a few people.  After all, I did write a book on a controversial topic. But when you think about it — THEY is completely plausible.  There must have been strong women, people of different genders and sexual orientations in biblical times.  I just imagined how they survived and lived their lives.

I do a lot on Twitter and the TENTH time that I was harassed, the harassment contained such bad language that Twitter censored it. So after I was done laughing — I considered what the harasser most likely said.

Then it brought to mind the Buddhist philosophy of wishing everyone well. It would be easy to dismiss this as a classic case of “Twinkle, twinkle little star, what you say is what you are.”  It wasn’t an easy thing to do .  It is more natural to engage in negative energy and return the harasser’s comments — but in this case I don’t know what they were.

If you wish someone true happiness, chances are that people won’t have to harass others to feel good about themselves. And so I breathe in and out and wish everyone — including the harasser with the censored comments — the roots of true happiness.

To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon), click here.

 

 

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This morning, I helped with a Unitarian Universalist service based on theme of International Pig Day.

The YouTube video of my talk  is below. The complete text of my talk is below that.  The service took place at the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Restoration on Stenton Ave. in Philadelphia.

“It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer.” – Wilbur, the pig, talking about Charlotte, the spider, in Charlotte’s Web, the classic by E.B. White.

I was very excited when I learned that today is national pig day. National Pig Day was started in Texas – in fact it was started by Reverend McKinley’s art teacher, Ellen Stanley. Now it is an international holiday to honor the uniqueness of the pig.

I’ve always been drawn to pigs. Perhaps, it is their innate intelligence made obvious to me at a young age when I read Charlotte’s Web.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons that it was so easy for me to move to a plant-based diet last fall which I did for health reasons. This means that I only eat plants and cut out all animal products.

My partner Barbara and I had been moving toward a plant-based diet for several years prior to this because of compassion for the animals and concerns for our own now and future health.

So, when I started seeing an acupuncturist and she emailed me a link to a YouTube video of a physician talking about how a low-protein plant-based diet is the best way to avoid kidney stones, I was right there. The universe must have heard me, because the minute I gave up dairy, the muse descended in the form of a talking dairy cow.

For two and a half months, I wrote — almost without stopping — a novel titled Cinnamon: a dairy cow’s path (and her farmer’s) to freedom. And while I am still in the revision mode, this is the fastest I ever wrote the first draft of a novel. The larger arc of this pro-cow, pro-farmer novel is about the possibility of change.

Call it quantum physics or magic, everything around me seemed to line up for the writing. We had been visiting the cows, the pigs, the sheep and their offspring, the lambs, at Saul agricultural high school on nearby Henry Avenue for several years.  I never anticipated, however, that I would be writing a novel with a talking dairy cow as a narrator. The other narrator is a female dairy farmer.  The farmer and the cow, who she named Cinnamon, become friends which leads to a happy ending – something that is happening all over the world.

The writing of this novel was very intense. I knew that the dairy cows didn’t have an easy time of it – to say the least.  But I learned so much that I went through a period of consciousness raising. In spiritual terms, I began to see the beingness of the farm animals reflected back to me.  I could especially see this in their eyes.

I did write a novel – meaning it is fiction, which loosely interpreted means I made things up. But my farmer narrator, like me, has health issues that lead her to a plant-based diet.  Also, like me, she is lucky enough to have a partner who loves to cook for her. Like me, she starts to get better. And in the meantime, she becomes more connected to the farm animals. Like others who went to a plant-based diet, I became more compassionate – and that compassion extends to the animals, to myself and to the world.

I was delighted to learn that the Unitarian Universalist Association has an Animal Ministry. You may have seen the ad in UU World with a plate at the top with two eggs for eyes and a turned down piece of bacon under that – making a frowny face. A quote on the ad reads, “The United Nations says that a global shift to a plant-based diet is crucial to save the planet and to feed the growing population.” The website quotes the prominent Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh who has said, “Making the transition to a plant-based diet may be the most effective way an individual can stop climate change.”

This quote from Tich Nhat Hanh bears repeating:

“Making the transition to a plant-based diet may be the most effective way an individual can stop climate change.”

As my acupuncturist says, “By moving to a plant-based diet you are improving your health, helping the animals, and the planet as well. It seems like a no brainer.”

I would agree. We have plenty of prominent activists who espouse plant-based diets. These include noted activist Greta Thunberg and actor/activist Leonardo di Caprio. And we have the actor Joaquin Phoenix who, in his acceptance speech at the Academy Awards, talked about how we have descended into an egocentric world view and about the fact that everything is connected – including human rights, animal rights, and the future of the planet.

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If you are interested in learning more, I recommend Plant Based News which has videos on You Tube — many of them featuring the noted cardiologist Dr. Neal Barnard.

In my novel, the dairy farmer feels very guilty that she sold her pig – who at the time was the size of a small adult human. She sold the pig to pay taxes on the land, which has been in her family for generations. Eventually, when she figures out that she can do things differently – by creating a farm animal sanctuary on her land where her animals can live out their natural lives – she adopts a new pig and names him Wilbur.

Like any writer, I did my research. Pigs and their lineages can be very complex. But here’s some interesting and fun facts that I learned about pigs: Farm animal pigs are direct descendants of wild boars which I understand can be very dangerous.  A boar is an uncastrated male domestic pig, but a boar can also mean a wild pig of any gender.

Pigs are known to be very intelligent. They are considered the fifth most intelligent animal in the world. Some say they are even more intelligent than dogs.

So, in this season of Lent, whether you identify as a Christian or not, consider being kind to your arteries as well as to pigs, by giving up pig products for a while – and see how you feel.

In doing so, you might reflect on the seventh Unitarian Universalist Principle:.Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

 

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To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon), click here.

 

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