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Posts Tagged ‘Art’

 

I took part in the 9th Annual Food Revolution Summit this year for the first time. I was delighted to be in the company of 300,000 plus people worldwide who either are on a plant-based diet already or who are considering it.

I listened to every speaker and learned a lot. I’ve been on a totally plant-based diet since last fall when my acupuncturist suggested it for health reasons. I had surgery for a rather large kidney stone last year. I came home from the hospital with a bad bladder infection that sent me back to the hospital. It was really an ordeal.THEY Scottie

I was never much of a meat eater, so I gave up dairy and fish last fall. Within a month, I couldn’t believe how good I felt. Six months later, I have regained my energy and take an hour long walk everyday. I also do my yoga practice in the house on most days.

In this pandemic, it’s very important to be as healthy as you can. So I learned a lot of good information about food and supplements (like the importance of vitamins B and D) that I am using to tweak my diet.

One of my favorite speakers was Asha Akhtar, MD, whose interview was titled “Why Loving Animals Is Good for Your Health.” I’ve long been an animal lover — and have loved domestic companion animals and cows and pigs, in particular. Even so, the medical research on the value of having animals in your life (research that is largely ignored by the medical system) is staggering.

The interviewer mentioned that cruelty against domestic animals is illegal in most states but that cruelty against animals raised for “food” is legal.

This is certainly something to think about.

 

To read or see a YouTube video about my plant-based journey which led to my novel Cinnamon, a dairy cow’s (and her farmer’s) path to freedom,click here.

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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One of the ways my partner and I have been staying connected during this time is through video chatting — with others as well as with each other. This week we met with a small group with our Unitarian church that is focused on poetry. Actually one member of the group is someone we know from way back when who was in a feminist writing group I was in. Another friend brought this poem to share. Since it has to do with writing and it talks about the sit down and be quiet method that I’ve espousing for decades, I thought I would share it with you. It was penned by Wendell Berry.

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How to Be a Poet

(to remind myself)
i
Make a place to sit down.
Sit down. Be quiet.
You must depend upon
affection, reading, knowledge,
skill—more of each
than you have—inspiration,
work, growing older, patience,
for patience joins time
to eternity. Any readers
who like your poems,
doubt their judgment.
ii
Breathe with unconditional breath
the unconditioned air.
Shun electric wire.
Communicate slowly. Live
a three-dimensioned life;
stay away from screens.
Stay away from anything
that obscures the place it is in.
There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.
iii
Accept what comes from silence.
Make the best you can of it.
Of the little words that come
out of the silence, like prayers
prayed back to the one who prays,
make a poem that does not disturb
the silence from which it came.

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

THEY Scottie

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Today is the fiftieth anniversary of Earth Day.  It is a joyous occasion and a heartbreaking one.  I couldn’t help noticing this as this crisis was breaking all around me. On my daily walk, I see that the flowers are erupting this year. A chorus of bird songs fills the air.  I’ve seen the photos of the planet becoming less polluted. Yet, it is very sad that the humans are suffering.

So, I take my walks everyday and do my Buddhist mantras for healing for the planet and all of her inhabitants.

Here are some of the photos I took on my walk.

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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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We all have a story to tell.  And telling that story requires you to take yourself seriously as a writer.  That is the name of the class that I am teaching through the Mt. Airy Learning Tree. Previously when I taught at a physical location, the class was limited to those who lived in the area. Now I am offering the class via Zoom (an online video chat), so you can take the class from where ever you are. You need a computer and a webcam. A webcam can be purchased separately and attached to your computer — if there isn’t one already installed in your computer or tablet.


For more information on the class (Taking Yourself Seriously as a Writer) which is very reasonably priced and starts next Thursday on April 23rd, you can go to this link.

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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 was reorganizing my office and going through my old poetry when I came across my Easter poem:

 

Jesus is a daffodil.

 

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(This photo was taken by Barbara McPherson of a daffodil that we grew in our garden.)

That’s it. That’s the entire poem.  It’s not dated but I believe I wrote it several decades ago.

 

In my pile of Exquisite Corpses ( I published many poems in that magazine, I found a poem by Karl Tierney, whose collection Jim Cory edited (Have You Seen This Man, The Castro Poems of Karl Tierney, from Sibling Rivalry Press). The poem is below.

 

ROME IN THE AGE

OF JUSTINIAN

 

Franks to the north,

and Vandals to the south.

 

Visigoths to the west

and Ostrogoths all around.

 

But thanks to your rectitude, Justinian,
still no sign of the Vulgars!

 

 

 

 

You can read a review of Karl Tierney’s book on this blog:

https://tealeavesamemoir.wordpress.com/2020/01/23/karl-tierneys-poetry-collection-airing-on-this-way-out-amreading-lgbtq/

 

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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Yesterday, I went to see a program on Toni Morrison at the African American Museum in Philadelphia.  We saw the movie about Morrison called The Foreigner’s Home which included footage of the Paris street poets who were brought into The Louvre at Morrison’s insistence.

The movie is really remarkable. I highly recommend it.

Several authors, including the Philadelphia-based poet Sonia Sanchez, held a conversation afterwards and one read an essay from the last book that Toni Morrison wrote that included the line:

Truth is trouble.

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Recently, I read with considerable consternation that suicide rates among LGBTQ youth are up — again.

Then I was targeted online with anti-LGBT citations from the New Testament. I was tempted to let this go — like most writers I have moved onto other topics — but then it occurred to me that there is a connection between anti-gay sentiment in the Bible and LGBTQ youth committing suicide.  Young people are being taught that they don’t matter — and the few anti-gay passages in the Bible are trickling into the bully culture of mainstream society.

My first thought was that citing the anti-gay passages from the Bible does not make one a Biblical expert.  In fact, the second citation was wrong.  The first citation from Romans (which Biblical scholars believe was written by the Apostle Paul who is believed to have been gay himself, unfortunately with no small amount of internalized homophobia) is one of the few (if not the only) references in the Bible to lesbianism. The citation reads, “women exchanged natural relations for those contrary to nature.”

To which I reply, “Good for them!”

It’s nice to know that some 2,000 years ago, same sex passion did exist and was important enough to have several mentions in the Bible.

There are plenty of references to men engaging in “unnatural” passions with each other. But what I noticed most when I read part of the Bible as research for my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders is the intense misogyny.  By comparison, the anti-gay parts seemed to drop away.  It is after all — one (patriarchal ) history of the creation of the world. Some would say it is THE history of the world.  But there are plenty of creation myths. Then there is science.  The Bible just happens to be a very popular set of creation myths.

There are also, beyond a doubt, some absolutely beautiful passages in the Bible. So rather than throwing out the baby with the bath water, I have decided to claim the parts of the Bible that suit me.

 

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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Saying goodbye to a friend is hard to do.  This afternoon I learned that Judith K. Witherow has died.  I knew she had multiple health issues and that she had been in the hospital for a long time and that it sounded very serious. Her long-time partner Sue Lanaerts was with her on January 27th when she died. Judith’s two living sons were also with her.

I felt very sad learning this news. The sadness was very heavy — a physical presence.  I was on the floor doing yoga when two thoughts came to me. The first was the thought that she is done with her suffering. The second thought was that she can still offer us her guidance.  Judith was very wise. We are lucky to have had her for as long as we did.  Still, it is hard to say goodbye.

Goodbye, Judith.

I am running this review of her book that I wrote four or so years ago when her book first came out. The review originally appeared in The Huffington Post.

 

I was  reminded of the quote from the late poet Muriel Rukeyser — ‘’What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open’’ — when I read  Judith K. Witherow’s collection of essays, Strong Enough To Bend, Twin Spirits Publishing, 2014.

In her collection of essays, Strong Enough To Bend, Judith K. Witherow describes herself as a “back up writer, one of many who stand in the background, providing the harmony and staging the recognition for those whose names are on the covers of the books or the mastheads of the publications.”  

She describes Strong Enough to Bend as her solo performance.  And what a performance it is.  I found that I could not put Strong Enough To Bend down — except for time to recollect how much the essays reminded me of friend’s lives and my own.

Native American lesbian and truth teller, Witherow starts her collection with essays on her background being raised poor in the northern Appalachian mountains.

“We never lived in a place that had screen doors or screens in the windows. This allowed everything, including snakes, to come and go at will. We learned at an early age to pound on the floor before getting out of bed.”

In the second section, Judith talks about how she came out with three sons that she gave birth to during a marriage to an abusive man.  Raising her sons in the 1970s a time when lesbians were losing their children to custody battles with ex-husbands, presented Judith with an ongoing dilemma of when to officially come out to her children. It’s not surprising that her three sons, who were raised by Judith and her long-term partner, Sue, knew that their mother was a lesbian far before she told them and were fiercely protective of their two mothers.  

She devotes another section of the book to her multiple health issues which stem, no doubt, from her poverty ridden childhood, and to her struggles with the medical establishment. In 1979, Judith was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.  Judith’s health issues are numerous and it is clear that we are lucky to have her with us on this planet.  Hers is a voice that we were not meant to hear.

A strong feminist, Judith is a role model for valuing herself. In the 1996 U.S. presidential election, Judith was a write-in candidate prompted by her belief that she “was the best qualified of any of the candidates.”

Judith K. Witherow (second to right) with me (far right on the end) with Janet Aalfs on the left and Renée Bess. Judith, Janet and Renée were doing a reading at the Big Blue Marble Bookstore in Philadelphia and I was hosting.

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I am reposting this talk that I gave last year to mark the occasion of Hanukkah which  starts on Sunday, December 22 and ends Monday, December 30th. The talk was a Unitarian Universalist (UU) service that was called “Ringing in the Light.”

I talked about my childhood memories of being touched by Hanukkah and my experiences in celebrating the Winter Solstice and with the Gnostic Gospels. You can see my words below on the YouTube video or read the reflection below that.

As far back as I can remember, the light beckoned.

The sun was a ball of fire in the sky.  The light changed into vibrant colors in the morning and the evening.  It filtered through the branches of trees.  The sunlight had, in fact, shined down and helped to form the trees.  So the light was in the trees (along with the rain and the earth).

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Even when it was cloudy, I knew the sun was there. Sometimes I could see the ball of sun outlined behind the gray clouds.

The first time I remember being drawn to the light in a religious context was when I was in elementary school watching a play about Hanukkah.

Despite its nearness to Christmas on the calendar, Hanukkah is one of the lesser holidays in Judaism. Hanukkah, also called The Festival of Lights, began last Tuesday at sunset and ends this Wednesday, December, 20th, at nightfall.

When I asked my partner what Hanukkah meant to her, she responded that it is a celebration of survival, hope and faith.

The holiday celebrates the victory of the Maccabees, detailed in the Hebrew Bible and the Talmud.

This victory of the Maccabees, in approximately 160 BCE –  BCE standing for Before The Common Era — resulted in the rededication of the Second Temple.  The Maccabees were a group of Jewish rebel warriors who took control of Judea.

According to the Talmud, the Temple was purified and the wicks of the menorah burned for eight days.

But there was only enough sacred oil for one day’s lighting. It was a miracle.

Hanukkah is observed by lighting the eight candles of the menorah at varying times and various ways.  This is done along with the recitation of prayers.  In addition to the eight candles in the menorah, there is a ninth called a shamash (a Hebrew word that means attendant). This ninth candle, the shamash, is in the center of the menorah.

It is all very complicated of course – the history and the ritual – but what I remember most is sitting in that darkened auditorium and being drawn to the pool of light around the candles on my elementary school stage.

I am not Jewish.  I say that I was raised secular – but that is putting it mildly.  My mother was, in fact, a bible-burning atheist.  Added to that, I was always cast as one of the shepherds in the school’s Christmas pageant since I was the tallest child in elementary school.

Also, I had Jewish neighbors – and as a future lesbian and book worm growing up in the sameness of a working class neighborhood — I may have responded to difference and had a realization that I was part of it.

Then I grew up, came out, thanked the Goddess for my secular upbringing, and celebrated the Winter Solstice with candles and music. This year, the Solstice falls on December 21st. The Winter Solstice (traditionally the shortest period of daylight and the longest night of the year)  is this coming Thursday in the Northern Hemisphere of planet Earth – which is where we are.

One of our friends who we celebrated the Solstice with is Julia Haines. Julia is a musician who has performed at Restoration.  She has a wonderful composition of Thunder Perfect Mind which she accompanies with her harp playing. You can find her on YouTube. Thunder Perfect Mind, of which I just read an excerpt, is one of the ancient texts of the Gnostic Gospels.

The Gnostic Gospels were discovered in the Egyptian town of Nag Hammadi in 1945.  Originally written in Coptic, these texts date back to ancient times and give us an alternative glimpse into the Gospels that are written in the New Testament. They are so important that they are banned in some conventional religions.  And in my book, that’s a good reason to read them.

Reading them led me to think of myself as a Gnostic – meaning one who has knowledge and who pursues knowledge – including mystical knowledge.  The Gnostic Gospels have provided me with inspiration for my writing, particularly in my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders, soon to be published by Adelaide Books. And they also inspire me in the novel I am currently writing — titled The Unicorn, The Mystery.

I am inspired by the Gnostic Gospels in part because they let in the light.  In particular, they let in the light of the feminine.

As Julia says in her rendition of Thunder:

am godless

I am Goddess

So how does finding the light factor into my experience of Unitarian Universalism? Later in life, after fifty, I found a religion that fit my values.  I found a religion wide enough – and I might add, secure enough – to embrace nonconformity.

In finding a congregation that is diverse in many ways – including religious diversity – I have found a deeper sense of myself.

And in that self, I recognize that the darkness is as least as necessary and as important as the light.

As a creative writer, I spend much of my time in the gray-matter of imagination.

It is in that darkness where I find the light.

 

Namaste

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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