Opportunities to assist in Texas, after Harvey

Please share! Two of my Austin friends have set up GoFundMe campaigns after Hurricane Harvey devastated the Texas gulf coast, and I want to spread the word. The need in Texas is great. However you can help, it’s much appreciated.

Barbara Newitt grew up in Houston, and her 90-year-old mother and her two sisters still live there, together, whereas Barb has been in Austin for decades.

Her mom and sisters lived a block from Buffalo Bayou, a major waterway in central Houston. Their home was flooded. After a medical emergency, four policemen came to evacuate them, somehow got a boat, and the mom, Lydia, was taken to a hospital. One daughter stayed with her. The other daughter was taken to a public shelter. Continue reading

Letting the light in

Christmas morning, 2012. I’m house- and pet-sitting Mango. It’s going to be a quiet day of solitude — I accidentally left my phone at my trailer last night. So be it. Today it can wait.

My family is gathering on the 27th, when more of us are able to gather. Hospitals are open every day of the year and someone has to care for those sick people, and children of divorced parents usually split their holidays, and sometimes people move over the holidays. I am grateful to have a family to connect with at all.

Last night I attended a warm, lovely Christmas Eve potluck and jam session in a friend’s magical backyard. Sitting outside watching the waxing, near-full moon behind a big, ever-changing, cloud-studded sky, a few stars playing peekaboo, was quite enjoyable.

So much of this season is about darkness and light. It must have been a mystery to our ancestors, especially in the far northern latitudes of Europe where mine lived for so long, to observe the days growing shorter and shorter, the life-giving light and heat of the sun retreating while the cold and dark established themselves firmly. Would the sun return? Was this the end? The warmth of family and community gathering in spite of the backdrop of long, cold nights must have been especially meaningful in the face of this big cold mystery. It was to me, last night.

This must have been mysterious enough that ancient investigators began to measure changes in day length and discovered a pattern that included the winter solstice, the turning point in which the days begin to grow long again, that happened year after year. The predictability must have lent considerable order to chaos and thus been worthy of great celebrations, once they figured it out.

No wonder this time of year is celebrated by so many cultures, that the birth of God’s son was moved to this powerful time of year.

I had an urge this Christmas morning to open all the blinds at the house where I’m staying, to let as much light in as possible.

Today the skies are partly cloudy, here in Austin, TX, where winter exists but only in spurts. Today the sunshine comes and goes. The bare branches of the deciduous trees appear silhouetted against that sky.

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I’ve always appreciated winter for the way it strips away the leaves, exposing the bone structure of trees. Perhaps that’s a reason I’m drawn to giving massage — to feel through the soft tissues to the solid bone within — or to investigating and appreciating the power of the season.

The wind is blowing. The branches are waving, the remaining leaves fluttering and quivering. Hello.

I’m having a breakfast of cooked quinoa with currants, a little ghee, and honey, along with a new favorite, a delicious three-ginger tea (ginger, galangal, and turmeric from Pukka, a British purveyor of organic and Ayurvedic herbal products), a clementine and grapefruit juice. I forgot to buy special food for Christmas morning, and I’m not missing it. Oh, I’ll indulge in tamales and eggnog and sweets for a few more days and then gladly clean up my diet again. January is good for that.

Mango has been offered a bit of sockeye salmon roasted in butter, which he turned down in favor of cat treats. Go figure. Maybe we’ll sit in the sun or snuggle in a Christmas nap together later. And later I will go out, to offer chair massage to the staff at the hospital where my daughter is working, then off to another potluck and jam session with friends.

I enjoy the connections and celebrations of the season, but the most special part of this holiday to me is waking up knowing it’s Christmas, knowing it’s a holy day, a special day unlike any other, and feeling the joy of that.

Even without a gift given or received, without the feasting, without the camaraderie of my beloved family and friends, without church, music, lights, and all the traditions of the season, it’s truly just a day to be awake and to marvel in this big mystery, to be filled with gratitude and wonder for this amazing life.

As is every day!

Election, holidays: with respect for grace and sanity

The election is over. This time it was different. I felt more detached, less prone to let others’ emotions affect me.

I don’t own a TV. I do listen to public radio in my car sometimes, and I sometimes check out the headlines online, so I’m not completely unfamiliar with current events. I check Facebook and Twitter almost daily, and I caught a lot of people’s posts/tweets about the candidates, issues, things the candidates ignored that should have been issues, spin, and so on.

I didn’t get wound up about it. I knew who I would vote for, and I followed through. The candidate I voted for won, which isn’t always the case. Now we’ll see how the nation and the world fare for the next four years.

It was surprisingly serene.

Thanksgiving was also very low-key this year. I cooked, and a couple of friends came over for potluck, talk, and play. Then we went to see The Life of Pi in 3D. I’d read the book and thought the film was well-done.

I went to another movie the next day with my family. Did not go shopping. Worked Saturday morning. Danced with my ecstatic community in our new space on Sunday morning. Worked Sunday evening.

We’re supposed to feel grateful at Thanksgiving. I have gotten leery of “supposed to” thinking. I could have posted a feel-good post about Thanksgiving, yet something inside made me hesitate.

Even better than feeling grateful because it’s Thanksgiving: Listening to how you really feel.

What if your highest purpose in life is to be yourself and to love yourself no matter what?

Anyway, my best wish for us all is to get through this holiday season with grace and sanity.