Friday, September 30, 2005

Where is God in your life?

I saw that on a bumper sticker of a car this morning on the way to work. Appropriately, at least, it was not on the back of an SUV.

The ocean, a park, with my Little Brother, writing a check out for a charity, volunteering with Big Brothers Big Sisters or the American Cancer Society, helping out a friend who needs some money, going for a walk, writing poetry, listening to great music, being with nature, orca watching, Monticello, doing a good job, being a progressive, my family, my close friends, in a Reiki session, meditative dance, enjoying a big cup of coffee ice cream, thinking of my father, fighting injustice and intolerance with all my heart, nurturing the planet, and being madly in love with the most wonderful woman on the planet.

That's where God is in my life.

Monday, September 26, 2005

An artist that will leave you gasping in awe

Juanita Yoder is an amazing artist who has worked with fiber-reactive dyes on silk for fifteen years, along with drawing, watercolor and wearable art. Her work explores abstracted natural, celestial and human forms, and draws on her experiences, dreams and relationships, as well as her faith heritage.

Ok, that's what her resume says. It also mentions the many amazing exhibitions, commissions and collections to her name, such as:

Princeton University Chapel, Princeton, New Jersey; Commissions:
Two 25-foot (8 meter) paintings on silk, May 1999.
Two 25-foot (8 meter) paintings for the 250th anniversary of the founding of the University, June 1997.

Ward-Nasse Gallery, New York, New York: International Salon 1999-2000, "Unseen Realms" 1997, "Art Without Borders" 1997, "Naked: The Natural State of Being" 1997, "Myths, Milagros and Magic" 1996, "COLOR: The Divine Madness" 1996, International Salon 1995, Invitational exhibit 1995.

Commission by Princeton University Chapel for six paintings on silk, each 12' long by 3' wide, 2001.

Commission by Lawrenceville School, NJ for six suspended paintings on silk, and one altarcloth, 2004

What Juanita's website cannot fully convey is the spirited beauty her creations bring forth. Her work can move a person to tears. I have stood and admired her art in various locations and I find myself unable to look away. My eyes continue to find new and wonderful aspects in what she paints with every viewing and I am uplifted by the energetic vibrancy that Juanita's art emotes. While a lot of her work centers around religious institutions, there is no affiliation with any particular belief system required to connect to the passionate sentiments apparent in what Juanita brings to bare.

Juanita Yoder is a gift to any person or institution that loves not only fine art, but also the soulful experience that truly emotional creativity can provoke. Check out Juanita's work at her site and also contact her directly through the same.

Note: I put this on top again because you should go check her site out. Go! Now!

Thursday, September 22, 2005

The wrong approach

It has been decided that in the future the baby will be thrown out with the bath water. Bad idea? So is slaughtering the bear population of New Jersey because humans have over-developed and can't find a way to properly co-exist with the wildlife of the area.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

This song has been pertinent to me for over a decade and continues to send chills through my inner being. Written by Emily Saliers of the Indigo Girls

My cat just spent fifteen minutes in battle against his catnip mat. Now, having won the day, he is lying on it proudly.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Timely lyrics

This song has been pertinent to me for over a decade and continues to send chills through my inner being. Written by Emily Saliers of the Indigo Girls in 1992, it strikes me as being all the more valid today in the disconnect and disinterest of those in power, but also in the reasons why the progressive voice of the masses must speak louder and louder and louder and ....

Let It Be Me

Sticks and stones
Battle zones
A single light bulb on a single thread for the black
Sirens wail
History fails
Rose-colored glass begins to age and crack
While the politicians shadowbox the power ring
In an endless split decision never solve anything
From a neighbor's distant land
I heard the strain of the common man

Let it be me (this is not a fighting song)
Let it be me (not a wrong for a wrong)
Let it be me,
If the world is night
Shine my life like a light

Well the world seems spent
And the president
Has no good idea of who the masses are
Well i'm one of them
And i'm among friends
Trying to see beyond the fences of our own backyard
I've seen kingdoms blow like ashes in the winds of change
But the power of truth is the fuel for the flame
So the darker the ages get
There's a stronger beacon yet

Let it be me (this is not a fighting song)
Let it be me (not a wrong for a wrong)
Let it be me,
If the world is night
Shine my life like a light

In the kind word you speak
In the turn of the cheek
When your vision stays clear
In the face of your fear

Then you see turning off a light switch is their only power
When we stand like spotlights in a mighty tower
All for one and one for all
Then we sing the common call

Let it be me (this is not a fighting song)
Let it be me (not a wrong for a wrong)
Let it be me,
If the world is night
Shine my life like a light

Emily Saliers 1992

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Poem: Games of Toss

Today would be my dad's 66th birthday. He died in 1992, but he carries on in my mind and in how I live my life. We were extremely close; best friends. We shared Rutgers' season tickets in basketball, coached youth sports together, spoke several times a day by phone, were openly affectionate, and just flat out enjoyed each other's company. The scene from "Field of Dreams," where Kevin Costner and his father have a catch, touches me, not because my dad and I ever needed a reconciliation, but because of what the game of catch meant to my father and I on a regular basis. For all its commonality, it was uniquely our own.

Games of Toss

A baseball glove sits
No more catches
And I miss you
Miss the games of toss.

No one throws me curves
Puts a righties’ mitt on backwards
And I miss that
Miss the games of toss.

I don’t throw now
Stopped finding release in the game
And I miss you
Miss the games of toss.

Wishing for one more time
Just back and forth like it was
And I miss that
Miss the games of toss
Miss them with you
Miss you.

Copyright SGW 1997

Footnote: My father had major league offers in his youth and, as a kid and as an adult, I heard countless stories that he was the best ballplayer in Brooklyn at the time. He had a curveball that would drop off the table, a knuckler that seemed to stop in mid-air and he could throw with both hands (hence the righties' mitt on the wrong hand). He switch-hit, too. I used to marvel at his swing because he reminded me in style of Willie Mays. Yes, he was that good.

Added to One Single Impression for Childhood Memories.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

What a Mess!

Mark Messier retired from hockey this week after 25 years in the NHL. He leaves the sport with 6 Stanley Cup championships to his credit and a level of play that few have rivaled. He ends his career as the number two man in games played and points. More importantly, he steps down with his position as one of the greatest leaders in sports history.

Messier joined forces with Wayne Gretzky to win four cups with the Edmonton Oilers. Then, after Gretzky was traded, he took the Oilers to another cup that no one could have predicted. Finally, he did what many thought would never be possible; he brought a Stanley Cup to the New York Rangers.

The chants of "1940" ended with Mark Messier. After 54 years of disappointment, Messier brought the cup to New York. For that, he will always be remembered as "The Captain" in this area and few who are not Rangers' fans can appreciate his place. People who root for the New York Rangers are a unique bunch. The best comparison might be Chicago Cubs' fans. The fans here are diehards, completely loyal and unbelievably passionate for their team. Madison Square Garden rocks like few others places and there is nothing to match a "Let's Go Rangers" chant during the playoffs. When Mark Messier guaranteed victory against the New Jersey Devils in the semi-finals, it was his Herculean effort that insured he kept his promise. The victory that followed over the Vancouver Canucks was as sweet as can be for Rangers' fans and Messier celebrated as one of us.

Mark Messier was a gifted goal scorer, best known for his patented goals from the right wing while lifting his leg behind him and snapping a shot past the goaltender. He was a fierce checker and had blazing speed. Perhaps what he is best known for is his willfulness and leadership. You could measure the determination in his glare and he could carry a team through his unceasing desire.

Mark Messier will never be forgotten in New York and his place as the man who brought the Rangers the Stanley Cup will hold mythic remembrances for many years. Goodbye and thank you, Mess.

Monday, September 12, 2005

The great outdoors

I spent a lot of time over these passed two weekends outside. From hiking in Turkey Swamp Park to strolling about Ocean Grove to walks in my neighborhood to sitting on a bench in Palmer Square, I was among the best of the natural world and I marveled at its beauty in all shapes and sizes.

Often, when walking, I enjoy closing my eyes and listening to the sounds of the birds chirping and the breeze blowing. When I am near the ocean or along a lake in the Poconos sitting on a dock reading a book, I am blessed by the added sounds of the water, whether gently flowing on the lake or breaking as waves along the coastline.

In recent days, we have seen the worst that nature has to offer in Hurricane Katrina. It can be fierce and unforgiving at times and requires a vast amount of respect and even fear. And still, I love the natural world with all of my being.

It takes a different type of person to truly understand and appreciate the trees, grass, water, birds, and other living things in the way I do. The connectivity to the energies of all living things is a unique pleasure, and if you do not open your being to this flow, you miss it. Only if you allow yourself to become one with the world around you, can you honestly feel everything. In these sensations come peace, joy and calm.

With these feelings, comes a thankfulness that I am a progressive and environmentalist. We sometimes fail on the left in doing right by the world. Plans don't work and choices are wrong. We get side-tracked and distracted. However, the motivations are correct, the cause noble and the value placed on all things living as being our equals is part and parcel of being an environmentally-conscious progressive.

A focus on business at all costs, blind consumption of resources, superiority of self over all the so-called tools for disposal on this planet, and short-sightedness of thinking cannot be a part of anyone who claims to love the world we live in. Oh sure, a person can go on trips to parks and wander about in the natural world taking pictures. But if you love it, truly love it, you cannot turn around and be a party to its destruction.

I am proud to be a bleeding heart, for with each drop of blood comes a corresponding appreciation and love. My plans might not always be the best, those that I vote for will sometimes fail me and I cannot insure the interests of everything living will receive the attention deserved in every instance. However, my motivations are as pure as they can be and I can walk among the trees, birds, lakes, crickets, and other living things knowing that my goal is not to exhaust them or harm them, but to appreciate, respect and share in what they have to offer and receive.

Go sit in a field today if you can with your shoes off and feel the grass between your toes. Walk along the ocean and watch the waves break. Climb a mountain path and smell the cleaner air.

Close your eyes and listen to what the world has to say.

Those who show their love of the natural world as reflections of the policies and politics that they subscribe to, will understand me. Those who fight against this natural world are sadly missing the best that it can offer.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Meditative Dance

Where to begin in describing what meditative dance is? It is spiritual, enlightening, healing, impassioned, freeing, grounding, soothing, and expressive. That's as good a start as any.

A new person in my life goes often to a meditative dance workshop in Philadelphia on Friday nights. In order to experience something new and exciting, and also to better connect with this person, I took part in the workshop last night.

The meditative dance workshops take place on the second floor of a performing arts building in a somewhat large-sized dance studio. There are musicians playing live music along one wall - bongos, violin, and various other instruments that all seem to flow so neatly into each other. Also, there is a leader who uses spoken voice throughout the process.

On the dance floor, you find twenty or so people of various backgrounds and ages. Some are professional dancers and some are complete doofuses, like me. There are women and men. I would assume there are doctors, lawyers, cops, clerks, and entrepreneurs, too.

You begin by doing some stretching and relaxing on the floor. The spoken voice leads you through some initial meditative exercises, and slowly you end up on your feet, moving freely to the music and energies that flow from person to person. Over the course of the next two hours, you become almost completely unaware of self, in that all inhibitions are released. However, you also gain a level of self-consciousness on a most beautiful and rewarding level that is beyond explanation.

The workshop goes through several variances of form. I spent the early stages being within myself. I moved to the music and sounds and just flowed in whatever direction my arms, legs and body chose to move me. I was singular, yet each time a person passed me or brushed against me, a piece of energies interacted. Amazing!

Later, there was a more interactive portion, where you could end up with any partner, male or female, who you would exchange and connect with. Sometimes, you each moved in sync with the other. There was also portions where one person stood still and the second person moved in accordance to the first person's still form. The partners would switch roles.

Finally, this was followed by shadowing, where one person followed behind the other and did what the first was doing. Again, after some time, the rolls switched. And this then concluded with a passive-active form, where one person, with eyes closed moved to the directions of the second person through leading from the active person via gentle touch, with rolls switching back and forth.

I found the experience to be an overwhelming joy to the senses. It was organized chaos. It was safe and warm; spiritual and gentle. I was lost and found at the same time. Energies flowed at will. Expression was in abundance. The soul became interconnected with those around it and also came more sharply into focus with the inner self.

I completed the workshop in a place of all-consuming peace and tranquility. I felt alive, relaxed and healed, even to the point where my back and neck problems felt better. Also, my new acquaintance and I grew so much more closer to each other in the most intimate and introspective ways.

Meditative dance is an incredibly empowering and passionate experience. I was as free as a bird in the clouds for two hours. The sensations still linger with me today.

Friday, September 9, 2005

The subject is Springsteen

Only someone of the depth, brilliance and relevance of Bruce Springsteen could have a three day symposium with more than 150 academic papers submitted and over 325 people from eight countries attending. The man is a genius and a poet without equal.

You listening, Mrs. Shakes?!

Sunday, September 4, 2005

Movie: Maria Full of Grace

Maria Alvarez is a headstrong and bright 17-year old Columbian struggling to make ends meet while living with several generations of her family. She comes to a crossroads when she quits a low level, abusive job and needs to find work fast. She stumbles onto a drug cartel looking for women to be carriers of drugs to the U.S. It is a sure money-maker, but it comes with strings attached; immigration officials, dangerous drug dealers and the threat of death if one of the pouches Maria must swallow opens in her belly.

Maria's story is obviously one that a thousand Maria's have lived before. The risks and false allure of financial savior grabs women like Maria who are backed into a corner. Many have ended up dead, others have likely fallen into the abyss of the drug world.

Maria is portrayed brilliantly by Catalina Sandino Moreno. Moreno gives life to Maria's many strengths - intelligence, determination, endurance - and her weaknesses - naivete to the world and a stubbornness of a belief that she has all the answers. The story is disturbing, yet needs to be told. It is filled with despair and suffering, yet also hope from within the human spirit.

Maria Full of Grace comes off as almost a documentary on drug trafficking in that we seem to have been granted an actual window into a world it is doubtful many of us can ever understand. There are no one dimensional villains. The druglord is tender and firm at the same time. The U.S. dealers are violent and heartless, but also nothing more than young men who have gotten sucked into an evil system.

Maria is the one true hero in the story, but a flawed one, and it is the flaws of all the characters, intermingled with humanity, that make Maria Full of Grace so true to life.

Watching my cat

I was home for the better part of the evening the other night. Between watching a ballgame, talking on the phone, making dinner, and surfing about on the computer, I would periodically watch my cat, Boo. Granted, I've been watching my little furball for years now, but something struck me in this case.

Boo sleeps a lot. He lounges about most of the time. Every so often, he gets up a burst of energy, runs around the house and then plops down wherever and rests.

Boo almost seems presidential. Interestingly, he is black and white in appearance, much as the president is in thought. Hmmm.

Disclaimer: My cat is way cooler and too smart for this comparison, but the inherent leisureliness of a cat sure can strike you as being similar to our ever-vacationing president.

Saturday, September 3, 2005

Something to know

Too often we find the need to be someone other than ourselves because we are afraid that who we are is not enough or it is misunderstood. Occasionally, life stumbles upon something, or someone, so real, that we are encouraged to be that which is of a highest existence, not because it is superior, but because it is us. When lucky enough to find such a wonderful place, savor it and seek it out over and over and over again. It is joyous in the moment, it is comforting in the trust and it is who we really are and wish to be.