A friend requested that I repost my manifesto.
Note: I began my manifesto by listing my values - relationships, creativity, spirituality, health, natures, learning and education, Creating a list of what you value will provide a skeleton for you to begin to build your manifesto.
"if you have faith, even if it's only as tiny as a mustard seed, you can move a mountain." Our Bible school teacher passed around a necklace with a mustard seek embedded in plastic, while she explained the power of faith. Or tried. We didn't challenge her. Those weren't the days when a child would yell out "Are you crazy. You mean you think you can just sit there and believe and the whole mountain will move?"
We lived in a town surrounded by mountains and I had never heard anyone express concern about their placement. The story made an impression, but it didn't make a lot of sense from my eight year old perspective.
I was still thinking about it when I got home and did what I always did when something didn't make sense. I asked my father. He was brilliant. He taught calculus at an engineering school, read Chaucer and Shakespeare for personal enjoyment, and did crossword puzzles in ink. He started college at 15, had 3 majors and 2 minors, and completed one of his master's degrees in French. He was one of the few adults who never talked down to me because I was a child. He made me feel he respected my opinion as much as one of his student's or another adult's.
He had an extensive vocabulary yet communicated clearly. He wasn't interested in impressing others. He was interested in learning and education.. "if you can't explain something simply, you don't understand it."
My father could have been very judgmental about education and degrees, but he was concerned with learning for the joy of it. He literally lit up when given the opportunity to help others,process information. He had been a Methodist Sunday school teacher for nearly two decades, so he was well prepared for this conversation.
He explained that the mustard seed represented a spiritual point of view and the mountain represented a problem or challenge. "The mustard seed story illustrates if we have faith, we can solve our problems. It is also about taking the responsibility to believe in ourselves enough to confront our concerns."
"But," he continued, "we don't necessarily have to solve a problem. Sometimes we can move a mountain by changing our perspective. If we have faith, and stop reacting and trying to fix things, we might find that what we perceived as a mountain is a blessing in disguise. We often make things harder than they have to be by trying to control everything."
My dad used an example that made the lesson clear. I had recently been concerned that a friend was mad at me because she had been avoiding me for a couple of days. She had been planning a surprise party for me. I had been angry and hurt and began avoiding her. Later, I felt terrible.
Faith comes from inside .We don't need to prove to anyone we have it if we do. It extends beyond the faith we have in ourselves. It is about giving others, and life's circumstances,, the benefit of the doubt, and not making judgements or assumptions.
I wrote this years ago, when my brother and I joined the Pine Street Presbyterian church in Harrisburg, PA. Recently, there are events causing me to question our county's direction. Revisiting this helped shift my perspective and give me peace of mind. I hope it will do the same for you.
Recently a friend and I were discussing the direction this country is taking and I was reminded of this exhibit I visited at the American Visionary Arts Museum in January, 2013,
Lessons from Nature is a topic that has fascinated me for a lifetime. Even so, I was totally unprepared for the insights of Esther Krinitz, a holocaust surviver, artist and story teller, whose work was featured at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland.
When I first walked into the museum I was captivated by the whimsy and humor. My guard was down. Had I heard this story at a holocaust museum or concentration camp in Germany I'd have been braced for horror. But I was at my most receptive - my heart was open and unsuspecting.
I glanced at the tapestries before noticing an accompanying video, and sat down in child like wonder, expecting only delight. The video began. "This was not what I came to see," I silently protested, but stayed, mesmerized and paralyzed, enthralled, captivated, stunned.
Esther weaves her mesmerizing story with a needle and thread, creating tapestries to depict her memories of the holocaust. Time and again she referenced the gifts of nature in her journey. She and her sister were hidden and sheltered from the Nazis by nature. A kind gentleman provided them with a garden plot to grow food for their survival. One tapestry depicts a Nazi soldier being attacked by bees when he began interrogating her. A cherry tree, laden with fruit, depicts 'money growing on trees' in America.
I'm still processing my lessons from Esther. My perceptions and understanding have been heightened and altered. She relived the nightmares and miracles, creating an unforgettable story of horror, survival, and gratitude, one stitch at a time.
We were asked not to take photographs inside the museum, but you can read more about her journey here - Art and Remembrance.
Mycala and I are considering collaborating on a "Mom 'n Me" cookbook. I made the crust - she made the blueberry pie filling. It looks like jewels so I had to add it to my 'Today's Treasure'. I'll report back after I try it!
UPDATE: The pie was pure bliss - absolutely scrumptious! This may be my new favorite pie! Thank you Mycala!
When I find myself becoming defensive about a 'weed', and if you've followed my blog, you know I do from time to time, it occurs to me that it's probably time to seek help! Hahahaha! This time the plant I'm defending is poke. My friend Carrie has no empathy for the stand I'm taking because it's taking over her garden and yard, but as always, she's patient with my idiosyncrasies.
My expectation certainly isn't that people nurture and cultivate it. Actually, the plant has done well on its own for centuries without any coddling from gardeners. It's just that anytime the wrath directed at a plant eliminates the appreciation for its benefits - and it does have benefits - my first instinct is to guide them to look from another perspective.
Polk Salad Annie
Tony Joe White
If some of ya'll never been down south too much
I'm gonna tell you a little bit about this
So that you'll understand what I'm talkin' about
Down there we have a plant that grows out in the woods
And in the fields looks somethin' like a turnip green
And everybody calls it polk salad, polk salad
Used to know a girl lived down there
And she'd go out in the evenings and pick her a mess of it
Carry it home and cook it for supper
'Cause thats about all they had to eat, but they did all right
Down in Louisiana, where the alligators grow so mean
There lived a girl, that I swear to the world
Made the alligators look tame
Polk salad Annie, polk salad Annie
Everybody said it was a shame
Cause her momma was a workin' on the chain gang
(A mean vicious woman)
Everyday ?for supper time, she'd go down by the truck patch
And pick her a mess of polk salad, and carry it home in a tow sack
Polk salad Annie, the gators got your granny
Everybody says it was a shame
Cause her momma was a workin' on the chain gang
(A wretched, spiteful, straight-razor totin' woman
Lord have Mercy, pick a mess of it)
Illustrated Journal Page - Poke
The berries above are colored with poke ink - beautiful variations from pinks to purples.
Yesterday, as I put the hydrangeas in my vase I thought back to the day I received it from my special guy. It was literally a half century ago.. I thought it was the most beautiful vase I’d ever seen and it was undoubtedly the first truly elegant gift I'd ever received. It wasn't the kind of thing we ever had in our home and it represented a different way of looking at life.
My Mother was a minimalist long before the term was born. We had very few items that weren't absolute necessities and I don't remember ever seeing a vase or a bouquet in our home. If there had been one, I can guarantee it would not have been in a vase that required polishing. Fiesta ware and stainless steel were much more practical. We each had our own plate, bowl and cup - my set was blue, my brother chose yellow, my dad's set was an orangey peach and mother chose gray. Mother was a superlative cook, just like my grandmother, but meals were functional, not an experience. We ate. We did not dine. At the time, I didn't realize there was a difference.
My vase is sterling on bronze and requires polishing. Few household chores bring me more satisfaction than polishing metals There is a quiet, meditative feeling about considering the artistry and work that went into creating something useful as well as beautiful. Polishing, whether my copper cookware, silver flat ware, or various containers, requires that I slow down, pay attention and experience gratitude.
An empty vase also represents endless possibilities for creativity! Looking at negative space, gives a wealth of opportunities for interpretation! Oh, that's another blog post!
Anyway, in sharp contrast to our simplistic life style, my grandmother surrounded herself with flowers, gardens, vases, heirlooms and many items to polish! She ran a 74 acre farm by herself, with black angus, pigs, chickens and she raised corn and grain to feed them all. In addition, she raised, canned and prepared the food for herself and the family and friends she entertained all year long..
My grandmother's favorite flower was the dandelion and she taught me to make garlands, split stems, gather leaves for salads, and make wishes while blowing the seeds. She knew the name of every plant on her farm and would take me to visit them, sharing legends and lore. We gathered some for recipes and products, and others we admired and left behind.. We told time by the four o'clocks by the pump beside the house, gathered baney hen eggs from under the lilac bushes, and she shared stories of the fairies dancing around the mullein stalks. (She was from Indiana, after all, and very familiar with James Whitcomb Riley's pixie people).
My grandmother's formal gardens were spectacular! There were glorious stalks of gladiolas in every color, roses so fragrant we wanted to eat them - and we did, Iris, tulips, daffodils and narcissus. Other less spectacular, but often more interesting flowers were in the fields, beside the fence posts or on the way to the barn. There were pinks, primroses, cornflowers, and columbines, bleeding hearts, day lilies, honey suckle and lavender. We made dolls from the hollyhocks, pressed flower stationery, garlands and wreaths for our hair, and rings, necklaces and bracelets.
When we left Indiana and moved to West Virginia, I missed my grandmother's gardens and fields. Thankfully, I found an abandoned garden behind the faculty apartments at West Virginia Tech, on the way to the football field and the waterfall I visited almost every day. The garden, plus the wildflowers and trees along the mountain paths, brought such peace, as well as more plants to identify and study! I found spring beauties, blood roots, and sassafras, and some old friends - lady's slipper orchids, Dutchman's Britches, trilliums, celandine, coltsfoot and chicory.
After my father died, we moved to Mechanicsburg, PA. I hated it. I was homesick and heartsick. We lived in town and I was surrounded by streets and sidewalks. I called it Cement City. There were no mountain streams or paths, rivers, or waterfalls. Years later I moved into a little fishing cabin by the Yellow Breeches in the same town and got a different perspective, but at the time, the separation from nature and all I had learned to love was devastating. And no one around me seemed to notice there was something missing.
I chose Clarion University for it's geographic similarities to Tech, and not for academics. I'll admit I was probably misguided, but i finally felt at home. I continued to search for plants in Cooks Forest and by the Clarion River, as well as doing research. When I found Stalking the Wild Asparagus by Euell Gibbons, I broke a date to read it. I literally couldn’t put it down. I felt bad but felt compelled to continue reading and taking notes. If the guy had said “I’ll pick up a pizza, bring a book and join you” we’d probably still be together. I really liked him, but he never asked me out again.. My loss.
Later, I was fortunate to live in homes surrounded by some of my favorite herbal friends, And I still do. They make every aspect of life more fulfilling. I designed and delivered a course called Enhancing Your Life with Herbs that included many aspects, from haunting herbs and herbs for romance, to healing, doctrine of signatures, zodiac herbs, holiday herbs, recipes, crafts, legend and lore. You can find many of them among my hidden treasures if you'll take the time to look!
As I reflect on my life's journey, I've been blessed. My parents taught me to value education, research, life long learning, music and diversity. Plants weren't specifically on their list, but the lessons all interweave with the path I've chosen.
Anyway, there are hundreds more stories! I’m going to write them down and call it My Life’s Journey Among the Flowers or something similar. I'll include illustrations, stories, crafts and recipes, and legends and lores, I painted over 200 illustrations for my herb course but I want to redo most of them. The reflections on the vase, and how flowers and herbs have influenced my life, have given me a framework. So if I disappear, you'll know why!
Have a fabulous summer!
The northern hemisphere's longest day of the year is today, June 21, 2018. Though this will be our longest day, the length of those days varies considerably depending on where you live. Here in Maryland we'll have about 16 hours of daylight, while the Florida Keys will have under 14 and the most northern parts of Alaska will have 24 hours of sun!.
There are perceptions that the summer solstice has an equal number of dark and light hours (12 and 12), that is is the hottest day of the year, and that with patience, you can balance an raw egg on end. All of these are false. The hours of light and dark won't be exactly equal unless you live in a very limited geographic area and the length of the day doesn't effect the temperature. I admit I've tried to balance the egg more than once and I've never beens successful.
The summer solstice means different things to each of us. For some it is simply Mother Nature's official start to summer. Others head to Stonehenge to wait for the perfect moment when the sun rises over the Heel Stone and hits the central Altar Stone. There are celebrations and parades, including the Santa Barbara and the Fremont Solstice Parade, which includes a naked bike ride. Others spend quiet moments, meditating, journaling and expressing gratitude. In Sweden, they gather flowers and herbs on the day of the solstice, and some make them into wreaths for their hair or add them to food and decorations for festivities that last all day, often ending with a bonfire. Here in Baltimore, listening to jazz in the exquisite gardens at the Rawlings Conservatory has always been one of my favorite ways to celebrate!
How delightful that we can adapt those celebrations in our own way. I've already done my daily meditation and journaling, I will be gathering herbs and flowers for recipes and decorations and i may fashion a wreath if there is time. I will listen to jazz as I prepare my favorite solstice recipes for an evening picnic, and it is very likely that Zippy will join me to howl at the moon, with or without the bonfire. Our area frowns on open flames.
My celebration begins before the actual day. Gratitude, vulnerability and contrast are on my mind as the day approaches. The solsitce promises another season, rich with nature's abundance. Many don't live in areas where there are four distinct seasons, and many don't want to! But I am grateful for the annual reminders of life's passages - birth, growth, maturity, death and decay, and back to the renewal of birth - all keep me aware. They also provide seasonal contrasts and variety, which adds so much to life.
There is a sense of vulnerability during these times. What is more vulnerable than a seed, bursting forth from its safe dark shell to expose its inner most essence? Seeds provide a metaphor for what we can become if we do our inner exploration and allow our most personal gifts to be exposed and shared. It takes courage and faith to share who we are with the world.
And then there is contrast - yin/yang. The hot forces of the summer's yang need to be balanced with the coolness of yin. If we are aware of these contrasts, we can be better prepared. This year in particular, from the raging molten lava of the volcanic eruptions in Hawaii, to the anger and rage resulting from our current political situation, we need to find ways to bring balance.
In an earlier post I referred to the serenity prayer - to let go of what we can't control, to take action if we can make a difference. There is little we can do when volcanoes rage, but we can take action to improve the political situation.
It is imperative for our health to detach as much as possible while gathering and processing information. We all have different sources. It is best to find factual information that doesn't incite anger, fear or violence. Internal rage can do more damage to you than it will to any issue you are hoping to resolve.
The solstice is a time of opportunity and growth. Have the faith to open your heart and share your talents, creativity and unique gifts. We can all contribute to making this world a better place. What seeds will you plant during the solstice? How will you nourish them and encourage their growth? What ideas and talents do you have that no one else can share with your special grace and flair? What gifts will you harvest in the coming months?
I journal daily and add seeds at the bottom of my pages so I can return to review the dates when new ideas, relationships, and projects first appeared. Many of my seeds don't even sprout, but others grow roots, fruit, and even create seeds that become spin off projects and experience. I love processing and seeing the visuals of the seeds is an exciting way to process!
I hope your solstice will be filled with joy, hope and celebrations with loved ones, and the seeds you plant in the next few weeks will result in a bountiful harvest in the months ahead.
My hydrangeas are so gorgeous so I thought I'd share!
The name Hydrangea comes from the Greek word for water, "hydra", and “angos,”, the word for vessel.
The hydrangea is a flower of duplicity, both in form and meaning. It's large and showy pompom is mad of tiny, delicate, four petaled flowers. It has two meanings as well. It has been associated with sincere and heart felt emotions and gratitude, but a contrary meaning if one of coldness and frigidity.
At one time, families were cautioned not to place hydrangeas near their front door if they had single daughters. The flowers guaranteed the maidens would never marry.
Hydrangeas contain cyanide. DO NOT eat them. One of my first thoughts was how darling the delicate flower segments would be candied, like violets or lavender (recipes for both are hidden somewhere on this site, by the way.) But I am always cautious and do research. Sadly, they are poisonous and can't be candied or used in salads or desserts. Luckily, there are plenty of other herbs and flowers available.
They do come in handy for other purposes though. In addition to making gorgeous fresh bouquets, they can be dried and used in wreathes, bouquets and garlands, but they are best made while the flowers are just beginning to dry, and placed where they won't be touched or moved. Once dried, they are very fragile.
You are the only one who has the answer to "Today's Treasure". Your answer could lead you on a treasure hunt to a more peaceful and productive journey.
Fill in the blank.
We are surrounded by __________________
What is the first thing that comes to mind?
Choose your word before you scroll down!
Simply answering this question can say a lot about who we are, our stress level, and how we spend our time. Does your answer represent something wonderful you value and appreciate, or something you fear? Is it something in the present moment or does is involve things that relate to the past or the future? Does your answer direct you to action for improvement or simply more frustration?
I recently asked this question in a training and the answers were as varied as the people in the room.
Here are a few -
Answers were as varied as the differences in people and their points of view. There were examples of both half empty and half full. Some people felt hopeful, others hopeless.
If you thought of something positive, you will attract more of it into your life. Congratulations! What we focus our attention on increases. This is a universal law, first ecognized by the ancient philosophers and it continues today with Mike Dooley, Deepak Chopra and other great thinkers of our time.
With all of the concerns in the world right now, we undoubtedly need to pay attention and be aware of injustice. There are many parallels to things we've seen play out in history. Turning our heads, denying and being naive and uninvolved won't serve us well.
But we need to be cognizant of whether we can (and will) take action, or whether we will allow concerns and frustrations to continue to instill worn out messages playing over and over in our heads. If we don't, or won't, take action, our stress will continue.
If we can't think of any action that will improve our situation, we need to simply let go and focus our attention on what is in the realm of our possibilities.
The Serenity Prayer
If you've followed my blog for long, you can probably guess my answer. Treasures. They are everywhere! Some are hidden but many are right in front of us. Either way, aren't we blessed? If I didn't focus on my blessings, I wouldn't have the strength or the energy to address things that concern me.
Hopefully, you'll be able to direct most of your attention to the beauty and abundance that surrounds us, and have the optimism and energy left to find out how to make a difference. We are living in challenging times and we need positive, caring people to join forces and take action.
"To avoid criticism, say nothing, do nothing, be nothing."
So many, myself included, are distracted with the fear based events of the day - the political situation, the media's successful attempts to keep us uncomfortable and distracted. These distractions rob us of the our energy.
One of the last things we think about is our talents, our gifts, what we have been brought on this earth to share to add value to our own lives and the lives of those impacted by our voice. Too many of us our silent.
Lack of confidence in our opinions and perspectives is also a factor. The fear of being judged keeps many of us silent. There was a time that one negative comment could stop me cold. A quote from Aristotle - "To avoid criticism, say nothing, do nothing, be nothing" - created a shift in my perception. Now I collect criticism. It means I am extending my reach beyond what is safe. Leaving our comfort zones is the only way any of us will ever truly have an impact.
If we blend in the mushy middle of what is always safe, our voice will remain common and essentially useless. Our talents, gifts and opinions are valuable when they are used to make others think. Sometimes their not agreeing with us will ultimately have more value than rubber stamping our cautious, guarded options. We have an obligation to share our gifts in a way that makes us vulnerable and valuable.
"My mission is
to help others see and cherish the beauty,
romance and treasures within and around them
that are often dismissed or completely overlooked."
Mikell is a writer, artist and professional treasure hunter, finding the greatest treasures in the wonderful people who enter her life!