Sunday, August 4, 2019

What is this devouring machine?

Why have we fed nearly all of our most beautiful lakes, rivers, and streams to a devouring machine, a human-created ‘god’ that has no consciousness, no ethics, no heart? This machine is called capitalism and it was created by humans; something made-up, just a ‘theory’ that was tried out on the whole world, an experiment that has gone very wrong, in which most of us are complicit. 

Many people may think that sacrificing to the gods is something humans did long ago, that giving the best foods, the best craftwork and art to the gods in order to give thanks and ensure a good harvest for all was ‘primitive.’ But we have simply twisted this beautiful practice of gratitude and respect, and instead we now sacrifice our oceans, our mountains, our forests, our freshwater, our air, to our god of capitalism everyday, so that we can have more and more and more, more plastic gadgets and games that break in a week, more garages and storage units filled with broken and unused crap that we never needed at all. And what about human sacrifice? That taboo subject that we are so sure we would never do? We sacrifice humans every day, every minute, to our god of capitalism. This god has an insatiable appetite for the poor and was first created on the backs of slaves and continues to be fed through the gaping maws of mining, dredging for tin and sand, sweatshops, children recycling dry-cell batteries in Bangladesh, mind-numbing and body destroying factory workers the world over… The list of its appetites goes on and on. This is human sacrifice. 

But instead of spending energy blaming, since we are almost all entangled in this gods grip, we can learn from this massive failure and participate in co-creating an economic system that is not a machine, that is not destroying our home, but is embedded in the laws of nature and reflects a deeper truth, that we are all – humans, animals, plants, minerals, the elements – part of the community of the Earth. It is an enormous task to be sure, as the economic system infiltrates almost every aspect of 'civilization' as we know it. But humans created this and humans can create something far better. We can create a living economy, an ecosystem economy that has parameters beyond which it simply can’t go, a system that can respond within the natural laws that do not poison one’s home and one’s body. We can stop feeding the machine that unthinkingly devours and start living in ways that support all life, build community, and feed what is truly valuable – human lives, animal lives, the soil, the water, the air, our capacity for compassion, reciprocity, gratitude, love – all the things that give meaning to our lives and help us to become true human beings. 

A big challenge is that while the creation of this god-machine mainly serves a very small percentage of people with the big winnings, it serves a large swath of the ‘middle classes’ with the crumbs, which are large enough and just satisfying enough to create a kind of complacency or sleepiness that allows people to look away, not think too deeply about things, and keep the machine fed at any cost. 

And when we create something new, are we going to simply find ways to continue this meaningless and insatiable consuming lifestyle but do it with less pollution and less waste? Is that all we really want? Is that the highest embodiment of humanity? Are we really just here on this amazing and awe-filled blue marble hanging in space to buy and sell mostly useless things? Is that it? If not, then we need to watch out, to pay attention, to not just settle for the green washing solutions.  Yes, to be sure, we need to find paints that aren’t toxic, substances that are truly biodegradable, methods that don’t create pollution and aren’t poisonous, and clean up all the messes, but can we also look deeper than this?  We’ve been under the spell of this inhuman machine for so long, we are in danger of forgetting our own humanness, our souls, the soul of the Earth… What are we really hungry for deep inside? Why do people feel so depressed, why all the suicides, the need for numbing drugs and alcohol? What happened to our human values, to the desire to give back, to make a contribution to the world, to be of service, to love and be loved, to care for the Earth, to feel grateful, to experience a deeply meaningful and well-lived life? None of that requires an unbalanced amount of worldly goods or useless stuff, right? So we can each start feeding that inhuman machine less and less. Step away and explore other much more interesting ways of life… To paraphrase Anne-Marie Bonneau @zerowastechef, “We don’t need millions of people doing this perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.” 

While I don't feel that science will solve our folly–only a change in our consciousness, our attitudes, beliefs and understanding, can do that–I do think that science will certainly help clean up some of the messes and help us create nontoxic/biodegradable substances. I just watched a truly inspiring documentary called Inventing Tomorrow that follows several young people whose deep love of the Earth leads them to an international science fair competition where they bring their brilliant projects for cleaning up lakes in India, filtering the lead out of tin dredging waste water in Indonesia, and creating a photocatalytic paint that removes pollutants! The hard work and dedication of these young students is truly admirable:

Underland by Robert Macfarlane

If you were to read only one book this year, make it this one! A lyrical exploration of the many mysterious activities that are happening or have happened beneath our feet... An interwoven feast of meaning, questions, philosophy, science, and stories. A rare and profound gift of a book.

"In this highly anticipated sequel to his international bestseller The Old Ways, Macfarlane takes us on an extraordinary journey into our relationship with darkness, burial, and what lies beneath the surface of both place and mind. Traveling through “deep time”—the dizzying expanses of geologic time that stretch away from the present—he moves from the birth of the universe to a post-human future, from the prehistoric art of Norwegian sea caves to the blue depths of the Greenland ice cap, from Bronze Age funeral chambers to the catacomb labyrinth below Paris, and from the underground fungal networks through which trees communicate to a deep-sunk “hiding place” where nuclear waste will be stored for 100,000 years to come. “Woven through Macfarlane’s own travels are the unforgettable stories of descents into the underland made across history by explorers, artists, cavers, divers, mourners, dreamers, and murderers, all of whom have been drawn for different reasons to seek what Cormac McCarthy calls “the awful darkness within the world.”

Global in its geography and written with great lyricism and power, Underland speaks powerfully to our present moment. Taking a deep-time view of our planet, Macfarlane here asks a vital and unsettling question: “Are we being good ancestors to the future Earth?” Underland marks a new turn in Macfarlane’s long-term mapping of the relations of landscape and the human heart. From its remarkable opening pages to its deeply moving conclusion, it is a journey into wonder, loss, fear, and hope. At once ancient and urgent, this is a book that will change the way you see the world."

Friday, September 9, 2016

The Blackhouse by Peter Mays

Just discovered The Lewis Trilogy - reading the first one, The Blackhouse... well done and a real page turner, though certainly grim.  All three mysteries take place on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebridean Islands off the Northwest coast of Scotland.

More info:

The Blood of Flowers

"Set in the legendary time of Shah Abbas the Great, the novel captures the bustle of bazaars overflowing with pomegranates, rosewater and saffron; the breathtakingly beautiful silk and gold rugs of the Shah’s carpet workshop; and Isfahan’s incomparable bridges, gardens, teahouses, and hammams. With spellbinding medieval Persian tales and prose that flows like the Zayandeh River through the city of Isfahan, The Blood of Flowers is the story of one woman’s struggle to create a life of her choosing, relying—against all odds—on the strength of her own hands, mind and will."
More info:

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Samurai's Garden by Gail Tsukiyama

Truly an exquisite story! Beautifully rendered and timeless. This one will stay with you for a long time. She also wrote "Streetof a Thousand Blossoms," "One Hundred Flowers,""Women of the Silk," and "The Language of Threads."

"The daughter of a Chinese mother and a Japanese father, Tsukiyama uses the Japanese invasion of China during the late 1930s as a somber backdrop for her unusual story about a 20-year-old Chinese painter named Stephen who is sent to his family's summer home in a Japanese coastal village to recover from a bout with tuberculosis. Here he is cared for by Matsu, a reticent housekeeper and a master gardener. Over the course of a remarkable year, Stephen learns Matsu's secret and gains not only physical strength, but also profound spiritual insight."

More info:

Holy the Firm by Annie Dillard

One of my all-time favorite authors. She holds up a lens to life and then tilts it just so and you see things anew... gasping, jaw dropped, or laughing...

"The god of today is rampant and drenched. His arms spread, bearing moist pastures; his fingers spread, fingering the shore. He rises, new and surrounding; he is everything that is, wholly here and emptied--flung, and flowing, sowing, unseen, and flown."

"We are most deeply asleep at the switch when we fancy we control any switches at all. We sleep to time's hurdy-gurdy; we wake, if we ever wake, to the silence of God."

"Give the mind two seconds alone and it thinks it's Pythagoras"

More about her books here:

Wendell Berry's novels

What a find! He wrote around eight or nine novels about the village of Port William, KY and each one is beautifully written, filled with much wisdom about the land, people and in general how to get along with one another and how to truly care for this world. These novels as well as his poetry and essays are described here (including a map of Port William:

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

As this review states "...reading it is enough to inspire missionary fervor. You must read this book." I tend to mark passages in books with small colored tabs. My copy of this book has at least 30 tabs... A couple of quotes then:

"Nowhere in Scripture is there a father who behaves wickedly toward his child, but the rich and powerful in Scripture are wicked much more often than not."
"Feuerbach is a famous atheist, but he is about as good on the joyful aspects of religion as anybody and he loves the world. Of course he thinks religion could just stand out of the way and let joy exist pure and undisguised."

In the Springtime of the Year by Susan Hill

Beautiful, spare writing about a young village woman in England who is widowed at the age of 21
when her husband is killed while felling wood. Exquisite writing.

Maisie Dobbs Mystery Series by Jacqueline Winspear

Maisie Dobbs - Delightful series about a young British woman who sets herself up as a private investigator during the 1930s and 40s in London. She has been trained in a most unusual way and there is much wisdom in these books. Also interesting historically especially about the war, the trauma of the returning soldiers and medical personnel, and about forensics.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson

I'll let a few quotes suffice. This is a beautifully crafted novel. Her dexterity with language reminds me of Anne Michaels (author of Fugitive Pieces). This book will stay with you.

"Every spirit passing through the world fingers the tangible and mars the mutable, and finally has come to look and not to buy."

"And the dear ordinary had healed as seamlessly as an image on water."

 more quotes>>

Monday, January 28, 2013

Instruments of Darkness / Anatomy of Murder by Imogen Robertson

Well written series, very descriptive and evocative of the 1780s in England. There are two more, Island of Bones and Circle of Shadows that I look forward to reading. 

"Instruments of Darkness combines the brooding atmosphere of the best of Daphne du Maurier with the complex, compelling detail of Tess Gerritsen, moving from drawing room to dissecting room, coffee shop to country inn, and into the shadowy heart of eighteenth-century society."

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats is simply an exquisite story of unconditional love. Deeply moving and magical. Good to read along with the titles below by Jacques Lusseyran. Both books convey how visual sight really distracts us from truly seeing and experiencing anything at all. Very highly recommend!

Against the Pollution of the I by Jacques Lusseyran

This is a truly extraordinary collection of six essays. Every one is a gem. If you can't find a copy then borrow it from the library! This is one of the books I would want to have on a desert isle....

"Every once in a while a book is released that simply exalts the soul in ways that are universal, breathtaking, and marvelous. Here are six posthumous essays by Jacques Lusseyran (1924-1971), a French writer, teacher, and activist during World War II in the Resistance Movement. He was imprisoned at Buchenwald until the U.S. Third Army liberated him."

His autobiography, And Then There Was LIght, is equally as stunning.

Bodhisattva of Compassion: The Mystical Tradition of Kuan Yin by John Blofeld

Beautiful and illuminating book! I look forward to reading his other works.

"John Blofeld evokes the charming presence of Kuan Yin through colorful anecdotes, personal experiences, and descriptions of Buddhist rituals and legends encountered during his travels throughout China. At the same time, he offers a learned account of the goddess's history and importance in Chinese thought and religion. He explores the origin of the Bodhisattva of Compassion in India and Tibet, in the form of Avalokiteshvara (Tibetan: Chenresig), a male deity who evolved into the gentle mother/maiden figure of Chinese Buddhism. Meditation and visualization techniques associated with Kuan Yin are given, and her principal iconographic forms are described. Illustrated with images from Chinese and Tibetan sacred art, the book also contains translations of devotional poems and yogic texts. Bodhisattva of Compassion is undoubtedly the most complete and illuminating picture of Kuan Yin available."

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

I really enjoyed this, the writing is excellent and creative!
"Cloud Atlas consists of six nested stories that take the reader from the remote South Pacific in the nineteenth century to a distant,post-apocalyptic future. Each tale is revealed to be a story that is read (or observed) by the main character in the next. The first five stories are interrupted at a key moment. After the sixth story, the other five stories are returned to and closed, in reverse chronological order, and each ends with the main character reading or observing the chronologically previous work in the chain. Eventually, readers end where they started, with Adam Ewing in the nineteenth century South Pacific." 

Sunday, April 8, 2012

WASHOKU:Recipes from the Japanese Home Kitchen / KANSHA: Celebrating Japan's Vegan & Vegetarian Traditionsby Elizabeth Andoh

If you like simple home-style Japanese country cooking, you'll love Elizabeth Andoh's books. She also has three websites, one for each book offering more recipes and online workshops and archives.

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

This is one of my all time favorites. What a storyteller! His other two books, which are autobiographies are also good!
"The story is a riveting saga of twin brothers, Marion and Shiva Stone, born of a tragic union between a beautiful Indian nun and a brash British surgeon at a mission hospital in Addis Ababa. Orphaned by their mother's death in childbirth and their father's disappearance, and bound together by a preternatural connection and a shared fascination with medicine, the twins come of age as Ethiopia hovers on the brink of revolution.But it's love, not politics -- their passion for the same woman -- that will tear them apart and force Marion to flee his homeland and make his way to America, finding refuge in his work at an underfunded, overcrowded New York City hospital. When the past catches up to him, wreaking havoc and destruction, Marion has to entrust his life to the two men he has trusted least in the world: the surgeon father who abandoned him and the brother who betrayed him."

Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko

Beautifully crafted, very real understanding of PTSD  in soldiers. This is a must-read!
"Tayo, a young Native American, has been a prisoner of the Japanese during World War II, and the horrors of captivity have almost eroded his will to survive. His return to the Laguna Pueblo reservation only increases his feeling of estrangement and alienation. While other returning soldiers find easy refuge in alcohol and senseless violence, Tayo searches for another kind of comfort and resolution. Tayo's quest leads him back to the Indian past and its traditions, to beliefs about witchcraft and evil, and to the ancient stories of his people. The search itself becomes a ritual, a curative ceremny that defeats the most virulent of afflictions—despair."

Master of the Jinn by Irving Karchmar

Exquisitely beautiful, highly recommend this one!
"Here is a tale set on the Path of the Heart, a mystical adventure wherein a modern-day Sufi master sends seven companions on a quest for the original Ring of Power, and the greatest treasure of the ancient world - King Solomon's ring. It is the very same seal ring of a hundred legends, given to King Solomon by God to command the Jinn, those terrifying demons of living fire."

The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny (Armand Gamache mystery)

Am enjoying this mystery series by Louise Penny, most of which take place in and around Montreal.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman

This is an extraordinary read! Devastating in many ways. I think the review below says it best:

“Beautiful, harrowing, 
a major contribution to
twenty-first century

Toni Morrison, Nobel Laureate
Read more>>

Friday, September 2, 2011

Wild Fibers Magazine

Exploring the animals, art and culture of natural fiber. Beautiful magazine tells stories about people all over the world who raise animals for fiber, from yaks, to cashmere goats, sheep and silkworms!

Conversations with the Goddess by Dorothy Atalla

"Never having heard of Petra, in Jordan, Dorothy (Chickee to her friends) went there on a whim.  While exploring Petra with her family in the 1970s, Chickee found herself profoundly affected by the ruins of the ancient city. She became fascinated with Petra’s ancient people. She wondered what their arts for living were like, as well as their traditions for death. At the time of her visit in Jordan her goals were modest.  One goal was to encourage her sons to perceive themselves as global citizens by way of their father’s Middle Eastern heritage. She also had always hoped to provide her sons with a well-rounded cultural and academic education. Seven years after her trip Chickee had her first encounter with a feminine Presence." 
You'll not be sorry if you read this book! Brings clarity and understanding to many long-held misunderstandings and misperceptions.

Works & Conversations

I highly recommend this magazine! It consists of well-written interviews with very interesting people. Some of the articles can be read online and the print magazine is now offered as a gift; in turn, the subscribers are invited to pay-forward a subscription to another reader. It is a bold experiment, and to this day, the magazine costs are covered entirely by unsolicited donations from grateful readers.
Their website is a project of CharityFocus, a fully volunteer-run effort that aims to empower gift-economy efforts. Carrying no advertising, making the entire texts of past interviews available on-line without charge, and running a monthly newsletter that reaches over 28 thousand readers, ours is a humble effort to "be the change we wish to see in the world."

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Making of a Teacher: Conversations with Eknath Easwaran

This is a beautiful book! It tells many stories about Eknath Easwaren's childhood in Kerala, his relationship with his grandmother and his journey to the states, teaching meditation at Berkeley and then founding the Blue Mountain Center of Meditation & Nilgiri Press. Kerala is one of the few places where a matrilineal social structure still exists and women have a very strong and central position. I highly recommend reading this exquisite and moving story.

Racing Alone by Nader Khalili

"Is it really sane to follow one's ideals and dreams 
and race alone in today's world?...
Midway in my life I stopped racing with others. 
I picked up my dreams and started a gentle walk…
I touched my dreams in reality by racing and 
competing with no one but myself."
-Nader Khalili

Originally published in 1983, Racing Alone is Nader Khalili's first book and it takes the reader on a journey through the early years of his quest to provide shelter to people in the world. It tells the story of how an Iranian-born, Western-trained architect — armed only with notebooks, a motorcycle, and his own unique vision — set off on a five-year odyssey through the poor desert villages of his native Iran in search of a simple, inexpensive, yet permanent form of dwelling — and his ultimate triumph in discovering the "untouched magic" of clay. Racing Alone begins as one man's dream, and ends with a village of ceramic houses, an exhibition in Paris, and lectures to schools of architecture all over the world.

Road to Heaven, and Zen Baggage by Bill Porter

In the spring of 2006, Bill Porter traveled through the heart of China, from Beijing to Hong Kong, on a pilgrimage to sites associated with the first six patriarchs of Zen. Zen Baggage is an account of that journey. He weaves together historical background, interviews with Zen masters, and translations of the earliest known records of Zen, along with personal vignettes. Porter’s account captures the transformations taking place at religious centers in China but also the abiding legacy they have somehow managed to preserve. Porter brings wisdom and humor to every situation, whether visiting ancient caves containing the most complete collection of Buddhist texts ever uncovered, enduring a six-hour Buddhist ceremony, searching in vain for the ghost in his room, waking up the monk in charge of martial arts at Shaolin Temple, or meeting the abbess of China’s first Zen nunnery. Porter’s previously published Road to Heaven: Encounters with Chinese Hermits has become recommended reading at Zen centers and universities throughout America and even in China (in its Chinese translation), and Zen Baggage is sure to follow suit.

In addition, his translations of Chinese poems can be found HERE.

Harvesting Color: How to Find Plants and Make Natural Dyes by Rebecca Burgess

"Harvesting Color explains where to find these plants in the wild (and for those that can be grown in your backyard, how to nurture them) and the best time and way to harvest them; maps show the range of each plant in the United States and Canada. For the dyeing itself, the book describes the simple equipment needed and provides a master dye recipe. Harvesting Color is organized seasonally; as an added bonus, each section contains a knitting project using wools colored with dyes from plants harvested during that time of the year. With breathtaking color photographs by Paige Green throughout, Harvesting Color is an essential guide to this growing field, for crafters and DIYers; for ecologists and botanists; and for artists, textile designers, and art students."

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Lemon Tree by Sandy Tolan

This is a must read for anyone at all interested in understanding something about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The author makes an undeniably complex situation easier to grasp by tracing the stories of two families up to the current time. The writing is beautiful, clear and unbiased. It reads like a historical novel in the best sense, yet is completely factual. Please read the reviews on his website (click on the title above) and then read the book. There are also reading guides for schools, groups and congregations. I can't say enough about how important it to read this book.

With Roots in Heaven by Rabbi Tirzah Firestone

"At age seventeen, Tirzah Firestone left the oppressive home of her Orthodox Jewish parents and set off on a spiritual odyssey. With Roots in Heaven is the story of that journey, a fascinating and moving account of her evolution from rebellious young seeker to renegade rabbi. This is an inspiring, true account of a courageous woman with strong convictions and a passion to know and feel God. It is also a book that goes beyond one person's story of wandering and redemption to explore the dangers of modern religion and the joys and conflicts of intermarriage and raising interfaith children. An unforgettable story of love, sacrifice, and transformation--of grace sought and found--With Roots in Heaven offers hope, wisdom, and encouragement to anyone seeking deeper spiritual meaning in today's world."

I enjoyed this book immensely, in fact I couldn't put it down. The lessons she learns from the school of hard knocks about spiritual paths, teachings, and her own innate wisdom and feminine knowing would be helpful to women from many diverse backgrounds. Her wisdom and experiences are particularly timely as women and the qualities of the feminine come forward in the world in new and much needed ways.

The Receiving: Reclaiming Jewish Women's Wisdom by Rabbi Tirzah Firestone

"Receiving" is the literal translation of the word Kabbalah, the body of Jewish mysticism that has been passed down from men to men for centuries. Ironically, the art of receiving, that is, opening to the divine spirit as it manifests in the here and now, is one of the undocumented mysteries of women's spirituality. Now, respected rabbi and Jungian therapist Tirzah Firestone sets out to correct the enormous error of history that has omitted the contribution of Jewish women mystics, sages, and holy women from the Jewish annals. In what might be called an act of spiritual archaeology, Firestone searches for the traces of the divine feminine in the Jewish tradition in order to answer the question, "What is a woman's way to God?" Drawing on the remarkable stories of seven historical holy women--who, despite tremendous obstacles, found ways to embrace the sacred feminine in their lives--Firestone teaches us the mysteries of Jewish Kabbalah from a woman's vantage point."

This book is very helpful in understanding some of what predicated such deep schism between spirit and matter in the Western world and what is needed from the feminine to heal this deep divide.

The Spy of the Heart by Robert Abdul Hayy Darr

This is a beautiful book and I highly recommend it. The author spent five years traveling in Afghanistan bringing medicine, food, and other aid to refugees. He helps the reader to understand the politics there as well as Islamic spirituality in clear, and simple language.  Several times in his journeys he sits with Sufi teachers and these beautiful meetings are movingly described. Four of the chapters are available on the author's website or you can order the entire book.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Heart of the World: The Journey to the Last Secret Place

by Ian Baker.  This book describes many harrowing journeys in search of Shangri-La, a remote and hidden area along the Tsangpo River of Tibet.

The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating

by Elisabeth Tova Bailey.  I can't recommend this jewel of book highly enough! It is the story of a woman who has a long-term illness and from her bed she begins to observe a small garden snail that lives in a potted plant by her bed. She has been slowed down by her illness and so can truly perceive the life of this little snail. Would that we all could have our faculties of perception return to us again, as this is truly a lost skill!

It is a beautiful book, filled with wonder, enjoy!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Medicine Trails: A Life in Many Worlds by Mavis McCovey

"Sometime in 1933, in Northern California's lush Humboldt County, a Karuk medicine woman named Daisy Jones had a vision identifying the tribe's next medicine woman. Later that year, Mavis Smither (McCovey) was born, and in the first twelve years of her life she was groomed by a designated group of medicine women to become a spiritual healer.

Medicine Trails is Mavis McCovey's honest and lively account of the many worlds in which she moves: the Indian and white cultural worlds, and the day-to-day and visionary reality of the medicine woman's world, as well as trips to what she calls "the other side": one of the responsibilities of a medicine woman is to bring back a medicine man's soul if he gets lost on the trails of the world beyond—a task McCovey has been called upon to do.

One of very few first-person accounts of Native American healers, Medicine Trails is invaluable for its insights into the experiences of a modern-day medicine woman. And McCovey is a warm and engaging guide not only to her life, but also her family's history and the history of the Karuk, Yurok, and Hupa peoples of the region."

In the Land of the Grasshopper Song by Mary Ellicott Arnold & Mabel Reed

"In 1908 two young women—the authors of this book—accepted Indian Service appointments as field matrons for the Karok Indians in the Klamath and Salmon River country of northern California. Although the area had been the scene of a gold rush some fifty years earlier, they write in the foreword, "the social life of the Indian—what he believed and the way he felt about things—was very little affected by white influence. The older Indians still had the spaced tatoo marks on their forearms, by which they could measure the length of the string of wampum required to buy a wife. . . . The white men we knew on the Rivers were pioneers of the Old West. . . . All around us was gold country, the land of the saloon and of the six-shooter. Our friends and neighbors carried guns as a matter of course, and used them on occasion. But the account given in these pages is not of these occurrences but of everyday life on the frontier in an Indian village, and what Indians and badmen did and said when they were not engaged in wiping out their friends and neighbors. It is also the account of our own two years in Indian country where, in the sixty-mile stretch between Happy Camp and Orleans, we were the only white women, and most of the time quite scared enough to satisfy anybody."

Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Looking for a good book in the gothic novel genre for a long airplane flight or to curl up with on a cold, rainy day?

"I'd like to say more about this superbly entertaining book but don't dare to hint any more about its plot twists. Suffice it to say that -- and here's yet another critical formula -- anyone who enjoys novels that are scary, erotic, touching, tragic and thrilling should rush right out to the nearest bookstore and pick up The Shadow of the Wind. Really, you should." - Michael Dirda, The Washington Post

'Gabriel Garcia Marquez meets Umberto Eco meets Jorge Luis Borges...Ruiz Zafón gives us a panoply of alluring and savage personages and stories. His novel eddies in currents of passion, revenge and mysteries whose layers peel away onion-like yet persist in growing back... we are taken on a wild ride that executes its hairpin bends with breathtaking lurches.' NEW YORK TIMES

Saturday, November 6, 2010

A Story Waiting to Pierce You: Mongolia, Tibet and the Destiny of the Western World by Peter Kingsley

"A Story Waiting to Pierce You is a breathtaking account of our past and our future as human beings. Firmly and gracefully it traces the ancient threads that connect Mongolia, Tibet and Native Americans to the very origins of western civilization—showing how these sacred ties have shaped our lives today.
     This new book by the author of Reality and In the Dark Places of Wisdom is a work both of magic and of the finest scholarship. With haunting simplicity and power it tells the true story of where our western culture really came from—and of where it is taking us now."

Peter Kingsley's website

Harmony by Charles HRH The Prince of Wales

"With its holistic approach, this provocative and well-reasoned book takes the discussion of sustainability and climate change in a new direction. Prince Charles shows how the solutions to problems like climate change lie not only in technology but in our ability to change the way we view the modern world.

For decades, the Prince of Wales has been studying a wide array of disciplines to understand every aspect of man's impact on the natural world, and in that time he has examined everything from architecture to organic farming to sustainable economics. Now, for the first time, he speaks out about his years of research, presenting a fascinating look at how modern industrialization has led us to a state of disharmony with nature, created climate change, and pushed us to the brink of disaster."

Friday, November 5, 2010

Kyoto Journal Issue 75 "Biodiversity"

This is probably one of the most visually beautiful journals in the world! The current issue is especially so and has articles by Barry Lopez, Robert Brady, Satish Kumar, Thomas Berry and Gary Snyder (just to mention a few). Several are available as pdf downloads and there is an extended list of articles that are available only online.

Example of articles:

Satoyama: The Ideal and the Real by Brian Williams

Six Thousand Lessons by Barry Lopez

A Different Kind of Luxury: Japanese Lessons in Simple Living and Inner Abundance by Andy Couturier

This is an exquisite jewel of a book.  I am reading it slowly in order to savor each person's story.

"Raised in the tumult of Japan’s industrial powerhouse, the 11 men and women profiled in A Different Kind of Luxury have all made the transition to sustainable, fulfilling lives.

Based on Andy Couturier's popular articles in The Japan Times, this lushly-designed volume is a treasure chest of stories about real people who have created an abundance of time for contemplation, connecting with nature, and contributing to their communities. In their success is a lesson for us all: live a life that matters."

Vision from the Life of Hildegard von Bingen

Was very disappointed in this film. All the rich and unusual knowledge that Hildegard von Bingen received was virtually ignored in this film. They chose instead to focus only on drama and the lower nature of the various people involved. The whole film is about her one-upmanship of the abbot, her attachment to a younger nun and in earlier scenes some very graphic and gory scenes of flagellation, which she did not believe in. That's it! What a waste of an amazing caste, locations, costumes and mostly of Hildegard's legacy of knowledge about theology, medicine, and music to name only a few.

"In Vision, New German Cinema auteur Margarethe von Trotta (Marianne and Juliane, Rosa Luxemburg, Rosenstrasse) reunites with recurrent star Barbara Sukowa (Zentropa, Berlin Alexanderplatz) to bring the story of this extraordinary woman to life. In a staggering performance, Sukowa portrays von Bingen’s fierce determination to expand the responsibilities of women within the order, even as she fends off outrage from some in the Church over the visions she claims to receive from God. Lushly shot in the original medieval cloisters of the fairytale-like German countryside, Vision is a profoundly inspirational portrait of a woman who has emerged from the shadows of history as a forward-thinking and iconoclastic pioneer of faith, change and enlightenment."

The Mystery of Trees

"DIANA BERESFORD-KROEGER is a botanist and medical biochemist who is an expert on the medicinal, environmental, and nutritional properties of trees. She is also a precise and poetic writer, steeped in Gaelic storytelling traditions, gathered from her childhood in Ireland. Her indisputable passion for her subject matter will inspire readers to look at trees, and at their own connection to the natural world, with newfound awe." website

She is the author of four exquisite books, all of which i highly recommend:

  • A Garden for Life
  • Arboretum America, A Philosophy of the Forest
  • The Global Forest (series of interesting, informative essays. If you really want a simple, elegant description of carbon sequestration, read this book!
  • Arboretum Borealis, A Lifeline of the Planet

Satoyama Spirit

This is a beautiful blog written by a friend, Alan Zulch. He very articulately describes the traditional Japanese way of life lived in harmony with the land and nature which is called Satoyama. He explains that this older wisdom is being revived in modern Japan but often it is lacking a deep understanding of the ethics and values that are at its foundation.

Be sure and look at his collection of images, they convey the spirit of satoyama most eloquently:
Images of Traditional Satoyama Landscapes

Earth Pilgrim by Satish Kumar

Another good book, not to be missed!

"Satish Kumar has been a pilgrim ever since at the age of eight he joined the brotherhood of wandering Jain monks in his native India. Later he walked the length and breadth of India with Gandhi’s successor Vinoba Bhave, persuading landowners to donate a portion of their lands to the poor, and in the 1960s he made an 8,000-mile pilgrimage for peace, which included walking from India over the Himalayas to Paris via Moscow."

Tinkers by Paul Harding

A luminous novel of poetic prose that can take your breath away!

"There are few perfect debut American novels. Walter Percy's The Moviegoer and Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird come to mind. So does Marilynne Robinson's Housekeeping. To this list ought to be added Paul Harding's devastating first book, Tinkers, the story of a dying man drifting back in time to his hardscrabble New England childhood, growing up the son of his clock-making father. Harding has written a masterpiece around the truism that all of us, even surrounded by family, die alone." —John Freeman, NPR's The Best Debut Fiction of 2009

Queen of the Sun

"From the director of The Real Dirt on Farmer John comes a profound, alternative look at the tragic global bee crisis. Queen of The Sun draws from the insights of Rudolf Steiner an Austrian scientist who, in 1923, predicted that in 80 to 100 years, bees would disappear. Steiner said: “The mechanization of beekeeping and industrialization will eventually destroy beekeeping.” 
     Gunther Hauk, our main character and a protégé of Steiner’s, against all odds, begins to build the first bee sanctuary in the world. Surrounded by industrial agriculture, he is creating a 600-acre farm to help support the bees in crisis. Through his insights, we are launched into a journey around the world to uncover the compelling perspectives concerning the complex problems bees are facing such as malnutrition, pesticides, genetically modified crops, migratory beekeeping, parasites, pathogens and lack of genetic diversity from over queen breeding.  
     Seeking answers through unique and unusual beekeepers and scientists who have heart-felt respect for their bees we confront and address the harsh realities causing the bees to disappear.  Queen of The Sun finds practical solutions and discover the deep link between bees survival and our own."

The Secret of Kells

This is a beautiful and unusual animated film, both in quality and choice of subject matter.

"Magic, fantasy, and Celtic mythology come together in a riot of color and detail that dazzle the eyes in a sweeping story about the power of imagination and faith to carry humanity through dark times.

In a remote medieval outpost of Ireland, young Brendan embarks on a new life of adventure when a celebrated master illuminator arrives from foreign lands carrying a book brimming with secret wisdom and powers. To help complete the magical book, Brendan has to overcome his deepest fears on a dangerous quest that takes him into the enchanted forest where mythical creatures hide. It is here that he meets the falry Aisling, a mysterious young wolf-girl, who helps him along the way. But with the barbarians closing in, will Brendans determination and artistic vision illuminate the darkness and show that enlightenment is the best fortification against evil?"

Secret of Kells Blog

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A few beautiful films

BRIGHT STAR– A drama based on the three-year romance between 19th century poet John Keats and Fanny Brawne, which was cut short by Keats' untimely death at age 25. Directed by Jane Campion. Stars: Abbie Cornish and Ben Whishaw.

LITTLE DORRIT – 2009 Masterpiece Theater production. Really wonderful cast and location, costumes.... as always superb!

SÉRAPHINE is the story of Séraphine Louis aka Séraphine de Senlis, a simple and profoundly devout housekeeper who in 1905 at age 41, self-taught and with the instigation of her guardian angel began painting brilliantly colorful canvases. In 1912 Wilhelm Uhde (Ulrich Tukur), a German art critic and collector discovered her paintings while she worked for him as a maid in his house in Senlis outside Paris. Directed by Martin Provost. Stars: Yolande Moreau and Ulrich Tukur.

JANE EYRE– again a stellar Masterpiece Theater production from 2007. This has become one of my all time favorite versions of this story.
(all are available via Netflix)