April 12, 2014

Sun Shining on Mt Hood at Sunset with Moon Rising

The tiny white triangle at the horizon -- Mt. Hood as the sun reflects off the snow. Moon rising and Union Station down in the lower right corner.

Better seen in person as my phone camera obviously does not do justice to the beauty of the mountain, the moon, and even Union Station with its sign lit up in blue neon. You have to be here.

I love the vastness of the sky, and am reminded of Japanese paintings where the landscape and nature are all important and human beings little specks of the greater whole.

If only I had Petra's camera and her skill. Check out her photos and living stories of foreign lands and deserts at Talulaah's. She takes some truly awesome photos and her life is always fun to follow as an armchair tourist.

Sorry I haven't been around to every one's blogs lately but I've been going through something of an attitude adjustment lately. It's hard being the new kid on the block, but I'm fine now. I've found some what's up friends in the building and enjoy talking in passing. Soon there will be someone who meets the "click" test to have coffee with on a street corner.

Oliver and I have been riding around Portland on the street car getting to know the town, and it is an amazing place in so many ways. On Sunday we may even venture out to the Unitarian Fellowship. Oh, I guess it wouldn't be appropriate for Oliver to go since it is Easter. I think. A neighbor invited me to an Easter dinner but I don't think I'll go since I never was a friend of the day. Doesn't make much sense to me.

Hmmm, evidently Easter is not this Sunday but rather the next. They have these marathon practice run things on Sundays here and block off all the streets in this part of town for the morning, making it impossible to get out by car and I need the car to visit the Unitarians so Oliver will have a place to wait. It seems the neighbor bangs on the walls when he barks or whines and freaks him out.

The hotel my window looks out over opened for business today, and it is interesting seeing people move about the rooms. And oh yeah, I saw an eagle flying today just outside that same window. Amazing! I'd been told there is an eagle who hangs out around here but this is the first time I've seen it.

I started a new book--Bandini Quartet by John Fante and am loving his plain down to earth writing style. None of the flowery sentimental complicated wordy stuff of many of our modern books.

Well, that's my life in the fast lane for now. No chaos or drama about. Lots of fresh air and sunshine and trains passing in the night.

April 10, 2014

My Dog is Me

Does your dog look like you? Or act like you? Or should I say, do you look or act like your dog?

Today on the streetcar a woman nicely told me that my dog looks like me, rather like you'd tell a mother her child looks like her. I've thought about this before; the idea that we choose dogs like ourselves but this is nothing new. Check out the owners of pit bulls versus the owners of Yorkies. Seldom do you see that pit bull owner type with a small dog.

When I originally saw Oliver's photo on the humane society website, I thought he was a bit homely and also a bit like me. His hair kind of sticks to the top of his head like mine does on a bad hair day.

But much more than looks, I believe I was attracted to his heart or his spirit, or perhaps his sheer essence. You know how some people who you meet you are instantly attracted to or instantly dislike. Maybe that's just me, but with an occasional person there seems to be an instantaneous reaction to their being and I either really like them or don't, and of course there are all the others in between.

Well, Oliver was one of those instant likes. He's a very good dog and not the problem child they told me he would be, except for one thing and that is his terrible separation anxiety. He is scared crazy of being left alone and can't even sleep without watching me. I am not kidding. He can look to be sound asleep but if I move to set the computer down, he is up and ready to go.

When I was a small child, my father was in the Army and we moved about a lot. Born in Japan, and at two we moved to the states and then turned around and went back to Japan for another three years, then on to Germany and various bases in the U.S. Enough moving to scare any small child, and then to be left alone with various caregivers who often did not speak much English is the making of an insecure and anxious person.

I know what it is to be afraid and helpless and even today have not out grown the fear. I am terribly anti-social and yes, so is Oliver. We are both afraid of people and being alone and perhaps because of this fear are destined to be alone. Except for each other.

When you are scared and anxious at an early age maybe it becomes learned behavior to shy away from people. I can remember throughout grade school sitting in the corner of the playgrounds afraid to join the other kids in their games. Teachers would drag me into a baseball game or a dance but as soon as I could escape it was back to the corner to watch.

To look in and never be a true part of. And so when we go to the dog park Oliver sits under the bench beside me watching the other dogs run and play. A couple of times I've dragged him into the active area, but he just snaps at any dog who comes up to him, and so we return to our bench.

Is this merely coincidental or did I choose a dog so like myself that we feed each other a certain kind of caring and companionship that few others could meet. Do I love him because he needs me? Yes. And this caring for him is helping me to see myself and pulling me out into the world of people. Alone, I stay home on my computer.

For Oliver, I go and reach out.

Oliver is me.

Just as everyone else in this world is me along with the plants and rocks and insects. We are all one but at certain times in this earthly life I think we are more attracted to a part of all of this that feeds and nurtures us. And so we serve each other well.

I'd have one of us together but he's down for the night. Hopefully. :)
This is the best I could do earlier --

He looks anywhere and everywhere but the camera.

March 16, 2014

The Clearing

This is the story about a doctor who listens.

Perhaps you've already heard of a recent style of practicing medicine in which the doctor listens to the patient tell their story. Yes, the doctor listens.

Narrative medicine - treats the whole person, not just the illness; an opportunity for the patient to tell their story to the doctor who listens to them; restoration of the human elements of medicine; a connection between literature and medicine. (http://ce.columbia.edu/narrative-medicine)

Sound too good to be true?

Dr. Rita Charon, Professor of Clinical Medicine at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University, found patients very willing to share their symptoms when they tell the story of their lives. In the Ted talk link below, Dr. Charon describes how caregivers and patients can come together in a clearing to make contact. 

Dr. Charon refers to "the glare of death," as the acknowledgement that we will die. We are thus, in the "glare" of this knowledge. When we are faced with the fear of death as a patient, this fear can often keep us from getting better. 

Being seriously ill causes us to face who we truly are and in telling our story we share this knowledge. When a doctor listens to her patient's story she understands this fear and is able to form a connection or bond with the patient. 

Without death life does not have meaning. Death sets a limit on our lives so that we can find meaning in those things such as family and art that endure past ourselves. 

It is our stories that give us a clearing to come into with others and as our truth is exposed medicine can give us company. In the clearing no one has to be in the glare of sickness or death alone. We all join together in the clearing. 

No one need die alone. 

Sounds like the stuff of fairy tales doesn't it? Just about. If you've ever been to a large academic medical center, then you have more than likely experienced a feeling of being but one more cog in a large machine. I have found myself lost and alone and unheard because of feeling I have no voice within this mechanism. Rather than finding a cure for my illness, I often have felt more ill after leaving such a doctor visit.  

I feel like a young child who is supposed to listen to the doctor and to be quiet unless spoken to first. I've been to two specialists I will never return to, preferring my young family practice doctor even if she is less knowledgeable. 

In my last visit she had someone else doing the typing, a resident perhaps, and asked me to talk to her about what was going on. By the end of the visit I was teary eyed. I felt that I had been heard and acknowledged. It was not story telling and there was no narrative going on, but there was the opportunity to be heard and in turn to not feel so alone in my disease.

This is healing.

March 11, 2014

The Homeless at My Door

Around 7:30 this morning I was taking Oliver out for his morning walk. We took the side door and as soon as we got out the door a Pit Bull jumped toward Oliver growling and baring his teeth. Fortunately, he was restrained by some sort of leash tied to a shopping basket.

The owner's response was "oh, he's really a nice dog." Okay fine, but if he wasn't on that leash there is no doubt in my mind he would have attacked my 10-pound Yorkie. This is where the dog was camped out about five feet from my door --

Lovejoy and 9th Avenue, Portland

Only, at the time a tent had been fashioned out of a large blue tarp and it looked like folks were prepared to settle in for the duration. There was only one man at the time; I suppose watching over the stuff of his buddies.

There is usually a homeless encampment under the bridge by the tracks about two blocks down on this same sidewalk. This is fine with me. I do not see them when I walk out my door and I can choose to go a different direction.

This, within five feet of my door, was not, and is not, fine --

Honestly, I support the homeless and want them to have a place to live but like with any prejudice, I do not want them outside my door. Yes, I am prejudiced. I don't know who these people are except that for some reason, emotional or mental health or lack of money, they are sleeping on the streets. I do not know if they will steal my purse or hurt my dog. I only know that for some reason they say they have no place to go.

Personally, if I had no place to sleep at night and did not want to go to a shelter, I would find space away from the crowds because I would be ashamed for others to know I am unable to care for myself. If I was mentally ill, I would only hope there might be care for me and that I would accept it.

If I was 18 years old, new to Portland, and out for a lark, I might camp out just off a main bridge and street that moves through a nicer part of town.

I have no patience for those who would flaunt their sad state of being as if it is something to be proud of while demonstrating a lack of concern for those living in an apartment complex for senior citizens.

Maybe when I'm over my anger and have had time to reflect on the egregiousness of a city that allows people to set up camp on a street corner outside a senior complex, I will reach a new conclusion. For now, I really have no pity.

For my progressive friends, what say you?
For my more conservative friends, your thoughts are most welcome also. It's just that somehow I feel guilty for having no pity.

March 9, 2014

Yorkie, Dorkie, or Silky

Oliver arrived in his new home this last Tuesday and is proud to announce he has a new owner who is kind and patient, and very much in love with him.

This little guy has been so good to me. He had me out and walking on his first day here and gets me outdoors regardless of rain or shine. The doctor could not have written a better prescription.

Honestly, I've never been much of a dog person but when I went to the Portland Humane Society to adopt a cat I only found guys between 12-25 pounds. Yes, cats! Big monster cats.

You see, it was free pet day for those of us over 65 years, and I've been feeling pretty lonely lately and so made the decision to adopt a cat. Since I had to wait awhile to be able to spend time with a cat, I went over to check out the dogs and found two that caught my fancy.

The first guy was Nicki. She was free and she was a tubby little black toy poodle. However, when we got into the room to check each other out, Nicki just seemed ever so bored. Poor thing could hardly walk and grunted like a little pig when she walked. I think Nicki must have been very old or very bored.

Then, I got to see Oliver up close and oh, what a happy guy. Just the opposite of Nicki. They told me he was six years old and 10 lbs, and loving and affectionate. They went on to explain he was not housebroken and had just caused a fight with his cell mate so he could not go to dog parks nor be around other dogs. Let's just say "they" were wrong.

As luck would have it, Oliver was not one of the free pets that day but I did get $50 off of his cost. Just because I'm old.

They said he is a Silky, but I think maybe not. The vet said he is a Yorkie mix, but I say Dorkie--half Yorkie and half Daschund.

We went to the dog park today and Oliver did his usual dog sniffing stuff and rejected the other good buddy in his area, preferring to watch the big guys toss up the dirt next door.

Evidently, Oliver came from a puppy mill bust back in November and they told me I might be called in to testify, but they wouldn't tell me why or any of the circumstances. He was in a foster home for six weeks but I wonder why he was with them for a little over three months. Don't know.


Yes, it is a match made in Heaven!

February 19, 2014

The Wall

In the midst of beings as a whole an open place occurs. There is a clearing, a lighting... Only this clearing grants and guarantees to us humans a passage to those beings that we ourselves are not, and access to the being that we ourselves are.

Martin Heidegger 

Last week the new video guy recommended a film, qualifying it as one of his favorite films and after watching it, I now feel it can easily go up on my favorites list also. Video guys never fail.

"The Wall"  is an Austrian film directed by Julian Polsler and starring Martina Gedeck.

After thinking about this story of a woman separated from all other human beings by an invisible wall I was at a bit of a loss as to where to begin because I didn't want to dwell on a lot of the stuff I feel is irrelevant to the essential story. So, I turned to Robert Ebert's site to see what they were thinking and of course as a ploy to kick start my mind.

Unlike Hank Sartin, the reviewer at Ebert, I easily see the plot although nothing about the film is as sensationalistic as the trailer might have you think. A woman is left alone at a hunting lodge with no escape. Her best friend is the dog who was also left behind. The woman learns a new way of seeing and thinking within her inner journey. I won't reveal the climax. The woman continues on in spite of loss.

The woman is never named and we know nothing about who she was or where she came from previous to her seclusion. Polsler doesn't waste time explaining where the impenetrable wall came from and we quickly learn we can easily live without knowing because the story concerns isolation, survival, anxiety and dread. The stuff of existentialism and not science fiction.

Once the woman has accepted her fate she understands thoroughly how hard she must work to merely survive a winter in the Alps, separate from human beings yet in the company of four animals.

The entire film is done in voice over, and as the woman speaks to us of her isolation and dread, we simultaneously see nature at its finest awesome forcefulness. When spring arrives, she begins to explore and discovers a small cabin in  a meadow. The cabin is different from the hunting lodge in that it is set in the midst of a clearing where one can see for distances that reject the closed in feeling of the lodge.

The woman gathers up her animals and a few possessions, deciding to make the clearing her home for the summer. Here, she finds a particular peacefulness and in her day-to-day tasks begins to find some delight in her surroundings. The dog, Lynx, is her companion in this everydayness comprised of near sheer tranquility and lightness. The more time she spends in the clearing, the more she succumbs to the call of the earth and begins to contemplate how easy and natural it would be to simply become one with the earth. The call to let go and be.

However in time, her rational mind tells her she must be responsible for the animals and she prepares to move back to the confinement of the lodge almost as if that is where the dutiful life must lead. The lodge closed in by the forest and mountains comes to symbolize a sort of society where authenticity is lost as rules take over. Here one winter her white cat is killed. And here the white crow is abandoned by the other birds.

With the arrival of the next spring she is once again called to the clearing as a place where she can be unconcealed and unhidden. Here the sun shines along with a new consciousness that reveals to her a oneness with nature. Here she is safe from self and is free to let go.

However, the clearing of mind is not passive. It changes and with the change is found a new level of being. A place of being with the world as it is. Her self is brought to a new call through her consciousness. The self silently speaking to the self in a way that cannot be done in the midst of others.

And then comes the call to survival. Who places this call? None other than the self as it calls the woman to return to her own inauthentic self as survivor and caregiver. The call of guilt. The call of anxiety.

This is a film for people who like to think about the human condition and how we can be freed by nature as well as confined by it. It does not work for those who need action or the stuff of science fiction.

However, "The Wall" does entertain in that it causes us to wonder and to question ourselves. I wondered how would I react if left alone in the world. Would I curl up in a ball to die or would I fight to survive? Would I even want to survive? Who are we when there is no longer a need for the persona? Who am I as I grow old and more alone?

It is also a feminist film and a story of strength and the will to live and for those of us who are older it gives us new thoughts on separation and death. It is a film that causes us to wonder and one of transcendence. It takes us to another realm of thinking if we are capable of giving it the opportunity to do so.

February 6, 2014

For the Love of Beauty


On the way home this afternoon I stopped in at Trader Joe's and found they had this great selection of fresh flowers, and so bought the sunflowers you see here. Sunflowers make me smile.

Lots of simple things can make me smile. Summer fire flies caught in a soda bottle or snowmen put together in the winter.

Of course family and pets are a thing of beauty in their own, but more than our loved ones what is it that keeps us going? Is it beauty? What is beauty anyway?

Aren't they perfect? For me, instant smiles can also be found in candles. I like giving them with the hope that the light might bring some peace and serenity to someone. Serenity is beautiful.

And books. They make me happy. Well with books it's not so much a feeling of happiness but more like a sense of being immersed or lost in another world. And then there's the excitement and inner thrills that come from hearing someone express ideas that I've never been able to put into words. A thing of beauty.

There are so many feelings that come with a good book. Sunflowers and candles are simple joys. Other beauty can not only cause happiness and joy but can also bring sadness and sorrow.

So beauty is not necessarily happiness. But can feelings be beauty?

I'm in the midst of Jack Kerouac's "The Town and the City" and in his sharing of family is found the excitement of a star high school football player and the adolescent grief and loneliness from love lost. Each child in his family is so inherently different and yet is a vital part of each other.

The sum of the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

I should have placed some DVDs on top of the books because good films often take me to places I have never been before. A couple of days ago I saw "To the Wonder", directed by Terrence Malick and was enthralled with the poetry of the big questions he asks.

What is the nature of love between people or between people and God?

Are ideas beautiful?

Why is it that the more complicated beauty becomes, the deeper our emotions may be? Is it the sheer complexity that touches us or something greater?

File:Paul Gauguin 121.jpg
Paul Gauguin,
Nature morte à l'estampe japonaise, 1889,
Oil on Canvas
 And then there's painting. I have art on my walls but certainly nothing that is well known, and so I'm thinking of finding a Monet or Gauguin poster to hang just to have the colors and depth of life to contemplate.

You might wonder where is music in this list of beautiful things. For me, it's just not there for the most part. I like musicians like Lucinda Williams or Bob Dylan but it is for their poetry more than for their music.

Perhaps I am not able to hear what others hear.

Perhaps others do not see what I see. And so is what I find beautiful what they find beautiful?

And yet I do hear beauty in Beethoven's 9th Symphony.

Is there such a thing as universal beauty that we all see, or does each of us view beauty differently?

Could it be that simplicity is actually more complex than it appears? Might the sunflowers be more complex than a great film or symphony and this complexity cause it to appear to us as something so simple that we cannot fail to love it?

Sunflower Fractal - Created with Apophysis
Sunflower Fractal

Parts of the Whole