Five Free Books for Father’s Day

This Sunday is Father’s Day. For me, this is the first Father’s Day of my life without my Dad. Last summer he passed away at the ripe old age of 96. I was very lucky to have him around for so long. My wife’s father passed away this fall. He was always kind to me even though we both only spoke a few words of each other’s language. I want to celebrate being a single father to three of the most wonderful people on Earth.

A dream came true last week. For months, I had been looking forward to hugging my youngest daughter who lives a few hours from here. She wanted to wait until we both had the vaccine. Happily we got together last week for the first time in too many months. She, her partner and I had a little cookout in their favorite state park. It was a beautiful day. This park was their sanctuary during the worst of the covid-19 plague. The first hug from my dearest sweetie rejuvenated me.

To celebrate fatherhood, I would like to give away five books on Amazon. If you download any of them please leave a kind review. Writing has been a passion of mine since the Sixth Grade, when Mrs. Baker, my English teacher asked us to write a page of description. I wrote a half page and she said it was so well written I got an A. That wee bit of encouragement sparked a decades beacon fire in my soul. Please enjoy one of the following for free this Sunday June 20.

The Boomer Whisperer

A travel companion on the spiritual journey of aging Boomers.

As the70 million Baby Boomers exit the workforce, many of the formerly work-focused Boomer generation undergo a very personal spiritual journey as they seek to make peace with their past…

Unboxing Your Soul

We are all wandering timelessly through paradise. Unboxing your soul reveals who you truly are. After a miraculous epiphany changed my life forever, I wanted to share what manifested in my life after I unboxed my soul. I hope by reading this book you can discover your own unique way to unbox your soul and manifest a brighter future. I have been a student of Taoism, Zen, as well as Asian art and culture for decades…

When Thunder Comes

On April 18, 1942, sixteen American B-25 bombers audaciously attacked the Japanese mainland in what became known as the Doolittle Raid, and afterwards fifteen crews were forced to make emergency landings or parachute into China. By the middle of the summer of 1942 an estimated 250,000 Chinese people were killed in retribution for assisting the Doolittle Raiders, and tens of thousands more died or were permanently disabled by the lingering pathogens of the Japanese biological weapons used in further retaliation….

Chinese Dreaming

The world’s relationship with China is more important than ever before. Discover insight into the future of China through the writing of hundreds of millennials from one of China’s richest provinces.
China’s over three hundred million Millennials remain relatively unknown internationally. They are the wellspring for the Chinese Dream. Chinese, Dreaming is a collection of writing and cultural observations about modern China selected from thousands of my former university students…

Shine a Splendid Light

One day the Universe blessed me with the reawakening of romantic love. I was thunderstruck from afar. These collected poems and brief essays celebrate the restoration of my life. I was a single father for many years, and I devoted my life to my three children. I suffered some serious health issues due to immense stress. With much soul-searching and long discussions with my marvelous kids, I left America and moved to China to be with the woman I love. I lived twenty percent of my life in China before returning to the US. My time living in a foreign culture inspired my writing and changed me forever….

Reunion After the Plague

The pain of parting is nothing to the joy of meeting again.Charles Dickens

Several weeks ago I got the best news of the year, my wife had bought her ticket home. We would be reunited after being apart for over eight months. I was thrilled. For eight months, I have lit the light in the westward facing window and stood my vigil. Three seasons have come and gone outside my darkening window. I spent days cleaning our home. Yesterday, the great day arrived. We were reunited. My love and my step-son finally were allowed to step across that very real border between arriving and arrived. In anticipation of our reuniting, I expressed some of the shadowy outlines that have accreted within my soul.

There were afternoons, during the worst of the pandemic, when I would stare out the window waiting for the sun to set below the trees so it was dark enough for me to turn on the lights and close the curtain and hide again. Every day, I had ceremoniously opened the curtains in the morning – proclaiming my aliveness to the world. When I lived next door to my aged father, in the morning, I would check to see if he had opened his curtains, and in the evening just as it got dark I would check to see if he had closed his curtains. It would have been ghoulish or intrusive to have checked on him every day to see if he was still alive.

And each night before I went to sleep alone, I would perform my ritual of getting my coffee and oatmeal ready for the next day. As I repeated each step, I’d think about what chores I could give myself for the next day in order to feel as if I had a reason to get going in the morning. Many days I couldn’t think up enough tasks to make a new To-Do list. But there was always a note to myself waiting beside my computer, as a breadcrumb back to reality after finally falling asleep. The familiar structure of my day grounded me in the real world.

I woke before sunrise. The first sip of coffee rekindled my spirit. As if consulting an ancient oracle, I checked my emails and read a little news as I had breakfast. The sky brightened. I gently pulled back the curtain on the windows that face the forest. If I was lucky some chirping birds would be flittering around the bare branches. There were far too many days in a row when the only spoken communication I would have was whistling softly out the window trying to mimic the birdsongs. I would check the sky and then the weather. If it wasn’t raining, I would go commune with the ocean. But for six months, I minimized the number of trips outside as much as possible.

I was very careful not to break anything essential. Deep inside I wanted our home to stay the same way it was when my wife left. An important goal was to maintain everything until the time when the pandemic would begin to fade as an omen she would come home. I didn’t know for certain when she was going to come home until over seven months after she left. Fear stealthily crept up my spine. What if I got injured, or much worse – sick? I stocked up on food as best I could and went for weeks without going to the supermarket. Our pressure cooker became my friend, as did the bitter melon plant my wife left growing in the window. I cared for it like a parent. It’s steadying companionship earned it the name Koogie, since Ku Gua is Chinese for bitter melon. And when it bore fruit I was like an expecting father.

I documented Koogie’s growth. When the melon ripened, the pod opened to reveal a glorious yellow pulp festooned with crimson red seeds. The seeds slowly slid down to the opened mouth and drop into the pot. I gathered them, dried them and preserved them for the future. Afterwards, I buried the withered melon in the garden as an offering to primal fertility gods. Koogie tried again several times to produce another viable pod but failed. In late spring, I took Koogie to the garden wanting to give it a chance to grow naturally. Perhaps because of the shock of being taken out of its familiar environment, the transplanted bitter melon vine died, but it might also have been loneliness that killed Koogie. At that time, during the darkest hours, I was visited by the specter of despair.

I had been keeping a running total of the Covid statistics several times every day since the beginning of the pandemic. When the daily death tolls reached the thousands, part of my soul was frozen – locked in place from the terrifying scale of death. The ghastly pyre of one death nearly every twenty seconds glowed ever higher on the horizon. It seemed that most governments around the world had failed miserably at protecting their people. The walls morphed into cold steel plates. Uninterrupted sleep was impossible. The glow of salvation bloomed when I started painting again. Just after my wife left for her father’s funeral, my youngest daughter had given me some blank canvasses the last time I visited her. The first thing I painted was a sea goddess in ink. The dozens of layers of ink washes are a sedimentary record of my passing days like a stalagmite of mortality. My other daughter suggested I order some art supplies online. In late winter, after months of eternal dusk, the world brightened.

For months I had preserved our table the way my wife had arranged things. But one day I cleared the crowded tabletop and claimed the space as my own. Each day over coffee I would look at the previous day’s painting and plan what to paint next. Like one of those complicated models with dozens of tiny connections, the loose pieces of my soul popped back into place. As it had so many times in the past, Art had delivered me. The timeless flowing moments of creation lifted my spirit back into the light. With brush and pencil, ink and paint, art-piece by piece brought me back from the brink. I created two dozen pieces of art, you can see them on my Etsy page. But, for now, I only sell in the US, because of the mail services. I called my art page – Life From Art, because Art returned my Life to me.

The past few days, I celebrated the journey to today’s wondrous reunion. In nostalgic moments, I sat beside the window and listened to the tide roll in half a mile away. The small town grew quiet. Every few minutes a car drove past, but all I saw through the dark woodlot in front of me were brief headlight flashes. I watched the glowing embers of sandalwood incense as hints of distant smoldering campfires flavored the salty air. My thoughts floated away on the chilled breeze. For a time, my spirit drifted in the calm as I recalled so many long lost friends. The long hoped for morning has arrived. As I write, my wife is a few steps away. The stars have realigned. Our hearts reunited.

50 Ways to Boost Self Awareness

Don’t compromise yourself. You’re all you’ve got. Janis Joplin

Be Mindful

Express Gratitude every day

Resist being a perfectionist

Forgive others

Think abundantly

Stay motivated

Increase concentration

Still the mind

Exercise patience

Gain from other cultures

Look towards the heavens

Open your heart to new experiences

Grow through adversity

Don’t follow the crowd

Embrace your imperfections (wabi-sabi of the soul)

Live compassionately

Create a vision for yourself

Make time for doing nothing

Get outside in nature

Attend to your mental activity

Grow and care for something

Cultivate wonder

Integrate breathing exercises into your daily life

Awaken to the day

Focus on transitions

Prompt your mindfulness as needed

Ease up on yourself

Remind yourself of your motivations

Increase awareness of the wider view

Stop and smell the flowers along the way

Let your mind wander

Know thyself

At the center of your being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want. – LaoZi (Lao Tzu)

Know your strengths

Listen to feedback

Appreciate your intuition

Identify your triggers

Practice self-discipline

Discover your physical limits

Find your emotional kryptonite

Clarify your values

Keep an open mind

Revisit your values

Embody your beliefs

Change habits that limit your growth

Embrace diversity of opinion

Build personal space into your home

Honor your self-development

Increase self-confidence

Take some psychometric tests

Talk with trusted friends

Center your spirit on kindness

Bolster your self-esteem

My New Book is now available on Amazon

A travel companion on the spiritual journey of aging Boomers.

As the70 million Baby Boomers exit the workforce, many of the formerly work-focused Boomer generation undergo a very personal spiritual journey as they seek to make peace with their past. If they are lucky Boomers will meet the Boomer Whisperer along the way. From his spiritual mountain retreat, the Boomer Whisperer offers a sympathetic ear and metaphysical guidance to those Boomers who seek him out. As we mature, many of us ache to fulfill youthful promises, and no matter how much time has past, we can always honor old friends and reveal our true selves in the process. Follow the journey of the Boomer Whisperer and rekindle the free spirit residing within you.

The Boomer Whisperer

The spring evening cools the warm stone.

A heady perfume of grass and ground rises from behind the veiled sunset.

Night wings beat. A stillness comes.

From the front porch, sounds of child’s play call the heart to sift the years through open hands.

The memory of nights such as these coaxes the eyes to see once again the certain steps that must be taken.

Raise the curtain and trod the boards again.

Revelation thunders forth from the inner soliloquy.

Stars blaze into being one by one and are soon joined by a myriad of brilliant flames.

Share in the simple ancestral dreams.

Speak true words. Your words.

From your heart. To your soul.

Quench a thirsty world in a flowing cascade of truth.

Open the eyes of the sleepwalkers who struggle against the bindings of their own making.

The evening fades.

Luscious darkness envelops the blank sheet.

The world between worlds opens.

Dreams blaze into being one by one.

I have been busy these days editing the content of a previous book I thought was finished, but I was wrong. Like emerging from a dreadful cocoon, I have been transformed by the weakening grip of my terrible pandemic anxiety. The title for the book came to me on one of my solitary walks on the beach. The poem above is one from the Boomer Whisperer. The following passage is from the first page.

“Opening a sacred interchange with the divine clarifies the spirit’s struggle for direction. When the cosmic soul answers, the familiar world is obliterated – blown to dust with one almighty whisper. Silence your doubts and uncertainty and connect to the all-encompassing being. Share in ancestral wonderment. Stare up at the stars with hope knowing we are not alone in the incredible vastness. Look into the eyes of a newborn child and glimpse the reflection of our own origins….”

If you are on a spiritual journey, please consider taking the Boomer Whisperer along as a travel companion. Peace and Love.

Street Photography in China

Everything that is visible hides something that is invisible.Renee Magritte

I have been sorting through my photographs of China from 2003-2019. My first visit to China, I went to Beijing in July, 2003 – just after the WHO cleared the city for international travel after SARS. I want to share a few of my impressions and some street photography with you. According to Wikipedia: Street photography, also sometimes called candid photography, is photography conducted for art or inquiry that features unmediated chance encounters and random incidents within public places.

The street photographer can be seen as an extension of the flâneur, an observer of the streets (who was often a writer or artist).

It saddens me to read news of attacks on Asian people in America. At the same time, some blowhard media cesspools sputter out couched racism as if it is news. All these currents of negative energy throw shadows across the souls of too many people. We all are unique collections of culture, beliefs, experiences, millions of memories, and so much more. The photo above is a split second in a scene of farewell in the countryside of China. The group is waiting for a bus outside a village. The ubiquitous red/blue and white “workers’ luggage” at their feet is jammed with essential belongings. The van to the right is a countryside taxi. There is a small vegetable garden behind the ladies. These gardens are everywhere in China. This blink of an eye scene could take place anywhere in the world. Many of us have experienced such moments.

Here are a few scenes from Beijing in 2003. The city changed enormously for the 2008 Olympics and since that time.

My first day in China, I was stuck in the Forbidden City waiting for the rain to stop. Happily, I met a very friendly man who was a high school physics teacher. He had his twin son and daughter and his younger sister – Yanhua – with him. We had a nice chat for fifteen minutes. The little kids thought my camera was pretty funny. I met many warmhearted people in Beijing.

This marvelous family is from the province of Inner Mongolia. The father was a rancher, and he gave me a powerful hug. They had never met a foreigner before, and were especially happy to know I was an American. The daughter was in high school and wanted to practice her English with me. We had a very nice conversation.

I was invited to join a school outing at a commune on the Yellow Sea in Nan Dai Hu. The kids had a great time beating me at ping pong 🙂 The parents were very kind and Teacher Ping was a very impressive teacher who taught herself how to adapt her lessons for the Internet to teach – via email and BBS, during the SARS pandemic.

This is one of my favorite photographs of China. This is the road that runs along the west of the Zhang Nan Hai government compound. Back then there were much fewer cars and millions of bicycles. This was before China became the economic powerhouse it is today.

Bicycle parking lot. I really enjoyed seeing so many bicyclists. To this day, I still don’t know how people remember where they parked. Maybe the attendant reminds them.

This is out by Deshengmen Gate. I walked everywhere in the city. This day I think I walked 6-8 miles from my hotel to the Ancient Coin Market, which is in that ancient gate in the distance. This is near the 2nd Ring Road, which these days is packed with millions of cars. Personal vehicles were less common back then.

I took a photograph of this sign to remember my first encounter with locals on the street. On my first day in China, I was trying to figure out how to cross the street near the Forbidden City. There are fences on both sides of the broad street, and no crosswalks. An older man on a bicycle watched me for a minute as I paced back and forth. He said something in Chinese and repeatedly made a swooping gesture with his hand. Then he pointed at the sign. There was an underpass for pedestrians. I said xie xie (shay shay) – thanks and went about my exploring. I have to say it once again, the people of China were warmhearted to me. And as I became more familiar I learned how to ease through the streets and become part of what I call Everyday China.

Back in 2003, there were growing signs of affluence in the big cities of China. Pizza Hut was a luxury which I took advantage of on several occasions when I lived in China.

I will be posting more of my street photography in China, starting with when I moved there in 2007 and was a magazine and newspaper editor and university lecturer.

Be kind to one another and accept the people you meet every day as a unique expression of humanity – just like you. Peace.

Memorial Day 2021

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter the words, but to live by them. John F. Kennedy

Today is Memorial Day in the US. Officially the holiday honors those who died while serving in the military. My family always honored all the deceased veterans in our family on this day. Although members of my family fought for the country in every war going back to the Revolution, none of them died in combat. Each and every one of them made it back home. Since my Dad died last year this year is the first year my family will honor my Dad on Memorial Day. When he was alive, he would joke whenever someone wished him a “Happy Memorial Day”, saying, “Wait until I am dead, and there’s not much that’s happy on Memorial Day”. So this Memorial Day I celebrate my World War Two hero father, my uncles, my cousins, my best friend, my grandpa, my great-grandfathers, my great-great-grandfather and all those who served in the military.

Today though I want to honor four great women who waited for the soldiers and sailors to return. Let me start with one of my Great-Great Grandmothers. My great-great-grandfather George Washington Barlow fought in the Union Army during the Civil War. He was wounded in his right shoulder in battle. He was stitched up and sent back into combat. In fact his father, also served as a muleskinner. His wife Harriet waited for him to return, along with her three brothers, and many cousins.

My maternal grandmother waited for my grandfather to return home from World War One (his photo is at the top). He fought in the brutal trench warfare and was hit with mustard gas twice. He survived the war and came home to my grandmother. He became a coal miner and sharecropper. This is a photo of my mom as a baby less than two years after the end of WWI. My grandfather died from spinal meningitis. He caught the disease from a young boy who he helped. My grandmother later remarried, and my Papa served in World War Two also. My grandmother had two sons who served in World War Two. My Uncle Fred was a spotter for half-tracks and landed just a couple days after D-Day. He was in the Battle of the Bulge, liberated a concentration camp, and received the Bronze Star for heroism. My Uncle Fran was in the 101st Airborne. He was injured while parachuting and was forever mentally nineteen years old.

My Grandmother Wheeler was an incredible woman. My God I loved to talk with her, and listen to her tell stories. She had a hard life in the beginning. She gave birth to ten children but three died as infants and a fourth little girl died at six years old from contaminated well water. Grandma sent four sons to World War Two. She waited at home to hear from all of them. She told me she used to pray every night before going to bed, asking God to protect them. She prayed again in the morning that she would not get the much feared bad news of their death. My Uncle Sam was a medic on Iwo Jima. Uncle Curt was a Navy Chief who served with the Marines on Saipan, and helped evacuate wounded on several islands. Uncle Butch was a Navy cook. And my Dad was highly decorated for his heroic service in the Pacific War. Grandma welcomed each one of her boys back home to this house, in the photo. This was the nexus for all the men who served and all the women who waited for them to return.

I wanted to include a little shopping list from my fantastic Grandma. She was a strong woman. She drank Sunny Brook Kentucky bourbon every day, smoked Lucky Strikes and ate bacon for nearly every meal. I would cut her grass for her in the summer, and stop afterwards to enjoy an ice cold Coke, and swat flies for her as she told me stories.

And my beloved mother. My mom saw how her veteran father was mistreated by the government after the war. Her first husband was an officer in the Navy. She lived on base in Pensacola at the beginning of the war. Many badly wounded sailors would be rehabilitated there. Each day my mom would take some of those terribly maimed men fishing. She would bait their hooks for them and help them land the fish. Her beautiful smile and sweet nature must have the best medicine for those wounded sailors. She divorced that guy during the war, because of his abuse. She met my Dad after the war. The curly haired sailor boy was quite a dashing manly guy. But his mind was branded by the grisly scenes and gruesome images of war. The horror of war was burned deep into his spirit. Mom told me he often woke up in the middle of the night suffering sweaty nightmares. My wonderful Mom soothed his psychological wounds and loved the old man to the day she died. She used to bring flowers to all the graves on Memorial Day – her father’s, her uncles’, her brother’s, her cousin’s.

I like to think of my Mom and Dad reunited in Heaven. Mom always said she had earned a special place in Heaven. I think it must be true. I love the look on Mom’s face as she teases my Dad on their anniversary. This is what he fought for – the Love of a Great Woman. Here’s to all the wonderful women in my family who kept the home fires burning. I took flowers to the ocean for all of you. God Bless you all on this Memorial Day 2021.

Reading the Sky

Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards. Kierkegaard

The past couple of weeks the area around my apartment has been claimed by a rather large crow. The bird acts as a sentinel against the neighbors’ awful free-ranging cats. It caws furiously at the cats. If you let your cat roam around outside, please stop it immediately. It is estimated that house cats indiscriminately kill over two billion wild birds each year. Think of the scale of that slaughter. Three of my neighbors let their cats roam free all day long. I chase them off whenever I see them stalking the birds. The crow and I have this connection now. When it calls, I rush to the window to stop the prowling cats. The nature outside my window is a source of great inspiration to me. And, for me, the songs and flights of birds across the sky has always been auspicious.

We all seek guidance in life. Perhaps you turn to a family member, friend, spiritual guide to help you make good choices put your feet on the right paths. Human culture is filled with tales of divine messengers from on high, and in the vast majority of stories, the messenger appears during times of solitude. Ancient people often observed birds to interpret omens. In ancient Rome, such a person was known as an augur. And the interpretation was known as taking the auspices. Auspices literally means he who looks at birds. Seeking prophetic sings in nature is fundamental to the human spirit.

I’ve always looked to the sky for signs and inspiration. I love the gradient of blues from the lightest pale turquoise through cerulean, cobalt, lapis, azure up to the dark navy blue high up in the vault of the sky. When I am alone on the beach with just the birds, I look at the myriad of blues painted along the curving edges of space and call on nature to give me a sign as to my direction. The practice of Aeromancy (divination by interpreting atmospheric conditions)is perhaps the oldest method for divining the potential futures. Just like the shades of blue above me, there are a myriad of possible paths before me. The goal of reading the sky is to narrow the countless choices.

Our subconscious minds come to the fore when we interact with nature. This visceral gut feeling is the legacy of our most ancient ancestors. The calmness we experience in nature is akin to returning home. We are the long lost cousins to all life around us. Walking at sea level, I have an unobstructed view of the heavens and the ocean. And for a half mile or more, there are no other people – only birds. There, in the secluded timeless moments, I read the sky and feel the future waiting to unfold. My heart reconnects to the infinite serenity underlying all things, and my soul seeks out the forecasting echoes of what waits up ahead.

The weight of existence can be too much to bear alone. We all go through times of uncertainty. But the passage through adversity appears when one becomes mindful of self-imposed limitations. Pressing too hard only creates more resistance. Holding on to selfish ambitions constructs insurmountable barriers to manifesting a truly transcendent future. Set aside egotistical wants and desires, and, just as the wind blows and the tides roll, the path to your utmost future will open. Visit your ancestral home in nature, read the sky and change your future.

Count Your Blessings

If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or things.Albert Einstein

You have all heard the same advice before from many different people. To achieve your dreams you must set goals. In short you have to become a seer – a person who through supernatural insights can see the future. Every culture, throughout history, has sought knowledge of the future and practiced forms of divination. To set goals one must cast the mind forward into the future towards where they want to be. But how to determine the required steps? The process for obtaining material “wealth” are well established – you want a car or a house? You will need a down payment and probably have to borrow the rest against the future. But many people have peered into their future and seen they will never be able to own a house. So what are they to do?

There is a vital distinction between a house and a home. For many years, I lived in my grandparents old house. I was never allowed to purchase it from my Dad for various family-related reasons. And so I would tell my children their childhood home was our home but not our house. I was blessed to be able to raise my children there after an incredibly painful divorce. But my little family all had to leave in the end, because it was not our house. No one has lived there since my daughters moved out many year ago. They maintained and cleaned the place beautifully and left it spotless. Our home, where we made a million memories together, became nothing more than storage space for others in the family. The place has declined ever since. But the positive energy my children and I made there remains with us. Home is where the heart is, and our hearts are forever brightened by the beauty of our memories of the home we made together.

A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at. – Bruce Lee

Setting goals is a powerful tool for making positive changes in your life. Each and every one of us has done this. There is something in our lives which needs to be changed, and we set about trying to change that negative aspect. The goals we set are important up to a point, but it is the desire for change which is rewarded. The Universe will respond to your sincere efforts to change life for the better. Spiritual energy will illuminate the darkness ahead. When I studied philosophy, I thought the most frightening schools of thought were the ones which tried to negate the divine through logical “reasoning”. Imagine someone who desperately wants to be completely alone in the universe, who believes there is nothing more to life than what can be held in the hand or studied through “scientific methods”. The cold, clinical aspects of living that way scared me to my core. How can one hope to change if all you can rely on are logarithms and algorithms?

I am a slow walker, but I never walk back.Abraham Lincoln. There has to be more incentive than statistical analysis to set your feet to moving. If we all relied on strictly linear thinking there would be no reason to “have faith in oneself”. A rational, reasonable person would look at statistics and understand they have an infinitesimal chance to become “wealthy”. Over SIXTY PERCENT of the world’s wealth is held by 1% of the world’s richest individuals. During the global pandemic when so much of the world was suffering, US billionaires’ wealth increased by 40%. The personal fortune of just three men in the US, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and Jeff Bezos is larger than the poorest half of America. So when you get your feet moving forward towards happiness, it is probably best not to set your goal as financial wealth.

Reach high, for stars lie hidden in you. Dream deep, for every dream precedes the goal. – Rabindranath Tagore

When I was a little boy, I would look at the kids’ rooms on television and imagine what it would be like to have a bedroom that seemed as big as our entire home. I thought it would feel strange to have so much space to myself. I just wanted to be able to take ten steps without having to walk around something. My father, who worked the night shift in a factory, built the house we lived in more or less by himself. But it was my mother who made it a home. Mom, the daughter of a sharecropper/coal miner, took the meager financial means and wove it into a happy tapestry of life. She said we were her blessings. We had a safe and happy home from which to dream. When I became a Dad, I told my folks that my goal was for my kids to have a happy childhood. And I know, through all that happened growing up, my kids were happy overall. Today, the echoes of that happy home rest in our hearts and will never disappear.

For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness.Ralph Waldo Emerson

No amount of divination will allow us to know how many days we have remaining. There can only be the hope that more of those days will be happy and matter not just to us but to others. Do not become angry at what you don’t have. Don’t envy wealthy people. See instead your own personal spiritual wealth. If your goal is to have a happy life, don’t count your money – count your blessings.

Life from Art

It’s the sides of the mountain which sustain life, not the top. – Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

I have opened a store in Etsy to sell my art called “Life from Art”. I only sell and ship to the US for now.

The first name I chose had been taken by someone else. It is strange to go through the naming process and find another person had the same thought. But most of my life has been guided by a myriad of Plan Bs. In fact, Plan B would be the name of my never-to-be-written autobiography. But the name Life from Art rings true for me on so many levels. Sifting through my memories, I find three constants: Art, Hope, Love. These simple words and their countless synonyms have been my guiding lights.

The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Kurt Vonnegut

One dictionary (there are countless) defines Art as: the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination…The art is in the doing not the theory. Yesterday, I was overcome by the need to create. This has been a basic human need to me for as long as I can remember. To put it in a prosaic context, the patterns in the bathroom linoleum in my childhood home entertained me as I performed my daily bodily “rituals”. One day I took a pen and paper into the toilet and drew a face I saw in the flooring. Coming out of the bathroom, my father asked, as he often did, what the hell were you doing in there? I showed him the drawing, and pointed out the spot on the floor. He just shook his head and smiled, as he did when he didn’t know how to express himself.

These three paintings are an expression of my heart. Yesterday, to celebrate opening my art store, I spent most of my waking day painting. The minutes and hours passed un-noted. I had not intend to spend the day creating, but my thorough enjoyment of art took over. The day started with a quote from Leonardo da Vinci – A painter should begin every canvas with a wash of black, because all things in nature are dark except where exposed by the light. I painted a canvas black, meditated a few minutes and began with the circle of the Wuji – the primordial universe. In Taoism (Daoism) all things flow from this ultimate state. This is the source of reality, life, creativity. This was the first time in my life that I spent a day creating – just painting. Me, the brush, ink, pen, paint and canvas. I did a few other things but ninety percent of my waking day was spent painting. The theme of these three paintings is the limitless nature of creative expression.

In school, I relished art class. Recalling the smell of crayons or pastel paints on wet newsprint instantly brings me back to childhood. When I taught kids in China, I always included a “hands-on” component to give them a chance to express themselves, a rare opportunity for them. I had bags of markers and crayons for each kid, and their eyes would light up whenever I took out my “art bag”. But as I told them art is not just drawing or painting. We express ourselves artfully in thousands of ways from cooking, conversation, home décor to poetry and painting. These artifacts of our unique personality brighten life with hopeful energy. To create is to live hopefully.

Hope will be forever be linked with wishes and dreams. Hope is the scent of magic when we first wake, and the sweet whispers that send us to sleep at night. Having twice stood at death’s door, I wear hope on my face like psychic armor against the long dark days and nights that may lurk up ahead. Part of my living on updated Plan Bs includes the necessity for positive thinking. My novels, my poetry, my art flow from golden grains of hope nourishing my heart and soul. I started this blog to try and spread a little hope and positivity. We must never give up. Even on the darkest days there is some light. Feel the hope in your heartbeat, your breathing. Know that you are unique and worthy of love.

Love is the voice under all silences, the hope which has no opposite in fear; the strength so strong mere force is feebleness: the truth more first than sun, more last than star. e.e. cummings

Love is a word with eight billion definitions. Love moves us up the sides of the mountains. Love is not defined by others but by your heart and soul. Love is a hopeful expression of life. Love is Art, and Art is Love. And, for me, I continue to create a wonderful part of my Life from Art.

Home of the Great Spirit

The Great Spirit is in all things, he is in the air we breathe. The Great Spirit is our Father, but the Earth is our Mother. She nourishes us, that which we put into the ground she returns to us….

Prayer of Big Thunder (Bedagi) a member of the Wabanaki Alonquin First People

People should not live separated from Nature. There is a life force in nature which many First People called the Great Spirit. The life force exists within all living things. It is this great spirit that I speak to when I approached the magnificent eagle which includes my beach in its territory. The beach eagle symbolizes the great ancestral force of life that connects humanity to the natural world. In the mythology of many Native American tribes, since the eagle flies the highest, it travels between the physical and spiritual worlds and is a messenger to the Great Spirit. This eagle is a very personal symbol to me. And as such, it is sacred to me. I always approach with reverence and respect.

After my father died, I could not return home for his funeral because of the pandemic. I performed my own funeral rights, alone, far from birth family. The day he died I went to the ocean and spoke to his spirit. In the past, I have always thought of my father when I visited the ocean. The first time he took me to see the ocean he told me, “A man with a good boat could go anywhere in the world, if he lives by the ocean.” During World War Two, Pop’s plane had to fly over hundreds of miles of open ocean and lived on dangerous islands. In a moment of stark reality, he said he found peace with his potential death, in that unlike fighting on land, “…if we went down, the ocean cleared away everything.” And he bequeathed that indomitable spirit to me.

I live in America’s Pacific Northwest Coast. Like many tribes, the Native Americans of this area revered the eagle. The northern states area still retains the wide-open-spaces feel of the American Frontier. This is a land of powerful shamanistic beliefs. Coastal people believed the journey to the land of the dead took several days. And during my father’s journey to the afterlife, this eagle appeared on the day of his funeral. On the day he died, a hawk came to the beach. People had often described my Dad’s distinctive nose as a hawk-nose. The technical term is “aquiline” – eagle-like. A few days later the eagle appeared the day of my father’s funeral. It watched me as I built a small cairn of stones near the incoming tide. I prayed my father’s soul would find the peace he was denied in life. A shadow passed in front of me, as the tide toppled the stones. I looked up to see this great spirit soaring out over the open water. To indigenous people, the appearance of an eagle during prayers means the prayers were answered. That thought, more than anything, healed the wound to my heart left by father’s passing.

Before his eyesight and arthritic hands failed him, my father used to carve elaborate peace pipes. He studied the beliefs of the indigenous people of North America, especially the Plains Indians. My Dad could recount nearly verbatim stories from his large collection of history books. Pop was raised a Protestant and attended a religious high school. My family lineage includes many preachers, prophets and, if you go back far enough, saints. He told me the native peoples’ beliefs were born from their living close to nature. The stories differed from group to group, but overall the Great Spirit was the universal spiritual force watching over all life. We are part of nature and nature is part of us.

The Lakota people call the divine, or sacredness, residing in everything – Wakan Tanka (Wakȟáŋ Tȟáŋka ). Every living thing and every object has Wakan – sacred. Tanka – could be translated asGreat. The great activist Russell Means said the term should be translated as “Great Mystery”. And it is the spirit of the Great Mystery that watches over me as I enter the place where the natural and spiritual realms intersect. The word mystery originated in the terms for mystical truth and hidden spiritual significance. My encounters with the beach eagle connect my spirit to my father who dwells in the Home of the Great Spirit. May the Great Spirit watch over you.

The Great Spirit Prayer

Oh, Great Spirit, whose voice I hear in the wind, whose breath gives life to all the world.

Hear me; I need your strength and wisdom.

Let me walk in beauty, and make my eyes ever behold the red and purple sunset.

Make my hands respect the things you have made and my ears sharp to hear your voice.

Make me wise so that I may understand the things you have taught my people.

Help me to remain calm and strong in the face of all that comes towards me.

Let me learn the lessons you have hidden in every leaf and rock.

Help me seek pure thoughts and act with the intention of helping others.

Help me find compassion without empathy overwhelming me.

I seek strength, not to be greater than my brother, but to fight my greatest enemy, Myself.

Make me always ready to come to you with clean hands and straight eyes.

So when life fades, as the fading sunset, my spirit may come to you without shame.

— Chief Yellow Lark