Laughter

Laughter and Kindness

2019.01.02

Twelve Days of Kindness

 

As we reached the end of 2018, statistics came to light about how divided the United States had become.  Living as a minority or a woman, a handicapped individual or in poverty reached good levels in 2016 but in the past two years have fallen to where life as someone in one of those categories has become very hard.  Thus I decided to spend the twelve days of Christmas discussing twelve ways to be kind.  I think we need to spend a bit more time talking about kindness, not just in the USA but worldwide.  Someone asked me a characteristic of being kind and the first thing I thought of was … laughter.  “Laughter is timeless.  Imagination has no age.  Dreams are forever.”  These words were written by J. M. Barrie in his 1904 play “Peter Pan” and included in the novelization of the play published in 1911, “Peter and Wendy.”

 

It is said that someone who is kind to animals must be kind to people and I confess I have always taken in account how a person treats dogs.  I guess you could say my standard of kindness for a person, their breeding if you will, is exhibited by their response and reaction to dogs.  In other words, one of my standards or ways to determine someone’s kindness quotient is their treatment of canines. 

 

 Generally when a breed is recognized, there are certain standards.  Different breeds of dogs must conform to these standards when competing in dog shows.  An English bulldog, for example, cannot compete if the coloring is piebald.  Piebald, not to be confused with merle, is a spotting pattern of an animal found not only in the hair but often on the skin as well.  The word “piebald” is a combination of the word “pie”, derived from the magpie bird which has a distinguishing black and white plumage, and the word “bald”, referring to a white patch or seemingly hairless spot.

 

Many different animals have the piebald coloring.  In horses it is found in the pinto breed although the coloration is usually brown and white.  The national bird of the United States of America gets its name from its white cap of hair – the American bald eagle.  Many birds have this coloring as do dogs, such as the English bulldog.  While a piebald English bulldog may not be allowed to compete, they are adorable animals. 

 

I will admit I have three rescue animals and all are black and white: two piebald cats known as tuxedo cats and one giant dog whose coloring could be called barely merle or piebald.  I like the coloring of the black and white.  It reminds me of the keys on a piano.  However, I also like the symbolism of how the dark and light come together.  After all, none of us is perfect.  We have a bit of dark and light in ourselves.  We go through our life trying to fix the dark and tinker or improve the light in our souls.

 

A tinker was a person who traveled around fixing things.  J. M. Barrie gave his fairy friend of the main character Peter Pan the name Tinkerbell since she tended to “fix” things for Peter and the fairy folk.  In the original musical stage presentation, the voice of Tinkerbell was performed by a percussionist and resembled a tinkling bell although it was actually played on an instrument known as the celesta.  Originally, though, “Peter Pan” was not a musical and Tinkerbell was a darting light that seemed to dance around the stage.  Her voice was a collar of bells that belonged to Barrie himself.  The program, however, listed a Jane Wren as playing the part of Tinkerbell.  Eventually the Inspector of Taxes filed a legal demand that Jane Wren pay taxes for her salary for the play and the truth finally came out.

 

The tinker folk of the British Isles have been portrayed as thieves but generally they were respected for the handyman abilities and cheerful natures.  They moved about seeking work and seemed very content with their lives.

 

The opening quote of this post is said by Tinkerbell who did indeed gain a voice in later productions.  Though Barrie wrote in the death of Tinkerbell a year after Wendy and her brothers leave Neverland, the fairy remains forever a prominent role for children.  Barrie explained her tempestuous nature as being caused by a personality too small for her body.  Sometimes we feel much the same with life.

 

“Laughter is timeless.  Imagination has no age.  Dreams are forever”.  Dreams are forever and one of mine is that we all practice kindness each and every day.  Dreams are the portals through which we imagine and create goodness, greatness, and kindness but action is what makes those dreams become reality.  Victor Borge, a great entertainer and humanitarian once said, “Laughter is the closest distance between two people.”  Share laughter and you will share kindness.   Hopefully we will find laughter in 2019 and grow kindness to new levels.

Accept

Accept

2018.12.30

12 Days of Kindness

 

 “What goes around comes around”. Like most people, I receive posts on Facebook that are often pictures of animals. Being an animal lover, I revel in each one. One of my favorites, though, is an oldie but goodie. It is a picture of two dogs, German Shepherds, sitting side by side. Both dogs have a sign around their necks, respectively. The first sign states “Don’t let karma bite you in the rear.” The dog sitting beside that dog has a sign that reads “I am Karma”.

 

The old idiom I quoted at the beginning of this – What goes around comes around – has a great deal of truth in it, both in nature as well as our treatment of each other. I first heard it as a definition of karma when doing a religious presentation to a group of first graders.  There was an overly-active young lad who was not prone to sitting still in the class.  On this day he kept jumping up and playing with non-playful objects in the room, things like the light switch or window blinds cord.  He suddenly stopped his actions, though, and looked directly at me when I asked if anyone knew the meaning of the word “karma”.  His response was quick and to the point: “What goes around comes around.”

 

Celtic culture described the areas of grass affected by a common fungus as fairy rings. These circular spots of grass contained grasses that grew a deeper green and were often thicker than the other areas of grass. It was believed that the fairies made them and that they were a sign of good luck. Depending on the mythology and the culture, fairy rings were thought to be made by fairies dancing, perhaps used when illustrated by mushrooms growing as dinner tables with the fairies eating off the mushrooms, or as places for spirits to gather and sometimes be free to release their powers within the circle.

 

Mushrooms are associated with fairy rings and not just because eating certain ones can produce hallucinations that might make one believe he/she really had seen fairies dancing. A common sign of a fairy ring is a necrotic zone, an area in which the grass and other plant life has died. Fungi associated with mushrooms, mushrooms themselves being a fungus, deplete the soil of nutrients and the plants growing within the circle often die. Similarly the area adjacent to such fungus can grow thicker and deeper in color.

 

There is also evidence that rabbits are an important part in the life cycle of some fairy rings. Rabbits eat grass, cropping it very short while their waste products contain nitrogen-rich droppings. Mushrooms need more soil nitrogen than grass does and a fairy ring can be started from a single fungus spore. Subsequent generations of the original spore will grow outward seeking more nutrients since the parent fungus would have used up all in the immediate area. Rabbits eat only the grass and not the mushrooms so the mushrooms soon grow taller than the grass which the rabbits keep low. This can create rings inside of rings.

 

It is said to be bad luck to enter a fairy ring and even worse luck to destroy or disturb one. Superstitions abound in almost every culture based upon such novelties of nature. From the thirteenth century writer Raoul de Houdenc to the modern-day romance writer Nora Roberts, fairy rings have played a prominent role in the literature of the world. They are also found as subjects of art and were a favorite of Victorian art.

 

The roundness of fairy rings is repeated in the Native American Indian culture in the form of medicine wheels. These stone man-made circles were thought to harness the healing power of nature and used to benefit man/woman. Also known as “sacred hoops”, medicine wheels were found in areas of different tribes and are one of the common aspects found throughout the tribes of all such peoples within North America. Alberta, Canada hosts at least seventy medicine wheels that survive today.

 

Archaeologist John Brumley notes that a medicine wheel consists of at least two of the following three traits: (1) a central stone cairn, (2) one or more concentric stone circles, and/or (3) two or more stone lines radiating outward from a central point. The lines of stones radiating outward from the center appear as spokes in the directions of east, west, north, and south.

 

The medicine wheel was not a set pattern, though. The number of spokes differed from wheel to wheel and some spokes were not evenly spaced out in the design. One of the oldest remaining wheels dates back over forty-five hundred years. Some are aligned astronomically with the horizon and others reflect the position of the sun on the four seasonal equinoxes. How their power was utilized is a subject of much debate but it is clear that they held power and served purpose of healing and living.

 

While many fairy rings are found throughout Europe and the medicine wheels of the North American aboriginal people known as American Indians seem to be found only on the two American continents, there are other such rings. The landscape of Africa also hosts fairy rings. The explanations for them in Europe, particularly in Great Britain and Ireland seem to lose validity when comparing that topography to the land of Africa.

 

Often described as a “thousand blinking eyes in the desert”, the fairy rings of Namibia are considered one of the world’s great natural mysteries. In a place called “The Land God Made in Anger’, the Namibian circle number in the millions although such circles are also found where the grassland transition to desert, from Angola to the Cape province of South Africa. The Namib Desert is a remote and harsh environment. Reasons for the circle abound but, just as plentifully, they are found without backing. Biologist Walter Tschinkel was certain the circle were the work of termites. “They are really neat places, these little clean patches. They are like little satellite dishes. I looked at them and thought ‘this has to be termites,” Tschinkel remarked. “It is the sort of things termites do.” However, his theory proved false and while others still believe in the sand termite as the cause, that theory also fails to justify all aspects of the circles.

 

More recently a scientist took a holistic approach. Many theories have focused on the underground gasses believed to be affecting the soil and grass formation. Folklore of the region mentions underground dragons whose breath created the circles. Stephan Getzin, an ecologist from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, in Leipzig, Germany decided to consider all theories but from a different perspective – a bird’s eye view. He took to the air to examine the Namibian circles and discovered something very interesting. The circles not only appeared as eyes in the desert, dancing across the landscape, they were evenly spaced and had an organization to them. His findings have revealed only that there is still we do not know and that all previous theories might have some validity although none would be the entire story. “I’m sure this is not the end of the story,” summarized Getzin.

 

These circles, these evidences of unknown karma upon the environment, whether natural or man-made, are excellent examples of the sacred in our own lives. Sometimes it is what we do to ourselves and sometimes we are simply the victims of another’s behavior or choices. The fact is that we can learn and heal from everything.  Life is a series of lessons, a process of acceptance.   Not all of life’s lessons are pleasant or invited.  Healing occurs when we learn. What we choose to eat and drink affects our living and how we live has just as important an affect.  Selecting to live graciously with respect to all gives us a greater chance of being treated the same. Even when we are not, we can find the lesson and move on to greater things.

 

My readers for this blog come from forty-three countries world-wide.  Those of you who have taken the time to comment have taught me and I accept those lessons with gratitude and joy.  Life is not for the faint-hearted.  Life takes courage and is seldom “easy”.  Your acceptance of these posts has been a blessing and I thank each of you.  My efforts in writing this blog have been rewarded by your reading it.  Some might say that is a type of karma.

 

Eventually, goodness will go around the world and encompass it and us.  The best karma will be found in the acceptance we give one another.  Today’s world is often a world of one of name-calling and inciting terror.  Sharing kindness by allowing people to be, accepting them for their differences rather than in spite of them, opens a door for a better tomorrow and a brighter, safer future for everyone.  May be t greatest lesson is that the sacred part of karma is in learning from the painful and spreading joyful kindness to all.  I do know that if we encompass the world with a ring of goodness, we will all have better karma.  Then, what goes around will be goodness, mercy, kindness, and a better tomorrow to come.

Generosity

Generosity

2018.12.25

12 Days of Kindness

 

Ask someone about nobility and several answers will be commonly given – regal, majestic, rich, entitled (both actually possessing a title and feeling better than others).  Some might even go one step further and start describing coronations, rituals involving the nobility, or perhaps the acknowledgement given to those in the nobility with their titles, curtsies, and bows.

 

What you do not expect and will seldom hear are descriptions of the nobility standing shoulder to shoulder with the poor or outcast.  We picture large castles for the nobility, not simple lean-to huts.  We imagine the nobility wearing the finest and latest fashion designers and not the worn-out jeans or the homeless.

 

This Christmas my blog posts will not follow the Twelve Days of Christmas nor will I select a nondescript, politically correct topic.  I am indulging in the twelve days that fall between Dec 25th and January 6th.  Between mid-November and the second week in January there are roughly twenty-seven, 27, holidays celebrated worldwide.  For many, these next eight days mark Kwanza, a holiday time of community and family with no specific religious connotation or affiliation.  Kwanza is a great holiday, as are the other 27 but I would like to start a new one – the Twelve Days of Kindness.

 

Most of these twenty-seven holidays are not about self…well, not directly.  They reference our individual growth and personal peace by celebrating people, events, and beliefs that all speak to our connectedness.  If you are new to this blog, welcome.  If you are a seasoned reader, then thank you.  Your reading this connects us and strengthens the ties that truly unite us all.  Reading, though, does not get our living done.

 

We all believe in something.  Just believing does us nothing, though.  We have to put that belief in action and every good belief involves at least one other person.  Last night people worldwide celebrated the birth of the man known as Jesus of Nazareth.  Regardless of what you believe. Chances are you saw a celebration, went to a party, gave or received gifts.  Christmas is pretty hard to escape.

 

Historically and archaeologically, there is more evidence of this man’s existence than evidence he did not live.  For many it is unrealistic to think the baby that people would believe was the son of the Creator would be born in such a humble manner.  The “King of Kings” as this baby would grow up to be called would have needed a noble birth.

 

It was somewhere during the 1580’s that the English word nobility became spoken.  An anglicized form of the French “généreux” (14c.), which is derived from the Latin “generosus”, the word generous translates as “noble birth.”   Thus a generous person was someone born into the nobility.  Surprised? 

 

Today the word generous is an adjective but it doesn’t just mean someone who gives to others.  It literally means someone who gives to others without expecting anything in return.  That bears repeating – It literally means someone who gives to another and expects nothing in return.   Nothing.  Nada.  Nil.  Zero.  So when we give to a charity or drop some coins into a bell-ringers bucket, we should get nothing in return, not even a sense of “well done, self!” 

 

I confess that when I help others, I help myself.  Usually I am not really thinking about that but, in retrospect, I realize that I have probably received twice as much as I have given.  I was taught the habit of generosity through seeing such in the actions of my parents and others.  For some, their giving was more about making themselves feel good, however.  They really gave very little thought to those who would receive their giving.  Many of us are like that.

 

When I was nine years old, a dear family friend gave me a most unusual Christmas present.  She gifted me the sponsorship of an orphan on the other side of the globe.  She paid the monthly sponsorship fee but it was my name on the paperwork and I was the one who received the monthly updates on the boy who lived in deplorable conditions due to the political nature of his home country.  While others were playing with roller skates, I was reading about how the sponsorship fee had helped dig a well so the village could have safe water to drink and for other uses.

 

The next year this friend continued the sponsorship and it was with tears in my eyes that I heard my parents complain to her.  The three adults agreed that this would be the last year of the sponsorship and, true to her promise, the next year the friend gave me a book.  I still have that book but I also still have the spirit of awareness that was the real gift those two years.  Her gift made me realize the nobility of each birth, the awareness of not only how lucky I was in my own life but how similar that child was to me.  She gave me the gift of connectedness to my spirit within and the world around me.

 

Oscar Wilde once wrote “The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention.”  I am blessed with friends who follow through on their beliefs by giving to others.  There is always a need, nonetheless, for us to do more.  There are times in which we think we cannot give anything else.  Maybe our own lives are in chaos; maybe we are the ones in need.  We all have something to offer, though, and in that offering, we often find something greater, something we might not have known we needed.

 

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”  Leo Buscaglia was speaking about doing for others but it works for us as well. And so, on these twelve days of Christmas, I ask that you not only read but act.  I ask that you spread a little kindness each day, living out one aspect of kindness.

 

 I challenge you today to smile at a stranger.  It will cost you nothing and if you wear a head covering that prevents someone from seeing your smile, then live that smile – let someone go in front of you through the door or marketplace walkway.  Live the nobility of your own birth and presence by being generous. 

 

Perhaps you have some old clothing that you could pass on to someone in need.  Maybe you could advocate for animals or donate an extra box of rice or bag of beans to a food pantry in your area.  These are all great acts of generosity, our characteristic for today, and all are very needed.  However, my challenge for you costs nothing – simply share a smile with a stranger.  If you can do more, then please do so.  First, simply share a smile.

 

Regardless of who we are or where we live, we are connected.  We share a planet.  We share basic characteristics of being human.  Hopefully, in these twelve days we will share kindness.  This is not a new idea.  The Roman Seneca once said “Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for a kindness.”  In this the 21st century, we might have lost sight of that just a little.  We seem more interested in what separates us then it the ties that unite us. 

 

Much is spoken and wars are carried out because of those difference.  There is no real number for the varieties of religions that are practiced on the planet today; the numbers keep changing as religions are overtaken by extremists.  The 14th Dalai Lama, the man known as Tenzin Gyatso once wrote:  “My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.”  Regardless of what you call your religion, today I hope you share a smile.  Trust me, you will get at least one in return. J

The Longest Night

The Longest Night

2018.12.21

Everyday Miracles

Advent 2018

 

*Song lyrics in { }  written by by the English poet Christina Rossetti.  Rossetti wrote the poem in 1872 (or earlier) as a response to the magazine Scribner’s Monthlys request for a Christmas poem.  When Gustav Holst composed a melody to the poem in 1906 a new Christmas carol was born.

 

{In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan, Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone; Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow, In the bleak midwinter, long ago.}  Today at 4:33 CST, the winter solstice will occur.  The date of this solstice, as with the other solstices, varies from year to year.  This is because the tropical year, the time it takes the sun to return to the same spot relative to planet Earth, is different than our calendar year.  The 21st or 22nd of December are the most common dates for the winter solstice, though.  The next solstice occurring on December 20th will not happen until 2080 and the next December 23rd winter solstice will not occur until the year 2303.  It is doubtful anyone reading this will be alive then.

 

The specific time of the winter solstice is determined by the exact instant the North Pole is aimed furthest away from the sun on a 23.5 degree tilt of the Earth’s axis.  Also at this exact time, the sun will shine directly over the Tropic of Capricorn.  While the solstice will occur within minutes of this post being published, it occurs at the exact same time worldwide and even for the astronauts on the International Space Station.

 

Since the solstice brings about the longest night of the year, it stands to reason that it is also the shortest day of the year.  After all, each day is only 24 hours, regardless where it falls on the calendar.  For example, New York City averages nine hours and fifteen minutes of daytime or sunlight, depending on the weather, on the winter solstice.  On the summer solstice it experiences fifteen hours and five minutes of daylight.  That compares to Helsinki Finland receiving five hours and 49 minutes of light and Barrow Alaska n9ot even having a sunrise.  In fact, Barrow’s next sunrise will not be until the third week of January.  The North Pole, which has a prominent role in determining the solstice, has not experienced a sunrise since October while the South Pole will not have a sunset until March.

 

Early cultures created a great many myths about the winter solstice.  Celebrations were held to beckon the return of the sun and to celebrate rebirth.  Many believe the traditional Yule logs originated in Scandinavian and/or Germanic cultures to encourage light to return to the earth.  Great feasts were prepared and cattle slaughtered so that people could dine heavily since there would be no fresh meat or vegetables for several months.

 

{Angels and archangels may have gathered there, Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air; But his mother only, in her maiden bliss, Worshiped the beloved with a kiss.}  December 21st has had a prominent role in history for other reasons, though.  The Pilgrims arrived in the New World at Plymouth, MA and went on to settle and found a society encouraging free worship.  In 1898 on this day, Pierre and Marie Curie discovered radium which opened the door for the Atomic Age.  On December 21, 1968, Apollo 8 was launched, becoming the first manned moon mission.  The Mayan calendar supposedly ended on December 21, 2012 and many feared it would be the end of the world.  Others believe it was the rebirth of a new era for earth.

 

Some ancient cultures believed dark spirits walked the earth at this time while others felt it to be a time of renewal.  For most people, the winter solstice is a time of continued hurrying around while they prepared for the holidays.  {What can I give him, poor as I am?  If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb; If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part; Yet what I can I give him: give my heart.}  How we should celebrate this longest night is by gathering energy to make tomorrow the best day ever.  It truly is a wise man/woman who does their part in helping others, sharing goodness, showing kindness to all.  On this the longest night which has followed the shortest day, I invite you to share your heart with others. 

 

https://youtu.be/U0aL9rKJPr4

Be the Light

Be the Light

2018.12.06-07

Everyday Miracles

Advent 2018

 

“We can find meaning and reward by serving some higher purpose than ourselves, a shining purpose, the illumination of a Thousand Points of Light…We all have something to give.”  President George Herbert Walker Bush recited those words in his 1989 Inaugural Address after having been sworn in as the 41st President of the United States of America. 

 

In 1987 community advocates found New York Cares.  In 1989 President George H. W. Bush’s inaugural address invoked the vision of a “thousand points of light,” and invited the nation to take action through service to their fellow citizens.  President Bush established the Daily Point of Light Award for individuals making a difference in 1990.   During his administration, President Bush formally recognized more than 1,000 volunteers as “points of light.” He advocated that “points of light” demonstrated how “a neighbor can help a neighbor.” This award is now administered by the Points of Light non-profit organization.  This organization, in response to President Bush’s call to action, was created as an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization to encourage and empower the spirit of service. This nonprofit has extended President Bush’s vision and his understanding that “what government alone can do is limited, but the potential of the American people knows no limits.”

 

In 1993 President Bill Clinton signed the National and Community Service Trust Act, which initiated the founding of AmeriCorps, a national service program that engaged Americans in voluntary action to address the country’s most critical issues.  In 1997 former and sitting Presidents united to challenge the nation to think anew at The Presidents’ Summit for America’s Future.  Presidents Clinton, George H. W. Bush, Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford and first lady Nancy Reagan convened to discuss the nation’s pressing social issues and discuss about their role in meeting the needs of the country and world through voluntary action.

 

In 2001 the United Nations proclaimed the Year of the Volunteer.  The Points of Light Foundation joined nearly 1,000 national and international partners participating in the year of service and engaged its large network of individuals, groups and corporate partners in service to others.  President George W. Bush creates USA Freedom Corps in his 2002 State of the Union address to build on the countless acts of service, sacrifice and generosity that followed Sept. 11, 2001. 

 

ServiceNation, an unprecedented coalition of service and volunteer leadership to inspire a new era of voluntary citizen service in America, was launched in 2008.  Points of Light joined organizing committee members including Be the Change Inc., City Year and Civic Enterprises.  The next year in 2009 President Barack Obama signed the historic Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act heralding in the next phase of the nation’s renewed call to service.  That same year President Obama announced the United We Serve campaign to engage more Americans in service. Members of President Obama’s administration participated in service projects and advocate service as a solution to our nation’s most pressing issues.

 

Also in 2009 the Points of Light organization hosted the Presidential Forum on Service, uniting President Obama and President George H. W. Bush. The forum recognized the 20th anniversary of President Bush’s invocation of a thousand points of light and celebrated the volunteer sector’s tremendous gains during the past two decades under Points of Light’s leadership.

 

As we say our final goodbye to President George H W Bush as he is interred at his Presidential Library in Texas, we must work to make sure that his vision continues.  “I have spoken of a thousand points of light, of all the community organizations that are spread like stars throughout the Nation, doing good. We will work hand in hand, encouraging, sometimes leading, sometimes being led, rewarding. We will work on this in the White House, in the Cabinet agencies. I will go to the people and the programs that are the brighter points of light, and I will ask every member of my government to become involved. The old ideas are new again because they are not old, they are timeless: duty, sacrifice, commitment, and a patriotism that finds its expression in taking part and pitching in.”  This is how everyday miracles are created and followed through each day.  One person can make a difference by being a point of light.

Debbie Jinks

Debbie Jinks

2018.08.19

Literature and Life

 

Perhaps it was a bit selfish, but during this month I saved Sundays for writing about my favorite authors or authors that I respect.  Respect is a really difficult concept to explain since it can encompass so many things.  I met today’s author online as she shared thoughts about writing and generously began a Facebook page for those who write.

 

Debbie Jinks is a writer from the United Kingdom who has been writing for approximately two years. She loves to sing, which she did as a profession for 15 years. Although she still enjoys singing, her real passion in life now is writing. After suffering a head injury, which caused Debbie to lose her sense of smell and taste – a condition known as Anosmia, writing became a way of venting her frustration and anger from this life changing condition. It was a way of escaping from the reality of it too. She started to love writing especially when discovering how much satisfaction she got from it. This led her to realize that she wanted to become a writer, and she has now almost finished writing a short children’s storybook of prose, still at the illustration stage, and also started on her first novel. She has two blogs, one showcasing her short stories, including different non-fiction categories, such as wildlife, music and nature. The other blog tells of her experiences with Anosmia, which she writes primarily to support other people with this little know condition, and to help raise awareness of it.  In her spare time Debbie enjoys lyric writing, running and growing chilli peppers, the hotter the better! She also tries to practice mindfulness, when she can put her pen down for long enough!

 

I asked Debbie to name her favorite book.  Her answer was most succinct:  “Now that’s a tricky one!  There are many books I’ve enjoyed reading over the years.  The “Deverry High Fantasy” series of books by Katherine Kerr for example, are wonderfully written, and exciting novels.  All set in the fictional world of Deverry, they are very much Celtic influenced. With heroic battles, evil priestesses and mystics that save the day, they are exciting and allow your imagination to run wild. Especially with the addition, further into the series, of dragons, and talking ones at that! Everybody who knows me is aware of how much I love dragons, so these books drew me in even more once these mythical creatures entered the story. But even without the addition of dragons the books would still have been brilliant. Each book has a well woven tale, mystical and mythical it takes you into a fantastic world where baddies are terrible and even goodies have that not quite perfect side to them, which makes it twist and turn nicely. I’ve read them all and have no doubt I’ll be reading them again in the future.”

 

Katherine Kerr’s depiction of a fantasy world is another author who influenced Debbie as a writer.  “I was always a day dreamer as I child and loved fairy tales and talking animals, anything that involved mystery and magic. These are all encompassed in her books.  Even though Kerr isn’t a children’s author her writing still allows my imagination to run wild, as it did as a child, and now I weave my own tales.

 

“I love fantasy books and am primarily a fantasy reader and writer; surprisingly enough one of my favorite books isn’t in fact fantasy however.  This is a novel by Emily Barr called ‘The Perfect Lie’. I can’t quite put it under any particular genre actually, because to me it’s a mixture of a few. Suspense, thriller, love story, it’s hard to categorize. Set partly in the UK and partly in Italy, it is about a girl forced to grow up too quickly with disturbing and terrifying consequences. Set in two different times of her life, it constantly flicks from the present day to her horrifying past in each chapter, depicting her experiences as a child and how it shaped her into the type of women she is now. Emily Barr’s wonderful description of Italy and the way she gives you a ‘feel’ of the Country, is very much influenced by the fact that she is also a travel writer, which is evident in this book and others.

 

The way Emily has written this book made me want to turn the pages constantly and I had to force myself to put it down every night. It’s the kind of book you can read again and get more out of each time. It was a gripping, sad, and at times disturbing read with a twist at the end that I’d never have expected.  I have read other books by this author, this in fact being the first one. They are all brilliantly written but ‘The Perfect Lie,’ stands out as my favourite. All of the books, however, have that undertone of not quite fitting into any category, so I think would appeal to many different types of reader, and the fact that they are not genre influenced is what makes them so good. You never know quite what to expect as each book is released.”

 

One of the reasons I wrote this series is because literature seldom stays in the genre with which it is organized.  Organization is important but really good writing exerts an influence that supersedes mere words on the page.  Debbie Jinks’ writing and life is a great example of this. 

 

You can catch up with Debbie on:  www.asongtowrite.co.uk; www.anosmiamyworld.wordpress.com; www.twitter.com/wildjinkswww.facebook.com/asongtowriteswildside

Beauty Within and Outside

Beauty Within and Outside

2018.07.21

Pentecost 2018

 

Two years ago we delved into mythology during Pentecost and this is a reposting of one of those posts.  The ancient world used mythology to explain both their world and their curiosity.  Generally there were the villainous gods and goddesses but there were more those of goodness and beauty.  In all the mythologies there was a relatable aspect to each and every deity.  They served as a point of reference for understanding ourselves and our fellow man.  Perhaps when looking within our own beings to find that which is good and beautiful, we should reflect back on the mythologies of the past.

 

In Norse mythology we found ourselves almost in a comic book with their gods and goddesses reminiscent of action heroes.  With Celtic mythology, it was as if we had walked through a tome of literature with their wood nymphs and magical spirits reflecting the basis for the stories and movies of the “Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit”.  Greek and Roman mythology proudly proclaimed with great statues their mythologies, some of which still stand today as do columns from their great temples.

 

In the mythologies of the Far and Near East, you will be excused if you sometimes forget we are not walking through a lovely botanical garden.  I think these emphasized more than any others all of creation in explaining how nature played a most important role in their legends and admonitions for better living.  As we will learn, it is not unusual for one object such as a flower to have multiple meanings, depending of the myth or spirituality being discussed. 

 

The lotus flower is one such example.  Known officially as the “sacred lotus”, this aquatic plant holds a major place in the mythology of India.  Before we discuss its spiritual aspects, though, let’s discuss its physical ones for they also are something a bit magical.  The delicate white and pink flower grows on top of thick stems that look almost like stalks.  The roots of the lotus plant are firmly planted in the soil at the bottom of a fresh water pond or river.  Lotus plants usually grow to an average height of five feet, or about 150 centimeters, spreading horizontally to a little over three feet or one hundred and eighteen inches.  The leaves of the plant themselves can reach a span of over twenty-three inches or 60 centimeters while the blossoms can be up to almost eight inches in diameter or 20 centimeters.

 

Of greater interest to botanists is how the lotus plant seems to regulate its flower in spite of its environment. Researchers at the University of Adelaide in Australia discovered lotus flowers blooming in the Adelaide Botanic Garden maintained a constant temperature of 30-35 degrees Centigrade or 86-95 degrees Fahrenheit in spite of the ambient temperature of the surrounding environment dropping to 10 degrees Centigrade or 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

 

Nelumbo nucifera, the scientific name for the sacred lotus is also called the Indian lotus, or the Bean of India.  It plays, as mentioned before, an important role in the mythologies of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism.  Hindus worship the lotus in connection to the gods Vishnu, Brahma, and Kubera as well as the goddesses Lakshmi, and Saraswati.  Vishnu is often called the “Lotus-Eyed One” and used as an example of beauty and purity.  It is said that the lotus flower booms from the navel of Vishnu and uncovers the creator god Brahma in the lotus position of yoga.  The unfolding petals of the flower are symbolic of the expansion of one’s soul and the promise of potential.  The Hindu interpret the blossoming of such a pure white flower from the mud of its roots as a spiritual promise.  Brahma and Lakshmi are the spirits associated with potency and wealth and also have the lotus as their symbol. 

 

In Buddhism, the lotus flower is symbolic of creation and renewal as well as original purity.  It is mentioned in one of the sacred texts of the Bhagavad Gita:  “One who performs his duty without attachment, surrendering the results unto the Supreme Lord, is unaffected by sinful action, as the lotus is untouched by water.  Not surprisingly, the lotus is also connected with other Eastern spiritualities.  The Chinese scholar and student of Confucius Zhou Dunyi said: “I love the lotus because while growing from mud, it is unstained.”

 

The petals of a lotus blossom are said to have once numbered over a thousand and the thousand-petal lotus is a symbol of unending spiritual enlightenment.  It is more common to find an eight-petal lotus, although only five are original petals, the other three a modification from the stamen.  Considered one of the “eight auspicious signs” of Buddhism and Hinduism, the eight-petal lotus is also used in Buddhist mandalas.  [Mandalas were discussed in our Advent 2014 series and I hope you have been able to find some to view.  There are now coloring books for adults that feature mandalas and it is a most relaxing way to leave the real world and connect spiritually while relaxing and meditating.]

 

The eight petals of the lotus also relate to the Nobel Eightfold path of the Good Law of Hari Krishna and the eight petals of the white lotus correspond to the Noble Eightfold Path of the Good Law. This lotus is found at the heart of the Garbhadhatu Mandala, regarded as the womb or embryo of the world.  Many Deities of Asian Mythology are illustrated on a lotus flower.  According to some myths, everywhere the Gautama Buddha walked, lotus flowers appeared and blossomed. 

 

Hopefully today wherever we walk we will also leave a trail of beauty.  First, though, we must open our eyes to all that is around us and see the beauty within as well as portrayed by the outer appearance.  Each of us had the muddiness of a past but with faith and good deeds, we can blossom and leave the world a better place.  We all are a thing of great beauty in our being.