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Befriending People in Dallas Who Are Homeless

Bored & Brilliant January 29, 2015

Filed under: inspiration,peace,Random Post,Solutions,The Natural World — Karen Shafer @ 9:14 pm

Thursday, January 29, 2015

 

Bored & Brilliant

 

Those who know me even a little know I’m a fan of unplugging from technology — mild understate.  I’ve gone so far as to ban electronics for a week on family beach vacations…  if I felt I could get by with it.  Slightly autocratic I admit, but the results in calmer grandchildren who let their creativity shine amidst this “boredom” and wonderful conversations between adults — not to mention just gazing out at the scenery as opposed to down at the electronic device — was impressive.  Of course, this does not mean that one can’t be creative with and through technology.  Still…  Needless to say, I was interested to hear this interview on the BBC World Service.

 

Slight conundrum:  participating in this project of unplugging from technology requires an “App”!  (It’s only in the last couple of years that I figured out what that word even means.)  And this project comes through a website called “New Tech City.”  But even a luddite was impressed with and intrigued by this interview.  Also, yes, I am aware that, once again, I am putting this “out there” on a computer through WIFI.

 

http://www.wnyc.org/series/bored-and-brilliant/?utm_source=showpage&utm_medium=treatment&utm_campaign=featured&utm_content=item0

 

Nature and Our Humanity November 30, 2012

Filed under: inspiration,The Natural World — Karen Shafer @ 11:30 pm

Friday, November 30, 2012

 

 

“Nature is a part of our humanity, and without some awareness and experience of that divine mystery man ceases to be man.  When the Pleiades and the wind in the grass are no longer a part of the human spirit, a part of very flesh and bone, man becomes, as it were, a kind of cosmic outlaw, having neither the completeness and integrity of the animal nor the birthright of a true humanity…

 

The ancient values of dignity, beauty, and poetry which sustain it are Nature’s inspiration;  they are born of the mystery and beauty of the world.  Do no dishonour to the earth lest you dishonour the spirit of man.  Hold your hands out over the earth as over a flame.  To all who love her, who open to her the doors of their veins, she gives of her strength, sustaining them with her own measureless tremor of dark life.  Touch the earth, love the earth, honour the earth, her plains, her valleys, her hills, and her seas;  rest your spirit in her solitary places.  For the gifts of life are the earth’s and they are given to all, and they are the songs of birds at daybreak, Orion and the Bear, and dawn seen over ocean from the beach.”

 

                     ~~  Henry Beston, The Outermost House:  A Year of Life on the Great Beach of Cape Cod

 

Elemental Things October 6, 2012

Filed under: The Natural World — Karen Shafer @ 1:32 pm

Saturday, October 6, 2012, Cape Cod

Elemental Things

 

“My house completed, and tried and not found wanting by a first Cape Cod year, I went there to spend a fortnight in September.  The fortnight ending, I lingered on, and as the year lengthened into autumn, the beauty and mystery of this earth and outer sea so possessed and held me that I could not go.  The world today is sick to its thin blood for lack of elemental things, for fire before the hands, for water welling from the earth, for air, for the dear earth itself underfoot.  In my world of beach and dune, these elemental presences lived and had their being, and under their arch there moved an incomparable pageant of nature and the year.  The flux and reflux of ocean, the incomings of waves, the gatherings of birds, the pilgrimages of the peoples of the sea, winter and storm, the splendour of autumn and the holiness of spring — all these were part of the great beach.  The longer I stayed, the more eager was I to know this coast and to share its mysterious and elemental life;  I found myself free to do so, I had no fear of being alone, I had something of a field naturalist’s inclination; presently I made up my mind to remain and try living for a year on Eastham Beach.”

                                                                                  

                            ~~ Henry Beston, The Outermost House: A Year on the Great Beach of Cape Cod (1928)

 

 

Cookie-Free Zone. Or Maybe I’m a Luddite? July 31, 2012

Filed under: no technosavvywhatsoever,peace,The Natural World — Karen Shafer @ 11:14 pm

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Journal Archives: Tuesday, April 24, 2012

 

Cookie-Free Zone. Or Maybe I’m a Luddite?

 

I’m staying in a New England coastal town.  It’s the off season, which I like — no crowds, little traffic, but there’s the company of friendly locals so that one doesn’t feel isolated.  The weather is beautiful:  sometimes sunny and mild — and sometimes chilly, blustery and raining.

 

Today I’ve returned to the spot where I come every day, and many other people seem to feel about this particular place the way I do.  The few tourists that are here at this time of year, as well as ‘year-rounders’ —  retired residents out for a stroll, workmen at lunch or on their way home at the end of the day, teenagers out of school for  spring break — every few minutes people pull into the car park where I’m sitting overlooking the sand bars stretching out into the Atlantic Ocean beyond us.

 

Some, mostly tourists like myself, take pictures.  A few people descend the stairs to the beach to walk their dogs, search for shells, fly kites, play catch or just amble.  Others sit in their cars or stand on this bank above the beach and gaze at sand interspersed with sea that expresses itself in some inexplicable combination of ease and power.

 

A few point at the beach and ocean, turning to their companions and discussing… what?  Whether that is a gray seal or just a log way out on the sand bar this early in the year?  (Seals!)  Anticipating the unusual appearance of the Great White Sharks that have come in recent years to hunt the seals and wondering if they’ll appear this season — is there a chance that’s a fin way out in the water?

 

Earlier in the week, I spoke with a man who comes here weekly from a nearby town simply to see how the shape of the sand bars has changed.

 

A minute ago, a middle-aged man came up from the beach.   It’s cold today, but he was barefoot!  Well dressed, balding, tidy jeans rolled up.  I said to him, “Like your shoes!”  He laughed and gave me a ‘thumbs-up’.

 

There are dunes to the right of here, then, beyond, more ocean.  Far down the coast are shoals — nicknamed ‘Turner’s Terror’ — which caused the Mayflower to turn back in 1620 while it was attempting to reach the Hudson River to set up a settlement in the New World.  These shoals are the primary reason that New England was started first at Provincetown on Cape Cod, and ultimately at Plymouth [Plimouth] rather than on what is now Long Island, New York.

 

During a hurricane a few years ago, this was one of the places which was charted to be ground zero.  I remember seeing a television reporter standing on this very beach, being almost blown away by the near gale-force winds, trying to anticipate with some accuracy what was to come within the hour.  Fortunately, the hurricane moved off its expected course and spared what lies in front of me now.

 

It is mesmerizing, calming, yet moving to be here.  It is peace.  Along the coast, and particularly in this spot, are the only places I’ve been in a long time where people just come, sit, look and think.  There is no intermediary here between oneself and the natural world —  — no one interpreting, screening, collecting your ‘cookies’ in order to send you Google ads that fit your profile.

 

One almost never sees people here driving around speaking into their cell phones, nor do people in restaurants talk on their mobiles or text.  Instead, they talk to each other animatedly over dinner or while sitting in a pub over a pint.  I don’t know why it’s that way, but I like it.

 

KS

 

 

 

Solitude May 15, 2012

Filed under: healing,inspiration,peace,The Natural World,Vocation — Karen Shafer @ 11:36 pm

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Solitude

A little over a decade ago, I had the serendipitous good luck to find myself staying in a small village in France called Ermenonville after a wedding I attended in a nearby town.  At the time, I had no idea that the [very inexpensive but lovely] chateau hotel where I was lodging was the location where Jean Jacques Rousseau had, in 1778, spent the last months of his life.

 

 

I fell in love with the village, with the castle itself, and with Parc Jean Jacques Rousseau across the street from the chateau, where I went hiking many times.  On my hikes, I carried along a journal and a sketch pad, and stopped to write and to draw various sites in the parc.  I still can’t believe my good luck in spending a week in those lovely surroundings.

 

 

The odd thing is, on one of my hikes in the park, I was grappling with the question of my own at-times-competing needs for solitude and company, and I was able so resolve some of these vexing questions while in that extraordinary natural setting.

 

 

I had read Rousseau in school but remembered little about his writing, so when I came home I purchased a book or two of his, one of which is Reveries of the Solitary Walker.  Here is an interesting quote from the chapter entitled ‘Third Walk’ on the subject of solitude, a subject with which Rousseau grappled as well.

 

 

“It is from this time that I can date my total renunciation of the world and the great love of solitude which has never left me.  The task I had set myself could only be performed in absolute isolation;  it called for long and tranquil meditations which are impossible in the bustle of society life.  So I was obliged to adopt for a time another way of life, which I subsequently found so much to my taste that since then I have only interrupted it for brief periods and against my will, returning to it most gladly and following it without effort as soon as I was able;  and when men later reduced me to a life of solitude, I found that in isolating me to make me miserable, they had done more for my happiness than I had been able to do myself.”

~~ Jean Jacques Rousseau, Reveries of a Solitary Walker, “Third Walk”

 

Parc Jean Jacques Rousseau

http://www.gardenvisit.com/garden/ermenonville_parc_jean-jacques_rousseau

 

Lessons Learned in a Rowboat April 19, 2012

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Lessons Learned in a Rowboat

[Rowing With My Grandchildren]

c Karen Shafer, 4/2012

Photo by Mandy Mulliez
'Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream.'

 

 

1)  It’s important to work as a team.

 

2)  Every crew member has something special to give to the effort.

 

3)  If you don’t appreciate the way someone is rowing, try, just for a minute, to row along with them.

 

4)  Never underestimate the power of the Young.

 

5)  Sometimes there’s chop, and sometimes there’s smooth.

 

6)  If you’re drifting off course, correct your direction as soon as possible.

 

7)  At some moments, even on a good day of rowing, things can feel a little dicey.

 

8)  If you have a choice of when to row against the current, do it when you feel fresh.

 

9)  It’s really nice sometimes just to drift.

 

10)  Each time of day has its own kind of rhythm and beauty.

 

11)  The appearance of the boat doesn’t determine how ‘yare’ it is.

 

12)  Never underestimate the power of the Old.

 

13)  Rowing with a lot of effort increases your level of endorphins;  so does just sitting in your boat on the lake and feeling the peace.

 

14)  Just because brush obscures the shoreline doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

 

This Pretty Planet April 18, 2012

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

This Pretty Planet

[A Song Louis and Anna Learned at School for Earth Day]

Photo by Mandy Mulliez

This pretty planet,

Spinning through space —

Your garden, your harbor,

Your holy place.

Golden sun going down,

Gentle blue giant,

Spin us around

All through the night,

Safe till the morning light.

Photo by Mandy Mulliez
'Touch the earth. Stay grounded.'

 

To Tech or Not To Tech? March 17, 2012

Filed under: inspiration,no technosavvywhatsoever,peace,The Natural World,Vocation — Karen Shafer @ 9:10 pm

Saturday, March 17, 2012

 

To Tech or Not To Tech?  There’s a Different Answer for Everyone

Friends sometimes ask me, ‘Why aren’t you on Facebook???  How do you keep up?’  I realize we are coming from different perspectives and that it may be hard to explain.

 

I want less internet, not more.  I see the online world as an invaluable tool but also as a kind of necessary evil.  It seems to me that it can be addicting, yet that it is somehow inherently unrewarding.  Maybe I’m looking for some sort of response there that I never get.  Could the response I’m missing be the three-dimentional experience, either from human beings or from the natural world?  (Or, if you’re a particle physics fan who’s interested in String Theory, that would be more dimensions than three!)

 

Another way of saying it:  ‘I want to smell the actual-not-the-virtual flowers and to pull the three-dimensional weeds.’

 

I want to sit and stare.  At the trees, the sky, the birds and butterflies (and at  this time of year, the shower of pollen!)  Not at a computer screen or a handheld device.  It’s taken me so long to start to learn to ‘be here now.’  I hate to voluntarily give it up any more than is absolutely necessary.  My ‘lights’ will flicker and dim soon enough.

 

As a news junkie, I prefer to get my info from the BBC World Service on radio, the television evening news, and PBS Newshour.  As it is, I think often enough of, for example, of what’s going on in Syria, that I have a friend who lives in Damascus — and that I have no way to know if he and his family are OK.  I don’t really want my newsfeed to be more frequent than that it already is.

 

It may seem disingenuous to say this, given that this blog is on the internet.  The worldwide web has it’s uses, without a doubt.  An extremely positive one is spreading the word about certain crises in the world that need our attention and care.  I just somehow feel that sharing and caring about what time of day a celebrity ate a piece of pizza is definitely TMI.

 

I even think that it’s probably harmful to the human brain to experience the world increasingly through ‘screens’.  I recently learned of a study which found that electronic devices are addicting to the brains of children.  But am I a retro freak who’s behind the times and way out of touch?

 

Along comes an interview with writer Paul Theroux to save my reputation (the word ‘reputation’ is hyperbolic in relation to myself, but please indulge me)!

 

The Atlantic Monthly:  What does the advent of the e-reader mean for reading — for the health of narrative storytelling as a form, for the market for fiction, for the future of books?  E-readers certainly make it easier to tote lots of novels and other texts while traveling.  But don’t we lose something — in sustained concentration, or in a sense of permanence, or in the notion of a book as an art object — in the migration away from the codex?

 

Paul Theroux:  Movable type seemed magical to the monks who were illuminating manuscripts and copying texts.  Certainly e-books seem magical to me.  I started my writing life in the 1940’s as an elementary student at the Washington School in Medford, Massachusetts, using a steel-nibbed pen and an inkwell, so I have lived through every technology.  I don’t think people will read more fiction than they have in the past (as I say, it’s a minority interest), but something certainly is lost — the physicality of a book, how one makes a book one’s own by reading it (scribbling in it, dog-earing pages, spilling coffee on it) and living with it as an object, sometimes a talisman.  Writing is one of the plastic arts, which is why I still write in longhand for a first draft.  I can’t predict how reading habits will change.  But I will say that the greatest loss is the paper archive — no more a great stack of manuscripts, letters, and notebooks from a writer’s life, but only a tiny pile of disks, little plastic cookies where once were calligraphic marvels.

 

TA:  Does the migration to e-readers increase access to good stories or diminish it?

 

PT:  Greatly increases access.  I could not be more approving.  But free libraries are full of books that no one reads.

 

TA:  What has the Twitter-ization of our attention spans, and the hyperlinking of our storytelling, and the Google-ization of all our knowledge meant for imaginative literature as an art form and a vehicle for transmitting ideas?

 

PT:  In a hyperactive world, the writing of fiction — and perhaps the reading of it — must seem slow, dull, even pedestrian and oldfangled.  I think there is only one way to write fiction — alone, in a room, without interruption or any distraction.  Have I just described the average younger person’s room?  I don’t think so.  But the average younger person is multitasking.  The rare, unusual, solitary younger person is writing a poem or story.

 

Crawling into bed and picking up my hard-bound copy of Henry James’ The Golden Bowl is the most peaceful and satisfying part of my day.  I feel like he’s my ‘friend,’ even though neither of us has a Facebook page, or, if he does, I’m pretty certain he’s not the one who put it up!

 

KS

 

Reconnecting to ‘The Wild’ July 8, 2009

Wednesday, July 8, 2008

 

Reconnecting to ‘The Wild’

 

This past Fourth of July weekend, one of my daughters, Rose, and granddaughter, Cora, and I went to Glen Rose, Texas to stay a few days, do the ‘Dino’ thing (this granddaughter is six and admires T Rex as much as any six-year-old), and visit Fossil Rim Wildlife Ranch.  [http://www.fossilrim.org/]

 

I’d been to Fossil Rim with my older daughter’s elementary-school class as a Room Mother mannnnnnny years ago for the Scenic Wildlife Drive, accompanied by twenty-five 6-to-9-year olds, and remembered feeding the ostriches through the car window and how it felt like the force of a thunderbolt hitting your hand when they took the food pellet from you.  It was great fun to drive through the 1700 acres, seeing the animals wild and free while we remained safely in our ‘car cage.’

 

This past weekend’s drive through the park was more enjoyable than any of us had imagined.  Cora is a ‘nature fanatic’ — for example, she’s caught and released around fifty snakes and lizards this spring and summer — and her excitement at hand-feeding the endangered Addax, European Red and Fallow Deer, Aoudads and other species through the car windows is easy to imagine.  

 

These days, visitors are warned against feeding the ostriches, but the shrieks and screams all around inside our ‘car cage’ as the aggressive big birds tried to insert their heads and necks through the windows was quite funny.  We got to touch the nose and flank of a Grant’s Zebra as he nuzzled our car door, but the big thrill of the trip was interacting with the giraffes, the only animal one is technically advised to hand feed these days at Fossil Rim because they have no teeth.

 

We’d been told by ranch staff that, if the giraffes were reticent about approaching us to be fed, we should pull our car over, turn off the engine and quietly wait.  “They like to figure out who’s serious about feeding them,” the ranger told us.  When we got to the giraffe area, they were indeed ‘doing their own thing,’ nibbling the tree tops, so we did as instructed, parking near them.

 

It took a few minutes, but soon we saw one of the magnificent giants approaching the rear of the car.  The three of us were giggling and whispering and trying to ‘be cool’ and not scare him away.  Elegantly, he glided slowly over to us and bent his towering head down to the back window, and Cora held out her hand with a feed pellet in it.  His long purple blue tongue gently swooped the pellet into his mouth.  To say that the child was ecstatic understates it.

 

One is strictly forbidden to leave one’s car at Fossil Rim, but we remembered that our car has a moon roof, so we opened it, and Cora stood up through it and continued feeding the enormous, exquisitely beautiful animal as he lowered his head to earth, petting his nose as she did so.  The giraffe was utterly gentle and peaceful, with the most polite entreaties for food we had encountered all day.

 

Cora sat on the top of the car with her legs still inside through the moon roof, and the giraffe nuzzled her ear and then nibbled at her ponytail!  She was overjoyed.  It was a moment none of us will ever forget.

 

We all three came away from Fossil Rim in a joyful state.  It is so important to connect with the natural world, and I often forget this living in the city.  What a gift these beautiful, inquisitive animals gave us.  We have an incalculable treasure just an hour and a half from Dallas.  After the weekend, I felt more restored and whole than I have in years.

 

This experience brought to mind what many of the Stewpot Community Court Volunteers and the Dallas International Street Church disciples said on the Garden-Raising Day at the Street Church on May 2, 2009.  There was something about being outdoors, close to Mother Earth, that helped us all relate and get along in a way that would not have been possible in a different setting.

https://theintermittentvolunteer.wordpress.com/2009/05/02/the-garden-raising-day-may-2-2009/

 

We get disjointed, disconnected — or I do — and my life begins to feel compartmentalized.  But how healing it is to remember and to feel at a deep level that we are an integral part of a much greater picture than our daily concerns allow us to realize, even though those concerns may be of the utmost significance.  If we’re lucky and take the time, the ‘critters’ and the grandkids can help us find our way back to sanity.

 

KS