Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Hair, Ants and Egos, Oh My!

This getting old is a good thing….

I used to wonder why lots of older women cut their hair short. I was just visiting my parents at their Florida gated community, and I noticed that almost all of the seventy plus set have similar short hair. They usually say it is easy to take care of. I think some of it is also not worrying as much about being a long-haired sex symbol...letting go of all that and the stereotype of hair=beauty. Realizing that it doesn't mean a thing...that hair or any of those external things don't bring happiness or health. I have heard women say that they feel invisible after they hit forty or fifty. They say this like it is a bad thing. I remember when I was in my twenties and thirties going dancing at clubs with women buddies. We hated the attention we would get and the guys bugging us. We just wanted to dance our little buttinskis off. Then in my forties, I visited an old friend and we went dancing to one of our favorite bands from decades earlier. We were surrounded by twenty-somethings. We were invisible. I looked at my dancing buddy, Wendy, and her hips where just as sexy and moving just as fluidly to the music as they had twenty years before. Her face was just as sweet and her smile was just as contagious. Together we had a moment of mourning the loss of being the center of attention…realizing we were now invisible. Then we talked about it and laughed at ourselves realizing we had gotten exactly what we had asked for two decades earlier. After that epiphany it was pure joy dancing together and not being noticed or harassed by any men.

Can you pick me out from the pictures below?

I went from long curly thick hair to a short haircut on New Years Day this year. I went to the yoga class that I go to at least two times a week and no one noticed that I had cut my hair. The 30 or so people there spend over five hours a week with me. I was soooo happy. I said to my buddy Adena, “I love that no one noticed my haircut. I love that my hair is not the center of their universe.” All these years I have been trying to get the “right cut” for my face and body. And I could have saved myself all that concern, since no one notices it anyway! My meditation teacher, SN Goenka, has a great discourse on attachment that includes a story about hair. In the story, the husband loves his wife’s hair. Long beautiful thick black hair. But as soon as even one of those hairs appears in his food, he is disgusted by her hair.

So yesterday, Adena and I stopped by the shop that cut my hair on New Years Day. We were both going to get a trim. Somehow in the excitement of it all, we talked the hair cutter into cutting my hair really really short. I think I secretly hoped that when she was done I would look like Halle Berry. (Can a haircut change your total genetic make-up including your race and age?). When we left the shop, Adena and I were convinced that I looked like a sexy Italian artist or a sexy Italian lesbian. We kept stopping and looking at our reflections in the windows of the auto parts store next to the salon. We were sure that I was now a sexy Italian lesbian artist.

It wasn’t until I got home and had a really good look at it in the mirror that I realized it actually looked more like one of those pictures of Jewish women who were in concentration camps and their hair is all uneven after about a month of growth. And still, I am smiling about it….because it is just HAIR! It is the dead cells coming out of the scalp on the head of one of the 6.7 billion people who have infested the planet who are about as significant as ants, if that. And, maybe they aren’t even as significant as ants who will be here long after humans are gone.

And, someone in Haiti who has lost their leg from a building collapsing on it would give anything to have their concentration camp hairdo be the biggest item occupying their mind and blog.

So this getting older and letting ego slip away and getting a perspective on what is and isn’t important is so wonderful.

The Earth School curriculum is never ending.

I am still working on gratitude and appreciation. I am judgmental and critical of the people who I am closest with each day. Well actually, the two I am with everyday, myself and JC, get the worst of it.

NPR had a story on last night about an American guy in Haiti who has been sitting outside of what was a hotel in the capital waiting for them to uncover the body of his French fiancé. He will not leave until they uncover her body. He is hoping for a miracle and that she will be alive after weeks of no food and water and being trapped under an entire hotel. He was crying and everyone around him was crying as he told their love story. I was crying as I listened. I vowed right then to be more appreciative of JC and less argumentative with him.

An hour later I was snarling at him because he was using a spray bottle of tamari and got it on my computer and some dvds.

Again, I just have to say, that a person in Haiti with just one leg would give anything to be in my shoes and have JC spray Tamari on their computer. And in the moment I forgot about Haiti and I forgot to be kind and I forgot to be grateful. It is such a lifelong practice….no shortage of opportunities for learning to keep things in perspective.

School Sucks!

Young Primates in Plastic Seats in Rooms Without Windows

I am really good at some things that I don’t like doing and I am not so good at some things I love doing. I thought of this as I drove home completely exhausted (and charged at the same time) from a full day of doing programs at a school in Gainesville. I am very good at doing these programs for the students and I can get them thinking about the world and their place in it in a whole new way. But by the end of the day and hundreds of students later, I am so grateful to be leaving there. I don’t like the buildings, the constant buzzers and bells going off over the loud speakers in each room, the overcrowded overheated rooms with bad lighting, and the unnatural setting. I would rather see all these primate children running outside and swinging from trees like their young bodies and minds are made for. The teachers spend most of their time frustrated from trying to get the little wild primates to be domesticated and sit still in their molded plastic seats quietly. I admire those teachers....they are saints.

I really hate schools. The exhausting part for me is a combination of too many little primates who are trying to escape in any way they can (mentally and physically) and my own desire to be out there running around in the in the forest with them. My sister once complained about people letting their children run around in a restaurant. The way I figure it, that is really normal young primate behavior and I find it more disturbing when they sit silently stifling everything their little bodies are longing to do.

So, I don’t like this “school setting” part of doing humane education. But I also get so jazzed by it. I love that almost 200 students are looking at animals and the environment and their place in the earth dance in a whole new way today because we were together yesterday.

It is not easy to try to speak to all the injustice and confusion and inconsistencies in the world with only an hour between bells.

I was talking to one class about how in some countries it is normal to eat dogs..and the kids freaked out. I had them raise their hands if they think that it is horrible to eat dogs. I went to one boy and asked him to convince me that it is horrible to eat dogs but not horrible to eat pigs and cows and chickens. He told me ”god put cows and pigs and chickens here for us to eat and god put dogs here for us to hug and love.” “hmmmm,” I said, “that is interesting.....because in another country god put dogs there to eat and in another country, god says you cannot eat cows. It sounds like god is confused. Anyone else want to make the case convince me that it is ok to eat cows and pigs and chickens but not dogs?”

Another student raised his hand and with a begging look in his eyes said, “We can’t eat dogs because they are soooo cute.” “Ahhh,” I responded, “you are kind of cute, too, so I won’t eat you, but let me go find some ugly people and eat them.” They got the point. Then one very bright students said, “It is categories….we have categories for the animals.” Exactly.

We talked about how all animals have desires and preferences, just like we humans. All want to be comfortable and in their home with their family and friends and they want to have the freedom. But, we think differently about the different animals, because of the categories we have them in.


(Some students thought that the idea of drinking soy or almond milk was gross....hmmm...That gave us the opportunity to chat about how many people think that a drink from a bean or a nut is gross, but have no problem drinking the milk from another species breasts ..)

It was a great day of critical thinking. We talked about how confusing it can be to try to figure out how to do the right thing in the world. I brought chocolate and vanilla almond milk and soymilk and vegan cookies for all the students and teachers and staff to try. I explained why I choose to practice veganism. I asked the students to raise their hand if they had ever eaten vegan food. None raised their hands. I then asked them to raise their hands if they had eaten apples. They all raised their hands. “Apples are vegan food!”, I exclaimed. Then I asked them about peanut butter and jam and oatmeal and other common foods. I explained, ”Most of what you and most people eat is vegan. There is no need to go to special stores and get special foods to eat a vegan diet.” The cookies and non-dairy milks all came from the most common grocery chain here in Florida.

So, humane ed programs are something I am good at but don’t really like doing. Until schools are out in the natural world and the students and I are covered in dirt and leaves and looking up at the sky, I am not cut out to be a teacher.

Now, for the things I love doing but am not good at….the list could go on and on….but the one I thought of is writing. I love doing it. I love the actual process of writing. It makes me happy. Unlike being in a school setting, it energizes me. The parts I am not good at are:

-grammar, spelling, editing, professional writing.....I am mostly in it for the fun.

-getting my writing out there in the world. I have four almost finished books and thousands of short stories on my computer. But, the closest I come to publishing anything or getting it out in the world is this blog.

Other people have done better at taking my creations and including them in their books and getting published. And for now, I am happy to just have the freedom to write whenever I want to. It never has to reach any other people. And I am grateful to those of you who hang in there and read through my often long rambling blogs…..

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Animal Minds show on Radio Lab....
Beautiful whale rescue story. I know this story well from writing a lesson about it a few years ago, but this is the first time I am hearing about it in the rescuers own words....
You will LOVE it.....

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Bacon or Being?

A friend sent me this photo today. There is no way that anyone I know would say this little sweet being should be killed for the "pleasure" of eating bacon or sausage. I still haven't gotten my hands on Melanie Joy's book: Why Do We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs and Wear Cows? but the trailer for it (yes, books have trailers now!) is fabulous. Check it out:

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Scotty Lee and Wyatt Might Be Tree-Hugging Vegans Now.....

I haven't been here in blogland for some time now. We are very busy here in Florida trying to keep warm and deal with things we never thought we would have to here. The temps at night have been in the teens and low twenties and the daytime temps climb up like a 95 year-old with a walker and barely make it above freezing.

Our clothing and our pipes, and our campers pipes, are not really prepared for this. So, just keeping life thawed out is taking some time.

I have been thinking about how life keeps bringing me a kirgillion experiences and the seemingly fictional characters that go along with them and I am having so many of these special times that:

1-I don't have time to write about all of them

2-They don't seem so unusual anymore.

I could write an entire book on just the crazy cast of characters in my twice weekly yoga class at The Temple of Universe. (I DID NOT make up the name of the place.)

But before I can write about the yoginis at the temple, I have to get you caught up on some of the cast of characters from the last year or so....

I was cleaning up scraps of paper in the car and came across this little ditty I wrote down some months ago on the back of an oil change receipt:

We stopped to get gas at the SC/GA border. While JC is pumping the gas, I take the dogs out on their leashes to get them to a field nearby. A pick-up truck pulls over next to me and rolls down his window. Pointing down to his dog he says, “This here is Scotty Lee” (add your own DEEP Southern accent for this guy). Next, he points to the pink cell phone on the seat between him and Scotty Lee and says, “This here is my wife’s, not mine.” Then, he looks at me very serious and says, “There is something different about you. I can see it in your face.”

I ask him, “Is that good or bad?”

“That’s good,” he says, “and I can tell you know things. Yep, you know things.”

“Everyone knows things”, I answer.

“No, I mean you know things other people don’t,” he insists while leaning toward the open passenger window of his pick-up. Scotty Lee is a cute little scruffy dog looking at me with the same intensity as his person. “My name’s Wyatt”, he says while stretching out a hand to shake. After introductions, he pulls over and gets out of his truck. JC (my sweetie) has come by and introduced himself and then walked on. So it is me and our dogs and Wyatt and Scotty Lee standing there talking. Mostly it is Wyatt asking me questions. He wants one of our cards so he can look up our website.

“You and your husband are very free aren’t you?” he asks.

“Everyone is free.” I answer.

“But you got that something different”, he keeps insisting.

And of course I say, “Everyone has that thing…..whatever it is you see.”

He wants to know what we feed our dogs and how we live and what we eat. He wants to know what my religion is. I tell him I go to "The Church of Being Outdoors in Wild Places Without Humans" and my church is open 24/7 and I never met the pastor, but he always seems to be there. He chuckles a little and Scotty Lee licks my hand and sniffs my dog's butts. I can tell Wyatt is really not done with our conversation when I tell him it was nice to meet him and I continue with the dogs toward the big open field. JC asks me what Wyatt wanted. I tell him about our conversation. JC is used to this by now and just laughs at me.

This is normal life. This is not something unusual. This happens to me a lot.

Encounters and interactions that I used to think were just how life is for everyone….until I started to tell people about them. Most people do not have these kinds of interactions on a regular basis with strangers. I think today I realized what it might be. Most people have a routine. A familiar routine with familiar people around. They live in one place for a while and they go to the same places for years. Since I do not have that routine in one place, I am encountering more people in more places and the chances of this happening are greater.

I will share the story of the Concrete Buddha in another entry…..another one of theses brief encounters of the third kind.

So Wyatt and Scotty Lee have our card and our website and they are free...they always were.