Monday, April 17, 2017

Spring Springing


This piece appeared first in the Spring edition of the magazine, Edible Berkshires.

March 17th

March Madness. I had a son who played high school basketball so I know all about the NCAA tournament.

But I’m talking about a different sort of madness here.

The kind where you’ve absolutely and totally had your fill of winter. And then some. But there’s at least five or six weeks of it left. You just don’t think you’re going to survive the last gasps of snow and ice and that bone brittle cold.

In three days the calendar says spring will arrive. Who are we kidding?



What about that mid-sized glacier blocking my back door?  I need hip boots to get to the bird feeder.
Who decided spring was in March anyway?

In 2009, my husband and I lived in Washington, DC, where I saw dark purple and yellow pansies thriving in FEBRUARY!  And the first week of April, there is the miracle of cherry blossoms. 

Hundreds of trees, each looking like they are wearing a delicate pink ballerina’s skirt fluffing around them.

Back to the misery that is an early Berkshire County spring. I am remembering a May 20th when we had to light the damn woodstove.

OK, enough of this miserable complaining.  For a moment this morning, stare at the beautiful meadow outside the window.

There now. It’s sunrise and the willow trees are glowing a pale orange. The buttery disc that is the moon is setting over that beautiful hillside you are so fortunate to see.

Before you decide you are moving to Miami, open the back door and inhale the absolutely pristine country air. Let the throaty racket that is the morning’s birds settle deep into your heart and soul.

Soon you will start to feel the continuing miracle that is Mother Nature.

Meditate on the fact that despite the cold and snow, the sun is up once again and it’s another glorious day in the Berkshires.
********
April 17th

Finally, thank God, it's here. Hard to fathom what’s happened in the last few days.


It was winter-looking even on Sunday. The pond still had some white ice.

The backyard glacier was still the size of a sectional sofa. There, lying everywhere in the backyard, were those crystallized eyebrows of snow.

And then of course, was the mud. Where there wasn’t snow there was the misery of goo that we have to endure between winter and spring.

But whoosh! Monday came and its mild temps erased the ice. The glacier was no bigger than a dinner plate. The mud was drying up.

Now there's a hint of spring in the lawn. Green shoots have popped up everywhere, and amidst the crusty brown leaves appears the first purple crocus!! Soon we will have the ecstasy of daffodils and tulips.

The birds are doing their sweet singing, too, and those wonderful spring peepers are making a racket, which always sounds a bit extraterrestrial to me.

At the feeder today, there are brilliant yellow goldfinches. And a redwing blackbird. And nuthatches. And then, our one true harbinger of spring: dozens of robins are bobbling around right where that glacier used to lay.

Will the rose-breasted grosbeak return come May?

Open the windows and all of the doors. Let it all in: the sun, the budding trees, the spring breezes that smells like warm earth.


After what we in Berkshire County have endured, there is no end to this mighty miracle that is spring!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

What if the water in your sink poured out black and stinky?


If you were listening to All Things Considered on NPR last evening, chances are you heard a very moving story about a special education school on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona. The school, which has been operating for 40 years, offers services to about 60 children and adults with moderate to severe disabilities.

Saint Michael's Special Education School has a water problem. A BIG problem. The tap water often pours out black and foul-smelling into the sinks. The school is forced to buy its water in big jugs, which costs the school thousands of dollars a year. St. Michaels needs clean water, and there is now a project underway that would supply that water.

Amazingly, the foul water meets national drinking water standards -- the so-called primary standards. As NPR correspondent Laura Morales reports, the water is not poisonous. But it doesn't meet the secondary "aesthetic" standards which affect how the water tastes, looks and smells.

Enter Dig Deep, a California-based non-profit organization devoted to helping communities dig and maintain low-cost water supplies. Dig Deep has a filtration plan for St. Michael's water system. That water project costs $100,000. They have raised $75,000 already. Can you and the people you know help them reach their goal?

As the young Navajo girl tells the camera in a video on the Saint Michael's website, "WATER IS LIFE!"

Indeed, water is a precious resource. Here in the Northeast, we so easily take clean water for granted. Lately, though, even before I knew about St. Michael's problem, I have been thinking a lot about water, and how it's in such short supply in so many western states. It makes me turn faucets off, do less wash, take shorter showers, flush toilets fewer times.

To donate to the water project, go to Dig Deep's website. Fortunately, we don't have to dig too deep in our pockets to help make clean water flow on a reservation in Arizona.

This piece also appears on The Huffington Post.





Tuesday, April 04, 2017

NASA: 235 trillion miles is close by in the universe!

On February 22, 2017, The Washington Post reported:
"A newfound solar system just 39 light-years away contains seven warm, rocky planets, scientists say. The discovery, reported Wednesday in the journal Nature, represents the first time astronomers have detected so many terrestrial planets orbiting a single star. Researchers say the system is an ideal laboratory for studying distant worlds and could be the best place in the galaxy to search for life beyond Earth."

 It's been weeks since the discovery was announced.  
By
now
I suppose I should have fathomed this news.
But as many times as I read accounts
of the discovery, I am awed. My brain can
absolutely make no sense of the distance. 
NASA says that these exoplanets
can be reached in 40 light-years.
40 light-years, huh?
That equals
235 trillion miles, a distance that 
NASA says "is relatively close to us."
Double HUH??
Why do I keep coming back and 
coming back and coming back
to what I call one of the deepest
mysteries I can recall.
I was talking to my son-in-law Evan, a rather
brilliant scientist, about light-years.
He calculated that if you were traveling at the speed
of light, you could circle the Earth
seven times in one second!
Maybe it's just me, but I believe that
all of this is rather impossible
to take in.
It's a little (just a very little) like standing
at the edge of the Grand Canyon and
trying to absorb the vast pink and brown and orange 
glory before you.

This news is definitely in the category of 
things I will never ever comprehend.
It's right up there with staring at a baby
or a flower or somebody's eye

and all those other miracles of Mother Nature.
I could spend each day for the rest of my life
contemplating all of this and I am quite sure
I will always end up in the same place
Mystified and oddly, comforted too,
that there is an INFINITY of 
of miraculous things and us? Hardly a speck of dust in the Universe.





Thursday, March 30, 2017

Remembering Mom on her Birthday

My mother, Dena Ricci, would have been 91 years old today!

As my sister Holly Ricci wrote in Mom's obituary, "She (Dee) had an unrivaled talent for creating a warm and loving home that provided a true oasis of comfort for all who entered. For those lucky enough to sit at her dinner table, they enjoyed legendary pot roasts, picture-perfect pies, warm loaves of homemade Italian bread -- all served with kindness, loving hospitality and impeccable style."

She lives on in the hearts and minds of all of her loved ones!


March 30, 1926 - October 17, 2015

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Poem for a Foggy Day



forget carl

forget fog creeping in
on little cat feet. Meet instead 
the white vapor swallowing
my head, whole hog.

Wallowing, he devours
ships, the tallest redwoods.
Entire landscapes, coastlines
the size of Maine
drip from his soft gray lips.

Fed, he leers, gluttonous.
This pig can be butchered
but it takes an ax of sun to roast him.

Then he boils off, froth to the sky.

Monday, March 20, 2017

A writing class that draws on meditation and inspirational exercises



WRITE YOUR HEART OUT:

A Workshop to Discover Yourself in Words and Meditation

Lenox Community Center
Lenox, MA

10 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

First session
Saturday, March 25th, 2017

$25 per session

Subsequent sessions April 1st, 8th and 15th

Do you dream about becoming a writer? Do you write and then secret it away in a drawer? “Write Your Heart Out” is a workshop that will lead you through a series of meditative and inspirational exercises designed to help you write about your life and things you love. These exercises are very simple – as simple as breathing – and they will help bring to the surface your thoughts, your past experiences, and your feelings, some of which may surprise you. 

We rely on breathing because our end goal is to help you write the same way you breathe – naturally, without thinking about it, letting words and images rise to the surface. Then we just write them down! Simple, right? WRITE!

This workshop is not intended to teach the nuts and bolts of writing but rather to encourage writers to discover their authentic voices, in part by reading their work aloud. Along the way we aim to take the fear out of writing.

So if you want to be creative and relaxed while having fun, then please come join us!

In this workshop you will learn:

How to give yourself permission to write
How to develop your own authentic writing voice
How to use music and art and photos to spark your writing
How to use meditation and visualization to inspire your writing  
How to establish and maintain a writing routine
How to build a supportive writing community

This workshop is offered by Claudia Ricci, Ph.D., a long-time University professor who is also a published fiction and non-fiction writer.  A practitioner of yoga and meditation for many years, she began teaching “Write Your Heart Out” workshops in 2003 and began painting the same year. Her websites are at claudiaricci.com and claudiaricciwritingclasses.com


Contact Claudia Ricci at claudiajricci@gmail.com or (518) 469-7854.

Praise for Write Your Heart Out:


“It was a great course. In addition to being an excellent teacher, Claudia Ricci has a way of getting people to feel comfortable with their writing.  I've been writing, writing, writing and I feel it's very helpful in reducing stress.”
-- Jane 

“I totally loved the workshop!!!! The time went so fast, and the exercises were very meaningful for me. You did such a great job of weaving it all togethker at a great pace. THANK YOU!!!!!!” – Jacqueline

“I took Claudia Ricci’s workshop in January for a “jump start” and it was great.  The attendees were diverse in age and writing experience, but they all seemed to love the class.  Some of the writing exercises took us places we didn’t know we were going until our pens were moving on the paper.  Claudia’s critiques of the writings that people chose to share were very positive and encouraging.  I would highly recommend her classes.” -- Anne

“This was a well-thought out workshop. It was such a treat to have the time to just write. The writing ideas were free enough so that I felt I could just "play" and see what happened.” -- Christine

“Claudia Ricci’s workshop was very enjoyable . It got me to start putting things on paper – that made me powerful enough to express my feelings.”
-- Sarah

I would like to thank you for this wonderful workshop.  You made us all feel welcomed and stimulated and confident with our writing. I enjoyed your techniques and methods.  The exercises – including the guided imagery -- I found very useful.  It brings out the creative juices!  The breathing exercise was calming and helped get the writing process going. This workshop offered such a wealth of information, encouragement, and teaching tools to help me feel motivated to write.  Participating in this class has helped me to go from thinking to actually writing.  I enjoyed how you made the class personal as well, opening up each of us to witness others. This approach helped me to see we really all have the same human struggles and we just need to be positive and start writing!! Bravo!!”      -- Dalija





Sunday, March 19, 2017

Fantastic Flower Show at Smith College


There may still be lots of snow on the ground, and several weeks before bulbs blossom in the garden.



But in a 19th century greenhouse on the Smith college campus in Northampton, MA, a spectacular flower show boasts hundreds and hundreds of tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, orchids and various other spring flowers.

People walk into the show and are stunned, as if they've just stepped into Emerald City along with Dorothy and her three buddies. How do  you take in the dazzling splendor?

One of the volunteers said that she's never seen so many happy people. The crowds were thick and the cameras were everywhere, but people were smiling and extra polite.

The show began March 3rd and ended today, March 19th. Mark your calendar for next year.

Meanwhile, Smith's greenhouse, built in 1895, features towering palms and more exotic plants than you can imagine, all year round. Visitors are welcome, and the volunteer said to bring a book, as there are benches throughout the greenhouse.

What a great place to decompress and ponder the marvels of Mother Nature.

As my husband remarked, "it's like going to Florida or California."

It is, and it only cost $5.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

The Nation's Dunesbury Cartoon Dumps on Trump




Check out the Dunesbury cartoon on the cover of The Nation's March 20th special issue, which focuses on "Media in the Trump Era." If you aren't familiar with the magazine, here you go.  According to Wikipedia, 

"The Nation is the oldest continuously published weekly magazine in the United States, and the most widely read weekly journal of liberal/progressive political and cultural news, opinion, and analysis. It was founded on July 6, 1865, as a successor to William Lloyd Garrison's The Liberator,[2] with the stated mission to "make an earnest effort to bring to the discussion of political and social questions a really critical spirit, and to wage war upon the vices of violence, exaggeration, and misrepresentation by which so much of the political writing of the day is marred." It is published by The Nation Company, L.P., at 33 Irving Place, New York City.[4] It is associated with The Nation Institute.

The Nation has bureaus in Washington, D.C., London and South Africa, with departments covering architecture, art, corporations, defense, environment, films, legal affairs, music, peace and disarmament, poetry, and the United Nations. Circulation peaked at 187,000 in 2006 but by 2010 had dropped to 145,000 in print, though digital subscriptions had risen to over 15,000."

I include the first and third frames of the cover cartoon. I offer the same advice I usually offer: show your support for progressive (anti-White House) politics and the media in general by subscribing to The Nation. And then buy a subscription for a friend!



On another note, MyStoryLives celebrates its 1000th post this week. Thanks to all those folks who have published here, and to all of the blog's readers as well.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

This CNN commentator Would Make a Great President!

This post appeared first in The Huffington Post.

I happened to walk into my husband’s office yesterday.
He was watching a video featuring a speech that CNN commentator Van Jones gave at an African American church (St. Sabina’s) in Chicago last month. It was startling. It was stunning.

I was on my way to take a shower when I stopped and watched the whole speech. I was transfixed by Jones’ extraordinary presence, his passion and his brilliance. He is also very handsome and that helps.

And yes, he reminded me of Obama!

As a CNN commentator, he always appears with a stage full of others. His remarks have impressed me, but it wasn’t until today that I was totally wowed by his integrity, his command of the political situation in this torn-up country, and his endless eloquence.

Jones was introduced by fellow CNN commentator David Axelrod, who helped engineer President Obama’s presidential campaign. (Axelrod and I were both Chicago reporters for competitive newspapers way back in the early 1980s, but I’m sure he wouldn’t remember me.)

He tells very touching stories about marching with coal miners. Being from the San Francisco Bay Area, he was trying to stoke up marching fervor among the miners. He launched into a chant and was mortified when none of the miners followed suit.

And then a woman came up to him and touched his arm.

“It’s not that they don’t want to join you,” she said. “But they can’t chant.”

Meaning that they had severely compromised lung ailments associated with years of inhaling coal dust in mile-deep mines. Jones was in tears.

As I watched, I found myself flying way back to 1992, to the New Hampshire primary, when there were a huge number of candidates fighting for the Democratic primary. I had virtually no interest in politics at the time. I sat down with my husband to watch a debate with the candidates. Within 30 seconds, I pointed to Bill Clinton.

“He’s going to win,” I announced matter-of-factly. He was so incredibly handsome and intelligent and he spoke with such style and pizzazz. I guess he was “telegenic” in a way that, sadly, his wife could never be.

Please. Take a half hour and watch this amazing video. See if you don’t agree that Van Jones would be an extaordinary candidate for President! (As far as I know he has no plans to seek elected office.)

Then send the video to all your email contacts. Do Facebook/LinkedIn/Twitter. Talk to your friends and your neighbors and even the people who voted for you-know-who.

Jones makes a compelling case for those white factory workers who have been out of a job for four or more years. He forgives them for voting Republican. He carries you into the workers’ hearts and minds and lives. I found myself for the first time since the Election feeling some compassion for the voters on the other side.

Perhaps Van Jones can do the Bernie Sanders burn thing only better (he talks about Sanders in his speech.)

My favorite line of Jones: he was talking about you-know-who — the one who Twitters all night long and plays at being President during the week and then plays (for real) golf in Florida at his mansion each and every weekend.

"He’s not a liberal,” Jones said. “He’s not a conservative. He’s just a jackass.” How sweet it is to hear somebody telling it like it is with such style and grace.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Moon Over the Meadow at Sunrise



It is 7:14. The sun rose two minutes ago. Here is the moon over the meadow.

I like to begin my meditation before sunrise so I can feel the chi rising and passing through my body.

This morning, for some strange reason, I woke up at 4:48 a.m.

I KNOW WHY: MOONLIGHT WAS FLOODING THE BEDROOM! I stared and stared and watched as it and Venus passed through one window pane after another. I couldn't go back to sleep.

If you have been watching the night sky recently, you may have seen the moon not far from Venus.



Glorious.

I couldn't film Venus but I got seven seconds of the moon in the night sky! (Unfortunately I couldn't get the video to load.)

If you want to catch Venus, you have to do it before March 25th because it disappears from the night sky  after that.

Enough. Back to meditation.

Have a wonderful morning under this mysterious and miraculous sky!