Bye, bye, double aughts!

It was a damned tough decade. Trauma Drama Extreme. It was about as unhealthy as you could get. The whole nation was traumatized, and some bullies went for the jugular. Pretty clear connection between abusive behavior and PTSD. America's psyche took a nosedive.

Adele M. Stan writes a smashingly good review of the millennial decade, as she dubs it. Andy Schmookler at None So Blind tackled it mid-decade, inviting comments on how the first Dubya administration really, truly made you feel. Some powerful revelations from Schmookler and others way back in two thousand five.

Does it make any difference how we say it? To the point that we must be clear in our communications. As an agreement on terms to help ensure fairness and justice. As long as we open ourselves to the possibility of peaceful coexistence with every living being.


Quest for Fire

Lost a plant in the last freeze. Striped, green mush. Goes nicely with the red dye that's seeped from a cheap kitchen rug into a stack of old SXSWi and film canvas bags from over the years. Is that sacrilegious?

Making progress on de cluttering. Unearthing warm clothes, shoes. Junky printer, keyboard, lamp, broken heater, piles of paper, waiting their turn at the door for the next empty recycling bin.

Outdated telephony equipment all in one bag. Schlepped 99% of already sorted books to Half Price, eyeing the bookcases for nipping and pruning.

My touchstones are buried under mounds of stuff. Seeing a glint here and there. Won't be long until I can set up a jewelry work area--clean and repair old pieces and make new ones. Maybe even wear some.

December 25--Texas Hill Country. Plenty of freezing nights this winter. Sleet anticipated tomorrow. Linus has taken to spending the night inside. His fur is extra dense, so it's likely to stay cold for a few months, scattered with 70 degree days.

So how does Quest for Fire fit in? I saw it when it first came out, and thought it was way cool, but then forgot about it in the frenzy of movies in the decades since. Watched it this afternoon, and learned that the director, Jean-Jacques Annaud, worked with the astounding writer Anthony Burgess (A Clockwork Orange) to create languages for the four tribes, based on his study of Indo European language. Annaud called in Desmond Morris for the most educated guess of how they used their bodies, mannerisms, clan-gathering, technology. Most of all, it was how fire was THE real and only deal. Had to have it, hard to make it.

That, of course, got me thinking about what it might have been like in the Hill Country 80,000 years ago. The springs would probably have been more active, a gazillion more critters. Heck, there are a gazillion fewer critters just in the last 50 years.

Going through old writing, One binder had a recipe for Flaky Pastry Shell. Not bloody likely. Recycle bin. It's a good thing I have another week at home at the rate I'm going. Actually, I'm not falling into that trap. I'm simply doing a triage and also making sure that I keep up with my regular trash, which can put a big hurt on my lower back. There's at least 1 box of trash bags in every room, and as I let go of stuff, I toss it in the trash.

So, Quest for Fire. The single gas heater in my house won't burn more than a puny quarter-inch high. My 2nd story bird's nest can get breezy in the winter, and I am afraid it will snuff it out. My friend gave me a small electric heater that is perfect. Only run it briefly when it gets below freezing. Back to decluttering.


Welcome to Austin, Winter

Boston, winter 2008

Winter is wet this year, which is a wonderful thing. Means a good chance we will have blankets of compact, intensely blue bluebonnets in the spring. Ditto for the companion Indian Paintbrushes.Lady Bird's seeds are not dead, only dormant, patiently waiting for rain. Lady Bird's wildflowers connect me  with my good Texas roots. They make Texas significantly more bearable.

Some winters, if we get moisture and milder temperatures, you'll see lots of greenery in one shape or another--the junipers, liveoaks, yaupons are dark, hard green. Mosses are brilliant, so are various bush plants, sage, cacti and succulents. All vibrant green. Until or if a frost comes along.

Other winters, no rain, hard and long freezes, ice storms, all the flora is pruned by mother nature, dead branches everywhere and vigorous spring growth unless the drought persists. Then it's spindly, faded, sparse, pretty much god-awful pitiful.

But that's not what I've been thinking about all day. I think about weather all the time, actually--I drive/bus/ walk to and from work, and drive/walk to and from rehearsals. So I'm out in it. The truth is, even though looking through my last, scarce posts, seeing how many were about people I've lost in the last year, I feel amazingly, vitally, alive. 

Plus the Capricorn stuff. Winter Solstice. That first spark of light. Winter is the Night of the Anticipated Awakening, summer is the Night of the Long Dance. Winter ignites some drive in me to cover ground. Walking, climbing, hiking. New Years Day is to outdoor adventures as the 4th of July is to fireworks. Summer is mostly just freakin' hot. My brain functions best in the 34-70 degree range. I concur with Robert Frost on the ice thing.

And The Christmas stuff. Not Christmas stuff, The Christmas stuff. This winter I am free of old losses that pretty much took the joy out of Christmas for too many years. This winter I sang Messiah for the 39th or 40th time, after taking a 12 year break. It was deeply healing, especially with David Stevens, in Baroque performance style, with the Austin Symphony. A slimmed-down, agile version that showcased the instrumentalists and singers, energized rather than stupefied the audience. Sitting through the complete Messiah can be like sitting through one night of Wagner's Ring (3-4 hours).

Which reminded me of past winter concerts, some with Concert Royale--all baroque instruments, Baroque tuning (slightly lower pitch), creamy-dreamy to sing with. Another endorphin boost. I heart the Baroque.

Savoring all the liquid runs, insanely grateful that I'd walked up and down that pinche hill to and from the Tower long enough to have the breath to pull off those lacy, long sixteenth note passages. Handel didn't slight his altos. Or his violas, or any of the interior voices, vocal or instrumental.

So that's another sign of how winter vitalizes me. I perform best when it's cool. Doing super-hard music is physically demanding. It's kind of amazing to register the mental/physical balance doing music all my life. As a child, it was mentally challenging, physically insignificant. As I age, it's less mentally challenging, but physically difficult (think standing stock still for 30-45 minutes at a time, holding a folder heavy with music, doing mad deep-breathing and sound production, while consummately focusing on a director's every demand).

Lately, the mental/physical has fused into a transcendental state. By now, I have all the major works memorized (that happens if you perform a lot), and I can dispense with a lot of little things that can distract you--the printed music, for one thing. You can attend to tuning, to how your line weaves above and frequently below the tenor line. How you and a soprano become a pair of birds, sweetly swooping and trilling in parallel major thirds (think the duet from Lakme').

Brings us right back around to Rocky Woo-Woo Land. "Support from your diaphragm" becomes "use your core" in today's vernacular. That's the music lesson for today, folks!


Horns/Huskers game goes burnt orange

As the UT side of the stadium lit up, neighbors ran shrieking from their houses. Guess the kids are bringing home some bling tonight. Defence City. They've marched unbeaten to their championship. Good job. Now let's see all of them graduate.


Leslie Jarmon, Incendiary Educator--In Memoriam

My dear friend and colleague Dr. Leslie Jarmon passed away last week. Leslie transformed everyone who was fortunate enough to know her. Authentic, compassionate, illuminated by inner peace. A powerful, abundant, active peace. Leslie embodied the concept of namaste, recognizing and acknowledging the divine in each of us.

Leslie and I were hired by the Graduate School and the former Center for Teaching Effectiveness (now DIIA) in the summer of 1998 to work with international graduate student instructors, Leslie as a teacher, and I as a conference coordinator, to support a state mandated international teacher certification program. 

Meeting Leslie is like encountering a supernova. Even in the simple, mundane act of nuking a single corn tortilla with a slice of cheese on top, she was preternaturally*  present in everything she did. My first thought was,

"Wow. This is a holy woman."

And she was.

Leslie's formidable intellect and compassionate regard for humanity are reflected in her accomplishments. She was in the vanguard of thinkers and movers in instructional technology throughout her career. Her recent grant that I write about elsewhere (and scooped Linden Labs) is visionary--her ability to spark visions in everyone she met was extraordinary.

And she's been doing this for a long time. She was the first person to submit a digitized doctoral dissertation, of which she was most proud. I knew she was in the Peace Corps, but only recently learned that she was regional director for Latin America. I knew she was a spiritual being, because our first conversation was about Pema Chodron, but I didn't know to what extent until she came back from a multi-week silent Bhuddist retreat in Colorado with a broken elbow.

I knew she was musical, but I didn't know that she was part of a virtual orchestra which I had briefly considered joining. I knew she was courageous, because I met her just after her first illness. That she fearlessly and joyously celebrated the last days of her life humbled and inspired me.

Leslie coined the term homo virtualis, and in doing so, described herself, just as she manifested the first dissertation on DVD by describing the world that she created herself.

Leslie gave her passion and energy to others until the end. Mutual friend and colleague Joe Sanchez, co-founder of the Educators Co-op, asked her what message she had to give to the world. She replied, "Tell them it's been REAL."

Tomorrow night I will celebrate Leslie's life with family and friends far and wide, communities expanding exponentially.

Tonight I give thanks for my friend Leslie, who gave me hope and a kick in the awareness pants.

Namaste, Leslie.

Cool stuff about Leslie.
In world here.   Bluewave Ogee

Friends' tributes, interviews, and articles about Leslie's ground-breaking work

here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

*snagged that description from another person who wrote about meeting Leslie for the first time