Black Hole

The front page of my paper this morning, yours too I imagine, had the astonishing photo…make that first photo ever, of a black hole.

The article says of black holes, that “If too much matter is crammed into one place, the cumulative force of gravity becomes overwhelming and the place becomes an eternal trap. Here, according to Einstein’s theory matter, space and time come to an end and vanish like a dream.” It goes on to state that equations in Einstein’s theory of general relativity “indicated that when too much matter or energy was concentrated in one place space-time would collapse, trapping matter and light in perpetuity.”

Also in the paper this morning was a new science report on even faster erosion in Alaska than previously found. Word that the US Attorney General without evidence is asserting one president spied on another. Word that, with the recent lowering of emissions standards, US automakers will be facing a divided consumer base. Word of immigration hell and Brexit mayhem. All that was just the front page. To my mind it was timely therefore that the headline for the first image of a black hole read “Peering in Light’s Graveyard”.

The dividing and virtual lens through which we view the world is mind bending. Sophisticated feeds of false information, fantastic conspiracy theories made to look real and false virtual identities abound. I heard three extraordinary journalists speak recently about how Facebook is quantifiably the documented conduit of misinformation through which unsavory leaders and referendums have risen to power. Duterte in the Philippines for one. Astonishingly, Brexit another.

The image of the black hole on the front page is ringed by what’s termed an event horizon…a blazing circle of fiery gases warning of the abyss. Feels to me sometimes that our own event horizon is within sight. There are days after reading the news I want to crawl back into bed and pull the covers over my head. There are nights I wake up with worry about our world and just hang on. Count me, in other words, amongst the throngs of concerned citizens.

I’ve lived long enough to see love dissolve hate. Long enough to experience that evil can be eradicated when love pulls its up by its roots. Long enough to know that rational thought can lead out of any mental jungle if we, as the 23rd Psalm encourages us to do, keep walking. So, to the best of our ability may we heed the event horizon’s warning and each have the courage to hold to that beautiful, bright light…to the true and loving and rational. I really don’t know how else we avoid getting sucked into the vortex.

Perhaps this near deep dive into the dark is the process of un-rooting it. If so, bring it on.

Blue Pearl

Spirit Guide or Nuisance?

The headline read “Eagles Become a Nuisance”.  “How could that be?” I immediately asked myself.  Not eagles! Those soaring, majestic wonders! The article explained that eagles, once on the brink of extinction, have come back full force. That’s the good news. The complaint however is that they rummage in garbage dumps and drop what they end up not being interested in whilst flying over residential neighborhoods, sometimes poncy ones. Just to put “garbage” in the same sentence as “eagle” seems sacrilegious to me.

I remember one fourth of July I was in Jackson Hole with my family. We had opted that beautiful morning to raft down a stretch of the picaresque Snake River. Looking skyward from the raft during one lazy stretch I spotted the regal symbol of America perched in his/her tree eyeing us as we floated by beneath him. I could swear s/he was looking directly at me as if to remind me through his/her knowing and powerful gaze of all that is grand about America. In the moment, it felt like a benediction from on high.

On another occasion I was sailing in the Northwest when a whale suddenly breached in front of us jutting straight up out of the water enjoying his afternoon snack of a school or three of fish. Hundreds of shrieking eagles swooped and sailed in to the capture what the whale did not eat. The precision and power on display was operatic and humbling.

I learn from google that the eagle is “a symbol of great significance.” That because s/he flies higher than any other bird, s/he is “believed to be the creature with the closest relationship with the creator and thus as conduit, conveys the powers and messages of the spirit.” Further that the eagle is “ symbolic of the importance of honesty and truthful principles, perspicacity, courage, strength and immortality.” Not bad for a bird.

On record for the heaviest load to be carried by any flying bird, was one mighty flapper who hauled in flight a 15 lb mule deer fawn.   Now that would be something to find dropped from on high in your back yard.  I also learned that female eagles are as a rule more powerful than the males and tend to be the ones to take charge. OK, cool. Food for thought.

So how, I wondered reading this article, could so majestic a creature be reduced to being a nuisance? But maybe s/he’s not…what if as a spirit guide s/he’s giving us a message? A message to wise up about dealing with our garbage. A message along the lines “clean up the mess you’re making” or “waste not want not.”  A message to pay attention to the planet while we still can.

I’m going to go with that, pledge to do better with my recycling and hold onto that beautiful gaze from that beautiful bird in the tree in Jackson Hole once upon a fourth of July morning.

Blue Pearl

Can’t Say I Didn’t Try

Can’t say I didn’t try. New chap, introduced by mutual friend in hopes that a successful romance could bloom. He’d enjoyed a big success early in his career brought about solely by strength of his own brilliance. Clearly smart, energetic, big traveler, nice first dinner followed by a few more and many calls/emails. Fun…enough to keep investigating. Hilarity ensued.
In our getting to know you chats we discovered many shared interests, including the opera. A few dinners later we decided we’d take a road trip to one a few short hours away. Risky on one level but how else was I, were we, going to find out if something could bloom? A few weeks later, off we went. Two rooms at a VERY swank hotel, positioned discretely across the hall from one another. There’d been a stop for a challenging hike and some cooing on the five hour drive enroute and a glass of wine over dinner, maybe two…being in the same room for some further exploration seemed the thing to do. As he reached for me on the bed now…that first reach, he starts talking rapid fire about jewelry and what pieces he had owned, sold and now prefers to wear…of particular note was “a very expensive Swiss watch.”
“Forge ahead” I think …”maybe it will get better.”
I think he was onto a trip he had taken to Russia as he was reaching for my posterior.
“Forge ahead” I think, “maybe it will get better.”
A pause… “Promising” I think. Then its over. Over? I know because he’s snoring. I slinked back to my room trying to figure out WTF just happened?
Next day we go to a spa…private hot tub to be followed by massage. We’re in the beautiful, private outdoor space…a very nice setting. In true 60’s style he bounced out of the cabana buck naked and now in daylight I see to my horror that his nether region has been waxed within an inch of its life. All that remains is a tiny Hitler like mustache at the top of the disappointing apparatus. Well, its a choice I guess. I can adjust? Against my will, my mind travels to imagining what that waxing session must have been like?
We’re in the tub…jets going…could be romantic. Instead, he stands with his back to me facing the jets which, if he crouches, and he proceeds to do so in a sort of rapid bobbing plie motion… by my estimation will jet his whatnots. So much for romantic. He is however telling me of his trip to the Mustang region of Nepal, bobbing apace all the while.
Nice dinner…I learn a lot about his brilliant and pioneering work in computers, all very interesting as it was truly outside the box thinking. “I’m impressed. I’m inspired.” I think as we leave the restaurant. Not terribly late…dinner went well…maybe things will stir? Nope…off he goes to his room with “Nite, nite. Lites out, jammies on!” and with some relief frankly, I retreat to mine. “Breakfast in bed.” he says over the phone the next morning. OK. Maybe he’s a morning person? I go next door in a sort of drapey beach wrap number. Room service trays, Sunday Times…all very nice. A few stories about his 46, literally, trips to Argentina. The wrap strategically draped, I muster a come hither energy to the best of my morning ability and…nada. Not a glance, nod or comment…just nada.
He does however tell me about his face products…many of which he’d found on a recent trip to Paris. He has many, many more than I. Serum, toners, creams for day and night, puffy days, dry days, masques, sun screen…then the choice of perfumes… Again I’m impressed but not really in the way I was hoping for. Wardrobe consultation…should he don the peach from Istanbul or the pink from London? I go with the pink. He enthusiastically agrees as its “Fresh, like a summer splash.” I then give myself a pep talk in my head, “I am not a beached whale, I am not a beached whale.”
Delights on the weekend were aplenty… galleries, friends, restaurants, the opera (which was extraordinary), etc. and I will say that he was fun, engaging. Could well be we’d travel again together as buddies now that it was abundantly clear what we would not be.
Deep breath. On to the next.

Blue Pearl

Force of Flow?

Force or flow? I have so very much to be grateful for. That said, life rhythms for me feel about 20% flow and the rest gets done by force…pushing ideas and dreams forward. The wheels keep turning but there’s no grease on them. Does that make sense? I mean it as a mere statement of fact, one that does not agree with my little girl fantasy of a fairy godmother (in pink or blue, I could never decide) swooping in and fixing what mess either life or I have made. I do not live in Syria, I have not been forced to flee a dead end and dangerous life in Central America, my family members are healthy, so I know I’m extremely lucky to even claim 20%. Days I can go at it with gusto those are the flow days. Those beautiful days when you feel inspired, capable and fearless. Then there are the others when you have to draw on resilience, on faith, when you set your self to the task even, especially when you don’t feel like it. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that on some of those “force” days I have to frame life in very small increments of time and rely on whatever wisdom I can muster to see me through to the next step. At this stage of the game I suspect we’ve all experienced disappointments, dead ends, great big highs and some hefty lows. As grateful as I am for each of them the good and the bad, there are moments when I think I’ll break under their emotional weight.

So this season as spring begins to pop, I’ll be working to find more flow than force…or maybe just to find more flow within necessary force. May the flow be with you.

Blue Pearl

The Objective View

That time of life I suppose but sometimes I see a chapter of my life flash before me in the obits. It happened again today. Donald Keene was his name, 94 when he died. His life was intertwined with my parent’s lives since just after WWII when they’d all been working in post war Japan. He came back into their lives and into the fabric of my childhood when my folks moved again, this time with my sister and me in tow, to Japan for the shank of Dad’s civilian career. Donald was a pioneer into in depth understanding of the Japanese culture. He cultivated an extraordinary ability to translate that land’s values and beauty to Western sensibilities. He was especially capable when it came to seeing, really seeing the inscrutable heart of the Japanese. He showed the way for so very many and companioned people like my parents, long term expats, on their cultural odyssey. His life was filled with purpose and meaning and his death is a tangible loss.

Perhaps because he never ceased to identify first as an American, he was able to safe guard an objective view of the ways and mores unique to Japan. What I wouldn’t give for a sage, loving yet objective view of what’s happening in our United States of today.

Donald’s legacy makes me think about other cultural scholars whose brilliance provide much needed insights to foreign brethren. Thomas Friedman, Fareed Zakaria and James Fallows come to mind. Those gentlemen help me make sense of a world gone, in some ways, mad. Who, I wonder are the scholars currently working to advance a nuanced understanding of countries that can seem so distant to American sensibilities? Syria, Iraq, all of Central America top my list. I wish those current and future scholars well in their studies for surely it from the seeds of understanding they sew that the fruits of lasting peace will bloom. I hope their good voices find the kind of appreciative platform Donald’s did. We need them now, perhaps more than ever.

Blue Pearl

The Determined Lad

This is the true story of a young man with determination. Since he was three he had had a fascination with all things soccer. He played as many hours a day as he could to the point that I suspect by the time he was 12, he had met his 10,000 hours. The passion carried him right the way into a university soccer program in Europe when he was 18. Within his first year there he was spotted and offered a chance to try out for a professional team. The try out was to take place in 48 hours and getting there involved air travel. Arrangements were made and in the midst of freezing, horizontal winter rain in northern Europe, he set out on the bus to the airport. About 5 miles from the airport all traffic on the freeway suddenly came to a dead halt. There’d been a fatality on the road ahead and no one was going to be able to move for the foreseeable future.
This lad grabbed his bag, asked to be let out of the bus and started running through the now parked cars on the freeway in the direction of the airport. Up ahead was an overpass and as far as he could tell, scaling the nearby muddy berm would position him well enough to climb onto the overpass. Once there, he’d likely be able to flag a cab or reach out to an uber. Up the muddy berm he went only to discover a heretofore out of sight barbed wire barrier. Soccer isn’t dependent on his hands he thought so he tossed his bag over the barbed wire, climbed over it himself and scurried, now wet, muddy and with shredded palms, onto the overpass. From there he spotted a lone taxi just pulling up to a gas station. He flagged it down…when asked by the driver if he was Jared, the young man who is not named Jared, said “Yes” and hopped in with instructions to “Floor it”, to the airport. As they were peeling out of the gas station he saw a man, undoubtedly Jared, flailing his arms in useless pursuit.
He made it to the airport, bolted through security and made it to the gate only to be told that the door had just been closed. He explained that he HAD to get on the plane as he had a try out for a team whose nationality most fortunately was the same as the airline’s. Quick word was had with the pilot, the door re-opened and the athlete was ushered onto the plane. He made it to his destination. Acquitted himself well in the try out and landed a spot on the team. Now that’s determination.
I’ll tell you one more story about this young man. He was visiting his mom in another big city, another freezing rain, winter day. As was his habit, he donned his rainproof winter coat, and set out for his daily training run. An hour later he got back soaked to the bone and shivering. “What happened to your coat?? Where’s your coat??” his Mother said in not particularly dulcet tones. Her son answered, “I gave it to a homeless guy.”
That young man is my son. Today is his 24th birthday and I am one proud Mom. Thanks for indulging me.

Blue Pearl

The Lesson

I had the chance this cold January week to go to a Holocaust Remembrance event at the UN. It was extraordinary. Even with a single digit temperature the cue to get in was robust. In orderly manner we visitors were ushered through security protocol and into the General Assembly Hall, a big light filled room for big thoughts. It is beautiful but not opulent, circles and their resulting metaphors are a repetitive theme in it’s design. Doors are such that the full room can be seated quickly, its functionality is kinetic. Say what you will about the UN but it exists, it has a place that is real, that is devoted to peace and understanding. In today’s world, just that I can write that feels good.
As guests we were given free reign of where to sit, “Just not in the very front rows please as they’re reserved for WWII veterans and holocaust survivors.” I found a seat in the gracefully arced rows, complete with a listening device for simultaneous translations and a tiny flat screen. I imagined myself a delegate from, oh say…France.
After a brief, old school diplomacy introduction given by a right proper British matron the Secretary-General to the UN as the ceremony’s first speaker, welcomed us. He paved the way for the roster of impressive speakers to follow and engaged us as active witnesses to the remembrances we were about to hear. He framed the act of listening as an essential part of the necessary journey to sustained peace. One after another, soldiers of good will gave their testimonies of hatred faced and overcome and of work yet to be done. We were warned against the dangers of indifference, apathy and inaction. Reminded that Hitler methodically attacked the most erudite and sophisticated, clear evidence that those modalities of thought were threatening to the advancement of his heinous vision. As if in direct defiance of that threat the stunning song “Who Am I” written by Madeline Stone was beautifully sung by a chorus of NY youngsters. With a call to “Never forget”, a most profound lesson came from 93 year old Auschwitz survivor, Marion Turski. Three years of savage beatings, frigid cold, acid pangs of hunger, constant lice, had taught him that the worst of it was humiliation. His antidote to arresting current and future hells the likes of which he survived, is the practice of empathy and compassion. Remarkable. I had the chance to meet Mr. Turski. This giant of a man had the presence of an Everyman. A normal guy I think in many ways who had, through cavernous tragedy, had greatness thrust upon him.

I left and didn’t seem to be alone in this, inspired, uplifted. I left awaking to thoughts about how I might reach for my highest self and put that into action in my daily walk as the day’s speakers had. I left vowing to never forget, to never grow numb to evil, to be especially watchful so as to call it out when it creeps, advancing too slowly for normal sight. The message of the day was to hold to the bright, loving and true…to rational thought and high ground as best we can. To live with and afford to others dignity, authenticity, vigor, purpose and gratitude. These elders had. Surely we should too.

Blue Pearl