Words to Live By (Part 1)

“The greatest wisdom is in simplicity. Love, respect, tolerance, sharing, gratitude, forgiveness. It’s not complex or elaborate. The real knowledge is free. It’s encoded in your DNA. All you need is within you. Great teachers have said that from the beginning. Find your heart, and you will find your way.” 
― Carlos Barrios, Mayan elder and Ajq’ij of the Eagle Clan


I’m 50 now.  The big 5-0.  It doesn’t freak me out, worry me, or make me feel like I’m old and getting older (though I am).  It has however made me reflect a bit on the life I’ve lived.  There are things I thought were important when I was younger, when I was more self-conscious and filled with angst.  Very dramatic.  I wrote a lot then.  Prose, poetry (some OK, mostly not), letters I never sent, some I did.  Now, at 50, I’m much more certain of myself, much more comfortable in my skin, not as self-conscious.  I’ve grown.  Most of us do.

Through the course of this time I’ve spent reflecting lately I’ve made a mental list of the things I think are important in life.  Obviously the people in our lives are the most important, but this list of things/ideals are what I believe make a life more fulfilled, the things that can actually make a life extraordinary.  I strive to put them into practice every day.  Sometimes I succeed, sometimes not.  But life is in the trying, and I try.

In honor of my turning the big 5-0 I’m going to throw the list out to the universe, as a gesture of good will and safe keeping.

I got a little carried away when I actually sat down to make the list (which is in no particular order by the way, just written as it came to me) so I’ve decided I will post it in parts.

Welcome to part 1….

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”
― Mother Teresa

Compassion is paramount to living a fulling life, without it we are acting alone in the world, separate from our fellow humans.  We cannot pretend to know another persons story, or how they came to feel and think as they do, but we can honor them as human beings and wish the best for them.  We can be open to the fact that they have had different experiences than our own, not expecting them to then act and think as we do.  Compassion fills our hearts with love instead of animosity, it elevates us.

“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” ~ Dalai Lama

Kindness is the most important tenet, to me.  Above all things.  It’s so important to me that I have the above quote about kindness on every email I send out – you might have gotten one.  Kindness is always possible.  We have to be kind to others, and to ourselves.  I’ve learned a little kindness takes us everywhere we want to go.  It soothes souls, can make a persons day, and costs us nothing.  A smile, a kind word, a thank you, a simple acknowledgement of someone all work toward the common good, and good in ourselves.  It is beyond valuable, beyond priceless.  Kindness is key.

“Tears are words that need to be written.” ― Paulo Coelho

Sadness happens to everyone in life, let yourself be sad when you are, but don’t live there, wallowing in it.  It’s a tough balance, but necessary.  You honor the feelings by letting yourself feel them.  You don’t let it take control of your life by remembering that there is more to life than just the thing that’s created your feeling of sadness.

“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” 
― Maya AngelouLetter to My Daughter

Inhabiting yourself – feel your body, know your mind, feel your presence.  Things will happen to us in life.  Things we cannot control.  Things terrible and strange and lovely and warm and awful and on and on.  We get through it.  We get through it best when we know ourselves, when we feel our own presence and our own power.  That knowing helps us to understand that life will happen, but we can bear it, we can step through it. We can move beyond whatever it is that’s happened and into something new, something that could be wonderful in its own way.

“Beauty doesn’t have to be about anything. What’s a vase about? What’s a sunset or a flower about? What, for that matter, is Mozart’s Twenty-third Piano Concerto about?” 
― Douglas AdamsThe Salmon of Doubt

Beauty is everywhere, if you look for it.  Noticing the wind moving the trees, the sun glinting through a fence, the way the dogs have that little walk they have, a phrase, a painting, a blade of grass, my honey breaking into song, in light and love and kindness.  Beauty is everywhere.  We choose to see it, or not.  Life is so much better if you look for it.

“We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men; and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects.” 
― Herman Melville

Connectedness  Connection is everything.  We are not islands unto ourselves.  Our actions effect those around us, just as the actions of others affects us.  It’s so important to remember that our ideas and ideals are ours and to dwell in the knowledge that other people, other creatures, have their own ideas, wants, needs.  What we do, every day; the words we use when speaking to others, the actions we take in kindness, to our fellows and to our planet, all ripple out.  One kindness generates another, one word of anger generates more anger, one positive thought spills out to create more positivity in the world, a negative thought spreads negativity.  Everything we do has a consequence for others in small, and sometimes not so small, ways.  Everything is connected.

“But I can hardly sit still. I keep fidgeting, crossing one leg and then the other. I feel like I could throw off sparks, or break a window–maybe rearrange all the furniture.” 
― Raymond CarverWhere I’m Calling From: New and Selected Stories

Anxiety.  I have it.  Everyone experiences it.  It’s not always rational, but it’s a natural part of living, of caring about people, caring about the world, caring about yourself.  There is no getting rid of it entirely.  The question is, does the anxiety control you, or do you remember to breathe, look it in the face, and try to keep stepping forward.  Sometimes I succeed in that.  Sometimes I don’t.  That’s OK too.  We can all wish for a little less anxiety in life, but we have to be careful the wishing doesn’t just lead to more anxiety.  Acceptance, stepping into and through it, instead of constantly denying and fighting against it, helps.  We have to remember to breathe.

“No one needed to say it, but the room overflowed with that sort of blessing. The combination of loss and abundance. The abundance that has no guilt. The loss that has no fix. The simple tiredness that is not weary. The hope not built on blindness.” 
― Aimee BenderWillful Creatures

Temperament and trying to keep oneself on an even keel is important.  The energy we give out to the world matters.  Not that we should live for others, we shouldn’t, but it’s important to be aware of our impact on others.  That we do have an impact.  It’s not easy when you’re in a bad mood, but it’s so important to try to be your better self, to try to remember not to inflict that mood on everyone around you.  Conversely it’s important to remember that if someone you meet in your day is in a bad space, they may have had a terrible day, or be battling demons you don’t know or understand.

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” 
― Frank HerbertDune

Fear, or the lack of it, is one of those constants in life.  We are afraid of what is happening, or what could happen, or what did happen.  Fear eats at us and taunts us and reminds us that we have a lot in life we don’t want to lose.  Fear is.  I love the line in the quote above about letting it pass through.  That rings true to me.  We have to face the things we’re afraid of, as best we can, and then let that fear pass through us.  We have to let ourselves look at what we fear, look it in the eye.  Only then do we begin to take the reins back from it.  We can never live entirely without fear.  We love, we dream, we hope, and so, we fear.  It is a part of living.  A part of caring.  But we can try to keep it from taking control of us, we can try to be its master, instead of letting it be the master of us.

“The only time you look in your neighbor’s bowl is to make sure that they have enough. You don’t look in your neighbor’s bowl to see if you have as much as them.” 
― Louis C.K.

Empathy is central to living a full life.  Kindness, compassion, and love all come from a place of empathy.  We don’t have to know or have lived someone else’s circumstances to ache for them or to hope for them.  We tend to live in our own little worlds, sure of our ideas and opinions, secure in the thought that what we think, the way we think, is the right way.  Sometimes we even believe what we think is the only way.  We’re wrong.  We have no idea what another person’s experience is, where they came from, what they’ve seen, what they’ve lived through.  To have true empathy is to say that you might not understand someone, but you want to nourish their souls anyway.  It is to admit that you don’t know everything, and that you shouldn’t judge what you don’t understand.  To empathize is to step outside of your own set of rules and to say that you feel for another human, regardless of the presumptions you have about them.

Sailing Away

There is so much beauty in the world. I try to remind myself to be open, compassionate, and kind every day. We don’t know anyone else’s story. People are complex and have lived through things we will never understand. It’s important to remember that.

A public piano was installed, and then a homeless man sat down to play.

Be The Love You Want to See in The World

1935760_142466440801_985538_nI’m in a good mood.  And maybe because I’m in a good mood I want everyone to be in a good mood.  Happy speaks to happy, that kind of thing.

I know, I know, there’s a lot of shit going on in the world.  Yes, I said shit, I’m allowed to cuss once in a while.  Sometimes no other word works.  Seriously though, I’m not blind to all the stuff that’s not working.  I know there are things that need fixing.


I think it’s easy to get caught up in what’s wrong.  It’s so easy in fact that we don’t see what’s going right.  What’s good.  The conflict and hate and the things we dislike seem to take our attention.  I’m not sure why that is.  We get critical of, and complain about a myriad of things – family members and politicians and news programs and celebrities and an endless litany of stuff.  The onslaught leaves us in a state of anxiety, anger, and helplessness.  Is there another way?

Sometimes, I think it’s just a matter of perspective.  Sometimes, all it takes is a moment, a little shift.  Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and open them again.  Look at the sky and the light and the faces of the people you love.  Put on a great album and hear the notes, the arrangement, the groove of the vocals.  Read a book and appreciate the beauty of the words.  Listen to the laughter of your children or grandchildren or your spouse.  Play with your pups or cats or rabbits or lizards and notice how much they love you.  Seek out positivity in your news, see what good is being done out in the world, there’s so much of it.  Notice kindnesses and smiles and the friendliness of your neighbors.  Watch sunsets and look with wonder at the amazing things we can build when we dream.  See the world with different eyes, a different heart, and it will be different.    It can be.  Even if we only manage to do it for a moment or a day.  String those moments to hours and those days to weeks. If we notice the kindnesses in the world, maybe we’ll act with more kindness.  Be the love you want to see in the world.

I’m in a good mood today and I want everyone to be in a good mood.

Words From Rilke

Rainer Maria Rilke
Rainer Maria Rilke (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


We have no reason to harbor any mistrust against our world, for it is not against us. If it has terrors, they are our terrors; if it has abysses, these abysses belong to us; if there are dangers, we must try to love them. And if only we arrange our life in accordance with the principle which tells us that we must always trust in the difficult, then what now appears to us as the most alien will become our most intimate and trusted experience. How could we forget those ancient myths that stand at the beginning of all races, the myths about dragons that at the last moment are transformed into princesses? Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.
Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet


Put One Foot In Front Of The Other

When I was growing up I watched, like many of us, the holiday film “Santa Claus is Comin’ To Town”. I was five the first time it aired. It’s amazing how something so simple as a young kid watching a fun holiday movie can stick with a person all these years later, and yet it has.

For some reason, unknown to me actually, whenever I’m facing some difficult time in my life, and there have been a few of those, I hear the words of the song “Put One Foot In Front Of The Other” in my head. It pops in there, all on it’s own. Most specifically the chorus, “put one foot in front of the other, and soon you’ll be walkin’ cross the flo-o-or, put one foot in front of the other, and soon you’ll be walkin’ out the door”. It’s meant to be a song about trying and making a change. For me it is those things, but it’s also a song about moving forward, one step at a time. It says to me that as long as you keep taking one step and then another you will move through whatever it is that’s hard into somewhere new and beautiful. It’s a song about fortitude and perseverance, it’s about looking forward instead of backward. To me it’s a song of hope.

Putting one foot in front of the other gives me comfort and reminds me, in the larger scheme of things, that though life can be hard, inconvenient, scary, and awfully painful sometimes, it can also be magical and beautiful and full of wonder and love.

Today I thought I’d share the little song that’s had such an impact on my life because I love it, but also because maybe there’s a person out there who will feel the message, get inspired, get up, and put one foot in front of the other. It works for me.

Fear And Love in Illinois

Honesty.  Being honest.

I am afraid.  Not always, but I am.  I am trying not to be.

I capture moments of joy, soaking them up, appreciating them with every part of my being.  My honey doing something silly and wonderful and full of joy, which she does many times a day.  Her smile.  Sebastian’s laugh or new word. The gorgeous setting of the sun.  The pups loving on me in the way only they can.  Wind in the trees.  Music stirring my soul.  A film I love.  Hugs from family.  A visit from my Mom.  Art that aches to express itself and somehow understands me.  Kindness.  Moments of love from family and friends.  Hope.

And then I have those dark moments.  Afraid.  Scared.  Taken with a near paralyzing fear that maybe this time the blood results won’t be good.  Then they are, and I feel as though I can take another breath.  This is how it goes.

To be brutally honest I’m sitting here with tears streaming down my face.  Happy.  Yes, it’s that every other week Tuesday and I just got my results.  They were really good.  Of course they were, I don’t have leukemia anymore.  But…

It’s that word, that awful word… but.  I fear.  I have fear.  I am afraid.  Not all the time anymore, like I once was, but I am still afraid.

Sometimes I look at people I don’t know, which I did a lot this last weekend at Ebert Fest.  I look at the crowd, overhear conversations, get a peek into people’s lives.  I hear about work, and school, and giving, and politics, and passionate causes, and daily life.  And sometimes I think to myself, of course without really knowing any of these people, wow… you have no idea what you have.  You are walking around asleep.  And trust me when I say I don’t mean this as a derogatory thing.  I envy people who are sometimes asleep, or better described I guess as sleep walking.  They don’t know how fast life can change, and does.

Karen and I were talking the other day about this very thing.  How sometimes people are so caught up in things, stuff, the daily minutia of living, they forget.  They forget what it’s really about.  It is never about stuff, things, small arguments, disagreements, anger, what you have or don’t, what you want or don’t.  It’s about love and beauty.  Period.  Which I know I’ve talked about before here in this blog of mine.

Somehow I wish I could shout out to the world for people to wake up.  Wake to love and beauty and joy and each other.  Wake to sameness and togetherness and the simple joy that we are here in this day, with each other, looking at this lovely place we call home, wherever that is.  I want to shake people.

I don’t want to sound like I know something others don’t, but in this regard, I think I kinda do.  I’m grateful for the knowing, which I think I’ve had most of my life, and for the continued teaching life has brought me to even better and more fully understand.  I’m still learning.  I take nothing for granted.

I know all of this, appreciate it, and yet I am still afraid.  I still find myself holding my breath.  It gets better, is getting better, but some days, sometimes, it’s tough.  I want to see more of my share of sunsets, and laughing good friends.  I want to get more kisses from my grandson and from our puppies.  I want more hand holding and hugging and smiles.  I want more wind in my face and sun on my feet.  I want more.  I want.  The wanting is a very hard thing to admit out loud.  But it’s there, every time I get worried.  Every time I am afraid.  I want because I am loved and I love so deeply.


To See or Not to See

This is an amazing story about beauty, perception, art, and what we see, or don’t see, as we go about our daily lives. Do you stop and notice, enjoy, live in the moment with something beautiful or do you walk past without a glance, without a thought for what’s happening right in front of you. What would you do?

I See Beauty

I have a high aesthetic.  Meaning that I have an extreme sense of the beautiful.  I don’t want to say that I can judge for others what is beautiful, but for myself I see beauty everywhere.  I used to say I saw photographs in everything, which is true since that’s my medium, but really it’s more than that.  My view of the world is filtered through my sense of beauty.  And before all my friends and family start thinking to themselves about whether or not I’m judging how they look… that’s not it at all, and no, I’m not looking at you that way.  Other than, I suppose, to see your inner beauty, which I do, but that’s a topic for another day.  I’m talking about the world… people don’t factor in unless it’s a mass of them in a space and that particular scene is beautiful to me.  Or a couple holding hands walking through the park.  Beautiful.  But again, I’m talking about space, architecture, nature, form, light, design, intention.  I mean grace of movement, melody, warmth, a point of view.

Is this making sense?

I’ve never attempted to articulate this before, but yesterday I was looking at our living room.  Simple.  We both appreciate art, in many forms, and it’s evident in our space.  The furniture is even sort of funky, which is part of it.  We are eclectic, because we always get something because we love it, not because it’s what we should have to go with whatever else we have.  We figure if we love something it will fit into the whole of what our place is.  The vibe.  We also believe in not having too much “stuff” so we try to keep things non-cluttered.  It’s a balance of taste and style and funk and having our space feel a certain way.  So I was looking at it and found myself thinking and feeling that a certain aesthetic sense fills it.  It fills me.  Anytime we go anywhere I see photographs.  Not the usual panorama, though sometimes that’s so, but usually a part of something, the form of something, the way the light hits a particular thing.  I notice.  And I’m glad I do.  It’s what happened yesterday as a certain winter light shone in through our living room window and hit part of a lamp.  That’s all.  Just a little light filtering in and hitting a part of lamp.  It was stunningly beautiful.

I never get too busy to notice, never too rushed to notice, because even when I am busy or rushed I still notice as my eyes pass something.  It’s wonderful.  At least I feel as though it’s wonderful.  I feel lucky to have this thing inside that naturally lets me see the larger, deeper, subtler things in life.  The way a leaf blows across the street, the barking of a distant dog that sounds happy, the passing shapes in clouds, the shadows made by the rising of the sun.  I sometimes feel these things so much I cry.  Cry from a place of joy for having seen something so stunning.  It used to embarrass me, but it no longer does.  I feel privileged, and I wish more people stopped quietly and said to themselves…wow… that is beautiful.  Whatever that may be.  I think the world would be a better and more joyous place.  How could it not be.  It brings connection with things, connection with the larger world, makes a person feel small and a part of something bigger all at the same time.  It brings a sense of peace, that things are as they should be for a moment, these brief snippets of time.  It’s freeing in a way.

I feel fortunate, lucky, privileged, to see the world through these eyes… these eyes that see beauty in the smallest things all around me.   And my hope is that you see it too…

Across The Pond

Across The Pond

Originally uploaded by Tokenhippygirl

Again… this place is just beautiful.

Walking In The Palace

Walking In The Palace

Originally uploaded by Tokenhippygirl

A little perspective here… That’s Karen, walking around the palace.

The Ladies of the Palace

The Ladies of the Palace

Originally uploaded by Tokenhippygirl

The Palace of Fine Arts. Haven’t been there for years. Not since I was in my early 20’s. At least, I think I was in my early 20’s. Maybe I was 19. Yes, THAT long ago. I love this place.


Renewing, originally uploaded by Tokenhippygirl.

The Davis Lake West campground is an amazing place. Several years ago there was a pretty devastating fire in the area. All the area right around the campground was burned to a crisp. When you drive down into the campground it’s like going through a forest ghost town. Dead trees everywhere. Miraculously though once you get right to the campground… trees, green, underbrush. It’s like an oasis in the middle of the desert. Strange… and beautiful.

The area where the fire was is starting to show major signs of life… underbrush really starting to develop, small trees sprouting up that will one day tower over the landscape. It’s lovely. A beautiful reminder that life springs and moves forward, constantly flowing. There’s always something new, always something beautiful, always. If you look, and sometimes you have to look hard, you can always find it. Nature is amazing and life is a constant and stunning miracle.

Splash of Orange

Splash of Orange, originally uploaded by Tokenhippygirl.

I also took this one as we walked back to the truck from the fair. Loved the bright orange in this. Nature is fantastic.



November, originally uploaded by Tokenhippygirl.

Falling November leaves in Oregon.

Taken on November 1, 2008 with the Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT.