Friday, April 30, 2010


Jo is a friend I admire greatly. She has a degree in medicine, long experience in a psychiatric practice, a history of purposeful world travel exploring mental health issues around the globe. In our first personal interaction, she chewed me out for unnecessarily contradicting her in public.

We've had a warm connection ever since.

Recently, after I'd done a couple of small favors for her, she gave me a bar of soap. Ordinary soap, not colored or scented or in the shape of a seahorse, not made of yucca sap or yew bark.

But it was special. It had been blessed by a shaman of Jo's Navajo tribe.

Now, I really believe in blessings. I believe in formal, even ritual blessings, and informal, spur-of-the-moment blessings, and unspoken blessings , and blessings conferred without language and even without cognition. (I've been blessed by an elephant and at least one bristlecone pine tree.) But I'm uniquely entranced by this bar of blessed soap, and am giving the matter a good bit of thought. I have a number of questions, but not one answer yet. And maybe answers are irrelevant. I'll keep you posted, one way or the other.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


Along with mottled skin and back-talking joints, aging brings new fears in addition to the ones we have known since we first met the Boogey-man.

Yes, of course, there are the universal terrors: hosting a bizarre illness unknown to medical science, suffering a lingering death, forgetting how to tie one's Reeboks or how to manipulate Velcro straps on shoes. But last week I realized I had been harboring, just out there in the twilight on the edges of consciousness, a new shadowy fear.

Over the last few years, I've become afraid that I will never again learn anything new.

Swimming as we all do now in an exploding galaxy of new stuff, how could I have such a fear? New stuff grabs us by the lapels before noon every day of the world, right? Drenches us, drowns us; we swim in it for all we're worth, whether smoothly like Esther Williams , her Jell-O-plastered hair unruffled, her lipstick unblurred, or desperately like the sudden victim of Jaws.

The hitch comes, not with a shortage of "new stuff," but with "learning." You know how sometimes the magnets on the refrigerator door slowly lose their stick-to-it-iveness and just let your pictures or cartoons or $5-off Barnes & Noble coupons slither to the floor? That can happen with the old memory, too.

You read something, or meet someone, that strikes you as interesting; you make a point of tacking it up on the walls of your mind, but a day later, poof! Not there. Example: with a tour of Costa Rica coming up in July, I've been trying to learn a little more Spanish. My sixty-year old Spanish is rusty but still working, I've found. It's the NEW words that have no glue. Words that I did not learn in Mrs. Detor's Spanish class in 1955 simply will not stick. Not without a lot of huffing and puffing. ( I finally nailed down the word for "tip." )

So the other night the scary thought barged in the door: what if what I've got is all I get? What if I have to make do with whatever is already up in the grey cells, with new knowledge flitting in and out like moths but never settling down and becoming part of the household? Different things make different people nervous. For some, the thought of eventually having to give up the keys of the car for safety reasons is hugely depressing. For me, when it comes, it will be only a minor inconvenience. But giving up the excitement of gazing out a new window in the mind would be gloomy indeed.

Happily, I entertained this particular fear for only a short time. A few days ago, I was reading
some essays by the great Jungian analyst, philosopher and writer Helen M. Luke. She was developing the idea that as we try to truly bring ourselves to full consciousness, including confronting our inner demons, we must treat these demons with "courtesy and respect," not gritted teeth and self-loathing. She tells an ancient African folk tale to make the point, and brings forth the deeper insight from this tale with great skill and simplicity. It was a perspective I'd never encountered in just this depth before.

And Eureka! Came the light! I was grateful to have learned this new bit of insight, but especially happy to realize that I HAD learned it and it WOULD stick. I might not remember the details of the folk tale; I might even forget that it was Helen Luke who unraveled the tangles. But the bit of wisdom she imparted, unlike specific facts, would not evaporate from the gray cells and disappear. Somehow, it will stay put, I knew. Even when I am flapping about in unlaced shoes.

Friday, April 23, 2010


Until the startling news about Jesus' being risen in Albania (see yesterday's blog), my favorite misreading was the advertisement for a local fitness center. I kept seeing the billboard along various roadways. It read,


Talk about an image grabbing attention! I've seen a lot of fitness equipment promoted--everything from a four-hundred dollar gadget that cradles your feet while you lie flat on the ground and let the machine send silent sound waves through your body (ho-ho-ho), to a simulated-skiing exercise machine that throws the unco-ordinated novice straight into the snowdrift of bed linens. But a GOAT?

What exactly could be the goat's part in your fitness quest? Catch the goat and win a week's free training? Let the goat (a horned ram) chase YOU and watch the flab disappear? Eat only what the goat eats and become as fleet-footed? (But goats eat old pantyhose and plastic forks!)

After passing the billboard many times, in wonderment, I eventually saw that the final letter was rather skewed, oddly designed. It was not actually a lively T, just a routine L. Sigh. I preferred the goat to the goal.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

So this wise friend of mine has been gently nudging me the last almost-three months about BellabellSoundings having gone mute. Muteness is an accusation I have rarely merited in my loquacious life.

But she's right.

Mostly I had been fretting because some readers were unable to post comments, despite valiant efforts. The explanations from Google were untranslatable, as were my responses to the explanations. So I thought, "I'll do a blog on another [site, engine, sphere, planet--you pick the right word]."

Investigated that move yesterday. Not only did I not understand most of the words explaining how easy it was to start a blog on that engine; I wouldn't have retained the explanations long enough to act upon them had I studied the language. So back to Square One.

New Resolves: I'm going to write more habitually. Regularly, each morning when I get online, I check in at Animal Rescue and click there to help provide food for abandoned animals or endangered sloths, etc. I read the obituaries in a few newspapers, so that I don't ask distant friends whether Frayeda ever finished that oil painting she'd been threatening, only to find out she'd graduated to that Larger Palette altogether. I read a couple of communal blogsites, which I find interesting but often fatiguing, given the wattage of anger, outrage or bristling umbrage. I do a little writing for a volunteer group that advises befuddled youth. So why not blog a bit on Soundings reguarly?

Which brings me to the second resolve. I'll be writing more briefly. Maybe that will help with the first resolve.

As to comments: if you have comments but can't get them posted, send them to me and I'll post them with attribution and thanks.

Today's Sounding (preliminaries behind us) has to do with a marquee outside the Lutheran Church.
We drove past it this morning, and I was startled to read: "OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST IS RISEN IN ALBANIA." Albania? Lutherans? Surely not. Unitarians, sure. Transmogrified Brethren, certainly. But Lutherans?

I love my sunglasses inordinantly. And they do have something of a prescription in the lenses. Rather outdated now, alas. The sign (revisited) actually announced, " Our Lord Jesus Christ Is Risen. Alleluia."