Thursday, June 26, 2008

13 Books that Changed my Life (TT#11)

Thirteen Books that Changed My Life

Booklists were a bit of a blogsphere theme in the past few weeks - so here's my list - and limiting it to thirteen was almost impossible. I could have 13 lists of 13 - but picked a few of the many "old friends" on my bookshelf to introduce you to.

1. Cheaper by the Dozen - Frank Gilbreth Jr. & Ernestine Gilbreth Carey - This family autobiography about the life of a 12 child family at the turn of the last century, parented by Time & Efficiency Pioneers Frank Gilbreth and Lillian Moller Gilbreth made the largest impact on my life than any other book that I can think of. It was the philosophy of "the therblig" that captured my imagination and made me look at "how things really worked" - and could be made to work better faster smarter to save time. Why save time? To have it for the things that matter. Like knitting, spiritual practice, healthy relationships, and FUN!

2 Anthem / Atlas Shrugged / The Fountainhead - Ayn Rand - Okay, so Ms. Rand goes a little too far some of the time - but the core ideas of her philosphy of Objectivism make a ton of sense - at least to me. Selfishness is a virtue - and is congruent with the Wiccan values of causing no harm. Anthem should be issued to everyone on their 13th birthday. Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead are mind blowing explorations of the human psyche - are we gods? are we men? What does it mean when we react to ordinary events with superhuman insights? Is it in our best interests to respond to hypernatural events as mere mortals, with all our pettiness intact? Who am I? What do I contribute? Where do I fit? And the very indirectly posed but ultimate question - "How should We Then Live?" Ayn - you rock my world.

3. The Illuminated Rumi - Coleman Barks - I have been a devotee of the spiritual poetry of Sufi Dervish Rumi since I first read his work as a teenager. I re-awakened to his magick through this book - inspirational artwork that takes the sacred words and gives them a different focus - it made me understand "why" the Bible is read in single sentences (putting aside the discussion about context) - because sometimes a phrase is so beautiful - so profound - so inspiring that it simply must stand alone - or in front of a synergistic piece of art that illuminates its meaning at an entirely new level.

4. As in the Heart, So in the Earth - Pierre Rabhi (or if you read French )
I wrote a review of this book for the Aquarian (happy to send you an electronic version if you would like to read it as their online archives are not up to date). This is the most inspiring book I have ever read. It touches on all the things dear to my heart - spirituality, environmentalism, social justice and it knits them all together in a wonderous fable that could be shared with anyone over the age of 10. It allowed me to see with new eyes, and feel the changes on our planet so much more deeply than I felt possible. Please, can someone put Pierre Rabhi and Al Gore in the same room, (preferably the General Assembly of the United Nations) and let the rest of the world just soak up the wisdom - and the human-ness - of Gaia's current crisis through the voices of these two incredible men.... and because Pierre comes from the developing world (Africa) he is the flame to Gore's wick - because he has seen it all - and sees it all - and still gets his hands in the earth to affect change in both the micro and macro cosym.

5. The Book of Runes - Ralph Blum - Okay - so its not a historically accurate guidebook to the runes, and its full of new age claptrap warm fuzzy spiritual meanderings. BUT - it accompanied my very first set of Runes - hand crafted by a Heathen Priest, consecrated by blood, fire, and moonlight - and Ralph's gentle teaching style guided me into the world of divination and Divine Connection - he took me to the feet of the Oracle. Never mind that the Oracle then took me off in an entirely different direction - Ralph got me there. His opening poem is something that my corner of the Pagan Circle still use as a ritual greeting. It works. Just goes to show that the Divine doesn't have to be historically correct to be connected to the hearts of the faithful - the Divine can speak through any medium and the journey can begin.

6. Wicca for the Solitary Practitioner - Scott Cunningham. From my earliest memories, I was a spiritually questioning child - and knocked on a lot of doors to find the house where God lived. No matter what "church" I was attending, I always did my own thing, and my questions defied any orthodoxy I encountered, much to the chagrin of several pastors, deacons and elders. It wasn't until my early twenties when I wandered into the Philosphers Stone (of blessed memory)on Vaughan St to find a roomful of books that were very much tuned in to my inner frequency - and met members of the Winnipeg Pagan community. I'd bought books on crystals, astroology, etc from Prairie Sky, but like tens of thousands of others, this was my first book on Wicca - and it was my "kindergarten" for a lifetime of Wiccan Studies. I figure I'm still in high school in the Craft - and hope to live long enough to practice deeply enough to be awarded a PhD at the moment of my transition from this life.

7. Glorious Knitting - Kaffe Fassett - Two sticks and some string-like material can make amazingly beautiful things but many of us knitters are stuck in a rut and forget to approach knitting as artistic creation. This book reminds me (as does his other works) that I can play with colors and shapes within the body of my knitting and make truly glorious pieces - especially using up all the little bits and pieces of yarn left over from other big (read: usually monochromatic) projects. I don't "do" as much knitting in the Fassett style as I would like (read: laziness and comfort with the familiar) but from the day I bought this book, my ideas of what was EASILY POSSIBLE have changed - and I think of this book as knitting porn. Kaffe Fassett Official Website

8. The Power of Myth - Joseph Campbell - Rent the PBS series, then read the book, and then watch the PBS series again. You will see life, media, literature, history, religion, mythology, legend, and Star Wars very differently. If you are very brave, read the Masks of God series - to see the evolution of spiritual understanding in the context of human historic development. The collected writings of Campbell shaped my philosophy, informed my religious practice, and gave me an ever deepening appreciation for the wisdom of my ancient ancestors.
The Joseph Campbell Foundation

9. Wheels of Life: A Users Guide to the Chakra System - Anodea Judith - For the first time, chakras made sense. The sequel - Eastern Body Western Mind took my understanding of energy work and vibrational magick to a whole new level - but it really all started with this book. It was like a light going on in my soul that has continued to illuminate my spiritual practice. Anodea Judith's Sacred Centers website

10. Kushiel's Dart - Jacqueline Carey - If I was ever to base my religious practice on a novel, I would be a devotee of Elua, and an adept at "one" of the Houses of Night-Blooming Flowers. In a heartbeat. Love as thou Wilt. An inspiring theology, a wonderful story, a complex culture - who could ask for anything more in a fantasy novel - oh - other than the infusion of Divine Presence. The ongoing debate between those who know me and love me is "what house "is" she? I maintain that I have an "all access pass" to the Night Court in its wonderous variety of tastes, textures and proclivities, but others think they can slot me into one or two houses - and the fun part is finding out who is right. "As You Wish"... The Official Jacqueline Carey Homepage

11.Fionavar Tapestry - Winnipeg's own Guy Gavriel Kaye - This trilogy about "the first of all the Weaver's Worlds"entered my life at a time of crisis in the 1980's, and reading it felt like being thrown a life preserver when storm tossed on perilous seas. I have re-read it annually every year since. There are still passages that make me cry and passages that I still read aloud just to hear the majesty of the writing of this tale often told, but told again with power and compassion. I had the great priviledge of meeting Mr. Kaye, and made an ass out of myself trying to tell him about how much his writing meant to me. His subsequent books all stand alone, but are still connected in some way to this story - through a song, a child's tale, a mythic reference ... and while Tigana is my favourite book (oh - break my heart - every time) of his, Fionavar is the first, and still touches me the most deeply, and is my eternal refuge from the storms of life. Chris Tolkein - you could not have chosen a more worthy assistant, and heir to your father's legacy. Thank you. Guy Kaye's Website

12. Antagonists in the Church - Kenneth Haugk - The Goddess provides me with exactly what I need when I need it, sometimes from an unexpected source - in this case, a Christian minister who wrote the ultimate book on the dynamics of spiritual congregations. "The scales fell from my eyes" as the good book says, and I got to see things as they really were/are - and then make strong and supported decisions about how things would change, move forward, and in some cases end. This "literary revelation" gave me language to identify and name and transform energetic disturances that were no longer serving me, my coven, my tradition or my spiritual community. And - the ultimate lesson is always that we see in others only what we need to address within ourselves. It was a housecleaning of incredible proportions, inside world and outside world, and my only regret was that I got drawn back into that outside world a couple years too early through my attendance at and involvement in Gaia Gathering. The saving grace, to borrow another expression, has been meeting some wonderful people at the first two CPNC's in Edmonton and Halifax (Gina, Kit, Alex, Mike C, Bythor, Selene, Sheena, Hawk, Moon, Fritz, Wren, Blue Wave, Kevin C, Amanda, Tim W, Brendan, Shelley, Lucie, Torrie and others) - who I hope to stay connected to as the Goddess wills and the journey continues. The principles of this book now guide me in all my interactions within anything that calls itself a spiritual community.

13. The Ethical Slut - Easton & Lizst - This book is not really about Sex. It is absolutely about relationships, using sex as a metaphor. It works at two levels - the level of "what it's about" (healthy consensual nonmonogamy) and "what it is really about" - which is how to have healthy relationships (regardless of the sexual aspects) with your partner and how to communicate, negotiate and live within an ethical construct shaped by and for the people in the relationship. It's all about how to negotiate, make and live by your own set of rules. It stresses the Absolute Importance of keeping those rules intact - and not changing the rules of the game without negotiating with the others involved in that fragile construct. Truly, love as thou wilt - one or many - together or separately - but be honest, be honorable, be accountable, and be considerate. To break faith - to be dishonest - to lie by omission - these are dealbreakers and heartbreakers - and the scars remain after the scab heals. We wound each other so easily through self-absorption, self-justification, and self-righteousness. This books helps me to walk the tightropes of the intricate web-weaving of human relationships, understanding the parts that I play in all the interactions I have with those I hold near, dear or far - and hopefully makes me a better person, partner, friend, and lover. Those who see this book only as a polyamorous sex manual miss the point and are doomed to hurt those they love, or say they love. Hopefully, there can be learning through the pain. For those who only learn through pain, I recommend "Screw the Roses, Send me the Thorns"- a little light reading from the Mandrake and Valerian Library at the Night Court.

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

13 Reasons I Love Living In Winnipeg (TT#10)

Thirteen Reasons I Am Appreciating Where I Live...

Having just returned from a business trip to Toronto...

1. All I Need is the Air that I Breathe - and I prefer clean and clear to thick and odoriferous.

2. Water that tastes like water - straight from the tap.

3. Friendly Manitobans. Comparatively, there is no comparison when it comes to basic everyday "how people treat people".

4. Even our scariest panhandlers aren't as scary as the man who actually came INTO the cafe I was eating at, and screamed at me to give him a quarter until the Mgmt got him out.

5. Our "service industry" still understands that politeness and meeting a basic expectation are still vital parts of the transaction process.

6. We have trees. Lots of beautiful green leafy trees.

7. We "get the order right". the only part of my meal last night that was right was the Cole Slaw - White meat was dark meat, baked potato was French Fries, Coke was Pepsi, gravy was "dippin sauce (ugh), and the dinner roll was a stale hockey puck of dough. Yummy.

8. We don't have a double digit humidex. Breathing felt like drowning (on smelly seawater).

9. We still respect personal space. I was pushed, bumped into, had my feet stepped on and my suitcase on wheels rammed into by other pedestrian commuters.

10. Our restaurants are reasonably priced, and offer good value for money. Oh, and the food tastes like food.

11. Our drivers still respect things like red lights, pedestrians in the middle of intersections, and the need for turn signals when changing lanes. Didn't know a bus could stop that fast.

12. Our street vendors are not aggressive. There is a thin line that separates the guy at the hot dog cart on the corner of Front and Bay from the guy in #4.

13. Big Blue Sky - not tall glass and steel towers of commerce.

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

13 GREAT Women Role Models (TT#9)

Thirteen Great Role Women Role Models

1. Marion Seaman, "The Queen Bee" - a woman of grace, culture, music, and laughter, who introduced me to both great music and great art and taught me how to appreciate both. She and her husband Lloyd "Counsel" were inspiring role models for an intellectually voracious and highly curious (in all senses of the word) child who wanted to explore the world and did - through their vast library, travel diaries, and conversation where no question was frowned upon. I miss them still.
Lesson - share your passions

2. Aung San Suu Kyi - (freedom fighter) for standing firm in her principles and being open to dialogue. It is long past time for her house arrest to be over.
Lesson - never back down

3. Margaret Thatcher - (politician) for breaking the glass ceiling and doing a damned fine job of it. A bit heavy handed towards the end but all in all - she was one hell of a politician. Hilary would do well to go for tea. They would have lots of battle stories to share - dissimilar in politics, but receivers of the same sexism. (Hilary 2012)
Lesson - being strong is a women's right

4. Marie Sklodowska-Curie - (scientist) - unstoppable curiosity persistence through the scientific method, perseverance in the face of unbearable hardship, courage in overcoming devastating grief, and overcoming racism, sexism, and xenophobia to be a radiant light (no pun intended) for women who are passionate about the sciences - 2 Nobel prizes in 2 different sciences - and her biography will make you weep and and cheer and know how far women have come - and how far we have yet to go.
Lesson - study what you love - and master it.

5. The Queen Mum - (wife/mother/patriot) - the ultimate in "stand by your man" - her natural social charm helped her painfully shy husband (who also had a speech impediment) to lead Britain and the Commonwealth during wartime. When asked why she, like Queen Julianna of the Netherlands, had not evacuated with the young Princesses to Canada, she replied..."The Princesses will not leave unless I go with them, and I will not go unless the King goes with us, and the King will not leave while there is still an England, so we will all stay and see this through with our fellow Englishmen and women." (or some similar quote...sources vary).
Lesson - be a great partner - in public, their greatest defender, and in private, their greatest advisor.

6. Peggy Guggenheim - (art lover and enabler of genius) - an absolute nutbar with immense wealth and an incredible eye for 20th century art - she is responsible for the care and feeding and nurturing of an entire movement of art that shaped our culture.
Lesson - see the greatness in others and help them shine

7. Julianne of Norwich - (anchorite) - along with the other great women visionaries of the Catholic Church (St. Theresa, St Catherine of Sienna) - she experienced a deep and profound faith that she expressed through inspirational writings that provide comfort to the weary souls of today with as much profundity as in her own time. "all manner of things will be well".
Lesson - let faith guide you - even into small spaces, that hold only you and the Divine.

8. Yoko Ono - (artist/musician/businesswoman) - Her art as part of Fluxus was groundbreaking. Her music (both as a solo artist and in collaboration) has become recognized as noteworthy by the musical community. Her activism for Peace knows no limits - she is not afraid to be a holy fool for the cause of World Peace - her goal is to make you STOP and then THINK - because no thinking person would choose war. She used her grief as a tool to till the garden of Peace activism, watered by her tears over John's death, and has been growing amazing projects season after season.
Lesson - be yourself, and never apologize. Be sincere, not obsequious. Smiles are for shopkeepers.

9. St. Hildegard Von Bingen - (renaissance woman) - her name likely means "multi-tasking" in old German - she was an Abbess, artist, author, counselor, linguist, naturalist, scientist, philosopher, physician, herbalist, poet, visionary, composer, magistrate, founder of abbeys, originator of Opera as a musical form. She wrote theological, botanical, and medicinal texts, as well as letters, liturgical songs, poems, and the first surviving morality play, while supervising brilliant miniature illuminations. She also referred to the Divine in the feminine.
Lesson - you can do anything - you can do everything.

10. Patti Smith (poet) - The Godmother of Punk gave all women musicians express permission to ditch the pretty hair and the pretty clothes and push hard to give birth to the music that boilis inside. A gifted poet (Pulitzer anyone? Nobel perhaps some day) and an electrifying onstage presence, her contribution to making real music took guts and blood and sweat and tears. All those were present when she took the stage to close CBGB's - ending with her ovarial (can't call her work seminal) piece ELEGY - and reading a list of the dearly departed punk legends who played there. Jesus died for somebody's sins, but not hers. or mine.
Lesson - let the passions rage - channel them into something - and demand to be heard.

11. Roberta Bondar (explorer) - Canada's own! Our first woman astronaut and the world's first neurologist in space - she is now working hard to inspire young women to pursue meaningful careers in the sciences, with an eye on healing the planet. A dynamic public speaker, and a proud Canadian,
Lesson - the sky's not the limit. Dream big. Then dream even bigger.

12. Doreen Valiente - (Mother of Us All) - she took a crazy Englishman's delusions of religous grandeur and gave them words and wings and shape and substance and flow and ebb and wrote a religion that still holds her in highest regard. So glad she lived long enough to see the Craft go into its fourth generation. Outspoken, well spoken, she nurtured the flame, and set the watchfires burning for a sacred circle that now spans the globe.
Lesson - Speak your truth. Speak it quickly. Then write it down so you can't be misquoted.

13. Pamela Coleman Smith and the Lady Frieda Harris -(translators of the dream) - these amazing artists worked under the guidance of two very different taskmasters - the always proper AE Waite, and the most IMproper Aleister Crowley to produce two tarot decks that shaped the clay of the occult world into perpetuity. Neither were recognized as the Creatrix of their decks in the greatest travesty of anthrocentric misappropriation of the last century. Fortunately, they have been restored to their rightful recognition as Visionary Artists of the Highest Order.
Lesson - put your name on it. Own your own copyrights and master recordings. Don't let others steal your talents or ideas and get away with it.

And there has to be an Honorable Mention for this Thursday Thirteen -
Your immigrant grandmother (no matter how many greats precede the grand) - almost all of us have one - some woman who left her world behind and went "west" or "east" or "north" to make a better life in an untamed land - a new culture - a brave new world - sometimes legally, sometimes not. In a red river cart, a York boat, a Connestoga wagon, on foot, on horseback, or by steaming locomotive, or by swimming a river - our pioneer foremothers demonstrated all the Girl Guide Virtues and then some - and made 50% of the future, giving 100% of themselves. Their daughters (or granddaughters) fought to give the rest of us rights - to vote, to divorce, to marry or not as we chose, to own property, to fight for our country, and to stand before the altar of the Most High as an equal part of Creation.

and .... for the indigenous kookums (grandmothers) who welcomed them to these shores - and who extended a hand of friendship, or ran in fear, or stood and fought, and who shared food, medicines, and deserved much better treatment than smallpox blankets and seeing their children stolen and shipped off to residential schools. If the women had been allowed to negotiate the treaties, we'd all have bannock and buffalo and the best of what the newcomers brought to the feast.
Lesson: honor the mother wisdom, the deep voice of the ancestors, and of the Earth.

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The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others' comments. It’s easy, and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

13 of my Favourite Places to Eat - here, there and everywhere... (TT#8)

Thirteen Favourite Places to Eat!

1. Home Sweet Home - I am blessed to live with an amazing gourmet chef, who makes the most amazing meals from 100% organic ingredients. We got cookbooks - we got spice racks - we got funky kitchen stuff - and we got Jacinthe - and when all these items align - it is spicy tasty wonderful foodtastic goodness.

2. The Tomato Pie Company - Joseph, Paulo & Rosa (and Pauline behind the scenes) and their wonderful cast of servers and helpers make the best Italian food I've ever eaten (outside of Joseph & Pauline's home dining room). AND THEY USE LOTS OF GARLIC - just like the menu promises.

3. The East India Company - when I want to share in the abundance of a gracious universe, I go to this Temple, and eat food prepared by the Priesthood for the faithful from the bounty of the body of the Mahta, that is shared in fair exchange. More than "just" an East Indian Restaurant - when I want to have food that tastes like a "home cooking from my spiritual home" - I go there.

4. Merkato - Ethiopian food make with care, and lots of spicy goodness. Kalumwa and her family are amazing people.

5. VJ's on Main - this says it all: VJ's special with cheese, fries and a large coke. A Winnipeg institution - the #1 burger and fries in every consumer poll.

6. La Fiesta - authentic central American cooking from El Salvador. extra papusas please - and some more horchata! Kiwi el fraisas for my friend!

7. The Garwood Grill for chicken souvlaki on a bun, and tangy vinegar dressing cole slaw. big goooey cheesey thick crust pizzas - to live for!

8. Musique Magique Potlucks - food is the product of all four elements working together - and when made by my musical family - these once a month gatherings bring all diverse culinary contributions into perfect harmony.

9. with friends who take pity of me and take me out for either seafood or mushroom celebrations, while Jacinthe enjoys a meal that won't kill her.

10. Frenchy's Salt Water Cafe - St. Petersburg Florida - tuna fresh off the boat, and hung by its tail in the kitchen, sliced into steak-like slabs, grilled over charcoal into flakey juicy perfection, drenched in spicy cajun seasoning and lime-herb mayonaisse and served on a soft fluffy bun with deep fried onion rings and potato fries, and very cold ale in thick glass mugs - the walls are weather-beaten boards, everyone sits at picnic tables and watches the sun go down over the water - and the greasy lime-scented hot peppery juices drip off your fingers. Anyone wanna go?

11. The Traditional Irish Breakfast served at Bewley's, on Grafton Street & Westmoreland Street, Dublin. It was a frequent stop in the morning on my way to "work" at HMV - it helped offset the hangover (lots of grease and strong coffee) caused by the visit to the pubs the night before, and sustained me through the day. Nothing like it in the world - and not for those with high blood pressure or high cholesterol - or for the non-carnivorous among us. Éireann go Brách!

12. The late and lamented Chez Paco - the best little poutine stand in Macamic PQ. closed this year due to the general economic hardship in the region - it defined "poutine" for several generations of loyal Abitibi residents. Our traditional "first meal" when we reached the farm was a trip into town for poutine.

13. anywhere friends gather to lift a glass and share a plate of something with much laughter (or tears) some tall tales, a bit of music, and kinship and camraderie.

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The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others' comments. It’s easy, and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!