I’m not exactly sure how it happened, but apparently, I have turned into a Matriarch. I went from having a couple of adorable grandchildren to suddenly having SIX! (Daughter #2 was a late bloomer). With the restraints of lockdown lifted, my daughters and I celebrated a week together with all six grands, ages 6 months to 13 years, in Northern California. The highlight of the visit was a trip to the Big Trees near Arnold, CA.
Though Native Americans, bears, deer and other creatures surely knew of the majestic sequoia (aka redwood) groves, the first European descendants discovered them in 1850 and the trees soon became a tourist attraction. Of course with typical marauder disregard for the sanctity for natural life, the largest tree was felled in 1853. Over 1,200 years of life was displayed as a traveling trophy; the stump turned into a dance floor. I danced on it with my grand kids last week, 168 years since its demise.
Fortunately for the trees and future generations of humans, naturalists like John Muir, Senator John Conness and others, banded together to protect the groves from lumber companies. In 1931, 6,498 acres were designated as Calaveras Big Trees State Park. Easy walking trails meander among the mixed conifers and stands of ancient sequoias. Rising to heights over 300 feet tall and living over 3,000 years, the giant redwoods inspire speechless awe in the beholder. Literally, no words can adequately describe and express their splendor or emotional impact. Many of the trees have been given names–Palace Hotel Tree, Empire State (so tall), Pioneer Cabin, and Mother of the Forest, which sadly stands today as a testament to man’s destruction of nature. In 1854 it was skinned alive of its bark so it could be shipped East and reconstructed to show people a Big Tree. It subsequently died, losing its canopy in 1861. Today it stands as a fire scarred snag. The Mother of the Forest induces feelings of grief and loss. Yet, it is also a symbol of resilience. For despite the worst man could do to her, she still stands.
The sequoias are indeed resilient against drought and fire. Their reproduction is actually reliant on cycles of fire to release seed from pine cones. After the flames have died and the spring rains return, new generations of trees will sprout.
Walking among the Big Trees, the wind stirs the high branches, creating a symphony of swishing crescendos and pianissimos. The community of trees seem to form family groups, whispering over the human visitors roaming their domain. Hopefully, they’ve come to appreciate us, feeling our sense of wonder as we gaze upon them. My crew loved wandering the paths, exploring tree tunnels, and absorbing the sights of nature’s unending creativity.
The trip inspired me to create a new meditation, Wisdom of the Big Trees. Join me for a spiritual, healing journey into the heart of the ancient sequoias.
Book Review by Dana Taylor
SET MY HEART TO FIVE is a book that pretty much defies description. It isn’t like any other book you’ve ever read. Author Simon Stephenson creates a bright futuristic tale starring a “bot” named Jared. In the year 2054, after the great Internet crash, when too many people could not remember the name of their first pet passwords, the world changed irrevocably. Jared is a bot dentist, living in Michigan. He is made from human DNA, but he is not human. He is a bot, akin to a glorified toaster or microwave. A feelingless machine to cheerfully do the work that humans don’t like to do, like root canals.
Bots are designed to perform functions with a smile on their soulless faces. The fact that modern entertainment has created an industry devoted to portraying “killer bots” has turned them into a perceived necessary evil. People are suspicious of bots. A malfunctioning bot is reported and immediately “wiped” or even incinerated.
Of course, our hero bot, Jared, isn’t your run-of-the-mill AI. Through watching pre-crash films, he has developed FEELINGS. Bots are logical machines, they don’t have feelings. But Jared evolves beyond his programing into the specter of emotions. His logical mind struggles to analyze and understand the human experience of feelings and emotions.
While the AI-becoming-human isn’t a fresh story line, the satirical observations on human behavior is what sets this book apart from the rest. Seen through the eyes Jared, humans are the most illogical and bizarre of creatures. Jared embarks on a journey from Michigan to LA with the dream of writing a screenplay that will change the minds of humans about bots. Story line tension is provided by an inept inspector from the Bureau of Robotics is in pursuit of the wayward bot. Through Jared’s Everyman adventures, we see ourselves and the society we have created. Through the laugh out loud excellent narration of Christopher Ragland in the audio version, the absurdity of human behavior is revealed again and again, usually punctuated with Jared’s exclamation, “I cannot!”
By the end, Jared has experienced all the highs and lows of human experience– fear, joy, love , loss and compassion. In fact, he may be an improvement on the human race. Author Simon Stephenson has penned an insightful satirical gem.
I picked up the audio version at Chirpbooks.com for $4.99, which will be at that price through June 2021.
Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble
Book Review by Dana Taylor
Poetry rarely has spoken to my soul, thrilled me with insights, or caused me to sigh. While Rumi and Hafiz have inspired generations of mystics, I’ve sadly been excluded from the club. The last book of poetry I purchased was by Rod McKuen, circa 1970. So it was highly unusual for a poem on my Facebook timeline to grab my attention enough to make me order the book. And I’m so glad I did.
The book is entitled SUSCEPTIBLE TO LIGHT and the poet is CHELAN HARKIN. A sparkling delight in the Divine chimes through the pages, filled with awareness of how much we are missing. Here’s an example:
YOUR OWN DAMN JOY
The price of admission
is your own damn joy.
Please stop denying yourself this
and please stop telling yourself
you’ll only (maybe) get there when you die—-
go there now!
What kind of damn fool
puts off heaven?
Child, it lives in the center of your heart
that endless meadow of happiness and praise.
This world needs you to go there now
to do your part in turning it
into a paradise.
Harkin celebrates the natural world designed by a loving Mother/Father Creator who is shouting at us to look around and revel in the marvelous Universe. She wiggles heavenly hips, serves up buttery potatoes, opens petals to the light. She sees the tragedy of an obtuse humanity and reveals the simple solution.
THE WORST THING
The worst thing we ever did
was put God in the sky
out of reach,
pulling the divinity
from the leaf,
sifting out the holy from our bones,
insisting God isn’t bursting dazzlement through everything
a hard commitment to see as ordinary,
stripping the sacred from everywhere
to put in a cloud man elsewhere,
prying closeness from your heart.
The worst thing we ever did
was take the dance and the song
out of prayer
made it sit up straight
and cross its legs
removed it of rejoicing
wiped clean its hip sway,
its ecstatic yowl,
The worst thing we ever did is pretend God isn’t the easiest thing
in this universe
available to every soul
in every breath
Who is this Chelan Harkin? An Internet search pops up her Inner Spirit Hypnotherapy website, where she offers her healing services as a hypnotherapist. Her Facebook pages place her in Washington state and show precious photos of her year old daughter. Her popularity as a poet is obviously on the rise, I suspect largely through WOM (word-of-mouth), which is the very best kind of publicity. She’s maxed out her personal page at 5,000 friends and has migrated to her Chelan Harkin Poetry page.
SUSCEPTIBLE TO LIGHT appears to be self-published, with a second book coming out soon. I expect Ms. Harkin will soon have mainstream media knocking at her door. At a time when the world is coming out of darkness and gloom, Harkin offers an exuberant clarion call to celebrate life, love, and all creation.
Purchase Susceptible to Light at Amazon
art by Sokal Selmani, Image shared from The Cosmic Dancer
Middle of the night stillness made me feel alone in the universe that night of 1982. I sat in my Oklahoma City living room rocking my fretful five-month-old baby, Cary, through another night of ear infection restlessness. We were caught in a cycle, rounds of antibiotic pink medicine. Seemingly better, then flared up infection again. Cary and I were both very weary of her illness.
I’d recently joined a healing prayer group at my church, a whole new concept to someone pretty much attending church to make friends rather than following religious fervor. Agnes Sanford’s classic book, The Healing Light, had been on the recommended reading list. Dealing with a chronically sick baby is incentive for reading about healing and anything to solve the problem. So, I dove into The Healing Light.
Agnes Sanford was a major figure of the Christian Charismatic movement of the middle 20th century. Raised in China by missionary parents, she picked up Eastern ideas of spiritual forces. Later, as the wife of an Episcopal minister, she witnessed the power of healing prayer. Her blended ideas, observations, and experiences became the basis of The Healing Light.
Sanford contended that healing energy is available to everyone. People simply have to learn how to turn it on. She likened it to a light bulb. If the bulb is in its socket, a power source needs to be flipped on to make it shine. Begging and wishing doesn’t turn it on. You can plead, “Please, bulb, please turn on.” Nothing will happen. But, connected to its energy source, the light beams.
She described the Healing Light and how to “turn it on.” It was on that dark night, long ago, I first connected with the Healing Light. As I rocked Cary in the dim living room, I imagined a shaft of divine energy opening up over my head. I prayed for help. I prayed for connection. My hands cupped over her ears and I imagined light rippling from the heavens, into my head and down my arms. The chair rocked and rocked and rocked. My head warmed and buzzed. Energy traveled through my body. That night only my right hand warmed and pulsed. Waves of energy rose in a crescendo and slowly faded. The baby fell limp in my arms and finally surrendered to sleep. I continued rocking a while, knowing something profound had just happened.
Indeed, the next visit to the pediatrician revealed her right ear was completely healed, the left improved. The cycle of infections was over.
That was the beginning of life-long supernal adventures in healing energy. Many modalities have followed, including Reiki and The Reconnection. But, it was Agnes Sanford and The Healing Light that formed the foundation of my life in healing.
The Healing Light Meditation is my latest offering on YouTube to put others in touch with healing energy for themselves. Turn on the light and shine!