Friday, September 30, 2011

The Ritual of Handwriting

Writing nailed to a tree, taken by me in northern Thailand, 2005

"It seems that handwriting is morphing into a source of leisure, reaffirming its magical, artistic and sacred origins."
    —Ecriture Infinie website

Ecriture Infinie is a world-wide project organized by Bili Bidjocka to celebrate the process of writing by hand. Large notebooks are filled with what contributors would write if it was their last opportunity to write something by hand. (Discovered via Black Eiffel.)

photo via cool hunting

What would you write as your last handwritten note? I think mine would have to be something personal and heartfelt. Perhaps a love letter, because I love getting hand-written notes from my husband. Sometimes I can't understand them, because his writing is a little scratchy, but I love that each letter uniquely reflects his hand.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Happy Funtimes with Animals

Have I been a little too introspective lately? In the past couple of days, I've noticed myself looking for things that will tickle my funny bone.

Just an Ordinary Fellow, by Marc Johns

Here are some little delights I've discovered, with some special animals thrown in:

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Doorway Blessing

I've been thinking about posting a blessing near our front door, as a little reminder of how I'd like to live. Kind of like the mezzuzah of Jewish tradition, except completely different, because I wouldn't be playing by the rules.

Some contenders:

1. The closing prayer of the Navaho blessingway:
In beauty I walk 
With beauty before me I walk 
With beauty behind me I walk 
With beauty above me I walk 
With beauty around me I walk 
It has become beauty again 
It has become beauty again 
It has become beauty again 
It has become beauty again

It's hard to beat wisdom as beautiful as that. Whole books have been written about the Navaho concept of beauty, which can also be translated as harmony. More on that some other time. 

2. Some words a teacher used to say:

Now go out into the world, and expect the unexpected . . .

Simple words that I return to again and again.

Illustration by Carson Ellis for Wildwood
via Mrs Fancy Pants

3. Some words that I write myself that somehow capture the idea that the world is magical and I'm a part of it.  But if there are already such eloquent expressions out there, I'm not sure if I can say it any better.

Stay tuned! 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Song of the Day: "Keymaster"

"Keymaster," by Caleb Burhans and performed by Janus trio, is the perfect music to listen to while being creative. The gentle sounds of the flute and harp combined with the more rich tones of the viola make a gorgeous, magical combination.

Whenever I listen to Janus's CD, i am not, I always feel like I've been transported into a beautiful world, or rather, I see the world I'm living in as a little more wonder-ful.

What music do you listen to when you want to be inspired?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Stone vs. Tree

Yellow Birch, Adirondacks, by Michael Melford for National Geographic

The giant pine tree
grows from a tiny sprout.
The journey of a thousand miles
starts from beneath your feet.

    —Tao Te Ching, 64

On reading the passage above, this Westerner immediately thought "Oh, this means I should set a goal and work towards it little by little." But I don't think Taoists sages were very goal-oriented! (I think their disposition had something to do with desiring to have no desire . . . ) The goals of Taoism seems much less will-driven.

So what's the moral of the story? Patiently cultivate your life, appreciate the miracles that can come in the tiniest packages, and welcome the surprising twists that come along the journey.

Here's the full text:

What is rooted is easy to nourish.
What is recent is easy to correct.
What is brittle is easy to break.
What is small is easy to scatter.

Prevent trouble before it arises.
Put things in order before they exist.
The giant pine tree
grows from a tiny sprout.
The journey of a thousand miles
starts from beneath your feet.

Rushing into action, you fail.
Trying to grasp things, you lose them.
Forcing a project to completion,
you ruin what was almost ripe.

Therefore the Master takes action
by letting things take their course.
He remains as calm
at the end as at the beginning.
He has nothing,
thus has nothing to lose.
What he desires is non-desire;
what he learns is to unlearn.
He simply reminds people
of who they have always been.
He cares about nothing but the Tao.
Thus he can care for all things.

    —Tao Te Ching, 64, translated by Stephen Mitchella

For more "tree takeovers" see this flickr gallery.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Cosmic Dancer

The Dance, by Esti of Pintameldia

There's a beautiful paper called "Dancing in God: The Relevance of Ritual for Conceiving the Divine Today," by Curtis Thompson on the University of Chicago's Religion and Web Culture Forum page.

The challenges, as Thompson sees them:
  • to address daily practices often considered unreligious
  • to confront dis-ease with being embodied, i.e., translate the divine back into nature
The modalities of dancing:
  • pantheism's dancing heart: the dancer affirms God's presence in everything
  • panentheism's dancing mind: the dancer affirms God's transcendental embodiment, interdependent from the world
  • pantranentheism's dancing soul: the dancer affirms God's transformational presence and her partnership with God
The conclusion:
  • "To allow the dancing heart and the dancing mind and the dancing soul to coalesce in a full-bodied dancing in God is to join in the sacred dance of the cosmos."
The Tree Inside Her, by Esti of Pintameldia

Read the article for all the juicy details. This summary is simply meant to inspire an attitude of frolicking, leaping, and generally joyful living!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Happy Autumn

Happy first day of autumn! It doesn't matter when the calendar year starts, autumn always feels like a time of new beginnings for me. 

via Lacrima di ghiaccio

Going on a walk with the doggie, we were both a little prancy from the cool air. Of course, I can't walk on my tiptoes with legs straight like she does, but we both walked with a bounce in our step. We could smell transformation afoot.

Fantastic Fall Fox Coat, made by Molly Goodall
photograph by

That's all. A simple post. Sometimes you've got to just delight in being a part of the beautiful, ever-changing world.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

6,400,099,180 moments

When I pay attention, I find hope and joy in the simple act of living.

Landscape, by Annabel Hewitt

If there are 6,400,099,180 moments in a day, that's a lot of preciousness to soak up.

Sunflowers, by Annabel Hewitt

Maybe it because I sat with my soul yesterday, but I'm feeling a little more joyful, a little more hopeful about life's surprises yet to come.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Soul's Mandate

Sailing away to the Moon, by Harrison Howard
via Stylebeat
"Sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul."
    —Edward Abbey

I discovered this quotation from Free Will Astrology, which is always an excellent resource for inspiration. Edward Abbey may have had a different idea of action than I do, but that's the beauty of individuality. And anyway, I doubt any soul's sentiments can be narrowed to a single action or even a single theme.

To put that idea in another form, and to get a little Zen, what are the soul's sentiments, anyway? Speaking from my own experience, my soul is about as mysterious as the moon, and all I can do is be actively, mindfully present with that mystery.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Sorry for the lack of a post yesterday. Life's been keeping me busy!

For now, check out the work of Jennifer Hudson. I was first captured by how beautiful her work is, but the more I look at it, the more I see some fantastic social commentary going on.

Untitled, from the series Flora, by Jennifer Hudson
via Panopticon Gallery

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Alchemy of Love

I'm giving a reading at my friend's wedding today. I almost wish I'd found this poem for my own!

picture via Art & Lair

"Fidelity," by D. H. Lawrence

Man and woman are like the earth,
that brings forth flowers
in summer, and love, but underneath is rock.
Older than flowers, older than ferns,
older than foraminiferae, 
older than plasm altogether is the soul underneath.
And when, throughout all the wild chaos of love
slowly a gem forms, in the ancient,
once-more-molten rocks
of two human hearts, two ancient rocks,
a man's heart and a woman's,
that is the crystal of peace,
the slow hard jewel of trust,
the sapphire of fidelity.
The gem of mutual peace
emerging from the wild chaos of love.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Slow Food Challenge

Slow Food USA is challenging everyone to participate in the $5 Slow Food Day on September 17. The idea is that delicious, healthy food can be made for the same price of a fast food meal.

We happen to eat like this most nights. In fact, one of the first meals I ever ate with my husband could qualify for the slow food challenge. One night, he served me his famous turkey chili. It was like a love potion: so hearty and so healthy. It's also easy to make, so let me see if I can describe it.

Tomatoes, by Pragya Kothari

Gather a bag of beans (white, mixed, etc. it doesn't matter, although if you use kidney beans, make sure you boil them first, because they have a toxin that won't disappear in the slow cooker), a can of tomatoes, some ground turkey meat (or not if you're going for veggie bliss), chopped bell pepper, and chopped onion. Maybe add some garlic and some good red chili powder for some extra flavor.

Dump the ingredients into a slow cooker, and add about 4 cups of stock. (You're making your own and freezing it, right? It's so easy and so good.) Let everything cook on low for at least 5 hours. The longer you wait, the better it tastes.

Serve over rice, or with corn bread. Yum! A perfect summer-to-fall transition meal that's cheap and creates enough leftovers to last a week.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Admiring: Ballerinas

I just saw A Day in the Life with Misty Copeland, an African American dancer with American Ballet Theater who is passionate about getting people of color dancing in ballet. She's so beautiful to watch, and her outreach is really inspirational.

Misty Copeland
I'm also a fan of the "Five Moons Ballerinas," American Indian dancers from Oklahoma who impacted ballet in important ways. Yvonne Chouteau, a member of the Shawnee tribe, danced with Ballet Russe and founded the first nationally accredited dance program at the University of Oklahoma as well as Oklahoma City Ballet. 

Yvonne Chouteau
Photograph by Jack Mitchell, Getty Images

Maria Tallchief danced for the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and the New York City Ballet, in works by her husband, George Balanchine.

Maria Tallchief
Maria's sister, Marjorie, along with Moscelyne Larkin and Rosella Hightower were also internationally renowned. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


An illustration from The Red Book, by Carl Jung
via weheartit

If you created a book of your inner world, what would it look like? The Red Book, Carl Jung's detailed dream journal, takes journaling to a whole new level. 

Pages from The Red Book, via the New York Times

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Thunder Silence

I learned a new word in Japanese: mokurai (黙雷), which is translated as "thunder silence."

Being a quiet person, I love this word, because I feel how active and charged silences can be. Sometimes there's too much to say, and sometimes the other person needs compassionate silence more than words, anyway.

"We can make our minds so like still water that beings gather about us that they may see, it may be, their own images, and so live for a moment with a clearer, perhaps even with a fiercer life because of our quiet."
    —"Earth, Fire and Water" from The Celtic Twilight (1893), by William Butler Yeats

Winds from the East, by Stephen Beadles
via Selah, Selah

Monday, September 12, 2011

Magritte, and Song of the Day: Philosophia

I discovered "Philosophia," by the Guggenheim Grotto, from the free iTunes download feature, and it's been a favorite ever since.

I like the music video, too, for its references to Magritte. I went to the Magritte Museum in Brussels this past summer, and I learned so much about his philosophy, thanks to a little booklet of his own explanations that was supplied by the museum. Here are some favorites:

"All of my work results from a a feeling of certainty that we do indeed belong to an enigmatic universe."
[Tout dans mes œuvres est issue du sentiment de certitude que nous appartenons, en fait, à un universe énigmatique.]

La Bataille de l'Argonne, by René Magritte

"The real value of art is measured by its capacity for liberating revelation."
[La valeur réelle de l'art est en fonction de son pouvoir de révélation libératrice.]

Le Chef-d'Oeuvre ou les Mysteres, by René Magritte

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Let Us Build Altars

Three Bee Hives, by Michelle of United Thread

"Let us build altars to the Blessed Unity which holds nature and souls in perfect solution, and compels every atom to serve an universal end. . . . "

Chickadees and Avocado Tree, by Michelle of United Thread

" . . . Let us build altars to the Beautiful Necessity, which secures that all is made of one piece; that plaintiff and defendant, friend and enemy, animal and planet, food and eater, are of one kind."
    —"Fate," by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Poppy Pods, by Michelle of United Thread

I've been thinking about altars as mindful collections lately. While I was thinking about what sorts of things would be on my altar, I realized that I've already started one, with the surprises found on my daily walks—egg shells, a bit of a bee hive, a beautiful black-and-white moth . . . The fragile gifts of life are all around, it seems.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Fox Rain

I came across this beautiful illustration by Jeeyon Shim of Ink and Ginger/Jeeyon Makes.

Fox Apples, by Jeeyon Shim

The illustration was inspired traditional Korean stories, where foxes are often trickster figures. There is even an expression, "fox rain" (여우비), which is used to describe sun showers.

Fox Tale, by Rupal Pearl

One important fox in Korean mythology is the gumiho (many-tailed fox; 구미호), who often takes the form of a beautiful young woman and seduces men. Some of the stories are told to warn men of femme fetales, but I love that women could be seen as dangerous tricksters. Maybe this is because I'm always trying to be good . . . sometimes the good needs to be balanced with a little more wildness.

Birthday Present, by J. Shim

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Food for the Soul: Green Monster

I just made my first green monster. It's a delicious smoothie invented by Angela of Oh She Glows, and it's so easy to do. Go read the story of how she came to invent her green monster. It's really inspirational!

Small Green Monster, by Amanda James

Here's the basic formula that I follow:
a couple handfuls of spinach (you can't taste it; don't worry!)
thickener: frozen bananas, ice, yogurt
liquid: milk/soy milk/almond milk/juice

optional additions:
protein: nut butter, seeds, protein powder
additional flavors: frozen fruits, chocolate, honey

I use the measurements on my blender to help me guess how much I'm making and then add thickeners or liquids to get the consistency I want.

Small Green Monster, by Amanda James

I've been making smoothies for a while, but never thought to add spinach. What a great way to care for yourself! Sometimes caring for ourselves simply means eating food that will make us feel good on the inside and glow on the outside.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


Continuing yesterday's theme on the magical world of words . . . Have you heard about the mysterious paper sculptures that have been left in various locations around Edinburgh? I just did, and the mysterious appearances have been continuing on for months!

The artist has been leaving them at locations that support "libraries, books, words, ideas," such as the Scottish Poetry Library, the Scottish Storytelling Center, and the Central Lending Library.

The "poetree" was left at the Scottish Poetry Library, with the note: "It started with your name @byleaveswelive and became a tree . . . We know that a library is so much more than a building full of books . . . a book is so much more than pages full of words . . . This is for you in support of libraries, books, words, ideas . . . a gesture (poetic maybe?)
Poetree, by Mysterious Book Sculptor with a Heart of Gold
Photographed by chrisdonia

My other favorite is the one that was left at the Scottish Storytelling Center, with the note: "For @scotstorycenter - A gift in support of libraries, books, works, ideas . . . Once upon a time there was a book and in the book was a nest and in the nest was an egg and in the egg was a dragon and in the dragon was a story . . .
Poetree, by Mysterious Book Sculptor with a Heart of Gold
Photographed by chrisdonia

For more pictures, visit Central Stn, where I first heard about these works of art.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Smarty-pants words

I believe words have a way of mediating our reality. From playing with words to learning new words (in my native English language or a foreign one), becoming aware of words helps me realize that the words I choose have a profound effect on how I define myself and the world, as well as how others see me.

So, given how powerful words can be, I love the idea of the Word Project of Polly M. Law (found via Sue du Jour). It introduces viewers to new vocabulary through pictures as whimsical as the words themselves. 

Here are my favorite pieces:

"Dinomania: (n) irresistable urge to dance," by Polly Law

"Empyreal: (adj) celestial, elevated," by Polly Law

I wonder how she would illustrate some of my favorite words:

terpsichorean  (adj.) Of or relating to dancing. n. A dancer.
oneiromancy  (n.) The practice of predicting the future through interpretation of dreams.

What are words you'd like to see illustrated?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Song of the Day: End of the Line

I heard the Traveling Wilburys singing "End of the Line" the other day, and it instantly made me feel like I was ready for whatever the day brought. No matter what, it was going to be all right.

"Well it's all right, even if they say you're wrong
Well it's all right, sometimes you gotta be strong
Well it's all right, as long as you got somewhere to lay
Well it's all right, everyday is judgement day"

(You know the Traveling Wilburys, right? They're the Avengers-like group of music superheros: Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, and Roy Orbison. Awesome.)

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Sacred Space: Chartres Cathedral

It's time for another pilgrimage, friends!

This time, we'll visit the great cathedral of Chartres, completed in 1290. (My husband and I visited the cathedral just this summer, while it was undergoing renovations. It's amazing how light the stone became when renovated; it's a completely different space--light and happy. We're looking forward to seeing again some day when the renovations are complete.)

Chartres is famous for its beautiful, old stained glass. Much of it is a gorgeously rich blue color. Besides the lovely colors, the artists creatively portrayed the classic stories of the Bible. One of the most famous windows is called the "Blue Virgin." Below her are panels depicting Christ's temptations and the wedding at Cana. (Isn't it a lovely transformational image? struggle with the shadow → marriage of opposites → wisdom...)

The "Blue Virgin" of Chartres, taken by me

Chartres is also famous for its labyrinth, which visitors can still walk along each Friday in the summer. I love labyrinths, because they symbolize the great faith required in spiritual wandering. As you walk, you wonder, when will I reach the center? But the beautiful thing is, you always do reach the center, the rose of enlightenment. You're never lost.

from the book Alle Tiders Labyrinter, by Jørgen Thordrup, via Lavigne

Friday, September 2, 2011

Whooo are youuu?

The caterpillar asks Alice, "Who are you?"
Alice and the Caterpillar, by the Emily Martin, aka the Black Apple

I came across a lovely article by Anne Lamotte on Oprah's website (via Medicinal Marzipan).

I love that Anne describes the process of coming to live authentically as an often messy, embarrassing, painful process. Because if you're really wanting to see transformation, it's going to take courage.

Alice and the Piglet, by Emily Martin

The Mad Tea Party, by Emily Martin

Read the whole article; it's so worth it! And then ponder the last two sentences with me, because they're too poetic to not become a sort of mantra:

"To love yourself as you are is a miracle, and to seek yourself is to have found yourself, for now. And now is all we have, and love is who we are."

Still Life with Live Flowers, by Emily Martin

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Admiring: Two Yoginis

Girl Crush? What a great idea for a magazine!

I have a whole list of girl crushes. Who are they, you ask? Well, let me introduce you to some of them! Here are two ladies from the yoga world whom I admire.

Tiffany Cruikshank. I took one class from her at a retreat, and she kicked my butt. What I love about her: she embodies strength and grace. And her playlists are groovy.

Neesha Zollinger. She's a teacher on, and her bright spirit always makes my day a little better. Plus, she did a lesson based on Star Wars. Sweet!

Neesha Zollinger
The moral of today's girl crush episode: seek out women that make you want to be a stronger, brighter you. 


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