Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Meeting On The Curve

Meet me on the curve, where the rainbow, sky, and pure aspirations sing.  We can make beautiful music together, watching the colors fade and brighten as the rain passes by our tipped hats in the morning sun.

If you can smash through a single thought,
Then all deluded thinking will suddenly be stripped off.
You will feel
Like a flower in the sky that casts no shadows,
Like a bright sun emitting boundless light,
Like a limpid pond, transparent and clear.
After experiencing this,
There will be immeasurable feelings of light and ease,
And a sense of liberation.
There is nothing marvelous or extraordinary about it.
Do not rejoice and wallow in this ravishing experience.
If you do, then the Mara of Joy will possess you.
-   Han Shan Te'-Ch'ing, 1600

Posted by michael

Monday, December 27, 2010

Marsh Calligraphy

No form, form, metaphor, meaning;  the marsh is filled with calligraphy.  Sky, tule, breeze, water, and the writing is on the mirror.  Ever changing, like pages turned in a book, we can read the meaning in the mind's eye.  Struggling too much will cause the meaning to flee and we are left with an impression, like wings moving through the air, leaving no trail.  This meaning of marsh writing is just like the daylight that pushes back darkness all at once.  Where does the dark go?  The writing speaks volumes.

Posted by michael

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Bobcat Mind

Look upon the body as unreal,
an image in a mirror,
the reflection of the moon in water.
Contemplate the mind as formless,
yet bright and pure.

Not a single thought arising,
empty, yet perceptive;
still, yet illuminating;
complete like the great emptiness,
containing all that is wonderful.

-   Han Shan Te'-Ch'ing, 1600

Posted by michael

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Spirit Of Christmas

The spirit of Christmas is a jolly fellow who comes from a long line of relatives in the book of mythology.  There is much debate and opinion about the merits of telling children that a later day relative of St. Nicholas, Santa Claus, exists and brings gifts to good children on Christmas day.  Other serious adults declare the season of "bah humbug" and turn in for a long winter nap.  This arguing and discussion is the meandering of adults lost in the seeming solidity of their vision of things as they are.  Of course Santa Claus and all of his helpers and relatives exist and continue to appear in this season of winter.  Look around you and see the people scurrying around thinking and emoting about all of their religious, spiritual, and secular traditions, as they procure good foods, drink, and presents for all they care about.  We all embody the spirit of Christmas, whatever our creed and affiliations, when we turn our minds to the light and benefit of warm heart and kindness.  Santa Claus is the magical manifestation of our thoughts and actions.  He is a reminder to expand our horizons.  When we recognize the space of generosity, we are filled with kinship to all of the family who goes before us and reminded of the generations to come.  We can give them the legacy of clean air, water, energy (fire), and land.   

It is clear to me that charity, generosity, compassion, and love are lights that fill this season with the joy of renewal and boundless aspirations for peace in hearts and minds.  Santa Claus is but one manifestation of this season greeting.  May we all enjoy and appreciate the boundless gratitude that warms our hearts in the middle of winter, when the sun begins its bright return to the summer ease and warmth. 

Posted by michael   

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Winter's Shortest Days

Preparing for the yuletide festivities brings to mind scenes of holidays past.  The years in my early and mid-20’s were a particularly rich cultural smorgasbord, a blend of staying true to family traditions and giving birth to new ones of my own.  I was living in Portland, OR in my own apartment, and was discovering the art of making spaces and atmospheres for the magic of the season to happen.  Many musical events were offered around the city, then as now.  One that occurred annually for about five years in the early ’80’s was a holiday performance by the Elizabethan Balladry Ensemble called “Raynewynde.”  The group members were Timothy Swain, Susan Margaret Sargent, Grant Herreid, joined by Phil and Gayle Newman, masters of renaissance instruments (instrument makers and musicians), and Linda Bennett-Stief, shadow puppet master.

The performances were given at the Old Church in downtown Portland on 11th and Clay St.  This Carpenter Gothic Church had been ready for the wrecking ball when it was saved and restored, and turned into a community hall used for weddings and concerts.  For the Raynewynde event, the pews and stage were all garlanded with fragrant evergreen boughs, the lighting was by candlelight (or perhaps it was simulated).  The performers were dressed in period costume, one woman embroidered during the spoken word portions, pewter mugs of wassail sat in front of them (and wassail was served to the audience at intermission), its spicy fragrance mixing with the other seasonal smells.  The group of five musicians/actors alternated readings spoken in Old English and music sung and played on traditional instruments of the period.  In the second half of the program, a shadow puppet play was performed of the Story of Christmas--birth of Jesus, the shepherds and magi, following the star--with musical and spoken word accompaniment.  
One of the songs they sang has stayed with me all these years and I offer it to you here.  Good words for putting away strife, and celebrating life and the season in good fellowship with all.  Hatred is cold, love is warm.  Warmth is needed to sustain us through the winter months and beyond.  May Love and Peace abound!
All hail to the days that merit more prayse
  Than all the rest of the yeare.
And welcome the Nights that double delites
  As well for the poore as the peer!
Goode fortune attend each merrie man’s friend
  That doth but the best that he may,
Forgetting olde wrongs with carolls and songes,
‘Tis ill for a mind to anger inclined
  To think of small injuries now;
If wrath be to seek, do not lend her thy cheek,
  Nor let her inhabit thy brow.
Cross out of thy books malevolent lookes,
  Both beautie and youth’s decaye,
And wholly consort with mirth and with sport,
This time of the yeare is spent in good cheere,
  And neighbours together do meet,
To sit by the fire, with friendly desire,
  Each other in love to greet.
Twelve days in the yeare much mirthe and good cheere
  In every household is had.
The olde and the young doth caroll this songe,
----Traditional song
This is a link to another group singing this song.  Enjoy the season!
Posted by jackie.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Shaping Intention

One of the advantages of being with the marsh is the shaping of intention.  This cryptic statement exposes the power of the marsh and other natural places.  Being in nature, next to the marsh, beach, or walking in the forest lifts our spirit and mood.  This lifting arises from the wonder and suspension of thinking that we experience in the presence of what cannot be immediately understood.  Our intention is lifted with the mystery of the marsh.  Seeking to know the marsh, we name and locate items that compose the marsh.  These objects change with the season and weather, and the marsh remains, an unknown, mystery that is clearly apparent.

Intention is important because it is the stage in our thinking where we can control outcomes.  Once thought has left the stage of intention, it is surrounded and shaped by material objects and tends to be limited by their potential.  Intention is only limited by the heart.  If our intention is positive, then positive outcomes will result.  If our intention is neutral or negative, than neutral or negative outcomes will result.  The mystery of marsh and other natural places gives us the space to shape positive intentions.  When we are surrounded by negative intentions, such as aggression, greed, attachment, jealousy, and fear, then our lives are filled with objects and outcomes that reflect these intentions.

In this season of light, where we all celebrate the winter solstice and the returning of the light through various religious or spiritual rituals, take time to shape intention towards love, kindness, peace, and good will towards all beings.  Walking with nature can facilitate this intention-shaping by reminding us that we are part of a powerful world that depends on intention and the outcomes that flow from intention.  Our most powerful actions are the shaping of intention, as they control the placement of objects and outcomes in our lives.  

When we are feeling good about ourselves and the world, then everybody is a friend.  When our mood is low and dark, then enemies and trouble stalk our spirits.  We have the choice.  Shape positive intention before being carried away by negative emotion.  Keep forming positive intention until the world is filled with positive thoughts and outcomes.  They will shape the future and our legacy. 

Posted by michael

Monday, December 6, 2010


A rare snow day in our garden near Beaver Creek marsh and the Oregon coast. The quiet white brings a winter's nap, sealing the year and preparing for the coming spring.

Posted by michael and jackie

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Reflections And Perception

We rely on reflections to see.  Everything that we see appears as objects, beginning as light reflected from object mirrors into our eyes.  We assume from habit that objects are real and this assumption is reinforced by other perceptions of sound, touch, taste, and smell.  All of these perceptions through other senses are also reflections; sound waves, neurotransmitter waves, and smell and taste particle waves.  

Reflections come with various levels of distortion associated with the wave structure of their transmission.  When we look at objects and their reflections in water, we see all of these aspects.  An object directly appears as solid and not wavering.  The reflected object appears as wavering, dependent on the effect of breezes on the water surface.  The reflected object color also changes, dependent on the water colors.  Who is to say which object is more real?  The object and its reflection are both reflections that have different qualities.  We assign realness based on our visual biases learned from years of observation.  Are we seeing a real object?

Our real object appears to be a reflection that we favor, while we reject the wavering reflection.  This ambiguity of real and illusory reflections is the great pathway into our true nature.  We can find the singularity where the object and its reflection meet.  Look along the bank of a creek or pond.  There is the seamless transition between object and its wavering reflection.  They are both reflections, joined by the continuity of light received from each, into our eyes and then transmitted to our brains by waves of neurotransmitters, reflections of nerve energy.  Our true nature lives in that line between reflections, where symbol and meaning meet.  The nature cannot be seen and is experienced directly in a continuum of awareness, not bound by reflections and their mirror surfaces.

Relaxing our perceptual biases gives us the freedom of wildness.  Our thoughts are free to dissolve into the warm sunlight that may be hidden behind the clouds of seeming objects; mirrors of light intended for perceptions.  Objects are mirrors and we are echos of reflection from those mirrors.  The singularity of the shoreline, the horizon of our perception, the surface of the mirrors, is our consciousness; that which brings together object, subject, and perception.  In all these echos, how can one hold an opinion?  We are all the free play of light and energy.

We experience timeless awareness when our consciousness recognizes the unity of object, subject, and perception.  This recognition happens on the singularity of the mirror surface which is unchanged by the reflections emerging from it.  That mirror surface is everywhere and we call it space.

Posted by michael

Monday, November 8, 2010

Sea Foam

Sea foam may appear when the surf is up at Ona Beach, where Beaver Creek flows out into the ocean.  The foam can look like snow, creatures, clouds, and other ephemeral phenomena.  Foam can give us a look at the invisible world of water currents and wind pressure.  Waves stir up the water and inject air into a foamy exuberance full of joy.  The foam moves over the top of the water in breezes and with the water, scurrying back and forth across the beach with incoming and outgoing waves and up and down the creek.  Then as quickly as it comes, the foam can disappear as surf calms down and the weather turns mild and sunny.  

Posted by michael

Saturday, November 6, 2010

New Books - Beaver Creek History


Jackie Niemi has produced two more little books, fourth & fifth in her series of Beaver Creek history, entitled Pioneer Women” and “Pioneer Children.”  Each book contains excerpts of oral histories from the Beaver Creek area, most of which were collected in the mid-1970's, and are from the Lincoln County Historical Society's Oral History Collection.  Niemi's books are available at Canyon Way Bookstore and the Lincoln County Historical Museum Bookstore, and sell for $5.00 each.
All of Niemi's small books will be featured at the Lincoln Co. Historical Museum’s Annual Holiday Festival and Open House on Saturday, December 4th, 1:00-4:00pm.  Look for her table, where she will demonstrate how she cuts and folds each book by hand.
Here is a sampling from each of the new ones:
[From “Pioneer Women”]:  “I remember her...I was nine or ten, I guess, when she died...I remember she used to go and rob the bees...Used to go bare-armed, go up to the kitchen, right out, and get in there, and get the honey she wanted, and tote it back in.  Hell, the bees would be all over her, and never sting her...they just would be all over.”
---Bill Gatens, (1975 interview)
[From “Pioneer Children”]:  “I walked three miles a day to and from school.  A mile and a half each way.  Each school was about middle of the two districts...They didn’t have both schools at the same time.  Well, if I could get in a week, or two or three weeks extra, boy, I took it!  I was glad to get to go to school.  School and I never departed.”
---Susie Rhoades (1975 interview)
Posted by jackie.  

Art Show Extended!

The art exhibit, “Responding to Elements of Space:  Art Inspired by Beaver Creek State Natural Area” has been extended through the month of November, closing on Nov 27th, at the Newport Visual Arts Center Upstairs Gallery.  
Newport VAC Upstairs Gallery
777 NW Beach Dr, Newport, OR
at the Nye Beach Turnaround

Gallery hours:  12noon-4pm, Tuesday-Saturday.  
For a video clip of the show opening on Oct. 8th, see our Oct. 10th blogpost.
While you are there, check out the “Washed Ashore” show in the Runyon Gallery on the 1st floor of the Newport VAC.  Angela Pozzi and her volunteer crew have made an interactive and educational environment of plastic debris that has washed up on Oregon’s beaches.  And you can touch the art!  Walk through the gyre, whale ribs and jellyfish.  Play a tune on the giant starfish, and more.  A great informative show!  
Posted by jackie. 

Friday, November 5, 2010

Water Everywhere

Thinking about water can make your mind expand into many directions.  Clean water is necessary for healthy life.  The human body is 55-60% water.  Water can even be viewed as a basic right, like life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; although many nations and companies do not agree with this proposition.  If water is a right in life, then why do people own water and force others to pay for it?  Rights are required, but not free.  Water is a valuable common “free” resource that can be hoarded and defended, making it easy to sell.  The ownership of water has been a critical question for several centuries, as human populations have grown and experienced water shortages.  Wars have been waged over water, as suggested by the saying “Whiskey is for drinking; water is for fighting over.”  When ownership is asserted, then marketplaces can be established and prices and profits set and extracted.  This question of ownership of a basic right in life is not easily thought about or answered.
Water is freely available in its natural forms as it falls from the sky as rain, as it flows in creeks and rivers, and collects in ponds, lakes, and underground reservoirs.  No one can own these forms of water, except indirectly by land ownership and restriction to access.  Water rights and ownership of water arise when infrastructure for water collection, treatment, and distribution is created and maintained.  Water ownership and rights are also exerted when water is used for disposal of waste and heat for sanitation and industrial processes.  Water rights are a complicated and ever-developing area of legal study and enforcement.  
So we all need clean water every day and it is not always available to us.  Poverty in the world is often dependent on the lack of clean water.  Often people cannot pay for water that is available, or pay for building infrastructure that supplies clean water.  Lack of water forces people to spend long hours in back-breaking work to obtain water; hours that could otherwise be used in other life-sustaining activities.  Without water, crops cannot be grown, sanitation is difficult, and health and life are impaired and destroyed.
How do we reconcile the right to clean water with the supply of water for a fee?  Local, state, and national governments have been responsible for supplying clean water and sanitation.  These services have been funded by grants, taxes, and fees to users on a non-profit basis.  A new trend in recent decades has been the transfer of water infrastructure and supply functions to international companies, which supply water for a price, on a for-profit basis.  In either case, water is not considered a right, but rather a product that is obtained for a fee.  Every time you walk into a store and buy a bottle of water, you are supporting the notion that water is expensive and profit-making.  At $4.00 or more per gallon, water in a bottle is more expensive than gasoline.  Bottled water companies have a great profit margin on this product.   
In these deliberations, questions of responsibility for the common “free” resource are necessary.  We may not be able to depend on the power of nature to supply what we often overuse and abuse.  Are governments and private corporations that use the common water resource responsible for its replenishment?  Lack of consideration for climate change and overuse of groundwater supplies has resulted in desertification and loss of historic water supplies.  Governments and corporations often neglect conservation of water resources and fail to account for the effects of climate change, industrialization, and human population growth on “free” water resources.  Sooner than later, we will be enslaved by our absolute need for water and the ever-increasing price that must be paid to companies and governments that may not have our best interests in their hearts.  If water is a basic right in life, then special considerations should be given to its conservation, replenishment, and distribution.  
Posted by michael      

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Harvest Time Musings

I just returned from a trip to the Yakima, WA area, with its beautiful tawny hills shaped like crouching mountain lions, and I discovered some things in an old travel journal about landscape.  This is a quote from a show I saw the tail end of in Anchorage, Alaska, about five years ago.  Andy Goldsworthy had done an art installation there, and the show was a collection of small photos and journal entries documenting his ephemeral work. http://www.rwc.uc.edu/artcomm/web/w2005_2006/maria_Goldsworthy/philosophy.html  
“The landscape is a skin, permeable and fluid, fragile and wild...Explore the landscape as a body, breathing, fragile, punctured and worn.”
Landscape lays the groundwork, or the structure, for what comes after.  The landscape appears on the one hand to remain the same for long periods of time, when actually it is constantly reforming itself to match one’s perceptions.  Erosion, light, growth, decay, movement, seasonal, and occasionally catastrophic, events interplay with our psychological, sensual, and emotional responses to it.  I’ve watched the landscape of my heart change over the years.  The subarctic Alaskan landscape where I grew up used to call to me strongly when I was in my twenties and had recently left it.  Gradually that pull has lessened and transferred to Oregon where I’ve lived for thirty years.  The landscape of my heart keeps evolving and expanding, and is closely linked to memory.  It contains elements of my Alaskan roots, vague imprints of the lands important to my Scandinavian ancestors, and a bit of every place I have ever lived or experienced, brought to where I am now.
My old journal then recorded my reading of the book, The Secret Life of Dust.  It talked about billions of tons of dust continually cycling through the atmosphere--dust of every being that ever lived, every element, even the stars--from the beginning of time.  It changes one’s thinking about particles and the way things are composed.  Objects appearing solid, but really made up mostly of space.  Understanding how the elements of our world are put together, and how easily they are taken apart.  Impermanence.  Change.  “All we are is dust in the wind.”

At this time of year, when the winter storms begin and blow the leaves off the trees, the weather and the landscape trigger the natural impulse for inner reflection, to look deeper at the same time as being able to see deeper, down to the bones of the landscape, and beyond.
“The days grow short.
The sky speaks of winter.
Change hangs in the air like
          a question mark. 
The harvest is in, the season
          of waiting begins.
This is the tender time of the year
          when everything drops away.
Trees are left bare, only skeletons
            of continuity remain.
The impermanence of things is
            so visible, so unavoidable.
The winter heart feels the lengthening
            darkness and the turning of the sun.
We cannot yet know the gifts
            that darkness brings.”
----adapted from The Golden Time, Stephanie Kaza
Posted by jackie.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Beaver Creek and Ona Beach State Park Planning

Recently there was a public meeting of staff from Oregon State Parks and interested citizens on the early stages of developing master plans for the Beaver Creek and Ona Beach State Parks.  The overall process, vision, and timing for the master plans was presented and comments from citizens were listened to and recorded.  There were many comments about access to the parks, need for careful consideration of resources and possible overuse of the parks, especially Beaver Creek, and the need to engage the public in the planning process.  
State Parks has a well-developed planning process that is used for all state parks.  The public is invited to participate through several channels.  A relatively new initiative is called Centennial Horizon which includes long-term planning for all of Oregon’s state parks.  Further information can be seen in the planning section of the State Parks website.  There will be a Beaver Creek and Ona master plan website in a month or two, and in the meanwhile you can send input and comments to Kathy.Schutt@state.or.us or contact the State Parks office in Newport at 541-265-8179.
I have found the staff at State parks to be receptive and responsive to comments by citizens.  If you have a concern or have some words of praise about their planning and activities, let them know.  A comment was made at the recent planning meeting that suggested that State Parks is not responsive to public input and hides their actions, because they did not have enough widely publicized public meetings and open forums about Beaver Creek and Ona Beach.  State parks can be reached any time during business hours and the staff are easy to talk to.  Get involved and don’t wait for an invitation to a public meeting.  
Some interesting planning considerations were introduced at the recent meeting.  The planning process looks out over the next 100 years, as included in the Centennial Horizon.  Master plans will be developed for the Beaver Creek Park and for Ona Beach Park, which are separate but adjacent state natural area and state park.  The state natural area emphasizes wetland and riparian conservation, trails, and interpretation, with only very limited development.  The state park could provide more typical coastal park uses, including a possible low impact campground near the beach.  There will be a complete assessment of resource sensitivity and quality recreation needs.  Resources include habitats, plant communities, wetlands and riparian habitats, hazards, water features, topography, soils, historic and prehistoric culture, and scenic features.  Any needed development in Ona Beach Park will be placed in low quality areas, with buffers to neighbors and higher quality resources. 
Several citizens expressed concern about the possibility for “loving nature to death” in Beaver Creek Park and there was discussion of how to limit public access.  This topic will continue to be an important consideration for Beaver Creek Park.  Real answers to this concern will come from careful observation of public behavior in the park in coming years and using this data in planning further park actions.  One suggestion was that access and trails to Beaver Creek Park should be limited at first and then slowly opened up through time to conserve its unique qualities from human impact.
What do you think about planning for Beaver Creek and Ona Beach Parks?  Let State Parks know your views.  The process is open and free.
Posted by michael  

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Potency Of The Marsh

The marsh is part of nature, an open space that is controlled by natural forces and laws.  As such, the marsh and all other open spaces are displays of the wisdom of nature.  When we see open spaces, our hearts emerge beyond our minds and we experience well being and wonder.  In other places where nature is not so open and we exert human control, we experience the force of our thoughts and fixations, covering over our links with nature.  We do not manage nature.  We manage humans in nature.  So in our lives there is this dynamic between open nature and human engineering.  We claim control and dominion over nature and call ourselves good stewards of the land.  How can we control nature, that is so much more cohesive and potent than our wandering consciousness?  We are part of nature and our control is only illusory, allowed by open nature.  We are separate from nature only in our self-minds.
So people tell me that you can “love nature to death”.  I see that it is more the case that nature loves us to death.  We are born and die in vast nature.  Nature is not born or dying, only moving like a stream in its bed to the ocean.  In places where we exert our human logic, science, objectification, and machines such as cities, towns, villages, natural resource extractions (farms, fishing, timber, and mining), and wars, we hide nature’s potency and call it human civilization and domination.  During “time off”, we commune with nature in open spaces and enjoy the lasting benefits of “free” air, water, and care-free thoughts and emotions.  Nature is an expression of the vast potency of life that is beyond our abilities to understand and predict.  When we set aside lands and waters as open space, we allow our true nature to exist in harmony with human activity.  
Walk along a path or road near open space.  There is often trash along the path.  You may have a gut reaction of disgust, asking who would throw away that trash, there?  You separate yourself from the trash and look up to the beauty of open space.  But are you separate?  That person who trashed your beautiful space is your relative, in your human family.  Why do you reject them?  The trash is part of open space too.  We can learn to see how everything is part of us.  We can teach each other the value of accepting what is, caring for each other in ways that support nature, and not fighting like children in the school yard.  Someone threw the trash away on the path because they were in a trash mood, having a trash emotion.  By giving them open space, they can brighten their mood and have the emotions of love and compassion.  By turning our minds to open space, we can guide each other and teach the values of air, water, health, and peace, things that cannot and are not bought and sold in the human market places.  
Posted by michael 

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Planning Meeting For Beaver Creek State Natural Area

Members of the public will have the opportunity to comment on the Beaver Creek State Natural Area/Ona Beach State Park master plan during a meeting at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 26, at the Central Lincoln People Utility District meeting room, 2119 N. Coast Highway in Newport.

Posted by michael

Friday, October 15, 2010

Clearly Apparent Yet Not Existent

The creek flows through the marsh and out into the ocean, surrounded and suffused by space.  There are many examples here of what is clearly apparent yet not existent.  We can call these examples metaphors and symbols for the nature of things.  We objectify our existence, separating ourselves from other objects and beings and declare us and them.  Objects and subjects are like a creek in its bed, wind in space, waves on water, reflections in mirrors, clouds in sky, and dreams in sleep.  Objects and subjects are illusory as they have no independent, lasting self-nature and are interdependent in a web of cause and effect.  This very dependence is the appearance that we call object and make philosophy and science with.  Since we are not omniscient, we are not able to see all of these causes and conditions.  We believe strongly in the independence of objects, as if they were separate and distinguishable, and say that they have self-nature.  We especially have a strong sense of ego; that we are independent, with self-will. 
The ego is like the emperor in the story of “The Emperor’s New Clothes”.  Two (duality) tailors (illusion) weave clothes (objects) for the emperor (ego) that are so light and fine (desirable) as to appear invisible (no cause and effect), especially to anyone too stupid or incompetent (shame) to appreciate their quality.  A child (original nature) eventually saw the emperor in his new clothes and recognized that he was naked.  But the emperor could not acknowledge this nakedness (awareness) and continued on, walking through the streets (the world) with the illusion of his new clothes.        
How deluded we are.  By maintaining this separation of subjective self and objective other, we fail to see what is.  We grasp on to solidity of self and objects as if they did not constantly change and depend on each other.  Even if we recognize change, we do not believe that it applies to our precious self and others.  We are afraid when objects change, as this represents loss and gain of something desirable or abhorrent.  We fail to see that birth, life, and death are a continuum, with the magical properties of spontaneous appearance and disappearance of consciousness that are dependent upon subject and objects.  This cycle rests upon unchanging awareness, which we sense but cannot see.  We are this awareness, which gives rise to the display of subjects and objects; just like waves forming and dissolving into water, reflections arising and disappearing in mirrors, clouds forming and dissolving into sky, and dreams appearing and disappearing in sleep.  The water, mirrors, sky, and sleep are metaphors for awareness and are not changed by this display.  Recognizing the illusory nature of display, we can return to our nature and be complete. 

When we are not attached to our conclusions, concepts, and training about existence, then we are free to experience our nature in the vast ocean of space which is mind.  We easily move through the causes and conditions that surround us.  Then we become what we are, omniscient awareness in the unending web of interdependence.  Everything is as it should be in the unending dance of change.  Relax and enjoy every emotion, thought, and perception as the illusions that they are, without the anxiety of grasping and fixation.

Posted by michael

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Beaver Creek Art Show

Scenes from the opening night of the art show at the Newport Visual Arts Center, Upstairs Gallery.  Paintings, ceramics, photographs, pastels, and sculpture are on display through October, 2010.  Five artists, Sandy Roumagoux, Liisa Rahkonen, Nancy Jane Reid, Jackie Niemi, and Michael Davis show works inspired by the Beaver Creek State Natural Area.  The natural mind of wildness is invoked in the gallery, which is filled with light and life in the colors of marsh.

Reflections reveal our nature, as light is returned to us from objects, waking and dreaming;  all are mirrors.  We name these reflections perception, emotion, and thought.  We forget that everything is clearly apparent, but not existent.  We objectify that which is simply reflection and call it the world.  At the marsh, we are real and bask in the glow of the singularity that is our love for all beings and places.  We are alive and know it in our hearts.

Posted by michael

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Patient Watching

USFWS public domain

Thirty years ago, I had a conversation with Range Bayer about what he calls patient watching.  We talked about the interesting and different behavior that can be seen when observations of animals are made over a relatively long period of time.  Our conversation had a profound effect on me.  Going on to study fish behavior, I used what Range had said about patient watching.  Recently, Range and I talked about patient watching again and remembered that this method is indeed a powerful way to see the world.  Range used patient watching in his studies of great blue herons.
In classical behavior studies, the observer may watch an individual for short periods of time, generally 15 minutes or less.  This is called focal study and several individuals may be observed to gather replicate data for statistical analysis of mean individual behavior in a population.  The watching is done with an eye towards recording occurrence and duration of previously determined stereotypical behavior such as agonistic displays, feeding, and courtship.  This behavior is often collected into an ethogram and data is recorded that reinforces these conceptual frameworks. 
What happens when the observer watches an individual for an hour, or several hours, or through tidal cycles for up to 12 hours?  We no longer simply see stereotypical behavior that was preconceived.  We begin to see atypical, non-stereotypical animal behavior in the context of their environment.  We see how the individual responds to constantly fluctuating environmental conditions and in relation to other animals that may enter or exit the perception space of the focal individual.  This diversity of behavior is a new window on the animal and is a rich source of hypotheses and eventual explanatory information about how the animal behaves.  These patient watching studies are difficult, as they require a good deal of patience, sitting quietly for long periods of time while maintaining attention on the focal animal.  Try sitting and watching the same bird for an hour.  You must be comfortable, maintain attention, and make reliable notes for later reference and quantification.  This is the natural activity of one who meditates.  A great blue heron is a master of this mediation in the marsh, while looking for food and avoiding conflict with other animals.    
When we use patient watching, we choose not to look specifically for predetermined behavior, relaxing assumptions about what we might see.  We choose to openly watch for any behavior that may occur, repeatedly or infrequently, over a wide range of environmental and social conditions for the animal.  There are few, if any, patient watching behavior studies documented in the scientific literature.  I am making an effort to find these sorts of studies, as they are a unique contribution to knowledge of animal behavior and its meaning in ecology.  Patient watching studies can give the big picture for animals.
How can we use patient watching in our lives?  We can gain perspective on the events and circumstances of our lives by seeing through the lens of extended time.  By not automatically applying short-term conceptual assumptions to our observations, we can begin to see directly and sense the underlying forces that shape our actions and thoughts.  Imagine the potential power of seeing the wider field of connections among emotions, objects, people, and animals.  This may be a new source of inspiration and wealth, akin to the power of wildness to bring us contentment and well-being.  It would certainly help us discern the differences among conceptual seeing and direct seeing that often cloud our knowledge.  Maybe we would not be so quick to jump to conclusions about our world.  This could help reduce bias and prejudice.
Posted by michael 

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Park Opening Day

Opening day at the Beaver Creek State Natural Area.  On a cloudy, coastal day speakers for the dedication included:  Jean Cowen, State Representative;  Davis Moriuchi, Chair, Oregon Parks and Recreation Commission; Ted Kulongoski, Governor of Oregon; Terry Thompson, Lincoln County Commissioner; and Esther Lev, Executive Director, The Wetlands Conservancy.  Friends gathered and shared memories and aspirations.  A ribbon was cut, music from 'Coin of the Realm' enjoyed, and refreshments served.    

A big day for Beaver Creek marsh, where the people gathered and remembered the value of wetlands and wildness.  Looking forward to a bright future for Beaver Creek watershed and the plants, animals, and humans that visit and live in it.  So many people, communities, organizations, and agencies have been involved with this conservation effort, which continues forward with new acquisitions and conservation easements.  There is a heartfelt commitment to bring the legacy of wildness into the future for the benefit of all.  Thank you for this grace.

Posted by michael

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Strange Case Of Missing Wetlands Value

Who stole the value of wetlands and when and where did this event occur?  In mythic time wetlands are regarded as important places for healing and spiritual understanding.  The garden of Eden was in a wetland surrounded by rivers in the desert.  Wetlands supplied water and food for the people through time immemorial.  Animals in wetlands supported the telling of tales, important for understanding nature.  Heron is an important messenger of the gods, bringing the connection between earth and heaven.  Frog is a symbol of birth, death, and rebirth; as she goes through changes in form, associated with wetland ponds and streams.  Many other animals and plants supply food, medicine, and cultural context for the people. 

Then along came science and the objective world; powerful conceptual grasping.  Human consciousness moved out of mythic time and into city time, with the formation of civilizations.  Eventually written language and money were invented and the science of economics developed.  The great human marketplaces grew and the connection between myth and human thought became hidden by the power of objective thought and philosophy.  We came to see every thing and person as objects separated from us as subjects.  This separation of the world between us and them produced a lasting cultural valuation based on richer and poorer.  Endless wars ensued to constantly adjust the balance of payments and power among cultures.  
Now we are in a crisis of understanding.  Great religions developed to act as gateways to the spiritual power of nature and renewal and these only served to reinforce the sense of objectivity for the people; priests separated people from spiritual power.  The objective world simply does not explain everything.  We have experiences of hope and fear that cannot be objectified or given monetary value.  There are vast areas of our consciousness that are subject to change by outside circumstances, but are not explainable by rational thought.  We do not understand the source of consciousness with birth.  We do not understand the disappearance of consciousness with death.  These events are magic, with spontaneous appearance and disappearance; something that is not consistent with rational thought and objectivity.  We are afraid of death and will not talk or think about it.   
Yet we know that when we take a walk or paddle a boat outside with the sky above and the marsh below, that we are happy and carefree.  This experience of wildness is priceless.  In our state of well-being, we cannot defend this value in court when developers argue for draining the marsh and building new value in their banks.
Have we forgotten our heritage?  Do we not see that subject and object cannot exist without each other, inseparable.  We talk about cause and effect, but don’t believe in it when we act without care for consequences.  We are nihilists at heart, mouthing words of empty value to satisfy the objectivity gods.  This separation that we feel and that has supported the polarity of human economic culture is the source of so much suffering.  We can take responsibility for our world by seeing the interface between subject and object and remembering the spiritual connection that we have with every living being and the world we live in.  This is the ultimate value, beyond the objectification of  existence.  We can declare that wetlands have value and that we are willing to conserve them and other wildness that is vital to our well-being.   
Posted by michael