Deep Thoughts on a Sunny Day

Humanistic Judaism. I had never heard of it until several weeks ago when I was informed by an acquaintance that he would be celebrating Rosh Hashanah a week later (or earlier I can't quite remember which) than other Jews I know because he is a Humanistic Jew.  Me being the curious me, I did a little research to find that Humanistic Jews embrace a human-centered philosophy, a nontheistic Judaism, ergo no God of Israel. They do adhere to elements of their ancient culture, sans God.

This came to me at a time when I am saddened by the loss of ritual, symbolism, and tradition in my own culture. What I see is our American moral compass being systematically splintered. Our American value of "independence" is leading our culture away from the norms and values that once bound us as a nation.

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I can envision an archaeologist in a thousand years unearthing two relics -- we know them today as the great seal of the United States of America.  One relic will display the eye atop the pyramid. It  symbolizes the approval of providence (God or universal being). There is no eye on the second relic.  That archaeologist will eventually be able to determine when the American culture elimintated God.

Civilizations rise and fall, and with them their beliefs, norms, and values. God has already been eliminated from the Jewish culture for some, and the Christian culture for many Americans. Today we celebrate Christmas, but do we celebrate it's symbolism, ritual, traditions? Or, is it merely a time for retail stores to finally leap into the black?

Guess I'm wandering around attempting  to figure out what is happening to symbolism, ritualism, tradition -- those cultural elements that bind us together and identify us as a culture. As they will, the times they are a changing. It's all ephemeral anyway and perhaps just an illusion.

Oh, and for the record, research suggests that Thomas Jefferson himself was a Humanist. All this ballyhoo about our Founding Fathers. Harrumph!  It's so complex and yet so simple...we are born, we live, we die. All of this arguing and killing is just about speculation anyway, isn't it? "Now I see through a glass darkly, but then shall I see face to face."    (I Corinthians 13) 

In the meantime, check out this discovery in Uppsala, Sweden. At one time these folks too bound themselves together with symbols, rituals, and traditions. Time will tell what it was all about before the Vikings made landfall. Pretty cool stuff.

As always, I welcome your thoughts. 

How Deep is the Mist?

The mists of history have intrigued us since we could wonder about it. Who are our ancestors? What was their life experience? why are humans so bent on moving all over the place? What pushed them to new frontiers? What pulled them there?

Spencer Wells's DNA research has documented the first migrations from Africa to about 40,000 years ago. New discoveries in the Middle East push the date to 41 to 42000 years ago. The article linked here suggests a similar timeframe for the arrival of modern humans in Europe. 

We live in an age of discrimination by color, culture, religion, gender, socioeconomic class, and I could go on ad nauseum. The empirical evidence suggests we are all of a single human species and our ancient ancestors migrated from the one place -- Africa. The adaptation to the ancient realms that called us created our differences. So blame geography, blame the sun and the rain and the cold and the heat, but blame each other? That's a bit of nonsense.

I am fascinated with the pushes and pulls of human migration. If you are too, you may be interested in Spencer Wells's documentary "Journey of Man" (It's on YouTube.com) and the recent article on Archaeology News Network Dating of Beads.

As we push deeper into the mists, I'll keep an eye on the evidence and keep you posted.  

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Futhark? What's a Futhark?

Futhark? What's a Futhark?

The first six runes of the Norse alphabet are the representation of the sounds that create the word 'futhark.' Rune stones -- large stones with runic inscriptions -- have been discovered in Heavener, Oklahoma, and in Kensington, Minnesota. Are they authentic? Did Vikings in fact travel deeper into the continent than Leif Eiriksson's camp in Newfoundland (pronounced New-FOUND- lund by Canadians).

Futhark - the runic alphabet

Futhark - the runic alphabet

Man has always been a seeker of adventure, curious, a creature desirous of finding out what is around the next corner. If a camp was created in the Americas, as has now has been firmly established via archaeological evidence, then what kept one or two or more of those curious souls from wandering deeper into the continent?

Read about the Heavener rune stone. http://www.midwesternepigraphic.org/heavener01.html

Read about the Heavener rune stone.

http://www.midwesternepigraphic.org/heavener01.html

I would go. Would you?

Unfortunately in both cases -- Heavener and Kensington -- skeptics step forward to call fraud. But are they? The runes are intricately carved in stone, to what end? What does one have to gain spending endless hours creating these intricate tools of communication, these works of art, just to fool us?

We were taught that Columbus "discovered" America. I agree that his exploration led to the era of European colonization around the world  (for better or worse is another topic altogether) but "discover"? There have been people wandering the Americas for millenia. Many of them left behind the artifacts of their journeys. We're finding new evidence everyday.

The rune stones left by the wandering Norse people are written using the Futhark, their alphabet. I for one believe the Vikings were explorers. They are infamous because of their raids in northern Europe, but they were human and humans are curious beings. The Futhark will help us to understand.

Several runes figure prominently in the saga Dance of the Hummingbirds. Lars Svensson will eloquently explain    them to you.

Writing "Dance of the Hummingbirds"

Revealing parts of her soul to the world through the characters is a risk every novelist takes

 I have been asked: "Is this you?" My answer: "Sometimes."   

My novel Dance of the Hummingbirds is the saga of a Tucson archaeologist who sets out to find answers to the mysterious disappearance of the Hohokam -- people who populated southern Arizona until about 1450 AD. She discovers an artifact that takes her across the continent and deep into her own soul.

The novel is now available at all of the major ebook retailers and I'm getting wonderful feedback from people who have read it. Buy it for your Kindle, Nook, SonyReader, or download a free Reader app https://ebookstore.sony.com/download/ to your laptop or desktop. 

As you read you may in fact find bits and pieces of a novelist's soul weaved through the characters. If you like the story please rate it on Amazon.com. 

Until next time, don't be afraid to dance. 

A Tribute to my Father

Today my heart is full of memories. A flood of emotion and thoughts of childhood greet me on this morning each year. Some I push away and others I savor as each child of a great man should. My father was a great man. Despite his stature, he loomed large in our lives -- caressing, demanding, pushing us to become strong in a world of uncertainty. He urged us to "just try it," never allowing us to shrink back from challenges we faced.

I love you Papa and wish you were still here to celebrate today and tomorrow, but you taught me that this is not the way of life. So, today I cling to fond memories and offer a poem about a place shared with my father and his father and his father. 

The largest natural lake in Indiana -- Lake Wawasee -- holds our souls.

 I am grateful for all my fathers reaching back to Leonhard Buergi who ventured from the Alsace across an ocean to freely practice his faith.

 (Note: Formatting poetry on this website is challenging. That is my disclaimer. Nothing more to add)

 

By the Lake

At night when I return to musty smells of cottage walls

and soft murmurs of grown-ups on the old screened porch below

The crickets chee-ree, and a squirrel’s clatter in the attic we thought was a wolf,

and the oarlocks’ creak as old Harley and Wilma head out of an evening

to catch a pike for supper, late.

 

Quiet laughter is muffled by ripples dissolving into the cracked seawall at twilight.

Waves caress velvet nightfall after

                     a day of frolic and bluster

                            tumbling down the whitewashed dock

                                  curled tight  inside the tube of an old tractor tire   

                                           crashing into a gumbo of giggles,

                                                         no eyes poked out on air valves.                                                                                                            

 

               Eight tousled cousins mewling and tumbling like kittens at play,

               pausing only to sit in a row on the flocked-green couch watching  

               the mantle clock tick tock the long hour after dinner

 

Until We could play again without the dreaded cramp and certain drowning.

 

Oh to once more watch minnows massing along the seawall as daylight ebbs behind the monastery turned Sphinx Hotel across the liquid expanse of three miles,

 

Nibbling emerald threads swaying with the tide, darting into the crack and and           right out again, as children do.

 

                Mother mallard leading her clamorous charge on parade,

                bobbing for bits of day-old crusts tossed by

 

Eight tousled cousins sitting in a row on weed-stained cement of the old seawall.

 

            And pop bottles strewn ‘cross that old sycamore stump, felled

             in wintertime before trucks drove right onto the ice to haul its immensity away.

 

             And cattails, chocolate lollipops rising straight out of lily pads, bursting

             into tufts  of playful naiads in late summer.

 

Misty mornings, with not a whisper of sound except waves knocking on old walls,

When that old green rowboat heads to the fishing hole where blue gills are bigger than a man’s hand.

 

That’s what Gramp says. “Right out there, straight off  the pier.”

 

A tendril of memory nudges and I return to lie awake on the lumpy mattress among tousled cousins,

Yearning  to be all grown up to stay up late murmuring softly on the old screened porch By the Lake.

 

What Do You Believe?

I'm home from Tennessee and a journey back to my childhood. Reminiscing with my family takes me to places I haven't visited for years. The experience is at the same time joyous and heartbreaking. As I grow wiser along this grand journey, I often reflect on what was and what could have been, but the greatest challenge for me has been one of spirit.

Jennifer Pastiloff is a new FaceBook friend I am following and she asked a simple question today:

Do you believe in God? What does it mean to be spiritual, to you? Whether you believe in God, or something God-like or The Universe or none of the above, I would love to hear your thoughts below. Intelligent and respectful comments only.
— Jennifer Pastiloff
Pausing to consider the grandeur.

Pausing to consider the grandeur.

After some thought I answered the following: 

I believe in God because I was brought up to believe in God. What God is to me has changed many times through the years as spirituality is ever-present in my life. I no longer subscribe to any particular religion because my God is bigger than any of them. When I was young I felt very close to God and have explained that as having just left the womb of heaven; As I grow older, I am rediscovering the longing to be reunited with an entity that is beyond my understanding. I have always loved the verse from I Corinthians, Chapter 13: Now I see through a glass darkly, but then shall I see face to face. God is beyond, but some day I will know.

Now I ask you to weigh in on this question. Lillie Lisle explores the question from many perspectives in Dance of the Hummingbirds. If you would like to know more about Lillie's thoughts, I challenge you to read her story. For now, I'd like to know what you think. 

Continue to enjoy your journey and from time to time, stop a moment to dance.

 

 

Romance of the Sea

When I plotted my blogging course, I decided I should stay focused on the themes of my novel Dance of the Hummingbirds.  But, after a good deal of reconsidering -- this is after all my musings, my journey, although indeed  I have invited you along -- I must turn again to my passion for the sea.

The Siren's Lure

The Siren's Lure

But “aha,” you say. “The sea is a theme in your novel.”

I’m glad to see you’re paying attention. Yes, Thorynn shares my passion for the sea and I will continue to explore his passion in the sequel to Dance. It’s currently in its formative period.

My passion for sailing is purely romantic. Being elbow deep in engine parts, sanding and staining brightwork, or fiddling with navigation equipment really isn’t my cup of tea. As a certified bareboat sailor I do know my way around the technical side of a vessel, and wouldn’t be worth my salt if I wasn’t prudent about safety and maintenance, but my reveries have never indulged much in the way of bilge water, burping engines, and GPS (God please save us) devices. I plot my course on a paper chart; love the physicality of manually raising the main and cranking in the headsail to catch just the right breath of wind. My prayer to Neptune usually goes “please watch over the holding tank and keep it holding.”

It’s the moment when the sails are set, the winds are fair, and the seas are following, when I just become… It’s the majesty and the power and the awe of the sea that tugs at my soul.

This is  the sea that tempted Thorynn, and lured him on an odyssey to lands unknown.

I wonder why?