Looking for a word that means ‘wisdom’

I was trying to find a word in Spanish for “wisdom,” one conveying spiritual depth.

Instead, what I came across in the dictionary related to factual intelligence or knowing. All head, no heart.

Nothing even suggesting common sense or good judgment.

What I wanted went deeper, say to the kind of understanding gained through long experience and discipline. Sometimes, the kind of knowing you feel in your hands.

Better yet, what Merriam-Webster calls “the natural ability to understand things that most other people cannot understand.” To which I would add a sense of calm and patience.

If the word or phrase exists in Spanish, I’d love to know it. Perhaps even with a few other things that get lost in translation.

 

Did you know nonprofits are a big part of the economy?

In my novel Nearly Canaan, Jaya resumes her career in nonprofit enterprises – a field she left in moving to the Yoga Bootcamp from Manhattan.

Running nonprofits turns out to be a management specialty – and they are a major player in the economy, even if you don’t read a lot about them in the business section of the newspaper.

Here are some considerations.

~*~

  1. The nonprofit sector accounts for $65 billion of the U.S. economy – 5.4 percent of the gross national product.
  2. Nonprofits hire a tenth of the workforce – more than national defense, construction, real estate, and space exploration combined.
  3. There are more than 1.2 million public charities and foundations in the country.
  4. Only one-third of the organizations file with the IRS, leaving the rest off of the economic radar.
  5. The 950,000 public charity organizations – ranging across arts, culture, education, health care, and human services – comprise two-thirds of the nonprofits sector.
  6. Most of them are small. Nearly 30 percent of the public service organizations operate at under $100,000 a year. The largest group, 37 percent, runs between $100,000 and $499,999. The largest group, of $10 million or more, is just 5.3 percent of the organizations but doles out 87 percent of the money.
  7. Nearly half of their revenue comes from fees for services and goods – ticket sales, tuition, hospital fees, membership fees, and product sales. Another third comes from government programs and grants. The remainder comes from donations (15 percent) and investment income (5 percent).
  8. Religion is the largest charity category, with a third of the pot, followed by education, 13 percent. Other standouts: Health, at 7.4 percent; arts, culture, and humanities at 4.1 percent; environment or animals, 2 percent.
  9. One in four Americans volunteers time and service to these causes. Their volunteer service, averaging 52 hours a year per person, is valued at $1.5 trillion. They also donate $358 billion in fundraising.
  10. The total assets of public charities in the U.S. comes to $3.7 trillion.

~*~

Do you donate to any nonprofit groups? Do you volunteer? Do you rely on their services?

 

Some perspective on prime foliage

Even though I grew up in a northern environment and its deciduous trees, autumn color was pretty much peripheral. We lived in town, after all, and I was essentially indoors at school or the like. Besides, much of the rural landscape around us was open farmland, with here and there a woodlot or riverbank.

My foliage awareness really took off a few months after graduating from college, when I lived in a small city surrounded by forested Appalachian foothills that turned ablaze at the end of September. Like Kenzie in my novel Pit-a-Pat High Jinks, I was working a job that allowed me to get out of the office at mid-afternoon, when my free daylight hours were soon devoted to exploring the visions along backroads in what became a daily epiphany.

From town, it appeared the hills caught fire at their summits and the flaming color then ate its way downslope. And, as I heard, the forests themselves were a blending of New England varieties and those of the South, so we had the best of both worlds for foliage.

In the years and wanderings since, that’s been my standard, though I should question if it was really quite as vivid as my memory would boast. Having lived in northern New England now for 33 years, I’ve often thought our fall foliage was more subdued than its legend, perhaps apart from some spectacular locales like Sugar Hill here in New Hampshire.

This past week, though, has changed my opinion. In driving about, I’ve come across large swaths in full color – not the usual mixed green and bare mixed in – and properly illuminated, even in an early morning mist and fog, not that my camera would capture that. It soon becomes almost too much, too rich, for one’s eyes to handle.

~*~

That first autumn Upstate, I didn’t have a camera, alas. Later, living in an orchard, I was disappointed that the apple, peach, and pear trees turned mostly dun. Finally, what I attempted, with film, my first years in New Hampshire came out so-so, partly a failing on my not knowing quite where to go, when. Only when I took up digital photography, about the time I launched this blog, did I start shooting earnestly, especially my first autumn after taking the buyout at the office and heading into the hills a little north of us.

As I’ve revisited those shots, I’m struck by how often utility lines mar the image – that, and other things our eyes overlook, though the camera is far less forgiving. Those lines stick out like the proverbial sore thumb. Thus, in the past month, as I’ve been shooting, there have been many fine examples of color I’ve out-and-out passed by for that reason.

Another difference this time is that I’m using my second camera, which has a “magic” auto-setting that intensifies the color. In alternating my shots with that and a more subdued tonality, I’m finding that the “hotter” one grabs more of what I’m feeling as I look, while the “cooler” option is closer to the reality … until the sun turns just the right way, which is what’s been happening the past week.

I am surprised our hundred-year drought hasn’t deeply limited the foliage. There was a walnut tree across the street that turned yellow one afternoon – maybe within an hour – but I postponed the shot. The next day was dull and wet, the light was just wrong. And the following day? The leaves had all fallen.

Well, it will all be gone soon. The phenomenon is a lesson in attentiveness and acceptance in the present.

On the road less traveled

Many know the Robert Frost poem, “The Road Not Taken,” but few know of its underlying Puritan foundation, expressed in Daniel Read’s 1785 shape-note hymn, Windham, based on lyrics by Isaac Watts. As the first stanza proclaims:

Broad is the way that leads to death
And thousands walk together there;
But wisdom shows a narrow path,
With here and there a traveler.

Frost, in contrast, has none of that grim Calvinist view, one that leads the next stanza to open, “Deny thyself and take thy cross,” and builds to a closing plea, “Create my heart entirely new, which hypocrites could ne’er obtain, which false apostates never knew.”

I can say that singing Windham in a choir is a rigorous experience. And, my, it feels incredible to bite on that final phrase, self-righteous though it can be.

Others can debate which piece better expresses New England terroir, but in contrast to Frost and his leisurely stroll in autumn foliage, I’d say the ideal embedded in the hymn remains the road less taken. Winter here is a much, much longer season than the fleeting falling of leaves..

A troubling cry

X-ing out Community.

This splash of graffiti, defacing another’s work hailing the Dover Community Trail, offends me on several counts. One is its very hostility to any greater good. Community Trail means public, open to all, yet this anonymous voice seemingly opposes that. I doubt they’d want it to be posted No Trespassing, either. As for the “us”? How about standing up and identifying yourself? You sound pretty alienated, lonely, and ultimately selfish to me.

Here’s the companion mural on the adjacent bridge pillar along the Cocheco River.

Where King Salmon reigns

In my novel Nearly Canaan, Joshua and Jaya settle into a place unlike anything they would have imagined. Though they live in desert, it still spawns salmon.

Oh, what a fish.

~*~

  1. There are eight commercially important species of salmon in the Pacific, and nine in the Atlantic.
  2. Some species can reach five feet in length and 110 pounds in weight.
  3. The body color changes, depending on habitat and the mating seasons. It’s not always the dark orange we see on our dinner plate.
  4. They have a lot of natural enemies, including big fish, whales, sea lions, and bears. Commercial and sport fishermen take a big toll, too.
  5. They’re healthy food, rich in proteins, Vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids.
  6. They can survive three to eight years in the wild.
  7. They travel thousands of miles from their freshwater spawning areas out to the sea and then return to their birthplace to spawn more. They can climb up to 7,000 feet elevation from the sea to accomplish this. Most will then die of exhaustion.
  8. They do not eat any food during the time they swim upstream to spawn.
  9. Swimming upstream, they can jump two yards in the air.
  10. A female Chinook salmon can carry more than 4,000 eggs.

It came as a harsh realization

I have no fondness for any of the offices I’ve worked in. They were all impersonal, and for the most part institutional. The best one, on a college campus, was a former dormitory room with painted concrete-block walls. The newsrooms were more like sweatshops. One, at least, made an effort in remodeling, but there were some other negative factors.

A few of my home writing spaces stand a notch higher, though I had some where I sat cross-legged on the floor to type.

Well, come to think of it, the one I really miss is the second-floor studio I converted from a bedroom in the townhouse I rented on the hilltop in Manchester. Everything was in reach there, and I did have a good view of the street and sky. Not that my current third-floor lair is anything to complain about, apart from running up against the sloping ceiling.

I really had dreamed about converting the top of the barn into my author’s haven but see no need to do that these days. The fact is, we really need to downsize, now that it’s just the two of us rather than five. And now that my work’s mostly digital, I don’t require as much storage space for filing cabinets and mailing supplies.

How about your own working spaces? Employment? Kitchen? Workshop? Hobbies?

We’re coming up on what would have been the big 50th anniversary Revels Christmas production

Every December, the Boston Revels produces a new winter solstice celebration that now plays to 18 sold-out performances in Harvard’s historic Sanders Theatre. Or did, before the Covid-19 restrictions.

From their first round in 1970, the shows have grown into a unique hybrid of storytelling, theater, dance, concert, audience singalong and other participation. Each year focuses on a different corner of the world or a historical event.

Guest artists bring their traditions to the company, and the costuming and sets are always spectacular. Nobody could forget the big canoe that came flying out over the audience in a Canadian show a couple of decades back.

Well, this year’s production won’t be live in the flesh, but rather a streamed online retrospective. I don’t really know how to count it. Still, if you go to the revels.org website, you can attend a virtual show wherever you dwell. Admittedly, it won’t quite be the same.

Here are ten we’ve especially enjoyed.

~*~

  1. Leonardo da Vinci. This was founder John Langstaff’s final appearance with the troupe, and it focused on three different cities in Renaissance Italy.    
  2. The road to Campostela. The culture of Spain’s Galatian region was featured in this homage to the pilgrimage known as The Way. Storyteller Jay O’Callahan was captivating, the flamenco was quite moving, and you wouldn’t forget those Spanish bagpipes.
  3. Wales. There’s more to the British enclave than Dylan Thomas, though it did provide the timeframe for this production.
  4. England’s Crystal Palace. How truly Victorian.
  5. Venice in the 1500s. The music wasn’t all Italian and Latin, by the way. The Croatian, Sephardic, and Turkish pieces were all hits. And the story was a delightful comedy.
  6. Acadia and Cajun. We followed the life and expulsion of this French-speaking people from Canada to New Orleans. The big tree at the back of the stage kept shifting color as needed, and the stream of immigrants into exile seemed to be endless, even though it was only the chorus of children and adults repeating their exodus toward the audience.
  7. Nordic. Six languages, including English, big slices of the Kalevala myth, and a lot of polkas. The Scandinavian fiddles are distinctive.
  8. Armenia and Georgia. I loved the economy of this one. The first act centered on a pilgrim in Armenia, where the Christian church took root at the foot of Mount Arrat, the landing place of Noah and his ark. From there, the second act followed him one locale over, to the Republic of Georgia. Though so close together, the traditions were also strikingly different. The Revels headquarters is in Watertown, a major center of Armenian population and culture, so finding a great cantor was no problem.
  9. Scotland. Langstaff had a passion for Britain, and its folk culture is deeply engrained in the Revels DNA. We didn’t get to the acclaimed Irish show, but this one included reels we still dance in New England as well as songs familiar and rare.
  10. American roots.  Last year’s show started at a rural radio station somewhere in the South and covered a lot of ground by the end.

~*~

What live Christmas season events have become part of your tradition?

 

What is it about Memphis?

In my novel Yoga Bootcamp, Jaya’s guru is a native of Memphis, there on the Mississippi River.

And much of the action in my novels Nearly Canaan and The Secret Side of Jaya takes place in Arkansas, right across the river.

It’s more influential than I’d thought.

Here are ten tidbits.

~*~

  1. It’s populous. With a metro population of more than 1.3 million, Greater Memphis is the most populous locality in Tennessee. However, the city itself has 650,000 residents, making it second behind Nashville.  
  2. FedEx headquarters. The airport is the world’s second-biggest cargo operation.
  3. The river. The busy shipping port moves 11 million tons of cargo a year, much of it arriving by train or truck.
  4. King Cotton. Half of the nation’s cotton is traded at the Cotton Exchange on the riverfront.
  5. Music. Sun Records (founded in 1950) became the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll in the 1950s. It was the first label to record Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Johnny Cash. It was sold in 1969 and eventually moved to Nashville. Meanwhile, Stax Records (1959-1976) was a fountain of the Memphis Sound, mixing blues, rhythm and blues, and soul.
  6. Graceland. Presley’s mansion is visited by 600,000 tourists each year. In America, only the White House attracts more.
  7. Civil rights. The motel where Martin Luther King Jr. was gunned down in 1968 now houses the National Civil Rights Museum, a Smithsonian Institution affiliate.
  8. Edible flesh: The city is the largest livestock and meatpacking center in the South.
  9. Fire up: The World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest each May offers $110,000 in prizes.
  10. Namesake: It’s named for the city on the Nile in Egypt.

~*~

Ever been there? What struck your fancy?

 

Anyone else feeling déjà vu with a hangover?

Not too long ago, the counterculture of the late ’60s and early ’70s looked like ancient history, especially from our grandkids’ perspective.

Not so now.

Here we are again, with a paranoid tyrant in the White House, a nation divided, police gone rogue, civil rights denied, and frustration erupting in protests. Only this time, the situation looks worse, much worse, than it did then, even before we add climate change and the environment to the mix.

We had more community connections, for one thing. And there were more voices of reason, for another. In what we saw as the Revolution of Peace & Love, the gloom and doom before us was often counterbalanced by experiences of joy and unity, often via its outpouring of vivid music in public festivals and rallies. I don’t see that now. Too many people are simply isolated, and the Covid restrictions aren’t helping.

The closest rallying cry for the American dream I’m sensing is BLM. Think about that and how many middle-class, suburban lawns where its signs are sprouting on lawns and in windows.

In retrospect, as I’ve long argued, there was no standard-issue hippie and no creed to subscribe to. Some were outright apolitical, while for others, peace and social justice activism were paramount.

Once again, activism is high on the agenda, across all generations.

My novel Daffodil Uprising: the making of a hippie describes the transformation as it happened, more or less, fifty years ago on a college campus in Indiana and likely elsewhere. Not all of it was hippiedelic, not by a long shot. Things were generally grim.

A neighbor reading the book said some of the scenes regarding the school’s administration and its disregard for the students sound like those his daughter is complaining about at a prestigious university in Greater Boston. Some things never change, or won’t if we fail to nurture a culture of vigilance. Frankly, we got lazy in the intervening years, or at least distracted.

All I can say is that I expect the next month to be one of the most important in our nation’s history. Wise elders, seasoned over time, are needed in the fray. How many of us are willing and ready to stand up?

The making of a hippie