I am not a writer, as such. The idea of this blog came about back in the beginning of 2008, when my friend and client Kathryn suggested that I start one on my web-site. Her reason for this was that I had just told her of my genealogical research into my family tree using Ancestry.com www.ancestry.com and had found a link that said that I was the 18th Generational Grandson of Geoffrey Chaucer. Maybe, she suggested, there was a undiscovered writer in me, and that I might give it a whirl. So I did...
Elsewhere on this web-site you will find photos that I have posted.
The ones about Istanbul might seem odd, but there's a reason for these photos. When I started the blog I had just returned from my first visit to Istanbul and wanted to share some of the magic I found there. Going into this cistern and seeing these columns from thousands of years ago gave me a link to the effort that we all do in our lives, even if we do not do something that stands the test of time, like these columns. The face upside down is supposed to be Medusa.
On my trip to Istanbul I took along Chaucer's 'Canterbury Tales', never having read it. What an interesting book. Such great stories, examples to all of us, how to be or not to be, that being the question.
All my life I have looked for good role models. Good people who do good. And I have met so very many good role models.
People who have hard lives, sad lives, shattered lives. Lives dominated by addiction and abuse, lies and pain. Some of us suffer.
It was for those reasons that I decided to make the commitment to writing this blog, my small contribution to the world, hoping to shine a little love and light into what can be a dismal and gloomy world.
Thank you for reading.
Wonder of wonders, one day a lovely woman I know mentioned that she had noticed that my blog had missing parts, and being the organized woman she is, in contrast to the trying-to-be organized man I am, she shortly thereafter sent me the pages she had. Thank you Christine!
I wrote my first story when I was eight and won a school prize.
I wrote a short scary story when I was 10 that my Mom liked.
I wrote a short science fiction story when I was 15 that sits uncompleted.
1968 was the year I first heard about Chaucer. Ms. Kobata, my Latin teacher, was talking about how language evolves, and cited several examples in various languages and mentioned Chaucer. Later that year in an English class we were assigned 'The Canterbury Tales' to read, but it was no big deal.
1991 was the year I started to write my first book, as I wanted to distil my methodology of self care and wellness and make it available where I am not. 'An Other Perspective' took me 10 years to write before I embarked on getting it published, a learning curve to be sure, but a good one. I remember someone asking me about the writing process and my saying how I was not sure writing was part of me. That night I dreamt of a man on a riverbank, dressed in a tunic and leggings bowing to me, doffing his cap and laughing before fading. Shortly thereafter I found myself with ideas clicking loudly in my head, and started to make notes and collect things that have me now working on more books for future publishing.
1999 was the year I went to Oxford England and spent time walking around the city and surrounding countryside, working on my book and playing when I wasn't. One day I was walking along the bank of the Isis as they call the Thames in Oxford, and came upon the setting I had seen in my dream in 1991. It gave me shivers. I redoubled my writing efforts.
2007 was the year that I learned of my connection to Chaucer, that Ancestry.com www.ancestry.com showed me as the man's grandson, 18 generations distant. Wow...
I was talking with my friend Kathryn later that year and she suggested that I give writing a blog a try. I always take my time with big changes, when I can, and a blog seemed like a big change. I sat with this idea.
Forward to the Spring of 2008 and my upcoming birthday in April. I had planned a trip to Istanbul to spend time alone and reflect on the prior year and to think about the year in process and the years to come. I started my blog, below.
I am home now, and ready to let the world in a bit more and help me to find my place in it. Thank you, Istanbul!
April 10, 2008
Travel has been a big part of my life since I was born. Being on the go, so to speak, actually brought me to the place of my birth. If my fore bearers had not lived and fought and struggled and progressed I would not be the me I am. Travel has helped to shape and inform me since I was born. Since this is so, I thought I would start with my last major experience, my trip to Istanbul.
I had meant to take some time off in the Fall of 2007 but never got around to it. there was always one thing or another. So I kept on putting it off until it was suddenly the Holidays here in the U.S.. so getting away was out of the question. Flying at Christmas is a nightmare at best, as has been my experience, except for one time for Chicago to Detroit on a United Airlines flight when I was the only person in First Class. That was a great Xmas flight and I was sorry the flight was so short.
And then the New Year and work work work so I started planning for a journey away someplace I had never been and hopefully a place where I didn't speak the language. So I looked at my travel map and searched the internet and looked at prices and figured out how many frequent flyer miles got me how far, and made a short list of places. Then I did what I try to do each time I have a big decision to make, and slept on it.
The next morning I woke up and knew that I was going to Istanbul. Images of minarets had flashed through in my dreams the night before, and that was the only place on my short list that had minarets. Some time and a phone call later--booked through London for a week away. Now to research hotels at www.mymerhaba.com and learn all that I could about Turkey and Istanbul. A city that traces its beginning to the 7th Century BC, first named Byzantium and today a vibrant crossroads for world cultures.
Weeks later, I have read everything I could find about where I was going, and have even taken a turn or two at Turkish. The cuisine I had enjoyed many times all over the world, even in Izmir when I was there years ago. And then It's travel day and I'm off to the airport and American Airlines (www.aa.com) and me and my carry-on bag are checked in and onto the plane and then onto Dallas/Ft. Worth International Airport and a plane change and photos at check-in as it is American's first flight into Heathrow which went to Gatwick previously, and they have a British Bobby (policeman) and a woman dressed as a Victorian era housemaid...
Smile for the camera! Click!
A long flight ensues and then we're at London Heathrow Airport and I've got to transfer to British Airways (www.britishairways.com) and to the just opened 4 days ago Terminal 5. Everything that I read did not prepare me for the pleasant and easy transfer. Short bus ride later, deposited in front of a shiny glass building that seems to be many stories tall. In the door, up one escalator to another one, up, and then along a long walkway to signage and ticket checks and security checks and after half an hour, free to wander. What a great new building, lots of shops and places to get food and drink, but it's only 4 days old and has lots of luggage transfer problems, which is why I have my carry-on luggage with me.
Finding my British Airways flight was easy and check it was easy, too. Luckily upgraded to World Traveler (Business) Class, I find my seat, get comfortable and off we go minutes later. Time for some more sleep.
Arriving at Ataturk Airport in Istanbul woke me up with a bit of a start. The pilot announced 'Prepare for landing' and I woke up in the middle of his sentence. Groggy but refreshed and ready for the adventure that awaits me on the ground.
One of the nice things about travel is that it permits me to see how the rest of the world works. Walking up the jet way into the terminal I noticed that everything was clean and in good shape, some new and all of it very modern. As is the wont of most airport designers one must walk a fair ways to get to the core services and this certainly is true at Ataturk. Having read up, I knew that I had to purchase a Tourist Visa first and then go through Customs. The lines for both of these were long and filled witha smattering of the world's peoples. Europeans, Turks, Arabs, Africans, Asians and lots of Russians. There was a lot of line jumping and friends finding friends ahead in line and joining them and the crowd was a bit surly but no fights broke out. Eventually it all led to a glass booth and a tired but jovial man who stamped my passport and said 'Welcome to Istanbul'.
Out into the Arrivals Hall and there is a sign with my name on it being held aloft in a sea of arms and signs. I walked around and found the guy, Ozcar, from the hotel and sent to collect me, and off to the car parked out front. The drive into town was amazing. Everywhere I looked, there were dozens and dozens of tulips in pots, then hundreds planted along the roadway median. All along the side of the road there are still more tulips, planted in groups of color, blazing in the afternoon sun. Pools of red, yellow, orange, white, green, pink, so many shades and hues. Wow!
I asked Ozcar about the tulips, and he says that this week is the start of the 3rd Annual Tulip Festival. Really? Wow!
We pull up to the hotel I've chosen, the Antea Palace (www.anteapalacehotel.com) where check-in awaits me, along with a glass of Turkish tea, warm and cooling all at the same time. Up to my nice single room and after being on the road for 26 hours I could use a bit more 'shut-eye', and a nap is in order...
An hour later, the alarm wakes me from a deep and restful sleep. Up and out the door, I walk uphill to the old Roman road and follow it as it slopes down to the waters of the Golden Horn, an inlet that separates old Istanbul (European side) from new Istanbul (Asian side). Passing a Starbuck's and a McDonald's as well as several kofta and kebab shops, candy stores and trinket shops, I come upon a vista of the Blue Mosque from a small park crammed with tulips of every color one can imagine, except blue as there are not blue tulips. What a sight!
Having decided to start my discovery of Istanbul at the oldest object in the city, I went to what looked for all the world like a part of Bavaria planted with tulips in bright red and yellow. This area is the ancient Hippodrome and has some of the oldest objects out in the open. One of these was an Egyptian obelisk, another a stela from Delphi, Greece. Spread out from this core is a melange of sights, colors, textures, sounds, and smells that impart how rich and wonder full our world is. This current gift of travel is one of the best I have ever given myself. What a great first day!
The next week is spent putting myself into the city, learning as much of it as I can see. With such long history, the city is one of the richest in culture that I have ever visited. Go if you can. You will find a city rich in people, culture, food, modesty, and warmth.
Coming home was getting up at 4 A.M.. and getting downstairs to a late to arrive taxi and a mad dash through the very early morning dense auto traffic to the airport, tulips leading the way all along the roads. Checked in and searched and boarded and off and landed and transferred and searched and checked in and searched and boarded and off and landed and searched and checked in and searched and boarded and off and landed and searched and checked in and boarded and off and landed to a waiting car and a blur of a drive home to a small white cat and our home and lots of water and a light snack and bed. Glad to be home.
April 14, 2008
Returning home from this last trip has once again charged my batteries, helped me to appreciate how beautiful and wonderful our world is, how we are all part of a global oneness. That brief time away was like hitting the reset button on a clock, and now I am looking forward to what comes next. Now back to my work and the work of service.
Each of us has something to do here, all the time, whether we think about it or not. Many of us don't and good for them. Some of us do think about it and I am one of those. My work involves using my skills, my experiences, my trust, and my compassion to help folks. New clients have been added to my regular schedule. My use of time is having to shift to do this blog, and that is a cause for ponder, but I want to give this glimpse to you into my life, into the world as I live and know it.
What I find of great comfort is my trust, my faith in the world and what occurs. I accept that my power ends at my skin, and that leads me to believe that I am here to experience and learn as I go along. So much of my life has led me to situations that have been pivotal in helping me to become as I am. And to accept that 'nothing is permanent except change'.
Not all change makes us happy, nor pleases us. The world and all that is in and of it is not here merely for us. We are all part of a whole, a global village. Each of us has a role to do, a person to be. To feel and to think and to do. I work at doing my best as a reflection of the gratitude I feel for the world that I live in, and the life that I live.
May 4, 2008
When my Mother died I was 14 years old.
I remember someone saying 'roll with it' to me, I don't remember who said it, but I remember the words.
They echoed in my ears for the next 20+ years. The next time I heard those words was from a priest in a Catholic Church in Burbank on Burbank Boulevard, who had left the men's bathroom unlocked so that I could sleep there and not in the side door way where he had discovered me the morning before. I was homeless and in High School.
Learning to be in the world is not an easy thing for most of us, and it is the dignity and grace with which we hold and live our lives that is the testament of our souls.
One of those souls is my Sister-in-law, Kathy. She has cancer, and is doing all that she can to work with the disease. One of her works was to create a list of things she wants to do before her time here on Earth comes to its end. Of the many things on her list, she came to us, my partner Joe and I, and asked if we would help her complete one of these items, which is to travel to Europe with her husband and two children. She asked us as both of us have been to Europe many times, and I have lived there twice, once in London and once in Paris. So we've been talking about it, and her niece Allison will join us, making a group of seven, and about where to go and what they want to see: London, Paris, Lourdes, and Rome. I created a tour that will to that and a bit more.
We leave shortly for Chicago where we all meet us and fly off to London to begin our 15 day world win whirlwind tour.
Kathy and I were talking one day about her illness and she told me that in some ways she was relieved, that having cancer only underscored something we all learn: Life starts and stops.
That the stopping part was so very clear to her had served to energize her onward, to make and live each day as fully as she can. And will 2 small kids, that can be very full. So we are all resolved to make this Europe trip as full as we can, and are all looking forward to it. More to come, later...
May 10, 2008
A while ago a man asked me why he got so tired all the time. He admitted his diet was poor, and from the look of him one could see that he was carrying excess weight. He said he'd been told to lose 30 pounds by his medical doctor, but didn't.
I told him that when he more fully loved himself he would start to change. We talked about it a great many times.
I saw him the other day and he is now 40 pounds lighter.
It starts with what you believe, what you think is possible.
You cannot become someone you do not think/feel you can be. Life begins with intention. Embracing change and staying with it are key. Once you put your mind to it, and believe in yourself, you can do just about anything.
May 11, 2008
Travel has always been a love of mine. I remember my first big trip, when my Dad and I went to Arizona, to the Grand Canyon and the Canyon de Chelly. My Dad was very proud of the beauty of our country, and the natural wonders in America were of great interest to him. On this trip I had a dream unlike any other I had ever had: I was high on a cliff looking down at a small seemingly toy sized steam train and there was a man next to me, dark skinned with long black hair, and he turned to me and said words I didn't hear, but I knew that he was talking about travel and I knew that travel was a joy for me.
Right after this trip I returned home to Los Angeles to visit my Great Aunt Maude and Great Uncle Otto. He was ill and did not leave his bed during our visit. At one point I was escorted in to visit with him, and when I saw him it looked as if there was a faint fog all about him, but no one else made mention of this. He seemed older than old and very frail. Shortly after, just days, he passed away.
I do not recall his funeral but I remember going to my Great Aunt's house a few weeks later. Everything seemed the same in their house, but something led me to enter the living room of their house. It has a peaked ceiling and was very grand. There was a shadow in a chair and as I watched it moved from the chair to the entry door and vanished.
Later that evening I told my Mom about what I had seen and she asked me if I had been afraid and I told her that I hadn't and that the shadow had felt sad to me. That night I dreamt of Great Uncle Otto and saw his smiling face and felt his joyful hug and heard his laugh. I knew he was in a good place.
June 2, 2008
And breaking a rule of grammar I or should I write we have just returned from 15 days of glorious travel.
A wonder filled and full trip. Overflowing with love and humor and support and frustration and confusion and fun fun fun.
My partner Joe's sister Kathy has breast cancer. She put together a list of things she wants to do while here.
One of them is a trip to Europe. She and I started talking about it right after her diagnosis and it evolved into London and Paris and Lourdes and Marseilles and Florence and Rome.
We were in London, on a tourist bus, double decker and we're on top, and the Tower of London comes into view. The look on Kathy's face is aglow, she smiles big and turns to her son Zack as he said something to her and the look on her face is one of deep, abiding love. Love that will never die.
On this trip I learned from her, and as I am not a parent I learned to listen to her as she interacted with her kids and husband.
Travel can bring out the worst in people, that hard edged place that we all have and this trip was make all so much easier as we all just grooved on the love of travel that we all shared. And the foods and the smells and the sights and the light- London from the London's Eye, the Place de la Concorde on a sunny/cloudy Paris morning, a candle lit procession of hundreds of people in Lourdes as night fell, the keen of seagulls above Marseilles harbor, the taste of bruscetta with achingly fresh tomatoes on a Florence piazza, the majesty of St. Peter's Square in Rome, such moments of life.
June 6, 2008
As I've reflected on our trip, one lingering impression has stayed with me: The joy of living, of being alive. And the joy of laughter.
We were walking through the gardens of Versailles, Kathy and I. We'd been silently looking at a fountain when she turned to me and said that the beauty of the surroundings matched her delight in seeing them.
For that moment everyone vanished and I saw the Palace and the fountain and the gardens and the only people there were she and I, then in the blink of an eye everyone was back and the place was packed and there was a group of French children trooping by kicking up the dust and chattering away.
Being is the day to day of life.
I start my day, when I do, upon gaining consciousness saying 'Thank You'.
My being here is an event and some days I have awoken to learn that someone I know of has died, sometimes unexpectedly and tragically. Life is a gift. Being mindful of this fact helps me to live a better life, day to and by day.
Allison, my partner's niece, is a delightful girl. The last morning we were in Rome she and I went to the Trevi Fountain, near our apartment, shortly after 6AM on a very quiet Sunday. We passed no one as we walked to the fountain and emerged onto the piazza to find ourselves sharing one of the great beauties of Rome with 2 couples, 1 policeman, 1 street sweeper and dozens of pigeons. The image of Neptune towered above us beneath a brightening sky of pink, gold and grey in bands like on agate, smooth and soft looking. Allison turned to me and said how she loved Rome and her face reflected carefree and youthful joy and I could sense her deep happiness.
Our ability to allow ourselves to be at peace is an expression of our self-esteem.
June 7, 2008
One of my favorite places in Rome is the Largo di Torre Argentina, not too far from the Pantheon. The Largo is the home to a wonderful organization, Gatti di Roma (www.romancats.com and www.gattidiroma.com that takes care of abandoned cats. Years ago I came across this site as I was doing reading about old Rome and learned that it was reputed to be the place where Julius Caesar was killed. There are the ruins of four temples, quite below todays ground level. And dozens of cats, everywhere.
Going to the Largo this time, with the kids was such fun. Watching them trying to count all the cats made us all laugh, under the warm sun shaded by the pine trees. The richness of the gelato later as we talked about the cats of Rome was made all the sweeter for the joy of the day. Rome feels like no where else on Earth, and there is a pace here, a sensibility, a feeling of place. Having spent two weeks together, I noticed how everyone of us relaxed, we slept better, we laughed more. Maybe it was the end of running around Europe (London-Paris-Lourdes-Marseilles-Florence-Rome), maybe it was just being someplace for more than a night or two. Or maybe it was the market fresh food we ate each and every meal. Or perhaps the gelato, especially Blue Ice. The upshot was a wonderful time in a wonder filled city with wonderful family.
Have you ever been some place for the first time and had a feeling of familiarity? Maybe even know your way around? This is a feeling I get from time to time from place to place. It is one of the pluses that travel provides me, the feeling of connectedness that can occur. The first time I had this experience was when I was 12 years old and my Dad had taken us to Oahu and Kauai. Driving along the eastern edge of Oahu brought back memories of the coastline and and island offshore. Later, the taro fields on Kauai brought dreams of working in similar fields and my arms being very brown.
I had similar feeling this time in Rome, walking to dinner with a friend who is doing research there. The color of the light on the walls, as the sun set, the few people passing by, the sounds of voices echoing, and suddenly I felt I had been on this street before and knew there was an important building up ahead, and then there it was, and I was on now unfamiliar ground looking at a temple I had never seen in this life. Such a odd and strangely comforting feeling.
So much of what I have read and heard about and experienced has led me to know that what we call death is, in point of fact, a transition to another plane in time and space. Having had dozens of deja-vu moments, world wide, has shown me that there is a connection from this me here and now to another me in a different life and time. This perspective has allowed me to more fully appreciate the experience that I am having, and to feel another connection to a place. It has deepened my sense of responsibility on a global level.
June 11, 2008
Someone asked me via email (www.heikkie.com) how to find good places to stay abroad. I recommend travel books, suggestions from folks you trust, and the internet. Years ago, travel information was not so easy to come by, and much of it was hooey. I know as I used to own a travel agency. Today, thanks to the 'net, one can surf the world (www.google.earth.com) and learn so much before one steps foot forward. There are lots of folks who have been there before you, in most places, and some are glad and willing to share what they know. Avail yourself to them, sometimes you might find real gems.
London is crazy expensive, and keeping costs down took effort. For our trip I used www.LondonBy.com, www.ParisBy.com, www.RomeBy.com and www.accor.com and it was so easy. That we consisted of seven, yep, that's a 7, people, 2 triple rooms, 2 double rooms, train and air tickets, hotels, opening times, times and distances, and 14 days. It was a great trip.
Everyone had a piece of luggage on wheels and we were up and down staircases and into and out doors like a drill team, starting at Heathrow Airport where we met up. When our trip started, everyone said how leisurely it felt, not rushed at all. Three days of exploring London and then the Eurostar to Paris and more subways and walking, but the barbe de papa (cotton candy) at the small children's park near our hotel helped Madelyn greatly, as did the Disco Dance game in Florence for Zack and playing 'hide and seek' in a park in Rome for them both. Great kids. Good, too. And Kathy's husband Shane was so funny so much of the time, his humor kept things light and easy when the sledding was tough and we were all tired and it was raining and we still kept walking. An overnight train from Nice to Florence brought out some of his best jokes, and we all had such a great time, making memories.
Travel is not always easy, sometimes it's a breeze. But there is always something that it adds to living a better life.
As a kid growing up, we moved around a fair bit. My mom and step dad were hard workers and worked most times as a team. We lived in 7 places in 6 years.
Los Angeles, Big Pine, Glendale, Mojave, Eagle Rock, Newberry Springs, Highland Park. Each move bringing new places, spaces and faces and me usually trying to fit in. Humor became my saving grace. I learned that if I could make other kids laugh they would usually leave me alone.
Growing up and moving so many times underscored a few more facts: Being neutral and safe, friendly was safe, but don't be too friendly. You know, the little rules that we all make to navigate through life when you're a child and so much of what happens around you is mysterious and sometimes scary.
Trying to fit in was a great effort, and when it didn't work I learned a great deal about what we call 'human nature', as kids can be very mean and hurtful. Those hurts festered in me for too long a time, and led to the chaos that were my teenage years. It wasn't until I was in my 30's before I came to realize that energy in equaled energy in me, i.e. if I get stressed that energy will reside in me.
My half sister Melodies death when I was 25 played a big part in my maturation. Life can sometimes deliver the unexpected, and what one does with it and because of it shapes ones moral fiber and, I believe, creates karma, the law of return. My anger and hurt at all of the 'errors and terrors' in my life resulted in me being challenging of bad authority and getting in quite a few scrapes, at home and in the world.
From these events I learned more of how people can be, like the CHP officer that was forced to return me to my dads house even though I kept telling him I would be beat-up after he left, which I was. He was stuck, he said, and could only do what his instructions allowed. He came by my High School the next day to see how I was, and burst into tears when I showed him the bruises. But nothing changed until I ran away from home half way through my last year of High School and lived homelessly for a few weeks until I changed schools when I became 18 years old.
What I learned to do with my anger was to displace it. By that I mean that when I got angry I would act it out as soon as I was alone. My first means of displacement was the act of writing, and I would write down all the hateful, nasty, angry thoughts that were coursing through my brain, and then tear the paper up into small pieces.
Later, displacement became driving nails into scrap lumber. Saving burned-out lightbulbs and smashing them worked as well. What I began to realize was the more I displaced the better I felt. Not just physically but emotionally as well.
I began to see that I was less reactive to people and events, and went from being sullen and quiet to being neutral and engaging. It was quite a change in my life as I started college shortly thereafter. The burden of being self sufficient at 18 did not deter me from going initially to a Junior College in Van Nuys, CA. What I discovered was my self-esteem, a positive perspective on myself. I went from thinking of myself as an angry young man to seeing myself as someone who had difficulties to overcome. That change in self view was a turning point for me.
June 24, 2008
Happy Summer! Here we are again, with the sun long in the sky, and then the solstice and the slide to Winter begins. An affirmation of the duality that appears to lurk behind all that is. Hot-cold, up-down, left-right---we see this pattern endlessly in life.
As a child I preferred my left hand and countless attempts were made to change this, to no avail. This was taken as a sign of my will power to come as I grew up. This has proven itself to be true as I have grown up.
Life and death has seemed to be another duality we have in our lives. I remember my first experience of death, when I was a little child of 3 years. This was at my Grandmother Edith's house in Big Pine, California. There was a stand of pines in her yard, and there were birds, perhaps starlings, that lived in them. Seeing these flying things would always make me smile, and I would watch them. One day she and I walked to the bird trees and there at the base of one of the trees was a tiny bird. It had no feathers and could barely move. As we watched it, it stopped moving. I looked at my Grandmother's face and asked her what to do. She said the bird had fallen from it's nest and was now dead, no longer alive with us, but alive in spirit.
I didn't fully understand at that moment the fullness of what she said, but the words reverberated in my thinking, and it felt true.