Normal People Anonymous Support Group

I’m thinking about starting a normal people anonymous support group.

Members have the right to define normal for themselves but not for anyone else in the group.

You’re anonymous to each other, at least at the start of your membership.  If you surrender your anonymity with another member, that’s okay.  You can still attend, together or separately, but it is recommended that you come out of the closet about it, for your own good.

If you have sex with somebody in the group, that’s normal, even if you remain otherwise anonymous to each other.

You do peer-led programs, activities or projects together, such as 12 steps, meditation, yoga, hiking, book study, nature study, photography, joke-telling, litter cleanup, gardening, sailing, canoeing, singing, teaching disenfranchised children how to fish, putting Kahlil Gibran in every hotel room, Christmas caroling in July, picketing industrial cattle and chicken growers, making art together, including music, Amazon forest fire-fighting, skinny-dipping (peer-led), putting on a play about climate change and domestic abuse of males, or what-have-you things that normal people do.

The normality of the activity is as beheld by the peer leader, and you quietly accept it and have fun, perhaps expanding or shattering your notions of normal, and squelching the ferocity of your clinging to them.

The peer-led things, the anonymity, and the group dynamic are good for you.  You affirm this aloud in unison at every meeting and outing, holding hands in a circle, a perfectly normal thing to do with strangers.

The anonymity is to help avoid the stigma of being normal, even more normal than most others are.  In the group, you can enjoy — if possible — a place where you can be non-judgmentally welcomed by similarly frustrated normal people.  You define “non-judgmental” loosely, considering its extremely elusive nature, like unconditional love.

You take it all lightly with good humor because you all know that normal exists only from your perspective in the mirror.  That is the guiding principle.  Take your normality lightly.  You affirm it together in unison, religiously, sorta.

Copyright 2019 TheBalsamean.comOver time, with consistent participation, you may be able to give up excessive notions of your normality, as one might give up excessive drinking, smoking, or gambling, and be freed of the pathetic frustration you inflict upon your deluded self.  Amen.

Take your normality lightly.

Nuala’s Tree and Concordia

There are about 45 pictures on this page, including a few maps.  It may load slowly.  You can optionally open/download a PDF copy (6.24Mb) to read offline.

This is the only long post in this series on Concordia.  The rest have narrower topics and are mostly pictures and links.

Dear Nuala (NOO-lah),

I have less than two weeks before your visit, and too many other things to do, including figuring out how to fix the refrigerator that turned itself into a freezer today (M-m-m, frozen pickles), but I want to document something going on in the Balsamea woods that is about you, or because of you.  I want it to be on record, forever.  I also want to make sure you know about it, just in case your tour here doesn’t do this topic justice.

I’ve given you the pseudonym Nuala to protect you from the stigma of  associating with me, and to protect your privacy.  Even though only three or four other people will read this, if anybody, everybody on the Internet is a close neighbor with a fence to gossip over.

It’s a nice Irish name.  It came from Fionnuala (or Finnguala), notable in the popular Irish myth, The Children of Lir (PDF).  This presentation of the myth, with the art I added to it, a Thomas Moore poem, and extensive end-notes, may be the best treatment of the topic you’ll find.  Especially since you’re probably not looking anyway.  But seriously, it was a pile of work putting it together, and worth it.  It’s probably the best part of this post.  (It even has a naked picture of Nuala.)


Nuala (/ˈnuːlə/; Irish: [ˈn̪ˠuəl̪ˠə]) is an Irish female given name, derived from Irish mythology – being either a diminutive form of Fionnuala [or Fionnghuala] (“fair shoulder”), the daughter of Lir, or an alternate name for Úna (perhaps meaning “lamb”), wife of Finvarra, king of the fairies.  — from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuala


Fionnuala – In Irish mythology, Finnguala (modern spellings: Fionnghuala or Fionnuala; literally fionn-ghuala meaning “fair shoulder”) was the daughter of Lir of the Tuatha Dé Danann. In the legend of the Children of Lir, she was changed into a swan and cursed by her stepmother, Aoife, to wander the lakes and rivers of Ireland, with her brothers Fiachra, Conn and Aodh, for 900 years until saved by the marriage of Lairgren, son of Colman, son of Cobthach, and Deoch, daughter of Finghin, whose union broke the curse.[1] ‘The Song of Albion’, with lyrics by Thomas Moore[2] speaks of her wanderings.

The name is anglicized as Fenella. The shortened version Nuala is commonly used as a first name in contemporary Ireland.  — from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fionnuala


 

As you know, about ten years ago (maybe more, I’m not sure … the earliest photo I have is 2009), I dedicated a special maple tree to you, with your name.  Nuala’s tree (or just “Nuala Tree”) is now the centerpiece of a forest retreat with unique natural features and special relationships with many components of Balsamea’s trail network.

The place is called Concordia Park, or, as I’ll normally put it, just Concordia.

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David Brooks on tap

You might enjoy this hour of David Brooks talking at the Commonwealth Club.  His new book (among several) is The Second Mountain; The Joy of Giving Yourself Away.

Recording (an hour):
https://www.commonwealthclub.org/events/2019-05-01/david-brooks-quest-moral-life
also available in a Commonwealth Club podcast

Brooks is a “moderate conservative” (he discusses this in the recording, saying he is really more of a 19th Century Whig) NY Times columnist, TV and radio pundit/commentator, book author, philosopher, and now director of a social movement called Weave: The Social Fabric Project with the Aspen Institute (weareweavers.org – you’ll like his 2-minute video on this page; find out about the project in the text under the menu bar items).

I’ve been a big fan of Brooks for many years. I once posted a comment on his Twitter page nominating him for Secretary of Reason in the next White House administration. (I don’t use Twitter anymore. Or Facebook.) But I guess it wouldn’t make sense for the government to have a Department of Reason.

 

Disarming Disbelief – Playing for Change

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They push the heart toward believing more about the world than it seems to want believed, something more believable — more real — when they sing about it, something we need them to sing about, to keep the spirit breathing, to strengthen faith and disarm disbelief.

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Put a Woman in Charge (revised)

WordPress clobbered the previous post when I tried to add this note to the  reblog of Put a Woman in Charge written, illustrated and originally posted by Lisa Brunetti at Zeebra Designs & Destinations~ An Artist’s Eyes Never Rest, online home of an artist, naturalist and writer in Ecuador with a global heart, whose blog I would keep following if I could keep only one, for its beautiful offerings in education (in art and more), entertainment, and inspiration.  I wrote more extensively about Lisa in my May 27, 2017 post Nature Writers I Follow #1:Zeebra.

I should know better than use the reblog button instead of just reporting on the piece myself.  So just go to  Put a Woman in Charge and take the time to read all of it and enjoy the heart and the art of it.

Aranyaka – Part 4 (The End)

Continued from Aranyaka Part 3

Aranyani is a member of a family of forest goddesses and legends around the world.  Among many ways that Aranyani-like attributes appear, there is the goddess Abnoba, worshiped in and around the Black Forest

Abnoba by Günter Pollhammer -2016

I respect the way that Pollhammer depicts the goddess as she is in nature, herself, not just personified as a gorgeous naked woman as so many goddesses are.  Most modern artists miss her essence just to make a pretty picture.  Remember though, from the Vedic hymn, that she is elusive.  She doesn’t pose for pictures.

There are not many contemporary forest goddess paintings or digital creations that are more than whimsy.  The ones true to the ancient myths are rare, and it has been that way throughout the ages.  She is not one to be captured in pictures, neither in the Black Forest nor India.

It seems Pollhammer knew this.  How did he approach this elusive subject?

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Aranyaka – Part 3 – Thoreau, Shakespeare, Maharshi, Jung and Aranyaniism

Continued from Aranyaka Part 2.

Pine flower. Thoreau discovered them by climbing a big pine to the top. I got lucky. This one was on a tree bent low to the ground. I’m not sure, but I think it’s a scotch pine, of which we have very few at Balsamea. I’ve never seen another one of these “flowers,” so I feel lucky.

If I were to invent a religion, it would be centered on forest immersion.  It need not be a highly social alliance of souls, because silence and solitude are like vestments of immersion.  Other critical components of the Order would be creativity, play, liberality and education.

Religion that has lost its playfulness can be dangerous.from an article by Peter Gray, author of Free to Learn

This new religion is wrapped around a core understanding that there are not two natures, human and non-human.  There is one Nature and we are part of it.  Forest immersion can make this knowledge holistic, both visceral and intellectual, drawn from the primordial biophilia in human nature, and from burgeoning modern science on the topic.

Adherence to this religion calls for daily walking through forest or field, ideally twice or more per day, at least 40 minutes at a time, ideally 90 minutes or more.  That would be merely casual adherence.

You never know what may happen during deeper immersion, if you let go of the usual tight grip on yourself and let “wild mind” roll.  For instance, here’s Thoreau doing it (in one of a thousand possible ways):

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“Sweet Darkness” by David Whyte

David Whyte:
I went back into poetry because I felt like scientific language wasn’t precise enough to describe the experiences that I had in Galapagos. Science, rightly, is always trying to remove the “I.” But I was really interested in the way that the “I” deepened the more you paid attention. In Galapagos, I began to realize that because I was in deeply
 attentive states, hour after hour, watching animals and birds and landscapes — and that’s all I did for almost two years — I began to realize that my identity depended not upon any beliefs I had, inherited beliefs or manufactured beliefs, but my identity actually depended on how much attention I was paying to things that were other than myself and that as you deepen this intentionality and this attention, you started to broaden and deepen your own sense of presence.

I began to realize that the only places where things were actually real was at this frontier between what you think is you and what you think is not you […] But it’s astonishing how much time human beings spend away from that frontier, abstracting themselves out of their bodies, out of their direct experience, and out of a deeper, broader, and wider possible future that’s waiting for them if they hold the conversation at that frontier level.  […]  John O’Donohue, a mutual friend of both of us, used to say that one of the necessary tasks is this radical letting alone of yourself in the world, letting the world speak in its own voice and letting this deeper sense of yourself speak out.  -David Whyte, speaking in interview with Krista Tippett (full transcript and audio)

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I live not in myself …

“I live not in myself, but I become a portion of all around me … Are not the mountains, waves and skies a part of me and of my soul, as I of them?”  -Lord Byron.  See the full poem at the end of this post from which this quote is derived.

Of course that’s what I always say when asked what I am.  Actually, I often take it as far as saying that I am all that is not me.  Yeah, well … never mind.  A line for another time.  But do read on for something that makes sense to normal people.

I stumbled onto this quote at Joseph Cornell’s Sharing Nature website.

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Aranyaka – Part 2

Aranyaka Part 1 ended with a description of the Hindu goddess Aranyani in Rigveda Book 10 Hymn 146 and my personal look at it.  Here is another interpretation, by a qualified authority:

David Kinsley, author of Hindu Goddesses: Visions of the Divine Feminine in the Hindu Religious Tradition, wrote:

One hymn of the Rg-veda (10.146) refers to a goddess of the forest, Aranyani.  From this one hymn we get a rather clear picture of the goddess.  She is an elusive figure who vanishes from sight and avoids villages.  She is more often heard than seen.  She speaks through the sounds of the forest, or one may even hear her tinkling bells.  She seems to make her presence known especially at evening, and those who spend the night in the forest sometimes think they hear her scream.  She never kills unless provoked by some murderous enemy.  She is sweetly scented, is mother of all forest things, and provides plenty of food without tilling.

To develop a special relationship with her, create trails!  She has a lot to say about how you do that, and she loves to change them for you.

In Part 1, I said that Aranyani is incarnate as forest; forest is the embodiment of Aranyani.  Maybe this is why she is so seldom depicted in human form by classical artists, unlike so many other deities.

Aranyani, The Hindu Goddess Of Forests by Bijan Pirnia, photo in the San Isabel National Forest, Colorado. Click for the larger source image at Fine Art America.

I was happily surprised to find this work by photographer Bijan Pirnia titled Aranyani, The Hindu Goddess Of Forests, with no anthropomorphic entity in it (that I can find).  It is just forest, the embodiment of Aranyani!

Enjoy browsing terrific forest photos by Bijan Pirnia.  Thank you, Bijan.

Back to making trails with Aranyani …

The following are not pretty pictures, just documentary, to show you one part of the Aranyaka Maze of paths, each a unique experience.  I’m starting with the path into Aranyaka Sanctuary from the west.

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