True health.

The air raids continued, but so did the entertainment. When the war had finally crawled to their shores, finally climbed in fits and starts over their borders, the citizens knew that life as they knew it was over. The first few weeks they stayed inside, huddled around the television for news of where the riots were. They planned excursions based on these reports. It wouldn’t do to go to the grocery store or church and run into a firefight.

Work was quietly canceled for the first week. Who could be expected to even try? Work then was all about staying alive in the moment. Who could take the time to worry about spreadsheets or stockrooms? But then the reality set in that this wasn’t a temporary thing. The invaders had settled in for the long haul. They planned to take this land no matter what – even if that meant destroying everything and everyone on it.

After a month of living under siege, the citizens knew they had to keep on going with their lives. They had resumed going to work – they had to once the paychecks stopped coming – but it was only now that they understood there was more to life than work. Entertainment wasn’t simply a distraction or diversion – it enriched life. Perhaps it could be said that they worked so they could afford to play.

And play they did! Movie theaters were re-opened, converted into cabarets and live theater And symphony halls. Colleges were converted into lecture halls for everyone, not just the paying students. All were welcome, and there were no tests or papers to write. People carried on with their lives, not in spite of, but perhaps because of the violence in the streets. They had no control over that, so they celebrated even more when they were able to make it through a complete performance. Many were the shows they got cut in half, with the cast or audience having to disperse because of insurgents coming too close. Rarely would the violence spill inside but it wouldn’t do to risk it. So the people left rather than draw the attention of the fighters to their secret.

And it was a secret, these diversions and entertainment. They were carefully curated and prized. They weren’t random. They had to be planned for and scheduled. It wouldn’t do to go a week without a gathering of some sort so it was important to make them good.

The people had come to understand that the source of their joy wasn’t how much money they made, or what football team they rooted for. It was in being together. Groups of like-minded people together – united by a common interest – were happier and healthier. Something about simply being together made them whole in a way they could never be alone.

But the gas masks still needed to be worn. It wouldn’t do to undergo a chemical assault while they were communing. Because that is what was happening – communion, union-with. Only together, with others, could they feel the peace of union, where they were no longer torn in two, fragmented. They needed each other in a symbiotic, inter-dependent way.

That was why all the mass murders from the past had happened in densely populated arenas. Those who felt alienated, excluded knew down in their core that the people who were gathered together had something they missed. Jealousy clouded their hearts to the point that they couldn’t see that they didn’t have to kill anything – except their “need” to be alone. Their cure would have taken place if only they had sat down with all these people and joined the group. Instead they had swallowed the poison of the message of independence, which taught them to be lone wolves, leaderless, a pack of one.

This message was taught to them by billboards and television and magazines, and stories and in songs, because the pushers of this drug also sold their version of the cure – to be found in pills, or alcohol, or retreats, or yoga, or a diet, or a religion or even spirituality. They caused the dis-ease in order to sell their “cure”, because true health was free and that wouldn’t do in a culture that saw money as its God.

So in a way, the war had healed this community. It had showed them what really mattered.

(Written late July 2019)

Hope for the future

I have been very anxious about the future – about getting older and needing help. I do not have children or a close family (“distant” isn’t just in miles). There is nobody on the horizon that I can count on to help me when I get older, if my husband dies before me. Or, say we are both old, and both need help. Who will help us?

I have long thought that there should be some sort of community, like a convent or a monastery, where people live and work and die together, as a kind of adopted family. But how to go about making that happen? People value their privacy and independence. People are wary of “religion”, yet it is a good center to a community.
We humans were not made to be alone. We lie to ourselves when we think we can do it all. We are not designed that way.

I have researched “co-housing” and similar communities. But I’m nearly 50. I take care of myself, but how long will it be until I need help? One broken bone, one car accident, and things change quickly. The system needs to be in place before that.

I love how religious people who live in community (monks and nuns) spend their lives together. They don’t go away to a nursing home – that facility is part of the property. It is an expected part of life. They don’t pretend that illness and death isn’t going to happen. I think it makes it easier to know that you won’t be tended by strangers – your own adopted family is taking care of you. Your home is there, with them, not shuffled away into some forgotten facility.

My recent Bible readings speak to the answer –

Psalm 142
I cry aloud to the LORD;
I plead aloud to the LORD for mercy.
I pour out my complaint before Him;
I reveal my trouble to Him.
Although my spirit is weak within me,
You know my way.
Along this path I travel
they have hidden a trap for me.
Look to the right and see:[a]
no one stands up for me;
there is no refuge for me;
no one cares about me.
I cry to You, LORD;
I say, “You are my shelter,
my portion in the land of the living.”
Listen to my cry,
for I am very weak.
Rescue me from those who pursue me,
for they are too strong for me.
Free me from prison
so that I can praise Your name.
The righteous will gather around me
because You deal generously with me.

Isaiah 51:12-14
“I am the One who comforts you.
Who are you that you should fear man who dies,
or a son of man who is given up like grass?
But you have forgotten the LORD, your Maker,
who stretched out the heavens
and laid the foundations of the earth.
You are in constant dread all day long
because of the fury of the oppressor,
who has set himself to destroy.
But where is the fury of the oppressor?
The prisoner is soon to be set free;
he will not die and go to the Pit,
and his food will not be lacking.”

They tell me to wait – that God’s idea of time is not my idea. They remind me that Abraham waited 30 years after he was promised an heir – long after he and his wife were past childbearing years. They remind me that I need to put God first and everything else will fall into place.

(Bible translations are HCSB)

Community meditation – art journal


Page about what it means to be in community, to work together.  Do we need to live in the same area to be in communion? The communion of the disciples – they shared everything.  Is this a way for us to save money – to defeat the housing crisis, the sense of alienation and loneliness?  To help those who have nobody to help them (spouse has died, family is abusive).  We are made to be together – not to be separate islands.  The Tiny House movement would work well if people shared major resources – washer/dryer, lawn equipment.  This is how monasteries work – don’t waste energy on things you can share.  Have time/energy left to help others.

Base is from “Stampington and Company” magazine.  Someone else made it.  I found the stamps on some mail that was sent – either to work or my house.  I like how they look together – but also that penguins have to live and work together to survive.  I like how the red and blue make purple – a synergy – a greater than the sum of the parts.

Tim Holtz words, white gel pen (the brand I found out from someone else on an artist group page).  Fortune cookie message.

“Home” resources

What does “home” mean? When is “progress” a step backwards? If we are building for a community in need, we must consult the community to see what it values. What about co-housing – sharing resources?


The Pruitt-Igoe myth. Housing project in St Louis.

Surviving Progress. Overconsumption, environmental collapse.

The Human Scale. Architect Jan Gehl. Cities for people – human sized, meant for livabilit

Tomorrow we disappear. India slums rehab. Doing for people (the poor) versus doing to people.

Commune. About Black bear ranch. Features Peter Coyote

Urbanized. Documentary by Gary Hustwit about design. “Who is allowed to shape our cities, and how do they do it? And how does the design of our cities affect our lives?” (from the description)

Blackout. “The lights went out and all hell broke loose” – about the chaos that followed the July 13, 1977 New York City blackout. Haves and have-nots.

“10 that changed America” – 10 homes, parks, and towns that changed our nation. Urban design, relationship of environment upon the people who live in it. Shaping people by where they live.

A Convenient Truth: Urban Solutions from Curitiba, Brazil


“Pocket Neighborhoods: Creating Small-Scale Community in a Large-Scale World” by Chapin, Ross

“A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction” by Alexander, Christopher W.

“Microshelters: 59 Creative Cabins, Tiny Houses, Tree Houses, and Other Small Structures” by Diedricksen, Derek

What can you do?

“My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” – John F. Kennedy

Once the marches are over – the real work begins. Volunteer. Serve. Help. Find something you feel is important that is threatened and work for it. It is time to stop expecting the government (or anyone else) to help. It is our time to act with love, with unity, and with focus on making our neighborhoods, our country, and our world a safe, loving and healthy place for everyone. This happens only with love – not with protesting the bad but by working for the good. It is not a time of numbness or fear, but of building, and rebuilding.

Jesus says to love our enemies. Love. Not protest.

Marching in protest doesn’t build. It says what you are against, but not what you are for. If all you do is focus on the negative, then that is the only thing you are giving your energy to. Life is too short to be angry all the time. Do something positive.

Teach a child from another country how to read and write in English. Learn Arabic or Spanish so that you can welcome the stranger. Donate your time to a women’s shelter.

Buy land and keep the trees on it so it is a haven for wildlife, and produces air for people to breathe.  Or donate to the Nature Conservancy to do the same thing.

Worried about the Department of Education?  Go to the library.  Read non-fiction.  Learn as much as you can.  Encourage others to do the same by teaching a class on what you learned.  Start a group (sometimes known as a salon) where you all share your knowledge.

Worried about the National Endowment for the Arts? Start your own creative co-op.  Paint.  Draw.  Have a play.  Recite poetry.  Have a concert.

You don’t need a special place for these experiences – you can rotate using member’s homes.  You don’t need a permit.

The biggest thing is to focus on what you can do.  Not on expecting anyone else to help or support, or protect.  The props are gone, or are going.  We don’t need them anymore. We can walk on our own.  We are stronger than we know.

Build bridges, not walls.  You.  Yourself.  Don’t worry about the government. You can’t control them.  Focus on yourself – what you can do.  It is time to stop being passive about your life. It is time to stop being co-dependent.

Worried about access to birth control?  Research natural rhythm methods.  Practice abstinence or non-penetrative sex until you are ready (mentally, emotionally, financially) to have a child.  Learn different ways to be intimate with your partner other than having sex.

Houses on top of houses

I have noticed that I really am interested in houses on top of houses. Not apartment complexes, but separate houses built one on top of each other, almost randomly, stair-stepping up a hillside. I looked on Pinterest and discovered there are several such house-collections (Villages? Towns?) all across the world.

I’m not sure why I like this, since I value privacy and certainly didn’t like sharing walls with other people when I lived in a townhouse. You hear (and sometimes smell) everything your neighbors do. Sometimes the noises are very disturbing to the point that perhaps the police need to be called.

So why do I like this? I decided to dig deeper using these images.

The last picture I found was a big part of it. This is in Santorini, Greece.
Amalfi stairs

Steps on the outside of a building, attached to the wall. Something very intriguing to me here. You can come and go without anyone in the house knowing. Private access. You share a house, but not a life. Not all is revealed.

Yet also part of what I like with these large collections of houses is how does anyone get home? What is the “road” and what is your neighbor’s roof? Sometimes the two are the same.

This is in Masuleh, Iran
Masuleh Iran2

Closer –
Masuleh Iran

Here is Kandovan village, near Tabriz, Iran. It was constructed from a cave system.
Kandovan Iran
Kandovan Tabriz Iran
Kandovan Tabriz Iran2

This is in Turkey – Ortahisar.
Ortahisar Turkey

Here is El Aleuf, M’Zab, Iran. While not stacked on top of each other, it is still intriguing to me because the walls are all shared, like one house grew onto another. It looks like a nest or a hive, rather than a planned thing. More organic.
El Aleuf

Then there are shanty towns, barrios, favelas in Brazil.
favela Brazil

One got painted – it is Santa Marta. The people are still very poor, but at least their houses are beautiful.
favela Santa Marta Brazil

This is Cinque Terre, Nanarola, Northern Italy
Cinque Terre1
Cinque Terre2
Cinque Terre3
Cinque Terre4

This is on the Amalfi coast, Positano, Southern Italy
Almalfi Italy1

These are all Santorini, Greece

This is a Buddhist monastery, Phuktal, in Ladakh, India
Phuktal India1
Phuktal India2
Phuktal monastery Ladakh

Here are some similar ideas, of housing complexes that no longer exist. They are further from the main idea, but still close enough that they say something to it.

This is Kowloon Walled City, Hong Kong
Kowloon China2

and this is Derinkuyu

How do you get home? What is it like to share walls and roofs with people? How well do you know them? Does living close create community? Or are people so close that they crave distance?

I like the ideas I’m reading about communal living, intentional communities, and cohousing.

I don’t think these are that at all. I think for most of these villages/towns they were unintentional – a lot of people wanted to live in the same place. Some had no choice – they were very poor and built wherever they could. Sharing a wall or a roof meant you didn’t have to build one. Some of these are very wealthy places – highly desired tourist destinations as well. Some are slums.

Yet they all share the same idea – shared houses, stacked on top of each other. No distinct roads or easy ways to get to your home.

How would you draw a map? How would you tell others how to get to your home?

Maybe that is part of the point – it is so hard to get there that you can get lost inside it, never worrying about people visiting you. You are hidden in plain sight. The very nature of it means that you have privacy, in a seemingly counter-intuitive way.

(All pictures are from Pinterest.)

Children, God, and community.

We need to remember that we aren’t God. We need to remember that everything we have comes from God. And we need to remember that God wants to help us – that we can’t do everything on our own.

When we are sick we have to rely on others to help us get well. We need folks to take us to the doctor, to get us food, to feed us. Then we rely on doctors and nurses to care for us. Sometimes we end up in nursing homes and we rely on people to get us in and out of bed or to wipe our butts when we need to go to the bathroom.

The poet John Donne tells us that no man is an island. When we think we are, that we can do it all on our own, we fail. We do better when we unite and work together.

Children are like that. They are a reminder from God in this way. One person alone has a very hard time taking care of children. It can certainly be done, but it is easier with two. I think there is a lot of wisdom in the Asian concept of multi-generations living together. My Laotian neighbors all live together. An Indian friend tells me that when she moves back to India she’ll be living in her in-laws house. This is good – it saves money. It shares resources – people can share food, time and energy.

Children are from God. We can think that we created them – but we didn’t. We just have sex, and sometimes a child is created. We didn’t do that. It is amazing. It is a miracle. This being, this other person, just happens.

And then, it is very hard to raise this child (We are told it takes a village.) There is day care, mother’s day out. I remember how it was when I worked at the Choo-Choo and parents would say to their child “Don’t hit your sister” or “Keep your hands in your pockets” (as a positive version of “Don’t touch!”) and the child ignored it. But when I said it, it had the force of law – because a whole different person said it. Kids tend to ignore what their parents say – but when a stranger says it – the same it, the same rule, it must be true.

(Originally worked on 12-4-12, edited 4-14-15. I’m still not sure this is fully worked out. I think there are some good ideas in here, but it is more a sketch than a drawing. It was titled “God gives us things so that we have to turn back to God.” But I don’t think it lives up to that.)

Saving the starfish

There’s a story that one day a boy was walking along the seashore. A lot of starfish were being washed up by the waves. They were slowly dying because they were being exposed to the air. He started picking up the starfish one by one and flinging them back into the ocean. A man comes walking by and he sees the little boy doing this. He says ‘Look at all these other starfish. You’re not helping them at all. You’re not making a difference in their lives.” The little boy said “I just made a difference in this one’s life.”

“What we focus on expands”, Oprah Winfrey says. It is very hard when you’re a compassionate or empathetic person. We tend to notice all the people we weren’t able to help. And while it is important to acknowledge loss, it is also important to not focus on just the bad. We have to open ourselves up and intentionally and consciously point ourselves towards that which we are doing which is helping.

We can’t save them all. We can’t help them all. But we are just one part of a huge ocean of people who are helping. We are not alone. We can’t all be Mother Teresa. But she didn’t do it alone either. She had hundreds of nuns working with her whose names we don’t know. Each one of them helped who she was given to help that day. Each one of them did what she could to make that person’s life better. She didn’t do it all but together they did.

If we focus on what we can’t do or who we haven’t saved then we lose energy. If we can help one person, it makes a difference in that person’s life. If we don’t help, locked up in our worry about all that we can’t do, then we’ll do even less.

Help who you can. Leave the rest for others to help. That gives them the joy of helping. By leaving something for others to do, you’ve actually given them a gift. Each of us wants to feel needed. A lot of people feel needed by helping others. When you do it all, you are taking away someone’s task. So you are actually doing a good deed by not doing it all.

Lessons from kindergarten – you can’t do your own thing.

Here’s another reflection from kindergarten. Part of why it is so hard is that you can’t do your own thing. Well, you can, within limits. You can pick what color you want use, but you have to hold the crayon in your hand and you have to draw what you are assigned to draw. You can write whatever words you want, but they have to be about the topic that is assigned.

It is about learning to be in community. It is about learning to dampen down your individuality. Sure, you are still you. Sure, you might figure out how to be an individual within the confines of the assignment. But you can’t do your own thing all the time anymore.

This is really hard if you are an only child or if you have doting parents. You think that the world revolves around you. You think that you are special. And yes, you are special. But so is everybody else.

Part of being in kindergarten is that there are a lot of other people there. Sometimes there are over 20 other kids who are also trying to learn the alphabet and count to 100. A good teacher makes these tasks seem like games, but they aren’t. They are deadly serious things. If you can’t read and write, you are doomed. If you can’t use numbers, you are in big trouble. You can fake it for quite a while, but after that if you can’t do these basic things you are sorely limited as to what kinds of jobs you can get. Because of that, you are limited to where you can live because you can’t afford good housing. Because of that it will affect the kind of school your child will go to. If you can’t master reading and numbers your whole life is affected. School is the key that unlocks a lot of doors.

Another part of being in kindergarten is that you have to learn how to get along with others. Remember how you are special, and so is everybody else? A lot of kindergarten is behavior modification. You have to learn how to sit still so that everybody can see and hear the teacher. You have to learn to keep your hands to yourself. You have to learn how to share. If you are a child who is used to having her own way all the time or bossing around younger siblings then this is going to be a hard time with a lot of adjustments.

Some lessons are harder to learn because they aren’t spelled out.

Some children take toys from each other. Some children hit each other. Some cut line. Some say mean things. There are a lot of adults who do these things too. I have a suspicion that if they learned better as five year olds they would do better as fifty year olds.

I’m all for individuality. I think it is important to be the person that God made you to be. But I think it is also important to learn how to fit into society. I’ve read that in Japanese culture there is no word for “privacy”. It just isn’t a concept that exists. I’ve heard that part of that is because there are so many people living in such a small area that privacy just can’t happen. It is essential that everybody conform to a social standard. We aren’t as crowded here in America, but we certainly aren’t spread out either. In the “wild west” times people were much more spread out and there was much more individuality. People took the law into their own hands. When more people move into an area, that just doesn’t work out and it is time to establish some sort of authority. People had to learn to let the sheriff handle disputes rather than do it themselves.

Going to school teaches you to submit to authority, to a teacher, to rules. It teaches you how to not disturb others. You might learn language, math, history, and science too.

It doesn’t teach you how to be yourself, but be honest – nobody can teach you how to be yourself. Only you can figure that out.