Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Get Off the Phone!

Why do we want to talk to each other? To add something to the grocery list? To complain about our neighbor? The government? The weather? Or just to gossip? We all seem to be talking, talking, talking wherever we are, wherever we go. But it seems that the conversations have steadily become less and less meaningful, and more and more disconnected and banal.

Perhaps this is the inevitable result of too many modes of communication available every hour of the day or night. No one message can be very important when we know we can send another one in the very next minute. I can’t help but wonder what we would be doing if we weren’t talking, talking, talking. Unfortunately, we might be watching TV, which could be worse. Or we might do something creative we don’t have time for with all that talking going on.

We could be singing, or gardening, or inventing, or painting, or writing, or building something. Such endless possibilities! I listen to music that reaches my heart and wonder if it ever would have been written if the composer had gone mad over communicating at all hours of the day and night. Or would that book I just read have been written if the author were too busy texting his pals, but not seeing people in person, not seeing their expressions or their body language or how they look when they laugh.

Oh well, I know I’m not going to stem the tide of endless fractured conversation, but still, I plead to those who could be doing something creative to opt for doing instead of blabbing. You can’t connect to that marvelous flow that comes from within if you are endlessly talking

Monday, September 7, 2009

Who Am I Looking At?

When I walked with a friend recently, I found it rather depressing instead of fun, because he was criticizing what's going on in the world, and all the people in the world, whether local, national, or even international. It made the walk rather dreary.

After I got home, and was complaining to myself about how critical he was about everything, I suddenly had a moment of clarity in which I realized I had been critical even before he was. I had doubted his identification of a bird we spotted because, to me, the color appeared wrong for that particular bird. I hadn't even noticed that I was being critical.

How easy it is to blame other people for the same things we do! How much easier to pass judgment on something when somebody else does it than when I do it. It made me wonder how often I do that without knowing it. In the days since this realization hit me, whenever I've caught myself criticizing something, I've had to ask myself, "Am I saying something about me?" Sometimes I'm not, and sometimes I am. Yikes! It has made me painfully aware of how automatically I can turn the spotlight on someone else to keep it off myself.

Seeing my own shortcomings isn't necessarily a signal for self-flagellation, but rather, for being honest with myself about what I do. If I don't see it, I can't change it, and if it's something I dislike in others, I definitely want to change it. Again, it's the same old thing: I want to treat others the way I'd like to be treated. Will I ever learn? I hope so.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Dick Cheney Doesn't Get It

Dick Cheney misses the most important point. If, in order to gain something, we compromise our most important principles, then we have actually lost. There is nothing important enough to justify committing a wrong to gain the end we want, no matter how vital the need may be. It's no use trying to convince ourselves that the end justifies the means. It doesn't. Every action has a flow that returns to us in like kind. We will reap what we sow. We cannot come out right by doing wrong. This isn't politics--it's principle. Shame on you, Dick Cheney.

There is always a way to do what we need to do, either for ourselves or for our country, without doing wrong to others. The test of our integrity is to be able to use our imagination, ingenuity, and our courage to find that way. If we believe we can only keep our country safe is by torturing other human beings, we have to be ready to reap the results of that torture. The advantages will only be temporary. In the end, we will be even less safe than we are now.

I am against torture for any reason. There is a greater law than any law we might concoct to make torture "legal." That law is "do unto others what you would have them do unto you." Shame on you, Dick Cheney!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Life's "Do Overs"

A couple of mornings ago, I woke up with the refrain, "Life is a series of 'do overs' " running through my head, and wondered sleepily what on earth that meant. When I was finally awake, I realized that, although I hadn't thought of it quite like that, I've noticed that things I've flubbed in some way often seem to come up again and again--not necessarily with the same person, or in exactly the same situation, but with the same principle involved. Whenever I catch myself asking, "Why does this keep happening?" I know it's time to pay attention in a different way--a way that can give me a new slant on what I am doing, or not doing, that brings this experience back again and again.

It's hard to do, but I try to look at myself as if I were somebody else, observing me and getting the benefit of what I am doing or saying. When I do this, sometimes I am embarrassed to find that I have been doing exactly what I criticized someone else for doing. It's such a shock when I finally realize it, it's a lesson not easy to forget. It's embarrassing because I believe in treating others the way I like to be treated.

What happens when I seriously miss the point? I get "do overs" until I get it right. It may sound negative, but in reality, I'm glad to have so many "chances." It's good to know we don't get condemned for our mistakes--just constantly reminded by life to "shape up."

Monday, August 24, 2009

Car Monsters

I can't help but wonder what happens to some otherwise nice people when they get behind the wheel of a car. In the last two weeks I have seen several instances of lunacy, anger, and rudeness on the part of other drivers on my usual rounds to the pharmacy, the grocery store, and the dentist. Three times in a row, at the pharmacy, which has a rather small parking lot, I have seen huge vehicles parked in the only disabled parking space. Not only were their vehicles too large for the space, making it hard for others to pass by, but they had neither disabled licenses nor a disabled sign inside their windshields. What goes through a person's mind to make them think that this kind of inconsideration for the handicapped and for other drivers is OK?

In the same parking lot one day, I saw a young woman, driving a spiffy late-model car, pull in and stop to wait for the space someone was about to leave. The only problem was, she stopped too close to the space she was waiting for, and the woman who was trying to leave couldn't get out. The young woman just sat there, waiting, and didn't budge an inch. I signaled to her to back up a little, but she shook her head. An elderly gentleman on the other side of her, also signaled to her to back up, but still she shook her head. The poor woman who was trying to leave started backing carefully, then moving forward, then backing again, doing her best to maneuver herself out of that space. I admired her pluck, her tenacity, and, in the end, her driving skills, because somehow she managed to get out, after backing and filling several times. The man and I both spoke to the young woman, pointing out how much trouble the other driver was having because she was in her way. She refused to move, saying "She has a small car. She can get out."

The elderly gentleman and I couldn't believe what we were seeing, and agreed it topped the list for rudeness and inconsideration. I'm ashamed to say I was so angry at this display of hard-heartedness, I didn't forget it for several hours.

On my way to the dentist, a man was so mad at getting caught at a red light, he sped through the intersection anyway, and only jamming on my brakes fast saved me from being hit. Several drivers honked, and one shook his fist yelling something at the disappearing car that it's probably lucky I didn't hear. Later, at the grocery store, someone backed out without looking, and again, I had to hit my brakes to avoid a collision.

Well, those are all the stories of strange driving experiences I can think of at the moment, but there were others, including instances of people causing near accidents because they were either texting or talking on their cell phones. Just because its against the law doesn't mean you get caught when you do it. I'm hoping these car monsters will begin to think about what they are doing, and will find a way to be kind while driving.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

There's Always A Way

I have lived long enough now--90 years--that I know there is always a way. I have found this to be true through many daunting circumstances for which I had no answer. Now, even though I can't see a solution the minute a problem arises, I know within myself that an answer exists and that it will come to me one way or another. I turn within, and ask that part of me that is witnessing my life, what I should do, where I should look for information, whom I could ask for help. Sometimes answers just pop into my head when I'm in the middle of doing something else. More often, answers and ideas come in dreams--answers that my merely human self couldn't think of, solutions that differ completely from the direction I was taking on my own. Or, sometimes I get a confirmation of the direction I had already started taking.

This isn't something that is unique to me. I have known many others who have found answers in the same way. Anyone can do it. All that it requires is turning within, and asking your inner self (we all have one) what to do, and then shutting up and listening for the answer. It may come almost immediately, or not for several days. "Listening" means going into a sort of mental neutral while you wait for an answer. It doesn't mean you completely stop thinking--life goes on--but it means not wrangling with the problem any further, and instead, reminding yourself that a solution is already in the works.

It was in doing this that I found out that the Universe is friendly. It may not seem so when everything has gone wrong, and you are faced with seemingly insurmountable problems and impossible choices. The more times you find your way out of difficulty by trusting your inner self, the more sure you become that there is always a way even when you're sure there's not. The hardest part is taking your mind off the problem. The second hardest part is reminding yourself (when the problem comes back into your head for the umpteenth time) that your higher self is taking care of things. The best part, is seeing problems resolve in ways you never thought of.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

You're Never Too Old

I'm having fun painting a tangle of oak trees. It doesn't look anything like what I'm aiming at yet, but I am a persistent painter. I don't stop until it looks the way I want it to. When I have succeeded, I will post it on my art blog, http://unblockedartist-troyfarr.blogspot.com/, or click on the link down below on the right. I am happy to be unblocked after so many years.

I wish I could tell every person, who has given up on something they used to do, how rewarding it is to do it again, no matter how long it's been. People often tell me they can't take old talents up again because now they're too old. But if they would just do it, they'd find they're not too old, after all, and that creativity makes life worthwhile. It keeps people young and interested in each new day. It causes one to live in the now, rather than in the past or future. I know this because I'm 90, and painting and writing better than I ever did when I was younger.

I hope someone out there will throw caution to the winds and start in on something they used to enjoy. Give it a try!

Saturday, June 27, 2009


I've been thinking about kindness, and how many times during my life an unexpected word or act of kindness gave me a whole new perspective. The thought that someone would put themselves out for me just to help, and not because they hoped to get something out of it, was such a gift. Even though sometimes it was a very small thing, it was always meaningful because it was a form of caring, and in depressing times, caring was what I had little of. Kindness is giving, not asking. Kindness made me kind.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Thanks to All

Thanks to all of you who wrote about and prayed for my sons, Bob and Bill. Both are much better now, and gradually getting back to normal strength. Unfortunately, Bob still has the excruciating headache that has dogged him relentlessly for the past ten or eleven years. I'm hoping that will be the next problem that gets solved.

Now that the crisis is over, I am back to my painting, and hope to have something to post on my blog, Unblocked Artist, before long. (See the link below.) I am so lucky to be an artist as well as a writer. I love writing, but it is not soothing. When I am painting, no thoughts or answers are required of me--just immersion in the wonders of color and shape. Magically, I can always find my way to the colors I need. I sometimes read things by other artists giving pointers about tones and values, etc., and I realize how little training I have actually had. If I had to think about how to do it, I would be lost. I just look. And look. And look again. Painting makes me happy.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

My Son, Bobby Jameson, in ICU

Bobby is in intensive care after emergency surgery for an aortic aneurysm. His condition is stable (but uncomfortable). As far as I know, he will make a full recovery. His brother, Bill, has been moved from the hospital to a convalescent facility. I am also recovering, but in a different way. I am recovering from having coped with two emergencies in two weeks, and from having lost a ton of sleep. I am beginning to feel more normal, now that everyone is out of danger, but am still very tired. Thanks for everyone's good wishes and prayers for both my sons.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Please Pray for my Son Bill

I haven't written here for a while, and now want to get up to date. First of all, my oldest son, Bill, is in the hospital, very sick with pneumonia. Yesterday he didn't know me, or even what his name was. Today, he knew me, thank God, and even said a couple of sentences. I hope this is the beginning of an upward trend. His brother, my middle son, Bob (Bobby Jameson), and I have been, and are, very worried about him. We want nothing so much as to see him well again, and able to leave the hospital.

If anyone happens to read this who prays, please pray for Bill Jameson to recover from pneumonia. I will be forever grateful. Thank you.

On another subject, after not painting for several years, finally I am painting again and have three paintings posted on my new art blog, "Unblocked Artist." There is a link to it on this page. Would love to hear comments.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Abstract No. 7

I painted this several years ago.

Cover of my book. I used pastels.

Here Is the Painting of Poppies I Promised

Months ago I promised to put up the first painting I did after overcoming my "painter's block" of many years. I finished this first painting in the early fall of '08, but, as I said yesterday, couldn't figure out how to post it. Last night my son (Bobby Jameson) helped me figure out how to do it, so now I can finally show what I've been doing since challenging myself last August on this blog in a specific way. The painting below represents a wonderful breakthrough for me. I hadn't been able to paint for a long time. I think the problem that had me so tied up was lack of specificity of intention. Now I am a happy artist, painting almost every day and loving the process.

I am now working on a painting of oaks, wonderful California oaks. I admire them because they are so enduring and adaptable. Out on Bob Jones Trail, south of San Luis Obispo (where I live), a huge oak was ripped out of the side of a hill by its roots in a big storm. It fell right across the trail. County people came out, removed it to the side, and cut it up into pieces small enough for people to carry away. Gradually most of them disappeared, taken, I suppose, by people who had fireplaces, and were happy to get free firewood, oak at that.

There was one rather long bough, not the right shape or size for a fireplace, that was left behind. Not too long after the dismemberment of the tree, this bough began to sprout. Now, many months later, there are branches reaching upward from where it is lying on the ground, and a new tree has begun!

Depending on circumstances, I have seen that an oak trunk can become root, or the root become trunk, whatever is required for life to continue. With such adaptability, no wonder so many of our California hills are covered with oaks. I love them.
Poppies by Laguna Lake, San Luis Obispo

Thursday, April 16, 2009

My New Painting - Posted At Last

The painting below, Dawn in the Country, is my most recent one. I promised to post it here weeks, or perhaps months, ago. It took me until now, because I couldn't figure out how to do it. Finally, this evening, my son (Bobby Jameson) helped me. It was an agonizing procedure for him, because he has an Apple, I have Windows, and we discovered how very different they are. Even though he wasn't feeling well, he stuck with it until he figured it out, while making numerous colorful comments about what he thought of Windows.

I have two more paintings to post, but that will have to happen on another day as this one is almost over. I am happy, though to have this painting on my blog at last.

The Inconstant Constancy of the Wind

The wind has stopped. For three days it has been raging, moaning, and blowing everything around that’s not secured in place. Now, there is a wonderful silence, a resting from endeavors before the beginning of normal activity.

Man is indeed silly. He thinks he runs the world, but he can’t stop the wind, and he doesn’t even have the sense to use its power for the things he needs to do. When I was growing up, there were windmills on every farm. Then gradually, they fell into disuse as electricity became a rural as well as a city commodity.

Now, finding ways to use the power of the wind, as a substitute for fuels that send carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, is one of the latest ideas for saving the planet. And yet, it isn’t a new idea. It’s been around. We just didn’t realize what a great idea it was. We thought using coal, gas, or oil was more modern, technical, and sophisticated. Windmills were old-fashioned.

It was fun while it lasted, but now we have to find sources of energy that are renewable. The wind is like that. It comes and it goes, but never leaves forever. It always returns sooner or later. And even though we sometimes have much more of it than we want, it’s still the closest thing we have to the long-sought-for perpetual motion. I hope we’re smart enough to use it so we can give our groaning planet a break and a chance to renew itself

In the meantime, I'm happy it's not blowing today.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Today, I'm Ninety

It is fun to have lasted this long, and to still be healthy and enjoying life. In fact, I enjoy everything much more than I used to. Now that I am painting again, it's exciting to wake up in the morning and get back to what I am working on. Even if I live another twenty years, I will never run out of things I want to do, or find out about, or see. I love my life.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Israelis in Gaza--Who Can Win?

No one can win with just a military victory. Oppression and restriction, on one side, lead to anger and retaliation on the other, in the form of rockets. Those rockets lead to anger and retaliation on the Israeli side, in the form of bombs, and now troops on the ground.

In a sense, both sides are right, but both are also wrong. The Israelis want their citizens to be safe, and to be free to live normal lives. But guess what? The Palestinians want their people to be safe, and to be free to live normal lives. Neither side can win unless they are willing to give to the other side what they want for themselves.

The best, and probably the only, way to make Hamas irrelevant, is for each country to recognize the other's right to exist, to treat each other with respect, and for each to be as fair as they want the other side to be. If life is to improve for the Israelis, it must also improve for the people of Gaza, and for all Palestinians.

Friday, January 2, 2009

The Homeless Man

We both see the same man
He's homeless and pulls a cart
Holding his meager possessions.
His gray hair is long and tangled
His face is seamed and dark
From outdoor living
There are holes in his dirty jacket
His shoes are worn and scuffed
One of them has no laces.

When he is gone:
You say, "What a mess he is!"
I say, "I wonder where he can go
To get clean."
You say, "He looks like a drinker or druggie to me."
I say, "I wonder where he goes to the bathroom."
You say, "I wouldn't blame anyone
For wanting to keep him out. Didn't you see?
One of his shoes didn't even have laces."
I say, "I wish I could help him."
You say, "Well, you really are a do-gooder!"
I say, "No, but I would be if I could."
You say, "You can't help people like that.
If you gave him money, he'd just drink it up.
Or buy drugs."
I say, "You don't have to be a drinker or a druggie
To fall out of the system.
You just have to lose your job
Have a serious illness in the family
Or lose your house--anything."
You say, "Plenty of people have troubles,
But they don't end up bums--
You're crazy, too sentimental."
I say ,"But somehow, we should be able to help.
In the end, people are responsible for each other."
You say, "Responsible! People make their own choices.
He got himself into the mess he's in."
I say, "Maybe, but still, he needs help."

You go on your way
Irritated by my "foolishness."

We saw the same man, and yet we didn't.
You saw his faults, I saw his need.
You may be intelligent and practical
I may be foolish or crazy, as you say.
But something in me feels a connection
Between him and me.
We live different lives
Have different thoughts
I know nothing about him
Or how he got where he is

But beneath all that
Beyond our human personalities
There is something within us
That is the same
Something that is the core of life