Saturday, April 19, 2008

Gettin' Earthy!

Now that I’ve started talking about the four elements, I’ll confess: I’ve always been an earthy woman. In my youth, it was easy to see. I oozed sensuality like most twentysomethings in the days of free love with no strings attached. In Hot Flashbacks, I mention how boomers my vintage were lucky. The AIDS epidemic didn’t rear its ugly head until nearly a decade after we made love and not war till there was no fight left in us. I delighted in bawdy jokes back then and salty language, too. I had no idea that these tendencies were so heavily driven by hormones. I hope you’ll enjoy reading in the book about some of my more hilarious epiphanies when my hormones stopped and, finally, I could be motivated by something other than my “animal urges,” as an ex of mine once called them.

Earth is my element in more ways than one. The signs in my
astrology chart are primarily Earth (Sun, Moon, and Ascendant). In Chinese medicine, which has been my ancient adjunct to the modern allopathic kind for over 20 years, Earth is my element—the one that needs constant tune-up.

It should have come as no surprise to me, then, that Earth and environmental protection became my job. For over half my long civil service career, I worked in waste reduction and recycling programs. The rest of my astrology chart is primarily
Air, so, again, it was predictable that astrology would be my side job. I love making the bridge from Earth to Sky and back. You might say I’m in my element(s).

This week we celebrate our Valentine’s Day to the planet—Earth Day. My last post was a lead-up to this important day each year to take stock of where we are as individuals, and as a community, in keeping our globe vital and viable.

Earth Day started in spring of 1970 and has grown bigger and better over the years with vast varieties of local celebrations and opportunities to do your part to save your little corner of the world. I won’t argue about whether or not global warming is real and if the Earth needs saving. As a person who has worked on the inside of environmental stewardship, I am sorry to report from many trusted leaders that it might already be too late to save many species and resources that we take for granted. Late, but not impossible. We like drama; witness our choices in TV programs. Maybe that’s why we’re waiting for the 11th hour.

I belong to a church named after St. Francis of Assisi. Not only was “St. Frank” the Dr. Doolittle of his time who talked to the animals and is their patron; he is also the patron of ecology. I celebrated Earth Day at a day retreat with Sr. Linda Gibler, a contemporary and learned nun with credentials in cosmology.

One thing that came up in this breathtaking Earth Day retreat with Sr. Linda, her second in a row with us, is how the media has influenced our view of the world. In the ‘50s, television first became affordable to the public. With the acquisition of that little box came our first awareness of what was going on with people in other parts of the world. Prior to that, only a fortunate few had any direct contact with those in other countries, real or vicarious. TV planted the first seeds with everyman and everywoman that there were everypeople dotting our Earth with the same hopes and dreams with similar and sometimes unique concerns. Slowly we learned about starving children, genocide, and natural disasters, building global connection and compassion. The Internet brought the global community together in a way none of us who pre-date it could have ever imagined.

Back to David Suzuki and how we are the Earth and its four elements:

Use this Earth Day to dig dirt! Make digging it both figurative and literal. Play in the dirt, pot plants, dig in the garden, and dig up those ugly shrubs. Take a nature walk and notice what things pop out of it speak to you. Actually, listen for their psychic dialogue. We did this on our Earth Day retreat and decided it doesn’t matter where the voice comes from, even if it’s only a subconscious place in our own minds. A buttercup is often very wise—or the buttercup part of our brains—whichever.

Use less, recycle everything you can, and bring your own cloth shopping bags to the market. Minimize your use of bottled water (buy a
reusable bottle ) to help keep all those plastics out of landfills and learn which ones are safe. Keep abreast of these and other green issues. Make your next car a hybrid. Discover some of the truly creative ways people are making recycling pay—literally! We are all four elements, but earth is the one that represents our home, the only place humans inhabit, as far as we know. One of the things Sr. Linda observed—as our scientific knowledge changes, so does our story. Maybe if we find life on other planets, they’ll have advice for taking better care of ours.

Most of all hone your relationships and make more of them without geographical boundaries. That’s the earthiest thing you can do. Peace and cooperation on Earth is what will save it. This we can only do one friend, colleague, councilperson, cyber buddy, or family member at a time. When we know we are the Earth and so is everyone on it, there is no other option but being an Earth Mama or Papa, protective of our family.

And speaking of the Mamas and the Papas, that groovy boomer band, maybe one of their greatest hits, with a few minor adjustments to the lyrics, can become our Planetary International Anthem:
This Is Dedicated to the One I Love.

Each night before I go to bed, my baby.
I whisper a little prayer for you, my baby …

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Vast Lane to Elementary School

HOT FLASHBACKS is more than a place to learn about how your past contains a prescription for a cool future. It’s a way to live life in the Vast Lane. Not the fast lane, but the Vast Lane where you on-ramp the High Way. It’s the route that takes you on an ever-exciting journey whose ticket is an open mind. That open space in your head is a pocket where beauty and insights can pop in.

My first spiritual teacher taught me that life is a school. So, let’s board a yellow bus for our trip in the Vast Lane, just for sentiment’s sake. While we’re at it, let’s go to elementary school. That’s where most of us went in a yellow bus.

I don’t mean kindergarten through sixth grade or whatever grades are considered elementary in your school system. I mean the four elements--the stuff we’re made of—and the universe itself—earth, air, fire, and water. We are, indeed, in elementary school all the time. Life itself is a constant interaction of this quartet both in the physical and metaphorical sense.

I remember being shocked when I first heard that we’re composed of the same essentials that make up the earth we walk on and the stars in the sky. I had never considered that much bigger view. I barely had an inkling of what it meant, yet I knew it was profound.

With time, I came to understand that this fact proves the great interconnectedness of all people and things, not just on earth, but also in the universe. Dr. David Suzuki, a Canadian science broadcaster and environmental activist, cites this fact in his documentary
Suzuki Speaks, first and foremost, as the reason why we should protect the earth. Whatever we do to the earth, we do to ourselves because we are the earth.

He illustrates in a very visual, special-effects way, how we constantly create and recreate the earth in a physical sense. The air we inhale and exhale is exchanged with all life forms and has been since life forms could breathe. Fire is captured as sunlight. Photosynthesis feeds and literally fires us up. Most of the human body is composed of water, needed by every vital system to survive. We, in turn, become part of the earth’s biological and the hydrological cycles, evaporating, condensing—ultimately making our liquids, even our tears, into rain. Our flesh? Earth. Even though we hear this often spoken in a figurative way, we literally share many of same components in our planet’s top layer, such as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium.

In the vastness of space—even on the surface of our globe—we may only seem like specks. But specks add up. We are part of the earth as much as the trees, the mountains, the great rivers. When America was taken from the Natives, our souls lost their cosmic view as much Native Americans lost their land and dignity. Here’s to all the indigenous people, not just in my own little corner of the world, but to the original land lovers who had it right all along.

DNA, life’s common building block, was only discovered in the early 1950s, not even a nanosecond ago, considering the 13.7 billion years since our hot, tiny universe was born. Living in the Vast Lane requires us to embrace mystery. These are just the facts, apologies to one famous TV detective of the same era as this discovery. Perhaps just these facts will spark us to live in awe of who we are and what we are a part of.

In her enormously witty and profound one-woman show,
In Search of Intelligent Life in the Universe, Lily Tomlin’s character, Trudy the Bag Lady, advises us to practice awe-robics every day.

Have you started your workouts?

Tuesday, April 1, 2008


Our book launch and signing on March 29 at Borders was a resounding success for Capital Crimes: 15 Tales by Sacramento Area Authors. We had a steady stream of guests, enthusiastic chatter, coffee, tea, cookies, laughs, and a lot of interest in our local Sisters in Crime chapter. Thanks to all who stopped by and took home a copy of our short story anthology. Twelve of the fifteen authors were able to attend this first in a series of events to debut our book to the public. Who are we and what do we write about? Everything from dark to comical in mystery genre. Check Lulu for a chance to preview.

Locals have four more opportunities to purchase Capital Crimes locally and meet the authors:

Underground Books in Sacramento, on Saturday, April 12, 2:00-4:00P
located Next to Starbucks, Corner of 35th and Broadway

Central Library’s booth on Wednesday, May 7, 11:00A– 1:00P at the Farmer’s Market in Cesar Chavez Park between 9th & 10th and I/J Streets, across the Library

Roseville's Martha Riley Library on Saturday, May 31, 1:00-3:00 pm
1501 Pleasant Grove Blvd., Roseville, next to City of Roseville Sports Complex

Elk Grove Library on Saturday, June 7, 11:00A – 1:30P
8962 Elk Grove Blvd., Elk Grove

I will attend all the signings except for Underground Books, which I cannot make due to another commitment. Catch me on a panel at the Roseville event with five other authors and editors talking about our writing process and how we created our crazy quilt of crime capers set in our own backyard.

If you live in or within driving distance Sacramento and are interested in having the Capital Crimes chapter of Sisters in Crime at a signing in your neighborhood, contact me: If you know someone at a book store or library, all the more likely that we can arrange it.

Meanwhile, Capital Crimes, the book, can be purchased online at these sources:
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Lulu.

Finally, thanks, again, to all our readers for your support! Especially those who brought friends, flowers, and your smiles to an exciting day for a book debut.


Photo by Jaci Muzamel: Capital Crimes authors Juanita Carr (L), Robin Burcell (C) , and Joyce Mason signing one of our books (R) at the Borders Book Launch in Sacramento.