Shine a Little Light


Check out this guy!  Or possibly girl.  There isn’t much information on the interwebs about Benthoctopus sp. or this individual in particular, but the photo (taken by Bruce Strickrott) grabbed my attention and got me thinking.  The mechanical arm belongs to Alvin, the amazing and famous deep sea submersible at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.  He was down on a mission for Principal Investigator Charles Fisher.  The octopus just wandered up to say, “Hey.”  The whole scene looks like a Steampunk meet-up, which is cool.

But red light bails out first going down into the depths, so our curious friend here probably doesn’t know he’s red.  My initial thought was, how sad, he thinks he’s gray like everybody else.  He has no idea how extraordinary he is.  Then I noticed how deep this dive was: 7,500 feet.  That’s almost a mile and half straight down, gentle reader.  All light gives it up for a bad job well before that.  Not only does Benthoctopus have no idea he’s red, color doesn’t figure in his world at all.  He is wondrous and beautiful, but his habitat never lets it show.  No one knows or cares that he is a brilliant shade of scarlet.  Neither he nor his neighbors are aware that colors even exist.

Then I started getting philosophical, sociological even.  What if no one can see the particular way in which I am special, maybe wonderful?  What if everyone thinks I’m just gray, like them?  Then… what if I am special and wonderful in a way that none of us even know about?  What if I would be stunning and brilliant in some other habitat, a different sort of society, one which sees things we cannot imagine?

Back to our denizen of the deep dark.  Even though color is invisible in his world, he is red.  It only took someone shining a light on him to show it.  What about our world, our neighbors?  Who goes through their lives with incredible color we don’t see?  We judge people to be gray, like ourselves, because we don’t shine the right light on them.  We believe we are just gray because it’s all we’ve ever seen.  Surely there is more to everyone, no matter how dull they appear in our world.  But what is the light we need to shine on each other?  Benthoctopus never saw Alvin or his lights before.  He didn’t know about light or color.  What can each of us do, as individuals, to let another’s true colors shine?  I don’t know.  But now I’m thinking about it.  That’s where change begins.

Südtirolean Escape

There is no place like home, or so They say.  But other places can be homey and sometimes home isn’t so much, so it’s a pleasure to return to a homey place delightfully unlike home.  Some years and several generations of Centre employees ago a charming little valley in the Dolomites was discovered and anointed to be the destination of Annual Sledding Weekend.


Hotel Tyrol in St. Magdalena is our place, a beautiful Tyrolean accommodation run by a lovely family, filled with wonderful art ~primarily created by the family patriarch~ where we are welcomed back warmly every time, fed well, and avail ourselves of the excellent spa facilities looking out over the mountains.

Villnößtal is a pleasantly undeveloped little valley, no big ski resorts to bring the hoards.  But popular summer mountain trekking huts are open, offering sleds for rent.  So we hike up the fire road to GeislerAlm, eat a hearty Tyrolean lunch ~consisting solidly of cheese, Knödel (dumplings), and pork products for those who partake~  far overcompensating for the walk, then sled back down, whooping, hollering, laughing, and usually sustaining only minor bumps and bruises.  Then back to Hotel Tyrol for steaming, sauna, massages, Ruheraum, and outdoor jacuzzi ~snow angels, weather permitting.  And maybe a quick nap.  There is even a Kinderraum, but a room just for the amusement of children gives me the hibbedy jibbedies.  I’ve never gone in.


When we are soothed, relaxed, clean, and rested, dinner begins with a gorgeous salad bar.  Truly, I look forward to that salad bar as much anything, except the hot tub of course.  I intended to photograph its bounty but every evening was distracted by same and was at table tucking in before I realized it.  Having selected entreès and mains at breakfastIMG_6051 ~which is itself a feast~ from the offerings of the day, dinner proceeds with lively conversation among friends until we are stuffed and waddle into the common room for a digestif and card games.  It’s most convivial to be in a cozy room with other guests playing games, being sociable.  Germanophones call it gemütlichkeit.  It is one of my favorite things for which there is no single English word.  The host family is running the bar, answering questions, joining in conversation, or toddling about with a sippy cup.  It’s a whole-family operation, so we the guests feel much as though we are lounging about their living room.  I wish my living room had such a ceramic stove!

In fact, the family have their own quarters elsewhere in the building into which they may retire.  But through all our “adventures,” ranging from a car incapacitated by its own chains to a dog lost on the mountain to an actual emergency requiring hospitalization, the family Senoner have been beyond helpful, gracious, and concerned for our welfare.  And they continue to have us back!  Also, Dragon Empress Kiwi Pu is always welcome (and any other family animules, up to and including 3 quite wolf-like Husky-type dogs; the most wolf-life one proving that he is in fact a house pet, being the one lost on the mountain over night and a very sorry pup in the morning when he was rescued).  I’m fascinated by the idea of growing up in such a place.  The valley is our occasional playground, but these children grow up with it as their back yard.  They see their parents’ work, learning hospitality while they are exposed to people from around the world.  The patriarch, getting on in years, is still able to stay in familiar surroundings, with his family nearby all day.  It’s long days of hard work, so I hope they know how much we appreciate the experience they reliably provide.  We’ve been many times for Sledding Weekend, but also in summer and fall for hiking and biking and eating and a deep breath of near-Austria when true Italy wears us to a frazzle.  The Südtirol is a special, semi-autonomous region of Used-to-be-Austria/Made-to-be-Italy where things are cleaner and work better, but don’t require crossing the Alps for us to enjoy.


Teo, the Hospitalicat

Take a Walk on the Mild Side

I have piercings, plural.  And ink, stained skin.  And I would do them all and more again.  But acts of rebellion they were not.  People often make assumptions about such things, but my little self-expressions would hardly raise an eyebrow.  Even that 1st double piercing when I was 13 only got me a frowning.  (Strangely, the original piercings, 1 per ear when I was 8, done by a family friend who was a nurse, were perfectly acceptable.  I didn’t really understand how one more could be so shameful.)  But I wasn’t grounded.  I’m afraid the older friend I was with may have gotten an earful through the parental grapevine.  But it was the connection with that girl which I cherished as much as the earring.  We split the pair.  She was older and cooler and beautiful.  I wanted to be like her.  The night we went out together and got our ears pierced went into the scrapbook of my mind.  That piercing always reminds me of her.  It broke my heart a little when, after our lives had taken us down different roads, we met up again and she had let her hole grow closed.  I still have mine.  It’s also pasted on that scrapbook page with some words about friendship, independence, and remembering.

The next piercing was farther up the same ear.  I was 19, a freshman at university, and looking to bond with my room mates.  The three of us went together to the little shop in the mall, the one with the earring gun that made a noise more horrifying than the piercing itself.  We did it all together, so I don’t remember who got the pair and who split a pair with me.  I loved those girls, but we also went our own ways in the growing up that must be done.  I’ve always worn a post in that hole, through all the years of losing touch completely.  (Through the magic of FaceBook, we are all reconnected)  It, too, has a page in that scrapbook, one that speaks of horizons, unlimited possibilities, and the potential of youth and friendship.

10 more years down the line and I was feeling lost, not just having lost my way ~which, boy howdy, I had done~ but having lost myself.  I didn’t even know where to look for that girl who saw bright and exciting things in her future.  What anchor I had to the individual I had been lived 3 hours up the turnpike.  We spent many weekends together trying to recapture what we’d given away, lost in the shuffle, or never thought we’d want again.  She helped me remember who I had been and to decide who I could be.  She held my hand, chanting our mantra Calm Blue Ocean, while a man needled a poison dart frog onto my foot.  She has her own ink from that time in our lives, done by the same artist.  With a symbol for myself that I cannot lose or forget, a tiny creature full of power when necessary but susceptible to its environment, I found my way forward into a future full of bright and exciting things.

Leane, Amy, Jennifer, and Laura ~ thank you for your friendship, for marking those milestones with me.  I remember who we were then and appreciate how far each of us has come since we did those things together.

Far from rebellion and isolation, each of these modifications speaks of connection with others, recognition of self, the desire to remain grounded in what truly matters.

Dancing on Angels*


His voice was purple.  How do you explain why a color is your favorite?  Not just picking the one you like best from an assortment.  Your absolute, forever favorite.  The color that sings in your eyes.  That perfect one you want to gulp down and roll around in because it buzzes and takes your attention like no other.  From the time I was young until my dying day, beautiful deep purple is mine.  David Bowie’s voice was the same.  Even when his style changed and I didn’t much like the music, every time he opened his mouth, I stayed for more.

As an annoying teenager, I required my mother to be able to identify, by ear, four singers:  Neil Young (that’s a gimme), James Taylor (she loved his music, too), Jimmy Buffett (he was trickier as I censored much of his catalogue for her, but she liked what she heard), and David Bowie.  Because… Bowie.  He was a master, a wizard, the advance guard with an intoxicating voice and a beautiful face.  But he was not a chameleon, as many including myself have tagged him.  Yes, he changed himself dramatically, drastically, repeatedly, but never to blend in.  No.  Bowie changed and the background changed behind him.  The world was just along for the ride.

Now that singular, inspired, tortured, uplifted spirit has left this world.  David Bowie was so woven into my growing up time that it feels as though some strands of me went with him, one more veil of there-will-be-no-more has fallen over the memory of my youth.   But in his music he has also left to us part of himself, his vision, his struggle.  For all the lonely, disenfranchised youth who found encouragement to be comfortable in their own skins because Bowie showed us how, there can always be another generation finding hope in their darkness there.  I know for a fact that people are realizing only now, through the memorials and playing of his songs, that they’ve always loved his music without even knowing who it was.  So, if someone can fall in love with him for the first time, even now, then he isn’t fully gone.  We need not speak of him in the past tense.  As with long-dead authors of whom we speak in the present because their words still speak to us afresh whenever they are read, he will continue to speak.  In fact, the touring retrospective exhibition, David Bowie is, says just that in its very title.  Still, I’m glad to have seen it when he was alive and working and nearly no one had any idea that he was dying.  It would have been too much for me to know it was an epitaph.  I might not have been able to write this less than a year ago.  We are blessed to live in an age when sound is preserved and readily available, when we aren’t left with renditions and covers of what was irreproducible magic, when I can press Play and David Bowie will sing to me in his own voice as he always has.  Sing on, Starman, sing on.

*And I’m gone
Like I’m dancing on angels
And I’m gone
through a crack in the past
Like a dead man walking

~Dead Man Walking, 1997


“First rule: Do not use semicolons. . . . All they do is show you’ve been to college.  And I realize some of you may be having trouble deciding whether I am kidding or not. So from now on I will tell you when I’m kidding.”

He must have been kidding, perhaps fed up with abuse and misuse, for Kurt Vonnegut did on occasion employ the powerful semicolon.  Which restores my faith in him because I’m suspicious of “never” and “always.”  Also, I wield the semicolon like Super Glue.  If I want to be certain that the reader understands the crucial connection between two ideas, there is no adhesive in punctuation like the semicolon.

“…show you’ve been to college.”  Or study the Bible, as it turns out.  Throughout 2015 I participated in a Scripture memory group (by Living Proof Ministries with Beth Moore ~ she is a wonderful scholar, teacher, and servant of Christ).  I want to be the little old lady, whose eyesight has gone, but who still has God’s Word hidden away in her heart.  It won’t just be there when I need it and it’s too late, so that’s why I’m beginning to apply myself now.  Every two weeks we each chose a verse to memorize, write in our little notebooks, and post on-line to the group.  The year is over.  I have my 24 verses.  However, 2015’s verses will fade from memory if I don’t keep them fresh, so I was transcribing them into an app on my phone.  It might be the translation (New International Version), but there were semicolons in abundance.  I like that from an editorial point of view.  It pleases me to see tools being used and used well.

“… been to college.”  Or someplace darker.  There is a project which began as a day and grew into something of a movement.  People who have come through a time where a reader of their lives could have thought there was nothing left to say.  People who recognize that they might have ended the sentence right there, but they didn’t.  These people have a semicolon tattoo which means, “That could have been the end, but I’m not finished.”

But wait; there’s more!  That is what the semicolon says.  That is what those who claim victory over self-destruction say.  That is what God says, over and over.

When I called, you answered me; you made me bold and stouthearted.  ~Psalm 138:3

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.  ~John 10:27-28

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from Him.  ~Psalm 62:5

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  ~Ezekiel 36:26

For this God is our God for ever and ever; He will be our guide even to the end.  ~Psalm 48:14

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