Dixie Darr

Archive for the ‘spirituality’ Category

Indian Summer (for Jerry)

In Learning, spirituality on October 12, 2017 at 10:04 am

Who doesn’t love Indian Summer, those warm days following a spell of cold weather or a good hard frost and an excellent reason to hope for an early snow like the one we had on Monday. No, fall isn’t over yet and winter hasn’t arrived. Now we just call it Indian Summer. Its fleeting nature makes us appreciate it more.

Officially, it should include hazy skies according to Wikipedia. If we get haze here, it will be drifting smoke from the dreadful California fires.

People have many theories about why we call it Indian Summer. The one thing they all agree on is that it refers to our Indians/Native Americans/First Nations, not the ones in Asia.

From The Old Farmer’s Almanac:

“The most probable origin of the term, in our view, goes back to the very early settlers in New England. Each year they would welcome the arrival of a cold wintry weather in late October when they could leave their stockades unarmed. But then came a time when it would suddenly turn warm again, and the Native Americans would decide to have one more go at the settlers. “Indian summer,” the settlers called it.”

That has the ring of truth.

John Greenleaf Whittier used the phrase, “The Indian Summer of the heart!” in his poem Memories. In this way, it refers to a metaphorical thawing or awakening of sentiment or sensuality after an emotional cold snap. This seems especially apropos for those of us in the so-called “autumn of our years.” For us, it’s a quiet time, rich still in possibility. A time to look back and appreciate the good times and also to look forward. We can’t yet see the finish line even though we know it’s there. We still have time to explore some unknown or long-hidden desires.

Let’s let Ol’ Blue Eyes have the last word:

“But now the days grow short
I’m in the autumn of the year
And now I think of my life as vintage wine
From fine old kegs
From the brim to the dregs
And it poured sweet and clear
It was a very good year”

Make it so.


Bread Alone

In Auntie Flat, Learning, spirituality on October 3, 2017 at 9:40 am

I love bread. The best bread I know is the boule from The Denver Bread Company. I don’t buy it anymore because it’s just too big for one person. Even if I cut it in fourths and freeze three of the pieces, it goes stale before I can eat the one fourth I keep out. When it’s no longer fresh, it still tastes great toasted or heated in the oven.

Baking bread makes me happy. I briefly flirted with the idea of getting a bread machine, but kneading the dough with my hands is part of the fun. Mix, knead, and let rise. Waiting feeds anticipation. Punch down, knead, form loaves, and let rise again. Now it goes in the oven, misted with water to make the crust crunchy.

The glorious and sensuous smell of bread baking in the oven is second only to the taste of the first slice, warm from the oven and slathered with butter. Heaven.

I’m thinking about this because I’m reading Robin Sloan’s delicious new book, Sourdough, about a young techie in San Francisco who turns to baking bread after receiving a sourdough starter from her favorite restaurant when it closes. Her discovery of the pleasures of baking and, especially, eating bread fresh from the brick oven she built from instructions found on the internet make me want to find a way to eat nothing but bread and maybe the occasional pot of chili and some fruit. I wonder if the HOA would frown on having a brick oven on the balcony.

Omar Khayyam wrote in The Rubaiyat in 1120, “A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread–and Thou Beside me singing in the Wilderness–Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!” Nine hundred years later, it still sounds perfect.


In Colorado, Home, Learning, spirituality on October 2, 2017 at 7:29 am

“Just before the death of flowers,
And before they are buried in snow,
There comes a festival season
When nature is all aglow.”

That was written by an unknown author and is sometimes identified as a wiccan chant, which seems appropriate for this time of year.

Most people name fall as their favorite season and October as their favorite month. In Denver, October usually encompasses three seasons. We transition from fall to winter and, if we’re lucky, back to Indian summer unseasonably warm dry weather after a killing frost. That first frost comes around October 7 and the first snow on October 18. Get ready.

This is the only time of the year when almost everyone takes a drive into the mountains just to see the scenery. You have to be on your toes because fall color doesn’t last long in the high country. Blink and you’ll miss it. We’ve already had our first major snowfall above 10,000 feet.

Here in the city, the leaves turn more leisurely from green to yellow to red. It still ends pretty quickly. One day the trees will be glorious in their fall color, and then a wind comes overnight and the limbs are bare.

That begins a cherished fall ritual, raking leaves. Meanwhile, a few stubborn flowers still bloom –zinnias, pansies, asters, mums. People start stocking up on Halloween candy and decorating their houses and yards with witches, black cats, goblins and ghosts. We ask one another, “What will you be on Halloween?”

First, though, we have to endure the annual culture clash of Columbus Day, aka Indigenous Peoples Day.

This year the harvest moon—the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox, which usually comes in September—rises on October 5. I still have my windows and back door open for at least a few hours on most days. The farmers’ markets have ended and pumpkin patches and corn mazes sprout all over.

Grab a cup of hot apple cider, carve a pumpkin, and enjoy the show.

Winter soon will come.

Sing, Sing a Song

In creativity, Learning, music, spirituality on September 28, 2017 at 10:50 am

I give today’s post to two songwriters, who express things much better than I can. First, India Arie.

“I Am Light”
I am light, I am light [x4]

I am not the things my family did
I am not the voices in my head
I am not the pieces of the brokenness inside

I am light, I am light [x4]

I’m not the mistakes that I have made or any of the things that caused me pain
I am not the pieces of the dream I left behind

I am light, I am light [x4]

I am not the color of my eyes
I am not the skin on the outside
I am not my age, I am not my race, my soul inside is all light

All light, all light [x2]
I am light, I am light [x2]

I am divinity defined
I am the God on the inside
I am a star, a piece of it all
I am light

And to close, a piece from Joni Mitchell’s Woodstock

We are stardust, we are golden, and we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.”

Far Out, Man

In creativity, Learning, music, Prejudice, Resistance, spirituality on September 26, 2017 at 9:40 am

Peace, love, and rock ‘n roll is how I like to remember the 60s, and I expect envy from younger generations when those of us now mostly in our sixties wax nostalgic.

Of course, we didn’t really have peace although we demonstrated against the war in Vietnam endlessly in protests that remind me of the repeated protests today. We did have the peace sign.

Love? Yes and no. Free love was never on my agenda, and that was about sex anyway, not love.

Rock ‘n roll, yes indeed. Not only did we have the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Chuck Berry, Janice Joplin, and Aretha Franklin, we also had the early 60s girl groups and doo-wop and Motown. We had the best music.

Peace, love, and rock ‘n roll were always set against a backdrop of neverending war, vicious racism, and unchecked violence.

It’s why, when a friend asked me to go to the exhibit titled 1968 at History Colorado a year or so ago, I said, “No thank you.” I remembered the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy and thought, “I can’t go through that again.”

It’s why I won’t watch the current PBS series, “The Vietnam War.” The creator, Ken Burns, is a genius, and I’ve enjoyed many of his previous documentaries. Not this one. People tell me it’s wonderful and they’re learning so much that they didn’t know when it happened. Many can only watch it in small chunks without feeling overwhelmed. I had to watch it on the news the first time around. I don’t want to go there again.

For me, the quintessential song about the war is Country Joe and the Fish “Feel Like I’m Fixing to Die Rag.”  “Be the first one on your block to have your boy come home in a box.”

Maybe I’m sticking my head in the sand (or a box, if you prefer) when I choose to remember the good times and forget the bad. I’d rather listen to Give Peace a Chance than the Eve of Destruction. And I have to wonder, in fifty years, what we’ll (well, you’ll) remember about 2017.

Up, Up, and Away

In Colorado, solitude, spirituality on September 20, 2017 at 4:32 pm








Heading west on I70 from Arvada, it doesn’t take long to get out of the city and into the mountains. In a few short minutes, I pass Denver West and voila! Foothills.

Today, I’m heading south to Morrison and then west through Bear Creek Canyon to O’Fallon Park in Kittredge.

One of Denver’s 22 mountain parks, O’Fallon appears on the left just before the town of Kittredge. Bear Creek loops through it, and the park features fishing, plus picnic tables, restrooms, and hiking trails. It’s my favorite Denver mountain park with the possible exception of Red Rocks.

Nah, Red Rocks is beautiful but it has too many people.

At 6,900 feet, Kittredge isn’t high enough for fall colors this early in the season, but I didn’t come here to see aspen. I came for peace. Highway 74 winds through the canyon with craggy rock faces rising on either side. Occasionally, the valley widens for a small creekside meadow. Dark green pines cover the opposite hillside. I feel my stress level easing.

I turn into the entrance and park near the picnic tables. First, I walk along the creek, listening to the water rolling over the rocks and breathing in the pine-scented air. A highway sign at Morrison had warned of “bear activity in the area,” so I try keeping an eye on my surroundings. At the fork in the trail, a woman searches in vain for earwigs for her daughter’s biology class. Her dog, Zoey, greets me. I learn that I am the only one there without a dog. I see half a dozen other people, five women and one man, each walking a dog.

The weather is sunny but not hot, and I need my jacket to eat my lunch and read at a shady picnic table, the creek burbling at my back. I write in my journal and notice that foot and dog traffic is picking up. Too many people. Time to head home.

It only took three hours to clear my head and renew my spirit. I forget sometimes that the mountains are more than a pretty backdrop for the city and a way to tell which way is west.

I need to do this more often.

Fall Back

In Colorado, spirituality on September 19, 2017 at 11:01 am

Contrary to popular opinion, seasons don’t change because of a change in the earth’s distance from the sun. Rather, it’s because of the tilt of the earth’s axis. Whatever its cause, I don’t know anybody who doesn’t’ like fall. They may grouse about the coming of winter, which to me is a good thing, but the biggest complaint about fall is that it doesn’t last long enough.

Although it isn’t my favorite season—that would be spring—I always look forward to fall. Here are some of the best things about this time of year.

The weather, of course. The end of 90-degree temperatures and the great-for-sleeping cool nights.

Changing leaves. All news outlets have daily updates about the best places to see the changing aspen leaves in the mountains. We have to be quick because any day a snowstorm may obliterate the pretty vistas. In the city, we have both a longer season and more variety of trees and colors.

Jackets and sweaters. I don’t know why I love jackets and sweaters so much, maybe because they feel so cozy.

Socks. Fall signals the return of socks and we have a great sock store in Olde Town Arvada. They opened just before summer when just the thought of socks made my feet sweat. Now my feet and I are both (all?) ready.

School supply sales. I graduated high school 51years ago, and yet I still buy a few school supplies every year when they go on sale. Who doesn’t need glue sticks and composition books?

Jonathan apples. Like mountain aspens, they don’t last long, so I have to be quick. Young’s Market on West 44th is my supplier.

Scented candles. Time to stock up on cinnamon spice and vanilla candles so I’ll have them ready when I have to close the windows. Note to self: don’t forget matches.

Figure skating. My favorite sport returns in the fall and I’ll get to watch all the new young skaters and the still-hanging-in-there older ones.

Christmas music. My pastor starts listening to Christmas music in October because he’s too busy to enjoy it later in the year. If he can do it, so can I.

The end of daylight savings time. I hate it. Every year I hope the legislators will come to their senses and ban this semiannual scourge on the nation. Arizona has the right idea about this.

You won’t find me swooning over football or pumpkin spice everything or Halloween but to each his/her own.

Now I’m going to go listen to the all-time best song about fall, Neil Young’s Harvest Moon and drink a cup of hot apple cider.

Anyone want to join me?

White People Clapping

In Church, creativity, Learning, music, spirituality on September 18, 2017 at 6:26 am

My favorite thing about church other than seeing my friends is singing. A friend who was a music director for a couple of churches said it’s also one of the things people complain about the most. They want more contemporary songs, they prefer the traditional hymns, the pianist plays too slowly, they want a band, they don’t want a band. It’s always something.

Pastor Brad avoids African American spirituals because he thinks we do them badly. “If you’re going to engage in cultural appropriation, you need to do it well.” Apparently, we don’t.

I have heard visitors from other churches say they’re impressed that we actually sing as some Methodists are too reserved to make noises loud enough to be heard. We try to clap, but I guess we do that badly, too. “There’s nothing worse than white people clapping,” some people (you know who you are) say. We clap on beats one and three in 4/4 time when we’re supposed to clap on two and four.

How do we know which beat is which? I’m asking for a friend.

Who makes these rules? I looked it up and this is what I found. “Most contemporary 4/4 music emphasizes the first and third beat. This is why clapping on 2 and 4 creates syncopation and sounds good.”

In 4/4, the drummer almost always hits the snare drum on 2 and 4. That is what the rest of the band is listening for. When a bad audience is clapping on 1 and 3….or 1.25 and 3.67…it is disorienting.”

Traditionally, rock rhythm is based on the upbeats (2 and 4). Clapping on 1 and 3 will sound off for that kind of music.”

That’s fine for you musicians out there, but what about the rest of us? Give us some credit for reading the words AND the music while holding a hymnal and trying to clap. Whaddaya say we take a few minutes in our next service for a lesson in clapping?

Two musically inclined friends told the story of Harry Connick, Jr. who simply adds a beat to dupe audiences into clapping on the right notes, showing both leadership and creativity.

Luckily for me, I usually sit near a professional music director, so I just try to follow her lead. Friends don’t let friends clap incorrectly. When she’s not there, I’m a lost cause.

Free Hugs

In Church, spirituality on September 14, 2017 at 7:29 am

I did not grow up in a hugging family, so I always felt a little awkward when people hugged me. I didn’t know what to do, where to put my hands, when to let go.

When the women’s movement came along, men who hugged or touched women without permission were suspect. When was it sexual harassment and when wasn’t it? The true but impossible answer was if she liked it, it wasn’t.

These days hugging kids is a big issue. We teach our kids that no one has the right to touch them without their permission, and that includes hugs.

Hugging has some health benefits. It releases oxytocin, aka the cuddle or love hormone, which can lower blood pressure and reduce stress.

A woman in San Rafael CA is known as the hugging saint and people wait in line for hours for her embrace. There’s even a Free Hugs campaign with people who offer hugs to anyone who needs one—and really who doesn’t need a hug? But, I don’t want hugs from random strangers.

The Urban Dictionary says, “A hug is an expression of warmth and friendliness with arms outstretched around the other.” Yet, as a friend pointed out, “some people are huggers and some aren’t.”

I’m not sure when I moved from one category to the other, but I know it happened at church. Sometimes I think that since I live alone, one of the main reasons I go to church is for the hugs. It’s a safe and warm environment, plus we have some world champion huggers in our pews.

It doesn’t always come naturally to me, and the first few times may turn into one of those awkward one-armed hugs. I’m working on it, so I need practice.

If you’re a friend, next time you see me, please feel free to hug away.

White Space

In creativity, solitude, spirituality on September 12, 2017 at 11:02 am

“I’m so busy now I don’t know how I ever had time to work.” You’ve probably heard this from retired people, especially those who have recently stopped working. I always wonder what exactly they’re so busy doing.
I used to ask my students who were mostly married and raising children in addition to working full time and going to school, what they wanted to do when they retired, the typical answer was, “nothing.”

In my forties, I joined a writers’ group whose other members were all retired, and they made me crazy. While I was always eager to leave when we’d finished our group activities, they expressed dismay that we were finished and wanted to stretch it out, maybe have lunch. It seemed like an odd manifestation of Parkinson’s Law, work expands to fit the time available. In this case, the time available seemed nearly infinite for them if not for me. I observed this same reluctance to end anything whenever I spent time with retired people.
Check out your local McDonald’s any morning and you’ll see tables full of older people lingering over cups of coffee. They also fill buses to Blackhawk and other gambling sites. I guess there’s nothing wrong with that if you really like flushing your money down the toilet, but it sure doesn’t appeal to me. Was that a trifle too judgmental? Sorry.
And God forbid they spend any time on earth playing bingo. Note to my future caregivers: if you ever see me playing bingo, please shoot me.
All this reminds me of the saying, “I wasted time, and now time is wasting me.” Bingo (if you’ll excuse the expression.)
Most people seem to think it’s admirable to stay busy, maybe because we live in a culture of busyness, idle hands, after all, being the devil’s workshop.
In design, white space is the area between design elements, and that’s what I need in my life. The last thing I want now that I’m gainfully unemployed, as one friend put it, is to be occupied all the time. Especially after spending time with others, I need to wallow in silence, taking time to think or just be for awhile. White space is a tool to balance the other elements of life and is where the magic happens.
What I don’t understand is why people who complain about always having too much to do can’t seem to let go of it. Why does it seem admirable to stay busy when you no longer have to?