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Archive for July 17th, 2007

 There has been an interview meme going around the blogosphere.   It is a wonderful meme because you can tag yourself!  It is a meme that promotes personal growth as well, because it requires patience as you wait for your interviewer to look at your blog and decide what they want to ask you.    Of course, if you tag yourself then you have agreed to have other people ask you for questions.   But this is a good thing, it gets you visiting other blogs more in depth.  

I visit Aphra Behn’s blog, and admire her writing, her wit, and her interview questions to other bloggers.  So I plucked up my courage and brashly asked her to interview me.   Following are her questions, and my answers.  I have thoroughly enjoyed answering these very thought-provoking questions, and I hope you enjoy reading the answers.

1) You have built a labyrinth with rocks from all over the world.  What was the moment when you first had the idea of building a labyrinth in this way and how long was it from conception to completion?  (As a private supplementary, have you read The Crow Road by Iain Banks, which mentions in passing a mound of earth with soil and stones from all over the world?  It’s a good book which you might enjoy.)

I have not read The Crow Road, but will immediately go out and locate it and read it. 

Now, about the building of the labyrinth.   Get a cup of tea or a glass of wine, and sit down for a bit, children, for this is a very long tale indeed.  It begins in Berkeley, California, in the year 1991.   At that time I had a circle of friends who met to celebrate the full moon every month.   Generally, we gathered at someone’s house and drummed, but on occasion we did other activities.   It came to our attention that the winter solstice and the full moon were going to coincide, and we all agreed that it was imperative that we do something particularly special to commemorate this.  One of our group knew about a labyrinth that existed up in Sibley Park in the Berkeley Hills.  (If you visit that site, scroll down and you will see a picture of the actual labyrinth.   We walked to the first one in that article.)

Up until that moment, the only time I had heard the word “labyrinth” was in the legend of the Minotaur.   The woman who knew of the existence of the labyrinth in Sibley Park expalined to us how a labyrinth can be used in meditation or ritual, and how it can be a paradigm for life and problem solving.  We didn’t take much convincing, and we decided that we would walk out to this labyrinth under the full Solstice moon and do a ritual there.

It was a cold and windy night when we gathered at the trail head.  As we began our walk through the hills, the moon began to come up from behind Mount Diablo.   When we finally arrived at the labyrinth site, the moon had risen high enough that it illuminated the small circular valley that contained the rocks.  After we had admired the pattern from above, we walked down to the labyrinth, and each one of us was given a candle.   We were to walk the pattern with our lit candle, and when we got to the center think about a habit, thing, or relationship that we wanted to let go of.   The wind was not any help in this task.  It gusted around us, mischievously whirling around the circular valley the labyrinth lay in.   Trying to keep a candle lit while walking the twists and turns of the labyrinth in that wind was a huge challenge.  Most of us did not succeed, but there were two women in our group who managed to protect their flames and keep them lit until they reached the center.  I was not one of them, I am sorry to say.

But it didn’t matter.   The quiet concentration, the full moon, the ritual work performed to let go of the old relationship with my first husband, all of these made the night an amazing experience.   After we had all walked the labyrinth, we drummed for a while.   Eventually, it became time to leave and we climbed out of the valley.   As we turned away to walk back to our cars, I looked over the edge at the labyrinth bathed in moonlight, and at that moment I said to myself, “Someday I will have one of these.”  I did not know when, or where.   But I knew that someday I would own property that had a labyrinth on it.

The very next day, I was at a bookstore in San Rafael, and next to the cash register there was a pile of post cards with the pattern of a labyrinth printed over an image of the stars of the Milky Way galaxy.  ” Dromenon –There is always the dance,” was written in beautiful script.  I bought that card, and it sat on every desk I used after that.  Eventually, I put it in a frame to protect it.   I used it as a reminder of the feeling I had as I walked up out of the labyrinth in Berkeley, and the vow I made that night.  (I still have the card, by the way.)

Every once in a while, I would mention to Jim that it would be really cool if we had a labyrinth.   It took a while before the time was right.  It was in 2001 that we actually finally built the labyrinth.   I had been to my favorite bookstore, Renaissance Books and Gifts, and had seen a book on labyrinths.   I did not buy it, not feeling all that wealthy that day.   Several days later, I got the flu.   I am not good at being sick, since most of the time I am rather sickeningly healthy.  When I was finally convalescing, Jim made a trip to Springfield.   When he got back, he came and laid a book in my lap as I was lying in bed.  “I’m not sure if this is the book you saw the other day.   But I thought this one looked good.  It seemed like you needed cheering up.” 

The next day, I felt a lot better.   I had also read most of the book, which contained detailed instructions on how to lay out a labyrinth.   Over dinner that night, Jim asked me where I thought we ought to put a labyrinth if we were going to have one.  I told him out in the open field to the south of the savannah seemed right.  “And if we were going to build it, how big should it be?  How wide should the paths be?” he wanted to know.  I said, “As big in diameter as will fit across the space.  The paths should be at least 24″ wide.”   “What do you think we should make it out of?”  That I didn’t know, but rocks seemed the cheapest alternative to outline it with.  There were certainly lots of them on my mother’s farm.

The next day, Jim came to me as I was resting on the couch and said, “I want you to come outside.   You need some fresh air, and I have something to show you. ”   What he had to show me was our wheelbarrow, full of over 200 stakes, each a foot long, every one of them with a sharpened end.   There was also a rope, with 15 knots tied in it, one every three feet.   It turned out that Jim had measured the available space, and there was room for an 84 foot diameter circle out on the designated field.  Armed with the stakes, the rope, a hammer, and the book, we laid out the twelve circles of the labyrinth.  After we had the stakes set, we outlined the pattern with a quarter of a mile of string.   All of this was done “just to see” how it might look on the field next to our house. 

Well, once the strings were there in the labyrinth pattern, which only took one afternoon to accomplish, the pattern took on its own energy.   It loudly demanded to be outlined permanently.   So we began the task of driving out to Mother’s farm, filling the pickup with properly sized rocks, driving them back to town (a 50 mile round trip), unloading them, and placing them to outline the paths.   Jim, Jesse (our son), and Alan (a young man we were foster parenting at the time) collected the rocks, and delivered them to me.  I placed every single rock in the labyrinth myself.   It took over 20 loads of rock; Jim estimates that there are 18 tons of stone outlining this labyrinth.  The paths are spaced far enough apart that a 20″ push lawn mower can be used to mow them.

It was while I was engaged in the task of outlining the paths that I began to think about what I wanted this pattern to be “for.”   I thought it ought to be a place where I could meditate, where people could find healing, where I could meditate on healing the energy of the Earth, promoting world peace.   And it was during the weeks of hauling and laying rock that I realized that I should place rocks in the inner circle that were from all over the world and from every state in the US, to act as energy nodes to send the healing meditations all over.   They would also act as foci for energy coming to the labyrinth as well. 

It actually took about 5 weeks to actually haul and place all the stones.   Once they were all there, I collected all my “world rocks” and placed them in the center.  I realized as I did so that in addition to rocks from 9 or 10 countries, I already had rocks from half the states in the US.  It wasn’t much of a leap to decide that I needed the rest of the states represented, and as many countries as I could accomplish.  

In the years since the main portion of the labyrinth has been completed, friends, strangers, and my clients have all contributed rocks to the center circle. Every “world rock” gets walked through the pattern of the labyrinth to the center circle.

The labyrinth is a work in progress, for rocks are still coming to us.   I’m not sure it will ever be “completed.”

2) Your list of previous employment is, shall we say, eclectic.  Of your previous jobs, are there any that you think should be a part of everyone’s education and any that you think no-one should have to do?

I will answer the last part of this question first.   Of all the jobs I have done in my life, I can’t think of a single one that no-one should have to do.    Actually, what sort of job should No-one “have” to do?    One could get very philosophical about this point.   If there is a job that needs to be done, and there is someone who is willing to pay to have it done as well as someone who is willing to do the job for the pay offered, then what is the problem?  ( I draw the line at murder for hire or other criminal acts.)  There are plenty of people in this country who apparently don’t want to work very hard.   It is hard to find people who are willing to do stoop labor like picking strawberries, for example, which is why we have so many illegal aliens here doing those sorts of jobs.  That situation does not exist because no one should have to do that sort of work; it s more a condemnation of the lazy people in this country.

On the first point, of all the jobs I have done in my life I believe that everyone should have to be a baby sitter at some point.   Preferably, this should happen in their early teens before they have ever had a sexual encounter.  The job should entail providing care for a colicky baby or an unmanageable and creative “Little Terror” for at least a couple of weeks.   This would be a wonderful incentive for responsible family planning.  

In addition, I think that it is valuable life experience to have been a waiter of some sort, unless you are the sort of person who NEVER goes out to eat.   This can give you some insight into the vicissitudes of providing food service, and may allow you to have mercy for the wait staff when your food is not up to your expectations.  If the service is bad, then adjust your tip accordingly.   But if the service was great and the food not, don’t punish your waitron.   (S)He was not responsible for the food preparation.  

Lastly, I also add hotel maid to the list of jobs everyone should have to do.   I don’t think you have to do it very long, a few months is sufficient.  Being a hotel maid will enable you to develop a knock that will wake the near-dead.  Additionally, you will learn just how fast and thoroughly you can clean a bathroom, dust and vacuum a room, and change sheets.  This can be a very good thing later in life as you try to juggle career and child care at the same time as keeping your nosy and critical mother-in-law from sneering at you after she has been over for the afternoon.  It also has the potential for providing you memorable moments involving naked people to turn over in your advancing years.

3) Are there any plants which your soil or climate conditions mean you simply cannot grow, but which you would like to have in your garden (yard)?

Oh my, where to start?  I am not limited by soil so much as climate conditions.   Soil can be amended, and if there is a certain acidity or amount of organic matter needed by a plant, you can create that sort of conditions in a pocket large enough to sustain a specimin or two.   With enough attention, you can even create proper soil moisture conditions.  

What you cannot do on a large scale is change your climate.   When it is 90 degrees outside and there has been no rain for two weeks, a plant that likes a moistly cool coastal climate is going to suffer greatly.   In the same vein, if it is -10 degrees and the wind is howling and there is an inch of ice on every tree, a plant that likes the tropics is going to turn up its toes and die.  

I have come across several plants in my life that I would LOVE to have growing here, but cannot because of our extremes of climate.   I love the heaths and heathers, and had a whole collection of them growing in my garden in Bremerton, Washington.   I tried them here, and watched them die a horrible death in the August heat of the Mid-west.   It was sort of like a horticultural burning at the stake.  I am not really into torture, so I have not tried that group of species again.

My wonderful mother-in-law had night-blooming jasmine growing in her yard in Marin County, California.   The magic of coming through the gate next to where it was planted on a warm and still summer evening, and having the delicious spicy scent envelop me as I walked down the path is an experience I will never forget.  I can almost smell it now as I inhale deeply.   On the rare occasions that they had hard frost out there, it would be nipped right back to the ground.   I know that this tender sub-tropical plant would be killed during one of our winters here.   Someday, when I have a greenhouse, I will have night blooming jasmine planted there.   For now, I simply dream.

I have the same dream about lemon trees, and Kaffir limes.

4) You are a bang-on-the button Baby Boomer.   What do you see as being good and bad about being a Boomer? 

Before I read this question, I never really thought about being a Baby Boomer, or whether being one had good and bad points.    

My parents were not typical of the parents of the kids I grew up around.   Most of them had televisions, but my parents felt it was important for their children to be able to read well enough to make a real choice between entertaining themselves and being entertained, so we did not have a TV in our house until I was nearly 16.   My father bought one then because Neil Armstrong was going to walk on the moon and he felt that the televising of this event was important enough historically for him to break down and let the One Eyed Monster God into our home.  

My parents also insisted on real sex education for us as we grew up, also an atypical attitude for parents of Baby Boomers.   We also did a lot of wilderness back packing.  On occasion, we were encouraged to testify at Congressional hearings on various subjects.  For these events, we were taken out of school, as my parents felt these were educational experiences.  We also were encouraged to write “Letters to the Editor” of the local paper.

Because of these  and others things, I  don’t think my childhood experience really qualifies me as being a “real” Baby Boomer.

So what was bad about being a Baby Boomer?   One of the things that was really pretty bad was I was in the slug of kids that hit the schools when the districts were not prepared for such quantities.   All through my early educational years, the teachers were stressed, the classrooms crowded.   There frequently were not enough textbooks to go around.   Even when I was a senior in high school, the school I attended had a flock of about 20 trailers installed out near the athletic fields that were refered to as the “Portable Classrooms”.   There wasn’t enough room in the choir room for the whole choir, the orchestra room was also very tight quarters.  No one actually got their eye poked out by their stand partner’s bow, but it was always a possibility.

I was lucky about the name my folks chose for me.   Even though Mrs. Roosevelt was really well known, her name didn’t catch on.  (I was not named for her, however.  My mother informed me I was named after Eleanor of Aquitaine.)  It was not a popular name then, and still isn’t today.   My two sisters weren’t so lucky.   Barbara and Judith were The Most Popular names the years they both were named.   This seemed to be a problem for a lot of Baby Boomers.   In my class in Colorado, we had two Debbies.   There were only 10 girls in the class, too, so what were the odds? 

I also live with the guilt of being a member of the population explosion, which has stressed our environment to the point that if we aren’t careful the Earth will become unliveable for humans as well as many other species.    This situation has been exacerbated by the incredible self-centeredness of the majority of the members of this generation.   It truly was and is a “Me” generation.

So what is good about it?   Well, gosh, I have lived through some incredible technological advances.   Sometimes I step back and shake my head in amazement.   When I was a little girl, Eniac was the big news.    Nowadays we have personal computers that make Eniac look like a giant adding machine sitting on almost every desk.   And they can interface wirelessly, too!   When I was little, all phones had cords, the tape recorder was just starting to show up outside of recording studios, and cameras all had film in them.  Seat belts in cars had not been invented.   A lot of the stuff that is commonly used for entertainment now was the pipe dream of the science fiction writer.   Sometimes, my mind just boggles. 

5)  If you could give advice to your 17-year-old self, what advice would it be?

“For God’s sake, don’t take yourself so damn seriously.   Lighten up already, and have some fun!  And remember, “This too shall pass.”  Also, when you meet Jerry Shurtz, just keep on riding your bike and don’t get into bed with him!   He is a complete loser and user, and will give you gonorrhea, an experience that you really don’t need to have to make your life complete.   Also, when you and Jim discuss whether it would be a good idea to buy 100 shares of Microsoft in its IPO, try to believe that software will actually catch on and  BUY IT!!”

Now, if you would like to participate in this meme, you may demand a set of questions of me.  Just follow the instructions below:

DIRECTIONS FOR THE INTERVIEW MEME

  1. Leave a comment saying, “Interview me.”
  2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. Please make sure I have your email address.
  3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.
  4. You will include this explanation and offer to interview someone else in the same post.
  5. When others comment, asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

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