Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Primordial OOZE

Meet Tiktaalik. You may not know it, but this is a picture of your resistance to change. Actually, this is several steps beyond your first notion of resistance, but it is the first provable specimen of how it feels to change something major in one's life.
Say what?
Imagine life in the Primordial Ooze. It is water, possibly getting thick with algae, crowded with millenia of species perfectly adapted to the ooze, maybe it's a little rank but nonetheless, it is home. It is comfortable, it is what you have known literally Forever. But, inside you there is something saying "there's gotta be more to life than ooze." So you take the first step. You leave the water.
Have you ever sat in the tub and let the water run out? Did you notice how heavy you got? How it felt like a great weight was pressing down on you? Or have you stepped out into a gale of wind and had your breath whipped right out of your lungs, drying your mouth and eyes, clogging your nose? How about sunburn? Chapped lips?
Think about how that first creature must have experienced itself when it first left the water. The crushing pressure, the drying air, the extreme changes in temperature and suddenly it could no longer glide or go with the flow. It had to move step by step all on its own. Imagine the difference! But mostly can you imagine how heavy it's body must have felt? Like walking through a wall with a thousand bricks on your back. Why did it go on against so much resistance?
See where I am going with this?
I bet there must have been hundreds of individuals who weren't ready for the change and who simply died before they got their feet on the ground. Maybe the few that made it were laid as eggs at the edge of the water and as the water dropped their genes responded differently than the generations before, thereby creating an individual already adapted to the New World. (This is adaptive radiation theory and more can be learned from the February 2009 National Geographic - I hope to write more about this later)
However it happened, the first creature to leave the Primoridal Ooze didn't just do it. It wasn't a moment of inspired determination or even a leap of faith. It wasn't even a matter of discipline or commitment. Perhaps there was a drive and maybe there was a vision. There definitely had to be intention involved- the intention to survive? to eat? to lay eggs? Or maybe it was just time. Whatever the reason those first creatures must have felt something pulling them that was stronger than the resistance they faced.
Maybe they really dug the resistance!
Maybe it felt good to really feel themselves defined not by the motion of water but rather by the power of their own movement against something invisible. Think how cool it must have been to not always be reacting to all that is communicated in the water. Why a stone could drop and it wouldn't affect Tiktaalik one bit!
Tiktaalik was suddenly her own self. (It had to have been a female because a female's genes mutate thousands of times faster than males' and her offspring would be quicker to adapt to the new environment. She could go back to the water to get some sperm and then move to the land to have her eggs.)
So this is the girl I think about when I come up against my own resistance. It does seem to come from deep inside me, like some Primordial Ooze, and it seems so powerful. It makes me want to crawl back into that soft, rocking, warm and comfortable place. It makes it difficult to see to the other side. It makes my body heavy and my brain foggy. Anyone able to relate?
So why push on to the other side?
Tiktaalik tells me that it takes time, right timing, several hundreds of small-seemingly insignificant steps and changes that add up to just the strengths needed to survive on land, and it takes drive. She tells me that if I listen deep inside, beyond that murky layer of scum at the edge of mud there is a LAND full of opportunity, safety and new sensations. She tells me that my eggs/ideas will do better out there than back there. She says in her croaky watery dry air voice, "Go girl! go!"
And then with a twinkle in her eye she adds, "watch those first few steps, they are a doozy. But don't worry, it gets easier after that."

Monday, March 30, 2009


Since this is called Barnyard Philosophy, this seems a valid question. All this chatter about Philosophy and not much moo-ing, clucking, neigh-ing or baa-ing are present. So where's the Wisdom of the Farm?

Here's the deal with the Farm thing. Sometimes animals have a lot to teach you about life, death, behaviour or whatever. Othertimes they just are animals. Right now they are content- fat, the weather is do-able minus the discomfort of mud, water is abundant and though they seem to sense a change is coming, they have yet to remember grass. I love this time of year because it is so easy to be here. I have the illusion of control. I have the feeling that I have time, energy, and the cooperation of all animals and spirits. I can rest, wander in the intellectual spheres and even play with my own species at times.

But the push of green is just starting and I know that in the next week everything will go back to "normal".

Normal is:

The urge to "PICK ME" (a much more polite phrase than what is really being said) and to push through fence for grass and the hair and the need and the mowing and the raking and the baling and the stacking and the fences falling down and the sheds needing to be cleaned and the sheep needing to be sheared and baby chickens and turkeys to be kept safe and the calves coming and everyone wanting MORE! MORE! MORE! because it just tastes so good and the grass growing and the machines breaking and the obsessive dependence on or and the bills and all the stuff of life that still needs to be maintained and the horse shows and the breedings THEN the firewood and the winterizing and the millions of projects saying "GET ME DONE FIRST OR ELSE!" and the animals saying "NOT ENOUGH! NOT ENOUGH! NOT ENOUGH!" and then comes the snow and the shoveling and the wind and then it will be this time again and I won't remember any of it.

Actually, that list is just the minimum bit.

So the wisdom of the yard says, "when times are slow, take it slow."

How this applies to life is up to me to determine on any given day. For example, right now the sky outside is like a rainbow sunset because there are big grey clouds interspersed with patches of blue. The sun is turning them all shades of purple, green and blue. There is green showing through last years old growth and the hills look as tucked in and cozy as my pigs in their pile of hay. The wind is kicking at 25 mph and I have a warm stove heating the house. The animals are fed. Seems like I could take it easy and not feel I am missing much.

Writing this reminded me that even when lost in my "normal life", I can look up at the sky and everything seems to slow and life becomes "My Life". It is when I look down that life speeds up. Perhaps that is why time goes so quickly when one is on the computer. Maybe that is why that I catch the animals looking at the sky so often. They just stand there looking out for a few minutes before they sigh and go back to eating. Maybe they need to be reminded to slow down too.

The Wisdom of the Yard says, "whatever you are doing, look up now and then so that your life will become yours again. And when you are ready, sigh before going back to work."

Thursday, March 19, 2009

On Hamlet

If you had to coach Hamlet, how would you do it?

Coach:  Hamlet, you mentioned in your email that you had a few questions for me?

Hamlet:  To be, or not to be: that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep; No more; and by a sleep to say we end The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep; To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub; For in that sleep of death what dreams may come When we have shuffled off this mortal coil, Must give us pause: there's the respect That makes calamity of so long life; For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely, The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office and the spurns That patient merit of the unworthy takes, When he himself might his quietus make With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear, To grunt and sweat under a weary life, But that the dread of something after death, The undiscover'd country from whose bourn No traveller returns, puzzles the will And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of? Thus conscience does make cowards of us all; And thus the native hue of resolution Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought, And enterprises of great pith and moment With this regard their currents turn awry, And lose the name of action.

Coach:  What I hear you saying is that you are depressed about your predicament and unsure about how to act because of your fears of the consequences?

Hamlet:  Uh, I think so.

Coach:  I wonder, have you seen a therapist for your depression?

Hamlet:  Well, I used to see Dr. Ophelia but I think she’s gone off to a nunnery.

Coach:  What about friends? Do you have any friends who support you?

Hamlet: There’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern but all we ever talk about is the quintessence of dust.

Coach:  Is there anyone in your life that you can talk to about all of this?

Hamlet:  Yorrick!

Coach:  Great! Tell me about him. What does he think of your concern over the King and Queen?

Hamlet:  But he’s a skull.

Coach:  Is that some sort of gang?

Hamlet: No, he’s like what’s on your neck only without the skin.

Coach:  OH... Hamlet, I would really like to refer you to a good friend of mine, she’s an excellent therapist. Would that be alright?

Hamlet:  I’d love that. I do seem overly concerned with the mortal coil as of late.

Coach:  Perfect! By the way, how is it going with the legitimacy of your Uncle’s claim to the throne?

Hamlet:  I went to the law firm of Pollonius, Laertes and Fortinbras but my Uncle is sending me to England so I can’t talk with them until I get back.

Coach:  Good for you! That is a great action step!

Hamlet:  Yeah, it felt great and I even got to talk to my Mom about it all.

Coach:  How did that go?

Hamlet:  Really well, but I accidentally killed Pollonius while we were talking. But I got to tell you, I thought he was Claudius and it felt so good to just act. I think it is a big step forward for me.

Coach:  Wow! I was wondering if I could challenge you to take a bigger step here?

Hamlet:  I would really love just to have someone tell me what to do. I am so tired of having to make so many decisions on my own.

Coach:  I would like for you to get out and to do something different. Step away from all your worries about your father’s death, your Uncle’s Kingship and your Mother’s marriage. Sometimes stepping out of the middle of things really opens up a new perspective.

Hamlet:  I would really like a shift in perspective.

Coach:  What are some things you could do that would make things clearer for you?

Hamlet:  A play! Aye the play’s the thing!

Coach:  What a brilliant idea! Shifting the situation from significance and turning it into play. Great job Hamlet!! I think that is a good place to end and I look forward to seeing you when you get back from England next week. How do you feel?

Hamlet:  Like a cloud has been lifted and the sky has turned blue. Thank you so much!

Sunday, March 15, 2009


Last night my girlfriend and I discussed what we would do if things got really bad. Scary movie bad- and not 1950's scary movie bad. She was fired up and definitely ALIVE! I was tired and definitely LAZY. This led to some conflict and concern over whether or not we would go it together etc. Mostly the problem was that she had been thinking about it much of the evening and I had been thinking about chocolate cake and how much I love my horses Phoebe and Lila. So I was not quite prepared for Armageddon. But perhaps that's a realistic situation.

She is one of the most amazing people. She is capable, well-versed in the natural and the liberal arts, immensely likable, spiritual AND practical (personally I think this is one of the hardest states of being to achieve) and most of all she is my good good thing. I am crazy about her.

If things get crazy bad, everyone is going to wish they had Denise. She is the person to call for just about anything and she is terribly fun to be with as well.
I am at a little bit of a loss today as to what value I would have on a desert island or a situation of the Worst kind, even though I know I am a pretty handy little lesbian who can wear a dress or live in the bush with equal ease. But here is my conundrum.

Denise said that she felt like most of her life she has been preparing for the worst and obtaining at least the basic skills to deal with said worst. I believe most of us unconsciously spend much of our lives preparing for something. Some of us are lucky enough to find ourselves supported and plopped into the right environment to use those skills. If you are really fortunate you find that what you have spent your whole life training for is also something that really turns you on.
I am lucky in that I have found myself life a pretty close to picture perfect life. My is as I dreamed it since I was a kid. I have Denise, land, a nice functioning body, some good friends, I can talk and walk with the animals and I have this interesting brain. I also have great horses, and as my friend Jo said, I have Lila (see picture). If I were an 11 year old girl, I would want to be me now. Hell, if I were a 43 year old anyone, I would want to be me right now.
So, survival.
The thing is, my life as it has prepared me makes no sense given what I want from it. My life has been spent in cities, surrounded by people, having to learn how to fit in and work with (aka manipulate) human realities and psychology. It is thoroughly city.
Here's me as a kid: Rocky Mountains, hiking- in my mind I am a panda bear named Bigfoot (stuffed bear) riding his horse Pachudo (still sleeping with her after 42 years) while my brother is a lobster (Sinbad- also stuffed) and we lead a troop of various other animals in a crusade against humans. We make epic battles and kill hundreds. My entire library (except for Mrs. Wilder) was composed of animal stories. I spent 4 months living in my tiger Halloween costume, in a tree or under the dining room table. Honestly, I really haven't changed that much.
My 1st journal entry at 14 reads, "all I want is to live in the middle of the woods with the animals, totally living away and without need of other humans."
I really wouldn't mourn the extinction of humanity one bit.
So why is it that I have spent most of my life studying the human species? I have had to learn how to be one, how to get along with them, I like being with some and I truly do care for individuals, but as a species I find them a tad irritating. I am not even sure people like me very much. I know I am "odd". And now I am a life coach.
But, if our lives are spent in pursuit of the skills we will need to survive or thrive- where do I fit in if things get really bad? What skills do I have that will be of value? Why am I what I am when it has so little relevance to my life as Bigfoot?
Hopefully things won't get bad so I won't ever have to find out.
But here's my latest fantasy:
I used to think I was cursed like Cassandra of Troy who was fated to see the future- only no one would listen to her and indeed they would do just the opposite. The poor girl was eventually raped by the Greeks and tossed off a cliff. Not a very good role model. But, mythology has also the Delphic Sybil. A priestess who lives alone in a cave with people bringing all sorts of goodies to listen to her speak. She doesn't even have to make sense and they still listen!!! HEAVEN.
This I think will work for me. If things get bad and you need some advice- please bring chocolate cake and half & half as well as your questions and maybe, if the gods so desire, I will tell you what you need to know.
The best part is that Denise could be there too.
Oh... maybe I have this already.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


Now Wait Just a Minute!

Let’s not be hasty here. When is it good to Act? When is it good to Delay?

Delay is an interesting word choice here: to delay is an active verb implying that one has control over their movement, as compared to Drag-your-heels-screaming-bloody-murder! Which is a little bit closer to how procrastination can feel when it is in its nastier stages.

Which makes me wonder, is procrastination a virus? Is action an anti-biotic? It certainly seems so given how much better one feels after they simply just go ahead and do whatever it was they were avoiding.

If it is similar to the flu, couldn’t we just get a note from Mummy excusing us from having to fill out all those tax forms? Why isn’t there a pretty lifestyle pill advertized on TV for it? ACTV8: possible side effects include superior smugness over those who don’t take it, irritated spouses who have been nagged into action, sudden life changes and an inability to find the new place where the keys belong.
But it does feel good to act doesn’t it?

But it also feels good to procrastinate. Think about the pleasure one gets in the moment when one opts for the hot fudge sundae over 300 sit-ups. Then there is that sleepy feeling one gets just before you open that textbook. Surely a nap has never been so fully satisfying. And the guilt that follows? Why, nothing like a few more potato chips or a half-hour of TV to help you forget it.

So Act? Wait? Which one? Both have consequences, both have pleasure and hardship attached. Sometimes procrastination seems like divine intervention. Other times it is just so dumb.

Funny how easy it is to remember the pleasures of procrastination in comparison to the memory of how really awesome it feels to have done those sit-ups or read that amazing chapter on genetics. Of course, not all the things we have to do are fun. Taxes being in the front of my mind. But what a relief it will be to get them off my mind.

Mind- maybe if we didn’t have one we wouldn’t procrastinate, we’d be like ants or bees? Does that mean that procrastinators are geniuses without focus?

If our inner procrastinator is a genius wouldn’t it be a good idea to listen? Of course, I know a few schizophrenics who are quite brilliant but I don’t think I would follow all of their advice…

So Act or Delay.

Here’s my answer:  In the 1950’s there was a movie called The Brain from the Planet Arous. It is an evil brain that takes over a scientist, tries to make whoopee with his girl, wants to take over the world and has a wicked laugh. The Good Brain comes to Earth and takes up residence in the scientist’s dog. Happily the Evil brain has to leave the scientist every 24 hours to get a breath of fresh air. On one of these breaks, the hero leaps into action and kills the Evil Brain by sticking an axe into the Fissure of Roland thus killing it. No one ever says what happens to the dog, but presumably the Good brain returns home to the Planet Arous.

Here’s my question: Who is in charge of your brain?

I hope for the sake of the Planet that it is the dog.