Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Quan Yin

At some point around 10:30 last night, I found myself reading aloud from a very old book of Chinese folk tales.  Random?  Yes. Worth it? Yes.  The smell of old books is, as anyone who's ever spent a million hours in a library or thrift store can tell you, pretty perfect, and so are Chinese paintings.  Looking at them is almost like meditating, and since I'm still not all that good at meditating, I'm using them as a sort of substitute for it. 

Anyway, one of the folk tales I found was about Quan Yin (or Guan Yin or Kwan Yin, depending on your spelling preference), the Chinese Goddess of Mercy.  She wanted to join a nunnery instead of marrying, so her emperor father tried to have her beheaded (!), but she was saved by a spirit in the form of a tiger sent by the Emperor of Heaven. Needless to say, she escaped decapitation and then "thought only good thoughts" until she became "perfect" and the embodiment of love and sweetness.  From then on, she used her goddess status to save and protect people and grant them mercy and kindness.  Long story short: she's a pretty awesome example of girl power inspiration.  I'm part Chinese (though I learned most of my Eastern religion stuff from my non-Chinese side of the family), and I've always loved Quan Yin.  I have a small wooden statue of her living with one of my hermit crabs.  Learning about her last night was major motivation to be a more consciously compassionate person. I have a lot of compassion and empathy for others that I always act on, but I'd like to be more compassionate with going with the flow of things.  We live in a world that's very GO GO GO, faster faster faster, do do do, and it's challenging to pull back and just let things BE. Let yourself BE.  Stop trying to change, and let go of control.  What you're desperate to control often ends up controlling you.
"Let the magic happen. It’s always there. Abundance and love are always there. Believe in the highest good. There is a higher essence to everything. The realm you’re in has a heaviness that mutes energy. You can penetrate through it, no matter how dark and heavy. Sometimes it has nothing to do with karma. Just don’t forget to keep it open. Don’t get too bogged down…Prosperity can happen at any time. I want to give you everything that you need.-Kuan Yin"
-Beneficial Law of Attraction: The Manifestation Teachings

 <3 Frances

Monday, August 29, 2016

Monday Mornings Are Back, So Let's Escape into Nature

It's official: Monday Mornings have returned.  Even while working over the summer, Mondays didn't quite have the same feeling they do during the actual academic year, which makes today my first real Monday in a while.  It takes some getting used to, but I've found the following to be helpful: dancing, blueberries, books, music, my mum, and pretty pictures.
Okay, about that last one: I'm not much of a travel type, but I love looking at photos of other places, and the recent centennial of the National Parks Foundation made it all the more fun.  One of the last things my grandmum saw before she passed on was the Grand Canyon, and I keep thinking about Grand Canyon sunsets and the incredible beauty of nature.  Without further adieu, then, here are some beautiful nature shots to get your mind in gear for Monday:

The Grand Canyon in Arizona. Photo by Anindya Chakraborty.
Khagan Valley in Pakistan
Photo Source :Crosieres Grandbleu
Scandola Nature Reserve in France.  Photo from Crosieres Grandbleu.
The Cliffs of Moher in Ireland.
The Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. Photo from Wikipedia.

<3 Frances

Monday, August 22, 2016

Talking About Elephants

In the midst of last week's craziness, I somehow missed the fact that August 12tth was World Elephant Day.  But elephants should be celebrated every day, right?  So let's make today World Elephant Day Part II, for those of us who couldn't make it to Part I.
When I was little, elephants were right up there with dinosaurs and Peter Pan as a favorite subject, and I still remember reading Lizzie the Elephant over and over again with my grandmother and lining up my plastic elephant figurines along the side of the bathtub.  Elephants represented all that I held most dear to me--love, family, empathy, sticking together--and the selfless, unwavering compassion and strength of female elephants reminded me of my mum and grandmother.  But I also knew that the elephant world was full of tragedy. I have fuzzy memories of a documentary movie, watched late one Friday night after my mum got home from another six-to-six shift, in which a baby elephant got separated from his mother and couldn't find her before the poachers got to her.  And then there was Dumbo, that tearjerker of a child's film that made me cry every time I watched it.

From National Geographic's Michael Nichols: an elephant mother, her babies, and
the orphans she's caring for

Not my meme. Just my feelings.
Dumbo, of course, is an animated Disney film, but elephants in the real world are being abused in circuses, and in the wild, they're facing habitat destruction and hunting. (The whole ivory industry and everything it's willing to do for money is a this.)  I did a project this year on elephants as a species/threats to their survival/etc., and, even though I knew a lot of the stuff already just from the news and living with my former-environmental lawyer mum, it was still disturbing to see just how dire the situation is for so many elephants--especially because their situation closely reflects the situations of thousands of other animals (like rhinos...and pandas....and polar bears).  The truth is that, despite all our efforts to help them, animals are really struggling, and their lives won't get better unless we make major changes.  I know you've heard this before, but I can't help but to reiterate it because it is *so* important that things get better before it's too late.  Right now, the trend is for animals on the IUCN Red List to become increasingly endangered and then eventually extinct. Numerous species had this happen to them recently: the passenger pigeon, the Caribbean monk seal, the Pyrebean ibex . . . it's a list that's way too long.  But what if we could REVERSE the trend? What if, instead of animals becoming more endangered over time, they actually became less endangered?  Wouldn't that be AWESOME?  Easy answer: yes.  Yes, it would.  Habitat destruction, pollution, and overhunting are all major threats to Earth's little loved ones, but the human race, as it is unfortunately behind these threats, has the power to put an end to them and actually change the world for the better.  Our individual actions and voices may seem insignificant sometimes, but, when it comes to these sorts of issues, doing anything is better than doing nothing.  If we ignore what's going on, we're going to open our eyes one day and realize elephants (etc.) are gone and that it's too late to save them.  If we open our eyes TODAY, though, we can prevent that future from happening.

<3 Frances

Friday, August 19, 2016

Where Literature Meets Nature

With the heat wave that's going on right now, the approach of the new school year (aka next week), and hospitalized loved ones, these past few weeks have been c r a z y . But they're a good reminder of how important it is to appreciate little simple things for all they offer, and I'm going to go along with the random horoscope I read and say that the "power word" for the next few months is "change."  Embrace it, accept it, live with it.  It's challenging, but it can be meaningful. Change doesn't always mean bad...change can very often mean good. And it can encourage us to do things we otherwise might not being a literature/history person and deciding to also pursue environmental science despite the fact that I'm not at all a scientist.  I have found, though, that there are many places where literature and nature overlap. My brother, ever the nature-lover, is reading The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery--a writer the Boston Globe described as "[p]art Emily Dickinson, part Indiana Jones."  Is that not one of the best combinations ever?  I think my favorite part of it is that Emily Dickinson is included because she loved the environment so much. I have an anthology of her poems, and it's divided up into different categories, one of the most well-known being "Nature." She cared so deeply for the natural world...she even had her own herbarium!  Seeing it is on my imaginary and unrecorded bucket list ;).  Another author who loved the natural world was, of course, the one and only Beatrix Potter.  Her enchantment with Earth isn't all that surprising given the fact that her illustrations and writings were all about plants and animals.


Nature is what we see
by Emily Dickinson

“Nature” is what we see—
The Hill—the Afternoon—
Squirrel—Eclipse—the Bumble bee—
Nay—Nature is Heaven—
Nature is what we hear—
The Bobolink—the Sea—
Thunder—the Cricket—
Nay—Nature is Harmony—
Nature is what we know—
Yet have no art to say—
So impotent Our Wisdom is
To her Simplicity.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Last Weeks of Summer

Bookstores and I are a bit of a dangerous combination.  I could get so lost in the history section of Barnes & Noble, for instance, that it'd be months before I even realized that time was passing, and that nearly happened yesterday. I'm just grateful my brother or mum are usually there to pull me out of my history-induced daze (though my mum does often get sucked into it with me, LOL).

Some of the books responsible for distracting me indefinitely while I wish I had copies of them: 

Speaking of a daze, summer holiday (though we've spent most of it working) is almost over now.  It's already August, and, though I think it's good to welcome August lovingly and optimistically, I'm admittedly a bit scared by how quickly the summer's gone by and how short a time there is left before regular work obligations start popping up again and our lives are once again based around our academic calendar. I'm reading about what seasons mean now in How to Read Literature Like a Professor...summer is often connected to youth and freedom and sunshine, whereas winter is usually implicative of loneliness and coldness, and fall (which we're approaching) is sort of like a "bridge" connecting them.  That said, though, common literary conventions aren't necessarily true for real life.  (The fact that I'm wearing a blue blouse, for instance, isn't necessarily a reflection of my innermost character/true feelings but rather a reflection of what was in my closet this morning.) We've been having a bit of an oppressive heat wave, so I'm excited for cooler temperatures, and winter can be just as happy a time as summer as long as you're in a loving place.  So that's what I'm hoping for for everybody--that, no matter how difficult things seem, you have a loving place to go to, regardless of whether it's wintertime or summertime or holiday time or school time.

<3 Frances