Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Whatever Happened to Richard?

Earlier this month there was small item in the Sunday edition of my local newspaper reporting that the remains of England’s King Richard III may lie beneath a parking lot in Leicester.

Richard was the one Shakespeare portrayed as a villainous hunchback who, in the midst of battle, cried, “a horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse!”

 He died in defeat Aug. 22, 1485, conquered by the forces of Henry Tudor (later Henry VII) at the Battle of Bosworth Field about 15 miles away from the Leicester parking lot where archeologists are currently digging.

 Historical accounts report that Richard’s enemies stripped his corpse and paraded it in Leicester before allowing Franciscan brothers to bury it with no pomp or ceremony.

 The burial was probably near the altar in the Franciscan friary and there were plans to mark the spot with an alabaster monument but that project was abandoned when the next king, Henry VIII, shut down all of England’s monasteries.

 So much for glory and power – and the rewards of purported villainy. The former king of England may well lie, anonymous, somewhere underneath a 2002 gray-blue Jaguar.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Relentless Raspberries

I used to love raspberries.

 I probably would have paid more for my house had I known it had raspberry patch in the backyard.

 I didn’t really discover them until spring, about six months after I moved in. I was thrilled.

 And I continued to be thrilled each year when the first ripe berries appeared.

 This year, I thought, was no different.

 Early in the summer, a few small berries appeared – enough to garnish breakfast at least once a week. And I was thrilled.

 Later in the summer, larger berries appeared – enough to garnish breakfast several times a week. And I was thrilled and grateful.

 Now there’s a mix of large and small berries – every day. Relentlessly.

Enough to garnish every breakfast and an occasional dessert. And they don’t stop coming. And I am no longer thrilled.

 I am sure that if Aesop had created fables about fruits, he would have come to some profound conclusion about my relentless raspberries. But he didn’t. And I haven’t – although there may be some analogies to American’s standard of living – but I’m too tired (and too full of raspberries) to figure it out.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Peaches are amazing.

And delicious.

Before moving to Colorado, I assumed that all good peaches came from Georgia (or other warm, moist states). Not so. Native Americans had peach orchards in the very dry Canyon de Chelly (before Kit Carson and the Army devastated the Navajo farms in 1863). And even during our drought, Colorado has wonderful peaches. Actually, they apparently grow almost everywhere (thank goodness).

Like almost everything, it seems, they originally came from China. They first appeared there around 2000 BCE. Peaches migrated along trade routes into Turkey and Iran then, later, North Africa and Europe. They were introduced to America in the mid 1500s. French explorers established them along the Gulf coastal region near Mobile, Alabama, and the Spaniards planted them in Saint Augustine, Florida, and along the Atlantic seaboard. Then the Indians took over and they are all over our country.

Most Colorado peaches grow on our western slopes and are then trucked to farm stands and grocery stores all over the state.  We have easy access to the golden, fuzzy orbs. What a delight. They, like all things really, should be savored in season. Find them. Have the good sense to buy them. Wash them, peel them, slice them and enjoy.

 You may, if you wish, fuss with them, cook with them, even can them. But save one at least to just eat – standing at the sink or sitting on the porch.

Let the juices of summer slide into your being. And be glad.

Monday, September 10, 2012


TODAY my book -- published and printed was delivered! And, the following review by Pat Maslowski was printed in the publisher's newsletter.

Tree Lines, A Memoir --- There are few books that I will reread in my life, but Mim Neal’s Tree Lines is one I will keep on the shelf near my bed so I can reread those passages that are poetry, philosophy, wisdom and prayer.
     There’s a reason memoir is so popular. With every new generation, many lose their connection to family, place, ritual, folklore and wisdom. Who are we? How shall we be? What is my purpose? What is my life’s meaning? These questions pulse despite the blare, hurry, distraction and commercialism in which we are enveloped, and memoir offers some helpful attempts at answers.
     I’ve read that culture is the air we breathe, and I agree. To experience another culture is to learn to breathe in different air. Mim Neal is an extraordinary woman who does just that. From a traditional middle class, Protestant background, she marries, has two children and is a stay at home mother. In her thirties the culture shifts, the air changes, and the author realizes her marriage is destructive, her husband controlling and emotionally abusive.
    Her divorce is the exit from the oxygen-rich conformity prevalent in American culture in the 40s, 50s, 60s, and even 70s. Suddenly she’s at high altitude; the air is thin, and there’s no turning back. Her struggles to support her family alone, her sense of duty and obligation, her aspirations as a writer and her understanding of who she is as a spiritual being are all related so candidly and vividly I had a sense I knew her as well as I know myself. Her memoir brings the reader into the immediacy of her personal life as well as her work life, which as Director of Media for Rotary International includes trips to Brazil, Guatemala, Japan, South Korea, Africa and Switzerland.
   Fully present and engaged, Mim Neal shows us what she experiences and seeks. We become seekers with her. What is our place on this planet? What do our relationships with people, earth, plants, animals and ancient wisdom mean? She is not afraid to experience other cultures, other places, but she is also aware of her self-doubt, guilt and feelings of inadequacy. She discovers a spiritual path that joins traditions from Buddhism, to Islam, to Christianity, to Native American belief systems. She participates in vision quests. She promotes an event that includes Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama. She visits ancient, sacred sites such as Hiroshima and Nara in Japan and Table Mountain in South Africa. The air becomes rich with diversity instead of conformity.
   Her memoir is not just the narrative of a woman’s life; it is also the narrative of a human quest to understand our place on the planet, to find holiness. She offers the reader an examined life, a hard-won wisdom we need now—a new way to breathe.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

This year I rediscovered gladiolas. I remembered them from childhood, saw them in grocery store buckets but, until this summer, had never planted them.

They're tall, not swoopy or graceful -- just spears of green poking into the heat.

Then they bloom. And the blossoms start at the bottom, opening in sequence. If you put them in a vase, they last. Just tear off the bottom blossoms when they wilt. The buds on top open.

And they are a wonder.


Monday, September 3, 2012

Bearing Gifts

When a Chicago friend learned that I was going to the 11th Gathering of the International Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers, on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation in Montana, he asked if I would present some honor bundles to the grandmothers.

I emailed the organizers and when they gave permission, relayed the okay to my friend. Four days before I left, the package arrived: 13 bundles in white envelopes tied with red ribbon and leaves.

When I registered the afternoon before the gathering was to open, the staff knew of my mission. I was interviewed and advised to be prepared to present the bundles at one of the meal breaks during the program.

On opening day, the grandmothers entered the arena. Their spiritual energy was seismic, reverberating throughout my being. There were prayers and testimony to the grandmothers’ shared mission of peace. The pattern of the gathering was that each grandmother would speak and pray after ceremonies then (often) bless the approximately 600 attending. It was all marvelous but there was no opportunity to present the bundles – not a lunch, not at dinner.

 On the second day, the staff directed me to sit closer to the grandmothers. Again, the day was filled with song and dance and prayer. But again, there was no opportunity to present the bundles – not a lunch, not at dinner.

 The third day was hot – three digit temperatures. Our host grandmother, Margaret Behan, had arranged for riders to reenact the Cheyenne’s Long Ride from the Oklahoma reservations to their Montana home. The riders arrived this morning, accompanied by wolves (on leashes, brought to the reservation for ceremony). The stories about their sojourn, the healing prayers at places like Sand Creek, were intensely moving. That night, the Cheyenne prepared a feast for everyone attending. Once again, the day passed with was no opportunity to present the bundles.

 I was beginning to be annoyed at having been given the bundles, at having to carry them around, at perpetually waiting to present them.

 The last day of the gathering was filled, as the others had been, with wonderful messages and prayers and songs. I was assured that I could present the bundles after lunch. I was seated right next to the grandmothers. There were many presentations. I had about given up when they asked “Mim from Colorado” to come forward. I don’t know exactly what I said. I know it was something about having been asked by a wonderful and powerfully gentle man to present bundles containing the coals from a sacred fire intended to spread the message of peace around the world. I said there were papers in the bundles that could explain more.

 I thought it was over. But it was not. I was invited to present the bundles individually! I held the bundles with two hands, bowing a little as I handed it to the grandmothers. I looked deeply into their eyes. They looked deeply into mine. All of them smiled. Many of them kissed me. It was incredible. There were other presentations after mine and more prayers, then honor songs and dancing. The sacred fire, which had been burning before and throughout the gathering, was allowed to go out. And I had the indelible experience of personal contact with some of the most powerfully spiritual women on earth.

 Bearing gifts, I was blessed.