Category Archives: Ramblings from the Mountain

Thoughts and Musings

Somewhere....under the rainbow

Write a Novel in a Month: Are you freaking kidding me??

Boquete, Panama.

It’s been awhile. I know. I approfile photo Write a Novel in a Month: Are you freaking kidding me??ologize.  Several people (dare I call them ‘fans’?) have written to me to complain: “Where did you go? Why haven’t you posted another Ramblings since that long, ranting thing you did about God? It’s been two months! You call yourself a Writer??  Come back!”

It’s humbling, and frightening. Pressure…I’m back.

Truth is, I have been writing. I am writing a new book–fiction this time–and I’m about a third of the way through the first draft. 17,342 words as of half an hour ago.

It’s a long road, this book writing gig. I started writing November 1, as part of the National Write a Novel in a Month thing. Goal: 50,000 words in 30 days. The rules don’t say the words have to be good, or coherent, or tell a decent story…the emphasis is on showing up every day and getting 50,000 of the little suckers down and counted.

I can’t help but think of Jack, in The Shining. “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” And crazy as bat shit, no matter how cleverly he spaced the words on the page.

So, I started on November 1, but at NO point did I say to myself, “Self, you HAVE to put 50,000 words down by the end of the month, no matter how bad they are.” I have my standards. I also have a life, two businesses to run, and a partner to love and adore–and all of that takes time.

“What made you decide to write another book?” someone asked me. Okay, I confess. I asked myself. And the answer is, It’s fun. It’s hard work, it’s challenging, but it’s immensly gratifying at the end of the road to hold a work in hand and say, “Wow. I did this. And, it doesn’t suck.””

I think it is this way with any creative endeavor. There’s the thought that inspires. There is the trepidation about beginning. (Blank page or canvas panic.). There’s the immersion in process–like a cold swimming pool, there aint’ no way fast into the water but to hold your breath and dive in. There is the occasional moment of exhiliration when it is going well, or despair when it isn’t. At the end, however, there is something that didn’t exist before, and never would have existed if you (or I) hadn’t made it so. Good, bad or indifferent. The result is important, but the process of creating is what it’s all about, at least for me.

What inspired me? I had a thought, on a rainy August night, on the front terrace of Casa de Mariposa Azul at Finca Luz, while watching the sunset over the volcano and sipping on my cheap Chilean wine. And the thought was, What if Nancy Drew and her sidekick George grew up, discovered they were, really, lesbians–forget about Ned what’s his name–, and moved to Panama? What if?

And from there, out of my childhood passion for mysteries, a story was born.

I  spent a lot of September and October doing character sketches, plot outlines, and research. I interviewed experts, studied maps, found arcane websites, grilled my attorney about legal matters, and visited the police station in David.  I have discovered a wealth of information about pirates, Venezuela, and smuggling. Regarding the latter, you simply would not believe the insane lengths people will go to in order to move a substance or item from point A, where it was illegally obtained, to point B, where it is illegal to possess. Really bizarre. Truth is stranger than anything I can make up!

What creative project is tugging at you? My suggestion? Begin. Make up your own NaWrNoMo parameter. Whether you hit the magic number is not as important as starting and seeing it through. Last week a good friend (and client) commissioned me to do a large painting. I’m terrified. I don’t know what to do. But, I can feel the germ of an idea lurking below the surface. I’m looking forward to it.  It will take time for it to sprout…and in the meantime, I have this book to finish. And rewrite. And rewrite again.

One third of the way through draft one. Lots of work to be done, claro que sea. Pero, I have a feeling that Chasing Tropical Ice may have legs. Just like my glass of cabernet. Stay tuned.

 

God for the Age of Aquarius?

    • 5302571004 5c19ffc106 z God for the Age of Aquarius?

Thirty-four years ago. I am sitting at the breakfast table eating oatmeal with my two sons, Phillip (6) and Geoff (4). It is November and snow has been falling, all night. The hemlocks and rhododendron bushes are bowing under the heavy white blanket. Inside the 100 year old log cabin, it is chilly if we move away from the wood stove.

Geoff is a cherubic blonde, with gray-blue eyes. There is always a humorous tilt to his mouth, as if ever anticipating the next frolic or bit of merriment. Phillip’s wise brown eyes see everything, but give up nothing. He is always studying, evaluating the world around him. Public school and Head Start have been canceled due to the snow. It’s an unexpected holiday and snow time will certainly play a part in our day. We are already making plans to go sledding up on Billy Cabin Mountain—if we can get the old Willis Jeep to crank. It’s temperamental.

“Mama, what’s God?” Geoff is playing with his porridge, moving raisins around, swirling the milk.

“God?”

“Yeah. What is it? What’s God?”

He’s four. What to say? We are not church goers. I endured way too many varieties of religion growing up, depending on my father’s whims. From high church Episcopalian to fundamentalist full-body dunking Baptists to Roman Catholicism. I had carefully avoided indoctrinating these boys. Religious holidays were explained as the charming blend of Pagan cum Christian myths and celebrations they are.

“Mama!” He is impatient with my silence. “What’s God?”

Clearly he’s been hearing things at Head Start.

“Yeah, Mom.” Phillip decides to join the conversation, back from wherever his attention had wandered. “What IS God?”

That’s the thing about being a parent. Kids ask big questions and trust you to know the answer and tell them the truth. The problem here is, that at this time, it is a question I am still grappling with myself. I was currently immersed in reading Krishnamurti’s The Awakening of Intelligence (talk about an antidote to religion!), practicing yoga, meditation, modestly experimenting with LSD and mushrooms in an effort to “expand consciousness” as per Timothy Leary and Ram Dass. See, I, too, want to know: What is God?

Not who, mind you. What. The notion of an anthropomorphic Being in the sky spying on me and taking notes…well, that’s just plain creepy and beyond fanciful. Still, there is, I felt, something. Something ineffable and mysterious. Perceived but misunderstood (mostly). Grandly, sublimely, and infinitely both personal and impersonal all at once, all the time. Me, not Me. You, not You. Being, not Being. Matter and the Void. All and Nothing.

“Mom?”

“Well.” Mothers leap where angels fear to tread. We don’t have any choice. “Lots of people have lots of ideas about God—and lots of the ideas are very, very different from each other, and lots of people think that only their idea is the correct one,” I began. “People all over the world, since the beginning of time, millions and millions of years ago, have created stories about what God is because they want to try to understand the world and the things that happen in life.”

“But, what do you think God is?” Phillip persists.

“I think … well, I think God is energy. Pure energy. You know how we’ve talked about the planets, the sun and space and how all the planets, including Earth, are all spinning around all the time?”

Nods. “Well, the world of God is like that, too,only much, much smaller. Invisible, unless you have a really, really powerful microscope. Remember how we looked at water from the pond in the microscope and saw the amoebas swimming around—but couldn’t see it with our ordinary eyes? Like that, only even smaller. Like this.” I grab a pen and start to sketch a molecule, complete with atoms, electrons, protons, neutrons and other swirly bits.

“This is the building block for the whole Universe. Everything, every single thing, is built out of billions and billions and billions of these. All swirling around, all the time. And in between each one is space. But somehow it all holds together, just like the planets and stars all keep in place in outer space.

“This table here?” I tap it. “Seems solid, right? But it’s made of billions and billions of atoms all moving around really fast. Your oatmeal? More atoms of a different shape, but still all moving around.”

“Can I see an atom?” Geoff.

“Well, like I said, you have to have a really powerful microscope. But even though you can’t see them now, they are there. Remember the amoebas in the pond water. What’s hard to understand is that even though they are so very tiny, and there are so many of them, AND they are all moving all the time, there is a lot of space in between each one. In fact, there is more space than there are atoms—but they all hang together to make tables, oatmeal, plants and you!” I tap his nose with my finger.

Serious concentration. A world of mystery is dawning. I can see it on their faces.

“But, you asked me what God is, and while this is only my idea, I think God is the energy that moves in the spaces between atoms and keeps it all working together … the table, the wood, the nails, your oatmeal, the milk … all the space in between all the atoms of everything, all the time. I think that is what God is.”

Phillip, peering at me, brown eyes still, focused. Geoff, stirring his oatmeal, looking out from under his fall of blonde bangs.

“God is everywhere?” Geoff.

“Yes.”

“All the time?” Phillip. “Everywhere?” He nods to himself.

“Yes. Keeping it altogether.”

“He’s in my milk?” Geoff.

“Yes, but—this is important—God is not a HE. God is just … God. Energy. God energy.”

“In my shirt?”

“Yes.”

A grin tilts his rosy lips. “In me? In my tummy?”

“Yes!” I laugh. “God is most certainly in your tummy!” I reach over and tickle him.

“And in the snow!” Phillip jumps up from the table. “So we can go out and play in the snow and be playing with God!”

“Yay!”

“Exactly.”

Chairs are pushed back, bowls dumped in the sink for later, and the search is on for gloves and hats and scarves. We are on a mission: to go into the world and play with God!

Out of the mouths of babes. “Get on board, little children, get on board…”

I am not now, nor was I then, a physicist nor a theologian. I’m sure my science was shaky and my theology ill-conceived. Nonetheless, they had asked me what I thought and this was as close as I could get, then, to what seemed to make sense.Mecanismo de Higgs PH 300x294 God for the Age of Aquarius?

Fast forward. July 2012. Higgs-Boson particle discovered, which then gives credence to the Higgs Field.

Defined, most simply, “The Higgs Field is an … invisible field of energy that exists throughout the entire universe. The field is accompanied by a fundamental partical  called the Higgs Boson, which it uses to continuously interact with other particles. As particles pass through the field they are endowed with the property of mass … and become heavier, and consequently, slower.

“Although apparent, mass is not generated by the Higgs field, as creation of matter or energy would conflict with the laws of conservation; it is, however, transferred to particles from the field, which contains the relative mass in the form of energy. Once the field has endowed a formerly mass-less particle, it slows down because it has become heavier, therefore giving other particles the chance to latch onto it using the electromagnetic force.

“If the Higgs field did not exist, no particles would have the required mass to attract one another and (would) simply float around freely at light-speed. The process of endowing a particle with mass is known as the Higgs Effect.” (Wikipedia).

Some are calling it the God Particle. Without it, there would be no creation. No … nothing. For additional understandable information, check out this physics site: http://www.fnal.gov/pub/inquiring/questions/higgs_boson.html

 

This momentous scientific news received about 15 minutes of tepid media coverage before people went back to persecuting and killing each other in the name of some God or prophet or religious rite. “My cult’s better than your cult…”.

Clearly, I’m still not a church goer and hold to no orthodoxy of any flavor. It isn’t necessary. Or desirable. (Though I do enjoy a good ritual from time to time with incense, candles, music and great clothes! Nice way to focus and move beyond oneself for a time. But that’s about entertainment.). I’m pleased to have science confirm what as a young mother I intuited—that there’s a whole miraculous Universe in which to play with God. Everywhere. All the time.

And, you know what? This energy, this Higgs Field, does not give a tinker’s damn what you call it. It is completely unconcerned about who you love, marry or have sex with. It is sublimely indifferent to the color of your skin or your nationality. The rituals of spirituality you entertain yourself with? Unimportant, except to you, as that. Entertainment. It doesn’t even care who gets elected president of the US—or of Kazahkstan, for that matter. Its sole purpose is to hold the Universe together and keep it working. That leaves the rest of everything—the ethos of how to live on the planet, in space with one another—to us. We have to quit thinking some god-head out there is going to rescue us, support our prejudices, vanquish our enemies, or bestow riches on our friends and family, just ’cause we subscribe to a particular myth or practice a certain ritual. If you still think that, you’ve missed the whole point of thousands of years of theological evolution.

Study the holy writings of many cultures. There’s a lot of wisdom and there’s a lot of crap. And it was ALL conceived of and passed down by human beings as a means of regulating culture, controlling populations, providing comfort, consolidating power and wealth, and on occasion teaching people how to behave in a semi-civilized manner. Most of it can be interpreted to mean anything you want. Quote it out of context to make your points. Disregard the inconvenient sections.

Here’s the bottom line: It. Does. Not. Matter. What. You. Believe. As Krishnamurti said and wrote: You can put a stick on the mantle and worship it daily and after a time you will begin to believe that it is holy, spiritual, God. When, in reality, it is still just a stick.

I repeat: It. Does. Not. Matter. What. You. Believe. Because, irrespective of what you or I believe, or don’t, the universe still holds together—and that DOES matter because it enables the being-ness of Matter. It isn’t a miracle. It isn’t supernatural.  It’s physics. That is a marvelous, marvelous thing.

It still leaves open big questions. Off the top of my head, I’d like to know:

  • Are thoughts matter? Do they have mass? They are certainly energy, i.e. electrical.
  • Do our thoughts impact the Higgs Field? or does the Higgs Field influence our thoughts?
  • And, the really big one, Where and how did the Field come into Being?

 

 

hotei--god-of-contentment--happiness-1

Mangos: The MOST Sensual of Fruits

Mangos are in season!mango3 150x150 Mangos: The MOST Sensual of Fruits

Has there ever been a more sensual fruit? I am quite certain that the translators of old got it wrong—the ‘apple’ in the Garden of Eden was really a plump, juicy mango! Adam and Eve never had a chance against the perfection of this tree ripened burst of sweetness! Mangos make me happy. I see pots of simmering, spicy chutney in my future.

The rains have started again, as well. You’ve ‘crossed over’ here in Panama when after the dry season you are pining for a good old-fashioned monsoon—or, at least, a few hours of lovely, wet downpour in the afternoon. All that sunshine and breeze of summer—a bit of moisture, please!

IMG 2217 150x150 Mangos: The MOST Sensual of Fruits
Mindy, our first intern, plants seeds in new beds

I am watching my garden grow under the expanded covered greenhouse area. Seedlings set out in March and April (in strict accordance with the moon), are now growing…and growing. Even the artichokes! Muy emocionante!

I’ve been thinking about happiness lately. What sparked the train of thought was a casual encounter over some glasses of wine at a local hangout. Dianne and I were there on a Wednesday night, which is Western line dancing night, which we keep promising to learn, but don’t, and we were sharing a huge platter of fish and chips (that’s French fries for non-Aussies and Brits). Our friend Craig, the owner, makes them just the way we like—skins on, thick cut, not too greasy. Delicious dipped in ketchup and hot sauce! An older gentleman, a Brit, bought us a glass of wine, then moseyed over for a chat. After a minute or so, he fixed me with his pale blue eyes and asked, “Are you happy?”

I was taken aback. First it’s a very personal question. Second, well, second, I was shocked to realize that after a lifetime of chronic mild to severe depression, I am happy. Most of the time. Not always, even though the life I am living is exactly the one I have chosen and created for myself, but most of the time. So, why am I happy…most of the time? But not all? And what does it mean?

Why is it that some days we wake up and all day are carried along on a wave of warm, well-being for all the world? People in the market are friendly, the flowers on the roadside dance a colorful ballet, the cat is affectionate, the puppy is amusing, work is flowing, and all is well. Another day, the market feels oppressive and noisy, we don’t even notice the magenta sunset, the cat is a pain in the ass, the puppy is obnoxious, creative energy has evaporated and nothing, absolutely nothing, can elicit a smile. And, to outward appearances, nothing much is different between the one sort of day and the other. What’s up with that?

Science, medicine, psychology, religion, and philosophy all have varying answers. Science relegates happiness to a chemical stew of hormones and genetics. Psychology prompts us to ‘think positively’ and take anti-depressants. Religions encourage meditation, attending church, surrendering to a Higher Power. Jesus gave a recipe for happiness in his Beatitudes (You know: the whole lovely thing about Blessed are…). Buddha exhorted detachment from everything as the means to happiness—including detachment from the desire for happiness. Sports enthusiasts energetically practice tennis, golf, running, swimming, or what have you in pursuit of endorphins and their accompanying “happy buzz.” (Dark chocolate will do the same thing, but may make you fat). Even the sober-minded founders of the United States signed off on “the pursuit of happiness” as an “inalienable right.”

With so much attention given to it from all quarters, it must be important, right? So, why are so many people so unhappy? Why is depression at pandemic proportions? Anti-depressants are the most prescribed drug in the US, with drugs for high blood pressure running second. We’re talking over 100 million prescriptions each year for feel good drugs. Why?

Medical research is clear: chronic anger, worry and hostility are linked with heart disease (a broken heart?), high blood pressure (going to explode?), and an impaired immune system (just sick of it all?). According to Dr. Ronald Dworkin, a senior researcher at Hudson Institute and the author of Artificial Unhappiness: The Dark Side of the New Happy Class, “Doctors are now medicating unhappiness. Too many people take drugs when they really need to be making changes in their lives.” But, change is often hard and scary. Taking a pill is easy.

Most of us know clearly what unhappiness feels like: the grey, deadness of depression, the trapped hopelessness of living a life grown too small—and the fear that keeps us trapped there—, the sharp, breath-robbing stabs of acute emotional pain. Oh yeah. Been there, done all that.

The experience of happiness is dependent on our age, our life circumstances and our expectations. A child may equate happiness with the excitement of Christmas. A teenager with the flush of first infatuation—or the first driver’s license. An adult with, well the options are too various. A new sports car? The smile of an infant? A fat bank account? A pair of comfy shoes? A trip to Europe? Here’s something to do the next time you are bored (and unhappy?). Take a notebook out into the streets and ask random pedestrians to name the last thing or time that made them feel happy. Write the answer down. Food for thoughts…or a new blog entry.

Blue Morpho 150x150 Mangos: The MOST Sensual of FruitsHave you ever noticed that the more you “pursue” happiness—out there somewhere—the more elusive it becomes? Like chasing a blue morpho butterfly through the coffee fields, always just tantalizingly out of reach, now here, now there, but always just beyond grasp—unless you cheat and use a net…and then all you have is a trapped and damaged insect. (There’s perhaps more than one mangled metaphor buried in there. I leave you to tease it out.).

These days, I (more or less cheerfully) recognize how little control I have over so much that happens. I am far happier than when I sought to “fix” or manage everything and force myself to live a life grown far too small to hold my spirit. There is a great deal of trust required…like the line in Desiderata that goes, “Whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.” Letting go of attachment to outcome, flowing with the process, marveling at the unfolding mystery.

Happiness is not, I think, a peak experience. Rather it is a flowing along, a state of acceptance, a mindful and ever grateful attention to the present moment. Listening to the birds, planting in the garden, talking intimately with a good friend, engaging in meaningful work, enjoying a perfect mango (or glass of wine), all yield a feeling of contentment.

The poet and mystic Rumi says it thusly:

A moment of happiness,
you and I sitting on the verandah,
apparently two, but one in soul, you and I.
We feel the flowing water of life here,
you and I, with the garden’s beauty
and the birds singing.
The stars will be watching us,
and we will show them
what it is to be a thin crescent moon.
You and I un-Selfed, will be together,
indifferent to idle speculation, you and I.
The parrots of heaven will be cracking sugar
as we laugh together, you and I.
In one form upon this earth,
and in another form in a timeless sweet land.

I love the image this conjures. A perfectly ordinary, perfect moment of perfect happiness. Right here, right now. (Thank you, Ram Dass.).

That is the key, I think. On those days when the colors fade, the cat is a pain, the work doesn’t flow…those are the days when I have slipped away from the present, forgotten to look mindfully around with gratitude, attached myself to an outcome, resisted making a needed change, or fallen into fretting about the past or the future. The path back is simple, but it requires conscious letting go, conscious being. Happiness is active.

The Rastafarians summed it up: “Don’t worry, be happy!”hotei god of contentment happiness 1 150x117 Mangos: The MOST Sensual of Fruits

Sex Fantasies: What flavor are you?

images 1 150x150 Sex Fantasies: What flavor are you?Sexual fantasies. You have them. Yes, you do. Don’t even bother to deny it. We all do. If you Google ‘sexual fantasies’ you come up with over 7 million hits. People are thinking about this stuff. Men have them. Women have them. Men have them about women. Women have them about men. Men fantasize about men. Women fantasize about women. Some people have sexual fantasies about shoes, animals, public acts, whips and chains, group gropes, Donna Reed naked in a frilly apron wielding a wooden spoon, or a triad of androgynous phantasms clad in diaphanous lavender performing slavishly adoring acts of…well, fill in the blank with your own imagination. That’s the realm of fantasy…imagination. Sky’s the limit, anything goes. Because fantasies are…well, fantastical.

Someone—I don’t recall who, but someone who purported to know—said that 90% of eroticism happens between the ears. Fantasy fuels sex. Maybe it was Freud. Now there was a man who knew about sexual fantasies!

For those who may not know, I live on a coffee farm in the fairly remote mountains of Panama. I am not privy to much of mainstream US culture and that is okay with me. I like it that way. But, sometimes I’m bored—I mean, there is only so much paradisaical scenery and rural parochialism one can absorb—and I tune into what’s going on “out there.” If nothing else, it stimulates my thinking, inspires a blog, and then makes me really glad I live here in the secluded cloud forest.

Did you know that there is a current best seller, Fifty Shades of Grey—excruciatingly painful narrative—about someone named Christian Grey who gets off on spanking his very ordinary (that’s called ‘vanilla’ in sex speak) girlfriend, and she lets him ’cause she loves him? And it’s on the NY Times Best Seller list? Being bought primarily by women in their 20’s and 30’s?

I ran across this article the other day in Newsweek MagazineWorking Women’s Fantasies: Spanking Goes Mainstream.  Go ahead. Read it. I’ll wait.

The article, referenced above, lists a number of mainstream books (including the new Grey one), films, series, etc. that focus on erotic spanking, ritualized beatings, bondage, and various exotic types of sexual domination. The author tries to explore—as much as is possible in the format of magazine journalism—why successful women who are so in control in their professional lives would fantasize scenarios of sexual domination (in all its mild to extreme forms) by men. She does not come to any real conclusions about the women (or men) involved beyond, maybe, they are seeking intense connection, or they want to let go of being in control, or they need some spice between the sheets. The author does not explore the sexual domination fantasies or practices of same sex couples.

A number of years ago I was hanging out with a motley group of women. Straight, gay, undecided, curious, randy, and a couple of serious practitioners of S & M—which can mean either sado-masochism or slave-master. I was curious about this. Ok, I was curious about all of it, but the whole S & M thing was so outside the scope of my experience, I was really curious about that. Why do they do it? I assumed it had to do with Advanced Sex Practices, a sort of graduate level foreplay. More interesting was, What do they do? I fantasized about what it might be like. I even went so far as to think, “Well, maybe I’ll try some of that…whatever it is.” (Did I mention I was seriously bored and unhappy with my life at that time and looking for something, anything, to make me feel alive?).

I went to their house one night (not alone—I wasn’t that brave!). Very ordinary small town home with sofa, coffee table, TV in the living area. Nothing unusual except that the doorway between the living room and the kitchen was equipped with padded hand cuffs on links of chain suspended from the top. The friend who accompanied me asked about them.

“Here. Try them out,” our friendly hostess offered, and before we knew it, my friend was suspended from the hand cuffs, arms well over head. Then I noticed that there were also ankle cuffs at the bottom. Hmmm. My friend dangled there, uncomfortably, while we asked questions of the women who lived there.

“So…who gets chained up here?”

“She does,” the hostess, a successful real estate agent replied. “She’s the slave. I’m the master. Or mistress, if you prefer.”

Interesting. The slave in this combo is a former Marine sergeant. This is not type casting as I understand it.

“So,” I continue, “so she’s hanging here, spreadeagled, immobile, and then what?” I have a dirty mind. I confess it.

“Oh,” the really good looking real estate agent shrugged, “sometimes I cook dinner, images Sex Fantasies: What flavor are you?watch TV, read a book, take a bath. Sometimes she makes too much noise and I have to beat her. You know.”

No. Clearly I didn’t know. Where is the sex?

“Sex? It isn’t about sex,” she smiled. “It’s about power. Which can be very erotic—without being sexual.”

Oh. Well, that explains politics, for sure…but relationships?

The Slave-sergeant explained. “I’m too much in my head and it causes me a lot of anxiety. This,” she gestured to where my friend was still dangling and beginning to struggle a bit, while maintaining good humor, “takes me out of my head.”

Right. Bondage and whipping as psychotherapy?

I didn’t get it. I know that I’ve read a lot of very steamy sexual domination scenes in various books over the years and have been turned on by some of them. That’s the eroticism part that happens between the ears that triggers a response lower down in the body. There is the domination aspect. There is the imagined sense of (manageable) pain—i.e. intense physical sensation, but not injury. There is the sense of yielding control and experiencing guiltless freedom of unrestrained pleasure/pain in spite of ourselves and whatever cultural or religious anti-sex, puritanical baggage we carry. Some scenes are furtive, anonymous encounters. Some are ritualized set-ups between people with a social contract (such as my friends have). Some are between a paying client and a trained sex professional who specializes in helping clients act out physically what has only been imaginal. But, there is always, always, the very real presence of sexual arousal in the scenes. People do it to get off. People read about it because it’s titillating…but still safe.

oimg GC01785445 CA02057269 150x150 Sex Fantasies: What flavor are you?However, confronted with an actual array of whips, bondage equipment, masks, leather clothing, scary dildos, and my friend still dangling from the doorway, the real life prospect quickly became very unsexy. Like an ice cold shower is unsexy. Or a sharp stick in the eye is unsexy. Curiosity satisfied. This was not for me.

Not too long ago, I made the acquaintance of a a nice looking 50-something gentleman here in Boquete. Turned out, he is a Master and was living here with his Slave. They were very into this subculture and went on lecture tours, exhibition seminars, led workshops at conventions, wrote books. S & M conventions?? Who knew?? He invited me and my partner to dinner. “Only dinner,” he reassured me, “unless…well unless something else occurs and we are all into it.” I did not think it likely.

We went, though, because we live in a very small town and there aren’t a lot of opportunities to do really outrageous things and we hadn’t had a better offer for dinner on a Friday night. The gentleman, who was not nearly as tall as I am, met us at the door, wine glass in hand, clad in a very natty turn-of-the-last-century British Naval uniform with lots of brass buttons and gold epaulets. His partner was wearing fishnet stockings, a leather mini-skirt, an abbreviated top showing a lot of cleavage, and a silver dog collar. Easy to read who was the boss here. The house was immaculate. A fire blazed cheerily in the fireplace. There were place cards with our names on them. Fresh flowers graced the table, right next to the gold handled riding crop. Yep. You read that right. A gold handled riding crop with wicked little metal tipped strands at the end was the dining table center piece.

Dinner was poached salmon with chilled chardonnay, lightly steamed asparagus, garlicky potatoes, and lemon sherbert for dessert. Our host ordered his slave around. “Bring this. Pour that.” She obeyed cheerfully, kneeling at his feet to ask directions, to beg forgiveness for spilling a drop of wine, to seek permission to speak. All very interesting, as a view of human dynamics. It was all very orchestrated and about as sexy as, well, as…I don’t know…watching an I Love Lucy rerun?

Towards the end of the evening, our host allowed as how they were leaving Panama to return to the US. “It’s just too vanilla here. We want to explore the use of fire, next. We need people more like us. People who want to play…but seriously.”

Play, seriously. Ok. So, where, I ask you again, is the freaking sex???????? And fire??? I don’t even want to know.

I guess I am, at best, a chocolate latte in the sexual realm. Some, like our naval hero, might say, with disdain, “very vanilla,” but I really LIKE chocolate and I get to say what flavor I am. I will not be defined by a short man in a moth ball eaten uniform or a former real estate agent who likes to wield a whip. The props? The acting? I’m not averse to games and exploration. Sometimes it’s fun. But not all the time, and not when it requires a huge amount of preparation. That’s what we did as children, played Dress Up and Let’s Pretend. “I’ll wrap up in a bed sheet and be a Roman Empress and you’ll be my slave, and you’ll bring me ice cream and if you don’t do it quickly enough I’ll have you crucified after I whip you.” (I was big into epics like Ben Hur, The Robe ,and The Ten Commandments—lots of bed sheets and slaves). Or, “Let’s play old-fashioned school, and you be the bad student, and I’ll be the teacher, and I have to spank you with a ruler.” And who among us didn’t at one time or another play Doctor? Games. They were fun, but certainly not erotic (we were 10!).

What turns me on, for real, I’ve learned, is intimacy. A knowing glance, a slow dance to Frank Sinatra or a chakra shaking rock ‘n roll boogie, a bottle of wine over a long game of Scrabble, laying on a blanket staring up at the stars and sharing stories, a lingering, exploring, teasing kiss, a span of uninterrupted time with conscious attention to who I am, who she is, who we are together. Intimacy. That’s the thing. Not role playing, or games, or rubbing (or spanking) body parts. Though it can be about all of that. Set and setting, Timothy Leary would have said. There’s a time and place for all of it.

The couple in NC—the real estate agent and the Marine sergeant? They moved to New York, got married and bought a house together. I wonder if there are chains and hand cuffs in the new dining room? We lost touch. The Naval officer and his slave-puppy? They split up. He has a new Mistress now and he reports that she beats him regularly, but only after he has begged and cried for it. The Slave…who knows? She told me that night at dinner (when she had permission to speak), that for her it was all about the attention. I hope she is getting the kind she wants. Whatever floats your boat.

What are your fantasies? You have them. I know you have them. The spectrum of human sexuality is fascinating, don’t you think? I certainly think so—but that’s the 90% between my ears. I’m one of the lucky ones. I am living my fantasy, which means it isn’t a fantasy, anymore. It’s my life.

Thrive: A Conspiracy Film Going Viral? Or, to grow vigorously; to flourish; to prosper?

Easter Sunday, with rain falling softly on the tin roof. Outside the neighbor’s rooster is crowing, but that isn’t unusual. He crows shrilly, harshly, maddeningly all day and all night. His name is Sancoccho, if I ever get my hands on him! But, I digress. I ramble.

Easter. The first Sunday after the first full moon (that was Friday night, April 6) after the Vernal Equinox (March 21). Here in Boquete the week preceding Easter, Semana Santa (Holy Week) is a big deal. People decorate outside their homes with crosses of electric purple bougainvillea and ivy. The Annual Orchid Festival opens in the fair grounds. Tourists from all over the world and Panama come streaming into town for the flowers, for family reunions, to escape the city for a bit of cool and green. The hotels and restaurants fill up. The streets fill up with bad drivers and careless pedestrians—I really don’t know how mass collisions and mayhem are avoided, but they mostly are. On Good Friday night there is a parade to mourn the Dead Jesus. It’s illegal to buy alcohol or consume booze in restaurants from Thursday to Saturday. People do it anyway. Saturday seems like any other day, people shopping, running errands, visiting—except there are fireworks at midnight to commemorate the Resurrected Jesus. Or, maybe there are fireworks to celebrate when it’s legal to start drinking again…

I finally got around to watching the film Thrive last night. It’s been floating around on the internet and in public showings since it premiered last November (11/11/11 to be precise). All I really knew about it was that it had to do with Free Energy (i.e. energy not dependent upon combustion and fossil fuels) and aliens and it was supposed to radicalize our consciousness about what is happening in the world. I haven’t been in a hurry to see it because I figured it was just one more End of the World As We Know It conspiracy rap. But, it was Saturday night, I’d already been trounced at Scrabble, so fair enough. I cooked up a big pot of buttered popcorn and we sat with the laptop in bed.

I was right. It is a well-made The End of the World As We Know It conspiracy rap. The makers, Foster Gamble (the grandson of the Gambles of Proctor & Gamble) and his wife, Kimberly, manage over the course of two plus hours to link almost every known conspiracy theory:

  • the existence of The Code, a complex multifaceted geometric shape which will free us from dependence on oil (among other things);
  • the suppression of inventions for alternative energy sources based on The Code;
  • the suppression of information about aliens visiting Earth;
  • Crop Circles as messages from said alien visitors explaining The Code, how to use it and why it’s really really important to use it, and use it soon;
  • the creation of fiat currency and the Federal Reserve banking system;
  • the all-seeing one eye of the Illuminati;
  • the proliferation of wars under false pretenses in order to further enrich and empower the ruling class (think Rothschild, Roosevelt, Morgan, Carnegie, Ford and Gamble–by no means the complete list) and the multinational corporations and banks they control;
  • the systematic erosion of individual liberties and institution of a police state “for the good of the whole;”
  • deliberate depopulation of the world through engineered famines, introduction of GMO foods that promote sterility, distribution of dangerous pharmaceuticals…

It goes on and on. The only conspiracy conspicuously absent is the one about JFK’s assassination.

Gamble interviews an impressive array of scientists, physicists, professors, military officers, bankers, former government officials, corporate people, and religious leaders to back up his premise, which is really very simple: The ruling, elite class (the infamous 1%–though, really, they are even less than that) has been planning and working for generations to control the world and its population by controlling the flow of money, energy and food. Their goal? Total Global Domination. Why? Because they are afraid of us, The Little People. (I am a little fuzzy on why Gamble believes they are afraid of us, given that they control all the money, etc.–maybe it’s because there are so many of us?).

Anyway, according to Gamble, and he makes a good case given what we see and read on the news, they are almost there. If (when?) the US economy further collapses–as he predicts it will, before August 2013 when the Federal Reserve’s 100 year charter comes up for renewal, which he doesn’t believe that they will get it in the current, shifting climate, which means…ahem–that will be the last domino…unless.

I confess by this point in the film I was feeling confused, overwhelmed, hopeless, depressed and in need of a refill for my wine glass, illegal or not. What’s the freaking point?? My partner had fallen asleep.

Then, Gamble shifts to the final phase of the film where he posits solutions: actions individuals and groups can take right now that will have a cumulative effect to begin shifting the paradigm and the balance of power. He calls for:

  • non-violent, non-participation in the ‘system.’
  • he urges us not to fall for the “us” versus “them” divisions propagated by the media—red vs. blue, liberal vs. conservative, black vs. white, Christian vs. Muslim/Jew/atheist, etc. The only division he credits is The Powers Who Should Not Be…and everyone else.
  • Get out of large, corporate banks. Take our money to local credit unions. Or buy tangible assets.
  • Employ barter.
  • Explore the creation of local currencies.
  • Wean ourselves from dependence on pharmaceuticals—capitalize on natural health alternatives.
  • Bank organic seeds. Grow food.
  • Work politically to protect the internet.
  • Work socially to protect the rights of the individual—for if all individuals are free, then society is free.
  • Create Free Zones, large and small, where collusion with The Powers That Should Not Be, doesn’t happen on any level—prohibit GMO foods, employ organic gardening practices, reduce dependence on fossil fuels, use alternative energy sources where possible, conserve resources, practice non-violence, unless it is truly in self-defense.

The film is not riveting, but it is certainly interesting and thought provoking. I woke this morning thinking, “Hmmmm. What if all those dots actually DO link up in anything close to what he describes? What if..?”

What amuses me is that this is a lot of the same stuff my father (who all of us in the family agree was a first class crack pot) was espousing 50 years ago. The more things change, the more they stay the same? I wonder.

Gamble calls on us to thrive, and exhorts us to take up his solutions in order to stop the tanks from rolling, the banks from falling, civilizations from collapsing, and instead create a world of positive, healing, sustainable life for all. He says we can and he is not alone. Technologies DO exist to power the world without oil. We CAN grow enough food to feed ourselves. We DON’T have to depend on Big Pharma and Big Med to be healthy. We DO NOT NEED all the crap that we are constantly told we need in order to be happy. We DO need to wake up from the hypnotic trance of the ages and assume personal responsibility for creating a life that is meaningful and proactive. We must DO….something.

What do I really think about all of this? I suspect there are aliens—the Universe is simply too vast to think the space flotsam of Earth and its inhabitants is the be all and end all of creation. I suspect Big Oil and related multinational corporations and banks are capable of almost anything, from market fixing to murder. I suspect that Big Pharma is more interested in Big Bucks than my health and well-being. I suspect that Monsanto is truly evil. But honestly, it isn’t necessary to believe any of that in order to see the possibilities for positive change in Gamble’s philosophy and suggestions.

I’ve been there in my head for a long time. It’s why I left the US. It’s why I have struggled to create what is happening here, in this tiny backwater of Panama. Finca Luz is already a Free Zone of organic foods, alternative healing, creative expression, individual freedom. Perhaps that is at the core of its attraction to visitors—they experience first hand its healing energy, its thriving vitality, and they leave inspired to create their own version.

For more information about Thrive or Foster and Kimberly Gamble, you can go to:

http://thedailybell.com/3664/Foster-Gamble-Responses

http://www.thrivemovement.com/home

Anyone out there know how to create biofuel? After I put trout in the pond, that’s the next thing I want to explore.

Happy Spring from Finca Luz.

Elizabeth, Ghost Kitty, the Fat Hens and Charlie the Dog