I am pretty hard-nosed when it comes to cute animal stories. I used to know
someone who e-mailed them to me all the time and it drove me crazy. But even my
heart melted when I saw the story of the abandoned
12-week-old monkey who found love with a white pigeon. Beyond the sweet
photo, I couldn't help but think what amazing flexibility this shows – two
completely different creatures with nothing in common, becoming friends. The
story said the macaque was near death and seemed “spiritless” until it met
the pigeon. Why do we focus on these stories? Because they offer a ray of hope,
a sliver of compassion on a day where the talk in the news is war, war, war and
the president tries to justify an insane strategy. Because we know what it means
to feel spiritless. It's hard to feel the sadness around this war and not go
numb when faced with a barrage of stories of civilians and soldiers who have
died – and the survivors who are living with horrible injuries. No wonder the
fuzzy animal photo makes the news.
Cathy Bowman, September 11, 2007
How much do you talk about your spiritual beliefs? I know I pick and choose
– how, when and what I share, and I suspect many other Americans do, too. (I
recently made a light-hearted joke about karma to some friends here in England and
was met with puzzled looks. Maybe the English don't believe in long-term debts.
But what about Henry the VIII? He was the king of bad karma). I think a lot of
people in the US are still sorting through for themselves what it means to be
new poll says that 61 percent are less likely to vote for a presidential
candidate who does not believe in God. The survey also found that a lot of
people are unsure they'd support a Mormon or a Muslim. They want a leader whose
religion, I suspect, mirrors their own. For me, my spiritual growth is a
journey. It's not identical to anyone else's. Does it have to be? I know
spiritual people who attend church and a lot who don't. Mother Theresa struggled
with her faith. I know I do. Regardless of where the next president worships, I
want a leader who makes decisions based on compassion and fairness. Wouldn't
that be a nice change?
Cathy Bowman, September 1, 2007
I've long dreamed to see the sacred
stones at Avebury. The reality? We got stuck in traffic. The kids
gobbled up the snacks. It was 4 p.m. Raindrops dotted the windshield. Then it
poured. By the time we reached the grassy moor or bog or whatever you call a
wet, squishy English ridge, everyone was soaked. The sheep dung turned to
puddles. The sky went black. Lightning crashed around us. My husband yelled at
me to get off the hill and my 7-year-old wailed. I grumbled trying to push the
2-year-old and her stroller through the mud. Why didn't we just take a tour bus
to Stonehenge? Why weren't we home making pizza? Why didn't we stay in sunny
California? The rain stopped. The sky turned blue. The sheep looked cute. We
marveled, at last, at the amazing ring of megaliths. One stone looked like a
shaggy dog. Another, a whale. A tourist loaned us his dowsing rods. I held them
close to a stone that reminded me of Rodin's “The Thinker.” They wiggled
like crazy. I looked at our photos later. We look wet and exhausted – but
happy, too – touched by the mystery of it all.
Cathy Bowman, August 24, 2007
Ever thought of getting naked for global warming? Hundreds
of people did. They stripped to become a “living sculpture” on a
Swiss glacier at the request of artist Spencer Tunick. I love art like this.
Art that gives me a fresh perspective feeds my soul. I don't know that I'd
have bared my bum to save the planet, but I bet it was a spiritual experience
for those who did. Look at Christo
and Jeanne-Claude's art, which uses great swaths of material to wrap
buildings, surround islands, and create other temporary works of art. Like
Tunick, their collaborations are communal. When I was a teenager, I was lucky
enough to see “Running Fence.” What a thrill it was to see that ribbon of
white fabric dancing along the green hills before plunging into the Pacific
Ocean. What courage, I think, to create a piece of art so big it doesn't fit
in a building. To let it be temporary. To be left with only photographs,
drawings and the memory of the moment. It makes me ask myself: How big can I
Cathy Bowman, August 13, 2007
Americans are now living longer than ever - but not as long as in many
countries. I just came across a story that says our
place in the international rankings of life expectancy is slipping.
Still, a baby born in the U.S. in 2004 is expected to live nearly 78 years.
That's a gift from heaven when you consider that life expectancies in sub-Saharan
Africa are dismally low (Swaziland is at the bottom of the list, at 34.1
years). Lifespans are important. But wouldn't it be great if we could also focus
on what nourishes and sustains our souls. To realize that living well comes from
the heart. What matters most to me is the quality of my life, not the number of
years I leave my footprints on the earth. Today I walked into the woods with my
daughter and picked wild blackberries. We came home covered in scratches and
purple juice, but we were happy. Tonight we'll make blackberry crumble and eat
it warm from the oven, topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Every day is a
gift. Every day.
Cathy Bowman, August 5, 2007
bridge collapse in Minneapolis, I've been looking for some small ray of
hope. These are trying spiritual times. In my own small circle, I have friends
struggling with serious illness, stressful jobs, aging parents. But at least my
friends are here. It's a relief that the death toll from the bridge collapse is
expected to be far lower than original estimates. Still, that's little comfort
to the grieving families who lost someone they loved. And what about the dozens
of people who were injured? We watch television trying to make sense of a
senseless event, yet watching those video clips over and over again can make us
anxious and depressed. For me it's a reminder to savor the present and not
complain about the little things. To live with fierce joy. To pray. For myself.
For my friends. For Minnesota. For the world.
Cathy Bowman, July 30, 2007
Do you remember your wedding? How about when your 5-year-old brother smashed
up the family car? Turns out that some of us remember highly-charged emotional
events better than others, according to a scientific
study. I am glad they're studying this “gene change,” but frankly,
those of us who are highly-emotionally charged already know who we are. No need
for T-shirts that read “Sensitive And Proud Of It.” Me? Put on “Out of
Africa” and I'm a goner. Scientists say those of us who remember emotional
events most clearly remember the painful ones along with the happy ones. That's
OK with me. I find a good cry spiritually cleansing. When my 7-year-old asks
about my childhood, she wants to hear the emotional stories - how I felt when my
bicycle was stolen or my best friend teased me. Not what I ate for breakfast.
Sometimes it's hard to have those memories jostling around like a pocketful of
loose change, yet they are part of who I am. When I feel things deeply I know
that I'm awake.
Cathy Bowman, July 19, 2007
On a lush patch of English countryside lies an ancient drawing that has been
etched in the natural chalk ground. The
Cerne Abbas Giant dates back to at least the 17th century.
Now this famous fertility symbol has company: Homer Simpson. Mr. Cerne Abbas is
nude and wielding a club; Mr. Simpson (standing nearby) is wearing briefs and
holding up a donut. I feel sorry for those who are offended by this. No one,
after all, likes to be ridiculed for their beliefs. Some pagans are praying for
rain, which will dissolve the special paint used to create Homer. I must confess
I thought the drawing was very funny. Isn't it true that some of us worship the
ancient ways while the rest of us put our faith in donuts? Since Homer is
temporary, isn't a little humor OK? Given the weather around here, he probably
won't make it to the weekend. I didn't know about the Cerne Abbas Giant before
this. Now I'll make sure to drop by and take a look – after Homer washes away.
(Also: A Nudity
Ban in Vermont)
Cathy Bowman, July 13, 2007
I closed my eyes today and gave thanks for Lady
Bird Johnson. Her passing gives us a chance to remember her hard work to
beautify the nation. As a friend of mine said, she made us realize it wasn't OK
to throw garbage out the window as you sped along the highway. My parents, who
voted Republican in the 1960s, loved her. How could you not? It couldn't have
been easy becoming First Lady as the nation mourned President Kennedy – let
alone follow the stylish, popular Jacqueline. But she did it with grace, and she
proved how much one could accomplish through quiet determination and hard work.
She was the consummate mother, reminding us to pick up after ourselves. My
daughters understand it's everyone's job to keep the parks clean – not just
the groundskeepers or the person who dropped the candy wrapper in the first
place. We pick up trash at our local park, just as we used to collect it along
the California coast. So thanks, Mrs. Johnson, for reminding me to do my part.