Change your view, change your world

You are probably familiar with the story of the elephant and the blind men. I think that this is the world we are living in now, full of blind men who only believe in their own way and can’t imagine another one.

Reality itself is a lot like an elephant. It is only the part you look at, only the part you believe in. This makes the world you think you live in. If you take two steps and look at it a different way, your whole world changes. And that world looks just as solid and real as the last one. Once you take a few more steps the world changes again, until you can see that the world in all its glory is far more vast and wonderful than you could have ever imagined while looking at it from only one perspective.

When I was a child I had two names given to me by the other kids. Sometimes even the grownups used these names. I believed them with my whole heart. Without really thinking hard about it I accepted the names I had heard for years as an inherent part of who I was, part of my definition of myself. Everyone used them, and even if they didn’t the echos of them lingered in every interaction. These names filled me with shame. Even to hear them spoken in other contexts cause a wave of shame and grief to wash over me.

The first name was Fungus. Just imagine what you know about fungus, even if you don’t associate with it intimately. No one wants a fungus among us. Mold on bread. Skin fungus. Nail fungus. Creeping slime molds. It is something to cringe away from, a thing of disgust and derision. When something is covered with fungus it’s spoiled, rotten, ruined.

But fungi are essential for life. All life on earth is dependent on fungi. We would drown in the detritus of our world if it wasn’t for fungi. And there are many fascinating, magical wonderful things about fungi.

Lets learn more about fungus. New things about the kingdom of fungi are being discovered every day. By one estimate there are 1.5 million different types. There are unicellular fungi like yeast. We all know what we owe to them. Warm, lofty baked bread. Beer. Wine. Whiskey. And compost where, in a nutshell the earth’s cycle of death, decay and rebirth takes place and where gardeners all over the world harvest the Black Gold that makes a garden grow. There are so many uses for fungi, and I bet there are many more to be discovered. Here’s a new one: where two enterprising young men are finding ways to replace Styrofoam with cheap biodegradable material.

The multi-cellular-mushrooms like button, shiitake, reishi, portobello, truffle. Food, medicine and “all natural” mystical experiences.

There’s mycorrhizzal symbiosis, upon which 90% of the worlds plants depend for life and growth. These filaments of fungi help plants take up nutrients and many times form connections between plants, enabling them to communicate and to pass on both messages and food. A whole world of community and communication under our feet. Think about that the next time you pick up a shovel.

There’s lichen, a photobiont made up of algae and fungi. It plays a key role in soil formation and the start of biological succession. In other words, the start of transforming a bare rock to a meadow or forest. There are lichen in every place on earth. It’s what reindeer eat, it hangs from trees in the tropics, it can live inside rocks (that’s called an endolith.) It is a basis for life everywhere.

Every time I learn more about fungi I am continually amazed. And when I hear the word fungus now, I don’t think of a dirty name for a dirty girl. I think of how amazing a fungus really is.

The other name that kids had for me was a simple alteration of my name. The Bethany. As in The Swamp Monster. The Alien. The thing undefinable but definitely Other. As if I were a lumbering beast, the epitome of ugly, fearsome strangeness.

Bethany took a lot more work. I always had a sense of shame when people used my name even if they weren’t using it derisively. Eventually I decided being the only one of something was itself a worthy thing, and that I would own my name as mine, not something to be ashamed of. There was still a little twinge every so often, though.

Now that there are so many Bethanys and Bethanis and Betheniis and all kinds of variations, I felt the urge to look into the meaning of my name further. At first what I found was ‘House of Figs”. Well. Figs were nice, I guess. They had a double meaning in ancient times, a sexual one. I guess I can work with lush, fruitful, sensual, female. Then I found another meaning, and it was “Poorhouse”. Hmm, not so positive, is it? Who wants to be associated with poverty and destitution? So how did this meaning originate? In the King James bible, Bethany is the town where Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. And Bethany was the place where people who were sick and poor went to get help. OK. To take this meaning into my name and myself made me feel better. A place where the poor found alms and the sick found healing. And if it is lush and fruitful, so much the better. Now my name is a source of pride rather than shame.

These are just  few examples of how looking at something a different way can change your world and make it a better place. I bet you could think of a multitude of new ways to look at the world, too.





I’ve always been invisible

Now You See Me

Now You See Me

You have a secret superpower: the ability to appear and disappear at will. When and where will you use this new superpower? Tell us a story.

This is the first time I have answered a prompt like this, but it struck a cord.

It is essentially  what my name here means- No face. A mask. Kaonashi NoFace. I want to be invisible. I’ve always been invisible. It’s the safest way. Even if it means being sat on in subways or pushed out of doorways as if one did not exist. I am invisible like the bums on the street are invisible. People fear to look at them, in case the touch of an eye makes them solid and real.

When my invisibility falters, when the blows have a target to aim for instead of just happenstance glances, it hurts more.

It is when I speak out that I am visible. It is frightening, but everyone wants to be heard. This is why I am here, wearing a face that is no face, trying to be both heard and not heard, both seen and invisible. Trying to have a voice, if only a the barest whisper of one.

I’ve just discovered WordPress

I’ve just discovered WordPress, maybe a week ago. I’m drowning. I originally came here to get some of the ideas out of my head and to have a place to write where I felt protected, invisible and also out in the open.

I’m overwhelmed by the new ideas, thoughts, beauty, creativity, thoughtful and wonderful images here. I am trying to take great huge gulps, opening so many tabs to follow up on that my ancient and venerable computer gasps and says No More!, sorrowfully closing tabs and feeling them slip through my fingers like soap bubbles.

I’d write more but I would rather get back to reading!

I’m running out of garbage.

In my house there is a sentence guaranteed to make everyone cringe. It’s “Wait! Don’t throw that out, I’m sure I can find a use for it.”

I have learned that it is easy to carry this too far. Newspapers pile up awfully fast. So do card board tubes and assorted plastic what-nots. Glass jars are hard to store conveniently. And your spouse might throw  fit and throw away all your carefully hoarded, I mean saved, items. I know it is not actually possible to use every bit of trash and I know that recycling is the last use for trash, not a panacea.

When the G-8 (or G-12 Or G-1826 or what ever it is now) was in town my very dear friend Torey told me she was going to join a protest. I asked what she hoped to accomplish just by standing around and shouting. This is what she told me.”I can reduce, reuse, recycle every scrap of garbage in my life and so can every other person in the U.S.A. It will never come close to a fraction of the garbage and pollution these corporations produce. I want them to see that.” (Torey, if you read this you can correct me if I have mangled your meaning by paraphrasing too roughly.)

Think about that when you are recycling. I didn’t say stop recycling, just think about it. Many of these items will last in the environment for thousands of years. Even if you do not recycle in your neighborhood think about it while you take out your trash. Think about it for a while while you are disposing of the items you had to have yesterday. Think about how long they actually will last both in the form they are now and when the environment tries and fails to break them down. Or tries and succeeds, like in your compost pile if you are lucky enough to have room and time for one.

Then think about your powerlessness to change the world, and give up trying. Wait, no! There are some things you can do. While you are disposing of the detritus of your life, think about your garbage. And carefully select one piece, one beautiful or useful or whimsical piece of trash as an heirloom, something that you can stand to have in your house for as long as it lasts. Glass is forever. Plastic slightly less. The easiest choice is a piece of paper or cardboard.

Your search for your family heirloom might actually begin at the point of purchase. When you are buying an item, ask yourself, is this a piece that will function as an heirloom in my house for as long as it lasts? Look at packaging and consider it. This is also the place where you can vote for change with your dollars. I don’t have many dollars, so I don’t get as many votes but no matter how many dollars you have to spend you can make them count. While you are looking for your heirloom consider purchasing things that have good packaging. Already recycled once, minimal use of packaging product, packaging that functions as a reusable item after use of the original product, biodegradable, compostable packaging. With these votes, you can let manufacturers know what you want by what you are willing to purchase.

An example of a multiple use product and one which I recommend (I don’t get any kick backs…though I certainly wouldn’t mind them! Belgium Chocolate! Raspberry Chocolate! Mango!) Sorry, I was distracted by all the luscious flavors… Ahem. An example of a multiple use product is Talenti gelato. I buy them in pint sizes for $5 or $6. That is an extravagance on my budget, but, like I said, reward the reusable. These pint size plastic jars with convenient screw top lids and no inconvenient paper labels to wash off are useful for so many things. I freeze liquids in them. They don’t shatter like so many other plastics when you put them in the freezer. I freeze tomato sauce and soup and left overs in them. I store my dried cherry tomatoes in them. (These are great to drop in the soup.) I put other dry foods I need to store in small quantities in them, beans, grains and loose candy. My spouse doesn’t get upset with my slowly growing collection, because they are usually filled with food he likes. Oh, and by the way the original product is excellent, too.

Other things I have found uses for: Newspaper. It is useful as bedding for a guinea-pig. Don’t get a guinea pig just to re-use newspaper, unless you have a niece that loves guinea pigs and grooms it when the pig turns out to have long and ever-growing hair, and a place to compost bedding. Mine gets composted in my Earth Machine composter. Also I use it as mulch. (The guinea pig doesn’t get to use those sheets first.) Sometimes I even read it. I often run out of newspaper.

Cardboard tubes. These are useful for making dog treat puzzles. Fill the tube with dog treats, fold or tape the ends. Give it to your nervous dog to shred when you leave. (Come home later and clean up the mess.) They are also useful for disposing of ‘unmentionable hygiene items’. (If you don’t know what they are, don’t ask. I am not going to mention them.) If you are crafty, the tubes can be used making home-made Christmas crackers, though I have not made them yet, opting to buy them instead, so far. I often run out of cardboard tubes.

Giant pickle jars. Niece #1 adores pickles and we use her pickle penchant for posterity. Oops, must have been bitten by a passing alliteration bug. She can eat a gallon of pickles in a week or two, and leave us yelling, “Who ate all the pickles?! I just bought these!” That’s OK. Gallon and half gallon and quart sized pickle jars (well washed, or everything smells like pickles) are useful for storing big quantities of broth or soup, beans or grains or pasta, large quantities of dried produce, coins saved for future vacations or appliances and many other things. Also, the pickle brine can be used at least once to make other pickled vegetables, like pickled green cherry tomatoes. I often run out of pickle jars.

I save smaller types of jars for other uses. I keep ground coffee in the freezer in an interestingly-shaped roasted pepper jar. I found to my dismay that freezing liquids or home made yogurt in glass does not work, but many other left overs and items find there way into my saved jars. I know some people reuse jars to can with but I am afraid to do this, not to say an experienced canner couldn’t take the risk. When the box over flows, I start putting them in the recycle bin instead.

The world is filled with items that can be easy to reuse if it fits within your life style. And if it doesn’t fit or is too time or energy intensive for your lifestyle, don’t worry too much. The billionaires are responsible for using their potion of the world wisely too, and they have so much more of it.

But- do select your heirloom item to keep on the mantle piece or kitchen counter if you do nothing else. Mine is a tiny 200 ml SanPellegrino sparkling blood orange beverage bottle. I like the shape and the texture and the tininess. Sometimes I use it to water a small plant. Sometimes I just look at it.