FireCat! The Legend of Amazon Sage©

Sage is a quirky girl who always loved wild animals, funny people, adventure and indigenous music. She still does.

What no one knows is that every night in her dreams, Sage

transforms into a woman of power and wisdom, called

Amazon Sage.

Unlimited by the confines of newtonian physics, she is fierce and full of compassion, traveling where ever she is needed to help relieve suffering in the world.

Only problem is,

Amazon Sage© only lives while Sage is dreaming.

Once Sage awakens, Amazon Sage © disappears. These blogs are written by Sage, telling what happens in this most secret life...

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

“Three Cheers for Chocolate!”

Good morning, friends.  Okay! This got my attention: According to a recent Nutrition Research study, “Candy and chocolate lovers tend to weigh less, have lower body mass indices (BMI) and waist circumferences, and have decreased levels of risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD) and metabolic syndrome.”  Okay, I’ll buy that! With all the other bad stuff going on in the world, it’s nice to know there’s still one guilty pleasure that we don’t need to feel guilty about. Then I hear you ask, “ Can this really be true?”
Amazon Sage can’t wait for me to fall asleep so she can check this one out in her dream-travels. What she finds is yummy. Just teasing.  What I mean to say is; what she finds is that for decades, women have known the emotional benefits of eating chocolate, especially during “that time of the month” to use a phrase from the stone age.  Then about a dozen or so years ago, it was discovered that chocolate actually stimulates the same part of the brain as marijuana. Hmmm, a quick high without the legal ramifications. 
“But wait,” you say, “What about that old drawback called weight gain?” This is the good news; This new research  tells us that eating candy and chocolate is less likely to pack on the pounds than say, a big Mac (and I don’t mean the computer).  Perhaps it's because we watch how much candy we eat a lot closer than how many fast foods we ingest. Whatever the reason, I think that calls for a celebration! I’ve got a box of chocolates; care to join me? Who cares that it’s not Valentine’s Day....  

Yikes, now I’m hearing giggling and someone whispering “You mean I can eat the whole box?” and stuff like that.  So... because I’m your friend, I will suggest that you keep in mind the old adage “Moderation is...” 
Oh, what the heck! Go for it all my pretty ones and handsome devils. Let's all join in saying “Three cheers for  chocolate!”

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

"Sex, Drugs, Rock and Roll"

Hello my friends. Ordinarily I do not write about people’s failings and today is no exception, so when I mention a few people’s names, I ask that you please see this posting as one of curiosity rather than of judgement. With that disclaimer, I begin with this question: “What do Britney Spears, Lindsey Lohan and Charlie Sheen have in common?” (Hint: It’s not what you may think). 
One’s mind could wander the gamut on this one; drugs, sex, music, entertainment... But how about education? I propose that the primary function of all the negative exposure these folks have garnered, based upon their varied legal and illegal exploits, is to teach obedient kids what not to so and to teach rebellious kids how to do it. 
For sure, if these stars were not so famous, their stories would hardly merit  a mention on the last page of the local rag, but because they are famous, they become unwitting role models. That’s right, role models; for children and young people whose own parents “never have time” to sit down and talk with them. You know the kind of conversations I’m talking about, sex, drugs, and all those things that make most parents squeamish. What a sad state of affairs (no pun intended), when young people must turn to the internet, magazines, and television for their information on how to act in relationships.  You might ask, “But has it really changed from a few decades ago?” Amazon Sage takes us back to the era of “Leave it to Beaver” to find out.
Back in the living rooms of the June and Ward Cleavers of the world, parents were often even more uncomfortable describing these tough subjects to their kids. It was fortunate for everybody that there was so much less destructive information readily available. Most kids made it through their ignorance phases with their lives and careers fairly intact because when parents did talk sexuality to their adolescents, it wasn’t much help. They described these talks as learning about “the birds and the bees.”  How cute. That’s because parents who were too embarrassed to speak more explicitly simply referred to the handiest models available, hoping their youngsters would learn from what was going on  right outside their windows.  It went something like this: 
“Peggy Sue, I noticed you’ve been walking home with that Jimmy fellow the past few weeks and I guess it’s time for you to learn about the birds and the bees.” Peggy Sue is silent, hoping beyond hope that she will hear something useful; secretly afraid that her mom saw her and Jimmy sneak behind the bleachers after the game Friday night. Her father continues, “So I want you to watch those birds around spring time and watch those bees too, and you’ll know what I’m talking about. Any questions?” Peggy Sue is thinking, “Yeah, how about where can I get some condoms?” She says nothing and within a month, she’s pregnant. Okay, so back then there was not enough information, but today there’s overload.
Now, you get it streaming over the web, everyday and it’s not just about the birds and bees. Kids no longer need to look out the window to find out how animals procreate. Every species, every way, every size is now represented in living color. Some people would like to say “too much information” but their voices would barely register over the porn influenced ads and shows that flood out screens. In a few short years, we have become a nation of people who live in a sex-saturated society. Is it any wonder that kids turn to celebrities for some modicum of learning? After all, at least Britney, Lindsey, and Charlie are real people, albeit occasionally highly troubled, role models. BTW, if there are any parents out there, you really can make a difference, but you have to talk with -- not at -- your kids. Hoping your day is educational in a good way, I remain, your friend.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

“ Friends who turn on friends’s friends”

Good morning friends,
Just curious... what do you think this title means? “ Friends who turn on friends’s friends;” specifically in reference to the words “turn on.” I suspect your meaning has a lot to do with your personal experience. During the night, Amazon Sage dream-travelled back in time, to the study of a young author who had some very interesting things to say on the subject. Sitting across the desk from Anais Nin, our courageous explorer felt both honored and a bit of trepidation. After all, this woman’s writings can be pretty steamy. Think Henry Miller, June Mansfield, and The Tropic of Cancer. In letters between the three, Anais Nin was once described thus: 
“Anais initiated [conversations about sex] by questioning June about her lesbian experiences, but June also coaxed things along, taking perverse pleasure in provoking Anais to constantly escalating displays of passion, which she promptly told in great (and sometimes exaggerated) detail to Henry.” I’d say this is clearly one  meaning of “friends turning on friends.”
Because of our human tendency to create meanings that fit in with the way we see the world (aka, our poustou or our self-world construct), some of you will indeed interpret those words to be about friends who sexually arouse your other friends.” However, others will think it refers to a friend’s rejection of their friends’ other friends; perhaps even betrayal. Certainly, depending upon the circumstances in which the behavior occurs, either can be seen as a betrayal... or not. Imagine if we chose to apply humor or even compassion to our friend’s tendency to turn on our other friends. How might that change the eventual outcome of our friendships?  
In an upcoming blog, I will speak to some of these intriguing possibilities, but first, I must ask you to think about three pertinent questions:  First, what does it mean to you to be a friend? Second, when do you draw the line for a friend’s bad behavior? And the last one is key: Can a friendship ever get beyond one friend’s betrayal of the other? Stay tuned for more as you ponder my favorite quote from Anais Nin, “We do not see things as they are. We see things as we are.”

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

“The case of the four year old deported American”

Four year old Emily, a citizen of the United States, was excited at the prospect of spending time with her Grandfather in her family’s homeland.  While planning the trip, her blue eyes would shine brightly any time she was asked about the trip. Her blond hair gave her the appearance of an angel, leading people to tease her about her beauty. Because she had never travelled so far before, she felt a bit nervous about the long flight, but she also felt secure in the knowledge that her Granddaddy would be with her and he was the kindest man she’d ever known. It held the promise of a fun adventure for a shy little girl; one to remember for the rest of her life.
Following her visit, it was her parents’ plan for little Emily to travel back to New York with her Grandfather by her side.  The only problem was, the plane was diverted from its original destination. So instead of New York, the plane landed in Washington DC. Worse, once there, the Grandfather was detained by INS; not because he had done anything wrong, but because the Grandfather’s visa had expired. This meant that the little girl was held separately for many hours while the decision was made to send Grandpa back to his home country.
So much for a dream vacation that she would always remember. Instead, little Emily’s memory became one of being detained at the wrong airport, then separated from the only person she knew and trusted. But it gets worse.  Emily was then placed back on a plane and sent with her Grandfather, not to her home in New York but to another land. For all intents and purposes, little Emily was deported from her own country! And while her parents were called, the only choices given to them were these: “We will place her in foster care custody or we will send her back to her Grandfather’s home in another country... Which is it?”  The option not given to them was to drive down to Washington and pick her up. They'd heard horror stories of what happens to children in foster care. So in the face of such big government, her parents felt helpless to do anything but allow them to have their way.
I don’t know about you, but if I had a little girl who was supposed to be accompanied home by her Grandpa, from a long and potentially scary journey, only to discover that the older man was taken into custody for an expired Visa, I’d be pretty anxious. Then, if I found out that my little girl was then not allowed to continue her flight to her own home, I’d be livid. Yet, this actually happened. A frightened little girl named Emily, was treated as if she were some kind of illegal alien who could not be allowed back into her own country. I guess the powers that be decided that we must be protected from the likes of her, by george.
Even Amazon Sage was perplexed as to what to do. By the time she dream-traveled to Washington, to find out where the pretty little “villain” was being held, not only had deportation procedures begun, the girl was already gone; out of there, Kaput!  Our fearless super hero did the next best thing, she visited with the parents and suggested that they seek legal remedies. Because just like you or me, Emily’s parents love their child more than anything in the world and were astounded that this could happen this week, in this land, of the free. Are you with me on this?
Now, what if I told you I disguised the little girl’s appearance for her protection? Would that make a difference to you? Before you answer, think about it. Emily’s still only four years old, but instead of blond hair, what if it was dark brown or black? Instead of blue eyes, what if they were brown. Are you still feeling as sympathetic? If not, why not? I hate to say it, but I think her coloring makes all the difference in the world. Notice your reaction when I tell you that the little girl’s last name is Ruiz. Are you still as willing to fight for her right to be able to return home to her own family, to her own country, the way you were a few moments ago? I hope so. After all, if you're reading this post, you must be a good person. :-) Now, my sweet friends, go wake somebody up and tell them what you really think. All the Emilys of the world will thank you. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

"Give yourself to... Hope!"

Good morning, friends. Last night, I laughed when I read a quote written for the cartoon character Homer Simpson. It said "And Lord, we are especially thankful for nuclear power, the cleanest, safest energy source there is. Except for solar, which is just a pipe dream." It made me laugh in spite of myself since it so accurately reflects the thinking of a fairly large group of Americans. Those who apparently believe that anything they do not understand, is simply a myth. This, even as headlines scream how serious the nuclear emergency in Japan, has become.

As a person who chooses to see hope in the darkest of situations, I must admit, I do feel challenged. That is, until I read some releases from various governmental agencies. For the most part, government sources, particularly the military, still insist that the situation is not nearly so dire as it is made out to be; “It is just the press exploiting people’s fears.” Hoping to get at the truth, for the next few hours, I went, back and forth, reading this news story then that; wondering if the truth really is out there. It’s enough to make a person dizzy! Slowly, I sank into the bed and as I rested my head on a non-dizzy producing pillow, I drifted into restless sleep. That is where the world of Amazon Sage and her dream travels often begin.

As we time travelled, I heard Amazon Sage say something like “a picture is worth a thousand words,” and on this night’s sojourn, I saw images I'll never forget. Amazon Sage took me to the dead zone surrounding the old Chernobyl Nuclear Plant, in Russia.  Talk about creepy; there was this huge complex, a place that once bustled with life; now with no life to be seen. Buildings that undoubtably cost millions of rubles lay in ruins and the very air felt poisoned. I know, I know, it’s been long enough that the air is probably no longer poisoned, but then again, do you really want to take a chance and move back there? Obviously, the Russians do not. Here and there, of course, there was an odd scientist, with meters, geiger counters, papers and pens, scouring the metaphorical scorched earth.

As I pondered this scene, my mind wandered back to a friend who once told me he had gone to Chernobyl two weeks after the melt down. He said he was trying to make a political point. (Really?) I began to wonder whatever happened to his body since his mind was obviously already off its rocker. Funny, that I never saw him again, after that one chance meeting. That’s when I was whisked away again. Before I knew it, I was standing at Three Mile Island, here in the good ole’ U.S. of A. Brrr... that place (Three Mile), still gives me the shivers and I’m not usually cold. That’s because it was there that another old friend was dosed when she too visited “not too long after their accident.” Unfortunately, I know what happened to her. Within a few years, one of the best and brightest was lost to the world from an aggressive form of leukemia.

Finally, back in my room, in my bed, I mused over the images of not only what was, but what could be. I thought about yet another friend, this one in Japan, and how his life is forever changed. Yet, he does not panic. He does not complain. He works on, lending a hand to his friends and neighbors the way he was taught from birth to do. Ah, hope has returned, because I know that we, as human beings, are mostly like that Japanese friend. For the most part, we humans are faithful, smart, and brave. Yes, we knowingly makes choices that place our lives at risk. Yes, we are willing to offer it for the sake of our families; our fellow humans.

Hope. Sometimes it’s all we have. And when we do, it's not so important whether this or that is the ultimate truth. Hope is enough. That’s because we know in our hearts that somehow we’ll survive if we allow ourselves to heed the example of the Japanese; work together, as if our life depends on it.

Monday, March 21, 2011

“Moon River, Wider than a Mile...”

Good morning, friends. Last night, Amazon Sage dream travelled to the moon and back to discover why, for many people, last weekend meant ordinary evening routines were eclipsed by moon madness. Newscasters acted excited, even calling for photos, as they announced that the moon would rise visibly larger than it looked for the past 18 years. In response, normal folks flocked to nearby fields and beaches, camera ready. I went out into my back yard. I suppose all the hullabaloo was because the moon’s position in the sky was closer to the earth than it had in all those years. If you think about it, the moon has always been a source of mystery for the romantic and of fantasy and lore for the story tellers among us. Phrases, poems, and songs abound with moon-scapades. 

For instance, in the 17th century, the phrase “to find an elephant in the moon” meant that something one thought was there, was not. It began when an astronomer insisted that he saw an elephant in the moon, but I'll tell you a secret: It was shortly after a brief visit from our own Amazon Sage, that the “elephant” was discovered to actually be a mouse that had climbed into his telescope! 
Then there’s the phrase “minions of the moon.” It refers to night-time thieves who are particularly partial to Interstate highway rest stops and XMart parking lots. [Okay, I made the last bit up!]  But here’s something everybody should recognize. Did you know that mooning about, refers to that feeling we humans experience when we first fall in love? It’s that time in which we lose all perspective and do stupid things. Hmmm, perhaps mooning about is what accounts for so many politicians being caught with their moons exposed. (Sorry) 
Of course, in sports, business, and even in people’s personal lives, shooting for the moon has always meant to try your best to achieve your goals. Sometimes, I think that's my favorite. Needless to say, for years, psychologists and law enforcement personnel have wondered why things happen during a full moon; why there are so many more crimes committed. It could be because the thieves can finally see what they’re doing. But maybe, just maybe, there’s something else going on that excites the blood and sends the vampires and werewolves out to roam. Before you go to sleep tonight, think about that great big beautiful moon, maybe even hum a tune. Like Amazon Sage’s nightly sojourns, it’s certain to bring interesting dreams. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

“Reflections of a Culture in the Everyday Heroism of Japanese People”

Good morning, friends. Yesterday, I received an remail from a Japanese man who had apparently gotten some bad advice about what is being said, in America, about the Japanese people.

“My dear friends and relatives all over the world... Many many thanks for your deep concerns on the whole incident. I send out lots of love from here to all of you....

However, I am very sorry; personally getting sick and tired of some of the Western press who are trying to panic people. The news media broadcasts about our people, that ‘there were those who were in panic like small children...’ is not true. I have never seen any - not a single - Japanese in panic so far.  Around me, there is no Japanese who wants to save only himself or herself by leaving the rest of us behind. My kids went to work. I am just back from work. Someone has to go and work to turn the economy here; someone has to earn bread for the rest of the society to support each other; otherwise the entire country will get stuck. To send more power to the damaged areas, we turned off the lights and the heating system. No problem. Just wear more sweaters... We don't worry about it.... Go to:  and if you think you want to do something for us, please pray for Japan.”

My response to this Japanese man’s frustration, did not need Amazon Sage, this time. This is what I wrote to him, in response:

“I am an American citizen and I am so happy to hear that Japanese people are trying to keep their lives and their country going while the disasters from the earthquake, tsunami, and radiation are being addressed. I want you to know that the news I listen to and watch must be different from what you are hearing since I have heard only the most positive things about the Japanese people; how brave, industrious, and compassionate they are.

"I too, have a very close Japanese friend over there, who could easily have come over here, to the US and stayed with our family. Instead, he stays there and sleeps in his car so that he is better able to assist his friends and neighbors. An American military man whom I know quite well, is also there, as a relief worker. Unfortunately, he does not have the proper medicine to protect himself from thyroid damage because so many people in the USA have panicked and bought up all the supplies. So he is doing what many Japanese people are doing to protect themselves; he is eating kelp." [Really Americans? We are so selfish that we buy up all the supplies, that are much more needed there, because WE are scared?]

But back to my response: "The last thing the good people of Japan need right now is to hear worrisome reports about their behaviors. I can assure you that if there are news stations or newspapers saying uncomplimentary things about the Japanese people, then the readers of those rags are most certainly too ignorant for you to give them a second thought.

As for me and every person I know or have heard from, it is clear that each Japanese person who continues to go on with his or her life in the midst of all that is happening, serves as as a shining example for all of humanity; a model for how to act in times of great suffering. Therefore, it is with great respect that I remain, your friend from across the world."

I will end this post with a suggestion to all citizens of our own great country, the USA: Please stop buying and hoarding all the anti nuclear medical supplies. You are keeping them from the people who need them the most; our military people in Japan; all the relief workers; and the Japanese people. They need them right now! We don’t. Have a blessed day, my friends.

"Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck." - His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Good morning, friends. I started with a quote by His Holiness, Dalai Lama, because sometimes even invoking his name brings a sense of peace to me. But what I really want to talk about is where Amazon Sage took me last night in my dreams. After all the sadness of the past few weeks, my doppleganger (you know, the me that I only let out at night), dream-travelled to a place not in this reality. It was almost as though she got pulled into some bizarre cosmic-comic void. All I know is that I awoke to some strange images floating around in my head. Like the Helicopter-Boat-Car. 

Clearly, this was not a typical amphibious vehicle. Yet, how handy it might be right now, since it seemed to be made specifically for places that have been devastated by multiple disasters; tsunami, floods, cave-ins, tornadoes, and quakes. The top level of this one-person device is a small helicopter, much like a recent invention I saw on TV. However, connected directly underneath is an amphibious  boat-like contraption with wheels. Granted, the one I visualized is not the most elegant looking craft ever conceived, but it did the job, transporting search and rescue workers to obscure terrain that normal craft are unable to traverse. Of course, in last night’s dream they were all cartoon-ized!

Another bizarre invention in that nether world was a humongous greeting card  with a three-dimensional image of a bumble bee on the front. It was a full three by five feet large. Not thinking twice, I eagerly opened the card and was met with the very real buzz sounds of millions of bees... as if somebody has been keeping all of our country’s missing bees inside this comic card for months! Of course, I closed it immediately for fear of being mistaken for their destroyer. Now, if I can only figure out how to get them back home.
In my dream, I began to wonder if some essential wiring in my brain had begun to short circuit, as if all the suffering and sorrow of the world may be a bit much for one super hero named Amazon Sage.  It’s true, that each night, before I go to sleep, I actually invite all of these events to make themselves known to me so that I might find some way of helping to relieve their suffering. That’s when it hit me. 

The Dalai Lama’s quote was manifesting in my subconscious. As I dreamed, it was reminding me: "Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck." And you know what? I do feel lucky. I feel lucky that I’m alive and that I haven’t died from cancer or had a limb removed due to diabetes. I feel lucky that I have a home and can walk outside and breathe the fresh air. I feel lucky that I have food to eat and people in my life who give me grief along with a whole lot of love. I wonder aloud: “What if, for just a moment, everyone who is suffering right now could feel so blessed for having their life on this very day?”
Old versions of what’s lucky immediately flood my awareness: Lucky dog; Happy, go lucky; the Joy Luck Club. I smile and a tear forms for all those who struggle valiantly to stay on the planet one more day. I send my love and all the luck I can muster. And for you, my dear readers, may the Luck of the Irish be with you on this fine day in March!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

“To all our relations who journeyed ahead...”

Good morning, my friends. Last night, Amazon Sage dream travelled to many places in the world where she heard people crying out for their lost loved ones; mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, uncles, aunts, and spouses. In low laments some pleaded for Creator’s answer with words like “Why?” and “How?” begging to understand reasons for death and suffering in their darkest times. Others felt anguish, sometimes screaming their sorrow; anger beyond words, since their loved ones had gone. Some simply sat, shell-shocked and silent, unable to respond to the sweetest of suggestions. All over the world, people are crying and I can’t help but wonder what can be done to ease our suffering.
In that moment of wondering an answer unfolded; not “the” answer for sure but one that might help. Here’s what I heard: “Go to your loved ones, whether living or dead, and sit with them quietly. Do not talk or advise. Simply listen to what they tell you, not preconceived notions of what they must feel. You know them best so your body’s a conduit. Be a witness to their pain and silently encourage them, from their heart to yours. If you can, write down what they tell you on a paper or in your mind. Do not shrink from their telling even if it means you feel less guilty. Because there is a secret to dying that not many know.... 
When they’ve passed on before us, they no longer feel sorrow, or pain, or resentment, or the tortures we know. When one goes on before us, there is peace, only peace. Unless, that dear person took his own life. Please, tell me it isn't so. Because in that case, the sufferer needs our forgiveness to help them ease their great sadness so they finally know the love they thought had gone missing... Because every soul is important, whether famous or not. No one is unknown to Creator. And when one person falls, we all fall a little and must pick ourselves up, as we would pick up a child.”
Back to sleep, Amazon Sage returned to my body and I awakened soon after, feeling light lifting sorrow, a freedom from pain. From the pain of those before me and the suffering of those around us, I know all are still here and waiting to be heard. So to all my relations, both living and dead, I send you deep blessings and thank you for your healing, knowing you surround us with wisdom and honor. And we'll continue living, life’s most sacred work, together. Domo Arigato and Aho. So be it, Amen. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

“Out on a limb with no place to jump”

Good morning, friends. Sometimes, when I look at what is happening on the other side of the world, I think back to when I was a kid. I loved to climb trees and once in a while I’d find myself out on a very high limb. Yes, it felt a little scary, but I could see so much more from that perspective; above the trees and our neighbors’ houses. I could even feel a slight breeze in the scorching Florida heat. But mostly, I had a sense of being so much more than my little body conveyed to the world. At age six, I must admit, I was not a very imposing figure. 
In some ways, people who go through the extremes of tragedy, particularly when they occur one after another, gain a perspective ordinarily reserved for the eagles among us. From a position of being surrounded by absolute nothingness, if only for a split second, life becomes crystal clear. It is during those times of absolute clarity that we must create meaning... a meaning that encompasses all of the events that will sustain us during our darker days. If we do not create meaning that we can live with, the tragedy may well consume us in the fires of despair. Hint: Simply repeating the tired old admonishments about the end of days is not it.... So what do I mean when I say ‘create meaning’?
In a book called “Man’s Search for Meaning,” another person was metaphorically out on a limb when he penned some of the best advice I’ve ever read.  In the 1940s, as a successful doctor, Viktor E. Frankl made a choice to stay in Europe, hoping to provide some degree of protection to his elderly parents. For unknown reasons they, along with all of his other Jewish friends and colleagues, were being rounded up and imprisoned. When Amazon Sage heard about this, she immediately wanted to dream travel back in time, not to the camps -- at least, not yet -- but to a later time in Dr. Frankl’s life, when he spoke to a large group of psychologists in San Francisco. What he said on that day, was certain to stay in the hearts and minds of all who were present, forever.
Listening quietly, it became clear to Amazon Sage that Dr. Frankl believed “our primary drive in life is not pleasure” (as Sigmund Freud seemed to think), but “the discovery and pursuit of what we personally find meaningful.” Wow. Imagine if, during this singularity event that will forever change Japan, survivors come out of it with a renewed sense of purpose and resolve. 

"But..." you might suggest, “...surely nothing Frankl experienced can possibly compare to what’s happening in Japan.” Perhaps not, but Frankl knows of what he speaks. In his own personal tsunami, he was a prisoner in four of the worst Nazi death camps, including Auschwitz. In those chambers of horror, he had to witness his family’s naked humiliation, in front of everyone; their torture, and eventually their deaths; his mother, his father, his cousins... even his pregnant wife. Yet, through it all, he managed to create meaning that he later shared with the world.
In that memorable San Francisco talk, Viktor Frankl concluded: “We cannot avoid suffering. But we can choose how to cope with it, to find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose.” Frankl’s decision was to dedicate the rest of his life to sharing what he learned from those worst of times. I pray that the good people of Japan, Haiti, Ethiopia, Egypt, Libya, Pine Ridge, and anywhere in the world where people seek freedom from suffering, find peace. What about you? What meaning are you making, my friends?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

“Between hell and high water”

Good morning, friends. A reprint from 'The Little Rock Gazette,' repeats the first printed version of an already old (1882) phrase, ‘hell and high water’: "Since dat time de best ob my friends hab become enemies, an' strangers hab become friends. De debil had brook loose in many parts ob de country, an' keepin' up wid de ole sayin', we've had unrevised hell and high water - an'a mighty heap ob high-water I tell yer." 
I was not asleep very long before Amazon Sage dream travelled into the heart of Japan’s broken streets and shattered landscape looking for an old family friend we call Kazu. There she quickly discovered what true suffering looks like. If having an earthquake, a tsunami, more than one nuclear meltdown, and an active volcano spewing ash into the air, doesn’t make the people of Japan feel as though they are caught between hell and high water, nothing else will. One Japanese woman even remarked: “ I have lost everything but I have my life... and I am not sure that’s a good thing.”
Yet, the people of Japan are strong. In their measured responses to these horrific personal and national tragedies, we see models for how we might all behave when faced with multiple crises. We witness good people taking one step after another, waiting in food lines, without resorting to panic, malice, or wanton destruction. It’s as though the Japanese people have decided, come hell or high water, they will continue to act with the dignity that is forever woven into the fabric of their rich culture. 
For the doomsayers, it is important to remember that the compilation of Japan’s catastrophes is very likely a chain reaction from the original tectonic  event. After all, if it was strong enough to literally move our earth a bit on its axis, there’s no reason to believe it could not also enliven a volcano and destabilize nuclear power plants. Yet, being human, many of us cannot help but wonder if this is not some cosmic joke or karmic pay-back for our human foolishness with our precious planet. 
If we assume for a moment that such is the case, then we must ask, “Are we, (earth’s people), moved enough to do something about it?”  No matter how noble; no matter how strong, it is clear that in the days to come, the people of Japan; these mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers, our close friends... need our support. Money always helps for supplies or clothing; after all, the survivors of the tsunami lost everything. But when money is not easily available, our prayers and love can go a very long way. 
We are all one... and like the cowpokes of the old west, our human legacy is to keep driving our ‘horn-spiked masses through high water and through the continuous hell in between’ until we’ve completed our work. Time to wake up, my friends, and decide how we will make a difference. And by the way, Kazu, if you are able, please send a sign, okay? Head ‘em up, move ‘em out! 

Friday, March 11, 2011

“Wake up! Pacific Coast Residents! A Tsunami Approaches”

Early today, Japan suffered the largest earthquake in modern history; A magnitude 8.9. This size earthquake is exponentially larger than anything these people have ever experienced and the devastation is nothing less than tragic. Already, nuclear plants have been shuttered and the stock market is reeling. None of this shines light on the human suffering that is all around. 
Amazon Sage dream-travelled to Hawaii where a tsunami is hitting the shores, on its way to the west coast of the US. There, people sit on hill tops and in shelters, waiting for Mother Nature to rest again. A little girl draws what she sees. Mother Nature is furious to be heard, so she is shaking things up to get our attention. At first, she thought Hurricane Katrina might get our attention as our access to crude oil was interrupted. But instead, we focused on levees and the blame game. Then Florida’s gulf coast was drenched in oil and she wondered, have you had enough? I guess not since we’re still hanging onto our gas guzzling SUVs and monster trucks! This week, gas prices went through the roof.
Now Japan, the third largest economy in the world, with it huge oil and nuclear plants, faces unheard of disruption, particularly in the devastated north and Mother Nature asks “Can you hear me now?” Dear people, it’s time to wake up and get serious about lowering our selfish dependence on oil while there’s still time. While the little girl sitting on the top of the hill in Hawaii waits to see if she still has a home, she gives Amazon Sage a drawing. She wants to do her part to share the news of what we face if we don't change. She hopes we all know that she and all children depend on us to speak out and make the changes necessary to save our increasingly fragile planet. Wake up, my friends, the earth is quaking... 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

“What made the boy kill his family?”

Good morning, friends. Last night, Amazon Sage dream travelled to the home of a broken family, where a stunned older brother and a distraught uncle tried to make sense of what happened.* Neither can understand how the 12 year old Colorado boy they loved, could do something so heinous as killing both his parents and shooting his 5 and 9 year old siblings.  But until and unless this boy talks, there is little anyone knows for sure about why he did it. What it brings up for me are some of the hidden reasons these crimes often occur.
Like a volatile explosion, this type of killing ignites in fiery swiftness, destroying all life as the killer has known it.  Indeed, that’s why he does it. You can be sure that a person who commits this type of act has been going through his or her own private hell for longer than anyone knows. Yet, to the casual observer, they may “seem just fine” even minutes before the shooting (Notice, I said shooting since a person who uses another form of weapon may have a different lead up to the killings). Obviously, people who kill those closest to them are not “fine” so it’s almost as if, in this final act of desperation, they are saying, “I’ll show you how fine things are for me in my life.”
The night after I first heard about these killings, Amazon Sage dream-travelled to the jail cells of young people who have committed similar types of shootings. She wanted to gather data; to find out why. She discovered that there are three factors that are often present in the life of a young multiple murderer that could provide clues that something is terribly wrong. The only thing is, you have to talk with the person to know. First, they feel as if they have no “voice,” in other words, they believe that their feelings and thoughts, sometimes, even their very existence is unimportant to others. Second, there is often some type of abuse that has or is occurring and that the victim believes will never be adequately dealt with; and third, an emotional catalyst occurs that starts the chain reaction of events leading to the person striking out in lethal ways. 
Ironically, a person most likely to commit such an egregious act is not the kid in a third world country who is struggling to stay alive or the gang banger with the big mouth. That person knows they are needed by someone, even if only for their own survival. No, the kind of killer I’m talking about is most likely middle class, white, not starving, has shelter and food... and for those reasons, nobody thinks they have anything to complain about. Yet, this kid is more likely to feel lost in life, than the most desolate refugee. 
So besides getting to know the person and offering friendship, what can be done? If you’re a teacher, really read what they write and if a classmate, look at what they surround themselves with. Often it will be images of death and violence. If you are a parent of a kid who prefers to spend most time alone, ask yourself when was the last time you let him or her know how truly important they are in your life and in the life of the family. If the young person has been abused or bullied (especially if it was by a family member), go with them to get help in dealing with their inner cauldron of rage. I’ve seen these kids. I listened to what they told me. Now it’s your turn...

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

"Ancient Chinese saying: A journey of a thousand miles begins with one small step."

Greetings. CNN international reports: “For more than a decade, television journalist Xuan Kejiong has covered almost every major disaster in China's largest metropolis, from fires and typhoons to robberies and murders.” You might wonder, “So what?” It's because he does this in a country known for fierce intolerance of any "less than favorable" depictions of government and because he has become “arguably the most famous journalist in the city of 20 million residents.” If you do the math, that means he began reporting when he was barely past his teens!

After I read this, I knew Amazon Sage would be eager to dream-travel to China, to see what made this intrepid reporter so courageous, so I settled into sleep with expectations of a great ride. What a dream ride I got! Amazon Sage landed smack in the middle of Tiananmen Square, China, in 1989! For the uninitiated, Tiananmen Square was the scene of a horrible massacre of thousands of students*, by the People's Republic of China (PRC). Although these students practiced non violence and had initially gathered to mourn the death of a former Party official known for tolerating dissent, those who would not leave when ordered to do so by the military, were brutally killed.
Taking it all in, was an impressionable, 12 year-old boy named Xuan Kejiong. In those traumatic days following the massacre, he learned two critical lessons: First, speaking out can be fatal. Second, speaking out is critical... if you want to make the kinds of changes needed for a country to move forward. What he did with this knowledge is something we can all learn from. 
Whereas, in our democratic country, free speech is valued so much that the Supreme Court recently ruled in favor of a small group of idiots who display unbelievably offensive signs at the funerals of soldiers and where young people are allowed to make “movies” in which all of the angst and anger of a generation is out there for all to see.... In China, those same funeral busting idiots would be imprisoned (or worse) and the efforts of most young movie makers would never see the light of day.  
What that means for Xuan, is that from a young age, he had to figure out how to get information to the people and avoid the wrath of his non-democratic government. This he did brilliantly; by learning the art of subtlety and diplomacy... something that is in short supply in our country these days. You might say, “And your point?” My point is this, young people have vital things to share with our leaders and the world; things that can actually help save the planet! But when these messages are only shared with each other or put out there in ways that alienate the very adults who could make a difference, the point is lost. Through this blog, Amazon Sage tries to help you uncover truths. Perhaps, like China’s young Xuan Kejiong, you too can become a hero by learning how to speak so you will really be heard. What would you say to make a difference?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

"Yesterday was a day of mourning..."

Good morning, friends. My neighbor Erik, died the night before last but he will not be having a funeral. There will probably not even be a memorial service.  Almost no one even came around to see him in his last days. Yet he was one of the nicest guys I ever met. When my family moved next door to him last year, it was he who made me feel most welcome. I was worried about whether my two little dogs would bother him since they liked to “talk” loudly, when anybody came to the door. In a most kind way, Erik reassured me that they were no problem; that he too had a dog until she passed away about a year before.
Erik was not an an old man and many would wonder why it was his time to go.  The Erik I knew wanted to live. From the time I met him, he continued to undergo painful, seemingly endless procedures; surgeries, chemotherapy, and radiation to try to rid his body of the terrible cancer that invaded it. He had to give up his car but he still tried to take walks until his exhaustion was so great that he once remarked with embarrassment, “I’m in bed about 22 hours of every day...” Others tried to get him to live somewhere where he would be better cared for, anywhere but the three story home he loved so much. But he refused to be treated like an invalid. Yes, Erik wanted to live... Unfortunately, he wanted to smoke more.
You see, Erik was one of those people who was sure it wouldn’t happen to him: lung cancer, that is. You know the type: “I started as a kid, and I’ve never been sick a day in my life” and “smoking is one of my few pleasures” or worse yet, “I was born to smoke.” I sometimes wonder why people who are heading down a direct path to self destruction cannot see that the only reason anybody says anything to them about it, is because they actually care. Unfortunately, I did not know Erik long enough to make a difference in his smoking and I can only pray that I made some small difference in his life, through the occasional chats and good wishes that we shared. I will certainly miss him.
The night he died, even though he’d been in the hospital for a few days, I held out hope he would soon be back home. But I already knew something was terribly wrong when Amazon Sage stayed with me, in my dreams; guiding me from one painful experience to another. It was as if I was in the body of a person who was dying. I saw pure water turn into black liquid draining from faucets and running down the street; as if the life force itself, was draining out.  In the same dream my deceased father, who always comes around when I am dealing with something painful,  set an exquisite table of food and drink, as if to help someone transition to the other side. I knew then, that somebody close to me was dying. 
So for all you smokers out there, and chewers, and pipe or cigar suckers...Why quit? Because nicotene addicts can and do die young. But more importantly, because when you choose to take your own life in that way, others who know you suffer as well. After all, we are all in this world together. Please check it out, my friends:

Friday, March 4, 2011

"R-E-S-P-E-C-T... Give it to me, give it to me, give it to me..."

Aretha Franklin has it right when she sings: "What you want... Baby, I got it... What you need... you know I got it... all I'm asking for... is a little respect." If you're not familiar with this tune, check it out (URL below). Then think about the last time somebody treated you without respect. It probably didn't feel so good. You may have had any number of reactions; some get fightin' mad when they're diss'd; others withdraw; still others become disrectful in return... tit for tat.  One thing you probably do not feel when somebody shows you disrespect is warm and cozy... or like joining their side.

We know this happens on a small (micro) level, but did you know that it also happens on a macro level as well? For instance, when a country treats the leaders of another country (or their own citizens) without respect, still being people,  these individuals will have a negative reaction... just on a larger scale. Take Egypt, for example or here... where women, the young, and the poor are being treated by some politicians as if they don't matter. In Japan, there's a name for the feeling of being disrespected. It's called "losing face." That's because when somebody acts as though you don't count, they make you metaphorically "faceless" in their eyes.

Contributing to others' loss of face was an increasingly noticeable problem during the latter part of the last century, especially in our dealings with Mid- Eastern countries, and may have had more to do with our country's inability to get cooperation from foreign governments and their citizens than anybody realized. Therefore, Amazon Sage dream-travelled back to some of those war-torn areas to see what happened. Amidst the anger and threats of violence voiced by those who felt disrespected, Amazon Sage was amazed to find one young military man who knew about the power of respect and carried it with him, no matter where he went or with whom he interacted. He knew that if he treated others with respect, even when he had to carry out noxious orders, then all of those involved knew that they were dealing with an honorable person. Believe it or not, that helped save his life many times over.

This concept is not dissimilar to what so many Native Americans have been teaching since long before colonists invaded their sovereign lands. They've always taught that even if you must kill a deer to have food, you do it with respect for the animal, not as if the deer's life doesn't matter. Rather, as if in giving life, the hunter is enriched by the deer's body and blood. Hmmm. Sound familiar? It makes me wonder if that's not what the Christian Easter message has been trying to get across; that when something -- or someone -- is willing to die for us, then we owe them a debt of gratitude. Think about it for awhile and see what you think. While you're at it, listen to Aretha. :-)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

“I regret to inform you that the Eastern Cougar is Extinct”

Good morning, friends. Last night, I could not believe what I was reading: “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Wednesday declared the eastern cougar to be extinct...” As an avid fan of all things wild, I was saddened. As a person whose favorite wild animal is the cougar (aka Puma, Florida Panther, Mountain Lion, and Fire Cat), I was devastated! How could this happen? Don’t people realize that extinction is forever? 
I continued reading: “Once widely dispersed throughout the eastern United States, the mountain lion was all but wiped out by the turn of the last century... killed in vast numbers... states even held bounties....” 
Grrr! Fighting against the reality of what I read and filled with fury, I finally fell asleep. In my dream world, Amazon Sage’s spirit filled with the fire of the fire cat to such a degree that she shape-shifted into the last Eastern Fire Cat. Suddenly she found herself running, running through forest and field, all the way to the top of the mountain. There, she roared her dismay for all animals, everywhere who face such an inglorious fate. Standing atop the mountain, she knows the hunters have her in their sites and remembers back to the last time she saw her mother.  
Back then, this powerful Eastern cougar was an adorable cub, playfully leaping from behind a bush and clumsily attacking her mother. But her mother has been shot and is too weak to nurse. Like the forest, the cub's life source has dried up. Futilely, the baby attempts to get her mother to respond. But soon, the mother cougar fades into the beyond and the little one instinctively knows she must leave the den or she too, will die.  
Amazingly, the little one is found by an awkward teenage girl who loves wild animals and indigenous music. The girl’s name is Sage. For two years, in secret, Sage feeds and protects the young cub until able to be on her own. That is why she is so saddened today, when the sound of gunshots ring out, and the exquisite Eastern Cougar is no more. In her last, and bravest act, the Fire Cat roars her hope that humans will see what they are doing and stop before it’s too late. To kill her is to kill a part of our own soul. Sadly, in their selfish revelry, shooting for pleasure from the cockpit of a plane, they do not hear. 
As Sage is about to awaken, Amazon Sage shifts back into the shape of the girl who reads the end of the article about the Eastern Cougar. It says: “The [extinction] decision does not affect the status of the Florida panther, another endangered wildcat.....”  Now I know what we must do. “We must save the Florida Panther!”

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

“How did a new age ceremony become murder?”

Good morning, friends. According to CNN: “Opening statements began in the trial of self-help author and speaker James Arthur Ray... charged with the death of three people at an Arizona sweat lodge.” I ask, “What’s wrong with this picture?

Is the fact that this man was violating a Native American spiritual ceremony really that important?” I say “Yes.”

Most will agree that people of all cultures share a desire to seek a connection to the divine. We need not look far for  ample evidence. And all around the world, sacred ceremonies are shared with those outside their culture. It is a great honor to be included and an outsider's participation is with complete awareness of the potential dangers involved.
But sometimes the greedy forget how powerful the human mind is and, if underestimated, how these forces can quickly overwhelm our bodies. We need only look to the field of psychology to see how this plays out: Soldiers returning home without a scratch yet so traumatized they can never again function in society; victims of rape never again able to experience a loving sexual relationship; and yes, victims of new age ceremonies, those conducted without adequate knowledge or sensitivity to indigenous teachings, traumatized for life by the sights and sounds of people wretching and dying all around them.

This is where human frailties become dangerous as one man’s greed did not long ago. Without the blessing or sanction of medicine people in the Native American tradition, he decided to make money off of innocent people’s desire for spirituality. Last night, as my eyes closed, I mulled over these issues and almost before I was asleep Amazon Sage dream-traveled to that fateful day in Camp Verde, Arizona. She was determined to find out what really happened inside and if possible, offer help.  Once inside the makeshift “sweat lodge” she quickly saw the problem; too many people had too little air. Yet they were admonished not to lift the tarp around the sides and certainly not to exit, lest they lose their “spiritual lesson.” Meanwhile, the “leader” sat next to the opening where he had all the air he needed.

The looks on the people’s faces were certainly not of bliss. Some had already begun to vomit, struggling to follow their leader’s directive to stay put. When Ray finally allowed the occupants to exit, one of his outside staff members described the scene this way: “As people stumbled out of the sweat lodge, collapsing on the ground, James Ray was just watching... standing above and watching. “ ... as people suffered and died. Amidst the horror, all Amazon Sage could do was sit quietly with the dying as their sweet spirits passed into the great beyond.

Were this an actual spiritual ceremony and not simply a device for a leader to line his pockets, no person would have been shamed into staying. More importantly, they would certainly not have been charged money for their “spiritual experience”. So, once again I ask you: “How did a new age ceremony become murder?” Look to the motivation of the leader and the source of the ceremony and you will know the answer.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

“Aren’t the Oscars about more than Fashion?

Good morning, friends. Last night, Amazon Sage dream travelled to the Oscars. I don’t know about you, but if I had worked as hard as those people work, putting together films that not only entertain, but have the possibility of changing the world, I would resent being placed on some yahoo’s list of “Best” or “Worst Dressed” Oscar attendee. What if, when Amazon Sage travelled back to the night of the Academy Awards, she saw and heard something that this:
An attractive newswoman, stands on the red carpet, microphone in hand, providing the best and the beautiful with a red carpet greeting. This is her big opportunity to shine since she is well versed in fashion. With the arrival of a newly nominated filmmaker, Amy gushes her approval. Elizabeth Williams, sports a warm persona and a ready smile. She is clearly a person of the people, a refreshing change from the divas. It is in great part, due to the brave political statements, made in her film, that she was selected. 
With a superficial smile planted on her face, Amy approaches. “Dr. Williams, welcome to the event of the season! I see you are dressed in the attire of your ancestors. Not exactly Valentino or Oscar de la Renta, but certainly, uh, interesting.” With a slight sneer she continues, “Where would you suggest I send our viewers if they want to find something like this?”
Elizabeth pauses and looks directly into Amy’s eyes, as she quietly speaks. “Thank you, Amy. You’ve always had a good eye for couture.  As for me, tonight is not about fashion, it is about coming home... to a culture, to an honoring of the land we all share. Tonight, with utmost respect, I join others who also want to come home to a new way of being with each other.”
As Elizabeth makes her way into the crowd, shaking hands and smiling, Amy raises her hand and stops her camera man. So impacted is she by Elizabeth’s words, that for moments afterward, she fades into the background, letting Elizabeth’s words soak in.  When she resumes interviewing, it is with a different spirit, not about fashion but about humanity and heritage, the topics so many films try to share. Discretely, as Amy continues her conversations, she decides to do more listening than talking. What if....