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A “new” Monet

How nature heals us

I’m a huge Monet fan, and although I have yet to visit the Musée d’Orsay in Paris (it’s on my list!), I am familiar with many of his works. So when I discovered this unknown one through a fellow admirer, I was both surprised and delighted. And, I was also struck by how it bears an uncanny resemblance to the feature photo on my Jan. 28th post, Healing power of nature in this moment”.

A “new” Monet (my art lover friends say yay!)

Even people who aren’t art lovers at all may recognize Monet’s most famous paintings, particularly his water lily series. His iconic work from the Impressionist period pervades our world. But for hardcore Monet lovers, a “new” Monet apparently is big news. My fellow Monet-loving friends on Facebook corroborated this. They were as delighted as me to discover a not-so-famous image on my wall this week. I am also a huge lover of trees and mellow autumn walks, so this may be my new favorite Monet!

Nature heals us

Nature heals. Trees are magical, and studies about the Japanese practice of forest bathing prove this scientifically. As a side note, Monet loved Japanese prints and collected many to adorn his home. His famous water lily paintings certainly reflect the same tranquility in nature that the Japanese fully embrace. The deep connections between things never fails to amaze me.

So please, drink in the beauty of Monet’s “The Undergrowth in the Forest of Saint-Germain” (c.1882) , and…

Imagine walking into this beautiful forest right now – luminous, intoxicating, luscious, almost surreal. You are caressed and loved by Nature herself. The magical power of Monet’s art and the Earth Mother have been laid right here at your feet.  Take a moment to feed your soul.

Monet, you continue
to inspire a sad world.
Beauty never tires.

Hart Haiku
© Susan L Hart 2019
Related poem: Gaia the Earth Goddess
Painting “The Undergrowth in the Forest of Saint-Germain” by Claude Monet.
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Definition of beauty

Definition of beauty

Aphrodite is the ancient Greek goddess of love and beauty. And in society, don’t we just love to love beauty? Physical beauty, that is. Through generations and decades, the definition of perfect physical looks is constantly changing. Sadly we buy into it, time after time. And most lamentably for women, this translates literally to millions of dollars spent at the cosmetics counter each year. It leads me to wonder, does this perpetually limited definition of beauty indicate an unevolved society?

What about inner beauty?

In indigenous cultures, a person’s age and facial wrinkles have been signatures of wisdom and stature. In our modern Western societies, they denote “past one’s prime” and “not beautiful any more”. And perhaps even worse, no longer useful where money and “he who owns the most toys” measure success.

Limited definition of beauty through the ages

Out of curiosity, I Googled the phrase “definitions of beauty throughout history”. I was not at all surprised to find that the top listed articles are about desirable physical beauty. And, most specifically in women. It is interesting to peruse articles such as Body Types Through History. They just serve to confirm how fleeting physical standards of beauty really are. And in the long run, one realizes as well how thoroughly superficial they are.

The sociological implications

The only exception I found on the first page of the Google search results was History of Standards Of Beauty, a UK essay commentary about the sociological implications. Now for me, this is thoroughly engaging! It’s a lengthy read, but well worth it if you want an expanded analysis of exactly what I’m talking about here.

To sum up, perhaps it is time to reconsider of our definition of beauty and aging? In midlife I have come up against this wall personally, and I wrote about it in my story Pretty Is as Pretty Does.

See with your heart’s eyes.
Beauty has many faces,
when you feel deeper.

Hart Haiku

© Susan L Hart 2019
Related story: Pretty Is as Pretty Does
Photo courtesy Pixabay, Pexels
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Shades of love

Shades of love

Well, it’s almost Valentine’s Day and I couldn’t resist. Roses and chocolates are traditional expressions of love on this special day. And, red roses in particular denote the hot flame of passionate romance. But, in fact, there are many shades of love to consider on Valentine’s Day.

Pink is one of the many shades of love

For example, pink roses are quietly tender, and attributes often associated with them are: grace, harmony, gratitude, and joy. They therefore represent what we hope for in a more universal humanitarian love, what the ancient Greeks called “Agape”. The other types of love named by the Greeks are: Eros, Philia, Ludus, Pragma, Philautia, and Storge. And getting back to romance just for a moment, the love between two partners takes on different shades as their love evolves through the years.

Don’t look for outside love to complete you

Valentine’s Day is lighthearted fun when you’re in love and feeling romantic. But unfortunately the day can also bring out a feelings of lack and unhappiness in people, when they do not have a lover or spouse showering presents and flowers upon them. Love is a powerful force in this universe, but if we are always looking for it from an outside source to complete us, we become prime candidates for bitter disappointment. First and foremost, we must love ourselves. And when we do, we begin to see the world through loving eyes and we become magnets for love, in all of its beautiful forms and colors.

Express the many shades of love

Please, tell someone you love them this Valentine’s, be it lover, friend or family. Express your gratitude for their place in your life. Let’s make it a day not just for romance, but also for building a love that blossoms outward and opens many hearts. Who we are as individuals is not inconsequential in the world. We are all part of One. Let’s choose to be love.

A heart will shrivel
in the cold black hole called hate.
The pink love rose blooms.

Hart Haiku

© Susan L Hart 2019
Related story: Miracle in the Park
Photo courtesy Sharefaith, Pexels
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Forest Bathing

Forest bathing

I have always been a huge advocate of trees! There is a certain magic about them. Trees factor strongly in my landscape paintings, and a walk among them never fails to nourish me. I return to my workaday routine feeling lighter in spirit, but somehow also physically energized. It’s as though I’ve swallowed an elixir! Well, I just discovered lately that I have been inadvertently absorbing the healing benefits of “forest bathing”.


The Japanese love trees

The Japanese avidly practice forest bathing. You heard it right! Bathing in trees. Spending time around them and soaking up all their great energy. Major studies and experiments have been conducted in Japan to measure the positive effects of trees on humans. The results astound in terms of physical and emotional health. The benefits include improved immune system, lower pulse rate and blood pressure, and reduced incidence of depression. Have I piqued your interest? To find out more, go to this Quartz blog post: The Japanese practice of ‘forest bathing’ is scientifically proven to improve your health.
After you read it, you may just become the next tree bathing convert!

And lest you think this is just some weird Asian ‘flash in the pan’ fad, I’m here to tell you, no it is not. In 1982, forest bathing integrated into the national health program in Japan and the studies quoted on health benefits go back as far as 2004. Tree bathing is lately being embraced in our Western culture as an antidote to stress.

The West embraces the healing benefits of forest bathing

A brief excerpt from the Quartz article:

“Julia Plevin, a product designer and urban forest bather, founded San Francisco’s 200-member Forest Bathing Club Meetup in 2014. They gather monthly to escape technology. “It’s an immersive experience,” Plevin explained to Quartz. “So much of our lives are spent interacting with 2D screens. This is such a bummer because there’s a whole 3D world out there! Forest bathing is a break from your phone and computer…from all that noise of social media and email.”

As far as I know, no one has figured out how to bottle this yet. (And I hope they never do.) So, scout around for some trees in your neighborhood real soon, and let them work their magic on you. Happy bathing!

Myriad thoughts and
worries fret my scrambled brain.
Gentle trees soothe it.

Hart Haiku

Tonic © Susan L Hart 2019
Photo courtesy icon0.com, Pexels
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Chimborazo & me

Chimborazo & me

Chimborazo is a dormant volcano, the highest mountain in Ecuador, and the highest peak near the equator. At 20,548 ft., its summit is the farthest point on the Earth’s surface from the Earth’s center. The indigenous in Ecuador have dubbed Chimborazo “Taita”, which means father. And just as a father would, I do believe this mountain taught me that we are free spirits.

Chimborazo knows, we are free spirits

I visited Chimborazo last November, along with my partner and a couple of close friends. A guide drove us partway up the mountain to a rest station, which is at about 16,000 ft. We got out of the van to walk around, and we all experienced some dizziness and shortness of breath with very little exertion. (Even our guide, who was younger, fitter and a regular hiker.) I was quite frankly in awe. That is, of the power and majesty of this mountain, and also the fact that a friend climbed from base to summit some years ago. What an accomplishment! Our guide told us that this is one of the most dangerous mountains in the world, and other climbers have perished attempting to conquer it.

Feeling the magnificent power

As I stood at our rest point and looked up to the summit, my spirit soared. I have experienced this on a few previous occasions in my travels. I was lost in the magnitude and grandeur of the space. And in that moment, I was simply a human being connected to this beautiful Earth, unencumbered by what I am required to be in our civilization. It was just the sky, the mountain, and me.

And I was free.

Ode to Chimborazo

Oh Father Taita!
Your majestic mightiness
brings me to my knees.

When I am burdened
with the every day mundane,
I gaze heavenward.

And you remind me
of my rightful place here on Earth –
Human free spirit.

Hart Haiku

© Susan L Hart 2019
Related blog post: Bereft
Photo courtesy Daviid Marceshagnay, Unsplash
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Inhale

20190128

Imagine walking into this beautiful forest right now – luminous, intoxicating, luscious, almost surreal. You are caressed and loved by Nature herself.

Gaia has this way of revealing what is steadfast and true. She shows us ourselves, and she heals us. Have you given yourself a nature break lately? The path is waiting. Enter the portal and lose yourself, even if only for a few seconds. This moment – right now – is connected to the Infinite. If you listen carefully, she’s calling you. And she is potent medicine.

Shafts of golden light
shine softly through crimson leaves.
My soul steeps in now.

Hart Haiku

© Susan L Hart 2019
Related poem: Gaia the Earth Goddess
Photo courtesy Johannes Plenio, Pexels
Featured post

Respect for the land

Respect for the land

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Being born in a country of vast natural resources and exquisite landscapes, I have always felt an affinity for the land.  And as a professional artist, landscapes have been my favored subject matter. My goal has always been to capture moments that I hope will heighten the viewer’s appreciation of Earth’s beauty.

Gaia the Earth Mother

Little did I realize that an even deeper understanding of reverence for the land would come when I began traveling. It is impossible to deny the existence of Gaia in the Hawaiian Islands. Gaia (or Gaea) is the primal Mother Earth goddess in Greek mythology. In native Hawaiian culture, she is known as Papa (the short version of the Maori name Papatuanuku). Her presence permeated Hawaii and I felt at peace there.

Native peoples show respect for the land

In both Hawaii and New Zealand (where I later spent time), the native peoples are very present and visible in the culture. And, they are very proud of their cultural heritage and their connection to the land. For native peoples the land is not something meant to pillage and strip bare for profit. We are meant to live in cooperation and harmony with it, and preserve its beauty as much as possible.

An excerpt from my article Reverence for the Land and Each Other:

“Early Hawaiians believed that the earth was a living being with its own consciousness. They never tried to dominate or own the land, but believed in taking care of the land and living in harmony with it. In Hawaiian language, this is called ‘pono’, or being in harmony with one’s self and the environment, for they are all elements of one energy… In Hawaiian culture, successful cohabitation with the land depended on several principles; these involved cooperation and a sense of community among the people who worked the land. Caring for the land (malama aina) was accomplished through working together (lokahi) and using many hands (laulima).”

We are at a crisis point

We see an escalating number of articles in the news about pollution and the demise of certain species of animals. A big one is the threat that plastic garbage poses, particularly to the health of our oceans and the wildlife that lives there. For humans it seems it is often a case of “out of sight, out of mind”. If things are not right in our faces, we find it easy to ignore them. But, soon it will reach a stage where it cannot be ignored. Our lack of respect for the land could very well result in our own demise.

What can any one person do?

As individuals, even if we are awake and aware of the problem, a feeling of lack of personal power can result in apathy. But, much of our clout is rooted in our ability to say one small-but-mighty word. NO. NO. NO. Say no to products that are derived from rape of the land, and/or, mistreatment of other human beings. And as much as possible, say no to products that are non-recyclable or produced from non-renewable natural resources. As long as we keep supporting these greedy corporations financially, the rape and pillaging and destruction will continue.

Just say “NO”

Do your research, and just say “no”. There is a lot out there on the Internet about our ecological problems. And yes, we need to acknowledge and understand them before we can come up with solutions. But on a positive note, here’s a website to inspire you about what is possible with community. Read about the efforts on the island of Molokai, Hawaii, to preserve the land in reverence of the old ways.
Molokai Land Trust – The Future, in Honor of Our Native Past

And then ask yourself, what can you do personally, and what can your community do, to preserve and honor the land?

Garbage on oceans,
Pachamama weeps heartbreak.
Her children are lost.

Hart Haiku

© Susan L Hart 2019
Related poem: Gaia the Earth Goddess
Photo courtesy Chris LeBoutillier, Pexels

20190120

 

Hummingbird dances

Hummingbird dances

I must confess, I have a split personality. I love the energy of both cities and countryside. I’m torn between two worlds…

Exciting big cities

Big cities are high energy and fast-paced. Sometimes nothing can beat that energetic high from exploring around a new one. I’ve been fortunate to visit some of the great cities of the world – San Francisco, Sydney, Auckland, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Quito, Vancouver, Toronto, … So many cities, so little time. There are many I’d still love to experience. Paris and Rome are two big ones on my list!

But, then comes the drain

However, as exciting as big cities can be when we have leisure time to discover the best of them, it can be extremely draining to live in one full-time. The subway system in Hong Kong is one of the best in the world, and fun to ride as a tourist. But I observed the residents carefully in the time I was there. People constantly sandwiched into crowded places, faces planted in their cell phones. There was little connecting with other people, smiling or even making eye contact. Everyone just seemed to be enduring their own personal grind, surrounded by soulless cement.

Be in tune with body messages

It is very important to be cognizant of the drain on our energy in cities. Sometimes it can be difficult or even impossible for city dwellers to escape to green space for a reprieve from the pollution, noise, and crowds. I realized about a year ago that the traffic noise near my house was constantly making me feel on edge. It was a low grade, incessant drain that at first was easy to block out. But there came a time when I realized it was slowly sucking the life energy out of me.

Find your piece of green, today

So as much as I hate moving (who doesn’t?), I bit the bullet and did it for my physical and mental health. My partner and I are now installed in a new neighborhood, which is a short 5-minute walk to green space with a large park and river. I head there frequently for my “nature medicine”, walks and bicycle rides to calm and feed my soul. I’m feeling in better balance these days. And never underestimate the power of even a little patch of nature to energize. There is also a luxuriant garden around the house. When I feel tired or discouraged, a quick step out the door brings me back to my calm center. And unfailingly, the little dance of our resident hummingbird brings joy to my soul.

20190513a

Such simple medicine, but so potent. There’s a great Time article about embracing nature as a mood booster. What Green Spaces Can Do to Your Mood is well worth the short read.

Will you fit in at least a small nature fix today? I urge you to do so…

When city voids me,
I flee to garden refuge.
Hummingbird dances.

unified vision

© Susan L Hart 2019
Photo of Hong Kong courtesy Andrew Haimerl, Pexels

Value of today

Your today

There are three powerful little messages embodied in this haiku: time, thought, and your worth.

Time: As much as you are living and learning in other soul experiences in infinite time (yes, you are!), you are right here, right now, focusing on this life. Will you make the choice to embrace today? Within the past few years, I have lost both of my parents. This was truly a wake up call to my own mortality. Logically we know we are mortal (and our ego fears it), but, we still tend to live life as though we have an endless supply of days. Make the most of today. One of the most beautiful movies I’ve seen that drives this idea home is About Time”. If you haven’t seen it, try to.

Thought: Is your mind consumed with your “to-do list” the second you wake up? Is there any time today reserved for contemplation, introspection, gratitude for the good things you already have in your life? (Gratitude expands abundance.) If not, I strongly urge you to make space for those.

Your worth: Do you even believe that you deserve to have good things come your way today? You do. But if you don’t believe it, then I’ll bet you have at least one champion in your life – you know, a person who believes in you, when you can’t or won’t believe in yourself – that loves you enough to talk you through this. Connect with that person, somehow or some way, even if it can be only for a quick “Hi”. Today, surround yourself with your champions.

Today is all we’ve got. Today I made time to write to you, because I think you’re worth it. Please, pick up the ball and run with it. Today.

Start of a new day.
Have you given your thoughts space
to bring good to you?

Hart Haiku

© Susan L Hart 2019
Photo courtesy Travis Rupert, Pexels

Our virtual reality

Our virtual reality
A must-watch commentary about how technology is destroying our attention span and critical thinking skills: the 13-minute video in Feel Like Time Is Speeding Up Lately…?

Technology lacks
heart and soul and humanness.
Put it in its place.

Hart Haiku

© Susan L Hart 2019
Photo courtesy Sebastian Voortman, Pexels