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I wish I could say that this elegant creature with the gorgeous gams was me, but it is actually my friend, Cynthia, photographed by her husband, James. She and Maz certainly win the contest for lithe beauty, don’t they?

As you know, I am most prone to revelation when walking on my beautiful beach in Long Point.  I call it my beach because, now that the visitors have vacated the premises for another year, this stretch of sand is solitary in its beauty, and as I stride along its length, I laugh with the universe in gratitude for this oasis which I own without ever having had to pay a cent towards a mortgage.

Yesterday, the air was filled with the cacophonous caws of a myriad of birds — they looked like starlings — perching in the ancient trees just up from the water’s edge.  They were making a tremendous racket, and every ten seconds or so, they would suddenly swarm from one tree to another nearby, spending several moments mid-air:  fleetly flitting up and down, east and west, all in the most delightful exhibition of synchronized flying available to the human eye.

There have been times on the beach when perhaps a dozen hawks have soared above my head with what seems a perilously narrow margin of clearance, and the tantalizing mixture of wonder and fear at the proximity of these large birds of prey has been exhilarating, to say the least.

But these starlings, if that’s what they were, provided a mystery, and an inspiration.

I suppose I could have cast myself as Tippi Hedren in Hitchcock’s classic film, and seen danger, but instead, I chose to perceive the perfect unity of the birds, which must have numbered in the many hundreds.

There are times when, like lemmings, we simply follow our fellows into oblivion.  We allow the pundits of agri-business and pharma-business and those who claim that climate change is all nonsense to seduce us into a zombie-like acceptance of the ever worsening status quo without really thinking for ourselves.

But then, there are other times when our membership in a larger tribe reflects a gathering energy created by individuals linked by similar values and a common purpose, and a releasing of that energy into the world.

The flock has more power than it realizes.  Are you concerned about the dangers of GMOs  — genetically modified corn and soybeans, for example?  You have the power to subvert this system by refusing to buy the many products which contain them.  Disturbed by the growing reports of potential links between overuse of vaccinations and a variety of ailments?  Through the miracle of the internet you have the power to research this subject and make an informed choice regarding what is right for you and your family.  Unhappy with the rumblings of ‘peak oil’ and ‘peak water’ as well as the menace of climate change always there lurking behind the sunshine?  You can choose to be part of the solution or part of the problem.

The tribe of those who are flocking together with the common goal of simple, yet abundant, living; a sustainable lifestyle; and a return to proper stewardship of this planet is growing.  We are beginning to swarm from tree to tree, uttering a raucous invitation to join us., and there is little time to waste.

You have the choice to stay on the ground, or to spread your wings.  The tribe is waiting for you, here in the air.

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I ask you to forgive my absence from this page over the past several weeks, gentle readers.  The extreme heat and other pressures of life began to overwhelm me, and as is so often the case, I retreated into the relative safety of my little world, which has recently revolved around health and canning nature’s bounty and, of course, finishing the requisite changes to my thesis.

But, last night, I had a sort of epiphany.  Part of that epiphany recognized that the times when the world overwhelms is absolutely the right time to express that feeling through the written word.  And the other flash of understanding I will attempt to illustrate through parable.

When the weather becomes unseasonably warm, my thoughts inevitably clang like a clapper to the side of a bell, pealing out negative thoughts regarding the havoc we are wreaking on this poor planet.  No matter how I try to lift my spirits, the resounding knell of global warming rattles my bones, and at these times, I despair of mankind, assiduously proclaiming to anyone who will listen that even a dog knows not to crap where it eats.

The heat at Long Point was so extreme last week that my poor canine boy was unable to traverse the scorching sand to reach the cool of the lake unaided.  Halfway there, he began to limp, then his hind legs literally buckled under him from the pain of his burning foot pads.

This is exactly the sort of scenario which causes me to plummet into a downward spiral, and the apex of this slippery slope is the following limiting thought:  “This is awful.  This has always been awful.  This will always be awful.  Forever and forever, without the amen.”

But being reasonably stoic, at these times I remind myself of a tale brought down through history in the writings of the Eastern mystics.

The story tells of a village which was overrun by the army of a feudal king as he plundered and conquered far from his own lands.  This lord had given the order that the villagers should be put to death, but, being of a whimsical nature, he bowed to their pleas for mercy, offering them this challenge.

“I will spare your lives,” the king said, “if, by this time tomorrow, you give me a very special gift:  a gift that will make me sad when I am happy, and happy when I am sad.”

At first, the villagers were struck down by despair.  How could they comply with this strange request?  What gift could possibly achieve what seemed impossible?

But their wisest elders and their craziest fools joined forces, and at the appointed hour, they approached the king, bearing a small, plain box.

When the king opened the box and saw the villagers’ gift, he was filled with awe at the perfection of it, and holding it high in the light of the new day, the sun shimmering off its surface, he immediately ordered their release.

The gift was a silver ring on which was inscribed, “And this, too, shall pass.”

Last night, I stood outside in my backyard orchard, gazing at the stars, set like jewels in a cobalt sky, and felt the first cool caress of autumn on my bare arms.  “This awful heat may come back,” I thought, “will certainly be back next summer, but in this present moment, I know in my soul that it is just now, and not forever.”

Whatever the joy, comfort, anguish, confusion of an instant, the only certainty is that it, too, will soon pass.  Surely the secret, then, is to fully inhabit every moment; to embrace every aspect of this divine comedy we call life, secure in the knowledge that each tick of the clock brings with it a transition into a new experience.  It is the accumulation of these moments and experiences that make us who we are, and since we are all on our own perfect journeys to becoming our fullest selves, whatever the moment holds is, in itself, a silver circlet of fleeting perfection.

So today, I give myself this hero(ine)’s challenge:  I will slip the king’s ring on my finger, and try to encounter every one of life’s moments fully.

And make no mistake, the ring is there, patiently waiting for the present moment in which you choose to grasp it in your palm and allow it encircle your life.

After my last two posts, and the resultant discussions through the comments, I found this weekend’s horoscope from Jonathan Cainer highly interesting:

Why do we choose the clothes we wear? We want to catch our reflection in the mirror and think, ‘I like what I see there.’ And we want others to have a similar reaction when they cast their eyes upon us too. Or, at least, that’s the theory. All our outfits may be carefully chosen for this purpose when we first select them but eventually they just become ‘the thing that has to be cleaned today’. Happily, as you will soon see, both love and attraction are governed by factors that are deeper than appearance alone.

How’s that for being tuned in to the stars?  😀

I’ve been percolating away on yesterday’s post, as well as the interesting comments that were made, and I find I’m not ready to let this topic drop!  Please bear with me while I muse aloud … in print.

It’s fascinating to me what different paths men and women tread toward attraction.

Now, we’ve heard for some time that men are from Mars, and women are from Venus.  That men seek independence and women, interconnection.  Deborah Tannen has written a fascinating book called Please Understand Me, in which she explores the different communication styles favoured by both genders.  Studying groups of 5 year girls and boys, and 25 year old men and women, she found more similarity along gender lines than within age groups, despite the enormous developmental differences between youth and adulthood.  The broad strokes of her research shows that, whether 5 or 25, males seek authority and give directives, while females seek consensus and ask questions.   This was driven home to me while taking an international flight a few weeks after reading the book:  the attendants were readying for landing, and a man across the aisle from me and up several rows didn’t have his seat in the requisite upright position.  The stewardess gently touched him on the shoulder and said, “Sir, would you mind putting your seat up?”  Minutes later, the man hadn’t complied, and a passing steward stated authoritatively, “Sir, put your seat up.”  I smiled, and thought of Dr. Tannen.

From what I’ve read and seen, men and women seem to approach attraction differently as well.

I can personally relate a scenario in which I was interviewed for the job of Marketing Manager with a major book re-seller in the GTA.  The owner of the company sat with me for over two hours, during which time we sparred our way through a number of lively discussions springboarding off his interview questions.  At the end of the interview, he offered me the job.  I grimaced slightly, because it was the best 2 hours I’d spent in a work place in some time, and I was about to disappoint both him and myself.

“I’m sorry,” I said, ruefully.  “I just don’t think this is the right job for me.”

“Oh,” the owner replied in a deflated tone.  Surveying me closely, he cocked his head to one side:  “You want to think about it over the weekend?”

I sat back in my chair at the unexpectedness of his query.  “Okay!”

The next day was Saturday.  As requested, I thought long and hard about our discussion, and realized that, while I knew intuitively that the job wasn’t a good fit for my personality, there was something keeping me from just saying ‘no’.  On Sunday, when reflecting on the owner and our interaction, I noticed that some rather warm feelings seemed to be incubating within me … imagined scenes in which his physical person was placed in close proximity to my own.  In these … well, let’s call them what they were … fantasies, there may or may not have been some jiggling going on, but there was probably some rocking and most definitely some lip action.

The surprising thing about this was that the gentleman in question was so far from the societal standard for physical perfection in the male of the species as to render such feelings unexpected.  In comparison to myself, the quintessential ‘big boned gal’, he was petite, 5’6″ in his stocking feet, and perhaps 130 pounds soaking wet.  He had frizzy brown hair which framed his small face in a highly indiscriminate manner, and wore coke bottle glasses with heavy black rims.

And still, I was definitely feeling a physical attraction.  What was this about?

After several more hours of contemplation, the conclusion I came to was this:  I thought he had the coolest mind I’d come across in a long, long time.  When he asked a question, he looked intently into your eyes while you answered, and you honestly felt that he wanted to engage with you.

My mind was intrigued, and my body was following where the mind led … in this case, it was leading to some rather racey locales which are perhaps best left un-discussed, seeing as my mother reads this blog.

And since I’ve recently come to understand that curiousity engenders considerable discomfort in felines, let me tell you what transpired.

I went back to his office on Monday morning, sat down in the chair facing his desk, looked him right in the eye, and suggested that, while I still didn’t believe the job was right for me, I hadn’t enjoyed meeting a man so much in an extremely long time, and, if his situation allowed, I’d very much like to take him to dinner.

Goethe claims that fortune favours the brave, but alas, this was not my experience.  Apparently, his situation didn‘t allow, although he was discreet and lovely about it all.  I was disappointed, but felt heartened in that at least I’d attempted to seize the day, which was invigorating, even if unproductive.

Now, let’s move to male attraction. Male readers, please fasten your seat belts, it’s about to get bumpy.

I must begin by admitting that scholarly pursuits sometimes take one down strange and unanticipated alleyways!  I was conducting some research on Gary S. Taylor, who, along with that lion of Shakespearean study, Stanley Wells, had edited one of the most popular editions of Shakespeare’s complete works available  The most recent book on Taylor’s roster at that time involved a study of castration through the ages.  Clicking through various links, I came across the story of a man who had, for some years, entertained a castration fantasy, which he animated using a number of tactics too painful to relate in polite company.  One night, at a gay S&M bar, he abandoned his primary rule in such situations, which was to remain sober at all times.  At the home of a pair of young men with whom he intended liaison, he tipsily related his secret fetish; a short time later, he found that one of the men had injected his scrotum with anesthetic, severed his testicles with one clean swipe of a scalpel, and stitched up the incision with a proficiency only garnered through medical training.

When I read this, I literally felt sickened that someone would do something so permanent and destructive to another human being (although, to be honest, recent events in my life have reminded me that doctors have been ripping out women’s reproductive organs with little or no rationale for several hundred years).

At any rate, this man was left in the unenviable situation of reconciling his present  physical state, which many would consider a mutilation, with the fulfillment of his fantasy.

But what was really interesting to me was this:  when asked how he was coping in ‘normal life’ without those body parts deemed essential by most men, he said that he had only one overriding problem.

He never knew now when he was attracted to a man.

He related that attraction to him, in the past, had been manifested by ‘getting a stiffy’ and without this physical road sign, he didn’t quite know how to negotiate dating’s complex map of highways and byways.  It was uncharted territory for him, and he was being forced to re-learn attraction in a new and different way.

While we’re speaking anecdotally, these dichotomous examples are consistent with much of what I know and read about male and female attraction.  Women tend to encounter attraction through the mind and emotional centre, after which it seeps into their bodies.  Men experience attraction first in their bodies, before it potentially transforms into romantic feeling.  And please note, I’m not trying to judge either route in a qualitative way, just to understand.

So what do you think?  Is this true?  And if so, what does it mean for men and women as they attempt to hook up with the right romantic partner?