A ‘greenhouse’ for the soul hides in plain sight

Fort Mason Community Gardens welcome solitude seekers. (Photo: Courtesy of author)

I feed on solitude the way bees feed on nectar. It’s my energy recharger, my soul-sustaining nutrient. Even living in a dense city, I can find a favorite sanctuary of mine less than a mile from home. I share it with the bees, butterflies, birds, other denizens of nature, and fellow solitaries.

The first time I stepped through the gate to the Fort Mason Community Gardens, it felt as if an invisible capsule descended and I was pneumatically transported to an Edenic paradise.

I put my name on a waiting list…

Zen-practicing neuroscientist discusses the flow and center of no-self, common to skills like tango and surfing.

Surfer in the flow, dancing on a wave, Santa Cruz, California. Photo: Brocken Inaglory Wikimedia Commons

There is no dearth of evidence, scientific and anecdotal, about physical activities’ health effects on body and mind. The euphoria-inducing dopamine release, the elevated endorphins, and the chemical cocktail that changes brain waves inducing the physiological glow and flow, have been much discussed.

Odd as it sounded, surfing friends have told me that they experience similar mind-body states when I described my tango trance. This made more sense to me when I attended a rousing lecture at the San Francisco Zen Center by Philippe Goldin, Ph.D, clinical research psychologist and neuroscientist at Stanford.

Dr. Goldin was discussing, not tango or…

Sixteen Writers on the Decision NOT to Have Kids

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

This 2015 collection, edited and with an introduction by Meghan Daum should be read by anyone on the fence regarding children. I’ve often wondered how much a woman’s decision to bear children is her own desire, how much is societal pressure — a sort of avoidance of the stigma (cultural shaming) for not contributing to the birthrate. The actual title, Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed is an ironic shout back at media that has portrayed childless adults as such. After reading these sixteen writers, including three men (one gay), I feel in good company on my writerly path to no kids.

Ancient Indians, who gave us Ayurvedic medicine, recognized states of being, useful to every writer.

High, low, or in-between, the muse has a life of its own. Photo by Bermix Studio on Unsplash

Three states of being that every writer should recognize

If you practice yoga, a gift of Hindu culture, you may be aware of three qualities of energy, from which we draw strength. Even if you don’t, paying close attention to these three strands and how they affect your moods, physique, and desire to write or not, can help you enhance your highs, coast through the lows, and otherwise find your most productive center of being. Body chemistry is as vital as a mental outlook for writers.

Running through us and all of the natural worlds are three types of energy: rajas, the energy of passion and aggressiveness; tamas, the…

You are your writing, your writing is you. You only feel separate until you journey through the process.

We are one with the bull. Wikimedia Commons

The Ten Bulls or Ox-herding Pictures date back to about the 11th century in China, representing progress toward enlightenment, at a time when Buddhism was traveling from India, taking root in other parts of Asia. The childlike drawings serve as an allegory for moods, emotions, and shades of resistance that many writers experience.

1. Searching for the Ox — Sitting down on a Chair/Ox to find the Story. You & Story are separate. “Everything is shifting and unsteady.” Frisson of excitement and/or agitation.

2. Seeing the Traces Aha! Moments. You spill some ink, symbols on a blank page. Flashes…

Bicycling is one of the best ways to tour and savor Italy’s rustic countryside with its native flavors.

Assisi, pink and mystical, nestles in the heart of Umbria. Photo by Alessio Roversi on Unsplash

It was October when I was with a lively group, cycling the lush hills of Umbria, Italy’s “green heart.” I was on a bike tour with its heart as well as its sensibility in the right place. By day we cycled leisurely or as hard as we liked. By evening we shed our gear and scrubbed off the chain grease to dine in elegance. We never lifted luggage for nine days.

We lodged in mansions with views of the terraced farm country, in villas with gardens and courtyards, in a twelfth-century abbey with a haunting belfry, owned by a count…

“The Chihuly-like bouquets of coral might have been sculpted by an underwater glass-blower. They are under tons of lava now.”

Lemon tang. Photo by ZQ Lee on Unsplash

The Big Island, the largest and southeasternmost of the Hawaiian isles, is still birthing from its watery womb. It rises and falls in fiery fits and starts as the Pacific Plate tectonically shapes and shifts the entire chain. Kauai, the Garden Isle, farthest west, sits on an old, cold volcano, but the juvenile Big Island is point blank over the Hawaiian Hotspot.

In March 2012, I had the pleasure of visiting the Wai’Peo tide pools in Kepoho outside of the Big Island’s Hilo. The pools, known to a few, were gems filled with jewel-like, eye-popping visions. My friend, Bo, who…

Kristin Newman is a woman after my heart. In her memoir, What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding, she takes the globe by the balls. Literally.

Be a Nasty Woman. Photo by Mary Oloumi on Unsplash

It warms the cockles & valves of my heart to see a woman who takes the world by the balls. Who doesn’t sit around waiting for Mr. Right, but gets out, trots the globe, and understands that cultural immersion has many meanings and applications. In her 2014 memoir, Kristin Newman sets a new standard for women who don’t want to waste their lives submitting to conventions that, even with updated rules, have mostly been set by a dying patriarchy.

A man in every port is not what she sets out to have, but, speaking from parallel experience it’s what happens…

On an Olympic Peninsula trek, backpackers encounter a few land crossings.

The forest was a source of light glowing gold, green, luminous. Photo by Yux Xiang on Unsplash

As recent as the 1880s no one had traversed the Olympic Peninsula. Its interior was terra incognita and was fraught with mystery, legends of a sacred Indian valley, and perhaps a Sasquatch-like being. Some of those tales endure today and as in many wilderness areas, people still disappear.

The first explorers to penetrate the peninsula were a group of six men, the Press Expedition. They set out in winter 1889 aboard a steamer from Seattle to Port Angeles to their trailhead. They carried 1,500 pounds of supplies, 250 pounds…

There are six of us and we have four brothers, but they don’t share the dirt the way we do each summer at the Jersey Shore.

Our lips are sealed. What happens among sisters stays among sisters.

I don’t feel sorry for people who didn’t grow up as we did, in a big family in a small house, ten kids plus two parents. But I do feel sorry for anyone who didn’t survive the crowd with a bunch of sisters, six all told in our case.

No way in a short post can I describe what it’s been like or what they are like. While we have an inherent sameness—especially in looks, dark Italian features for the most part—we are all different in ways. Sometimes I call us a sister-pede (24 limbs).

Each summer for the past…

Camille Cusumano

Author(ity) in/on San Francisco. Novel, essay, memoir. Teaches tango. Travel, outdoors, culture. Former editor at VIA Mag.

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