Our old apple tree has a few blossoms on it! They look like lovely pinkish froth, almost, despite there being only a handful of them. I hope next year the tree has more blossoms — I remember the apple trees we had in Texas nearly exploded with blossoms each year. To my knowledge we've also got two hummingbird nests on the property, which I love. There's one in the front and one in the back, and the backyard one is right outside the window where I sit to work. I was so pleased to see the backyard hummingbird feeding babies in the nest yesterday — incredibly cool! I've purchased a new hummingbird feeder and a metal stand to make sure it stays up high; that's getting installed this weekend. I'd like to plant a bunch of flowers that attract hummers, butterflies, and bees, but that's going to have to wait probably until next year — when I have more time and money to devote to planning and performing that.

On the other hand, in order to finish the bat houses all I have to do is find all the pieces, finish putting them together, and mount them. I think we're going to have to put them back-to-back on a pole, though. While the south side of a house is considered the best location, our south side is all first floor… and they need to be at least 15' up in the air. Maybe the west side of the house would work too? There's a nice, big wall on that side that gets all the setting sun, after all… and that's when the bats should be waking up, if my understanding is correct.

Electrical madness! ;)

Electrical madness! ;)

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I am very sad to report that the Women's Spirituality program at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology is being closed down. Apparently shortly after I graduated, the much-beloved president died, though this was not a surprise. A new president was selected, apparently without enough searching into his background… because — and here I condense and simplify considerably — he proceeded to spend the school's comfortable chunk of extra budget in expensive junkets to supposedly bring in more students, changed the school's very clear and descriptive name and logo to things which were (respectively) less clear and very ugly, convinced over three quarters of the Board of Directors to quit, declared a financial emergency, fired almost half the faculty and staff when they objected and asked where the hell the money had gone, and then sold the school to a Chinese conglomerate which was interested in creating an engineering school which also taught some Eastern philosophy.

Needless to say, the school that emerged from this is very different from the ITP where I studied. As a single example, they're not interested at all in Women's Spirituality, and so are not supporting it whatsoever. Further, the three women who started this marvelous program have been running it for about 15 years now. Two of them are either retired or retiring, and the third is getting closer to that point. Moving the program to another school would not be easy — tragically, there are very few schools which would be interested in such a program. One of the few that would be already has a Women's Spirituality PhD program — it's CIIS, where I'm going to school now — but even they have effectively changed the MA program into something else. It used to be Women's Spirituality; now it's something like Women, Gender, Activism, & Spirituality… or something similar; I don't recall precisely. Basically, in an effort by the school to be inclusive of other genders, one of the last places where women can learn about themselves and their history has been lost. The only other program I know of that skates anywhere close to the subject is in Germany: Dr. Heide Goettner-Abendroth's International Academy for Modern Matriarchal Studies and Matriarchal Spirituality (HAGIA).

I find the closing of the ITP Women's Spirituality MA program to be a tremendous loss which makes me very sad. The program was quite literally life-changing for me — and I do not use that phrase lightly. Further, for seeking women there is now no other truly comparable program anywhere in the entire world. As friends have told me in an effort to be encouraging, the individual classes and teachers are still scattered around the Bay Area, so someone could still theoretically get all the teaching. However, there are two issues with this: first, the purported student would not end up with the MA — which can make a difference in one's CV. Second, part of the reason the program was so dramatic for me was because it included required classes which (were I picking and choosing classes from professors and teachers all around the Bay) I would have skipped as not really important or relevant — and yet they were — incredibly important and an extremely relevant part of the process of life change and growth which the program encouraged.

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Miscellaneous nice things

25 Mar 2015 In: Random

It is astonishingly easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of stuff that constantly needs doing in a new house! That list is never-ending, dammit. So I'm working just as hard to make sure I take time out for me as well… though I think I need to make sure I'm taking more time for my poor dissertation too. So today's a cheering-up day, I think. So first: I saw a deer!

squeee! A deer!

squeee! A deer!

Admittedly one of the housemates has seen deer here already — one afternoon he looked in the right direction when both cats suddenly stared intently that way. He's also had to stop the car to let one cross the road — in broad daylight in the middle of the afternoon! I thought they'd be shyer than that.

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I think today I'm going to do a bit more venting on my dissertation blues… and then tomorrow talk about what I think might fix things a little. We'll see how it goes.

So at CIIS there's something called the "Principles of Community." They're basically a list of suggestions to keep in mind when talking with others or attending classes — especially when contentious or highly emotional subjects come up. They're supposed to be explained to all new students when they first arrive, they're supposedly available on the CIIS website, and often professors will print out copies to hand out to their students on the first day of class if the class is going to be about something where emotions may run high.

Frankly I think all the principles are good ideas, and I try (and sometimes even succeed!) to apply them to my daily life as well as my scholastic efforts. Here's the list, just so we all know what I'm talking about:

 CIIS Principles of Community

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This is just going to be various fun/silly things in my life currently — sometimes I need to simply not think about dissertation stuff. So! For a celebratory late Valentine's with friends, I decided we should have the traditional Valentine's Day pizza — because Hawaiian pizza is totes what St. Valentine celebrated with, amiright?

valentine's pizzas!

valentine's pizzas!

Also, I got a cute new magnetic sticker for my car! Well, it's actually my housemate's car, but he lets me drive it. How could it not be appropriately decorated while I do so?

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Rambling around the hood

20 Mar 2015 In: Random

We live in an interesting area of the city. Taking the main road to the highway, we pass through an economically depressed area. There are some… curious differences there from what I've lived in previously. For example, there are an astonishing number of churches! Just glancing at google maps, within 10 miles of me I see Jehovah's Witnesses, Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, Southern Baptist, Episcopal, Presbyterian, Seventh Day Adventist, Evangelical — several of which are named in Spanish as well — Roman Catholic, Polish Catholic, Greek Catholic, Romanian Orthodox, several more where I can't tell their "flavor" by just their names… I had to laugh, in fact, when I realized there's a Westboro St. near where I live — and there's a Baptist church on it! I think we'll avoid that one… ;-)

My guess is that most small religious groups tend to not have a lot of money, so they gravitate to areas where land is cheap, and build their houses of worship there. In fact, in some cases that appears to be literal: there are a surprising number of these churches located in what appear to be just refurbished houses! They're not all Christian churches, either. There's a Jewish synagogue, a Hindu temple, and a big, lovely Buddhist temple nearby, as well as several smaller Buddhist temples that appear to be a mix of Vietnamese, Chinese, and… Thai? I'm not sure on that one. But watching the fireworks blooming into the night sky from all the Asian religious centers for Chinese New Year's was very pretty from our hillside. We have a truly fabulous view of the city for both night and day, I think.

One of my housemates pointed out another difference this area has from higher income areas: a lot more car parts stores. His guess was that people try to get the cars fixed themselves, since that's cheaper than taking it to the dealer. I wouldn't have noticed that, but then you can write what I know about car repair on a matchbook… and still have most of the paper left over. Hmm… now that I'm thinking about it, there's also a lot of home repair business here — there's a Home Depot and an OSH just down the road, if I'm remembering correctly. My guess, though, is that that one's a mix of both folks trying to build and repair on their own… and the fact that land was likely a bit cheaper out here, when these two big stores first moved in.

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Okay, time for more venting and dissertation blues. Haul out the tiny violins, please, and also everyone get ready to sing along with Arethra Franklin singing her wonderful "Respect"…

Whew! Always love good, passionate music. So, now that we all feel better for that, let me get into my grumpy pants again. This log is about — you guessed it — respect… and associatedly, professionalism. Again, I'm not going to go into tons of detail because I don't want to cause problems for anyone; this is just me venting.

There are two issues that stand out for me regarding professionalism and respect. The first is a professor who informed us that we had to have read the required texts over the summer before class started. This is common practice for short classes with complex subjects, and I have no trouble with it. What I have trouble with is when the professor doesn't post the syllabus for the class — which has the list of required texts in it — until less than two weeks before the class is to start!

That's absurd. It can take over a week for all the books to arrive, regardless of whether they're being purchased or requested from the library.

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Time for another 15 minutes (minimum) of writing, so I start getting back into the habit of doing so…

The 2015 Parliament of the World's Religions is meeting in Salt Lake City, UT this upcoming October 15th through 19th. One of my sister scholars suggested several of us get together to present a panel there, tentatively titled "What is Women's Spirituality?" After all, we may be small, but we're just as valid as any other spirituality. Just for fun the four of us who were interested in going shared our definitions of women's spirituality, and we were delighted and amused to realize we all had a slightly different angle on it. We thought about it, then decided a better title will be "Diverse Voices of Women's Spirituality," and we sent in our proposal. We're crossing our fingers that they like it, especially since it naturally hits a lot of the target subjects they purport to have for this year's Parliament, such as support for youth and women, global environmental change, and indigenous peoples.

Also, the conference occurs only about two weeks after my birthday, which will hopefully make it a lovely present to myself! Admittedly, this is going to be a financial squeeze for me, but I figure if I start saving now, and ask the school and my friends if they'd like to help sponsor my trip there, I should be able to swing it all right. Also, please let me know if you'd like me to light a candle or say a prayer for you or something you believe in — I'm happy to share well-wishes and blessings with everyone! If you'd like to sponsor me, I'm also delighted to bring you any memorabilia from the conference that you might be interested in as well. Email me and let me know, okay?

So, back to our panel planning. As I registered for the event — while also thinking positive about our panel acceptance! ;-) — it occurred to me: a lot of these attendees are likely to have never heard of women's spirituality, and may have questions. Indeed, we are probably unwittingly going to be the "face" of women's spirituality for most of them. That being the case, two things occurred to me: first, that it would be smart of us to make up a list of questions we are likely to be asked so we can prepare answers ahead of time. After all, if we want to have empirical or statistical data at our fingertips to use in our replies, we have to either bring it with us or memorize it, right? It doesn't just magically appear — much though I would love that to be the case. ;-)

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I've come to the conclusion that I need to write down some of the issues I'm butting my head up against, as I write my dissertation. I'm not going to use names because hurting people isn't my goal. I just want to vent a bit — and, should any present or future students in my program read this, perhaps give them a bit of advance warning of possible issues… so they're forewarned.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

One of the first and biggest issues for me was the subject of the dissertation itself. I greatly enjoyed the research which went into my master's thesis, and as I took classes for my PhD I'd been happily looking forward to doing more work on my thesis subject. Unfortunately, near the end of my second-to-last learning class (as opposed to classes specifically about dissertation stuff) I found out that the dissertation's subject matter had to be at least… I think it was 80 or 85% ? -different from the subject of my thesis.

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I recently had something startlingly nice happen to me! There's a professor I had in the past who's a noted and accomplished author. She's got enough prose and literature out that I always found her somewhat… not quite intimidating to talk to, but not easy to chat with. It's not her fault at all, of course — she's one of the most friendly, approachable, and helpful women writers I've ever met — if not the most so. She's the one who told me I was brilliant enough that I should continuously challenge myself, in fact.

She even shared one time that she still gets butterflies in her stomach when she steps up to the microphone to speak or read at events she's invited to. It's just that… well, there's something a little awe-inspiring about a woman who can casually mention that she first realized she must be famous… when she was in Europe and saw a line from one of her poems translated into that language and scrawled as graffiti across one of the arches of a stone bridge there.

So yeah: hugely impressed and inspired by her. So you can perhaps imagine my shock and pleasure at hearing from a friend that she was so pleased to finally meet this woman… and as they were chatting about people they both knew, my name came up — and this accomplished, brilliant, heartrendingly evocative author said (with apologies to my failure of absolutely precise memory due to the aforementioned shock and pleasure), "Oh, Collie! Yes, I know her — she's a great writer!"

Bestiaries depict mythical, moralizing animals, but are also potential allegorical sparks that can bloom into brilliant mental bonfires. My bestiary is this mythologizing animal's fascinated exploration of beauty & meaning in the wonder of existence -- in the hopes of inspiring yet more joyous flares of intellectual passion.

Enjoy!

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