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John Roosevelt Boettiger
Mill Valley, CA, Seattle, WA, Phoenix, AZ, Los Angeles, CA, Amherst, MA, Hyde Park, NY, New York City (Manhattan), Dedham, MA, Vikersund, Norway, Paris, France, Sebastopol, CA, Berkeley, CA
Author, writer, editor, psychologist, father, grandfather, great-grandfather
Interests: Writing, reading, conversation, hiking, walking, bicycling, asking and responding to intriguing questions, metta, silence, prayer, meditation, justice (social, economic, judicial, political, familial, personal), the wily craft of coyote politics, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, family trees, redwood trees and live oaks, marsh land, hillsides, mountains, geese in flight, birds of a feather
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We see you, see ourselves and know That we must take the utmost care And kindness in all things. Eagle Poem To pray you open your whole self To sky, to earth, to sun, to moon To one whole voice that is you. And know there is more That you can't see, can't hear Can't know except in moments Steadily growing, and in languages That aren't always sound but other Circles of motion. Like eagle that Sunday morning Over Salt River. Circles in blue sky In wind, swept our hearts clean With sacred wings. We see you, see ourselves and know That we must take the utmost care And kindness in all things. Breathe in, knowing we are made of All this, and breathe, knowing We are truly blessed because we Were born, and die soon, within a True circle of motion, Like eagle rounding out the morning Inside us. We pray that it will be done In beauty. In beauty. ~ Joy Harjo ~ (How We Become Human: New and Selected Poems 1975-2001) Continue reading
It was February or March of 1936. Her name was Florence Owens Thompson. She was 32 years old, caring for her seven children, eking out a living at that moment picking peas in fields near Nipomo, California. Twenty-four years later Dorothea Lange wrote of her memory of their encounter in front of the tent in which the family lived: "I saw and approached the hungry and desperate mother, as if drawn by a magnet. I do not remember how I explained my presence or my camera to her, but I do remember she asked me no questions. I made five exposures, working closer and closer from the same direction. I did not ask her name or her history. She told me her age, that she was thirty-two. She said that they had been living on frozen vegetables from the surrounding fields, and birds that the children killed. She had just sold the tires from her car to buy food. There she sat in that lean- to tent with her children huddled around her, and seemed to know that my pictures might help her, and so she helped me. There was a sort of equality about it." Lange's documentary photographic work... Continue reading
Yes, like the Camphill movement, more analogous if Camphill were devoted to the healing and well-being of those suffering from psychiatric disorders or working in the helping professions (like social workers, physicians, nurses, pastors or other clergy); and of course Modum Bad is a single campus for residents and caregivers, coming from all over Norway, with a satellite out-patient clinic in Oslo. Many of Modum Bad's professional staff write or co-author publications that are usually published first in-country, then in English-language journals with readers throughout the world. Although all Norwegians are English-literate, that last transition, from Norwegian to English of professional quality, is where my current work continues. There are pro translating outfits, but not specifically psychologists or psychiatrists, and they are usually more expensive than I am!
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Waiting, praying, breathing without pain, It is called happiness. Time offers this gift in its millions of ways, turning the world, moving the air, calling, every morning, "Here, take it, it's yours." The Gift Time wants to show you a different country. It's the one that your life conceals, the one waiting outside when curtains are drawn, the one Grandmother hinted at in her crochet design, the one almost found over at the edge of the music, after the sermon. It's the way life is, and you have it, a few years given. You get killed now and then, violated in various ways. (And sometimes it's turn about.) You get tired of that. Long-suffering, you wait and pray, and maybe good things come − maybe the hurt slackens and you hardly feel it any more. You have a breath without pain. It is called happiness. It's a balance, the taking and passing along, the composting of where you've been and how people and weather treated you. It's a country where you already are, bringing where you have been. Time offers this gift in its millions of ways, turning the world, moving the air, calling, every morning, "Here, take it, it's... Continue reading
Last week, as I wrote here on Sunday, March 5th, our meditation together focused on the meaning of sanctuary. I've always loved, as I remember writing here many moons ago, the deeply intimate resonance, the sense of safety and nourishment, the diversity of experiences and places, that word evokes. I recall my wise age-mate Parker Palmer movingly capturing its evolution, nuance and importance in his own life. "Sanctuary," he wrote, "is wherever I find safe space to regain my bearings, reclaim my soul, heal my wounds, and return to the world as a wounded healer. It’s not merely about finding shelter from the storm: it’s about spiritual survival... [The sanctuary] I need may not be in a church, but in the silence, in the woods, in a friendship, in a poem, or in a song [like that of Carrie Newcomer in her album "The Beautiful Not Yet."] Used as a noun most commonly, derived from the Latin sanctum, sanctuary typically describes a sacred or holy place, a refuge. Although I find that quality in church and temple services, I like also to sit in churches when no service is occurring, treasuring in silence just those qualities of refuge. And like... Continue reading
I spent the last years of my professional life as a psychologist in Norway, at a healing community the likes of which we have yet to see in the United States. It is called Modum Bad − literally, the baths at Modum − a 19th century spa that in 1957 became a manifold psychiatric center of healing that was designed to embody the integrity of psyche and spirit. Had my wife Leigh not become mortally ill, we would still be there, for it was a gifted environment to teach and continue to learn about human development in ways toward which my training and experience as a psychologist in the U.S. had led me without my knowing. Leigh was also a psychologist, a researcher and practitioner kin to my work as a teacher and practitioner, so we came as a team, she as director of Modum Bad's Research Institute, I as a professor to patients and staff and ongoing learner of human development, affiliated with the Research Institute (Forskningsinstituttet). My characterization of our time at Modum Bad is embodied in a monograph I called "Modum Bad: A Resource for Healing and Renewal," available here on Reckonings at The community's own... Continue reading
One day the Buddha was strolling along with his congregation when he pointed to the ground and said, "This spot is a good place to build a sanctuary." Indra [Hindu god] took a blade of grass and stuck it into the ground and said, "The sanctuary is built." The Buddha smiled. As my teacher Lee deBarros writes, koans bring up living questions − What is a sanctuary? Is it a place of personal refuge? Is it a community? A temple? A church? What is your sanctuary? When do we need or want a sanctuary? Is there actually a sanctuary? How does it relate to practice? As we discussed sanctuary in our lives, members of our meditation group or sangha shared a manifold experience of sanctuary: our twice-weekly sangha itself, its safe, companionable and nourishing silence, and our care for each other when one of us is suffering or ill or departs this earth; The Redwoods, the community in which we live and share diverse experiences; our childhood homes and the homes of our grown children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren; the larger enveloping mystery that is often known as the presence of God in and among us. I recalled vividly my life... Continue reading
Born in Ohio, Gloria Steinem, 82, graduated in 1956 and became a writer. By 1972, when she founded Ms magazine, she was known as a political activist and feminist organiser. She is the author of many books and essays, including the bestselling My Life On The Road. Woman, her documentary series about violence against women, will air on Viceland UK on 8 March. She lives in New York. What is your greatest fear? Being about to die, and saying, “But…” What is your earliest memory? Being held on my mother’s lap while my father drove. Which living person do you most admire and why? Dr Denis Mukwege, because he is to sexualised violence against females what Mandela was to apartheid. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? Waiting until the last minute. What is the trait you most deplore in others? It’s a tie between an inability to empathise and having no sense of humour. Property aside, what’s the most expensive thing you’ve bought? In my 30s, I was staring at a pair of expensive boots in a shop window when the photographer Gordon Parks came up behind me. He instantly understood, because he grew up even poorer... Continue reading
Emily Dickinson Meditation can be an act of love, a reawakening, not a means to an end. “Don’t meditate to fix yourself, to heal yourself, to improve yourself, to redeem yourself; rather, do it as an act of love." − from Bob Sharples, Meditation: Calming the Mind Continue reading
Every morning at ten o’clock, as I stood at the kitchen sink and finished the breakfast dishes, I could hear him pecking up the street on his wooden leg. I lived in the basement of a remodelled corner house in the East Fifties. From the front windows on First Avenue I could almost see the East River—anyway, I could hear the boat whistles. The apartment ran the length of the house, so that the kitchen at the back and the small garden adjoining it were adjacent to the side street. I called that tiny patch of ground a garden, and so did the real-estate man who leased me the place, but it held little privacy. It was separated from the street only by a high railing, and passersby could almost tell what we were drinking on those afternoons when I entertained my friends out of doors. He would stop outside the railing and call to me through the open kitchen door. The first time he appeared, I was about to refuse whatever appeal he might make, for I was continually pestered by tramps and I had grown hard. Then I saw the wooden leg. There was a piece of ham... Continue reading
Ryōkan (1758-1831) Returning To My Native Village Returning to my native village after many years’ absence: I put up at a country inn and listen to the rain. One robe, one bowl is all I have. I light incense and strain to sit in meditation; All night a steady drizzle outside the dark window -- Inside, poignant memories of these long years of pilgrimage. Continue reading
A lovely poem to which I turn, often enough, when I'm not sure I want to get up in the morning, or after I've read the day's news. And sometimes, as well, on those blessed days when I have not forgotten the mystery. Primary Wonder Days pass when I forget the mystery. Problems insoluble and problems offering their own ignored solutions jostle for my attention, they crowd its antechamber along with a host of diversions, my courtiers, wearing their colored clothes; cap and bells. And then once more the quiet mystery is present to me, the throng's clamor recedes: the mystery that there is anything, anything at all, let alone cosmos, joy, memory, everything, rather than void: and that, O Lord, Creator, Hallowed One, You still, hour by hour sustain it. ~ Denise Levertov ~ Denise Levertov was born in England to a Welsh mother and a Russian Hasidic father. Her father, who had emigrated to the UK from Leipzig, converted to Christianity and became an Anglican priest. She moved to the United States in 1948, and in 1955 became an American citizen. By the time she died in 1997, Levertov had published nearly fifty volumes of poetry, prose, and... Continue reading
The Roosevelts, January 1945 Double-click to enlarge photos. This is a portrait of Eleanor Roosevelt, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and their then 13 grandchildren, on FDR's fourth Inauguration Day, 20 January 1945. I am in a jacket, short pants and tie, front and center, music box in hands, looking a little gloomy ("When can I get out of these fancy duds?"). Back row left to right: Eleanor Roosevelt, Curtis Roosevelt "Buzzie" Boettiger (my brother, kneeling, in his military school uniform), Anna Eleanor ("Sistie") Boettiger (my sister), William Donner Roosevelt, Ruth Chandler Roosevelt, David Boynton Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR), Franklin D. Roosevelt III (Frank) standing at FDR's left. On the floor: Christopher Roosevelt, Anne Sturgis "Nina" Roosevelt with her brother Haven Clark Roosevelt in back of her, John Roosevelt Boettiger (me), Elliott (Tony) Roosevelt, Jr, Kate Roosevelt and Kate's sister, Sara Delano Roosevelt, on the stool. Those of my cousins I knew or know best were and/or are Frank, Nina, Haven and Tony. Bouncing over the woods roads on the family land in Hyde Park was a joy. We are all among the predominately Democratic Roosevelts whose family home is in Hyde Park, New York (now a National Historic Site).... Continue reading
Thanks to a good friend, Al Braidwood, I am offering the following remarks of my great-great uncle, who knew of what he spoke. We are as close as we have ever been in this country to having an authoritarian demagogue with a narcissistic personality disorder as our president. We must gather a coherent and effective party and movement to carry forward the post-inauguration marches, with far more attention to lies told and ignorance unveiled. Trump will be no push-over, and he can do a great deal of damage. But if we can get party and movement together, we can do much to moderate and stop his initiatives. As Theodore Roosevelt said: "The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when... Continue reading
A friend sent me the short article excerpted below, which is drawn from a website called Patheos ( Patheos is described in Wikipedia as "a non-denominational, non-partisan online media company providing information and commentary from various religious and nonreligious perspectives,....the largest English language religion and spiritual site in the world." This brief commentary offers a useful reply to a question I am often asked: What can ordinary folks like us do in response to the manifold catastrophe of Donald Trump's presidency? ___________________________ Given what we know of Trump and his administration, I believe that we must start seeing resistance as a spiritual practice. It must be a daily practice. It is our spiritual responsibility to stay informed. It is our faithful duty to stay vigilant. It is our moral obligation to make our voices heard and to share with those most in need the access that our places of privilege offers. We must stand up not only for our own rights and interest but for the rights and interests of others. We must promote equality, justice, and love in our every action, but not fall victim to the false perspective that to do so means we do so timidly and... Continue reading
The author of the following article in today's New York Times − which I have excerpted here − is Dhruv Khullar, M.D., a resident physician at the Massachusetts General Hospital with interests in health policy, economics, and journalism. He is a contributor at the New York Times and writes regularly for both mainstream and academic publications, exploring evolving trends in medicine and health care. He graduated with honors from Yale University (B.A. in Biology), and earned his medical degree (M.D.) at the Yale School of Medicine. He also received a Masters in Public Policy (M.P.P.) from the Harvard Kennedy School, where he was a fellow at the Center for Public Leadership. His work has appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine, Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The Atlantic, Slate, Politico, and Scientific American. For the full article, go to How Social Isolation Is Killing Us Social isolation is a growing epidemic — one that’s increasingly recognized as having dire physical, mental and emotional consequences. Since the 1980s, the percentage of American adults who say they’re lonely has doubled from 20 percent to 40 percent. About one-third of Americans older... Continue reading
The winter solstice In the Northern Hemisphere, today is the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year and the longest night. It's officially the first day of winter and one of the oldest-known holidays in human history. Anthropologists believe that solstice celebrations go back at least 30,000 years, before humans even began farming on a large scale. Many of the most ancient stone structures made by human beings were designed to pinpoint the precise date of the solstice. The stone circles of Stonehenge were arranged to receive the first rays of midwinter sun. Some ancient peoples believed that because daylight was waning, it might go away forever, so they lit huge bonfires to tempt the sun to come back. The tradition of decorating our houses and our trees with lights at this time of year is passed down from those ancient bonfires. In ancient Egypt and Syria, people celebrated the winter solstice as the sun's birthday. In ancient Rome, the winter solstice was celebrated with the festival of Saturnalia, during which all business transactions and even wars were suspended, and slaves were waited upon by their masters. (courtesy of Garrison Keillor's The Writer's Almanac) Continue reading
With thanks to the author, Charles W. Pratt, and to his publisher, Hobblebush Books, as well as to Garrison Keillor's The Writer's Almanac. The Merger by Charles W. Pratt for my son Trying to think of something useful To say about marriage, I remember A morning when I was twenty-plus, Self-absorbed in my tinny pink Renault Dauphine, my Little Toot, And I tried to get by a tank-truck on A bendy road too briefly straight. Shuddering, pedal floored, my frivolous Vessel leveled with the cab Like a pilot fish by a shark’s grim grille. Then there was a car ahead of us And, as I tried to floor a pedal Already on the floor, the blue Of ice I hadn’t seen. Spinning Toward the implacable hugeness of the cab, looking up Into the eyes of the truckdriver, I felt Only the sweet certainty of Submission, call it love, as if Already I had left myself and could look Down with the driver’s godlike and loving Eyes at a comical pink Dauphine Sliding backwards down the road, then spinning Again and into a snowbank, tilted Against a tree. One flat tire And a dent in the roof I pushed out myself.... Continue reading
John Glenn, who passed away on December 8, 2016, was an original cosponsor of the 1997 Kerry-Wellstone "Clean Elections" bill. From a speech he gave on the Senate floor in 1998: "What you should do on some of these votes, I think, is think of what you would like the ideal political system to be when your grandchildren have grown up and long after most of us will have left the Senate of the United States. What kind of law do you want to see in place that deals with them fairly? What kind of law do you want to see in place that makes them feel that their voice is heard in Government as much as those who can contribute millions or at least hundreds of thousands of dollars worth, to get their voices heard?" Continue reading
Sometimes, with unsought grace, it is a lovely poem that enlivens heart and spirit. Dr. Zhivago was playing at the Paramount Theater in St. Cloud. That afternoon, we went into Russia, and when we came out, the snow was falling—the same snow that fell in Moscow. The sky had turned black velvet. We’d been through the Revolution and the frozen winters. In the Chevy, we waited for the heater to melt ice on the windshield, clapping our hands to keep warm. On the highway, these two things: a song from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and that semi-truck careening by. Now I travel through the dark without you and sometimes I turn up the radio, hopeful the way you were, no matter what. "November, 1967" by Joyce Sutphen from First Words. © Red Dragonfly Press, 2010 Thanks to The Writer’s Almanac Continue reading
Louis Jenkins calls it an unfortunate location. It could as well be called a conundrum. In any event, it's a fine prose poem. Unfortunate Location by Louis Jenkins In the front yard there are three big white pines, older than any- thing in the neighborhood except the stones. Magnificent trees that toss their heads in the wind like the spirited black horses of a troika. It’s hard to know what to do, tall dark trees on the south side of the house, an unfortunate location, blocking the winter sun. Dark and damp. Moss grows on the roof, the porch timbers rot and surely the roots have reached the old bluestone foundation. At night, in the wind, a tree could stumble and fall killing us in our beds. The needles fall year after year making an acid soil where no grass grows We rake the fallen debris, nothing to be done, we stand around with sticks in our hands. Wonderful trees. Continue reading
I'm headed to New England tomorrow to enjoy the fall foliage. We get some out here on the northwest coast, but nothing like my Massachusetts homeland. Robert Frost's "Nothing Golden Can Stay" is in my mind: Nature's first green is gold, Her hardest hue to hold. Her early leafs a flower; But only so an hour. Then leaf subsides to leaf. So Eden sank to grief, So dawn goes down to day. Nothing gold can stay. As William Prichard wrote, "It is as if Frost had in mind his later definition of poetry as 'a momentary stay against confusion.'" Continue reading
For today, October 10, and for nearly a lifetime, the poems, stories, novels and essays of Wendell Berry have been a model for me, a testament and witness to a full life in thoroughgoing relationship with others and with the earth. October 10 by Wendell Berry Now constantly there is the sound, quieter than rain, of the leaves falling. Under their loosening bright gold, the sycamore limbs bleach whiter. Now the only flowers are beeweed and aster, spray of their white and lavender over the brown leaves. The calling of a crow sounds Loud — landmark — now that the life of summer falls silent, and the nights grow. Continue reading
Mark Nepo is a poet, teacher, philosopher and storyteller, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller The Book of Awakening. His new book is The One Life We’re Given: Finding the Wisdom that Waits in Your Heart (Atria, July 2016). In fall of 2016, he will have a new book of poetry, The Way Under the Way. For more, visit: I Awake by Mark Nepo| September 21, 2016 Like Django Reinhardt playing jazz, Monet painting Water Lilies, or a tulip germinating, says Mark Nepo, often we don’t know what we’re creating until it’s done. I discovered the poetry of the medieval Zen Buddhist monk Dōgen by following voices through time. I was reading a heartfelt poem by Ryōkan, an eighteenth-century poet, in which he recounts discovering a six hundred-year-old manuscript, written in the hand of Dōgen, the founder of the Sōtō school of Zen in Japan. Ryōkan admits to being so moved that his tears fell on the worn page. Ashamed that he’d marred the manuscript, he put it back where he found it and told the others it was caught in the rain. Before this, I hadn’t heard of Dōgen, but Ryōkan’s poem compelled me to “meet”... Continue reading