Graffiti As School Starts

Graffiti As School Starts

Santa Rosa Graffiti Cleanup
Graffiti spikes when the kids are stressed: the start of school, exams around Christmas and at the end of the school year in June. These three creative examples appeared over the Memorial Day weekend. The “Wolf” paw print on the creek sign was especially challenging to get off because we needed to remove the yellow without destroying the underlying custom-mileage sign. Aaron, from Santa Rosa Public Works, used Mason Master for that. The other two products, he said, would “take it down to bare metal.”

“PlayboySpeedy” tagged the bridge over Piner Creek, overwriting the ugly gray patch that Public Works put up a few years ago to cover some previous graffiti. This was my opportunity to “air-brush” the whole thing with three different colors of paint over two days.

“RiderThugz” on the pole got color suppression from me with gray primer and the following day, yellow primer, but it looked bad. Aaron polished it with yellow gloss paint. He and I talked for about an hour about his frustration with graffiti and his work to clean up after homeless encampment relocation. I wish he could tune in to the good he is doing. I was happy to learn that he wasn’t the only one on the job — there is a van with more equipment including a pressure washer.

Irene Lyon: Who Heals?

Irene Lyon: Who Heals?

Irene Lyon says that, ideally, we develop a sense of safety and belonging within our bones, guts, and cells as our attuned caregivers encourage us to feel self-worth and personal agency over the pivotal first three years of our lives. Because we are too young to think and reason, our learning is stored into our body posture and the muscles that move us, the muscles that give us strength and a felt-sense of confidence to take on the world.

Father son attunement

Photo taken by Mother

The sensation that we are worthy of the effort it takes to get what we want comes up from our gut which sends more signals to the brain than the brain does down to the gut. As we grow up, we become conscious of our thoughts which get laser-beamed down to the gut, reinforcing the feeling that we can cope with the challenges of our life.

Vagus Nerve

Afferent Signals Arrive in the Brain

The energy that forms how we sense our gut and organ systems (what we call our Sixth Sense) defines our sensations of ourselves as physical, emotional, mental, relational and creative beings. When we are unable to connect to ourselves, to others and our to environment, this shut-down behavior is often described as PTSD. How did this connection get faulty?

For some of us, it goes back for generations, including how our parents were raised and how they mirrored this behavior in our early years. Where large broods are the norm and poverty is widespread, babies were often seen as “yet another mouth to feed” rather than an opportunity to build something wonderful for the next generation. Beating children and chronic shaming practices that use disconnection (get out of the car, now!) and humiliation as a way to control a child’s behavior creates a high level of toxic stress and biological shame that becomes infused into the ENTIRE organism of the young child. In very young children, these feelings are learned as body sensations, which can’t be rationalized later as words or stories. These bad feelings must be addressed where they are: in the body and nervous system.

Those of us who experienced this kind of toxic shaming in infancy and childhood don’t know what it means to feel safe and relaxed in our bones, gut, and cells. We have learned to always be on guard and to express something along the lines of

“all connection is bad and everyone is to be suspected as dangerous and a threat.”

The chronic betrayal by parents and primary caregivers, from which an infant or toddler cannot escape, can instill a quality of hopelessness and defeat such that the person, as an adult, will feel they are in fact bad meat. This underlies self-harm and addictions. The internalized belief that they don’t deserve to be treated well (as the adult may have screamed while the beating the child) leads them to risky situations and abusive relationships. The pervading sense that they are not valued, or even wanted, can lead to a constant cycle of resistance to doing the work, fleeing from healthy behaviors, and rejecting the care of healers and supportive situations. See Irene Lyon‘s blogpost on why every trauma survivor CAN heal, but not everyone will.

For those of us who had mothers who were not capable of soothing us, we lived our early lives ping-ponging between hypervigilant and freeze response. We must learn what it feels like to be biologically calm and to cultivate an internal sense of safety and connectedness. So much restoration work is required, including realizing that maybe the mother herself never felt safe or calm. Coming to accept that my mother could not soothe me, even though I was capable of being soothed by my godmother, allowed me to forgive both my mother and myself. I see now that maybe I am good seed that fell upon rocky ground.

Oprah says, “Feeling that you deserve something is not the same thing as feeling worthy.” And simply feeling deserving and worthy doesn’t mean there isn’t a Competing Commitment such as “if I become biologically calm, I won’t be on the same wavelength as my family and they will reject me because they believe that I must be like them to be liked by them.” If someone has a (maybe unconscious) belief that getting well would betray their connection to their (birth) family, they might get trapped on the hamster wheel of spiritual seeking. See this Harvard Business Review article titled The Real Reason People Won’t Change.

Ferritin and Milk Thistle

Ferritin and Milk Thistle

About 18 months ago, Peggy urged me to send the extra $100 to my DNA lab to find out if I was positive for genetic hemochromatosis (GH), as she was. Our sister Connie discovered she was also positive for heterogeneous GH and briefly got on the liver transplant list. Too late — she passed away on August 15, 2020. Peggy and I got serious about mitigating the effects of this hereditary mutation. Neither of us had a diagnosis of GH and we learned that the only treatment was phlebotomy.

Peggy and I promptly signed up to donate blood and did so together, racing each other to see who could fill the pint bag first. I always won, and the phlobotomists at the blood center told me it was because I was better hydrated, but I have been recently told by a doctor that my blood is “runny” and that I bleed more than expected for simple needle-prick procedures. It may be because of the 18 months of Milk Thistle I have consumed in an effort to lower my Ferritin, a measure of the amount of iron stored in the liver.

In early March 2020, shortly after Peggy and I donated blood for the first time in many years, I got my first Ferritin test. My result was 150, the highest one could get without it being flagged. I had just squeaked by. If I had received a diagnosis of GH I would have to PAY to donate blood! I continued to donate blood as often as they would let me and added Milk Thistle to my daily supplements. I also employed the following techniques to lower Ferritin:

  • aerobic exercise
  • more beans and whole grains like brown rice cooked with turmeric
  • cut out supplemental vitamin C, shellfish, uncooked fish
  • limit alcohol, red meat, and cooking in iron pots

A few days after the first Ferritin test, we were locked down for Covid-19. I spent the next year feeling pretty crummy and took the test again in July 2021. My reading PLUNGED from 150 to 26!

That was too big of a drop. I think it would be smarter to be in the green zone above. I have cut out Milk Thistle and restored vitamin C and meat. I think the Milk Thistle may be a powerful, ayurvedic-type herb that interferes with iron uptake in the liver, lowers blood sugar and can interfere with estrogen levels. I did NOT experience it as a feel-good overall tonic. I am using my cast-iron pans again. I hope to feel more energetic and creative soon.

Movie: Annette

Movie: Annette

This is what the theater looked like at the start of the movie. Yes, I had the place to myself. I sat in the middle and wore my mask anyway. It was great.

Summerfield Theater

This theater does not cater to the kind of people who don’t get vaccinated, so I felt pretty safe.

I saw “Annette” which was the Cannes Festival Opener and won best director. It is a sung movie — an opera. Ann (Marion Cotillard) is an opera singer. She falls in love, gets married and has a daughter, Annette (little Ann, get it?) to whom she sings. When the baby is a toddler, Ann dies. About the time Little Annette starts to talk, she also starts to sing amazingly. The bad father (Adam Driver) exploits Annette. When she gets a little older, she tells the whole world the truth about him. In the final duet, she sings, “Now you have no one to love.”

Sounds like Rigoletto, I know — but it’s not. I liked it, but I understand why the theater was empty. I was disappointed that it wasn’t in French.

Ziplining In The Redwoods

Ziplining In The Redwoods

Zipline in RedwoodsA couple of weeks ago I got a frantic call from my friend Martha. She was at SFO and could not find her auto ignition key to drive home. Would I drive across town to get her spare key and drive it from Santa Rosa to SFO? I did. Because it was rush hour, it took four and a half hours to get back home. To thank me, Martha treated me to a zipline through the redwoods. Here is a video of Martha on the longest of the five runs. There were also two swinging bridges that demanded balance as well as hiking uphill, and a 60-foot rappel which was as fun as I hoped. This ziplining is not cheap because it supports the Redwood Alliance which sheltered homeless this Covid winter, and provides lodging and meals for firefighters working on summer blazes in the redwoods.

You can see how smoky it is from the Dixie Fire north of Sacramento and get a sense of how dry the trees are after two years of very little rainfall. We are all masked because, two days ago, the Covid Delta variant became dominant and fast-moving and the state mandated masks indoors. Alliance required us to be masked outdoors. There was no resistance from anyone in our group.

Book Review: Sapiens

Book Review: Sapiens

Sapiens AudiobookFeeling stressed really impairs my ability to read. I find it hard to stay focused so I have been listening to audiobooks. Sapiens now has available a “graphic history.” I read part one as an accompaniment to the audiobook, and part two has just been published. I enjoyed seeing the images of the now-extinct animals.

Sapiens takes us on a trip from the earliest appearance of humans on earth, up to the current day. The author makes the point that we evolved to be hunter-gatherers and our recent development of agriculture and technology seems to have overtaken our biological penchant for living and working in small groups. He ends the book with the question, “How do we want to be now? Who do we want to be?” I can see why back-of-the-book blurbs were written by the likes of Bill Gates and Barack Obama.

According to Wikipedia:

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind is a book by Yuval Noah Harari, first published in Hebrew in Israel in 2011 based on a series of lectures Harari taught at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and in English in 2014.


My Turkey Family

My Turkey Family

turkey eggs
In mid-June, I was using the hose to water the shade trees and suddenly a turkey hen burst out from under the spear-leafed phormium, revealing a clutch of eggs. I caught myself before I hosed down the eggs and the hovering hen. She stayed for a month, never seeming to leave her spot in my front yard. Google told me that she would lay one egg a day but that they would all hatch together and the hatchlings are called “poults.”

Then, two weeks ago, she was gone, leaving this behind. I think that half of the 10 eggs hatched. I never saw her again, or the poults. But I feel like a grandmother.

Vagus Nerve: High-Tone, Low-Tone Dorsal

Vagus Nerve: High-Tone, Low-Tone Dorsal

Vagus Nerve High-Tone Low-Tone dorsal

As I learn more about Polyvagal Theory by Stephen Porges, I am starting to understand why experts say that one must be in the Ventral Vagal state to really heal. Starting with an image from an article in Frontiers in Psychiatry written by Swiss researchers, I added information on high-tone and low-tone dorsal from Meditate Not Dissociate.

Adrenaline is like stepping on the accelerator; ventral vagal is the ideal coasting state — generating nice Alpha waves, relaxed, engaged, compassionate, fully-present-emotionally, “tend and befriend” or “feed and breed.” Low-tone vagal is described as a gentle brake on the nervous system, allowing a calming/relaxed and alert state, “rest and digest.” High-tone vagal is slamming on the brake and accelerator pedal at the same time. It LOOKS calm, but inside the systems are disintegrating. The graphic below describes three states, but there are really four.

three states of vagus behavior

Update August, 2021

As I continue to watch Stephen Porges videos and participate in Rick Hanson on-line meditation sessions, I have refined the graphic. This version clearly shows that the ventral vagus, which develops myelination through interaction with caregivers, stops at about the navel, while the unmyelinated vagus, fully-functional at birth, extends all they way through the intestines. I lined up the stomach with the direction the brain is facing on this version, and clarified that high-tone dorsal (stuck in the high-beta wavelength of fear) is like pulling on the hand-brake while still in gear.

The myelinated ventral vagus is a state of biological relaxation where one can play, including wrestling the way puppies do or touch football, and still feel safe and connected. It is the interoception of the cues of safety from the ventral vagus that allows play. Modulated voice, smiling face, welcoming vibe. The ability to sit still and listen to another.

I bought A Painting

I bought A Painting
painting by Isabelle

á la soupe, as hung

In 2014, I took a Sierra Club trip to Loon Lake, led by Isabelle. I met Liam on that trip and taught him how to say “buon giorno!” I returned to Loon Lake several times, including this private trip, also with Isabelle and Liam.

Isabelle was born in France and her father bequeathed her the family stone cottage in the southeast part of France, about an hour from the Rhone river. She would go back every year to make sure it was okay and to keep her ownership intact. The pandemic took a financial toll and Isabelle decided to retire, which required moving back to France permanently.

She decided to sell the oil paintings that were studies from her portrait class. This is titled “á la soupe” because that is what the French say when it is time to come to the dinner table. “French people eat soup for dinner,” Isabelle said.


Isabelle said that the decision to retire was difficult because she had spent about 20 years building her business as an acupuncturist. Her resilience shows in her journey of self compassion.

Lake Hennessey 2021

Lake Hennessey 2021

Spent a beautiful Saturday at Lake Hennessey with the Marin Canoe and Kayak club. This is a great winter paddle because this area is too hot in the summer. About an hour drive to the lake and a pleasant eight mile paddle from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. with a pleasant stop for lunch.

Kayak club at Lake Hennessey

Marin Canoe and Kayak Club

Lyz took this photo with her cell phone as we waited for the others.

Lake Hennessey kayak

Enjoying Lake Hennessey

Lyz has a folding “origami” Oru boat.

This is the path we paddled, about eight miles. The lunch spot, with a porta-potty, is marked in red.

I drove along Silerado Trail to witness the Glass fire burn, and on the way back I took Chiles Pope Valley Rd. I realized that there is still “nowhere” available in this state. The pastures, which are supposed to be emerald green in January, were not because the year has been very dry so far. Not a good omen for this wildfire area.

Chiles-Pope Valley Rd.