Friday, April 30, 2010


By Jo Floyd Lucas

We've spent some time here on Smiling Heart talking about optimism and hope for the future, which makes me very glad. Many friends in high school called me 'Pollyanna' for my propensity to be a 'good girl,' and my knack of always (to the chagrin of my oh-so-sophisticated twin), ALWAYS seeing the good in any situation. I could be very annoying that way. I am a hopeless, unapologetic optimist.

Today, though, I was reminded of how very precious, how very fragile our lives really are. The truth is, the future is not guaranteed to any of us.

It's not as if I didn't know that already. I've had several jarring examples of that principle in my own life, as many of us have had. One day, I'll share some of those stories with you. For now, I'll only say this to those of you who have experienced it, too...I know what you go through, and I know about the dreams.

The child in this photo is my darling 4 year old granddaughter, Cecilia Rose (we call her CiCi). You can't see them here, but her eyes are a beautiful clear shade of blue her daddy calls her 'Blueberry Eyes." She is, of course, the most beautiful little girl in the least to me. But this photo of her is the most precious to me of all the hundreds taken since her birth. It's all innocence. Sweetness. Barbie Dolls and Disney princesses. A little girl in all her pinkest glory. But it's more than that. In this photograph, I can see her dreaming.

She dreams the dream of any little girl...of being 'grown up,' of going on adventures, and of finding her one true love, usually a prince. Personally, I hope she dreams more frequently about the adventures and less about the prince, but I digress. She has the sweet, sweet dreams of youth, undefiled by years of experiences. I love to know she's dreaming these things.

As those years accumulate, her dreams will change. That change is inevitable, and an expected part of the growth process. But when our lives are shaken to the core by devastating, unalterable events, our dreams become achingly, impossibly real. Our entire being longs to return to a time before, when we knew (or so we thought) what to expect...when we knew the sun would rise the next day. When we knew our loved one would come home that night. Our dreams express that longing by creating vivid and intensely real images rising up to both delight us and torment us.

After a sudden loss, each day is a challenge to endure, a struggle just to maintain one's equilibrium, but most of us manage to do it. We have children to tend to, jobs to do, or parents to care for. We get by. Each night, though, brings with it the frightening inability to control our inner environment. We are the benefactors and the victims of our dreams, a fact we don’t often talk about.

As Linda said in her previous post, "Everyone wants to love and be simple as that."

That desire doesn't end with the passing of a loved one. We still want to know that we're loved. In fact, that desire to know we are, or were, loved permeates our dreams and persists for a very long time. For some, it lasts a lifetime.

From the little girl hoping to find her prince, to the father mourning the loss of his son, to the wife grieving for her lost husband, our dreams say everything we need to know; we all want to love and be simple as that.

Enya's haunting rendition of the ancient traditional tale,"Marble Halls," expresses the yearning within our dreams for the affirmation of a deep and abiding love...that no matter what material wealth we have, no matter what status in life we attain, we all need to know that we are still loved;

"...but I also dreamt,

which pleased me most,

that you loved me still the same...

That you loved me,

You loved me,

Still the same...

That you loved me

You loved me,

Still the same."

This post is dedicated to those who have suffered the sudden loss of a loved one.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

A purple masterpiece

by Dubby Riley

Jo has raised the bar. "Friends, let's weave a masterpiece."

Joellen Floyd (No middle name) Lucas writes with precision, humility, eloquence and grace. Her message is inspiring and full of hope. We Ruskin friends have good reason to glow under the influence of her light. But really, neither she nor John Ruskin himself, exclude anyone from their invitation to grow... to "gaze without shrinking into the darkness."

My own ability is meager compared to hers. My vocabulary, my composition, my style--all seem feeble compared to her essays. Very few writers, in fact, will ever achieve her level of skill, let alone to have her vision. Isn't it fortunate for us that she invites us to be part of her inner circle? And we can rejoice that the masterpiece she insinuates doesn't require that we qualify as expert writers, or expert anything for that matter. That is, if I understand her point, we're not expected to be masters to weave a masterpiece.

Jo's "reflection" does seem to suggest a certain level of responsiblity though. I hear a gentle whisper, urging us to contribute to the greater good. And it moves me to muster strength and conviction and especially heart to be part of the solution, to help us succeed as a culture. I've been thinking a lot lately about the world and our place in it. Not just we grads of Ruskin, class of '71, but we who have had so much privilege and have enjoyed so much of the "fruit" of the world.

Just lately, and I mean literally within weeks or months, I'm having a change of heart about our differences as a country torn by politics. All agree that we're racked by gridlock. Some of us identify with liberal ideology and some with conservative. We've been stereotyped as red or blue as states go. I used to bristle by arguments made by supporters of certain leaders, and honestly I still am biased, but I see now that as long as I stay stubborn about these things, I'm as much a part of the problem as those who do the same thing on the other side. So I've been thinking--isn't purple the most incredible color? Purple is that lovely combination of red and blue.

Part of what has brought me to this place is our connections which have occurred because of Facebook. Here we were light hearted children, though we wouldn't have called ourselves that when we walked the halls of the proud Ruskin Eagles. We laughed and joked and went to our football games and dances, debated and cheered and met up at Paul's for burgers or just to be "in the scene." Now we're back as friends again, many of us without having ever talked in over 35 years! But now about half of us vote one way and the other half the other.

What has put such an intense magnifying glass on the situation for me is that we discover that some of our closest friends feel passionately different about policy. And I wonder, which is closer to our authentic self--how we were then or how we are now? Also, a key to resolution about progress may rest in our old friendships. They talk about how it used to be different in Washington. Republicans and democrats used to be friends. Should I stop loving someone, who I haven't seen in forty years because they feel strongly and passionately about their country? Sounds absurd doesn't it?

Jo mentions our preponderance of artists within our midst. Rick and Danny and Mo are lucky, I think, to be musicians. Not only do they feel good when they make music but others are healed by the music. I liken them to physicians. Jo and Reya and Linda, too, are artists with words. So others reap the reward by savoring the images from their canvasses. Dancers, painters, cinematographers, home builders, teachers, church or factory workers...artists all...delight us and nurture us by their inspiration.

Have you ever noticed that almost magically, when an intention is set that results follow? What if we devote our art...our cumulative art to creating the most wonderful shade of purple? Our politicians don't really know us. But we know each other. We survived a tornado. We've raised children. We've owned businesses and we've volunteered, we've coached teams and we've supported our communities.

I don't think either side has all the answers but I'll be damned if I'm going to go down as a stubborn liberal pacifist intent on proving he's right, at the expense of our culture being doomed to stalemate and stagnation. That doesn't seem like a masterpiece in the making to me.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Expecting a Masterpiece

“All great and beautiful work has come of first gazing without shrinking into the darkness.” John Ruskin

By Jo Floyd Lucas

I’ve been thinking about this special little tapestry being woven here in Smiling Hearts…four different weavers, and the warp and weft of our stories combining to create art. I believe Rick called it the ‘tie that binds,’ and I'm beginning to see the common thread.

At first glance, we ‘charter contributors’ recognize ourselves as being graduates of Ruskin High School, class of ’71. As another alum and common friend, Danny Burns, has noted before, many of us in this class (and within a year or two on either side of it) seem to have pursued an interest in the arts since then. There is a preponderance of musicians, artists, writers, and performers among us. Others have pursued the healing arts, medicine, and related fields. There are several highly skilled quilters, and and I know of at least one of us who built a work of art into his own property, stone by stone, with his bare hands. I’m sure there are scores more that I have yet to hear from (pardon the preposition, Ms. Searcy!). We seem to be a creative lot, this group of Ruskinites.

Dubby hypothesized that it may have had something to do with the peace and love movement going on while Vietnam raged during our high school years, and I think he’s right. We all felt a tenuous connection to each other during this time, this time during ‘The Draft,’ which was so different than today. Our young men were scholars one day and soldiers the next, and this, I’m sure, led many to search for the sustaining beauty in life.

This musing compelled me to go to our Alma mater’s namesake, John Ruskin, to learn what type of man has, as his legacy, universities, architectural schools, libraries, and fine arts schools.

What an overachiever! I am more than slightly embarrassed that I was unaware of the scope of Ruskin’s accomplishments. Not only was he a leader in progressive social thinking (which is all I knew of him), but he also was a poet, an artist, an art critic, and a prolific writer, offering dozens of influential essays on art and architecture during the late 1800’s. His is responsible for no less than 250 works on a vast range of topics, including a fantasy novel (which most agree to be the first ever written for adult readers, “The King of the Golden River.” (Great Zol!) A compendium of his works was compiled in 1912, and the index to this ‘library edition,’ as it is called, is famous itself for its elaborate scope, and demonstrates the ‘complex interconnectedness of his thought.’

Whew...what a guy. But one thing stands out from all this...’the interconnectedness of his thought’. He saw the big picture, and spent his life attempting to show it to us. The arts relate to the sciences. The sciences relate to social change. Social change relates to writing. Writing relates to fantasy. Fantasy relates to architecture. Architecture relates to the arts. And so it continues.

I began this post with a quote from Ruskin, imploring us to gaze ‘without shrinking into the darkness.’ I think this generation of Ruskin graduates has lived without shrinking too far into the darkness. We’ve fought for civil rights. We’ve fought for peace. We’ve fought for equal rights for women and minorities. We press on. Our job is not done, in fact it’s just begun. But to offer another quote from John Ruskin, “When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece.”

Friends, let’s weave a masterpiece.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Inner Smile

A guided meditation by Dub Riley

You can forward to about 5 minutes to miss the introductory part. Tip: In the edit, I cut out the part about visualizing all five elements in the relaxing spot you imagine. The elements are water, sun (or fire), earth, wood (plants) and metal.



by Linda Van Treese

Tomorrow is the day Ken and I travel to Zurich to spend three weeks with our daughter Stacie and her husband Hampi. Needless to say, I'm really excited, not just to spend time with two of my favorite people, but also because I've been anticipating what kind of adventures we'll encounter and what new things we'll be exposed to.

I really wish people could travel to other countries more often. I always learn so much from the experience and it gives me new ways of looking at the world by learning about different customs and cultures. Not surprisingly, the one thing that I've discovered is that human beings seem to have certain things in common. Everyone wants to love and be simple as that.

I'll let you know how it goes...

The Tie That Binds

by Rick Hempy

I feel somewhat remiss as a contributor. I assure
you all, I have been reading the heart-felt sentiments of my fellow contributors. What a diverse and talented group I am honored to call my friends.

I have a sense that there is something at play here that brings us together again, and in at least one case, again and again. Beyond the technology, which in it's self is no small miracle, there seems to be a relevance to this connection. Can't quite put my finger on it, but I know it feels right.

I call myself a musician, and a songwriter. I wrote something a few years ago for someone I call my muse - someone who inspires me. I had not thought about the song for quite some time, but it came to mind as I read what you, my friends have written. So this is for you - you inspire me:

I found a rose in a garden
left unattended
In all God's creation
it was a thing to behold
There in the quiet,
without witness,
how it had flourished,
how it had grown
And a single ray of sunlight
danced upon the petals,
watered by a teardrop
fallen straight from God's eye
I wondered at the solitude
of it's perfection,
and how that rose had come to grow
in the garden of my life.
Though the briars and the clinging vines
tried to choke the flower,
it refused all subjugation
and reached for the sky.
There in the quiet
I bore witness
to how that rose had touched my soul
and how it changed my life
I found a rose in a garden
left unattended.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Set Yourself Free

"Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me.'"--John 14:6

By Jo Floyd Lucas
Less than 15 words long, and yet this declaration by Jesus has been perhaps the most misunderstood statement of all time. Evangelists have long used this statement to proselytize the world over. Wars have been fought, people have been persecuted, and lives have been lost because we have taken this phrase so literally.

I'm not an expert on religion. I'm not an expert on Christianity. I certainly am not an expert on The Bible. I consider myself, though, to be a student of Christ's teachings. Given the number of years I've read his words and attempted to follow his radical instructions to us, I'm surprised that so many people read this phrase in it's most simplistic way.

Jesus is poetic in his sermons, and his language is full of imagery. Parables are the mainstay of his lessons. Most of us know several of his parables...stories in prose or verse that illustrate a lesson. There is the parable of the prodigal son, the parable of the mustard seed, the parable of the lost sheep, and the famous parable of the Good Samaritan, just to name a few. More than 30 parables are credited to Jesus in The Bible. Every one of them is filled with the beauty of metaphors.

And so, I have always read the above bible verse in the same way I've read his other words...with reverence at his mastery of symbolism. As everything in The Bible is open to translation and iterpretation, let me offer my humble interpretation of this passionately loving statement.

To put it in context, Jesus speaks these words to his disciples as he tells them of his fate. He's assuring them that they will see him again, and that he will always be with them. He affirms his mission on earth by saying to them "I am the way, the truth and the life."

We've become so used to hearing the one-dimentional translation that we forget who is speaking. This is a man who denied dogma. This is a man who raised up the poorest of the poor, who shared meals with the tax collectors, and welcomed women to hear his lessons. Jesus is the man who challenges us to 'turn the other cheek,' to 'love our enemies', and to 'love as I have loved you.' His final lesson to us all, shorter, yet more eloquent than all the rest, is a message of absolute inclusion.

"I am the way, the truth, and the life."

Turn the phrase over in
your mind as you would read it from this Jesus. Dubby explains a bit about Taoism in his blog entry. The word ''Tao' can be translated as 'the way.' Some Jews today still refer to their religion as 'the one true religion.' And more than one of the 99 translations for the word 'Allah' in Islam is 'life' or 'giver of life'.
The way, the truth, and the life.

Could Jesus really have been telling us that through any and all of these paths, through the very act of seeking God, Allah, Gaia, or what ever name you call the power of Love, you will reach it? I think he is. I believe that Jesus is affirming that we matter what we call ourselves, will reach Paradise if we earnestly seek

Free yourself from the labels you've accepted. Throw away your preconceived notions. Read the words of Christ with new eyes. Accept your neighbor as your brother or sister in the true family of God.

We can continue to allow religious dogmas to divide us. We can continue to insist that our own narrow view of the world is the only valid one. We can continue to wage war and feel self-righteous, and NOT love our enemies. But I don't think for a moment that is what Jesus would have us do. I believe with all my heart that he would encourage us to enter into a season of sharing, cooperating, learning from one another, and of COEXISTING.

A few more lines into the Book of John, Jesus says it even more clearly. We are all one. Love will come set us free.

"On that day you will realize that I am in my Father,
and you are in me, and I am in you."--John 14:20

Random, well, not so random

Hello Lovers. Thought I might give a little background about the name of the blog and the image.

Do you have some heroes? You know like Spider Man or Thoreau? Hmmm. Thoreau in tights, that one never crossed my mind until now. "Delete." Nope still there...swinging in the trees, overlooking Walden. We've never really seen his buns have we? He just isn't the super hero type that one. Oh well, back to the story.

You've heard me rave about Whitman and Emerson. I also like Jesus. Oh yes, I'm a big Jesus fan. Socrates (well Plato's version anyway)--a real super star. Ben Franklin--my gosh, what a guy. And Shakespeare...hooo, a genuine freak of nature. Had to kidding. Must have been an alien. Brought cats with him. Cats are weird aren't they. Sorry, I digress...

But dear reader, I'm here to mention one less familiar. And they usually mess with his name. Really we should just think of him as Lao. The chronicles will have us think of him as Lao Tsu or Lao Tse or Laozi, Whether Tsu, zi or Tse, they all just mean the same thing. We might call him Dr. Lao, as in Ph.D doc. As I understand it, the Tsu just designates "master."

Lao is one of those guys who we really don't know whether he was real or not. At least with Jesus, there is quite a bit of other documentation, besides the biblical references. Like the Dead Sea Scrolls and Roman skins and such.

With Lao, we can read stuff like this from Wikipedia:

Legends claim variously that Laozi was "born old"; that he lived for 996 years, with twelve previous incarnations starting around the time of the Three Sovereigns before the thirteen as Laozi

But I'm using him simply as the guy we attribute the Tao te Ching to. My lovely most cherished companions...if you haven't had the pleasure of becoming intimate with the Tao te Ching, please give yourself the gift of some time devoted there.

There is no calamity greater than lavish desires.....He who loves the world as his body may be entrusted with the empire...Know the masculine, keep to the feminine...Seek not happiness too greedily, and be not fearful of happiness....

Perhaps the most famous is A journey of a thousand miles starts witht the first step. This is from Verse (or chapter) 76:

The (supposed) student of Lao is Chuang. Chuang had many beautiful things to say too, sort of like Plato did of Socrates or as Aristotle did of Plato or as Paul did of Jesus, though don't get me started on that one. Chuang's famous story is of his butterfly dream.

The Tao te Ching is one of the sacred texts of Taoism, as is the I Ching. Both are intricately connected to energy, meditation, and health. For instance, Tai Chi, Chi Kung, Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) have tentacles stretching deeply in to these texts.

One of the cornerstones of the Taoist DNA is the concept of the five elements. These elements in TCM have a correlation to every facet of the cosmos and life. Our weather, the directions (East, West, Center, North and South), diet, the meridians in our bodies, our physiology (including the five primary internal organs), music, colors, art, philosophy, the seasons, the material world. The ancient physicians would have us understand that there is a connection to all things, through the concept of the five elements.

The day this humble blog was published, those thoughts and others were on my mind. I took a break between movies at the theater and stood outside. A bush in full bloom with little blossoms captured my attention and when I turned one of the tiny blooms over, I saw a perfect five pointed star. The stem from the star connected it with about fifteen other stars, each which provided the structure to the perfectly rounded five petals of each flower. The symmetry and beauty of the design crowded me. My logic seemed so insufficient. Even my sense of it seemed inadequate. All we can do in such moments is give in to the bliss.

There is a magical technique which is said to be ancient. The foremost authority of the technique teaches Taoist alchemy in Thailand and his name is Mantak Chia. He has changed the name of the technique to help us tap in to the potential benefits. He calls it "Inner Smile." I learned the technique from Mantak's protege in the US, Michael Winn.

We can derive the benefits from the practice even without knowing one quote from the Tao te Ching or without having spent a second in meditation. Just as we benefit from the simple act of smiling, you can enjoy healing by moving that same smile from your lips to your heart and from your heart to other parts of the body.

As to the actual url--five places. It is related to which names were available. But I thought...hmmm, five places. It may mean more than I know right now. From the five tips of our fingers, from the five stems of our body (head, arms and legs), from our five senses to the five flavors. This is a place for everyone, who wants to share a story. So as the Taoists proclaimed first there was the one, then from one came two and the two created the "ten thousand things," we'll agree to consider each of our five perspectives as important and significant threads in this elaborate tapestry.

Winging It

by Linda Van Treese

Just four short days until Ken and I will be "winging it" on yet another adventure. This time we're headed to Zurich, Switzerland (CH) for a three week visit with our daughter Stacie and her husband Hampi.

I absolutely LOVE serendipitous events. I think those events, when they occur are God's way of letting us know that He has a sense of humour. The story of how Stacie and Hampi met is one of those events. Stacie was living in Tulsa and had recently purchased her first home. She decided that she wanted to find a roommate to help share expenses, but wasn't having any luck finding one she thought would 'fit'. I was talking with her one day and suggested that maybe she should try a website like or something similar. When I made this suggestion I had no idea if there was such a website, but lo and behold! indeed there was.

Hampi was in St. Gallen, Switzerland working as a CPA for Price Waterhouse Coopers and was soon to be coming to Tulsa to spend a year auditing Hilti, Inc. which has a branch office here.
He answered Stacie's ad, came to Tulsa and wound up renting a room from her for about a month until he could find his own place.

So began a friendship that blossomed into a romance that led to their marriage three years ago. I like to joke that it was all my fault. I couldn't have chosen a better partner for Stacie and even though we don't get to see them as often as I'd like, the fact that they are happy and living an extraordinary life is fine with me. Afterall, don't we try to raise our children to be adventurous and open to all the possibilities that life has to offer? I know that's what we tried to do and sometimes that means letting them go to 'wing it' on their own in their own way.

I'll try to my best to post from Zurich and include pictures if possible because I have a feeling it's going to be yet another adventure!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

After the Rain

By Jo Floyd Lucas
Something extraordinary happened on my walk today.

I know this walking path quite well...I've walked it a hundred times or more. It's a peaceful path for the most part, with lovely trees, a pond, and benches every so often if one's in the mood for contemplation. It teems with wildlife, and I've occasionally felt I was in the midst of an animated Disney movie, with chipmunks, rabbits, birds, and deer scattering in front of me. I love walking here, and generally come away feeling refreshed and grateful for my bounty of blessings. I'm accustomed to the power of the beauty of the earth here.

Today was different. It rained last night. The air was charged with the moisture and the heft of the rain. I began my walk as usual, down the old familiar path, but felt more than the usual appreciation. My senses were heightened. The feel of the wet grass, the scent in the air, the birds calling to each all felt new.

I had been walking for a few minutes, watching with amusement a father and son baiting a hook to try their hand at fishing in the pond. Suddenly, I noticed something unfamiliar out the corner of my eye. Looking ahead on the path now, I noticed for the first time what I was approaching. There was a giant mass of white blossoms swaying in the breeze, as if beckoning me their way. Along the entire eastern border and around the curve of the path, thirty feet high, the waving wall of white called. I walked slowly, arms at my sides, gazing at this glorious display. Wild Honeysuckle, I guessed. I breathed deeply, and smelled the air dripping with their sweet scent. I felt myself enter their midst, and without thinking, I turned my palms outward as I walked. My arms raised, and I felt a jubilant rush. My arms went higher, and I gratefully pulled the scent and the spirit of the flowers to my breast.

I looked down at the path I was on, strewn with white flowers. Where had they come from? Surely not from the bushes I saw before me...they were still laden with flowers. I continued farther into the snowy path to the secluded corner of the trail. The air here was still. Heavy. So heavy with the sweetness of the scent. I walked slowly now, in respectful awe of this new experience. I felt embraced by flowers. Off in the distance I could hear children on the playground, traffic on the street down the hill. But here in this spot, I was alone with my Maker.

Then, out of the bough of a tree overhead, fell a small white bouquet, the tip of a branch of this flowering shrub, I guess. It landed directly in front of me. I stopped in my tracks. It was a beautiful little perfect nosegay. I picked it up and put it to my face, inhaling the magically sweet scent. What a gift I had been given! I rested there in that spot for several minutes, soaking in all that was around me.

As I composed myself and continued my walk, nosegay in hand, I heard myself say, "Lord, Gaia, Mother Earth...make me an instrument of Thy peace."

I have started down a new path in my life, much to my surprise. I'm uncertain where this path will lead. I know there will be obstacles, and I know I will need the help of friends to sustain me during my journey. But I know that I'm on the right path now, one which will lead to outward adventure and inward peace. I hope you'll travel with me occasionally.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Spring of 2010

The wonderment of the season fills us with so much emotion. Colors do that. The tulips are inviting us to giggle. The redbud is leafing out now but he had us in rapture. The forsithia was one of the first to jiggle us free from the long winter--releasing us to shake out the blockages and breathe in the notion of rebirth.

But this particular Spring has other meaning for me. I feel particularly light and bouncy. Nothing seems to worry me too much.

Our country is in an odd stupor. Without critisizing (the other side) those who feel differently than I do ideologically, we seem to be at a critical cross road politically. Violence and differences in our approach defines the time. Other features of the day, such as the economy, the extent of environmental trepidation, our curious phase of cosmology as a species--by whatever name, we seem to be "churning" the belief systems, whether it be traditional religion or worship of a pervading Gaia spirit. I'm not particularly a 2012 follower, as in "the end of time," approach, but as we near the end of our president's first term, I do wonder about the next era to follow. But my point about that is that in this particular season, I'm not too concerned about what happens next. I'm so enjoying the dance.

Love is in the air. Facebook has so many of us reunited. There is certainly a down side to this whacky new means of connecting. One being that we need to take a break now and then and go revitalize with some natural vitamin D. Breathe the air. Take in a sunset. Get some exercise. But man, I love my Facebook. Chances are, if you're reading this, we exchange comments and photos and videos via the little boxes they make for us to do so. So I rejoice in the love which Facebook has enabled for me. It is every bit as precious to me as a fallen leave lined trail in the woods. It is on Facebook I walk hand in hand with so many friends and special acquaintances.

I'll keep this short enough that readers can swallow it as an appetizer and not feel too bloated. I hope you'll feel inclined to leave a comment or join us as a contributor. We've got room to accomodate everyone.