Some Solstice Haiku

Hi Everyone,

We’re at the midpoint of the year today and I’m alone at home, while my wife is in London at a symposium and my son is visiting his grandparents. It’s been an interesting year so far to say the least, and that has me thinking about what I may or may not have accomplished, and also waxing somewhat poetic on this long day of light. While I think up what to say about my own life and progress in a subsequent post, here’s some haiku to chew on, meditate on, or just plain read, digest, and pass along. I hope your year is bringing you the Light of Truth, Love, and Abundance that you both need and deserve.

Namaste,

Jason

4644
You are a hero.
Your life’s a great adventure.
You’re up to the task.

4645
When God is ready
That which He has planned for you
Will be made quite clear.

4646
I believe that God
Is both the source of all things,
And lives within us.

4652
This student’s ready.
Pray, let the master appear.
Guidance is needed.

4653
May all souls in need
Find most what they seek tonight –
Food, Rest, Peace, Joy, Love.

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Bink and I contemplating the future.

 

4654
Keep your goals in mind.
When daily problems arise
Know why you’re fighting.

4655
Do not be afraid.
The Source of All is with you,
Offering you strength.

4656
Find your still, small, place.
Search both within and outside.
Visit it often.

4663
The world’s faith in you
Means absolutely nothing
If you don’t share it.

4665
Be compassionate
Towards those less fortunate.
You could be them soon.

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Happy Solstice, Everyone!!!

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Haiku in Bloom

A busy week, a trip to the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington D. C., and the first day of spring made for good memories and the necessity of sharing some more haiku this month. Whatever your needs are, I hope they are being met. Whatever ails you – mental, physical, spiritual – I hope it is being managed. Know that you are not alone. Know that you are loved. Know that whatever your present state, it can be bettered.

Peace, Love, Spring, and Cherry Blossoms to You,

Jason

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The Jefferson Memorial across the Tidal Basin in D.C.

4627
Your authentic voice
Is what people want to hear.
Let them hear your heart

4628
Your priorities
Must be kept in order if
You wish to succeed.

4629
When others succeed,
That doesn’t mean you have failed.
Stop comparing lives.

4630
It is your duty
To give your life to the world,
Serving its best needs.

4635
Focus heavenward.
The sun is beaming brightly
Above the storm clouds

At the Cherry Blossom Festival

Me and My Gal in the Blossoms

4637
How should you respond
To the hatred in the world?
Why, with love, of course.

4639
Give up all judgment.
Be a Citizen of Peace,
Enemy to none.

4640
You are on the verge
Of an explosion of Art,
Thought, and Abundance.

4641
Believe in yourself
And your ability to
Make a difference.

4642
Be the example
You want your children to love,
Follow, and become.

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Our own backyard.

March Into Haiku

It has been awhile since I’ve done a purely haiku post. But spring is around the corner, and I’m feeling like I need a real dose of inspiration to get me through the last of the winter woes.Whatever you may be struggling with, I hope you find some measure of assistance, uplift, guidance, or what have you in the next 10 poems. Hang in there, keep the faith, assist, resist, persist, and God bless.

Namaste,

Jason

4610
Whatever happens
You must never surrender
To hatred and fear.

4612
While you sit around
Complaining about the job,
Someone’s doing it.

4613
Rise with the dawn and
Offer sincere gratitude
For the day ahead.

4614
You cannot give thanks,
Too sincerely or too much,
But be one who tries.

4615
Put yourself out there.
Without risk there is no life,
Only stagnation.

4617
When you’ve been knocked down,
Look for anything to grab
That will help you up.

4618
You want my advice?
Whatever you want from life
Go out and get it!

4619
If you have a dream,
You can acquire the skill set
To make it happen.

4625
How can you improve
The lives of those around you
Just by showing up?

4626
Look for ways in which
You can make someone happy.
Seek joy for others.

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Two Contemplative Cats

Children’s Book Announcement – Mommy Made a Beastie (But I Love Her Anyway)

Today, our new children’s book, Mommy Made a Beastie (But I Love Her Anyway), is available on Amazon. Two years ago, after the success of our first children’s book, Daddy Doesn’t Purr (But I Love Him Anyway), I set about working on the sequel. After several months of brainstorming with Kisaki – the elder cat authoress of the book that became Beastie – we hit upon the idea of telling the story of John Adams’s birth from her point of view. ‘Saki was the first person to know that Nancy was pregnant. She climbed upon Nancy’s belly while she slept (something she never normally would do) and scowled disapprovingly at her mommy with this look of, “What the hell have you done to us?” That sentiment lingered long after John Adams was born.

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Cover art by Michelle McNally, cover design by Maryann Brown

The events of the book are all true. Kisaki loathed her baby brother at first and went out of her way to muscle him off Nancy’s lap, take focus from him and put it back on herself where she felt it belonged. When John Adams moved and then talked, hers was one of the first faces he saw (due to her constant proximity to Nancy), and he instantly fell in love with her. She did not return the sentiment. He would see her and light up, giggle, smile, wriggle, and all manner of verbal and non-verbal gestures to get her approval. She was not amused.

When nothing that ‘Saki tried gained her exclusive access to Nancy, she became visibly irritable and despondent for a time. Like so many children, she just didn’t want to share her favored parent’s affections with any other child. Finally, in either desperation or conciliation, Kisaki sidled up to her brother, plopped her butt against him and claimed him for her own. It seemed that if she couldn’t have exclusive access to Mommy, the next best thing was to make peace with the Beastie who had her attention. From that point forward, grudging acceptance turned to icy affection, and with a little help from her overly zealous brother, that affection turned into love. Until the end of her life, the two became inseparable.

Yes, I did drop that bomb here: Kisaki has since passed away. She died two years ago due to complications of mouth cancer. Despite his age (he was only fifteen months old when she passed), John Adams has not forgotten about her. It would seem he imbued a little stuffed black and white cat that rests on his bed with his best memories of his sister. The cat was given to him by a friend of ours, “so that he would always remember his sister”, and it seems to have worked. He refers to the stuffed animal as ‘Saki, and we often talk about her joy-riding in Daddy’s White Car, my car that broke down a few months ago. Daddy’s White Car has become the “Farm Upstate” metaphor of the Michael Family. It includes ‘Saki, Snaky, Annie and Dorothy (two goldfish), and a particularly favored and contentious piece of orange cake Nancy threw out. But I digress.

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‘Saki in her ‘Cover pose.’

Mommy Made a Beastie is now the second book in a planned three book ‘Love Anyway’ series. In Daddy Doesn’t Purr, Duke is shown to love me despite our differences. In Beastie, ‘Saki learns to love and accept John Adams despite her jealousy. In the planned third and final (?) book, The Nix, our Manx cat born genetically without a tail, learns to love herself despite being born different from the norm. In all three, embracing love as your primary motivational guide is the key to a happier existence. Love anyway, despite differences, emotional insecurities, and unexpected life changes; despite self-doubt and outward ridicule from others. Out of this notion the happy accident of the ‘Love Anyway’ series was born.

Both books retail for under $12 on Amazon and can be bought both there and on CreateSpace where we receive a better share of the royalties. As added incentive, roughly 1/3 of the sales price of each book is donated to either animal charities in Virginia, or to another as of yet un-chosen animal charity in the U.S. If you’re looking for a Christmas or Holiday present that also benefits animals in a small way, please consider checking out our books. If you’ve read Daddy Doesn’t Purr and you enjoyed it, please consider leaving us a review on Amazon. These books have been labors of love for me, Francie and Michelle McNally, Nancy, Maryann Brown, and, of course, Duke and ‘Saki. Please check them out if you have a moment. And remember: when all else fails…

Love Anyway,

Jason

Here’s the Amazon link to the book: Mommy Made a Beastie

Here’s a link to my Amazon Author page: Jason on Amazon

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‘Saki and John Adams – BFFs

Healing Haiku

I haven’t done a haiku post in more than a month. These were written earlier this year, just after midsummer. Most in this batch are like mantras/little reminders to remain calm and centered as the world swirls around you. A lot is going on in the Michael household, and there’s no question that I need them just as much as anyone else. May these poems bring you peace, centeredness, joy, or at least a way back towards the good. Until next time…

Namaste,

Jason

4598
I am perfect health.
I am ever increasing
Abundance and joy.

4599
Stand on the sidelines
And you have no one to blame
For your apathy.

4600
Don’t expect others
To make your hopes, dreams, and needs
Their priorities.

4601
Be an oasis
Of peace, love, and non-judgment.
Welcome the world in.

4602
Is life war or peace?
Is the universe hostile
Or friendly to you?

4603
There’s no assurance
That one life can change the world,
Though many succeed.

4605
There’s poop on the floor.
And there’s cat poop by the door.
No more poop, no more.

4607
The secret of life?
Find a passion for something;
Commit to its care.

4608
There will be down days,
But they don’t need to rule you
If you manage them.

4609
All good things take time:
Babies, novels, omelets,
And well-designed lives.

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First Fall at the Michael Ranch, Circa 2010

Onward and Upward (My 100th Blog Post)

I can’t believe this milestone has arrived. 100 posts! Back in April of 2015, I decided to revitalize my blog with the announcement “I’m Still Here.” I had been inactive for months, what with the care and maintenance of John Adams plus life, and I hadn’t done much writing. But after months of inactivity, I decided to jump back in the saddle and try to kick start my blog. There have been fits and starts of creativity and exhaustion, but after months of sticking it out, here it is: 100.

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“What’s that you said? 100 Blog posts! You have got to be kidding me!!!”

Over the last year I’ve renewed my passion for writing, for poetry, for blogging, and for reaching out. I love to write things that make people think , that informs them of the good in the world, that shares something of my life in a way that might illuminate something in someone else’s. To that end, I’m re-branding my blog as of today. No longer “An introspective journal for spiritual growth,” but rather “A Journal of Joy, the Arts, Wellness, Parenting, and Personal Growth.” I want to inspire people, raise them up, and give them hope. I want to be a light in the dark, not the latest rant on Facebook. I want to make people laugh, cry, and think. I want to help people lead better lives, not remind them of the problems we all face. We already know.

Going forward I will continue to write about my personal experiences, my son John Adams, and my family. It’s what I know. I will include poetry, especially haiku of course, and I want to start including recipes, guest blogs, and other pieces of wisdom that promote better living. No extensive change here, just expansion. I want to stress that this will be the same Reflections from Shangri-La that you have read. I just want to expand the scope, hopefully net wider readership, and in turn, help more people any way that I can.

This last year has been one of some wonderful successes and milestones for my life and my family. My wife did a one-month teacher training fellowship in Kalamazoo on Beowulf through the National Endowment of the Humanities. My son has just turned three. I was a guest blogger for the first time on www.businessinrhyme.com . I just learned that one of my favorite poems, “My Greatest Treasure,” will be included in the Fall issue of Fredericksburg Literary and Art Review (more on this as it develops). I’m participating in the First Annual Fredericksburg Independent Book Festival this weekend, and reading both Daddy Doesn’t Purr (But I Love Him Anyway)and our forthcoming book Mommy Made a Beastie (But I Love Her Anyway) in their Kid’s Corner. And my arrangement, “God Rest Ye Jazzy Gentlemen” is being premiered by the area choral ensemble The Spotsylvanians. Much to be proud of, much to blog about, and much to inspire with, and bring hope to others. My life is far from perfect, with many struggles and woes, but there is also much to be thankful for. And that it what I wish to focus on here and share with you. This year alone, Reflections has had over 1,000 views from some 750 people. Two posts—“The Boy Who Lived” and “Still Wild About Hank”—have had over 100 views each. If you are still reading this, you are among those numbers and I can’t thank you enough for supporting my efforts, reading my thoughts, liking my posts, and being a part of my online life.

So here’s looking ahead to 2017, to post 200, and to all of the good things we can share and accomplish together.

Thank you again and see you next post.

Namaste,

Jason

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My son, father-in-law, and I celebrating 100 Blog posts…Not!

Hot, Hank, and Haiku

It’s the midpoint of August in Virginia, and it’s the hottest it’s been all year. My family and I are all mildly sick with a lingering bug, laying about the house for the weekend (to stay cool) and everything seems like a chore. Clean laundry is strewn about unfolded, meals planned have given way to the local sub shop, and naps are the best thing ever!

At this writing on Sunday morning I’m actively looking for supplementary work to compliment what I do at my church, I’m lining up premieres for new choral works I’ve written, I’m planning my next children’s book with the artist, and, above all, trying to make ends meet and pay bills. Tonight is the Virginia premiere of the new documentary Wild About Hank, the story of the cat that ran for US Senate, and my wife and I are hoping to be in attendance. If so, the night will certainly be a blog post in itself. Lots of balls in the air, lots of uncertainty, and lots of stress. It’s time for a few meditative haiku. Here’s hoping your world is filled with adventure, challenge, success, and some desired security, stability, and abundance. Till next time,

Namaste,

Jason

4585
If One Truth exists
It is Love made manifest
In all disguises.

4586
Own the reflection.
Your life mirrors your actions,
Inner and outer.

4587
We should mourn the dead,
But then leave them to their rest,
Not play with the corpse.

4588
Whatever your thoughts,
They will emerge from within,
Designing your skin.

4589
Meditate daily.
Listen to the voice within,
Soothing and guiding.

4590
Grieve for those who “know,”
For they have certainty, but
No authentic Truth.

4591
Riches are hidden
Right under your very feet,
Waiting to be mined.

4592
Stop wondering if
You’re worthy of happiness.
You were born worthy.

4593
Arrive at life’s end
Unfettered by regrets and
Armed with good mem’ries.

4594
You must not hate those
Who know no other pathway
Than what they’ve been taught.

IMG_1057 Ticket to WAH2

Nancy and I in the movie theater with our tickets to the US/Virginia premiere of Wild About Hank

Midsummer Haiku

It’s late July and, whether you’re inside or outside, it’s hot here in Virginia. My book signings went well, my family is reunited, and we’re trying to squeeze some collective summer memories into our lives before the craziness that is late August. And speaking of craziness, the presidential campaign season is in full bloom, and if you don’t duck you might get hit by a heap of slung mud. At the very least it’s easy to be brought down by all the negative rhetoric. I have some new ideas for blog posts coming up, but until then enjoy a few empowering haiku written well before, but seemingly inspired by or in response to, our present national dialogue.

4573
Ev’rywhere you look
Possibilities exist
For a better world.

4574
You can’t win them all,
But by staying in the game
You can win a few.

4575
What is your purpose?
Listen to the God within
To hear your answer.

4576
You have a calling,
To make people’s lives better,
To offer them joy.

4578
Spread your light around;
Let people know they have worth,
That they are worthy.

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Wildflowers at Shenandoah National Park, July 22, 2016

4580
What does the world need?
More compassion, kindness, love,
Tolerance, and peace.

4581
The world’s had enough
Hatred, bigotry, judgment,
Inequality.

4582
Hey! You reading this:
You really can change the world.
One choice at a time.

4583
For better or worse,
We all share the same planet.
Let’s try playing nice.

4584
Relax, take a breath,
Center yourself, and intone:
Peace is the answer.

Namaste,

Jason

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On our way toward a new adventure.

The View from Haiku

I haven’t posted any haiku for several weeks, and I thought it was time for a break from essaying and for sharing some poetry. In a related update, my first book signing at England Run Library through the Central Rappahannock Regional Library System went very well (yes, I did sell something, thank you), and I’m looking forward to the next one on June 25th. Until my next blog post, here’s some inspirational haiku to get you through the week.

 4562
When you’re living life
According to your own rules
Doubt not, you’ll know it.

 4563
Muster the courage
To take your first fearful steps
Into the unknown.

4564
Have faith in yourself.
God lies within each of us.
Trust yourself, trust God.

4565
Changes always come.
They are inevitable.
Your reaction’s not.

 4566
The you you once knew
Isn’t the you you are now.
Be the you you are.

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Rainbow over Route 3 outside Fredericksburg, taken through my windshield

 4567
It’s time for changes,
Changes in outlook, manner,
And life’s direction.

 4569
Wallaby babies:
Just think about them playing.
Pure bliss, pure laughter.

 4570
You can do better.
Whatever level you’re on,
You can step it up.

 4572
What is your purpose –
Have you any sense of it?
Any directives?

 4571
There’s always a way
To make all your dreams come true.
You must just find it.

 Namaste,

Jason

Book Signing0001

See: A Viking Funeral???

fluttering
on the strand of web
a white moth wing

                                     – Soji (aka Gary B.)

A few weeks ago we buried a good man. Well, not so much buried as burned. Well, not so much burned as burned again. Gary was a member of the Unitarian Universalist church where both my wife and I work. He was kind, and fun, and beloved by his spiritual community. When he died it was his desire to have the closest thing to a Viking funeral: to be put in a ship on the water and set ablaze. His wife, and his UU community would have nothing less for him.

On Sunday evening, April 10, the day after a memorial service for Gary that included multiple moving eulogies, a tribute video presentation complete with nose-flute duet, and the singing of Gary’s favorite songs, “Blue Boat Home” and “Don’t Worry Be Happy,” many of his friends and family gathered again at the Little River boat ramp to watch Gary sail across the Rainbow Bridge into Valhalla. To the thunder of numerous percussion instruments (and guitars) Gary’s ashes – loaded into a beautiful scale model of a Viking ship – were guided via kayak out to a preselected spot on the water and set ablaze. At the moment of the ship’s final descent the instrumentalists organically fell silent, paying their final silent respects to their fallen friend. It was beautiful, unusual, sublime; and I’m glad my son was there to see it.

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The miniature Viking ship  ablaze (photo credit:Nancy Krause)

After the sinking we casually walked back to the parking lot where wishing lanterns – tissue paper balloons that one sets a fire under – were being lighted. Nancy, John Adams, and I each lit one and watched it carry its light across the evening dusk as a final silently ascendant prayer to our friend.

moonviewing —
from across the sea,
neighbor’s voices

                                    – Soji (aka Gary B.)

I write this now, not just in memory of Gary, but also as an invitation to new people to get to know the man’s work of passion. For Gary was a haiku poet of significant talent. Writing under the name Soji, Gary’s website, Haiku Poet’s Hut, http://www.haikupoetshut.com/ is a treasure trove of his poetic legacy. I strongly encourage those of you who are interested in haiku (and I know many of you are) to check out the beauty, simplicity, and elegance that Gary has left behind for us.

Namaste, Gary. May we all live a better life through your example.

Jason

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Gary aka Soji (photo credit: Nancy Krause)