Glamour, Ideals, and the Acorn May 2023

   Long ago I had a very important dream; it seemed to show me the big task of my life.  I dreamt that I was riding smoothly on a silent sailboat; I, a boy of about 12 at the back of the boat and two handsome young men at the front of the boat.  One had black hair and one had blonde hair, maybe both around age 28.  At some point without knowing how, I knew the two young men intended to kill me.  So silently I slipped into the water.  I, the dreamer,  felt alarmed because I know a sailboat has a deep keel underneath to keep it upright:  I feared for the boy.  But I saw him come up and swim toward the shore – with a deep cut in his back.  The two young men dove in and swam after him.  I saw him run up on the shore into a big brick building and disappear.

   As I thought about this dream over time, I came to this basic analysis:  the two handsome young men represented:  Glamour and Ideals.  These could kill the boy.  He ran into an institution to hide and find a way to escape.

   “Glamour “ is not so hard for me to see as dangerous:  people pretending to be something they are not,  more than they are; values like amassing money, looking beautiful, that lead to no true strength or health or maturity.

   It took me longer to see the dangers in “Ideals”.  Examples of Ideals:  love everyone equally,  sacrifice yourself for the good of others or the Whole,  push yourself to accomplish all that’s in you,  don’t be lazy, don’t be selfish.

   An Ideal can be as full of “ego” and disease as a glamour, it can be just a way to feel important by some cultural standard.  A “Hero.”  Good girls and good boys are judged by different ideals – maybe good girls are quiet, helpful, self-sacrificing, long- suffering in silence, “pretty/cute”,  kind.  Good boys are brave in dangerous situations, should make decisions quickly – and accurately!  should not cry when hurt,  etc.  These ideals may put a person in contrast to whatever truth they feel inside themself! 

Ideals can crush the real.  The ideal should beckon the real, with no judgment.  Ideals should be suggestions. The ideal should lure the real with carrots like “expansion,”  “increase in creative influence,”  increase in energy and life force.”  Good things one COULD do.

   My life has been very limited – I should say “directed” – by a curvature in my lower back.  Because it’s fairly hidden, many times my choices have been misunderstood by others because they cannot see what I’m dealing with.  But this has led to a freedom from “How I Look To Others”.  i.e. Glamour!  Looking good is just not possible for me; I’m lucky if I can look normal! So as I matured, my back problem has freed me from the grips of “Glamour!”

   Living by Ideals has also turned out to be too much for me. I’ve usually found that Ideals have to be balanced by appropriateness, by wisdom, by many values opposite the ideal.  I’ve had to learn an inner guidance that sets my own unique course, sometimes aiming towards an ideal and sometimes seeming in rebellion to them. 

I often feel like the direction of my life is “down” – down to some little acorn inside me, just the true center of what is possible in this particular life.  “Enough”:  I am enough, imperfect, always  growing and learning.  I feel the most powerful when I stand neither in looking good nor in being good.  Being truthful is the most powerful place to stand.

Why Journal

Salty Snipppit   November 14, 2020      

   Something is happening across the street as I pass my wide living room window.  I stop in surprise.  Large golden-orange leaves scintillating in the morning sun are fluttering down, scattering with the wind, tumbling off across the grass.   They look like big colorful sparkling snowflakes!   I cannot move on but must sit down and watch this show of miniature fireworks. On my neighbors’ roof there’s a circle of leaves spiraling around as if they’re dancing and laughing together!  I cannot not-smile while watching all this.

   The German Protestant in me whispers desperately “Get back to work!”  But the real and wise me sits facing the window, breathing with a deep smile as I enjoy this final awesome autumn performance.

    Now the air is calm, only a few flutters happening.  The sun cranks up a notch and the low bushes by my window wave back at the sun.  The shadows of the great trees intensify and then fade, lengthen and shorten as the sun plays on this ever-changing scene.

   “Dead falling leaves” are often a metaphor for what we no longer need in our lives, but dead scintillating colorful leaves, dancing away – there’s a different spin!  Treasures!  Not to be tossed thoughtlessly but to be released with awareness and gratitude.

   This real-life metaphor says “Stop!  Say thank you.”  Journaling is one way to do this, to be aware of all experience as gift.  Every one of these forms/moments fed my life, made me bigger, as every leaf fed the tree. I may not have liked them all equally, but they all fed and made me into what I am. The Earth takes them back, making them food for other life. The Sun and Wind leave me free like a sleeping tree, soon to grow more and new and bigger.  The Sun and Wind and Earth continue to shine on us all, with love and joy and peace and beauty.

Buchenwald is Everywhere

Salty Snippet October 2020

I introduce to you Jacques Lusseyran and Jeremy Regard, who have come to live in me through Jacques’ writings.   In his autobiography And There Was Light  (Parabola, Jacques tells how he was blinded as a child, lived a rich and normal life until the Nazis entered Paris, and in January of 1944 at the age of 19 he was taken to Buchenwald concentration camp because of his work in the Resistance.  He also wrote a collection of essays, Against the Pollution of the I, and it is one of these powerful sharings I’d like to briefly describe for you.

    Jeremy Regard, known in the camp as “Socrates,” was a welder from a mountain village.  A small older man, Jacques heard of him and expected he must be highly intelligent, wise, or saintly, given the awe with which people spoke of him.  When Jacques finally encountered Jeremy, he was astounded to sense that Jeremy wasn’t really a thinker:  he told stories.  Jeremy walked through this barracks of a thousand men living where four hundred would have been crowded, men terrified, furious, confused, desperate, and Jeremy was calm and genuinely present with himself and with you.  He actually exuded joy!  To be near him “brings you back to yourself when you are about to disappear.”

   He was a Christian Scientist but never expounded on ideas.  In fact, Jeremy said many of these men would die from ideas.  Jacques saw this happen, especially those who thought they were in hell.

 Jeremy’s view was so different.  He was not a dreamer.  “The rest of us were dreamers: we dreamed of women, of children, of houses…We weren’t at Buchenwald.  We didn’t want anything to do with Buchenwald.”  …”His eyes were solidly fixed on all our miseries and he did not blink.” Nor did he have the air of a hero. 

   As Jacques tried to see with Jeremy’s eyes, he gradually saw that “Buchenwald was not unique…also that our camp was not in Germany…Buchenwald was in each of us.”  It was anywhere and everywhere when people live with a willingness to succumb to fear and to stop living fully where they are.

   Jeremy found joy in Buchenwald!  To be with him was to feel it inexplicably rise up inside one’s self again. “The joy of being alive in this moment, in the next, each time we became aware of it.  The joy of feeling the lives of others, of some others at least, against us, in the dark of night.” 

   Jacques:  “What I call supernatural in him was the break with habits.. of judgment which make us call any adversity “unhappiness” or “evil.””  Judgments which make us angry, complaining, feeling entitled to something better.  He had chosen to stand in “that which does not depend on any circumstance.”

Jacques ends this sharing by suggesting we all “put memory in quarantine.”  (a poignant turn of expression for us today!)  Images and ideas we hold onto of things that are not present now, judgments of comparison, standing in the past – these pull us out of the joy still possible anywhere.  However, a memory that nourishes, strengthens us to be present here – such as an inspiring person – this type of memory increases our presence now, allows the joy of being alive to arise anywhere.  Just as Buchenwald can arise in us anywhere if we choose the view of being deprived.

                                      -1999, Parabola Books, New York. “Poetry in Buchenwald” is another marvelous essay there of how sharing poetry helped people survive.  His autobiography is magnificent.  He was one of a very small number who survived Buchenwald – blind!  He actually survived because he was blind.  He learned that he received guidance all the time as long as he didn’t cloud his knowings with “anger, fear, or competition”!   -Marti Matthews

There IS Warm Pink Soup!  And – there IS Goodness!


Salty Snippet April 2023

The weather had been cold and wet, with a dark heaviness over the world all day.  I tried to fall asleep, but only negative feelings came up no matter what I thought about.  A yard of dandelions turning to seed, all lying flat and ugly against the wet grass – my responsibility.  The War in Ukraine going on and on and on.  There’d been bad news for someone I cared about.  Long list of people who’d been shot today or recently.  Unfinished projects all over my house. “Stuff” everywhere – endless too-much stuff.  Aches and pains in my aging body. I could not find something positive to land on and enable me to relax. 

   Finally, I found it!  I always remember my surprise and complete pleasure when I was visiting in Sweden and was served warm pink fruit soup.  Small amounts of dried fruits were the contents, tapioca was the soft base, and all was colored clear pink and served warm.  I’d never experienced anything so heavenly.  I’ve often remembered that amazing experience – how soothing it had felt to me.  So now as I surveyed my world of experience looking for a positive something to grab onto, I found the memory of warm pink soup brought a smile to my spirit and even my body.

    Here a friend reminds me of the currently popular Danish word “hygge” (pronounced hoo ga):

“1. The art of building sanctuary and community, of inviting closeness and paying attention to what makes us feel open hearted and alive. 

2.  To create well-being.  Connection and warmth.    3.  A feeling of belonging to the moment and to each other.       4.  Celebrating the everyday.”

                               [from the description of Danish slippers called Glerups]

Danish slippers, Swedish fruit soup, those Scandinavians know ways to take care of their weary spirits!  I began to feel better as I lay in bed holding that memory of warm pink soup; I felt I was floating in it.    

    Then I thought to add another good thing – “Goodness!”  A person came to my mind; she is “Goodness” walking around; she lives the spirit of warm pink soup!  I’m not sure how to define this well.  It’s not that this person never gets upset: she could get very angry at people who hurt animals and little children.  But she always glows with a calm, slow, warmth.  She took in greyhound dogs who would have been “put to sleep” after running all their lives for human pleasure; she took them in and gave them the loving retirement they deserved.  She had a reliable humility, was open to correction, yet faced life with  responsibility and courage, both gentle and strong.

   I began to search through my memories of other people I’ve known in my many years of living.  I would say most people I call friends are all good people!  To many friends I would add complimentary clarifying adjectives; to only a few could I apply the sole label of “Goodness.”   I double-checked this.  Surely X or Y, people I love and respect, could deserve this title?  No, the word belonged to a select few.  Perhaps it is a combination of humility and courage that combines into something like “reliable and peaceful integrity.”  These people have a quiet but always-present radiance.

    With that handful of people who are “Goodness” added to the bodily memory of warm pink soup – I began to feel a sense of safety return about “life”.  I kept repeating “Warm pink soup really does exist, and so does Goodness!.” I repeated the names of the people who radiated this spirit. My body felt safe in the world again and I fell blissfully asleep.                             -Marti Matthews, April 18, 2023

How To Improve Your Luck

 Salty Snippet,  July 2022   

  My favorite version of Solitaire requires two decks of cards and is a bit more complicated than the ordinary game, but it feels like a sharp person can win more easily.  I play this to clear my mind and calm my nerves while I attend to working with the luck of the draw.

   The luck of the draw has been speaking to me recently.  Usually I just wait and see what comes up and  deal with that – and then I helplessly win or lose.  But Something Inside has suggested that I be a bit more assertive if I want to win: I could SAY what is needed right now, if “we” want to win. 

   What is this feeling of “we??”  It’s the Something Inside that seems to always accompany me in my life. The very quiet little voice offering a helpful thought; it’s even quieter than Jimminy Cricket on someone’s shoulder.  Here It is, suggesting that I might suggest what would be helpful for “us” to win. 

   So I began to do that:  I’d scan the situation and say “We could really use an Ace of Spades right now.”  Or a six of hearts, whatever.  To my surprise, whatever I suggest very often comes up immediately or shortly!  It feels like I have a partner who will help me, but will not lead:  I must do the leading, I must want to win, and I must take the responsibility to say what’s needed right now for success.

   This, of course, is spilling over into other parts of my life where I tend to be passive. “That’s just the way it is for me,”  I think.  “I never X,” “I always Y,”  “It seems to be my Destiny.”  I see there are some givens in my life that must be part of my Destiny – the family, time period, location in which I was born; my body with its gifts and its limitations; and surprising life influences that come along.  But I also see choices I’ve made, both passive and active, which have influenced the course of the river of my life.  Things don’t just always “happen.”  Many times, I have not spoken up; many other times I’ve spoken or acted unwisely.

   My experience as a parent, plus my observations of Nature Itself, tell me that The Source of All Life –  Whatever It is –  surely wants Its creations to thrive and grow and to feel good.  That we will “die” is also a given, but “thriving” is the creative thrust that brings us out into life and always carries us forward.  In all situations we all try to find a next step that will feel like thriving, like something good and successful for ourselves on which another step might be taken.  Now, finally, late in life I realize that I can say what’s needed.  I don’t even have to beg!  I just have to be sharp, and then be responsible and say it, and be willing to accept the help that comes.  Help isn’t always exactly as I thought it would be, but Help comes – when I’m sharp and willing.

Poems for the Very Beginning of Spring, 2022

Skunk Cabbage 

[The very first “flowers” to appear in the woods, in wet places]

What fun to be a skunk cabbage!

Smells are one of Life’s delights.

Out in the bog

I could be a tiny center

unfolding into a huge grand leaf

reeking through with greenness,

  ever richer,

     ever smellier.

Life makes many dainty whispers through the woods.

But bursting through decay,

I’d chase the winter doldrums

  with my sensual call.  I’d shout around

   “Wake up!  Wake up, you sleeping woods.

Come alive again

   and feel and


       and play.

It’s time to start all over once again!

Spring Beauty  

[tiny early white flowers with pink stripes from the middle; esp. found around trees]

Spring Beauty,

most delicate of all spring flowers,

early to appear,

how lovely to be her!

Small and sweet and dear,

my five-petalled face with pink mint stripes

   will smile up like a shy girl-child

      at the awesome world around.

Simple and friendly,

I will open to the sun.

My thin stem will dance with the smallest breeze.

Never alone, I’ll live in a world of gentle friends

   like me,

all of us playing

in the sweet spring sun and wind and rain.

O beauty protected,

O tenderness extreme,

I will speak to all the world

of the great sensitivity

of The Source of all Life.

The First Fly of Spingtime   

  [I have another poem: The last Fly of Summer]

The first fly of springtime,

I welcome you!

My adversary through the heat,

you bode of sunshine now,


     and fun for all.

Right now, my housebound

    winter heart says


We’ve come awake again,

the both of us.


Oh I want to be a buttercup!  A buttercup!  A buttercup!

O warm richness!

O passionate color!

O enthusiasm for Life!

I’ll plant myself by a watery place

  and laugh for joy.

I’ll glory in the singing birds,

the humming bees,

  the pesky flies,

    the tickling breeze.

And the sun’s salvation,

“Relish in the warmth of sun!”

my shining saffron face will sing.

“And don’t forget enthusiasm, passion.

Dance, swim, listen, sing, love,

  feel and sense.

    celebrate like me,”  I’ll laugh,

I, the cheerful buttercup!

The Power of a Smile

   Recently I gave a presentation to my Swedish Lodge ( for people of Swedish descent, who like to stay in touch with their Swedish-ness) on this subject:  “A Mystery:  The Life and Paintings of Carl Larsson.”  Larsson is remembered for the watercolors of his 8 children and his wonderful wife, Karin Bergoo, their happy life together in a warm cottage-like setting, outside picnicking in the woods, swimming and fishing, celebrating events, a happy family living a natural healthy simple life.  They actually began the movement of Swedes towards interior design based on wood, textiles, lots of light and simple design.

    The life Carl painted was truly happy for him.  But his life before Karin was just as truly terrible – a childhood of deep poverty, in housing surrounded by other suffering people of all kinds, an abusive drinking father, poor education, and the normal struggles of a young artist trying to find a way to make a living. I called my presentation “A Mystery” because I find it fascinating to try to understand how some people with terrible childhoods are still able to grow into normal functioning and HAPPY adults.  I read Carl Larsson’s short and beautifully written autobiography looking for clues as to how he managed to bring his life around.        Here is just one of the interesting clues I noted.

   In his early twenties he was ready to give up.  Here I’ll let him tell this little memory:

 “Once I was so sad, I had finally had enough of life, and in this mood I walked with heavy steps up the hill on Riddargatan.  But right then I met these two.  They were walking arm in arm, almost dancing downhill, she leaning against her beau with a tender smile, and he!  It cannot be described!  A broad gutta-percha face with the corners of the mouth each hooked onto its own ear, round glasses, and through them everything cheerful and joyous in life was glittering.  …I had never seen such genuine, unshakeable, real joy!  For me, that was a turning point.  I said to myself:  “It must be possible that earth is lovely.”  …Since then nobody has ever seen me exhibit a clouded face in the street.  I became convinced that it is the damn duty of each and every one to spread cheerfulness with a sunny face in public.  Even though…”  (p33)

   Even though – one carries terrible burdens and sadness inside.  The smiles on these two people had perhaps saved his life!  It seemed the least he could do, should do, to keep a cheerful countenance himself for the sake of others.

     I remember some touching moments in my own life that taught me something similar about how the smallest gesture to another can have much more power than we could guess.

    My small rural high school did not have enough students to offer tracked classes for “gifted”, “special needs,”  and such, so all abilities were glopped together.   My graduating class was 44 in number, some having dropped out immediately when they turned 16.  There were various students who kind of slept through classes, never did homework. I never judged them; they were just there with us all.   There was a boy named Jim Evans who was a “drugstore cowboy,” in our parlance – they wore their hair slicked back with sideburns, smoked behind the bank at lunch, but they didn’t do anything criminal.  Jim generally didn’t seem to do homework at all; he sat across from me, back one seat.

    One day the English teacher called on him with a simple question and he didn’t know the answer.  Red-headed chubby Phil sat in front of me and liked to put himself up with the know-it-alls whenever possible.  Phil turned around and said something snide and demeaning to Jim.  I just said something simple to Phil like, “Phil, turn around and mind your own business.”   That he did.

    At lunch I went with my friend Shirley to the town park; we were sitting on the grass under a tree talking when I noticed something fall into my lap.  A dandelion!  I looked up and there was Jim hurrying away but looking back at me briefly with a slight shy smile.  I was so surprised!  And I knew it was his way of saying “Thank you!”

    “Thank you” for what?  I hadn’t felt like any hero, hadn’t even mentioned the meanness in Phil’s comment, although it was true that I spoke because Phil was purposely being mean.  I often wondered after that what Jim’s life was like that such a small gesture in his defense could mean so much to him.  I knew that in the back country around our small town there was great poverty, parental neglect and abuse, so much hidden from the view of others.

   Another similar high school memory:  one day I went into the girls’ washroom; there were only two girls there, at the mirror.  Barbara and Sandra were somewhat “plain” in their looks and the clothes they wore spoke of serious poverty.  Sandra walked around with her head down and hanging forward most of the time; Barbara walked erect with her head up but all her movements were slow and quiet, like a person already tired and discouraged in life.  There was no one else in the room (Honestly, this might have affected me had someone else been there!) I never “hung around” with these girls, but they were okay to me and I just decided to speak to them.  I said something simple like, “Hi!   How are you?”  They both opened their faces into surprised smiles and nodded, mumbling back to me something like “Good,” still with their shy smiles. 

   I was mystified by their reaction.  When I thought about it later I realized that I was smart and generally liked and from a respectable family, the “other” part of the world to which they had no access.  For me to greet them like they were normal people seemed to change their feeling about themselves, like they were okay after all. 

    In my rural public school I missed out on academics that felt challenging enough but my heart received an education, over and over.  I dated one of those guys who slept through class and never did his homework.  His parents had died in a car accident when he was six and he went into the foster system where a local farmer took him in to help with farm work.  He got up at 4 am to do chores and therefor slept through class; the farmer was kind but no one cared if he did well in school.  His face was pockmarked from a rifle going off.   Now there was a guy with a good heart though.  When he turned sixteen he went into the army to find a life for himself.

   Another boy had been in my class for several years, doing poorly, and then about 12th grade I noticed he had dropped to the class below us; I realized this passing him in the hallway one day and he put his head down so maybe I wouldn’t see him.  Later in life I learned his father had been an alcoholic and ranted and abused him and one day had smashed a watermelon on his head. /  I remember also walking home in elementary school on the dirt road behind our house and realizing that a boy from my class was  living with his mother and 4 siblings in a chicken coop!  It literally still had chicken wire all around it.

   Well, my little missive was to encourage us all to share a smile or kind word wherever we go, regardless of what sorrows we carry inside. There is so much we do not know about why others appear as they do, what great burdens and limitations others live under, and smiling is so easy!  A quiet grin, a “Hi,” – the very least we can do and perhaps exactly what someone needs.

January 14, 2022

Honoring the Dead on All Souls Day

Today, November 2,  is All Souls’ Day, the Catholic equivalent of the Day of the Dead.

   I have a little stool in my bedroom where I place photos, funeral cards, newspaper articles of people I knew who have returned to spirit.  It’s a “Pile”, not neat as it should be, but covered with a beautiful shawl.  Today I took it out and went through “The Pile”, and one by one remembered and thanked each person.  I surprised myself as I began prioritizing them according to how deeply each person has affected me. Occasionally I explained this to the one in spirit.  I realized that quite a few VIP’S were not represented here so I’m gathering a list of these and will find a photo or letter to put appropriately in The Pile.

   A few I did not know personally but they’ve inspired me a lot, e.g. Harriet Tubman, Jacques Lusseyran, Pete Seeger, Helen Keller, John Woolman. Many writers of books have affected me deeply.  Once I saw in the Indy newspaper an article about an Afro American woman writer who lived an inspiring life and had passed to her rewards. I called a writing friend (Gail Mehlan) and we went together to her funeral, as complete strangers, but we felt moved to honor her.  I guess I eat people – they’re food for my soul – when they’re really meaty!

   I know I “should” do this with more care, maybe put all in a scrapbook.  But the river of my life flows on so fast!  This seems the best I can do, and it’s kind of “me.”  I mean – imperfect!  I appreciate all who have helped me be a better person, by their love or example, occasionally by their challenge or mistakes.  Everyone who touches me puts something in the pot for my rich life.