2017 in Review

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Copalis Beach, Washington

2017 was a busy year with lots of things coming together and many things nationally and globally falling apart. I added a new piece to my job at the VA this year. I am speaking now, not as a federal employee, but as an independently licensed health care provider. I have a 20% position with the national VA Office of Patient Centered Care & Cultural Transformation as a Whole Health Education Champion. You can learn more about the VA Whole Health program here. This job entails traveling to different VAs throughout the country and learning how to teach the several courses the Office promotes. I traveled to Madison, Minneapolis, Little Rock, Boston, and New Jersey and I will be going to Nashville later this month. I continue working in Primary Care Mental Health Integration at the Primary Care Clinic in Seattle. With the University of Washington I have moved from an Acting role to an Assistant Professor this past year.

I continue my work with Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow), and we are well into the work of our next book which should likely be out later in 2018. Joseph is a continual joy and inspiration to work with and is often sending artwork and ideas for us to use in the next book. We easily have enough material for several more books. Another piece of news is that Walking the Medicine Wheel is being published in Vietnamese! I have yet to see the book, though. This is very important as the land and people of Vietnam and the Vietnam War are intimately intertwined with so many of our veterans’ lives and the history of the United States.

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Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow) walking into his garden dome to perform Arbor Day Ceremony, April, 2017

I did a book tour, of sorts, for Walking the Medicine Wheel: Healing Trauma & PTSD. I made the trip back down under and saw some old friends and made some new ones, too. I took off from Seattle, almost missed my connection in Honolulu and landed in Sydney, Australia on September 13th, 2017. I went there for the biannual Australasian Doctors Health Conference, my fourth time presenting (I blogged earlier about this here). The conference was held at Luna Park, an amusement park in North Sydney with a great view of the city. My mate, Hilton Koppe, and I presented a workshop “The Hero’s Journey of the Healer,” that used Joseph Campbell’s concept of the hero’s journey to look at burnout and mentoring in health care workers. I also presented “Circle Medicine,” bringing together the holistic approaches of the medicine wheel, the VA circle of health, and my earlier work with Re-humanizing Medicine. It was great hanging out with Hilton and co-presenting with him, it was an extra treat when he stopped through Seattle on his way to some conferences in October. Here is a link to one of Hilton’s written pieces.

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View from my hotel in North Sydney, looking out at Luna Park (lit up), the Harbour Bridge, and Sydney.

I was also able to meet Father Gerry Arbuckle, whom I had been corresponding with for a few years via email. As well as being a Catholic priest, he has a PhD in applied cultural anthropology. He is the Co-director of the Refounding and Pastoral Development program. Gerry wrote a book called Humanizing Healthcare Reforms (2013) that I found very helpful in writing my Re-humanizing Medicine book. Gerry was also kind enough to write an endorsement of Walking the Medicine Wheel. His book Fundamentalism: At Home and Abroad is highly relevant to understanding political movements in the United States and throughout the world. I wrote a review of that book that can be found here. Gerry is from New Zealand, originally, and has now lived in Australia for many years. His next book is on loneliness and picks up on themes from his book on fundamentalism. He and I had a great chat, over 4 hours, and I hope we have a chance to meet again before long.

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Berkelouw Books, Sydney

Dr. Asha Chand organised a talk for me at Western Sydney University (see earlier blog on this here). It was great to meet faculty and staff there and have a chance to talk about “Caring for Self & Others” which is an adaptation of Re-humanizing Medicine. My friend, Laura Merritt, in Seattle has done a lot of work with me on putting together a workbook version that I drew on for that presentation. WSU recorded the talk and Asha has said we can share the links to the talk for anyone who is interested:

Caring For Self & Others, Part 1Part 2, Part 3

After Australia, I flew over to Auckland, New Zealand and straight away met up with some of my best friends. I did a talk called “Life After Rehab,” at Buchanan Rehabilitation Centre, where I served as Clinical Director during my time in New Zealand. I also did a book talk at Time Out Books, where a group of us used to meet monthly for the Auckland Holistic Writer’s Group.

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View from Te Pane o Horoiwi (Achilles Point), St. Heliers, Auckland, New Zealand

My next stop was somewhere I have never been, but have wanted to travel to: Fiji. I flew into Nadi airport on the Northwest of Viti Levu, caught a short flight to the Southwest, to Suva. Dr. Neeta Ramkumar met me there and she had organised a talk and workshop for me at the University of the South Pacific. The talk was called “The Transformational Power of Stories in Clinical Work, Teaching, and Community Building,” and the following workshop was “Bringing Ancient Traditions of the Hero & the Warrior into Modern Day Life.” I very much enjoyed meeting all the wonderful people of Fiji and the University of South Pacific and felt honored to be able to speak there.

Bringing Ancient Traditions

Finally, I had a bit of a break from the speaking tour and from all the busy socializing with friends. I took a 45 minute boat trip out to Leleluvia Island and just relaxed. I snorkeled twice a day at the reef just off the island. I walked around the island several times and also kayaked around once. Such a beautiful place! I’ll share some of the photos from the trip and I hope you enjoy them!

After Leleluvia, I went back through Suva, hired a car, and drove back to Nadi, seeing the Sri Siva Subramaniya temple (which was scaffolded under construction), but I still walked around and had a nice lunch there. I also stopped for a walk through the Garden of the Sleeping Giant with its orchids prior to heading to the airport, flying back through LAX and to Seattle.

This next year promises to be quite busy again with travel: Nashville, Portland OR, Madison, and back to the Boston area two more times. Joseph Rael and I continue to work toward peace and world peace. As Joseph says, “A lot of people have tried to bring about peace, and it hasn’t worked! But you and I are too far into it to stop now, so we’ll have to keep going.” May you find peace in your heart and in your life this coming year, and may we all have some peace in this world that seems so focused on the opposite of peace at this current point in history.

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South coast of Viti Levu

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Copalis Rock, Washington Pacific Coast

Palolo Marine Reserve, Apia, ‘Upolu, Samoa

Palolo Marine Reserve, Apia, 'Upolu, Samoa

About a 10 minute walk from our hotel in Apia, was Palolo Deep Marine Reserve. I went snorkeling every day and just loved it!

Palolo Marine Reserve, Apia, 'Upolu, Samoa

One of the things that I loved, aside from everything, was floating and staying still while these schools of little blue fish swarmed all around me. These little guys were generally out at the edge of the reef as it dropped down into deeper water. I tried taking several movies and photos of these fish, but that experience remains one of the most powerful and one of the most difficult to capture in images.

Palolo Marine Reserve, Apia, 'Upolu, Samoa

All my life I have had dreams about aquariums. Often, they would be neglected, I would have forgotten that I had them, sometimes the fish might even have gotten out of the tank and I would have to put them back, care for the tank and try to remember to take care of all these wonderful and strange creatures. I always imagined that these dreams represented finding lost or forgotten aspects of myself. I always had an exhilarated feeling of excitement that overpowered the feelings of guilt that I had neglected these animals in the dream.

Palolo Marine Reserve, Apia, 'Upolu, Samoa

Palolo Marine Reserve, Apia, 'Upolu, Samoa

After a few days of snorkeling, I started trying to figure out, in words, what it was I enjoyed so much about it.  Definitely there was the adventure, the excitement, of finding strange and beautiful creatures. There was a feeling of danger and fear, of what I might find that I didn’t want to find, e.g. a shark or a rip tide. There was also a feeling of having to be deeply in flow and harmony with the currents, the reef, and the fish as I navigated through, at times shallow waters without much maneuvering room, and other times, very ample space, too much space, as I worked to not drift out into the deep unknown and stay close to the edge of the reef. I noticed how the fish reacted to me.  Some quite curious like the little blue and the blue and black fish, others quite shy and difficult to photograph, like the parrot fish and some sort of long-nosed fish that always seemed to scoot away when I tried to get a good photo.

Palolo Marine Reserve, Apia, 'Upolu, Samoa

Eventually, I started to think about snorkeling as a trip into the unconscious, much like my recurrent dreams of aquaria. Peaceful and exhiliarating at the same time.

Palolo Marine Reserve, Apia, 'Upolu, Samoa

Palolo Marine Reserve, Apia, 'Upolu, Samoa

And for some reason, floating in the midst of a school of little bright, blue fish was one of the most fantastic experiences in the water. Like so many sparkling thoughts and ideas with my ego balancing and buoyed in the midst of all this activity. There was always more than I could consciously take in, more than I could see, always one more surprise, one more amazing fish, one more amazing underwater vista or panorama, continuously unfolding around me as the current pulled and tugged me one way then another.

“The sea is like music; it has all the dreams of the soul within itself and sounds them over. The beauty and grandeur of the sea consists in our being forced down into the fruitful bottomlands of our own psyches, where we confront and re-create ourselves,”

(C.G. Jung, p. 47, Carl Jung:  Wounded Healer of the Soul, by Claire Dunne)

Samoa

Here are a few photos from our recent trip to Samoa. Samoa is about 3.5 hour flight from Auckland, and the population of the two large islands is about 180,000. We stayed mostly around Apia, the largest town, on the island of ‘Upolu. We drove out to Lalomanu on the Southeastern tip of ‘Upolu, went for a swim and snorkel, and then drove back up the Cross Island Road. We stopped at a few waterfalls along the way…

Samoa

Samoa

Samoa

Orchids at the Piula Cave Pool

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Samoa

Samoa

Samoa

Samoa
Fuipisia Falls
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Samoa

Whale Watching in Nova Scotia

Whale Watching in Nova Scotia
 
 
Whale Watching in Nova Scotia

I have quite a back log of photos from a few recent trips. I spent 2 weeks in Nova Scotia and a few days in the Boston area in June. In July, we had family visit and took a few trips locally, down to Rotorua, and to Wellington. Here are some photos from a whale watching trip I took with my family. We left from Lunenberg and saw Fin and Humpback Whales. The above photos are of Fin Whales, the second longest animal in the world.

Below are photos of Humpback Whales.

I hope you enjoy the photos…

The white in the photo is the large pectoral fin, with the head being to the left, under water.

We didn’t see any breaching, but there is a nice series of shots of a Humpback tail. I have found that for whale photos (as well as for a lot of wildlife) using the option of multiple photos per shot is quite helpful.

Whale Watching in Nova Scotia

Whale Watching in Nova Scotia
Whale Watching in Nova Scotia
 
Whale Watching in Nova Scotia
 
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A Few Words About Language

I just had the most amazing meal. A Reuben sandwich (rye bread, corned beef, Swiss cheese, dressing, and sauerkraut) with potato salad (red potatoes, skin on, the dressing was pinkish, as if slightly colored by beets) and iced tea with refills. This may seem mundane, but it is a combination that I haven’t had in New Zealand, for all I know, I may not have had a Reuben in two or more years. Even if I did have a Reuben in New Zealand, it wasn’t this way, names can be the same, yet the content and experience incredibly different.  I had this marvelous lunch at the Moonkiss Café in Waquoit, Massachusetts. Walking out of the café, I saw a small sign tucked into the flower garden that said, “PEACE.”

I haven’t been back in the US for about a year. It doesn’t seem like a country at war, but we have been at war for 11 years, now. We are fighting terrorists, mujahedeen, who were previously freedom fighters against the Soviets. The Soviets were hostile occupiers, but the US is spreading freedom and democracy and killing “others” with machines that are growing in intelligence and deadliness (drones – definition). There is no sign of war here and no sign of deaths that are happening elsewhere. Peace:  a wish, a protest, a religious statement, or political commentary. The flowers bloom, regardless.

I have just set foot on US soil after almost one year away. I have been up in Nova Scotia, Canada for the past two weeks. On the way there from New Zealand, I was briefly in Sydney, Australia on a layover. I had four country’s currencies in my pocket, which I thought was very cool, until I tried to pay for something and three of the currencies had the English queen’s likeness on them. Does that make me a global citizen or a bumbling, economic colonialist?

I was at the ALIA (Authentic Leadership In Action) conference, which I will discuss in more depth in another entry. Here, suffice it to say, I spoke with people from all over, mostly Canada, Quebec, the US, Barbados, Australia, and even New Zealand. The first thing that was strange is when I got on the Air Canada flight in Auckland. First I noticed one person speaking North American English, then another and another, suddenly, I was surrounded by people who spoke similarly to me, the Aussies sitting next to me were more the minority with their pronunciation. I didn’t realize how used to being different, in the New Zealand context, I have become. I had a weird experience in a Tim Horton’s yesterday, after already being in Canada for a couple of weeks, of having that feeling of needing to speak quietly so that everyone doesn’t know that I am American and then I realized that I didn’t need to change my way of talking, as there isn’t as much difference between Canadian English and US English, as there is between the US and NZ. Still, I would rather not stand out as obviously American in another culture. Sometimes in New Zealand, people think I am Canadian, I generally take this as a complement, based on the perception of the US in the world. So, I have learned to speak quietly, pronounce many words differently, and to make this kind of “um” noise and to say “eh” (or someone said I should spell it “aye,” but it sounds a lot like a Canadian, “eh,” eh?).

But then, there are those Canadiens from Quebec, with not just a different accent, but a different language. As New Zealand is bicultural (New Zealand European (pakeha) and Māori), so Canada is bilingual (French and English). In New Zealand, I worked hard to learn some Māori words and phrases. I learned some Albanian from my Kosovar friend. I have worked to understand and even say some words in different English accents. At the conference, I think one of the most beautiful words I heard was the Zimbabwean pronunciation of the word “here,” which sounds more like haeare, and it reminds me of my friend in New Zealand who grew up in South Africa and England, as he says haeare in a similar way.

One is at a distinct disadvantage being in a bicultural or bilingual country and not speaking the other language or understanding the other culture. There are complex dynamics around this. Sometimes it seems that those who speak “the other” language expect you to learn their language, but there is variability in whether or not someone teaches you their language. I don’t understand the Anglophone/Franocophone dynamics in Canada enough to comment. Māori culture in New Zealand is somewhat closed, it is more collectivist and tribal in orientation, which tends to have stronger ingroup/outgroup distinctions. There is also both a dual expectation that you are sensitive to and informed about their culture, but there are barriers to learning it as it is something of their own that is not easily shared. As an outsider bumbling in, there can be a feeling of discomfort, ignorance, being disliked (perhaps for one’s group affiliation – rather than one’s individual self), with the accompanying projection that the other is proud, arrogant, disdainful, angry, or perhaps playful, or maybe just seeing what a newcomer knows. What is behind this interaction, what motivates someone to speak a language to you that they know you do not know? In a bilingual country, a visitor could reasonably be expected to learn a few words in the host language. I admit it bothered me when Americans would use American currency in Canada (which I also admit, I did a couple of times near the end when I ran out of Canadian currency), why not exchange money?  So why not learn some French, I ask myself. Well, I did embarrassingly learn “come see come saw” which means something like “I am so so,” (Ok, I know it isn’t spelled that way, but I am not sure how it is spelled, just how it sounds).  I should learn some French, at least a few words out of courtesy.

I am listening to Stereolab right now, mostly English, but some French songs, although I have listened to this band for years, I don’t know what the words are to the French language songs. I like Jovanotti and I have looked up the English translation of some of those songs sung in Italian. Sigur Rós, I have looked up the translated lyrics on a couple of songs from Icelandic to English.

It was easier for me to learn to speak a few phrases of Albanian in New Zealand than Māori in New Zealand, why is that? I developed a relationship over some time with someone from Kosovo at the bus stop every morning, and it just seemed natural to want to learn a few phrases. Most of my learning of Māori has been from reading books and learning certain terms.

Language is a touchy subject, a difficult subject, it allows for connection, it can create clarity or confusion, it also can be used for disconnection. I know that it took me about a year, maybe a year and a half of having to activate a little more of my brain to translate accents in New Zealand – the place I noticed this the most was in jokes, I would often be about 10 seconds behind the joke before I would get it. Being in a different culture is an adventure and it also entails a degree of isolation and difference. I have written earlier on this theme shortly after arriving in New Zealand, particularly the dilemma of having a tendency to feel like an outsider and gravitate to the periphery in one’s own culture and then moving to another culture and being perpetually an outsider. I have met Americans who have been in New Zealand for years, and even though they pronounce some words like a Kiwi, they don’t speak with a Kiwi accent, only those who come at a young age seem to be able to do that. There is something akin to aural butter in hearing one’s own language and dialect spoken, of speaking to someone who has a familiar rhythm and tempo in their speech, it is kind of like the meal I had for lunch today – it was really good, partly because it was expected and predictable, the variations maintained the essence of the food, whereas in another culture the name is retained, but something about the essence just doesn’t feel like the food you are used to. And yet, for many people, there is a desire for newness, difference, a change of pace, a new perspective – but all things are in a balance, it would be good if I could explain that, but I cannot, other than to say that I have felt at times a craving for sameness, security, the expected in reaction to a temporary state of being overwhelmed by otherness.

So, what do I say, “I am culturally insensitive because I am an American, and that is in fact our culture and other cultures should be sensitive to that?”  I don’t think that will fly. I will need to learn at least some conversational French before returning to Canada. But for now, merde (second favourite French word), I must work on my idée fixee (favourite French phrase), and I bid you adieuMon Dieu, I almost forgot my third favourite phrase! I also like the French pronunciation of idiot, which is probably fortunate.

Walden Pond

WALDEN POND

I had the happy surprise of going to Walden Pond on a 2 day trip to Boston to visit a friend from high school. I had never been there, although I have read Thoreau off and on, and I was really thrilled to go there – a mini-pilgrimage of sorts.

WALDEN POND

The first time I seriously read Thoreau was after university when I bought a bus ticket from Chicago to Seattle and went backpacking in the Olympic National Park. The bus trip was 50 hours long (each way), so I had plenty of time to read and to meet people from all over the world. There is a strange sort of community that happens when people are thrown together for a medium length of time. There was a rhythm of driving, stopping for a break and some food, and driving some more.  I don’t know if I would have read as much of the Portable Thoreau as I did on that trip if I weren’t in that somewhat Zen-like rhythm of always moving and being stuck in the same place.

WALDEN POND

I have a painting I made years ago, it is a sort of forest scene with a little cabin by a pond and then I painted quotes from Thoreau over the whole thing. Here are a couple of the quotes:

WALDEN POND

If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.

I came into this world, not chiefly to make this a good place to live in, but live in it, be it good or bad. A man has not everything to do, but something; and because he cannot do everything, it is not necessary that he should do something wrong.

I left the woods for as good a reason as I went there. It seemed to me that I had several more lives to live. It is remarkable how easily and insensibly we fall into a particular route, and make a beaten track for ourselves. I learned this, at least, by my experiment, that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavours to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. In proportion as he simplifies his life the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor will poverty be poverty, nor weakness weakness.

WALDEN POND

Bruny Island

Bruny Island
Bruny Island was an interesting place, but I think we both felt a little disappointed after the rest of Tasmania.  It is very, very quiet on Bruny.  It is a beautiful place, but by the time we got there, we had seen so much beauty.  Personally, I think we would have both spent a little more time around Freycinet and at Kabuki by the Sea.  We also were both getting sick with a cold in Bruny, so that probably colored our views, too.  I had wanted to take the wildlife cruise, but one day it was raining and the next day I just didn’t feel up for it.  Above is a sculpture that some locals made after a whale was beached at Adventure Bay.  If you look closely, you can see two whales inside the globe.

Bruny Island

I went out two nights trying to spot the Fairy Penguins, the smallest penguins.  These have holes that they dig in the ground.  The first night, I didn’t see anything, but I didn’t know how long to stay out in the night.  The second night I was better prepared and had red cellophane to put over a flashlight.  Right off the bat I saw a wallaby and could hear it munching away as I watched the surf.  Eventually, I could see some penguins!  They clustered around by the water’s edge (the left side of the photo below was where the blind for watching them was located).  Then a small group of them decided it was time to make the trip and the shuffled along, right alongside of the blind I was behind, so I could see them quite close up.  I had experimented trying to take red light photos of the wallaby, without much luck, so I knew there was no point in trying to photograph the penguins, so I just enjoyed watching them shuffle along and listened to all their calls from their burrows.

Bruny Island
Of course, there were more birds to photograph, here are some that were flying around where we were staying at Alonnah.  I think the bird bottom left is a Sea Eagle and of course the ubiquitous Green Rosella, foraging in the backyard and a flock in flight.

Bruny Island

Bruny Island

Bruny Island

Freycinet National Park & Swansea

We spent part of a day at Freycinet National Park on the East coast and saw some beautiful scenery and watched birds on the beach for a while. We walked around Sleepy Bay and could have just stayed there for a really long time, but we also wanted to drive up to Launceston that day and the recommendation is to stay off the roads as much as possible after dark because the wildlife is so plentiful.

Freycinet National Park & Swansea

Freycinet National Park & Swansea

Freycinet National Park & Swansea

Freycinet National Park & Swansea
Freycinet National Park & Swansea
 We stayed at Kabuki by the Sea, near Swansea – a beautiful set of cottages looking out over the cliffs and surf. There was also a Japanese restaurant there.  The food, company, and views were so fabulous that we came back and spent another night there on the way back South.

Freycinet National Park & Swansea

Freycinet National Park & Swansea