The Power of Chant

In a previous post, I said that I was going back to dance hula. Amazingly, I remembered steps from a few of the dances. Dancing again felt like being reborn. I also was invited by one of the teachers to chant with her; this too is part of many dances.

There is something ageless and ancient about chanting, and it gave me the kind of chills you feel when something in your life goes incredibly and beautifully right. I have become very interested in chanting, and looked into its history. I found the following pretty interesting:

“*When there is no written language, imagine selling property, traveling without any form of identification, or proving who your parents are, all without a paper trail. Imagine, as happened to a high chief in Hawaii long, long ago, that you flee from your island, end up in a shipwreck, and drift onto foreign shores: You would be considered an enemy and your death would be certain. Fortunately, this particular chief remembered his genealogy chant, and the islanders recognized the names of his ancestors. His lineage traced all the way back to the gods, and so his life was spared.”

“The ancient Hawaiian people kept no written records. Other than the petroglyphs, they knew no written language. Yet they lived with a sophisticated hierarchical system of land divisions, a complex classification in ranks from commoner to highest chief, and a detailed genealogy. To keep track of this vital knowledge, any transition that might be of importance, either to others or to future generations, had to be memorized and passed on.”

To aid with memorizing, a system of verses emerged which over the years developed into an ingenious art form. The verses were known as the “oli” chants. They recorded the history of the land and the lineage of the aristocracy….The chants were crucial for the continuation of the political, social, economic, and ecological system of the Hawaiian world.”

“After all, one’s position in Hawaii depended on ones rank, and ones rank was determined by blood descent. The genealogy was often the only evidence of ones ancestry. It linked a person to all the ancestors, and through this one could show how much sacredness and royal blood had accumulated.”

“It worked like this: In ancient Hawaii words and names held power. (They still do, but this knowledge is kept very private.) Each name in a genealogy chant carried the mana (power) of the ancestor. All names were linked by birth. The longer this link of names in the chant, the more mana [knowledge]. The accumulation of power, which was sacred, could lift a person to the ranks of the gods among mortals.”

Although I will not be dancing again soon (I recently found out that my knee replacement has degraded and needs to be “revised.” I will be having new surgery this month.), I will be learning chants for many of the dances. Not only does this make me feel connected to hula, but it’s good to learn other aspects of Hawaiian history.

(From “words of Power,”

Writers’ Block

Oh, dear, I’ve got writers’ block again—

I’ve got nothing that’s good enough to pen!

My mind’s a blank, my thoughts are cloudy,

I’m out of ideas and my inspiration’s gone rowdy.

I think I woke my brain up too early this morning;

My ideas have gone flat, without any warning.

My wit’s gone numb

My brain is dumb—

I wonder when I’ll feel clever enough

To even scratch out a rough

Version of what I might like to say;

But it may be that I’ve given my head a free day

In which to recoup my thoughts, my brain, my soul—

Until I can get myself back on a roll,

And put some insight into word

Even though the very thought’s absurd!

As my inspiration’s flat as a cracker,

Guess today I’m going to be a slacker!





Does Anyone Remember Groucho Marx?

When I was a child, I loved the Marx brothers, especially*Groucho Marx. Besides being in movies with his brothers Harpo, Chico, Gummo and Zeppo, Groucho had a show called “**You Bet Your Life.”

But what I loved best about him was his sharp wit. The quotes below are a short compilation of some of Groucho’s most famous sayings. I hope that they make you both laugh and think. Enjoy!

“One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my pajamas I’ll never know.”

“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.”

“I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.”

“When you’re in jail, a good friend will be trying to bail you out. A best friend will be in the cell next to you saying, ‘Damn, that was fun’.”

“From the moment I picked up your book until I put it down, I was convulsed with laughter. Some day I intend reading it.”

“Learn from the mistakes of others. You can never live long enough to make them all yourself.”

“I never forget a face, but in your case I’ll be glad to make an exception.”

“Humor is reason gone mad.”

“The secret of life is honesty and fair dealing. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.”

“Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.”

“I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn’t it.”

“Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them…well I have others.”

“I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be.”

“If you’re not having fun, you’re doing something wrong.”

“I’m not crazy about reality, but it’s still the only place to get a decent meal.”

“He may look like an idiot and talk like an idiot but don’t let that fool you. He really is an idiot.”

“Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet. I have just one day, and I’m going to be happy in it.”

“Blessed are the cracked, for they shall let in the light.”

“Some people claim that marriage interferes with romance. There’s no doubt about it. Anytime you have a romance, your wife is bound to interfere.”

“While money can’t buy happiness, it certainly lets you choose your own form of misery.”

“I have nothing but respect for you — and not much of that.”

“Anyone who says he can see through women is missing a lot.”

“A child of five could understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five.”

“Just give me a comfortable couch, a dog, a good book, and a woman. Then if you can get the dog to go somewhere and read the book, I might have a little fun.”

“Whatever it is, I’m against it.”

*Julius Henry Marx, known professionally as Groucho Marx, was an American comedian, film and television star. He was known as a master of quick wit and is widely considered one of the best comedians of the modern era.

**You Bet Your Life is an American quiz show that aired on both radio and television. The original and best-known version was hosted by Groucho Marx of the Marx Brothers, with announcer and assistant George Fenneman. The show debuted on ABC Radio on October 27, 1947, then moved to CBS Radio debuting October 5, 1949, before making the transition to NBC-TV and NBC Radio on October 4, 1950. Because of its simple format, it was possible to broadcast the show simultaneously on radio and television. June 10, 1960 was the last episode aired in its radio broadcast format. For its final season debuting September 22, 1960, the TV show was renamed The Groucho Show and ran a further year.


More Winter Haikus

Cloudy Day Haiku

Gray clouds hide the sun

Makes us crave light, warmth and hope

For an early spring.


Frosted Boughs

Snow frosts the branches

In bright glittering crystal—

Diamond gloves for trees.


Life Below the Pond

Our ice-covered pond

Hides the life deep in the mud

That swims up in spring.


Sleeping Cat in a Warm House

They find the heat, cats—

Beds, blankets, and sunlit shelves

Their comfort comes first.


Hot Soup

Hot soup cheers and warms

Both heart, soul, stomach and hands—

Comfort in a cup.


A Bit of Patience

I am an impatient person disguised as a really patient person (because that’s how I would like to be all the time). Although I can easily give a pass to a crazy driver (it helps me to calm down by flipping him/her off well under the dashboard) or forgive an honest mistake, there are some things that, well—just pull the trigger for me. Such as this: when I want something done, I want it done right now. As you can imagine, this almost never happens.

The other morning I was making a pot of soup and needed some broth to thin it out. I called downstairs to the Crankee Yankee to ask him if he would please bring a can of it upstairs. I heard him say that he would.

As I was cleaning up the sink, the soup began bubbling. I turned it down and thought, ‘I could really use that broth now.’ But the Crankee Yankee was testing the new batteries for our smoke alarms and radon detector; I was glad he was taking care of this first; the broth could wait for the time being.

Meanwhile, the soup kept bubbling—and thickening. The Crankee Yankee often gets so focused on something that he forgets other things. However, I do the same thing when I am deeply involved. I have had whole days go by when I didn’t do three-quarters of what I swore I would do in one day.

So, on the excuse that I needed more paper towels upstairs, I walked downstairs and chatted with him while scanning the pantry shelves for broth. He said, ‘oh, shoot—I was going to bring that up to you.’

“Don’t worry about it,” I said, “I needed some paper towels so I’ll grab that can of broth while I’m down here.” But behold and lo; there was no canned broth.

I remembered then that I actually had some leftover chicken broth in the refrigerator, so I went back upstairs and added it to the soup. I congratulated myself on not getting all wound up over the broth situation. As I stirred the soup and enjoyed its wonderful earthy scent I thought about patience and what it does for us.

Patience smooths the ragged edges of things, including our thoughts. When we get so deeply mired in the “have-to-dos” and “must-dos” we may miss out on something important. What’s more important than getting everything on the daily list done? I, as a major slave of lists have discovered this truth: you really don’t have to get it all done in a day.

Of course, if you are an ER nurse and someone is bleeding profusely, yes; that needs to be seen to ASAP. We can name all sorts of emergencies and near-emergencies that demand our attention.

However, when I look at my daily to-do list, there are some things on it I know I can let go. Example: the other day we had some significant snow, so the Crankee Yankee and I worked inside the house on our various projects. I was beginning to get frustrated and bored with what I was doing, so I took a break.

And guess what happened? I saw—really and truly saw the stark and lovely symmetry of snow on bare black branches, the softly falling flakes, the pewter-gray of the clouds, and the mounds of marshmallow snow covering everything.

It was breath-taking. It made me stop, look and then listen to the soft whisper-y sound of falling snow. It was peaceful beyond imagining. What else might I have missed if I wasn’t so busy concentrating on ticking off the items on my list?

I realized then that my to-do list was actually making me more impatient; I was letting it take over my life. Honestly, it’s not all that important. I am pretty sure that, when I am on my death bed, I won’t be fretting about an item or two I didn’t attend to on my to-do list.

So here is my advice to you and me: each day, if we can, let’s take a short break (or longer) to look, listen and feel what miracle may be right in plain sight. All it takes is a bit of patience.

The Marks of Our Achievements

I’ve been playing my ukulele a lot since Christmas. I was inspired to as my oldest granddaughter, Ava, got her own ukulele from Santa Claus. We had fun playing together, and I found that my love of music has resurfaced.

I now have my finger calluses back; my badges of honor and dedication. I value them because I’m back to playing my old songs and am learning new ones. It made me think of all the other calluses we pick up in life, doing the things we love.

Back when I was in school, there were no computers, cell phones, iPads, etc. Any writing was done by hand. I developed a huge “writers’ bump” on my left left middle finger from writing with a pen. Since I loved to write, I was sort of fond of that bump; it marked me as a writer.

In my 20s, I ran two miles a day, rain or shine. I kept it up until I developed shin splits. So I switched to power-walking. Then I went on to take up Tae Kwon Do, and, in my 30s I attained four ranks of black belt. I and two other women ran a class together for a few years, and it was a lot of fun.

One day in a tournament, I received a direct kick to my right knee that sent me to the hospital for arthroscopy. Years later, I needed to have it done again. And now, decades later, I have a knee replacement.

See the pattern? The things we love to do tend to leave marks on us, either physical or mental. Each hobby I took up left its unique fingerprint on me. I can’t say that I don’t appreciate them; I do. They make me remember who I was in the past, and where I am right now, and where I may be going in the future.

I can remember way back in time when my skin was smooth, all my bones and sinews were strong, my vision was perfect, my hearing was excellent and my energy was never-ending. All along my own walk of life, I have picked up bumps and bruises, calluses and rough spots, scars and wrinkles and so on.

I find them all comforting somehow—they are the road map of my life so far, which has been well-lived. Besides—what’s a few more calluses, anyway?