Focus on Legacy – We Can, We Must, We Will!


After the complaint that my generation had caused all the problems that this generation now has to cleanup, I own responsibility. We may not have caused all the problems but we have perpetuated them and allowed others to expand the causes.

Once again I asked myself what good is the bequest of goods, talents and all the other things we work to assure the security of our offspring and theirs, if the world has become a desolate, un-liveable  place?

Most of my mail is from environmental organizations, I donate where I can, I pick up plastic in the street, drive as little as possible (in L.A.!) and save my shower and vegetable cleaning water for the drought-ridden garden.  It never seems enough so when I saw that Al Gore was holding a Climate Reality Leadership Training in Los Angeles, I applied….and was accepted along with 2200 others. (



Every one of the people I spoke to at the training was dedicated, and energetically determined to fight the causes of further climate change.  I was amazed that, even after 40 years of trying to get the point across, Mr. Gore maintains his passion. The speakers were articulate, informative and thought-provoking. Rather than being weighted down by an unending stream of bad news, there was much to give us hope and to fortify our courage. There are many solutions to the complex problems already on hand, what is needed is the will to employ the solutions.

I normally avoid crowd and discovered how powerful an experience it is to be with a crowd of that size who all want to create something good and worthwhile for ourselves and others…. Powerful  and effective!


An example: We were in break-out groups when it was announced  that SB 100 had failed by 4 votes. A unison of groans filled the room. A following announcement gave the names of the state senators who had voted against it. Someone shouted out the phone numbers and the session halted while everyone whipped out their phones to call the senators to ask them to reconsider their votes and why SB 100 was good and backed by their constituents. An hour or so later e heard that SB 100 was reconsidered in the State Senate and had passed.

We individuals don’t often get an immediate sense of accomplishment in this arena but when we do it is a powerful motivator to persist. I decided that the main  focus for my remaining years would be to add my efforts to changing Climate Change, because it impacts every aspect of our lives and will continue to wreak havoc with our carefully planned individual lives and all our communities. (Since I first wrote this a major typhoon wreaked havoc in the Pacific and Asia, a hurricane and its attendant tornadoes destroyed lands in the US and unusually severe storms hit Scotland and Northern Ireland.)

I decided that my focus for my remaining years would be to add my efforts (widow’s mite though it is) to changing Climate Change, because it impacts every aspect of our lives and will continue  to wreak havoc with our carefully planned individual lives and all our communities. (Since I first wrote this a major typhoon wreaked havoc in the Pacific and Asia, a hurricane and its attendant tornadoes destroyed lands in the US and unusually severe storms hit Scotland and Northern Ireland.)

Unfortunately and maddeningly the Term Climate Change has become politicized, so I prefer to use Extreme Weather, (thanks to Dr William Calvin of the and University of Washington). The training attendees now all have action plans and buddies and coaches to support us.


Look at all the generations represented!


As I write future posts I promise to include good news for us all so that we are not pushed back into denial and/or depression (as I well know).



What do Core values sound like??

Recently I had a conversation about meaning and purpose in later life with Dr. Rod Paton from the University of Chichester, England when he was in Los Angeles. He mentioned that he was supposed to retire 8 years ago but had not. Instead, he re-directed some of his time and energy. His is now a self-described “phased” retirement and he attributes the meaning and purpose for his life to incorporating his core values in his work. He continues his university involvement two days a week because “there is still something for me to do there!”

He has had time to write a second book (Lifemusic: Connecting People to Time. 2011.). In this book he explores the archetypal properties of music, challenges cultural norms and advocates for an inclusive, non-elitist philosophy of music and communities. Therein lies his statement of Core Values.

Rod is passionate about music and while he continues to compose and play many different kinds of music (notably Ascension JazzMass) on a variety of instruments, he also promotes involvement in LifeMusic, which was why he was in Los Angeles.

He says “It is always difficult to describe exactly what happens in a LifeMusic session. Improvisation is so under defined, nobody quite knows what to expect…… But the group …….picked up the ideas as I explained them and entered into the spirit of the improvising immediately. The LifeMusic method works by providing an anchor or framework for the each improvisation (a holding form) but then letting this go or at least pushing it into the background so that the really creative stuff can be fore-grounded.”

He has been collaborating in LifeMusic with Hedda Kaphengst of Klawitty Theatre in Ireland and he recently joined her in visiting Southern California where I introduced them to several groups of seniors..

The first was in senior housing in North Hollywood. He unpacked a suitcase of intriguing percussion instruments and invited the group to “pick one, any one, …there is no wrong way to play these instruments in this workshop.” he assured people. The group tentatively experimented with sound for a short while, and then LifeMusic stories began when he asked people to share their first memory of music. Several remembered, with pleasure, being constantly surrounded by music as children and described their musical family members. Others recalled riding in the car listening to the radio with a parent as a special experience. Each account evoked recognition and even more stories from their listeners and we saw how the bonds of shared experiences began to form.


When playing resumed, it became obvious that the music-making was now a collaboration. The participants were no longer following a “leader” but, by listening to themselves, they began to trust their unique contribution to the music. Gradually members spontaneously stepped into the circle, some danced around, stopping in front of other members and communicating with their instruments. A dignified silver-haired retired psychologist swayed into the center and, with arms raised, gracefully danced in obvious delight.

In another workshop, a shared acapella Sammi folk-song brought the whole group to their feet to move enthusiastically to the beat and, when it was finished, to roar with joyful laughter.

At a final performance Hedda sang a fitting Irish tribute to The Lord of the Dance. Only then did Rod reveal that he had put a couple of poems written by a group member to music. As he played and sang, the poet’s face became illuminated and she was engrossed in absorbing the full experience of hearing her poems sung. She and all of us present were touched to tears by the beauty of the words and music together. How satisfying to bring such an experience to fruition!

Later Rod commented about being in Los Angeles and seeing tourists taking “selfies ” at the gates of famous people’s houses.  “Nowadays, we take our inner hunger for meaning and purpose, which we used to serve ceremoniously to the gods, and project it onto screen gods (and goddesses). But why not celebrate our own awareness?”

Hedda and Rod have departed for the United Kingdom secure in the knowledge that they involved groups of participants in celebrating an expanded awareness of music-making, and through the process connected people to music, forged deeper ties between neighbors and brought moments of timeless joy to those they touched with music.

There is indeed something for Rod “to do there”, which also gives him a feeling of meaning and purpose as he models how integrating core values into our lives is a tool for regeneration.

What core values are you bringing to your work and daily life?

Those who wander are not lost…meaning and purpose

“Your purpose in life is to find your purpose and give your whole heart and soul to it”

Gautama Buddha

I spent time with an artist I admire very much: Dominique Moody is a well-known assemblage artist who is creating her life so that her vision, purpose, art and values all align. Recently we talked about her devotion to her vision of The Nomad, in which most of her current artistic efforts are invested.

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Dominique said she never guessed how great the cost of being faithful to her vision, or the intense struggles of every day life as well as the creative ones that she would face. For example six days a week she takes a two-hour bus journey to and from her distant studio space where she is creating The Nomad, her current and enduring art work. Imagine the process of transporting the bulky materials used in large assemblages to and from her work space on the bus, as she cannot drive.

In order to provide a space in which to work, she has often had to clean and organize piles of rubbish, which is a huge investment of both time and physical effort.IMG_1618







Even after 35 years of practice Dominique still faces the usual struggles that most other working artists face.

Sadly, she says, many people are stopped by these challenges because they believe that things cannot be done if there is no money. But not Dominique Moody! She realized that she had to find ways to invest in her own vision without capital –  or at least she needed to redefine “capital”.

Dominique described how “capital” means something different to her from the usual current value of financial assets being everything and the ultimate problem solver.

She described the importance of social capital, which involves others in sharing and she inspires them to assist, join in and bring their best gifts to a partnership with hers. Dominique knew that this was the only way that The Nomad – the culmination of her lifelong passion – could be created.

What is this “Nomad”?

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The Nomad is a “Tiny House on Wheels” “(as in the Tiny House Movement), that has been crafted in the medium of her art – assemblage.   The Nomad functions as her mobile artist-in-residence.

The Nomad and Dominique will travel together to seek out rubbish piles and do site-specific work with materials at hand. She will create assemblage sculptures and leave them where she found their components. These structures can and will take many forms that are based on the environment. Dominique will live in her art (The Nomad) and continue to create beauty in art and her life.

One of Dominique’s values is to live sustainably; she deplores how we trash the beautiful land we are blessed to inhabit and we use up its gifts with impunity and unconsciousness. Although she feels it is not necessary for her to own the land she very much wants to protect it. In response she diverts useful and soon-to-be beautiful objects from the landfills. She lives the principles of stewardship – reuse, repurpose, recycle. Although she loves the land and very much wants to protect it, she feels it is not necessary for her to own land.

The first repurposed items I noticed on The Nomad were the magnificent portholes, which I failed to guess are carefully polished and tended washing machine doors . She was inspired to bring them into the Nomad when sitting in a public laundromat watching the machine rotate her clothes.


She confided that the real trick was to hunt down the 4 doors that she needed.

Everything used in The Nomad has a story: The piece of wood Dominique is holding in this photo comes from a 150 year-old bridge from Bakersfield, CA. It is the reclaimed remains from a large piece of public art that used Clearheart wood. Dominique explained that the Clearheart was dried in the heat of a century and a half of summers and this piece will take its own important place in the structure of The Nomad.


Looking at the Nomad in its current workshop at Anawalt Lumber Company, Montrose,CA. I am caught up by the power of this artist’s grand vision that continues to drive her to meet unexpected challenges time and time again. She exercises her creativity and problem solving as adeptly as her power tools. She holds the large vision as well as the multitudes of details that comprise it.

IMG_1571Each piece of corrugated metal is cut and colored with many glazes before being pieced together in the pattern on the walls.

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As she describes her journey to bring The Nomad into being her face is suffused with a beauty and a joy that invites you not only to believe in her success but also to want to participate in it.

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She has had to move many times throughout her life; now she has found a way to embody that way of life in a culture that rejects it. Her 1950 Ford truck has the license plate “Nomad 45 “that celebrates the fact that it is her 45th address in her 58 years

Those who wander are not lost.

All those who know and are entranced by Dominique’s vision and sense of purpose,  those who want to follow in her footsteps will appreciate the irony that she is legally blind. Although her limited sight does not allow her to see the path, she has always seen the way. She inspires  us to look at what we discard with opened eyes.

She helps us to believe that every life can contain beauty, passion, art. Dominique (and I ) believe that if people can follow her example and commit to a vision that includes the Earth, community, Art, as well as family, friends, we will be able to understand its importance. We all can play a part at any age in making life purposeful in this country and on this beautiful and fragile planet.

The last words come from Dominique, when she spontaneously and joyfully arranged these blocks (with my help to read the words) in a little health food café in Altadena … IMG_1593

 Photos by Maureen Kellen-Taylor




















How purpose and values manifest in people’s lives.

It seems so simple to go to visual artists to explore this, for obvious reasons. How better to express your values than through your art where you live?

Take my long-time friends, artists Beth Pewther and Leonard Breger, who have inspired me over the years. Their shared purpose is to make art.

Their house became an art-house not only because the interior walls and ceilings are adorned with their art, but a couple of decades ago Beth, with the help of a couple of apprentices, transformed the exterior of the three-storey house with mainly donated and scrap tiles.


Not only was the house changed, but the neighborhood has been affected. Over the years murals appear on walls on other streets, and intricate detailed window treatments, unusual color combinations announce the communal value that this is a creative area.

At Number 80, the mail-carriers are used to putting the mail through the jaws of a mythical creature – and how can their day remain unaffected by this experience?

IMG_1527 Visitors enter a world of color, texture and pattern as we walk up the front steps to the door. We are surrounded by the vision and purpose of the people who live here and by the time the door opens to welcome us, we are changed by what we have learned.


Leonard, well into his nineties, would greet the morning with “Oh Good! Another day to paint – and to be with Beth!” And paint he did – weaving his sense of humor and endless possibilities into ideas about music, politics, art, science, as well as recording domestic events from the trauma of a fall to celebrating his daughter’s pregnancy. He believed in the power of exchanging ideas.

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 The last time I saw him he told me that his painting was finished and I understood what he was saying about purpose. Since his death Liz actively represents both his legacy of work and hers and she brings their images into continuing relationship with the world through shows.

She has just taken down a retrospective of her work, which leads the viewer on a journey through many decades, following the path of a woman actively involved in community and the adventures life offers. Her paintings communicate her passion for  the importance of anti-war demonstrations, the 60’s and the women’s movement; they depict her rootedness in her faith, her devotion to family and friends, how she brought her sense of design and textiles to important rituals in the life of others. More recently her art reconnects her (and us) with the humor and the whimsical in life.

In Beth’s world, flocks of radishes fly over the hills she loves to hover above moments of tender, affectionate connection between those who share the hills with her.

I invite you to explore more at

How do values and purpose show up in your life?

More to come…..