2006 Toad Report:  “What a Ride!”

 

How long has it been since the last Toad Report?  Two years, I think.

 

Highlights of 2005-2006

 

Arkansas "Mystical Retreat" I lived in Arkansas for about four months, from the fall of last year to the first of 2006.  This was made possible by the kindness of Rick and Amy Ferris, who let me stay in their lovely home near Little Rock All they asked in return was that I shoot the occasional trespasser, which I only had to do twice.  This offer was a timely one, for just as money and job opportunities in San Diego were running out, I was able to liquidate most of my belongings at a yard sale, pack my Dodge truck and a hastily acquired cargo trailer, and head East.  Did you know it costs more to rent a trailer than buy a used one?  U-Haul has quite monopoly going there.  And just as I arrived in Little Rock, I was able to purchase some eggs, peanut butter and bread along with one last tank of gas just before my money ran out.  Gas is pretty cheap in Arkansas, but a Dodge RAM V10 gets about 8 mpg on a warm day, so I had to ration my drives into town.  Eggs are cheaper, too, though they did cost me a half-hour conversation with the store owner regarding her divorce, recently fleeing for her life, and her suicidal ex-spouse who "could show up at any minute."  It was an interesting first day in Arkansas

 

Work had not come easily in San Diego.  For three years I struggled to sustain a simple lifestyle.  Although I accomplished much inner work, I could not strike the right balance with the material plane.  At the end, I was relying on the generosity of family and friends to make ends meet.  In Arkansas, on the other hand, it took only three days to find a job I enjoyed, with some fine folks to work with, and I saved enough for a trip back to San Diego.  My time in Little Rock was for the most part peaceful and healing.   Beautiful countryside, wild turkeys and deer in the yard, and genuine salt-of-the-earth folk for neighbors whose warm hospitality never wavered.  I missed my San Diego friends, but the time was well spent enjoying the natural beauty and diverse culture Arkansas has to offer.  I did a lot of reading, journaling, meditating on my life’s work, and planning those pesky but necessary “next steps” for actualizing a dream. 

 

I also got up into the Ozarks, and into town once or twice for a surprisingly progressive art scene.  And of course I paid homage to the Clinton library and the nostalgia of real leadership without the fear-mongering, myopic ineptitude or moral retardation we are plagued with now.  Some day I hope to spend a lot more time exploring Arkansas

 

 

The San Diego Return With my new life-plan tucked under my arm, I hit the ground running.  My previous landlord in San Diego, Terry, opened the door for me by offering me his job as an apartment manager.  That, plus a part-time job as a real estate mogul’s assistant, plus the odd technology consulting gig, plus some copy editing I do for my girlfriend Mollie’s creative design business, plus income from my Integral Lifework practice, and I can actually pay my bills.  I sold my truck and trailer, bought a more fuel efficient vehicle, and slowly plugged myself back into the San Diego scene.  I liken San Diego to riding a motorcycle.  It takes something like 250 skills to drive a car, but more like 2,000 to ride a motorcycle.  Sure, riding a bike is a blast – it’s almost like flying – but it’s also dangerous and demands constant attention and assiduous navigation of road hazards.  So I guess Arkansas was more like driving a nice, safe, big old car through really pretty countryside.  It’s good to be back, and I cherish the relationships I’ve made here over the years, but I must remain vigilant and watch for those potholes.  (Photo:  As a welcome-home present, Mollie surprised me with a “Cheetah Run” tour at the San Diego Wild Animal Park.  It was amazing.) 

 

 

Integral Lifework It took nearly forty years, but I have at last committed to my life’s calling and greatest passion.  I now share an office space in a holistic clinic in Pacific Beach.  The business is steadily growing.  I’m also teaching Integral Lifework classes at the church I attended before I left, Firstuusandiego.org, and am slowly putting together my next book.  The other holistic practitioners I’ve met are supportive and excited about what I do.  And so far my clients seem to be benefiting from the services I provide.

 

The idea behind Integral Lifework is simple:  When we nourish every aspect of our being, it creates balance, growth and ultimately transformation in our lives.  When we haven’t been nourishing ourselves completely, we become depleted, unhappy and incapacitated in some ways.  As a practitioner, my goal is to collaborate with people on new ways to self-nourish on every level (mind, body, spirit, emotions, relationships, etc.), using many different techniques.  It’s a very exciting field.

 

For several years, this is what I’ve wanted to be doing full time.  Now the dream has a plan.  If you haven’t checked out my website in a while, there’s some new info, including a handy-dandy overview of this innovative approach.  See www.IntegralLifework.com.  Mollie designed the business card above.

 

 

Photography – Thanks to Mollie’s efforts I have another photography show this fall.  It will be at the Bard Hall Gallery at the First UU campus (4190 Front Street, San Diego) from December 1st to 31st 2006.  There will be a reception on December 19th at 6:30 pm with wine, cheese and discussion, and I invite all of you who can to join us there.  Earlier this year, I sold prints buyers at another show that Mollie organized, which in turn paid for my plane ticket from Arkansas to that reception.  And this Toad Report is actually hosted on my updated photography site, www.ToadlandProductions.com.  I’m happy with my latest batch of photos, and hope you have time to check them out.  The website also hosts a sampling of images from the past 30 years, some of which surprised me with forgotten memories.

The next phase of my photographic journey involves promoting my work more commercially.  To that end, I’ve launched a little e-commerce website with coffee mugs, T-shirts, clocks, teddy bears, refrigerator magnets and other fine collectibles at www.cafepress.com/toadland/.  I’m expecting this kitschy adventure to pay for some new camera gear, so be sure to tell all your friends…and order in time for the Holidays!  :-)   Please also let me know what you think of the site and this whole sales idea.

 

By the way, if you haven’t yet seen Mollie’s Art, you can check out her website at www.molliekellogg.com.

 

 

Essential MysticismSpeaking of selling things, my Essential Mysticism book is doing okay on Amazon – albeit without much promotion.  I’m considering doing more marketing, but it’s nice to know that interest exists without any hype.  Amazon has been difficult to work with and eats up most of my profit for each book, but the exposure is nice.  My goal is for every spiritual seeker or aspiring mystic to have a chance to read Essential Mysticism.  You can check out some interesting statistics, reviews, etc. at this Amazon.com link. 

 

On a related note, when I left for Arkansas, two of my former mysticism class participants, Sarah and Tracy, decided to keep the class going in San Diego.  And it’s still going after nearly three years now.  I’m delighted that this niche in our spiritual community continues to be served.

  

 

 

 

 

 

San Diego Adventures – Whether edgy multi-media performance art, late night street dancing, ocean swims, inspiring Pagan rituals, alternative films, beautiful mountain hikes, dolphins doing synchronized back flips, exotic cuisine, or gritty SCA mock medieval battles, there is always something interesting to do in or near San Diego.  Deciding what to say “No” to is really the main challenge.  I am probably more focused now than I have been in the last few years, but I still find it daunting to sift through all the options.  Recently, Mollie and I took a day off from our busy lives to sample some different restaurants, ogle some new art, and explore touristy places we hadn’t yet visited.  It was as if we were vacationing in an entirely new city. 

 

 

Good People This has been a hard year, a soul-searching year, and without the good people in my life, it would have been much harder.  Many heartfelt thanks to those whose friendship, love, encouragement and support made both my “mystical retreat” in Arkansas and my return to San Diego feasible – and relatively sane.  To those whose compassionate sharing also kept me financially afloat, I will never forget your generosity in my time of need.  And to those relatives and friends who went above and beyond anything I could have expected or hoped for, well, I am simply in awe of your spirit.  Thank you.

 

Well Being Aside from a few more gray hairs and a body that demands more maintenance than it has in the past, I’m feeling pretty spry.  A few months ago I started a vegetarian diet and recently added probiotic and enzyme supplements, and all of this seems to be mitigating some of my lingering long-term ailments.  Once a month I attend a community group with folks in their 70s and 80s.  They have become a constant reminder to care for this mortal vessel so that every hope and aspiration can yet be accomplished.

 

 

 

Political Observations

 

With everything going on in politics right now, I thought it would be fun to revisit an email I sent out on February 5th, 2003.   At that time, I outlined the following reasons why liberating Iraq using military force was a less than ideal solution to the various threats we faced, which of course we still face today.   Below is a summary of those "Top 10" reasons why war was a poor choice.  I think it’s interesting to reflect on how and why most of these concerns have been validated in the intervening years – and many even grudgingly acknowledged by the powers-that-be.

 

Top Ten Reasons to Avoid War in Iraq

 

  1. Increased suffering of the Iraqi people.
  2. Danger to American armed forces.
  3. Further polarization of populations which identify themselves as Muslim against the United States and its allies, resulting in a potential increase in extremist-linked terrorism in the United States and all around the world.
  4. If the United States decides to act without UN support, it would be a profound precedent to violate the will of the international community.
  5. If the United States decides to act without UN support, the burden of the cost of rebuilding Iraq and maintaining peace for years to come will fall on the shoulders of an American people already weighed down by a dismal economy, a paucity of jobs and a high cost-of-living .
  6. How can we be certain we will not make things much worse, instead of better, in the Middle EastNearly all of the countries surrounding Iraq, even those friendly to the U.S., are opposed to military action. Turkey, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia , reliable allies of the United States in terms of trade and affairs of State, have all voiced concerns that Iraq will be fragmented and economically debilitated if the United States attacks, and warn that trade in the entire region will be crippled. These countries, in turn, face populations where Muslim extremism is growing in popularity. What will happen to our allies when their own people, enraged by America's actions, destabilize them from within?
  7. Mustard Gas in World War I. The Atomic Bomb in World War II. Napalm in Vietnam. Are we about to encounter the next major conflict in which volatile destructive agents, as yet unseen in modern warfare, will be utilized as a matter of course?
  8. The United States may potentially be less prepared for other, immediate risks to peace around the globe.
  9. Does it make sense?  This is perhaps the most philosophical reason to consider, but how often does violent conflict result in what we intend?   Stability, or a thriving economy, or democracy...these ideals remain elusive, or at best are only temporarily addressed, after most military victories.
  10. There is a better way. Economic sanctions, control of oil profits, and inspections in Iraq have greatly curtailed Saddam Hussein's potential dominance in the Middle East.   By Secretary Powell's own admission (during his UN presentation today), it is estimated that Iraq would have had a functional nuclear weapon by 1993 had such controls not been in place.  Perhaps there is a way to achieve more aggressive inspections, or develop more effective economic measures, to thwart Saddam without doing further harm to his people. Perhaps the United States could cultivate more allies among Arab countries who could embolden a grass-roots movement in Iraq. I don't know.   I can't even imagine the complexity of such decisions in foreign affairs.  But it seems to me that waging war is never as simple, or as effective, as we are asked to believe.

 

 

Poetry

 

I have written very few poems of late.  I have not made much space for them in my life in the last year, but sometimes they demand to be heard.  Here’s one that made it out:

 

 

 

 

 

PB Block Party May 2005

 

Throwing open mouths

airborne Glistening beads

descend On bared breasts

The crowd looks up and screams

Feeling, overwhelming music rising

Fat legs thump out rhythm

Beneath brilliant stories

Thudda thudda wham

sun on all our faces

Glowing from white teeth and dark skin

And sound, spreading flames of sound

Song and steel string

GAGGLES of young girls

on cell phones steAling glances

loose hands hastily covering

What they think short skirts won’t share

Sex is in the air

And sizzling sweat

and bratwurst, mustard, clove cigarettes

and something vaguely coconut

so what will I eat first?

Rappers whore their wares

Above Irish rock

And the yelling froth of youth

So close I cast about for sparks

freeing whatever I can feel

But reeling from the mob

AND THRONGING longing hearts

Trying to get high

A cop is lecturing young men

The wrong words, he says

The wrong time

With ALL KINDS OF people, he says

And then I see them

the differences, the distances

Gangbangers sulking on corners

hulking through the crowd

seething anger and tenuous self-respect

Then dreadlocks and bracelets

Crewcuts and tattoos

Shiny shaves, elaborate perms

A wagging pony tail OVER A long grey beard

And suddenly they’re all weird

LATINOS and asians and blacks and whites

Woven tight by convention

A clash of clothing and hairstyles and attitude

Can’t relax, overtaxed by heat and pressing flesh

Until the wrong words at the wrong time

But it’s sublime

I can’t stop watching

Can’t stop breathing in this scene

till the TIRED ponies pause

in their endless circle

and the odor of spilt beer

and cooling cooking grills

SNATCHES life from THE dimming sky

and the center of noise

A parade of smiles and sunglasses

shifts to side streets AND LITTERED LAWNS

till I walk home empty and full

craving a cold drink

and silence

 

 

And that’s all for now.  I have every intention of sending out another Toad Report before two years have once more slipped through my fingers.  Please send me news of your musings and doings.

 

Till next,

- Todd

tcollins@integrallifework.com