Cicada Diary

Cicada, Cicada, Crazy Cicada!

Cicada, Cicada, Crazy Cicada!

One can study a caterpillar forever and never be able to predict a butterfly.
Buckminster Fuller

Are you living the life that wants to live through you?
Parker Palmer

It is cicada time here in Middle Tennessee. First cicadas sighted in my yard on May 9. Little creepy crawlies and empty shells. Weirdness. Last time the cicadas were at a minimum when I lived in another part of town that did not have as many of these little critters. Now I'm in the cicada part of town.

The 13-year cicadas began emerging over a week ago, but five days of cooler weather left the little creatures hanging onto branches and plant stems, just waiting for warmer weather to return. Now a warm front is moving in, and the trees are alive with the sound of cicadas mating (the male "sings" to his lady love). 

I like to imagine how it feels for the cicadas to emerge from thirteen years in the dark earth and to be born again into a new world of wings, wind, sun, eyes, and song (and sex!). What would it feel like to enter into a life so different than anything that could be imagined in the old life? While cicadas, with their little red eyes and buggy bodies may not have the elegance of the butterfly, they are still expressions of the Life Force and metamorphosis. I enjoy them as sign of abundance and nature's strange and wonderful generosities. What strange and wonderful metamorphosis have you been going through lately? Can you sense the new life that wants to unfold for you today?

Late May

Cicadas seem dizzy drunk with the heat and the love. Windshield splatters on the freeway. Cicadas! Cicadas! I took a photo of two cicadas mating, back to back, wings spread over each other. 

They’re quiet at night, when it’s stormy and wet, or when it gets too cool for their comfort. Early in the morning the cicada whirring hum begins. It sounds like the aliens are landing as all the trees start coming alive with sound. Later in the day, the full chorus surrounds the house, and like a giant cicada peppergrinder, the sound becomes deafening. 

Yet I find something wonderful in this expression of the Life Force. Happy cicadas mating and flying about, dizzy with love and life. Little eyes boggling at everything, especially a human being coming onto the horizon. 

Bug-eyed with wonder, they don’t attack, they don’t run. The little cicada sits on the petunia plant, just being, just living. Alive in so many ways. I coo, “Cicada, cicada” as I point my camera and take a cicada portrait. Immortalized in digital media, now the little cicada decides it’s time to join its brethren. Wings whirr and the cicada lifts swiftly into the air. Cicadas! Cicadas!

End of May

Lots of little dead cicadas in my driveway, on my steps. (not to mention the splats! on my windshield). Guess they partied their brains out. They came into this world with that "OMG" look and seem to be leaving with the same. The party to end all parties, drunk with life itself. An orgy, not a potluck. What a long strange journey it's been. Thirteen years in the ground as a sap sucking grub. Then the nymphs seek the light, emerging from the dark underground world. Metamorphosis! Suddenly bingo bango: eyes, legs, wings, sun, wind, rain, storms, SEX! Mindblowing cicada sex leaves them reeling on the pavement, wondering what hit them. 

Then a strange urge to dig a hole in some twig on a tree and lay eggs. Party's over. Drop dead with pleasure. Sated. And eventually little white grubs emerge and drop to the ground, going into the earth to spend the next thirteen years in solitary confinement sucking sap, waiting for the next party to begin.

I learned that the male cicadas will chirp (one got in my car). Someone told me that each cicada has its own unique chirp. Some are low, some are high. So what we're hearing is a cicada men's chorus in perfect harmony. I'm getting rather fond of these little critters (as long as they keep good boundaries) and feel as if there is something sacred and healing in the songs they sing. I like the spaceship landing sound they make early in the morning as they are tuning up. Somehow the sound from the distant trees blend so that you could close your eyes and imagine an alien spaceship landing. It is the Life Force expressing. 

I love thinking about "Where were you 13 years ago?" 1998 was the year The Art of Abundance was published by Honor Books. I didn't even start coming to Center for Spiritual Living Nashville till 2003. Daddy and Marcia were still alive thirteen years ago. I was just starting to be weaned from depending too much on a dear friend. I recorded my 5 song Golden Moment demo. It was my best financial year ever--never been topped during the rollercoaster ride of the last decade. Music Row was still intact, not knowing that it would all implode soon. What a long strange journey it has been. 

My mantra for the cicadas: "Cicadas! Cicadas! Crazy cicadas!"

Early June

Now the cicadas are getting quieter and quieter. Last week’s frenzy has mellowed. They are no longer flying into my face or zooming over the roof. I sat under a cicada-filled tree and saw that many were just sitting on the branches. There was a slightly fishy smell, so I moved away from them. I almost felt they were like party animals recovering from a hangover. 

Cicada conversations overheard the other day: “The party’s over…” “Not now dear, I have a headache.” “ She just isn’t interested in sex any more, Harry. Always complaining about what I did to her!” “He still wants sex and all I want to do is dig a hole and lay my eggs. It’s hard to be in the mood when you’re hormonal and pregnant.” 

End of June:

The last of the cicadas are gone. Branch ends litter the lawn, a sign that the eggs have hatched and the larvae are making their way back into the earth for another 13-year cycle. I miss the sound of that life force humming. As temperatures rise the usual summer cicadas will begin singing their love songs in the heat of late July and August. It will be a different song, beautiful in its own way. 

I wonder where I will be when the next cohort of cicadas emerge thirteen years from now?

Magic vs. Conventional Wisdom

Deer Magic

Deer Magic

Now we have been dealing with the magical approach, and let me gently remind… you that I said that you must be willing to change all the way from the old system of orientation to the new, if you want the new approach to work fully for you…
Jane Roberts (The Magical Approach: A Seth Book)

2010 was a tough year. But this difficult year brought some very special gifts, including a new flexibility and a willingness to release my old judgments, stories, and expectations. I was dying, and I was coming to life. All the old rules stopped making sense, and the new rules were not rules at all, but a willingness to suspend my disbelief and to enter into the Presence of God in a deeper way, then to do the next impossible thing while God made a way where there was no way.

Conventional wisdom offers a linear perspective of how things should be and what is happening. It is based on past experience. Read any newspaper with its dire predictions and you have a good idea of what conventional wisdom is. Listen to the wet blankets in your life as they warn of some pending disaster if you are crazy enough to follow your bliss and you’ll get another dose of conventional wisdom. But when you start living by spiritual principles, it’s always new territory and the wisdom is anything but conventional. As Ernest Holmes used to say, “Principle has no precedent.” Or as my wise friend, Donna Michael says, “You’ve never been here before.” 

Conventional spirituality is based on theologies and dogma that attempt to define and describe God. Magic, as I define it, is a mystical relationship with God, understanding that whatever name you use is only a partial understanding of a reality beyond our comprehension. “We see through a glass darkly…" Mysticism, magic, spiritual alchemy, metamorphosis—it’s all a process of releasing old limiting ideas and embracing a new paradigm. 

One of the ways I am accessing mystical wisdom is through my morning pages. I have written morning pages (three pages longhand without stopping or editing, per Julia Cameron’s instructions in The Artist’s Way) since 1994. This year, inspired by Lily, a friend in a literary group, I’m often allowing the third page be a response from God to all the mundane crap I write in the first two pages. I offer the entry for the new year, below, as an Inner Wisdom entry. I hope it inspires you as much as it inspires me. I wouldn’t call it “channeled” or “inspired” but I do sense a wisdom greater than my own conventional thinking coming through. (I’ll tell you if I still feel the same way at the end of 2011, as some of it goes farther than I would ever say if it was just conventional me speaking.)

Words of Encouragement 

Awaken to the now moment. Centered attention is the way to spiritual rebirth and renewal—initiation into a higher plane of living, a deep sense of presence. 
Eckhart Tolle

“Stirb und werde.” Die and come to life.

I soon learned that I could have right thought only as I lived my interior life in the very atmosphere of the Abiding Presence.
Albert C. Grier

The new meaning of soul is creativity and mysticism. These will become the foundation of the new psychological type and with him or her will come the new civilization. 
Otto Rank

What imagination does with reality is the reality we live by.
David Ignatow

Logic will take you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.
Albert Einstein

Imagination is the capacity to make connections between the visible and the invisible, between heaven and earth, between the present and the past, between present and future.
Eugene Peterson

The great art of turning within is to see the connections between things which do not seem to be connected… We can train ourselves by consistently questioning if things are the way we think they are; and by making an effort to depart from our personal vantage point in order to see a connection hidden from our personal vantage point. That is what Buddha called questioning your opinion.
Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan

Imagination can fashion the world into a homeland as well as into a prison or a place of battle. It is the invisibles that determine how you will view the world, whether as a homeland or as a prison or as a place of battle. Nobody lives in the “objective” world, only in a world filtered through the imagination.
Czeslaw Milosz

For most people, there is something disturbing and threatening about the word 'magic', and they want nothing to do with this practice. And yet everyone practices magic; yes, on an unconscious level they do nothing but that. According to the laws of divine justice, each negative thought and feeling is in itself black magic, for it sullies something, it tears it to pieces. And conversely, everything that is harmonious and constructive, everything that embellishes and illuminates, belongs to the category of white magic. So, instead of appearing horrified whenever magic is mentioned, humans would do better to try and understand the significance of the ways they express themselves. Yes, for, when seen in this way, many people who have never opened a book of black magic, who don't even believe black magic exists, are actually, through their behavior, their thoughts, feelings and words, veritable black magicians.
Omraam Mikhaël Aïvanhov


I invite “magic” into my life in 2011 by inviting the living Presence of God to work in, through, and for me. 

Inner Wisdom: 

It’s magic—you don’t want to know exactly how it is done, it would ruin the show. Just enjoy it. Clutching, clinging, judging, speculating, defining—all are counterproductive. A small amount of skepticism is part of the fun, for the magic is even more dazzling when you say, “I believe, help my unbelief.” 

“Success” was in many ways a dry and limiting word for 2010. I had to twist and bend your mind with it, so that you could access that alchemical secret of non-attachment and letting go of all conventional definitions of success. Success is a by-product of magic. Now with “magic” as your word for 2011 we can get to the good stuff. 2010 taught you the limitations of conventional wisdom. That’s the old paradigm you have been so frustrated with that is dying. Magic, alchemy, mysticism, enchantment—that’s the new paradigm.

Magic is a word that is key in transformation, evolution, and metamorphosis. Not only that, magic is more fun. It’s playful, and it intimates that there is a measure of effortlessness, an abracadabra open-sesame Aladdin’s lamp approach to solving problems; an approach that does not solve the problem at the level you created the problem, but dissolves and outgrows the problem, turning it into a non-issue because you have moved to a higher level of consciousness.

You will see this happen concerning a safe place to live, a large and steady income, and especially coming together with the love of your life. It is the land of heart’s desires fulfilled, and the fearsome dragons turn into the friendly dinosaurs of Dinotopia, and all the failures and losses alchemized into a butterfly metamorphosis that gives you wings. Poetry instead of prose. Song instead of lectures. Lovemaking and bliss. 2011 is magic. 

• Who could have imagined the miracles that appeared in November and December of 2010? So, what kind of miracles might be possible in the new year?
• What miracles would you most wish to see come together?
• What kind of miracles would you love that might not even be imaginable right now?
• What feelings do you want to feel?
• How do you want to feel and be in whatever situation you might find yourself?
• Are you willing to believe in spite of your unbelief?


And here is a bit of my favorite musical magic. 

PLEASE SHARE this video! Tim Bays is a speaker, humorist and musical presenter who uses songs and stories to entertain, elevate and inspire. He has worked with companies from IBM to At Home Total Care and shared concert bills with artists ranging from Sarah Vaughn to Arlo Guthrie.

Beyond Failure

One can study a caterpillar forever and never be able to predict a butterfly. 
Buckminster Fuller

I have been thinking about the difference between failure and success. I decided at the beginning of 2010 that I wanted to understand and experience success. But 2010 feels like I learned more about failure, endings, loss, and releasing all my ideas of what success is—and what I consider failure to be. 

As of this writing, this has been the year I have seen the edifice of my life crumble, and all the fond hopes and dearly held beliefs burned away in the fires of an unrelenting financial struggle and watching the world I knew dying. If that sounds dramatic, so it has been. But the greater drama has been played out inside me as I questioned everything I thought I knew. 

The year also brought great gifts. Though the twenty-plus-year book publishing career imploded (actually started falling apart in mid-2008) I am now at the beginning of a career writing for the healthcare industry, discovering that I had unknowingly prepared for writing about integrative medicine just by following my interests, back in the day when the Christian publishers I worked with thought such stuff was “woo woo” or even of the devil. Now it’s the stuff of everyday conversation with the people I work with—doctors and healthcare practitioners who are finding new ways to help others heal themselves. From aromatherapy to energy medicine, healing touch to meditation, my explorations into the alternative world of medicine paralleled my spiritual researches, both leading me away from conventional mainstream thinking.

But following my heart did have an effect on my pocketbook—and that was not always positive. I have paid a price for my choices. One acquisitions editor told me he could not present my next book proposal because I was becoming a “universalist.” I wasn’t even sure what that was at the time, but I knew meant that a publisher I had long been affiliated with was no longer an option for my author career. I felt like I had been kicked out of the family.

A couple of years after that, another publisher declared bankruptcy a month after publishing my book, and it took me a year to get the rights back. More recently, in June 2009 my publisher put my books out of print and my agent let me go. From mid-2008 through 2010, the industry I knew so well, including the Christian book industry, has changed beyond recognition. All of the people I worked with for so many years were laid off, and the world I knew and loved (and sometimes feared) disappeared. 

There is a new infrastructure being built, which is why I am self-publishing my books on Smashwords and giving my blog readers links to leaders in the new technology paradigm like Chris Guillebeau, Seth Godin, Christine Kane, Pamela Slim, Mark Coker, and more. But the publishing infrastructure is still building, and has yet to replace the financial structure that once supported me. We are all learning together, and following the early adapters is my best clue to creating a success with my books, e-books, and blog.

I moved to Nashville in 1993 for the songwriting, and that world has changed even more drastically. At least book publishers learned something from the awful example of the music industry, and have worked to adapt to changes in technology instead of fighting the inevitable. But a whole world of music publishing disappeared, and many gifted songwriters have seen a way of life that allowed them to live off their songs disappear. Like everyone else, they are finding ways to adapt, but many dreams have died and skills learned for one way of life have been set aside to adapt to another reality.

If the caterpillar knew its destiny, would it mourn the loss of its caterpillar existence? The caterpillar is born with a set of cells called imaginal buds. They are dormant until the time is ripe, and then they awaken and multiply. At first the caterpillar’s immune system attacks these cells, perceiving them as invaders. Yet it is the caterpillar’s own genes that are doing the work of transformation that will lead to a greater destiny. When the caterpillar’s body can no longer fight the growing invasion of imaginal buds, it spins a cocoon. Inside the cocoon, the caterpillar’s body is no longer recognizable, and all boundaries dissolve. Only when the creature emerges from its cocoon will this process of loss and disintegration reveal itself as a butterfly. 

We who are in process must be wary of labeling ourselves as “successes” or “failures.” We are too close to the situation to see clearly. At age thirty-two, Buckminster Fuller, the inventor of the geodesic dome, contemplated suicide. A series of business failures made him feel that the best thing he could do was to relieve the world of his unwanted presence. He didn’t commit suicide, but he did decide he would live as if he had died that night. He committed to questioning continuously, “What is it on this planet that needs doing that I know something about, that probably won’t happen unless I take responsibility for it?” Instead of trying to avoid failure or create success, he just kept asking questions, following his instincts, and contributing to each situation as it arose. Working for the universe instead of himself, he made a lasting contribution that is still affecting our society today.

So, when I look at my losses and “failures” I understand that my view is too limited, and there is a larger context that connects unseen threads, and what might be considered a failure in one era could be the genesis of a success in another era. How many artists and writers and inventors were laughed at in their day, only to be lionized in a later era for being visionaries and pioneers? 

What is happening in the moment is never the entire story of what is actually going on. Buckminster Fuller liked to point out that the honeybee thinks it’s the honey that is important. But the bee is nature’s way of cross pollinating the flowers, and without that ceaseless worker doing his tiny bit, there would be no fruits and flowers for the world to enjoy. 

I now ask myself, “What can I do today to offer my gift and serve the greater good? Who is in front of me to serve? How can I approach everything I do more creatively, with greater love?” This leaves behind the judgment of “success” or “failure” and makes way for a greater good than my limited mind can conceive. 

The dear friends in the book and music industry who are struggling (or finding unexpected success in the reinvention of their careers) are creating more than a career shift. I see the development of a deeper and stronger character, and more compassion for themselves and others. A former rock star or bestselling author (or songwriter or author who never experienced success in the old paradigm) can be reborn to a new life that contributes to the greater good, even if that greater good includes a more humble, invisible service than before. 

It is time to move beyond labels of “success” or “failure.” It’s never that cut-and-dried. We are all in process, and we are all beautiful children of the Most High. “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” If we can truly live this prayer in our lives, we will have truly lived. 


Failure is the tuition you pay for success.
Walter Brunell

Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall. Confucius 

I have not failed. I've just found 10, 000 ways that won't work. 
Thomas A. Edison 

We pay a heavy price for our fear of failure. It is a powerful obstacle to growth. It assures the progressive narrowing of the personality and prevents exploration and experimentation. There is no learning without some difficulty and fumbling. If you want to keep on learning, you must keep on risking failure all your life.
John W. Gardner

Never walk away from failure. On the contrary, study it carefully and imaginatively for its hidden assets. 
Michael Korda

Those who have failed miserably are often the first to see God's formula for success. 
Erwin W. Lutzer

We stumble and fall constantly even when we are most enlightened. But when we are in true spiritual darkness, we do not even know that we have fallen. 
Thomas Merton

There are defeats more triumphant than victories.
— Michel de Montaigne

I thank God for my handicaps for, through them, I have found myself, my work, and my God.
— Helen Keller

The season of failure is the best time for sowing the seeds of success. 
Paramahansa Yogananda

Failure is the foundation of success, and the means by which it is achieved. Success is the lurking-place of failure; but who can tell when the turning point will come?
— Lao-Tse 

Flops are a part of life’s menu, and I’ve never been a girl to miss out on any of the courses.
— Jane Russell

The only thing that is worse than learning from experience is not learning from experience.
Linda Ellerby

Success is overrated. Everyone craves it despite daily proof that man’s real genius lies in quite the opposite direction. Incompetence is what we are good at: it is the quality that marks us off from animals and we should learn to revere it.
Stephen Pile (author of The Incomplete Book of Failures: The Official Handbook of the Not Terribly Good Club of Great Britain)

Any fact facing us is not as important as our attitude toward it, for that determines our success or failure.
— Norman Vincent Peale

Fred Astaire was described by one studio that rejected him as a balding, skinny actor who can dance a little.

Thomas Edison’s first teacher called him “addled,” and others said he would never make a success of anything.

Einstein’s parents were afraid he was retarded. A teacher told him he would never amount to anything.

Puccini, the great composer, had a music teacher who said that he had no talent and gave up on him.

The University of Vienna rejected Gregor Mendel, the founder of genetics. One of his professors wrote, “Mendel lacks the requisite clarity of thought to be a scientist.”

We don’t like their sound. Groups with guitars are on the way out.
— Decca Recording Company, rejecting the Beatles

Affirmative prayer

What is it on this planet that needs doing that I know something about, that probably won’t happen unless I take responsibility for it?
What can I do today to offer my gift and serve the greater good? 
Who is in front of me to serve? 
How can I approach everything I do more creatively, with greater love?
I commit myself to doing good work today.
I’ll take care of the quantity and do my best.
I trust God with the quality, knowing that the results are not my responsibility.
I release all judgments, knowing that love is the only measure of success that counts. 

Introducing an inspiring friend: 

On that same note, here’s a bit from Seth Godin on interpreting criticism: 

Criticism of your idea is usually based on assumptions about the world as it is. Jackson Pollock could never have made it as a painter in the world as it was. And Harry Potter was rejected by just about everyone because for it to succeed the way kids read would have to change.

The useful element of this sort of criticism isn't the fact that people embracing the status quo don't like your idea. Of course they don't. The interesting question is: what about the world as it is would have to change for your idea to be important?

Starbucks had no chance if they were going to focus on the sort of person who bought coffee at Dunkin Donuts or a diner, and the iPad couldn't possibly succeed if people were content to use computers the way they were already using them.

Keep that in mind the next time a gatekeeper or successful tastemaker explains why you're going to fail.

Check out the entire Sept 10, 2010 blog entry at