Thursday, October 30, 2008

Local metaphysical author on the "sacred wisdom" of animals


According to an author's note, Victoria Hunt "has studied metaphysics and earth spirituality for over twelve years. A third-level Reiki master and member of the British Druid Order, she teaches Celtic-based earth-centered spirituality. . . ." Her new book, "Animal Omens" ($15.95 in paperback from Llewellyn Publications) describes almost thirty "animal encounters" (nine from friends) which, she writes, may help people "reconnect with the world of nature" and through nature to the Spirit world.

Hunt will sign copies of her book in conjunction with the Chico Art Studios Tour this Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at Felver’s Corner Art Gallery & Antiques, 196 East 15th Street in Chico.

Each "encounter," such as seeing a crow in an oak tree or a toy snake in the park, is followed by an "Omen" section about the characteristics of the animal (Crow has an "ability to move undetected between the dimensions of time and space"; Snake symbolizes "death and rebirth") with guidance for what such an encounter might mean. Crow, she writes, points to change, and brings "a message from the Otherworld"; Snake says "you will soon shed some aspect of yourself that no longer serves you."

Hunt reveals something about her own journey, describing a "shift in consciousness" in the mid-1990s "as a member of a family of hereditary 'ultra-sensitives,' people whose senses are heightened beyond the normal" which may even include "the gift of levitation" in her bloodline. She talks about her spirit guide, Balthazar, and her experience with past-life regression, garnets and auras, the Fair Folk of the woods, and her service to "My Lady," the Goddess, who tells her of metaphysical "philosophies held for only the most enlightened seekers."

In her comments on the white tailed kite, symbolizing "powers of the mind," the author writes that "our inner being, in its truth and purity, is held back by layer upon layer of mind and body and subconscious chatter. We lie naked and vulnerable in the mud of fear, longing to be released, to fly above what we are in physical form, past what holds us back and keeps us chained."

Though Hunt's gnostic worldview is inimical to my own, we do share a common interest in learning aright from the animals.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Sweeps month for Dick Cory


Dick Cory is a Nebraskan through-and-through, even after calling Chico home for four decades. He begins his third volume of memoirs, "Sweepings From Under the Rug" (paperback; for ordering details contact the author at, by describing his dad's office. "In the center of Cory's Store in Alexandria, Nebraska was a roll top desk elevated by a one step high platform. My dad . . . would sit at this throne doing ledgers and ordering, when he wasn't waiting on customers, stocking shelves, or sweeping the front step. . . . As a youth, I loved that desk with its mysterious creaks, pigeonholes, and tiny drawers."

And now Cory has metaphorically cleaned out all the little drawers of his own and has gone through all the sweepings, and the result is an eclectic collection of reminiscences, political commentary, letters to the editor, short stories, poems, songs, and self-reflection.

He'll be signing copies "Sweepings" at ABC Books on East Avenue in Chico this Saturday from 1:00 - 3:00 p.m.

Never one to pass up a practical joke or harebrained scheme, in 1956, during the formal "Military Ball" on the University of Nebraska campus, he and some buddies (lacking dates) replaced all the bulbs on the sorority porches with red ones. "You get the connotation to those fraternity boys returning their dates to a red light district?"

In 1975 he and a friend tried to obtain a donkey for the annual Paradise Gold Nugget Days' Donkey Derby, but Betsy had other ideas.

These days he and his cronies meet every week at a restaurant as part of club "R.O.D.E.O." ("Retired Old Duffers Eating Out"). "We most all have wives to share trivial pursuits (that one will get me in trouble!), but not the camaraderie offered by the lunch bunch."

Cory writes that "I'm emotional. I get fired-up about causes such as winning Nebraska football games, environmental issues, injustices of humankind, nostalgic memories, and sad movies. . . . I can tolerate chaos and self-inflicted delays. These characteristics drive my wife, Jan, insane. . . . Old rusty vehicles, farm implements, windmills, and weathered paint on barns and farmhouses hold special fascination for me."

Cory, too, has weathered much, but he's not about to rust away. He's writing a murder mystery.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Local author, two-time breast cancer survivor, to speak tonight in Chico


As a patent attorney for a biotechnology company in the Bay Area, Jan Hasak's life was never to be the same when she and her husband Jim "found a painless tiny lump in my breast in mid-December, 1995. I had turned 43 just two months earlier." She tells her story in "Mourning Has Broken: Reflections on Surviving Cancer" ($17.99 in paperback from Xulon Press).

A Christian since 1989, and mom of three sons, she writes that "I had never experienced any significant personal suffering up to that point." That was about to change.

Hasak will be signing copies of her book tonight from 6:00 - 8:00 p.m. at the American Cancer Society's "The Shop" on Mangrove Avenue in Chico. The event is called “Life By Chocolate” with chocolates prepared by Upper Crust Bakery and sponsored by Butte Community Bank. Admission is a $10.00 donation to The American Cancer Society’s fund raiser called “Making Strides Against Breast Cancer."

"My initial journey into the world of cancer was shrouded in mourning," Hasak writes, "the feeling of loss and grief over what could have been. But later I encountered a springtime of refreshing and blessing. This book is an account of that crossing through life-threatening challenges. . . ."

Hasak blends a deeply personal account of her experience of God's sustenance with details of her research. She provides the reader with invaluable reflections on treatment options, the value of vitamins and herbal supplements, support groups, and what not to say to those who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. With the removal of lymph nodes she faced lymphedema, a debilitating swelling of the arm as fluid accumulates. The author's book and Web site ( provide key online resources.

When a routine checkup in 2003 finds "another lump in the same breast in which the first tumor was discovered," she writes that "I felt that my body had betrayed me in a big way." Instead of a lumpectomy with the first diagnosis, she faced a bilateral mastectomy. And another round of grieving. "God does not condemn such feelings. But in contrast to the secular world, Christians are not to grieve as if they have no hope."

"Mourning Has Broken" is a compassionate and spiritually encouraging companion.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

"Finding Beauty" author to appear Wednesday at Chico State University


Terry Tempest Williams is Scholar in Environmental Humanities at the University of Utah. A poet and naturalist, she lives in both Castle Valley, Utah, and Wilson, Wyoming.

Now, with the just-published "Finding Beauty In a Broken World" ($26 in hardcover from Pantheon), Williams offers an extended meditation on the endangered Utah Prairie Dog, threatened by developers, and on the genocide in Rwanda, taking pieces of shattered natural and human worlds and constructing a mosaic. "There is a way of being in the world that calls us beyond hope," she writes. "Mosaic is not simply an art form but a form of integration, a way of not only seeing the world but responding to it."

She will be appearing at Laxson Auditorium at Chico State University this coming Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. Sponsored by Chico Performances (, her presentation is part of the On the Creek Lecture Series. Tickets are $22 Premium, $17 Adult, $15 Senior, $13 Student/Child; for more information call the box office at (530) 898-6333.

"Finding Beauty" begins in Ravenna, Italy, where Williams learns the ancient art of mosaic, the controlling metaphor of the book. She writes that "I believe in the beauty of all things broken," and mosaics exemplify for the author an attempt to come to terms with the brokenness of the contemporary world. Her style is also a mosaic: thousands of short prose paragraphs, letters, poems, quotations, field notes (from several weeks spent in a 10-foot tower observing Prairie Dogs).

She writes in the New York Times in 2003: "As we find ourselves on the eve of war with Iraq, why should we care about the fate of a rodent, an animal many simply see as a 'varmint'? . . . Quite simply, because the story of the Utah prairie dog is the story of the range of our compassion. If we can extend our idea of community to include the lowliest of creatures, call them 'the untouchables,' then we will indeed be closer to a path of peace and tolerance."

"One million Tutsis were murdered in one hundred days. Their killers were neighbors with farm tools, machetes, and hoes." Today there exists a genocide memorial, housing bones. Tiles spell out "Let Us Remember." It is a mosaic.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Chico author Lin Jensen on the imagery of words


Lin Jensen is the founding teacher of the Chico Zen Sangha and an accomplished author.

Saturday at 6:30 p.m., as part of the Artoberfest celebration, he will present a talk entitled "Words Into Images: The Art of Painting Pictures with Language" and will read from his newest book, "Together Under One Roof: Making A Home of the Buddha's Household" ($16.95 in paperback from Wisdom Publications). The talk and book signing will take place at Avenue 9 Gallery, 180 E. 9th Ave., Ste 3, in Chico.

For Jensen, the "Buddha's household" encompasses everything. "Every object you and I touch is Buddha," he writes, "and every house--including a homeless shelter or a prison complex or the downtown mall with its sprawling parking lot--is the exact place where the Buddha takes up residence." This realization, he says, is not something reserved for Buddhist greats, but for "ordinary minds," which "Zen insists . . . is as holy as it gets."

Jensen's collection of short essays celebrates not only life's ordinary experiences but the human power of naming those ordinary things. "We fleshly, earth-bound creatures are writing a language of creation, word by word. . . . Putting names to things, rather than taming the world by substituting language for living fact, infuses the world with a wild wonderment known only to creatures who trade in words."

While we must not confuse words with the things they name, Jensen writes, nevertheless the naming suggests close attention to the world. Naming something "bestows upon the things of this world a quality of intimate observation that I personally equate with love."

Jensen uses his words to characterize Buddhism as "kindness" borne of the "knowing that nowhere does there exist a single separate self. The perception of no self is one of compassion, since compassion is not so much a matter of feeling as one of identification." This identification extends beyond the Buddhist community (the "sangha") to one that is "inclusive of all beings." All this is not easy, since "human lives are 'ten thousand beautiful mistakes' as the old masters liked to point out." Jensen's is Zen with scraped knees, zazen (meditation) with an itch. Still, "we find our voice each day in the words the universe utters."