Isn’t it funny how the story of one’s life (if you’re like me) varies moment to moment. That’s one reason I like to hear what facts suit a situation, then just give those. The problem with facts is they’re so dead, and boring. Story telling is fun.
Like life, I think the story below is best approached lightly.
Here’s today’s story about me.
BIO Jane E. Lewis aka LIU Zhi-Lian or 柳 芝 蓮
Jane’s professional focus for 30 years was science, specifically botany and more specifically, marine botany. For many years I was keen on “holding the space” for a loosely organized group to work on the marine biodiversity of the tropical and subtropical western Pacific. I have loved taxonomy and community ecology, distribution patterns and the combination of gathering evidence, considering metadata and having a group excited and creating from new, unfolding, possibilities. The combination of passion and responsibility is what, I think, drives the universe. I’ve been honored to work together with many others who saw the power and beauty in marine biodiversity and the exploration of life, as they say. At this point I’ve come to think I’m doing the seaweeds no favors by studying them. I let them be. It’s people and our various dances that intrigue me. Not to study, but to support. There’s little I KNOW about what needs to be. Honestly, it’s more like nothing. What I delight in is offering skilled, spacious process through which people can find the way ahead to their own passion and responsibility.
My undergraduate was SUNY College at Buffalo, NY (1977). I worked with an exceptional man, Prof. Eric Randall. He is a combination cousin/scientist/mentor/frontiersman – a country boy with a vast vision, clear mind and open heart, dedication, discipline and great ability. In college I quit my Speech and Hearing major in the midst of my first class when I realized I was in the wrong place. From there I went to an independent degree program, and that’s how I met Eric. I had an office all through college and basically got to play in everything I was interested in. I was in the college’s first ambulance corps. That first year of college was also the last year of my musical life for exactly 30 years, which seems to be another story. That year I toured with the group. Thoughts of changing universities during Sophomore year convinced me the only responsible thing was to quit early in the year. Maybe it’s time for that story.
Quick music story. I was from a regular church-going 7th Day Baptist rural family. From maybe 4th grade till 2nd year college I sang all the time – church choirs, school choirs, school musicals where I was the lead in a long-forgotten production in maybe 5th grade. I played clarinet. I played organ, then pipe organ (Prof. LeMon at Alfred University, Alfred New York). Then in 2004 I joined the International Community Choir in Taipei. I’ve recently discovered I have a rich contralto voice. You’d think that’s something I may have learned earlier. I just thought I was an alto, but heck, there it is. My husband, Paul, from the town of Epping at the end of the subway line NE of London, was in a large number of punk bands and he dropped all music until a couple years ago, too. Now he’s writing a musical with a marvelous Chinese pianist/composer musician Derrek Lin. But I digress.
My PhD is from the University of Hawaii with year-long 1-person field work by in the mid-1980’s based in Leizhou Peninsula and Hainan Island. Speaking with people who were seeing the first western person of their life was a daily occurrence. Somehow I still managed to collect enough seaweeds and seaweed information in many fascinating places to complete the PhD (1990). I did get involved in managing joint-venture shrimp farms, one with Alec Forbes in the Gulf of Tonken, one a year later in CangZhou south of Tienjin on the farm with the factory manager Lorne Hume and his wife, Janet.
From 1992 – 2004 I was a tenured associate professor at a national university in Taiwan. I set out on the inventory idea that had shot into my consciousness around 1986. Lots happened that I’m proud to have been part of. I learned a huge amount about what didn’t work, too. Much of it never worked. What did work were lots of workshops and thinking and interns from around the world and digital tool explorations. When this time came to an end I’d been special assistant to the president for 3 years, had several years of marvelous international support from people at the British Museum, Univ of the Western Cape in South Africa, Univ of Zagreb in Croatia and other places. I was attracting a group working on bryozoans that I was thrilled with, especially Tea Gluhak, now working in Split. At the same time my university was troubled by my unusual activities, letting me know it wasn’t exactly welcome … it wasn’t what mattered … that is, what was counted, rewarded or encouraged. My method wasn’t approved of. When I spoke of possibility or of participation, no echo returned. no energy back. Our department chairman served me notice that foreign students in my lab were not to mix or show their faces in official university functions, because they did not belong. There was a time of chaos. People came to me in rage and fear at my different ways — finding money outside the university’s system, starting my own non-profit based in the US, doing things in a different way. I got tired of pushing so hard against… what? I’ve only got just so much energy, anyway. At some point it was clearly enough and I quite quietly ended my time there. Life as the only westerner at this university for 12 years was a rich experience, whose time had come to an end. That was 2 1/2 years ago. I since taught classes part-time at another institute which I delight in — English Scientific Reading and Writing … which are really classes about thinking and communicating effectively in a group. It’s my little contribution. I’ve now stopped those classes as well.
Bio Line Items
Born — 1956 Carbondale, Illinois. 3rd of 4 children, of rural academic families (southern Illinois and west Virginia)
1961 father, High School Principal, died. Mother began graduate work, full-time job, single parenting. We moved. Lots. Settled in the Alfred, New York area, where my mother and her husband — who she married after all kids had left the nest — continue to live.
Interests: Red Cross classes, swimming, life-saving, 4H (sewing, cooking, babies), choir, band, madrigal singers, academics.
5th grade till 1972 – student teacher for students needing extra help, then the special ed classes. Loved making my own lesson plans. Eventually decided I wanted to work with the deaf. Maybe I have. Maybe that’s all of us.
Graduated from High School at Big Walnut High School, Westerville, Ohio Dec. 1972.
1973 Jan 1 – summer. Jane-Of-All-Trades at the Ohio Home for the Aged and Infirm Deaf. Helped as office person, nurses aid, driver, interpreter and whatever else people asked me to do.
1973-77. BA Biology, SUNY College, Buffalo. Summer in Guadalupe National Park assisting with community ecology field work (PhD work of Tony Burgess). Summer tropical biology program in Jamaica where I first worked with seaweeds.
1977-78. English Teacher. ELS. Under James Steed, Director, who’s still in Taiwan and thriving as always.
1977-79. Editing Consultant for a publishing company (name long forgotten). We compiled a dictionary and a general phrasebook.
1978-80. Research Associate. Academia Sinica. Zoology Institute.
1978 Junior High Science Teacher. Dominican School, Da Zhi, Taipei.
1980-82. Visiting Researcher. Botany Department. Smithsonian Institution. Prepared the history and catalog of all published literature on the seaweeds of Taiwan.
1981-82. Washington Post. Weekend customer service rep. Then special assistant to the director. Then asked to apply for the position in charge of all the inserts in the paper. I still think that was a perfect offering for me. I chose my PhD process, instead.
1982. Intensive summer Chinese language program, Middlebury College, Middlebury Vermont.
1982-1990. PhD, University of Hawaii. Botany. Benthic Marine Algae of the Northern South China Sea: Taxonomy, Community Ecology and Biogeography. I put together a database of all seaweed records from this part of the world. First science PhD student to do language proficiency in Chinese.
1982-84. Teaching assistant, UH. Botany Dept.
1984-1990. East-West Center. PhD Scholarship Grantee. Institute of Culture and Communication.
1986. East-West Center. Institute of the Environment. Trainer of Trainers in the China EPA. Coastal Zone Management.
1990. Project Researcher. East – West Center, Institute of Environment. Biodiversity and sustainability project.
1992-2004. Assoc. Prof., National Taiwan Ocean University. Marine Biology Institute. Several international training workshops on various topics in marine taxonomy, digital tools, biodiversity inventory.
2000. Ecological Informatics. Honolulu, HI. Director and CEO. NGO with a mission to gather scientific information on the world’s environment and biodiversity. In the last year we set up an office in Thailand to support a proposal in Laos.
2003-6. Open Quest Facilitation Technology. Facilitator. Founding Partner.
– Reiki I, II, III, IV.
— Full training with Don Masset, Chicago Illinois. Assisted with many courses, held practitioner support groups.
– Full course series with Hugh Milne. Big Sur, CA.
Facilitation Certification Program, Institute of Cultural Affairs. 2001.
2004-2005. New Venture West Professional Coach program
I weave work as a healer, coach, facilitator with work as a medical/scientific research paper editor. When it comes up and fits into my schedule, I’m an actor in TV commercials and in voice recordings.
I now live pretty quietly. Don’t feel like trying to push water upstream. I have a house in Keelung with my husband and a healing studio and an office in Taipei. My only standing commitment is 4 hours on a Thursday when I coach 2 young research biologists working on the virus that induces white spot disease in shrimp. At times I consider starting an in-house Toastmasters club on the National Taiwan University for the Life Sciences graduate students to practice their English and group thinking skills.
In this simple life, I attempt to be clear, honest, respectful and responsible. My biggest work, perhaps is clearing myself of all that I’ve assumed was true about life in the past so I can be present to what shows up in the moment. I breathe better. I hold wisdom circles. I have several “buddies” who know I’m committed to their well-being. I’m part of a facilitation community in Taiwan. I teach reiki. I’m learning to be more deeply observant of “who’s here” when I’m asked to do anything.
I’m involved with 2 formal learning programs in addition to the learning community at ICA.
Milne Institute, Visionary Craniosacral Bodywork.
The International Coach Academy.
Written in my Taipei studio, for an audience of one (thanks Janet).
Proofread and neatened for a larger audience.
February 25, 2007, the 8th day of the year of the golden pig. While all the MRT construction equipment is still quiet for the new year.