Wednesday, May 31, 2006


What does a rainbow mean to you?
A promise?A colored bow in the sky?

Oh, there's a scientific reason why,

but rainbows are like magic to me.

A myriad of colors. A half circle of light.
Rain and sunshine.
A change that can't make
up its mind.

Watch for the rainbows.
Partial ones, whole ones, doubles,
only rarely a triple.
Collect them in memory
if really lucky in a photograph.

Once I drove through one
with colored light on all sides.

Did I imagine it?

I don't think so,
but I have tried ever since to do it again.
Who wants a pot of gold
when you can bathe in light?

Rainbows teach us about life.
They are not about forever.
We cannot call them on demand
They remind us always-- be alert.

A rainbow is about
being in the moment.
They are about beauty
and like so many things of beauty
we cannot hold onto them
except in our memory.

As with sunshine and rain,
there are just so many rainbows
in each of our lives.
Collecting them is up to us.

(photos are special moments in Oregon, Montana and New Mexico)

Monday, May 29, 2006


When I wrote the blog about Memorial Day and honoring our soldiers, I had already read about a possible horrendous misuse of force November 2005 by a few US Marines in Haditha, an Iraqi town where insurgents are known to be plentiful-- Time with the story. There are more newspaper articles out there-- especially overseas. Do a search under Haditha if you want to know gory details I won't go into because they aren't the point of this piece.

For those who don't do links and have no interest in long accounts that often are contradictory, the gist, as I understand it now, is Marines, who had just stopped a taxi for questioning, were hit by a roadside bomb which killed one of theirs. It was determined it had to have been detonated locally. The unarmed men in the taxi ran and were shot dead. The Marines then searched two nearby homes. What happened next is what is being investigated. What is known is when the entire incident was over, 24 civilians had been killed (one of whom did have a gun but whether it was used has not been stated). Some of the victims were women and children as young as one year old. At first the official report declared it to be a firefight. It was not until March, with more questions being raised by accounts of nearby Iraqis that it was cold-blooded murder, as well as photographs, that a full investigation was launched-- which is still ongoing. As so often happens with such stories, there are as many questions about whether there was a cover-up as the triggering event.

The people who defend our government being in Iraq will mostly fall in lockstep by saying we shouldn't even discuss this right now as we do not yet know what happened. Following that would come-- if anything did happen, the Iraqis in that area caused it. Finally if it is proven the victims were truly innocent, it was just a few out of control Marines and not the fault of anybody else (as they said about Abu Ghraib).

My discussion is not aimed at settling what happened that day, as it might never be known, but about the situation our soldiers are facing that could lead to such incidents. I am not trying to excuse violence but simply looking at the factors behind it.

One of the things people speculated about Iraq, before President Bush decided to invade, was it would be another Vietnam. During Desert Storm, the main reasons the first President Bush gave for not invading Iraq came down to two things. First was the lesson we supposedly learned from Vietnam-- never get into something where you can't define victory, and second the words of Colin Powell-- if you break something, you own it. The first Bush didn't want the United States to own it.

The Neocons, led by people like Cheney, Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld, who had been in that first Bush administration and some even serving back in the Vietnam era government, believed it'd not be the same as Vietnam. There would be minimal cost and loss of life. The troops would be greeted with flowers. The people would be liberated. Nobody talked much about liberated for what.

Putting aside what is best for the Iraqi people, although that might be worthy of a blog all on its own, I just want to look at what our soldiers face. How do you know who your enemy is when you do not speak the language, and the people are a very different culture than yours? How do you decide who harbored an insurgent and who just lived nearby? How do you condemn the citizens for not telling you who is your enemy when they may be killed if they do tell?

I just read Peggy Noonan's column about Memorial Day. She wrote of heroic soldiers. She was right. In war men and women do heroic deeds. The very act of going into a place you might be shot at seems heroic to me. We have been told the soldiers in Iraq are volunteers and well trained for what they face. We don't want to think what can happen when people are sent to war and they don't know who their enemy is. How would anyone deal with a situation where the person you talk to might smile at you one moment and blow your friend apart the next? How does it affect morale when you have no idea when victory will come or if it ever will? Doesn't this sound like Vietnam to anybody not filled with a need to defend what the Bush administration started there?

I have heard some say soldiers are trained to break things and kill people-- that is their job. Now we are saying their job is to patrol roads where their patrols seemingly accomplish nothing-- except for some to get blown up, and where there is no way to know who is the bad guy. When individuals over react, they are at fault. But was it just them? Or is it the fault of those who sent them, those who want a tidy war, and then have to blame someone when war is not tidy? When innocent women and even toddlers and babies are murdered in a rage, it's easy, sitting in our living rooms to judge their actions, but why are our soldiers facing this?

The reasons given for being there have changed continually. First it was for WMDs which the administration (if not the president) had every reason to know were not likely still there. The government said all along it was not the oil even though the oil administration was said to be the first thing secured when the military went in. There was supposed to be a shadowy connection between Saddam and bin Laden-- only there never has been any proof of that and given the ideological differences between secular and religious Muslims, seems unlikely. Somewhere along the line, it became about establishing a democracy that will spread peace like a sweet fragrance across the Middle East. Something is spreading all right, but it's not sweet. Religious extremists have their own aim-- to take people's freedom and lives if they don't obey. Bush and his defenders say we went in to save the Iraqi people from a brutal dictator who murdered innocents. How do we do that if we are ending up doing the same thing to innocents?

It doesn't hold water with me when someone says; we are fighting there, so we don't have to fight here. In the first place, that's ridiculous. We now have several totally different enemies. Secondly even if it was so, does that mean you could overlook a three-year old Iraqi child being murdered to avoid one being killed here? Could you truly help a country if you felt that way about their people?

Some will say if we punish the Marines who committed the atrocity (assuming that is what happened) it's all we have to do. I think we all need to be thinking why we have those men there, what are we expecting from them, and is it worth the price in blood?

I would never say no war is worthwhile, but what are reasons that justify one? For the soldier, if they know what they are doing is for a noble cause, it has to help them with what they are going through, but what if it turns out they don't know why they are doing it but they are just following orders and trusting? There is a poem about that-- 'The Charge of the Light Brigade' by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

"Forward, the Light Brigade!"
Was there a man dismay'd?
Not tho' the soldier knew
Someone had blunder'd:
Their's not to make reply,
Their's not to reason why,
Their's but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Memorial Day

The United States Memorial Day (currently set to be the last Monday of May) began in 1865 through one town's desire to honor those who had been killed in the Civil War. Several towns claim they were the first ones, which matters to them; but to the rest of us, the significant thing is it arose from grassroots to eventually be officially declared a United States holiday.

By the time I came along it was more a three-day week-end, family picnics, start of camping season; and if you could fit it in, a time to head up to the cemetery with bouquets of flowers to tidy up your family's gravestones from the winter's invasion of grass and moss.

In our case, all of our parents are buried in a country cemetery a mile or so from our farm on a hill with tall trees surrounding the graveyard. We will drive up the gravel road to there sometime over this week-end. Many of the headstones will have bouquets beside them-- some real flowers and some plastic. After putting flowers by our own family, I will stop by other markers to spend a few moments remembering those I knew and in some cases recalling when they died.

The most meaningful Memorial Day for me was several years ago in Missoula, Montana. It was our first morning there on a vacation, with no plan to do other than walk along the Clark Fork River, which runs through downtown Missoula, when we saw people gathering on the bridge above us. The uniforms on some of the people told us it was some kind of Memorial Day event, and we walked up the steps to join the small group.

Waiting, the atmosphere of the mist in the air, the mountains in the distance all around the city, and the quiet gathering of the aging soldiers it would have been impossible to not feel a stirring deep inside. The ones there that day had come in two groups. One was made up of old veterans in their stiffly pressed uniforms and proud demeanor, very like my deceased father-in-law; the other was Vietnam era veterans who had come in on motorcycles with long hair, scarves, tattoos and an in-your-face attitude, which was no less proud, and very like my brother.

The two didn't exactly blend together, but they did stand side by side under the flag for which they had all served as words were said, songs sung and a trumpet played. It was extremely moving, and I felt tears on my cheeks . An elderly couple walked to the railing and the wife threw a wreath into the river swollen by snow melt. It was quickly carried out of sight.

A wreath thrown into a river, for various purposes, has also been a pagan ritual which to me gave the doing of it added meaning. So many things come from ancient roots and we never know the why. It just seems right (like decorating graves which goes back to Greek and Roman traditions and probably back farther than that). The wreath that morning floating away was a primitive, human way to beautifully express loss and sacrifice-- a symbol for all who prematurely gave up their lives for a cause they believed in or sometimes simply because they were caught up in something from which honor would not let them walk away.

As a country we should never forget those who have given everything for their country. We should do whatever we can to make their sacrifice not be in vain. One way to do this is to honor those currently fighting as well as making sure they have the best equipment we know to provide. I think it behooves us to be sure our government fulfills its promises to all living veterans. Budgets should not be cut at the expense of the soldiers who fought and are fighting. For us, as a nation, that is also an issue of honor.

Finally for anyone with cable TV and an interest in history, check out History Channel Monday night for a program on George Washington. Sounded well worth viewing as he was instrumental in much of what this country came to be. From what I have read, a major factor in why we have a presidency not a monarchy. We always think only one man can't make a difference-- but some can.

(The photo is of our flag which we frequently fly as a symbol of our pride in this nation where we feel blessed to live.)

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Just Jewelry

I don't wear a lot of jewelry and although I own some things I like very much, there are only a few I treasure. I'm sharing four. Their order is not in terms of importance but when they came to matter to me.

There are spiritual meanings to the stones and metals we choose, and it is believed by some that they can help us with various areas of healing. I think we are drawn to what we need if we listen to our inner self and go with our instincts. We don't have to know why Grandma's broach always makes us feel good when we wear it. It could be sentiment but it also could be what it's made from.

The pieces of jewelry I am writing about are silver which is pretty much what I wear right now. Years ago all I wore was gold. Silver is said to be good for mental, emotional and physical releasing and cleansing. Helps one see overviews, achieve emotional balance. Some say it's sacred to the moon and I am very much a moon woman. Silver is also thought to be the mirror to the soul. It aids in speaking and helps to energize other stones especially in the new and full moons. It also draws negative energy from the body and replaces it with positive. Is that why I like wearing silver right now? I don't know. It just feels right to wear.

This Navajo, silver and turquoise bracelet was originally my mother-in-law's and she gave it to me about ten years ago. I liked it and set it aside in my jewelry box with other pieces of silver and turquoise. One morning a year or two later, I was walking up the hill behind this house with a dear friend. I was going through something then which I didn't understand. There were dreams, feelings, things I couldn't explain logically but felt. I was coming to believe past life memories were surfacing.

That morning as she and I walked, we talked of church stuff, our families, but inside, I was mulling over a dream from the night before. One of her two dogs, a hyper one, ran right in front of my legs, tripping me. I tried to save myself but fell hard. The only damage was a bloodied hand where I hit the gravel. It fit with the dreams and seemed to have meaning beyond the blood. I felt a sense of peace about what was happening. That same afternoon, I got into my jewelry box and, without knowing why it would help, put on this bracelet. I wore it every day.

I didn't know it then, but turquoise is for awakening and sacred knowledge. It is a truth stone and symbolizes being honest with who you are. It encourages you to be still and be yourself. When I was feeling past life memories surging forward, this stone would be then helpful in assimilating those into my life. It is also protective and enhances communication skills working at the throat chakra. For someone trying to access past lives, it is clear those things would be useful.

A few years ago, I realized I no longer needed to wear the bracelet all the time. It took a little doing to feel at ease without it on my wrist. Dependency though-- on anything-- is probably not healthy. When I wear it now, it's more casually.

About three or maybe even four years ago, I went for a walk near my Tucson home. When I got home, I realized one of my silver hoop earrings was no longer in my ear. Although they had only cost me $12 at Target, I was quite upset as they were the ones I regularly wore. I looked to buy another pair but they no longer carried ones like mine. For two weeks every time I walked, I looked for the missing hoop but gave up believing I would find it.

One day as I was walking back home along the sandy bridle path and feeling very down about some circumstances in my life, a situation that I felt could never work out right for everyone, I noticed some neighbors coming toward me. I had seen him before but never her. It was the first time I ever saw them walking when I was-- and I might add, the only time. The woman bent to pick up something and I wondered if she collected rocks.

As they came up to me, she put out her hand and asked, "Is this yours?" I was amazed to see my lost earring. I had obviously earlier walked right past it and never seen it. I told her yes and asked how she ever thought it might be mine. She said it just looked like me. It had been stepped on by a horse while out on the trail and had a crinkle in it that was new. It was beautiful to me.

I thanked her, and thought as I walked on that it had been returned to me against all odds and by someone I didn't know. And if that wasn't enough to convince me that we do receive help from outside ourselves, when I stopped to pick up my mail, a CD I had ordered but not been expecting had arrived-- the soundtrack to Against All Odds.

I still wear those earrings pretty much every day and often finger the bend in the one to remind me we are not alone and things do have a way of working out-- against all odds.

Celtic knots are done in many designs and this one was brought to me from Ireland when my son and daughter-in-law returned from living there for awhile. The meaning of the Celtic Knot is debated as there was no written language to explain its significance but many believe it represents the eternal. As with Navajo jewelry, most Celtic is silver.

This mandala was a gift from my daughter for Mother's Day. It is known as the Seed of Life and the design came from a planting stick of a Nepalese farmer. It is believed to be ancient symbol of fertility and abundance and is meant to bring blessings when you wear it.

Jewelry can be simple ornamentation but it also can have spiritual purposes. There are books to explain what various stones may be used for enhancing or healing as well as sites online. If you stop to think about what your favorite pieces are, you might find there are reasons that go deeper than you imagine.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Internet Oooh la la

Sunday, in one of the New York papers online, there was an interesting (to me) article about a woman who put up an internet site to get dates for lunch. She evidently then writes about the men, the meals, and how it all went. Her aim is one hundred men. Since I had read the book 'A Round-Heeled Woman' by Jane Juska, which was about a woman of a certain age who placed an ad in a literary magazine to attract sex and romance to her life, I was definitely intrigued enough to read--Take me out for lunch.

From the looks of it, Babe has all the right moves in her blog to attract men. She was honest about what she's looking for and understood she was putting up an advertisement, not a hundred reasons why a man wouldn't want lunch with her. She was gutsier than I'd ever be by posing in a French maid's costume, but then she had the figure and youth (guessing 30s somewhere) to pull it off. I am assuming the men took the costume as a sign she has a sense of humor. I know I did. She has links to some interesting articles she has written-- one for women who want to meet men through the Internet.

If you aren't single, you likely have no idea how many ways there are for singles and marrieds , to meet up on-line. There are the general match sites like but also niche sites for those who are looking for specific things in a partner-- like one just for millionaires! Or one for the 'beautiful' people where you audition with photos of you.

Maybe as a writer, maybe just as someone curious about people, I have found reading male and female profiles at match sites to be interesting. A profile is where people lay it all out and tell others who they are and what they are looking for. Some lay out more than others. I had a rude awakening at a Yahoo match place where in viewing profiles, it asked if you wanted to see adult profiles. I clicked on yes-- after all, I am an adult. I was definitely not prepared for pictures of what some men think is their best feature (men friends have told me some women do the same. I never went back to check).

A few years ago, in a magazine I enjoy reading, I saw an ad for an online, western oriented, niche site to find friends and mates. I looked over the site, and the men and women there looked like people with whom I'd have something in common.

Having read other people's profiles for awhile, done one of my own, I have a few opinions about what makes effective profiles-- take it for what it is-- simply my opinion. To start, I think writing a profile is good for anybody whether you intend to join such places or not. It forces you to think about who you are, what you are interested in. If you were to succinctly describe yourself, what comes first as being your most important attribute or value? Writing about what you want in someone else is also healthy for similar reasons. You are focusing on 'self' and 'other.'

In profiles, it does no good to ignore issues that would be deal breakers for you-- nor is it helpful to fake who you are. If you did find a friend that way and you had lied about big issues, how long would the relationship last? But you also don't need to lay out your entire life history to people who are basically strangers (some like me reading them out of curiosity). If you are still angry about failed relationships in your past, you are more likely to be successful in a new one if you get rid of that anger toward the opposite sex first. It's amazing how anger shows through in profiles.

When I read other women's profiles at my western site, there were some that were so appealing I would imagine they were bombarded by male interest. Then there were the one-of-a-kind types. One of those I especially remember had a picture cute as can be (think Reba McEntire) but her profile sounded like an extremely sad, country western, cry-in-your-beer song. In meeting someone online, there is a time where you need to let prospective partners know what you have gone through; but in a match site, I don't think it's the profile. Hers read like a soap opera. Was her profile fiction? Whoever knows with such places?

Another young woman with gorgeous pictures described herself as a cattleman's daughter, who could rope, ride, work all day with the cattle or horses and still put on that silky little black dress at night to go out dancing. Her profile read like a romance novel character-- most especially as she described her parents as being former model mother and big handsome rancher dad. I would have loved to see if she attracted the right type of man to deal with the competition of that strong of a father. That's the bad part with reading profiles; you rarely know how the story ends.

For those of you who might someday join a match site, look at your profile, and most especially the photo with it, as fishing. You are putting out bait. Maybe that sounds superficial but it's sometimes easiest to use a simple analogy to understand something. If you joined a match site, you are there to be noticed and by the right kind of fish-- not a shark unless it's what you were fishing for.

A photograph is usually what draws someone in to look at your words. A sexy picture, if sex is not your main goal, is likely going to be a mistake. The photograph, which angle is chosen, what is in the background, what you are wearing, can all be additonal statements about who you are. To not have a picture at all is like dropping the hook in the water without a fly or worm on it. You might attract some to read your words but not nearly as many. I don't personally think (this is clearly a woman's view) glamour or drop-dead-good-looks draws as much response as people who appear interesting, lively, and have a look in their eyes that says they are open, caring and excited about life.

Some think the internet is filled with those searching for cheap flings, obviously for some sites, that's true; but the people I heard from were mostly wanting friends or a partner, their last real love. Certainly there are risks in having a profile up or meeting someone from online. There also is in church, at the neighborhood bar, or anywhere else you meet someone new. From what I observed, the internet is not a bad place to look for love-- if you choose wisely from the people who contact you, don't give out too much information too fast, take some time getting to know each other from a distance, and are careful where you have that first meeting. Oh, and loan nobody money nor pay their plane fare anywhere. The stories I heard....

Saturday, May 20, 2006

The nature of a herd Part II

When Robin Andrea, from Dharma Bums, commented on my blog about what we might learn from the herd, I spent some time thinking on it. There are lessons. Some of them are related to how far we are from survival mode. When a group of humans have to primarily concern themselves with gathering food, their rules for existence change through necessity. Tribes are likely more like herds than more 'advanced' cultures which are generally farther from worrying about enough to eat.

Animals can use some reasoning but instinct is much of what helps them survive. In the herd, they are taught through example and strong discipline. When a calf is small, it is protected by the others. As it grows, it must learn to behave or else. The gentle guiding gives way to harsh training. The herd teaches behavior by butting and dominating. And it won't be just the parents but any larger animal that does the disciplining.

The issue of immigration for humans is a factor also for a herd. The main object of the herd is to protect its existence. You bring a strange cow into their midst and instantly they push it back out. Acceptance generally does happen but over a span of time, and the new animal earning its way through proper behavior-- and for awhile accepting some bullying. This question of slow acceptance happens also when a newborn from a different herd has been grafted onto a mother who lost hers in birthing.

For those who do not know how grafting works, when a mother has lost a newborn, she complains loudly. My husband brings her and the dead calf to the barns. That cow expects him to resurrect it as he is their benefactor, the one they trust for food and care-- to a certain level anyway. He moves the dead one as though it was alive and takes it from the grieving mother's view; then drives off to a dairy to see what they have in newborns and brings back a newborn dairy animal. He skins the dead calf away from the mother and ties the hide to the newborn. It does not take a lot to do the trick with a mother who wants a baby. He then brings back the resurrected baby and the mother is almost instantly accepting. Even though the dairy animal is larger, she is proud she has a baby and off they go in a day or two to the herd where the newborn is inspected by every other animal to be sure it's really one of theirs.

Whenever you compare animals to humans in terms of what lessons we might learn from them, it should be with care. We are animals to a certain level but can fool ourselves and identify too much with them as though Bambi was how it is. It is not. Basically animals cannot project into the future. No cow knows that if it breeds, a calf will follow. They can't think if I eat half of this today, tomorrow half will be left. They do know where food was last found, when it should be there again, and where a weak fence is.

The movie, Ice Age (one of our favorite movies whenever we are stressing), centered around a few animals who banded together and called themselves a herd. They spoke about the loyalty of the herd to each other, one sacrificing for another; and I have seen that with the sheep in particular where the ewe will stay and try to protect her lamb from coyote attack and be killed herself. Is that thinking or instinct? Mostly with sheep, it is run with no hope to protect their young or the old. With a herd, when there is limited feed, the weak are out of luck.

Our cattle graze across their pasture as a group. They have their own cliques within the herd, but together as a band they sleep and eat; and at night, the youngest are in the middle, with the bigger, stronger animals around the edges. Often you will see one older cow with three or four calves around her-- the babysitter. This staying close represents one of the important lessons from the herd especially for small children. My daughter tells her little ones regularly-- stay with the herd. It is when the baby gets to the fringe that it can be lost or picked off more easily by a predator-- human or animal. Predators will always try to cut the vulnerable from the herd and it's the herd's responsibility to prevent that and out maneuver. (In this picture, the cows have seen a deer browsing along the road who eventually bounded into the forest.)

For awhile, this week we more or less gave up on our young mother for raising her calf and located someone who agreed to buy it for his grandchild to raise; however, we kept the two penned together, bottle feeding the little one to supplement. (She will also suck my jeans with her strong survival instinct.) Then Saturday morning when my husband went out to check on them, the mother and her baby were lying together which is the most encouraging sign yet.

An experienced rancher friend of mine suggested making loud noises to the mother whenever the calf is trying to suck, which puts her attention on you as a threat and uses her instincts to protect; and when my husband posed as a threat, she let it nurse without being roped first.

We are crossing our fingers that this baby will, in a week or so, be part of our herd. It's still not a given how it'll work out. I don't name many of our cows; but for obvious reasons, this one is called Star.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The nature of a herd

Tuesday evening, an hour or so before the sun would disappear behind the horizon, I kept hearing the bawl of a cow. That isn't too unusual when they have young calves, but most of our calves are now past the age where cows are concerned if they can't find them right away. Finally, I told my husband he needed to go check (This is called passing the buck, but I had some excuse as I was already in my nightgown).

When he got into the field, he saw an older cow standing over a newborn calf and using her head to point him toward a younger cow down the field. He quickly assessed the situation. The older one was not the mother. She was watching over the newborn calf and alerting my husband that its mother was not doing her job.

The mother was young, small and had just had a large calf. She was off grazing, relieved probably that the 65 pound thing was finally out. Sometimes first time calvers aren't sure what happened-- not to mention worn out by the experience.

My husband came back inside for me and told me I'd have to come out and help him separate the mother from the others to put her in the barn with her new calf. I stuffed my nightgown into jeans and grabbed a shirt to look halfway respectable in case a neighbor drove up the road. He carried the calf into the barn, and then we went after its mother.

I was surprised, but should not have been, how the herd seemed to understand what was being done and didn't spook or even come with us as we gently edged the young mother out and walked her back down to the barn. Once inside, she began to make the low moo that they do to their young . After my husband spent some time getting the calf its first feeding and for awhile will keep an eye on it to be sure it is being fed regularly, it looks like it will make it, and if it does, it'll be thanks to that old cow. Whether the young mother will adequately care for it or whether it has to be orphaned out, it will live. Cow mothers are not automatically good ones though. Think teen-ager when you think of this one and you have it. Some are good moms that young and some are not.

People who are not used to being around cows often think they are dumb creatures with no feelings. Wrong! They do reason, some more than others, and their instincts are strong. Most of them care for their families and that can include several generations in a herd. If a cow and her grown calf are separated, even years later, when they meet up again, it's nose to nose, lick lick, and boy am I glad to see you.

When any animal dies on the place, the cows gather round and again express themselves loudly. Something happened that was not supposed to. Coyote on the place? Cows are there first to chase it out of the field. The cows have hierarchies where there are alpha and beta animals and yes, those who get pushed out of the herd to stand on the fringes. If you ever spend time with a herd of cows-- a functioning herd with bull, his ladies and all their babies-- you can only have respect for the nature of the cow.

One year, before we understood how a bull took care of his herd, we had a steer killed down around the house and let the cattle be in there right afterward. Our bull at that time was named Lawrence and although he normally had a very gentle nature, that day he went crazy. He circled the house for hours. Every time he'd get soothed a bit by having gone away from the scene of the death, he'd come back around and start his loud bellowing all over again. I have never heard such a sound of pain and yes, rage. It was awesome and I was not about to be out there that day to get in his way of circling. Eventually he left, but not before a suitable wake.

We have the privilege of being able to raise these animals to feed others and we also can allow the cows to live out their lives here; something big ranches, where economics have to be primary, usually cannot do. We also are close enough to watch the interaction of the herd animals to each other. That is the greatest privilege.

(first picture of calf is when about 12 hours old-- second at 24 hours. She is, by the way, a heifer)

Monday, May 15, 2006


I have a question but first want to lay some groundwork for it. George Bush claims to be a Christian. The Republican party speaks of its moral superiority over the other one. In fact Ann Coulter has written a new book labelling the 'other' side evil. Christianity is why American people should trust Republicans more than Democrats is that not correct? Yes, there was also patriotism, that the 'other' guys are wimps but in general many people especially in the religious community did support Bush and his people based on a belief they were Christians who would bring their righteousness and goals into politics. So what things that Christ taught are part of this political agenda?

Bush, with the support of the right, has for instance claimed the right to make preemptive strikes when he has decided it's a security issue for this country. So do we need a new translation of Jesus' words to suit this? No longer will it be-- if someone slaps you, turn the other cheek, but instead-- watch that sucker's eyes and if he has slapped other people and you have reason to think he's moving suspiciously you slap him first.

Were the poor different back in Jesus' time? Maybe what he really should have said is don't bother sharing your coat with the needy because it's their own lazy fault they got in that spot and giving them a coat keeps them there.

With a new translation, it wouldn't be about how hard it'd be for a rich man to get into heaven but instead-- You can buy your way into heaven by giving money to your favorite charities (especially us) and that leaves you plenty to lavish on your own desires since you made a fortune from overcharging the poor (think oil company profits here).

Maybe a new parable is needed about how it is the government's duty to help the rich get richer by making sure as little money of theirs as possible goes into government programs that might help those lazy poor. This, of course, is done in the best interest of the poor as everybody knows giving alms to them only keeps them poor.

I'm sure it's obvious to anyone who reads this blog that I disagree with a lot of what the Republican party does, but what has bothered me as much is the justification that they are doing it in the name of God. So they are upset about pornography and obscenity on cable television, someone else's abortions (because nobody makes anybody have one), public schools not allowing public prayer or teaching properly, and gay marriages; but the issues Christ actually talked about like not judging others, not being greedy, watching you don't get falsely prideful, giving to the ones who need, praying in a closet, not being a religious phony and so on-- those are not being discussed.

What has added to my vexation lately has been the left wing, evidently fearing they are losing out, are beginning to say hmmmm if we want to win an election, we have to be like them in how we talk. So they must talk up their regular church attendance, open their Bibles to the scripture about how Jesus said-- Ye must protect the spotted owl.. or beware the global warming! No actual scriptures on that? Well surely we can twist one to fit. Piety is in and the louder the better. No politician appears able to win if they don't thump a Bible now and again but how many look to see what it is in that book?

Okay, that was a rant, but the main question comes back to the first one. Are preemptive strikes Christian? For instance, is a Christian, as Bush claims he is, justified in bombing a country because he has reason to believe they might eventually build a nuclear bomb and even more reason to believe their leader is a nutcase-- at least as it appears to Americans? The question I have is not whether preemptive action in the case of Iran is politically smart. That can be debated another time, but is it Christian?

I know the arguments I would hear if someone reads this who supports Bush. It'd be if your child was killed brutally what would you do? If you don't like our country, go somewhere else! You are helping the enemy! Anytime you find fault with Bush's administration, it's always back to being unpatriotic-- as though Bush was the country; but this question is not about government or strategic decisions. It is a spiritual question. Can a Christian, who claims to be following Christ, use preemptive action to start a war? You know-- Slap that guy before he gets a chance to slap you. And if a Christian can't, who are these guys who speak piously but act the opposite politically?

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Outside or Inside

Because I intend to write in here about spiritual topics now and again, as I did with DaVinci Code, I felt it would be right for me to explain where I am coming from. My spiritual path has not been exactly a straight line-- more of a jog this way and that. Some tell their spiritual stories as an example of others to follow. Mine is not like that but simply how it was for me then and now. It seems to fall into four parts. I have no idea if there will be more changes to come.

As a child, I grew up in a household where there were Bibles, some talk of God, but no religious ties. We attended local churches off and on but none for long enough to feel a part of it. In one church my mother talked later of feeling embarrassed when the pastor spoke of how good it was that people with nice coats could sit beside those with poor coats, and she knew she was the one with the poor coat. We were outsiders in any church we attended. In our home, moral guidelines were taught as much by example as words. Even as a small child, I felt the presence of God with me. I didn't try to define what that presence was.

When I reached young adulthood, I began looking for a religion I could join-- one that would help me worship God. Plus, I wanted to be on the inside for a change. My choice ended up, after visiting a lot of churches, Roman Catholic. I liked the artistic structure, the age-old history. My husband and I took instruction and were baptized in Tucson, Arizona. I enjoyed the aesthetic, emotional, and spiritual feeling of the church. When our children came along, they were baptized into the Catholic Church also, but we held back from having them taught there. There were a few reservations I had about the teachings, but we attended Mass regularly and taught our children about God at home. For years it worked-- about 13 or so. Then because of things I had come to believe, it changed. It was time to go onto something else.

Next came a rural Evangelical Church. It was a small pioneer community church, the kind that some of the farmers came to services fresh from the barns, with manure still caked on their boots, and everybody was just glad to see them. The pastors never commented on it; most of them wore boots too. During those years I read through the Bible many times, found structure, and came to believe I understood the principles behind the words. Church was a place to meet friends, serve in the community, for our children to attend Sunday school, for us to participate in helping the church grow. There came a time when the church's beliefs and mine were no longer the same and it was again time to move on-- after about 13 years. Amazingly enough in all of these moves, my husband and I were in sync.

From each of these experiences, I took with me things which are part of who I am spiritually today. In the Catholic Church, the mysticism, the magic, and yes, the occult are still of interest to me. In the country church there was being part of a community and a certain solidness of learning and serving.

When I am in Tucson, I usually find a time to go out to San Xavier, also called the White Dove of the Desert. I light candles; some I buy to take home with me. No one can explain mysticism or magic and I don't attempt to; but when my daughter was pregnant with her second child, she had bleeding, and there was concern that she might miscarry. At San Xavier, in the alcove you see in this picture, I lit a candle for that baby to be allowed to be born and my daughter to be healthy. Was that why that next week she felt better and the bleeding stopped? I wouldn't try to prove it was connected; but over a year later, when my first grandson was almost a year old, I managed to get back out to the church and light another candle of thanks.

On the white draped image of the saint, you see in this picture, often there are many requests and thanks pinned to the cloth with small religious icons and sometimes photographs. I always wonder what the story is behind them. Yes, it's a blend of Christianity and paganism; but that suits me, as I am, just fine.

Today, I call myself a pagan Christian, a description which neither Christians nor most pagans think is possible. It's the closest I can come to my belief in the things Christ taught but also my belief in nature and how it can heal. I don't personally practice rituals or cast spells but I find the practice of doing such of interest. I have yet to light a bonfire and dance naked around it on Beltane, but you never know what the future might hold. I do read Tarot cards sometimes, know quite a bit about astrology, read metaphysical books, have explored reincarnation, consider dreams important, have visited psychics, and probably would be considered damned by both the churches I used to regularly attend. I am back on the outside, but this time by choice.

The picture is a medicine wheel we made along the creek that edges this farm. It will have to be put together again after the winter floods. Medicine wheels represent that spiritual truths come from the four directions and from many peoples. In the same place, the youth group from the local church used to come and sing songs and have night bonfires. In the same place I can go and sit along the creek, cry, talk to God, and feel comforted.

I believe I am in a church today, but it's not a building nor organization. It's friends, the people I meet and talk to about spiritual beliefs. It's teachers who come into my life, books, animals, nature, sacred places that can be found everywhere (like Bear Butte holy to the Lakota and Cheyenne); and it's in me. I don't try to define the mystery of existence and life. I do try to do what is right, as I understand it, day by day. I don't know that I will ever regularly attend a traditional church again-- but I don't know that I won't either. I see value in religion but also risk. It can stifle but it can also help give people boundaries and foundation.

If I were ever to be in another church, I'd want it to be one of love-- one that let people grow freely in whichever direction they felt drawn. Let them explore like children in the wilderness picking from this branch or that, warning them to avoid the poisonous ones, but mostly letting them learn by experiencing and to grow without fear. Fear to me is the opposite of true spiritual experience.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The choices we make

Because this blog, among other things, is intended to discuss aging, I decided to write about something I hadn't been sure I ever would, but it is something all of us face-- male and female-- in one form or another as part of getting old-- hormonal changes. Since we are all different, my experience is not any guidepost but simply what it was for me as an aging woman.

When I was 54, I finally got a diagnosis for something that had been troubling me for several years. The pain reached a point where I went in for a series of tests which determined I needed a complete hysterectomy. It was a shock as that was not jotted down in my life plan; but the doctors (two opinions) thought it was possible it was cancer and there was no putting it off. It was not cancer, and I made a great recovery from the surgery; however, it led to something else I had also not been thinking I'd do-- hormone replacement therapy.

I could have gone into surgical menopause but opted instead to take the prescription the doctor recommended, and we worked out the dosage by how I felt. Which was incidentally better than I had for years before that time. (Perimenopause-- the time before menopause-- is an interesting time. Mostly women don't know a lot about what to expect other than books and word of mouth experiences of others. Some doctors are a help but others appear to know less than we do.)

Since then, I have read whatever comes along regarding taking hormones. To begin with, it was mostly positive; but starting a few years ago, came one article after another on negative test results for HRT. I read what I could find which didn't define much, asked my doctor about it, evaluated it all carefully. Mostly it has been--
If I do this, I increase my risk. Oh wait, if I do that, I decrease risks. Your risks are increased by this percentage over what they were before-- whatever that was. The reading alone can cause a person to age 10 years, but I did it because I wanted to be responsible in my choices.

One thing I evaluated was the age people live to be today and how many of those years did I want to live without estrogen and progesterone? Then I considered quality of life vs quantity. I didn't want to do herbal remedies as most of those are not as well tested; and to me if you take anything to a medicinal level-- in other words enough of it to impact your body-- you are taking a medicine-- whatever it's called.

A year ago I finally did enough research on bioidentical hormones and worked out from online sources what my dosage should be to match the artificial ones. I found out there was a compounding pharamacy close to where I live, which is what you really want if you are taking bioidentical as ideally you take the estrogen twice a day. The bioidentical doesn't last as long as the chemical.

When I went in for my physical last year, I requested the new prescription and changed over to them this winter. Before I began, I had a saliva test at the pharmacy to determine my current hormone levels and it was decided the dosage I had calculated was correct for now anyway. I paid for that test myself and never had any doctor offer to do one in the clinic where I go. Probably other doctors would have done it differently, but it was worth it to me to pay for that test which will be repeated about 6 months after the first to see how the bioidentical compares. I also am now paying for my own hormones and not getting them through an insurance plan anymore as it seems insurance plans are less happy with compounding pharmacies. By the time the co-pay was figured in, my cost is not much increased.

I do plan to someday go off these but not right now. I don't kid myself that bioidentical hormones could not have the same risk as the others. I am taking a medicine that impacts my body; but I also am not ready to give up estrogen just yet. I am not taking mine to prevent hot flashes, as I really never had many of those so don't know that would have been; but it has been for an overall sense of well being. They do not prevent aging, but maybe for me they are part of aging gracefully or is that gradually?

Anyway I would be happy to answer questions if anyone is still facing this choice for themselves. I certainly am no expert and can only discuss my own experiences. No women in my family before me took hormone replacements. It's not the natural way, but first my body and then I opted to interfere with natural. Whether that was wise or not is yet to be determined.

The picture above is from last week-end up the Molalla River in Oregon. It's my most recent which was one reason to use it, but it is also of a river which is fast moving, many rocks in it, some rapids, pools, who knows what lies around the bend-- kind of like life.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Causes are not reasons

One of my routine practices when I first wake is to lie in bed, not open my eyes or talk and try to reclaim whatever was there from the night. Sometimes that's pleasant and sometimes upsetting, but I am one who believes the night can provide solutions for the day -- if we listen. Is it our subconscious or a spirit guide or...? Who can say from where such images and words come. I should be more conscientious about writing these things down in a dream journal but to be honest, I am not. With a really strong dream, I will but otherwise, I let them go and most likely lose opportunities to see patterns.

This morning, I woke with the words-- causes are not reasons. My first thought on it was the usual-- from where'd that come? There was no dream with it. The words at first didn't seem connected to my day. My next thought was that most would consider those two words interchangeable.

After a few cups of coffee and breakfast, I've thought more on it and decided where words have meanings and the dictionary usually tells them to us, we can also assign our own nuances-- which works as long as we only talk to those in agreement with us or where we have first explained our meanings.

I considered what those words mean to me and why they are not the same. My definitions are: Cause is what. Reason is why. If you want to reverse them, that's fine with me; but the essential thought is that to see what is happening does not mean we know the why of it. Often we are bombarded by the causes of things but with no clue what the reason was behind them. Likewise excuses are not reasons.

Examples: Immediate cause of being fat is eating too much food. Reason might be more complex from hormonal imbalances, metabolism changes, to emotional needs not being filled. The cause of our barn going down was the wood was rotten, had insect damage and the roof was far too dangerous to be worked on-- physical elements and all very biological. The reason went further back. Its value was mostly aesthetic and the cost of repair far exceeded any economic value. When we bought the place, its prior uses had already planted the seeds for its eventual destruction.

For our personal lives, looking at what is happening is beneficial to a point but more important is to go to the reason behind it.

Was that the meaning of those words I woke with? Did they even have meaning? I am sure some would say they didn't. For me, I can't say for sure, but it's what came to me this morning. The main lesson to me is what it has been-- don't lose those first morning thoughts.

(Addendum: I thought my piece here was finished when I posted it --until I got the call from the doctor about my skin biopsy from last week which turned out to not be totally good news-- actinic keratosis which is benign but potentially precancerous and will require my going into another doctor to have the rest of my skin looked at for others. Sooooo looking at the words for this morning-- the cause is not the reason... I would say I need to be looking for some emotional reasons for why maybe this happened-- warnings to me about attitudes of mine.. Oh yeah and be in the direct sunlight less.... that goes back to the cause part... dang!)

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Farm Opinions

When something happens on the farm, such as death of an animal, attack by predators or yes, the barn going down, the animals who live here have an opinion about it. Since I gave the human view in the last blog, I thought it only fair to illustrate the animals' opinions. Since they don't speak to me verbally, pictures will have to do it.

The cows avoided even coming near the barn until later. I think there might've been a little sense of-- we didn't do it. Since every time a fence goes down, they did do it-- or at the least took advantage of it. There's not a lot of advantage to a barn on the ground-- no food to be had there, nothing really that interesting but they definitely had to inspect the damage and decide how the change might impact them. I am sure the fact that a new barn was constructed last fall would reassure them if they could put 2 and 2 together but that only usually happens when the tractor is heading out of the barn with a hay bale on the back.

The lambs came back as they were quite close when it happened, but they appeared to mostly wish they had gotten to be inside when it went down like last year's lamb. Perhaps trying to decide if there still was a way in... Makes humans think fencing might be good for awhile.

The wild geese felt it was much to-do about nothing.

Friday, May 05, 2006

End of a Goliath

It was 1977 when we first saw the barn. Even then it was a proud, overbearing structure that dominated its ground. It had been used for hay and grain storage, milking cows, lambing sheep, raising horses by humans as well as many generations of owls and barn swallows that definitely didn't feel the loft belonged to anyone but them.

I loved it because it was so old. The timbers were handhewn and maybe older than the barn. Back when it was built in 1910, farmers often recycled parts to build new structures and so this barn might've gone back into the late 1800s. The story of the Donation Land Claim it rose on was interesting all on its own.

For awhile we tried to maintain it, keep it usable but it wasn't practical for today's farming methods. It was beautiful but it was also rotting and the money required to rebuild it was way more than we could afford. By the time we might've been able to afford it, it was too late

Today it gave a mighty sigh and sunk to the earth. We had been expecting it to go down. Every windstorm that blew past, we'd look each morning to see if maybe that one would have taken it, but it stood against those. Time it couldn't withstand.

The barn served us and the animals on this place well for all the years we have been here; and it provided its last service today, as between its beams, it cradled a sheep that had been sleeping there to stay cool and saved its life. When we went out to look at the damage, we heard the sheep's plaintive cry. My husband was able to talk the young one out; and unharmed, it had quite a story to tell the others-- if sheep can relate such adventures.

I am sad tonight because it was something very special to have that old barn on this place. But like those old timers did when they built it, we will see what we can salvage from its parts. Some will be siding for the new barn and just maybe some of those hand-hewn beams will someday grace a living room. Its shape will have changed, but its spirit is not gone.

Thursday, May 04, 2006


Because they are fun, not serious, I like these little tests. I found this one on Sierra Sage's blog who was linked from Tortoise Trail. (This time I kept track of my own trail.)

Unlike some tests that involve several pages of questions, this one is short and sweet. I thought the results were funny given my chosen name. Is it accurate? Let me know whether it was for you-- my husband just chuckled when he was asked if it was for me...

You Are Rain

You can be warm and sexy. Or cold and unwelcoming.
Either way, you slowly bring out the beauty around you.

You are best known for: your touch

Your dominant state: changing

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Resource Allocation

I know-- weighty sounding title. Like it belongs in an intellectual study magazine or something, but the concept is simple. Resources are out there and one way or another, they get divided up. One of the things we see consistently as a problem in the news is someone who doesn't like how the allocation is working for them and wants to change it-- peacefully or violently. Some start out with a peaceful approach and end with the violent one. Haves-- have. Have nots-- want.

There are two possible ways to look at the world-- it's an abundant place with sufficient resources for us all (if we aren't greedy)-- or it's a place of scarcity and you must get yours now or somebody else will. This is true for relationships, material possessions and pretty much you name it.

In a time of reallocating resources, there are bound to be conflicts when you are dealing with human beings (immigration issues worldwide, Darfur, Arab conflicts, Bolivia nationalizing their petroleum industry, and on and on). When the fear is there is never enough for you or when you want power over others for what you already have, often you will do anything to get more. Starve others, no problem. Bomb them-- what time? Use people for your financial gain-- great!

Anybody old enough to remember the song One Tin Soldier? That link btw also has the music to the song with it if you haven't heard it before. I really liked those old Billy Jack movies with a lot of truth in them on a shoestring production. The song was in my mind a few years ago when the war fires were being stirred to go into Iraq. People I mentioned it to then didn't see the connection. War drums incite powerful internal urges. War has been one of the main tools used to reallocate resources. And the reallocation often proves to be hollow when it's all done. What you thought you'd get, often isn't at all what ended up being there.

One of the hardest concepts in this world to come to understand or to absorb into your daily life is that we might be all linked together-- not just humans but animals, earth, spirit, everything. If we truly saw ourselves as part of a whole, we would operate so differently than when we believe we are each autonomous and what we do to damage another doesn't harm us-- if we get away with it. As part of a whole, seeing another part of yourself suffering would cause you to reach out to help. Who could want one part of their body to be starving while another was glutonizing? As part of a whole you would not want to cheat anybody as that would be like cheating yourself. As part of a whole, if you knew someone needed help, you would try to provide it in a meaningful way-- throwing money at problems is not meaningful.

I don't have a solution to this, of course, except once again to be aware what is happening in your own thinking, your life and your government. Do what you can when you can or the alternative is--

"Go ahead and hate your neighbor, go ahead and cheat a friend.
Do it in the name of heaven, justify it in the end.
There won't be any trumpets blowin' come the judgment day
on the bloody morning after one tin soldier rides away."