Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Vision and Process

In all the years I have been painting (well over 40 with oils), I have never been able to totally convey my vision onto a canvas. What I see in my head is so good and then I paint it. Where did that come from! I understand about serendipity, fortunate accidents, but I have this feeling that I should be able to convey my vision to that durned canvas which hasn't ever totally happened. I don't want to copy someone else's work. I want to develop my own, with my feelings showing through the colors, composition and subjects. Frustrated by the difference between what I see and what I create, sometimes I would stop painting for a few years, but I have always come back to it. Painting for me is about passion and feeling. How could I, despite the frustration, not want to experience that!

Last summer I wrote about painting with the computer, which I came to see as painting with light. It's more like the Navajo and Tibetan sand paintings than what is traditionally considered to be 'fine art.' Although I could print what I have done, even make note cards, for me, the main advantage has been taking away the pressure of having to create a product. Working with the computer with no pressure has totally been about vision and process. A few people have asked how does this work, and on Saturday morning I decided to do one, saving the steps, to write about.

Not always do I use a photograph for my inspiration. Sometimes the idea comes from dreams or imagination. Because I felt a photograph would best show the process, I chose one I had taken in Montana some years back when I was on a country road as a small cattle drive came past. I never mind getting stopped by such drives and hope the ranchers don't mind that I take their pictures. They probably get used to it. I have such photos from all across the west, sometimes of whole families with Mama driving the truck, the kids and Dad moving the herd, and occasionally even grandparents helping out.

To use as my subject, the photograph could have been printed, but what I think is simpler and better, given no print looks as good as what is on the screen, is reduce the photograph so it and the yet to be created 'canvas' can be on monitor at the same time. It helps to have a large monitor.

With my version of Corel Photo-Paint 7, the blank canvas is created under file to new where you can choose whatever size you want. The nice thing about the computer is supposing you later decide you need bigger or want to change the proportions, you copy it and paste it onto a new size or can crop to a smaller size. Definitely this process spoils the artist.

After clicking on the paint icon, I began with a big soft crayon tool. I chose colors that would provide the structure for the eventual painting. This is all very similar to my process in creating an oil painting. Another alternative is to paint a canvas all one color and let that peek through for a homogeneous feeling to the finished work (not bad spiritual analogy either for how we are all inter-connected.

Next, using a watercolor tool, I began finding the best colors for sky and background. This is where working on the computer really spoils you because there is no waiting for anything to dry. (This particular computer painting from start to finish took about 2 hours).

Blocking in the animals and figures came next; and for that, different tools were alternated-- small soft, custom fine felt, and soft and sharp tip. I added more cattle where I felt they better suited the feeling I wanted. I saw no benefit to the piece of highway.

More detail appeared as I worked from the easiest-- cattle which only required simple, suggestive shapes; to the more complex horses and riders. As with my oil painting, my computer painting is impressionistic-- not the literal colors or photographic representation but my feeling about the subject.

The father and his horse seemed to be the heart of this painting. If they weren't right, nothing else would compensate. The nice thing about painting on the computer is if something doesn't work, I simply wipe it out and start over. I have the confidence also of knowing I can revert back to the last saved version-- I save whenever I am happy with what I just did. With an oil painting, experimentation can lead to the need to scrape down and start over.

As I worked with the figures, sometimes I enlarged the canvas to enhance certain details more than would have been possible in the smaller size. The advantage of beginning with a smaller canvas is you can expand but also more easily see how the composition is working than if it doesn't all fit on the screen.

With a final save, I felt I was there. I could have done more detail, but I believe that you should use the least you can, to convey what you intend; and for me this is where it ends.

This is one of two somewhat different studies I did for the eventual oil painting. They provided practice and let me discover what the oil might look like, where the problems are going to be. I consider these to be quick studies.When you look at the original photograph, you might wonder why bother to paint it as it was pleasing on its own; but there are several reasons for painting something. One is the soul connection you get to your subject. You look at it, feel it inside, and take its energy into you as you work on shape, colors, decide what to include, and what to leave out. At a certain point, what you are doing ceases to be about the original concept or photo, but takes on a life and energy of its own. It demands that which will fulfill it.

For me there is also my desire to paint Western subject matter. Doing the work on the computer has taught me a great deal about animals which have never been my forte. In all my years of painting and sculpting, animals were purposely not on the menu. I painted landscapes and people, sculpted people (with a couple of wolves thrown in which always bordered on looking like German Shepherds); but with the modern West as subject matter, there have to be horses, cattle and usually dogs.

A horse is challenging all on its own, and add to that a person on its back and the challenge multiplies. With riders, you can't just paint someone with a horse, it has to look like that person is connected to the animal and moving with it. Then there is the little matter of proportions which always challenge me whether working with the computer or a brush. Now that I am back to painting with oils, I will see if these six months of 'spirit' paintings have helped move me closer to capturing that vision.

(All images can be enlarged.)

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Star Wars Part Two

For you, who have already seen all six Star Wars films, what I am about to say will be like-- well duh! For me seeing them all this month was an eye opener. I expected to enjoy watching Star Wars IV, V and VI, but I had always avoided Star Wars I, II and III. Can any trilogy that kills Liam Neeson in Part I be good? I thought not.

The reviews I had read of the films were poor as they were compared to the last three. (Using words like first and last, when discussing these movies, is confusing. First is last. I will try to stick to Roman numerals.) I also thought why did the beginning stories matter? Why would Lucas go back there when it has to be tragic? We already know the Empire is going to win until VI; so what was the point of such a negative set of stories?

There might be other theories on why those first three films are of such value; but for me, Star Wars I, II and III are more pertinent today than I probably would have felt when they first came out. They are stories about the birth of evil, how it happens, and how a culture slips into accepting evil leadership.

Star Wars I is the weakest of the lot which may be why many people, who saw it, never bothered with the rest. Star Wars I lays groundwork for what is to come, but it's not a strong film. When II comes along, you begin to see what Lucas had in mind. He is showing us through a sympathetic character-- yes, Anakin, who becomes Darth Vader, is sympathetic-- how someone who didn't start out intending to become evil can go down that path.

It came out of his character not being well grounded, allowing fear and anger to cloud reason, misplaced values, not knowing who to trust, and because of others who knowingly or otherwise played on his weakness.

Sometimes people, who mean well, do wrong without thinking where step one is going to lead. In my opinion, where it came to Anakin, the Jedi fell into that category. One part of what sends Anakin into his tailspin was something from the Jedi themselves. They were more mature, saw a bad situation developing, and asked Anakin to do something that, as he understood it, went against the Jedi code, something that he had been taught was inviolate. Someday he might have understood rules must be bent, but he wasn't ready for that understanding, and frankly they knew it. It's a good example to keep in mind for parents with young children. You can't tell them not to lie and then ask them to tell the boss you are not home when you are.

Most important in these stories is seeing how a culture, in the name of security, can trade away its freedom. Sound like something we have been living through? I highly recommend seeing I, II and III. Together they form a whole that is worth keeping in mind as we seem to be living in a time with a lot of parallels.

We have already seen a lot of things happening that would have been hard to believe 6 years ago-- freedoms given up, torture justified, killings condoned, and many people have nodded their heads and said okay. Is it really so impossible to believe we could reach a point where our current government refuses to give up the reins of power and has enough people in key positions that they can't be stopped? When you don't care when evil is done to keep yourself safe, you can soon find out that the evil is being done to you.

To me in many ways, Lucas created a stronger set of parables in Star Wars I, II and III than in IV, V, and VI-- even though the latter have their own lessons and are a lot more fun to watch.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Celestine Prophecy

When I watched The Celestine Prophecy DVD, I knew I'd write about it. I thought it'd be easy. After all , years ago I read the book. I liked the movie for how it followed, illustrated and beautifully brought to life the book. In spite of those expectations, it hasn't proven easy to write about.

Part of my problem is I can't decide what to emphasize. The plot? well there isn't a unique plot. Characters? It's not about the characters. This movie falls under my second category of spiritual films-- those where story is only a vehicle for the ideas. The story isn't bad, but it's just not what most matters.

I am not sure in what year I first read the book, 'The Celestine Prophecies.' I had noticed the title as being a bestseller but hadn't decided to read it until it had been recommended by several people I respected. They said Celestine explains some principles they thought I would find valuable for my spiritual growth.

The story is a kind of parable which relates a man's journey in experiencing the insights as he joins with others who are attempting to save ancient scrolls which reveal these insights. There are those, secret forces and some in the church, who want to destroy the scrolls as it threatens their faith.

The film is beautifully filmed, adequately acted, and since the screenplay was written by Redfield, the insights unfold like in the book. If you have read the book and liked its message, I think you would like the movie.

So where is my problem? Well if you haven't read the book, I am trying to decide which of the insights would be most meaningful, most encourage you to give the DVD a chance.

The underlying premise of Celestine is that even though it might seem like it, nothing happens by coincidence and everything in our life has meaning if we are looking for it. Did a stranger say something unexpected? Did you have a dream that didn't seem to come out of your daily life? Have you recognized a certain event or feeling repeating itself? Do you feel a tingle when you read or hear something? These have come to encourage our awareness of life and its meaning. When we are aware not only will we act differently but even see differently.

The film, of course, does not hold all the answers. Actually nothing outside ourselves does, but, I believe, it is part of the package-- a good beginning if you haven't been exposed to such ideas before.

Some would say this film is New Age hocus-pocus, but it's really not contradictory to any religion. What it is about are things like meaningful coincidences, control dramas, seeing the energy surrounding every living thing, looking at our relationships for whether they are stealing or enhancing our energy (and likewise what are we doing for others), and the need to work together for making life a heaven here on earth. Maybe that's the threat. If life here was heavenly, there are those who think nobody would choose to know God. They are wrong but it could be that is the real fear.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

superficial impressions

Most of us do it, whether we admit to it or not, form instant opinions about people when we first see them. If we have lived awhile, we realize those instant assessments are often wrong; and we try to limit how much we let it impact our openness to getting to know the person and finding out the looks weren't the package.

People meet a beautiful woman and assume she's stuck on herself and spends too much time in front of a mirror or a homely woman and assume she will have a more loving personality and not spend much time on beauty care. Blondes are supposed to be less intelligent, brunettes more so. Does that make any sense-- unless peroxide leaches out brain cells! Superficial, quick judgements about people, regarding what kind of personality will go with their looks, are usually wrong, but...

One of my own instant impressions regards mustaches. I really like them-- and the older the man is, the more appealing I find it. I have no idea why I would feel so strongly about it; except, I took a test awhile back that rated our feminine vs masculine tendencies. It used our finger proportions and then had a series of questions. One of them was to look at a string of photos and see which one we preferred. We chose our own sexual preference for which sex we evaluated. For me, to a high percentage, I preferred the rougher, more masculine faces. Mustaches are definitely masculine. If a woman gets one, she usually immediately does something to remove it.

I am not as fond of beards as they cover up too much of the face, goatees are okay but what really draws my eye is a mustache. Which is rather unfortunate considering we are living in an era where mustaches are 'out' in movie stars and politicians. Could a mustached man win a major political seat?

Now in the world where I live, which is country, I do see more men with mustaches and beards. If I were to move farther into what some would say was the West (as opposed to the left coast), it would be even more so. Amen for the West!

Sure, that's a superficial reason to admire a man's face, but come on, isn't George Clooney really Clark Gable except for lack of a mustache?

It has to be a full, neatly trimmed mustache and not one of those little bitty things. I also don't find so appealing real big onesthat hide the mouth totally, go way down and curl up on the ends with mustache wax-- popular (besides as villains in silent picture days) among some wranglers in a few parts of the west.

For me, even John Wayne, who was normally clean-shaven, was sexier looking and yes-- even him-- more manly with that mustache he wore in the cavalry westerns made in Monument Valley-- Fort Apache, Rio Grande, and She Wore a Yellow ribbon.

Let's see where was I besides lamenting the fact more men don't grow mustaches today? Oh yes, superficial attractions. Is there something that is probably superficial but always catches your eye in other people?

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Lady in the Water

For some time I wanted to see the movie, Lady in the Water. It sounded mystical and full of imagery which always appeals to me in anything. The film is based on a bedtime story that M. Night Shyamalan told his children. He wrote, produced, acted in, and directed Lady in the Water. He was the creative force beyond Sixth Sense and Signs among others.

An apartment manager, Paul Giamatti, finds a beautiful young woman, Bryce Dallas Howard, swimming in the apartment complex swimming pool. He gradually discovers why she is there and that he has a purpose to fulfill in helping her with her mission. The truths he discovers are not simple and he works hard to unravel the symbols. He, as well as the other characters, face danger that is very real even if something none of them would have imagined existed.

I am not sure why the film received so little critical approval. Possibly because it isn't standard fare, no particular religious message, and a bit confusing to follow; but that's purposeful as you are trying to do what the characters are-- discover what is happening.

The best part for me, besides the beauty of the imagery, was how all of the characters had a purpose. They may have been living seemingly meaningless lives, but they were where they were for possibly one moment that they would fulfill that purpose and change events for many others.

To me that explores a question most of us have faced at one time or another-- Do we matter? Is there a greater purpose to our existence; and even if we find it, can we fulfill it?

For these characters, it didn't matter if they believed in the supernatural, wanted to, or didn't, they were destined for something that had been invisible to them but then suddenly was right in front of them. It took all of them working together to solve the puzzle of what that might be, then step up to bat, and be counted.

Lady in the Water is an adult fairy tale with a deeper message. Coincidence and unseen forces are out there. They can be more significant than we can guess or maybe in some cases ever know. The message is-- be aware, be open and be ready. Opportunities are gained and lost. They don't always come twice.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Star Wars

Because I try to keep this blog positive for the most part, there is a lot I read which I don't write about. I have had this feeling we are getting enough negative news; and if I write only about that, the blog won't help anybody-- including me. But this was such a powerful column by Jane Smiley that I really feel anybody who remotely still supports George Bush should read her character analysis of him. She is a great writer of novels but also an astute political commentator.

I also read Frank Rich this morning in the NY Times. He alone is worth paying for the subscription. I have been told some of his columns see the light of day other places; so, if you don't subsribe, keep your eyes open for the one written January 21. Not only was his piece powerful on what has happened and is happening in Iraq, but he had tons of links for those who doubt what he's saying.

As I thought on all of this, I remembered the impact, watching Star Wars IV, V, and VI in sequence for the last three nights, had on me. The use of the Force was an important truth (The Secret way back then) ,but the more important point was that when we allow anger or fear to control us, the Darkside wins. Whether we are on the good side, as Luke was, or the bad side, if we let fear or anger dominate us, we will end up on the Darkside.

So when we read our newspaper articles, when we listen to our friends or family members who still support what we see as nearly a madman, we have to do it with the power from the good, not the power of the bad-- fear and anger.

Frankly the far right manipulate to get either one; and if you believe the philosophy from Star Wars, they don't care much which. First choice is fear, but if that doesn't work, anger incapacitates our ability to really win. Yes, it's important for us to know what's going on but not if it lets the twin bad guys dominate us. They are more dangerous to our chance of genuine change than Bush or his ilk ever will be.

If you are feeling down right about now, I highly recommend digging out your old copies of Star Wars or heading down to the video store, then settling in for a movie-a-thon. I don't think I had seen them since they originally came out which made them almost new to me. (The only possible negative was realizing the first one came out in 1977. Harrison Ford is about my age. He looked so young and so must I have. How did 30 years go so fast?)

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Spiritual Films

Winter evenings, being so long and dark, are good times for families to play games, watch television, read books, or have long discussions. I love a fire in the fireplace, lots of candles, but also find this a time to watch films that expand my thinking. The best ones make me think of spiritual questions, answer them, or simply provide inspiration for living a spirit-filled life.

I cannot remember a time I have not enjoyed such movies. The first time I saw Ben-Hur was at a drive-in with my mother and brother. I loved the intensely spiritual nature of the plot and characters so much that I went back to see it a week later.

I did skip seeing one of the most popular recent such films-- The Passion of the Christ. Not because I have anything against movies about Jesus, but I knew Mel Gibson has a masochistic fascination with sadism and didn't intend to watch. I simply won't watch violent movies unless I feel I absolutely must for some greater reason-- and those reasons are rare. I value my dreams and mostly choose activities to enrich them, not bring me nightmares-- which naturally come along once in awhile no matter what I do.

There are several types of films I put under spiritual headings. The first is where the spirituality is woven within the story to greater or lesser degrees. There can be just a touch of mysticism like The Shipping News to the story of What Dreams May Come where the spiritual exploration is integral.

When films really speak to me, I buy them to watch again. None of my collection of these type of movies preach any one message, and they vary for how important an element spirituality is to the story: The Mission; The Simian Line; Bulletproof Monk; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Somewhere in Time; Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy; Secret of Roan Inish; Weeping Camel; The Last Samurai; Practical Magic; Timeline; Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind; Cold Mountain; Shipping News;Sirens; Groundhog Day; The Mothman Prophecies; Dragonfly; Seven Days in Tibet; Practical Magic; The Lakehouse; Frequency; Missing; Miracle at Sage Creek; Field of Dreams; The Illusionist; House of the Flying Daggers; the Harry Potter, Star Wars and Lord of the Rings series.

No, that list is not complete, and I probably skipped one of your favorites which I would love if you would mention in comments. The main thing is, for me, a spiritual film in this category has a good story, real characters and explores spiritual dimensions. It questions what spiritual power is and looks at the spiritual side of life-- real or imaginary. Sometimes they are like an adult fairy tale but one that provokes you into thinking or teaches a life lesson from simple to deep. Last week-end, I watched one of those and will write about it next blog.

For me, there is another type of spiritual film. These are where the story is incidental, if it even exists, and the sole purpose for the film is to illustrate and teach specific spiritual concepts. I have three of those-- What the Bleep do we Know? The Secret, and The Celestine Prophecy. I have already discussed The Secret in this blog and at some time plan to write about the other two.

On a winter's night, when a person has time to think and imagine, movies can entertain but also inspire. Then, if you are fortunate enough to have someone with you, you can sit by a fireplace afterward and debate their meanings-- in a crunch, a cat or dog will do. Writing about it in a blog is good also.

(The new moon is now. It's a good time for new projects, new starts, goal setting and doing deep thinking on what you want in your life. Taking time to be still and access your own heart is especially good with a new moon. This is a planting time. What do you want in your life? And how do you plan to manifest it?)

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

January's lessons in patience

This is getting old. Much as I enjoy the beauty of snow and realize I am lucky there has (as of yet) been no power outage, enough is enough. We in the Pacific Northwest are a bit of wimps about snowy weather. Yesterday morning the freezing rain turned to snow and finally back to ordinary rain and definitely the last cold spell I hope to see for the year. Optomistic? Maybe a little. Definitely impatient with the wintery weather and eager for a change.

There isn't a lot to do outside right now. For the cows, hay is put out in thousand pound round bales, some flakes of alfalfa go out to the sheep. Chopping ice is unusual for this area, but I did some this morning.

The sheep had come by, licking at the thick, solid ice in the watering tub, eating snow, and I thought poor things. I headed out with the smaller of the axes-- not too impressed by their need when I saw there were puddles in the driveway if they had truly been thirsty.

The ice wasn't hard to chop through, maybe 3" thick. I threw some warmer water on top and kind of pecked my way patiently through the rest. If it had been likely the cold would last, I'd have had to pick these chunks out, but it won't, and the ice was pretty like this-- mini ice bergs.

The patient Buddha didn't mind the snow and I didn't mind one more shot of the garden in winter .

The birds congregate and expect their feeders to stay full. It's fun to watch them squabble, jockey for position and knock the seed out for the ones patiently waiting below.

Finally there is this last photo of the youngest cat sitting on the windowsill, somewhat, kind of patiently looking out, making that low clucking sound cats make when they see a bird-- the I-want-that-so-bad sound.

He is a little like me right now-- nose pressed against the glass, whichever side of the window I am on, always wanting to be on the other side.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Random thoughts on women in politics

What inspires this particular blog are two things I have recently read. These are not new but always amazing to me how women are held to different standards than men-- particularly in politics.

The first was when, in a hearing, Senator Barbara Boxer said to Secretary of State Rice that because she hadn't been a mother, she might not have compassion for what an overseas war is costing this country. Her implication that we have to be a parent to know what love is was plain nuts. Would anybody say the same thing to a man? Does Boxer not see that maybe Rice could love someone and therefore understand what loss means without being a mommy?

I don't like much of what Rice has done, don't understand how she seems to blindly back Bush, but the problem is not that she wasn't married nor had children. It's total loyalty to a cause (or is it a man). She is a very intellectual woman, does she have any of her own thoughts on this? any doubts? Not that we can tell. I don't see how having children would have changed that.

Then I read Time Goes By about a blogger who posted a photo (not this exact one) of Hillary Clinton that illuminated every wrinkle, sag and line. He had made a crack about not getting older but bet... stopping with that and letting his reader draw the conclusion that Hillary is not a beauty queen.

To me, despite the fact that I am not a fan of Hillary, something is wrong when people put a woman down for looking like she is almost 60 which is what she is. On Hillary's face, you see the life she has led. Why is that bad?

Yes, she does not look twenty, nor does she have that totally line-free, plastic face of some middle-aged celebrities. I am trying to understand why it mattered that a United States senator does not look like a movie star. Do people want their senator spending a lot of time in beauty salons having facials? No wonder women (and men) in leadership sometimes feel forced into Botox or surgically remedying the horrors of looking old. Oh my is there a worse fate?

Is it impossible in our country to see the beauty in a face that shows its age? What is wrong with a face that shows the pain, the laughter, the whole life that the woman has lived? And, does a woman who wants to be in politics have to marry and have children to prove she can do the job as well as a man? How dare a woman be the one to question that! Senator Boxer deserves the negative press that she got from this.

Being gung-ho on this war isn't the exclusive province of those without children. It's possible to even have a child in the war and be a war hawk-- ie John McCain.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Bush Bashing?

Although he now sees the Iraqi war as a mistake, Andrew Sullivan wrote about why he initially supported it. One of his reasons was those, who didn't want to attack Iraq, were also those who he felt hated Bush. He decided their arguments were not to be considered seriously because they had an emotional and baseless hatred and it colored their viewpoint. To him, their dislike couldn't be about the issues but had to be partisan.

Some of this same thing happened with Clinton especially toward the end. People would not look at what he was trying to do (for instance bombing an aspirin factory where he thought he was going to get terrorists or attacking an Afghanistan training camp where he thought he'd get bin Laden). What he did was thrown out as being because he was trying to curry favor with somebody or Wag the Dog. It was thrown out because they didn't trust him or like him. Call it Clinton hating if you want as it comes down to the same emotional reason.

Why can't we look at what people do, recognize someone might genuinely dislike a certain leader but can still evaluate their actions. Admittedly, when dislike goes beyond that to lack of trust, this becomes hard to do.

If someone has been a close acquaintance of mine for a long time and I have seen them mistreat others, lie to my back and face, be lazy intellectually, fraudulent in their activities, a spiritual hypocrite with saying one thing and doing another, and that person suddenly tells me they have decided to be a foster parent, do you think it's hating for me to say that is a terrible idea and try to stop them?

To evaluate a situation like that requires assessing character. Some cite the Biblical demand that we judge not lest we be judged. It doesn't fit because we all have to judge constantly in life. There is no way to live without that.

Bush gave a speech about Iraq that made some degree of sense the other night. I don't know the answer to something we should never have gotten into in the beginning, but I am beginning to suspect the answer is-- we went in there to get rid of Saddam, to find weapons of mass destruction. Those reasons are gone. We never were told it was all about establishing a democracy that will be pro-Western. Is that the right of one country to decide for another? Can you do it without occupying that country if the people disagree with your goals? If the reason is not that we went in there to secure a huge supply of oil for a lot of oil companies, then what the Iraqis do next is up to them and we should get out-- period.

Frankly a few months of some 20,000 troops in Baghdad and 4000 more in the province with the most terrorist activity isn't going to do anything if those people do what they did before-- fighters make a token effort, then melt into the hills or buildings and wait us out. Why would they openly engage our military when they know we won't sustain this forever? How can we trust that embedding our men with Iraqis, under Iraqi command, won't be worse than fruitless? Well if we trusted the blind date who brought us to this dance, we might trust; but for me, it's more American lives lost for something we have been lied to all the way.

If you are someone who hates political talk and you got this far, here's why I am bringing this up again. What if this president, who has been untrustworthy in so much is now preparing to launch a new war against Iran? What if those additional troops are not about Iraq but about being readied to attack Iran? What if the fact, that the new military commander is from the Air Force, has significance for what Bush is planning next? What if the fact that some of the military being sent immediately to Iraq are Patriot missile experts? What if the carrier moved into strike range is not for a show of force but a real military operation against yet another country or maybe even two?

Would Bush tell the world the truth if any of that was true? He didn't before. He came into office in 2001 as a supposed straight-shooter, but the people who worked there say that he immediately began discussing ways to attack Iraq. Did that straight-shooter mention that in his campaign? You know he didn't.

A lot of us have said all along the danger to our country and the world is the leader of Iran but despite listing them among the Axis of Evil, Bush hasn't yet done anything about them. I think he figured he would and he was going to use an easy pushover called Iraq as a launching pad. All these years later, he is in an Iraqi quagmire, still has Iran there as a problem and thinks, with his Messiah led complex, that he can do it all... Oh wait, not him but the men and women on the ground.

Is it Bush bashing to list of the things this man has done that have been deceitful since the start? Is it something we can afford to turn our backs on? What might be the consequences of attacking Iran especially if to destroy Iranian nuclear sites it has to be with our own nukes?

We just thought that he was leaving a disastrous legacy if this is what the real plan is right now... And if you don't like to think about politics, think about how they impact your life. Think about the debt that has been amassed to pay for a war that has never made sense (and most who are all for a new war still don't want to pay increased taxes to cover it). Think about all those who put yellow ribbons, saying support the troops, on their vehicles but never cared that our soldiers sent there were not sufficiently armored, that even now the military brass is ignoring an Israeli developed protection system that could save the lives of ground troops-- Army shuns system to combat RPGs... If you never read links, please read that one. If Bush was a good commander in chief, would he do something about this or is this all about making money for already fat cats?

Most especially if you are a Bush supporter, one who still trusts him and once again have decided the other side just hates him, please listen to Olbermann clear to the end as there are two special comments on this UTube. The first is his analysis of Bush's surge speech but the second is a laundry list of what Bush has already told us. Then stop for a bit and ask yourself if you trust the president that much? A lot might be riding on your answer.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

January snowfall

The snow that began yesterday continued through the night and stayed. This morning I awoke to a white world which pleasured me if not the livestock or cats. Because last snowfall, I regretted not taking any photos of the creek with the snow, I waited only for good light to go out this morning and take a few.
Walking in it, eating some from a branch reminded me of my childhood when Mom would make 'ice cream' for us with adding some vanilla and sugar to the snow. Was life really simpler back then or maybe it's the same today and I just got older and forgot those pleasures.
There is a delightful stillness to snow where the only sounds are breathing and the crunch under foot. The only wild thing I flushed was one irritated duck who left without posing for a photo.
The above is from a little backwater to the creek where there is enough stillness for reflections. When I took the photo, I thought it looked interesting; but I had no clue that those reflections were so perfect.
Yes, snow makes me happy-- if it doesn't last more than a few days.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Bush and Iraq

It snowed today, beautiful big flakes. When I walked out to get the mail, I tried to catch some on my tongue like when I was a child. It didn't stick as it would fall heavily for a bit and then turn to rain. It was a good day for having a fire in the fireplace which I did, for lighting candles, which I also did, but not a good day to listen to President Bush give a speech on what comes next in Iraq but that I also did because I felt I should.

I never felt we should have gone into Iraq. I don't trust Bush. I feel that interfering with another country's government is not the business of our country, but it's how it's going to be as nobody can stop him-- unless the military said no and he removed the general who disagreed. So it's going to happen and I did listen to his plan and saw that it had some hopes in it. If the Iraqi military will really step up to bat, if the Iraqi people will support an increase in violence for a future that is brighter, if we really do provide jobs and encourage work programs, if we don't let our corporations take 75% of the Iraqi oil wealth for the next 30 years. If this really was about us helping them and not hoping to profit, maybe...

Until the end of his speech, I was with him-- okay, there was no trust-- but thinking well what else can we do and then he got sanctimonious with the talk of we owe them liberty and that it's because of the author of liberty. Does Bush truly understand his Bible and know that slavery was okay in Israel for a long time? Does he know that liberty is no part of the Christian program either? It's do it that way or go to hell. I was frustrated to hear him espouse what is clearly designed to appeal to emotions instead of real programs but given it's Bush, what real hope was that it would be otherwise?

I hope this works. I truly do because to hope otherwise would be insane, but I am afraid that even if for a temporary time it can stop the violence, as soon as we pull back, it will again escalate. Still I do hope for the sake of all those who will be paying a higher price for this than salvaging a reputation.

The photograph from late this afternoon is attempting to capture some photos of snow as it fell. The flash highlighted the flakes. It was too dark, but on the other hand, maybe that snowy scene does depict what we are seeing as we try to peer into the distance, hoping for the best, but unable to be sure of what's out there.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Dreams of... doughnuts???

In some dreams I am clearly one of the people. Sometimes I am a viewer. Other times I slip between watching and being. In this dream, I think I watched it unfold.

The dream began with a woman who worked in a store and learned she won a contest which she didn't seem to realize she had entered. They told her it meant whatever she wanted for a month, she could magically buy-- possessions, trips, property, anything that could be purchased. At first she didn't see this as a big deal; then she began to realize what it could mean and began to travel.

In a small town, she saw a kiosk that had people lined up to buy something. She asked what it was. 'They are buying doughnuts.' Doughnuts! Who would wait in line to buy them? (she was as much a fan of them as I am which means was not).

Hey, these weren't just any doughnuts but the best in the world. Melt in your mouth, totally wonderful doughnuts.

Well heck if they are that good, she might as well try one. She went looking for the end of the line as it wove way through the town. Finally in an alley, she saw the last three people just in time to hear the doughnuts had run out. More would be available the next day.

Sticking around, that night she met the man who made these doughnuts. He was very nice, ordinary type guy. She and he hit it off. Not exactly a romance but one of those relationships with potential to be more.

The next morning, she got in line early for the doughnuts except she then decided rather than buy one (she never did try one), she wanted to give away the prize she had won. Basically it was as though she divided it up into small servings of dough. Each person, who was handed a small piece of it, would be able to buy something they really wanted but not everything. The dream ended as she was still giving away those pieces.

Not in anyway could I see how this dream applied to my life, but I looked up what seemed like the main things: doughnuts, receiving and giving, a line, a man, a crowd, and dough.

To dream something is being given to you suggests you need to appreciate the gifts you have. To dream that you are giving something away indicates you need to give more in some relationship or situation.

To see a doughnut in a dream represents the Self. It suggests you might be feeling lost and still trying to find yourself or your purpose in life. Alternatively it refers to growth, development and nurturance. You do not feel completely whole. In this instance, I didn't see the doughnuts, just heard they were there and everybody loved eating them.

A man in your dream could illustrate the masculine aspect of yourself. A happy orderly crowd denotes assured happiness, pleasant friends and opportunities. To see a line of people or objects indicates that you need to be more aware of some situation or relationship. To dream you are standing in line indicates your need for more patience. You should be prepared to wait for something and not have it right away. To see or work dough signifies potential, possibilities and the ability to create.

So did it have meaning for me? Not personally probably but maybe some dreams are just intended to give pleasure-- like going to a movie that inspires. This one did that with her unselfish and surprising decision to give away what most would hold onto. She had bought nothing with her prize, but perhaps she found something that mattered more.

I couldn't think of any pictures for this one given I don't eat doughnuts except under highly unusual situations-- like a kiosk selling doughnuts that melt in your mouth.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

A time to dream dreams

Winter, with its long nights, is a good time for dreams-- if we want them and make some effort to remember them as we first wake. I think for dreams to become vivid takes practice and openness to them. Dreams are enjoyable as a simple experience, but they can also be our angels, spirit guides or inner self's method of talking to our waking self. It is like so many things in life-- we can take the same event at many levels. Look for meaning in life, and you find it everywhere.

Several days before Christmas I dreamed I looked out my window and three coyotes were chasing my sheep. Nobody else could help the sheep in time; so I climbed out the bedroom window in bare feet to scare off the coyotes.

In looking for possible meanings to this very vivid and detailed dream, I went to the dream dictionary. I dream every night, don't always remember them and don't bother to look most up as they are about daily living and seem obvious why I dreamed them. The dreams I seek to explore further are strong and have something about them that isn't normal. I dismissed both coyotes and sheep for having significance. Coyotes yodeled close to the house earlier that evening and I raise sheep. I was less sure whether the window mattered. While it's true I look out it frequently to check the sheep, I don't jump out of it.

So window, bare feet and three coyotes were the elements I went looking for in my favorite online dream dictionary. I have written about this before, but it bears repeating when assessing dreams. If the symbol is apparent to you in your life, you don't need any extra guides. Maybe snakes always symbolize something for you that no dream dictionary could know. But if a dream has things that aren't typical, then a good dream dictionary can provide some clues as to what your subconscious might be saying.

To dream you are looking out a window signifies your outlook on life, your point of view, intuition. To see your own feet in a dream symbolizes your foundation, stability and sense of understanding. It represents mobility, independence and freedom. Barefoot can represent you have a firm grasp and good understanding of the situation. (Incidentally feet are holy in India so could add a divine quality to the meaning of them in some dreams.)

Finally three signifies life, vitality, inner strength, completion, imagination, energy and self-exploration. Three also is a trilogy representing past, present, future or father, mother, child, etc. Where these three were threatening things I love and have responsibility for, they might yet have a meaning the dream dictionary didn't cover.

Although I am using one of my photos of a coyote (from Yellowstone National Park) to illustrate this dream, the significant part of going out that window was the risk to my bare feet. I take it to be a message to me in my personal life. Whoever gifts me with dreams, whether my subconscious or outside spiritual aide, I took the message to be encouraging that I am doing some risk taking and to trust it. Don't be afraid to take the risk, don't try to control the situation. You can trust yourself. Go out the window, don't go protected. Just go. You just need significant motivation and you will go!

Coyotes by the way are not generally dangerous to humans (unless rabid). I would do what I did in the dream to protect those sheep-- although since guns are handy near that window, I can't imagine going unarmed-- or barefoot. Yes, I could scare them off but more effective would be to shoot them!

These last weeks have been fruitful for my dreaming. Some have been scary (marauding bears, violent people), some enjoyable (good times with friends and family), some clearly out of my day, and many have had encouraging meanings when I stop to think on them-- a few warnings.

Next blog I will share a dream that I haven't been able to interpret for my personal life, but it was a interesting one with some 'different' symbols.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Personalizing Calendars

Each of us have our individual rituals throughout the year that add meaning to our days and acknowledge the changes that are part of living. Some of enjoying life fully is recognizing such moments and savoring them.

For me, one of these times is finding new calendars. Sometimes I feel a little sad to let one go that was especially enjoyable for the previous year, but there is always my feeling the new one will be providing different inspirations. It feels so clean to tack up January with no notations on the days-- a year ahead with who knows what lying in store.

Each month, as it changes over to a new picture, is somewhat the same. If I don't like that particular image-- or month-- I know it's not going to last forever.

Generally I begin to look for a calendar sometime in October, but this year I was in no mood for it. I glanced at a few when in stores but didn't actually buy Wolves until the last week of '06.

In her blog, Sacred Ordinary , Fran wrote 'Making a Soul Collage Calendar' about using her soul cards as inspiration for creating her own 2007 calendar, which I thought sounded like a terrific idea. One year I received a calendar made by a family member using the previous year's photos. I enjoyed the personal nature of it all year. One of the great things about the computer is all the ways it can be used.

Last year I had read about a group of Montana women who, inspired by others who had done the same thing, were selling a fund raising calendar. 'I See By Your Outfit' benefited their local performing arts center. I loved their concept of wild women and enjoyed the humor of that calendar all year.

Maybe next year I'll make my own wild woman calendar... or maybe not.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

A woman's tools

Women's tools are always of interest to me. One of my Christmas presents was a different design of a whisk. While I am not a gourmet cook, I enjoy adding good spices, coming to new ways to cook something I think others will enjoy, and I love kitchen tools. Perhaps it all goes back to some primeval feeling that a woman feeds her family as a sign of love or her place in the scheme of things. Although some of that has been lost in a culture where many women work outside the home and with the ease of take-out, perhaps fine cooking has even more value when it's truly a gift.

Besides modern tools, I receive great pleasure from owning a few of the tools-- grinding bowls, mortars, pestles, mano, and matates-- left by the peoples who traveled this land before the settlers arrived (no, I don't grind anything in them).

When the Luckiamute peoples lived where I do, they moved with the seasons. Their stone tools were left of necessity in the places where they camped. They were sometimes buried, and generation after generation would know where to find them. One day those people stopped coming. The tools remained hidden until a flood or torrential rain would uncover them for another people to find.

It is easy to imagine the women gathered along the creek below their hide or cedar shelters and grinding the paste from nuts and roots that can be formed and cooked. Chattering as they work, they left their energy on the things they used. I know this is so because I feel that energy. I also know it as I prepare food or sit talking to another woman while she cooks. Can I help? What did you add to that? Mmmm that tastes good. Women gather many ways but one of the most enjoyable for me is in a kitchen with a glass of red wine while we laugh and talk.

My grinding stones have either been found on this creek or purchased in a store that sells artifacts gathered from private land. That last part is very important as there is no right to gather or even buy artifacts from public land. Private land or not, there is also no right to own funerary or ceremonial items. If those are found, even on private lands, they are to be left where they are. Sacred items are to be respected -- most especially if you are a believer in karma!

Sometimes such items are claimed to be old but in reality have been created for selling. Know your dealer, and buyer beware is a good warning here as elsewhere.

(The last image is a painting Parapluie did some years ago of one of my grinding bowls. She was yet another woman feeling the energy of the tool and desiring to capture it with her paints.)