Friday, April 27, 2007

Shadow Side

There is what we know, what others know, and then what is true. For the most part, we get pieces of the life we are leading. We base a lot of what we believe on assumptions regarding our relationships, the person we are, and who others are around us. Others do the same thing about us and depending on how close we are, they may know things we haven't faced about ourselves. Our shadow side is often something we prefer not delving into.

Some say evaluating the meaning of such things is not relevant because there is no ultimate truth anyway. They say the truth is whatever we believe it to be. I don't buy that. Although I cannot explain what life is, why it is, I believe it is real, and there is an ultimate truth that we can discern-- just not always. It works for me to think that way based on observation. I believe, for instance, when there is a car wreck there is one truth about what happened even if everybody there thought it was something different.

What has triggered this post is something a family member told me last week that I didn't know about my childhood and our broader family. It changed my view of my growing up years and who my people were. There were many of us who got together on all holidays, and we cousins had a lot of fun during those times. I lived those years on a level that was innocent and childlike, but now I know there was another level I didn't have any idea existed that wasn't innocent or childlike.

What the person told me was a shock and grew more upsetting as I thought about it because for me to integrate it means reinterpreting my childhood. The family, as I had believed, didn't exist for everybody in it. The childhood I knew wasn't the same for all my cousins. I am 63. How could I get this old before I find that out and even then revealed with a casual comment!

After a few tears, some real sadness, I found peace about it because by my age, it's not my first time to be forced to reinterpret what I thought I knew. Maybe I was lucky to not know there was more going on when I was a child. If I had, I'd have felt compelled to try and do something about it. I know myself well enough, that even as a child, I would have tried to intervene. Part of me is now asking-- if I had been more observative, might I have seen it? I honestly don't think so, but I will never know. As a child it was beyond me to imagine such things.

The main thing, this shadow side of my family has done, was to make me think about the shadow side of all our lives including my own. There are things about me that are not known by my family today, that they have no reason to know. Likewise, things about them I don't know. Sometimes we should know; but often it's not our business-- even if it would lead to our reinterpreting what kind of relationships we all really had.

Since learning this, I will feel compelled to find the right time to talk to my grown children about what happened. This is not because the events back then could impact them. They don't even know the people, but they are raising small children. My parents were pretty protective. I was pretty protective as a parent, and yet it is often the ones we trust who end up, as in the fairy tale, pricking the finger of our children with knowledge of evil that they should not have had to know that early.

What I learned has made me even more aware how alert parents need to be. This was back before anybody could blame media for a dark side that was hidden in the shadow of what appeared to be a nice, safe family. It's not the first time I have come up against such information, but the first time it was my childhood that it reinterpreted.

When I was a little girl, there was a radio program called The Shadow. My family would gather around the radio, turn off the lights, and let ourselves get scared. The dark music would start and then the voice-- The shadow knows. It is where those less than pleasant truths, about ourselves or others, are often hidden.

(Photograph of shadow taken on a family hunting trip in Eastern Oregon-- 2004)

Organization

Blogging is rather like writing a book except there is no ending unless you give it one, and some of the blogs I have read regularly eventually have done just that. There also has not seemed to be the same kind of organization. There is a bit more organization in topical blogs, but I write about what is on my mind or what happened to make me think of an issue. That doesn't come out linearly.

Labels, being an organizational tool, weren't high on my list of desirable parts of blogging. I am probably the last blogger to adopt them. Although I do have titles, my titles serve more as teasers than explainers. I was supposed to have a subject too? Well I mostly did but often woven in were several lesser ideas.

When I finally got around to using labels, I saw that for it to be really useful, I would have to go back through the blogs from when I began again in February 2006 and label them all. I put it off as I knew that would be tedious and force me to skim them to figure out the subjects-- assuming there was one somewhere buried in the prose.

Finally I took the time to do the job and found some modicum of organization to the subjects. Now when I put a label at the bottom of a blog such as this one, if the reader is interested in seeing all the blogs I have written in that general area, they can click on a key word and voila. I used general terms to allow a type of subject (like creativity) to be looked through-- rather than specific, trying to avoid one label that fit nowhere else.

I realize you techie types knew all this long ago, but I'm not a techie type. I am more a learn-what-I- need-when-I-need type. Doing labels was not high on that list for a reason that goes back to the title of this blog-- or rather lack of said.

For the writer of a blog, the advantage of labels is to see how frequently we have written on the topics we claim are of most interest to us. In my case, the answer was pretty often. It also showed me where I have written less than I'd like about a particular idea.

Labels, if you haven't yet tried them, give a bit of a chapter quality to the writing. When I finally did mine (I am still tweaking the titles on the list), I was surprised there was more pattern than it had seemed.

If you have ever written a manuscript, you know chapters are critical. Each one is an entity of its own. Most particularly in novels, you try to have a form, a flow to those chapters. Ideally, one leads into another. With blogs, that kind of form is generally missing in all but strictly topical blogs, but through labels, you can find a bit of it.

I like to live a fairly orderly life but have very limited organization. No books in my bookshelves are alphabetical, no spices lined up. Not that I am against organization; but there are two blogs on the subject in my 227 for the current 'Rainy day thoughts,' and this is one of them.

Anyway I figured I better write about this for unorganized types like me, who don't read directions, who work by feel, and who like their books lined up by how they look together over who their authors were-- and besides if I am going to go to the trouble of organizing, I want someone to know it. :)

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Cat Herding

Being a cat/western lover, I would naturally like the following video. To add to my enjoyment, I have known a few cowboys who made extra money doing these kinds of ads, but it's also good for two other reasons.

One is that with things are they are in the world, there are so many negative, upsetting things, that it's easy to get so negative that we don't smile, don't laugh, don't effectively deal with anything. We can't afford that.

The second reason is this is a colloquial phrase about trying to herd something that is heading off a thousand different directions which is the way the world seems right now.

So yeehaw!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Commonsense?

Last week buried in the rush of information, regarding what happened at Virginia Tech, was a Supreme Court decision maintaining laws Bush and the Republican Congress had passed earlier blocking partial birth abortions. I had been mulling over what I would write about it. This morning, when I went to Ronni Bennet's blog Time Goes By, she had written most of what I was thinking.

Personally, I am not against blocking very late term abortions. I have a hard time understanding why they are needed. If you cannot make up your mind to have an abortion in the first 4 or 5 months, I think the rights of the baby grow as it does.

Mine is not a purist view, but I am not on many things. I use what I like to refer to as commonsense and can see where one thing might be okay, like a sliver of cheesecake but the whole cheesecake is not. Why this is considered namby-pamby is beyond me, but lately there is a whole cadre of people who feel it's all or nothing. In my opinion, while that might make a good song, it doesn't actually work in love or life.

The same all-or-nothing mantra is arising with gun control. I would be fine to make people apply for a license to buy any gun. I wouldn't object if they make buyers go through the same hoops I had to go through to get a concealed weapon permit. (The most recent killer might have been stopped from buying guns-- if anybody had bothered to record the things he had done-- if there was a good computer system to check all records. It however would not have prevented him from killing.) As a gun owner who intends to stay a gun owner, I also wouldn't mind seeing automatic and assault weapons limited, as to which citizens can purchase them, to those with a need-- like nobody. But it seems that is not okay to see an issue where some of some is okay, too much is not. We have gotten into a period where people want simple answers and yes or no is simpler than perhaps.

Anyway back to the abortion issue, of all the women I know who have had abortions, none chose it lightly, none forgot it, but most still believed that at the time it had been the right choice-- all were early abortions as are most. I see a fetus just beginning to grow as different than a full formed baby. Some see that as a sliding moral scale, but for me it's that commonsense again. It makes sense to me that abortions be legal until the fifth month. After that only when the mother's life is at stake; and even then, trying to save the life of the baby should be a factor when the baby is viable. That doesn't suit either extreme, but it's how I feel. Crushing the skull of a healthy, living baby in the womb makes no more sense to me than if it was done right after delivery.

I suspect late term abortions don't feel right to a lot of people; but they are afraid with a foot in the door, the whole right to choose will be thrown out. There is good reason for that worry. The current so-called Supremes (as many of us feared with Bush's election) now have at least four on the panel who want an eventual decision to block all abortions or send them back to the states to decide. That means in states, that see women as incapable of making this decision legally, women would again be forced into back alley abortions. It won't stop abortion but it could stop clean and safe ones.

That was bad enough but reading Justice Kennedy's tortured justification for his vote added to it. He said the decision was to defend women because they might regret their decision later. So his was not a legal decision but paternal one... Say what!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Dangerous Mental Illness

At one time the mentally ill, who were deemed 'potentially' dangerous to themselves or others, could be incarcerated. I am sure at times that was abused by equating different with dangerous, but it's how it was when I was a child. There were mental institutes; and those who were mentally deranged (which back then there were few medications to treat) could end up in hospitals for years until a doctor decided they were safe to be out in society-- if that ever even happened.

During the Reagan years the laws changed and people who were severely mentally ill were no longer forced into hospitals unless they committed a crime. After those laws changed, we began to see people on the street who mumbled to themselves, who saw things that nobody around them saw. Being paranoid and delusional was not against the law. It does not have to be dangerous. The laws changed to where the state could not force someone, even those deemed potentially dangerous, to receive treatment unless they broke a law.

Today, the issue is struggling for a balance with which I don't think we have come to terms. It's a complex subject and not something I can address in such a short blog. How do you protect the rights of those who are mentally sick with the rights of innocent citizens? In what many would define as more primitive cultures, a person who was judged to be dangerously mentally ill could have been killed by the tribe. This might seem brutal; but the closer life gets to the edge of survival, the more individual rights take a backseat to group needs.

As cultures become more supposedly developed, they also become more sophisticated about what mental illness is. It is no longer claimed that all mental illness is possession by a demonic spirit. In the scientific age, serious mental illness is seen to be about chemistry or brain abnormality. As such, it can be treated with chemistry.

M. Scott Peck (author of The Road Less Traveled) wrote an excellent book about human evil and the hope for healing it, People of the Lie, where he described his own experiences with treating genuine evil in humans. As best I recall it (my copy is loaned out) he was not suggesting all evil was possession (I think he's written a more detailed book on just that since the one I read) but his descriptions of what he believed were cases of demonic possession are some of the most chilling I have ever read.

I know it's not popular today to believe that people, like the Virginia Tech killer, might be possessed, might not be able to be treated by therapy or chemistry, might require exorcisms, and I am not suggesting this young man was. I am no trained clinician, but one of the people there said of the man who shot him, "An evil spirit was going through that boy. I could feel it." When I saw the videos, that was my thought also. Not to suggest all evil or mental illness is possession, but some might be.

The real issue for us is a culture is not to argue over how to treat it-- whether therapy, chemistry or spiritually, but identify and pull it out of the culture until we can treat it-- if we can. Whatever the reasons are for dangerous mental illness, as things stand we seem to be waiting for it to strike rather than dealing with it as soon as we recognize it. We have wrapped all mental illness in a blanket of stigma where we seem to fear even looking at it. Is that a compassionate culture? Are we helping those who are dangerous to themselves and others when we do not demand they be treated and incarcerated when needed?

In 2005, when the teachers at Virginia Tech knew they had someone who was potentially very dangerous, there were no laws to do anything about it-- unless that person agreed. The problem is that when someone is mentally deranged can we depend on them to make a rational decision regarding treatment? If they are caught up in a paranoid, narcissistic delusion, too often they see themselves as normal and the rest of the world as the sick ones.

And if they don't want such help, in most places they can do what they choose until they finally break the law as happened in Virginia, as has happened in schools, in businesses, churches, malls, restaurants, across this nation. Dangerous, paranoid people might just sit in their homes and stew over things, but they also might become mass murderers, serial killers or suicides. They are able to do what they please until they break the law or more accurately until society catches them breaking the law. Being dangerously paranoid is no longer a criminal offense by itself.

So how do we prevent the next Virginia Tech? I am not sure we totally can, nor have we ever been able to do so, but a good start would be facing reality that some, who are mentally ill, also have the potential for violence. Most often those people, before they commit murder, have done lesser aggressive acts. We can try to put on the brakes before their deeds escalate into something horrible-- but only IF we have the fortitude to do so.

That's why I think, despite my first revulsion, that it was good that the mainstream media (and I doubt their motives were noble) showed the photos, video and words from the most recent such psychotic killer. I understand how some think it was a mistake to show; but I think it might be the kind of wake-up call we need. I think we have seen the aftermath of the violence but we cleanse it in our minds and go on as if nothing needs to change.

There need to be laws in place that will allow psychotically dangerous people, like the most recent example, to be imprisoned if that is what it takes. Force them to have treatment; and if that doesn't work, keep them incarcerated. That sounds brutal and it's why I think brutal footage was needed for Americans to see. We have gotten soft and something has to harden us up.

The argument has been voiced that seeing such footage will encourage a new mass murderer. They don't need any pictures to do that. Psychotics hear about it and they are already thinking how cool. Normal people don't see that footage as good, and those who will see it that way are already not normal by definition. They are already thinking how they'd like to attain their own warped sense of power.

Guns (not more guns nor less) won't solve this problem. There are many ways to kill. Yes, this last killer wanted to do it in a manner that let him have power over others, that let him be there to see their terror, but he could have done it many ways if he hadn't wanted to be known for his deed and also die.

The problem for us, as a people, is our own mental and emotional weakness-- the fear of not being politically correct, our unwillingness to have tough laws that face reality, our sympathy for those who are mentally ill and fighting against its stigma. To overcome this societal weakness, I think it is going to take seeing and remembering those ugly pictures and the meaningless string of words to remind us why we have to act before more innocent people pay the price for our unwillingness. Our country is so easily diverted and we can't afford to be about this issue.

Whether people such as this last killer can be helped through chemistry, hospitalization and therapy to lead normal lives, I don't know. I do think we could prevent at least some from killing-- if we have the willpower to make changes in our laws. Maybe this week even 33 lives could have been saved-- if such laws had already been in place.

(I know the last murderer's name but I think we should not repeat the names of these ruthless killers. Their names should disappear and not give them any fame at all. Let them be forgotten but let us find the strength to do what is required to stop more from being added to their list.)

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Illustrating your Story


Have you ever thought of painting your own life, of illustrating it so that others would see not only who you are outside but also inside? Recently I have been thinking about the topic because my friend, who comments here as Parapluie, created a series of paintings and words to bring to life who she wanted to be, to illuminate her dreams of herself, to illustrate what she wanted in her life.

She began with one autobiographical painting. She went on to paint more until she realized she had a book-- When I get to be Older. Click on the link to see the story unfold. Her illustrations are delightful , colorful, cheerful, and blooming with energy as an upbeat look at aging. Follow it to the end as it takes you through the experiences one woman finds will or are fulfilling her dream.

Not always will our life paintings be cheerful. Frida Kahlo, the Mexican painter, is famous for being married to Diego Rivera, living a very unconventional life, going through much physical suffering, but most of all painting her life, her pain, her experiences through symbolic paintings of herself. Often unflattering and painful to view, they illustrated who she was, what she was going through as she did them. It still shows us all of that years after she has died.

Another painter who did this is Tina LeMarque, who wrote Warrior Woman, her journal as well as paintings of how she saw herself. LeMarque wrote about her life as an artist where she saw the artist as shaman. As with Kahlo, she was brutally honest in those paintings as well as her journal entries.

The idea of illustrating our story requires opening our self up to who we truly are. This can be hard, sometimes painful, as we delve deep within and decide not only who we are but who we want to be. If this isn't it, what would be? If this isn't totally it, what could I add that would make it so? It's easy to paint our triumphs. Is it equally so to paint our moments of failure?

You don't have to be an artist to do this. You can use collages, photographs, simple drawings, create word pictures, or simply sit down somewhere quiet and imagine what each painting would be. Choose a quality you have or would like to have, see yourself living, doing, being. Create a mental painting of it; then meditate on it.

Perhaps the main advantage of writing or illustrating our own stories is to help us focus on what is and what we want yet to be. If the story we are writing doesn't suit us, we can still edit and change it into one that does-- once we have faced our own truth.

Although I have done collages, some self portraits, painted my dreams, since Parapluie has been working on her book, since I saw her paintings and the words unfold, I have thought about it, but still don't have a firm idea of how I'd paint my own such book. What parts would I leave out? What parts would I decide were too boring? Which ones don't I even want to admit to myself are inside waiting to be lived? Would I paint the time I dunked myself-- 9 times no less and totally under-- in a symbolic bath that had been steeped in black walnut shells? I won't go into the why as it didn't work anyway.

If I did my own book, would it be what I should want? Or would it be what I do want? Would it be what I don't dare admit to myself I want? There are risks in focusing, but there is also much to be gained.

(Granny's Wind Dance at the top of this blog will be available as a print. If you are interested in buying one, go to the artist's blog, Umbrella Watercolors, for more information.)

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

When violence strikes

When something happens like the tragic killings at Virginia Tech, most of us want to make sense of it-- somehow. If we happen to be ones who write a blog, we wonder whether to comment on it, and then but what would I say? Everytime it has come along, I have tried to understand why but there is no answer as best I know it anyway.

Random violence, terrorist attacks, striking out at those we don't even know, none of it is sensible to the logical mind. We can't, won't ever, find logic in it because there isn't any, and the more we try, the more frustrated we will be. Right blames left. Rich blame poor or reverse. Everybody blames somebody because we want to believe if we can find the culprit, we will be able to fix the problem.

On a practical level, there are two things we can do. One is personal. Think what will I do the next time it happens if I'm the one standing there and someone with a gun just starts shooting? We, as individuals, can have plans in place in our own minds if we are approached in a mall, if shooting starts in a restaurant. Whether it's our home, our church, our school, we can have thought what would I do if it was me there? What would I try to do?

We can go so far as to take some training to learn how to react. At one time the experts encouraged the sheep approach. We have seen way too many times where that doesn't work. In this most recent event, there were examples where some saved the lives of others through heroic effort, times where people had no time to react even if they had been trained. When the event begins, it's too late to do anything but react. Our reaction can be helped if we have had some training. Nobody wants to think we have to prepare for such horrendous events, but time after time we have seen examples of how that is exactly what we, as individuals, need to do.

We can ask our governing bodies to do their part. Unfortunately, no matter what corporate or government plans are put in place (some of them can be improved), in the end, I don't believe citizens can be totally protected from the kind of sudden senseless attack where the perpetrator wants to die. It can come too many ways. Government should try though. It should have rules set up for what it will do when the first violent attack happens-- before they know if more is coming.

If that student had not had guns, which some have always said he should not have been able to buy, he still could have used bombs as people have done all over the world. As terrible as this event has been, possibly the worst part is our awareness it has been done before and will be again.

The problem we face, those of us who consider life to be a sacred gift, is how carelessly some regard it. I don't think we can stop the kind of mindset that is so self-serving in how they view others that they don't care if they take innocents with them. In fact they want to take others with them. They don't care but we do.

I won't write about the actual event because I don't know enough about it yet, but also because these kinds of things can come so many ways. The one thing it does say for me on a personal level is don't assume you will get tomorrow. Live life fully and deeply for where you are.

Despite my wanting to think I am in control, and I do what I can to be in control, in the end, things can come along that tear that control away. Live for the moment, cherish the moment as sometimes for you and those you love, it might be all you have. Tell others you love them frequently. Don't put off the I am sorry moments.

Terrible tragedies could put our own mostly trivial problems in perspective. They could...

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Somewhere along a trail

"All that we are is a result of what we have thought." Buddha

I would venture to add that while we can't always control those thoughts, we can make the effort to have experiences that make our thoughts positive as much as possible. For me, those times come most readily from being out in nature. The memories and energy from those times become part of who I am.

Not that I don't like groomed gardens, but the more some government entity improves a desert trail to make it wider and more accessible, the less pleased I am. When I am out there, I don't want a sidewalk experience-- there are plenty of places for that.

When the park service and volunteers began broadening the Canyon Loop Trail at Catalina State Park, I went so far as to voice my opinion. It didn't help as when a plan goes into place to broaden a road, sidewalk or trail, it's seen as progress to a certain mindset. When I first walked there, the trail was winding, around and over boulders, narrow in places, the kind of trail that makes you slow down, where Zen moments happen because you are not rushing past them.

Currently, where it comes to Catalina, I have to get off the main trail, take smaller, less traveled paths, and sometimes wade the stream to find the quiet places, the ones that urge a hiker to stop awhile. I do not bushwhack as almost everything in the desert has one kind of thorn or another.

When I see the houses going up everywhere in Tucson, I feel sad because too many are being put behind thick walls and gates to protect their new owners from what to me is the most beautiful part of living there-- the Sonoran Desert. Yes, there are dangers that the fences keep out, but they also keep out life flow.

I think if more people experience wilderness, even tiny parts of it, they'll see more reason to protect it. If it isn't protected, wilderness will disappear. What our ancestors protected, it's up to us to maintain. I would hate to think only our generation saw the dollar sign as more important than preserving beauty and the possibility to experience unfiltered nature.

For this blog, I wanted to find photos that would show the energy of these places as it is reflected through a person. They happen to all be of me, but they could be anyone. I see many faces while hiking who reflect the same love of the places. Sometimes we all stop and say hello; sometimes we respect each other's moment of experiencing the now.

Because my husband had taken so many interesting photos in so many great places, I had a hard time narrowing it down. Even though, there are still too many, I am making them small. Click on those of interest.

These all came from Catalina State Park and Sabino Canyon-- end of March and first day of April-- somewhere along a trail enjoying what nourishes my spirit more than any mall (of which I went in none this trip), movie theater (didn't end up doing that either), or restaurant (okay, I did do that).

Under the desert sun, it's wise to carry water, use sunscreen, hats, and long sleeved shirts if you aren't going in the early morning. At Sabino there were (as there have been since major fires in the Catalina Mountains) warnings about mountain lion sightings. Everywhere there could be rattlesnakes. I have even seen Gila monsters at Sabino-- which are rare and only a danger if you see them as a pet, not a poisonous lizard which can get testy if prodded. Most wild things are more eager to avoid you than you them, but never forget what is out there can be poisonous. At Sabino, a couple of years ago a small child was bitten by a diamondback as she sat on a rock under which the snake had found shelter.

In my opinion, when out in nature, whether it's woodland or desert, enjoy and look for the place that says ah ha. There will be many from which to choose when you slow down enough to hear them.

The boo-boo photo is one of those times (which I have more than I should) where I stepped out without counting the cost. It was at Sabino. I saw a place I wanted to look at more closely. The side of the bridge was not very high, the pool was quite shallow. I had just stepped off the edge as my husband said-- don't do it there. Well there might have been okay except the sand there was very soft having washed in with the recent floods. I felt my foot twisting as it gave and knew I was going to fall. The pool was shallow (as you can see). My only fear was that my camera would end up in it with me. I twisted to the side, managed to lower it onto the bridge before I hit the water.

My husband came over with the expected-- are you okay? My comment was-- who cares, what about my camera? It did survive with no damage, but the polarizer lens was not so fortunate. I ended up with a small elbow scrape but had the fringe benefit of being cooler the rest of the walk.

Did I learn anything about sticking to the beaten path? Probably not.

(For anyone who has only recently discovered this blog and would like to know more about Tucson, in April of 2006, I also wrote about the desert, sacred places, and my home down there.)

Friday, April 13, 2007

Thinking Blogs

Since I have delayed my last blog on the desert by writing on other subjects, I will put it off one more time to take care of something that began when I was in Arizona. Nobody Asked honored me by listing mine as one of five blogs that make him think.

The idea for choosing thinking blogs comes from The thinking blogger award. After you have been chosen, you are to pass the honor onto five blogs that make you think. I have been 'thinking' on who would be on my list ever since.

I have never done a meme, but this one seems good because it introduces others to a blog they might never have visited and not based on simply enjoying them, which many do that for me, but on them making me think. At one time or another, all of the blogs I have linked alongside here have done just that. The problem I faced and the reason I put off compiling this list was how do I narrow it to five? Of course, that is also the challenge. So here are my five and not in any particular order. Another day, the list might change:

In Sacred Ordinary, Fran writes about spiritual thoughts, her daily life, her successes, her failures, and she does it all honestly and with deep insights. She is probably one of the most open bloggers I have read in that she tells both sides of her story. Her blog often has me considering the questions she brings up.

Nobody Asked has Winston discussing his thoughts, issues of the day but also sharing some very poignant and interesting stories of his own growing up years. Those stories are like pieces of a book. He has done some creative writing that can only be called mood pieces. Politically he often goes for the big issues and the small ones.

Time Goes By deals mostly with aging issues from Ronni, a woman who is in her own senior years. She does a lot of research, often discusses issues with which I have wrestled and presents them in a way to get all of us to think more deeply on things we may have been overlooking.

Dharma Bums, Robin Andrea and Roger, aren't posting as frequently these days but every time I visit their site, I find photographs of nature incorporated into lessons we can learn from life in their sometimes poetic analysis. They definitely have one of the most beautiful blogs, but it is also a thought provoking one.

The fifth choice was the hardest because there have to easily be ten blogs that I could put on this list; but because this must be five, my last one is:

Maya's Granny written byJoycelyn, who is in my age bracket and writes often humorous stories about her life through the years, her political thoughts (pulling no punches), and interesting bits about her life in Alaska. She is clearly a couragous woman in how she has lived her life and what she writes.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The other story of the day

Almost from the time I heard about the players on the Duke Lacrosse team being charged with rape, the whole thing looked fishy. One of the young men had an alibi from a cab driver, the supposed victim's story constantly shifted, her friend who had been with her that night said it never happened, but the Disctrict Attorney decided the boys were guilty and not only ignored but hid any evidence that questioned that. Media coverage, evidently especially in the town where they had been charged, was heavily weighted toward their being guilty.

White boys rape poor black woman. Definitely the kind of thing that fits our racial stereotypes (and in the reverse) and not to say it has not happened, but just because a woman says she was raped, does not mean she was. There should be supporting evidence of some sort-- bodily marks on her that fit with rape, DNA evidence that matches the supposed perpetrators, maybe other witnesses, above all her own story staying consistent. None of that was there and yet these boys, for a year have had this hanging over them.

The story today changed with all charges being dropped with the statement there was no evidence. This is after the DA, who had brought the charges, had left the case. After he has been charged by the State Bar with unethical conduct.

So today the boys got their moment of vindication, their lawyers were able to discuss with some detail the work that had to be done to finally see this day of justice. The boys, when they spoke, were as admirable to watch as the Rutger's basketball team girls had been; but unfortunately their coverage was considerably less because of the big story being Don Imus being fired by MSNBC. (MSNBC is claiming they did it out of noble reasons but they waited a week and a half to do it and not until one major sponsor after another had dropped the program. How noble was that?)

I am not saying a story that involved bigotry, racism and freedom of speech was not important; but so was one about a miscarriage of justice. What is also disturbing to me as a woman is when women do this kind of thing as a way to get revenge-- and she's not the first woman to do that-- they damage the credibility of the next woman who actually was raped. These boys had their lives ripped apart over false accusations and there is no way to get that last year back. The girls on the Rutger's team said they will never be the same, but their wounds should certainly be far less than spending a year under threat of spending 30 years in prison.

The other issue the boys brought up as a concern they felt was how would this have ended if it had been people with less financial resources, less family support, you know the answer. They'd have spent 30 years in prison.

How do we prevent such miscarriages of justice? It should be scary to us all. I am happy the boys were vindicated, but will their reputations ever be totally returned to them? What kind of protection do any of us have once a prosecutor decides to abuse his power? From what those attorneys said, standing up against the unfairness, which there were those who did, took a lot of courage.

The one good thing in both these incidents was the quality of young people that it showed the rest of us. We hear so much about this current generation being weak, lazy, unsubstantial, but the press conferences I have seen the last two days would tend to tell me there are plenty of those which we, as a country and their families, can be very proud.

Freedom of Speech?

I had to think long and hard whether I wanted to get into the Don Imus brouhaha. I don't know much more about the man other than his name, haven't seen his television show nor heard more than a few minutes of his radio show; but what this is goes beyond Imus.

For those who aren't watching any news, and it would take watching none to not know what's been happening, the issue involves Don Imus on his radio/television program discussing a female college basketball team. Using street terms, he said they were tough looking women based on their hair and tattoos. He and his producer used the word hos.

What interests me is not Imus but rather racism (of the subtle type where you demean people through little jokes and comments) as well as when is it okay to openly speak your mind? What are appropriate punishments for people who use phrases that are derogatory to others? When is censorship okay and when is it destructive to higher values? Why do black rap artists speak this way about their own women? Why has that been accepted?

I don't have an opinion on whether the girls on the team should forgive Imus, when he meets with them. That's up to them. I also think if someone says they won't ever watch his show again for what he said, that's valid. I also don't have an opinion on whether a corporation might decide not to advertise there or the company who owns the cable station might decide his remarks were such that they didn't want to be associated with him. My interest in this is was it racist or against all women (who aren't Barbie dolls) and was it damaging to the country to the level it is being implied by black leaders such as Al Sharpton?

There are a lot of movies out there that young people flock to that are derogatory to women and races, that use the kind of language that Imus used. There is likewise music that not only uses that kind of language but that even suggests violence against women is justified.

What I knew about Imus before this is that he struck me as presenting himself (multimillionaire that he is) as a good old boy, cracking jokes with his buds, talking about sports, with no deep plans for his shows other than shooting the breeze, and going for the laugh. I know he's a philanthropist and has done a lot of work with children. Whether he actually is a racist, the comments he made were nasty and not funny.

Having now seen and heard from the Rutgers girls' basketball team, they didn't look tough to me. They talked and looked like lovely young ladies in college, who are athletes. Was it fair to put them down for a tattoo-- which a lot of women have-- or for how they might have worn their hair? For that matter, the girls on that stage for the program Tuesday had nice hair, and what the heck was his whole spiel even about? Was there even a tattoo???

It's not hard to understand why the girls were upset. He rained on their moment in the sun and for no reason at all. They had done nothing to deserve his nastiness. Add to it that the media has been milking this for all it's worth, and Al Sharpton quickly jumped on the bandwagon. At first I thought Sharpton was doing it for his usual-- 15 minutes of attention shtick-- but in reality it doesn't appear to be that simple. It sounds like Sharpton has been going after the rap talk for some time. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, perhaps he sees this as his chance to get that kind of hurtful talk a lot of publicity and maybe make some inroads toward eliminating it. It is the kind of talk that demeans people who use it as well as those who are the victim of it.

In Imus's case was it racial or was it more ridiculing the type of woman who is a jock? Maybe someone who has watched or heard more of his show can tell me. Are there two types of women in Imus' mind-- babes and the rest? Was it about that as much or more than ethnicity?

Where do we draw the line on inappropriate talk and fire someone over it? Now if they lose their audience, that's the market speaking; but when they say something the rest of us find abhorrent like when Michael Savage, a few years back, on his own television program wished AIDS onto one of his callers, who he also called a Sodomite. He was quickly fired for it. Radio is obviously less picky.

Yet when Ann Coulter satirically wrote the genocide in Darfur wasn't progressing fast enough, when she called John Edwards a f-----, she continues to have her columns in those right wing papers. Most probably her next poorly researched and written book will again become a bestseller. A lot of this nastiness is purely about color all right-- as the team said today in those interviews-- the color green.

Maybe in Imus's heart, he's a racist. Or the other possibility is he calls out people for what he thinks they are-- regardless of race. He evidently called Powell a weasel, which some are saying was also racist. I'd say that was more like character analysis after Powell let himself be used by the Bush administration to continue it in power for a second 4-year term.

There are consequences to actions, and words are actions. The question is what does freedom of speech, where it comes to the media, really mean?

(Coming next is one last blog on the desert, but this was on my mind to bring up and see if others have been thinking about it.)

Monday, April 09, 2007

Sabino Canyon

The earliest sign of man in Sabino Canyon, just northeast of Tucson, appears to have been 12,500 years ago. The occupation was mostly nomadic and the Hohokam villages found today were below-- most likely because the canyon is prone to fierce floods which even today wipe out whatever man has built.

In 1887, a big earthquake in Mexico tumbled rocks in the canyon. You can still see the results; and when I hike there, I always think of what it must have been like to have been up there when it happened. The people living in Tucson said they saw the clouds of dust rise high over the canyon.

During the Great Depression, stone bridges were built to cross the creek nine places. They were structured to allow the water to cascade over them when the creek is high (photo is that happening).

Before I found Catalina State Park, Sabino was my favorite hiking place. I first was there in 1965 when you could still drive the canyon road to the end-- 3.8 miles. It was narrow, with pull- outs for parking and climbing down to the water to picnic and wade-- a few pools deep enough for children to swim.

As Tucson grew, the number of people wanting to use Sabino grew; and in 1978, the road was closed to motorized vehicles. except for paying a fee to ride noisy, smelly trams (does that sound bitter?), biking and hiking.

The park has been closed now and then due to storms. The most recent was in July of '06 where for 6 days and nights, the skies poured forth 10" of rain, resulting in flash floods that wiped out the bridge over Rattlesnake Creek, a usually dry tributary to Sabino, and destroying parts of the road up the canyon. The trams still cannot go to the top, but evidently they plan to have it rebuilt by next fall and tourist season. They will never rebuild the outhouse building at the top as part of that heavy rain launched a landslide of gigantic rocks burying it.

Sabino now charges an admittance fee which can be paid once a year for unlimited use, or daily for tourists. In my case, as soon as I turned 62, I bought my Golden Age Passport for $10. With it, for the rest of my life, I will gain admittance to all national parks-- camping extra. We had always bought the Golden Eagle anyway as we feel to support these parks is well worth doing. I just hope they all stay open for future generations to reap the same benefits we have.

To walk into Sabino Canyon you leave the visitor center and head up the old road. There always seems to be a lot of people ahead and behind. Yet somehow once you get into the canyon, they spread out and you begin to have a solitary experience-- mostly.

After about half a mile, you reach the first overlook of the canyon, can look up at the high walls and in the distance see Tucson. From that point is where the real enjoyment of Sabino begins. At places you are above the creek and others you are right down alongside-- and in the case of this trip-- in it as the rains had water flowing over many of the stone bridges. The mileage is marked and I usually settle for walking two miles up, stopping many times along the way to wade in the creek, look for flowers, birds, and the illusive perfect photograph that will capture the feeling of this place.

I usually see cardinals but this last time I was disappointed that while I could hear their song, I didn't see any. I assumed too many people in the area; then got back to the visitor center and there was this beauty with his mate. So much for the too many people theory.

My first time at Sabino was with our friends, Parapluie and her husband. A few years later we brought our small children to Arizona and Sabino Canyon, a trip repeated many times until they formed families of their own. I still hope someday to get them back there with our grandchildren to share this special place with another generation.

For me, there are many good memories in Sabino Canyon. Every time I am there, I see young families beginning what I have now finished. Sometimes I come with someone, sometimes alone, but always I feel the magic of the canyon for whatever time I spend within its walls.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

All things great and small

When we go on a trip, the problem is always what to do about the animals who share our life here on the farm. Last year, we were very happy when the same man who built our barn said he'd look after the outside animals as a favor. He is reliable, likes doing it, comes twice a day and puts out hay when needed. That takes care of the worry for the livestock.

This year one of the youngest lambs (half of a set of twins) went down right after we left-- of course. Our friend brought it down to his place, fed it, and kept it going when it would clearly have died had someone less conscientious had been looking after the farm.

His children got attached to the lamb and we told him he could keep it, but she is still not doing well. Originally it appeared she had a broken leg, but turned out when my husband stopped by Friday morning to check on her again that she actually had an abscess in the knee. He expressed the pus, gave her more antibioitic and only time will tell if she makes it. If she makes it, she will likely grow up thinking she's a horse as that's what they raise.

To be gone about two weeks, that still left the problem of the cats. The two younger ones I wasn't concerned about as with plenty of water and dry food, they would get fatter but be fine-- other than a bit lonely and nobody here to serve as their doorman.

That solution would no longer work for Persia, the 15 year old. She has been mostly eating canned food with her kidneys slowly beginning to fail. She couldn't be left, and so whe went with us.

I have traveled before with cats, and she traveled the best of any. There were only two small misadventures-- if you don't count the morning in the motel where she discovered she could get between the wooden edging around the king-sized bed and into a huge inner sanctum (obviously one we couldn't reach). Fortunately she generally comes to me (okay follows me everywhere); and when she came out, we shoved blankets into the offending entrance; so we were not delayed in leaving.

Motels are pretty good about providing for people traveling with pets for an extra charge from $5 to 10. In one of the rooms, she was pleased to discover odors that only she could smell but told her cats had been there before her. She has never been an only cat-- until this trip; and she clearly missed her two significant others. Actually they aren't really, as all of our pets are neutered; but they are the cats she sniffs noses with and occasionally swats for reasons only cats might understand.

In Tucson, she wasn't quite sure what to make of the new house, but she adapted to being a house cat and outside only when on a leash with only one scare. I showed her the pool area; and when she and I exited, I let the metal gate clang closed. I don't really think it hit her tail. I think it was just the noise but from the yowl and reaction she had, I might be wrong. For a little while I had an enraged and terrified cat who wouldn't let me pick her up and looked at me for a few hours afterward as though I had betrayed her.

The other incident was also my doing but shows her temperament. We were on the road heading north. I was eating a quickie breakfast-- sausage biscuit with egg-- and thought she might like a piece of the biscuit which I dropped into her carrying box.

As we drove, she began to scratch at the bottom of the box, like covering up feces. I checked.. Nothing but she would have no more to do with the box. She found another place to sleep-- under one of the seats. I thought she'd gotten tired of sleeping in what we had been calling her cave. Even when in Tucson she would sometimes sleep in it, but still everybody changes their minds sometimes, wants a change...

Then I remembered the biscuit crumb. I shook out the towel that had been serving as her bed, and threw the crumb away. She checked out her domicile, went in, settled happily down immediately. Probably that was a statement about the health of sausage biscuits with eggs that I should heed. :)

Photo is of Persia, at a rest area along the freeway in Arizona, looking out the truck window at that strange new world.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Desert Water

"And the moon shines high over Tucson
Over waters that were long ago dried
Cause the moon don't care if the water's not there
It's high tide."

Under Tucson is a natural lake, an aquifer, which has sustained life here for thousands of years. That aquifer has been shrunk through the usages of grassy lawns, golf courses, swimming pools, and more and more homes. It is now being partially refilled from the Arizona Canal which flows from the Colorado River.

Tucson has many waterways which are called washes, creeks, or rivers but rarely with water in them by the time they enter the main valley. Those same, innocent looking washes, can be in so much flood that they will push cars off roadways with their force, destroy homes in their wake. Throughout Tucson, in the dips, you will see signs warning against entering when they have water in them. Every year someone doesn't listen, and you either get a funny photo of them sitting on their car, or a tragic story of drownings. There are actually a lot of drownings in the desert mainly due to flash floods, sometimes from rainstorms that are so far off in the distance that you don't know about them until you hear the sound of their thunderous approach.

Even when dry, washes are not meaningless as they are the conduits for the wild things to move from the mountains down into the valleys and back. As humans find more ways to build in them, the animals will suffer more and more. It's because of a wash near my Tucson house that I have javelina coming through my yard, coyotes yodeling, an occasional bobcat, cougar or even bear coming down to see what's up.

Water in the desert is appreciated but also needed. Despite our thinking we are so superior to earlier cultures, in the end, without water, Tucson will shrink back to the old pueblo it originally was.

Years ago the Santa Cruz River flowed most of the year and occasionally had enough water to bring down a steamship from Phoenix. When the first white men arrived, the Santa Cruz valley had tall grass, cottonwoods down along the river, natural springs on the mountain and easily supported the first settlers as it had the Native American tribes who had come earlier. Now its flow comes from rainstorms or as with this little photo from treated water below a sewage plant.

The mountains, which are called Sky Islands by many, have both creeks and springs that provide water either sporadically or much of the year. In the Catalinas there are trees that represent life zones as far up as Canada with tall pine and fir on the heights. From the mountains comes water which varies as to how dependably.

When I went looking for the name of the creek where I wade most often, it was nearly impossible to find out for sure exactly what it might be called. Three miles up the canyon there are Romero pools and Romero Canyon; so it has to be Romero Creek, but it isn't marked where I could be sure by the time it gets to me. I also cross Sutherland Wash which this last trip also was flowing. When those two washes come together, they become La Cañada del Oro, which is the wash near my home. By then it only has water when it's in flood and then it closes roads with its torrents.

All of the water that comes from these mountain creeks disappears into the desert but while it flows it's something to be treasured, to be preserved as long as possible. It's like so many things in the desert, savor them while they are here because they don't last.

"Cause the moon don't care if the water's not there
It still tries
It calls to the water and it calls to the land
It calls to the hearts of women and men..."

(Lyrics from Carrie Newcomer's 'Moon over Tucson' in the album Betty's Diner: The best of Carrie Newcomer, and if you haven't heard this singer and album, it's well worth buying. Her songs are all full of emotion, strong melodies and her wondrous voice.)

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Talk Radio

There will be a few more pictures of Arizona after I get home, but tonight I am typing this from the road in Yreka, to be exact. I am using a laptop which means the post will be succinct as laptops and I tolerate each other when required. The problem is mainly because I use a wrist-friendly keyboard-- except when traveling.

I had to write something though after spending all these hours on the road because I finally understand how somebody with GW Bush's limited abilities, disastrous decisions, and total non-conservative stance on issues, has maintained 30% approval ratings-- talk radio.

At home I do not listen to talk radio whether liberal or conservative, but on the road, to keep track of what was going on, I thought it'd be good. I tried with Sean Hannity-- I really did but 5 minutes of his smug voice, his talking points, his ... argh, just writing about him puts me in a bad mood.

Then there was the Limbaugh. He lasted longer but his catering to his crowd was irritating especially on things like global warming. Does he really not 'get' it that sustainability is not about concern for whether rocks and scorpions survive on earth? He keeps saying the earth has been around a long time-- like that is some important factor. Do you know anybody who cares if cockroaches continue to flourish? Sustainability-- for anybody who has been having their brains turned to mush by Limbaugh-- is about humans surviving in anywhere near the numbers they currently have.

Whether all of Al Gore's film on global climate change was correct, the issue is whether we are studying it, whether we are preparing for it, and no, I am not worried about whether the wealthy Mr. Limbaugh can survive. It's that the poorer people may face disastrous ends and hard to say for the rest of us. Sustainable is not a liberal word and should even be a conservative one-- but it's not.

Mr Limbaugh also attacked Nancy Pelosi for going to Syria. He played cuts from Bush's press conference where he petulantly complained she was spoiling his game. If I ever heard anything so pathetic in a leader as those chosen clips by Limbaugh who was trying to promote Bush, I don't know what it'd be. Bush has... argh.... never mind. I was not put in a good mood by listening to him and talking about him is just as bad.

Why didn't I listen to liberal talk radio? Mostly because across the states where I drove, there wasn't any. It was one conservative after another and all putting out the same propaganda... except one... And that one shocked me.

Michael Savage. Just the name normally stirs me to some irrational comments of my own; so imagine my shock to hear him make sense about a lot of things. There is no way I'd agree with him on everything or maybe most days on anything but what he said about Pelosi and Limbaugh was rational, thought out, and made me smile a few times-- like that the callers to his show had listened to much to the guy who fried his brain with too much oxygen depletion from riding in his Gulfstream and smoking cigars.

And boy was he right. The callers were hitting on Pelosi for daring to act like a leader. Can you imagine if the president of the country was Hillary Clinton and the Speaker of the House was a republican what they would think of someone said the speaker had no business being a leader? He said that he hoped she would do well and Republicans and Democrats should not automatically decide anything the 'other' side did had to be wrong. Listen to it. Think about it. And hope because as he said most of them are bought and paid for.

So what did I learn from my time? Well that if those who are sticking with Bush would listen to some music or go for a walk, maybe they'd get some ability to reason back. Almost every caller I heard was very worrisome for anybody who hopes for some reason to come back into our country. And dang, amazing that Micheal Savage would actually make sense.... I might have been on the road too long :)

(I don't know why but somehow posting comments got blocked for this blog-- right wing plot possibly... *s* Anyway I am back in Oregon and after being told about the problem from a friend (ingineer), I got it straightened out-- for the moment.)