Thursday, May 31, 2007

Blue Moon

'Blue moon, you saw me standing alone
without a dream in my heart
without a love of my own.'

There is something magical about the full moon. Lovers plight their troth with one and it lasts forever, right? Well maybe not but it's magical anyway. Unfortunately its magic can be both positive and negative. More accidents and violent events seem to happen with full moons according to hospital records.

For me, I hardly ever sleep as well during some full moons. Others pass right on by and I barely know they were there. This particular one has bee
n hitting me over the head with its presence.

These photographs were of an almost full moon taken in Romero Ruins, Arizona March 2007. It seemed that to be there, as the moon rose over the remnants of several cultures, had to be special, right?

Once in a blue moon is a pretty common expression meaning something happens rarely. A blue moon coming in the month of May is even more rare, but we are having one tonight-- as in the second full moon for May.

Some say this will be a powerful time and just in case that's true, in case you believe in planting by the moon, well, give it a try with this one. I have written on moon cycles four times in my blog, which you can find if you click on the label at the bottom of this page.
Lately I haven't been doing my own moon exercises, but I plan to use this one and put up my paper last night. I will keep it up until the new moon when I will write what I want to see materialize in my life. Does it work? I don't know but it's kind of enjoyable to do and does help focus on what I want.

Stephanie St. Claire sent me the following in an email-- 'Full moon is at 6:04PM May 31st MST: Honor what has shown up in your life as a teacher, agent of change, opportunity or inspiration. Agree with yourself that you will use this opportunity as a way to be inspired rather than diminished, inconvenienced or victimized. Your attitude is everything. Remember that keeping your frequency high through spiritual practice, time in the sun, humor and love, is the antidote to depression, lethargy and despair.'

And for those interested in astrology, this is from Astrological Musings regarding this full moon.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Another cute commercial

This first one was on Andrew Sullivan's blog, the Daily Dish; and it made me laugh. Then I started looking at other Guinness ads. Since I don't watch much TV, I miss this kind of thing. Too bad I don't drink beer :)

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


When Apocalypto came to movie theaters, I decided I'd not see it because of what I had read would be gratuitous and graphic violence. I have rarely been a fan of mayhem or Mel Gibson. For me to see a film about violence requires there to be some higher purpose. Then the DVD for Apocalypto was released, and I cannot explain what led to a change of my mind. Maybe it was because I figured if the violence was too much, I could escape it. I also believed it was a film that I should see; so I bought it-- which means I was guessing I'd want to see it more than once.

I have always had a fascination with ancient cultures especially in the Americas. Because the Mayans had a fairly advanced culture for their times-- the good guys to the Aztec bad guys-- they have been of interest to many people. Who were they? Did they know things from which we today might benefit? The Mayans are also the ones with the calendar that ends in 2012 which is setting up a whole group of people for another millennium scenario about world's end.

What people today actually know about the Mayans, because of the destruction of their writings by Catholic priests, is based on oral histories, pictographs, buildings, and any discovered cultural artifacts as well as burial grounds. Anthropologists, who look at the current people's stories (who are descended from the Mayans), as well as archaeologists, who excavate the known sites, almost universally didn't like Apocalypto's creative license. They admired Mayan advances, of which there were many, wanted the story to be about that, felt that Gibson was using too much imagination to create a story that actually put down Mayans and depicted European priests as their rescuers. (I didn't see the story that way at all.)

Gibson didn't use models or computer simulations but instead real actors to portray a culture that destructed due to possibly its own excesses. He built pyramids. He took his crew and cast back into a world that no longer exists. The detail taken with things like costuming adds grace notes to what was already an impressive visual treat. If you see this film, watch the commentary on it for added appreciation.

The story is first and foremost an allegory. Those scientists who wanted a documentary missed the point. Apocalypto does what allegories do-- uses a people, an event, or a story to illustrate a bigger truth. Any recreation of the Mayan world is going to be based on speculation and fantasy-- whether you use dug up bones and oral histories or your imagination.

Given what I had been led to believe about this movie's violence, I was surprised I only had to close my eyes a couple of times. Yes, death was shown to be brutal. Uh would people prefer it to be like the television westerns I grew up with where you hit a guy hard with your fist, smash a gun over his head and no concussion, no spurting blood, no real injury? I think sanitized brutality too often has led people to get into or support wars with no understanding of their cost. For me, the violence, although graphic and extensive, was not gratuitous. It was necessary. It is also not a picture for children.

How do I begin to list all the things to which this poetic film spoke? I want to use the word epic but usually that's reserved for stories that last over a long span of time and this one is not long in the time in the character's life. It is nonetheless epic.

The story is about how religion corrupts, how some people use it to gain power when they no longer even believe in it. It's about how there is spiritual power in the world, that we can connect with it through opening our self to it. It's about, whatever happens to us, it's how we react that determines its meaning. Fear is our biggest enemy. Greed and a constant desire for more undermines any culture or individual. There was spiritual power depicted in this movie but the kind that comes with an inner connection to the spirit world.

Don't see Apocalypto with the idea that it will tell you who the Mayans were or accurately depict historic events. Yes, it has pieces of who they were, some darned good ones, but it is about a broader concept of who mankind is, who we can be, and especially what can happen when we turn over our spirituality to someone else. Mayans are a vehicle for a warning to us all.

What I think a lot of the critics missed, when they accused the film of putting down the Mayans, was that in the end, a Mayan character, who had led a more natural existence, had worked for his food, loved his family, been taught by a wise father, listened to his inner voice and that of his land, it was that man who was the victor over the cultural excesses of others who had come from his same roots but made other choices. It was that Mayan, whose descendants still live there, that man was the one who overcame what destroyed the others-- fear.

And someone could see none of what I wrote, watch it purely as an adrenaline pumping action film, and it would still be worth seeing. For me it was inspiring... and dang it all... Mel Gibson made it!? (reassessing Mel Gibson)

(Although I very much enjoyed this movie, my caveat on a recommendation comes down to the violence. If it is disturbing to you, then it might be something to skip.)

Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Professionals

For a woman who prides herself in knowing about all the western movies that have ever been made (even if she chose not to see some of them), The Professionals, which was released in 1966, came as a real surprise. Not only had I never heard of it when a friend loaned it to us, but I wasn't sure I cared.

The cover of the DVD didn't excite my interest. It was a western but set in 1912 which is kind of past the main era one thinks of as the west in the most heroic sense. Do these guys look like cowboys? Are they wearing cowboy hats? See, can't be a real western. Except I should have known better as two of my favorite authors of westerns, William Macleod Raine and Zane Grey, really did see the west and based many of their books after WWI.

So where was I? ah yes, The Professionals. It has a fantastic cast-- Lee Marvin, Burt Lancaster, Jack Palance, Robert Ryan, Woody Strode, and Claudia Cardinale. The primary male leads, Marvin and Lancaster, work well together with their great acting, humor, caring, toughness, and yes, professionalism.

For one of the scenes, as Palance and Lancaster are trying to kill each other while having a philosophical discussion, the film would be worth seeing if for no other-- but there are many others. Lee Marvin delivers one of the best final lines of any film I have seen-- which I won't give away here but oh it's hard to resist.

Richard Brooks, the director, wanted to make a film that dealt with what professionalism meant as he felt we were, as a nation, losing it. That was 1966. It's only gone downhill since where greed has become the main criteria of success.

So lots of actions, some great quotes, beautiful cinematography, and a love story that not only rang true but made me a little teary with its beauty.

And did I mention the men? *sigh* The leads were the kind of men, where their 40s and 50s are their prime, and yes there was a beautiful woman for male viewers to enjoy-- two of them. I took one look at Jack Palance (who was 47 when it came out) and thought wow! I am really really going to like this movie-- and I did.

But the main thing is when the last credits roll, you feel good. It was one of the best westerns I have ever seen and I'd put it right up there with Red River-- which for me is as good as the compliments get.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Atheism and Evolution

(Originally these three blogs were one but as I worked on the ideas, it grew into my feelings on what is religion? what happens if religion takes over government, and finally what about atheism?)

Although it sounds interesting, I am not sure if I will read 'God is not Great. How religion poisons everything' by Christopher Hitchens. He is a very literary man, with whom I often disagree when when I see him on talk shows, but I will say this: He does think, is not one to pull his punches, nor does he suffer fools gently. It sounds like this book is no exception, and I will take a look at it before I decide. If he is really exploring ideas, I might read it. If he is only interested in pushing an agenda, probably I won't.

According to the review by Michael Kinsley in the New York Times, Hitchens begins his book by dismantling the belief in god as in-- Why do we need one? Hitchens claims that was only necessary when the world seemed mysterious and we knew so little about existence. In his opinion, today, to claim a belief in god is for morons, lunatics or liars (that wasn't very nice but I told you he is not).

He wrote, "The human wish to credit good things as miraculous and to charge bad things to another account is apparently universal."

Now there I see his point regarding religions which present this belief in a god who is constantly tweaking things, finding believers vehicles, sending out storms to express displeasure, healing one person, sickening another, deciding on which team will win a football game, etc. Where I can see that is the deity some religions claim is theirs, it doesn't mean there is not a real god out there-- one not performing in the box religions would like.

I have never seen any need to deny the existence of a spiritual creator because of the belief religion is too often destructive. Religions are, after all, the creation of men. Sure they are men claiming divine communication from a god, often have some miracles to attest to that, but in the end, the believer must take another person's word for what happened. Any religious experience could be real or created by the psyche. But none of that makes there not be a creator of it all. Religion could be bad, and there still could be a Divine power. They are not mutually exclusive.

There are a multitude of books about belief in god from many religious vantage points. There are many about evolution (which could still have a creator involved) but less about pure atheism (where there is totally no creator ever). Perhaps there is less market for that.

In 1986, I bought 'The River that Flows Uphill' by William H. Calvin because it was an interesting exploration of rafting down the Grand Canyon while discussing all of life from a biological and evolutionary perspective. The book combines 14 days rafting down the Colorado River with a group of scientists (discussions and events melted together from four such trips) as they explore the canyon as well as the evolution of mankind. The Grand Canyon, with its fossils, layers, truly traveling down through time, is a perfect place for such speculations.

Calvin begins with the big bang, a meeting of energy that led to the creation of matter and takes it through physical and cultural changes it to the big brain which enables the life we have today (sometimes you do wonder about that big brain). I really enjoyed the book for its science, nature and history; but to me, as he works on reasons for say evolving a universal enjoyment and creation of music, he reaches for explanations to avoid believing there is a spiritual director behind it all.

I think it takes more faith to believe in an evolution without a creator than with one. There are more things that just had to happen and you are still left with what exactly was that first burst of energy? From where did it come? To believe this whole universe is happenstance requires more than a bit of faith and manipulation of percentages.

Of course, you have the original dilemma anytime you explore creation from any angle. Somewhere something had to come from nothing but nothing ever does but something had to except nothing ever has-- and around the circle you go. This circling business is something I do enough of in my own life without tacking on the universe.

Back to Kinsley's review, he says Hitchens main purpose, with God is not Great, is to lead others to recognize the damage religions do. Now there I agree. That religion too often keeps people from thinking for themselves, is bad enough; but where it becomes particularly harmful is with something like the death sentence pronounced onto the head of Salman Rushdie for writing a fiction book that dared make fun of Islam. This wasn't a crazed, fringe element, but rather an edict from a major religious leader with others in agreement. Nor were those fringe religious leaders who ordered the killing of the Dutch filmmaker, Theo van Gogh, and threatened the Danish cartoonists.

Some would argue that no way does Christianity do such things. Except Christianity has and would today if it had extremists in control. Try ridiculing the Pope or one of the leading spiritual leaders of today. Threatening another person's religion or the validity of their religious leaders often leads to violent threats or worse (even in blogs). Religion, which is supposed to be a path to god, too often can become a blockade from god.

(On a personal note, despite what Hitchens may have said about believers being morons, lunatics or liars, I think a belief in god, in a creator, makes more sense than trying to explain how this beautiful, complex, mysterious, nurturing, boundless universe could have come by accident. My belief in god doesn't come because of fear for what it'd mean if there was not. Frankly, if the god that the fundamentalists (of all stripes) believe in just happens to be the real deal, now that would be the scary thought. But that has not been my spiritual experience. And so until the day I have to change my view, when most religions would say it's too late, I will believe as I do. God is there and mystery. I am comfortable with mysteries.)

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


A prime example of a religious leader, who claims he interprets god's will and tells others how they should live, would be recently deceased Reverend Jerry Falwell. Moral Majority, which he founded in 1979, was a movement to take religion from the church into the political sphere (while keeping tax exempt status wherever possible).

Falwell's goal was to put Christian values (as interpreted by himself) onto the entire country by law. They call that a theocracy if it succeeds. Electing Christian politicians (as interpreted by himself) into office was more important than the skills of these officials. The motivation for believers to support this goal, which if successful would end separation of church and state, was a combination of righteous zeal and fear. If the right conditions were not met, well you know what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah.

Falwell, to the end of his life, taught fear of a wrathful god. Hurricanes, 9/11, you name the disaster, and he and his ilk were out there crying-- See! See! God smites innocent people for what others do; so you better smite the guilty ones before god gets you. That was not a quote but the gist of his fear driven message to gain power and control.

Although the Moral Majority faded out after about 10 years, its religious view of god has led us directly to the political situation we have in this country today. It never was about one man. This kind of fundamentalist movement, which sweeps through every so often, requires support and it still has it among one sector of the populace-- exactly how large that group is would be hard to determine.

Andrew Sullivan calls this particular group of Americans promoting a theocracy-- Christianists. They use the name of Christ but little else of Jesus's actual words. What particular Gospel relates to demanding lower taxes? Or what scripture says religious schools should be funded by government tax money? How about the verse where Jesus says don't help the poor unless they come to your church service? Or the one about how the poor are living in poverty because they are lazy? or where homosexuals should not be permitted to marry? Interesting how gays deserve AIDS but no mention that overweight people should have heart attacks in punishment for gluttony. And it goes on.

While it is true our country was founded by certain groups seeking religious freedom, a lot who left Europe did so because their brand of Christianity was not safe to practice there. Once they got here, many promptly set it up so that only their brand of Christianity was acceptable. Read up on the Puritans sometime and see how desirable a more or less theocratic system is-- even when it's your religion of choice.

At a certain point, a lot of the founding of this country was reinterpreted to suit current religious ideals-- for instance the idea that our government was founded on the Ten Commandments. Cecil B. DeMille did a lot to further that way of thinking to promote his movie of the same name by spreading those replicas of the stone tablets around the country-- those same tablets that recent battles have been fought about. Personally, I don't care if they are in parks or on government lawns, but this nation was not founded on those principles. It was founded on Masonic principles. Democracy is not part of the Bible. Yes, don't murder and steal are part of the Commandments; but those are principles that began before the Commandments were given to the Jewish people.

For early Puritans even bathing should be done with garments on. Exposing your body, even to yourself, was asking for temptation. Today there is a lot of the same thinking among certain Christianists, but entertainment showing someone being blown apart seems to be all right. This is probably how we end up with a crowd cheering when Republican presidential candidates endorsed torture (although not McCain who knows a thing or two about torture). My bet is most of the crowd that night would proudly identify themselves as Christians. Considering the words of the scripture, the fact that Jesus himself was tortured to death, that's quite a paradox, isn't it!

The United States is not the only nation where you can see how theocracy and a religious view of life impact those citizens living under it through the kind of leaders and laws that govern them. Many of us recently learned, when Richard Gere kissed a beautiful Bollywood star, that it is against the law in India for those of opposite sexes to kiss in public. Women in Muslim countries can be beaten or killed for not dressing according to the edicts of that area's current religious leaders. And the stories go on and on.

If you think a theocracy wouldn't matter to you personally, think again.

Sunday, May 20, 2007


Last summer, the Thai Buddha in my living room led to some questions from my almost eight year-old granddaughter while she was visiting for a week-end. She wanted to know what it was. I briefly explained about the Buddha, who he was, what he taught, that this is one of many interpretations representing stages of his life, and she mulled that over.

A bit later she said, I guess you are into goddesses. I replied, actually no, I am in no religion as such but would call myself Christian if I called myself anything. T
hat quieted her for a bit. She has been hearing a lot about what a Christian might be from a fundamentalist little friend of hers, who had made saving my granddaughter her duty; and she knew that I'm nothing like that.

The conversation went off and on for an hour or so, and maybe she
was satisfied with the answers regarding her grandmother's view of spirituality, or maybe she just gave it up for awhile. She did come back to it later on the way into town when she mentioned she thought it was a bit like the chicken and the egg question to decide what is true. Not bad wisdom from an eight year-old.

Because I hav
e some negative views of religion and how it has impacted people through the ages, I didn't want to inflict those on her. I believe with grandchildren, it's important to expose them to ideas but not push them. I do want her to be wise about the world.

A bit later, I did more thinking about the conversation she had begun. I asked a spiritually wise friend of mine what he thought was the purpose of religion.

In its more basic consideration, 'religion' is little more than a specific pathway for anyone to use to reestablish their consciousness with the higher frequency realms of existence," he said. "In the secondary pathways, once attuned, just about anything can be accomplished, because we can override what scientists call “physics”. He added those purposes for religion have mostly been lost or twisted.

For me, to de
fine religion simply would say it's a refined (through group experience) set of beliefs and practices which can be taught, where groups can participate together to give them a sense of empowerment as well as belonging.

A positive religion would explain mankind's connection and obligations to life and/or to the holy. When it's good, it explains this through stories and teachings that improve life for all. When it's bad, it throws virgins into volcanoes.

Religion could use music and dance as methods to bring human vibrations more in tune with the Divine or the opposite. It certainly can be used to build group hysteria, to maintain power for the religion itself, and to go off on holy crusades which might mean wars or simply visiting foreign lands to rewrite those people's views of the cosmos.

Generally, religious leaders, whether they are called pastor or shaman, supposedly stand between the spirit world and humans in terms of interpreting the will of that particular god. Too often they convince humans that they can abdicate their own responsibility to figure things out as they trust in that spiritual leader to do it for them. These leaders serve as buffers to protect people from the wrath of the divine mystery and power. They are those who can explain what is required to be saved. Many religions have some concept of heaven or the other side and believe through following the dictates of their religion, the practitioner can attain a better future life-- here and afterward.

Sometimes instead of helping men have a better life here on this earth, more in tune with what is, religions force them to deny reality and the natural universe as a sign of their faith.
If a religion contradicts the existing world, what can be seen and measured, it gradually causes the 'believer' to deny their own insights, their own view of life, their own ability to reason. A faith not in tune with reality is as phony as the worldview it is presenting, but it is now protected from anyone denying it is the truth-- since it is the only truth that they can consider. The extreme examples lead to drinking poison kool-aid or blowing up their own bodies to achieve some special reward in heaven.

Unfortunately, too many people today look to a candidate's religion to decide if they are going to be trustworthy leaders. In our country, they believed Bush when he said that he ran for the presidency because he believed god had told him to do so-- and they needed to know nothing more about him. In defining who the candidates were in a recent debate, the religion they espoused came second on the list. Could an atheist be elected president in the United States?

Discussion to be continued next blog.

(This sculpture was one I photographed many years ago on Vancouver Island, in a small park off the side of the road leading north. It appeared to be made of stone, was bigger than lifesize. I have no idea where it came from nor what it represented, but over the years I have felt that it does stand for man or woman as well as the mystery of life.)

Friday, May 18, 2007

Immigration and the Rule of Law

Having written about immigration before, I won't go into all my previous thoughts on it. Anyone interested can go back to those earlier blogs, and I haven't changed my mind on any of it. What this is about is the 'current' supposedly compromise bill and two aspects-- the rush to vote and what amnesty says about the rule of law.

The rush to get this omnibus measure passed and signed into law reminds me of how the so-called Patriot Act was pushed through with those in Congress not even bothering to read it. The immigration bill is a thousand page document that the senators are making no pretense of having read nor are they planning to read nor understand all of what might be in it. From what I heard, they plan to limit debate and vote on it by the 25th.

It's beyond me to understand why they would rush through laws this important. Why they would say they don't have time to read the thousand pages of this bill? Do they trust those who wrote it that much? Bush is eager to sign it. Do they trust him that much? It's not like the legislators are good at writing bills that only relate to one topic. They shove all kinds of goodies, unrelated to the originals, into all that they do. What's in this one? Who will know? What will it actually cost? Do any of them care?

It reminds me of when a salesman comes to your house or some kind of con artist. You have to decide right now, today! This offer won't be available tomorrow. Only once was I duped by that, ordered a set of encyclopedias when there wasn't the money to pay for them other than time payments. The next morning we had buyer's remorse, called and cancelled the order. If there is any buyer's remorse with the legislature regarding this measure, there won't be any morning after to cancel it. If you think there will, think-- Patriot Act and Iraqi War.

I understand that many who favor amnesty do so for what they see as benevolent reasons. They say it's fair to those who came here for jobs-- and we all came here one way or another. The difference is when our families came, most anyway, they didn't break the law to do it. Today when people come up from Mexico or from countries all around the world, they are breaking our laws and soon may be about to be rewarded for doing so. How do we tell our children and grandchildren that laws have any meaning when they don't?

Hearing all of this reminds me of how I feel when I am in some cities and stand politely at a cross-walk waiting for the light to turn to walk while people rush past. I am sure many in other nations, who did obey our immigration laws, are feeling that way about now. Obeying laws is dated, passé not to mention stupid, and our Senate, President and probably House will soon vote to confirm that fact; and in their case, it's not based on benevolence but on whether it makes a profit.

Even the nice looking and usually fair sounding Democratic Senator from California, Diane Feinstein has shown that where it comes to money, laws are kind of just sort of maybe could be things. Committees, on which she chaired, as well as belonged, directed a billion dollars in no-bid contracts to companies her husband controlled -- Feinstein's Cardinal shenanigans. (I was given that link awhile back from Ingineer.) We should not be surprised when ethics are hard for Congress to figure out given the way so much in this country seems to be calculated by--can it make a profit? Okay, it's gotta be good.

In the case of allowing of 12 million (and that's just the start) illegals to become citizens eventually, does anyone really know what the financial impact will be? What happens if the borders are truly rushed by the millions around the world who would like the same deal? The true economic impact of this measure is unknown, but the legal and moral ones are pretty clear-- forget obeying laws and our borders mean nothing.

Congress and the President are saying, what they said in 1986 when under Reagan they did the same thing, we'll close the borders right after this. Yeah right. If we believe that, gullibility is indeed our middle name.

Please voice your opinion here on this; and however you believe, write your newspapers, call your senators. Demand they at least read the damned thing before they vote. Don't let this be another Patriot Act. This is a big change, and if it goes through, as seems likely, will we have any borders? Can a system of law and order work without any?

(This particular piece was only about the ramifications of amnesty and what it does to the rule of law in this country but there are a lot of articles out there about the ramifications of this on Mexican families who have already been here and have part of their family still there or have been sent back when they were caught. It's not simple. Because Americans have for so long been allowing this system so that they would get cheaper produce, hired help for their gardens, their homes, inexpensive service, this is the human side to what happens now. How do you fix something that should not have been started at all?)

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Animal Husbandry

Alongside our creek live some big animals. They graze on the grass, sleep under the trees and drink from its water. For these animals, it's almost an idyllic existence as they have fun together, squabble, and eat. It takes some management to keep it that way. You can't overgraze land, or in the end, you have a desert-- whether you started out with one or not. Livestock need husbandry to keep their lives healthy.

Animals know when they are hungry or thirsty, but they don't know they need salt or certain minerals. They don't know they have to be shorn. They don't know some are being raised for meat so others might live. On our small farm, we try to set it up so that they never know. When their life is over, usually it is instantly; and the herd goes on.

This spring the cattle herd had a good year with no losses in calving, none even that needed help. The sheep flock didn't have so much fortune, and we lost one ewe and her lambs in a tragic birthing which I still don't like thinking about. You can't raise livestock if you can't bear those moments. And you have to think of the big picture-- overall it went well and the babies are growing great, the mothers are contented, the bull is satisfied, and the grass is lush.

At the beginning of lambing season I put in a picture of a ewe and her twins. These are them from last week. Her babies are healthy and for now stay mostly at her side. Lambs run in gangs and sometimes I hear the ewes calling to their young, who are totally ignoring them.

Last week the cows crossed into a pasture they don't usually use. When they wandered back, one cow was having a fit that she could not find her baby. Hers was born long enough ago that I had no concern about its health, but I got tired of listening to that angry bellowing. It was as obnoxious as one of those parents you sometimes hear in grocery stores berating their children.

I saw the calf. He was off eating grass by himself-- typical pre-teen behavior. He ignored her completely, not even giving her so much as a look. Because her loud noise irked me, even if it didn't move him, I pushed him to go toward her. When they grew closer, him stubbornly resisting all the way, she gave him that look, the one only a mother can give, and turned back to the main herd with him following slowly-- very slowly.

There is no way to photograph the lamb gangs as about the time I get a camera, they have stopped their antics, but two days ago I watched six or seven of them running, and one leaped into the air as high as the bodies of the others-- pure joy. Watching and seeing one lamb limping reminded me hooves needed treatment. Sheep are susceptible to hoof rot, and their hooves must be trimmed and treated regularly.

Some (most particularly cowboys) think cows and sheep don't do well together, but actually they get along quite well. The sheep tend to like weeds which the cows could care less about. When a coyote or something threatening comes into the fields, the sheep head for the cows and a few of the cows attack the threat. The only way a coyote can kill a sheep is when the cows are elsewhere and unaware of the danger. This is particularly true when the cows have young calves.

Mostly this blog is about what I see and think; but that might give readers the idea that I am the muscle behind this farm. I am not. I do gather in sheep, chase cows home, keep an eye on the stock, move irrigation pipe, take a gun out to hunt for coyote, help out with the heavier work sometimes; but when a fence needs to be fixed, I would pull it up or block the hole with some baling twine until the muscle got home.

Oh, I might help put up a new fence by putting in clips or stays; but fence fixing as well as livestock wrestling and all the work, that requires someone who can impress the animals with brute strength, is done by the boss. With animals someone has to be the boss or they will be. That someone should be strong enough to hit a bull across the nose and hear him to go whooompf, as he moves on with a nod and a yes, sir, I forgot for a minute. And they do forget.

On a farm, as really with any organization, you can make plans, debate what should be done, but in the end there has to be a boss. Although some ranches are run by a dictatorship, this one is more of a partnership. I say what I think, mention if I see something wrong, suggest it's time to find a shearer for instance, but this farm has a boss, and this is who he is.

Monday, May 14, 2007


While back along the creek, checking out the bee tree, I saw this mussel shell. Some humans eat these type of mussels, but we look for them to check on the health of the creek. Besides mussels, the creek has crawdads, numerous water bugs, small fish, but normally not big ones-- although it is a spawning stream for cutthroat trout. The small beings in the creek provide meals for the bigger beings who live along its banks.

In my imagination, I can see the raccoon that ate this mussel as it fished into the water, forced open the shell, and enjoyed its meal in this lovely setting. Nice of it to leave the shell so perfectly arranged for me to photograph.

Raccoons are very adaptable creatures for what they will eat. If it's your pet cat or an easily tipped garbage can, hey that's cool! Or one year we were having something come into the sheep barn and killing brand new lambs. It was quite peculiar as the skulls were peeled back. We called in a tracker to see if he could figure out the predator. Raccoon, he said, which surprised us a lot as who imagined a raccoon would do such a thing. After that, my husband kept his eyes open and one morning shot a big one up on the rafters obviously looking for its next meal. Its presence hadn't alerted the sheep to danger.

Next in my checking out things came looking up to ceiling of the new barn. We have a lot of barn swallows because of the old barn that we lost last year. They build mud nests that they use year after year. I assumed they would have moved their homes to the new barn and wasn't disappointed. To me these nests are beautiful, quite an engineering feat.

Swallows are inspiring when they fly but they are incredibly hard to photograph. With the telephoto, I zoom in as they zoom out. They try to dive bomb me to get me away from their homes. I always think it's kind of cute and assume they will miss my head even if it's by a few inches; but this time, I heard one kathunk into the side of the barn; so possibly they aren't quite as accurate as I presumed.

All bird nests are impressive but there is something special about barn swallow nests. They are a bit like an adobe house. Most likely these nests will be occupied year after year by the same families.

Every year we have Canadian geese that come to enjoy our pasture. In the past, they rarely slept here but eventually learned an adaption that is a step beyond instinct. When anything appeared threatening, they would move into the cow herd. Wise choice. The cows don't exactly take them for a calf but they are tolerant of their presence, and now the geese often spend the night.

Instincts tell wild things how to live, to survive, to teach their young what worked for them, but the world can be a changing place. Species which can adapt, that can adjust those instincts to new conditions, are the ones who will flourish.

As humans, I believe, it is important we don't lose touch with our instincts and our own ability to adapt. Too often, we convince ourselves we are immune to nature because of our advances. Then along comes a major shift, and we find we must learn new ways that work in a changing world.

Saturday, May 12, 2007


Besides cows, sheep, cats and us, there are many wild things that make their home here on this western Oregon farm and along its creek. They are the ones it would be easy to miss when a person is in a hurry to do chores or even take photographs. Wild turkey, deer, many types of birds, beaver, raccoons, opossums, insects, frogs, crickets, and, of course, the occasional passing through coyote, elk, bear, cougar.

Down by the creek, you will see the honey bees. Watch carefully and pretty soon you notice which way they are heading and from where they are coming. Approaching closer, you can get photographs of their bee tree with them coming and going, climbing down inside the hollow. The tree doesn't look very special to those of us who are not bees. Just a tree that is hollow inside, but for a bee, this is Shangri-la and the perfect location for the queen, drones and workers to settle.

To get honey, human (maybe bear also) bee hunters would track wild bees for miles to take some of their honey-- but not so much as to kill off the hive. Now days most honey is gathered from commercial hives although many commercial hives are not intended for honey production but rather to enhance productivity. The poor bees, who only have one life purpose and that is to produce honey, are reduced to serving a commercial purpose that for them would only be a bi-product of their real calling.

How do bees find these perfect places to make their homes? I have watched a few bees swarm. Sometimes they do seem to know where they are going. Sometimes, they will spend nights clustered in tree branches as the scouts go afield looking for that perfect home.

When we first bought this farm, we made a feeble attempt to keep bees. We had a hive beyond the harness shed. One spring, they decided they'd had enough of these inferior quarters, and the whole swarm rose up with a loud humming and a dark, moving cloud.

My husband thought how cool and went out to take a photograph-- with a flash. If you should ever find yourself in such a situation, that's a no no. They went from a swarm of bees with only a general idea of leaving (unless scouts had already found a better place) to an angry swarm with one firm idea in mind-- attack the threat. They took off after him and he took off for the house. Once he was safely inside, those bees continued to circle the house until fortunately they remembered their original purpose.

Hard to say from where these bees have come. Were they run aways? Was a new queen encouraged to head out with a small swarm to find a new territory? The only real answer is instinct told them to go and where. You will have to look carefully to see the bees in this photo, but I assure you they are there and healthily out gathering pollen to be made into more honey. I go back every so often to keep an eye on how things are doing but resist the temptation to use a flash. :)

The concern for the honey bees has been in the papers. Their disappearing might be a climactic warning sign to the rest of us; then again it might be lousy bee keeping practices where keepers treat bees like a product whose only purpose is to pollinate commercial fields too large to be done any other way. Wild bees could handle a few of the crops but they'd never get them all. Humans learned an easier way. Today, commercial hives are trucked from one farm to another, state to state, and they are not allowed to keep much honey. Agribusiness is all about making money and honey isn't the object-- productivity is. Perhaps those run away bees have died far afield or maybe they have raised up a new queen and left to find a wild place to do what bees were created to do.

On the bees, in case you have been hearing the quote supposedly by Einstein that if all the bees disappeared, in 4 years all of life would follow-- it was not said by Einstein. It was most likely said by bee keepers about 14 years ago as they faced a bee problem in France. It's symptomatic of the Internet that people take quotes and add onto them some famous person and voila others pay attention. If someone named Jacques said it, who would care?

One other interesting tidbit relates to the so-called killer bees, which made their way to the southern regions of the United States from South America and inspired such fear. Well they are testy and have killed a few people in Arizona when they first arrived-- before people got the idea you don't swat at them and you hope nobody nearby did without a bee suit. I have lived near the Africanized bees when in Arizona and had swarms of them rush past as they go looking for a new hive without suffering a single sting-- so far. Of course, I kept a low profile too.) Anyway they are heartier, resist the fungus that has destroyed so many bee hives and maybe will be the salvation of the bee industry-- for those who don't mind a few stings. :)

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Internet Problems

It's been a challenge lately to be online, to post anything here, given a new policy at Hughes Net (satellite dish), begun the middle of April, that was evidently created to be fair to all Internet users, but is proving to be a pain to me-- FAP. The gist of it (as I understand and given I am not a techie) is when you go over a certain usage per hour, your speed of access slows down-- way down.

There was no official notification of this. Computers like to surprise you. But we realized finally our speed was sluggish, called to be told a satellite was having problems (one wasn't), called again, and finally got someone who could explain what was actually happening. The second person acted as though we had been deliberately scamming the system and committed a crime-- unfortunately not as yet punishable by jail time or fines-- just slow down.

It took a third call to find someone who actually was helpful-- not that it solved the problem. We had/have no idea how we could be using as much as they claimed we were since we are not game players, don't have a lot of fancy bells and whistles, appear to be always doing about the same level of usage but just once in awhile the jackpot is hit-- in reverse.

There is no arguing with bureaucracy-- at least not yet. They tell you what you used and you have to figure out how the heck that much could possibly get downloaded onto your system in that length of time. No part of a computer system is a democracy.

Although we keep up-to-date virus programs, we immediately scanned our computers again for problems, but since this is something we are supposedly downloading, not uploading (it measures both), it doesn't appear to be virus or worm. Well, at least our virus checkers swear it's not.

So we upped our amount to use and the computer promptly took it all. It's beginning to seem like a demon has hold of these computers, as it recognizes how much it takes to push the system into slow-down and promptly takes it. It waits, however, until I am not there-- which was the case yesterday when it gobbled 461 MB in an hour and a half or so. That is about what it claimed I used while taking a nap. Could it be measuring dreams?

We have learned Hughes Net does multiply the actual amount taken using some mystical formula which so far, as we can determine, only they know about. At any rate, I am trying to figure this out and hopefully will find the magic combination to keep me functioning at a more effective speed.

Incidentally if any readers here have a software program that tracks usage and lets you know what your computer is up to when you aren't there, I'd appreciate the name. :)

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The Night Journal

Every once in awhile a book comes along that speaks to me at a core level where I relate to the characters, feel their dilemmas, and emotionally connect to their lives, where I could imagine under different circumstances the characters could be me. The Night Journal by Elizabeth Cook speaks that way as it uses two points of view, blending together past, with words in a journal, to the present and the journal writer's great granddaughter.

Meg was raised by her grandmother, Bassie, who had compiled her own mother's extensive journals into famous books about early life in New Mexico. Meg resented her great grandmother Hannah's journals and the damage she believed they had inflicted onto her life to a point where she refused to read them. Only after she and Bassie go to New Mexico on a quest does she come to terms with her family heritage.

Good writing, believable central characters, a complex story, journaling, an elderly character you won't soon forget, history, the impact upbringing has on our lives, love stories, questions of infidelity, tragedy, mystery and hey, throw in the beauty and spirituality of New Mexico and for what more could you ask? (Don't dare dangle any prepositions around Bassie.)

From the 1890s to today, the story is accurate historically, full of interesting facts, but never loses the characters or plot in minutia. Hey, it's even political. For those who don't know the story of Mountain Meadow Massacre, you will when you finish the book and with a more human perspective than its simple historic fact. Add to it archaeology, and you have a fascinating book which I recommend to anyone who journals, who has worked to come to terms with who their ancestors were and how it impacts who they are today.

I always like to find a quote to go with a book review and one that seems most apropos for this one is--

"'The problem with the dead,' Bassie said, 'Is that they don't keep secrets. Eventually they tell on themselves.'"

Saturday, May 05, 2007

War Drums

[When you are about to discuss something which you yourself have never experienced, other than through reading or pictures, it is good to start with words by someone who has.]

"I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity."
Dwight D. Eisenhower

Growing up as I did, right after WWII had ended, the question of whether war was ever needed was meaningless. Of course, it was needed. My uncles fought in WWII, the world was endangered by the aggression of Hitler. I was taught in school that other wars were also needed-- like the Revolutionary War, the Civil War. Movies, by cinematic heroes like John Wayne, illustrated how wars are heroic and a part of life which cannot be avoided. Some of those historic assessments have been adjusted as they are looked at from more distance; but still for many cultures, time after time, war is the seemingly best answer to many political problems.

Dennis Kucinich in the Democratic debate basically said war was not needed, that we could avoid all wars and should. No other Democrat on that stage would have dared say the same. Democrats are already thought to be the wimps who won't even defend themselves if a bully on the street knocks them down (let's not bother to check back in history to how many wars were begun under Democratic administrations. History is meaningless anyway, right?).

But what he said did make me consider this question again-- when is war justified? Is it ever needed? When, other than in self defense, is violence justified? Does it ever get the kind of results for which society hopes?

Human history is full of not only wars but violent means to attain political goals. Assassination, duels, wars have been part of the human arsenal of communication skills. When all else fails, blow them away with weapons as advanced as you can afford.

I was born during one war and have basically known five now-- WWII, Korean War, Vietnam, Desert Storm, some smaller skirmishes, and whatever the name is for the one we are in today. I have believed sometimes war has to be but have likewise believed when we do enter into a war-- noble cause or not-- there will be a higher price extracted than the obvious one on the battlefields-- call it karma. This doesn't mean no war should ever be fought, but it means when it is, the price is higher than those involved might originally think.

This was reinforced for me when I watched a program on cable this week-- Outlaws of the Old West. Our desperadoes were trained and equipped with guns by the Civil War. Was the Civil War needed? Some say if there had been reasonable negotiations, it was not, that the cruel practice of slavery was dying out in the South due to economic and social changes and the war was really over state versus federal power. Oppression of one people by another is bad (what you sow, so shall you reap), but if the Civil War was needed to stop that practice, its impact didn't end at Appomattox. That war, which had the greatest loss of life for this country, might still be a factor in our violence today. Without any doubt, the Civil War armed our people in a way they had not been before-- did it also prep us?

What about the American Revolutionary War? Well Canada and other former British colonies won their freedom without going to war. I read recently that the war with Britain was desired for reasons about which the average person of the time had no clue. The tea tax only impacted the wealthiest who could afford the tea.

In history, over and over again, you see how humans get pushed and excited into going to war-- Remember the Maine! I realize sometimes things go so far that probably there is no choice, but too often has war been a first resort, not a last one.

I am not a pacifist. I did not believe in the current Iraqi war and the Vietnam war not because I believe you should never fight, but because I never heard any reasons for those wars that made sense. In Desert Storm, there was a genuine worldwide coalition with clear goals. When those were achieved, the war was ended. This time the current president has changed his reasons with the winds and kept the war going on longer than WWII with no end in sight as far as he's concerned. Fortunately for his popularity among his base, those who most believe in him have short memories and never draw conclusions based on history (apparently).

The so-called War on Terror has been misnamed all along, and many are now calling the name out for the lie it is. Terror is a brutal, cruel, political tactic. You can't fight a war against a tactic. You have to have an enemy, and the enemies in this case are Islamic extremists who don't mind murdering innocent people (including their own).

Thomas Friedman had an excellent column in the NY Times called The Hail Mary. In it, he spelled out what he felt Bush should say now, the gist of which was to get the Arab world to realize what is growing in their midst. The suicide bombers, are a threat to all of the civilized world. Terrorists are a group of people who are ruthless, must be hunted down, imprisoned or killed because their sickness spreads, and hatred of the United States has blinded many to the real danger.

Oops, I got distracted but any thoughts on this-- is war ever needed? If it is-- when? What price would you then be willing to pay or is your idea of a good war one that is fought at no personal cost and on television?

It seems appropriate to also end this with words of someone who knew something about fighting a war. A Republican no less--

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired,
signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed,
those who are cold and are not clothed."
Dwight D. Eisenhower

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Blog Comments

Although I have said it before, blog comments are the frosting on the cake for blogs. This is true for me when it's my own blog and also those of the others I read. Comments don't just tell me that someone has read my words, that alone is nice, but it's those added ideas, the feeling we have had an interchange of thoughts that I particularly value. With a blog, that conversation can be from around the world. How cool is that!

Blog comments are a bit like sitting with a good friend on a river bank and having a discussion that winds through many topics-- rather like one I had last week-end with my long-time friend, Parapluie, along the Siletz River (photo above).

After I have read a comment, I don't automatically add anything. My philosophy is that if what someone writes makes me think of a point I hadn't already mentioned or hadn't expanded enough, then I comment. I am not here to argue anyone out of their opinion. Comments are particularly valuable in how they can show other ways of thinking, and sometimes they lead to heated debates. I believe in honoring diverse opinions.

Naturally, I love to hear when people agree with what I wrote as it makes me feel I am not alone in my thinking. I also appreciate it when someone new writes to say they are here. So, to all who comment, regulars or only once-- thank you!

Finally, I would appreciate any prayers or energy you can send to Parapluie, who is having surgery on May 3rd.

Update: She had her surgery and is doing great from it. Thanks to all who sent support!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Warning: Rant Coming

I try not to write about the Bushies very much in here. I prefer to not deal with personalities but stick to issues that we can do something about, but this last week has been filled with such disgusting events that I have to get it off my chest.

First there was Laura Bush saying: "believe me, no suffers more than their president and I do when we watch this. And certainly the commander-in-chief who has asked our military to go into harms way.... I hope they do know the burden of worry that's on his shoulders every single day for our troops. And I think they do. I think if they don't, they're not seeing what the real responsibilities of our president are."

So let's see. The wife who sees her Marine husband brain damaged such that he'll never be the man she married, the child who has to understand his Army Daddy won't be throwing a ball again because Daddy is dead, the parents who see their beloved National Guard daughter trying to learn to walk with two artificial legs... those people are not suffering as much as poor Laura with her cook, maids, personal trainer, stylist, fancy clothes, vacations wherever she wants.

Well she does have to tolerate being married to a man with no real heart, who loves himself more than anything else and obviously feels the most pain when something impacts him. This is quite a guy-- a man who would fly the flags at half mast for the recent 32 murders on a university campus but has not for the over 3350 military men and women who have been killed. I am sure I'd feel depressed if I had to stay married to a man like that too, but I think that's the kind of suffering we bring on ourselves by our choices-- kind of like the American people did who still support Bush... as she is doing when she continues to enable him.

And then add to it this: "Bill and Georgia Thomas reported they were elated Monday when they met in the Oval Office with President George W. Bush to present him with a Purple Heart. The couple was able to meet with President Bush for about 20 minutes to present him with one of three Purple Hearts that Bill Thomas received during his service in Vietnam. 'We feel like emotional wounds and scars are as hard to carry as physical wounds,' Thomas said."

I am sure that couple meant well, but it's that lack of clear thinking which got us into this mess in Iraq-- emotionalism and lack of reality. For the Thomases to give the Purple Heart was their right, but what kind of man is Bush to take it? He avoided his own chance to earn one the usual way. Was his receiving it this way a further example of good politics? More ego stroking? I don't know, but I do know he didn't earn it. Amazingly the people, who support Bush, ridiculed John Kerry for properly earning one during his Vietnam service because it wasn't a bad enough wound; but now emotional stress and suffering for a war he himself instigated is enough?

To me this is all about a man who's not suffering at all for the lives he has cost in Iraq-- both the Coalition military and innocent civilians. He suffers all right but it's when somebody points out his wrongdoing, when his popularity drops. If right now the American people were giving him high ratings, I don't think the lives lost would bother him all that much. To me it looks like it's all about GW to GW.

Could anybody watch him being silly dancing on the platform last week with an African group and not remember how he said he couldn't do a humorous talk at the White House Correspondents Dinner because it wouldn't be right so close to the Virginia Tech tragedy? It wasn't appropriate then but it was okay when he did the humorous routine about not finding WMDs while our troops were being maimed and dying. And the troops believe he's the one supporting them?

Do any who support this man ever stop to think what he actually does? The answer must be no. Do supporters of Bush today believe it was okay to have lied about Pat Tillman's death by friendly fire, to portray Tillman as a Christian when he and his family were evidently atheists? Or the distortion of what happened with Jessica Lynch, but all of that is okay because it's supporting their cause?

I used to think impeachment was a waste of government energy but anything that would slow down the disastrous trajectory of this administration seems like a plan to me-- and for both Bush and Cheney, as one didn't act without the other.

If you read anything about what is going on in Iraq-- like the failed infrastructure programs, the rush to war while ignoring facts, the continuous loss of life, hiding the true count of civilian deaths-- how can you not believe impeachment is just desserts? If there ever was a case of high crimes and misdemeanors, isn't this it? If this nation ignores the lies, the abuse of power, if there are to be no legal consequences, tell me what stops the next guy? And that next guy is waiting in the wings if any of the leading Republican possibilities get elected in '08.