Saturday, June 30, 2007

National Forest Threat!

No, the threat I am referring to is not forest fire, though one might think so given the terrible fire recently in Tahoe (poor planning in our forests has added to the impact of those fires). It is instead those currently holding political power in the United States, who don’t see why there should be ‘national’ forests. The damage being done to public ownership of our (and they are ours) forests is not happening by accident nor lack of tax funds. It’s by design. Likewise the reason we ever had them at all was the same-- not by accident but by design. Ironically, rich men were and are at the heart of both philosophies.

I hope everyone followed the Washington Post series on Vice-president Cheney and his usurpation of power beyond the position to which he was elected (unless we have begun electing co-presidents and I didn't hear). The article for June 27, 2007 was about the environment and the Bush administration (or should that more accurately have been named the Cheney administration since it sounds like Bush is mostly there to sign where he's told, raise money, do photo ops, get his ego stroked, and parade past his fans as a wanta-be-cowboy.

Leave No Tracks pretty well says it all. Cheney operates as a self-appointed dictator and even when he loses, he wins something which usually means we all lose. Please read 'Leave No Tracks' if you read no others. Something important to this nation is being threatened.

In 2000, I feared what the bushies would do to the environment, but these guys have been worse than I imagined. (Yes, environmentalists have done some wacko things too, but when you over-protect, it is still there to use. When you under-protect, it can be gone forever.)

When in Montana , I was able to spend time at one of my favorite places, Rock Creek (all photos from there). It’s not the easiest thing to do these days given the forest service is doing minimal maintenance on the gravel road up the canyon. Signs below warn no RVs or low slung vehicles, and they are not kidding as your spine is jostled to premature disc problems by miles of deeply pot-holed, gravel roads. Now why would they do this to this popular fishing, hiking and camping site within 20 miles of a large city?

Whatever their reason, they are doing the same thing to other hiking places we visited. They don’t want people there is my first thought. If people quit using these lands, they are free to rape and pillage them with no one to see or complain. They can sell off the valuable pieces to their developer, mining and logging friends, leaving enough acres of less valuable land still in government ownership to reassure the naive populace that they still own forest lands.

A New York Times Select column by Timothy Egan on June 23, was called, “This Land was My Land.” I wish everyone could read it. He was talking about the same neglect I saw in Montana; but more importantly reminding his readers of from where and why came this concept of national forests. Unfortunately, I can’t put his whole article here but the following are a couple of key paragraphs:

In establishing the people’s estate, they [Theodore Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot] fought Gilded Age titans — railroads, timber barons, mine owners — and their enablers in the Senate. And make no mistake: these acts may have been cast as the founding deeds of the environmental movement, but they were as much about class as conservation.

Pinchot had studied forestry in France, where a peasant couldn’t make a campfire without being subject to penalties. In England, he had seen how the lords of privilege had their way over the outdoors. In the United States, he and T.R. envisioned the ultimate expression of Progressive-era values: a place where a tired factory hand could be renewed — lord for a day.

“In the national forests, big money was not king,” wrote Pinchot. The Forest Se
rvice was beloved, he said, because “it stood up for the honest small man and fought the predatory big man as no government bureau had done before.”
[Bush administration] don’t take care of these lands because they see them as one thing: a cash-out. Thus, in Bush’s budget proposal this year, he guts the Forest Service budget yet again, while floating the idea of selling thousands of acres to the highest bidder. The administration says it wants more money for national parks. But the parks are $10 billion behind on needed repairs; the proposal is a pittance. Roosevelt had his place on Oyster Bay. Pinchot had a family estate in Pennsylvania. Bush has the ranch in Crawford. Only one of them has never been able to see beyond the front porch.”

Bush and Cheney don’t need these forests for themselves. They hunt on the personal preserves of rich men where the birds are released for their shooting ease. They can afford second or third homes in natural regions. More and more, we see national forest trails, roads and even creeks or rivers having access blocked by private lands. Roads that at one time were open to the public are now gated, property decorated with 'No Trespassing' signs, fences across rivers to block even rafters.

It’s the ordinary person, some with very little money, who used to be free to spend weeks in national forests, communing with nature, fishing, just being. I grew up experiencing that, my children did likewise, and now it is my grandchildren. If those, with the mentality of Bush and Cheney, have their way, they will put a stop to that except for the richest among us.

Today, approximately 28% of the United States is considered to be in public ownership but that includes military bases. In Alaska, that is over 60%. A lot of government land occupies places nobody would ever want, but it also encompasses some of the most beautiful forests, rivers and lakes in the world as well as natural wonders that people come from around the world to see. There are those who would like to see the federal government own no public land. They would sell it off to pay the current debts-- sell it to their big-moneyed friends. The public land is a trust and it's a very significant issue how well it will be managed. It's not a nothing for who is next president of the country and for which party wins power.

I hope our next president sees this differently because Bush (provided a list by Cheney) has appointed men to the Supreme Court who seem to see no value in the little guy getting a chance to be in the wilderness, who don't see the value of the environment unless someone can make money from it. Manifest Destiny my foot!

Going up Rock Creek was full of delightful surprises as always—despite the bumpy road. All these photos are from June 22. Most were taken at one of my favorite spots for camping, sitting on the bank, wading, or finding round rocks (only found two this time as the water was still a bit high. I had taken an unpleasant fall on another trail earlier that day and didn't need a repeat).

The bear, cougar, elk, moose, Big Horn Sheep, coyotes, fish, deer, birds, and now wolves think they own this beautiful area. Better them all than the Cheneys of the world.

(All photos can be enlarged by clicking. Check out the spots on the fawn. As we drove back down and were on blacktop again, the most recently born of the Big Horn Sheep stepped unsteadily into the center of the road bringing all traffic to a temporary halt.)

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Alternate lives

"And if you ever held your woman on a summers evening
While the prairie moon was blazin’ in her eyes
You’ll know why I live beneath these Western Skies."
lyrics by Chris Ledoux

From the time I can remember, the idea of ranch life fascinated me. Some of that was growing up when westerns were popular on TV, some came from the books I read, like Zane Grey, but do we ever really know why we are drawn to anything? We can know we are, although it can be hard to sometimes to understand our true inner yearnings, as we are so easily distracted by superficial things that take the place of what might truly fulfill us.When my husband and I were first married, I tried to convince him he should go into ranch management. That would have made zero sense given he's a gifted techie, but he and I have come close to having a bit of that world with our small acreage, the cows and sheep. It's not the same though as big ranch country.
So for me, places like the Big Hole Valley are very popular even though, people, other than fishermen, might wonder why. There are no department stores nor major grocery stores in the tiny town of Wisdom. There is an occasional moose.
I am practical enough to realize places like the Big Hole Valley are not for those like me who are not ranch connected; and yes, I do know how hard ranch life can be. But there is another side of me, the fantasy side and when that woman comes into a valley like the Big Hole, she imagines maybe there is another part of her soul living a life there. Some believe we do that, you know. That our soul is an 'oversoul' that can lead many lives and more than one at a time.
If so, perhaps, that other me is cooking for the ranch crew, saddling her own horse to help with round-ups, listening to her children read after dinner or maybe by now it's grandchildren, and at night if she is not too tired, making love to her rancher husband. Maybe when she wakes up in the middle of the night, she lies in bed and wonders about the life I have led and what it'd be like."I gotta be where I can see those Rocky Mountains
Ride my horse and watch an eagle fly

I gotta live my life and write my songs beneath these Western Skies."
Chris Ledoux

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Kingbird and the Solstice

When I realized that I would be in the Big Hole valley for the summer Solstice, I decided to make sure I could celebrate it at Big Hole National Battlefield. The story of the Nez Perce and Chief Joseph is pretty well known but not so many know of this place.

Sitting in the truck, the laptop plugged into the power source, I feel this land as strongly as I did the first time I happened upon it. This June 21st, the wind blows through the willows, the sun is hot. Snow is still on the mountains that encircle the valley. The banks of the Big Hole River are lush with tall grass. Moose graze on the willows (although I only heard it, didn't see it, and given they said it was with a calf, that was okay with me).

This place is sacred ground because of what happened here, but perhaps it was sacred from before that. Does an event leave behind it energy or did the event happen because of the energy already there? Whichever the case, August of 1877, the Nez Perce camped on the banks of the river, expecting a brief respite from being chased. Here they planned to graze their horses, bake Camas roots in the coals of their campfires, and let women and children rest.

They had been on the run for four months but felt relatively safe. As they had traveled through the Bitterroot Valley, following their traditional hunting trail, they even bought supplies from the settlers with gold. They had no idea that their safety was an illusion.

Although they had had a treaty with the United States government, that treaty like the many before it, was worth only the honor of those who had negotiated it. Pressure was brought to bear to take the Nez Perce land in Oregon's Wallowa Mountains. As the whites expanded across the United States, they wanted all Indians forced onto reservations of their choosing, not where the people had lived. The Nez Perce didn't want to die in captivity. They felt their only choice was to escape to Canada where they could still find safety and freedom. The United States government set out to stop them.

August 7th, 1877, 800 Nez Perce warriors, women and children and 2000 horses arrived at Iskumtsetalik Pah (The Place of the Buffalo Calf). Their chosen leader, Chief Looking Glass, decided the cavalry was far enough behind to give the people time to rest. It must have been so tempting. It still is to linger along the meandering stream, enjoying the beauty. Most of them would have remembered other, more peaceful times as they cut poles and erected their tipis.

Some were given dreams to warn them disaster awaited, but Chief Looking Glass ignored their premonitions.

y brothers, my sisters, I am telling you! In a dream last night I saw myself killed. I will be killed soon! I do not care. I am willing to die. But first I will kill soldiers. I shall not turn back from death. We are all going to die!" Wahlytits

The soldiers attacked at dawn on August 9th and for the story of the battle, the tragic slaying of women and children, the survival of those who hid in the creek, who were protected by their parents' fierce fight, the capture by the Nez Perce warriors of the military's howitzer, you can find the stories on line at sites like Big Hole National Battlefield. It was a time of tragedy, one of great courage, monumental mistakes as well as the strength of the human spirit.

The Nez Perce who escaped continued to try to find freedom, but the United States government was equally determined they would not. It is a sad and not proud story of the American concept of manifest destiny that was repeated time and again across the West. Of the thousand treaties entered into by the United States, less than 100 were honored.

After many battles, and almost to the border with Canada, the surviving Nez Perce were stopped and forced onto two reservations, one in Washington and one in Idaho. They were never again permitted to live in their homeland. In an ironic twist there is a memorial to Chief Joseph, the Nez Perce's most famous leader, on Wallowa Lake. I suspect it's as much a tourist enticement as a real attempt to make right that which cannot be made right. They would not even allow Joseph (his birth name, Hin-mah-too-yah-lat-kekt, meant Thunder Rolling Down the Mountain) to buy land there when he requested it, and he died in exile.

Where the various tipis stood that day has been marked by those who came back later to recount the stories. In front of Chief Joseph's tipi poles, I took a silent time for reverence and gratitude. You can see by the prayer cloths tied to the poles how many others had felt the same things. I then noticed above me, on top of those tipi poles, had landed an Eastern Kingbird. It stayed the whole time, and I'd like to think it might have been an omen that it was right to pay respect to these people and their most famous leader, who people still remember for his words-- From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever.

Walking up the hill toward where the soldiers, who had originally thought to easily overcome the Nez Perce, instead fought for their lives, I got this photo which might be a little difficult to interpret. It is a bright blue dragonfly laying eggs. It seemed symbolic to me of new life.

As always, these photos are more impressive if they are enlarged by clicking on them. Imagine the wind blowing, the sun on your back. Do you hear that faint sound of children laughing and playing along the banks of the creek, the women gossiping as they gather roots? Or perhaps it's the sounds of the guns, the screams of the dying? Can you feel the energy of those who sacrificed their lives for others? Perhaps it's just the wings of a bird as it takes flight.

I am back in Oregon; post was written June 21st in the Big Hole valley.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Solstice Celebration Mountain Style

Walking along the mountain trail
I turned a corner and there they were.
I wasn’t invited, but who could resist?
Were they celebrating the sun’s return--
Or their own?

Transfixed by their beauty, I sat on the grass.
They paid me no mind--
ecstasy heeds only itself.

There are times like these,
they don’t come often,
when creatures must seize the moment,
and I did.

I imagined myself one of them,
with brightly colored wings, flitting here and there
landing to tease and play, sucking from the nectar of life.
Grounded though I might be, I also celebrated
their being.

The Viceroys teased the Admirals
While the bright orange fritillary chased the duller.
Oh and yes, the dragonflies were there
almost always out of focus and out of reach
for today.

Photos (along with many more) were taken along the Kootenai Creek Trail in Montana-- June 20, 2007.

Friday, June 22, 2007

The Sunset of Life

It's a rather ironic topic to post here today after we just had the Solstice which is the highpoint of the year, a celebration of the most light we in the Northern Hemisphere experience in a day, but it is on my mind. (Two Solstice oriented posts still to come.)

Where I am staying in Montana is an older home, a cottage, which the owners rent to others as a vacation home away from home. There are five horses on the property and one in the yard right with this house. She is a thoroughbred and 26 years old. In her prime she raced but when these owners got her, she had had years of physical abuse. She will live out her life on the banks of this little creek with plenty of food, other horses to nuzzle across a fence, but none to pick on her. She is skinny, frail, and not long for this world, and she is what reminds me of the seasons of life more than the Solstice.

Watching her as she walks around the perimeters of her world, I wonder (as I have with all old animals) does she know she is so old? I am old by age standards. Yes, I use pictures here, by watching lighting and angles, where I look younger than I am. A neighbor back home recently told me he had no idea I was my age. It doesn't matter whether I look in a mirror and see every one of those soon to be 64 years (and I frequently do), they are there. I feel them; and when I think of the horse and see her old body, I think about my own aging.

It's not in a bad way that I think about it. The Solstice yesterday was a time to glory in life. I even got a slight sunburn from that glorying (not on the agenda), but to truly glory in life means we must accept all its stages. The sunset, the declining years, those are part of the years where the juices once flowed freely and we could bound up mountains if we so chose. Nobody stays in a race horse mode. The latter years come, and it is up to us what we make of them-- but not whether they come. We can be depressed, or relish the fact we got here at all. We elderly get to experience all of life where so many have been denied that.

David Brooks wrote something, on a totally different topic, but it so fit what I was thinking about today-- how to make these last years really good ones. I believe, we do that, not by denying them but instead relishing them for what they are. Unlike the horse, who most likely does not know, we do know they are coming. What we expect could play a large role in what they become.

"We’re not primarily deciders. We’re primarily perceivers. The body receives huge amounts of information from the world, and what we primarily do is turn that data into a series of generalizations, stereotypes and theories that we can use to navigate our way through life. Once we’ve perceived a situation and construed it so that it fits one of the patterns we carry in our memory, we’ve pretty much rigged how we’re going to react, even though we haven’t consciously sat down to make a decision." by David Brooks New York Times.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


It was 1991 the first time I saw Montana’s mountains looming above the freeway as I traveled east on I-90. The hills grew steeper as heavily timbered mountains seemed to go nearly straight to the rivers and creeks below. I felt a familiarity which went beyond the fact I had lived in the Pacific Northwest all of my life.

From the start, there was something in Montana that I knew; and as I visited historic places like Buffalo Jump where buffalo herds were driven off the cliffs to feed and cloth the Blackfeet, Salish, Shoshone and others, I wondered had I been here in a previous lifetime? I let myself feel the trails, the sky, and the hills. Was I here as a Lakota woman? Maybe Blackfeet? Or was it all imagination? Montana is a wonderful place for imagination.

I had traveled to a lot of places in the west but can't say why I put off coming to Montana until I was 48. I think I expected it to be another Oregon or Washington. In one sense, it is-- only with faster and bigger rivers, steeper mountains and less people—although the less people part is changing fast. Because of its history, the wildlife roaming free, the people who value freedom more than some places-- it's not like anywhere else I have been.

Those first trips were the years where sleeping in the van was my kind of camping. Curtains quickly clipped in place, pads and sleeping bags laid out and it was easy to stay anywhere for a night; however, Montana taught me the fallacy of that thinking one summer when I thought a fishing access site along the Yellowstone River would be lovely. It was-- except for the flies. I have never, to this day, had more flies descend from nowhere. It was like a horror move, only The Flies instead of The Birds, and rapidly led to changing where to sleep that night.

Montana has a way of doing that—revising plans. Head up a trail and see a young moose carcass partly eaten or find still steaming bear scat (big enough to be grizzly) and hiking plans change. The days when I came here with the freedom to vagabond were the most fun. Go somewhere and if the fishing was good, you stay. If it isn’t, you go where the river is higher or lower or the hatch had just erupted-- and those insects do seem to erupt. I am always on the outlook for streams with round rocks where I can wade looking into the water, along the beaches, staying downstream from the fishermen, but turning over a lot of rocks to find that nearly perfect round shape.

When I try to think of one main thing people seek when they come to Montana, I am not sure. Yes, there is Yellowstone, Glacier, the Little Big Horn, but I think most come for the experience of the wild, the feeling of freedom. You find that experience when you see bear tracks along a river, or are hiking a trail to a waterfall, sometimes even along a freeway when a moose runs across the lanes in front of you. (That only happened once but I keep hoping for a repeat—of course, far enough in front to not endanger bumper or moose.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Big Sky Country

For the next week, I will be in the Bitterroot Valley of Montana. I might post a bit with photographs but will be writing less given this is a laptop computer and my access from the cabin is dial-up. As happened the first time I was in Montana, over 15 years ago, my spirit begins to soar when I see these mountains, rivers and sky. This trip will be mostly centered in the Bitterroot Valley with hopefully one day in the Big Hole.

Friday, June 15, 2007

profile photos

There are not many people who like photos of themselves. Since I use photos a lot with my painting and sculpture, usually I tend to think of mine as someone unknown, just an image; but when I have to consider a photo definitely as me for a profile somewhere, I tolerate them at best. If I don't dislike them to start, I very quickly come to do so. Photos are, after all, just a mometary flash. They are illusions-- sometimes good, sometimes bad. Expressions in them are so often forced-- except with casual snapshots.

Where it comes to this profile, I could avoid the problem and put up scenery. It's tempting; except, I like to see what other bloggers look like and assume readers want to know what I look like.

If I am going to put one into a profile, I want it to look like me but also one that says something about the kind of woman I am-- the real me. I want to be able to stand looking at day after day. For this one, I also want it to say something about the blog here-- a blog that has no identity (Fran at Sacred Ordinary was discussing identity of blog recently) as it has no topic as such. So I am looking for a lot from a photo-- oh and I never want a big smile on it. I quite frequently write about depressing or even irritating topics and no way do I want a big grin up there looking down on those words.

So after tolerating the last one for a couple of months, I was more than ready for a change but to what? Well I have something up temporarily, but am not sure I like it. To get some help with this, I thought I'd put up a couple I took the other day to see what others might think. Do any of these look like a photo of a woman whose blog you'd like to read?


This is my own favorite.
I like photos with no smile--
at all.
Although is it a grumpy looking?
Like maybe a woman who
forgot her metamucil.

Does she look mean?
Like she swallowed something
disagreeable which is true
after reading the paper.

I can't believe it! No way they'd
do that.. Damn, they did...

And here is placid, sweet
Okay, as sweet as it gets.
Maybe just had a glass of wine.
This is the--
no-good-to-get-upset-- look.
A bit of a bovine quality.

Besides, it's only 17 more months...
unless Giuliani gets in!


Wondering if conjuring
a spell would help
probably not...

Anyway, any opinions? A,B,C,D or the one I have up? Or should I start looking for something new?

And on the conjuring, just joking-- honest!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Whose side is he on?

While I would like to let the immigration issue go, this just couldn't be ignored. Portland mayor objects to arresting illegals in sting. It's hard to understand how a man, who was at one time Portland's police chief, can not understand how if it was illegal for some to supply phony Social Security cards, it's also illegal for some to use them. What about illegal doesn't this man understand? We're just lucky he's not still head of Portland's police department...

Camile Paglia

One of my favorite commentators on anything is Camile Paglia. She's witty, educated, and covers everything from politics to pop culture. This Salon column, which happens to relate to recent topics here, is no exception: Don't run, Al. Don't.

For people who don't follow up on links, one particular quote from her column is simply too good to take the chance you might miss. It explains a lot of the problems today with both the right wing, who want simple answers for complex problems, and GW Bush, who prides himself in never going deep or bothering to get educated on anything-- including how to properly address the Pope. Good ol' gut instinct never let him down yet, dontcha know.

Camile Paglia wrote: "I winced when President Bush at a press conference last month said, in reference to terrorists wanting to harm us, "These are the words of al-Qaida themselves." Nearly six years after 9/11, is it possible that the commander in chief of the American military still doesn't understand the meaning of that Arabic phrase? "Al-Qaida" isn't plural, like "Boy Scouts" or "Rotarians"; it literally means "the foundation," a loose consortium of scattered cells (against which conventional warfare is helpless).

"The embarrassingly limited knowledge of the Middle East possessed by this administration when it recklessly launched the Iraq invasion will be the subject of endless future histories. The president naively relied on arrogant advisors with their own covert agendas, above all Vice President Dick Cheney, who despite his impaired health and recurrent medical emergencies, remains the obstinate mastermind of our continued, costly presence in Iraq. This administration has morphed into Salvador Dali's horrifying 1936 painting, "Soft Construction With Boiled Beans: Premonition of Civil War" -- a barbaric spectacle of rage, self-destruction and decay."

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Fifty-sixth political blog

Before today, there were 55 blogs on Rainy Day Thoughts on politics. It would be easy to write about politics every time I sat at the keyboard because there is always something going on, something to think about, something to get mad about. It's that second part that stops me from writing on it even more often. It's just so darned negative. Life is so much better when I live it in a positive vein. Still as a citizen of a country I love very much, I feel I should be informed and consider where our political choices are taking us.

Any reader who has been around awhile, knows I lean left on many issues but not all. I am a strong believer in having realistic laws that the average citizen actually does obey. Don't make a law because it looks good or it sounds nice but rather do it because it makes life better for more people. We have too many laws now that are being overlooked-- our government leading the way in the supposed name of protecting us. Not sure who is going to be the one to protect us from them.

My concern for the law is why I favor sending back to their native country all those who illegally entered here-- not taking into consideration how critical their jobs are, nor how nice they are. Yes, I know it'd be very expensive and disruptive. It also won't happen. I realize it would be a cruel burden on many families. We got into something and now it's hard to see a benevolent way out. Sounds a lot like Iraq, doesn't it? But for me, where it comes to illegal immigration, hasn't it been setting a precedent where our laws are ending up more like suggestions?

The question of law is important not only because of the people who illegally entered, but also because of those in this country who looked the other way and benefited. We have a history of using people for cheap or even free labor. Some say oh no, I didn't do that back then and I'd never do it now, but they know they are getting work done through a contractor who hires illegals. They don't care because it is saving them money. The rule of law be damned.

Recently Senator McCain (candidate for president) said we have to offer a path to citizenship for illegal workers who have been here long enough because otherwise there will be riots. An example of this method of reasoning is when I was the mother of small children and they were misbehaving in a restaurant (not breaking the law but breaking the peace) should I have shrugged my shoulders helplessly and said-- Sorry I can't stop them or they'll have a temper tantrum? Why bother pretending we have laws if riots decide which ones are enforced? What is this teaching our children and grandchildren? That it's okay to exploit people because we did it for so long and it'd be expensive to change our ways.

I believe in closing our borders and putting more pressure on employers to be sure all their employees are legal. I would favor setting up an extensive system to decide which jobs legitimately needed to be done. I would allow those who had originally come here illegally to go home and apply for those jobs and citizenship or a work permit, their choice, equally with their brothers who didn't break the law in the first place. It would have to be done more effectively than government usually operates. I know it'd be hard, but what price are we paying for thumbing our noses at any law that doesn't suit us? And having a sizable illegal population in this country isn't working to strengthen us even if some do think they are making money as it is.

I am one of those who believes when you don't like a law, you change it. You don't break it and then decide to rewrite it to escape consequences. How can we say we have any respect for law and order if the law is only obeyed when it's easy?

I felt the same way about Paris Hilton's jail sentence. I want the law to be the same for everyone. I feel strongly that rich should not be given special privileges; but in her case, it looks like it went the other way and she was made an example. I don't believe in examples. Rich, poor, black, white, purple, whatever the law is, it should be enforced equally. The fact that it isn't right now, does not make it okay to keep letting that happen.

Which the long way around brings me to the reason for this blog. Unfortunately it's still about 17 months away-- not that I am counting-- but an election is approaching again for the presidency of the United States. I have listened to what the different candidates say, the way they present themselves at the so-called debates (which seem more like presentations). As I read their statements or watch them speak, I am looking for certain things-- someone who respects our Constitution, the rule of law, and has the brains to see where things are going before they become disasters. Experience would be a bonus. I want someone with genuine character, not religious piety that when nobody is looking goes out the door for a higher good-- their own. I want to see strength of character-- the kind you see a lot in people but seemingly less and less in politicians. I won't vote for anybody who defends the use of torture.

My biggest concern, given the media we have today, is that we will elect another image. Pretty faces are nice in magazines or films. I am not saying that a handsome person couldn't be an effective leader, but looking presidential is no reason to vote for anyone. Recently it seems it's been all about creating an image, not about ability. I heard a journalist on television discussing one of our problems. He said, the skills that make someone good at running for office aren't necessarily the same ones that make them good at governing.

I hope we have learned something about what matters in a president and don't elect another president because people think he/she would be fun at a barbecue (that is an even worse reason than whether they are good looking. Can you imagine someone saying I sure hope our new CEO is a fun guy?

I am not thrilled with either party's candidates at the moment. It's easier for me to go ballistic on the ones I dislike than talk about the ones I am thinking hey maybe that person would be good. For me, the irony is the Republican or Democrat who look best, at the moment, have very different views on the issues.

On the Republican side, for Dr. Ron Paul, the pluses are his intelligence, understanding for how we got where we are with the Iraq debacle, but mostly his respect for the Constitution (the rest seem to see things like the Bill of Rights as impediments). My concern is his libertarianism, possibly too narrow a view of the Constitution, and that he won't support a federal right to choose abortion.

On the Democratic side, Senator Barack Obama offers as pluses his intelligence, the hope that he is a man of character, his seeming ability to see the big picture. My concerns are is it all image? With his lack of experience in a lot of areas, we have to trust in his judgment of people who have that experience. How is he doing on that?

So is anybody standing out to you? What are the main characteristics for which you will be looking? Is there one issue that is a deal breaker? Are you ready to support one candidate with your contributions and working the phones?

Sunday, June 10, 2007

tests and such

Awhile back, after reading this article in Astrological Musings-- For Women Only, I decided to eventually write my own thoughts on the topic of mammograms. The subject is really not for women only as men can get breast cancer and should do regular self-exams for lumps.

On an early morning in May, I went for my approximately yearly mammogram. I thought about writing about it then because it's such a woman's world in there. The technicians, women in various states of undress, each of us hoping for the best results but hoping to catch the worst results before they grow into something catastrophic. The squish 'em all flat isn't comfortable, but it is not the worst part by any means for me. What I dislike is waiting for results. When they come out okay, as mine did again this year, it's such a relief.

I think it's good to evaluate what experts tell us about anything and have lived enough years to hear many medical opinions turn somersaults for what is good or bad. One year this is bad, next year it's so-so, and ten years down the road, it might be good. They do studies, release what they say are the results, and even 'other' experts scratch their heads and wonder-- now what does that mean!

Where it comes to mammograms, it has occurred to me that radiation might nudge a budding cancer to grow. It could be a factor for someone predisposed to getting breast cancer as could smoking, alcohol intake, certain foods, depression, lack of exercise, wearing a bra, using antiperspirants, and other possible radiation sources (microwaves, cell phones, computers, wireless systems, overhead power lines) etc.

The radiation amount received from a mammogram has been reduced with the newer machines. You have 2 in each breast yearly from 50 on with one every couple of years in your 40s. Small-breasted women, who skip mammograms and do self exams, probably have a better chance at detecting small lumps; but by the time anybody can feel a lump, if it turns out to be cancer, it can have spread to the lymph nodes. The idea of a mammogram is you catch it first and increase your odds of survival as well as have less intensive and unpleasant treatment. A lot of that depends on how aggressive your cancer is to start. Someone like Sheryl Crow, who caught hers in her early 40s, will have much increased her chances of surviving to die many years later of something else.

To me, these recent results of reduced breast cancer rates in 2002-03 and trying to connect it to women having less mammograms from 2000 to 2005 can't be interpreted to mean mammograms do or don't increase breast cancer. If radiation increases risk, it would be cumulative over many years, not in two. The fear, in other articles I had been reading, was that the women still have the small cancers but now won't find them until later. That could be right or wrong.

The hormone replacement therapy's suggested connections to breast cancer are as confusing. For years tests didn't seem to indicate it increased the risk; then in the last study, where they started women on hormones, in some cases, who had their last period 5 years earlier, the results seemed pretty definite that it was a factor. They also have not yet collected test data on any of the herbal things women take nor bio-identical hormones. Evidently there is some evidence that women who have late menopause have slightly more breast cancer in their 60s which could mean something or maybe doesn't because what else is going on?

I think it is good for people to evaluate all information when they decide on what to do about any tests or treatments. I did that with mammograms. Where I have a family history of breast cancer in aunt and grandmother on my father's side and have been close to someone who died from breast cancer, I decided I'd rather take the risk it might slightly increase my odds of getting it but would definitely increase my odds of catching it early. For a woman such as myself, who has large breasts, I'd probably never find anything by self exam until it was too late.

Interestingly enough when I was looking at the information on this subject, it said fat women have less mammograms and they weren't sure why that would be. Discomfort greater? Dislike of going to doctors? A lot of women who don't go in for yearly physicals are certainly less prodded by their doctors to do a mammogram. My mother, who died at 85 of congestive heart failure, never had one and never had breast cancer, but her results can't be interpreted as having meaning for me either.

This is another of those areas where we receive a lot of information but have a hard time interpreting what it will mean for us. For women, it's a scary subject, but one about which I believe we should be as informed as possible taking responsibility for our choices.

Friday, June 08, 2007


Am I missing a sensitivity chip? Yesterday all the news media seemed to want to cover was Paris Hilton breaking out of jail-- and maybe being sent back today. Why is this a national story? Did the media create it by their coverage (while they ignored issues which seemed to me far more important)?

Even talk on the street, at work, everywhere it was all outrage over Hilton getting out of jail without doing much time. Who cares? Maybe somebody can explain it to me. It's not like we truly thought justice was blind. Has anybody believed that for years-- if ever?

Get a good lawyer and you will be like that skinny little toad, Phil Spector, sitting in a courtroom with a chance to get off after shooting a woman in the mouth. Yeah right a woman who had just met him would walk into his house, take a gun from his drawer and shoot herself in her beautiful face. If any ordinary working stiff had done this would it have even gone to trial? We know why it did-- because he has money. I won't even get started with OJ but it's one story after another like that. We have the best court system money can buy.

Back to Hilton and my own outrage that it became such a huge story. At the same time, we have Putin and Bush posturing like Cold War is back, at a time when Russia has money again (thanks to oil and not being in Afghanistan) and we don't (thanks to oil and being in Iraq), why the hell is a missile shield for Europe even being talked about? Is it over Iran who doesn't have such missiles and has yet to attack anybody except through their current leader's big mouth? Or is it the industrial military complex that must be fed more and more meat? Bush may have let a lot of his former backers down but he's never disappointed his corporate bosses.

Then we have the immigration bill that was shelved. Questions about whether the FBI hyped another terrorist plot that may have been basically created by their own stooges-- a plot that they claimed could destroy more than 9/11 but experts say wouldn't have worked even if it had been tried.

We have every candidate, (in both political parties) who is running for president, acting like he or she is running for the Pope's position. Then there is that girl grabbed in Kansas and murdered, another one to the point that our society has these predators running around everywhere, in every small town, and nothing happens to them for years if they even get caught! Ack I could go on but with all that, the biggest story was Paris Hilton??? I think I might have a stroke.

To me the real story about her is the gladiator sport to which this country has become so attracted. Build up these people like Don Imus, Martha Stewart, Britney Spears, et al. and then watch them crumble. That was the entertainment of the Roman society too before it collapsed.

Why did it matter about Paris even before this? What had she done to become so famous? A sex tape? A silly reality show? Looking beautiful? What was it? I have no clue as all I see is that she gets paid to go to parties and look 'hot' if you define hot as a dull looking pose that she repeats in every photo including her mug shot. Amazing and now she is the meat for the lions. She is pathetic, not to be hated but pitied.

Is it our media that did this to us or are we doing it to ourselves? Why do we care about that silly woman? And yet yesterday on the news channels, that I watched, it was the story all day, with even 'expert' panels to discuss it. I suppose it will be today too especially if she gets sent back.

I guess it's just as well as I should be doing coyote watch... I did get a shot at it yesterday but missed. It was a long way off, then ran across the field which put the neighbor's home behind it. Probably not a risk but I wouldn't shoot in that situation. It headed straight for the cow herd (which again meant too risky to shoot). That cow herd shall henceforth be known as the non-guard-cow herd. They didn't pay it any mind. Maybe they were chewing their cuds over the Hilton story too... grrrrrrrrrrr

Thursday, June 07, 2007

words and pictures

From childhood, for me, it has always been back and forth between words and pictures. Draw something. Write something. Sometimes I would feel a certain emotion, draw what it evoked, then write a few words beside or on top of it. I never called the words poetry as they didn't rhyme. They were intended only to go along with the picture. I used to have sketchbooks full of these combinations-- most not very good. Being 'good' wasn't the point. The point was satisfying an emotional need. They began with a feeling, expanded into a drawing which led to words.

Above my desk (at the moment) are eleven quotations jotted on Post-it notes. These are ideas I want to utilize in my life. If a quote loses its meaning for me, I remove it.
One day, as I was looking at them, I thought about creating a piece of computer art that began with some of those words. There was no plan for how to proceed or what the picture would be. I created one of my computer canvases and stroked across it with a broad swath of color.

After I was satisfied with the fantasy painting, I realized I wanted to write words of my own. My words aren't as good as the original piece of poetry but I felt it made it more mine when I interpreted not only the picture but the thought. The original piece of poetry follows.

Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?
Mary Oliver
(I read this one on Fran's Sacred Ordinary)

The next computer painting began with another quotation I wanted to use; then I remembered a photograph I had taken of a seagull and a wild, stormy sea. The gull is trying to fly against a wind that keeps it almost in the same place, but the bird isn't about to give up. Sometimes, in the past, I have used photographs with words, but this time, I let the photograph be the inspiration for another computer painting and again rewrote the original words.

Hold fast to dreams for if dreams die, life is a winged bird that cannot fly.
Langston Hughes
(given to me by Winston at Nobody Asked)

It is possible to use computer text instead of drawing the words, but that ended up looking like greeting cards. I am hoping to improve my dexterity with the mouse.

Anyone can do this with the computer. Find a quotation that is meaningful to you. Open up a canvas (description on the process is in creativity). Then don't plan to do something specific. Maybe it will end up an abstract. Just keep that quote in your head and use the colors to see what happens. It's not about being good. It's about opening up.

Years ago I carried the following quotation in my wallet as my goal for those I love. The paper grew tattered, but the words by then were imprinted in my heart. There is no rewriting them.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Something old and something new

Monday afternoon, around 3 pm, I was typing at my computer when something snagged my attention. I turned around to look out the window and saw the sheep flock, which was out in the pasture, bunched together looking nervously back toward the field. That is never a good thing to see. Sheep when they are being attacked don't make much noise, but they form a protective circle.

I had no idea what the problem was, hoped it was nothing, but ran out the bedroom door, not taking time to go to the utility room to find a rifle because when there is an attack on sheep, seconds count.

Isolated from the main flock, up against the fence was a lamb (the dark one you see in the photo above) down with a coyote two or three feet away and coming fast. I ran forward yelling at the coyote to get out of here. The coyote did an abrupt stop, turned its attention from the sheep to me, shifted gears, and split. I regretted no gun because, as close as it was, it would have been an easy shot. On the other hand, that moment to get the gun could well have been the end of that lamb. Coyotes aren't in this for the game. They kill quickly.

The lamb's head was up, but I was still concerned she had been torn. As I approached, I saw nothing wrong as she got up and ran to the flock and her mother. Mama was making nervous mothering sounds. That mother and her twins are always together, but in this case, she was helpless to protect her baby. I have seen the bodies of ewes after they have attempted to fight a coyote and ended up dead alongside their lambs. I understand the impulse because if this coyote had kept coming, I would have gone over the fence to protect my lamb.

With the coyote gone, I ran back into the house for my rifle with the intention to bring the sheep into the more protected house pasture. I figured the coyote would be long gone but decided not to take time to change my sandals just in case it was hanging around.

I opened the main gate and frowned at the cows-- guard cows indeed. Because they had yummy new hay, they were around their feeder, munching, chewing cud, napping, and giving no sign that a predator had just dashed past.

The sheep and I had come to the same conclusion about them coming into the house pasture, and they were running toward me. I scanned the flock, looking to see if any were dripping blood, had injuries I hadn't seen. I also was watching in case the coyote was still lurking. My gaze was forward, not downward, but down was where the big, fresh cow plop waited. I stepped squarely into the center of it.

The best description for the feeling is ewwwwww . This is the kind of thing that is not supposed to happen to rescuers of sheep. It is the sort of thing that probably happens most often when those rescuers wear sandals into a pasture.

So the something old (well me too) was the experience of chasing off a coyote. I've done it before, and it always feels good. I go from feeling I am not doing much that matters to knowing I just saved a life.

The something new was the experience of stepping solidly-- scratch that word-- deeply, with what was almost a bare foot, into a large, cow plop (which did happen to also be new). If you haven't done it, and I am assuming most haven't as I never had, it's kind of like stepping in wet, gooey mud-- if you ignore the odor part.

Anyway all is well that ends well, my jeans are freshly laundered, and my cleaned sandal will dry eventually... hopefully with no lingering fragrances. I always wonder when something like this happens-- do the sheep know I will protect them? That they can count on me? Did they feel relief when they see me come out-- okay, she's here and we'll be okay? It's what I want them to think, but beings they are sheep, I will never know for sure.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

It's a matter of trust

The baby in the nest was so cute. It peeped out and waited patiently for its parents to return with food (the white crest on its head says it is a cliff swallow). I took the pictures last week. Then yesterday, one of the sets of three cliff swallow nests had fallen to the floor of the barn, crumbled into unrecognizable chunks. The only signs left were the circles on the ceiling and little babies scurrying for shelter under some large round bales.

Those nests had been so beautiful but the heat came, the clay dried, the metal flexed, the nests popped loose. The babies had feathers; they might survive. Maybe the parents will hear them on the ground and still feed them-- just long enough. Maybe.

That barn is supposed to have hay bales stored there-- 60 thousand pound bales arriving this week-end for the winter feed. Rain comes on Tuesday. The cattle need to have that feed without mold. Can a rancher reasonably factor in a few baby birds?

The crumbled nests and the babies struggling to survive seemed to go together with something else I have been wrestling with this week-- the issue of trust. The nests were a disappointment, a symbol of something crumbling when it wasn't built on solid ground. We do that sometimes when we trust the wrong people.

Is it better to be a person who trusts or one who is skeptical? The baby birds had no choice in it. They were born from parents who did the best they could with where they situated them. Many birds have nests around the barns and they are still there, still providing a safe haven. The swallows followed their instincts; except this time, it didn't work. Will they build again in the same place, use those rings to attach new nests, or will they move on?

Basically I am a trusting person. If you tell me something about yourself, I will believe you until something gives me reason to quit believing. Perhaps this has been because the people close to me have been mostly trustworthy. I grew up with parents who didn't lie. I am not naive though and do realize it's not always that way.

Some years back,
when I frequented a certain 50s chat room, there was a man who said he was a hunchback. The people who chatted there had no reason to disbelieve him. Why would anyone say such a thing if it was not true? Because of his misshapen body, he told me he avoided going out in the daytime for fear of being abused by others. Perhaps he wanted sympathy, and he got it-- falsely. Someone who eventually met him said he wasn't handicapped other than obviously emotionally.

Internet makes lies easy, but it happens in 'real time' also. Years ago, a friend of mine was dying of cancer. During one of her bad spells, I sat at her bedside to comfort her, got her water to drink, tried to think of things to say that would be helpful. Someone else who was less gullible and knew more about cancer realized she was lying which the woman finally admitted to all her friends and the church that had mostly been believing her lies. I don't know why she lied, maybe a sickness of a differ
ent sort, a need for attention. I also don't know why I never thought to disbelieve her.

On the swallows, we will get involved in the nest problem by nailing up a couple of wooden nest boxes and some shelving below the existing mud nests. None of that will help the little ones that fell to the earth too soon. If they aren't fed by their parents while on the ground, if they can't survive long enough to learn to fly, they are doomed.

We can feel the same way when we find someone important to us has betrayed our trust. Do we try to build again in the same place? Do we move on?

We, as humans, are both the babies and the parents. We wait for what others bring us needing to trust. We are also the ones who bring nourishment to others and they need to be able to trust us.

(The nest is one of several in the equipment shed. The pair on the line are most likely their parents-- Brewer's Blackbirds.)