Sunday, September 30, 2007

Gardeners are nice people

Okay, maybe all gardeners aren't but, in my experience, it has seemed they are. There is just something about those who grow plants that makes them inherently nice as they desire to share their produce, their seeds, their knowledge. Perhaps close proximity to plants mellows one or is it the soil? Well whatever it is, over and over again, in my life, I have been blessed by their bounty.

In Palo Alto, at least the area where I was staying, the homes are generally moderate in size, craftsmen, Spanish in influence, bungalows-- their gardens lush with flowers and the streets narrow with often no sidewalk but many tall trees. I love it. This part of Palo Alto, a mile or so from Stanford University, has an aura of uniqueness, of intellect, of peacefulness-- even though only a few blocks off the busy El Camino Real.

The house to the right looked to be owner designed, maybe built, and to the right of it was a small set of pens for either goats, chickens or even sheep. Unoccupied at the moment, they looked well kept and ready for a future resident.

There are other Palo Altos-- the ritzy one, the poor one; but I am writing about the in between one. By in between, that doesn't mean inexpensive. Even small houses with little lots can easily run half a million dollars or more, but that doesn't mean it's not in between-- for where it is.

On this particular walk, I had headed out into the back streets and hadn't taken my camera. I got about three blocks from the motel and remembered it. Okay, I thought, it won't matter. What can I see that I just have to photograph? I found it one block farther and turned around. The day was hot. Did I mention that? I wasn't eager to go back to the motel, but I simply had to photograph these gorgeous, deep, deep red, almost exotic looking flowers. From a distance, from their colors, I had thought perhaps they were chili peppers but they were not.

As I was angling the camera for one more photograph, I heard the clear, masculine voice-- May I help you? He walked over from a side yard as I said-- yes, what are these flowers? I haven't seen anything like them.

I am not sure what he thought I had been doing; but as soon as he heard the question, he was eager to tell me all about them. Amaranthus, he said. No, they wouldn't be limited to the temperate region around Palo Alto. He felt confident I could grow them. Despite their height, they are annuals which will reseed every year. He said some might consider them weeds, but they are easy to control. They are also edible.

We talked awhile longer about this and that, and then he said, would you like some seeds? Would I like some seeds? I had been wondering whether my local seed store would have them, trying to remember the correct spelling he had told me. I was happy when he cut off a flower head, put it in a sack and even added a few seeds for a yellow amaranthus.

Later research online told me Amaranthus are also called Love-lies Bleeding. How could one not love a flower with such a name? They are used by the Hopi for their red dyes (possibly Navajo also as I see that same shade of red in my Navajo rug colored by natural dyes), were used by the Aztec in some of their ceremonies, and have appeared in poems. Whatever drew me down the right block to see them and brought that man out to take time to tell me about this beautiful plant, I have been enriched.

Gardeners are nice people.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

What our side is doing... or not

Friday night I watched, as usual when it is on, Real Time with Bill Maher on HBO. United States Representative Rahm Emanuel was one of the guests. I expected to like him but didn't end up liking what I heard. When he was asked why Congress didn't simply cut off the funds needed to keep the Iraqi war going, he said we don't have the power-- yet. I felt the top if my head come off!

So, what that meant (to me) is they are waiting for 2008 when they have increased their margin and have secured the presidency. For now, they actually don't mind it as it is. Maher tried to get him to admit it is what he was saying, but of course, he did the usual politician's double talk to try and avoid the truth. To be only concerned with gaining Democratic power is no better than what we have seen with the Republicans these last years.

It apparently suits them to appear impotent in stopping Bush's war policies because of the personal 'greater good'-- getting more power for themselves. They won't blame themselves that in the next 15 months, more American soldiers will die, more Iraqi civilians. Do people lose their character, their hearts when they go into politics?

For the rest of us, outside of the government brain drain, my opinion is know what we personally believe and want done. Then start keeping track of how our Congressmen vote. Let them know how we feel. Be they Democrat or Republican, if they don't vote the way we believe is proper, vote them out in 2008. Keep voting them all out until they learn we mean what we say.

For me, this particularly applies if Representative Dennis Kucinich does offer a bill to impeach Bush and Cheney. If my congressman doesn't vote to impeach, I will mark in anybody else's name in November 2008-- no matter what their party. If we ignore what happens in the next 15 months, more people will die and the Bush cabal just might have actually succeeded in starting WWIII. We have to start applying pressure as we cannot expect Congress to get backbone unless we do first.

So what have we learned from Bush?

Winston from Nobody Asked really nailed something I had debated writing about but am glad I put off because he said it better and with a lot of links. If anyone is still supporting Bush and his successors (and you know who they are) please read-- Bush Lied.

I literally find nothing that man does amazing anymore. He has done everything he can to destroy America and smugly implies history will see how wise he was. His confidence in himself goes beyond simple ego to near insanity.

The issue now is not just about him, although I'd favor impeaching him which I realize our cowardly Congress wouldn't have the guts to do (or they are being paid off also which is most likely the truth); but it's who do we elect next. Please read this article in Slate and give it some serious thought before you support someone for the nomination or vote in November 2008-- Learning from Bush's Mistakes.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Political debates

Despite my interest in who will be the Democrat's nominee for president in 2008, I had not watched any debates until this week. This was partly to save my sanity and partly because as I have read the various positions from the nominees, none really suited me.

After watching that debate, I feel the same way. Oh, I know who I don't want-- still. Hillary Clinton. I have my reasons, but I didn't doubt she'd be a smoothly packaged debater and she is. Watching the debate disturbed me for several reasons and maybe it's why I hadn't watched them before.

First of all debates are packaged. They are not about who would be a better leader, who has better judgment, but rather about who looks good. Representative Dennis Kucinich addressed that by saying, (paraphrased) you can elect a president who can get us out of Iraq, who can provide universal health care, who will balance the budget or you can elect someone who is tall. That's pathetic but true. Elect a guy who looks like the guys who play presidents as heroes (or woman) and ignore what they stand for or can actually do, ignore their skills, their records, just go by pretty and look where that has gotten us.

Then I have not watched because of what I mentioned above. None of them totally suit me. I know no matter who the Republicans nominate, I will be voting for the Democratic nominee. The only possible Republican candidate that I would consider, Representative Ron Paul, simply doesn't have a chance and might be too libertarian for me if he did. His stand for the Constitution would make him tempting if I thought anybody could get in there and really restore it. I am afraid it's a done deal because power once given away carelessly is often very hard to repossess.

Debates are these quick little sound bites which are meaningless, but there were some things that came from the Dartmouth one which did concern me. Hillary voting for the designation that Iran's Republican Guard is a terrorist organization and should be dealt with as such. She has admitted she was hornswoggled (cowboy term meaning bamboozled) by Cheney/Bush in her vote to authorize power to go into Iraq. Gosh golly gee, she says now (not in those terms) I just didn't know they'd do that. Now, as I saw it, she turns around and is tricked again and she thinks we should trust her with the presidency? Obama didn't even bother to vote on the measure-- too sick or something but he hasn't said how he'd have voted either that I heard anyway. The top three all said they would not guarantee getting us out of Iraq-- what do we have to do as citizens to say they darned well better???

For me, Hillary is too concerned she look tough to get some far right voters (which she will never get anyway) to realize what she's doing. Gotta look strong. Well Americans are sick of war (all but that far right percent who want a war but just don't want to pay for it) and these Senators just voted to trust Bush again! Are they as nuts as he is? What is that saying? Fool me once and it's your fault, fool me twice and it's mine.

I don't know which Democrat is going to get the nomination but it looks, according to polls, that it will be Hillary and that scares me almost as much as that it's good old $9.11 Rudy Giuliani on the other side. I will probably donate money to either Edwards or one of the acceptable long shots who frankly look better to me than any of the front runners-- still am not sure which ones.

Although come November 2008, if Clinton is the party's nominee, she will get my vote for president-- with my fingers crossed that it'll work out better than I fear. Think that will help?

(I am back from California and will be posting a few photos from the trip but have to downsize them first-- and this was on my mind now.)

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

ever changing seas

Having recently been on the Oregon beach and now this California one, south of San Francisco, then reading the blog of a friend regarding salmon on the Oregon coast, (Umbrella Watercolors), I felt like writing about oceans as habitats once again. For many people, the idea of climate change is not that big a deal. They equate it with warmer winters maybe or even harsher storms, but the bigger story about global climate change might be our oceans.

I found several articles about dead zones in the oceans worldwide-- Dead Zone and another Dead Zones. A dead zone basically is where the necessary conditions for supporting life do not exist. Those who cannot move away from the area will die. Those who can move on will if there is somewhere to go. Dead zones likely have come and gone. The Oregon one was only defined in 2002--Science Daily. This does not mean it never has happened in the past. The bigger question, for us all, is what would it mean for our lives if the entire ocean became one? This phenomena has been little studied or understood-- Dead Zones.

Some of it mankind could fix but often has chosen not to do so based on economics or ignorance of real consequences. When big corporations and even cities pump their waste out into the ocean They just see a lot of water and what can it matter? Signs on a beach in that first photograph warn-- don't go in the water, it's contaminated. Did the authorities care that I watched a small child running into it? Was the sign simply to cover them from lawsuits in case of illnesses? Why send a polluted stream into the ocean?

The photograph of this dead bird was taken at Seal Rock, Oregon. I asked my son-in-law, who has one of his doctorates in marine life (there is term for it but it escapes me at the moment), what might have killed it. He said most likely starvation, and they had found one on the Yachats beach also.

People want simple answers to changes like these. It's the fault of climate change. It's foreign fisheries. It's seals. It's somebody else...
Newly discovered West Coast arrhythmias cause.

Every time I go to the coast, I look for shells, finding hardly any in comparison to what were there in my own childhood or even when my kids were growing up. In the sky and patrolling the edges of the waves, there are fewer seabirds. Salmon fishermen, some of whom depend on fisheries to feed their families, are upset at the increasing seal and sea lion population taking some of what is there. Not to defend the seals because their numbers must be managed, but if the ocean itself is suffering a shortage of real food, then what is left will be fought over.

How much of the damage to the oceans and our climate is due to the footprint of the creature to the left? (by the way, it's mine)

Monday, September 24, 2007


On the first day of autumn, I was on my way south, riding along with the farm boss as he changed hats for business meetings in the bay area.

Driving through the Siskiyou Mountains of southern Oregon and northern California is always beautiful-- always. These pictures are early morning on the first day of autumn and taken from the freeway in no particular order other than all in the Siskiyous.

The first snow frosted the tops of the hills, autumn colors appeared here and there. Soon this country will off and on be covered by a blanket of snow, and drivers will either negotiate the highway with traction devices or stay below until the roads are cleared.

There are road signs along some parts of the freeway indicating that section is maintained by State of Jefferson Chamber of Commerce. It is a sly reminder to those who drive past that many local residents would like to form their own state combining northern California and Southern Oregon, who both feel put upon by the larger cities in their states. Some here, however, would like to take the Pacific Northwest, which would include northern California above the Bay Area, and secede-- either joining with Canada or becoming their own sovereign nation. Remembering what happened to some southern states who thought likewise, this is more joke or pipe dream than serious ambition.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Just a piece of cloth

When I decided to write and photograph sarongs, something kept coming to my mind-- the view of the sarong on the hanger and then on the body. More than any other item of clothing, a sarong has no structure. It seems like it's nothing, undefined because it takes its form from what is beneath.

Regular clothes, like jeans, dresses, shirts, etc. they have the character of what they will be even on a hanger. Sarongs do have qualities, softness of fabric, colors, dimensions; but it's the body and the way they are used that bring those qualities to life.

I wondered-- in terms of analogy, are we the cloth or the structure under it? A case might be made to reverse this, but I think our body is our character, the inner part of us that we might even think we can hide. The sarong is our choices, our actions. We drape them across our inner selves, even use them to attempt to hide behind, but as the body gives the sarong form so does our character do so for the actions. We think the actions are the important part, but all great sages, taught that it's the attitude that matters most. This allegory is not one of the flesh but of the spirit.

An example would be OJ Simpson. He dealt with shady characters, money became his only criteria for what mattered, he got away with a heinous crime, self interest was his bottom-line. Perhaps he felt invulnerable. He laid the decision for what he was going to do in Las Vegas on top of his character. The rest of us might think that seems nuts; but to him, based on his character, it made total sense.

With OJ, he could spend the rest of his life in prison or escape consequences once again. On that, who knows, as the whole bunch involved were lowlifes, but regardless of the price he pays right now, it will be repeated-- as the actions he drapes over himself are still working with his character.

I asked a friend of mine (the one who wrote all the spiritual emails last year which I condensed for this blog last summer) how he saw the analogy of sarong and body to us. He gave me a different take on it which I thought was worth considering. He said:

"Well, in my opinion, the body is a container that we (Spirit) use to interact with elements of this energy level or dimension. This interaction can be expressed in multiple ways and they are all correct, depending on the perspective of it.

"Oh course I can easily see your analogy. In this case, the body could indeed be represented by the Spirit and the Sarong could be the character. I wouldn't say that the Sarong is our actions, due to it only being a piece of cloth that's wrapped around the body for whatever reason. Moreover the Sarong is providing something for the rest of the world to see, other than what is really beneath it."

Friday, September 21, 2007


Sarongs are ancient and easy to wear garments, worn by men as well as women. For older Americans, a certain style of sarong has been equated with movie star, Dorothy Lamour, who made a lot of films where she beautifully filled out her sarong. They are not, however, only for those with perfect bodies.

Sarongs have been called by different names in different countries. In Tahiti and Hawaii they would be pareos. In Southeast Asia, it's surong. In India, it's named sri. In Africa, kanga and in ancient Rome and Greece, it was called a toga. The name isn't important, what the sarong can do is why it has such value in my wardrobe.

I got my first one in a New Age bookstore in Portland. It's a simple piece of cloth with fringe but it wouldn't have to have the fringe. What it has to do is be of soft fabric that drapes and is easy to tie. Mine are slightly different sizes but about 46" x 66" with the longest length always what I wrap around my body.

Want a long skirt? Tie it right at the upper edge. Shorter? Roll the fabric to whatever length you want. When I wear one to say a farmer's market, I use a plain safety pin midway down to be sure it doesn't open too far when I walk. When you pin it at the waist, instead of tie it, it just looks like a skirt.

Because I don't find it easy to find soft cotton house dresses and enjoy wearing them when at home or even back along the creek, the sarong with its many ways to tie, is perfect-- at least when the temperature is warm. To go out to dinner, it doesn't take much to turn it into something dressier. My sarongs do double duty in my wardrobe, giving me several styles of dresses and skirts, even shawls. Tied certain ways, it's obvious what it is but in others, nobody would know. I have an old belt that is elastic and I sometimes use it to give more form to the dresses.

Except for the one from along the creek which was taken a few weeks ago, these photos were all self-timed and taken when I decided to write on the versatility of sarongs. At first it felt silly to be posing like a kind of model, but then it got to be fun... like hmmm is this how they do it... then I got sick of it again, but I felt seeing the variety of possibilities might encourage others to give it a try for more than beachwear. Looking online, I found a lot of places selling them. It wouldn't be hard to make one.

The beauty of the sarong is it's a plain piece of cloth that you turn into what you want. I think it's equally flattering to full and slim figures. Around here, my favorite way to wear it is as a skirt or what I call the grandma sarong (examples the first two photos), tied at the side of my chest, secured part way down with one safety pin, and hanging straight, no form, no shape and all comfort.

And guys, it's as useful around the house for a man as a woman. It's not just a woman's skirt. If you don't believe me, look online.*s*

Thursday, September 20, 2007

NYTimes Deselects its Select

Finally. New York Times has put an end to blocking web readers from getting some of the best columnists out there. Beginning Wednesday there is no more pay to read and I can link here whenever something seems so good that I would hope others would see it.

The columnists of New York Times did not like having their voices stifled, and it was especially depressing to see it happen when more than ever we needed divergent opinions. So for those of us who have enjoyed the likes of Dowd and Krugman, we finally can link freely to them. Once again, they will show up on other online papers that did carry them but lost the ability to share those opinions with their online readers.

I do understand the need for papers to make money. New York Times won't be there at all if it doesn't find a way to stay profitable. I just wanted those editorial voices to be freely read and debated. Unfortunately the Internet has a hard time figuring out how to do that without shutting off readers.

Anyway to celebrate, here is today's column by Gail Collins on McCain and it's well worth reading. :)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

High Stylin'

Basically I am not a person who wants to spend a lot of time shopping, figuring out what to wear each morning, doing special make-up, or fooling with hair. I have, however, always liked to have my own version of style which I am beginning to believe should change to be age appropriate. Yes, I know we don't have to be age appropriate, but I want to be-- the question is what will that mean?

What brought this to my mind was shopping for clothing for my 9 year old granddaughter. Nobody, without a child or grandchild today, could have any idea how hard it is to find things that don't make girls look like pop tartz or bratz dolls. Skirts are too short, tops have v-necks that dip too low. I don't know what the marketing world or some parents are thinking. Fortunately my daughter is not one of those parents and is teaching her daughter to be modest.

The problem for my granddaughter is that she's a 'tweener. She's betwixt being a little girl and not yet a teen-ager. She doesn't want to wear little girl dresses but it's not right yet that she wear styles for teen-agers.

After finally finding kid clothing that was stylin' without being revealin', I felt good when she opened her package and was happy with the choices. Later I mentioned her hair style suited her and she said, that's not style, it's just me. I explained style didn't mean someone else's, it meant what looked good on her and we are all different for what that will be. However, I decided later that she had hit the nail on the head once again (she has a way of doing that).

Style should just be what enhances us, and women actually have more chance to do that than ever before. There was a time when all ladies wore skirts the same length. Back then if fashion decreed a change, women followed suit-- even if they didn't like the look. Today there is no one length for skirts, and styles can vary tremendously. There aren't firm rules that everyone knows-- except to look good whatever good means.

What I am trying to decide is what will suit the age I am and am heading into. In some ways, I am also a 'tweener as not yet old old and yet no longer young. It's a bit like my hair which still has the back brown but with the front gray. Not one or the other and yet both.

So are there styles for today for being old, for not being slim, that still say vital, interesting, and yes, sexy, but that don't look like someone is trying to recycle youth? Not that I have a problem with recycling. The shorts above used to be one of my favorite pair of pants.

I have read that no old woman should wear sleeveless tops because of bat wing arms... So like old women don't get hot? Who would be disturbed to see imperfect arms so much so that old women should suffer heat to spare those individuals? We all know old legs aren't perfect legs but how many women's are at any age? So should women have to pass a test somewhere to wear shorts in public? Cellulite, varicose veins, loose skin, scars? Fuggitaboutit.

At one time old women were mostly relegated to skirts that came to well below the knee, old lady shoes and usually a bubble haircut of some sort if they didn't wear theirs in a tidy bun on top of their head. Then along came polyester suits (with pants or skirts); and for awhile, they became the old lady style. (They also appear to be the style for female politicians.)

At the farm, as illustrated in this blog, I mostly wear jeans, shorts, plain dresses, skirts, and tops with sleeve length determined by the weather not fashion, but even here, I have been thinking what will I buy in the future. Some of my clothing, like the dress where I am watching the news, is well over 10 years old. Nothing lasts forever and there comes a day when recycling won't work either.

Just as I decorate my home, I decorate me and want what I wear to suit who I am now as an old woman. I want to, as my granddaughter said, be me-- the me of today, not yesterday. I don't feel considering what will be 'age appropriate' is a negative. I am into old age, like it or not. It's interesting because it is something new after many years that were pretty much the same. Today, however I believe women are working out a new paradigm for old age by not denying it, not trying to cover it up, but making it positive as a stage of life that no longer frightens those entering it but rather makes them think-- hey, this is okay! It sure beats the alternative. *s*

(Next blog will be about an item of apparel that I have found to be fun to wear, almost addictive for its versatility, potentially sexy when a woman wants, and proven good through the ages for any age or body type.)

Monday, September 17, 2007

Oregon Coast week-end

Generally, I do not write about my family nor share their photographs here to protect their privacy. I have two grown children, their spouses, and 3 (soon to be 4) beautiful, smart.. did I mention intelligent... fun grandchildren (9, 6, and 3 years old).

I could write (but won't) an appreciative essay on each of them, but the best thing to me about them all is they have good hearts (of course, probably it's natural I'd feel that way).

This last week-end we spent at the coast renting a house together, right on the sand, to celebrate a family birthday. It was a great week-end, lovely weather, fun, and one of those times you didn't request, didn't plan, but just comes along. When it does, you count your blessings and savor the memories. These photographs are from that week-end.

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Dragonfly

At some point, after seeing them in my daughter-in-law's flower beds, out hiking, or somewhere without a date or a specific event, dragonflies began to fascinate me. At first I had no idea why, didn't know much about them, and mistook damselflies for dragonflies which is logical considering they are both odonatas. The difference, so far as I can tell (unless you are an entomologist) is, while resting, damselflies will neatly fold their wings alongside, more like a butterfly, but the dragonfly keeps its straight out to its side.

Researching them a bit online, I found many mistaken beliefs, the most common being that they only live a day after they begin to fly. Dragonflies can live to be as much as 7 years old; and yes, most of that lifespan is spent in the water as a nymph. Once they get their wings, they dry them out, test them, and then set about the rest of their life's work which is vociferously hunting and eating other insects like mosquitoes. The flight part of their lifespan may last 4 months if they aren't themselves eaten by something bigger.

To me they are beings of beauty and also challenge as they move so fast that getting photos until they alight is almost impossible; and then it is-- where did they go? Even harder is to get one of their faces. The closest I could come was a profile as this one would dart off whenever I got on the proper side to get a face shot. They have large eyes which makes them very observant.

In dreams, dragonflies symbolize magic, regeneration, the power of light, and of change. In Japanese paintings, they symbolize light and joy. To the Chinese they represent summer. Some cultures see them as linked to the devil and evil.

It's not hard to see why they would have spiritual symbolism. They begin their lives as an egg, spend most of it as a nymph swimming in a river, creek or pond. During this stage they are very active hunters. Nymphs grow by shedding their shells, shells that protect their lives in the pond; then something changes and at a certain point, not the same for all, they shed the last shell and their wings are revealed, ready for them to leave the only home they have ever known for a new world. They leave behind water for air-- although the females will return to the water to lay eggs.

Although butterflies do the same thing, transform from seeming to be one thing into another, the dragonfly is more analogous to our own spiritual change and growth. We also must shed emotional shells as we grow. It's not as though all shells are bad. They can serve a protective purpose, but they cannot be allowed to limit growth. As when the dragonflies tear away an outgrown shell, they are more vulnerable, so are we, but to grow we must do it. We don't always know where we are going with our new abilities but we must use them or lose them.

Their active life in one medium could seem to be all there is, but it isn't. Imagine how it must seem, spending all their lives in one pond, swimming, knowing their world; then suddenly it all changes because they have changed. Instinct triggers change for them, allows them to adapt to new realities, just as it can for us when we listen to our own inner voice instead of fighting against what will enable us to grow in new ways.

To me, this last photo is inspirational as I see the dragonfly arching its body, angling to one side ready to take flight.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Flowers along the creek

Wildflowers, even along the creek where it is always moist, are toward the end of their blooming season as our nights are cooling off. Some of the places I expected to find flowers, they were already gone or this year chose to not bloom there. It's usually a hit or miss experience as they are found in small places, require looking, not easy to see like fields of flowers can be in the spring.

The ones on the stump were as though a large bouquet had been planted in the middle of the stream. The reflections were almost perfect. It is beside a small hole about the right size for children to swim with water a bit warmer than the rest of the creek.

The violet looking flowers were generally growing out of stumps one place or another. The gift of one thing dying is life for others as the creek is full of downed trees, which making wading it sometimes challenging but provide valuable creek habitat.

Some of these photos might not be of native wildflowers from this area but instead flowers planted by the birds, rodents and insects.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Real Age

A friend sent me this simple test, and I thought it was fun. It is not guaranteeing how old you will get to be but looking at the events in your life now, your health care routines, what would be your expected life span? And the thing I liked is how it showed immediate consequences. So you were going to live to be 90 and your cholesterol is this number, here is what difference it can make. So try it out. It also gives your supposed real age. Some things we cannot change but other things, we can-- if we want.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Petraeus testimony

"Pogo: We have met the enemy and he is us."

I listened to some of General Petraeus's report which was supposed to be unbiased-- a true and exact accounting of what has happened, what will happen in Iraq. They say he's a good man. Both parties say that. They say we should listen carefully to him and believe whatever he says as he is unbiased and a soldier who knows.

Does anybody believe if he hadn't said we have to keep fighting in Iraq, that the surge was working, that he'd still be in any position to even give his report? No matter how good he might be, and I don't know about that, he is where he is because he agrees with Cheney/Bush. Without that, he'd have been fired like any general who didn't agree.

Listening to some of Petraeus's testimony made me have no faith in anything he said. I suppose the highlight was when he said that because bin Laden and Ahmadinejad said Iraq is the center of the war against terror, it meant it was. I wish I remembered the name of the representative who rebutted that statement. Paraphrased, he said-- and you would trust bin Laden and Ahmadinejad to tell you where the center of the war on terror was? They have lied to us about everything. Why would you trust them to define this? Petraeus didn't answer. What could he have said?

Anybody who attacks General Petraeus is accused of being unpatriotic. I heard a good comment on that one too. In 2003, if someone had challenged Powell's credibility, who was also supposed to be above reproach, maybe we would not have gotten into Iraq to start.

I don't know if Patraeus is a good man or a man who has sold out to get power but whatever he is, I considered his figures to be only aimed at one thing-- justify a war effort that has gone wrong from the start and ignoring anything that didn't fit his plan.

He said that by March we will have the numbers involved in the surge back out-- implying that equals success. In March, military experts have said we will have to draw down our numbers (back to what they were before the surge) because the military as it is currently composed cannot sustain this current effort. Remember this is a military that many say is still not fully equipped all these years into a chosen war.

To measure the recent supposed successes, Petraeus doesn't appear to count the millions of Iraqis who are now refugees, doesn't count car bombing deaths, nor victims who were shot in the back of the head or was that front of the head? Whatever it was, the basis of it is, that he is defending a war and using whatever manipulation of statistics that suit his desired conclusion.

When I watched General Petraeus testify, I saw dead looking eyes. Did this man believe anything he was saying? Had he been primed by the Bush administration to say what they wanted? Does he know he sold out a long time ago to achieve his own success? I am pretty sure the people who favor this war will have seen him as heroic and use what he said to justify why they are right.

People who saw what I did will be afraid-- very afraid of what comes next which could just be Iran as who in our government has the courage to stand against this bunch? Most Americans never had the desire to be permanent occupiers of unwilling foreign peoples.

I do believe a strong military is important, that there have been great military leaders, men who know how to fight a war. Any of those, who disagreed with Bush, were forced into retirement. Bush talks about let the military run it. Who believes they have ever had that chance?

This has been about politics from the start. The American people would not have backed a war the size this administration wants; and so they have lied and hidden facts, and I have no reason to believe anything has changed. This hasn't been a country willing to sacrifice anything for the war effort, but a certain percentage love some kind of vicarious war that they don't know how we got into or what we hope to accomplish but we darnwelldohavetowin-- whatever win means today.

In 2001, on this date, we were attacked by a terrorist extremist group that only had to gather a relatively few men to pull off a horrendous attack. Today I am not sure who or where our enemies are, but it doesn't look good. Colin Powell recently said the real risk to us is not those who can blow up our buildings or even kill us but what we do to ourselves. Now, that's a scary thought!

Update: just in case not everyone reads comments (and there have been some excellent ones this time), this is a link from Winston that I hope everybody does read who wants to really think about this. Not only what the Bush side (and Petraeus is on the Bush side never mistake that) is doing as well as what the right wing is spreading around to their people-- Nashville is Talking-- is America safer?. The things Senator Biden is saying have been in other clips but it's pretty concise here. Biden was just there-- not that the right believes anything from anyone who might suggest their emperor has no clothes!

Sunday, September 09, 2007


What you do not want to see on the horizon when you live on a farm, is smoke. It always requires evaluating. Are the loggers burning slash? Not likely at this time of year with the forests tinder dry. If it's a forest fire (it was), how far away is it and which direction is the wind blowing? (about 5 miles and blowing the right direction to send it away from here and into uninhabited areas-- at least by humans)

During the late summer and fall, before the first heavy rains, whenever I smell smoke, I go outside to scan the horizons-- no smoke, good. I never ever drive home from town or a trip without doing the same thing.

When I was a little girl, I remember a huge fire that threatened and burned some of the 80 acres where I grew up. At night I would look out my bedroom window and see the whole horizon glowing red-- not sunset. First, the men were huddled in groups discussing it, then disappearing all night. When I would go off to school (it was March), I would worry what would happen while I was gone.

The fire when I was a little girl was a huge one, burned thousands of acres, and was turned on my parents' farm by the local men, along with my dad, clearing enough ground to start a backfire. At that time, backfires were out of popularity and the state forest fire fighters, who were only protecting houses, not land, were irritated that locals had shifted the direction of the fire to head back into the national forests. It worked though and although we had a few burned trunks, most of our trees and land escaped unscathed.

Saturday afternoon, the fire that started on the hills above this farm was fought by 50 firefighters whose numbers increased as it became of more concern. We kept an eye on the smoke to try to determine whether we should shift where our irrigation was to protect our cows in case the fire and wind changed course. One of the good things about irrigating our pastures is the likelihood of losing cows or sheep is decreased. The creek might also survive the sweep of a big fire as when I have seen in Montana, where the fires are gigantic, often the creek trees will be unscathed when all the hill trees are burned to black and smoldering trunks.

In only one forest fire out here, in our 30+ years here, were we warned to be ready to evacuate. Fortunately they stopped it before that became necessary although we did take Hopi pottery, Navajo rugs and photo albums into town to stay in our daughter's college apartment. Fire makes you consider what really matters and what is irreplaceable. I also remember the offers from friends to come out and help fight the fire or move more of our things it that became necessary.

Even more years ago, when one of our barns burned, it was a winter night, the local volunteer firefighters were here within moments, not in time to save some of the animals who had been within. Barns burn fast when they go. Fortunately, that time of the year, there was no spreading of it to nearby trees.

With this fire, up on the hill one of the owners of a tree farm, cut a swatch, started a backfire that was intended to turn the fire if it crested the ridge and in turn protect the local valley and homes-- probably. The thing with fire is it is unreliable for what it will do-- except it does go faster up hills than down them. For now this situation looks good and the smoke seems to be dissipating. It's a bad time of the year to see smoke on the horizon.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Gifts from the Creek

The gifts that come from living along a creek are endless. Once in awhile (think 100-year floods) there are some prices to be paid also. Generally however, the creek makes for cool sleeping nights, irrigates the fields, makes a nice sound, and provides a home for multiple small creatures. In the summertime, it is always relaxing to sit on its banks or step into its water . It forms the boundary of this farm for about 1/2 mile, which makes for a nice wading experience since there are no other homes close by.

Wading a creek is pretty much a Zen experience in that you really can't think of anything except the moment while you are moving. Not only can it be slick but the little crawdads, in the holes that have a lot, find anything entering their pool worth checking out. There are no holes really deep enough for an adult to swim but there are many where you could get dunked completely if you fell-- which if you were carrying a good camera, would kind of spoil the moment.

I stumbled across found this maple staff and intend to cut it down a bit for a permanent walking stick for me. Yes, it looks rather Moses like at the moment, which appeals to my we're all goddesses side, but it is also quite heavy which might improve some as it dries out. I like the beaver gnawed tip but will see if that seems safe to keep. Falling, with a sharp pointed staff, which I am pretty sure could still happen, might not be so smart.

The reflections last week were wonderful and in the next post I will share some of the few wildflowers still remaining along the banks.

Thursday, September 06, 2007


My mind tends to circle around various things until finally I get an idea of where it is taking me. Sometimes it'll seem none of my thoughts are related, but then where it all has been heading becomes obvious-- eventually.

This subject began with thinking about an equinox coming-- the one I don't ever welcome. How can I be happy that summer is almost over? How can I be glad the dark season is returning? Although equinox is when the day and night are equal in length, in the northern hemisphere, it means longer nights are on the way-- sooner than later. Momentarily we are in balance but it won't stay that way.

Seasonally, it is a good time to think more deeply about life in balance. As a Libra, I do that anyway. Libras are happiest when they feel in balance (and for anyone into astrology, I am a Libra Libra from the ascendant which some say shows the hidden side of us to the sun sign which is our public face). It is in my nature to seek balance-- not that it ever stays that way. Life is not about being static. It is about change and hence balance has to shift which means to keep life humming along smoothly, there can be no 'I am there.' Oh I get there all right, but then it moves.

To illustrate the concept of how balance should work in life, the Chinese Taoists came up with the terms yin and yang and the above illustration. While I do not practice any religion as such, I am one who looks at all religions for what truths they might teach. A good religion will enhance our understanding of a natural truth. Religion doesn't create truth (cults do); good religions reveal truth. Sometimes religions want us to believe only they can reveal truth, but that is not so. It is out there and there are various paths to it.

The beauty of the Yin-Yang illustration is how, in one simple drawing, it shows the concept of opposites so clearly. The dark and light are symmetrical but not static. They are rotating. One is not more important than the other and within each is the seed of its opposite. One is not to be desired while dismissing the other. The opposites are two halves of a whole.

I think cultures often tend to think one quality or another is most superior-- like receiving is weakness while giving is strength or vice versa. So dark is bad; light is good. Man strong; woman weak. We too often strive to develop one emotional muscle while letting its opposite atrophy or even denying it exists. Yin-yang illustrates that is not how it works. Yin-yang encourages us to not deny any part of ourselves.

Yin-- dark, moon, receptive, passive, cold, female, nurturing, earth, the complex intuitive mind, quiet contemplative stillness of the sage

Yang-- light, sun, active, strong, hot, male, creative power, heaven, clear, rational intellect, strong creative action of the king.

Some think this means men should be one and women the other; but that is not what yin-yang means. Within each is the seed of the other and at various times it will shift. The man of action also needs the moment to contemplate. The woman who would receive is also the one who sometimes must step out and make happen.

Just as the year goes through a cycle, which this current season brings to our minds, we also do. We move through cycles of which we are sometimes aware but often unaware. I believe being aware makes life richer and fuller and helps us with the changes that are as inevitable as youth to old age, spring to autumn.

The Yin-Yang Test was about a concept and only an encouragement to consider it more. The test was fun, but it indicated that purely by being stubborn, you are yang. I don't think that's true from my own reading about the Tao.

I admit I have never gone deeply into the Tao, never studied with teachers, much of my thinking has come naturally to me as a good way to be more than that I adopted it as my religion. I will be happy here if those who have more experience and knowledge with the Tao will add to what I have said about yin-yang. Recommending good books or links would be helpful also. Today I do a lot of my spiritual work by living and feeling-- but books can enhance experience.

There are many books on Taoist wisdom, from the simple (The Tao of Pooh and The Te of Piglet by Benjamin Hoff) to the more complex (The Tao of Physics by Fritjof Capra), but we can do a lot of this work by simply slowing down enough to listen to our inner self. To which part of 'us' are we not listening? In seeking balance, do we accept the dichotomies within us? I believe we can live in a moving, living, vibrant balance-- I just haven't totally done it for long.

The rock and water are along the Powder River in Eastern Oregon.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Yin-yang Test

You Are More Yin


Saturday, September 01, 2007

Finding Love in Low Places

(Well actually it's not love, that those seeking sexual encounters in bathrooms are hoping to find, but if I use the other word, I'll end up with search engines directing all the wrong traffic here.)

What happened to Senator Larry Craig this summer, when he solicited a sexual encounter with a stranger in an airport bathroom, is more tragic than anything else. How very very sad that anyone, hetero or homosexual, would find such an encounter to be rewarding. Not only has he been forced to resign over it, but what could he possibly have gained if that had not been a police officer in the stall next to his?

It's possible he might just be a pervert, who gets off on humiliating himself and others, who wants sex with no emotional connection, and therefore stranger to stranger would be his choice anyway. That happens in homo and heterosexual people. But looking at his options, it's not hard to see how it is for people who fall on the other side of what the majority have deemed the 'right' side.

I'd love to blame Republicans for this, but I think a lot of Democrats have the same hang-ups. It's normal for most humans to desire the opposite sex; so there often has been little sympathy for those who were born with different desires. Not only no sympathy but no compassion with teeth. It's not enough for us to say too bad. What can we do about it?

My concern is when we attempt to deny homosexuals 'normal' outlets, acceptable relationships where they can be publicly who they are, when we say they are already evil, where is there to go except into perversion?

Homosexuals of strong dispositions (or with families who are ready to help them be whoever they are) will buck the tide and say tough, I am who I am and if I love Joe or Frank (for females Sally or Susie) that's my right. They will marry in whatever method they can find (at one time just a celebration with their families and friends, today in some states legal ways) and live responsible lives adopting children if they choose, having a family life such as the rest enjoy, and for those who are shocked or resentful, that's their problem! It's not how it works for all.

For weaker people, who have been taught from childhood that homosexuality is a sin, the very nature of who they are has just been condemned. They must hide their desires. They might marry someone appropriate, manage enough sex to have children even and sometimes eventually break out by leaving those families or getting involved with seedy sex which, for some, appears to be all that is left for them in society's self-righteous eyes.

I don't know that Craig would not have been a pervert whether society handled all of this more maturely and compassionately. Certainly Bill Clinton has been into perverted sex (or was) and he's no closet homosexual-- probably. But it seems to me society should do what it can to change the game for those who are born with different wiring from the majority.

I would have said that Craig was a hypocrite, but maybe he's not. Maybe he has come to believe that homosexuality is evil, that no homosexual relationship should be honored in a marital service. Maybe he believes in the conservative platform but just can't live it. How sad that such people have to hide and deny their reality, sometimes commit suicide because they can't live up to the standards of their culture.

My solution is allow all government contracts between sexual partners to be called civil contracts. Let churches separate out who they feel should have marriages before the god of their religion; and let the rest of us teach any children we might have that there are good ways to live no matter what gender we desire and airport sex isn't one of them-- even if we don't get arrested and charged with disorderly conduct!

(Photo from Eastern Oregon, in the heart of the John Day country. Life is a road, winding between mountains, into and out of valleys, and which we negotiate as best we can.)