Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween is the season for...

Because it's Halloween, I realized the subject I had intended for the 31st would not do. If there is ever an appropriate time to discuss Tarot cards (some would say there is not), when better than Halloween? Tonight is the night for witches and goblins, a fitting time to think about the 'other' side *appropriate music*.

Samhain is the Celtic name for All Hallow's Eve. It represents the ending of the light time of the year and the beginning of the dark. Some see it as when the dead reach out for the living hence scary movies and the costumes that used to be most typical for Halloween-- witches, ghosts, and monsters. Today I hear Hillary Clinton is the most popular scary mask, not sure if that has meaning but will save politics for another day.

On Samhain, All Hallow's Eve, Halloween, the veil between the other side and the living is supposedly very thin. Some believe it's a day to celebrate those who have gone on. To do this, they create an altar of pictures and keepsakes to honor their loved ones who have died. It is traditional to use lights and food to guide the spirits back and as offerings to them. The gifts of candy for children goes with this tradition as does a switched on porch light meaning -- come on in.

Last week I had been in Portland and visiting my favorite metaphysical bookstore, New Renaissance, when I remembered my desire for a new Tarot deck. I had been using the traditional Rider-Waite decks. Now I wanted something different.

It was probably about eight years ago that I got my first deck. I use them now and then but not daily. I won't go into the details of how to read cards because I think I wrote about this before. This is about my new deck.

In the bookstore, I looked through the sample cards but as soon as I saw The Gilded Tarot, I knew it was the one. The art is digitally created by Ciro Marchetti. The companion book with suggested meanings and spreads was written by Barbara Moore. The art really touched me which is the best way to select a deck. I liked that it used the traditional structure I had learned. The illustrations spoke to me on an artistic and emotional level. They seemed like a fantasy novel as the stories on each of them added subtle nuances to the meanings of the cards.

So far the readings I have done with this deck, after smudging it to cleanse it with sage, have been intuitive, giving me not just insights but reassurances about the direction I have been moving.

An example-- I posed a question about my relationship with another person, shuffled, cut and dealt out 3 cards. Looking at them, they seemed very apropos from what I knew of the situation.

I turned the question toward the other person's end of the relationship, shuffled, cut and dealt them again. In both readings, I received two of the same cards (what are the odds of that with 78 cards?) In each reading, the third card was different-- accurately showing the problem from two different perspectives, helping me to see how the other person was seeing it and what my end of this should be as the two similar cards represented the goals I already had come to believe.

If you do a reading, where you already knew what it says, what was the point? I think it's two-fold. One is it helps us to realize our insights are accurate. It gives us confidence in our own intuition. Then if one believes there is spiritual help from outside ourselves (always ask that you receive help only from the good side, from the white light, from your understanding of who god is), readings that succeed are confirming that the help is out there. These readings also have reassured me that this deck is working for me right now. It is the right deck at the right time.

Personally, I don't believe Tarot is occult but realize some see it that way. In my mind, it is a tool. How it is used will determine whether it's for good or ill which is true of any spiritual tool including rosaries, prayer beads, even scriptures when they are used to prophecy.

The above pictures are all scanned from The Gilded Tarot, And then there is this last one--Trick or Treat!

Okay, don't start worrying about me. I am not a witch or gypsy (although I have a face made for it which comes in handy only at Halloween).
Hey, it's supposed to look scary :)

Monday, October 29, 2007

Good energy in the Oregon Outback

Last Sunday, on a beautiful, fall day, I was in Southern Oregon, the other side of the Cascades and a region some call Oregon's Outback. It is lightly developed, known for its remoteness, beauty, cattle and independently minded people.

In a small community, we stopped for lunch at a cafe. It was not fancy but had nice people and good food-- it also was probably the only place to get a meal for at least 20 miles any direction. The tables were chrome, the walls decorated with western symbols like brands, the other diners appeared to be locals who all knew each other. My family and I took a table at the front by the window, checked out the menus, and then I looked around.

The paintings on the wall were western. That always catches my eye. The biggest was of cowboys taking longhorn cattle across the Sycan River in what looked like a storm. By biggest, I mean it was probably 4 feet by 6 feet and it filled the room with its subject, color and energy. It definitely held my attention.

Frequently art in small town cafes is not of much quality. It's often grandma art (nothing wrong with grandmas as I am one myself but I just mean it's hobby more than serious). It is there to look nice and make the locals happy. Not in this cafe. That painting was a real gem in the middle of nowhere.

Then I noticed the smaller paintings farther down the wall, the ones that required my getting up to see more closely. They all had the same vibrant energy, the accurate feel of the working west. Wow, who was this woman. Because I collect modern western art, I know a lot of the artists' names. Not this one.

Reading the flyer tacked on the wall, I learned Judy Erickson lived locally. She was a horsewoman, who knew her subject because she herself cowboys-- it showed.

With now an eye to buying one, I looked even more closely. I chose The Wild Ones, a 14.5" x 21", framed giclee (giclees are prints on canvas which can be hard sometimes to be sure they even are prints-- other than by price) of two cowboys rounding up wild horses.When I later emailed her for more information, Erickson was very friendly and responsive. She is self-taught or more accurately she said she feels her painting is a gift from god who wants her to paint this way of life, to show it to others. I am drawn to works of passion and hers definitely fits in that group as the passion she feels, for horses and that lifestyle, shows through her every brush stroke.

She also wrote it was purposeful that you would wonder whether the wild ones were the cowboys or the horses. The men look tough, the wild horses hard to handle and the painting suggests a storm is brewing. The artist said that in that part of the country, those storms can come up fast and from three directions. The men in the painting looked capable of handling it-- whatever it was.

For me art is always about the energy. I buy things that touch me-- when I can afford them. Always the paintings I love most project feelings and emotions that go beyond the simple elements of the subject. I only wish I could paint well enough to do that myself. (If anyone is interested in contacting Judy Erickson for more about her work, email me and I will give you contact information.)

After lunch, the country grew even prettier as we drove down a river-- nice sized river, tall pines, rough rock outcroppings, few people, and beautiful autumn colors.

Alongside the river, right next to the road, was a small cave which our daughter, who is an archaeologist, told us had been investigated some years ago by archaeologists. They found it to have been occupied perhaps as much as 10,000 years ago by the people living here before Mount Mazama erupted-- a huge mountain whose eruption and collapse left behind what we know today as Crater Lake as well as covered a lot of the region with volcanic ash and lava.

Standing in the cave, seeing the patina of the smoke from many campfires it felt like it would have been a good place to find shelter from the storms. The people back then had to move through the seasons to find enough food to stay healthy. With hunting nearby, fish in the river, a crevice to the back to store your belongings away from the elements, it seemed to me this would have been a favored stopping point, maybe even wintering over. The view was great-- not that it probably factored into their stops. Then again, probably they were as oriented to finding good energy as I am.

I could tell you the name of the river, the small community, but you know it could be anywhere in Oregon's Outback as beauty and discoveries are around every bend in the road. All photos are from along that river.

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Problem of Greed

How much is enough?

A recent Krugman column in the NY Times addresses the issue of regulation vs deregulation. He makes a good case that the Feds understood the problem of over loaning to those who didn't have the resources for a loan, subprime loans (terms I only learn what they mean under duress), and why the Republican party and Alan Greenspan did nothing to rein it in even when they knew there was a market bubble in housing that would lead to a crash someday not only for those who borrowed but for loaners.

Deregulation is the keystone of Republican thinking. Free markets know best. Regulations are always bad (unless they relate to sex). Leaving aside the issue that our economy is anything but free market, that lobbyists get through all sorts of regulations that improve their own corporate profits over someone else's, why wouldn't free market be best?

In an ideal culture people would look for the highest good in making their choices-- and that would include businesses. No company would want to put out unhealthy products. No land owner would want to destroy land quality, nor would a mill want to put out pollution simply to make more money. All choices would be made considering the long term impact as well as short term gain.

We would have to be brainless, deaf and blind to think we live in such a culture. So much today revolves around making money and not just enough money because there is no such thing as enough for some people. When you have unregulated greed, you cannot have unregulated markets. People will cheat. They will skim. They will sell things they don't own. And on and on.

In a culture of enough, government regulations would not be needed because people themselves would regulate through approval and disapproval of how others act. They would watch out for each other. Of course, in one sense, they do now too... Wealth and those who possess it are nearly worshiped. Pretentiousness is a quality to be admired. Big house, not good enough, must be biggest. I know through experience that not all wealthy people behave that way. It isn't having money alone that makes someone greedy. It's the attitude they have toward acquiring-- there is never enough.

Native Americans in the region where I live had a value system where the potlatch was the measure of a man's power-- where in celebration, he would give away almost everything he had. As soon as priests got out here, it's one of the first practices they stopped. Can't have undirected and unfettered giving. Even today people are encouraged to give toward organizations that will give them tax write-offs. Giving is enhanced by buildings named after the givers.

You can't even count on giving once to protect your name staying with the building. In Tucson there is a small park that used to be named Dennis Weaver. The story goes that Weaver had donated for the park when he was making a film around Tucson. That lasted until the park needed upgrading. Somebody else's name now decorates the gates to the park. That name will stay until the next upgrade unless the family left an endowment to keep his name and the park both in good shape.

Larry David in 'Curb your Enthusiasm' on HBO did one of his shows on this subject of memorial naming (many are not yet dead when it happens). Several of the leading characters had donated to a medical facility and thereby had a wing named after them-- except one donor had his name be anonymous on the wall, but he made sure everybody knew who he was. Anonymous received more credit, lots of attaboys from his friends which gave him credit for generosity and humility all at the same time.

I got sidetracked but basically what I am wondering about is why is there never enough for some? I see it and know it to be so, but I don't understand it. I was raised differently and maybe that's where it all begins-- how we are trained as children. I was raised to believe in different values. The best things in life may not be free but they sure can't be bought with money.

Can a culture, that has become so materialistic, change it? It might have to start with our children as our attitudes probably do for us today even if we are 64 years old. When I was with my daughter and her family last week-end, she was mentioning that they simply weren't getting their kids into all of the activities that are so common for 9 and 6 year olds. No lessons for this or that. Not in the year around sports leagues. Limited big parties where the gifts bury the children.

I told her yes, you are not doing some things, but look at what you are. Your children snowshoe in the winter. They are as comfortable in the wilderness as in a city park. When in the woods, they know for what to watch to not get lost or hurt. They know what the source of meat is (clue: it's not a grocery store). They know the beauty of a desert night, swimming in a wilderness river. They know how to play with sticks, sand, rocks and lizards.

Maybe if more people knew such things, grew up with such things, we could have a free market system because humans would be wise about the market and greed would not be a virtue to them.

You know, it's not having money that is the problem. It's whether there is ever enough; and if there isn't, then what will one do to keep getting more? Does government, as a tool of the people, need to protect itself from unbounded greed? Deregulation only works in a culture that has taught its people true values.

The Hunter's Moon photos were taken last night, when it first rose above the trees (first two) and then in the morning (last two) just before it went below the mountain. Hunter's moons (the first full moon after the Harvest Moon) look cold, sublime in their beauty but taking their photos does require a coat, a good camera, and a tripod. Seeing it was free. Photographing it costs money.

This last photo was gotten by controlling the exposure and darkening the moon to show more clearly its craters. The actual color was white, not yellowish.

The other thing I found interesting, which I admit I had never looked at before, which says I am not into astronomy, is that the moon is different in the morning as the craters shift to the other side. (astronomy buffs please don't groan). I thought it might be that way but had never taken the time to really look. (All images can be enlarged by clicking on them.)

I think this Hunter's Moon drew me into it, made me want to possess it in the only way I could-- through a photo. I guess that is a kind of greed too. :) Hey, I admit it, I do have a greed to possess certain things-- just they are usually the ones money can't buy!

The moon will still be full for a few days. Enjoy it. It's free to look.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Ghosts of the Forest

Living in the Oregon Coast Range, humans share this land with many creatures, but the most fascinating of all for me are the animals nicknamed ghosts of the forest, the elk. That name is earned because they often seem to appear from nowhere. You can be standing in a deep forest, fog softening the lines of the trees, aware only of your own breath, and then you hear the sound of a branch snapping. Is that something chewing? Tearing down another branch? You hear the movement of a large body. You know they are not far away, a hundred feet maybe, but they do not want to be seen and they are not.

Often the only evidence they have been somewhere is footprints or mud on the roadway where they crossed. I have never seen them on this farm, but those who drive up the gravel road say they have watched them run across the back.

Elk travel in family groups like the cattle who carry their same names-- cows and bulls. Within fifteen miles of my home there are three different herds, each with their own circuit through the forest, apparently never mixing their ranges as they drift through the hills and cross the rivers in a circuit they will repeat year after year, knowing just where the good feed is, where the branches stay green longest in the winter, and leaves return soonest in the spring.

One year, walking up the hill behind this farm, I saw one of those herds, the smallest, in a meadow below. Down there are some marshy areas. That morning the water was warmer than the air and the steam rose from it. You could see it the cows' breath. They would roll in the pools, then run around like calves. I looked hard to see if there was a bull with them, but bulls get wary after hunting season. The bulls were likely in the woods, watching over their herd but not showing themselves.

This year, coming home from a week-end away, I saw the herd in these photos. It is about fifteen miles from the farm and one of the largest local herds. When I drive through that valley, I always look for them. They appear as if by magic, sometimes melting back into the woods just as quickly. When the herd is there, I often stop for awhile and watch. It is like touching a bit of wilderness to see them and know they are watching me. I love how they travel together, their communal nature, their beauty, and strength.

In this herd, I saw several mature bulls but one obviously was the patriarch. Elk travel together as a band, as a community. Perhaps as this bull gets old, presuming he survives the hunting seasons, one of the younger ones will fight him for the dominant position. Some elk travel in harems with only one bull but in the Coast Range, they seem to manage peace with several large bulls in the herd.

This bull will soon be at risk when the season opens-- first bulls, then cows for hunters with tags. I don't like hunting, but it is an honorable way to get meat. It can be done respectful of life. For the herd's health, thinning in some manner is essential to avoid disease and starvation. Unless the Coast Range reintroduced wolf packs, man is the only predator that can take down elk in its prime. The herd is also part of its protection.

I have been in Yellowstone and watched a single elk run past in dread for its life. When the wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone, the balance of nature shifted. A new player had entered the arena. It might seem sad to see predators bring down such a proud animal, but it is part of the ecology of a healthy forest to have predators capable of thinning herbivore populations; however, even wolves will be cautious how the pack goes after a mature elk, preferring to cut out the young.

Years ago, I had a girlfriend who had grown up along the Siletz River, which is the other side of the Coast Range from this farm. She talked of being out in the forest with her friends and being treed by the elk. Once in awhile a tourist in Yellowstone will get too chummy with them-- wanting just one more photo just a bit closer, and end up gored in the stomach.

With a herd this size, given the alert way they watched me, I didn't head across the open field for better photos. When I first got there, they seemed to be grazing, but I think they wanted to come my way and were wondering when I'd leave the gate and drive away. Reluctantly, eventually I did, and they likely continued on their circuit past the point where I had been standing, jumping the fence as though it was irrelevant because to their size and strength, it was.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Land Use Planning and Measure 49

Generally I don't write about local, Oregon issues in this blog because I know most of my readers come from other places. Land use planning however impacts us all as it determines how wisely or otherwise the lands near where we live, where we shop, where we vacation will be developed or changed.

Many years ago Oregon established a system whereby ordinary citizens could submit levies to the voters. In some ways, that is the most democratic system possible... or could be. Instead of representatives deciding all of our laws, we vote on some of them directly. Sometimes that comes about because of the Legislature and sometimes it's through gaining enough signatures. Any measure submitted to ballot must be vetted that it is legal under our Constitution and that all of signatures are the real deal.

When a measure gets to the people, there is no requirement that they get informed, check whether ads are misleading (the most money doesn't always mean something is good but it sure does tend to make a difference), or care what the impact of a law might end up being. Democracy takes work and a lot of people aren't willing to put that into it. Some don't even bother to vote. Some vote carelessly; and of the two, I think the latter is worse.

The ballot measure system has led to some good laws for Oregon and to some of our worst boondoggles. Measure 37, which passed in 2004 and finally was decreed legal in 2006, falls under the latter category as far as I have been concerned. It decreed that any zoning regulations that occurred after you purchased land did not apply to you unless you were paid for the loss in value you might have suffered (determined by you). It does not ask you to pay for zoning regulations that might improve the value of your land. Nor will it compensate those who bought their land after yours but now find their value lessened by your development choices.

Measure 37, however, sounded good enough to the government-is-always-the-bad-guy crowd, that it passed-- throwing out some of Oregon's land use laws which protected farming and timber lands since 1973. Sometimes the land use laws probably were too coercive, but land that is protected can someday still be developed but once tree farms are taken out of production, once farming land is turned into houses or big box stores, there is no going back.

There are people who don't like government regulating anything-- unless of course someone else wants a big box store next door to their home. As for me, I wanted reasonable and thoughtful land use planning. I had seen what happens when there is no planning-- helter-skelter development anywhere, farmland disappearing, factories next to houses and on and on.

Yes, some of that can happen even with land use planning and without a doubt there have been wrong uses of zoning, but what Measure 37 did was create a special group of people who today believe they have the right to do anything with their land, forgetting that even before 1973, when farmland was first uniformly protected, there were zoning regulations. They also conveniently forget that as a compensation for limitations on development and to keep farmland farming, and forests growing trees, the property receives a lower tax rate than residential. That has amounted to quite a compensation for farm, ranch and timber lands which nobody is proposing be repaid.

So that leaves Oregonians today with a new measure to vote on in November-- Measure 49. It was submitted to the people by the Legislature as a partial fix of some of the worst results from the prior law. It would still allow rural property owners, who owned their land before 1973, to build several homes on their land, transfer the right to build those homes, but would block large subdivisions on farming or timber lands.

For those who want no zoning at all, might I suggest a fast food restaurant next door. Amazing how people can see more clearly about some things when are touched by them directly.

So if you live in Oregon, please read the arguments in the Voter Pamphlet, carefully consider the truth of what Measure 49 will do, what the results will be with land use laws being thrown out for a select group of owners (timber lands in particular), and vote Yes.

If you don't live in Oregon, please consider that land use planning is actually to our benefit. We should be informed and support reasonable laws to protect orderly development. The alternative is not pretty and the more crowded together we become, the uglier it will get.

Friday, October 19, 2007

A Cultural Observation

Before I discovered blogging, when my writing was with pen, typewriter or computer (Atari to start), I still wrote many of the same kinds of ideas as I do today-- the sole difference being back then nobody but me read my words except now and then a publisher (if they read the words before rejecting them). In going through my current computer, I came across some observations from a trip to California in 1997.

Background for this essay: we had flown into San Diego, California, on a Saturday morning; so that my husband could have a series of business meetings while I enjoyed the art galleries and beaches of Del Mar. As soon as we got off the plane, we headed our rental car to Tijuana to buy prescription drugs which were much cheaper there. The law at the time allowed up to $300 worth and 6 month supply-- no prescription required (naturally no narcotics nor addictive drugs were included).

The memories of what I saw that day and later felt are still strong in my mind--

February 8, Saturday, 1997

To enter Tijuana, we cross a bridge over what is today a dry wash with only rats running in it. Our destination of tourist shops is only a short walk. The bridge is lined with tiny, Indian women, babies in their arms, toddlers at their sides. They sit patiently holding out drink cups for someone to put money into. I have seen this at any Mexican border crossing. I glance at them but don't give the women anything. I think I am embarrassed for them.

I did not grow up seeing beggars. My first experience with it was when I walked into Nogales, Sonora in 1965. There were women sitting alongside buildings, cups or baskets for change, their eyes usually not meeting mine. It was shocking then, but no longer is as our country now has it too.

As I return from shopping, I expect those tiny Indian women will be sitting there. I reconsider what I will do. I live such a different life from theirs and yet we share our womanhood. We are mothers. We do the best we can with what we have been given. Whether begging is good or not, would these women do this if they had a choice? Some are trying to sell small items but most just have the cup outstretched. Their gazes look up at me, but the expression in those eyes is blank.

A dollar is nothing to me. Maybe it will be something for them. Changing my mind, I decide a dollar is too much--not for me but for them, I reach into my purse for a pile of quarters, holding them in my hand as an easy way to distribute the money.

I put money in a woman's cup, not waiting for nor expecting thanks. The next goal is a little girl who earlier had been playing a small guitar and singing. She is still there, just as loud and just as off key. People who pass smile, but there are but a few bits of change in the cup held by her sister or friend. Perhaps the children take the money out as quickly as it is put in. I add a quarter. Another girl, perhaps a bit older is selling small candies and becomes more persistent as she sees that I have proven a soft mark. I give her a quarter without taking the candy.

I keep walking, but am quickly surrounded. I have never seen so many children come from nowhere in my life. It reminds me of a scene from a movie. They are small and pushy, demanding. Possibly they disappear when they receive a coin, possibly they pocket it and try to see if they can get more.

Finally I am out of money and show the situation by holding out my open palms. Their persistence has been humorous but disturbing all at the same time.

One dark-eyed, handsome boy, smaller than the rest, continues to follow, determined to get his bit of change. He says nothing, probably speaks no English, perhaps not even any Spanish; but he knows an international language as he keeps his cup firmly out staying at my side. I finally ask my husband for something to give him before he either gets lost from his family--assuming there is a family--or he ends up trying to cross the border and go home with us. I have brought home cats and dogs from walks, not yet a child. When he receives his change, he too disappears and I pass out no more money.

I feel grateful I hadn't given any money on my initial way across because it would've been a nightmare coming back. Those little children showed every other adult who crossed why they wouldn't want to give money to any. It also made me wonder how they signaled each other that money was there. I had to have had at least 15 bits of change from pennies to quarters. It all went out to kids I hadn't even seen a few moments before. How did they get the word out? I guess, they must learn to be very alert as a means of surviving their precarious physical situation.

Going back through American immigration takes a long time. Blame Bill Clinton for whatever you want, but under the Republican administrations, you could walk across that border. Now documentation is checked for every crosser--at least at the legal points. At least half the people in line are Mexican legals.

Later after having settled into our inn, we go driving in the hills above Del Mar, exploring back roads. Flowers are bright and colorful on the hills, the sky above is turquoise blue, the air warm. The homes are rich, the people we see jogging look well-to-do, educated--the beautiful people.

As we leave behind a stretch of dirt road and enter a housing development, I see a little girl learning to ride her bike with her parents behind and in front of her. Her blue eyes meet mine as we drive past. Her hair is long and blond, clean and shiny, a helmet protects her pretty little head. The expression on her face is alert and trusting, happy, and I cannot help but contrast her life to that of children of that morning only a few miles south and hundreds of years apart.

An accident of birth made that beautiful, dark-eyed, little boy grow up in a world so different from the pretty little blond girl that if they meet someday, they will barely have any experiences in common. Nobody can know for sure what will happen in life, but the probability is she will never have to humiliate herself by begging on a dirty street with rats running underfoot. She'll have an education, loving parents, who even if they separate, will always support her. She won't have to face the fears a child of the streets knows all too well.

So what does all that mean? I don't have the foggiest. It's just an observation. People who believe in reincarnation would say the poor child chose his lot before his birth. The Christian could say the rich child might do her suffering in hell for a selfish life brought on by too much excess, and the poor child will be rewarded someday in heaven (assuming he has said the right words first). Liberals would say we should do something about it. Libertarians would say mind your own business. Mexicans might say my even observing such is a typical Norte Americano's attitude of pridefulness. Conservatives would assert it's the price the dark-haired one pays for bad economic practices of his people and certainly not the fault of the light-haired one.

A child is just a child. They do not earn what they have. In a few more years, more than just begging and home life will separate those two children--the one dark, the other light. They might even fall in love someday, or one might rob and rape the other. Some would say one already has.


It's now been over ten years since that day and I have no more solutions today than I had then. If they both lived, those two children are in their teens. I haven't been to Tijuana since that trip, but I would guess women still wait along that bridge hoping to sell something or get money. I have learned to give more when I see women in that situation-- if I decide to give at all. It doesn't really help them nor me to do it; but it's hard to walk past knowing it could be just an accident of birth as to which woman I am...

(The photograph of the flowers is from that trip and the beach at Del Mar.)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

October gifts

This has been a particularly beautiful fall in the Pacific Northwest. Due to rain at the wrong time or depending on frost dates, ours vary for how bright the colors are. It and something else reminded me of another autumn in 1966. I had been living in Arizona but returned back to Oregon in late summer to await the birth of my first child in October. I remember how vivid the colors were that fall also. I still have some of those photos from sitting along the Willamette River, the autumn colors intense and me very pregnant with what would soon be revealed as a healthy girl baby, another Libra (me too).

This week-end, as I walked in the nearby town, once again admiring the spectacular foliage, along the same river, my mind was running through a mix of thoughts. As usual the sidewalk was full of people out walking along the river chattering about their lives, their concerns. I thought how ironic life can be. While some are light hearted, others are going through life changing events. It was not surprising I'd be philosophical because our daughter-in-law was in labor. New life was about to enter the world, and I was both joyful about it and stressing.

This is our son and daughter-in-law's second child and normally, I think, you'd worry a bit less with the second one, but their first son had been delivered via C-section. He was breech and there was no convincing that baby to get into proper position despite all attempts-- orthodox and otherwise. The important part was he was healthy and has been a delightful little boy-- if still strong-willed (no idea where he'd get that since everybody in his family is likewise).

This time though her plan was she would have their baby VBAC, which means vaginal birth after a cesarean, because this baby was in the right position. Our daughter-in-law was a prime candidate for successfully delivering after a cesarean. They had hired a birthing coach and her doctor was fully with them to do this. It had been three and one half years. She is healthy, strong, mentally balanced, had good medical care the first time, and does yoga regularly-- during her pregnancy yoga designed to help the process.

I trusted their wisdom on their choice, even though a nurse friend, who sees all the things that can go wrong, had informed me of some of them. Finally I decided to do some of my own research online. While I had understood things change, I also knew that when I had had my babies, this would not have been an option.

Surgical techniques have improved and more parents are choosing what my son and daughter-in-law did (although still not a majority). There are serious complications in only .5 to 1% of VBACs. There are many advantages for the baby as well as a faster recovery for the mother if she can birth her baby without surgery.

I did worry some still because, as I told our grandson, when he was with us Sunday and he wanted to race ahead on the sidewalk-- nope, hold my hand around traffic, because this grandma does worry. He looked up at me with those wide innocent (when they aren't twinkling with mischief) three year old eyes and said-- why?

What a totally wonderful age three is. There are so many whys in the world and it's fun to be around children as they learn about their world. You don't want to unnecessarily fill them with your fears; so you have to find a way to explain the why without adding fear to the mix-- just because it's how this grandma is was as good as he got Sunday-- plus carefully taking him across the lawn to the edge of the river where he could look at how far down the bluff was if someone fell over it. Always best to show someone why-- when it's possible.

So this week-end, I stressed some, after all extremely low risk or not, sometimes things go wrong and I didn't want this to go wrong. I love my daughter-in-law and wanted her and my son, who was right there for her all through the birthing process, to have a healthy baby. I smiled and kept confident for our grandson that all would be great-- as I believed it would. He had been well prepared for all of this and was very brave and excited about his brother soon to be where he could hold him.

After a tough and also blessed week-end, there is a new Libra in our family. Liam, with a full head of black hair, was born late Sunday afternoon. He weighed 8 lbs 2 oz., was 21 1/4" long, is healthy, and nursed well from birth.

Monday morning, in the hospital but due to go home that afternoon, our daughter-in-law looked beautiful holding her newest son (as always I do not post photos of recognizable family members so you just have to take my word that she was lovely, vibrant and very happy). Hey, she even offered to let me hold him. Can you tell that made me very happy too? *s*

It has been a spectacularly beautiful October.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Shift

Right now, it's too easy to feel negative. If we want to make a real change in the world, negativity won't help. It is depressing and can swallow us with darkness. Today there is a lot wrong in the world; but to fix it, we have no choice but to start with our own sphere of influence.

The secret is finding ways that make a difference, things we can do-- no matter how small they might seem to be. One person. One right choice at a time. Energy changes. The aura around us shifts which leads to change in those we have impacted-- even if it is simply a smile in a grocery store. That impact expands to those that someone else touches. Was it our swearing at them in traffic or offering a helping hand? Thus does change happen-- for good or for ill.

This trailer is for a film coming out next spring.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Supreme Court justice?

In 1991, I watched Anita Hill testify before the Senate regarding Clarence Thomas's nomination for the United States Supreme Court. I rarely watch such hearings but felt i should on that one to determine for myself whether she was telling the truth. As I listened, I believed her. It rang true for what I have seen with some men who take delight in taking advantage of women when they have the power, who 'get off' on it. I felt great concern that type of man would be confirmed.

He was confirmed. I hoped then for the best. Maybe he would not be as bad as I feared. Maybe he would rise to his position and put his personal issues behind him for the best of this nation. It didn't happen, and my concern has been validated with his votes ever since.

Worse was to come when I saw excerpts from his recently published memoir, listened to the words he said in interviews. Although I won't be buying the book for obvious reasons (not about to be on a tally of how many right wingers are in this country, encouraging more of this type of book to be published), but enough of it is showing up in reviews, interviews and articles that I really don't need to buy it to know what is in it.

In short, Thomas is complaining about the unfairness of our society's affirmative action program because, even though it got him the job he currently holds, it made it not seem as valuable to him. Maybe it doesn't seem as valuable because he knows he didn't get his lifetime position of power-- honorably. He had to lie about what he had done. Our system forced him to be answerable. He will do all he can to be sure that doesn't happen again for anybody else. How dare anyone be held accountable for misusing power.

Murdock's publication company advanced him $1.5 million dollars for this memoir but there is little chance they won't make it back. Not only have Fox and Rush been promoting it, but we know how well right wing books (even poorly written and full of venom like Coultergiest types) do for books that say exactly what that side wants to hear.

It's kind of interesting that usually people who whine like Thomas, who compare their experience at a government hearing as being the same as a Southern lynch party, are condemned by people like Rush, but guess it changes the picture if you are knocking feminists and liberals while you do it.

Not only Anita Hill, but other women talked about Thomas's interest in pornography, his sexual harassment; but in these interviews, the book, the commentary by right wingers, all of that is ignored as once again the right tries to do a character assassination on Anita Hill treating that uppity black woman, who rose to the top by her intellect and education, as though she was nothing and her only value was to serve at their pleasure.

What scares me a lot more than whether Thomas has some sexually kinky interests (although harassing a woman is a lot more than an individual issue) is the rest of what I am hearing from his book-- i.e. his hatred for liberals, his castigation of feminists, his disgust for affirmative action, his christianist religion. Anyone sitting on the Supreme Court is supposed to be unbiased, apply the law fairly with no personal prejudice. Is it really okay for a Supreme Court Justice to apply the Bible and not the Constitution when he decides whether something is legal in this country? Impeaching him would be the only way to get rid of him now and that won't happen unless he commits a crime. It's obviously not a crime in some minds to have a person on the Supreme Court who is out to get revenge. This man will be one of those deciding whether the Constitution stands against the increasing movement from the government to centralize power into a dictatorship-- all in the name of public safety.

So Americans are being told to accept mercenary armies growing stronger and stronger, gestapo techniques in airports where anyone who questions how they are handled can be arrested without any recourse, secret prisons, torture condoned as just tough interrogation, and games for our youth, like the most recent Halo, that teach killing routinely as though it is fun. Next time someone says don't worry, it's not as bad as you think, tell them they are right-- it's worse. And what are Americans doing about it? Don't even ask.

We have had a system of government that had three branches to keep power from centralizing. Our founders understood the danger of centralized power. How many of us remember that?

The intention was for a Supreme Court, Congress and President, all to have the best interests of all Americans and to protect our freedoms. Does anyone really believe that's what they are doing-- unfortunately any of them? The Supreme Court has four judges already of the fascist mindset (if you think that word is too extreme to describe this polical movement, read the definition in the dictionary). Giuliani has gone on record that he'd be eager to appoint more just like them. Oh joy!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Once Upon a Time

Winston from Nobody Asked posed a question in his blog and suggested readers interested could answer there or in their own blogs with links back to his-- Things to do before you die. I liked the question but had a few topics I wanted to cover first, plus wanted some time to think about it.

Paraphrased: What things, that you have experienced, seen or done, do you think everyone should experience at least once in their lives?

He didn't say how many we should include. Leaving out big, family events like when I got married or my children/grandchildren were born, my best experiences have not been big ones. The things that stand out for me are moments. Here are a few--

Standing on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona at sunset. The sun goes down and the air whooshes out of the canyon with an audible sigh. The colors deepen and the quiet seems to surround you with its peacefulness and timelessness. Even if others are nearby, their voices are hushed and the ageless canyon is all encompassing as the shadows in it darken and night falls.

Sitting on a big rock on the bank of the Madison River in Montana. The sun is shining and you feel it warm on your back. Nearby people fish by wading out a ways, casting their fly rods out into the river. Farther away you see pelicans land on the water as they also fish. A river raft goes by full of people laughing and talking. There is no place you have to be. Nothing you have to do and you are free to experience the moment and the river.

Chaco Canyon in New Mexico where you drive in over dirt roads that can become quickly impassable during summer storms. To stay, you camp in a small campground. Everywhere you feel the culture that built this place. The colors are intense, the ruins still very impressive from the time the Anasazi had this as their spiritual center. There are traces of their roads which led here from all around. The kivas are huge where sacred work was done before the people were compelled to leave possibly by intense drought of the times, overpopulation, or some cultural shift the cause of which remains mysterious with many speculations as to why and where they went but which no one can prove.

Experiencing the ancient Sinagua ruins in Sedona, Arizona, and it can be done many places. Hike up a small canyon where you have to bushwhack your way up a dry draw. At the head, crumbled under the rim are the remnants of a civilization long gone. You sit there and think about the women who sat there hundreds of years before. Later you watch the moon rise over some of those canyons. Walking to another ruin and hearing an Indian flute playing. Is that real? It seems ghostly. Even when you later meet the ranger who was playing the Native American song, it doesn't lessen the feeling of touching the past.

In the mountains, but desert is good too, hiking up a wilderness trail where you have never been (or have been) and coming around each bend with the expectation of new places of beauty, sometimes the air is full of butterflies doing their mating dance, sometimes a stretch of rapids in the river along the trail, maybe a pool where you can swim, sometimes seeing wild creatures before they run off. It's not what you see so much as the stretching out of the legs, the moving along, the smell of the forest (desert), the quiet, and a dirt trail underfoot.

Walking on a beach, scrambling over rocks to make it around the bend before the tide turns. In Road's End, Oregon, around the bend was a secret cove, accessible only at low tides, primal in its beauty. When you look at it, the birds landing and circling, the waves huge as they crash against the rocks, the mists rising on the air, the beauty is so pristine that you don't even want to enter. You remember it and hold it inside to retell sometimes to yourself or others.

Being with someone who is a soul mate of the sort where two are one in a way that goes beyond the flesh. It doesn't matter what you are doing. Just sitting on a sofa with your arms around each other is enough. It's not about sex, but I believe it is a mated experience. When you hold each other, your bodies seem to melt together. Logically, you know your flesh didn't really do that and yet it feels it did. When you touch, it goes beyond the five senses to a sense that you rarely tap into.

Waking up in the morning after a colorful, vivid dream that was so real you can still taste and feel it. Lying in bed and thinking of all the nuances of that dream and knowing it was a gift. Then someday learning what the dream meant, what it told you that you had needed to know.

Connecting with god in a personal way that, while you are communing, it seems to flow over you almost like a climax that fills your whole body with a glow that grows until it seems to be everywhere inside you. There is a spiritual ecstasy, a connection to the other side, to what we call god, that I don't think can ever be held onto, but we all will benefit from having known it for ourselves, not just heard about it.

Creating a piece of art, writing words where the flow moves through you like a tide. It goes beyond conscious thought as the feeling takes on reality in clay, paint or words. That kind of creative flow happens only now and then. When it does, the experience is exciting and you work to keep up as the ideas flow. For a few moments, you know you have tapped into the heartbeat of creation.

There are many others-- as well as things I have never experienced but know deep inside would be good. Some are dreams for the future that may never become real and yet in my imagination, they are.

So how about you considering this question (it's a fun one to think on especially if, like me, you are not the type to think backward often)-- What have you experienced or done that you believe everyone ideally should have known at least once in their lives? If you answer in your own blog, please put a link in comments either here or in Winston's blog.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The links below are to a couple of columnists who I routinely read whenever I see their name. I believe these pieces are particularly worth passing onto readers as they regard our situation in Iraq and what we may soon be facing with the Bush mentality in governmental power.

Paranoid Withdrawal Fantasy by Camile Paglia in Salon.

The Real Blackwater Scandal by John Cusack followed by Part II of his interview with Naomi Klein, author of "The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism" both on Huffington Report.

Bomb Bomb Iran by Maureen Dowd in the New York Times.

Whatever writers you choose to read, whatever mix of newspapers and television, please do be informed. The biggest asset to those who would like to have a dictatorship, who want to cheat others, who succeed through manipulation and lies is ignorance in the population.

When we read something, we should always check it out for how it compares to other truths and I think it's good to read several viewpoints on anything. There is someone out there who will tell us anything we want to hear-- if all we want is comfort for our preconceived opinions.

Last night nightmares awakened me twice out of sound sleeps. That is not the norm for me. Each of them was about predators-- human and otherwise. It's not fun to be informed today. The world has been full of brutal events and scary talk; but if we don't stay informed, we will be like the ostrich with its head in the ground-- leaving a lot of us (not to mention the most vulnerable part) exposed. The ostrich metaphor is about putting our thinking into the dark out of fear. It's obvious it does not protect the ostrich-- nor will it protect us.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Fertile Gardens

Often you hear the Republican right wing talking about how Democrats are the nanny party. Basically this means Democrats want to take care of the poor, improve health care for everyone, nurture, tend to basic needs of more than their own families. Democrats have many diverse ways they believe this should be done, but pretty much are in agreement that any government is there to help its citizens live better lives. Therefore, the Nanny Party isn't a bad metaphor for Democrats-- even if it's not meant to be a compliment.

Many Democrats believe in paying as they go for what they want; so basically the Nanny Party wants taxes to cover services. You can't nurture people if you are building debt on their backs. To help people, it has to be real help, not placebos and it's worth paying for the providing of it. Some, mostly in the right, would say taxes never nurture anybody; but you have to look at the reality of what that some do-- government will tax and it will put those funds out there one way or another. Just who is getting the money might differ. Debt can be acquired for awhile, but the day comes when it can't be extended farther; then the piper will be paid.

What Republicans don't like to talk about is they are the Daddy Party. It's not what they like to think about themselves as being; but if you look at what they seek in a presidential candidate, I think you can see it. They want someone who can protect them. Someone who promises to take care of the bad guys.

Democrats elect policy wonks, people who know issues up one side and down the other, and charisma is secondary to policy (you can see it in our past candidates, who are not exactly noted for their charisma-- John Kerry, Jimmy Carter, Al Gore, Mike Dukakis). For most Democrats, charisma is not enough. Barack Obama is running into that already. It might seem Bill Clinton didn't fit this profile given his charisma, but he did fit it. He is the ultimate policy wonk with an additional aspect of charisma, but his charisma didn't get him the nomination. It never does for Democrats.

Democrats don't want a leader who dictates everything to them. They look for consensus, town hall style governing-- where Republicans go the other way. The Republican right ridicules the idea of caring about a poll. They are proud of a president who doesn't give a fig about what the people want.

Why is this? The answer is because Republicans want a Daddy. Daddy can protect them. He knows best and governs them as they believe their god does-- with a rigid will. It is why so many of them trusted George Bush to dismantle parts of the Constitution, why they okayed secret prisons, and still many in that group believe torture, even when it doesn't work, is okay. If we cannot trust Daddy, who can we trust?

I think some of how this comes about is because of the version of spiritual belief that governs many in the core of the religious right, who elected and still support George bush. In general, the heart of the Republican party is used to a church going mentality where God will take care of them. A pastor tells them what is right to do. They don't even have to take responsibility for being good. God makes them good. When they fail, God forgives them if they ask for it. I suspect their concept of faith carries over into who they select for a leader.

Republicans ridicule Democrats for that need for consensus, concern for poll results because Republicans aren't looking for any of that. They want a godlike leader who will rule wisely and assure their safe and good lives. I believe that kind of ground, especially when combined with religious zeal is one that grows fascism.

Although the nanny state can lead to socialism or communism, where the nanny is supposed to do what the employer ordered, it's less prone to dictatorships than the daddy state. Either, however, can lead to dictatorships when the people abdicate responsibility for their own governance and grow to wanting something for nothing.

These garden pictures were taken when I walked outside to get colored leaf photos. Conditions were perfect to allow flowers to stay blooming-- no early freeze as we often have in mid-September. What was that gladiola doing blooming now? We never even had one bloom in that spot during the summer. Wow, what a beautiful rose bud! Love how the pampas grass shines in the sun.

While it's true garden photos are a lot prettier to post than pictures of politicians-- past or present, gardens also illustrate the consequences of their tending and conditions. They vividly illustrate what their care has been. Their consequences are a lot more immediate than some others in life where results take longer to show up.

In the first photo, the sheep, waiting for apples to be knocked out of the tree by the wind or me, represent us looking for someone else to take care of our needs, from the daddy to the nanny, at no cost, trusting promises that nobody can deliver without cost-- it only varies what it will be.

The last photo is of rose-hips along a gravel road. When the leaves are gone, the bright red rose-hips are revealed. Sometimes in life, it takes getting dross out of the way to see what is really beneath.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Fall is in the Air

Tis the season again and although I have never actually raked them from the kitchen (not a bad idea), I have, and will again, sweep them from it as they are blown in through open doors, carried in on boots or with the cats. Since I already call myself a redneck, I thought this was apropos. I took the picture outside to get a few of the many leaves to accompany it.

Mostly I try to keep them away from the house with a leaf blower. It doesn't have the aesthetic beauty of the lawn rake but it does the job in an hour that the rake used to need half a day. With seven oaks right near the house, rain storms that make them sodden and hard to move, I try to stay ahead of them.

These photos are trees we planted around the house. Where we live, the fall colors on this farm are not naturally as vibrant as I knew was possible; so I went looking for trees to plant just for their fall colors. Hey, it's coming anyway, I might as well enjoy it.

Though I never like it when fall comes, I also can never deny it's probably the most beautiful season with its showy splashes of color, its interesting skies. There is the feeling in the air-- this is it boys, make it good --as the plants head toward dormancy.

Yesterday while the main burst of fall was just beginning along the creek, barely tinging the tree tops, the skies were wonderful, constantly changing, symphonic temptations with their mix of colors and shapes. I took my camera with me several times.