Thursday, January 31, 2008

Why not billary?

As a sometimes out-spoken woman, who believes strongly in the ability of women to do anything to which they set their minds, why not Hillary? Why not a woman president? I am all for one but not this one. If you are a strong fan of Hillary's and not open to changing your mind, you might want to quit reading right now and come visit me again another day as what I am going to say is not going to please you. My reasons for disliking Hillary's candidacy are about her character not her policy positions (and with them who knows if she'd do what she says anyway).

When I have written about the political candidates, I have skimmed over Hillary Clinton and not gone into why I don't want to the Clinton machine back in the White House-- and make no mistake, it would be the package if she wins the presidency. If there had been any doubt about that, the last couple of months put it to rest. So you can't discuss Hillary without Bill (hence the nickname some have come up with-- billary). Sorry feminists, but she is not running as an independent woman who got here on her own two feet. She rode here on the coattails of a man. So when you get two-for-one again, what exactly are you getting?

Might as well start with a link I just read by Christopher Hitchens. I know he's not popular with many liberals or conservatives, but the man speaks his mind and this particular piece is specifics of how the Clintons have played The Race Card-- and not just in South Carolina. Bill our first black president huh? Maybe for those who really don't want a black man in the position, but what about him is supposed to be like a black man? Wasn't that all about stereotypes-- and not flattering ones either. The black men I know are just like anybody else. Throw out those stereotypes along with those who use them. They aren't serving us well.

For some, the Clinton package deal is a bargain. For me it's a lot of questions about who has been helping Bill Clinton amass his fortune the last few years. Based on whitewater and a lot of other shady, if not illegal, deals in the Clinton past, we know they are not averse to taking money from questionable sources. For whom has Bill been working, who's been paying those big speaker fees, what corporations have given him seats on their boards because of maybe exactly what could be happening now-- the Clintons back in the White House? The big donors to his presidential library, who have they been? Why doesn't he want their names released? Is it because they are also donating to Hillary's campaign and knowing who they were wouldn't look good? Is this run by Hillary exactly why President Clinton gave that pardon to Marc Rich?

I don't care about who Bill Clinton is having sex or trying to have sex with-- unless it's sexual harassment, but would it be a factor in the presidency of Hillary Clinton? Will it be one sleazy scandal after another as it was last time they were in power? Will that distract her as president or is what he does with other women not a concern of hers?

She said in a recent interview that she can control Bill. Can she in this area also or do they have an arrangement? It's nobody's business but theirs unless it impacts the job; and if she cared, it just might. Voters do assess the marriages of presidents-- male also-- as they question whether it will be a factor in the mental strength needed for the job.

When we get past the Bill factor, does Hillary herself have the temperament to be a president? For me it's questions about her own activities in the past, her secretiveness and sometimes what seems like a-- them-against-us mentality. It's about things like travelgate, and let's not forget the dossiers that went to the White House on various government officials with no reason ever given for why-- unless it was to find things that could be used to apply pressure on individuals when the need arose. Or the Rose Law Office files that mysteriously showed up on a White House table after being missing so long and no clue why they were ever there. How about Sandy Berger getting into the government archives and accidentally taking some that showed what happened during the Clinton years regarding a sensitive issue?

The Clintons like to rewrite history and some people are so eager to get payback for the Bush years that they want to ignore the negatives that Hillary will bring with her. She is supposed to be the most experienced candidate except what has she gotten that wasn't based on to whom she was married and maybe even a sympathy vote? She talks about her vast experience and how Obama has so little. He's been in elected offices longer than she, and he earned them himself. She may have been a workmanlike senator but has she shown leadership anywhere? What has she actually done except put up with Bill Clinton's infidelities?

After the way Bush has taken powers for the presidency, made secrecy a patriotic virtue, why would we think a person like Hillary would give that up? She already operates that way. She won't sign anything promising to restore the Constitution if she is President (neither has Obama as of yet but as a Constitutional law professor, those odds are better than with Hillary Clinton). It would take a LOT of trust to believe she will give up the powers that Bush has amassed. She'll get in and find she has to keep them for the good of the country. To me, in terms of personality, she is a female Cheney.

Because of Hillary's character, she is someone I am not sure I could vote for even if she is the Democratic candidate and that is very depressing to me. I have always voted. I can't imagine voting for any Republican given the Supreme Court picks, the way these guys all seem gung ho for more wars, have no fiscal responsibility, seemed determined to continue down the Bush trail, but at the same time, how could I vote for Hillary Clinton? If I had any doubts about whether she might have changed, the way she has run this campaign has answered them.

Some say Barack Obama doesn't have enough experience. Well, that's better than the wrong kind!

I posted the photo on top for two reasons. It is of the creek here on the farm and a reflection of a reflection. That morning we had had a snowfall. The sunrise to the east was reflected onto the western sky and it was its reflection that you see in the creek. What we see isn't always what is there, nor is it always clear from where light is coming. Many times reflections of reflections are all we get-- many not nearly so beautiful as this one.

I also wanted something as a reminder that life is beautiful and that keeping our eye on the ball means doing what we can to make a positive difference in the world, being informed, voting wisely, supporting just causes, but then releasing it all. As an imagery, close your fist tight over them, as tight as you can, slowly open your fingers releasing the results to the universe; then look at the beauty that is all around. If it's not outside your door, visit a park, watch the birds, notice the sky, get grounded in nature which is the best healer I know.

If any Hillary fans made it this far, feel free to post comments with your own opinions on why she would make a good president. Unless you bring up an issue that I didn't cover or where I hadn't made my own position clear enough, I won't put down what you believe. I took some time to make up my mind about Hillary Clinton, pulling together what I remembered, watching how she conducted this campaign, but it's my personal viewpoint. I know good people can see things differently.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Super Delegates

This year, as the media began totaling delegates already won (and they didn't match the numbers voted), eventually a term registered with me that had not before-- super delegates. What the heck was a super delegate? I went looking.

The Republican party doesn't do this, but in the Democratic party there is a protective system in place-- a big one-- to give the party regulars a 'super' say in who will be the next nominee. When someone on the level of Ted Kennedy endorses a candidate, that doesn't just mean they will campaign for them but also are one vote in the Convention regardless of which way their particular state might have voted in the primary. 842 of the delegates are super delegates and represent 40% of the votes needed to win the nomination.

Super delegates are made up of governors, ex-presidents, Congress, and some appointed by the Democratic National Committee head, currently Howard Dean. You can begin to see why it had been difficult for the candidates to stand firm against the DNC's decision to not count votes from Michigan and Florida after those states set an unacceptably (to the party honchos) early date for their primaries. Make the party elders mad and you don't get their endorsement (vote). It's all very well to be noble, but you have to win the nomination to make any difference in the country.

From what I have read, the party's plan was to keep someone like George McGovern (who lost in a landslide) or Jimmy Carter (who power brokers never liked), from ever getting the nomination again. So for a number of years, people like Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid each have votes for the nominee where I only have a percentage of a percentage of a vote-- tiny one at that.

This does not mean my vote doesn't count but rather that it's critical I do vote and do so meaningfully. If someone wants change, the odds are stacked against them but it's still not impossible. Being aware of who those super delegates are, we can make our opinions known to them for how we want them to vote and remind them of the consequences for them the next time they need a vote.

It's easy to see how people become disillusioned with the political process. On one level after another, it is weighted to keeping power where it already rests-- although sometimes a movement grows with such force that it overcomes all of that.

If, which is not likely, someone got all of the super delegates to back them, then it would not take many states to claim the nomination. Last week, Hillary Clinton already had twice as many super delegates as Barack Obama. That could change if these super delegates sense a ground swell for someone else.

I was not happy to learn about this antiquated system from the 70s. It might play a bigger role this year if the delegate count from the states ends up close. I don't like structures set in place to maintain power. I guess I am supposed to be grateful that there was still a 60% voice for the ordinary Democrat.

Both parties want to maintain our current (for all meaningful purposes) two-party system, but what if New York City's Mayor Bloomberg makes a third-party run and a lot of people, like me, who are fed up with politics as usual, switch? For me, it could be tempting if Hillary Clinton wins the Democratic nomination (more on that next blog).

ame old same old is not my idea of a way to solve what is wrong in Washington. We've seen how well that works since 2006's elections were supposed to make a difference. Many of us, from both parties, have long wanted a viable third party to change the power structure in Washington DC. Maybe this will be the year it happens. No party should take for granted that it has a lock on who the next president will be.

[An interesting wild card in all of this could be John Edwards though he apparently has no chance to win the nomination through the primary system. Democratic delegates are not locked into having to vote as their state went. States are apportioned, not winner take all; so it would be possible for two strong candidates to neither have quite enough votes to take the nomination in August. Even though someone like Edwards had far less, they could become a power broker themselves or even end up with the nomination if they had just enough delegates to forestall the other two from the needed majority. In a brokered convention, something that has not happened since the '70, all bets are off.]

The picture is not of super delegates, but there is a kind of convention going on around the spoils-- and a definite power structure. I had thought it would be interesting to try for a photo of snow, the cattle, and the almost full moon as was setting. I was surprised how far it had shifted in the valley and how much later in the morning it was setting in just the few days since it was really full. One thing is for sure about life-- change is constant.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

What about winter?

Years are made up of seasons. That's not a complex statement. It's easy to see the evidence for them and, although their characteristics will vary in different parts of the world, spring, summer, fall, and winter are recognizable. Some prefer one or the other but there is usually no debating that all four exist based on where the sun is throughout the year. The seasons each serve purposes in the scheme of nature.

In the bigger picture, our whole life is likewise made up of seasons but these are easier to quibble over. Spring could be seen as from birth to 20 where we take on the skills of living a life. We grow. We are educated. We move into the world usually on our own.

Then comes summer where what we sowed in the spring grows. We become stronger in different way. We learn more. We often begin our own family and this would be from 20 to 40 years old or thereabouts.

Fall for a human could be seen as the years of reaping the harvest. Investments have been made, children are grown or growing and from 40 to 60, we work and continue to enjoy the benefits of all those earlier years of preparation. Second careers, a strong body, good economy all could make this a season of many options.

That leaves winter-- winter is thought of as being a rather bleak season-- no leaves on the trees, (in most parts of the country) no flowers blooming outside, no warmth, and instead darker, cold, snowy, or wet. Who can get excited about that for a season of nature or life?

In nature, however, each season serves an important purpose. Winter is for the dormancy of the plants, the killing off of the bugs, the ending of one life to give room to new, and giving energy to the whole process, readying it to start again. It is as important as any other season. Some seeds only can sprout if there is a true winter.

Yes, the season of winter appears stark-- all lines and minimal color; yet when I looked at my photos from January, I was surprised at how much beauty there was.
Old age, the winter years of from around 60 to the end, has an aesthetic pleasure all its own; and there are the unexpected moments in old age that nobody else's book nor stories can possible tell us will happen. Old age is not written out in a manual but rather experienced.

Winter is about looking at the details, the small moments, the little triumphs, and it is in those that we can appreciate the season for what it is. It is a time to reflect, to deepen one's connection to the Spirit, to all that exists.

Each season can be fulfilling and rich, part of a total life experience, if one takes full advantage of what is there-- not rushing through, skipping the process, trying to deny what is being experienced.

Yes, it is possible to deny where we are, not do the plowing in spring, or skip the harvest of fall but then we are missing the fullest experience of life. The beauty of life is that the choice is ours for how fully we live it.

These are all photos from January here on the farm. They are about what winter can be--the moments, the details, the surprises, the lines, the way everything is pared down to its essential shape. (I thought about taking a close up photo of my face to show what I see when I look into a mirror-- the fine line hatching that follows the same lines as those revealed on the oak trees in the top photo and then I thought... nah*s*.)

Friday, January 25, 2008

Art as Metaphor

Sometimes when you are writing, things are handed to you where you can only go wow. You couldn't make this kind of thing up. This painting is such a time.

Because the figure on the horse, does resemble George W. Bush, it would be easy to imagine it being used by those who dislike him allegorically showing how he is escaping from an angry populace who have finally realized what he has done to their land, their reputation, their town's budget, their young people who he sent to their deaths. Kind of like a sharp talker who come into town and then had to leave on a stolen horse. (Of course, if it was Bush, beings he can't ride and is apparently afraid of horses, he'd be barely hanging on for dear life rather than riding it capably up that hill to hopefully escape justice.)

The painting was created in 1915 by the artist W. H. D. Koerner to illustrate a 1916 story in the Saturday Evening Post (a major magazine back in those days with many short stories illustrated by famous artists). It first appeared with "The Slipper Tongue" (story about a shyster, who stole a horse to try and escape from the angry townspeople) and then used again a year later for another similar story-- "Ways that are Dark" and finally was sold to illustrate another western in a different magazine "A Charge to Keep."

It's not hard to see how this painting could be seen as a metaphor for George Bush; but the story gets better-- George W. Bush is the one who has given it a position of prominence in his offices as his own symbol to show his missionary zeal. He proudly tells visitors that the rider represents him. He believes it depicts the circuit-riders, who spread Methodism across the Alleghenies (were they chased out?).

Bush wrote in his autobiography, "I thought I would share with you a recent bit of Texas history which epitomizes our mission. When you come into my office, please take a look at the beautiful painting of a horseman determinedly charging up what appears to be a steep and rough trail. This is us. What adds complete life to the painting for me is the message of Charles Wesley that we serve One greater than ourselves."

So here is Bush seeing himself as a proselytizing figure, saving the world and is using a painting of a silver-tongued horse thief fleeing a lynch mob to do it. Could any fiction story get better than that? ( The deafness and blindness of George W. Bush).

Even though we are in an election year, Bush's illusions and delusions matter because he does still have time to wreak havoc, and any level of support from the American people encourages him to do just that. Over and over the story of this man and the tragedy he has wrought upon America is a metaphor of Shakespearean levels.

There is a lesson for us in it too. When we look at that painting with unbiased eyes, we can obviously see a man fleeing, not leading any charge, but how many visitors to his offices have nodded and served to illustrate another metaphor-- The Emperor's New Clothes. Bush has let many delusions influence what he has done and he's found things to reinforce all of that fantasy, but he's not the only one who bought into that.

The lesson for us is strong. Bush has in his office a visible symbol not of the proud charge he has taken on but rather of the lie he bought into. I wonder how many of us carry around outward symbols of things that reinforce our false beliefs, things we have reinterpreted to make ourselves more convinced than ever of what we want to see as truth.

If we see only what we want to see and dismiss anything that doesn't fit, we are like Bush-- horrifying as that idea might be to a liberal. It is worth thinking long and hard on what our own assumptions are about life, what we see around us, and about ourselves. Are they coloring our view of what we observe? Delusions, in the case of Bush, have done damage to the world, but our own do damage to us and our loved ones. They can also lead us to vote for false leaders.

(painting used from-- W.H.D. Kroerner's Charge to Keep)

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Pasture melodramas

Raising livestock is a mix of joys and sorrows. Nothing always goes perfectly every time. Even when it does go perfectly, there is still the knowledge you are raising livestock for food. Still, it is good more than not good; and therefore worth doing far longer than I might have thought when I was younger.

The calf was born in the pasture and all seemed okay; but the mother loudly relayed through angry bellows that no it was not. So we looked more closely and definitely the calf was lying around too much. We gave it a strong dose of medication. About the time the poop observations said that the calf did have a problem (wrong color and consistency), the meds were on their way. It began to look healthy.

The weather has been frigid at night-- yes, I know not by Midwestern standards-- but definitely by ours. There are four new calves and this one seemed to find a happy community until the nighttime bellows began. Again, Mama was not happy. Time after time my husband would go outside at night-- at midnight (did I mention it was cold?)-- to find out what was wrong, walk the fence line, look for little frozen bodies and find nothing was wrong.

After watching her bellow, staring up toward the woods, I thought maybe a cougar had come down and gotten her calf-- except again there it was in the barn with the calf pile. Even though we have no immediate neighbors, there are four other homes in this little valley close enough to hear a cow capable of making that kind of racket.

To give ourselves and the neighbors a good night's sleep, she and calf were brought closer to the house and into the sheep's pasture (sheep were definitely not pleased with this arrangement). As best we can tell, she finally is at peace with her baby's health. They have bonded, calf is bouncing around, she is licking it, and (at least today) no longer staring up at the woods.

Giving her the benefit of the doubt, we thought possibly she was looking toward where her little heifer had been born and where she somehow felt it should have stayed. The workings of a cow's mind probably aren't worth expending too much time analyzing. The important thing is she relaxed and is much quieter-- for now-- but boy does she have a set of pipes when she wants to use them.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

What if there's bears?

One of the things I love about the Internet is when you are looking for one thing, sometimes you stumble across something totally different. True, you can do the same thing in a library when doing research but it takes a lot longer.

I don't even remember what original article I had been reading when one thing led to another and this title caught my eye giving me the laugher I needed. But what if there's bears? on Funny or Die.

But what if there's bears? is probably funniest if someone has watched any of the wild animal shows on cable like where the guy goes around the world searching for the most dangerous creatures that walk, slither or crawl over the earth.

Laughter is good medicine!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Morning moon

Because this Wolf Moon has been so spectacular, I decided I would bundle up and go out this morning to get some morning photos. The golden color seemed to show up even more and I felt sure I could capture it without any enhancements.

It's really cold here and I felt happy with the photos I knew I had taken, got back inside and realized I had taken them all without the card in place which meant no pictures. grrrrrr

I reattached the tripod (not an easy task), set up the telephoto, bundled back up, and out I went, barely making it before the moon disappeared; but I must say, cold out there as it was, I would have missed the moment it dipped below the horizon. I think (making myself feel better for the earlier goof) the photos were better the second time around. There is something about a moon on the horizon that not only makes it seem larger but also more symbolic.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Wolf Moon

Full moons have been given names by different cultures, but I love the one for January best of them all-- The Wolf Moon. It is not hard to create imagery to go with it-- wolves hunting in their pack as they run across a snowy landscape, in the distance a lone wolf howls and the sound brings a shiver the spine of all living creatures.

If you haven't noticed what a powerful moon this one is, you must wear a mask at night or have very heavy drapes. It woke me around 5 this morning as its light shone in my window. Living in the country, I don't do blinds; so I got the full benefit of all that light.

What most struck me was how yellowish it appeared-- rather like a wolf's eyes if I think about it. I lay there watching it but could not bring myself to find the camera, tripod and telephoto to go outside when it was in the teens.

Tonight, however, I bundled up with a heavy coat, scarf and went out. The sky was so clear and cold, the moon just starting to rise above the trees.

Beautiful as it was, it did not photograph as yellow as it appeared. Plus I could not get the two stars that shone right above it to be visible; so the last one is the photograph enhanced by me to what my eye could see but the camera lens not capture-- at least not at my skill level.

For those who give significance to full moons beyond the obvious beauty, this one is in Leo and will be totally full at 5:35 AM PST January 22. From what I have read, this moon encourages us to honor our roots and loved ones. Apply our creative energy to manifest the pack with which we desire to run. It is a powerful moon and the energy is ours to appropriate.
These photos are all more impressive if enlarged; but if you enlarge the last one, take a moment to meditate on what pack is yours. Are you with them; and if not, what do you want to do about it?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Away from Her

Away from Her is a beautiful little collage of a film about the end of a marriage but not of a relationship. It is the story of a woman with Alzheimer's and her husband's life as he learns to deal with what this means to his life with a woman he clearly adores.

The scenes are pulled together this way and that until they form a whole and you understand some of what this couple (Gordon Pinsent and Julie Christie) experienced through a nearly 50 year marriage. It can be confusing until you begin to see the tapestry as a portrait of a relationship and of how the mind works. As much as his wife is losing her mind, the husband still has his but its a mixed collection of what is, what must be, and what he is losing.

It is beautifully filmed against a snowy Canadian landscape with the kind of cabin everyone would love to own deep in the woods, warmly furnished depicting both the history of the man (it was his mother's home) but also of who this couple was. To me the landscape where they live is one more piece of the collage.

The three main characters include Olympia Dukakis who is Marion, the wife of a man living in the facility where Fiona goes to live once her condition becomes too advanced to be safe in her own home. Grant, a retired college professor, is the center of the story as it is he who must cope with loss. His love transcends the physical although the story lets us know this had not been a perfect marriage as there was an (maybe more than one) earlier affair which Fiona had forgiven Grant or had she?

Even when Marion and Grant have an affair, based on their partners falling in love with each other and Marion and Grant's mutual need and loss, she sees that he will never love her as he does Fiona. Marion is an ordinary (although very attractive) woman unlike Fiona who is a goddess with almost surreal beauty, vitality, and liveliness; even the lines in her face give her a poetic grace that is every bit as powerful as the beauty she had as a girl.

Watching Julie Christie be her age and so beautiful is a pleasure. She was always a gorgeous woman, but her aging, yet sensual beauty is a pleasure to watch. Too bad more actresses haven't aged naturally as when you see those who are obviously the age they are, you realize the others have lost something worth far more in their hopeless quest for youth.

This might not be a movie to watch if you are feeling down as it tugs at the heart. Save it for a day when you are ready to look at life in its fullness. It's also not a documentary on what Alzheimer's is like because it can be very different for different people. This is however, more than a film about a disease, it's a film about relationships and the fullest meaning of love.

For another review and quite a few scenes from this film, check out Away from Her by Old Old Lady in the Hills. Her reviews of films are always excellent and this one was no exception. It was one of the things that encouraged me to watch it despite knowing it was a sad topic.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Political Compass

Stu Savory had a good blog for the 18th-- Whither US Politics? that shows us where the current slate of presidential candidates show up. I guess it's not surprising that they would ALL be authoritarian except Mike Gravel and Dennis Kucinich. It only varied as to how authoritarian.

Although I have taken this test before, I did it again. I forgot exactly where I had been the last time but know it was in the same neighborhood-- libertarian near Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama.

There is another link on the test site regarding what people like Gandhi, Mandela and the Dalai Lama actually have said in case someone thinks that it's good to be near them in a test. I didn't do very well on this particular test until I got the message that if someone preaches non-violence, look for when they actually advocated something else-- Iconochasms. It is enough to make one head for the hills-- until I remember I already live there.

The political test is an interesting one to take (even if you end up displeased by who you rate alongside) to remind yourself of your own issues if you have forgotten and currently are voting on anything else-- like say Hillary going on a talk show so she can get emotional about the old Monica Lewinsky scandal-- right before more primaries. Think that's a coincidence?

Friday, January 18, 2008

Sand and Sorrow

Because I just saw it, and it impacted me, I would like to recommend watching HBO's Sand and Sorrow, a documentary on Darfur and the genocide still ongoing there. If you do not have HBO, the documentary will be available on DVD at the end of January.

Most of us have, of course, at least heard of Darfur. For several years, I had been reading bits and pieces about what is happening there, regularly reading Nicholas Kristof's articles on it in the New York Times. He is also a part of this documentary.

One of the movie's most powerful images, other than seeing the victims, hearing their stories, was something that came about almost by chance. While interviewing their parents, children were given crayons and paper to give them something to do. They drew what they had seen and experienced. Those pictures of violence and death are now traveling around the United States in an exhibit to try and awaken the nation to what has been happening.

For those of us who live in a very different world, it's easy to put this kind of horror out of our minds. We don't have military groups coming in and bombing our towns, killing all our livestock, taking everything we have, raping our women, killing indiscriminately because the village in which we live is of the wrong religion or in the wrong place. We aren't faced with even seeing it generally because our news media is too busy covering the latest implosion of the pop tart of the week.

Governments don't deal with things unless there is profit or pressure brought to bear. In the case of Darfur, the people are poor. There is no profit for an outside government to become involved; so there must be pressure by the citizens around the world to care about this.

Many thought when President Bush declared what was happening was genocide that then something would be done to stop it. His declaration would be a first step. Instead it has been the only step. Nothing was done at least partly because the Sudanese government was cooperating in our effort to track down terrorists relating to our own problem. We have also been limited by the commitment to our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Stopping the killing and raping is one part of the problem; but these people were forced from their homes, everything they had destroyed or stolen. If we stop with saving their lives, is that dooming them to spend those lives in refugee camps dependent on scraps given through charity-- scraps that keep them existing, not really living.

I think the goal has to be working as a world community, which means not just the United States but the United Nations. Things could be done-- if people care enough to demand it be done. It won't be if they don't. Watching Sand and Sorrow is a good way to start caring.

Many have looked at the Holocaust or more recently Rwanda-- along with so many other places where genocide has taken place-- and said why didn't someone do something to stop it? Okay, so why doesn't someone?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Winter Skies

Winter in my part of the Pacific Northwest is not what is thought of as traditional even within the United States.With very limited snowfall, no warm beaches, no swaying palm trees, the Northwest has to take beauty where it finds it; and given the ground is often muddy, that's mostly in the hills and sky.
Some might think because the skies are so often gray or cloudy, that they wouldn't be beautiful; but look at how the light hits, accenting here or there, the sometimes yellowish cast to the clouds, how they are in multiple layers of varying types as light changes what is seen throughout the day. These are a few photos from the Oregon Coast Range-- frosted trees and pastures from a light snowfall, bare limbs, storms coming through and passing on,
mornings where the sun highlights the clouds as it rises into the sky, doing its best to warm something just a bit,

and once in awhile, sunsets where the skies seem to be on fire.

(All photos are January 2008 on the farm. At this time of the year, when I look outside and see something lovely, I grab the Canon Rebel and head out immediately as five minutes later, it'll be changed.)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Does your vote count?

This is from Wired magazine and worth reading for anybody who would like their vote to count. What we don't demand, we won't get!

Dennis Kucinich is paying for a recount in New Hampshire because there were voting machines there too and some questions about what the results ended up being.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Unexpected Gifts

In December, I had two good friends who went on a tour of Thailand (and nearby countries). They came back very high on the experience and then surprised me by each mailing me a gift they had selected for me while there. How cool is that!

Each gift is something I like but even better is seeing how they had been chosen based on knowing me.

The first one to come in the mail was a small wooden frame that looks like a painting on a wooden box; but when you open it, it's a frame where you can put a photo or piece of art inside. For my first picture in the frame, I selected a card that this lady had given me the Christmas before, which I had kept above my desk, of an angel.

The next gift to arrive was a lovely sarong. I love the colors (totally my kind) and fine embroidery work (photo above and detail of the embroidery below).

The Thai people are obviously talented artists and craftsmen; but even more than that, I am fortunate to have two such considerate and caring friends to share their trip with me in such a personal way.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

snowy cabin

Joy at Joy of Six, had Blingee, which is the ability to add bling-- or in this case, snow-- alongside her blog. I had done this small computer painting awhile back and always had looked for a place to put snow on it. Then there it was when I wasn't looking which is always one of the fun things in life.

The cabin represents a dream of mine. Something beautiful is something for us all to carry around inside-- most especially in troubling times.

snowy cabin
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Friday, January 11, 2008

and the other side

Beings I am a registered Democrat, part of that base you read about as I have even donated money to Democratic candidates, it's hard to write about Republican candidates. I do pay attention to them, but disagree with them all.

The Republican candidates appear to be mostly me-toos where it comes to George W. Bush. If they see Bush as having done a good job, right there, it's a major conflict with me-- like what kind of judgment would they have if they got in power? They want to keep all the tax cuts for the rich (gotta keep that debt building). Except for Ron Paul, they plan to stay in Iraq forever and maybe bomb Iran in their the military's spare time. There is no contradiction in their minds between an expensive war and lowering taxes that could pay for it. Their stance on torture is just as tortured (except for McCain who knows a bit about the subject).

So you have Mr 9/11, Giuliani, who brags about how he'll keep us safe from another terrorist attack because he's such a tough guy-- but you never hear him talk about why the command center for the Port Authority, which basically meant the fire and police for NYC, were all in the World Trade Center, long targeted by terrorists, where others with better judgment said, don't put it there. His blind stubbornness does not make one think he'd make a good president. The corruption in his background doesn't make you feel he'd be trustworthy in any aspect of leadership-- not to mention how much he likes dictator powers.

In this election, I believe there is also something new for Republicans to consider--two fundamentalists. Before I go farther, I better define some terms as I will use them. Others might define them differently-- these are my terms.

Christian: follower of Jesus Christ's teachings but might update what they mean for a modern era

christianist: claims the name but would consider Christ's teachings socialism, ignores the parts about not judging others, praying in a closet, difficulty of a rich man being spiritual [Christ used the metaphor getting into the kingdom of heaven which can be taken to mean after death or enlightenment during life]

fundamentalist Christian: takes what Jesus said in the King James Bible to be exactly what one should do; and if it's not there, well let your pastor explain what you should do. All spiritual truth has already been explained and you don't need to learn more.

Mormon: if jack Mormon, you don't take the teachings of the church seriously. If Mormon, the president of the church decrees how to live your life and you follow it or you are out. There are strict rules. Some say Mormonism is not Christian but Mormons claim it is. They are fundamentalists in that they have to believe what their leader says is true or they revert to part one above.

So Huckabee is a fundamentalist Christian, in my opinion. It seems most likely that his religious fervor has convinced him that's reason enough to be the president, as he hopes it will be for many voters. He doesn't appear to believe he needs to study up on foreign policy or even know what those issues are. Like our christianist president, he seems to count on divine guidance in the tough times.

Why I say he's a fundamentalist Christian is he says he doesn't believe in evolution, appears to take the Bible literally (even when it was not meant that way), believes in helping the poor, and appears to think one should live a gospel-driven life (who knows if he does but that's what confession is for).

I do not think being a member of any religion is a reason to vote for or against them unless the religion teaches something bad-- or encourages purposeful ignorance. Fundamentalism (of all sorts) follows the latter path.

I do not believe, that someone who let their church leader tell them being black was the sign of Cain from the Old Testament and therefore that person is unfit to be a priest, can be anything but a fundamentalist. Sorry it's that way but nothing the members can do about it. It's how it is from god on high who speaks direction on these important issues only to our religious leader. I'll pull over to the side of the road and cry when I hear our Mormon president has gotten new divine orders (as Romney claims he did regarding the bigotry of his church).

I would personally not vote for someone who dismissed science, didn't bother to get educated as to what science can teach us. If your religion is able to dictate something illogical to you, like that mark of Cain nonsense, what else can it tell you to do or think? Side note: What is there about religion that seems to turn off some people's brains?

In my opinion, it's important to do your own research on the candidates you prefer. For instance, supposed you were a fundamentalist Christian (unlikely you'd still be reading this blog but just pretend) and liked Huckabee's religion. Check out his record as governor, the questionable paroles, the corruption, the gifts he personally took, what he did versus how he talked.

A lot of people are so disillusioned with our system that they don't want to think about it. They do not want to research candidates. They want information spoon fed them. I hear it a lot regarding Obama-- we don't know anything about him. Well Ingineer66, a frequent commenter here, went looking, and wrote about it in the comments here-- information that didn't come to him through god's special messaging system.

This is no time to be lazy about your leader. We are in a war, maybe a second on the horizon if some of these chicken hawks get their way. We have a president who has been gutting and even selling off our infrastructure, given tax breaks to the richest while he spread pennies to the middle class, and took programs from the environment and the poorest. He has set in place a structure that enables a president to ignore laws Congress passes, break civilized rules that have been considered to be the standard-- all at his whim. The next president matters a lot if any of that is to be reversed. Don't count on simple blogs like this one or speeches during a debate or campaign. Research the facts for your children and grandchildren's sake-- maybe even your own generation as it's going. Find out for yourself what these people do and what they say they believe

As a small example of Hucakbee's beliefs, he favors eliminating the income tax and replacing it with a national sales tax, which some economists also like; but which, unless it is not on food and drugs, is hardest on the poor. He follows the Old Testament guidelines about homosexuality (but am guessing he doesn't favor stoning gays to death nor disobedient children). He has gone back and forth on whether torture is okay but wants the prison in Guantanamo to stay-- last I read.

These Republican candidates are making John McCain look good and given how McCain has kissed up to Bush, wants to lock in the tax cuts making our debt spiral, and supports staying in Iraq fifty years, if not more, you can see where that puts the rest.

Not that any of them care about my opinion, since in Oregon you have to vote in your own primary and if you were registered as an Independent you can't vote in any-- which is why I am registered as a Democrat. I will have a voice in my primary and I will do the work to be informed on at least what these people say they believe. I know... it doesn't always rarely ends up being what they do.

If you are informed, you are less apt to be influenced by something that probably helped win Hillary the New Hampshire primary when a guy yelled out iron my shirts or when she got teary. That guy could have been a plant given the rest of how her bunch operates. This is how campaigns are won, but it only impacts those who are not informed and thus easily swayed by soundbites. Know the positions and you won't be one of them.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Primary Results

[January 10-- Adding this from Camile Paglia which begins with her take on Hillary. For me, agree or disagree, it's always worth reading her insightful, sometimes caustic and often wryly humorous opinions. I know she's not everyone's cup of tea but she is mine. She nails my concern about Hillary (and those of a lot of other people) and adds on what makes this so tough when she reminds me that if Hillary gets the nomination, because of things like the appointment of judges, how can I not vote for her in November? Ugh! I am getting depressed again...]

Watching the primary results last night was depressing, good and at times funny. The funny part was Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann starting out with talking about this tsunami called Obama and then watching their faces and program shift as results made all their talking points moot. It took quite a few results to change the tone. It might not seem much humor, to watch pundits with egg on their face still trying to fill 7 hours of talk about something that didn't go as they had planned, but you have to take humor where you can find it. I did not stay around to watch the whole thing because I half blamed them for the results.

Turning Hillary into the sad underdog made a great story for them. Then when she got a bit emotional about why she was running for the presidency, right before she assailed Obama's character yet again, that was another heavy coverage and questioning if it's okay to get teary for a woman-- say what! The end result of all of that let New Hampshire be a huge victory for her when a few weeks ago, that narrow a win would have been seen as a virtual loss by pundits. Is there any possible way to get them all to shut up for the rest of the year?

So what is the good news? Well Independents went for John McCain. It's likely a depressing factor in why Obama lost where they can vote in either primary; but seeing Obama way ahead, they chose to support McCain. It's a good reminder that McCain will, despite his stay in Iraq for a hundred years position, pull voters from the middle as would Obama in any election.

The bad news is Hillary's being named the comeback kid. I never believed two states would determine who gets the nomination, but Hillary has always been the favorite-- until a week ago. She is still most likely to get it because people are easily led and some mistakes (if they are) by pundits increase her odds of winning.

Who was the genius who began discussing how youthful Obama looked opposite Hillary's old team? Whoever it was, whoever talked about her looking old (which by the way, she looked her prettiest the day she teared up), was asking for women to come out in support of her.

So it's a real race on both sides and that is good. It worries me some because if the Clintons use their dirty tricks it'll make it really hard for me, come November, to vote for her. I have always voted, but the Clinton machine isn't what I want back in the White House. I don't trust either of them, feel her temperament is all wrong for such a powerful position given her secretive nature and some of the sneaky things she pulled back in the 90s (think law office records suddenly appearing on a White House table and nobody had any idea from where they came... yeah right).

I think it'd be good to see a woman as president but not that woman. Some women won't care but they like the idea of a woman finally running the country. If this particular one gets in, I hope I am wrong about her character because if I am right, the powers that Bush has been amassing for the imperial presidency will suddenly be in her hands. It might seem like karma for the right but it will impact the rest of us also.

Americans are going to be bombarded by accusations of Obama being a virtual child (never mind that CEOs for many corporations are not that much older); not experienced enough (state politics or life experience don't count -- only working in DC where you can be trained to keep the machine going [never mind when that also was all Bill had]); a creation of the media (this is one you have to watch out for being the case... ack!); too charismatic (which is bad when it's Obama but was/is good when it's Bill [explaining why a governor from a small state could win the presidency]); and worse coming through emails that nobody can figure out where they began but that swift boat a candidate (this has already begun) without giving them a way to respond and scare people who are not informed and aren't going to bother getting informed.

It's going to be an ugly election from the looks of it but then they often are. Keep Americans disillusioned, get them to not vote and some groups have won.

So what did you think last night? Happy with the results? Unhappy? Where will it all go next? Next for me here will be discussion of Republican candidates.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Change is coming... or is it?

Finally, after what has seemed like forever, we are into the primary season in the United States where each party chooses their candidate to run for the presidency (and maybe even a wild-card third-- or even fourth-- party run). This particular season seemed to start right after Bush won in 2004 because many were eager to see him out of office. Regardless of who wins in November, he will be out, but will what he has begun continue or will the United States choose a new direction?

It's hard for me to make fair comments on the Republican primaries given I don't like any of them. There appear to be a lot of 'me-too' candidates who are committed to continuing Bush's policies. So for the 30%, who still think Bush has been a good president, there are many options.

I wrote about my reasons for supporting Obama awhile back. I haven't changed my mind. I know it could be considered a roll of the dice because he's new to Washington politics, but he does have a record in Illinois. I like what I know of his temperament which his record shows. He has been pragmatic, knows about the issues that plague many of us on a daily level, and has learned to work well in groups.

Edwards is accusing him of being soft on corporations. Well-- and here is where I lose many liberals-- I don't consider all corporations to be the bad guys (they aren't all good either). Yes, they have had CEO salaries too high, not routinely treated workers well; but they are where jobs are created. They pay out most of the worker benefits. They make products. There need to be some adjustments but seeing corporations as the villains won't do it.

Frankly if you want to look for economic bad guys, look for those who make money off no product. Look at Hedge Fund managers, junk bond dealers, investors who have encouraged corporations to cannibalize themselves to make the stocks go up... and one other group.

Yes, civil lawsuit lawyers can protect the little people from abuse; but their profits on those big lawsuits are almost obscene for the amount of work they put into the cases.
And this is a lot of why I don't prefer John Edwards as it's part of how he made his fortune. Those lawsuits paid for his huge mansion and those $400 haircuts. In fact most likely it's why he decided he, the man of the people, needed those haircuts because his victories have often been more about perception than reality.

Edward's specialty was blaming doctors and hospitals for cerebral palsy based on difficult deliveries-- Junk Science makes Edwards a fortune. (yes, I know it's a right wing site from 2004, but is it true?) So on the one hand, he's speaking out for health insurance for everyone, but on the other hand he has profited mightily from holding doctors and hospitals responsible for something that is tragic but likely wasn't their fault.

Similarly some lawyers made much regarding mercury in vaccine causing autism. Mercury is gone and autism is still up. Does that kind of lawyer want to connect the dots? No and much as I hate to ever agree with Republicans, these kind of sympathy for the victim lawsuits are part of why medical care costs are where they are today.

I don't hold all defense lawyers to be bad guys-- but the ambulance chasing ones (this phrase does not mean literally chasing ambulances but simply going for the cases where somebody with deep pockets can be sued) have sure not done us any favors (think recently with Geragos representing zoo victims in San Francisco), and they are not on any positive list of mine.

If you see corporations and hospitals as the bad guy-- and some could make that case like in Sicko-- Edwards' criticism of Obama for working with the insurance companies might make sense. You might also see this as irrelevant in this election unless you decide maybe Edwards didn't care about facts then and he won based on oratory-- which is what he could be doing today and might do if he won the presidency.

Hillary I have talked about before. She's part of the Clinton machine and if there weren't two strong candidates opposing her, Edwards and Obama, her 30% (notice it's what Bush has) would not give her the nomination, let alone the election.

So maybe Obama is an unknown in comparison to the other two. Those who support him do so based on a belief that he has the character to stand up for the changes that need to be made in this country. They believe he has a temperament that will make him good at working with others and that his judgment has been good. Imagine what it could mean for us as a nation if he is who a lot of us believe he is! Yes, it's a hope but I feel none of that with any of the others-- just more of the same. With his temperament and political positions, Obama is looking like the one real agent of positive change; and change has been what I have wanted since Bush entered office!

It's going to be hard over the next months to stay focused on issues. I believe we need to look at for what these people stand, what is their personal character, and vote based on that, not on simply whether they can win. Hillary is not out of the game regardless of New Hampshire because if the party loyalists want her, in other states it's less easy for independents to vote.

(I will be writing about Republicans but hope that when I do, those who actually like one of them will comment as I don't like any well enough to support or vote for them; but I do have an opinion which I will share.)

Monday, January 07, 2008

Creative thinking

Actually I was not planning to write a blog on creativity right now. I had in mind writing on the political candidates, but then I was reading Fran's blog, Sacred Ordinary; and she wrote, The Last Fire of Christmas and Thoughts on Julia Cameron,

Like many writers, published or otherwise, I am familiar with Cameron's books starting with The Artist Way. I have not known anything at all about who she was as a woman. I had had no idea she has brought out a memoir, Floor Samples. To be honest, I have never religiously followed her books' advice, but I have seen value in her ideas.

So after reading what Fran had written, I did some searching online about who is Cameron, the woman, and came up with the following interview with her. It seemed worth sharing as it has some good thoughts for those who do create-- most especially for those who might have creativity as a calling as was discussed in comments to blog before this one.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Self-interest or Selfishness?

Because this is the time a new year begins, right after my part of the earth has begun back on its path to more light and warmth (even if that seems hard to believe looking outside at the stormy skies, water everywhere, and knowing how cold my feet are as I sit typing this). it is a time I look at personal intentions for the new year. I have written about this before. I don't call them resolutions but they are evaluating where I am, where I have been, and where do I want to go.

It would not matter when a person looked at their life; but if there is never a reevaluation, it better be because things are perfect as they are. Frankly I think looking at ourselves is part of an exciting life. If things are not what we want, then making plans for what would change it, should come next. While there is life, it is never too late to make changes.

In my case, one of my questions is something I have wrestled with before but thought I'd bring up here to see if I could get other people's ideas on how they work through this-- How to discern between valid self interest and selfishness.

Setting boundaries, making goals, all of that requires looking at who we are and who we want to be. I don't believe we can make goals that involve other people-- other than our role in their lives. So we could want to help someone but cannot goal that we will be successful. I can make goals to write a book, paint a painting, work to get such work into the public arena, but cannot goal that it will be seen as good by someone else or that I will sell anything.

So goals have to be about things we can actually control but even then... One of my issues is working through an old question. When do I have a right to want something just for me? I suspect some of this questioning comes out of my parents or maybe even our country's Puritan heritage. My folks, more than often, expressed the viewpoint that I was selfish. Was I really or was that brought up when I wanted to do something for me that counteracted something they wanted for them?

In terms of virtues, I consider selfishness to be negative. It doesn't end up getting us what we want because often it's looking at short term satisfactions instead of long term values. But it's not good to deny all things for self as that would mean we didn't value ourselves enough.

When I do this kind of logical debating with myself, it reminds me of that great scene in the movie Princess Bride (worth re-watching if you haven't seen it for awhile) where the two characters are doing a battle of wits over taking poison. The one man argues both sides but ends up losing because he didn't consider there was a third option. The lesson being, most especially when we are arguing with ourselves, watch out that we have not narrowed our options to the point we don't see a third one outside the box.

So, to quit arguing with myself, I would appreciate any thinking others have done on selfishness vs valid self-interest.

Friday, January 04, 2008

The Question of Evil

When we hear the word evil, many of us are repelled. Who wants to admit they are evil? Or even that evil exists? When President Bush talked about an Axis of Evil, some Americans went Amen-- while others, including me, shuddered and wished he'd never used that expression. Evil is defined very differently by different people. Who decides what it is? Some would say the Bible defines it but still disagree on what it is.

A friend and I had this debate a while ago-- does evil exists or is everything shades of good? If evil is real, how do we recognize or define it? The word is easily misused and serves to allow some to do what most would consider bad things with the excuse of combating worse things. There are some words with so much emotional clout that as soon as they are used, others quit thinking and simply react.

Although Sinclair Lewis did not say it in exactly these words (his books do reflect the theme), Ron Paul quoted him recently-- "It reminds me of what Sinclair Lewis once said. He says, 'When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross.'" The gist of this goes beyond politics. What something is often is not apparent in the beginning-- even to ourselves.

The actor Will Smith got lambasted last month (most especially by the Jewish Defense League) as he tried to say something that I think is pretty profound-- "Even Hitler didn't wake up going, 'let me do the most evil thing I can do today.' I think he woke up in the morning and using a twisted, backwards logic, he set out to do what he thought was 'good." Smith was crucified by those who, I believe, misunderstood his point. Of course, using the word Hitler is another of those emotional words that causes unthinking, instant reaction.

One step at a time people can lose the ability to see where something is going and whether it is bad-- no, actually evil. One choice leads to another-- each one sinking deeper into a moral mire. We have seen that today with those who attempt to justify torture, something which has been condemned by all civilized cultures for a long time, but now to some is okay to do-- of course, only in certain circumstances and when they decide.

Some kinds of choices don't seem obviously bad at the start. Perhaps at some point people do know they have done wrong, but by then they see it as too late to change course. They have to say it's all been done for good-- even to themselves! Evil isn't born overnight in a person or a culture.

When I was thinking about this, I had a dream that was ironic given how I see evil-- which is somewhere and somebody else, not me and nobody I actually know. The dream was the first I have ever had like it and hopefully will be the last if it was given to me to help me see something:

I think the woman is me. There is no particular setting for this dream. She lives a normal life except for one thing-- she has appointed herself as a one-woman vigilante committee to rid the world of certain people she considers to be vermin. Each of these people (six of them) had done evil things and yet gotten away with it. The world was not going to punish them. I don't recall all the ways she killed, but she went off on trips. Each time and for each of her victims, she would find a natural method to rid the world of the bad guy. The one I remember was because it seemed so horrifying. The man was scuba diving as she must have been (unless she shape-shifted). She bit his arm very badly and left him for the sharks to get. Each killing was like that-- looking natural. When she got home from the sixth murder, she was congratulating herself on how clever she had been when a person she knew commented casually that because she had had a baby carrier with her on each trip (who knows why), they knew where she had been because it had had a global tracking device installed. Nobody had yet connected the fact that deaths had occurred each place but suddenly she knew she might be caught and hadn't been as clever as she thought. (I woke up at that point.)

What got me about the dream (besides its obvious violence) was that I was the bad guy. I have never had a dream where I committed a violent act. In my waking life, I have never even slapped or hit someone in anger, not thrown anything, never wanted to do so. There have been dreams where I had to face villains who intended bad by me and I had to use self-defense, but this was different. I was the villain which is what I would see as taking the question of justice into your own hands through murder. I was thinking later that maybe the dream came to make the point that it's a series of decisions that we make, ignoring our moral sense, that starts us down a path that can lead to anyone which meant even me becoming an evil person. It's a process, not an instant happening.

Does evil exist? Well, I believe it does, just as I believe good exists. People will disagree about which is which. Incidentally, there is an excellent book on the subject-- 'People of the Lie' by M. Scott Peck-- about human evil, how he saw it, and tried to treat it in his practice. His examples of human evil were chilling (he also believed in possession and cited instances of it).

So what does the word evil mean to you?

[Incidentally, I did check out what would be the dream interpretation for murder; and it said that if I was the one doing it, it meant I was dealing with negative traits of which I was ridding myself. Since in no case were the ones in the dream people I recognize in my life or the world today, maybe that's so. The baby carrier might go along with that. Perhaps that means some of those habits or qualities would be from childhood.]

The computer painting is one of mine, which seemed to fit this topic, not to say she is evil...

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Something Old Something New

No, it's not a wedding but December 2007 brought some things into my home-- one very new and one very old. In a way when we add something to our home, we are wedding it to what already is there.

Buying a new stove has been on the agenda off and on for over a year-- from when the oven took forever to cook a turkey last Thanksgiving. The first time I went into a store to look, I was in amazement how much things had changed in the nearly 30 years since I'd bought the last one. There were too many options, and for awhile I put off dealing with it. I felt like Rip van Winkle returned from a long sleep.

When I went back in December, I knew I could have kept its purchase simple and gotten a stove that more or less exactly duplicated the one I had, but what fun would that have been? Those new elements had some features I began to want and finally I made a decision with which I am very happy.

The recent dinner affirmed how nicely this stove does everything and then some. I like the warming drawer which is not so necessary for simple dinners but when putting together a lot of dishes, it was wonderful. I had been warned about glass-top stoves requiring careful wiping up to avoid stains and am being careful, but I like how it cooks more evenly than the old burners as does the oven with its hidden elements. I have also used the warming drawer to dry bread cubes for turkey dressing, and I think it'll be useful for rising yeast breads.

Then there is-- Bringing new art into a home is definitely wedding a new element to something that has already been working but where a change of energy is desired. When I do hang paintings or bronzes, they are not decorations to me, but energy for the room, the wall, and all who enter the home. Everything has to work together to create a harmonious flow. I don't want to plop down something that looks like a fish out of water and draws the eye to just it. One thing should lead to another. Hanging art is a pleasure to me, and I take my time getting it to feel right.

Slowly through the years, I have been collecting western themed art. For some reason Western art seems a little harder to mix with other themes.When I saw Judy Erickson's cowboy paintings in Sprague River, I knew I had found enough to make it work.

To accent these new themes, I decided to bring this old saddle in from the garage. I am not sure of its age. My husband bought it maybe 20 years ago as a cheap saddle for a horse we had on the place at the time. It has wooden stirrups, is smaller than many today, has that lovely worn patina that says it's been well-used for many years. The leather work is simple but nice. I took a lot of photographs of it and will find it handy to use when I need to paint a saddle. (It was incidentally very popular with all the children here on Sunday as they took turns 'riding' it on its old wooden stand.)

The cowboy paintings in this grouping are by Judy Erickson. They include the giclee I wrote about awhile back, The Wild Ones, showing men driving a herd of wild horses; another giclee, Hackamore Horse, which means a horse trained to not require a bit to do the rider's bidding; and an original oil, The Last Gate, which has the symbolism of a man closing a gate as the sun is setting. Judy said she had seen a cowboy doing this on one of the drives, on which she had worked, and waited for a time to paint it. The Plains Indian head came from a gallery on the Coast a few years ago and worked well with the others to form a truly Western wall .

Something new and something old (well, me too).