Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Real McCain

Check this out most especially if you have thought of John McCain as a straight talker. It reminds me of the old Groucho Marx joke-- who you going to believe? Me or your lying eyes? On YouTube, people can see exactly what someone said but it might not change what they want to believe. With McCain, where he says things and changes them all the time, he is reduced to saying-- so what... which is what his last goof-up led one of his supporters to say.

Politicians running for the presidency all make mistakes as they speak so often. I read one of the right wingers listing off all of Barack Obama's mistakes while campaigning-- like forgetting in what state he was speaking.

The issue for voters should be is it an important difference, a genuine mistake, or a lie. Like when Obama said his uncle helped liberate a concentration camp in WWII and had to admit he had been wrong on which one but not that his uncle had been with a military unit that did liberate one. Was that significant?

Is this?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Medicare

Do you know you are old when you get a reduced fare at a movie theater? Is it when your hair turns gray or you lose it? Is it when younger people start finding you less physically attractive? Nope, none of these. In the United States, you know when you must sign up for Medicare at age 65.

Okay, I should not say must. I guess you could pay for all insurance yourself at 65, if you could get an insurance company willing to cover you; but if you had been on a corporate, retirement package, you will have no more health insurance if you don't sign up for Medicare. In some ways, Medicare may benefit these corporations as much as anybody because they then pay less of the employee insurance costs and the government picks up some of it.

Signing up for Medicare might not be so bad if it was easy to understand and simple to make the transition. Unfortunately there is no one single program for seniors at 65. There is Medicare, Medicare Advantage, Medicare Complete, Prescription Plans Part D, Q, and Z (I made up part of that), and who knows what all else. Just for fun, look at how clearly Wikipedia explains it: Part D.

Usually when I write something here, I have thought it through. I try to be logical and present my viewpoint (even if some doubt that). No way I can do that with Medicare. It is an eight letter word of which I never liked the sound, knew was coming, now here it is, and it's as confusing as I was dreading. I am hoping others who have been through this process will write about their experiences and how they see the options.

My husband will be on Medicare as of June 1. I won't be in it until October but already I am being impacted by it as sometimes when a corporate insurance package gets changed, everything gets screwed. We shall see if that happens here.

My experience of going through transitions, which happened once before when my husband retired from his company and went onto their retirement insurance program, if there are possible glitches, there will be. There is nothing like an insurance problem to make you favor single-payer, universal health coverage for all citizens. It's scary to realize you could be on your own in a world where such care can be highly expensive, sometimes prohibitively so.

Recently I read that in Oregon some doctors are refusing to take new Medicare patients. Potentially that can lead to long drives for treatment. The reason given is Oregon has been efficient in its cost savings which means the government cut back the percentage Oregon receives which means the doctors get less than they want for their services. Guess who suffers?

For a woman who doesn't like to think about technical things, who prefers not to think much about money at all, this whole thing is frustrating. If I go online to start looking for information, I find so many sources that I can't figure out which one I should trust. The government programs don't seem to get to the bottom line unless you have a high tolerance for BS.

They say if we go with 'Medicare-Complete' (the corporate end), continuing with the retirement part of the insurance we have had for many years, our coverage won't change at all. They say it will avoid us signing up for whatever those prescription drug options are because the HMO covers it as it does now. They say by paying a higher premium, there will be no donut holes (which means time in the middle of the year where prescription drug charges went over a certain amount until they reached another amount). They say instead of paying one insurance premium each month, if we went with Medicare Advantage, we will have two payments-- one to Medicare and one to the insurance end of it.

Or some say if we go with Medicare Advantage-- and I am assuming Complete, we are not being fair to all of those who can't afford those programs and cheating those who have no corporate benefits. Some say Advantage really costs more than a combination of Medicare and the drug coverage (which by the way, it won't surprise me if the latter is someday canceled due to high costs). Some say if we went with Medicare Advantage, we will be locked into whichever insurance company we originally chose even if it later changes and becomes less desirable to us.

None of this is perhaps a big deal when you think of all the problems in the world. Well, it kind of is as it just plain confuses a person at an age where I thought we were supposed to be treated more kindly and gently (joke).

Although last year my insurance company only paid for one yearly mammogram and one costly daily prescription medication, I can't count on it staying that way. Nobody can know if they will be hit by a catastrophic medical problem from seemingly out of nowhere-- something that is increasingly likely to happen in old age. So insurance does matter to me more for what might be than what is obvious at the moment.

Do you think if Congress was forced to go onto Medicare that this would be so confusing? Just asking...

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Tolerance-- or not

The evils of government are directly proportional to the tolerance of the people.
Anonymous

When a friend, who I care for a lot, told me recently that my previous post on religion sounded intolerant to her, I didn't disagree. Fine with me, I said while thinking that even though I tend toward what many consider the liberal side of the political spectrum, I don't see tolerance as being always a virtue. I do understand though the evils of intolerance, that it can be what starts wars or allows others to be manipulated into starting them and leads to witch burnings, lynchings and so forth.

The conversation, as so many passionate discourses do, led me to thinking more. Exactly what is meant by the word tolerance and why is it promoted as such a positive thing?

First Unabridged Dictionary definition for tolerance: a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one's own; freedom from bigotry.
My husband had a different definition for tolerance. To him, from a science perspective, tolerance is what is allowed until something reaches the breaking point. This would be true for metal or even prescription drug tolerances. What you can tolerate is what you can use until something breaks.

His definition is useful as it explains intolerance. People are intolerant culturally when they fear a breaking point is near. We all might, and will, disagree about what that point will be. One culture has one where a woman goes out without a mask over her face. Another might say when gay couples are permitted to marry.

For me to not care if gays marry, not mind what someone does in their private sexual life (that doesn't harm children or physically hurt someone else), not have ever been concerned about interracial marriage, which can still be a hot spot for a few, and so many other things has not seemed like tolerance. It's easy as it doesn't threaten my concept of the culture in which I live or my own life at all. But to some, it does.

This is where I think the scientific look at tolerance helps a person to understand better than the more proper first dictionary definition. Anything can appear to be a breaking point where some erupt with upset or promote laws to protect themselves.

My main areas of intolerance, those places I see as threats, start with purposeful ignorance. I am also intolerant of others who claim to be informed when they are not... well that goes back to the purposeful ignorance. And hypocrisy-- don't get me started on hypocrisy!

I wonder if true tolerance can ever be found with passion. Doesn't tolerance have to be somewhat placid, not caring if things change, not feeling upset at what goes on around oneself, live and let live? Tolerance probably leads to less high blood pressure and ulcers.

Before we get intolerant of something, perhaps we need to ask ourselves, what actually does break a society? If we are tolerant of the wrong things, to what does that lead?

An intolerant link: Equal time for the willfully ignorant.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Return to Innocence

Because I have wanted to put together a slide show of aging, using my own photos, I had hoped to find a program that would let me use music with pictures. A lifetime is so much more than images or even words. It is feelings and so many changes. So far, I haven't found the right program for my PC where I can use photos, music and have a public site.

For the music though, if I was picking one song that spoke of a lifetime and maybe beyond, I knew it would be from the album by Enigma, The Cross of Changes with several possible choices. No single song says it better than Return to Innocence.

It wasn't until I began thinking about this project of combining images and music that I went looking on YouTube to see if Enigma had a video to go with their song. YouTube is such a great resource.



Return to Innocence by Enigma

**************************

Life is a circle-- A spiral.
Even within one single lifetime
we are reincarnated
again and again
dying to one thing
only to be born anew

baby girl
small child
growing into awareness
there are roles
places in life
she must learn

daughter, sister
cousin, friend
girl becomes woman
wife a mother
a lover of life
then she's old

where did it go?
poetry by Rain

Friday, May 23, 2008

Some of what I have been reading

These are depressing times. I am not sure why. Certainly worldwide disasters play a role in the upsets, but it's not just that. It's not just the politics either although that's enough to depress anyone. Some of it is one awful thing after another which one hears about happening to friends and acquaintances. What is going on?

Summer is approaching and it should be a time of happiness as the flowers bloom everywhere-- that is unless a tornado hits down near you or that promised earthquake shakes as they all have other places in the world to remind us it could happen anywhere.

I should be burying myself in a book and forgetting the real world, but I haven't been. I have been reading the papers online and thinking what in the heck is going on!

Peggy Noonan said well what I am thinking about Hillary Clinton. I am sick of Clinton's whining over misogyny as I am of having to constantly spell check that word. She is not losing (if she ever admits she is) because she is a woman. It's her character and her husband's. Here are two good pieces on this-- by women:

Sex and the Sissy by Peggy Noonan.
Camile Paglia on She won't go easy.

It's not just her that won't go easy. It's her supporters who are angry at all of us who dared not support her and now claim they would vote for John McCain, who will carry on George Bush's legacies of disaster (and who knows what he'll add), rather than vote for Barack Obama. It's a woman for some of them or nothing. Talk about sexist.

I listened to one of them go on about how much Hillary has been pilloried and of course she cited the incident of the young man saying iron my shirt. Ignore the fact that the man might have been a plant; that's the worst thing that could be said to someone as a threat? Give me a break.

Then there is McCain now claiming that Obama has no right to speak about military matters at all because he didn't join the military. And yet McCain has supported Cheney and Bush. Cheney avoided military service during a war. Cheney has led us into a war that McCain supports. How come that was okay? Or is it only Republicans who have a right to comment on military benefits and not have served in the active military? If McCain's new flip-flop is that nobody, who didn't serve in the military, has a right to say anything about the military, it'll be interesting to see who he picks for a veep.

I am trying to relax a little and not read so much of this stuff because I am not sure what good it really does but there is more out there. I am sure everybody reads about the natural disasters hitting the world, about Ted Kennedy's deadly cancer battle, but little pieces often miss our attention.

How about this for something to consider while we are thinking about for whom to vote, where to donate money. It was on the Daily Kos awhile back: Leading America into the Wilderness.

Or this for how we might be changing our world and not for the better: Modern Technology and our brains, something to think about if you have young children more than maybe for those of us already grown up and supposedly brain developed... I said supposedly. I have never been into computer games but realize there are all kinds and some can be positive for developing the ability to use logic; some are just about destruction. The key thing could be what age is the person using them.

Then there is the Texas polygamy group and their children. Does the government have the right to interfere with a parent's custodial rights if the parent is training (brainwashing) their children to be expected and then used for sex? Is a child being in physical danger the only reason a parent should lose custody?

This is riling up the religious right who often believe in home schooling and limiting their children's access to world information. It also though makes any parent uneasy who sees wrong in what that group was doing but does not want government dictating the values they must teach their own children. What'd you think about this whole story as it unfolded?

It turns out that when Bush was criticizing Obama (he says Carter) about appeasement, he was also actually hitting on Israel for negotiating right now with Syria to try and arrange a peaceful future. While Bush sits in a secured environment, he wants to dictate how those, living in a less safe world, can work out their own problems-- Talking with the Enemy. For me, Bush is such a scary person to have so much power. I hope that never happens again but I am not hopeful.

So what can we do about it? Be informed so we won't be fooled, but while we are doing that, plant our own gardens, go for a walk, speak out, read a good book, watch some positive movies, love, live in the moment. That's what I intend to do.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Big Birds

For quite a few years, the only big birds that lived in my valley were eagles, herons, hawks, ducks, owls, and ravens. Although I would guess when the first pioneers settled here there were wild turkeys, pheasant and quail, their numbers had been hunted down to a very few by the time I arrived over 30 years ago.

Then they began planting game birds into these wooded hills. It was done both by individuals raising up chicks and wildlife departments. Some farmers developed wetlands to encourage more swans and geese (some put up blinds to get rid of them). Little by little, big birds have worked their way back to this valley.

Today I wake to the sound of wild geese flying in, when it's dark, they leave. It's interesting how they always fly and talk maybe to keep track of each other. Whatever their motives, there are few sounds more pleasurable than wild geese flying overhead. Although they spend their nights elsewhere, they graze and nap here most days through the spring.

At first it was a pair and now often I see as many as six out in the pasture. When I went out to get these photos, these four would move off but didn't seem scared-- more of a don't you pester us attitude. They are very alert birds always watching.

I had seen one pair and from a distance thought they were canoodling. How cute! How affectionate. Except as I looked at the photos later, I realized they were nested close together all right but with their heads pointing opposite ways to look for enemies.

Listening from my desk, I can hear the turkeys gobbling. There are several toms and hens. It must be mating season as the toms are strutting with their feathers in full display. That's a bit risky for them as it is also a hunting season.

Watching one tom try to keep his chosen hen away from another tom is funny. Is she flattered? Is she annoyed? Does she have the tom she prefers or simply the more pushy one? When the other hen came by, she had no interest him and he paid no mind to her. One track brain-- assuming the toms have a brain. they do know how to strut their stuff.

A few weeks ago I began hearing a very odd sound. How do I describe it? Like three of four toots from an abrasive horn maybe? I thought it was a crow or raven originally but it didn't sound right for them. At that point, I had never heard a ring-necked pheasant. Then I began to see him around the house, below the bird feeder, eating seeds the smaller birds had knocked out, and realized who the talker was.

The pheasant isn't easy to photograph as the slightest movement from the house scares him off. I have a lot of photos of him- unfocused, heading behind a tree, flying off. Unlike the turkeys, he runs the instant he hears anything from the house. I haven't seen any mate for him. He hangs out with the turkeys as much as he can. Is he romantically interested in one of the hens or maybe even the toms. He is certainly lonely.

Down by the creek I often hear the scream of a peacock that went wild a few years ago. Last year he frequently came up by the house. In fact, when he moulted, he dropped all his tail feathers at the edge of the yard which I have happily collected. I have quite a few of the beautiful tail feathers from the tom turkeys also. The pheasant has so far volunteered nothing!

Of them all, only the peacock is safe from human hunters. I think...

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The politics of mud

When I read an article about how Barack Obama had a huge turnout to hear him speak last week-end at Portland, Oregon's Waterfront Park. I thought how neat. Not a huge surprise as that is a downtown park that draws many people on any nice week-end for any cause or fun event. I have been there many times, and there is no better time than a sunny day. The park was created along the Willamette River for people to use and use it they do. Still it was neat to see Oregonians excited for this candidate, who I also support.

Then I did something I don't do often. I read the comment section for the article. My pleasure in the political process was quickly dampened as I could not believe what I was reading. One after another of the commenters not only could not spell but were filled with hate fueled by fear that a black man might become our next president.

I kept reading thinking there can't be this many hate-mongers, but there were. They were some of the ugliest comments I have read and made me think that Washington Post site should discontinue comments as these nuts were apparently feeding on each other.

It's not necessary to repeat the kinds of garbage those bigots spewed out, but you can imagine. Their rants were fueled by reading deceitful, email forwards and listening to extreme right wing talk shows spout things the hosts may not believe themselves but know their uninformed listeners will. Check this out: What your uncle is reading.

It isn't all the fault of right wing radio or those false emails. Most people believe what they want. Still, with emails as they are, a lot of people pass things on without fact checking. It's time, if caring people haven't done it before, to think and check before forwarding.

The hate-filled talk I read last night scared me. That kind of venom often incites violence and whether it was aimed at George Bush, Bill Clinton or now Barack Obama, it's unhealthy and should be spoken out against wherever and whenever someone hears it-- including your uncle.

It's not wrong to disagree with Obama, to not support Hillary, or to feel McCain won't be good as president. What is wrong is to turn those feelings into the politics of destruction, filled with violent threats. Not many of those writers (if you can loosely call their lack of spelling or literary ability writing) would actually do something violent; but they could be inspiring it in the unstable who might.

Ignorance breeds ignorance, and it won't get better unless Americans turn away from those tactics. It has worked in the past to get voters riled up or to form mobs that descend into lynch parties. It has to stop working or nothing will change for the better.

By the way, many of those commenters hated Oregon too. They were as full of ignorance and lies about who the people in this state are as they were about who Obama is. They apparently think we are wild, out of control, pot smoking, long-haired, Communist-loving, freedom- hating (told you they don't make sense) Oregonians. Frankly, I have always liked coming from a state regarded as independent minded and unconventional but obviously that isn't popular in some circles...

The flowers are columbines (with a rosemary plant in this last photo). It's the season for them in the garden and each year different colors are created, new places they are planted, none of it by my design. I just let happen what happens. Too bad life doesn't work that way.

Monday, May 19, 2008


Knowledge is awareness, and to it are many paths,
not all of them paved with logic.

But sometimes one is guided through the maze by intuition.

One is led by something felt on the wind,
something seen in the stars, something that calls from the wasteland
to the spirit.
Louis L'Amour

Photo along the road into Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, taken on a trip there almost 10 years ago now. It seemed apropos for this quotation, one of those above my desk. Nature speaks and teaches us much-- if we pay attention.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Let's suppose...

Suppose we all stopped accepting religion? Not just one religion. Not just that weird one across the ocean but all religions. Not government dictating it, but simply people coming to a point of recognizing that religion is no longer, if it ever was, serving god or mankind.

What if there was a massive time of enlightenment and people came to see religion doesn't lead to relationship with Spirit/spirit but instead to power for the religion? Some fear mankind couldn't think of moral standards if no religion dictated them. Some believe religion is the foundation of all government.

I understand how deeply ingrained the feeling is that religion is necessary to live together in harmony. For some, it's fear of hell and for others religious teachings that supposedly make for better lives. Let's just look at it though and forget what has been taught for a minute because it was all taught by those religions.

Think of the resources sucked into religious causes. Think of the wars fought for religious differences. What if that was turned to humanitarian needs instead and people found their personal spiritual path in the wilderness as most of the founders of most of the religions did.

Would there be less charitable giving without religions? I don't think so. Religions actually control how a lot of charity can be used. It takes people away from thinking who to help individually and puts it in the hands of the religion, who takes a cut of the pie-- sometimes the biggest piece. Without a religion or a tax deduction for giving, maybe more people would give to the family down the street who are in dire need but no organization can help them just a neighbor who saw their need and wanted to be a 'good Samaritan'.

Many people, who give a percentage of their income to a tax deductible cause, are giving it to their own church where it maintains an often elaborate building for them to worship, possibly a gymnasium to have fun, a place to park their teenagers and keep them out of trouble, a pastor to work out their spiritual programs, and a pastor's home which might not be fancy or then again might.

Yes, I know some churches are tiny and have low costs but many are huge and have gigantic costs. Either way, they are taking money for the religion. If someone wants a neighborhood club, fair enough. There are plenty of those already, but those members don't claim they're doing it for a higher purpose or for god. They do it for their own satisfaction and don't need a tax deduction for it-- or shouldn't.

If we had no religions, we would likely still have political, terrorist bombers but at least they wouldn't believe they were getting some heavenly reward. With no religious gurus, leaders, pastors, priests, people would have to work out their own code of beliefs based on what led to quality of life, not what some book that was written ages ago claimed was pleasing back then for god. Those books are all channeled wisdom, supposedly from god-- usually the one god even if they contradict each other. How do we know that? Because the religions tell us.

People say religions do a lot of good in the world. Does the good they might be doing equal the harm? Religions divide and conquer. Religions form elite clubs where people who belong can feel safe and sometimes superior, where someone else usually can join if they say the right words or undergo the proper initiation. Some religions kill those who leave those specialized clubs.

Some religions enter an area as missionaries (or conquer it with weapons) and set about telling the people they will go to hell (not to mention possibly be killed now) if they do not say certain words and change all of their customs to fit with those who live in some country far removed from their world.

Suppose the real meaning of enlightenment would be when humans turned away from religious superstition and stopped supporting religious leaders and buildings? What if people took responsibility for their own spiritual lives without a temple, mosque, cathedral, church, book or religious hierarchy telling them how? You know almost universally, the original teacher for most religions didn't believe in fancy buildings or even gathering together in a building at all.

Some might think I am not fair to religions (dare I use the word bitter) but just consider it. How much good do all those buildings around the world actually do? Yes, they can be beautiful. San Xavier del Bac in Tucson is beautiful. I take pleasure in its beauty, but isn't that as far as it should go?

Might religions be substituting their structure and ritual for something far deeper which is short-circuited by the need to protect religious power? I can see where religions might serve a purpose if they started people on a road but religions generally don't want to do that. They want to keep the people in the religion. I understand how some find religious belief gives comfort in difficult times; but at what price, if the comfort comes at the expense of truth?


This supposing is not about rejecting god or spiritual learning nor is it about doing all spiritual learning by oneself. It's not about refusing to join together in groups to share spiritual experiences each have had. It is instead about taking back responsibility for spiritual truth from any and all religions, making spiritual life experiential (which is where I think it has to be if it's to be real).

To me, the spirit world is rich, diverse, challenging and can take the seeker into realms that improves their physical life, adds to their joy and excitement at partaking in the mystery of the universe. Not to say a religion could not do that, but they generally don't. To do that why would they need a building? Why would they need a professional at their head? Why would they need a tax deduction?

I know this is all a fantasy and heresy to some. It's the kind of thinking that led to burning at the stake in the past. Many people would die before they would give up their religions. They do die for them and exactly what was the purpose of that... again?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

belief in god means ...

Recently I have found it interesting reading two blogs [My Life and Church of the Churchless] where the authors are writing, with added comments from readers, on topics exploring atheism in the first and aspects of belief and what can we know in the second. Although I have intended to do so, I haven't yet read either Christopher Hitchens' book, God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, nor the one by Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion.

The problem I have found with most writers regarding atheism is they go at disproving god by showing how wrong religion is. It's not hard to show the errors in religion, but many atheists then make a leap of logic to say that proves there is no god. Do religion and god necessarily go together?

It's not hard to prove religion is wrong when it uses something like history to prove itself, teaches a behavior that is destructive of life, or claims a sacred text to be infallible when in reality it is full of contradictions. Do you know of anywhere besides religion that you can have two contradictory claims about the same event and still claim the text is inerrant? Don't bother asking a fundamentalist that question as they will say it just is (which is kind of how atheists begin their arguments).

I think I have written about this before but there is something new out there. Einstein's 1954 letter is now for sale where he writes there is no god and hence the Jews (which he was one) are not god's chosen people. His letter isn't long enough to prove there is no god, but many want to think because he knew a lot about science and mathematics, he knows a lot about everything.

For me, the problem with there being no creator is two-fold. Nothing starts from nothing (as we know it) but something had to even if it's god. Somewhere in life, there is a mystery, an unknowable or unprovable something-- even for a scientist like Einstein.

Then I come to the second issue I have which leads to me not being an atheist-- How do I explain the supernatural experiences that not only I but many others have had? I already know the answer to that from an atheist-- you imagined them because you wanted to believe something. If I insist it was real, that there was a physical reality to it, then they might add I should consider getting some mental help. *s*

Well my need for mental help might be possible but not for that reason. I am pretty objective about what I accept as being true spiritually. In the case of god, I think there is no way to prove existence or not for anyone besides ourselves. It takes as much faith to believe there is nothing spiritual behind this life as it does to believe there is.

Frankly I don't see a problem if someone is an atheist until they tell me that it's the only intelligent thing to believe as Einstein basically said in that letter. I think many atheists assume that all people who believe in god do so with the hope of eternal life for themselves. Not necessarily so. It is possible to believe in god as a creator, that there had to be a spiritual plan behind this universe because it is so logically set out, and still not believe life for humans goes on. There can be a creator but not have his/hers/its fingers in everything that happens. There can be belief in a god, a spiritual dimension to physical life and not think prayer works like a genii coming out of a magic lamp.

Belief in god does not answer the mystery of the universe because you are still left with from where did god come? Many religions will provide those answers, but not only do they not agree on what it was, but they all have distorted facts to suit their power structures. Religion being off base however is no reason to disbelieve in a spiritual dimension to the universe and beyond.

When I left the local church out where I live, I had discussed what I believed with the pastor and why it was important to not continue attending there. Basically with a smile, he said my husband and I should start a new church since our beliefs were very contrary to what he believed Christianity taught. He would really think that now except he's no longer in the world. He was, by the way, a very good man, special in so many ways. When I think about him, I smile, bless his fundamentalist soul, but I do wonder what he saw when he got to the other side. He was so sure he knew.

Here's some of what I believe. The fact that there is a god does not mean any religion has to be right. The world is complex on both a physical and spiritual plane. We can keep learning about all of it through a whole lifetime and not know it all. We can find spiritual truth and relationship with the other side on our own without a guru, pastor or unerring book.

The spiritual mysteries of this universe go way beyond any one simple truth-- for those hoping only one answer will explain it all. Those, who have decided they know all they need to know about the spiritual realm, who are not open to learning more and only listen to what confirms that belief, are fundamentalists-- no matter what other creed they hang around their necks-- and that includes atheist.

For me, from the time I was a child, as early as I could experience anything, and long before I had any religious knowledge, I felt something with me and in me that wasn't only me. As a small child, I saw someone and named it as my playmate. As an adult, I didn't see it but felt it with me. I cannot tell you what it is; but it's always been there. Many people would label it for me. Some would give it nice names and some bad. I just know it's there and don't need to put what it is in a box. Unfortunately it doesn't provide me miraculous answers to all my questions or maybe I don't know how to ask. It just is there with love. I have called it god for wont of a word that better describes it for me.

Throughout my life I have had experiences (not of seeing the other side although I know those who do). My experiences have been dreams, coincidences, things that come along in ways where I didn't control. My experiences, sometimes years later, gave meaning to my nighttime dreams. They validated them through physical occurrences. These are things I cannot explain by biology alone but realize to an atheist, they are no proof, but they are part of why I believe the physical life we can see is not all that is there.

Next blog will be on the subject of religion. Although I have written about it before, this is a thought that came to me the other day...

(The painting by Diane Widler Wenzel and entitled 'Primeval Sea' is from my art collection.)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The problem with shoes

Shoes might not be as interesting a topic to men as to women, but shoes have always been of interest to me. I almost never walk by the shoe displays in a department store without stopping to look a minute. Sometimes it's with-- I can't believe women are buying that-- and sometimes, it's-- Wow, I'd love those shoes but where could I wear them?

Then came this from Blaugustine-- Natalie's shoes-- where she had the idea of photographing all of her shoes. I was interested in looking at what she wore. At that point it was abstractedly interesting as it is whenever I notice other women's shoes. I hadn't yet applied it to me. Then she presented a question. How many pairs of shoes did I have? Oops. I had no idea. Too many for sure. I got curious about how many I did have... Definitely too many.

My excuse, for being able to drag out 36 pairs of shoes in varying states of wear, is that some simply are too worn to give away. It's not that I buy a lot *she says in a defensive tone* but more that I keep them for a lo000ng time.

Some aren't worn often given I rarely wear heels but heck they might be. I like wearing high heels. What woman doesn't for the way it makes her legs look. For me, add three inch to my 5'6 1/2" and I am up there in the really tall category which I likewise love.

What I don't love is what high high heels do to my calf muscles, my knees, the balls of my feet, and that feeling of teetering along. What if I need to run for some reason? I also am not fond of how high heel designers keep changing what heel and toe width is in fashion. Part of my excuse for keeping shoes is knowing that style will come back.

Most of the time, of the many shoes in my closet, I wear flat sandals (you may notice I tend to buy tan sandals, always trying to duplicate the ones I have loved the most which are wearing or worn out but I won't admit it), boots (not the dress kind but cowboy boots, muck boots, Uggs, and hiking boots), tennis shoes (my pair were on my feet as I took these pictures), or go barefoot. (The muck boots were not photographed because they were in the utility room for obvious barnyard reasons).

Shoes are more complex for me as I have gotten older. I used to buy the cheapest tennis shoes and was perfectly content. Then I began to have one hip that hurt. A friend told me that Asics, with gel inserts in the soles, would help. I bought my first pair probably 10 years ago; and many many pairs later, I rarely have hip or knee problems.

Somewhere along the road of life, one of my arches fell. Not like I ever noticed it but a boot salesman did and insisted I have it checked out before he'd sell me a pair of hiking boots (there are ethical salesmen out there). I made an appointment with the podiatrist. He watched me walk and said, since it's not causing a problem, don't worry about it.

A few years later, my love of Uggs led to that problem. It had a name-- plantar fasciitis. Interesting and painful experience which mostly can be avoided by doing stretches and making sure all shoes have good arch supports. Now when I have gone barefoot too much, or worn sandals with no supports too many miles, I get the first twinges of discomfort in that heel and go back to my tried and true tennis shoes with good supports.

For me, shoes used to be about beauty. I remember my first (actually and only) pair of clear plastic high heels decorated with rhinestones for a fancy prom dress in high school. Wow, they made me feel so special. Cinderella for sure. I don't remember them hurting by the end of the evening either.

While I still admire glamorous shoe styles, admittedly buy a pair once in awhile, they better be comfortable (as much as they can be). Shoes for me today are for looking nice secondarily to making my feet comfortable and my body able to operate effectively for whatever I have to do. I remember when I'd try to keep wearing smaller sizes. Now it's to the shoe salesman oh you think half a size larger would fit better, go get it! Vanity is gone in the name of comfort.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Stacking firewood

As I was stacking firewood last week, it wasn't on my mind that I would write about it or take photos. It's one of those jobs that I have done for many years, enjoy doing, that is all mine to do, but it seemed kind of ordinary for writing about.

That's what I thought until I began to think about how pleasurable it was to see the stack growing, how much I liked the exercise I was getting, how perfectly split it had been by the guy who sold it to us, how great it'll be next winter for fires in the fireplace, and how beautiful the wood looked to me. That was when I decided to share a few photos of something that might seem ordinary but then again the best things in life are often the small ones.

The pile in front of me (mostly oak, with some maple, madrona, and alder) is about 1/2 a cord of wood-- the last for me to stack. When we were heating with wood, we bought at least 4 cords of hopefully dry hardwood, which makes longer lasting fires. Anything uncured (this wood had been down three years) doesn't put out much heat. The two cords we bought, plus some from the back where trees went down, will nicely take care of power outages next winter as well as yield many fires in the fireplace.

One more little story goes along with it-- the way we bought this firewood. A few weeks ago, we had been eating dinner at a restaurant in a town about 25 miles from the farm. It's a nice seafood place, nothing fancy, but good food. We had talked about this and that, a little political talk, but really nothing special (thank goodness no arguing). About the time we were finished, the man in the booth across from us asked us if we were still living where we used to live...

That was the first time we realized that he was the kid who, with his father, used to sell us firewood, well he's not so much a kid anymore as he was with his wife and they have teen-agers.

As we talked a bit, my husband asked if he was still selling firewood. It coincidentally happened he had arranged to get some again... which is why we have this beautifully split wood. I have stacked a lot of firewood in my life but none any more finely split nor more of a pleasure to handle.

There are some good people out there, those whose handshake is as good as any contract. This kid (still a kid to me) and his dad, who is now dead, are among them.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Dreams and their meanings-- or not

Whenever I have an interesting dream, I always wish I would also find how it applies to my life. Is my subconscious trying to help me see something that my conscious is missing? I have had many symbolic dreams although some have taken years to fully understand. When a dream is particularly vivid, I make more effort to find meaning to the symbols, story, or both.

May 5th, I woke while it was still dark, and in my mind was one of those dreams. I lay knowing I would go back to sleep but wanting to remember all of what had been in the dream; so I could hold onto it for later. When I looked at the clock, it was 4:17 AM. The new moon would be an hour later. Not that it necessarily applies, but many have said that was a powerful time astrologically.

Later that morning, when I wrote down the dream, I felt pleased as I haven't had such a detailed story dream in quite awhile. More often I know I may have had one but can't remember what happened when I wake up. This time the dream was firmly planted.

After I'd written the dream elements down, I spent some time thinking about its meaning. No recent movies or books could explain why. Was there a purpose besides being enjoyable?

Because I do write, I considered whether it was meant to become a manuscript. Unlikely. Although the story was interesting to me, it was sparse for events. I have gotten story ideas started this way, but this one would have an added problem. To write an historical romance about the Middle Ages, where it appeared to have been set, would take a lot of research as those readers know their period and expect any author to know it likewise. Although I have read books from that era (nothing in years), I don't know enough. Nor have I ever had interest in doing extensive research into that time.

There was an obvious second question for me. Could one of the characters in the dream have been me in a past life? It wasn't any period nor story that I got in my regressions; nor have I had any particular interest in it like those who travel to and dress up for Medieval fairs.

The last possibility is, despite my not seeing a connection right now, perhaps the symbols or story are or will be allegorical for my life. There weren't many symbols for the dream dictionary to be of help; however, sometimes it has taken years to see how something applies. When it finally does, I have been glad I hadn't let it go. I think those kinds of dreams give a person faith that there is more to life than biology.

Because I thought it'd be interesting to try and because I have painted my dreams before, I decided to use the computer paint tools to create a digital image of what the couple might have looked like. Since characters in dream stories are rarely someone I have met, no movie stars, intuiting was what was required.

I don't know if any reader here is good at dream analysis, but the story and image follow in case someone would like to give it a try:

******************

The times are feudal. If it was here on earth, it would most likely be the British Isles or Europe somewhere in the Middle Ages. The dream begins in what appears to be a big castle with a great many rooms where leaders come to stay for periods of socializing, working out treaties, or other negotiations. It seemed the lands were divided into small kingdoms, each with its own leader, but no overall ruler.

The woman is beautiful with long black hair, wearing a long gown, and in her early 30s for age. I would think she had been married and widowed as she appears to have a freedom of choice that would have been unusual in unmarried young women.

The man [neither character had a name that I can remember] knocks on her door. They had previously arranged to meet to decide if they were going to be married. Their marriage would be beneficial to themselves and to the lands they each control. Both are experienced enough in life to believe that arranged marriages are not good unless they are wanted by both parties.

She looks him over and is pleasantly surprised. He is a bit older than she, handsome, big, and tough looking. Their secret meeting is for the purpose of having sex as if that is good, then it decides the rest. She feels relief that she is instantly attracted to him.

The next morning he knows she had been pleased but asks her anyway if it had been good enough. It has [I have to take the dream characters' word for this as I almost never dream about sex and this was no exception but my impression was it went on all night and was very good for them both]. They marry, joining their lands and people together, by simply saying the words to each other. This was the way it was done and the people around them accept it that way [one of several elements that doesn't seem to fit the actual period].

In their culture, the males practice battles to hone their skills. The man goes off with his friends to observe one of these mock battles. Against the rules and any expectations, he finds himself under real physical attack. The battle is to death. He fights and is able to fend off the attackers but is wounded.

When he comes back to her, she is at first angry to realize he had been fighting. War is anathema to her. He does not like it either, but he also had done what he needs to do for the world in which he must function. When he faints from his injuries, she forgets her displeasure and tends his wounds. They grow closer. Their physical pleasure is only part of what works as they are of like minds for many things.

Before they can leave for his lands, the lord, who has been trying to control all of these feudal lands, has arranged a jousting. It is supposedly just for amusement also. The man is not trusting of anything at this point and in no mood to joust but has no choice in accepting.

He picks up a lance and mounts his horse. His opponent, mounted at the opposite end of wherever this was, has some odd kind of weapon, like a circle of some sort on a chain that he could swing. Before the two could meet, the opponent simply throws his weapon down [the opponent's weapon looked more like a double wooden wreathe and like no weapon I have seen]. His opponent's forfeit is something that is not done; except at that point, rather than knocking him from his horse, the man also pulls up his own lance. The two do not do the competition.

The lord who is trying to amass power is very displeased as he wants these contests to determine a winner as apparently the losers pay him a forfeit. Everything he is doing is intended to build his control and become a king over all these lands.

The dream ends with the couple knowing they are finally free to leave for the man’s lands, but they will not be free of conflict. The trouble is growing.

************************

This was as though reading a book which was the first in what was a series of three, and at the same time watching a film from the 40s-- you know the kind where historical elements are not true to the times but rather to what viewers today would like to imagine. Whatever the case, it was an enjoyable dream, the kind I wish I could experience more frequently. For me, they don't come on demand.

After such a dream, I always question if I was inside the dream, as one of the characters, or was an observer from outside that world. I am not sure, but think I may switch back and forth.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Too much -- Too little

It seems to me that we are bombarded with information but too often not enough to make really informed decisions. One moment something is good for you and the next it will cause cancer, make your brain turn to mush, and ruin your sex life.

Yes, I know that we have a choice and don't have to read it all. We could toss the email forwards without reading the latest threat to our health or country; but the Internet has made getting too much and too little information all too easy.

In a newspaper, I had to actually turn pages and then the newspaper edited what I should know about whatever happened recently. On the Internet, editing is in my control. I choose which newspapers, scan titles, have the option of reading news sites that compile three different newspaper slants on the same story. I can cycle through a lot of information instantly. Raw milk seized. Beef recalled. One week Ibuprofen is the super drug, next week it might threaten my life to take it.

So what to do? I want to be informed to make my choices intelligently. I want to know about health advances or threats. I feel I should learn when other countries have been hit by disasters as I assume they would like to know when my country has been. I want to know politically what different candidates have said or done. But how much good does it do to know about bad things that are happening or have happened that I can't do anything about?

If a headline promises new advances for a more youthful face for no cost, it is likely I will read it even knowing it's going to be something that doesn't work. Likewise when it gives a warning about a product I regularly might consume which is now said to be potentially deadly, I'll read it; but should I? Is the most deadly thing of all so much out there with no real way to weigh the 'information' or only getting part of it while knowing contradictory facts are likely to arise next month or year?

Sometimes I wonder if I'd be better off reading none of it. It's not just newspapers headlines, and email forwards, but say a friend gets a disease, my instinctive thought is to click on the Internet to find out what can be done about it. Right after that, I notice symptoms of the same disease that I never noticed before...

Part of the problem with these stories is that a lot of research is done by companies wanting to sell their products. Out comes the information, piecemeal, aimed at one conclusion with a different company and a different take in another month.

It didn't used to be that drug companies could advertise on television. Now we can't turn on a news program without learning more than we ever wanted to know about erectile dysfunction-- and at the same time learning nothing about it.

I don't know the answer unless it would be to quit being informed, but is that really a good idea? While I may not have an answer, these recent sheep photos do show how I am feeling about a lot of it.


If you'll notice, most of our sheep have tails, which is not what you usually see in flocks. A few years back, we got into Shetland sheep which are a bit smaller than most other breeds, also more agile, boy can they climb. They don't generally have tails quite as long as some other breeds. Our first Shetland, bought from a flock that did not dock (remove) tails, showed us what we had been taught by the experts was wrong. Having tails did not lead to more mess, no more difficulty in lambing. It is more work for the shearer.

Since removing tails is uncomfortable for the animals with some small risk of infection if you don't keep an eye on the lamb, we only now dock tails from lambs that have the longer ones. What we are doing is not the 'in' thing for sheep growers. When we know we will likely be selling an animal for breeding, we are forced to de-tail; but when we are keeping them, or they are going for lamb chops, we let them wag their tails behind them.

It's odd how customs like removing tails become so prevalent. At the last county fair, I noticed tails were virtually gone from the show ewes which will make them more prone to prolapse in lambing; but when you're talking about showing livestock, we learned years ago, practical farm husbandry has no role.

The sheep tails do illustrate something. Listen to the experts, read the research, but also observe what actually works as best you know it. Experts know a lot. They don't know it all.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

another primary

Wow! I almost hate to say I am excited for fear it will jinx it. This election has had so many ups and downs, but at the moment, it is looking good for Barack Obama to be our Democratic party nominee with winning North Carolina and taking it, at the least, very close in Indiana.

It's been tough with so much really negative stuff and more to come no matter who is the nominee. Obama has said, and I believe it's his goal, that he wants to change that tone, that way of politically doing business. It won't be easy after years of garbage throwing appearing to win. When it stops winning, that's when the garbage will stop and the politicians will get down to the issues that matter.

When people stop letting themselves be swayed by meaningless fear talk, when they get informed about the issues, find out who their candidates are character-wise, that's when there is a hope to turn things around. I would like to think that day is here.

I was amazed this morning to read from David Brooks in the New York Times a really good analysis of the difference between Clinton and Obama-- Combat and Composure.

To me, it has been exciting to see so many voters showing up to make their voices heard-- all all these states. In Indiana, they said in some places 85-90% where it's often 20%. People care. They have strong opinions, and whether that ends up positive for going the direction I prefer, it is a good thing for the country.

Oregon has vote by mail, and I mailed my ballot today.

Monday, May 05, 2008

shearing

Shearing a flock of sheep is not done for the profit in the wool at least not in our area. Ungraded wool brings in 23 to 27 cents a pound in the grease. Shearing costs more than the wool can bring unless you market to specialty customers, like hand-spinners interested in black, gray, brown or white, long-stapled wool. Regardless of what you get for the wool, sheep need the wool removed or it mats and makes them uncomfortable in the heat of the summer. They also will not breed if they are too hot.

Some shepherds shear twice a year, once in the fall to make lambing easier and the sheep more inclined to come in with those lambs when the weather is inclement. With our sheep and several nice shelters, they come in anyway and we feel lucky to find someone to shear them once a year.

When we first began raising sheep, there were more flocks in this area; and we had more sheep ourselves. Sometimes we had shearers who came in with a trailer, platform, wool support, and all their equipment. They would shear the sheep in this area then head for Australia for its season. That kind of operation is not interested in shearing small flocks and thirty sheep is a small flock.

Three years ago happily we found a good shearer, who is efficient and gentle with the sheep, doesn't nick them more than she does herself, and will come clear out here to do the flock. Each year we hope she is still doing it as if we can't find a shearer, the farm boss has to do it-- something he definitely doesn't relish. This year, he will still have two small ewes to do. One because we purposely left her out of the pen as her baby was less than a week old which would make it more vulnerable in sheep stomping it accidentally, and her twin that escaped the fence before a loophole was fixed.

My contribution was to take some photos of the process. Basically the sheep are penned ahead of the shearer's arrival. The farm boss catches, drags, and the shearer shears. Once the wool has been removed, it can be pushed into a wool bag or thrown onto a clean plastic tarp to later be sacked. When we were able to borrow a wool stand, our children used to get in those big tall sacks and stomp the wool down. With less wool, sacking is less of an issue.

After being shorn, the sheep are released to complain about the whole thing. The next day though, after their lambs finally acknowledge who their mothers are, the ewes are happier for the shearing and act more like goats than sheep for how they go up and down hills and run around like the lambs they once were.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Coves

Of all the things I love about the ocean, coves are my favorites. I have been in them on the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans and all of them have things in common and parts that are unique. Nothing wrong with long, sandy beaches, but a cove, with a limited inlet, with limited access has something that feels magical and mystical.

My first experience with coves was as a small child in a place named Short Sands. It lies south of Cannon Beach on the northern Oregon Coast. To camp there, which I have done many times, you borrow a wheelbarrow supplied by the park, put your tent, sleeping bags, food and whatever you can get into it, push it down a forested trail to get the tent site where another family member ideally is sitting to assure it will still be there, and sometimes repeat the process until you have all your supplies and camp set up. Through the trees, you can see the cove, ocean, cliffs on both sides, rocks, and a short, sandy beach. The beach itself is delightful, generally protected from the winds, with lots of tidal pools and trails to explore.

Another beautiful Oregon cove is just north of Lincoln City at a place called Road's End. The special cove is at the north end of that sandy beach, beyond road's end, and to get to it, you scramble over rocks during the lowest of tides. You do not have long to get there and back before the tide changes.

The beach you will see is wild and when you stand on those rocks, looking at the sand, hearing the sound of waves crashing and seabirds, high cliffs surrounding the cove, no other way into it, no human tracks, you don't want to put any of yours there either. The time I saw it I felt it was a primal beach, the way it all would have been when the first humans entered this country.

Up on Vancouver Island, I have seen coves various places that are so beautiful I just wanted to stay there as long as possible. Always there are the cliffs, the waves crashing in, the seabirds, the rocks, and sometimes a short sandy beach.

I have photos from all of these places and more but the ones you see here are all from the most recent cove, an attempt to show a bit of the feeling. My photos of the tidal pools didn't come out as well as I'd like. I guess I have to go back someday as tidal pools are one of the coolest things about coves. Visit Parapluie's site to see some of her paintings from this cove-- Umbrella Painting Journal dates April 23-25th.

My digital painting came from a photo that ended up just a bit out of focus. In trying to sharpen it, it lost angles still not sharp and only minimally looked like me.

Since I loved the setting, the colors, I thought I'd go back the next morning-- except that was when a bigger storm blew in, the lighting changed totally, and the place the photo had been taken would have still been under water when we had to leave.

Since I love photos of people and rocks, I used that one as a base for creating a digital painting-- hopefully with the feeling of exploring a cove anywhere around the world. I plan to also do an oil using the same photo as the base.

In this particular place, I had thought I could wade through that pool right in front of me, climb over the rocks just beyond and then be out of the cove and onto a long sandy beach to the south. With the tide farther out, it would have been easy as Parapluie had done it earlier. The tide however was coming in; and when I got to where I could see, I discovered the next tidal pool was at least thigh high. I didn't mind soaking my socks and tennis shoes in that cold ocean water but drew the line at my jeans.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Beltane

Beltane, May 1, is the ancient Celtic festival of love, fire and fertility. This is the season of plantings and of new growth. The celebration can be done with flowers gathered around the house, new buds for the season we are entering, candles and gathering together with others. It doesn't, however, take belonging to a group to use this festival.

Beltane as intended to bless our fertility and relationships. Symbolically, we can honor the day by creating a fire only in our minds as we take our current activities, relationships, and even goals through it to cleanse and purify what we want in our lives for the growing season.

If we want to go farther with the celebration, we can make a crown of flowers for our hair (sure, guys too) and then lighting a candle, jump it for good luck (no long flowing dresses please). It has even been suggested that we could go out into our gardens with our lovers and make love there as a blessing upon its fertility. That would take definite fortitude in my area right now given how cold and muddy the ground is.

The Canada Geese are back and much appreciated as they come in at first light or leave at dusk with their wonderful calling sounds. Sometimes there are six of them and sometimes just a pair. These don't fly in large flocks like the ones seen in the main part of the Willamette Valley.

In the years this pair have been visiting us in the spring, they have never nested here as probably this isn't a safe place to raise their babies with a shallow creek and no ponds, but they do enjoy their days grazing, napping, waddling around our pasture, and when the babies are large enough, they come also.

The blossoms are from the old pear tree in the orchard. How old, I don't know, but we lost one of the three last year. We planted new fruit trees, fenced them from the sheep (although it looks like they still got the tips).