Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Bucket Lists

A bucket list is made up of those things one wants to do before dying. It's not in an order of importance or when but just thrown together. There are two (maybe more but two that came to mind) ways to look at a bucket list.

For assorted reasons, one thinking it'd be too sad for where I was currently, I had put off watching the film, The Bucket List. Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman play two old men who come together in a hospital and each receive the news that they do not have long to live. They find friendship and go on one last quest around the world to fulfill some of the dreams they had put off. I recommend the film as being enjoyable, funny, and insightful.

Professor at Carnegie University, Doctor Randy Pausch, at 47, died this week-end. He was the teacher (and so many other things) who recorded The Last Lecture video when he knew he only had a short time to live. He did this to leave behind what he had learned for his young children but also for others. The popularity of his video led to an appearance on Oprah, a book, and millions of people being exposed to his ideas. If you have yet to see the video of his lecture, it's worth your time: Randy Pausch's Home Page.

So basically this week-end serendipitously reminded me of two ways to look at a bucket list. One would be like the film where you would think of all the things you have not done and would like to do, some of them might be emotional. The second is what Randy Pausch did where you put down all you have learned through possibly your life story, the wisdom, and lessons you have learned leaving that behind for others to find when they need it.

Thinking about all this, I naturally asked myself what might be on my bucket lists. Where it comes to things to do, I don't think there is anything. Sure there are activities I'd yet enjoy and perhaps some things I might do if I was younger or they were possible; but if I die today, I will feel good about the things I have had in my life. My dreams weren't big ones, and I did what I wanted as I went along. The things that weren't possible, I consider part of my life lessons.

The second type of bucket list, I think that's one of the things a blog can be. We write our ideas, share our lives, what we see, what we think, and it is left behind for as long as the blog exists. Personally I don't believe we are through learning those lessons until the day we die which is the other good thing about a blog. It's an organic way of interchanging accumulated wisdoms with many people.

One of the things I believe was beautifully expressed in The Bucket List and in a song that played while the credits were rolling. I went looking to see if it was on YouTube. To me, this song expresses a life philosophy that I try to follow and one for my blog's bucket list-- Say - John Mayer..

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Vision Thing

In the last year, I have written 27, now to be 28 blogs on the topic of Obama. From the beginning, until his recent trip to the Middle East and Europe, he has time and again verified my original feeling he was the right one for today. In those blogs, I went into his background, experience, and the skills that I believe he possesses and that would benefit this country in 2009 if he is elected president. I am not repeating all that (check labels for list) but now I want to write about what I believe are his most important gifts-- his sense of purpose and the rhetorical skills to convey that.

Republicans and earlier Hillary have blasted him for being a gifted speaker. So in the America of 2008, it's bad to be able to write or speak inspirational words? It wasn't always.

"Four Score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal." Abraham Lincoln
or

"When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and Nature's God entitled them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation." Thomas Jefferson

or

"We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans - born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage - and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this Nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world." John F. Kennedy

When did the necessity to talk down to Americans, to not respect their ability to grasp what is going on, become the rule of this land? When did being fun at a barbecue matter more than someone's intelligence and education? Since when did speeches that demand nothing from us become the ones to value? All this talk about elitism being a problem, how about just picking the president by lottery since his skills aren't a factor if we want him to be just like us?

When did this nation reach a point where the kind of rhetoric we wanted in our leaders involved little words and suggested going shopping was our highest duty to our nation? Can you imagine such a suggestion as WWII was getting started, and we had to rebuild almost our entire Navy.

What happened from our proud beginning, from the nation building that demanded sweat, blood and tears, what has happened to dumb us down and leave us victim to men who call on the worst of us and not the best?

One of the biggest criticisms that the Republican party can throw against Obama (when they aren't suggesting he's a traitor or terrorist himself) is to say he is too intellectual, too smart and his rhetoric is too soaring. This is the one that can stick because he obviously is a gifted speaker.

When they say he's inexperienced, the argument can be rebutted by his years in state legislature, teaching, community organizing, his proven good judgment on one issue after another, and now in the US Senate. Of course, some won't bother to do that research (maybe can't) And there are those who trust someone like a Rush Limbaugh to tell them what to think. Limbaugh might say in satire that his listeners don't need to go anywhere else for their information, but how many believe him and don't bother to check anything for themselves?

One of the things that has most impressed me about Obama, besides his obvious common sense and widespread knowledge, has been that he has a goal that you can hear in all of his speeches. The goal is that we are going to change things and we can rise above how things have been.

Obama inspires us to think we can get past things like torture. We can put an end to the trashing of the Constitution. We can stop those who are profiting on the backs of the poorest or from wars they engineered us into. We can find an answer to basic health care for all. In social issues (no, he hasn't said this but it's on my list) we can finally look at homosexuality as just a condition of life like heterosexuality and give those who are different full rights.

We have seen our educational system dumbed down to the point where the people who speak the loudest against Barack Obama, who are most frightened of him, can't spell or even read well enough to know what he actually is saying.

If you don't think we are dumbed down, take a look at this test which I saw a year or so ago on Life After Nexcom: Could you pass the 8th Grade Exam of 1895?.

Do NOT tell me this dumbing down of America is the fault of liberals. This is about a whole nation that hasn't valued education enough and the end result is becoming more and more obvious. Schools should teach basic skills, the kinds of things that that 8th Grade Exam measured. Ethics are taught as a part of the educational program, not in classes themselves but in how the teachers and system behave and expect the students to also.

If Obama can speak in such a way as to inspire citizens to see there are better ways to do things, this can be a beginning of the change we need. When he doesn't talk down to his listeners but rather up, is that not a good thing? Do we become more by someone treating us like a child or an adult? If he can inspire people to vote who never have, if he can do that with words and a dream, tell me again why that's bad?

A few years ago I listened to a tape about the Age of Aquarius, a new age and new way of living, and how people become so entrenched in their ideas that they will reject any change. It spoke of ideas like Galileo's and how it required a generation to die to finally make change happen. It does not have to be that way. We, who are elders, don't have to be obstructionists. Yes, we could allow our culture to deteriorate in waiting for a new generation to come along who can finally see that it's not working, but it's a choice. We can also be part of making things better.

A leader like Barack Obama does not come along all the time. He has a rare set of gifts, a practical side and an idealistic one, an ability to inspire others, a background of multiculturalism that gives him a very different perspective.

This is also a rare time with our country ripe for change after years of mistakes and a president who has warped the very values under which we were formed. We face economic and possibly climactic changes that will require a wise leader to help navigate our way through-- an inspirational leader and someone who is not locked into how it has been. Someone who can see how it might be, not just how it has been.

The United States is still a strong country. We can improve our educational system, maybe even revamp how it operates, we can make our health care work for all citizens, get back our ethics on the highest and lowest levels, stop abusing war prisoners in the supposed name of safety, see ourselves as part of a world community, and only enter into wars we really must fight-- then fight them with everything we have as Churchill said when Britain entered the battle against Nazi Germany.

To succeed will take pulling our heads out of the sand, a willingness to risk change, to work, to not expect someone else to do it for us, to not buy meaningless promises that we can have it all with no cost, and not passing up a real leader.

Obama said it in Berlin. This is our time. We can make it be so.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Why Obama

As I mentioned in the prior blog, I plan to write about why Obama and will; but, while ruminating on it, I read this today, and it seemed to begin that subject very well. Before someone says McCain might think this way also. He might but it happens to be Obama who said it. The big thing about Obama is his judgment. It's what some find fault with and what people who support him are believing is more important than years and years of political experience.

In Political Punch by Jake Tapper, I read some of a conversation between Obama and British Tory party leader, David Cameron, that got taped when they didn't know they were being recorded. The wisdom just seemed so good and something we all need to keep in mind. Cameron had just told Obama he needed a vacation.

This is part of Obama's response:

"... I am going to take a week in August. But I agree with you that somebody, somebody who had worked in the White House who -- not Clinton himself, but somebody who had been close to the process -- said that, should we be successful, that actually the most important thing you need to do is to have big chunks of time during the day when all you're doing is thinking. And the biggest mistake that a lot of these folks make is just feeling as if you have to be -- "

"These guys just chalk your diary up," said Cameron, referring to a packed schedule.

"Right," Obama said. "In 15 minute increments …"

"We call it the dentist's waiting room," Cameron said. "You have to scrap that because you've got to have time."

"And, well, and you start making mistakes," Obama said, "or you lose the big picture. Or you lose a sense of, I think you lose a feel-- "

"Your feeling," interrupted Cameron. "And that is exactly what politics is all about. The judgment you bring to make decisions."

"That's exactly right," Obama said. "And the truth is that we've got a bunch of smart people, I think, who know ten times more than we do about the specifics of the topics. And so if what you're trying to do is micromanage and solve everything then you end up being a dilettante but you have to have enough knowledge to make good judgments about the choices that are presented to you."

Friday, July 25, 2008

The McCain Sell-Out Express

According to recent polls, under 20% of the American people approve of the direction George Bush has taken this country-- on any issue. So explain to me why McCain, who is running for Bush's third term, is only 6% behind Obama?

McCain kisses up to Bush (literally in many photos) every chance he gets. Lately he avoids photo ops with him probably because he can't resist the huggie hugs and he's trying to look like he's his own man. Yeah right! He has followed in Bush's footsteps (when he isn't claiming credit for being better) on the war, economics, health care, Social Security. social issues, and pretty much everything except the environment where he will end up backtracking if he wins. So how can that many Americans, who believe we are going the wrong direction, still support McCain?

This isn't about that 20% who still defend Bush's administration; nothing I will say will matter to them. If someone thinks highly of Bush after 8 years, they aren't seeing the same world I am. But for someone who does not like Bush and yet defends supporting McCain? How do that be??!

If there was any doubt McCain would be a third Bush administration, it was eliminated when Karl Rove began advising the campaign. Rove is positioning himself, by having left Bush when he did, to be ready to take over the next administration. If that is good news to you, then you won't care about the rest of this blog either.

Although I have always disagreed with him on the issues, I have been surprised by McCain's lack of abilities and understanding. I assumed a Senator, who has garnered so much respect and has served so many years, would have learned something about national and world issues. Saying you get it does not mean you got it.

Every time he tries to explain anything, McCain shows himself to be a (trying to think of a nice word and failing) blithering idiot . He gets the names of countries and geographic locations wrong, can't keep track of who runs which countries, who the various factions are in Iraq, time lines like that we actually had a war in Afghanistan before Iraq (you know, all the little stuff); and yet Americans still see him as more Commander-in-Chief like than Obama. What is that all about? A flag pin?

Are they frightened of Obama because he tells the truth about things like gasoline prices? Or is it when he said he was a citizen of this nation and proud to be but also of the world and McCain jumped on it as the equivalent of treason, something he accuses Obama of a lot these days. Excuse me, Mr. McCain, but who is there living in the United States, who does not also live in the world???

I listened to McCain try to explain why he had gotten the surge information all mixed up for dates and why he criticized Obama for saying the Iraqis deserve some of the credit for the successes in Iraq. Listening to him mumble his way through his explanation in the grocery store (appropriately in front of the cheese counter), I tried hard to follow his points.

As best I could understand it, through the constant repetition and saying things that didn't go together, I think he was saying the Surge (that Bush called the Surge) actually was a secondary surge; therefore, he was right on his dates because actually there was a little surge ahead of the Surge and it's that to which he was referring.

That surge ahead of the Surge sounded an awful lot to me like what the object of the war was supposed to have been all along (but apparently was not)-- that is to get the Iraqis fighting to stabilize their own nation.

To follow this logic for yourself, listen here: McCain's Version of the Surge. Warning: Trying to actually make sense of McCain's words can be bad for the blood pressure.

After some quick research, and I can be corrected if someone else understands this better, but I think what is called today the Anbar Awakening began because of a colonel, who on his own began organizing Sunni sheiks to fight against those who were causing unrest (al qaeda types who had come into Iraq with that purpose in mind).

Colonel Sean McFarland and several bloody battles led to the suppression or elimination of the trouble-making al Qaeda and to the Iraqis doing their own fighting. They knew who belonged and who did not. It made sense that they could take care of the intruders. This all sounded like it was to the credit of the colonel and the Iraqis until McCain suggested that it was just a pre-surge and that he had something to do with making it happen since he visited there and talked to McFarland as it was beginning.

One other mistake that McCain made (there are so many who can keep track) was that the Sheik he claimed we were protecting through the real Surge (who was one of those who made the Anbar Awakening happen), who Obama would have led to this guy's death, actually was already assassinated during the Surge.

Little of this would I be able to understand by only listening to McCain because it never got there. Logic isn't what McCain's spiels are about. Not on anything. He uses emotions and smirks smugly hoping nobody will notice.

The criticism I am hearing from many right wingers is that communication skills are actually bad because real commanders don't know how to communicate. Really? So Reagan was a lousy communicator? Churchill? FDR? Kennedy? Lincoln?

Well, I guess if you voted for George Bush, it would make sense that you would not see value in someone who could communicate ideas and inspire others to take action. Bush was not a communicator but a decider (a decider who decided a lot of things that likely will require him doing a blanket pardon before he leaves office just to sweep those decider end results under the table).

Now maybe this popularity of McCain is due to something else. Irrespective of intellect, higher education, good ideas, or the ability to communicate them, there is another important quality people want in their leaders. One journalist (using that word loosely, very loosely) said he would vote for McCain because he'd rather sit down and have a beer with him.......... (Ellipses, especially three in a row, are often considered poor grammar but there are times.........) Okay, so I just have to say it-- isn't that how we got into this mess by people who voted for the guy they thought that would be more fun at a barbecue?

Here are a couple of additional pieces on McCain which I read and seemed worth sharing (no, not the beer guy): Obama is the foreign policy realist. You won't find that one on Fox.

Then there is an analysis of the spiked piece that McCain wrote for the New York Times in his attempt to criticize what Obama had written the week before. Here is the speech and the analysis.

And for people afraid Obama will raise your taxes, check out the difference between his suggested policies and McCain's: McCain and Obama on taxes. McCain promises balancing the budget but not going to tell anybody how!

McCain's straight talk express took a power detour. What we have left is a man who seems to only vaguely understand any of the policies he is supposed to be implementing, smirks every time he says something he thinks is cute, rides on a past reputation, and is going to say anything to win. His Straight Talk Express should be renamed the McCain Sell-Out Express.

When McCain said this week that Obama would rather lose a war than lose an election (basically called him a traitor), he was actually talking about himself in terms of what he has done to win this nomination and he hopes the election.

Now unlike some 'opinionators', I won't stop with why McCain is such a disaster (and if you are following the campaign, you know I barely touched on the reasons), but will write soon about what is good about Obama. Voting against someone sometimes happens, but it's better when we know for what we are voting.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Just thinking on a summer afternoon

Every now and again, I speculate about what might be the long range plan-- for the soul. For instance, if there is reincarnation, let's assume also what some metaphysicians teach: i.e. we choose our lifetimes, the other souls who will interact with us, and the experiences we will have.

For someone who is in the midst of a terrible life, that thought would not inspire joy; but the idea would be that even with negative experiences, we would have chosen them for our highest good.

For instance, supposing in this lifetime we have been a selfish person with no compassion for the disadvantaged or disabled-- perhaps even been abusive emotionally or physically. After we have gone to the other side, in the soul discussion about how this life went, in looking through our akashic records (book of life where all we have done is recorded) the suggestion might arise that we could learn from a future lifetime where we ourselves were disabled.

Or perhaps someone, who has been very compassionate toward the less fortunate, might want to better understand how it is to live disabled. From our perspective, it's not possible to know why something is but we can make the most of whatever it might be.

Teachers who think this way do not see such choices as about condemnation or punishment (from what I understand) but rather about learning, improving, growing closer and closer to someday living an enlightened, for wont of a better word, perfect, human lifetime.

I don't really know what I believe, not even for sure that I believe in reincarnation despite some life experiences to make me think that it is what most explains life (it would sure require a big computer to keep track). Frankly, curious though I might be now and then, I haven't felt it was important to know for sure. The important thing, whatever spiritual tradition one follows, is to live a good, full, loving life as best we know it.

But this isn't where my mind traveled this warm summer afternoon. It was more, as I have thought before when I see someone young, what will it be like for me if I do come back? What would I like to take with me from this lifetime in terms of lessons? What would I like to have next time, assuming I have any say about it?

When I see beautiful young women, I admit it occurs to me that it'd be nice to be young and beautiful (but honestly, I'd rather look exactly like I did this lifetime imperfections and all-- you think we might get the same faces?). I know I'd rather be female because I have liked being a woman-- although there are some cultures where that'd be less so.

However, if I was young and beautiful, I would not want to have that beauty in a career where beauty was required. Did you read about the very young, very gorgeous model who jumped out of a high rise building to her death. Beauty alone doesn't buy anything. Functioning in a world where you are judged purely by your physical beauty would require a very strong soul to see past the dross and still live a happy, fulfilled, complete life.

Now having a career, like Meryl Streep or Helen Mirren, where talent was emphasized more than just beauty, might be okay (fringe benefits, lots of money to do the things you also wanted to do); but it's not really what I'd most want either.

Whenever I see female wildlife biologists, I most admire them. I don't know how many are needed in the world or even whether they make a living wage, but their strong bodies, the patience to study animal behavior and habitats, helping creatures I admire to survive, working outdoors, that would seem like a good life-- most especially if you were in a partnership with your life mate to do it.

To be honest, I have dabbled in many things, (note to self, don't be dabbler next time) but dabbling doesn't go deep. Many things, that I have done in this lifetime, not as a career, would be good professionally next time. Perhaps my dabbling has taught me some things.

With the afternoons warm and sultry, it seemed like a good time to daydream. I took mine a bit farther. I used some photos I took awhile back with the webcam (Blaugustine January 11th, was exploring alter egos, and I created a few but nothing as interesting as hers and let it go). Playing with it, I added a few more yesterday to put together a kind of montage of possible identities from the past, present and future.

The digital painting on top is suggesting my soul, from the past, looking down on what I have done, not done, and have yet to do. In the last digital photograph, I swirled the background to suggest the circle of life.

It's not always pleasant to think about the things I haven't done right, but then there are those I believe I have. I try to stamp the knowledge of both deeply into my soul; so that if there is another lifetime, I can take with me the wisdom I have hopefully gained. If there is not, I have lost nothing by the thinking.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Happiness is...

Whether I am happy is a question I rarely ask myself. It's not hard to know I have happy moments, can readily remember many of them, but am I in general a happy person? That's where I am less sure. I think throughout my life, I haven't thought about it much until something comes along like this article from Huffington Post: Happiness is a Choice. I read it, contemplated the ideas, and asked myself am I happy?

If I wasn't happy, would that be a clue for why I don't ask more frequently, or do even happy people rarely contemplate whether they are happy? It's not hard to find moments in a lifetime where everything seems to be flowing like a bubbling brook and you know, yes, I am so happy; but what about the less than flowing moments?

When I look at the political world right now, I find a lot to be unhappy about. First it is not guaranteed that the person I want for president (Barack Obama) will actually win. For that matter there are those who still hope to deny him the nomination. As for whether my favoring someone is a good omen... it's not. I rarely have voted for a winner.

Losing side though I might have been on, I have had to suffer along with all the 'winners' when the leaders do things like go against all the ethics we thought we believed in and torture [read Christopher Hitchens in Vanity Fair: Believe me, It's torture]; like fall into one economic disaster after another [read Frank Rich in New York Times: It's the Economic Stupidity, Stupid]; like fight a war with people who had nothing to do with the attack we experienced (while ignoring those who did. This would be like attacking China for Pearl Harbor); like ignore any possibility of dealing with global climate change until it will be too late (not to mention the funds available for such have already been spent); like... Well, heck, who could be happy when they think about things like these and so many more; plus my mini list hasn't even touched on the world problems?

Then there is the other side of the coin if the person you want to win, does win. Sounds like that would be the answer to all problems. Wahoo we elected him, now it's his job!

Given the problems we are facing today, we are the solution-- or there won't be one. It's not just getting Obama elected, because once he gets in, the work will have just begun. There is not going to be time to sit back and feel good or to hope someone will take care of it all for us. They won't. No matter who they are, they can't. This is what Obama has been trying to say over and over, but a lot of people still don't get it. He's not a messiah. He's a leader who is good at organizing people and inspiring them. We have to work to make this country turn around and to solve these problems. Does that thought make anyone happy?

The hummingbird pictures were all taken by Farm Boss Saturday evening while he was letting his dinner digest and before he went back out to get more hay, came back with a trailer load that broke apart as he turned onto our gravel road causing three large, round bales to roll off the back. That necessitated a quick run to the barns to get the backhoe and back out he went to scoop two bales off the highway before someone hit them; then push the broken bale into the pasture (most of it) for the cows to get an early, unexpected treat.

Farm Boss was likely happy taking the pictures of the hummingbird, but not sure he had time to think about whether he was happy while getting the hay off the road. There was definitely no time to figure out who was to blame for it happening. That wouldn't make anybody happier.

So where is all this going? Well, I don't think we ever can be happier for ignoring broken bales in the highway even if we wish we could make them go away by not seeing them. We sure aren't happier while cleaning them up, and there is risk attached when it's on a public highway as this was. Overall though maybe it's only through such moments that we do find happiness (well at least relief). This is true for our personal problems, local ones, federal, and worldwide.

As for the hummingbird, those series of photos are so beautiful for how they start with outlines of the bird as it hovered and sipped, then the colors grew and so did the detail rather like how it is for us as we gradually see things more clearly in our lives. The bird stayed with the task until it had finished. Perhaps it knew no other way.

Hummingbirds bring such joy to watch. There is not much more satisfying in the bird world than their whizzing wings, their dive bomb flying, their snipping at us if we are in their way, their zipping from sweetness to sweetness. Do they feel joy in what they do, or just give it?

I printed off the article, 'Happiness is a Choice' because it's something of which I need to remind myself more than today.

(All hummingbird and tractor photos taken with Canon Rebel using 400mm stabilized telephoto. The one alongside here was with EFS 18-55mm lens and taken for those who don't live in the country and have no idea how difficult it would be to remove bales this size from the highway. Click on any image to enlarge.)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Sunriver

My first times in Sunriver, one of Central Oregon's first major, planned resort towns, were when our children were small. We didn't stay there but camped elsewhere driving in to shop or have the kids play in what was called Fort Chickenpox by us if nobody else. Sunriver is convenient to skiing on Mt. Bachelor, the High Lakes of the Cascades and the Deschutes River.

Years later, with a little more disposable income, we began to go over and rent a house usually in the winter for some snow fun since Western Oregon gets very little snow. This year the house we rented was one we have stayed in before, but this was our first summer visit.

I don't remember how it was previously decorated, but with my growing interest in western art, I particularly liked its decor (prints, giclees and posters). When I am going somewhere that I will spend more than a night, I like renting houses to feel more like I am actually living somewhere for a few days. With the family, it becomes even more of an advantage. Homes like this one in Sunriver are often not used much by the owners as anything other than an investment. The art is generally wildlife, fishing, or western oriented as Central Oregon is the beginning of Oregon's cowboy country.

The house's only real drawback was the kitchen. It isn't easy to find rentals with well-equipped kitchens. One reason for renting a house is to avoid restaurants. Where so many (our kids) enjoy gourmet cooking, a better equipped kitchen would have been a plus. Still when you are looking for enough beds for 10 people, you have some limitations built in.

The big flat-screen TV was never turned on. The children had way too many other fun things to do like playing in the dirt outside. As I find with more and more rentals, it did offer wireless for the Internet. Since I usually take a laptop on any trip, to jot down ideas, write and download photos as I go, the Internet access was a plus. If I was there for a week, it would become even more of one. I used to think renting a house closer to the river would be a great place to write a book-- tall pines, view of the Cascades out the window, places to walk, quiet, and crisp mountain air.

Usually on a trip like this, with the grandkids, I like to find something special to give them as a new thing with which to play as well as a memento. This time it was small cougar and bear models. I wished later I had taken photos of the set up the children came up with outside in the dirt as they formed dens and played with their wild creatures.

Several times, strolling past the house, but too fast for me to get a photo, we saw a doe with two spotted fawns. On their way home from the playground, my daughter told me she overheard the 7-year old ask his 4-year old cousin-- Do you like wildlife? The younger said, Why yes, yes, I do. Me too and Sunriver is a place to enjoy it.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Obama

Because the lies about Barack Obama have been rebutted time after time, I get to thinking everybody knows the truth. It appears not. Are some not believing it or do they turn off their ability to listen? I got the link to this YouTube from my daughter. It's particularly good because it tells it all while you listen to a beautiful song-- one you might even know.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Water water everywhere until there isn't...

This was on The Old Hippie's Groovy Blog. I don't have solutions to this kind of problem but awareness is a start. As a herdsman myself, I can relate to how these people feel. Although my whole livelihood does not depend on raising stock, my sense of responsibility is to do what is necessary for their good. For those of us who might think we have it tough, the clip is a good reminder that we don't have a clue what tough is. For those who think there is no climate change, conditions like this strike the poorest first but it won't stop there.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Deschutes River

Central Oregon is where I spent my week-end. Because it was our 7-year old grandson's birthday and because this is an alternate year for his birthday (his family has friend-parties alternating with family-years), he wanted us all to be together. Is that neat or what? So we rented a house for their family, our son's, and us that we have rented before in Sunriver, south of Bend, and the ten of us met for Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

It was as always a great time with good food, interesting conversations, fun with kids, but also nice to be in the land of tall pines, sagebrush, juniper, and snow capped mountains. Sunriver has resorts, homes, and every kind of recreation you can imagine with biking paths, stables for renting horses, swimming pools, small shops, restaurants, playgrounds, tennis courts, and the kind of scenery that is enough all by itself.

On Saturday we took two canoes on a mile or so of the Deschutes River. This was my first time on a river in a canoe. The river had some snags to watch for, but for a newbie, it was good that the current was limited. There were redwing blackbirds, osprey, various wildflowers, but the only flowers that ended up (mostly) in focus was Indian Paintbrush.

We had our granddaughter in our canoe which had the added benefit of her experience of being in canoes since before she was born. Well she won't remember that far back, but she was. She was informative and helpful even reminded me that bickering doesn't help and that the person in back is the boss-- not that I thought I was bickering (not at all). We finished off our little trip at a restaurant right on the river where it's easy to take the canoe out. Now this is my kind of roughing it!

Until I was confident of how it'd be with a little bit of current, I didn't take the camera from its waterproof bag. These pictures are from about halfway.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Boogeymen

In far more dangerous times than ours, parents taught their children myths and fairy tales about the dangers of the outside world. Cultures created monster stories, creatures that would eat the children if they were not good. Sometimes the dangers were real, but the monsters created by the community were intended to be even more frightening to make children obey the rules. Fairy tales were filled with such dangers, not simply as entertainment, but as a teaching mechanism.

Do we need these kinds of monsters today in our community and even personal lives? Do such monsters help us or hinder us? Do political leaders create them to keep citizens in line? Do they enhance the dangers of real concerns to get and keep power for themselves? Doesn't fear always take away the power of the one who is afraid?

Since I was a child, in the United States, there has always been a monster, an enemy, someone to fear, someone who is the boogeyman in the night, someone all people are taught to fear, the bad guy who will destroy us if we don't do something. All politicians (and their helpers in the media) are willing to tell us what that something is.

I am not saying there are not real enemies. I saw the headlines about Iran testing missiles capable of reaching Israel (we all know Israel already had them capable of reaching Iran). Maybe Iran wants the world as an enemy; and it's why they do such things, but what about us? What are we getting out of it?

Iraq was built up as being such a monster, one capable of somehow harming even countries thousands of miles away. Hussein was a danger to his own people, to the weaker surrounding countries, but the monster our government created bore little resemblance to his actual power.

I read this morning that someday when Iran has nuclear weapons, they will sell them to terrorists and it will be Obama (or his ilk) that can be blamed when an American city is suitcase nuked. So let me get this straight. We should worry about Iran having nuclear power but it's okay in Pakistan? Already having it makes it okay and we don't need to worry what they might do with it? We will talk to the bad guys who have it already but not the ones who might get it?

Pakistan is who we believe sold nuclear secrets to North Korea and who knows where else. Pakistan had the scientist who did all of this, was charged, found guilty, and then pardoned by the government... huh?! Pakistan is who has been hiding bin Laden. Pakistan is where there is a powder keg politically that threatens toppling the existing government at any point, but Pakistan is on our friend list. This gets a bit confusing.

Those who seek power benefit from monsters, and they have an ample supply in the world from which to choose. Terrorists are definitely to be concerned about, but the fear that the Bush administration and now McCain are attempting to use to take away American liberties, to torture possibly innocent people, to keep power, that form of political terrorism has been working even without further violent acts by radical Jihadists. Their work of spreading terror is being done for them by the politicians.

What if we as citizens (in every country) keep our eye on the ball, focus on the things that we feel will give our citizens a better life, that will help the world where we can, and we do not allow fear to dictate our choices? What if we have firm opinions on what the country should do and we don't allow any terrorist attack or fear talk to sway us?

What if we don't let fear control us in our personal lives either? What if we are as brave as our ancestors, the ones who pioneered, who stepped out into wildernesses, and we take on enemies when they come, not let ourselves be controlled by the fear of something that isn't yet there? Terrorism is bad but are people staying off freeways because so many are killed each year on them? What makes terrorism more to be feared than getting in an automobile for a Sunday drive (other than the gas price)?

It is reasonable to take protective measures, but we don't need to feel terror to do that (at least not until in the midst of a real attack where often the terror serves a purpose of increasing adrenaline and giving us the power to react). What if we, as a people, worked to recognize real dangers (not magnify them); then deal with them responsibly, not in an emotional panic-- most of all that we didn't let ourselves be manipulated into giving up our own power.

What if... or is all of that a fairy tale as much as the boogeyman?

Friday, July 11, 2008

Some things don't belong... and some do

Tuesday morning, I heard the cattle bellowing and looked out the window to see them all in a circle in the center of one of the fields. This was not normal behavior. Fortunately farm boss was still home and he walked out to see what was going on.

One of the cattle matriarchs was lying dead in their center. Since we had been out there the evening before, she had to have died that night. I am not sure of her age as she came many years ago as a refugee from a neighbor selling off his whole herd. She had hidden out in the bush and came out when the drive was over. She would get through our fences and attempt to mingle with our herd (herds take awhile before accepting strangers). We would push her back through the fence to the land from whence she had come. Pretty soon back she'd be back in with the herd. She was good at the Houdini thing which is why she survived the drive.

We offered to buy her from the neighbor and her calf which was born after she came here. He had no interest in selling, said he'd come get her, but he never did. After a few years, his cost of having boarded her here would have been greater than her value and she stayed. All of that was a good 7 years ago, maybe more. She became a part of the herd, the calf she birthed is still our bull today. Every year, including last fall, she has had another calf and has been one of our best mothers.

She died like most of our geriatric cows die. The veterinarian said one time he had never seen such old cows as very few ranches can let their senior animals live on. They sell them for hamburger or dog food. We permit those who have served us well to live out their lives here. Often, as was the case with her, they show no signs of problems, aren't skinny, and browse with the herd until the day they drop dead. If they begin to limp or have health issues, we will kill them (also bury them right here) but most don't. They just die right on the ground where they were born many years before.

The herd grieved her passing. Cows are amazing that way. All through the day, until she was buried, they would return to circle the body. We felt sad too as she was always a pleasure to see out in the field, but she died a good death. Can't ask for more than that. (And thank goodness we bought a backhoe last year as now burying them is not a problem).

For years I had not been sure where I wanted my ashes sprinkled when I died, but this winter I knew. I don't want them sprinkled or in some urn somewhere. I want them buried in the ground in a biodegradable container; and if I am still living here, back there where we have buried so many beloved animals.

This week, we've been dealing with squirrel removal also. There are big bushy-tailed, gray squirrels that have regularly been raiding our bird feeders and setting up homes in the woodpile. Some dig holes in the ground-- thus the nickname grey diggers. We cannot allow a lot of rodents to live near the house, not healthy; so that is not an option. We had three choices.

One, we could stop putting out birdseed and hope the squirrels would find other homes.. unlikely on them leaving now.

Two, my husband could shoot the squirrels around the house as he has had to do with those in the barn area. I didn't like that idea. I mean they are just trying to make a living.

Three which is what has been happening. We could set the live trap; and as we catch squirrels, carry them in the trap to the back to release with the hope they won't return.

Wednesday afternoon, I went out to check the trap and found a twofer. They were fast enough to both get in before the gate swung down. I got on my straw hat, a thin shirt, grabbed some leather gloves (the trap handle is heavy bent wire which cuts into your fingers after awhile), a small sack of seeds (I am hoping to encourage them to stay back there), and carried the trap to the back. After I had released them, I thought again about whether we ought to be marking these guys. We don't want to catch the same ones over and over. It's about a quarter mile back there. Wonder how far squirrels consider their territory.

As I came up from the creek, empty trap in hand, the cattle herd, who had been in a different field, confronted me. I had heard the bellowing and saw them come over the ridge looking suspiciously at what seemed like a stranger carrying what could be a weapon. They are always a bit spookier after death visits the farm.

I realized I was wearing something I haven't worn for awhile-- a straw hat (baby, it's hot outside). When I took it off, they shrugged and turned away. Oh, it's just you. Cattle don't like strangers on their land.

(Cattle photo taken in April, not of the cow who died this week but her first calf born on the place, our bull, and the last calf she had in the fall, the black one. Photos of a squirrel release were taken July 7th by Farm Boss. It's a promising world for the squirrels back there... if they stay. If they don't, it will be option two... anybody know about a safe spray paint for squirrels? *s*)

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

A Life Line

At the time I was reading Ekhart Tolle's book, 'A New Earth', I also was searching through our slides for a photograph I wanted to use on a different topic. Out of looking through so many life stages, reading his book, a serendipitous idea was born. What if I found ones that would illustrate the aging process through one woman's life-- mine.

What got me (besides killing my back), as I sorted through many, many slide boxes, was how much I had been changing all along. I expected to see it in the toddler or child, but then came full adult where it hadn't seemed as much was happening. The photos showed that wasn't so. I was changing from year to year. It wasn't just hair style, clothes, or weight but a real process as to who I was. Was I on my way somewhere or there? Was I confident I was fulfilling my life purpose for that time or did I have doubts? The changes in the woman were often subtle, but through them I could see internal changes sometimes just as they were beginning.

Many of my earlier photos were with family, most specifically my children. I felt if I scanned those images, given the topic is aging, I'd have to find them also that took my children to the age they are today. Where it would be interesting to illustrate their aging process, it would also add complexity (not to mention I don't use their photos here). Where would that stop? Many of theirs are with their children. There is indeed a cycle of life that keeps giving.

When I finally had sorted through enough, I had way too many to use in Rainy Day Thoughts. I selected four closeups for the topic of aging, but a fuller view would have to go elsewhere.

My photo gathering was off and on from April. Although I had looked around a bit for a system that would let me show a timeline, it wasn't until July that I literally stumbled across Dipity (which I learned had only been created in March). At Dipity, photos can be easily downloaded, captioned, and dates added. Other links can be included to illustrate something more. Besides a life line it has many other possible uses like showing process or illustrating a trip.

So, click on this link: [A Life] to see how Dipity works with my timeline. To see the whole line at once, click on the small camera in the lower left-hand corner and then 'show all' in the upper right. If you have time and are interested in following the line, you start with 1944, which I chose as it was when I was beginning to walk; but it's possible to begin anywhere. Click on a plus or a photo box and it will expand for descriptions and sometimes an extra link. Clicking on next, in the upper right corner, takes you down the line. Also when you run into a YouTube, sometimes below it will be a picture and caption.

Dipity allows embedding but in my version of blogger, I had problems getting it small enough to use. I tried cutting it down to fit, which was great right up until the entire blog I had written kept disappearing. It would be there and a second later vanish completely. Given how Blogger auto saves every so many minutes, I thought I was about to lose everything I'd written. Several times I went back out and tried to copy it before it disappeared. Finally I moved fast enough (seconds is all I had), selected all, copied and got out with my writing before it again vanished. That is where I gave up on the embedding idea and deleted the corrupted blog before it swallowed my entire site.

Dipity is new; so they are still tweaking things. I didn't like their addition of maps whenever I used a geographic term as they were often not where that place was. To date, I have found no way to eliminate the maps and am guessing they are because of Dipity's link to Google. I can't complain though as it's free (at least for now). The timeline tool they have created has made possible what I had hoped.

I didn't choose photos from significant events and avoided any with someone else in them. These are pieces of my life-- not just getting old but also the places and sometimes ideas that are part of who I am. I may continue to expand it as I think of more elements that illustrate a feeling or place.

Not everyone has time for a project like this. Since I got the idea, I worked on it off and on when I had time or energy to sort photos. I was fortunate (or maybe not as it made a lot of work) to have many photos from which to choose. From the time I found Dipity, it went very fast because I had already done most of the work.

What a timeline does, I think, is help put a life into perspective-- most especially if, like me, you are someone who doesn't often look back. It's not the whole picture, but it is a enough to remember feelings that may have been forgotten. I knew me, but it still surprised me to see the patterns and direction which showed up. It reminded me of things and led me to think where I was then and to what was I heading. I think doing it has had value for my life today.

(The paintings here are by Parapluie. They are reflections of me but then so are all photographs. Parapluie painted the top one as I posed on my deck in 1993 when we were both 50.

This one was from our apartment complex in Tucson, Arizona, summer 1966. A neighboring lady was a sculptor. She offered if I would pose for her, she would give me the sculpture. We were to pay for firing it. I think I was about 6 months pregnant. Parapluie thought it would make an interesting painting. Her painting of artist, model and art is on the wall behind me. I also still have the sculpture-- somewhere. When we had it fired, the top of the head came off but fortunately was easily glued back on.)

Monday, July 07, 2008

Pathless Trails

July 4th on the farm is a day pretty much like any other. We fly a flag, but we do that from Memorial Day until sometime after the Fourth when we take it down to put it up again on other undefined occasions. Farms though don't care if it's a holiday and all the usual things need to be done. This year it's getting the barns ready for the winter hay supply.

Sometimes (although not this year) the neighbors' kids shoot off fireworks on the Fourth but otherwise it would require driving at least 20 miles to go see any shows. Years ago there was a local volunteer from one of the fire departments who would raise money through donations and put on quite a show at one of the old mill sites, but he either moved, lost interest in doing it-- or money got tighter.

July 5th, however, was a special day for us. We initiated our new canoe to water. We are beginners in canoing, but we had gotten some basic instruction from our son-in-law last summer when we went out on Klamath Lake with them. This last year, we also had acquired some books before we had bought the canoe in June.

In looking for a safe place to physically experience how our specific canoe worked, my husband heard recommended a small reservoir in the Coast Range which was about 42 miles from here. Right price in gasoline to get there, right sized lake, no power boats permitted, and some arms to explore but not so many that we would be unable to get out of bed the next day due to our sore arms.

Saturday morning we successfully got the canoe onto the Highlander, congratulating ourselves once again that we had bought a lightweight canoe; then drove west to the lake where we planned to meet Parapluie and Fisherman. He had a one-person pontoon boat and we had invited her to ride in our canoe.

The weather was perfect with an off and on, light misting rain and temperatures in the mid-60s. I hadn't thought about the advantage of having our own photographer in the canoe, but she willingly took over the 'recording it for posterity' job which led to some great photos. The lighting was interesting and changed constantly leading to photos later that looked as though they might have been taken on different days.

There are so many things I like about a canoe. I can start with its beauty, the aesthetic pleasure of dipping a paddle into the water and feeling it move the canoe forward. I like being able to get to places that from a land trail, I would see totally differently. A trail in a lake or river is what you make it, unless there are rapids or logjams to portage.

When canoing, you look ahead and think you'd like to go somewhere, to the other side, to see a family of geese, to get closer to a nurse tree (generally a cut cedar where not only new young cedars grow but many other plants), or a marsh where there might be wildflowers, so change direction or side where you paddle and off you go.

While we did have a few glitches in learning how to coordinate our paddling, they were minor and part of any learning process. I had been told by both my daughter and daughter-in-law (both families have canoes) that you can argue with the person at the back all you want, but it will be in their hands where decisions are made and control of how to get where you want to go. So the easiest thing is to give in and just ask what they want you doing.

That could sound chauvinistic, the way some would say a marriage should be with the husband dictating everything, except it could be anyone at the back... and except it's good having it be the strongest person in that position. I had tried being in back on Klamath Lake, and it was more muscle than I wanted to put into it at that point. Maybe after a year of building those arm and upper body muscles and learning more paddle techniques, it'd work better for me.

Now there will be more small lakes and easy rivers (no rapids, extreme currents or tidal conditions to pull us out to sea) to try and I am excited about going again. I had always thought I'd like canoing but it was in my mid-60s that I finally did try it. It's never too late for trying new things. How cool is that!

(All photos with the Canon Rebel. Most on the lake shots taken by Parapluie.)

Saturday, July 05, 2008

From Formlessness to Form and Back Again

For obvious reasons (being in my 65th year), I find contemplating the aging process to be interesting. I don't buy books that promise the secrets of El Dorado (where endless youth is promised instead of endless wealth) as I am not sure I'd want endless youth even if it was possible. There is something about aging and knowing the end is closer than the beginning that adds value to every day, every minute.

Aging, despite problems all along the way, is part of the vitality of life. I'd be lying to say getting old is always fun, but it is definitely interesting if one makes the most of each of their years, fulfilling their individual life purpose in a culture that only limitedly enforces rules for how each age must be lived. The ones who get here are also fortunate as so many do not.

In the past, I have written on my belief that one of the tasks of old age is to find peace and alignment with what happens after our bodies cease functioning. This is a spiritual task and whether someone believes in a creator, reincarnation, dust to dust, heaven or hell, it still is important in old age to find acceptance and be comfortable with the ending of physical life. With the uncertainty of exactly what comes next, there is one sure thing. This flesh, that we think of as everything to us, that often defines and explains our whole identity, doesn't last forever.

One of the concepts I found interesting in Eckhart Tolle's book, A New Earth, was how he compared the creation and story of the universe to the same pattern in the human life cycle.

Tolle writes how astronomers have observed the current universe began with the Big Bang probably 15 million years ago. As it expanded, it became more complex. That is not the end of the story. Astronomers believe that someday this universe will reverse itself. The expansion will stop and contracting will begin. It will return to the formlessness from which it began. Perhaps then the process will begin again. Perhaps it has before.

Why this happens is what religions are created to answer, but in the end, it is mystery which mankind tries to understand and must accept through submission if nothing else.
"The outer purpose of the universe is to create form and experience the interaction of forms-- the play, the dream, the drama, or whatever you choose to call it. Its inner purpose is to awaken to its formless essence." Eckhart Tolle in A New Earth.
We are born and grow, expanding our sphere of experience as we learn about the world and our place in it. We love, give, take, hate, and our lives grow in complexity as we mature and take on adult responsibilities. That part of aging goes on a long time-- or so it seems. (Sometimes, when you get to my age, it seems it all happened to someone else.)

It continues that way until another process begins. For most of us that comes with old age as our physical form begins to deteriorate. Our body loses powers. We adapt to these changes or live with constant dread and frustration. Our choices, of necessity, change and can seem to dwindle with our physical abilities.

Tolle writes that with old age, we will have begun a new part of that path from formlessness to form and back to formlessness.

Although humans like to have a firm date for all of this, establishing specific times for saying someone is old (senior discounts, retirement from careers, Medicare, Social Security), in reality aging (contracting) will happen at different times and rates for each of us.

Each of these stages-- the becoming more and then the becoming less-- have purposes. Tolle writes that the purpose of youth is doing; the purpose of old age is being. It is unfortunate that our culture has little respect for the old age part of this cycle. In some cultures, it is the aged to whom others go for wisdom, for spiritual guidance, for the telling of the stories through which they have learned. The elderly are a repository of wisdom regarding the changes they have witnessed. The elderly also can be the ones who have time and experience to delve into the spiritual realm and come up with truths that help those younger.

Regardless of the life stage, some humans resist their purposes. Some youths refuse to grow up, resist taking on responsibility for their own lives, don't want an education, or to have life experiences that would stretch them. Perhaps they put it off believing there is will be time later or they darned well won't do what their parents did.

Generally speaking, humans aren't governed as much by instincts as other animals. At least in our culture today, there aren't firm guidelines for how to ideally live a life during growing years. Have children early. Don't have children at all. Experience adventure early. Get a meaningful career. Stick to easily changed jobs. Get married. Don't get married and so it goes with options that vary for the individual as to which best expand their life experience.

Arriving at the elder years, it's the same thing. Some elders don't want to think they are old. They look around, think they don't look so bad, have seen how the aged are disrespected and by golly, they do not want to become formless or invisible.

Face lifts, hair dye, lots of exercise with a trainer, youthful clothing, constant rounds of activities,and doing anything possible to deny that the path ahead is back-- to formlessness. This wouldn't matter if there had been no purpose to this contracting stage of life, but what if there is?

(The first three pictures were scanned from 35mm slides. 1966 was reading in bed; 1979 was hiking in Arizona, Seven Falls behind me; 1993 was reading at a campsite on Miller Creek in Montana; and yesterday was here at the farmhouse. All photos taken by my husband.)

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Brulé

What makes us who we are? We are born with certain genetic traits, of course, but by the time we get to my age (almost 65), a lot of things have come into the picture: what we have fed our bodies and minds, how we treat others, what we value, who we love, who we hate. Our identity is sometimes created by influences we no longer even recognize or think about as they have become so much a part of us.

For me, and I believe many others, music can be one of those influences. Are we drawn to a particular music by who we are, who we want to be, or is it what we need at that time? The kind of music I listen to varies from time to time. What kind of art am I creating? What am I writing? What do I feel the need for inside myself?

I don't remember how many years ago I discovered Brulé, but it was on a CD of other Native American music. The songs by Brulé though were the ones I kept playing and playing again. I could feel the impact of natural living, of spirit, and flesh. It has never ceased speaking to my soul.

Frequently I create to this music. I dance to it. I love to it. When I had my grandchildren here, I put on some of it for them, and my granddaughter said she wanted to paint a painting of what it made her feel. She didn't know I often do the same thing, nor did she know how much it pleased me to watch her paint a canyon with sky beyond it, wildflowers and rocks. It was very much like the music.

Paul LaRoche is the creative spirit behind the music of Brulé. He had been adopted as a baby from the Lower Brulé Sioux Indian Reservation. It was after his adoptive parents died in 1993 that he found his Lakota relatives. Meeting his people, his relatives, profoundly changed his life, his music, and from that Brulé was born. Today his two adult children perform with him on the albums.

When I decided I wanted to write about Brulé was the first time I wondered whether it might be on YouTube. As always I post the link and the embedded video because for me the videos often don't play as well as going to the site.




Spirit Horses was beautifully illustrated to fit the music by WarriorPanther.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The mystery of life

Of all of life's mysteries, for me, the greatest is its end. We kind of know how life begins with conception and birth. We even have some control over it. Death however is more mysterious. An illness that takes one life will spare another. Accidents happen almost seemingly by fluke and someone we know or love is gone. It's a mystery.

The greatest of the mysteries is when death takes a friend or close relative. How can someone who has always been there suddenly be gone? How can the earth go on when life was ended for them? The loss never totally leaves when it's been someone really close. The sadness might go, but the place that person held in our heart is still there and always will be.

My somewhat fatalistic musing is triggered by going to one of my regular blog reads, Winston's Nobody Asked, and learning he had died suddenly this week-end. He will be missed as he was a good person, caring, and he wrote an interesting blog about life. Selfishly, even more than that, I will miss his occasional emails and comments here as he always had good insights. I am going to write more words but will never again see his name pop up. Damn.

When I read his wife's words about his death, I felt so much shock that I had to go back and reread it. How could it be? Was this tongue in cheek? Winston was good at satire writing. He had seemed a bit fatalistic in his last posts; so was this more of that kind of thinking? No, it was for real. He had died and it still doesn't seem real. Summer isn't supposed to be about death. It's about life and full of blooms. Except it isn't always.

The older we get, the more we will have those close to us who have died. On my father's side of the family, I am the oldest, blood-related one left. It makes a person think when so many have gone over. Yes, think, but it doesn't give answers.

Most of us work out some feelings about what we believe comes after death from nothing to pearly gates to rebirth. We can't know for sure though as anyone who saw the white light and is talking about it is still here. Some who have a near death experience have seen the other side or so they believe but much of that can be duplicated by stimulating a certain part of the brain. That doesn't mean their seeing wasn't real as perhaps our brains carry with them memories we can't normally access.

Death is a mystery that despite some, who claim answers, we will have to speculate about until it is our turn as it was Winston's this week-end.

For us, who live on, even if there is a heaven or spirits roaming around us or reincarnation, we still have lost that one who we knew, with whom we lived. They will never be with us again in that flesh, that person with that name, their smile, their touch, their words. Even if we believe in the survival of the spirit, it is still a terrible loss of that physical being here and now. For me, death is beyond understanding on the deepest level even if I have learned through the years that I must accept it.

Winston was a good guy, and he will be missed by many in his real life and many others in the internet world. June was a good month, but it ended on a sad note.

(The photo at the top is of New Grange Triple Spiral, something my son and daughter-in-law brought me from Ireland. I keep it by my computer as I not only like its beauty but what it represents. It is a symbol of three, man/woman/child and birth/love/death.

The bowl behind is a singing bowl. When the mallet is circled around the top, the bowl will begin to vibrate making a unique, melodic humming sound, almost a magical, heavenly sound, each unique to the type of bowl being used. There is a bit of a gift to it. Don't hold it tight or it stifles the vibration, keep the motion constant and let the sound soak in. Some users can really make their bowls sing-- a bit like life.)