Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Educated Self-Interest

It occurs to me that, one of the things needing more thought and discussion is the subject of self-interest-- in particular self-interest as opposed to selfishness. If you listen to some right wingers talk, you'd think that all we should care about is what best serves us and ours. Is that a good way to look at the fact that we live in a community and we cannot escape sometimes being invaded by those we might have preferred to fence out?

I think of the frightening school shootings that happen every so often and most recently in Ohio. No matter how we raise our children, how we try to keep them safe, we can find our world totally disrupted by someone else. Someone, who doesn't give a damn about us and ours and shows it by a violent act. Can anyone, no matter how much wealth they accrue really live in a bubble?

The Ayn Rand philosophy, that permeates a lot of the right wing, sounds as though the only logical self interest is selfishness. It espouses the view that we should only care about what benefits us directly. There are those convinced that it is a sound philosophy for life. What needs exploring is what does educated self-interest actually mean?

Rand called for a philosophy, illustrated in her novel Atlas Shrugged with her hero John Galt, that indicated taking care of yourself was the most important thing you could do. Charities, any of the things that puts another ahead of yourself, are wrong. I saw a good YouTube where Christopher Hitchens was asked about this and took that view apart rather brilliantly, I thought.

Basically he was saying that we don't need to be taught to be selfish. That's inherent in man. Babies must be selfish as it's how they will survive by having others do things for them. What they must be taught as they grow is that the world does not revolve around them. One article I saw recently said a selfish attitude in the young doesn't really disappear until around 33. I don't know about that, but I think the real issue is to figure out what self-interest means. If we think it means doing everything just for us, we are missing the point.

Educated self-interest means we can see the actual results of something which might seem to be outside of ourselves but impacts us anyway. If we think that all we need to do is, what serves us, we don't grasp the interconnectedness of life.

Tribal living probably made interconnectedness more obvious than the way we live today. The consequences of our living only for 'me' in a tribe is we die ourselves when food isn't gathered and shared. Bad behavior in a tribe is immediately noticed and cannot be hidden. The consequences of being destructively self-centered in today's world may not show up for a long time. We may think we are gaining by a me-me-me attitude, but I think eventually it rebounds on us.

An example is how we see quality education. If I didn't have any kids in public school, no grandkids there, why should I care? Generations before knew it was not only a way for the young to rise up a level from where their parents were but also was a bulwark for our society because it makes a better environment for us all to experience. Caring about those schools is what you could call educated selfishness. We care because it will impact us and we see that.

When I saw Santorum say that sending off our children to college was dooming them to lose their faith and it was Obama's plot to get them educated and be atheists, I could hardly believe it. But then it's hard to believe a lot of what he says. Is this guy mentally deranged or just saying what he believes 20% of Americans and a lot of them Republicans believe?

If children go away from a home where education was not stressed, where exploring of ideas was not permitted, when they get to college, they might find a lot of facts that disturb their previous ignorant comfort zone. But it won't be college that did it. It will be knowledge. Literally it sounded as though Santorum thinks educated self-interest to him means ignorance.

People can go to college and come out of it stronger believers in their religion than when they entered. It all depended on what their faith was based upon.

When I favor health care for all, it is because I see that as better for me. The idea that some suffer with ailments that could be treated or die prematurely for wont of the right medicine, does that make me happy? Not hardly. So an educated self interest would mean we'd like all health care to be good and available.

I don't disagree that we have to take care of ourselves before we can take care of others. But that's not an either or. It's a not getting the cart in front of the horse. It is educated self-interest and understanding that caring about the quality of other people's life is to our own good also.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Food Police

This is the kind of thing that drives me and a lot of other people over the edge. I get it that children should have nutritious lunches but frankly what the school substituted (in both the cases that got publicity on this) didn't sound more nutritious. It also did not take into account that a child eats food over a whole day.

Even more though, it's not the business of school police to dictate parental choices for healthy food. What about vegetarian children? Some children are sensitive to dairy. Sweet potato is an example of a nutritious vegetable? Chicken nuggets, often fried in fat, that's better than the healthy sounding sandwich this mother had prepared along with fruit? Two servings of fruit and/or vegetable at each meal? It sure wasn't how I ate or eat today for that matter. Hope nobody comes around to inspect my choices for lunch!

Culturally is this what we want to have happen to four year olds? When I was in school (and likewise my kids), I didn't like cafeteria food and always brought my lunch which often was half a sandwich and maybe a piece of fruit. That was it.

I know we have a problem with childhood obesity in this country but deep-fried chicken nuggets and sweet potatoes or a doughnut is better than the lunch that came from home? In my opinion, it is not up to the government to send someone around changing what a family believes is healthy-- and charging them for it.

On top of it, we, as tax payers, are paying for these food police operations. This is one state but is it happening elsewhere? You think it's a good idea? I wonder how much of this got lobbied into existence by corporate food interests since many of the school lunch systems are now run by fast food enterprises. I don't see this as the work of left wing, do-gooders (though it could be) but rather by a group who want more of the children eating from the place from which they profit!

It seems to me that no matter where we look, we see more and more invasion into our personal lives, and a lot of these things are coming from corporations who want more control over our lives to profit themselves as much as possible.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Can cats cry?

This is a question I'd have never asked before Sunday. If you read my blog here, you know we adopted a cat from a cat rescue group. She was two and a half years old and had been adopted before but sent back. We got her from a pet store that puts these cats in cages for people to see.

From the moment I saw her, I wanted her and my love of her has grown immensely in the two months since we brought her home and named her Pepper. We had one glitch in that they claimed as part of the fee we paid ($85) she had all her shots, but after we got her to the farm, we saw she had not had a rabies vaccination.

I wanted to put that off as long as possible as I knew how it would seem to her whenever we took her in for it-- as though she was on her way to being dumped again. You know these cats in the rescue groups are taken to foster homes which are safe, secure places, but they are not their homes. I felt it would make her fearful if we had to take her into the veterinarian any sooner than must.

Rabies vaccinations might not be an issue for some house cats, but first of all eventually we will be letting her go outside during the day (she hasn't yet). And we happen to now and again have bats get into our house from the attic. That happened the other night, and it scared me bad as she jumped for the bat and missed before we could shoo the bat outside. There is, of course, almost no chance it had rabies, but the very idea of it made me know we had to get the shot and now.

So we found out that we could get the rabies shot from the same place we had gotten her, as they have veterinarians who come in and only charge $5 for the shot. I kind of still wanted to take her to the vet as we had never gone to such a clinic, and I had a feeling it would be more stressful for her. The cost difference though was high, and so I yielded to having it done at the store.

When we got ready to go, we tried to get her into the cat box and she ran for it. We finally got her out from under the big bed (not an easy reach), and into the car we all went. I put my hand back to reassure her and that's when I saw the tears. At first I thought maybe she had scratched her eye but she had not. There is only one explanation I can find for those tears-- that she thought after all this time we also were going to dump her.

The store was every bit the negative experience with one exception. I mean it was a long wait and there were a lot of barking dogs. One old man and his little dog were in front of us. By that time Pepper was into the usual cat mode of slumped into enduring what she must. It was all taking a very long time.

When I saw the old man leave with his little dog, I worried that he had been too tired and wished he had said something as we'd have saved his place. He seemed like such a sweet old man and he showed such love for his little dog. It worried me that he had felt the line was too much for him.

 I kept an eye out in case he would come back as we waited and talked to those around us. It went on and on with only slow progress on the line. Then I saw him at the cash register talking to one of the clerks. I stayed with Pepper while Farm Boss went over and asked if he wanted to return to his place in line in front of us. He went and got his dog from the car and they returned. Nobody behind objected.

When it was our turn, the woman at the desk said our shot had been paid for.  We assumed he had done it and wished he hadn't because he really didn't seem like someone who had much money, but I guess it was important to him to show his gratitude.

When we drove in our driveway, Pepper came out of her funk and began to stand in her box, her ears up, as she smelled the scents and heard the sheep. By the time she got back into the house, it only took a few minutes for her to come out from under the bed again and begin to play with her toys and Blackie. (One of her favorite toys is this laser pointer that you can see her about to pounce on. The older cats aren't fooled but she loves to try and catch it).

Before I decided to write about it here, I did some research on whether cats can cry. The experts say they cannot but anecdotal evidence from other cat owners says they can. I can't explain any other reason for those big, very obvious tears.

So, as to whether cats can cry, all I know is Pepper had very real tears rolling down her face alongside her nose, and there was no explanation for them physically that we could see. With all my years of having cats, I've never seen this before except from an eye irritated by something. Before Sunday, I would have said they can't cry.  Now, I'd say, yes they can with enough motive.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Birth Control

This might surprise a few readers of this blog who have not been with me long, but quite a few years ago, Farm Boss and I led a teen-age youth group from our rural church. We did this over a period of years and had their Sunday night meetings at our farmhouse.

The sessions were a Bible study and making it practical for issues they would face in their daily lives (sometimes there would be a pizza, movie and hot tub party). These were the years when we believed in a fundamental Christian view of the Bible; so don't panic that we were leading them into decadence. We did, however, discuss many touchy subjects and one of them was birth control.

Back then we taught that sex outside of marriage-- any sex outside of marriage-- was a sin biblically speaking. BUT birth control was not. We took the view that many unwanted pregnancies come out of young people who think they can let themselves be carried away by sex and somehow avoid feeling they sinned as greatly if they were not using birth control-- you know the old-- if it just happens, there is less blame than if it's planned. We taught that adding birth control onto sex didn't enhance the infraction.

The Catholic basis for their claim it is a mortal sin goes back to the story of Onan (Genesis 38:8-10) where I believe they totally missed the point of the story as many do with Sodom and Gomorrah. However, they don't care much about that fact as with their Pope getting orders directly from God, they can say it's a sin with no logical biblical basis.

For anybody without a Bible or who doesn't want to bother looking up the story of Onan, it's typical Old Testament. Fathers took wives for their sons. God smote whoever didn't do his will.

In this case, Judah got Tamar as a wife for his oldest son. Oldest son did evil in God's eyes (doesn't say what). God killed him. So Judah ordered his son Onan to have sex with his brother's widow, as her brother-in-law, and the child would be considered that it was his brother's.

Onan, not surprisingly didn't take well to this idea. The offspring would never be his. Sounds like he'd not even get to marry the widow. Frankly it's a weird story however you look at it. But Onan went to her and 'wasted his seed on the ground' which might mean withdrawal (Catholics also use this story to claim masturbation is a mortal sin). Anyway when God saw this, He killed Onan too. (Tamar has an interesting story if you want to pursue what happened next to her).

Most of us, using logic (not needed for those who base everything on faith), would say God was mad at Onan because he wouldn't do what his father and God wanted-- produce an heir illicitly for his brother-- the one who did something so bad that God had killed him for it.

So to rebel against God or your father could end up with a death sentence. But the story isn't about birth control as anybody can see. The Popes though began to use it as their justification for no birth control (except the rhythm method-- figure the logic on that one)-- and considering it to be a mortal sin if you do use it. And for any non-Catholics reading here, mortal sins are the biggies, the kind God smites you for (see above for what that could mean) versus venal sins which are the minor ones. (Wonder where they classify Bishops who hid the sexual molestation being done by their priests -- probably okay as it was protecting the Church which clearly always takes the priority).

Anyway now we have in our country some people, even those who are not Catholics, defending the Catholic right to dictate this logic onto every single person in the country under threat of law if enough voters agree with them.

Now I think the evangelical wing of the church (and mostly christianists whatever they call themselves as their practices sure don't follow Christ's teachings) want to block birth control access because they are convinced that everybody using it is out committing some kind of licentious act. If they block birth control availability, people won't be doing that... Told you logic isn't a factor in any of this.

You know, I don't really have a problem with people using twisted logic and considering themselves to be better than everybody who doesn't. It's their problem-- right up until they want to make everybody else also follow that logic. Then it's my problem.

When a pharmacist in a small town in the South said he would not fill a birth control prescription for a woman because it was a sin to use it, it was really the first volley in a new culture war. We are now being told it would be okay, this by a candidate running for the presidency of this nation, if a state voted to make all birth control illegal. It would be okay to make Catholic moral laws into American legal laws (based on believing that above story makes sense as well as that any Pope has a direct pipeline to God for being given instructions for what we should do under threat not just of death now but also hell). A lot of us are still in shock.

The argument that birth control allows for illicit sex is obviously proven wrong by statistics. Half of all pregnancies are unplanned according to statistics (maybe going back to the logic of if I didn't take birth control, the sin is lessened).

Any stupid argument that a couple should have all the children god naturally gives them makes me want to ask-- so no intervention regarding your nearly rupturing appendix since god gave you that too?

What is happening now is purely illogical. Not that logic is much praised these days from the far right where only blind faith is admired and as for facts-- what are those?

You know to believe in making sure birth control is easily available to women does not mean one is promoting a licentious lifestyle. Where it comes to sexuality, I don't have the religious view on it anymore but still believe living a life of sex with a rotating set of partners is not healthy. I believe in honesty and openness in sexual connections even if marriage isn't a factor or frankly even if it's polyamory. The thing is even for those doing the one-night stands, it doesn't make it more healthy to add with no birth control.

My guess is most birth control is used within marriages or committed relationships. For those of us shaking our heads at this even being an issue again, we see this as not about morality but about responsibility for yourself, the children you might have and the ones you already have. This means not just as an individual but as a community-- which is why it matters that birth control is available and easy to get-- even if it's no longer an issue for us personally. It's about operating from logic not blind unthinking faith.

This is a good link and I hope you take a look at it.

Monday, February 20, 2012


Pretty much whenever we are not in an election year, I have said I was going to keep politics out of this blog. I would write about cultural issues but not going to go into political issues and politicians because I felt we needed to think positive for our health and good of our lives.

It didn't take long before I decided I had to have a place to rant and that became Rainy Day Things where I wrote whatever was on my mind politically and let this place stick to more pleasant topics like nature and life.

Well it's back to an election year and I am feeling like more than ever we need to care about politics and that I cannot discuss cultural issues here without them. So this is a warning to those who want the sweet side of life-- politics are going to be here with the issues and the politicians until after the election in November. I will, as I always have, put some sugar with the bitter by using recently taken photos generally of nature. And of course, there will be other things to write about sometimes. I don't live, breathe and eat politics, but I do care a lot about what's going on.

Putting politics back here is something I feel is critical because I see what is happening right now, with the divisions in our country, as impacting our daily lives, our future. What do we do about that is where we come into political solutions-- for those who don't want violent or otherwise revolutions.

In a lot of ways we have always been a divided country with historically half of us thinking one way and half the opposite. We have fought wars over it. We elect one political party and they go one way. The other heads off the other.  Some people love that back and forth as if having no firm direction is good.

Personally, I am not thrilled with either party at the moment, and some of what they do is plain nuts to me.  However one party threatens all the values I hold dear and it's not the Democrats.

I shake my head when I hear Democrats did something like want bigger big tax credits for anybody who buys a Volt (yeah I get it why but it still seems wrong to me). Equally I was not thrilled when Republicans did it for those who bought a Humvee or other gas guzzling vehicle. (interesting too how that same party would have let GM go down the tube-- so it sure wasn't about jobs they had their tax credit). Why can't these guys simply NOT have tax credits for buying any automobile?

There is a lot of concern on the right for our culture. Some of what worries them, I get. When I hear the big increase in children born outside of marriage [Statistics in Births], it's not just righties who are asking what is going on. 60+% of under 30s are having their babies while not married.

But I don't automatically think this means born from one-night stands. This seems to me as much about an increasing lack of faith in the whole system with people living together rather than marrying. Marriage is really a contract between two people and the government. When people lose faith in the system, they are probably less apt to commit not just to each other but to it.

So a lot of us are not thrilled at this situation (it's the same in England; so not Obama's fault but rather symptomatic of our times), but what is the solution from the right wing-- block access to birth control.  Say what! A person would laugh if it wasn't so pathetic. They also think (Rush Limbaugh types) that they should end food stamps and government entitlement programs. More starvation and less of this happening! Santorum would add to that by ending publicly funded education. Who cares what happens to those kids at least once they get born!

When I first read about the small town pharmacist (couple of years ago) who was refusing to fill prescriptions for birth control pills, I didn't realize this was about to be a trend-- actually the first volley in a very real culture war- and not just about trying to change minds but also to literally change laws.

How many understood that the 2010 mid-term elections were really about these cultural changes that right wingers then began to make like going after the unions which have been the engine for middle class Americans. When they go after unions, to block them from negotiating for better pay or working conditions, they are going after all middle class Americans.

There is no alternative party for people like me. It has to be the Democrats whether I like all they do or not. Listen to the right wing candidates who sound so eager to get into a war with Iran. It might come to that. I hope it won't, but if it does, I don't want it to be from leaders who are salivating over the possibilities to profit from it or from the American love of gladiators so they can get excited about someone else taking the risks they themselves don't want to take.

But what party could I support when I hear somebody joke, as a recent right wing moneybags did, about women keeping their legs together and they won't need birth control. Or when I read and see videos of what Santorum actually stands for and has said-- and he's leading the Republican pack-- even if that's only for the moment?

I thought about it with this blog whether to try and keep it a refuge. But heck there are plenty of blogs out there for that. I need to write what is on my mind and what my conscience dictates, and that means not just use 'Things' to vent those feelings. I also feel there is value in a place like this for others to comment and as a way to discuss issues and possible ideas. For awhile it seemed okay to have that in an adjunct to this one, but the problem keeps escalating to the point I think it is a cultural war and it's one I don't feel we can afford to lose.

The issue is what can we do about the nuttiness? I don't totally know but discussions in places like this seem like a good place to think about it. I will try to put up at least one blog a week that has something unpolitical for those who simply cannot stand to follow this sordid stuff.  This is no time to be silent though and frankly it's about all I have a lot of interest in writing other than my fiction.

I hope if you are someone who has decided to tune out, you will recognize what is at stake where it comes to donating, volunteering and voting. If it's okay with you what the right wants to do, then that's how it is. One side has to win. I want it to be mine and will be writing a LOT more about what I think is at stake.

I try to not get angry at things like this: [right wingers go wild against women around the country].  It's hard and worse than this is going on around the world. It's hard not to want to scream when I hear a woman like Liz Trotta trying to blame assaults on women in the military on the women themselves and those who helped women be allowed to have roles there commensurate with their abilities.

I have a granddaughter who will come of age possibly in a time where she won't know the freedoms my daughter had. That doesn't seem right and it does seem important to stand up to not let happen. I do not feel hopeless about this. I feel it's a time we have to fight for what earlier generations earned. It is our turn.

Oregon Coast February 18th--one of the ways we can be active, informed and still not go nuts!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

February at Finley

It's a busy time with lambing etc etc. When Farm Boss and I want a break but can't really take one that far off, we head out to Finley Wildlife Refuge,just south of Corvallis, and sit watching the geese and ducks. The sounds of the birds as they land and take off-- no lambs or ewes complaining-- is restoring to us both. Twenty lambs so far which is over halfway through. They are coming fast which is ideal.

You wonder what stress we might have-- try anything on the news and most of it those who read this blog already know. In case you missed this though from Jon Stewart, take a few minutes to read it and watch the video-- then find your favorite nature retreat. You're going to need it.

These photos are all from Finley in February. Recently Farm Boss bid on eBay and was able to buy a used 1.4x extender for our 400 mm Canon Image Stabilized "L" lens. Finley was our first chance to try it out. Where it comes to what I covet, it's an F 4 - 800mm with stabilizer but likely it would require a tripod and a mule when taking it on walks. This small extender didn't appear to make the tripod necessary and wasn't all that heavy. Because of our love of watching and photographing wildlife, something I hope to do again in Montana and Yellowstone this summer, it would be nice to get something that let us get closer to wolves without being closer to wolves.

Friday, February 17, 2012

On Writing by Paulo Coelho

On my blog on my writing, Rain Trueax, I put out my ideas about writing, the philosophy behind my books, how they come to me, and then, of course, about the books themselves. I debated for awhile putting this link there but really it seemed better here where more will see it.

I have liked Paulo Coelho's books a lot. They are wonderful simple stories that are rewarding in the ideas about life, spirit and for the enjoyment of the read. If you haven't already discovered him, give him a try by checking out his blog which is in my blog roll alongside here.

I thought this interview is good as a possible inspiration for other writers or would-be writers. His thoughts on the topics are short, to the point, and sweet-- like his books.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Getting good deals on Kindle books

Since I got my Kindle, I have become a fan. The problem though for new owners (once they get used to reading books a new way) is finding books at an economical price.

Frankly I won't be buying any bestsellers for my eReaders. The price isn't competitive considering you can resell a paper book; but an eBook, all you can do is loan it or delete it.

What I have discovered though is there are a lot of economical reads out there especially if they are by writers who either wrote for a publishing house earlier and got their rights back; or are indie writers-- going ePub instead of corporate. The problem is finding them. Since I've learned a few ways, I thought I'd share them.

First of all, of course, is buying old classics especially if you can get them in collections. They are usually quite reasonable and you then have, whenever you want it, access to writers you probably would not want to have on your shelf for the space they'd take up. An example for $2.99-- Complete Plays of Shakespeare or for $.00-- Leaves of Grass-- Walt Whitman.

The free ones aren't always the best deal though as a table of contents, making it easier to navigate, is valuable and usually still only a couple of dollars. With almost all of these books, you can get sample pages to determine if the text is as you want. Some classics have been scanned; and although you do get the book, it can be harder to find anything in it. I got a wonderful research book on Oregon history free that way, one I couldn't buy today anywhere; so it was worth it being a scan as I do have the information at least.

As you are thinking what classics you might want, there are also sales. I regularly check Daily Cheap Reads where all the books are under $5 for the day. You never know what you will find. They are a mix of nonfiction, fiction, Christian-- Some by well-known writers and from publishing houses. I have yet to see a current best seller though.

Always check when you go to the link to be sure the book is still on sale for that price. Recently I bought Giants, the Parallel Lives of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln by John Stauffer.  I paid $1.99 for a book otherwise listed at $9.99. I won't know until I read it if it's a great read, but I didn't invest much if it isn't.

Then there is hitting the Amazon Forums. My favorite is the one for authors where readers are welcome-- Meet Our Authors .  Sort down through the topics to threads. They are there for non-fiction and pretty much any genre you might wish. You will find a link to the book as well as a promo for what the book is about. Mostly authors who post there are independent and not from a publishing house which is why the prices are generally better.

You can check quality of writing from these independent writers by looking at samples which should be free. Frankly if an author didn't offer a sample, I'd avoid them. Samples can be the first chapter or scattered throughout the book. They pretty well tell you if this is a well edited story and whether the style of writing is something you would like.

In researching this, I came across this site which looked good-- 5 Websites for free Kindle books.  It had one website that covered classics.  I haven't  perused it much yet, but I will when I have time.

I know a lot of you don't want to give up your paper books. That's fine but think about this kind of reading as an adjunct. Lightweight, easy to get a book fast, bookmarking possible, and easier on your eyes than a computer (although when you buy a Kindle, you can read it on your computer if you prefer. I don't as I spend too much time looking at a computer screen already).

And if you aren't ready to try the eReaders just yet, bookmark those cheap sites as someday you might be glad you have them :)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Sleepless in Seattle

In case anybody wants a really good romantic movie for Valentine's Day, try Sleepless in Seattle. We watched it last night. I had forgotten it was really about Valentine's Day. It is, and it's on Netflix.

It's about life!

In the midst of a kind of murky Pacific Northwest winter, cow problems (which have been resolved satisfactorily by selling the cow/calf to someone who had  time to deal with the problem; plus the cow might be a better mother away from her herd), lambing (14 lambs and counting), a cold/allergy/something that seems to know no end and has evidently evolved into something with a life all its own for both Farm Boss and me, political stories that are depressing, world events that are even more so, I am feeling so lucky that I write.

Instead of dwelling on all the things going wrong, I can immerse myself into a hero who satisfies all the vitality and excitement that frankly I wouldn't have energy for if he showed up anywhere but on the page. I don't have to do a thing to get all that flowing into me. Just write about him and his heroine, about the joys they are discovering and for a few hours, I am into their life, not my own.

With writing I can go someplace warm if I want and bask in a climate change created by my imagination and laid out by words. I can revisit places I have loved but where I may never return. I can own a home that I'd never be able to find in my reality but enjoy my time there while I write about it. A lot of times I can almost visualize what that house was like as though it had been real even though I know it never was.

When I do dwell on some problem in my characters' lives, it's just plain different than when it's my own. For one thing I know it's going to work out for them. I am going to make it work out.

When I read the newspaper, I get all my need for misery like a story that happened last week. A young man drove up to a boat ramp and saw the car of the woman he loved had been accidentally driven into the river and was slowly sinking. Heroically he dove in to try and save her. He drowned. Not only that but she had already been saved and was down the river a ways. Now that's a real life story which still disturbs me days later because it's how life often works out but we wish it would not.

Then there is this photo taken in Yemen by Spanish photographer Samuel Aranda. Arab Spring deservedly won the 2011 World Press Photo of the Year award. The beautiful, almost spiritual photo tells us of the cost of war and love with one photograph. But it doesn't tell us how the story ended or even what it was. The photo gives us that one moment with all its beauty and angst. The writer can take that moment and create a story that does end happily or sadly. It is a choice. Life does what it will. Fiction gives us an option.

In any book I write, my characters might struggle and nearly lose their lives, but I have the power and will make sure hero and heroine survive. That's the wonder of fiction, and why writing is so rewarding when days are tough. For a few hours every day you can get away and be someone else as you create dialogue and actions that are equally believable to how life works, but where it ends the 'right' way instead of the tragic.

Dreams kind of fit in here also as what we dream sometimes works out to be fuel for a good story. I've had more than one book come from a bit I got in a dream and expanded.  We don't really have control over our dreams-- or do we? Sometimes I wonder from where they have come.

The dream the other night is pretty obvious from where it came. I had been shopping in a store with several clerks, a family who had two children. I was looking for Christmas presents for our grandchildren but the prices were a little steep; so ended up buying nothing. I went across the way to a hill that overlooked a river, a kind of small bay off the river and the store. I was there with my grandchildren and another adult who was most likely Farm Boss.

As I looked back down suddenly a flood had expanded into a tsunami. The huge wave wiped out that little store before the water disappeared. I was concerned to protect my grandchildren first but then we went back down  to find the parents were in the store and had managed to survive the disaster but their children had been swept away.

Sounds like a tragedy, right, but there were people looking for the two kids. It seemed it'd be about retrieving bodies, but suddenly they shouted they'd found them and they were alive. One had gotten hold of a tree, the other grabbed onto a cable like the one that stretches across our stream.

Even in my dreams, if I can work it out, I create happy endings. Sometimes it's through lucid dreaming where you know you are dreaming and you rewrite an ending that appears to be going the wrong way. Other times, like this one, I guess my subconscious just did it for me.

Currently I am dreaming a lot, very vivid dreams that I often remember. Maybe it's happening because I am also writing a lot. I am immersed in these plots and characters and some of it might carry over into the night in a kind of reverse process from the times when I get a story idea from a dream.

For me, to 'grow' characters, to give them tough experiences, find ways for them to get through them, and see them develop more totally into who they were born to be, that is satisfying. You know humans don't always act that way. We've all known those who wallow in the same mistakes year after year after year. That might be 'reality', but what fun is it to read about it or spend months writing about an important character who is like that.

To me, writing should be fun. Save the angst for memoirs. They are where you can't keep control because you are telling a true life story. In fiction why wallow in tragedy? I can't think of a reason; so when I do have my characters go through tough times, which, of course, has to happen to have a story be interesting and because I had set up a problem they'd be going through, I know it'll be worthwhile.

In real life those old saws about it all is for the best, god doesn't give us more than we can handle, or there is a reason for it, etc. etc. Forget it. I don't buy into any of that. Sometimes things just are tragedies. Yes, we can make the best of them but I don't buy they are all the best that could have happened. It's just how life is.

Finally, the best part of writing is you know there are all those ideas for the next book floating around in your head. This one was good but that one, that one will be even better. Writing is a way of both being in the world and out of it. Sometimes that is a very good way to be.

Marketing the books...  Now that's not so much fun!

(I wrote some of this blog for 'Rain Trueax' but when Farm Boss read it (he's my editor and publisher for everything I write), he said the topic should be here too. It is about life and that's the title he said it should have.)

Friday, February 10, 2012


When lambs are being born, there really isn't a lot to say. For the most part it goes well.

We also have a new calf where it's not going quite so super as the mother is young and basically is rejecting it. By putting her in a head gate, we can make her feed it but that can't last. One of those less than perfect aspects to raising livestock. No photos of her. She doesn't deserve it but lamb photos below. Their mamas are almost always wonderful examples of what that cow should be doing.

And what would the story be without him?

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Ulysses S. Grant: Warrior/President

After watching Lewis and Clark, I was happy the next documentary to arrive from Netflix was Ulysses S. Grant: Warrior/President: American Experience. This is another case where I thought I knew some things about the man but found out it was not so much in actuality. The film goes into his childhood, how he got where he was in the military, his tactics when he fought battles, how he became president, and the aftermath of his being president.

What made it even more interesting was how it depicted the historic period into which he was thrust. We all know he was the leader of the North during the Civil War and got elected president, had a drinking problem and had a lot of graft during his time in office. Many reckoned his presidency to be a failure, and he took the blame for many things that were part of the period.

For one thing the country was as divided as it is today. Have we ever been truly one people? Seems unlikely if you look at history. Are all nations so divided? I don't know to what you can attribute our fractiousness, but it's sure there in the run up and then aftermath of the Civil War. It's what Grant inherited.

How many of us knew how many blacks were massacred in the South as vengeance by the whites who blamed them for their downfall? They did not want to let the blacks vote or gain their freedom in any real sense. Naturally the North felt otherwise, right? Nope, not right.

Grant tried to put a stop to the Southern vengeance taking, but the North didn't support him. They were afraid of blacks too and did what they did in less open and violent ways but no less determined to keep blacks in their places. Remember this is a nation that likes haves and have-nots despite the lip service it gives to wanting it to be otherwise. Oregon was pro North while it also passed a law forbidding blacks to own property.

Grant really never even had to run for the presidency as they wanted him and they simply chose him while he only had to say yes. If he'd had to campaign for it, he'd likely have said no. He was a very private man but felt a duty to try and reunite the country. He did want to give his family security, but he didn't live in a time that offered economic security to anyone.

The corruption attached to him though was about his inability to wisely judge people. He didn't personally profit from it. To say he was a poor judge of character is probably accurate and many took advantage of that.

The main thing you get out of this documentary is the portrait of a nation at war, a man who strode through it determined to always finish what he started, and then a man who earned the respect of a nation despite his failings. It seems even then people really liked best to vote for those who seemed like them. In that Grant both was and was not a good example.

The other thing it reminds us is the impact of those massacres right after the war. That was done to intimidate and frighten blacks into staying submissive. Some say blacks didn't do enough to claim their freedom. Try knowing that you could just be standing on a street corner and be gunned down, that the law wasn't for you; then tell me how assertive you'd be. Between that, the arbitrary hangings, and then Jim Crow laws, it took a lot to get us to where as a nation we'd be ashamed of what we'd done and finally make a united stand for Civil Rights. 

I liked this two part documentary from Netflix a lot as it showed how much of what we face today is still here because we never really dealt with it.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Lewis and Clark

Last week we watched the two-part Ken Burns documentary on the journey of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark when they crossed the American continent from where it was settled in Missouri to the Pacific Ocean in 1804-06.

Naturally coming from the Pacific Northwest, I knew the story pretty well. It's part of our education out here and the Northwest is full of signs telling you Lewis and Clark stopped here or there. It can almost become a joke as you drive up the Gorge, through Washington and Idaho into Montana. Any little possible location is marked.

We got this documentary from Netflix watching it over two nights. I didn't expect to learn really anything but I did-- or at least was reminded of things I had forgotten.

It was told through the letters of those on the Corp of Discovery expedition and not just Lewis and Clark. Their words were read by various actors. They didn't use make believe actors to act out any scenes but used old photos (naturally none from the actual trip but there were sketches), scenery and the letters to tell the story. The two captains and 32 men (those numbers vary as to how many started out and a few went back with samples thus not making the full journey) began the trip.  They then added Sacajawea (spelling and pronunciation of her name also varies), her baby, and her husband.

When you think about the daring involved with this, it's pretty amazing and even more so that although they nearly lost their lives several times, the expedition returned having lost only one man who died of something that might have killed him in those days even with doctors handy (possible burst appendix).

The idea was Thomas Jefferson's. He had just acquired the Louisiana Purchase which, as would be the case today, was not popular with those who didn't like the idea of expanding the government's reach.  Jefferson wanted to know what lay out there, get maps and have the expedition keep journals and do a scientific exploration as well as establish friendly relationships with the Native American tribes along the way.

The film is beautifully done with scenery that looks a lot like they would have seen. How they found all that had to be a challenge of its own as most of that country is inhabited today even if sparsely.

There were some disillusioning things about it. Like we want to see men like William Clark as heroic in all areas because they were in a big one. But how he treated his slave, York, who had been brought along as an equal member of the party but was refused his freedom as a reward when he returned with them, well it was less than admirable. After five years, Clark finally relented but mostly it was from pressure by York and not out of the goodness of his heart. He didn't want to lose such a valuable slave. Well couldn't he have paid him a salary commensurate with that value?

And then there is the depression of Meriwether Lewis who died presumably from suicide only three years after they returned. There is some controversy over that suicide since it was in a dangerous region called the Nachez Trace. I have a book which makes a good case for it being murder, but Lewis had well known problems with severe depression and had previously tried to kill himself. His being shot twice, once in the chest and once in the head doesn't mean he couldn't have done it. In those days there really weren't good solutions to severe depression and Lewis had probably felt he had the greatest success of his life at 32 with only downhill to go. Who knows but it was a sad end to his life whatever the truth of his death.

The kind of courage and stamina that it took to do such a journey in a time when if you ran into trouble, you couldn't ring home for help, well it is indeed impressive and to leave on a trip where you really didn't know where you were going exactly, well it was very courageous. Their only backup was their wits and what they brought with them.

Their investigative trip began the opening up of the region which would have happened anyway with the westward thrust of this country; but this helped people to understand what was out there and laid groundwork for someday getting Oregon Territory from the control of the British.

You know, the plus of watching such a documentary is feeling uplifted by what men and women can do. We need inspiration. I think it's even healthy to realize the noblest of people have their own failings. It's kind of the whole picture of man's potential and the pitfalls for which he must beware. The other thing is-- in what a wonderful country for beauty we have been blessed to live. I have seen a lot of the places along their path and it's as beautiful as this movie portrays it.

Thursday, February 02, 2012


As usual with the coming of the Celtic festival, Imbolc, which means ewe's milk, we have our first lamb.  This is the time of new birth, of the beginning of spring even though the official spring start is a month and a half off. We can see it though in the grass, the tips of the branches, as can the ewes with their bodies swollen and so ready to give birth.

It's how I feel now with my desire for earth healing, my own healing, and a need for vision and strength with this new season as the world again moves toward the light. The rainbow above the cattle was taken February 1st and created by atmosphere. Farm Boss could tell you how come it happens. Me, I just enjoy it.

Because it seemed interesting to look for a card that might represent Imbolc for this blog, I shuffled, cut, and dealt out one.

As happens so often, I felt Elder of Earth was perfect. Journey through the Gaian Tarot says it represents a simple but abundant life. Even though the Elder has security of possessions, she knows true security lies with her relationship with the land, family, friends, community, and with the Great Mystery. These are riches beyond measure. She enjoys a lifestyle of simplicity and self-sufficiency and of cultivating the skills that make that possible.

The perfect card for Imbolc.