Beginning October 21, this blog, Rain Trueax's Rainy Day Thoughts, will have a co-author-- painter and long-time friend, Diane Widler Wenzel. We have been sharing, encouraging, and discussing life for over 50 years. We don't always agree... I think this will be fun trip for us both. New posts will be on Saturdays and otherwise randomly as something of interest happens.

Monday, December 31, 2007

Contemplation time-- or not

Usually I take the time between Christmas and New Year's to contemplate the year that is leaving and the one coming. I look over my intentions from the previous year, re-evaluate them for the coming one. I read books that will help me live a more meaningful way-- not self-help usually but memoir type books of how others have lived in ways that inspires me. It has been satisfying to spend that week doing 'inner' work and with the weather often either rainy or cold, looking outside further encourages inner contemplation.

This year was very different, with very little time for contemplating, as we had our family time the week-end after Christmas. Sunday there were 18 of us here-- 9 of them under the age of 16. Is there anything more satisfying than to see your family enjoying a big dinner and those at the tables running the gamut of recently born to elder? Well actually there may be some things, but this is definitely among them.

This was the first time I had fixed a big dinner for a houseful in a few years. There has always been pleasure for me in pulling together a lot of good food for a lot of people. I think it comes from watching my mother, grandmothers, and aunts do it. As a child our holiday dinners were always at least 20 with kids and adults everywhere. Usually they were not sit-down-at-a-table dinners but rather eat wherever you could sit, sometimes with what used to be more common-- TV trays-- or your lap. Depending on whose home, there might be a kids' table. I remember the cousin times with great fondness.

Yesterday I got to relive some of the feeling of those years with my brother's family and mine. I had pulled out three tables using my old lace tablecloths and some beautiful pink rose buds on each that I had bought for $9.99 at Safeway. Part of my enjoyment in doing such dinners comes from setting the scene. I didn't use the old china, silver, nor crystal because to be honest I didn't want to have to wash dishes before and after, nor polish silver. Love the old ways or not, I love my dishwasher.

Yesterday we had a kids' table. The second cousins ran around the house shrieking with laughter and doing all the things I remember so well. The women hung out in the kitchen, the men watched football and the meal came out wonderfully well-- ham, scalloped potatoes, cauliflower, salad, dinner rolls, two kinds of pie, lots of coffee and wine. All in all, it was a very satisfying day for me and I think everyone here.

So my contemplating time is pushed to the coming week when we will have entered 2008, which I hope will be a better year for the world. I mentioned before that numerologists say 2008 means a year of beginnings. I bought the We'Moon desk calendar book for '08 and they titled this Mending the Web. Maybe we can each do that within our own lives. Mending isn't always as much fun as sewing something new, but it's rewarding too as we repair something that has lost purposefulness.

Our earth purpose today has seemed to be heading more and more to greed, to some not caring what they do to others all to gain more power for themselves. We cannot totally stop such people before they do damage, but we can mend our own web and grow ourselves individually stronger and stronger with the energy that goes out from us being healing to the world. And if it can't heal the world, it will have at least worked good in our own little corner of it. Sometimes that is hard enough.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

executive power

I would like to encourage anyone, especially if still undecided regarding their vote in the rapidly approaching primaries, to read the following link and check out the results of the poll where each candidate was asked to answer the questions on where they stand on Executive Power.

To me, there has not been any issue that matters more than stopping the path upon which the current administration has set the United States-- toward an imperial presidency with signing statements undoing laws, arresting people with no warrant nor need for a charge, torturing, going to war using lies, and justifying it all by saying in time of war, which the president decides this is or is not, anything goes for the executive branch and ordinary laws are not meaningful.

This country was founded on the goal of democracy which does not mean one person or even a small group running everything. Recently, this generation has seemed all too willing to fritter Constitutional rights away in the supposed name of safety-- all the while shouting out loudly how much they value democracy and how patriotic they are.

Who can we trust to change course-- and a change of course is required if we don't want to lose our ability to ever change it! What candidates say they will do doesn't always end up rarely ends up being what they do; but at least if they begin by saying they favor an imperial presidency (as Mitt Romney and Rudolph Giuliani proudly declare) all in the name of protection, of course, you are forewarned.

For all of you who have not minded the build up of executive power, how will you feel about it being in Hillary's hands where it might just be next year in January? Power once given away is not easily retrieved.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Political Assassination

It was extremely upsetting to me to learn that Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in Pakistan as she was leading the party in opposition to Pervez Musharraf. Was she killed for that reason? Because she stood against terrorists? Because she stood for democracy and was a secular leader who spoke out against religious extremists?

Musharraf and George Bush, of course, quickly labeled this the work of al Qaeda or other terrorists unconnected to Musharraf's people. Maybe... I do not know who did it and perhaps we never will know. Suicide bombers are almost always religious extremists-- who else is willing to blow themselves up to gain someone else's goals-- but the assassin had to have been recruited by someone. The question is who stood to gain the most from her death?

To me, killing someone like Bhutto is not just murder. It's worse than that. To her family it was the loss of a mother and wife, but to her country, it was a robbery of political options. To the world, it's one more example of the price one pays for speaking out. Those who do such things want to destroy the democratic process.

Her death brings back so many memories for people my age. John Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy, Malcom X, Mahatma Gandhi, Indira Gandhi, Anwar Sadat, Yitzhak Rabin, and the list goes on. To some people, if they disagree with a leader, they aren't sorry to see them killed, but whenever or however political leaders are assassinated, it is a horrible act and one we should all condemn as forcefully as possible.

Pakistan is a grave concern to the world given its nuclear weapons, that it harbors terrorists, and that one of their scientists enabled North Korea to gain nuclear secrets (and was pardoned for doing it). Most recently the Pakistani terrorist, who is why we can't carry toothpaste aboard a plane, escaped their custody and nobody apparently knows how. Pakistan is a country where billions have gone since 9/11 and nobody has had to account for where they went. An ally? Even if it is, and I think that is debatable, Pakistan is unstable at the least. Will this make the situation worse?

Bhutto was a courageous woman, as obviously she knew what she was facing. I just hope that her death will somehow bring positive results for that part of the world. It would be a shame if she was martyred for nothing, or worse that it damaged the cause for which she was fighting-- democracy for her people. I can't think of any examples of where assassination brought positive results though; so don't have much hope this one will.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas surprises

Christmas was nice for me this year. The lead up to the holiday season had surprises in it, good moments, some family time, and it's not over as our main family time is this coming week-end. The oldest here will be my husband at 64 and the youngest our two-month old grandson. Because we don't live close, I don't see my brother a lot, although we talk on the phone regularly; so the fact that he, my nieces, and some of their children are coming makes me happy. I am still considering exactly what to fix as that will make 15 for dinner with 6 of them small children; plus the baby who won't be eating but I am sure will make his presence known. I like cooking big dinners; so am looking forward to the whole day very much.

Christmas Eve was good with family and then a 25 mile drive home which held a few surprises. When we stepped outside to get into our truck, I was delighted to see the huge full moon. We'd been missing seeing it at the farm as the skies have been full of fog or clouds. It was a perfect Christmas moon-- brilliant, intense and beautiful with enough clouds to add accents. I wished I had brought the telephoto, but I did capture it in my memory.

After turning off the main highway onto a gravel road, in the headlights ahead, I saw an elk, then another. My husband slowed the truck as we watched three cow elk jump fences as though they didn't exist, get across to the other side, look back to see where the others were, decide plans must have been changed, and run back across to stick with the herd. He turned off the engine, and we watched them for awhile in the moonlight. The air was cold, their breath visible as they also watched us. Finally as we saw them start to turn back, we drove on to let them continue on their chosen path.

Farther down the road, an owl flew across the highway; and a few more miles, it was a bobcat running across. By the time we got back to the farm, the fog was still blocking a view of that moon except through the haze, which although I do have a few photos, they weren't the intense view I had in town and would prefer to keep it in my memory instead of them.

The last surprise was Christmas morning, when we had a rare snowfall. It does not snow much at our elevation (about 287 feet). Growing up in the mouth of the Columbia River Gorge and at a little higher elevation, I have seen a few times where snow fell on Christmas (very few). Most often if it's a white Christmas, the snow already fell and the rains are here with flooding soon to come. In Portland, the weatherman said it was the first Christmas snowfall since 1937.

This one didn't stick, nor last, but that was okay. It was just lovely to see it falling and the photos are the cows Christmas morning. A Christmas snowfall was not a good surprise in their minds.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas, everyone!
May your holiday time be joyful, full of loving and meaningful moments whether by yourself or in a place filled with friends and relatives.

Take time to just be.

Play beautiful music.
Light some candles.
Have a fire in the fireplace.

One year is nearly to an end
and new beginnings lie just ahead.

**************
Enya -- Silent Night in the Irish
(slow connections, use the link)

Saturday, December 22, 2007

A Chance to Help

Reading the New York Times this morning, I came across this story, A Life of Helping Becomes One in Need of Help, about the woman who was the victim of random violence from a knife attack in New York City, October 6, 2007. I have read anything that I find about this lady as it's so easy to see how it could truly be any of us. When someone goes berserk, it's only fate that determines who ends up in their path.

Please read the article about her problems as she tries to work her way back to some level of normalcy and then consider going to this site-- Friends of Susan Barron where you will find information on how you might help if you are so moved.

I know we can't give to everything that comes along, but this seems like a woman who has given of herself to others all of her life and now is the one needing a helping hand. On a personal level, these are the kind of people I most like to help when I come across them.

I was happy this site takes PayPal which is another of those internet devices which I find handy. So easy to use and safer than a credit card-- so far. :)

Friday, December 21, 2007

Winter Solstice

Finally Winter Solstice is here and once again we begin the slow but steady march back to more warmth and light. I actually like both Solstices as each represents an extreme-- hot to cold, light to dark. Winter Solstice tells us the earth has symbolically died. It is waiting now to be reborn. How exciting is that!

I realize a calendar is nothing more than a way to keep time, but I like the time when we say good-bye to one year and it's onto the next. To be honest, I expected 2007 to be a great year for me and not to say it wasn't fine, but it wasn't 'my' year either as I had expected last January given 7 is my number.

From what I have been reading, numerologists are saying 2008 will be a year of beginnings, of reaping benefits (based on a system of adding numbers together until you have them down the lowest possible number-- for 2008 that's 1). So where I thought last year was a 7, to numerologists, it was 9 representing the last year of a cycle, a year for questioning, new choices, maybe even chaos. Anything that tells me a new year will be better than the last is A-okay with me.

Because I know many people are already stressed with Christmas preparations, over the next couple of days, I thought I'd share some Christmas music. First up is:

The Pogues, Kirsty MacColl -- (and if you have a slow connection, it may sound better if you go take the link directly to YouTube) Fairytale of New York

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Core beliefs

My last two blogs were on expectations and memories which leads into this one on core beliefs. Thinking on what my core beliefs are, came (as so many of my ideas do) from a conversation with one of my friends.

Our beliefs impact what we do, but how many times do we stop to even think what they are? Even the religious ones often are listed off in a well-rehearsed litany without considering where that kind of belief leads. Beliefs about ourselves, as well as the unspoken, sometimes unacknowledged ones about the world and how it operates, might seem invisible but their results are not.

Beliefs, perhaps taught us by a parent-- that we are stupid, ugly, have bad luck, or that poverty could overcome us at any time-- lead to one kind of life view. Likewise if we had family who said we were beautiful, smart and can do anything to which we set our minds, it's what we expect until or unless life knocks us alongside the head to force a reevaluation. I think most of us tweak our beliefs about ourselves, life and relationships as we go through various experiences although some keep those first core beliefs intact for a lifetime.

After my conversation with my friend, I started writing down what I saw as my basic beliefs at 64 years of age. The easiest were my world view. The hardest are who I see myself as being. Whenever one would come to my mind, I'd write it in my journal. I am sure I don't have them all yet, but thought I'd share a couple to illustrate the general idea.

This is a busy season for doing such an evaluation, although if you do it as I have, write them down as they come to you, it's not that time consuming. Some of our hidden beliefs about the world and ourselves might be sabotaging our goals. When we bring to them to the surface, we can deal with them.

************
Believing something does not make it so. Disbelieving it won't make it go away-- likewise saying it out loud won't make it happen.

Everything has a price of one sort or another attached-- even what appears to be free. Know what it is before accepting anything.

Do not dwell on the past or the future, while the moment goes sailing by, because the moment is all there is.

Be kind whenever possible. Kindness, even the small sort like a friendly smile for a stranger, is its own reward.

I see myself as still being that country-living, glasses-wearing, geeky little girl and believe I will be even when I am very, very old.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

More than a Memory

For those who are not Country Western music fans, the fact that Garth Brooks had retired probably led to a big yawn (if they even knew who he was); however, for those of us who are, the fact that he is back has led to an even bigger smile. He had been mostly retired to devote more time to his three daughters after a divorce, and maybe to figure out what he really liked doing. Happily, he is back.

When I first heard this song, I thought how insightful. It's about a man trying to tell others why something that seems unreal to them is real to his life.

Healthy or not, what we think in our head is often how we create our so-called reality. We can limit our choices, our future, everything based on some internal set of beliefs, fantasies, words others said. Sometimes we aren't even aware of those memories anymore, but they are what guide and either enrich or limit our daily life as well as fill our dreams.

Garth writes a lot of his music but he didn't this one. Lee Brice, Kyle Jacobs and Billy Montana did, but he made it his by the power he brought to the words. I found the lyrics online to share a little of what the song says but then found it has a YouTube. For those of you who hate country western enough that you won't even listen to this song, you don't know what you are missing -- in this case a video of him singing it but with the imagery for which he's known-- to those who know him...

"People say she's only in my head ... It's gonna take time but I'll forget ... They say I need to get on with my life ... They don't realize it's when you're dialing 6 numbers just to hang up the phone ... Driving cross town just to see if she's home Waking a friend in the dead of the night ... Just to hear him say it's going to be alright ... When you're finding things to do, not to fall asleep ... Cause you know she'll be there in your dreams ... That's when she's ... More than a memory



(The computer art is one of mine about a man with such a memory.)

Monday, December 17, 2007

Christmas Expectations

Is there was a season better, than this holiday one, for considering the subject of expectations (even for those who don't celebrate Christmas)? It's such a big holiday in the United States, that for pretty much everyone, there are expectations for what it'll be-- negative or positive. They come from childhood, then get reinforced throughout our lives, maybe even something we saw or read about how it should be. When Martha Stewart's magazine first came out many years ago, I saw it was so full of expectations that at this season I even avoid looking at its cover when by the checkout counter.

Expectations-- ours and others-- happen everywhere in life, but Christmas cards provide a good illustration-- which some people have learned to avoid by sending none. The season starts for me with that exact question. Will I send one this year or not? If I do, which I am but haven't yet, will I include a Christmas letter?

Once I have decided to send, at the least a card, the next thing is to pull up last year's mailing list on the computer. I know some most appreciate getting totally handwritten cards but as soon as I realized a label list could save me addressing all those cards, I was sold. Since computers, my handwriting isn't nearly as smooth as it used to be-- at least that's the excuse with which I am sticking.

Once I have found last year's mailing list (sometimes my filing system logic amazes even me), I do a save as using the current year. This saves me from possibly a catastrophic loss of the whole list when the computer pulls some kind of Christmas prank which is not funny to me but might be to whoever created the Internet (wasn't that Al Gore-- just kidding for those for whom the season has already robbed them of their sense of irony-- of which this season is full).

The addresses on the list will have been updated in January before I threw out the cards and envelopes (no, I don't save them). Looking at the list now helps me remember who didn't send one the previous year. Then comes another expectation-- mine and theirs. Do they like getting cards but just aren't sending to us anymore or would they rather not receive one again?

In another question of expectations, I am doing a Christmas letter again this year but expect some who get mine will wish I hadn't. There are also those who will think I should have written an extensive note on each card (heck wasn't it enough that it's really my signature?) But then again-- some will like how it catches them up on how the kids, grandkids, and we are doing.

Doing Christmas letters is a good time for me to look through last year's photos and helps to remind me what happened. My Christmas letter is a mini-synopsis of what mattered in the year-- important facts like weight and height (the new grand-baby's, heaven forbid, not mine); followed by a collage of photos to illustrate what I just wrote.

This year my expectation of sending cards meaningful to my life collided with my expectation that I would not spend too much for them when I realized that, for those seemingly simple cards, I had ended up spending $1 a card. How the heck did that happen, I asked me. But I know how. I bought painting cards, small boxes, not all at the same time, and didn't think about what it was totaling until I lay in bed Sunday morning mentally beginning to write this blog.

When you add a stamp to that, it makes this an expensive (to me) year for cards. Fortunately the list is not large (under 40) and I can afford to do it, but still... I can't believe I spent that much to find cards reflective of a simple view of life... hmmm is there a lesson in that; but if there is, it'll have to wait for January!

Expectations! Instead of humming Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas all day, I need a song that says it like it really is.

(Please enjoy the cards, it will help me feel a little better about what they cost!)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Your Blog's Readability

The following blog tool, regarding readability, seemed interesting to me when I saw it on one of those days I was surfing other blogs. I checked my rating at the time, thought about posting the information here; then when I got around to it, forgot where I had found it, hadn't bookmarked it, and had to Google it to find it again.

This first readability rating was done December 9th:
cash advance

Because I thought it probable that it was only checking one date (given how fast it shows results), I asked it to reevaluate for a specific, earlier date using different subject matter and this time it said:

cash advance

Out of curiosity for how this compared, I took the blog it rated at college level to my Word program where it can do a grammar check as well as rate the writing according to readability using Flesch Reading Ease (where it was 66.3) and Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level (where it came in at 8.1).

Finally I looked online to refresh my memory as to what that Flesch reading ease number meant. The higher the number, the more readable; so 120 would be something a fifth grader could read and understand. Examples given to explain this further were-- Reader's Digest magazine rates about 65; Time magazine -- 52, and Harvard Law Review comes in the low 30s.

When I was writing fiction, I aimed to be about where I am, according to Flesch evaluations, not too simple and not too complex. I found no quick way to see how the online test was setting their criteria.

The question for a writer of anything always is who are they trying to reach? If it's too simple, is it not saying enough? If it's too demanding, do readers tune out who didn't want to have to think that day?

While I always like seeing instant results, I have a feeling the Flesch tests on Word are probably closest to where I see my writing here; but it took seeing the online evaluation to remind me to use the Flesch tools. Since writing well is important to me, I should have thought of doing it sooner.

To check your own blog, just click on the icon.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Barack Obama

With the holiday season fast upon us and enough stress with personal expectations always attached to that season, not to mention a new year almost here, I want to write only positive things until we are into January, things about the holidays, about beauty, about my own life lessons. This will be one last political post-- unless something huge happens that requires a place to vent and give others likewise.

Fran from Sacred Ordinary asked what I thought regarding Oprah Winfrey campaigning for Barack Obama. Winfrey is one of America's most popular figures and known around the world-- not to mention one of the wealthiest women. The question being asked by many, with no definitive answers, is will that shift the race to give him an advantage over Hillary?

It would not with me as I am one of the few Americans who does not watch Oprah, have not for many many years. I don't care for her program style and don't watch any of that kind of show; so it's not dislike of her personally. I think she is operating in a media where ego gets inflated and anybody who doesn't have that problem would be a saint. From all I have read, she is no saint. But also it seems she does try to use her wealth and platform in positive ways to make the world better. I have no reason to believe that she chose to support Obama for any reason other than having known him from Chicago, where she also lives, and believing he's the best person for the presidency.

I guess some of the critics of Oprah complain, that when she speaks to the voters, coming out to see her with Obama, they are not hearing the sophisticated Ms. Winfrey of her program but rather a woman who sounds like she came from the streets. Well Duh!

If you see Oprah on vacation, it looks to me like she has not forgotten her roots. She was a girl from poverty who grew into a woman of great power and a sophisticated polish that she can use when she needs it. Inside she is still that girl. I understand this as I can turn on the more sophisticated thing, but inside me is a little girl with the glasses who grew up at the end of a country road on a small farm.

So will she impact Obama's hopes for winning the nomination? She won't hurt it in my opinion. She is approaching it as an ordinary citizen. She is not implying she has more power than she does. In the end, he will be the president, not her. She does motivate people to come out and give him a look, listen to him, but she cannot get him the nomination or election.

I think celebrities have every right to be out there speaking for their favorite candidate-- as well as political causes. Whether that is Bo Derek supporting George W. Bush or Barbra Streisand supporting Hillary Clinton, it's a right of every citizen. Celebrities should not have to give that up simply because they are famous.

Citizens likewise need to evaluate who is any person endorsing a candidate. Do they know the issues? Do they have a hidden agenda? Not all celebrity endorsements are a help. They said that Hillary's people had to do polling to decide if it benefited her to have Streisand come out for her, but in the case of Oprah, I find any drawback to be unlikely.

Unless something comes along to change my mind, Barack Obama is my choice for the nomination and it's not because of Oprah. It's not because of all of his political views-- with which some I disagree. I haven't liked some of his religious comments either, but there is nobody there that I find totally is my choice. There never is.

My favoring Obama is because of what I believe is his character. Right now a leader of character is more important to me than exactly agreeing with me on everything. I think that when people ask him questions, you can see him think about it-- not memorized answers snapped out like a machine, but real thought. It's part of why he's not as slick in a debate as others. Debating skills and thirty second sound bites do not automatically translate into leadership skills.

I have gone back and forth between him and John Edwards; but if I vote my heart; and it's what I intend to do, the person who comes closest to what I hope for in a president is Obama. I'd like to see our country have a fresh start, a person in that office that we can feel proud of having elected. He might not have all the experience of others, but many of those who do are so corrupted by the system that, in my mind, they are already on the 'wrong' side whether they are from the right or the left.

If the candidates running with no chance to win would get out of the way, I think Obama (or Edwards) would be leading Hillary by a comfortable margin because she is not the candidate favored by the majority. A lot of people, not just on the right, are tired of the Bushes and the Clintons. Obama represents a change. If, however, it's Hillary at the end of the primaries, she'll have my vote in November. I just think we can do better, and better-- in my mind-- is Barack Obama.

If readers here have other candidates they have decided they support, please feel free to name them and the reasons in the comments-- from either party. It's hard to believe the season where this will be decided once again is almost upon us. On the other hand, it feels like it's been forever since Bush actually got into that office. I can only hope he will not do more damage to the country before he's gone...

[I received an email asking to include this link regarding Obama on education and considered it worthwhile with more information on what an Obama presidency might look like.]

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Another shooting

Another shooting in the United States but this time with a different ending. It happened in Colorado, a madman with assault rifles, armed to kill as many as he could before he would take his own life-- except this time a woman with a gun, a woman trained to use that gun, took him out and now the talking can begin.

How do those who justify the ownership of assault rifles think now with several more shootings? Or on the other side, how about the group against concealed weapon permits-- does the fact that a concealed weapon saved possibly a hundred lives change any minds?

Yes, the woman was trained, had been in the police force, but anybody can get trained who wants to carry a concealed weapon. I won't say it's a fool proof system, but they do check your background, fingerprint you, require references, and, in most states, a class. I have read that there has not yet been a crime committed by an owner of a concealed weapon permit, and this has not been the first crime stopped because of an armed citizenry.

Awhile back, Salem, Oregon, had a shooter also pinned down by an off-duty police officer until the police arrived with the firepower to take the shooter out. That shooter also only killed a few. There is no real way to stop someone, who has no regard for life, from killing a few, but there is a way to limit it to only a few if enough ordinary citizens take the trouble to get trained and do go armed given the nature of our times.

As soon as you hear about one of these shootings, you know who it'll be-- a young person, almost always male, most under the age of 30, loser in life as he sees it, angry at the world, no respect for the lives of others. They turn their anger at their own failures onto society as a way to get revenge as well as thinking they will become famous. The amazing thing is they are not famous for more than a few days. Can any of us remember any of their names? Oh yes, there are a few who do know their names-- those who want to do the same thing.

Is there a way to stop this? One thing would be identifying these people ahead of time-- except often they hide what they plan. Sometimes the schools do know but they have no tools to force treatment. And then if they were identified, what do you do about it? We don't let someone be imprisoned nor force psychological treatment on anyone who has not yet committed a crime. (Actually, we do now but only when it's terrorists or defined by the state as enemies which doesn't help with shooters and does hurt our rights as citizens, but those are topics for other blogs.)

Do all these violent computer games, which kids seem to love, do they play a part in this? Could they numb the players to what real people are like when they win the game by shooting them in fantasy? I don't know if this is a factor but even the toys today in the boys' areas are full of violence. Yes, I know we all played cowboy and Indians when we were children but is there something different when it's on a virtual screen? The most popular movies are violent ones. Is that a reflection of the times or creating the times?

We could stop the sale of all assault rifles and attempt to confiscate the ones already owned from every honest citizen in this country. Why from honest citizens? Because they get stolen or taken by family members as happened in the case of the Omaha shooter.

Assault rifles are not for hunting game. They are far more dangerous, make it harder to take down a shooter, maybe even inspire people that the weapons give them power they can find no other way. Why do we even have assault rifles in private ownership? Because a few paranoid people have some mistaken idea they could use them for home defense-- defense from what? From the government who has a lot more powerful war tools? The police? Are you an honest citizen if you want to protect yourself from law enforcement?

The idea that to protect right to bear arms, we have to protect war weapons in the hands of anybody, does not make sense to me. Getting rid of assault rifles is a start.

An armed, trained citizenry is a good plan also. Not everyone would be willing or able to carry a gun. Not everyone has the fortitude of that young woman in Colorado, but there are enough who can that it would slow down some of these killers. If more killers get taken out before they make their target goals, maybe less will consider it a way to fame and glory. (and on that vein, I am sick of the media's drumbeat of who are these people. The media is not qualified to ask or answer that question in a sound bite. Let that be for the professionals to look into. The media only glorifies something that doesn't deserve glorifying.)

I believe in our right to carry guns, to have them for personal protection, and my fear is of those who would take them all away thinking that's the solution. The Supreme Court will be considering that in the spring when they evaluate DC's law. You'd think with all those conservatives on the court that it'd not be in doubt what their answer would be-- except many of them are neo-cons who have a whole different agenda.

Guns are not the problem. It's guns in the hands of the wrong people and the wrong kinds of guns which are obviously all too easy to acquire. Yes, I've said all of this before and sadly will probably say it again...

Monday, December 10, 2007

Random and weird

To start, I never do memes... Anybody who reads this blog knows I never have done them; but then I got tagged by someone I have come to respect a lot through her writing and ideas-- Maya's Granny. I got to thinking-- okay maybe I could do one... this one. The object is to come up with 7 things about myself that are random or weird... Who knew the hard part would be stopping with 7...

1. Photography is my hobby. I love it, but I almost never like a photograph of myself, and it's not because I feel they don't look like me. It's because my favorite expression for a photo is somber, serious, even sad which others generally seem to dislike. The more moody they look, the better I like them and the more others tell me they do not like them.

2. I have fallen off run away horses twice but still have a strong desire to learn to ride well enough to take a horse packing trip into the wilderness to camp-- a desire which probably comes from having read the ending of Owen Wister's book, The Virginian at an impressionable age.

3. Although I have never had a manuscript accepted by a publisher, I have completed eleven modern or historic manuscripts ranging from 85,000 to 145,000 words-- most of which I have never even submitted to an editor but which I wrote from the love of writing stories, creating characters, seeing where they go and what happens. I began writing romance type stories in my teens, one of which went on to become my longest manuscript-- as well as being the oldest. I began 'Taopi Tawote,' a historic story of the Oregon Trail and young love, when I was the age of the heroine, finished the last draft when I'd have been the age of her mother-- and it got more erotic the older I got.

4. I wear eyeliner as about the only make-up that I have-to wear. I don't care if eye-lining is in or out, I line my eyes with something-- sometimes when just around the house it's a heavy dark, almost Egyptian type line that I'd not feel comfortable wearing in public.

5. If I don't get eggs for breakfast, I feel cheated. Even knowing my cholesterol was high, I still never gave them up as a day begun without at least two eggs simply started all wrong.

6. I have read the Christian Bible in its entirety from end to end 6 or 7 times. Oddly enough I don't recall the exact number of times, but I know one of those times took nearly two years as it was a King James translation. For many years, I read some of the Bible every single day as almost a religious act.

7. I have done past life regressions, accumulating 7 stories about possible past lives (one future life). When I was a child, I thought I remembered dying in a past life, possibly the one right before this one; but later, since my parents took us to a lot of movies, I wasn't sure if it had come from one of them. Psychics have told me about other such lifetimes-- one of which two different psychics at different times told me the same story. It was an unusual story (In India and I was a man); so I have always wondered if there was some book out with that story in it and that explains the similar versions, but the coincidence made me wonder. It was not one of the stories I got from my own regressions.

The Rules are as follows:
1. Link to the person that tagged you and post the rules on your blog.
2. Share 7 random and or weird things about yourself.
3. Tag 7 random people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs.
4. Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

I posted the rules; but, even having given it some thought, I can't narrow down 7 people to tag. I will say it was fun to do this meme and consider anyone reading this and relating to it to be tagged. If you answer, please let everyone know in comments here-- or in an email to me.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Commenting

[This quote is from Blogger regarding commenting problems: "Ironically, our testing of OpenID, a feature that lets you use accounts from all over the web to comment on Blogger, made it appear that we were trying to force you into getting a Google Account. We regret this appearance, since we're strong supporters of OpenID and open web standards in general.

If you haven't set up OpenID, you can still link to your blog — or any webpage, for that matter — by using the standard link tag inside the comment form."] So hopefully this is all straightened out...

On the earlier issue of commenting problems, due to Google changing their rules, I have done some more thinking. Since links work in the comment section, if anyone does not know how to post a URL as a link, I will email them the needed letters and symbols. It's confusing to explain here as blogger keeps not saving it even with leaving spaces between. In an email it will be obvious how it works, and when you have written it a few times, it is easy to remember.

Naturally this will mean any reader will have to decide if these are safe and legitimate links as they do everywhere online. User beware is always good advice. In the Blogger help section, I read more about their reasoning. They say they have done this to stop fraudulent posting with someone using someone else's name and even URL. They say this is about a safer internet with a universal ID.

Especially in our day and age with the government already peeking into our business anywhere they choose, it's not surprising that people are leery of a universal anything (even though we know we are already easily trackable-- most especially if we have a fixed ISP). At any rate, I do understand not wanting to sign up for more systems.

In an attempt to see if it'd help, I upgraded my Blogger template to layout; something I wasn't eager to do as I was concerned it'd ruin everything I had done to make my template as I wanted it (which they told me it could override).

Doing it led to good news and bad news: On the bad side, for awhile I lost my site meter until I realized why it was gone. But in good news, I fixed that problem by myself which made me proud of 'me' since computerese is not the way I think.

The upgrade made my blog easier to change layout, and I now have special features available like slide shows [although I am still unsure if that'd be good as if someone is using an older computer, slow loading can end with having them give up before they read any words]. It's good though that now I can put up a new profile photo of me every time I can't stand the current one, since it no longer requires a URL and can come directly from my hard drive.

The upgrade made my blog roll easier to adjust. I knew some regular commenters use their name which is not the name of their blog. I updated the blog roll to add those names so readers can more easily find their blog. These links are tested by me to go to that site.

If you comment here but have not been on that roll, include your URL and I will eventually get the blog roll to reflect regular commenters' blogs. This is not a minor issue as I think we all find new blogs through reading someone's comment and wanting to know more about their thinking.

The issue of the internet and how to avoid other users coming onto a blog as supposedly us and posting a comment that we'd never post is potentially not an insignificant one. For my own blog, when I get something that I know didn't come from a legitimate commenter, I delete it; but my numbers to do this make it a minor problem. It's one that can grow.

Some months ago, I had my identity taken fraudulently at eBay when I had visited looking to get more information on a product I wanted, and one of those site programs got my password all too easily, then spammed other users with supposed compliments from me about their product. Temporarily, until it could be explained, it limited my usage of my own account and was a frustrating experience as each of those comments was forwarded to my email account before eBay got them stopped -- and me.

So it is a problem where the internet has been a kind if Wild West for the freedoms but also difficulties that go along with those who misuse freedom. We are operating in a new media and are part of both its solutions and problems.


Friday, December 07, 2007

It's about faith-- but in what?

Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee are bringing religion to the forefront of the Republican nomination just as it was in 2000 and 2004 when Bush likewise milked his supposed religiosity for all it was worth to gather fundamentalists to his bosom. Hark ye, vote for those who claim god is with them. It's not hard to see why this would be happening again. It's worked so well...

Competence in a leader? Doesn't matter. Knowledge of the problems the country might be facing? Nope, won't matter either because god is whispering in their ears to solve these dilemmas. All that matters is religiosity.

Personally, I could vote for a Mormon... a Baptist... a Jew... a Catholic... a Wiccan... an atheist, but won't vote for anyone who thinks being any of those things qualifies them to be president.

How the heck does this keep happening? What possible qualifications does Huckabee have for being president-- other than his spiel that he's the Christian candidate, dontchaknow. And Romney, well he's religious and that's all that matters as it's the good guys against the bad guys. And all religious people are on the good guy side.

What is going on with this country where people have been turned to believing the first requirement in a president is to be like a pastor? As Romney said, it's ALL believers on one side and those secularists on the other. It's logic versus faith and faith trumps facts!

I am not saying that all religious people have no facts behind their beliefs-- but frankly they don't care if there are. Facts are a test to overcome and ignorance, even of what their own faith practices or has practiced, is a virtue.

Huckabee has now been caught lying about his advocating a convicted rapist be let out on parole evidently because he was being pressured by the right wing, who felt any cheerleader daughter of a supporter of Clinton as well as a distant cousin of Bill's, deserved to be raped. I doubt Huckabee believed that, but he wanted to win the governorship as he now wants to be president.

Is Huckabee qualified to be president? Of course. He'd be fun at a barbecue.. that is if you didn't want to overeat, didn't want to get drunk, and didn't mind a lengthy prayer before eating. The fact that he knew nothing about the latest CIA report on whether Iran is still trying to develop nuclear weapons, well who cares about that boring stuff. This is all about him being a Christian and a nice guy. It has become the total criteria for some to support anyone.... Well other than looking good. Good thing Huckabee is not fat anymore.

Christopher Hitchens, never one to mince words, wrote a good piece on Mitt Romney's windy, worthless speech. He stated it well but the ones who want to vote for someone who is religious don't really care about anything but knowing that person believes god speaks to them, will protect and guide them, and it's god who wants them to run things. The logic of this is frustratingly impossible to find but then it's not about logic, is it? It's about faith.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Zeitgeist-- the movie

I wrote about Zeitgeist when I first heard about it and ordered the DVD which arrived in the mail this week. We sat down to watch it Tuesday night. When I was over, I wasn't sure that I wanted to write about it nor what I'd say if I did. I had seen some of it on YouTube but not the part on religion. I went to bed that night unsure but full of its images.

My dream was very vivid, like a movie. I was on some kind of luxury ship. It had many levels and a lot of people also on it-- most likely a tour ship. I realized it was being invaded by a group of very bad people, who took it over. They herded the rest of the people into one of the large rooms. I, with those who had come with me on the trip, was in a separate area. I watched what was happening as the people, who now were clearly captives, didn't object. They seemed to feel it was safe to be in the power of whoever these people were. I was trying to find a way to escape and ran into some of those bad guys but still was not in the main area. The dream ended before I either completely escaped or found out what was going to happen but my feeling was that the captives, who had submitted so meekly, would be blown up.

It's certainly not surprising I'd have a violent dream after watching Zeitgeist as it's about violence, about those who would control others through various ruthless methods. When I woke up, I lay in bed thinking about the dream and how, if Zeitgeist is accurate, which I am not saying I believe it is, then what happens next will either be a very violent event in one of our major cities or a group will spread a disease through the country to cause the pandemic they are currently warning us about-- and the ones doing it won't be Islamic fanatics. I understand this is conspiracy kook thinking to some, but there have always been questions out there about both 9/11 and Oklahoma City. If Zeitgeist is correct, we don't have anybody who will honestly investigate because the people in power would be the ones doing it-- and I don't mean just politicians. None of this began with Bush; so let's keep his name out of it as it only causes some to get defensive and quit thinking about the rest of what is going on.

What we all know is that fear is a proven method one group uses to control another. We see it in religion. We have seen it in politics, most recently a constant drumbeat on terrorism, but the method didn't begin yesterday.

If there are those who want to take this country completely over, they will need another huge, tragic event of one sort or another allowing them to manipulate enough other people to gain total control. It has worked before. Billions of dollars have gone into seemingly a black hole in Iraq. Nobody knows to whom or where it all went. Is it preparing for that something else, something much worse?

Currently there are 20,000 people in that Blackwater military group. Would those members be citizens of this country first or believers in Blackwater and a hidden group who could be behind a lot of events for which someone else gets blamed. Those who became members of the Gestapo in Germany probably never imagined they would do what they ended up doing. It's a gradual process that dehumanizes people for what they see as a greater cause, a cause that lets them forget morality as they originally might have believed it to be.

So what do I think about the film Zeitgeist? Well my uncertainty is why I hesitated to write about it again and might not of had I not had the dream. The film effectively presents a lot of ideas, suggests certain things as fact that either are not or are still debatable. One problem I have with any group with strong opinions is they cherry pick what suits their cause and often prefer to not double check anything that works in their favor.

Despite my reservations about it, I think Zeitgeist is worth watching mainly because it makes the viewer think-- it demands it! That is the main thing that I think everyone should be doing. Quit letting someone else tell us what is truth. Research new ideas. Be open to having been wrong. I believe Zeitgeist encourages thought.

The word zeitgeist means-- the spirit of the time; the spirit characteristic of an age or generation. So if the film makes its viewers stop and think what is it sweeping our times, it will be good for anyone to see. If it has someone thinking they can trust it to do their thinking for them, it will not be good.

Here are some questions from it: Is fear today being used to gain total domination over others? Who benefits from such fear? How far would they go to gain total power? Do they value human life at all or is something else more important? Who can you really trust for truth? Just remember fear and ignorance are the tools of dictatorships. Is our country on that path?

Anything that gets people to stop and think, about what is the zeitgeist of their time-- that has to be good. Too many people today want a leader, religious or political, to do their thinking for them. In my opinion, that is most definitely not good.

You can see Zeitgeist online through YouTube, at its own site, or you can order the DVD for $5 to decide for yourself what you think about its claims. The question I come back to is-- supposing it's right, what can we do now? My dream didn't give me the answer.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Pineapple Express 2007

The Pacific Northwest got hit by another Pineapple Express-- although at least on the coast, they called it a hurricane. In the Coast Range, it has been windy with at times heavy rains. What makes it a Pineapple Express is that you go from weather in the low 40s to the balmy high 50s or even 60° F in a matter of hours. You can almost smell the tropics on the wind.

Where I live, we have had limited flooding, roads blocked by downed trees or streams overflowing but our own stream is for now staying reasonably close to its banks. Not so true at the Coast or in Portland.

Being in Southern Oregon when the storm first came to shore, I was blessed to have the experience of seeing the storm nearly from border to border. Getting back to the farm, it was a relief to see that the worst damage occurred west and north of here.

I would put up some photos except there is nothing very pretty about a muddy river which is what our creek looks like right now.

One other note, I have been reading on other blogs that people who come here to comment are unable to do so without signing up for a free Google account which if they don't use Google as their search tool, they do not want to do. I don't like the policy but do understand Google is here to make profits. It is not a charitable organization but a business.

Eventually this type of blog will probably require a yearly payment but for now it's been free. If Google can't make a profit from blogs, one way or another, then they will be history. When I looked through the help sections on this, I didn't see anywhere that the author of a blog can get around this-- not even by paying a fee themselves. Of course, then authors would also have to decide if it was worth a monthly fee to have a blog at all.

It is possible this all has come about because of a relatively new feature for blogger, letting people receive email notices, as the owner has always had the ability to do, when new comments are posted on a topic they are interested in following. Blogger could still be in a tweaking stage; so if you have liked commenting here, do not like signing up for a Google account, check back once in awhile. Internet has a way of changing all the time-- one of its neat but also frustrating features.

I will miss those who choose to not come here or are now unable to comment but understand people's reluctance to sign up for something only needed to comment on certain blogs.

I have always allowed anonymous posts here, which is still functioning, at least for now. If someone wants to comment, but wants their link to bring other readers back to their own blog, then I would suggest putting their link at the end of their comment.

Monday, December 03, 2007

tests for Americans

These kind of simple tests often appeal to me, but I am not sure what it means to be 52% American. So like then I am 48% what? Still what it said is true in terms of how I feel about living here and my belief that what we have, the beliefs for which we have said we stand, they are worth fighting for!

You Are 52% American

Most times you are proud to be an American.
Though sometimes the good ole US of A makes you cringe
Still, you know there's no place better suited to be your home.
You love your freedom and no one's going to take it away from you!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Balancing Act

In rereading my personal journal, something I don't write in often enough anymore (some years in the current one have ended with only 5 or 6 entries. I began it November 8, 2003 and still have pages to fill-- even with using pictures for part of it.), I came across the following thoughts. As I reread them, I thought how much I still believe this and unfortunately am still not measuring up.

The temptation in life is to deal with things that make us comfortable. Sometimes for a time that is fine; however, in the end, it is healthiest to come back around to dealing with the rest which makes for a fully lived life experience.

February 26, 2004
We live on three levels as human beings-- physical, emotional and spiritual. Some would put the last two together but if you believe, as I do, that there is a spirit realm beyond this physical world, then there is a spiritual need in mankind which is separate from emotional needs.

Often through experiences, what we have been taught, one of the three will take the lead or even dominate completely, but I believe we are happiest when we have all three in balance, when we are at peace on all three levels. [Being a Libra, balance is especially important to me.]

Sometimes one or the other needs more work, say physical due to health problems, but in a life, it's ideal to have them ebb and flow together, working in conjunction to create a balanced and happy life (using the word happy because I can't think of a better one but realizing it's a difficult word to interpret).

As we work out relationships, they are on three levels also. There is our relationship to the spiritual realm where we decide what we believe-- if we believe. Even if we are atheists, we have had to come to a decision regarding what our own spirit is.

There is a cultural realm which can fall under the emotional end of those three. What do we owe to the community in which we have been placed? That would be government, family, friendships-- distant and close relationships with others. Here we decide if we have a responsibility to anyone else. Are we here in the flesh with a purpose or simply here?

Finally there is our personal life, the physical senses, food, sexuality, care of the body.

I think all three interact, swing back and forth, flow together, but when I ignore what I believe, what I think about any of the three, when I put all of my time into one aspect, deciding it's all that matters, something will arise in the others to remind me it cannot be ignored. My life is best when I take care of things as they arise and don't ignore any part of my nature.

(I went back through my computer to find a photo from 2004. Just one never says it all but this one, from Catalina State Park in Tucson, Arizona, comes close with rock, water, and life. It also reminds me I need to get in and have a permanent! I used to do them regularly but it's been well over a year since my last one.)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Is religion the bad guy?

Sometimes a topic comes along that I'd really rather not write about but eventually feel I can't ignore. Such is the case with this one. It starts with reading about an event in Saudi Arabia that I still am having a hard time wrapping my mind around but grew with another event in Sudan. Both involve women and a government run by religion-- in this case Islam.

First one was a woman who was gang raped by seven men Saudi rape victim gets 200 lashes. Does that seem believable? Well it is and yet unbelievable as who would do such a thing?

Then came this one-- Teddy bear teacher from UK charged in Sudan. She might only get 40 lashes for allowing one of her students to name a teddy bear Mohammed but if they decide she had tried to overthrow the religion or the government, she could be charged with sedition and then it'd be 10 years in prison.

For anyone who thinks religious fundamentalism isn't a big deal, or even that it's good, they need to stop and think what happens when it has absolute power. Islam right now is in the news and deservedly so for the awful things done using it as an excuse, but it has happened with Christianity too. Not just the Inquisition but also in the days where people were driven from countries for their religious differences, where they were killed, their property confiscated, if someone in power decided they were heretics.

Fundamentalism, of any religion, becomes a threat to anybody who does not exactly toe the proscribed line. Right now we see it vividly illustrated with the Muslim religion and not just terrorists. These are actions done by a government.

The thing I say in here over and over is we need to be aware and alert. Don't be the frog in hot water that doesn't realize it's being cooked until it's too late. The need for awareness is more true today than when I was a girl, but history has seen it repeated over and over. If you think it does not matter who runs your country, think again.

Every time I hear a political candidate espouse how god is with them; or see someone running for office who claims to follow his religion to the crossed t, I am concerned. Most especially concerned by anyone doing that who claims to be a Christian-- because they are not. Jesus said let your deeds show who you are. Don't seek the place of greatest honor but let others call you to it. Pray in a closet. Loudly espoused religious piety generally is not piety; and if it is, well you can see how well it works in those theocratic Arab nations-- especially for women.

Religion does not have to be the bad guy. Misused religion does.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Please Read

Please read Time Goes By again today, November 28, 2007. It is more on the House bill that has now come to the Senate and is assumed to make an easy passage heading us to the world of McCarthy, who the people behind this regard as a hero, and the road Nazi Germany was on before WWII.

There is no time to waste if you value your country as you knew it. Read about this bill, read Ronni Bennett's column and then contact your senators. It might not do any good but it's our only chance. This is very scary and for anyone who thinks it can't happen here, get some history books, see Zeitgeist, understand it has happened before, and the only thing that would keep it from happening here are enough informed citizens who don't want that kind of world.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Zeitgeist-- the movie

Right now, in my country, I feel like one of the characters in Happy Feet, the animated film using penguins to tell a story about old ways versus new. At the end of the film, there is a great scene where one group of penguins is dancing to a new rhythm and on the rim above them are the others singing to hold onto the old one. The singers are fearful of what might happen if the dancers win over too many of their number. Neither one hears the other with the deadlock only being broken by an outside force.

As best I know it, there is going to be no saving outside force in our country. Whatever we do has to be done by us. Nobody will save us except us and enough of us being educated to what has been going on. Enough of us who don't put our financial gain ahead of what is right. Enough of us who see our brothers as being part of us, not separate. Enough of us who stop seeing this as about one political party or the other winning or losing; but rather an ideology that has done more damage than we can imagine.

Our founding fathers understood the risks of what we now see happening. They wrote a Constitution with guarantees to protect against it. They had seen tyranny. It took awhile to have a population who had forgotten those lessons, but little by little we have let those original codes be written over or ignored. People have been convinced their own profit, their personal safety all matter more than freedom, more than democracy, more than doing what is right.

What I see and have believed for quite awhile is that an ideology has been pushed upon us and a lot of the world that is selfish, brutal, damaging, and wrong. For the moment my own country has to kick the Republicans out of power because they have abused their power, they have sold us down the river, but they aren't the only ones who have done this and it didn't begin with George W. Bush.

When I write this, I know some will never hear me, but a growing number of us are dancing to this new way. Will we do what is required to actually change things? Is it already too late? I hope not for my grandchildren's sake because of what the film says about who the 'them' is who have been running things.

The film is called Zeitgeist. I read about it at Astrological Musings. Federal Reserve Part I is a good place to start at YouTube with five parts. It explains what our Federal Reserve is, and is numbing to consider. If you like the part you hear on YouTube, or rather believe what you hear, consider doing what I did this morning and ordering the DVD from the Zeitgeist site. It's $5 per DVD including shipping and owning it allows us to loan it to others who have computers too slow to watch it online. It covers three general topics. Religion, which I have not yet seen, 9/11, and the Federal Reserve.

I know conspiracy theories are often put down as being ridiculous and maybe some of what this film claims is not provable, but a lot of it is-- if you care enough to look. You won't know for yourself unless you put some time into watching it with an open mind.

So many events that seem accidental or meaningless at the time often end up being anything but. Yes, the same event can often be interpreted several ways; but if this film, so many books, and so many voices are right, then we have a lot bigger problem than most of us have wanted to believe.

Who really runs things?

[As a reminder to what is currently going on, not what has happened, not meanings people might question, but what is happening, please read Time Goes By regarding THOUGHT CRIME BILL. Tell yourself that Zeitgeist is fiction. Comfort yourself that your politicians would never go along with such a taking of rights, and then think about this bill for today. Ask yourself why is no newspaper mentioning it? She said Daily Kos is bringing it up and perhaps the papers will finally follow suit-- maybe.]

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Spider Moon

Life is about cycles and spirals. We repeat patterns again and again and much of the time oblivious to what is happening. Television schedules most people know but what's outside-- less aware. Moon cycles are a good example. Sometimes people look up and think ah pretty moon or full again already? but using those cycles for practical living is more rare in a so-called civilized culture.

This full moon led to a discussion over Thanksgiving about full moons. I mentioned they are named but the names don't seem right for them given our modern world-- for instance the November full moon is called the Beaver Moon which might have made sense for trappers or those who needed to be aware of pelts for some reason but sure doesn't mean anything to how I live. Beaver live here year round and nobody harvests them for anything except an occasional lucky predator.

So my daughter said this is the Spider Moon and that rang true. In the Northern Hemisphere, November is the month when the bugs move indoors, where on the wall will suddenly be a big brown spider that has newly occupied its space and I have to decide if it looks safe to let it remain or it has to come to an abrupt end of its lifespan.

I also see a few ladybugs inside right now where I guess they lay their eggs in some secret place to reappear in the spring. There used to be thousands of them that would come from all around to use our attic when we had a cedar shake roof, before it needed reroofing and we decided, due to forest fire risks, it had to be redone in something more fire safe but less desirable for bugs that loved those open spaces between the shakes.

Bug moon though wouldn't cut it for a name-- besides when you look at the full moon and see those radiating rays out from the crater at the bottom, (Tycho Crater, doesn't it look a bit like a spider web?

I think, where most people live in a world that seems to be remote from nature, it's up to us to establish or re-establish our connection to it. The earth is basic to life, and our thinking concrete is the same thing won't make it so. Connecting to basic cycles, being aware what is around us, all of it might someday be a skill we should have taught our children and make sure we are aware of ourselves.

When the tsunami hit a few years ago in Indonesia and Thailand, even many of those people, who did live near to the earth, had forgotten the stories of what a receding sea meant. The fact that something has not happened for awhile does not mean it won't. Being aware, sensitive to our surroundings, training ourselves to listen to our inner voice might be necessary skills again. Even now, they add to the enjoyment of life.

So Spider Moon is now my name for the November full moon. It might be a different name where you live. Naming each full moon with words that have meaning for nature nearby is good and if someone hasn't been paying attention to nature, it's a good place to start.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Dragon Synchronicity

My friend, Parapluie, has been painting dragons off and on for quite awhile but more frequently in recent months. You can see some of them on her artist blog, Umbrella Watercolors. I thought this was pretty neat, how she would see them in the sky, the ocean, her imagination; then paint them, and knew it was somewhat influenced by her family's history with China. I didn't think more about it than that.

I have two dragons. The one you see above is a soft sculpture, Ephemeris, which I bought some years ago from a friend. Her site is I Love Whimsy-- Dragon Art. My dragon, European myth in its appearance with wings, has always had a special place in my home, but I never really thought why I wanted one bey0nd its being beautiful.

The other dragon, bas-relief sculpture was a gift to my husband from a Taiwanese friend and it also has had a place of honor in our home. You might not be able to tell from the photo as it wasn't easy to photograph, but it has no wings which is more typical of the Oriental perception of the dragon.

Personally, I have accepted the Chinese interpretation that dragons were good luck and benevolent, not the malevolent version in European myths, but it has all been on kind of a superficial level.

The synchronicity for the dragons came as I was finishing reading Shirley MacLaine's newest book-- Sage-ing While Age-ing and something especially caught my attention in the last pages. It was her story of a discovery by two of her friends while in Mexico. High on the slopes of Mount Iztlaccihuatl were carved some Hebrew letters. They had them translated at the Hebrew University-- "On the nine the dragon will be born."

MacLaine, as she does throughout her book on many such subjects, worked to determine what that prophecy could mean (to find all her reasoning, look for her book). The main question was are those words meant for us today? Does it relate to the Mayan Prophecies that so many believe will come to fruition in 2012?

MacLaine writes, "... The power of the dragon is often equated to an unadulterated, enlightened connection to creation, much like a newborn child who is not yet tainted with knowledge and ego. The dragon is also usually associated with the birth of consciousness, which can be conflicted and chaotic."

From her research MacLaine concludes her book with what she believes the Hebrew prophecy will mean-- "On December 21, 2012, our new consciousness will be born."

So is my friend painting dragons because as an artist, she is always tapping into her creativity, is she reaching into her genetic past, going through a personal time of rising consciousness, or could it be because she feels a worldwide consciousness rising time coming?

The name of my dragon, Ephemeris, was given to it by its creator. The word means a table of coordinates of a celestial body at certain times-- answers from the heavens.

Answers? Well right now I don't have any except synchronicity plays out over a period of time. It is about awareness, looking for connections, and sometimes patience.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Death comes to the pasture

Part of ranch life is death-- a word many of us don't like to use or even read. It's part of all life but a working ranch sees it more regularly and, of necessity, chooses it as part of its operation. There is no alternative; as within any herd, one way or another, some have to go to make room for new life. Much as I can know that, I still never like it.

Sometimes I think about getting rid of the rams and bull or all the cows and ewes and not breeding anymore-- just let what we have live out their lives. But then it would deny those animals the full cycle of meaningful life. To me, an organic, growing herd is a place of warmth, training and beauty. When they have those babies, they are so happy and proud. By the time we have to turn those offspring into food for someone else, the mothers are either pregnant or already have had another baby-- with the cows, two more.

Which doesn't mean they don't mind the oldest one being killed. Herds and flocks connect with each other. There are twins. There are those who grew up together. They care and when the time comes we must thin the herds or the grass will disappear, it doesn't make it easier on anybody. The price of caring is facing loss.

Some would say the solution is become a vegan world starting with giving up the traditional turkey for the American Thanksgiving dinner. Except recently, I read they have done tests showing even plants react, with a fear like energy, when they are threatened. Is there anything people can eat that is not alive or wasn't alive? Life begets life and all life comes to an end whether it withers of old age or is taken in its prime. It is the one certainty in this existence that the physical does not last-- which is why many people seek to connect to the spiritual which might. Even with the cows, I wonder, do they come back to repeat this cycle?

Last month we had two calves born. Monday two steers met their end when the mobile slaughter unit arrived. It was not hard on them. One well-placed gunshot to each head and it was done. It was hard on me. It was hard on the herd. Even the sheep flock was upset by it and maybe more than the cows as it happened on their inner ground. An act of violence came to their protected space and even several hours later I could see them in their defensive circle looking toward where it had happened. Today they have forgotten-- or so it would seem.

My consolation comes from knowing the animals have a good life until they don't. Peace with the process comes from knowing we are providing a good food product for many families that is healthier than much of what they can buy-- grass fed beef, killed before it experiences fear or pain, no hormones added, no drugs for this or that, natural and healthy with the same Omega-3s as salmon without things like mercury that ocean fed fish often have or PCBs like farmed fish (which, of course, also have to be killed for us to eat them). Intellectually, I know it's a good thing, but it's a lot easier emotionally on the days when I can watch the herd graze peacefully, playing together, enjoying the many tons of hay at their feeders, than on the days where death comes calling.

So I think about it as I sit by a fire, feeding it logs that were once living trees and keeping my feet warm with Uggs, which I love as they are like moccasins with soft wool on the inside-- because they were made from a sheep's hide. Yesterday, as I put one of the logs on the fire, I saw a small bug crawl free. For a moment I wondered could I save it, but it jumped into the flames before I could reach for the fireplace tool. Nothing is without cost...

(Photo of the herd from last month before the leaves fell. Photo of me-- Monday.)

Monday, November 19, 2007

Copying Beethoven

Copying Beethoven is a film I hadn't heard of, although I maybe should have. In skimming along the boxes in the video store, I came across the DVD and thought hey maybe. When I began watching it, I still wasn't sure about how I felt about it until I was caught up in the richness of the period, the way it brought to life Ludwig van Beethoven's world. I loved it even with its flaws-- and it has flaws.

The story is not historically accurate but to me that's not a flaw (although it would probably be for Beethoven purists). The things Beethoven (Ed Harris) said, his personality, the music that he created and why he did what he did, that seemed fairly accurate as best it's known it nearly two hundred years later. Because of Beethoven's deafness, he created extensive journals. When he had a conversation, he often asked the other person to write their side of it; so there are those journals to give insights into his creative genius.

There was no Anna Holz (Diane Kruger) as in one person but many of the things she did in helping Beethoven were true but combined from many people. Anna is a young woman who wants to create music but is the wrong sex for the era in which she was born. She receives a job to copy the music Beethoven wrote, leading to a personal relationship with the maestro but not a sexual one.

Some of the criticism of this film is about it not exactly following what happened with a beloved figure. People need to get over that. Movies tell a story, illustrate a point, bring to life a concept. This movie is about creativity. The story is a vehicle. In this case, the story was flawed some by its editing, which could have been fixed but for some reason was not. It didn't ruin it for me.

And I can't ignore Ed Harris's performance. Was he ever so beautiful? So manly? So intensely interesting? I guess he was because I always like him in anything, but he became this composer, this flawed man who saw music as a conversation with God. Putting a prosthetic nose on Harris to more capture Beethoven's nose, turned him leading man handsome. I kept trying to decide why it was him and yet wasn't and only found out later about the nose.

The story is about music but more than that about the soul, about the creative spirit. The things it says about creativity are true of any sort of creative work for the flow, the need for passion as a part of the whole. Paul Cezanne said it well-- "A work of art that did not begin in emotion is not art." Beethoven had no shortage of passion and neither does Copying Beethoven.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

the other side

Where I live, with winter comes long nights, days where it's often too cold outside for more than what is necessary. Winter is the time for fires in the fireplace, lots of candles, but also for reading, thinking, planning-- okay holidays too but because of the nature of those holidays (Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Saturnalia, Winter Solstice, Christmas, New Years, Epiphany, Imbolc, Kwanzaa), it is a prime time to contemplate spiritual truths.

If we look toward religions for our answer to the other side, to what life is all about, most of them will tell us. They teach what we must do to assure rewards or safety. They give rules intended to protect us from consequences. Different religions, however, do not agree on what any of this is.

My personal belief is that we can only know spiritual truth through our own experience. If we depend on others, it will be their truth and second-hand. Whether someone had a near death experience, whether they received a vision, whether they studied their entire life, they are in the flesh and telling only what they know. Why trust them for this when we can experience the supernatural for ourselves?

This is one of the tasks that I believe can beneficially be part of the winter season of our lives. Those of us fortunate enough to live to our last third or fourth of a full lifespan (depending on genetic inheritance) have the time and are more open to doing it than at any time before. Children are raised, often we are retired, some of the physical activities that may have encompassed earlier years are not so easy to do.

Spiritual exploration is one of the pluses to old age. We can do this many ways, but I don't believe substituting someone else's experiences for our own will make us strong, will empower us, will make us confident when it comes our time to face death. That comes from building up our own set of personal experiences with using the power and strength that comes through spiritual connection.

From the time I was a child, I have felt the other side and believed that to be god. This was not due to church as I was not raised in any religion. I just felt the presence-- not as in voices or messages but just felt it with me-- always with me.

When I was a small child, my parents were concerned because I had an imaginary playmate who I had named. Since I grew up in the country, on a hill at the end of a road, I had a lot of time by myself, sitting up in trees, exploring the nearby woods. It was a fairly solitary life without physical friends living nearby. Today, I don't remember that invisible playmate; so can't say what it was; but I don't doubt I saw something or someone and that eventually I learned I should not and quit seeing them.

We are a culture of pew sitting, listening to sermons, working in soup kitchens, going to potlucks as our interpretation of what spirituality means. The kind of power that came to an Apache youth who would run through the desert barefoot, with a mouthful of water that he was not to swallow, the kind of power that comes from sweat lodges, from fasting, from spirit quests, it isn't nearly as common in our culture. It could have been. Jesus spent 40 days in the desert to come into his power. Where did we lose the idea that we have to do anything ourselves to connect to the other side-- which by the way may well be inside us, but the inside us where we don't listen or trust.

Trying to understand what is, to incorporate what it was I felt with what it was I should do, I have done a lot of exploring religions. I have studied most of the major ones except Islam, some in more depth than others, and lived many years as a practicing Catholic and then Evangelical.

Fortunately for the woman I am now, I didn't have the view that something had to be true or not and have been open all my life to what might be. I am willing to discard a system of belief when I come to believe it does not fit. Frankly I consider that to be one of my best qualities-- being open and able to take on new beliefs when I see something doesn't work (okay--with a few exceptions).

When I was still in that evangelical church, which was becoming more and more fundamentalist, I began to question what was spiritual power and can we connect to the other side more directly-- perhaps as I did as a child and then lost. A free-wheeling quest did not fit with that particular church and was a factor in leaving it. For many churches, the pastor is the sole authority; and if we do not stay under him (in that church, no woman could be a pastor), we should go.

When I began my own questioning years, it was by first opening myself to fully feeling, something I had protectively closed down for years. That led to dreaming intense, very symbolic dreams where later the meaning of the images and events would become clear. When you dream a dream, and it takes on your own life meaning, it is a gift because it's not something you can make happen-- other than by being open and giving yourself time in the mornings to see if you received anything new.

I also did meditative regressions (retrieving past life memories) to see if I had past lives and to figure out what my soul history was, to understand something I was going through. Whether those stories were historic events or allegorical, my regressions were reinforced by later actual experiences.

What came along, with all of that, were times of synchronicity or serendipity-- people, events, books, music, or experiences coming when I most needed them. Just as we build trust in human relationship, through time with someone, through experiences, so too does the spiritual world work. Then, when we get doubts, which are human nature, we have those repeated experiences to hold onto, to remember. They build on each other. They are what push the doubts aside-- eventually to disappear.

All of that has let me know for myself that there is something on the other side with which we can connect. I have things I cannot possibly explain any other way. I do not try label what that is, nor do I believe there is only one way to find it, but I have confidence it is there for me to help, guide, direct, encourage, and sometimes turn me around.

As you read this, you cannot know any of what I just said is true. For that, you need to have your own experiences. If you already have, and they match mine, you and I will believe we are both on the right path, if maybe at different places along it. If you have not, you might think I am nuts-- at one time might have suggested, as a heretic, that burning at the stake was the right course of action. Fortunately we are past that time... for now anyway.

After mentioning Tarot in an earlier blog, I decided to select a card as an example of how synchronicity can work in Tarot. I shuffled, cut and told myself to have faith I would get one card to illustrate what I have been hoping to share in this essay. Except as I began to shuffle, I had one card select itself. By select, I mean it slid out of place. From experience with such things, I set it aside and chose another in the method I had planned.

When I turned them both over, I saw that the self-selected card was the Ace of Wands which means gift from the Universe. It means a divine gift bestowed through human hands and indicates a facet of the universe sympathetic to the human condition. It represents the beginning of everything, the spark of life, the gift of inspiration, of action, passion, courage. This illumination from the heavens is the start of all our ideas and projects. This card represents connection to the higher planes. Can you imagine a card more apropos?

And the card I drew, the one I planned-- I have gotten it several times recently; so it's for me, all right. The Queen of Wands holds her wand calmly in a protective fashion in front of the pillar. She is not only ready for action, but actively scanning the horizon.

It means the person's passion is contained but ready to burst out at any minute and seeking an outlet for their energy. Oh yeah, and watch out for ego getting the best of you and thinking you can do it all.

Since I have an ironic sense of humor, I see that as humorous-- like don't plan these things too much as somebody else is at work on what will happen. In my life, I set my plans in motion but am always open to the card that might be slipped into the mix. In this case, it illustrated my point.

I believe Tarot works because our soul is not our brain. Our higher soul is helping us as are spirit guides, and perhaps even those loved ones who have gone across already. Exercises, like Tarot, prayer, meditation, etc., help us see this isn't all there is. This is not a biological world alone.

We, even without a guru, psychic or clergyman, can connect with the other side-- when we put in the time and are not afraid of what we might find. There is nothing wrong with having earthly teachers and mentors. They can help in warning us of pitfalls, in explaining what they have experienced; but in terms of building confidence on what is over there, they are no substitute for our own experiences.

I don't know what happens to us after death. It is not because I haven't put in the time to try and figure it out, but I simply haven't been able to know it. I have some theories. What I do know is it's not just us in this.

Perhaps we get information when we need it. Recently, with the planets (Mars in particular) combining to put out so much antagonistic stress, it's the daily help I have needed most anyway, boy do I!