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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Me and We Conflict

When I reach the last days of a year, for me, it has significance. It's not meaningful seasonally as that is about Solstices and equinoxes. It's just an artificial calendar devised by man; but we can use a time (arbitrary or otherwise) to stop and take stock. It is the time I often revise my goals for the year to come. I don't call them goals so much as intentions. Who do I want to be? What do I want to do? What actions will help me be the woman I want?

This year, I've been thinking of something else: how do these goals apply to me and we? It can be a basic, political and philosophical difference that goes beyond families or cultures to religions where some believe we each face god's judgment alone while others believe we are reincarnated as soul fragments and how we treat our brother might end up part of a next lifetime in a lot more real way than a reincarnation of the whole soul. Culture or individual?

In our two main political parties, there is also a different way of seeing me and we. How many times have we heard Republicans say you can manage your money better than the collective we through government. How effectively, you will build bridges, airports, highways, schools, railroads, power grids, has been shown through the last eight years when none of that was done and we are facing a deteriorating system.

Right wingers like Rush Limbaugh have pushed an agenda of me as a way to build their own power bases. They say-- as I make me strong, everyone else will be too. If this doesn't work out to be true, it's the other guy's fault for weakening individuals. To those who think this way, only through individuals does power come.

The opposing party's claims can be just as misused when it becomes somebody else can do it for me and I don't have to do anything but wait. We then means somebody else. Where we working together is strong, me either only thinking about me or waiting for someone else to fix something, is damaging.

So I cannot ignore my personal goals, but also must think what 'we' goals are important to support. Theoretically I might convince myself I don't have to do any of that because someone else will. I could take care of my own little community, my own family, my own impact zone, the areas where I receive praise for what I do; but is that enough? It seems to me we have seen how well that works when we are uninvolved on the larger scale. Can each little community stand alone or must each concern itself also with the broader community?

Okay an example of how I see this applied is in the recent imbroglio of Obama choosing Rick Warren to give the invocation at the inauguration. This isn't going away any time soon and how important is it to me? Where does it impact we?

To start, Warren has some good qualities. He has put 90% of his income back into good works, and it's not just evangelizing but actually working on things like poverty and disease. He even gets it that there are global climate questions, and that the environment is a spiritual responsibility.

Christopher Hitchens expressed his reservations at the invitation based on the fundamentalist angle, which Warren pretty clearly is. Warren has stated Jews won't get into heaven. Most christianists would also say that admittance is only through accepting Jesus which lets out anybody but themselves. That's no surprise nor is it news.

Warren's worst quality to those who supported Obama is a biggie, and it's the reason for the brouhaha. He has the christianist view of homosexuality. He has taken some parts of the Bible, as many others have along with him, and equated it with meaning all homosexuality is forbidden, sinful and must be fought against by penalties that, if no longer criminal, are still punishment oriented.

Warren and people like him are as bigoted about the homosexual as at one time similar types were about racial differences. They all ignore nature and use the Bible like a hammer based on their own interpretation of its verses. Warren has gone so far as to compare gays with those having sex with beasts or children (he has recently taken that text out of his site but it was there). It's not surprising that homosexuals are feeling as though Obama just slapped them in the face.

It would be possible to be neutral on this if it doesn't impact me individually. I mean I am not a gay; so should I care? Why I do and should is the we that impacts us all. It is why those, who see it differently than I do, also care. I wrote quite a bit on this earlier, during the campaign, because I have looked at these scriptures that christianists are using and I see there is another way to interpret them-- a way that to me makes more sense.

[This is for those who use the Bible as gospel and can be skipped by anyone who doesn't believe they must do something based on a preacher's interpretation of it. I am going to skip over the Old Testament. If you are living your life based on it, you aren't reading my blog anyway.

Instead take a quick look at Romans 1:22-32 (you can find it online if you do not have a home Bible). If you look at it without prejudice and without an assumption as to what it has to mean, you will see that what Romans is talking about are people doing a lot of very bad things-- greed, malice, murder, strife, deceit, and the list goes on. This isn't about same sex people who are living a quality life together as couples. This is about rank promiscuity and the opposite of what gays are fighting to attain.

I believe there will come a day when that scripture will be re-evaluated by even people like Rick Warren. It already has by many ministers to see that what most homosexuals want is the very opposite of what this scripture is talking about.

This penalizing 'we' are trying to deny people ordinary lives, the respect and legal rights of society at large. And why has this happened? Because little 'me' has the idea that it either threatens him/her or makes them more righteous somehow.

What has gone on where it comes to homosexuals is crazy. If you know homosexual couples, you know how crazy it is. I believe it will be seen as as crazy someday as it now is to deny blacks and whites intermarriage based on misinterpretations of other scriptures. In my opinion, the christianist interpretation of the scriptures is ignorant and wrong.]

Before Obama's debate with him, about all I knew about Rick Warren was he'd written a best-selling book, The Purpose-Filled Life, which I didn't like when I scanned over a bit of it.

President-Elect Obama is a young man who has looked for meaning in his life and found it through Christianity. He has not appeared to me to be a christianist but that is yet to be seen for sure. He has sought out various spiritual mentors. Rev. Wright, was another who preached alienation in some ways but also had a message of good works. Obama's talking about his Christian faith has never been a plus where I am concerned. I understand that his belief is bound to impact some choices-- like the Warren one-- or maybe he knows something about Warren that the rest of us will learn.

After I wrote most of this, I saw a column by Frank Rich in Sunday's New York Times criticizing Obama for the choice; and one by Melissa Etheridge saying the choice is now ours and let's see where this goes with a totally different slant.

This applies to we/me thinking because we are impacted by unfairness to anyone. Denying homosexuals the right to adopt children, as Arkansas just did, or to have legal marriages or unions as we recently saw with Florida and California but many states like Oregon earlier, to me, that's been flat out wrong. Unfairness hurts all of us.

Obama may have made a mistake in inviting Warren or maybe his invitation will lead to Warren looking again at those scriptures; but it will be what Obama does next that matters most. He now has the power to work to right some big wrongs. It will be the good for all of us if he does. If he doesn't, then I think we all have to stand with our gay brothers and sisters against this unfairness and make it politically untenable to treat one group of people as inferiors. If it has profited some to take on a christianist view of marriage, then we need to see it stops profiting them.

That was just one example of how me/we works. I am not leaving behind my 'me' concerns as I make goals for 2009 that reflect things taking me closer to being who I want to be; but I also am not going to forget the we issues that matter to our culture as a whole, that will impact the world in which my grandchildren grow up. The election is over, but the real work has just begun. Concerns can't just be about what benefits me but what is good for us. When we think that way, that's when we will see real change and it will benefit me/we as it happens.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

My 65th Christmas

For me, there is something about holidays that seems to be like living markers for how they click off time. It occurred to me this year that I have celebrated 65 Christmases. How the heck could that be? 65 once seemed very very old and now here I am, and I am not sure what it seems like.

I don't remember the time from 1944 (except maybe in my subconscious), but it looks like I was really into the idea of opening presents. I have gone from that one year old being me, to the 65 year old, Christmas afternoon, walking up the road above the farm. One was opening the gift of life and the other, well, in the winter of her life, she still is.

In between were a lot of holiday dinners, a lot of changes, a lot of people who have come and gone through my holidays. That is as amazing to me as realizing I really have had so many Christmases.

Since I turned 60, I have said I am old. I knew it chronologically was true; but although I would say it, I didn't really feel it. Saying it was a way to prepare myself for what was inevitably coming, to acknowledge the changes. I could still visibly hide my age. My grandson asked me why my hair was gray. I said it's because I am old and added that I could dye my hair. I did not tell him but I knew I could also have surgeries to temporarily at least take away sags and wrinkles; but it wouldn't change anything real to do that. This body and brain will still be 65 years old, donning masks or not.

For me, this is not a melancholy awareness, but more about change. I find it more interesting than depressing. Day by day it's not so noticeable, except in little things, until I see another year has gone by through markers like Christmas, New Years, birthdays, and I look to see the changes in my face, know the differences in my body, and realize more is coming-- choose it or not.

Some tell me aging is in the mind. I would like them to show me one person where this proved to be true-- except in fiction. We might age at different rates, but we all do age. There is something about being old that makes people tend to think they should deny it.

People say things like-- I am young at heart. That doesn't make sense. We say someone is an old soul, recognizing something deeper in them; and then turn around and not realize an old person might have more heart awareness than a child. Does innocence necessarily disappear with age? Wouldn't it be more accurate to say I am old at heart? There is a beauty in age that we deny when we deny being old.

When we are old, as we have experienced loss, as we have seen the value of life, as we have seen so many changes, only when we know we will be leaving it sooner than later, only then can we really appreciate all that is and has been. The days are more precious when there are less of them ahead and we can remember all the good ones behind. What a treasure I have from all those Christmases that changed so much and left behind me, for now, to remember them. Yes, it's easy to get teary but in a positive way.

Isn't aging a bit like going through a gate? I suppose there isn't just one gateway but a series of them as life shifts and changes. It is, however, the road to the final gateway-- the one where we leave life.

I think about life's beginning and end especially at Christmas when I remember the ones who have already gone through the last gate. Again, it's not so much to be sad but more to just be aware and make the most of the days we have. Live each stage of life fully for what it is instead of denying it.

Since I always love to photograph gates, these are two new ones from this last week's snowfall. The first (at the back) open and the last (by the house) yet to be opened.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Dreaming of the cabin again

snowy cabin

There are the wish-I-could-have-it dreams and the nighttime-who-knows-what-it-means dreams. This cabin represents the former-- the daydreams where we visualize a life we would like but perhaps never will have.

Although I frequently dream of houses, interesting, sometimes interesting ones (last month I climbed some stairs to an attic where there were many dollhouses, interesting, elaborate and fully furnished dollhouses), I have never had a nighttime dream of this cabin. I have dreamed of houses at the beach with fantastic views, mansions, homes that were inns, houses with many rooms, sometimes one hidden room after another, but never this cabin. It's my fantasy home and only comes to me in daydreams.

I can imagine what is around it, the valley where it sits, the cattle down by the river off in the distance, the quiet that settles in at night. I know what it looks like once I walk inside the door. There is a fire in a big stone fireplace. The kitchen is small but effective where I can cook a delicious dinner while sipping a glass of Merlot. In front of that fireplace is a big fluffy rug where a person can sit or lie and watch the fire. In one corner is an easel for my painting. The master bedroom is upstairs (with a second bathroom-- even in daydreams I am somewhat practical.)

For awhile I looked for this cabin with the hope it was meant to be in my life. Real estate agents have shown me many places but nothing was ever it. When the house was right, the surroundings were wrong. It takes a small house on a good piece of land.

I finally have faced it that my cabin is not meant to be reality but is just a daydream where I can go when I need to escape.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas morning

Christmas morning the farm had both a rare (for us) white Christmas and a beautiful sunrise. Icy enough to make walking around not exactly easy, I took these photos from the house and the garden. This particular snowfall has been very pretty, lots of beautiful photos but has inconvenienced so many people and ruined so many plans that it was not very welcome-- not that anyone asks. The sunrise though I can only say it was an appreciated gift.

Bethlehem Morning

Believers or not, Christmas has something for everyone if they simply let the meaning of it become more important than the frills that have come to define it. It is harder for many of us today because we have (in my opinion) had a fundamentalist avalanche of expectations and distortions often losing what that message was about. Don't we all want unconditional love? It's no wonder this story of such a love has resonated through the centuries.

Jesus was not born in December-- assuming he was born with any possible resemblance to the story most of us have been taught. The story has been so covered in mythologies, which may or may not be historic, that the message has often been all but forgotten.

At Christmas, whether you think about Santa Claus or an infant child, the story is about a gift. To celebrate Christmas, does it matter if there is a physical, historical reality attached to any of it if we instead celebrate the kind of love that offers without asking anything in return? It can take a lifetime to really understand the meaning of that kind of love.

The first time I heard the following song, a definitely religious one, was in a small country church. It was a crowded Christmas service and I was up in the balcony. Our pastor at that time sang it and chills went down my spine as it soared through that small sanctuary. Today my perspective on what happened in Bethlehem might have changed but not my belief in what it stands for, the kind of love that gives all, that lasts as long as life itself and just possibly beyond.

I can't resist adding this version because the male vocalist sings it as well as that pastor did the first time I heard it.

Monday, December 22, 2008

What comes after a pretty snow

Do we draw to us what we worry about, or do we worry about something based on experience?

The answer to that question is one about which philosophers write books. From my observations, life provides no definitive answers (so far). If I had not remembered all the silver thaws I have seen, if I had believed the weathermen and kept a positive outlook, would the electricity still have gone out on our road last night? I don't have any for sure answer to that question but a theory-- which is be prepared for the possibility of repeating negative trends which often are beyond our physical control.

Sunday, about noon, we started to drive into town with the knowledge that while we still had plenty of snow, it (a mere 25 miles SE of us) had none. I had my first second thought when I felt a thin ice glazing on our gate; but farm boss said it meant nothing-- purely remanants. Snow and ice brings out the pioneer spirit in Farm Boss, which is a mixed blessing but he definitely is a positive thinker.

By the time we had driven about 10 miles, we saw a silver thaw developing. All the bushes were coated and turning that beautiful-- coated in ice look that means uh oh to anybody who has been around one. Based on past experiences, but hoping still for the best (weatherman predicted warming), Farm Boss decided it was best to turn around. Past experience trumped hope as it didn't warm up.

When I told farm boss that afternoon that he had to find the kerosene lamps, which neither of us remembered where they had been stashed, he was irked with me. Why do we need those right now? Pioneer spirit was getting in the way of a nap he had in mind. He finally found two of them (one is still misplaced) and was less irked a few hours later when we had them ready to use after the power went out for the second (and for Sunday) final time.

Between them, candles, woodstove, and fireplace, we had an okay evening even if less enjoyable than usual. What did people do in the evenings before electricity? Actually not an inappropriate way to end the darkest day of the year, the longest night, as it provided plenty of opportunity to stare into a fire meditating on when it would finally be time to go to bed.

No clue how long this will last as the weathermen had predicted 41 for Sunday... Yeah right as our power is still out this morning which is when Farm Boss set up the generator which enables basic cooking, keeping lights on, the computer, and/or television if we so desire (until we run out of gasoline). Heat is from the woodstove and hot water? What's that?

Although it's snowing again this morning, the frigid weather won't last forever. Will it? I can remember a few times where we had a week without electricity (one of them without a woodstove); and I have heard parts of New England are enduring one of those. So, yes I know it could be worse-- much worse.

Sometimes thinking positive is easier said than done, but experience tells me this too will pass. In the meantime-- ugh; and that song I always love so much at this time of the year, White Christmas, well, for now at least, it has lost its appeal.

Happy Hanukkah-- חנוכה
to all who celebrate the Jewish holiday
for the miracle of the oil that lasted 8 days

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Winter Solstice

When our kids grew up and left home, then had their own homes or other families, when our parents died, how Christmas was celebrated began to change. There had been many years of big traditional dinners, sometimes twenty or more and often including nearby friends. I loved cooking those meals, setting up the tables, table cloths, china, sometimes silver and creating an experience that all would enjoy. I didn't give it up by choice, but times change.

This year, around Thanksgiving, I realized, because of those changes, I didn't have any enthusiasm for decorating. Incidentally from the day I got married, I have realized that the type of Christmas decorations has been more about my desires than Farm Boss's. He appreciates what I do and helps put things out, but it's been my inspiration because it never was really his thing.

The first Christmas we were married, my parents gave us some small Nativity figures which became part of every Christmas. There were assorted Christmas ornaments that came from both our families. Somewhere along the way, an Advent wreathe entered the scene (one Christmas morning, a candle on it tipped over and put an interesting burned mark in the front of one of the hutches-- fortunately seen before more damage was done).

Through the years, I accumulated a set of Christmas village houses and businesses, then came a Santa village with reindeer and elves. That meant putting out cotton snow and setting up the villages, turning them on every night to create a small fantasy world. Decorating for Christmas was an all-out effort and parts of it were throughout the house.

We had stopped doing any tree some years back, but the rest continued until this year. My lack of interest wasn't for a religious reason. I have no problem saying Merry Christmas to all. The decorating though wasn't something I wanted to do.

In the past Farm Boss or I would go out around the farm and cut armloads of greenery. I'd put out the first ones around Thanksgiving and would have to redo the whole thing at least once and sometimes twice to keep it from becoming flammable. Worse they often seemed to irritate both Farm Boss's and my allergies.

I had known there were artificial trees and swags but how real did that seem? Each year though they were getting better and that led to my desire for an artificial garland for the fireplace mantle which is never a good place for real greens with frequent fires below. I'd just do that one thing... except was so pleasing that it led to purchasing another... and well I won't say how many but they were half off :)

When I began putting them around, with a few small angels, who had missed being put into the Christmas box last year, using the Buddha, the Kachinas, some small natural elements like birds, I saw something happening I had not planned. This was not Christmas oriented but rather Solstice and that felt really good.

It was using natural materials (okay they look natural) with lots of white candles, a couple of spirit guides, symbols of spiritual influences on this home, pine cones collected over many years, and it felt right to be welcoming, as have so many pagans before me, the shortest day of the year, today, with the joy of knowing from this day onward, the days will be lengthening if ever so slightly.

Christ might not have been born in December, we might wonder how we ended up with such an out of control holiday at a time of the year when we have so little energy and so many colds, but Solstice, now that is something nobody can debate when it should be celebrated (if they might argue over whether it should be).

This has felt liberating because it was fully letting go of past expectations and finding what suited today. When I am working around the house, I think, yes, this is good. Next year the Christmas villages and all the rest might come back but only if that feels good.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas cards

Choosing Christmas cards with care has always been one of my things. Sometimes their message has been religious, sometimes nature oriented, and others, like this year are about country life. I almost never buy them a year ahead, even knowing I'd save money, because I might not feel that card when the time came (or more likely, I'd have forgotten where I stuck the boxes).

Unfortunately this year, although I bought cards I liked at our farm store (created by Leanin' Tree), I felt no corresponding enthusiasm when the time came to write them... and then passed the time to send them. Some of that I can blame on an early December bronchial cold that made it no fun for a week and a half; but I've had other years where I just couldn't convince myself to sit down and write cards (this even with doing the addresses with computer labels).

Since I have owned a computer, I have sent Christmas letters along with the cards-- until this year. It wasn't a shortage of photographs or good things to write about. Frankly I just didn't feel like doing it. A month ago I decided I would include a family picture from July which possibly distant family and friends would like better anyway (justification in full swing). Not doing a Christmas letter actually meant more work. I'd have to write more than our names on them. Good Lord, do I even remember how to write letters anymore? You can see how this has been going.

These are this year's cards-- so pretend you just got whichever you prefer (hopefully a few on our list will also). The messages were similar but this was my favorite.

Wherever we may journey and however far we roam,
in this joyful, blessed season, our hearts always head home.

For waiting at the trail's end we know we're sure to find

the warmth of hearth and family and friends that come to mind.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Even the Buddha looks cold

It looks like the farm will stay cold with some potential for rain but then snow again through the week-end. This is not good news as in this part of Oregon, we are used to snow that lasts a day at the most. Camelot, what went wrong? I can't blame it on global climate change as I remember many winters like this growing up and even when I had small children. Just it had changed, and we have been spoiled.

When it's like this, there are certain obvious opportunities (if you don't have to drive to the doctor, go to work, feed livestock, or get supplies). You can stay inside and just enjoy the beauty. Look out the window. Make quick forays into it, knocking off the snow as you return. Take a nap. Create a painting. Go for a walk. Photograph it. Build a bigger fire in the fireplace. Put out more birdseed and watch (photograph) the birds. Whine along with other Northwesterners about how terrible this is (yes, we know other parts of the country have this kind of condition every year). Fill some buckets of water just in case the power goes out (if you don't have a well, you won't know why we do this but think about it a bit).

This has been an excellent packing snow which would be good for snowball fights (I stopped doing those the year I got hit too hard by one of Farm Boss's missiles. He didn't understand that you do this for fun, not kills), make a great snowman/woman; but I kind of like the look of untouched snow (except where we, cats, birds, and sheep have been making trails through it).

I did though make a snow angel. In recent years we haven't had enough snow to make this possible. It's simple to do if you are one of the few who have never done it. You fall back in the snow, lying flat out (nearly a foot of snow is required to not injure yourself if you are not a child who is more used to falling flat out), move your arms up and down to create wings, rise up without disturbing the creation (hopefully), and evaluate how it came out. This year I added a new complication, try to photograph it. I had to wait for some sunlight to get the highlights to show up.In the garden, not as idols but as reminders of spiritual concepts, I have a small Buddha, Kwan Yin, and Aphrodite (inspired by the painting The Birth of Venus). They serve, year round, through all seasons, as reminders of various spiritual traits that I desire in my life. Simplified, they would be contemplation, kindness, and passion. I am not quite to the age for Snow White's dwarfs or little deer, and possibly past the age for flamingos. I'll start worrying if I want gnomes...

Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas card weather

Sunday morning, the farm creatures awakened to several inches of snow which was rather exciting to some and less than thrilling to others. The cows and sheep wanted to know where the grass went and looked suspiciously at us. "Do something!"

The sheep, less impacted by cold due to all that wool, were hopeful more apples had fallen. The cats felt something alien had happened, and it was ruining their outdoor pleasure. They refused to have their pictures taken in it-- typical behavior for cats. The humans had been potentially expecting it and thought it was pretty if it didn't last past noon. As I write this, it's still with us.

Although in the last few years snow has been rare in the Willamette Valley, the prediction is we may get more; and it will stay cold all week. Oh well, I do enjoy the opportunity to see the creek and farm through a different lens; and it adds much pleasure to the fire in the fireplace.

Hopefully no part of the next week will involve what we, in this part of the Pacific Northwest, call a silver thaw when freezing rain coats trees and power-lines forming icicles and leading to broken branches and power outages. At the farm, we are prepared for the latter with a generator, woodstove, kerosene lanterns (now where is that kerosene again?), and candles; but it's never welcomed.

The photos are all from the farm December 14.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Twin Souls: When Love Incarnates

They say this is a full moon (December 12, 8:37 AM PST) with much power which lasts from two days ahead of its being full, to two days after-- a time to make real dreams, to do something to honor your intentions. Do something you love doing or that you want more of in your life in these days. (Photo taken last night from the farm).

On the rather mystical side of what I wrote about yesterday, I found the following YouTube. If it goes too fast, go back to the blog 'Two by Two' and read the link on Twin Souls as it says pretty much the same things.

I find it hard to come up with logical reasons to explain something that seems illogical but is hard to deny exists. Do music, films, books, mythologies explain it or are they the result of it?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Two by Two They Go?

Two by two they go,
animal or human
joyfully loving,
together forever.

A slipper fits the foot
cinder-maid becomes princess.
A kiss from a princess
turns a frog into a prince.

Bogie kisses Bergman good-bye
forever they will love each other
alas nobler purposes got in the way
of testing that out
From mythology to novels to film to music, the stories are the same. True love will last forever, although sometimes events, beyond the control of the lovers, force them apart. This mating is not just about marrying, but finding the love that fulfills both partners in ways that being alone never could-- or so goes the mythology.

What if Bogie and Bergman had settled down into a little cottage by the sea, had some children, and lived out their lives together? Myths generally end end before that can happen.

Taken as myth or allegory, it is how people even today often feel in their desire to be married-- with or without soul mate love. At one time, and even today in some cultures, marriage has been more about uniting clans, birthing the culture's future, and finances. It was two by two but not for romantic reasons, which might still have risen from it.

Has economic freedom brought about a changing view of what it could be or has there been an underlying, deeply instilled desire, for this one perfect love all along?
Twin Souls.

The Judeo-Christian scriptures explain it thus: "For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh." Genesis 2:24. Sounds great. How often does it work out?

The idea of two people staying together, faithful to each other sexually for a lifetime (and beyond) has generally been about women, even religiously, more than men. Among the Apaches, if a woman was unfaithful (or believed to have been) to her husband, she had her nose cut off. I have some books on Apache women, from turn of the last century, with photos of those noseless ladies.

When I did my regressions (deep meditations to acquire past lives), one was likely Apache. I wrote about it here: Regression Story. What I didn't mention was that while deep in the meditation, feeling the story unwind, when it got to a certain place, my nose began to tingle. Never happened in any others and it was before I had seen those pictures. Was part of that lifetime a nose removal? Shuddering at the thought, I don't know nor want to know.

There is a lot of pressure within most cultures, with or without romantic love, to maintain monogamous marriages. When someone, as with John Edwards earlier this year, disappoints us, many feel a personal hurt. They want to think that whether they got it all, someone did. How many pictures do we see or articles do we read about the wonder of the Obama marriage-- or at least what we think hope it is?

I would be the last to suggest that monogamous, through-many-lifetimes love does not exist. But how often does that dream not work out thereby leading to a lifetime of disappointment or searching for something that wasn't there-- at least not on the Casablanca level.

While it appears serial monogamy is okay (if not first choice) with most Americans (might take awhile to get it right), something like polyamory has not been. Polyamory means open relationships with multiple partners based upon love. It is not the infamous swinging marriages where people have sex promiscuously and it's about the sex more than love.

Polyamory is not like the Mormon version of polygamy that appeared to be older men taking their pick of young girls or in similar cultures today where it's only the males who are allowed multiple spouses. It is also not like bigamy where there is deceit involved. What proponents of polyamory claim is that men and women can not only be in love with more than one sexual partner (blowing the twin soul concept out of the water) but desire to commit to more than one openly if not legally.

Some have said Edwards worst crime was lying about his sexual partner. They said the same thing about Clinton, but would the American people really accept a leader who had a marriage like say Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt if they knew?

After the Edwards' affair, I saved a link I originally found on Huffington Post: Is Monogamy one big myth?. Again, I would not say yes, but are the expectations for it based on fiction or reality? I will tell you even writing about this has had me going off several directions at once and struggling to keep the whole piece corralled into one train of thought.

The question to which I have often returned but never found an answer is to what purpose does this concept of one true, perfect and forever love serve? It is Genetic? Spiritual? Communal? We celebrate those who have been married fifty years whether it was fifty good ones or just hanging on by their fingernails. Are those who stick with their original partner more noble or happier than those who keep looking?

Anyway, thinking of romantic songs to illustrate this fabled sort of love, and because writing about this leaves me conflicted between the practical and the romantic, I cannot think of a better way to end than with: To Be By Your Side, Nick Cave

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Beauty and Politics

"Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything beautiful, for beauty is God's handwriting." Ralph Waldo Emerson

From what I can tell, physical beauty has been a power factor in mankind from the beginning of there being an awareness that some look different than others. Interestingly what might be beautiful in one culture could be homely in another. Still Helen of Troy inspired a war-- or at least was the excuse for one. Cleopatra drew both Caesar and Mark Anthony. The possession of male or female beauty has often seemed to carry with it power.

Should it though in the political world when it comes time to select leaders? Are movies seducing us into thinking beauty provides something it does not? I remember one film where Nicole Kidman portrayed a top scientist. Not to say beautiful women aren't scientists, but this woman was supposed to have lots of experience and clout in her field. That doesn't generally happen in one's late 20s... at least not as often as movies would have us believe.

If physical beauty, leads to votes for leadership, where is that going to take us? With great beauty does not necessarily go great ethics, wisdom or intelligence or do does it? Why would beauty prove to be a draw for a leader? We like to look at what is beautiful but when it comes to leadership, where will that lead us?

Was Sarah Palin chosen for any reason other than her beauty? Yes, there was her religious zeal but suppose she'd been the plain and plump governor from Alaska, is there is any chance she'd have been asked to join the McCain ticket? Why else did the Republican party feel it was worthwhile to spend so much money to further gild the lily with hairstylists, clothing, make-up and jewelry?

Now we hear Caroline Kennedy may be chosen to fill Hillary Clinton's senate seat if Hillary is confirmed for Secretary of State. I am not suggesting she is not qualified to be a United States Senator but how would we know? Yes, she's done charitable work for good causes. She's a Kennedy; but if she wasn't also pretty would she be at the top of such a list? Is this mostly about positioning a lovely woman from the left to run against Palin when the time comes?

This was an interesting article on the subject of sex appeal and voting: The Heat Quotient. In the article the author talks about the heat quotient of Bill Clinton. The author said he would walk into a room, and women would all begin to blush.

And don't leave out John McCain in talking about heat quotient. McCain came into the political arena as a war hero and hunk who generated plenty of heat without any help. Today he's a still handsome but definitely aging man (the end for us all), and the heat had to be brought to him, as it was King David in the Bible, through a young, nubile maiden (in McCain's case this mating was platonic).

True, Palin is not young or a maiden but as Alec Baldwin referred to her after meeting her while doing Saturday Night Live, she is a beautiful woman. Baldwin labeled her Bible Spice. Not a bad phrase to describe what she offers as her own church compared her to Esther, a Biblical figure who was also chosen for her great beauty before she exercised a political purpose.

The question is not whether Barack can be compared to James Bond as he was in an interview on the Rachel Maddow show. The question is should he be? After having interviewed Obama, Maddow was asked by an entertainment reporter if she saw Obama as James Bond like for his cool quotient. She said yeah maybe. The reporter went on. Which Bond? She thought a moment and said a cross between Daniel Craig and Roger Moore. Fantasy is our criteria for top leaders???

Beauty could well have been an element in the Bush-Kerry campaign as Kerry was constantly put down for not being an attractive man. Despite the jokes, Bush is. When he was played by the very handsome Josh Brolin in the film, W, it was not a far off resemblance.

Not being French, I don't know but might it have helped elect Nicholas Sarkozy as he happens to be a sexy looking guy? Can anyone deny that his physical beauty helped Jack Kennedy be elected over Richard Nixon?

How do we get off this slope we seem to be on where physical beauty matters? Could an ugly man or woman get anywhere today? Is this happening because of our media? If you know you have to look at someone constantly for the next four years, does beauty become one of their credits? Have movies helped convince us that we need a leader who looks like Harrison Ford or Denzel Washington? It seems to me that we are on a destructive path if this should prove to be so. Beauty is not a criteria for quality leadership-- is it?

Monday, December 08, 2008

Happy Valley

Because it suits a certain mentality to blame the poor for what the country is experiencing or greedy people or somebody else, I wanted to post the article below.

It had appeal to me for another reason. At one time my husband's aunt lived in Happy Valley; so I was there a lot before she died. It was a quiet, peaceful suburb with middle class homes owned by people like his aunt, school teachers. What went wrong?

If you read the article, it is easy to say these people used poor judgment. Do I feel sorry for them? Nope. They completely misunderstood what was happening in the country, but they weren't alone. They saw others making money and thought they could too. They weren't the poor. They weren't bad people. They just showed poor judgment.

The same thing happened in the stock market with people thinking 20% increases in values were normal and what they should continue to expect for financing their retirements. There was an illusion out there.

Back to the above article. The couple paid for their poor judgment by losing their shirts, but everybody didn't. Some made money on these loans. Real estate agents for one. Nobody takes back their commissions if they sell a house someone later cannot afford. I am not saying I blame them either, but they did make money and quite a bit for awhile there. Then there were the construction companies who sold the materials. Banks who charged fees for loans and didn't care if the person could afford them. Bundlers who sold and resold bad mortgages. The question is what can we do about it now?

There is no real fixing loans for people who bought homes way above their income level with the idea they could sell as property values rose. They were wrong. In my opinion, it would not be fair to bail out every homeowner who thought that way. How about the people who didn't buy fancy homes hoping to make a hundred thousand dollars in a year?

We could help the situation for the ones who bought a home they could afford before their sliding scale of interest rose. Refinance those at the current rate which looks like it'll soon be 5% because the alternative is more empty houses. Who benefits by that?

Because I had been receiving emails from realtors in Montana and Central Oregon, I look at a lot of property for its value. It took me awhile to realize this fall that I was looking at a lot of foreclosed homes. Now I know when a house is empty, when it says bank owned, that it was likely foreclosed. These are not small houses. There are a lot of them out there. Those foreclosed homes are lowering the value of other homes in their particular neighborhoods and on it goes.

Whoever we might blame for where we are, we have to go forward in a fair way. I think it's beneficial to keep people in their homes when possible but frankly letting them lose them when they cannot make the payments even with interest at today's rates. Sometimes the price of poor judgment is loss. That's life. It hurts us all to have these homes standing empty, but it does remind us that regulation is not a bad thing.

One last kind of funny thing in this. One of the right wingers was defending lack of regulation. He said it wasn't the fault of no regulation but of greed. Duh!

The photo is from 1974 of my two kids, our beloved Aunt Dora (who I still miss as she was one of my best friends), and me in her garden in Happy Valley where she was so proud and happy. Most of the time in those days, people bought homes they intended to live in, not to resell like the story above. If they sold the home to buy another, it was because they moved for a job change, needed more space, less space, or maybe a two level home no longer worked for health reasons. Flipping homes played into all of this and potentially impacted the values of everyone's homes.

We have been through a time of many bubbles. The biggest one is called illusion.

Sunday, December 07, 2008


Because economics is a lot of what I find myself talking about in personal conversations, trying to figure out where we are going, what went wrong, I thought this explained some of my concerns.

If Obama's economic team hasn't learned from past mistakes (and nobody in the economic world hasn't been making mistakes), why do we think they can fix things now? They will carry out his ideas but are they who he is listening to to figure those out? How about some small business people, some who haven't been in banking or acedmia? This will be an ongoing question and the answer has impact for us all.

Wild Turkeys

Yesterday a flock of wild turkeys stopped by our yard. Listening and watching them pick through the grass for bugs and seeds was very pleasing, and I wanted to share a few pictures. Getting the whole flock together to pose was, of course, not possible but this is a part of it.

I hadn't seen the older ones this fall, but flocks do make circuits. Possibly they were up on the hills until winter came and the pickings there were less than around a creek. Their lives aren't easy but it is pleasing to see them in our valley. This flock numbered maybe 15. It's not possible to be sure how many are toms yet.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Snakes everywhere

Before you decide I have gone completely off the deep end, consider reading the whole article by Sean Penn for The Nation magazine and also in Huffington Post. It is a long one and complex.

Yes, I know how many people dislike Penn and worse dislike the people he is writing about, but just give it a chance even though it's about names whom you think you already know all there is to know-- Hugo Chavez, Raul and Fidel Castro. Penn is writing about what he, as an ordinary citizen with extraordinary opportunities, has observed when traveling to both Cuba and Venezuela. I hear you saying what does he know? These are all bad guys. We know all we need to know. Do we?

How much do we really know about leaders around the world, about what is going on in other countries? Does our media inform us or is it a propaganda arm for the government-- whichever government? Penn titled his article 'A Mountain of Snakes' because of that with which we have to deal as people. Who are the snakes?

A lot of people have been suspicious of Penn being a socialist or wanta be communist because of where he has visited and what he has talked about; or they see him as a dumb actor who should stay out of world problems and politics. Most of all, those are the people who should read his article all the way through. Read it and think about it for awhile. Do we get the whole story in our country? Do we really have a free press? Government doesn't dictate to our press as they do in some nations; but what does dictate the stories we hear about? Do either party want us knowing what is going on elsewhere?

We have one segment of America who wants to praise everything our country does as we can have done no wrong and have no wrongs to overcome. They are the ones who were so offended when Obama said the Constitution was not perfect. They are the ones who ignore that the Constitution at one time forbid women and blacks from voting (or maybe they think that was the right idea).

We have another segment who sees us as the biggest evil in the world and that this country has done no good. I am not sure where they would direct our future because they don't see us as having one. Some relish the idea of all humans being destroyed, as though other animals would do a better job of running things. Wherever they think we should go, they don't like anything about where we are.

The world today is a very confusing place. We read something, and we don't know whether it's true or spin. And it's not just our country. This is a worldwide problem. Which leaders should we trust? What obligations do we have to others? What will happen if we try to fix this or that? What are the unintended consequences of our actions-- or inaction?

Penn's title to his article reminded me of something else I had read in Lynn's World. Before the election, a woman told Lynn that she had a dream where she saw snakes everywhere and had decided it meant Obama was evil. She feared what he would do if elected. Lynn, who is an astrologer, wrote about Obama's chart and how she saw him (she is/was a supporter).

Some years ago, I had the only dream I have ever had about snakes. It was before we moved down to this farm; but we were arranging to buy the property. In the dream, I was with a lot of people I didn't know and inside a building which was a church. Outside were snakes writhing on the ground everywhere. I woke up wondering what did that mean? Was it an omen? Was this farm to be a bad place? Was the church we ended up joining the bad place?

I have seen snakes many times since that dream but never have dreamed of even one again. A mountain of snakes is a frightening concept. Sometimes in Eastern Oregon, people come across rattlesnake balls as they gather together to hibernate for winter or come out of hibernation. I haven't seen such a thing but earlier this year did see photos of them in Arizona, snakes everywhere and not a place anybody wants to be who isn't a snake. It's frightening imagery.

Penn used the analogy to illustrate not just our risks, but I think how hard it is to unwind the truth. Journal style, he wrote about what he observed; and for his courage in going out into the world, in trying to make a difference, I have to admire him. It's not easy to go against the popular viewpoint.

It's especially bad if you say anything remotely good about what either Chavez or Castro have done in their countries. For one thing, what they have done might not be what they will do. To be honest, when I remember reading he had gone down to Venezuela earlier this year, I thought oh no. After reading his article, I think it was good he went. It lets us look at another viewpoint beyond our usual one.

Snakes reflect uncertainty, dangers, hidden risks. Whenever I have seen big ones in Arizona and I have seen a few very big poisonous ones, it always stops my heart a moment; but one of the most frightening of those times was coming home from the store, and my cat was sitting on the front porch looking at a huge snake that at first glance looked a lot like a diamondback rattler.

A ton of thoughts went through my head. Had he been bitten? That snake is huge. If I grab up my cat, who didn't seem at all afraid, would I get bitten? The snake wasn't looking at him but my cat was fascinated with the snake. Did he think he could eat the snake?

Then I stopped to look more closely. No rattles. Head was not shaped like a diamondback. It was actually a big bull snake, at least a four foot long, thick bodied and colored just like a diamondback; but nevertheless, one of the good guys.

I reached down and grabbed my cat while the snake continued to ignore us both. The cat and I went in the back door. I focused my camera for one good shot before the snake left the home zone. He was never a danger to me, but the fear was definitely real for that moment before I could analyze the facts of the situation.

I think reading articles like Penn's, even if you have never liked him at all, is a start in being able to assess our current dangers. He was there. He observed something. What do you think about it? Whether you disagree or agree, you can't assess it if you won't look.

The point of his story was not that we should make Chavez or Castro our new best friends. He was just writing what he personally observed with those leaders and in those countries. He could go where we cannot. As I best understood him, the snakes are that we don't know the full truth, and it benefits a certain group to keep it that way. It's that mob mentality, of the Black Friday sales, that often is the government and media's main schtick.

Yes, there are dangerous snakes out there, and there are those that are not. Being afraid to look, ignoring all possible facts, won't help us figure out which is which or deal with any situation realistically. Can we trust our leaders to do it all for us or should we be informed also?

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Forming a government

I have to admit I think it's humorous listening to Republican pundits, like Dick Morris, tell those of us who supported Obama how disappointed we have been in his picking Hillary Clinton for Secretary of State; then they add that we expect results right away. Oh and how we don't like that he's picking insiders to run various offices like Tom Daschle to be Secretary of Health and Human Resources. We are so upset that Obama is picking experienced people. We loyal democrats want amateurs on his team. We want him to be soft and gentle, prepared to fail because it's the democratic way.... NOT!

The upset people are those who hoped he'd pick outsiders with no clue how to get anything done. They are the ones who never understood he wasn't as far left as they hoped. To them, if he brought in a lot of people who didn't know Washington, didn't know their jobs, these pundits, who did everything to block his election, would have every hope he would fail, something they clearly want because for them it's all about their power, not about what is best for Americans.

Then they pontificate on how he has no mandate for fixing things like health care (the money's been promised to bankers). Of course, Bush had a mandate even the year he actually lost the popular vote, but Obama winning more than a majority of Americans has none.

It is obvious Obama worries a lot what these pundits think. You can see how upset he is as he steadily makes powerful choices for his cabinet, like Bill Richardson for Commerce, a position that is more important now than ever before. He is choosing those who will help him form a new government and a new direction.

To me, if we trusted Obama enough to give him our vote (which these knowing pundits did not), we then will trust him to get the people who will help him do what he promised. I don't care who he picks and that would have included McCain if that's who he thought he needed. This is about him being a leader who gathers an administration, who can work with him, to do the job he committed to do.

AND he never said he'd get it all done right away. He has made it clear all along that it'll be tough and take awhile. There will be sacrifices. Anybody laying out an expectation of instant results didn't vote for him to begin.

It is a huge job to create a government that can turn the country around. He makes it clear every day that he knew what he was taking on. He's setting about to lay the foundation to make it happen. We should wait to see what he does before we second-guess who he has chosen to help him do it.

The Dick Morrises of the world are hoping to do what they can to see him fail. Our support and encouragement will help him to succeed. We have a lot more at stake than our votes. If we are truly heading for a depression, we needed a strong leader and a people who will stand behind him. The easy choices have been passed up years ago.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Black Friday

When Farm Boss heard the story of the employee who was trampled to death in New York, he said it was no surprise to him. He had experienced a black Friday sale in 1964. He still remembers it vividly.

It was not long after we got married, and I wasn't feeling well. A department store downtown was having excellent sales. Those were the years when we didn't have much money and a sale was a big temptation. He had a class downtown anyway and offered to go with a list of things I might want.

He was a much smaller man back in those days. Still 6'1", but slim and boyish in build. He waited in line with no clue what was about to happen when the doors opened. After all, around him were just women, much shorter women than he, but they were something he was not-- experienced and ready to do whatever was required to get to the sale items first.

When the door opened, he was propelled forward into a metal merchandise rack and flattened against it as if by a force of nature. Those women who had seemed like civilized people became something totally different with the opening of the door which apparently led to a shift in their consciousness into predators with prey in sight. Nothing and nobody, certainly not a 21 year old boy was about to stand in their way.

He came home that day with some things he had bought, a much wiser and more experienced man. From then on, even though today he'd be a much harder man to propel forward, the very possibility of a Black Friday sale has led to a lot of things he has to do to be anywhere but in front of a store door when it opens.

The tragedy in New York, worker trampled to death by shoppers, can be repeated around the world whenever people get into a mob mentality. It happens at sporting events, at rock concerts and at sales. Why stores have such sales is all about profit and creating that mob mentality for the first ones through the door getting the best prizes.

I had had a minor experience like it, on a much lesser scale when I was in high school. A girlfriend of mine had a mother who offered to take us both to the big ritzy department store in downtown Portland for a series of charm lessons-- each one intended to teach girls how to dress, walk, and use make up. It was taught by tall, beautiful, models who the store employed at that time for the occasional runway shows.

The last day they had some samples to give out, make up or something like that. Charm went out the window as the girls lunged forward for their share of the spoils. I wasn't inclined to do that even then although I sure didn't come from a family with money to buy such things; but I stood back listening to the models react in horror to the obvious failure of the classes in teaching poise development. If I recall, they stopped the rush and proceeded to add a lecture on how to behave like ladies when there were bargains (or freebies) to be had.

I am not a person fond of sales and never go to big ones. I am not willing to elbow anybody out of the way for a bargain. Fighting the crowds is simply not worth it to me even if there was no risk of being thrown to the ground. I'd rather have less clothing and buy it when I am ready to do so.

It's too bad some store doesn't mark everything the lowest price possible, skip sales, and keep it there until end of season sales which make some sense at least. That, however, would defeat the mania they are feeling they need. I would personally prefer to shop where prices were always as low as possible and who has quit re-tagging them through the season. Wouldn't that actually lead to lower overall costs? I wonder how many people feel like I do and instead of sales hysteria, have sales paranoia.