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Saturday, February 23, 2013

this and that

Frankly my ideas for writing here are pretty low. I am reading the newspapers, following the talk over the sequestration, immigration, guns, etc. etc. But to be honest, currently my personal life is all about my writing. I thought about it the other day how for the last month or two, I don't seem to exist and it's all about my characters, what they need, and how their lives are going.

Finishing the rough draft of one of my historical manuscripts and taking a break from fiction writing before I start on the other partially finished one, I have thought maybe I ought to be looking at my own life. Am I living as I want to be? What's going well or not for me? How did I let the area around my desk turn into something that looks like a pack rat's den? But I'm not-- I'm still tweaking the one I just finished and more interested in how Priscilla (its heroine) is managing than with how I am. 

The only news story to really pique my interest is of Oscar Pistorius shooting his girlfriend. This is a human interest story which often attracts my interest; but in this case, my following it has been because so far no possible scenario regarding what happened makes any sense. I like to understand why people do what they do; however, sometimes in life there are things that literally have no such logical scenario. Murder frequently fits into that category.

Blasting through a bathroom door to kill a burglar doesn't  make sense (logically the culprit is locked in there and you call the police, right?). Killing a girlfriend of three months doesn't, no matter how passionate you are (mad at your girlfriend-- logically, you dump her). Either way what happened is illogical. 

The judge, in granting bail, called Pistorius' written testimony as to what happened implausible and that pretty well describes how I see either scenario; so I read when I see something new because I keep thinking eventually it'll make sense. So far not. All that is obvious is this is a horrible tragedy and involves a killing by a man full of fear or rage who should NOT, for his sake and others, have had a gun at all. 

Having served on a jury not that long ago, I had been thinking I'd hate to be on the one that decides this case. Then I learned South Africa doesn't have juries. Judges decide innocence or guilt. I don't know if that's better or not. The articles on the high crime rate, fear there of home invasions, level of gun ownership, and then the horror of their main prison system has all been an eye opener as it wasn't how I saw South Africa. Nothing like a notorious crime to reveal culture. It happens to us in our own country all the time!
Otherwise on the farm-- lots more lambs, many twins, one set of triplets, one single that had to be pulled, one born dead. The first photo below is of twins, a few hours old and one of my favorite ewes. The others are of twins born the day before.

Locally, most of our weather has been gray and moderate this winter with no really hard freezes yet, only a smattering of December snow, lots and lots of fog. On one of our rare sunny days, Farm Boss and I drove out to Finley National Wildlife Refuge with the Nikon CoolPix P510 that we recently acquired, using frequent flier points, to see how our three cameras with telephotos compared. 

The new one held up nicely against its bigger brothers. It is a nice little camera, less weight to carry on hikes and a pretty good telephoto, 16.1 mp, 42x zoom. All the photos in this blog were taken with it-- some at a considerable distance. I have yet to totally understand all its settings, but it looks like it has a lot of options that will be useful when finally figured out.

So far I still wish I had a really big telephoto like I said I wanted but can't justify the $10,000 it would cost. And yes, for shooting photos of the wolves in Yellowstone, that's what it would cost to get one that could do it at the distance we generally see them. It's obviously much cheaper to buy the photos someone else took!

 In this last photo at Finley, those are hundreds of geese in the distance. They might be readying themselves to head north. It is getting close to the season and you could feel the excitement in the air.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

the dichotomy of life

Dichotomy: division into two mutually exclusive, opposed or contradictory groups; something with seemingly contradictory qualities. 

As a writer, it might not surprise you that I totally am into the juxtaposition of opposing life elements, one next to another, elements might seem totally unrelated and yet are in a profound way the true meaning of what life is about because life is filled with such. 

Tuesday we had an example of such a happening. I was reading online, looking to see if they had yet caught the terrorist on the loose in the Los Angeles area. I call him a terrorist because he had put out a manifesto saying he would kill police and their family members for wrongs he felt the police force had done to him. There was a list. He clearly only wanted to kill police officers as anyone else with whom he came in contact was freed or let go. 

Some even had turned him into a hero, putting likes on a Facebook page for him and on other [social media sites] expressing sympathy for him and a feeling that the police weren't doing right or hadn't done right. They apparently dismiss the murder of a young couple whose only connection to him was her father had represented him in a hearing that cost him his job. Or the police officer gunned down while stopped at a traffic signal with no warning he was a target.

The manhunt took awhile. By the time Tuesday came along, I was glad to hear they him cornered, and I turned on the TV to see what was happening. I watched as the news media made the usual fools out of themselves while trying to reveal the latest scoop when they had no idea what it was. 

Then came the cabin fire which reminded me of other times I've turned on the TV to watch the Koresh compound being attacked and suddenly burning and 9/11 in NYC. The rumors continued being spread by the media while real life was happening-- messy as real life tends to be. For those who felt the LA police were to blame and plotted to kill the shooter before he could tell his story, the last stand and the officer killed in the final confrontation all were part of San Bernadino police.

This all was going down while on the other side of our nation, another man was readying himself to give a speech about the State of our Union. He would be doing this before most of the leaders of our nation with only a few held back just in case something catastrophic took out that building before the speech was over.

This man laid out what he believed we needed to do as a people to make our country a better place to live. He spoke of many progressive values but always with the goal of doing things with less cost and greater long term gain. He spoke of a nation where everyone had a chance and encouraged preschools throughout the nation, as Georgia and Oklahoma have provided, so that all children get the advantage of a jump start to their education.

While this was going on, in my own world:

lambs were being born,  We now have several sets of twins and one of triplets while one of the young ewes had a still birth. There are also two new calves.

I did the first cursory edit of my just completed historical romance which is a story of love, community, family, Arizona, danger, and consequences of our actions-- those which can take us to a better life or further into darkness. 

Farm Boss had been involved with technology helping another start up company that would make plantings of trees and plants more successful with less needed water and lower failure rates in areas where they cannot be watered during the summers.

And while most of us were either enjoying a lovely Valentine's Day, feeling a bit down about our lives, or ignoring it totally, there was this story, which if you are interested in human motivations, you probably already were following: [Prosecutors charge premeditated in Steenkamp murder case]. The story involves two highly successful people, the overcoming of a handicap in the ultimate way, a South African hero, a beautiful model, love, violence, and a holiday about love. 

From what I have read of the run up to it, the couple had only been a couple for a few months. It was reported that the murdered woman Twittered about her excitement regarding a surprise and Valentine's Day. She also was someone who spoke out against abuse of women. 

What next happened was the ultimate dichotomy of both sides of love regardless of what you believe led to him shooting her [four times through the bathroom door]. Even a court decision may not reveal the whole truth of that night because we are left with the earlier police call, what the neighbors heard, forensics evidence, and his version of the event-- she's not here to tell her side.

One thing you learn when you write is life can be exactly like that. Up against the direst circumstance can be the most beautiful happenings and the most mundane.
Life is too often totally unexpected and making no sense-- which is why I like to write stories using human nature, the emotion of love, and put together endings that do work out and make sense. I create characters and give them the happy ending that so often life denies people. I do it for myself as the writer and for potential readers.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Caretaker or destroyer

Although I have long thought this, It's been a long time since I wrote about it.  I also have a way of categorizing people but it's not by ethnicity, gender, sex, IQ, education, color, or even politics (although that's becoming harder to say). I do it by whether they are caretakers or destroyers. 

I went looking for the original piece I had written about it for the blog and was surprised to find it back in 2006. Wow, I've been doing this blog a long while.

I have refined my thinking on it even though I don't think i wrote about it again. For one thing nobody has to stay one thing. They also don't have to be all of one thing. Maybe in one part of their life they are a caretaker type and in another it will be destroyer. It can get confusing when that person behaves a destroyer in their family but a pious caretaker in public. 

Also the word caretaker is often misused as if it's someone who nursemaids others. That is not how I see the word. To me a caretaker is the one who does the work that leads to it being sustained and healthy, growing. It would mean the same thing where it came to people or the earth. Caretakers don't just give the mushy words and then take whatever suits them. Caretakers understand that there is more than today and they not only live that way but they try to help others also live that way.

Where it comes to recognizing where someone else fits (or even yourself) you cannot go by what is said but more by actions. The politician who claims he's a family man but is on his fourth marriage, most likely he's not.

Assessing where someone is shows up easiest if they raise livestock. Do those people have fields that look healthy? Grass has to be nurtured along with the cattle and sheep. Do their fences make for them being responsible neighbors? If their animals don't look healthy, if they are skinny and malnourished, they can say all the pious words in church or the political arena but they aren't caretakers. The evidence gives them away.

In the world most Americans live in today, they don't see those kind of obvious clues to what that person is. Their children might be well-dressed but at home they are emotionally brow-beaten, never good enough. It's harder for us to figure it out because often destroyers look like fine folks who speak with noble sounding words. Their true character shows up in their business investments, whether they pay their bills on time, how they treat the lowliest of creatures (and that includes humans) around them, and who they support for leaders.

We could argue up one side and down the other about what political party is caretaker and which is destroyer. We could all point to those areas where one party or the other has shown destroyer tendencies but it's harder to evaluate because life today is complex and consequences not always showing up right away. 

A good example is the use of drones that is now being heavily debated as it should be. For a long time Democrats have expressed concern over the use of drones; while generally Republicans have supported it other than those who want to see Obama as a destroyer and then they will see them as bad right up until they get another like McCain or Romney in office.

It's easy to see the concern of drones. Some see them as the ability to wage war without consequences to our own lives. If we know our men and women are at risk, might we use war less cavalierly?  Well we haven't. War has been treated as a commodity especially when we reached a point where there weren't jobs for young people in this country and we had an all volunteer army just waiting for the young to enlist and be sent overseas to whatever benefited our interests... or in destroyer lingo-- kept us safe. I think we have treated war not much different than use of drones.

So is using a drone a destroyer who recklessly disregards life, or a caretaker who sees it as a pinpoint way to take out someone threatening to our nation with less loss of any other lives? Deciding that is the complexity of modern life in America.

Whether it's appropriate to use the word war today might help. If we are in war, then the rules are different but we have used that word pretty carelessly. War on poverty, war on drugs and now war on terror. None of these wars are as convenient as war on a country used to be. If you take the word war out of the equation, then it's easier to say drones are not okay. If it's in the equation, then I think it gets difficult to assess.

Having seen drones flying when I was on the road one time to Arizona, they really are kind of scary. Like big hornets that can be nearly invisible in the sun until suddenly there they are. We were only watching them be 'exercised' but if we lived where they were carrying missiles, seeing them would be terrifying for bad or good guys-- and those standing too close.

I think asking if we ourselves are caretakers or destroyers is probably where the designation helps the most. Do we look to the long range for our choices? Do we help others but in ways that will help them be sustaining, not dependent on us? Do we nurture our own lives with activities of value and that doesn't mean always of a weighty, sober nature but also fun, exercise, building that inner serotonin that makes us more able to not only nurture life in real ways but have the wisdom to see what really will help.

The problem I think we face in our lives is that what can appear to be caretaking can actually be damaging and what can appear to be destroying might actually be nurturing. It's not simple but it is the way life can be lived and when we see we goofed, went a wrong way, we turn it around. That's the lovely part of being human-- we don't just operate by instincts and we can evaluate and re-evaluate.

I am not someone who spends a lot of time staring at my navel contemplating life (as the joke goes) but I have done it, worked out my own creed, my value set even when it might not suit someone else, and I do try to always live by it. Only now and then do I re-evaluate whether it's still working. Someone who can never re-evaluate is likely neither caretaker nor destroyer-- they are just part of the scenery ;)

The first salamanders date back 164 million years give or take a few million. We see this variety on our gravel road and usually will encourage them to leave the road which means pick them up with a stick or leaves and give them a toss because their defense mechanism is to pretend they are dead-- the reason for care in handling them is their other defense mechanism is a toxic fluid which they can exude.  Playing dead might work well with predators but autos-- not so much.  We usually take them off just because we hate to later see their squished bodies, but when I read they have declining populations, I don't feel it's so pointless to do. They are predators, and he's the first we have seen this year. Maybe spring is approaching faster than it seems.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Spam is a loser

 Oregon High Desert Museum January 2013

I don't know how other people work this out, but spam directed at this blog really irks me. Blogger has done an excellent job on catching it before it reaches the blog itself; so whether I use word verification or moderation, they get almost all the spam-- BUT it all goes to my email to notify me of a comment. The only way I could stop that would be by no longer receiving notifications of comments. I LIKE notifications especially if I've written on a controversial topic where I will want to respond and keep a conversation going.

So I put up word verification which cut way back on the number of email notifications but I HATE word verification when I have to use it. It's hard to figure out the letters and even when I am sure I got it right, I often have to do it twice. So annoying. To put it onto my blog means I am subjecting the few who will comment (and most readers do not) to working through those murky letters which likely means even less do comment.

What gets me about it is-- why do spammers do it? Do they actually sell any products that way? Are they paid by the numbers they put out? I am not sure what they think it will accomplish, but I've never even read those links let alone taken the chance of clicking on one and getting some kind of virus or a phony product that likely if I offered to buy I'd find my money disappearing along with the product.

They are clever, the spammers as they often flatter the heck out of a writer as they have gotten quite good at making it sound like they read the blog. But why not put their energy into creating their own sales blogs or something? I mean what are the odds that my blog will sell what they are spamming? For the few times blogger misses one (and it's few), I delete them when I see them. 

Once, and only once, I made a catastrophic error when I got to my spam folder where they request we regularly check to be sure all are spam (and for some reason blogger does put one of my readers in there which always amazes me as she might be the only one i know who uses her actual full name to comment). I clicked on the button to check all boxes then clicked on the button to delete the spam and realized too late I'd hit the button that said-- not spam. That meant I had to figure out where those spammers had posted and get there to delete all of them by hand. I am VERY careful to not repeat that mistake.

So for now I am keeping the word verification off but if it reappears, know the reason why-- my email load just can't handle it.


Saturday, February 02, 2013


Painting by Diane Widler Wenzel whose blog is Umbrella Painting Journal

Imbolc, Ewe's Milk, February 2 is the traditional, Celtic end of winter with the coming of spring. I know it's not what the calendar or the sun phases say, but it's what is revealed by nature and with the new lambs. Almost always we have our first lamb by this time and the rest follow shortly after. Because we don't control breeding of our sheep, the rams are with the flock year round, this isn't quite as tidy a business as it would be in a more corporate type ranch. We operate with the seasons and the sheep determine those.

We know it's still winter by outside cold temperatures and in my valley the darkness, fog, long nights, but those nights are little by little shortening. And the plants outside know this. I can see some of the first growths coming up from the soil, buds swelling on the end of trees and shrubs. 

digital painting-- sun breaking through darkness

We are still in the dark but with the bursting forth so near, it's a good time for meditating, for thinking of possibilities, of our own growth. As the light grows, we see more shadows. It is a time where the ancients would say we may open our third eye to see the truths that the world around us does not reveal. 

My dreams have been rich, not so much dreams of what will come but vivid dreams with color and events. I am writing a new book and it's been coming together in very exciting ways. I know for those who dislike romances, that won't seem a big deal. It's a big deal to me as these characters take on life and action. They grow as outside I see the buds expanding ready to burst forth.

While I am doing a lot of internal work (analysis of a recent dream is in my Rain Trueax blog), writing many hours each day, time with family in Central Oregon, planning for activities later this spring and summer (beach trip with friends and Yellowstone in July), I am also reading the papers, listening to some news and thinking about our country and the directions it is expanding.

As a woman who has always lived by the laws, I have had a hard time with what has happened here regarding immigration. When we haphazardly punished some for immigration violations while others have been rewarded, immigration has been an issue that has troubled me (and I've written on it before with the general conclusion we have laws and they should be obeyed). Basically I had felt that it can't be right for Americans to profit from cheap labor because they looked the other way on immigration for their own profit.

For years I didn't like the idea of amnesty and thought in terms of better border security (it's not all about Mexico), enforcement of the laws, work regulations that kept illegal residents from benefiting from coming without permission.

But at the same time, I recognized that at one time everybody came without permission. When my grandmother's grandparents came from Germany and bought a farm in South Dakota, I doubt they had permission. On the other side, my great grandfather came from Scotland. Who did he have to ask in the 1800s? Even the relatives that came earlier, some to what was New Amsterdam in the 1400s, there were no green cards or even Visas. They just came if they could afford the boat fare. If not they may have sold themselves into servitude for a number of years to gain passage. 

So here we are today with rules and regulations that are regularly broken. In January President Obama basically announced he goes along with the Senate Eight on a proposal to strengthen borders, work regulations, loosen up on the number of green cards and work visas, a path to citizenship, but one that makes those 11 million here illegally get to the back of the line and pay back taxes.

First of all why would they do that? How many years would they then have to wait to work here legally? Let's assume they have jobs now, do they give them up to the ones who waited to do it legally? Are we giving them a pass on that until they do finally get their papers-- and if so, then some of the new law is like the one under Reagan.

My questions are why will the Senate and Obama proposals work better than what happened under Reagan? Will they just open a door to more illegal entry? Is it actually fair to undocumented workers currently here since they weren't the only ones contributing to what happened. Someone hired them whether for steady jobs or day labor. They were rewarded by Americans wanting their gardens cheaper or construction or food production enabling those who didn't look too closely to get lower prices.

Maybe it's that I am getting old, but I wonder now if we have any ability to actually control borders in a country like ours where entry comes so many ways. Is the world so changed that all nations with borders need to rethink this as one world and one people with all the various ethnicities, religions, genders, and cultures? I get it that you must protect resources except from those other countries, how many of them did someone exploit their resources already?

The talk is allowing in more people with training and skills. Less who do gardening. Is that going to be fair to Americans who did train and develop skills but find their wages depressed by the competition? Who benefits from that?

So I think the immigration problem didn't happen solely due to those who came here without papers. This country contributed to it. Can it be fixed now by new regulations, expanded numbers of green cards, more enforcement at the work place, allowing companies to expedite the green card for what has until now been an illegal employee? I have my doubts but what is going on right now is unfair. 

The world is changing just as Imbolc signifies our way back to growth and more light, maybe it's the right time to make a change with immigration that will actually work if that's possible. I know one thing-- as I get older, I feel less need to control everything-- maybe it's an awareness I can't anyway.

There are many [traditions regarding Imbolc] but the main thing is light is coming-- which is reason to celebrate.

 .one of my oil paintings-- Bird Woman