Oregon writer, Rain Trueax, and Oregon painter, Diane, co-author Rainy Day Thought, where they write about ideas and creativity. Diane posts on Wednesdays and Rain on Saturdays. There may be extra days or changes as situations warrant. Comments, relating to the topic, are welcome as it turns an article into a discussion, but must be in English, have no links that were not pre-approved, not include profanity, or threats. The problem with the links is we can't take the time go there and see if they are legitimate and relate to the topic.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

by Diane: Lam's Tai Chi for Arthritis, Roller Skating and Painting

Updated ( see end of post)
A little over thirty years ago my daughters competed in roller skating.  I attempted the sport with them competing in figures.

"Zombie Puppets on Roller Skates" is a procion dyed  raw silk and cotton print banner from 1984.
         When I was roller skating I made many illustrative banners like "Zombie Puppets..." for which LeeAnn Lehni wrote lyrics for a children's book, MAGIC MAN, MAGIC MAN HELP ME SKATE IF YOU CAN.  When I did these silk paintings, I wished skating was easier to learn. I wished I could skate without thinking and if I did fall the landing would be as soft as falling into bed.

     And now many years later I wish I could learn Tai Chi instantly.  I just started, in April, learning Dr. Paul Lam's Tai Chi for Arthritis at the Sam Fit Gym here in Albany taught by a very good certified instructor, Joann.  The reason for this new class is that among many health benefits for seniors Tai Chi increases balance. Lam's Tai Chi choreography is the only Tai Chi endorsed by the Arthritis Foundation of America as a proven fall preventative exercise program for all ages especially for seniors. Very important for me because I need to be more mindful of what my body is doing, maintaining strength and balance. I have a history of gawking, not watching my step, and tripping especially when site seeing.
         My goal is getting fit for travels with granddaughters this September. This soft martial art will increase my confidence making me less of  a target for unwanted incidents. In addition I am enthused about this class because I hope to be more aware of the chi in my painting just as rollerskating became important in my art in the 80's.
         Traditional Tai Chi has competitions. But in Lam's, there are not any judges or Tai Chi police. Perfection is not the goal.

 Three turn  moving forward
twisting at the waist and locked
     The basic moves are just as difficult for me to learn as when I learned to roller skate. Tai Chi is extremely different from how I usually move.  I must teach my muscle memory.
      Many similarities cross over from my early roller skating experience.  One similarity is bending the knee of the supporting leg so the body can rise and fall making for a fluid movement. Skating figures and Tai Chi both need focused concentration like meditation. Never my dream of a magical zombie auto pilot!
       One difference is the changes in speed of movements. In Tai Chi speed is consistent. In skating speed varies. Shifting from one direction to another is performed with an abrupt quick snap for instance.
        In the three turn, one, the torso twists; two, the upper body locks the torso in the twisted position; and three, the supporting leg and skate is pulled around to the same direction as the locked torso. The skater continues to move in the same direction and speed as before only the body is facing the opposite way. In the three turn the body revolves 180 degrees while the direction of skating movement continues in the same direction.
         In a roller skating pivot the skater first sways in the opposite direction that they intend to go in a 90 degree change in skating direction.  The skater does not twist at the waist but opens their hips to a 90 degree angle. Then with a snap, fast move transfers weight to the opposite skate swaying in the direction they wish to go.
        The Tai Chee pivot I am now learning is called Brush the Knee. Briefly, the process is breath, shift most weight  on foot on the side preparing to turn. The opposite foot swivels pigeon toed in the turning direction at the same time the torso swivels away from the turn winding up to throw an imaginary pie with the opposite hand to the foot advancing. The eye follows the hand back for better movement back. When the throw advances the eye shifts to where the pie is aimed.  During the throw the advancing foot naturally swivels on the toe before stepping forward placing the hee down first with most of the weight on the forwarding foot the back foot advances. Then gently rests down with only a little weight on the foot a little behind. The hand on this resting foot gently falls to that knee.  The foot is poised to move either forward or back.

         In roller skating with shoulders down the upper body locks unmoving except in some exceptions and the arms are extended with visible tension. While in Tai Chi the body is relaxed to facilitate maximizing blood flow and readiness to take on an adversary.  In Tai Chi the body parts remain close to the center of gravity for strength and balance. In skating the fluidity of a pose is enhanced by extending the movement stretching out to the tips of the fingers and toes.
        So used to extending movement, I feel my Tai Chi is wrong  until I see myself in a mirror. When I become accustomed to Tai Chi, I will feel what I am doing better.
        One important similarity between the two is the usefulness of imaging in the mind's eye.
both use the image of a string attached to the top of the head. The string holds the body in alignment. Some steps are quick and locked in skating while Tai Chi strives to be even.  Locking an extended leg or arm blocs the blood flow.
         In Tai Chi the moves are contrapposto, a term used in art in which the hips and shoulders are opposed up and down. Tai Chi embodies the ying yang concept!

Progress on  painting inspired by last week's blog
on the benefits of keeping my old work
The old work was a painting of the same location over 30 years ago
 and Van Gogh whose paintings have the energy of chi.

         Maybe some of my difficulty in doing this simple step is having to unlearn what I learned in skating over thirty years ago. But on the other hand maybe the skating experience has given me the confidence that if I stick to trying I will learn.
        I am excited to continue and feel the chi not only in my exercise and better health but also in my painting.
Update 5/23/19
Swallows, oil, 11" x 14"
My understanding of Chi:
In painting the life force is made visible by paths of movement.

Last evening's Tai' Chi class I heard what is impeeding my progress in learning. I practiced looking in a mirror or look for cues from the instructor.  Better not to be concerned about perfection and look within own space and mind doing my own Tai.  Interestingly the same advise in Lee Ann Lehni's lyrics for my illustrations.

More on my painting experience next week.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Just a taste of Arizona

by Rain Trueax

There are several elements to a book that must be considered before setting out writing. One of them is setting. Does the setting work with what happens in the story? How much do you know about the location? How important should it be to the plot?

For me, setting is one character in all of my books. I set them only in places I've spent time or better yet-- lived. I like that sense of reality for my stories, which are otherwise fiction. Mine are all set in the American West. Some are contemporary and some historical, but they all have ground under them where I know what the soil is like, how the wind feels, when it rains, what kind of vegetation, and even who are the people who live there.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

by Diane, Hidden benefits of keeping the best of my art

I want to go out and paint on a spanking new surface but have run out of space to acquire even a medium sized canvas. In the past I have retired a few paintings and then acquired new surfaces. So I am in the process of purging my own work. Having several hundred paintings ready to hang is a nice manageable limit. After years of this process enabling me to continue painting without the bother of marketing I am approaching with enthusiasm the destructive part of creating a strong body of work.
Going through my unframed smaller work is like a walk through my past. In the '60's when Nancy was a toddler, I made wood block prints.
As my daughters grew up my husband started restoring Model A Fords.  The kids in the neighborhood got involved when we started up the motor. This is an illustration for a children's book for our family.
When we moved to Albany, Oregon we raised bummer lambs. This pencil drawing also was an illustration for a book I made for nieces, nephews and grandchildren.
When on a cruise friends agreed to pose for me! This is a sketch on an accordion folded watercolor paper book. I started 19 years ago cutting up full sheets of watercolor paper to make books without heavy covers.  Pocket sized books were handy to record memories of our trips while riding in a bus or walking along trails.

1987 our backyard view
                                                                                                After last year's clear cut, 
                                                                                              there are many oak seedlings everywhere.
While going through my collection I found the 1987 watercolor of the Christmas tree farm. I was briefly inspired to paint the same scene as I see and feel it today. On second thought, I am not excited enough to immediately go out and paint in my old style. A more abstract distillation will take incubation in my mind.  I think I will select the flight of the swallows over the open meadow where the wind blows the grass that moves like waves.
        I took a picture with my phone. Taking pictures gave me new perspectives. But no camera can capture what I feel about the energy of the open space. When I complete the painting, I will update this post.
        It is fun to reminisce but mixed with the fun is making difficult choices requiring retiring some of my past work. Retiring too much can be depressing. But enjoying the new open spaces gives me a sense of accomplishment. I am not preparing even medium sized surfaces because as of late my small works are encroaching on more and more nooks and crannies. More paintings are stored closer and closer together on the walls.  I not only need more space to continue painting but I suspect that my work on paper as old as 60 years degrade- even acid free paper may degrade. I suspect dust mites are seriously worsening my husband and my allergy symptoms.
          I need to set priorities to make these difficult decisions of what to keep of my own and other artist's work in my collections.  My number one priority is having a personal relationship to the content of my work as well as a personal connection to other artist's work in my collection. Number two is keeping representational work from each period. Number three is keeping work representative of my series including paintings of waterfalls, water in landscape, self portraits, vases, dragons and fantasy.
          Each piece of importance will be supplemented with a handwritten story. If I do not have a good enough story, I will retire the painting. If the paper is old it goes into the garbage. If it is new and acid free, it is cropped to make greeting cards.   I hope dust mites will not be a problem if I keep art work sealed in archival museum boxes.
          I feel some time soon in the future I might again market my work. With my strongest work and a catalog of the ready to hang work, I hope to impress a gallery that will promote my work whole heartedly. Since mostly my best work has been sold over the years, I have on occasion received some of my work back. Some have willed my paintings back to me or my heirs. I hope other collectors will do the same.
May 15 UP DATE
This morning  I woke up with the realization that my body of work is sentimental. My process of keeping only works that I can write a story about is a sentimental visual diary. Hard to admit sentimentality because my art professors cringed and criticised  saccharine sentiment in paintings.
         Also I foresee more clearly the second watercolor to show how I feel about the change of the meadow since 1987 as seen from our back yard.  As I paint the vision may change but at this moment I see the field of grass in brush strokes like Van Gogh's painting of a field with crows. But not crows in the air. I see swallows.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Bound for the Hills

by Rain Trueax

There was a time when I never wrote about my books in this blog. There was a reason for that. I thought if I mentioned them, readers would take it as me trying to sell them. I also thought-- those that do-- do. Those that don't, talk/write about it. Silly reasoning but for years, I didn't talk about my writing even to friends. A few knew I wrote but most probably did not. None of my friends at the time wrote or had interest in writing. Most didn't read romances if they read books of other sorts.

Eventually, that changed some with this blog but still not nearly to the level writing/marketing encompasses my life and thinking. Conversations in the middle of the day with Ranch Boss often revolve around a marketing aspect, which makes sense as he's the main marketer behind my books and has been for several years (one reason more books are sold today than back then). When I wake in the morning, it's often with dreams that revolved around some aspect of writing.

A dream example was this week: I find a page where I can look at how much money each of the writers I know have already made that month. It turns out to be in the many thousands (and it probably is the case, given what they've revealed other places). In the dream, I feel a mix of pressure to do more to get my books seen and jealousy that they made so much. 

Finding a page like that would not make me happy, and there might even be one. IF so, I won't be reading it. *fingers crossed*. Well, I might, but it'd be happier if I didn't as comparing yourself to others, in anything, is always a lose/lose.

So for Saturday blogs, for a while, I am going to write about writing/marketing.  I hope it will be of interest to those who come, but understand it might not. I won't be doing this hoping more books will be sold from here (links are all listed alongside lol) but instead with the hope that it might inspire others to give writing a try or if they already write, ideas on how they could get their books out there and what that involves. I've learned a thing or two after getting into this in 2012-- some from my own experiences and some from what others have shared (writers who I looked up in the dream). It will also be because this is something important in my life.

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

by Diane: A painter's take on "How to Think about What You Know" by Dr. Joseph Sheiber PhD

Dr. Joseph Shieber was almost like STAR TRACK'S Dr. Spock. They both have a serious matter of fact explanation of  logical thinking. I say almost because Dr. Sheiber showed some emotion in emphatic, passionate rises of his voice as he read his carefully worded lectures. In the last lectures his excitement intensified if I am not mistaking.  Still he maintained a straight face like a stand up comedian. He had to be aware he was often humorous.
      Looking back I should have been prepared for his revelation in the last lecture.
      I sped through the course this past week, listening while I was icing my eye lids with cold compresses and later while using warm compresses after surgery for droopy eye lids. The bruising and swelling is disappearing quickly, I am happy to say.
Reading and contemplating as well as listening and contemplating.
            My biggest impression from the course comes from some examples Dr. Sheiber gave of our human abilities or lack of them in applying deductive and inductive reasoning.  I am humbled to realize the fragility of knowledge which increases my empathy for my friends who see reality the opposite to my own.  I better understand  my chemist husband who doubts the results of single untested scientific research reports.
        In my quest seeking a bridge to gap our polarized political discourse, I found little hope as I progressed through the lectures. I continued nevertheless. The conclusion was climatic.  An eye opener that burst my dreams. A branch of modern philosophy called epistemology is part of Dr. Shieber's answer to ending fake news and not what I was looking for in strengthening my individual critical thinking. Facebook click bait he says has reduced the support for other media venues. Perhaps Facebook contributes to the quality decline of news media. Most news media  no longer conducts rigorous fact checks. An exception is  "The New Yorker Magazine". "The New Yorker" is worthy of being reliable because every article and cartoon is checked with the creator as well as extensively researched by a team.
         The poor alternative is, according to Dr. Shieber, to put the responsibility of fact checking with the reader. Readers can't reasonably check every story they read. Plus on line fact check sites do not agree and exhibit bias. Meaning my susceptibility to stories that are not extensively fact checked is not my negligence or low intelligence but my human nature. Dr. Shieber lifts a heavy weigh from my guilty feelings on falling for fake news.
As a painter I do not  attempt to reproduce just what my eyes see.
I know I am not seeing objects but the light reflected off of them.
 I believe I am aware and able to express visually energies beyond the light spectrum.
I paint the perception and memories that seem to be in my muscles especially the heart.
I want to be in tune with the energy of life. Are my paintings about ch'i?
The type of energy I paint can be absolute knowledge? Something a camera cannot photograph?
 Intuitive knowledge?
Sometimes paintings flow effortless and I cannot believe I painted my painting.
Where do these happy painting experiences come from?
Will scientists study body muscles functioning as a sixth scense that can process input separate from the brain?
Not possible? Could the understanding of perceptions of painters change the world for the better?
Philosophers want to find some knowledge solid as truth but maybe the perception of solidness is a need
 as opposed to what exists in the physical world? Only human nature is solidly consistent?
         In criticism of Dr. Joseph Sheiber, I am left with a fear of the possible misuse of epistemology.  I feel less empowered. In addition to the quick fix of blaming Trump or the Russians, after the outcome of Trump's Presidency, I will need more knowledge of the "systemic problems facing society. I do not fully understand how eighteenth century Bayes' Theorem works as a powerful mathematical formula for predicting probability from what we know of the past. I do not fathom exactly how it is used by Facebook to predict what ads show up in my news feed. I do not understand the meaning of statistics and how they can be used for or against our liberties. Dr. Joseph Sheiber not only brought to my attention what I do not know he also made recommendations of what articles and books I could read to become informed.

 Dr. Joseph Sheiber hopes to inspire others to study further.  I recommend THEORIES OF KNOWLEDGE, How to Think about What You Know  published just this year. This course is a  Great Courses video with a book included.  The topic is Philosophy and Intellectual History. The subtopic is Applied Philosophy.

Some of my conservative friends called public education and all higher education a liberal brain washing machine. So I was looking for signs of brain washing propaganda in this Lafayette College Associate Professor's course. I know from previous experience that I do not recognize propaganda that supports my bias. So I invite my moderate and conservative friends to accept my gift of the course so they may inform me on what it is in this course that is brain washing propaganda.

 I have two complete identical courses because I was sent two by mistake. So the first person who wants this course, I will be glad to give it absolutely free.

Saturday, May 04, 2019

upward and onward or is that reversed?

by Rain Trueax

The other physical frustration we had in April has been one for both of us--the carport construction. We'd had experience working with independent contractors but learned a few things on this one. 

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

by Diane, Oil and wax painting #2

 Tuesday April 30 I had surgery to correct my droopy eye lids. Immediately after the world looked brighter and I could see much better. Next week I plan to get back to painting.
Third day

 Earlier last week I posted the development of a painting  - my first one since 1963 inwhich I mixed Dorlands wax medium into the oil paint on the palette. At first I mixed just the wax into the paint. The paint was unpleasantly grainy so I smoothed it out on the palette by adding Gamsol which is a refined odorless mineral spirits.

Second day
In my second oil painting posted here I mixed the Gamsol and wax in a used tin can with a lid and let it set until it was the consistency of yogurt. This mixture was half and half.  This painting medium made transparent lines. Over wet paint I drew with charcoal from the logging waste burnt piles. The charcoal was crumbly and made great texture over the oil/wax mixture on the trunk of the tree.

Saturday, April 27, 2019


by Rain Trueax

This has been a difficult week to write anything here. It's had two physical problems. The first might be unpleasant to read; so if you prefer not getting it, come back for the next blog and enjoy the cactus blooms.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Diane on Beginning new paintings

To take advantage of the early morning sunshine, I started painting at 7:00 AM  last Thursday. The first gestural attempt sometimes is the best. Thursday I mixed a cold wax directly into the oil paint. Using wax for the first time since 1966.  I noticed the smooth texture of oil was lost. I remembered why I didn't explore wax mixtures further.
 Friday I noticed the car would not fit into the garage and I was less thrilled by the yellows. I missed the spring green  grass with morning dew making it almost white.

Monday morning the weather was taking a turn.  It was cooler with a breeze. Early on there was a burst of sunlight low in the sky.  Shadows were very distinct at 7:00 AM. Darkening the sky changed the mood. I want the good feeling from sun light shining through leaves like glass and dark trunks and limbs like lead.

Then the mist obscured the background trees.  A lighter sky perhaps. When the oil paint dries, clean fresh color is easy to apply. In the background closer evergreen trees can be added in a darker tone. I Brushed a spider from my face at about 9:00 AM. I am applying cold compresses to my eye.           I did  not painting outdoors Tuesday. Wednesday was a good painting day.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

addictions of a kind of innocent sort... maybe

by Rain Trueax

bobcat in our Tucson backyard

Everybody has ways they waste time… Maybe not everybody but I do. I am not sure I can justify my own choices for what I do instead of something important… Well, maybe we need to define important, but after just going into the immigration issues, I am not going to define anything here—just describe what I do when I should be cleaning house or something more noteworthy, like writing on the next book.

My time waster began innocently enough. Don’t they all! I got interested in people who live a full-time RV life. I can’t describe right now how I found the ones I began to check out on YouTube. Maybe because I joined some Facebook groups about RVs since we have one and were looking at changing to something different. Because I also have a YouTube channel, with very little on it, I had interest in the art form, and know from experience that it isn’t the easiest thing to create something others want to follow.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

by Diane, Civil discussions are possible on issues like immigration?

Sunday, April 14
             Working close to the earth, being responsible with money, observing the law, protecting nature, helping neighbors in need, being a loyal friend, morality and aproaching problems by being practical are some of Rain's values.
            She shared in her post that her childhood on a small farm as well as living on a ranch as an adult shaped her values. So quite reasonably her political view of immigration is unsurprising. Being a practical person without knowing a complete solution, Rain shared a few doable ideas for improving immigration at our borders.
    My experience as a child of a naturalized citizen I have similar values. Rain and I have more in common than not. We grew our vegetables and some of our fruit. My parents never took government assistance, father went to great pains to be sure he always obeyed the law.  Preparing our taxes was a particularly tense time.  Tax forms had to be perfect for his income and  my mother's cottage doll making business. We had no debts other than borrowing money to buy our house. Father paid off the debt. He demonstrated his value for education; father modeled the joy of learning studying advanced math every night.  He filled notebooks with mathematical formulas and his calculations as he studied theoretical advanced math books.
    There were differences.  Both of my parents were university educated. Their close friends were from their college days. We, however, lived in low income neighborhoods with mostly blue collar workers until I was in high school. Though my parents were educated, politics were seldom mentioned and discussed in our home beyond my father explaining joyfully, "The presidential campaign conventions are super wonderful". Rain comes from a family far more politically vocal.  Rain like her parents follows the news with interest and passion.  Her example amazes me. Her well thought out arguments! She has instilled in me an interest in politics. 
     I was not taught to be snobbish about being the educated elite. Uncle Fred, mother's brother, was a shoe salesman. I am not sure he graduated from high school. I grew up thinking he was as good as my college educated parents.
     Wearing my thicker skin. I am allowing my premise to fall away.  My premise being a few strategies can make a smooth bridge of understanding between the right and left. My pet experiment is a pie in the sky dream. My idea of finding a way is futile.  Left and right citizens cannot  talk to one another in a civil tone.  How silly to think our fellow citizens would take on explaining where they come from before expressing their opinions.Telling ones story is too difficult. Sadly citizens would not listen and hear how those who oppose them came to their mutually good values. I am a day dreamer thinking we can invent a grass roots level method for all of us citizens to start to turn the tide away from becoming more and more polarized. We will continue to gulp up messages that tickle and confirm our individual ever widening different views.

Monday, April 15 -16
      My spirits improved after getting an answer to this request:

"consider my invitation to a brainstorm on how to conduct ourselves in both addressing problems of children living in poverty here and those refugee children who would die in their native country and are coming in ever greater numbers. If you cannot post on my blog, send by email. I will post your input.

The answer I welcome:

It's easy: Take care of your own children and homeland first. Always. If you "care" so much, get a ticket to whatever poverty-stricken area you wish and help out. But take care of our own business first! And DO NOT steal from others so you can support feeding the world's down-trodden. If that is your belief, go for it. Without the rest of us.

My response:

      On Monday my mood improved after receiving my friends challenging response. I am grateful for my friends trust in the face that we do not agree.  Her words are more gentle then sometimes, still I feel a little defensive.  I might defensively say something that would end our friendship and dialog over the past 5 years. This blog is about civil conversation not the place for my knee jerk response.  Then I  step back and wonder why I feel guilt for not taking action beyond writing. I am guilty as I should be.  I feel I am not an asset helping at the soup kitchen like I used to.  I declined a request to teach watercolor in Belize to children at a summer church camp. Certainly I could find some place where I could contribute with doing something and not just writing and talking.  No, no! My search for weaving back the fabric of our society is a good thing to do.
      I feel very grateful of how my friend continues to correspond even though we do not agree on many things. I understand her admiration for New Yorker frankness and her dedication to volunteering. She is a good person and writer of political articles in a right wing news letter, as well as writing stories and plays. During the Carter and Regan Administration she wrote presidential speeches.  She is knowlegeable.

     Another writer of stories and plays is my cousin, Jim Cunningham who liked some of my Facebook posts.  He recently published a book of his short stories available on Amazon. He is giving all the money he gets from book sales to St. Jude's Hospital for Children.
     His poignant stories often burst my bubble and increase my empathy. A few of his stories are somewhat autobiographical. All of the stories are like stepping under someone elses' skin and leave lasting impressions.

One of Jim's stories, "Where the Mountain Meets the Plain" is about  a present day father and his son who own a small  ranch. They are among the disappearing few small family run agricultural businesses.   Perhaps their strong values are disappearing.  People of the land use to extend their helping hand when neighbors are in need - one important value that made our country great.  Jim's story says much about the goodness of people giving of themselves just like the way our nation was built. After mulling over Jim's powerful and awesomely concise story, I am sad that our old values are being tested by extreme challenges. 

        I hope I have been fair in my tone on my friend's response on how we should conduct ourselves so our trust continues. Jim's story brings home to me that volunteering is not like it used to be in solving problems. Jim's insights on citizen volunteering illustrates the problem with my friend's simple solution.
         Another point of my bringing Jim's stories into this blog post is story telling is best for communicating ideas.  Telling your personal story is a powerful way towards effectively beginning a civil discussion that will bring people together in understanding. If we stick to personal experiences it will be harder for alien sources to infiltrate our national dialogue around elections.
          I watched Yo-Yo Ma on the importance of telling each other our stories on PBS News Hour April 15.
"Culture turns the other into us, and it does this through trust, imagination, and empathy. So, let's tell each other our stories and make it our epic, one for the ages."

Rain wrote on a Facebook link to this blog.
Diane and I tried an experiment-- discussing our very different ideas on immigration. She went first and I followed. Our goal was to show that people can differ on important issues and still remain friends. Mostly, this is helped by not discussing those topics lol. We made an exception for the blog, which generally doesn't do politics at all.
She wanted us to begin by what in our background had led us to what we currently think on immigration; so that's what we did. Hers was... on the 10th and mine the 13th. I don't think either of us believe we have all the answers for a situation that may grow much worse if global climate change makes some areas unlivable. I don't think the world is ready for what might come and some of that is because we have no idea what it will be as much is projecting based on the past except human history is short and especially that recorded or with tools to do measuring; so it's geologic and fossils that provide data. The one thing we know for sure from that-- earth can change a lot even without human interference.
Some of today's immigrants have their situation made worse by failed or failing governments. No easy answers for sure.

  A few responses are better than daydreaming on my own. Good chance I will try to improve on my attempts sometime in months to come when using other issues as examples!


Saturday, April 13, 2019


by Rain Trueax

 Sonoran Gopher Snake at our Tucson backyard pool. He/she might look scary, but they are very beneficial to the environment. You can tell a dangerous snake from this one by head shape. Rattlers have triangular heads. The rattles are less reliable as they can lose those various ways. It's nice when we can clearly define what is dangerous and what is beneficial.

Originally, I had not planned on starting with from where my thinking on immigration has come, but Diane asked that I do that. She and I come from different backgrounds but have been friends for over 50 years. In the early mornings, we used to meet for coffee, when we both lived in a Tucson apartment complex. Our husbands would leave for Graduate School, and she and I'd talk over different things that seemed important at the time. We often disagreed, but it didn't matter. We didn't get mad. She'd head off to paint and I'd write. It was a creative environment, one I have never actually duplicated.

Recently, she and I decided here to discuss some big topics that we know we don't see the same way. We are doing it to show people can disagree and remain friends. We can let it go when we can't convince someone else that we are right. One of the problems today is the bubbles in which so many live. They hear only one side and get to thinking everyone out of their bubble is bad. I've been unfriended for that very reason on Facebook. I've come to believe that in most bubbles, if I read them at all, it's smarter to not say what I think unless it's Amen. The bubble is their right. It's a shame though as hearing from other viewpoints can let us know the ones who think that way are not bad people for disagreeing.

As for my own background, I come from working people, mostly lower income but responsible folks. There wasn't an elite among us-- intellectually or economically. I have jokingly called myself a redneck because I understand those people and ranchers tend to work with the basics of life. My people valued education but didn't see someone with a fancy degree as necessarily any smarter than someone without a high school diploma. They were more knowledgeable, of course, at least about some things...

One of my main lessons from childhood is--actions have consequences. I grew up with a belief that idealism is fine, but it has to be tempered with reality. This was reinforced when my husband of 55 years and I bought a farm over 40 years ago. Farming teaches you even more strongly that idealism doesn't get the work done. It doesn't fix broken fences. There is a reality that those who work the land learn or they go back to the city. For farmers and ranchers, work is not a temporary vacation. It's a day by day reality. You do it or it does not get done. 

True, some farmers do pay those not legally here to do the work but not many cattle ranchers as it's dangerous work where you need to be skilled or it won't turn out well for you. That is also true of most forestry work; and in my part of Oregon, I see very few migrants in those jobs. The only big farmer nearby has brought up workers from Mexico but applied for them legally with blue cards. That lets the workers come and go.

Now, I do see a lot of those likely without documentation seasonally for Christmas tree harvesting. They aren't here later. Generally speaking, work for migrants has meant a need to move with the crops-- this is not new. It was big in the US during the Dust Bowl years in the '30s for families like Ranch Boss's father's. It is true today for those living in RVs, who go from job to job. Steady work isn't always available for some-- here illegally or otherwise.

My time in Arizona, where the border is today an issue, began in 1965 and has been off and on until it increased when we finally bought a second home in Tucson 20 years ago. Tucson is a place of many ethnicities, a city proud of its past with influences from the early Mexican settlers, the Native Americans, the Chinese, and yes, European settlers.

I've seen the difference illegal immigration has made to Southwestern places where I enjoy re-creating, mountain islands and valleys along the border. There was a time, when we could explore washes down there or out of Tucson with no concern for who we might meet. For those who don't know, the scary people are not generally speaking the migrants but those who bring them and drugs. I've personally seen what it has done to border towns like Nogales where the fences got more onerous and intimidating, where the ones I'd see hanging around looked more dangerous-- on both sides. Where rudeness to women got more out in the open by the comments made. That was not the Nogales of 1965.

One of my favorite areas to explore out of Tucson (Ironwood National Monument now) had a group of immigrants murdered as they waited for a ride-- murdered by a rival cartel. It's a place we no longer go without watching for what's coming. 

Same thing with nearer to the border. We go but with caution and yes, with a gun. On the ranches down there, I've read their stories, seen for myself the plastic garbage strewn (which when cows eat kills them), seen cut fences, to which I, of course, relate. I've read how tanks were left dry after migrants refilled their bottles and left the tap open. This whole thing of having people crossing land with no respect for it can't be understood unless someone understands and tends to the land. 

Despite understanding the side of those who have their land and want to protect it, I also sympathize with those here without papers, who work hard but find their lives on hold as they never really know if there will be a knock at the door. This is an intolerable problem and it's made worse that some profit from it-- on both sides of the partisan divide. 

Because of my nature, I read both sides, desperate stories like this one [Risks for the migrants] but I am a practical woman, made so by my life and belief in rules-- an archaic way to be in today's world apparently. I also believe that with a country 22,000,000,000 in debt, where we aren't going to see 0 interest in the future, what can we really afford? There is no sugar daddy out there to pay that all off. We have to live responsibly as individuals. Why is the government different.

So, here we go with what I have come to believe-- and yes, it involves a wall--

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

by Diane Widler Wenzel: Civility in disagreeing on immigration

My assemblage, "Immigration," was inspired by my father's values. It includes  father's #8 envelope containing proof of citizenship papers secured with a woven cotton cord tied with the precision of a Boy Scout, sailor's knot. My hand made papers symbolical represent his contribution of values he absorbed from living in several other countries.
He beautifully mended files and cars as opposed to throwing away any worn out thing.

         This is the first of paired blog posts with my co-author, Rain, on divisive issues facing our nation.  Acknowledging that differing opinions of our current USA and world wide issues could result in breaking our friendship, Rain and I are going to try airing our different sides on several issues in a civil tone.  Of course I am optimistic that telling my story behind my opinions will build a stronger bridge between us. My hunch is that explaining what I understand to be my background will soften hot buttons.    I invite Rain to add more definitions of terminology and to share her background to her present opinions on immigration. Since I do not want to control this exchange, my blog pardoner deserves the same freedom she gives me.  I want Rain to be free to present her side in her own way.
           The question for me is, knowing my friend, can I understand her perspective without taking offense.  Rain and I have been friends almost continually since 1965 when we and our husbands went from Portland to Tucson, Arizona where our husbands completed masters degrees in chemistry at the University of Arizona.
           We are willing to put our friendship to test by the stress of revealing our opposing feelings and opinions on issues because we might set a good example. We can have an open airing of what we believe. Or fail at finding a way for every citizen to start to change what I believe is the biggest threat to our republic - our polarization leading to demonizing each other followed by the unthinkable. I don't want to loose my best friend next to my husband. Personally a loss of our friendship would be extremely hurtful. The risk is worth the effort for the love our country.
          Thank you, Rain for suggesting we do these dual blogs. Thank you for over the years putting me in my place when I am ignorant of facts. I appreciate our past disscussions and I credit you for helping me mature.
             In respect for Rain I accept Rain's goal as mine too. We will demonstrate that good people are on both sides of  hotly argued issues like immigration. Our intention is not to change the other's mind or even the readers' minds on the issues we cover. Neither is it agreeing to disagree when such an agreement is a contract to avoid a complete hearing and acceptance of each other.

Me with collected pebbles and my parents near Lake Tahoe, 1948 

          I finally see myself as being the latest edition of migrants going back to the earliest homosapiens. I didn't alway see myself as coming from early humanity and related to all humanity.

          During my childhood I believed I came from an American melting pot mixture of peoples like the English, Pennsylvania Dutch, and the French American Indians, combined with my newly immigrated father with roots from the Middle East, Switzerland, Russia and Central Europe.

          My father took a dim view of my mother's pride in her many ethnicities. I grew up hearing from him that the white man should not adopt China as their country like his parents and grandparents tried to do before Mao and Communism took over Shanghai. I heard from father that in the United States your roots do not matter. He denied his father was Jewish because he was not observant. Father had a personal philosophy not believing in organized religion. Here in the United States everyone is equal.  Here we should all try to be like Americans he said.
         His heir, however, wanted to know about their roots. The desire to belong to a tribe is strong for me. I want to belong to some group especially because I didn't have that comfort as a child. Always feeling like l was an outsider leaves a hole in self-esteem. So as an adult in my pursuit and interest in my heritage, I have been a snob. I needed to be openly proud. Snobs are not likeable and I also wanted to be liked.
       I do not know what it is to be persecuted to the point of fearing for my life like my ancestors were. And for another DNA testing is only beginning to impact the general population with the realization that our ancestors are all from the same source with the same need to survive so virtually we all are descendents from migrants.

Our 1953 Yosemite camp with our 1934 Chevy coup's hood supporting canvas tarps held out by the cot that I slept on while my parents slept on the ample bed of the trunk. All of this camping and cooking gear was stowed in the trunk and in two duffle bags on the fenders. We only forgot the can opener.
       My parents did not buy a new car every year during the 50's like our neighbors. Maybe their values set me apart from the other children. I felt different, some thought we were Jewish. I was not popular.

       Although  between 1948 -1958 in Berkeley, California and near by El Cereto, I was surrounded by minorities when I went to school. Racial tensions were high: I both loved and feared some of them. Their voices were musical as they called out to one another under the resonating canopy covering the stairway to and from the out-building classrooms of Portola Junior High School. I loved their street vocalizations but when I entered the restroom I was fearful a group of them would be there and I would be bullied. This was the year before segregation during a time when the South was integrating.
       To me when so many ethnic groups are living together there are tensions that come to violent outbursts, but here in the United States we are making progress in learning to accept one another even if we go through periods of back sliding. I am a Polly Anna and I am OK with that label.
        My family and the community shaped my opinion on immigration. First, before presenting more of my opinion, I want to establish definitions of terms. My theory I am testing here is that language is important in addition to sharing our backgrounds to have a civil sharing of different opinions.


Immigration is the action of coming to live permanently in a foreign country.

Migrant is a person who moves from one place to another, especially in order to find work or better living conditions. Animals and people migrate. Some animal migrants are a part of a balanced ecosystems Like the swallows who return to our back yard just as flying insects hatch in the spring. Other animals like wild pigs, Scotch broom, or killer bees are invasive. There are 50 thousand invasive species in the United States. 

Refugee is a person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster.

Refugee Status is, generally speaking , is a displaced person who has been forced to cross national boundaries and who cannot return home safely. Such a person may be called an asylum seeker until granted refugee status by the contracting state or the UNHCR if they formally make a claim for asylum.

A hot button for me is being labeled a globalist if it is defined as someone who believes that ultimately all borders and nations should be dissolved, resulting in one single world. This Utopian Globalism would be fantastic but is unreachable. I am a globalist if it is defined as a person who advocates the interpretation or planning  of economic and foreign policy in relation to events and developments throughout the world.

In my humble opinion of immigration policies, I will try to be humble because truly I do not comprehend the scope of providing shelter for all of the hurting peoples of the world. I do not know an immediate fix. And I fear someday we will need to migrate to safety.

        Building a  continuous wall on the Mexican border is not a good immigration policy. Claiming the country is "full" is inhumane. Building a continuous wall is counterproductive waste of our precious resources. The wall without border patrol backup is a symbol rather than a functioning protection. Walls require adequate border patrol agents using technology to prevent criminal activities. They are already effective judging that most crime enters by air and sea.  "Build the wall" is a campaign slogan giving false satisfaction to President Trump's base.  Support for a wall ignores the realities on the ground. It divides economic communities in El Paso, Nogales, and San Diego. Our economies are intertwined with a flow of commerce and  services. I want our tax dollars to go to facilitating the flow of commerce. Also we need tax money to go to timely processing refugee's applications for some type of legal status.
         The United States and the world's nations are being challenged by the increasing frequency of epic storms and drought stricken flora and fauna. We need world co-operative efforts. We need to realize that as compassionate beings we will have to be considerate of others beyond our borders. Being considerate means making sacrifices to benefit humanity as a whole.
         I imagine and fear leadership that undermines co-operation between nations.  We do not have to follow the path of building the Great Wall as was done in China. The Mongol Barbarians eventually ruled China. The Barbarians, interestingly, assimilated the Chinese culture. Unfortunately forests were cut down to fuel the kilns to make bricks for the wall. Where the trees were gone the land became a desert and the rivers flooded. Of course we are not ancient China. Yet, we would use significant energy making a steel wall. Steel will be used that will not go into our failing infrastructure.
          Allowing immigration comes with the fear other values and even other countries will govern us. It is a fear with historic examples of colonialism, fascism and communism. Clearly I am optimistically certain that we can keep our national identity and belong to world governance organizations.
           In the United States two blocking sentiments exist around immigration. The desire to celebrate our recent roots can lead to an instinct for nationalist exclusion of other countries and strangers.  The other but related feeling is fearing that outsiders seeking to immigrate are threats.  Looking at history large migrations have wiped out indigenous populations. The migrations that turned violent catch our attention and strike terror in our heart obscuring migrations that fostered mutual enriched life and survival.
May Day 1949, Annie Sanchez my best friend then  and I
were dressed to wind crape paper garlands around the May Pole.

 In conclusion:
Thinking well of those who oppose us is helped by understanding the opposition's story. Knowing where we each come from is a key to civil discussion. Maybe the way we disagree will be an example for citizens to meaningfully bridge and heal the great political polarization threatening our country and bogging down our governments effectiveness.

Rain's views will follow this coming Saturday the 13th. So if you made it through my entire essay, the complete conclusion to our main purpose, I apologize, is not possible until Rain states her views and reacts. Can we see each other as being good people when we fully air our opinion?  Rain has a special perspective on the border and immigration. She researched the history of the Arizona border for some of her novels. She divides her year between living in her Tucson home and a ranch in the Oregon Coast Range. She keeps up with currentevents. I await Rain's opinions with anticipation.

I welcome comments to this blog within the scope of this blog on culture - not political rants. Meaning even if the comment is in agreement with my opinion, it is irrelevant in this blog. What interests me, for example, is a short sentence or two of roughly where you stand with as much  elaboration you need on what is your background that shaped your opinion. I am open to new ideas on how to bridge the cultural habits we have that promote polarization. This post is about how in political discussions our feelings of how good or bad the opposition is painted by how we communicate our political beliefs. Personal stories, in my humble opinion, are most likely to be well received and bridge polarization.


Saturday, April 06, 2019


by Rain Trueax

photo from last May as the saguaros are not yet in bloom. When they are, the doves are there to feed
One of the joys of living in the desert, especially such a lush one as the Santa Cruz River Valley, has to be the birds. There are so many if one puts out food, which we do with quail blocks and seed oriented to attract cardinals.

Watching them for hours sometimes, I've been at times disillusioned by the behavior of doves. If you have watched them, you see some definite bullying behavior. The males can become almost monster-like. They ruffle up their necks and stalk the other birds-- especially the young females. Talk about no understanding of boundaries. Doves are considered birds of peace, but they don’t always feel that way especially some of the older males. I wish I had been able to photograph them when they were doing that but never got the right shot.

This spring, I saw a new side as, because of the missing carport, a pair of doves began to build a nest under the covered porch. Ranch Boss saw that and put some wire mesh up there to make sure their nests wouldn't fall through.

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

by Diane Widler Wenzel: War on dust mites and household fumes

In the garage is a large stack of glass of many sizes. In the shop are three shelves of aluminum frames. In my studio a floor to ceiling metal shelf pantry organizer is stuffed with framed and unframed paintings and drawings some dating back to childhood - 60 years of painting. Many of the older works on cheap acidic paper smell not of mold or mildew. They have been well cared for but the smell of them and the entire studio makes my eyes itchy and the eyelids puffy. My guess dust mites?

This weeks purge is not the first time I have gone through my extensive collection and retired some keeping representative work. Almost every year I can part with a couple. At first the larger glass ones were taken apart. I took the glass to glass shops and cut down the glass for smaller frames. The last five years I have unframed almost all of my paintings under glass.  I just do not want to work with glass much longer. There are ways to paint large watercolor-like paintings covered with acrylic varnish so there is no need of glass.

The past three days I have three paintings from my collection only one is a drawing of one daughter when she was 11 years old upon her request. The other two are a watercolor by Shirley Hilts and the  first oil painting by granddaughter Melissa Edge. Yesterday afternoon I received a Fedex package containing four paintings from Dr. Donna Holdberg Kuttner. All seven are ready this morning to go to The Corvallis Caring Place Assisted Living.  They will hang in the upstairs South Hall where I exhibit my collection and other artist's collections. These are works not for sale. In return for sharing her work, I am giving Donna the framing. I am thrilled that my discarded frames and glass are going to good use.

Since I wrote the last blog about my search for a way to talk about politics that will bridge the widening political gap, I have lost my train of thought. If I ever had one. Next Wednesday Rain and I will put our friendship to the test by publishing our opposing opinions in a way that we think each of us can hear the other side.

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

by Diane Widler Wenzel: Not about political issues: About how I think about the issues

This blog is about our culture  - not our current political debate. How we think and understand is a cultural topic not meant to spark a debate on current events. I am writing my story.  How I came to the way I think about our polarized culture! What I have worked at trying to understand most of my life!  And still working to understand! Why I feel the need to share!

Grandfather Emile
My Facebook posts reflect a passion for bridging the gap between my left wing friends and my right wing ones.  My desire comes from my grandfather Emile Widler who said he hoped I would study what really happened in his once adopted country China before he immigrated. My passion comes from studying the background conditions for Communism taking hold in China through the lenses of people mentioned in my Great Uncle Elly Widler's book, SIX MONTHS PRISONER OF THE SZECHWAN MILITARY.

 Around 1919 Great Uncle Elly met up frequently with Louis M. King in Tatsienlu, Tibet where Elly was situated for 8 months. Widler wrote, " Mr. King is one of the few living great Asiatic Explorers. I pondered upon the long talks we used to have in far away Tatsienlu. Mr. King had a natural gift of gab, and it used to be a pleasure to sit down for two to three hours at a stretch and hear him talk."

King's book, WARDEN OF THE MARCHES, contains two concepts that I keep in mind even decades after I read his book. Their truth in China parallels the truth in the United States today. First is the power of a weak outsider to change the course of history. Even a small weak power can cause Chinese to believe they see dragons that do not exist. In the borderlands of Tibet and China the weak outsider was the International KKK also known as the Hidden Empire.  It was easy for the outsiders to warp the Chinese perception of the reality of dragons? It was not because of stupidity but it was their desires connected to their mythology of folk tales. The childhood folk stories of good dragons caused them to want to believe what they desired to believe.

Grandfather just before he passed away came to visit us and he was careful not to outwardly go against my father's wish to not to burden me with his activist ideas. Or Grandfather was just accustomed to esoteric symbolism because he lived most of his life in oppressive China where freely speaking would have been a foolish act of endangering yourself and family. Against my father's wishes he planted seeds in me.  He gave me a three sentence typed translated Chinese folk tale about dragons. Dragons were good because they symbolized hope to an otherwise hopeless people. The Dragon stayed in a cave and kept old books. The dragon read old books and slept on them. When the people were suffering from drought and despair the dragon hears the people and wakes to fly from his cave. The people see the dragon fly and hope is restored.

Since 1961 I have been haunted thinking about what his short story meant and what my role could be. Something in me wants to be like the good dragon in the cave. I have dragon passion. I am greatful that I am haunted.

 Our desire to believe is stronger than the smartest rational thinking whether you are the most read and smartest person or of average knowledge and intellect. In this human truth we are all equal. True a hundred years ago as it is now. True in China as it is here and now. Being mindful of this truth means I see us all as being equal in the cycles of nation building and decline caused by polarizing groups, the challenges of media technologies, and the destruction of governance.  Being mindful of this truth helps me to try to listen for a basic core hidden in the rhetoric of opposing views of reality to mine. Being mindful of our human desire overriding intellect helps me to shed personal attacks without retaliation. Though not always successfully!

Today in the United States we are receptive to being manipulated whether the manipulators are power seekers or the humanity of our brains. The process of altered perception may have many causes. One cause of altered reality may be the increased urbanization of the population where most people do not understand where their food is coming from and the needs of the people who grow it.

The other idea that stands out from King's writing is the power of rumors.  Rumors spread fear that can destroy a dynasty even when the rumors are highly unlikely. Just bringing up rumors may spark the fear I feel. It is difficult to keep all who read me on my intent to focus on the process of thinking and feeling about what we know. I hope my story here will be effective where Face Book posts have failed.