Gratitude Sunday: October Seasons: or, Falling Leaves

Gratitude * Sunday
Sunday’s heartfelt tradition.
A time to slow down, to reflect, to be grateful.
A list of gratitudes, our gratefulness feeds one another.
Quoted from Taryn Wilson
Joining the Gratitude Sunday Tradition at Wooly Moss Roots.

Sunday Haiku
Cold quickens once sun
corners autumn equinox,
slides toward winter.

Sunday Musings
September may get the glory of the equinox and the end of summer, but October seems to me more about the transition into early winter. After living here all my life I think Oregon has five seasons, sometimes six: summer, autumn, early winter, late winter, early spring, and sometimes late spring when it stays cool clear into June. In October, 70 degree days are gone, and when we hit the first frost it seems early winter is quickly upon us. Cold weather makes my bones creak, and as I age it takes a bit longer to get warmed up and going in the morning.

Here in the Willamette Valley we don’t generally get extended periods of extreme cold or snow. Notice I said generally. And because of generally, folks here generally don’t know how to handle it when we do. The past few years have been colder and snowier than usual, and we are learning a little more about being prepared when it does happen, and to be grateful when it doesn’t. I’m grateful to be able to buy ahead a bit on food and everyday items and to (mostly) have the choice not to travel in inclement weather.

For now, it is still October. The leaves are parading their colors, homecoming games are going on all over the metro area, harvest is slowing down. Pumpkins are fat, orange, and ready for the knife. After first frost no more ever-bearing strawberries, no more fresh garden ripened tomatoes, no more green beans. I’m grateful for root vegetables and squash. Have you ever tried roasting beets or carrots in olive oil with a little chopped garlic? Like vegetable candy.

With colder weather I like to bundle in with a variety of books and DVDs. I like to warm the house with oven-cooked meals, baking a sweet spice bread occasionally. I cook in smaller batches than I used to and still end up having to freeze some. The last time I took a neighbor some extra baked goods I got the weirdball side eye and had the impression the treats went straight into the trash. If so, their loss. If not, I never heard. I’m less inclined these days to endure side eye when I think I’m being friendly, so the freezer gets to save the extra treat for later. American society has changed in one way since I was small: we are afraid to know our neighbors.

When I was growing up we knew our neighbors, were welcomed in their homes and they in ours. We borrowed sugar, and eggs, and flour, and yard tools, and whatever else was needed, and re-paid it in kind. There were few fences or hedges between houses and neighbor kids ran freely between yards. We helped each other in our gardens. We gave each other rides to work and to school and to the doctor, and if there was a game or a school program often two families traveled together. When we cooked too much we shared and in some families we purposefully cooked for each other. My mom never made a batch of her famous homemade rolls that she didn’t make an extra pan for the neighbor lady next door which she made one of us kids take to her along with a jar of her homemade raspberry jam. Doesn’t happen so much these days as the myth of self-sufficiency has undermined the function of the village.

I prefer to think of the village as evolving, going through its own transition I hope. It is harder to coordinate schedules these days, especially when it takes two adults working to support the household and harder to stretch the money around. I am grateful to see so many families taking advantage of the public pool and the local lending library and playing together in the parks. I love peeking into living room windows when I walk or drive in the crepuscular light as evenings come earlier, and seeing which families still gather together, windows steamy with conversation.

The grasshopper me wants to sit and watch the leaves fall, enjoying the colors, the fragrance of the trees, the light angular and moving with the air magic of the wind, imagining air sprites hanging on each leaf and laughing as they dance on the waving leaves. The ant in me moves furniture, cleans corners, minor changes that never make much difference in the appearance of my cluttered house. I think the clutter bothers me less these days as I love the silly things I live with. Cleaning and moving them around gives me different joy; I have so much abundance I have little need for more.

October is about more to me. I will have one more year to celebrate. I have more changes, more growth accomplished, more knowledge. I have more color. I have more leaves. I have more vision toward spring. I have more abundance, as it seems for every item I discard somehow two more come into the house. More friends and family have babies each year, or marry, thus more family. More family and friends are leaving this world as the years go on, so more grief happens as well. More years in the cycle of life.

I’ve been through my spring. I sprang forth and don’t even remember the first few years, but I was nurtured and fed and soon blossomed into late spring learning everything I could. I flowered through my summer, matured, ripened, got juicy and seedy, and even managed to reproduce, statistically not easy to do. Then I started to dry up and dry out and get tired and became a little less able than before. I’m Octoberly transitioning into my early winter and I hope it’s a long transition.

I’ll gratefully take the creaking, the slowness, the whitening of the hair, the thinning of the skin. I’ll take the time to listen and freely bestow my stories upon those willing to listen. I’ll continue to exercise my brain and exercise my creaky old bones. This wild bizarre adventure of life was given to me and I get to go full tilt boogie through every season.

Color Watchcolorful attractions in my neighborhoods this week – My neighborhood has all the colors and the brightest light. Fiery orange trees. Red meets red. Exotic hardy pink and purple fuchsia. Porch light on at university’s Knight Hall; Vera the ghost lives inside.

Current View – {These are only my opinions about movies and books, but don’t let me stop you from trying these reviewed items yourself; your opinion may differ.} The Talented Mr Ripley (1999, rated R) with Matt Damon. A suspenseful murder mystery, quirky and twisted. * Careful What You Wish For (2015, rated R), I thought I had gotten a chick flick but some of the bits didn’t quite add up, then slowly the nefarious plot is revealed. * Escape from New York (1981, rated R) with Kurt Russell, not exactly a horror movie, but scary, and enough graphic violence to cross over into horror. I’ve viewed this classic several times since it came out. My family used to watch it on New Year’s Eve and it was so satisfying to celebrate the ending with noisemakers. The son thought he was very grown-up to be allowed to watch an R rated movie. The plot involves politics and an alternative future, and so many of the twists are pertinent in the current political climate. Recommended. * Glengarry Glen Ross (1992, rated R) with a whole line up of famous contemporary actors like Al Pacino and Alec Baldwin, nary a woman or person of color to be seen. There’s not much scarier than an old man trying to sell you something you don’t want, other than a whole office full of them.

Currently ReadingHouse of Leaves (2000, fiction) by Mark Z Danielewski. Interactive fiction, flipping to the back for appendixes, exhibits, letters, and then the ciphers, scratch paper and pencil at the ready. The most work I’ve done for somebody else’s fiction in a long time. Definitely not easy breezy. * Smile at Fear: Awakening the True Heart of Bravery (2009, Buddhism) by Chogram Trungpa. Dense material, lots of re-reading, but then most spirituality is heavy stuff.

Quote of the Week –
“Words are free. It’s how you use them may cost you.” Reader sign on a local church.

This week I have been grateful for:

  • Finishing a twelve week course of medicine. One less pill to take. Looking forward to see if the treatment sticks and the side effects go away as well.
  • The odd dimensions of time, there is too much and there is never enough.
  • Running into my Spanish professor from university at farmers market. He is from Puerto Rico and I had no way to get in touch with him, but I had been thinking intently about him and his family these last few weeks. He assured me they had had time to prepare for the hurricane and were all safe. Not without property damage but physically safe. He let me weep in relief in his arms.
  • Hearing. Anything. Birdsong. Neighbor kids playing. Kids screaming at the pool. TV. Lifeguard’s whistle. The fridge. The car. Crickets. The fan. The house creaking. Waves. All of it.
  • My skin, elegantly water repellent, organically water loving.
  • Watching the squirrels and birds, so busy this time of year.
  • Changing angles of light, making my walls and furniture look golden, coming over my shoulder, lighting my cheek so I thought I saw flecks of gold sparkle stuck to the top of my cheek and suddenly feeling gold-sparkled all over because of the light.
  • Enjoying cleaning my clutter. Loving each item as I wash it and dry it and put it in a different place.
  • The freedom of books and DVD movies, which I can stop and start any time I need to.
  • Enjoying the spicy options the season brings, particularly gingerbread and apple spice.
  • The moon this month which has been shining through my glass door and right onto my writing area. Feeling washed and blessed in moonlight.
  • Sweet fresh corn on the cob with gobs of real dairy butter and sea salt.
  • One more box of juicy red cherry tomatoes and a few more strawberries.
  • Water.

Hoping you have a lovely week.

Namaste. Peace. Blessings.

Floral ribbon border by Laurel Burch

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Posted in abundance, Aging, Entertainment, GRATITUDE, Grief, Health, Nature, Photography, Poetry | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Gratitude Sunday: A Delicate Balance

Gratitude * Sunday
Sunday’s heartfelt tradition.
A time to slow down, to reflect, to be grateful.
A list of gratitudes, our gratefulness feeds one another.
Quoted from Taryn Wilson
Joining the Gratitude Sunday Tradition at Wooly Moss Roots.

Sunday Haiku
Dandelion breaks
through the rocky aggregate,
weedy warrior.

Sunday Musings
Astrologically, most October birthdays are Libra, with a few Scorpios thrown in to spice up the end of the month. Libra opens with the autumnal equinox on September 22 plus or minus a few hours and honors the balance of light and dark hours of the day being nearly equal. I know, math, right? The balancing scale represents the sign; it is the only inanimate object representation in the zodiac. I am not an expert on astrology; my research on many occult subjects started in my early teens, when my mom insisted I needed a library card.

Isn’t it interesting how we can take days and years and cycles and assign them names and numbers and degrees and representations and symbols and even mythical stories? Humans are such clever people we can make a story about anything, including math, and nature, and the workings of the natural world around us, not just what happens to us while we travel in it.

The assumption about Libras is we are balanced, even-keeled, stable. Reality is far different, if I am any example; balance is a constant struggle. The scale is always tipped to one side or the other. I am strong, no, I’m weak. I’m intelligent, no, I don’t have a wit. I am beautiful, no, I am ugly. I am savvy, no, I am naïve. I am productive and industrious, no, I am lazy. I’m right, no, I’m wrong. I am kind, no, I am mean. I love, no, I hate. I surround myself with beauty and squalor in unequal proportions. I don’t quite achieve that middle ground where all my feelings and possessions come together in harmony and strength. It’s a great day until all hell breaks loose. My hell looks pretty bad until I weigh it against the hell others have experienced and the atrociousness of their hell often far outweighs mine. At least my empathy levels remain more or less in balance.

Most of us (of any sign) have our own personal hell. And our own personal heaven. We have a duplicitous nature; we are two people inside ourselves, much like the sign Gemini is represented as twins, and I suspect people born under Gemini have similar struggles as Libras. Some of us only listen to one clear voice: the good, or the bad. Some of us mis-hear the voice, telling ourselves we are much better or much worse than we really are. Some of us honestly listen to both voices and weigh the advantages of one over the other. For some of us the self-dialogue is constant. I suspect that dialogue is largely based on fear, facing the “bad” or negative parts of oneself, and the positive voice is trying to save the self with survival cheers. Another part of that voice might be resistance to imposed shame, that is, being shamed or blamed for something entirely out of our control, such as poverty or appearance, for which other people think we are supposed to feel bad.

My voices – yes, I’m admitting to having internal voices, that cranky inner dialogue; my inner voices rarely tell me to do crazy things; if they do, I shut those suckers down fast – usually start with the negative voice. Goes something like this:

[contemplating whatever, and easily distractable]
You can’t do that.
Why not?
You’re too ________ (insert whatever you like, old, fat, dumb, unable, so many choices).
Nah, not, what’s that got to do with anything?
Watch out! That idiot driver nearly sideswiped you. Why do people have to be in such a blankety-blank hurry?
Maybe he’s late for work. Maybe he’s just getting off work. It’s not like you’ve never come close to a car crash yourself.
Maybe he doesn’t care. Maybe he’s a jerk.
Maybe he’s not. Maybe you’re a jerk.

That’s when I realize the positive voice has deteriorated into the negative voice and now I’m hearing two negative voices and only far away echoes of the positive. When the voices reach that low-point I have learned I need a break. Change something. Stand up. Sit down. Do the dishes. Open the window, step outside, get the wiggles out, anything; nature is a great mind-distractor. I have squirrels and birds in my yard, trees to watch the wind do air magic on the leaves, and lots of little corners to putter around in. Occasionally I have to reach out and engage another person to make sure all my parts and voices are intact and at least partly socially acceptable. I still have not gained the confidence to believe myself, and I see so many people like me. Does not surprise me one bit our world is off-kilter. We fail ourselves.

Break time. Negative voice. Double negative voice.

There is a current out there, I feel the energy, I know it’s out there, because it’s in me as well. A wave of love, of compassion, of non-aggression. In the years to come the elders who used the old ways of exploitation will be leaving this life, and the youngers, the star children, will finally be having their (our) nation, their (our) world. We have brought new generations into this world and taught them in our ways and how to honor the honorable old ways, or they have discovered their way in rejection of the old ways. We honor their intellect and innovation. We see their beauty, our beauty, in words and art and spirituality and technology and reverting to the ways of the earth with green energy and humane animal husbandry and real food.

Oh, that pesky scale. The unequal weight of one voice against another, instead of the harmony of two voices balanced together. I don’t see much progress in society (negative), but I know it’s there (positive). In pursuit of balance I hear the negative voice, but as I grow older I pay it less mind; I listen to the positive voice, tipping the scale with purposeful intention. It’s a delicate, fragile balance.

Color Watch – colorful attractions in my neighborhoods this week – I love the shade of grape leaf green, and the purple surprises hiding underneath. White pickets and triangles of yellow, green, and red. Little white blossoms and burgundy leaves of autumn oxalis. The original meaning of golden arches. Let the decorating season begin!

Current View – {These are only my opinions about movies and books, but don’t let me stop you from trying these reviewed items yourself; your opinion may differ.} Wiseguy (1987-1990, TV series not rated) surprised me twice. In the third season one of the characters mentioned the photography of Diane Arbus, who is one of my favorite photographers. Interesting to note when the series aired in 1990 (before university), I’d never heard of Arbus, so if I watched this episode I would not have recognized the reference. Arbus was noted for her presentation of the freak and/or the freakish, which is what the character is referring to. She photographed circus workers and drag queens and ordinary people and captured the incredibly unique individuality of each. In the 4th season, the series changed character and changed the main character, when Ken Wahl, after suffering the effects of an injury in season 2, declined to go the direction the producer wanted to go with the show. Steven Bauer takes his place, and he also is a main character throughout the contemporary Ray Donovan series. Nice to know he’s still working as an actor, as Wiseguy quickly lost steam in this final season. Glad to be through with this re-view of the past.

Currently ReadingHouse of Leaves (2000, fiction) by Mark Z Danielewski. This is a long novel presented in an unusual style with footnotes that have footnotes, appendixes referred to, and in full color; it’s a fiction about a fictional documentary, many classical Greek, Roman, and Latin references, plenty of physics and math science, and entirely quirky. I might have to give up on it as even though it is 17 years old, people who read science fiction are still discovering it, and there is always a queue at my local lending library. The story is not straightforward or linear by any stretch of the imagination. It’s just challenging enough, I might not finish in three weeks. The premise? Space and time are different inside the house than outside it. Measurably. Maybe in the novel as well. * Smile at Fear: Awakening the True Heart of Bravery (2009, Buddhism) by Chogram Trungpa. Meditations on listening to and understanding those inner voices.

New feature this week:

Quote of the Week – “The way up is difficult but safe, while the way down is easy and dangerous.” Rebecca Solnit quoting Prem Dorchi Lama on a recent trek in Tibet. In the picture that accompanied the quote the way did not look easy or safe, either way.

This week I have been grateful for:

  • The aquatic center supervisor who gives me the kindness of a few minutes unhurried conversation nearly every time I’m there.
  • How industrious my neighborhood sounds: one property owner is building a grandma cottage; one is replacing everything after residents of more than two decades moved on; another re-shingling a roof; kids playing after school before they go home to homework (playing is important).
  • The bits and pieces of family history that are still known and shared in my family. So many stories gone now. I learned this week my great-uncle passed away. Sadly, I didn’t even know he was still alive.
  • The son behaving in an adult manner, re-capturing my heart again. My love for him is constant but once in a while it blooms a little bigger as he shoulders responsibilities.
  • Getting to enjoy video of my brother’s mother-in-law, who was a Homecoming Queen in 1954 (the first year the school had a homecoming queen), crowning this year’s queen.
  • Knowing many of my siblings’ in-laws.
  • Old movies where the violence was implied not graphic.
  • Mister Kitty aka George Murphy enjoying his favorite plaything: a big paper bag.
  • Food vendors who make smaller items like bread, donuts, sweet treats, containers of fresh soup or stew. I often crave these comfort foods, but I want a small amount and don’t want to waste or freeze the rest.
  • The squirrel who boogied across 6 lanes of traffic right in front of me and made it safely to the other side.
  • Another new fig: Oregon Prolific. A bit bland, but go fig.
  • A sweet mixed basket of red cherry tomatoes, yellow cherry, and tiny red pear tomatoes. Likely the last of the season. I love the farmers who give out those tips as you shop so you can buy a bit extra.
  • Water.

Hoping you have a lovely week.

Namaste. Peace. Blessings.

Floral ribbon border by Laurel Burch

Posted in abundance, Aging, Education, Entertainment, GRATITUDE, Grief, Health, History, Nature, Photography, Poetry | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Gratitude Sunday: My Beatles Birthday

Gratitude * Sunday
Sunday’s heartfelt tradition.
A time to slow down, to reflect, to be grateful.
A list of gratitudes, our gratefulness feeds one another.
Quoted from Taryn Wilson
Joining the Gratitude Sunday Tradition at Wooly Moss Roots.

Sunday Haiku
Squall, shower, bluster,
autumn falls wetly upon
thirsty ready earth.

Sunday Musings
Well, well, well, hello, October! My month. My favorite holiday: Halloween, because that day you can be any character you want to be (I’m a little bit witchy), you can legally beg for candy, and watch scary movies with impunity. My birthday, 13 days before my favorite holiday. While none of my birthday numbers are prime, both 13 and 31 are. I know, math. Because it’s all about me, you know? I’m the only thing I know. Oh, I can extend myself, think beyond myself, empathize, and sympathize, analyze, and synthesize. In the end, I live inside this body, what my brain calls my body, and this mobile bag of mostly water is driven by an (often) unreliable operator owned by the same. I can’t get away from it.

The body is tricky. If you move it too much it hurts. If you don’t move it enough it hurts. If you move in the wrong direction at the wrong time, you can make a big mess. If you take the body out and do exhilarating things with it, like water skiing or hang gliding or car racing, you risk even bigger messes. If you take the body out for pleasure runs (of whatever nature like swimming, hiking, or sex) you might experience pleasure, or it could boomerang on you and cause you pain. If you get to keep the body for long it goes through many cycles of changes and just when you start to get used to one change, wham, there’s another, for as long as you get to keep it. And the body betrays you, especially when you think you are in control.

The brain that drives the whole complicated body machine is so beyond tricky as to be ineffable. Sure, we have science to tell us about brain parts and how they work, the functions of synapses, and sodium-potassium pumps, and cellular permeability, and the electrical spark that keeps the heart pumping and the blood flowing. We have brilliant people who have the brains to figure out how to fix some bodies and their parts. We have behavior observers who hypothesize why we use the body and the brain to behave and think the way we do, generalities that can never cover every anomaly. After all is said and done we are each as uniquely different as we are inexorably the same.

I’m having my Beatles Birthday this year. I have abundance in my home (not to be confused with cash flow). I get to have the hubster with me who had his Beatles Birthday earlier this year. I made him a card, and bought him a steak he had to cook the way he likes it. I get to have the son who may or may not show up in the house that day, as he likes his paycheck and playing with friends, but every minute he is in my life I’m grateful. I’ll remember to note my birthday on the wall calendar, in hope they might remember. No pressure. I also get to have a little help from my friends, people who listen to me vent and tell me my wild theories are not all that wild, who share their own stories of challenge and survival. They do me the kindness of sharing civil discourse, a seemingly lost art these days, even when my passion is punctuated by expletives.

So, I’m going through one of those developmental cycles of aging in my life, and yesterday I began listening to the Beatles music I grew up with and reminiscing about the difficulties of adolescence, since this senior part of aging is its own special ticket to ride. Music can be one of those things that helps the body go through changes. I was not a screamer back in the day but I enjoyed The Beatles so much I could not decide which Beatle was mine. I wanted them all, all four for me, such a clever girl was I. Each one had his way about him: Paul so conventionally “cute” and thoughtful; John so brilliant and witty with that beautiful Roman nose; George’s dark and brooding eyes, introspective intelligence, and innovative lead guitar; Ringo’s happy smile and the way he shook his head when he played the drums. How could I possibly choose a favorite, therefore, all. As I watch old videos I realize how deeply the lyrics and tunes are buried in my body and how much my brain still loves their faces and words. I cannot hear their music and not start singing along or body-bopping to the rhythms.

Now in my Beatles year I see I do have them all, I still need them, every one of them cherished in my heart deep in my body. I cried when John was murdered and my brain sang Imagine for days. I cried openly at work when George died as co-workers made fun of me until one of them said she understood, it was like losing a neighborhood friend, and though I no longer play, my guitar gently wept. It was like losing cousins you’d grown up with, who you didn’t get to see often, but when you did they had such a great impact on your life. I’m not looking forward to losing the other two, and who knows, they might out-live me. Or not.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned I’m not one of those people who has to have music on 24/7. I can do silence. In fact, I do silence very well. I read and write better without music as I get too involved in the lyrics, though I can tolerate muted background noise like old TV programs. I like music in the car, or while I’m doing housework. All my life I’ve shared homes and space and worked with co-workers and it often seemed I didn’t have one moment of silence in my life, especially when you live in town with neighbors and sirens, and school buses and garbage trucks. Even when I lived in the country it was dogs and cows and farm machinery and hunting rifles. Now I’m doing less sharing of spaces, I’m finding a few moments of silence to enjoy and appreciate. If you ever see me standing there looking off into space, I’m probably merely enjoying the silence or the joy of the moment.

Now when I hear music from my adolescence, I listen to the words closely and remember why they were important to me then. What I pined for, what I desired, how so many of us wanted to change the world away from war, toward acceptance and tolerance, toward celebrating diversity rather than letting differences divide us, to give peace a chance. It’s been a long and winding road, and those Beatles were with me all the way. We’re still working it out.

Of course, we never got to meet in person. I never got to see them live. I don’t know what kind of people they are or how they behave in every-day life. It doesn’t matter; they are part of me, at least the part I know. I loved their music and still do, and we have another affinity: they were good at math, as Paul wrote, “And, in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”

Color Watch – colorful attractions in my neighborhoods this week – Porches on neighbors’ houses take on a misty autumnal appearance. Red and green maple leaves. Creamy plumes of pampas grass. Yellow quince peeking out between shiny polished leaves. A late season yellow rosebud.

Current View – {These are only my opinions about movies and books, but don’t let me stop you from trying these reviewed items yourself; your opinion may differ.} Still trying to watch Wiseguy (1987-1990, not rated) as fast as possible because I don’t want to order it again, but I keep falling asleep on the couch. * Binged through Ray Donovan (2016, rated TV – MA), so compelling I don’t fall asleep. Not a series for the soft-hearted, plenty of violence is part of the plot. * London Road (2015, rated TV – 14), five women are murdered in Ipswich and the story is told as a musical. Hmmm. * October is scary movie month and I’ll be re-watching some old favorites to see if they still intrigue and some new movies to see if they get put on my faves list. Watch this space.

Currently ReadingNutshell (2016, fiction) by Ian McEwan. What a clever author and at moments wickedly funny. The mother and her lover are opening another bottle of wine and our fetal narrator says “I can’t say no.” I burst into laughter at that one. The wit and intelligence of the fetus prevails but I haven’t quite finished the novel; this author may surprise me with a twist. * The Mother of all Questions (2017, psychology) by Rebecca Solnit. My apologies, earlier last month I had the title wrong, corrected today. Ms Solnit has such an eyes-wide-open-I-did-the-research way of telling her stories. When she is talking about her life, experiences, or family, her words are arranged forthrightly in a way you know she conveys truth, in the universal manner of truth, a truth laid bare from the heart. When she is talking about issues, politics, ethics, her research is clear and her words lead the reader on linearly, clearly connecting one fact to the next, one theory to another. One of America’s finest contemporary authors, I’ve never been disappointed with her work.

This week I have been grateful for:

  • Doors wide open on the last warm day of early autumn. Warm air flowing across my skin.
  • Finding a corner to move a file cabinet to, in the game of 14. You remember, to move one thing you must move 14 other things first.
  • Getting to swim with the swim instructor’s 3 year old while mom showed off the new baby.
  • The windows at the pool and the bright clear half moon that watched over me.
  • Coming out of my local lending library and the tall evergreen tree full of birds singing after a rain shower. Birds singing after the rain has a happy sound to me. I had to stand there a few minutes to let the birdsong fill me.
  • The first flurries of leaf-fall.
  • My natural cleaning products: vinegar, baking soda, salt, lemons, limes, hot water. I like Dr Bronner’s and Mrs Meyers products, because I can dilute them and still have good effectiveness. Still nothing like Dawn dish detergent for cutting grease.
  • Getting a few kitchen decoration things cleaned of kitchen grime.
  • Recognizing the extra time it takes to get things done because of the changes of aging. Encouraging people, especially youngers, if you are able and capable now, do it now, enjoy it now.
  • The way my white hair curls and frizzes out on the sides after having straight hair for so many years. I rather like it being unruly.
  • Mild early autumn days.
  • The two little birds eating the berries in the red berried bushes in the parking lot island who did not fly away as I parked and exited the car toward them. We eyed each other and talked a while until they decided they’d had enough of me and flew to the other side of the bush. Good eats.
  • The joyful noise of children having fun playing together.
  • Some fat little black mission figs, and white nectarines so ripe the skin peeled right off.
  • Lovely green beans for Chinese green bean chicken. Yum.
  • Water.

Hoping you have a lovely week.

Namaste. Peace. Blessings.

Floral ribbon border by Laurel Burch

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Gratitude Sunday: Random Spirituality: or, The Spark

Gratitude * Sunday
Sunday’s heartfelt tradition.
A time to slow down, to reflect, to be grateful.
A list of gratitudes, our gratefulness feeds one another.
Quoted from Taryn Wilson
Joining the Gratitude Sunday Tradition at Wooly Moss Roots.

Sunday Haiku
Pumpkin vine ready
to release its heavy fruit,
harvest completed.

Sunday Musings
Happy Autumn! Happy Equinox! Happy death! Happy new year! Harvest is almost over and winter is coming. Autumn feels so much more like the beginning of the year than New Year’s Day on January 1st. Let’s change it! Oh, wait, slow down, I’m getting over excited.

My mom used to say dying is a part of life. Death is not necessarily a bad thing; sometimes you have to let something go to let something new grow. Each year it comes around, the colors, the browning, the reds, oranges, yellows, russetts, the changing angle of light. It’s a celebration, not a dirge, because as the rains come and the deciduous run their colorful course, the weeds and grasses green, bright orange Chinese lanterns come out to light the way, rose hips and holly berries redden, evergreens gleam emerald, mosses soften in the rain. Plants and animals give the summer energy of their fruits and bodies to become our energy so we can take care of the earth that gives us all energy.

What dies in autumn gives life to a vivid rebirth in the spring. A quite reliable pattern so far. I shan’t rant about the injuries we face if we continue dependence on fossil fuels. We know there are effective sustainable alternatives. We know the right thing to do. It’s a matter of time. Year after year. Death. Rebirth.

I love the colors of death in autumn. I love the colors of birth in spring. The whole cycle of the year seems to be the only dependable thing in this world right now. Death. A final miracle, like mom said a part of life. Birth. A first miracle.

I am so grateful for families welcoming babies into our world right now. Precious new humans who don’t know about all the weird history we are making, who might be able to rise above and make a new world. Tiny bundles of flesh and blood all bound up in wondrous joy and ineffable heartache. Whether you believe in any god’s potential to give or create life the simple fact of conception is a miracle. That one cell from one body is shared with another cell from another body and at the moment they greet each other there is a chemical spark of recognition as the two create a new one, that’s some magical math. Babies are magical mathematical miracles. Another reliable thing: every day the spark happens, conceptions occur, babies are born; anomalies happen, of course, but many of us make it from spark to air and live a while before dying.

Parents die a little when a baby is born. They leave behind what they were before and become something more, something bigger because of the change in the family. They all grow. Babies aren’t born in vacuums only to the mother and father; they affect all members of the family and all people on earth, a magnificent constant global butterfly affect happening all over the world, all day, all night. DNA and blood connects us all, so each of us dies a little each time a new baby is born; we die a little for the sake of change and growth.

I can see why we want gods to thank for the miracle of birth. I want a million gods to thank. I’ll take them all, claim them all. I randomly acknowledge them without knowledge of them. I call my style random spirituality.

I surround myself with rocks, seashells, feathers, and crystals. My desk is cluttered with plastic toy dragons, tiny Buddhas, brass bells, bundles of herbs, and a little Burmese gong; Chinese statues watch over my shoulder, talismen of protection and mercy. I wear a Saint Christopher medallion, sandalwood and vanilla fragrance, and loose clothing. I practice tai chi exercises to Native American flute music. I dance barefoot in the rain and expose my skin to the sun. I immerse myself in water every day, in some form or another. My altars have pictures of my ancestors and items they made with their own hands; I live with memories of their spark and occasionally invoke their names. I read my old King James bible given to me in 1962 by the Baptist church I was raised in. I reserve the right to read the Torah, the Bhagavad Gita, the Koran, Baba Ram Dass, the Dalai Lama, Pema Chodron, Virginia Wolff, Germaine Greer, and Maya Angelou, and ancient lore and contemporary literature and journalism and science, and to pursue any other knowledge I wish. The words of Jesus, Buddha, Julian of Norwich, Gandhi, Wittgenstein, Eleanor Roosevelt, and some kind pagan witches resonate in my head. I walk a labyrinth, I occasionally attend church, I sometimes attend a meditation gathering. I examine all of it and I keep a golden nugget here, and discard a clinker there, rather like a magpie: Oh, shiny! Hop, hop. I give thanks to the earth that gives us life and spark and energy. You know, growth and random acts of worship.

You may think I’m a dreamer. I’m not the only one. I believe your beliefs can differ from mine and we don’t have to die because we don’t agree. I believe we can grow if we open our hearts and grant each of us the freedom to be exactly who we are and not expect others to be the same as us. I believe we are stronger in our differences. I believe we might all be right and we might all be wrong, and it’s OK to love and honor our differences.

I put my faith in the spark, though the spark may be random. The spark that gives us life and knowledge and the intelligence to use it. The spark that sprouts plants and grows animals for us to eat and appreciate. The spark that powers the universe with sun and rain and wind. The spark every moment every day that is the breath of our very lives.

Color Watch – colorful attractions in my neighborhoods this week – Green runners reaching out toward next year’s strawberries. Pale ghostly lavender autumn crocus fading fast. A red seedling sprouting amongst the green cushion of sedum. Bright red berries not of the holly variety. Spiky magenta seed pods. Massive pink blossomed stems weighted with fresh rain.

Current View – {These are only my opinions about movies and books, but don’t let me stop you from trying these reviewed items yourself; your opinion may differ.} Almost through with Wiseguy (1987-1990, not rated) and season 4 of Ray Donovan (2016, rated TV – MA) arrived. Wiseguy, late 80s TV with edgy high-crime plots, now seems sort of like the precursor to this generation’s harder hitting dramas like Ray Donovan. Viewing detoured.

Currently ReadingNutshell (2016, fiction) by Ian McEwan. A murder mystery narrated by an unborn fetus endowed with full intelligence and cognition who witnesses all from his shadowy viewpoint. Fascinated by this innovative perspective. Chilling story to begin dark-earlier autumn evening reading. * The Mother of all Questions (2017, psychology) by Rebecca Solnit. My apologies, earlier in the month I had the title wrong, corrected today. This is a finely rendered collection of essays about women, feminism, misogynistic violence, and fragile masculinity; Solnit has a singularly pointed, easily understandable way of analyzing current cultural effects. To make changes happen we must understand what is happening.

This week I have been grateful for:

  • Clean bedding and still being able to make my bed myself.
  • Spotting a high water line of pine needles around my favorite mud puddle, which means the earth is absorbing the rain water efficiently, as it should.
  • My pool pal and me breaking into a spontaneous round of the Happy Birthday song for a lifeguard who’d come back from college for the weekend when he admitted he’d had a birthday while away. She can carry a tune and I’m all about enthusiasm; we cracked ourselves up and the patient kid sat there grinning and blushing while we amused ourselves.
  • Milder autumn weather.
  • Baking season.
  • Finding a small batch muffin recipe for that one forgotten banana.
  • Desiring a new farmers market cart with a different horizontal design so my fruits and veg don’t get smashed, but taking my old vertical grocery cart and frugally finding it worked just fine. Letting go of the cart desire for now until my old cart finally rusts out.
  • A perfect day to go to the farmers market, not too hot, not too cold, not too windy, tiny sprinkles of skin kissing rain.
  • No frost yet so I am still enjoying Oregon Albion strawberries.
  • Ditto the cherry tomatoes. I’ve found a vendor at the farmers market who grows the sweetest cherries and he must pick them at the right time as well. They’ve been so good.
  • Smushing some cottage cheese with minced lemon cucumber and onion and herbs and calling it dip. It was yummy.
  • Trying a new fig: candy stripe. In the past I have favored Brown Turkey figs. The skin of the candy stripe was pale green and yellow striped, flesh was firmish. First one or two were a bit tart. They aged well and the best ones I almost threw away, but I cut open the nearly moldy browned outside skin and found it completely edible, the sweetest, most complex fig taste I’ve yet experienced in the fruit inside. Kind of like aging.
  • Water.

Hoping you have a lovely week.

Namaste. Peace. Blessings.

Floral ribbon border by Laurel Burch

Posted in abundance, Aging, Education, Family, GRATITUDE, Grief, Health, History, Nature, Photography, Poetry | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Gratitude Sunday: Think Beyond Yourself

Gratitude * Sunday
Sunday’s heartfelt tradition.
A time to slow down, to reflect, to be grateful.
A list of gratitudes, our gratefulness feeds one another.
Quoted from Taryn Wilson
Joining the Gratitude Sunday Tradition at Wooly Moss Roots.

Sunday Haiku
Equinox pending,
autumn sweeps fire through valley.
Nature has her way.

Sunday Musings
This week I have struggled with how much misinformation I see. Not misinformation so much as all the same information is out there, but the way there are so many differing perspectives and perceptions and opinions and misunderstandings and actual twisting, skewing, and distortion around the information that makes me wonder if I have even read the same stuff they have.

The hate bothers me the most. Why do people resent helping others? They think the other person hasn’t worked as hard, or sacrificed as much, or doesn’t deserve as much, because they are different (read: haven’t lived their lives the same way). For example, I do not understand why any person could say or believe any other person does not deserve quality health care in this wealthy nation, just because that other person has a low or limited income or whatever other reason. I promise not to rant on about health care here today.

Maybe that’s the point. Deservedness. Do you deserve to be treated as lesser than because you are less able, or born with different skin, or have different beliefs? Do you deserve to be treated as better than because your plans have worked for you and you are outwardly successful? Aren’t we all still from the same class of mammals called human beings, whether we work hard or not, whether we succeed or not? How does a difference make someone less deserving of dignity or honor?

For myself, the person who deigns to see me as less deserving has revealed their true colors of judge-mentality. When I have finally worked up the courage to ask for help, how does the state employee who has a job get to judge me as undeserving when they go by the numbers and by the book and do not know my story? I know we have rules for assistance for a reason, but statistics reveal most people follow the rules; individuals and their circumstances and opportunities don’t always fit inside a narrow group of rules. How does the politician who has vastly more than enough get to say those who have vastly less are undeserving, and make policy only supporting the investment of the wealthy because the fruits of their labor are so much more visible and thus they deserve it more?

Who are you, who are any of us, to judge another? We don’t know their story. We don’t know how hard they’ve worked, what hardship they’ve faced, what trials they’ve overcome. We cannot make assumptions based on physical appearance (or difference thereof), income (or lack of), intellect (or lack of), or outward trappings (or lack of). We don’t know what lies behind the face. We don’t know what lives in other people’s hearts. We don’t know what we hide from each other.

Even when we share our stories often they are not heard. We are accused of lying. To a person who has never been through those sorts of hardships or tribulations, they can hardly believe the words we say, the true stories we report, because they have never been through similar challenges. That’s if we can overcome our imposed shame to share the stories at all. I say imposed, because the word shame should not be applied to what we’ve been through with so much in this world being out of our control. We are shamed if we are poor, if we are fat, if we are ugly, if we are women, if we are old, if we are young, if we are weak, if we are too forceful, if we are shy, if we are loud, if we are silent, if we are different. How many of us walk through this life in shame, not because we have done anything shameful, but because the shame of being undeserving is judgmentally imposed upon us? How many of us are strong enough either to throw off unwarranted shame or to live well in spite of it?

It seems to me it’s all about trust. We don’t trust each other. How can we, in this world of judgment and disconnection, when the village is given lip service, but it doesn’t actually exist anymore, when neighbors don’t know neighbors until after the disaster happens? Men don’t trust men, men don’t trust women, women don’t trust men, women don’t trust women. If you dare to share and put your faith in someone how long will it be before that trust is broken and you are right back at square one? Then how do you learn to trust again?

I’m the once burned, twice shy girl. Once the trust is violated, I am unable to go there again, even with other people who weren’t involved in the original violation. I draw into myself, unable to risk the hurt involved in trusting enough to share. It’s like Maya Angelou said, when people show you their true selves, believe them the first time. This has bitten me more than once when I have naively trusted too long people who reveled in being untrustworthy at my expense.

Distrust is such a sad state, but it’s how we operate in this United States. Politicians lie and want the lies accepted as fact, disregarding how those lies hurt others. They don’t have to put any care into their lies because they have their own wealth, which isolates them from caring. Low income people struggle to make their way in the world and are then labeled as undeserving when plans outside their control go awry. I’m not talking about making poor choices, as sometimes the best laid plans do not go as planned. I’m talking about being blamed for the very condition you are actively working to reverse, or being placed under the never-good-enough-no-matter-what-you-do label. We deserve better. All of us.

What do you deserve? You deserve dignity, and being treated with dignity. You are a human being, however that looks for you. You deserve respect, regardless of your gender identification, your ability, your heritage, your beliefs, regardless of anything except the sheer fact you exist in this world. We might not all agree what is “right”, but we are all worthy. There are few exceptions, though unfortunately some people never learn how to not hurt others.

As you read and study and listen to the news, I challenge you to open your eyes, your heart, and your mind. We can’t help but read through our own biases (and everybody has them – even me), but look beyond your biases; do not look at differences. Do your best and help others do their best. Think beyond yourself. Think of what you want for yourself and then beneficently apply that to everyone else you meet. You deserve dignity and respect. So do they. Every one of us.

Color Watch – colorful attractions in my neighborhoods this week – I don’t know the name of this bush that looks like a tangle of pink butterflies to me. A greened, pink tipped sedum garden and a water catching spider web. Variations are fun like this yellow buddleia. Prescient shiny green and vivid red getting ready for the next season.

Current View – {These are only my opinions about movies and books, but don’t let me stop you from trying these reviewed items yourself; your opinion may differ.} The Apostle (1997, rated PG – 13) with Robert Duvall. A preacher’s life falls apart and he runs from the law preaching all the way. Meh. * Binged through season 5 of Netflix’s House of Cards (2017, rated TV – MA) with Robin Wright and Kevin Spacey. Powerful production and powerfully close to truth. * Trying to finish Wiseguy (1987-1990, not rated) before it’s due back at my local lending library. Vincent Terranova is an undercover cop with his supporting crew and technology. Through several seasons and multiple story lines, it’s interesting how some of those plots from 30 years ago contain social commentary we are still dealing with today such as racism and white supremacy.

Currently ReadingAfter Birth (2015, fiction) by Elisa Albert. Strong start, petered out, quick light read. Perfect for ending summer reading. * Born on Third Base: A One Percenter Makes the Case for Tackling Inequality, Bringing Wealth Home, and Committing to the Common Good (2016, humanitarianism) by Chuck Collins. Collins has suggestions for the wealthy and the not wealthy to find common ground and a meeting of minds. * Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body (2017, memoir) by Roxane Gay. Ms Gay is one of my favorite authors. Her expression of assaults upon her body and the female body are universal. A must read for every woman.

This week I have been grateful for:

  • Giving myself permission to rest when my body was struggling.
  • My local aquatic center re-opening after being closed for a two week maintenance period.
  • One of the life guard/instructors who was safely delivered of a precious, healthy boy. The family is doing well.
  • The luxurious quiet and calm feeling those nights when I have the pool almost to myself.
  • Having access to a pool even when sharing.
  • The cooling of summer into autumn.
  • Taking some medical news in stride. It is what it is.
  • The abundance in my home, which is not the same as cash flow.
  • Having the patience to deal with people whom I have to ask for help from when they treat me as inferior or undeserving.
  • Finding the Saint Christopher medallion I was sure I had while looking for my mother’s wedding ring. I think it came from my uncle. So much abundance of stuff.
  • Books. Authors. Bravery. Hearts.
  • Water.

Hoping you have a lovely week.

Namaste. Peace. Blessings.

Floral ribbon border by Laurel Burch

Posted in abundance, Aging, Education, GRATITUDE, Grief, Health, History, Photography, Poetry, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Gratitude Sunday: Fierce Motherhood

Gratitude * Sunday
Sunday’s heartfelt tradition.
A time to slow down, to reflect, to be grateful.
A list of gratitudes, our gratefulness feeds one another.
Quoted from Taryn Wilson
Joining the Gratitude Sunday Tradition at Wooly Moss Roots.

Sunday Haiku
Scant relief, sprinkle
of water on valley, heat
dried forests, thirsty.

Sunday Musings
One quarter of a century. I know, math, right? One fourth of a hundred years. Tomorrow marks the 25th anniversary of the biggest change in my life. I’ve posted about the son’s birthday here, especially the trauma of his 9th birthday, but I’ve said little about the change for me, the transition from woman to motherhood, of how I learned to be more fierce.

That day after roughly 9 months of preparation my role in the world and society changed forever. I didn’t have on any rose colored glasses or shades of any kind. I had no great aspirations to be mother of the year. I knew with my living circumstances (limited income, limited opportunities, no advanced education, disabled hubster, depressed rural area) I’d have to make the best of it in whatever way I could. I’d always been able to find work, and was creative about filling in the financial gaps and being frugal.

I am not the woman my mother was, who at 28 gave birth to her 4th child, and while tending three children under 5 years of age and nursing a newborn, was on her feet canning peaches within the week. I was the 38 year old primagravida, who could not even master the most basic biological female function on earth of squeezing an infant out of my birth canal, and had to have major surgery to birth a child. Every year when I think I’ve gained more distance and more perspective I’m thrown right into traumatic memory again, of how I was denied the natural process, and subjected to the trauma of the knife.

The clinic that diagnosed my pregnancy had advised an abortion because I was an older mother, though all recommended testing revealed no anomalies in the fetus. They contended I was more likely than a younger woman to have a child with some sort of birth defect, though I didn’t drink or smoke. Since logic many times evade pregnant women I told them they could take their advice and put it somewhere else. I had experienced a miracle, and I did not care what kind of creature I delivered; I suspected they were wrong. Their scare tactics, while scary and an upsetting way to start a pregnancy with an obvious vote of no-support, did not deter me from embracing and experiencing the miracle within me. The child was mine and I was his. I did not see why the people at the clinic should have any investment in preventing the birth of this baby, of my baby. I fiercely did not let them convince me to kill him before he even had a chance.

The clinic made an appointment for me with the Department of Human Services because I didn’t have health insurance, and after talking to the DHS, I realized I was going to have to use public assistance for a while to eat, and pay rent, and birth this child. The women at DHS told me I could do this and enrolled me in the food stamp program and the WIC program, a nutrition program for Women, Infants, and Children, that helps teach about and supply nutritional food for a better baby/mother outcome. They prepared me for the possibility of accepting cash assistance after the birth.

The thing is when you become a mother it doesn’t have an instruction book, any more than the baby comes with an instruction book. We may have role models of mothering, like our own mothers and grandmothers, who might be good or bad. We might be able to read all the parenting books and blogs, and attend parenting classes. When it comes right down to it, YOU are the mother. You make up the rules for you and your child. Sometimes you might be right. Sometimes you might be wrong. And even if you have the best partner in the world, I’m telling you it feels like all the responsibility is still yours, no matter whom you share parenting with.

The birth of a child changes everything. Everything. Eyes wide open. I had spent many years laughing at the women who said a baby changes nothing, “I’ll still work full time”, and then left their jobs mere weeks after their babies arrived. I knew better. I had no romantic notions of winning the mommy prize, of being able to do it all. I knew I’d be stuck doing it all, and whatever I was able to do, I would do, because the hubster has physical disabilities; it would be like being a single mom of two kids, one all grown up and semi-dependent, one brand new and totally dependent. Birth by last minute cesarean changes everything exponentially. I had much to do to get ready for this baby and I didn’t even know the cesarean was looming.

When I told my landlord I was pregnant she sent me an eviction notice. Oregon is a “no reason” state where you can be evicted at the whim of a landlord. When I called to ask for more time to move, she told me she didn’t think I’d be able to pay the rent, though I proved her wrong and fiercely paid her every cent I owed her. I didn’t have any savings for first/last/deposit/moving expenses and the area I lived in had little in the way of available housing. I located an abandoned trailer, found the owner was residing at the Oregon State Mental Hospital, then known as Dammasch. I contacted him through his case worker and struck a deal to move into a moldy, run-down, leaking, trash left on every surface trailer because I could pay the lower rent. We got the first two months free for cutting back the blackberry vines it was buried in, cleaning out the trash, and coating the roof with the stuff you coat trailer house roofs with to keep them from leaking. To this day I cannot stand the smell of Murphy’s Oil Soap as I wiped down every wooden cabinet in the trailer with it.

We lived in a small rural area during my pregnancy and delivery, and we were lucky enough to have a nice maternity ward, but there were no midwives or doulas. The hubster’s idea of birth support was entirely clueless, but it wasn’t his responsibility or his fault: he’d had no role models or information. We could have paid a midwife to travel more than 50 miles from the metro area but we were living a day to day self-employed cash existence, so that was not in the budget. I had no coaching except for a couple birthing classes through the hospital, no one to labor with, no one to advocate against the slice of the knife. I had written an elaborate birth plan that was tossed into the circular file when my labor did not progress according to the male obstetrician’s expected plan. A nurse is not assigned to hold your hand and help you birth your child. Somehow even if you are the only laboring woman in the maternity ward they have other patients to attend to. Ultimately, you do it alone.

In college, years later, I learned about lying-in, a period after birth when the mother rests, learning to nurse, and bonding with baby. Neighbor women and family would care for her and her husband, and other family as needed. Lying-in is a long discarded tradition and what happens if you have no such support system? The hospital released me five days after the knife, after the baby scare of a “medical issue” for which they thought they needed to transfer him to the metro area for intensive neo-natal care (they didn’t), and the mother scare when I had grape sized blisters on the skin around my incision from an allergic reaction to the surgical adhesive they had bandaged me with (none of us knew I was allergic). Physically and emotionally I was a mess. I was going home with an open, weeping wound I could not see or reach to apply the antibiotic ointment, a newborn whom I knew nothing about, with a disabled hubster who had no idea how to take care of it all. My mother was out of the country and hubster always had his nose out of joint about her anyway (his loss). My sister was busy with her own one year old and she lived nearly 75 miles away. To be fair I had asked my mother and sister not to help, thinking surely I could do this on my own. I was so blind. Hindsight is so perfect.

My local friends mostly abandoned me during my pregnancy; I can’t blame them, I was making less money than ever and was less able to participate in activities. I’m thinking they weren’t great friends in the first place, if what they liked was my money. I’ve always had challenges picking friends. In my 7th month a friend was evicted from her apartment, and since it was the hottest summer we’d had in years, I told her she could pitch a tent in my large yard outside the trailer, which she immediately moved her boyfriend into. I was hugely pregnant, still working all day, and would come home to find my house a wreck, and the two of them waiting for me to cook dinner, the hubster not knowing how to stretch our meager supplies to feed all of us. They didn’t buy groceries to cook; they thought I should buy all the groceries since it was my house, but they had food stamps also. Food stamps are calculated by the number of people living in the household, and does not include guests. Their beer cans and bottles and cigarette butts (the hubster had stopped smoking the day we confirmed the son was coming, so smoke in the house was not welcome) were literally stacked and piled between every chair and sofa, the cigarette butts over-filling and blooming from never washed ashtrays, obvious evidence of what they did all day. The kitchen was never touched, looking worse than I’d left it after breakfast in the morning when I left for work. My bath towels and their dirty clothing were left wet on the bathroom carpet. No way was I picking up and washing their dirty clothes. My feeble fantasy of actually getting some help around the house from a friend took me about 10 days to get fierce enough to say take your tent on down to the local campground. So much for my friend-choosing skills. A few years later I understood the degree of her mental illness, but during my pregnancy I was justifiably selfish.

And things kept changing. I couldn’t go back to the hairdressing industry I’d been in for the last 20 years because of nerve damage in my hands and arms from the weight gain during pregnancy. Yes, that’s real. Doctors don’t talk about it, because it’s scary to think about, but I’d rather they’d been up front instead of taking years to tell me what really happens to some women.

The salon I rented in gave me a little baby shower, over and done in 20 minutes; we had money to earn, had to keep those customers happy. The salon changed the locks on the doors during my first month recovering from major surgery and didn’t bother to tell me. I didn’t have money for a lawyer so I talked to legal aid and they advised me I should consider our rental contract to be void since the salon owner did not inform me of the change or offer a new key, recommending I write her a letter stating such, and to go in during open hours and remove all my supplies and equipment while leaving the letter and the old key. Why didn’t the salon owner call me? I’ll never know, and after 25 years I’d love to stop thinking about it. But memory resides in the body as well as the brain and at that time every nerve and muscle in my body was on fire, burning, tense, nervous, frightened. I had no clue how I was going to take care of us all, and it seemed like I had little help.

Why was it that women seemed the meanest during this time? The clinic advisers were female and had children of their own, yet they advised death. The landlady had her own children yet she took my home, and the salon owner had her own, and she took my employment. They’d all had their children without being cut in half to get the baby out. They all had husbands who provided income for them. Had they all forgotten how hard the transition into mothering is even when all goes according “to plan”? Where was the empathy, the care, the concern, the helping? Motherhood is supposed to be about gain, not about reduction, but there I was.

But then, a couple days after I came home from the hospital there was the long time customer of mine who brought us a large bucket of chicken with all the sides and dessert and drinks and juice and milk, plus bags and boxes of easy to fix quick meals to feed us for a couple weeks. She had 4 kids of her own, and said somebody had done this for her when she had her first. I don’t know how she found out where I lived or knew I was in need, but those were the days of white pages telephone books and I didn’t pay to have my numbers unlisted. I doubt the women who worked in the salon I did gave her any information or encouragement. I was so grateful for her care.

And there were the community people who got our name through DHS and didn’t know us from Adam who made sure we had a Thanksgiving turkey and the sides to fix, and the other strangers who brought us boxes of food and toys and baby clothes for Christmas. My dad refurbished a dresser with fresh paint and brought it with the ulterior motive of spending a week on my couch while he and the hubster went fishing. Men. That didn’t go over real big with me 6 weeks after major surgery.

For many years I’ve felt puny on September 10th, the day I was in labor, and sad on September 11th, the day my baby was cut out of my body after 36 hours of labor. Medical personnel try to sell you this package about “look we saved the baby and the mother, it’s a good outcome”. Addressing the feeling of being robbed of an essential female experience because of lack of support is something that took me many years, and I’m still dealing. I was denied completion of womanhood, and the son was denied his epic journey through the birth canal and into the light of the world. One of many bumps on the road of motherhood.

Enough crankiness. There is good and bad in everything. I am grateful to be here still being sassy about something that happened 25 years ago. I am grateful for the struggle and fight of motherhood. I am grateful for the experience of parenting regardless of how good or bad I was/am at it. And I’m grateful for the son, the child who came through me into this perilous and glorious world. I am grateful for the miracle of two cells combining in my body to cook up a brand new human being who never existed before and is worth being fierce about. He is intelligent and empathetic and he gets up and goes to work more days than not. He understands physics and has innovative ideas in that field; I pray one day his knowledge will benefit the world, whether he earns a college degree or not. He is my hope for the future of the world. I have the privilege to be his mother. Even though he is grown and doesn’t need me, it’s worth being fierce for.

Color Watch – colorful attractions in my neighborhoods this week – It’s beginning to look a bit like autumn. Inedible long green catalpa beans. The weight of rain water on fragile pale pink cosmos. Great green balls of cedar. A mosaic of autumn colors. The strength of pink mallow/hibiscus holding onto water.

Current View – {These are only my opinions about movies and books, but don’t let me stop you from trying these reviewed items yourself; your opinion may differ.} Less Than Zero (1987, rated R). I’m not sure why I ordered this movie, I’m guessing because of James Spader who plays a slick L.A. drug dealer; or it could have been because of Robert Downey, Jr, whose acting fascinates me; or perhaps it was because the screenplay is from a novel by Bret Easton Ellis who writes really edgy stuff. But this movie? Film quality of a d-film (way beyond a b-movie), over played, under-filmed acting, story of excess and drug addiction, disconnected families, and wasted potential. Left me with an unpleasant feeling after viewing. Meh. * My Dinner with Andre (1981, rated PG), a classic. Two old friends, a playwright and a director, share heavy philosophical dialogue over dinner at an up-scale restaurant. Wow. * The Whole Truth (2016, rated R), a mystery with Keanu Reeves and Renee Zellweger, whom I did not recognize. The defendant won’t talk, the defense has to happen anyway, and just when you think you have it figured out, another possibility presents itself. Twist and plot twist again. * Lion (2016, rated PG – 13), a 5 year old boy gets lost thousands of miles away from home. He is adopted after living on the streets of Calcutta for a few months, but after 25 years his past and memories of his mother and brother haunt him. I am not fond of Nicole Kidman, and she did not disappoint in her vapid portrayal; they could have cast any one else. But the story, the boy, and the resolution were worth it. Recommended.

Currently ReadingAfter Birth (2015, fiction) by Elisa Albert. Two women and their birth stories intertwine. * Born on Third Base: A One Percenter Makes the Case for Tackling Inequality, Bringing Wealth Home, and Committing to the Common Good (2016, humanitarianism) by Chuck Collins. Nothing worth doing is easy. I love that he recommends solutions, but often those solutions involve the wealth class to vote or act against their self interests. Other solutions require years of work. My inner queen wants a magic wand.

This week I have been grateful for:

  • Hair loss usually being temporary.
  • Being on the last round of this medical treatment.
  • The kind staff at one of my clinics who take the time to explain every letter they send me because I am not fluent in medicalese.
  • Civil discourse which seems to be a fine art in these days of name calling and the standard four expletive sentence.
  • Having a large vocabulary.
  • Dictionaries. Good reading.
  • The first of the late summer rain.
  • Multnomah Falls Lodge and the villa/convent of the Sisters of Bridal Veil being saved from the wildfires in the Columbia Gorge.
  • Fire fighters who came from everywhere to help with the wildfires in the western United States.
  • Real clouds in the sky, not just smoke.
  • My cousin sending updates from Florida. My prayers for safety for all of them.
  • Hearing the university football game on a rainy evening.
  • All the plants and animals who gave their energy to become my energy.
  • Blue lake green beans and asparagus roasted with garlic and olive oil.
  • Thinly sliced lemon cucumber and Walla Walla onion, sour cream, vinegar, salt and pepper salad.
  • Picked this morning corn on the cob, the best conveyance for real dairy butter and a dash of sea salt.
  • Red and yellow cherry tomatoes with cottage cheese.
  • Strawberries after a week of not being allowed.
  • Water.

Hoping you have a lovely week.

Namaste. Peace. Blessings.

Floral ribbon border by Laurel Burch

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Gratitude Sunday: Ode To September

Gratitude * Sunday
Sunday’s heartfelt tradition.
A time to slow down, to reflect, to be grateful.
A list of gratitudes, our gratefulness feeds one another.
Quoted from Taryn Wilson
Joining the Gratitude Sunday Tradition at Wooly Moss Roots.

Sunday Haiku
National tempests,
epic fires, hurricanes, floods,
blackberries ripen.

Sunday Musings
Oh, September. Labor Day. Back to school or first day of school, new school year. Last day of summer. First day of autumn. Football. End of harvest and harvest moon. Changing schedules. The son’s birthday on the 11th. Sun rises later and sets earlier. Rarely do we have a first frost in September, but climate change is real, so you never know; this year it looks like we will be facing record high temperatures. So many transitions in September.

It’s all good. I took a self-focused break in August, concentrating on a new medical treatment, dreading a medical procedure that is thankfully over with now, and working on my body and soul with my tai chi exercises and visits to my local farmers market. I located music my soul felt nourished by: some Tibetan bells, some soft sweet Chinese tunes, and some soothing Native American flute; no lyrics to distract me. I turn the music on to build my mood and then use my body in ways it is not used to. As often as I can when the smoke level is low I take my exercises outside to do barefoot, grounded, skin to earth, intensely feeling the uneven surface of grass growing in soil. Repetition enhances learning. When I master these exercises I can move on to adding new ones. Maybe one day I will be able to do a “real” tai chi routine. Always learning.

In recent years I have given up gardening, though I think I’d like to do a small amount for fresh eating in the future. Sustainable gardens require a plan and maintenance. I’ll spend some time on that thought. I used to can and jam as well, but my back does not support me well enough any more to sustain those thoughts or activities. Farmers markets can sometimes fill the cupboards there.

I let my work commitment slide during my selfish month of August. I’m looking forward to getting back on track and completing a long-term project. I am grateful the people I work with have their own schedules and we don’t put pressure on each other toward forced deadlines. It’s the type of work I want to see as excellently done as possible before it goes out into the world. It will be worth it in the long run. Mom used to say “if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.” Mom was usually right.

Everybody needs a break now and then, time to refresh, regroup, revitalize, and restore before jumping back into the fray. For some of us the fray is life itself, surviving the obstacles that seem to be daily set-backs. When we amplify that by an uncertain and un-American federal leadership in the shock and awe style many of us fear for our families and homes and livelihoods as well, not a healthful way to live. Refreshment and restoration, or rest and relaxation, whatever label you put to it, (I rarely get to take vacation away from home), that is what it takes to remain in the battle, to resist backward leadership which is our constitutional duty, to learn everything we can about the battle, and to make new strides in progression toward a more democratic nation, a helping and caring nation. All on top of our daily lives. Huge order; that’s why it’s important.

It starts at home in our own communities, with caring and taking care of each other, even if we don’t know the other, our neighbor, the stranger on the street, the homeless lady who won’t look you in the eye because she’s so embarrassed by the reduction of her circumstances. It means thinking beyond yourself, even if there are differences between us and them, whether you are wealthy or poor, though I find the more money you have the more difficult this process is. It’s great to have earned your way and want to keep what you earned, but all of us want that. Remember you didn’t get there alone, and we must all contribute our share to live in this society.

Ultimately it starts with ourselves. If we don’t take care of ourselves how can we take care of others? Be kind to yourself. Get up a few minutes early and have your coffee or tea in the quiet of the early morning, breathing the fresh air to ready yourself for the day. If you are so inclined, take a short walk or take the exercise of your choice before beginning your day. Using the body improves the mind; they work so well together. Make your bed with the most luxurious sheets you can afford, then go to bed a few minutes early and stretch your tired body against the rich material, letting go of the tribulations of the day. Treat yourself as well as you treat others. That’s the only “trickle-down” economic that works. If you feel good or well, it’s easier to help others feel the same.

So, September. Set some goals as the season changes. Make time for yourself in your schedule. Work hard and give to others because you feel good about it. Try a new recipe with the last of the summer harvest and share with your family or community. Gather your strength. Winter is coming.

Color Watch – colorful attractions in my neighborhoods this week – Fiery sunset rose. White mallow with maroon starry center. Glorious coral-ish trumpet vine flowers. Fuzzy looking soft pink spirea. Attracting yellow of moth mullein.

Current View – {These are only my opinions about movies and books, but don’t let me stop you from trying these reviewed items yourself; your opinion may differ.} Disjointed (2017, rated TV – MA) a new Netflix series with Kathy Bates as Ruth who owns Ruth’s Alternative Caring, a California cannabis store. All the stereotypical stoner humor. Guffaws are good, as is snort laughter. * House of Cards (2017, rated TV – MA) with Robin Wright and Kevin Spacey, another Netflix series. The nefarious mechanisms of manipulative politics. Yes, I know this is just fiction, however, so many people are addicted to money and power I can see reality in fiction.

Currently Reading – I’m in between fiction novels. I wanted to read one more on my summer reading list before I jump into some alternative lit better suited for dark early nights and autumn reading, so waiting for the last of my summer reading to arrive for me at my local lending library. * Born on Third Base: A One Percenter Makes the Case for Tackling Inequality, Bringing Wealth Home, and Committing to the Common Good (2016, humanitarianism) by Chuck Collins. Mr Collins is one of the few authors I’ve read who offers ideas for solutions as he presents his ideas. I like ideas for solutions. Sometimes we have to try different solutions before we find the one that works. And sometimes solutions must evolve. * Mother of All Questions (2017, feminism, psychology) by Rebecca Solnit. I find Ms Solnit to be one of the premier voices of our generation. Her logic and presentation awe me. There is barely any describing her work other than a recommendation for must reads. This series of essays is about feminism, the silencing and control of women, and what’s fundamentally wrong with treating half the population of the world as unequal and inferior.

This week I have been grateful for:

  • Getting through a medical procedure I had been dreading. Glad to have it done and over with.
  • Celebrating with an ice cold Coca-cola after getting home from the medical procedure.
  • The hubster being so helpful this week: replacing the dryer hose which needs done every few years; figuring out how to place the fans so we can run the dishwasher during the hotter parts of the day without heating up the kitchen; taking me to the medical procedure where I needed sedation that required him to check me in and check me out as proof of a driver after the narcotic.
  • The luxury of a flexible schedule when I have to have a little lie down.
  • Passing the middle point in my medical treatment and getting good numbers on the reports.
  • My tai chi exercise practice. After two brief months, feeling like I’m gaining some understanding and some strength.
  • Telling myself I am getting some relief from sciatic pain from the continued practice of tai chi. At least I can turn over in bed most nights relatively pain free for the first time in a couple years.
  • Mister Kitty aka George Murphy who is my tai chi buddy. I don’t know if he is just begging for food since I’m on my feet or if he’s skimming the energy.
  • The magical feeling when the light changes obliquely in late summer.
  • Hearing the joyful noise of the first high school football game of the year through my open doors.
  • To not be living in southern Oregon (fires – the smoke travels freely and it’s worse than I ever remember) or in Texas or Louisiana (hurricanes and extensive flooding). Grieving at so much damage and heartache and for the suffering.
  • Having a few things in the freezer so I don’t have to go out to the store in the heat and smoke.
  • Water.

Hoping you have a lovely week.

Namaste. Peace. Blessings.

Floral ribbon border by Laurel Burch

Posted in abundance, Aging, Exercise, Gardening, GRATITUDE, Grief, Health, Nature, Photography, Poetry, Politics, Vacations | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gratitude Sunday: Walk A Mile In My Brain: or, Life Is Not Fair

Gratitude * Sunday
Sunday’s heartfelt tradition.
A time to slow down, to reflect, to be grateful.
A list of gratitudes, our gratefulness feeds one another.
Quoted from Taryn Wilson
Joining the Gratitude Sunday Tradition at Wooly Moss Roots.

Sunday Haiku
Relentless summer.
No rain in sight, grass scorched brown,
Thistle blooms purple.

Sunday Musings
Forget about shoes. I only wear them because I dislike foot pain from ramming my toes into something more than I love being barefoot. I realize it’s a metaphor but walking a mile in someone else’s shoes does nothing; it’s just walking. You must be able to imagine the differences and similarities between you and them, listen to their stories, understand their stories as truth. You’ll find there is little actual difference, despite the differences.

I know. I’m supposed to make sense here. Look at it this way. Whether you are wealthy or poor, able or unable, male or female, religious or not, of any race whatsoever, our goals are essentially the same. We need safe homes and communities, healthful food, clean air and water, quality health care, education and work opportunities, clothing, transportation, and relaxation/refreshment time. And we’d like to experience a modicum of happiness or contentment along the way. All of us, across the spectrum.

Do we all have that? The short answer is no. Could we all have that? The long answer is yes; it takes work to make it so.

It doesn’t happen in a vacuum. People don’t usually step up and say “Let me help you.” If you ask for help many people still resent helping others. That’s called blaming the victim. I might support blaming the victim if we had equal opportunities, but we don’t. The other hard part about asking for help is feeling like you owe something back to those who helped. I had to give that feeling up because I might not pay it directly back to whomever provided the original help, but somewhere along the line I have helped others in need when they needed it. My tax investment has helped other people, other people’s investments help me. My personal small income has helped other individuals through times of their crises. It’s like volunteering: right now I’m the one helping, tomorrow you are the one helping. It all comes around in the end.

My mom taught me years ago life isn’t fair. If it were, we wouldn’t have this conversation. It’s a hard lesson I’m still in the process of learning. But we can make life in American society a little bit more fair or better if we want to. I’m really good at saying what should be, and trying to be better being grateful for what is. We start where we are.

The myth of self-sufficiency needs to be exploded and buried once and for all. Talk about being a self-made person, and earning wealth on your own, it’s not true. There is not one person in America who has done it all on their own. Not one, no one, nada, nyet, nobody. All private wealth is created courtesy of public assistance. Some people get a hand up by being born into a wealthy family – the luck of the draw; your pathway is much easier because the wind is already at your back and you had the advantages of quality health care, healthful food, the best education, and employment opportunities provided by the connections of your family.

Even if you started with nothing, like no inherited wealth, with the wind in your face, you benefited from being a member of a society. If you went to public school, somebody’s tax investment paid for the school. If you used public transportation or school buses, somebody else’s tax investment paid for your ride to be available. If you drove on a road to get there, somebody else’s tax investment paid for the creation and maintenance of that pathway. If you received a grant for college, somebody else’s tax investment helped you gain an education. If your parents qualified for commodity foods, or food stamps, or reduced cost school lunches, you ate because of the tax investment of somebody else.

We may not recognize many programs as a benefit from the tax investment we make. If you help feed people (SNAP/food stamps and reduced lunch programs), and house people (housing subsidies or government sponsored mortgages like VA loans), and keep people warm (LIHEAP program), and give them a break because they are still raising children (Earned Income Credit), you are helping their well-being and their ability to be better contributing members in our society. That’s a good thing.

I’m GRATEFUL my tax investment helps other people. I’ve had to ask for and received additional help most of my adult life, all the while paying my own tax investment into the system. The wealthy who think they should keep all their wealth and not pay taxes or avoid claiming their wealth by hiding it in off-shore bank accounts are displaying their ungratefulness to be contributing members of the society they used for their personal profit. The wealthy use our roads and hospitals and technology just like the rest of us. I’ll bet they like it when the fire department comes to save their burning homes, and when police arrest the thieves who break into their homes. Contributions to charity organizations are suppose to be an alternative to making a tax investment, but in many cases, they are disguised ways to hide money, and these charities sometimes make little real contribution to the health and well-being of the people in this country that supports the ability to accumulate wealth. Why should wealth make them less grateful, rather than more so?

It’s that myth of self-sufficiency. They tell themselves they did it on their own, so they don’t owe anybody anything. Logic requires seeing that’s simply not true. If you live in a country that collects tax investments and those investments are used to benefit all with infrastructure, technology, medical research and advancements, among others, the wealthy, more than the average individual, can use those tax investments to their maximum advantage. The wealthy used all those tax investments, just like the rest of us, but they were more able to use them to their financial advantage. Not everybody can create those wealth making events in their lives.

America’s dirty little secret is how you are supposed to hide any assistance you receive. You never admit to inherited wealth, instead you create your own self-made myth and sell that. If you have to ask for assistance and receive it you are supposed to be quietly embarrassed, to lock your doors and live behind curtained windows in shame because for whatever reason you can’t create your own wealth, even to the point of having how you live dictated and your freedom of choices limited because you are using other people’s tax investment. I hear the echoes from Game of Thrones: “shame, shame, shame” as if wealth equals virtue. Yet nobody makes it in America on their own.

If we think of our taxes as investments in our future it all makes more sense. Wealthy people more than anyone else should be interested in investing for the future. Workers and employees are the people who create profit for the wealthy. Why not be grateful and pay them realistic wages so they can support their families or provide health care in a simpler way so people have less stress? Wouldn’t the workers be grateful as well because they have secure homes, the money to pay for them, food on their tables, and the time to enjoy it all with their families? Maybe happy healthy workers would be even better producers. I’m just guessing.

You can call me a perfect worlder if you like. Sticks and stones. We know, of course, that words do hurt and we carry that hurt forever. I am a better worlder, that’s for sure. We can work toward better lives. We could have a better America and a better world. We could have more supportive shoes.

Color Watch – colorful attractions in my neighborhoods this week – Bright red nightshade berries – do not eat! Creamy white wishes with brown seeds, a wish for a new weed. Pristine white bindweed. Wild stickery purple thistle.

Current View – {These are only my opinions about movies and books, but don’t let me stop you from trying these reviewed items yourself; your opinion may differ.} Star Wars: Rogue One (2016, rated PG – 13), trying to keep up with cultural references, I watch these as they come out and are made available on DVD through my local lending library. I went to the premier of the first one when it came out in the Portland area and remember being scared out of my wits when an actor in the Darth Vader costume came up behind me and breathed down my neck. I’m not sure I gain much in the watching, as I can’t tell who’s who when they are fighting, I can’t tell who’s flying what or even the differences between the flying machines, and I get lost between locations, though they are clearly labeled. But the special effects are fascinating. * Beauty and the Beast (2017, rated PG), the live version with Emma Watson (Harry Potter movies) and Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey series). Can Disney make anything that isn’t a musical these days? Apparently not. Oh well, just had to enjoy it for what it was. * Misery (1990, rated R) with Kathy Bates and James Caan. The other psychological thriller from Stephen King. Since this is an old movie, I’m not going to worry about spoilers. I first saw this movie in 1991, and remember being riveted by the story. What strikes me with this viewing is how strangely satisfying it is when Caan (the victim) kills Bates (his torturer) in the end.

Currently Reading – I am very glad to be done with Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right (2016, conservative politics) by Jane Mayer. It’s disheartening to read about the ways money is spent to change public policy and twist the English language to increase and perpetuate your own bottom line, when that money could help increase the wealth and well-being of so many Americans, including the dark money spenders. Greed is ugly, stubborn, and obtuse. * The All New Don’t Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate (2014, communications in politics) by George Lakoff. Choose your words; improve our world. * Born on Third Base: A One Percenter Makes the Case for Tackling Inequality, Bringing Wealth Home, and Committing to the Common Good (2016, humanitarianism) by Chuck Collins. Collins is heir to the Oscar Meyer meat business family, who gave away much of his inherited trust fund, after working closely with average people and listening to our stories. He maintains there should be a balance of the tax contributions made by wealthy people instead of them paying so little in tax, while the lower classes pay a much larger percentage of their income.

This week I have been grateful for:

  • Finishing some paperwork that needed doing.
  • The luxury of a flexible at-home work schedule and being able to have a little lie down when I don’t feel well.
  • The magic of solar eclipse rays and their subtle effects.
  • Those few minutes during the solar eclipse in America when almost all of us were thinking about the glory of nature and science, and not about our differences and disparities.
  • A friend who knew my picture had been in the local paper, and also knew the paper was no longer in my budget, who gave me a hard copy for posterity.
  • While searching for something else, finding a stash of old cosmetics and toiletries that enjoyed a pitch into the trash.
  • Starting to organize for winter; I have to move a couple pieces of furniture blocking wall heaters, which means the Game of 14, though I’m anticipating a game of about 414.
  • The neighbor who put up a bird feeder in the back part of her backyard so I can see it from my backyard and the flock of bluebirds it has attracted.
  • The bluebird feather one of the birds left for me.
  • Learning many years ago that a recipe might depend on what you have on hand and knowing how to throw it together.
  • Bacon, garlic, zucchini, mozzarella skillet jumble, no eggs, but I think I’ll add eggs next time. Yum.
  • Fat juicy peaches and nectarines. Especially the ones so ripe the skin peels off without blanching.
  • Coffee. And real cream.
  • Water.

Hoping you have a lovely week.

Namaste. Peace. Blessings.

Floral ribbon border by Laurel Burch

Posted in abundance, Aging, Education, GRATITUDE, Grief, Health, Nature, Photography, Poetry, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Gratitude Sunday: Of Blood And Fire

Gratitude * Sunday
Sunday’s heartfelt tradition.
A time to slow down, to reflect, to be grateful.
A list of gratitudes, our gratefulness feeds one another.
Quoted from Taryn Wilson
Joining the Gratitude Sunday Tradition at Wooly Moss Roots.

Sunday Haiku
Moon parades in front
of sky dominating sun:
people stop to watch.

Sunday Musings
Welcome to eclipse weekend. On Monday, my baby brother celebrates the beginning of his 60th journey around the sun. Not only is he 59 (a prime number) in 2017 (a prime number) it is perfect timing, I think, for the natural phenomena of a full solar eclipse when the new moon passes between the earth and the sun.

Is history important? I’m fascinated by the occurrence of natural and historical events, especially when they link to my family. Not that we are anything special (we are unique, as is everybody), but the number of significant dates and occurrences intrigue me.

In 1963, John Fitzgerald Kennedy was assassinated on the anniversary my mother’s birthday. She was a young woman then, the same age as Jackie Kennedy, both born in 1929, though they didn’t share a birthday. Both women carried the burden of that November day to their graves.

1968 brought the assassination of John’s brother, Robert Francis Kennedy, on my uncle’s birthday, my mother’s older brother. RFK lived to the next day, so his official death is the day after, but he was attacked and shot on my uncle’s birthday. My uncle never mentioned it, but I found it an unusual coincidence that two siblings in my family were connected by the deaths of siblings in this other, more famous, family.

In 1980, Mt Saint Helens, an active volcano in Washington State, less than 100 miles from the Portland Metro area where we were raised, massively erupted and it remains active to this day. In 1980 there was significant action reported on the mountain on my sister’s birthday in July and on mine in October. Not only are we sisters by blood we are sisters of lava and fire.

The son was born on September 11. His 9th birthday was 2001, an ugly day in American history. Because of the historical action, and the indiscretion and inappropriate actions of his school teacher, it was not a great day for the son, as hard as his parents tried to protect him from it. He was still a child. He knew what happened because we (his parents) explained it at a level that was appropriate for a 9 year old, but what he experienced in school made him think the actions on the other side of the nation were his fault. It took years to convince him he had nothing to do with the event.

When I was 8, we had a solar eclipse that summer of 1962. I don’t know the details of the type of the eclipse. I’m sure there is information available, but I’d rather share my memory. I was away at Camp Fire Girl summer camp, Camp Onahlee in Molalla, Oregon; it’s now a private campground. The camp served girls age 7 through 17 and we were divided by age groups with age appropriate activities. We stayed for 6 nights and the counselors kept us busy. One day that week the counselors called all of us into the dining hall, the only building large enough for all of us. We never met in the dining hall except for meals, even when it was raining. Our counselors were there, the camp director was there, all the arts and crafts teachers, the chaplain, the swim instructor, and the archery coach were there, the entire camp. This day we played games and sang camp songs while the forest quieted, the sky darkened, and the air cooled. We weren’t allowed outside at all. None of us, adult nor child. We could hear the cooks busy in the kitchen getting ready for the next meal; even they didn’t go outside to look. We may have thought a storm was coming, they must have told us about the eclipse, but I don’t remember those details. Can you imagine the logistics of supervising the safety of a hundred girls and all their camp counselors and aides and instructors?

Because of the seriousness of that day, I’ve not had much interest in viewing solar eclipses. I use my eyes so much I dare not risk even the slightest timing error. Because of the magic of technology I will get to see it safely on TV. I’m sure NASA is filming for perpetuity.

I’ve stayed awake for a few lunar eclipses as you can safely view those. I find them so relaxing I tend to doze off. Maybe that’s the power of a moon eclipse, bestowing sleep upon me.

With my baby brother’s birthday on Monday he joins his sisters in being children of natural phenomena. We have the power of nature in our blood. We didn’t ask for it, demand it, or invoke it. It is what it is. And I admit, I like that connection to the earth, and the power of nature, which feels so much more solid than the fleeting power of men. We are siblings of blood and fire.

Whatever you do for your viewing experience Monday, take the time to do your homework and be safe! I’ll be singing camp songs.

Color Watchcolorful attractions in my neighborhoods this week – The neighbor’s bright-faced sunflower peaks over the fence. Double yellow bonus. A whole bunch of yellow faces. And a huge pile of brilliant yellow.

Current View – {These are only my opinions about movies and books, but don’t let me stop you from trying these reviewed items yourself; your opinion may differ.} Still in the world of fire and ice, watching season 6 of Game of Thrones (2016, rated TV – MA) before I have to return it to my local lending library. FYI about this series, don’t bother having a favorite character. The minute you do, the character will be killed. * Penumbra (2011, not rated) the only other movie I could find in my lending library system to have a solar eclipse as part of the plot, this movie is a twisted horror film about a woman who is likely losing her sanity. All Spanish dialogue with English subtitles available didn’t necessarily make the plot easy to follow. Weird film. The word penumbra refers to particular shadows around an eclipse.

Currently Reading – Sometimes you just have to lighten up and read something juvenile, refreshing, and light. The Trouble with Twins (2016, fiction) by Kathryn Sieble and illustrated by Júlia Sardà, fits the bill for me this summer. Twin girls are separated because of an incident and the great adventure begins. And it has pictures! Tween-lit is often pure and uncomplicated wisdom. An example in this story: “The truth is that the people in charge are often afraid and uncertain.” * Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right (2016, radical politics), by Jane Mayer. Indoctrinating college and high school students with revisionist history is also on the big money agenda. When helping our youth investigate colleges and universities it is worthwhile to take the time and see where their funding comes from. And just because it doesn’t have the Koch brothers name on it don’t let that fool you; they use all kinds of distortions of the American language to make us think the funding is from a neutral un-agenda-ed source or worse, twisted to make us think it is doing something in favor of the average person. * The All New Don’t Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate (2014, communications in politics) by George Lakoff. Exploration of language use and how semantics can be used to reframe how people think about issues of public concerns; how language devised by wealthy conservatives have influenced public policy.

This week I have been grateful for:

  • Getting to go out to dinner with a friend. I don’t go out often because of my tight budget, so it was a real treat. Especially the visiting time.
  • Leftovers from the generous servings from dinner out: three more lunches.
  • The forest fire smoke clearing from the air. I like breathing without coughing or chest pain.
  • A surprise thank you note for a business referral.
  • Open doors in the evening and the cooling breeze whispering through them.
  • The peace and quiet of a rare evening session at the pool when I was the only swimmer.
  • Enjoying the squirrels hanging out in the shade on the fence in the back yard.
  • Watching a brilliantly colored bluebird hop around the yard.
  • Remembering all the years I had the privilege to enjoy summer camp during my childhood years.
  • To have been able to provide the privilege of many years of summer camp for the son.
  • Both the son and I having the opportunity to earn our own money to pay for summer camp; I sold candy, he sold Christmas trees.
  • Garden fresh eggs from a trusted source.
  • The sweet tartness of strawberries.
  • Water.

Hoping you have a lovely week.

Namaste. Peace. Blessings.

Floral ribbon border by Laurel Burch

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Gratitude Sunday: No, Wait!

Gratitude * Sunday
Sunday’s heartfelt tradition.
A time to slow down, to reflect, to be grateful.
A list of gratitudes, our gratefulness feeds one another.
Quoted from Taryn Wilson
Joining the Gratitude Sunday Tradition at Wooly Moss Roots.

Sunday Haiku
Rain teases parched vale,
will it, won’t it, will it, please,
one watery day.

Sunday Musings
The world has gone wild. Or weird. Or off its axis. We’re spinning out of control.

No, wait. My world is still here. My bed needs to be made. My farmers market has fresh organic local garden-grown tomatoes that taste red and ripe and drip down my chin when eaten out of hand over the sink. The taps to my faucets still deliver relatively safe water to wash the tomato juice from my chin.

It’s the current American government and all the crazy money behind it that is out of control, especially when an 8 year old inexperienced narcissist is “in charge”, except he hasn’t a clue what he’s doing. His only agenda seems to be pealing back every advance toward ethical and moral legislation of the last 80 years while controlling incomes and advancements for the poor and middle classes. You can’t expect people who can’t make a living wage (because you control the wages) or afford housing (because you control the mortgage game) to be loyal if you are not helping them achieve their dreams. You can’t tell people they have to do it for themselves and then provide no pathway for their success by devaluing their honest work and making home ownership unachievable.

No, wait. I have dirty dishes in the sink and a dishwasher to put them into. The cat bangs his paw against my leg wanting to be fed. Clothes wait to be transferred from one machine to another and languish in piles to be folded and put away.

My information feed is full of injustice, inequality, the ravings of a mad man who thinks he knows best for a world of people who think gilt is feeling bad for something you’ve done (or not done, otherwise known as guilt), not something you cover your furniture with. Citizens are dying from lack of health care, children and elders are hungry and neglected, veterans who gave their best for this country are living and dying under bridges if they are lucky enough to have that much shelter. Those very bridges and roads and water systems are crumbling under us as well.

No, wait. My floors need sweeping and mopping. The house needs a new roof and gutters, not to mention paint inside and out. My car’s air conditioning is rattling death throes.

News reports show children scalding peers with boiling water because they don’t “like” the other person. Social media encourages and prompts kids and adults to hurt each other. White supremacists riot with violence in the name of free speech and the person who is supposed to be in charge does not have the sense to call the evil what it is because he believes they are right. Bullying and bigotry is modeled from the top down, from our so-called president, through private and public employers, to schools despite the voices against it and the evidence of its harm.

No, wait. I have my writing, no matter that nobody reads it, it’s mine. I have my editing endeavors, which in my heart I hope is helping other writers to be more successful and better writers, regardless of my success. I still have my imagination and the ability to think critically and most of my wit.

In my own community we mourn the passing of a woman who devoted her life to community service, and we bemoan the woman who embezzled half a million dollars from a local youth camp. We question the oxymoronic wisdom of our city council who approves “affordable housing” that our low-income area cannot afford, while ignoring the infrastructure to handle traffic increases and food availability. We cringe at the school superintendent who has a salary higher than our legislators, whose excuse is having to support two homes. Two. When so many have none. I don’t mind her having two; I mind others having none; I mind her using that as an excuse for her salary paid by tax investments in our low-income community.

No, wait. I get to swim three times a week, and thanks to the kind person who gifted me my pool membership, I can swim every day if I want. I have real paper books to read and a wide variety of music and movie entertainment with a short trip to my local lending library. I have a park around the corner to walk in at my leisure when I wish to do so. My tax investment shared with your tax investment provide these things for all to use.

America is the best in the world, and America is the worst in the world. For those who have benefited from inherited money, or created wealth through happenstance or connectivity (who you know, not what you know), America is functioning just fine. For others it is a constant struggle to keep a home and food on the table, and sometimes the struggle is simply getting and keeping the job. The disparity is unconscionable because it is orchestrated by the people who already have theirs, who want to keep theirs to themselves, and expect others to build in the same manner, except the playing field is not equal. We don’t all have the same inheritances, or opportunities, or abilities.

No, wait. The sun has risen. The sun will set tonight. Under cover of the dark I hide, watching fantastic movie productions where women have mad defense skills with bodies and swords. I fear the dreams that sleep brings. I embrace the possibility of death at any moment, not because that is a part of life and what happens to the human body, but because of so many things I cannot control, including the rising and setting of the sun, the heat or cold of the day, the skies filled with forest fire smoke or torrential rain or months of snow.

We have a big ugly picture out there. The people who already have theirs blame those who don’t for not making “good” choices, making victims of those who don’t have the same choices available to them. Those who have less give more to help lift up those in their community, while those who have more find ways to limit available choices for the progress of others. To make matters worse, they use the tenets of their god/s to prove themselves right. Morals and ethics really have nothing to do with religion. What is right and just, is right and just without any kind of god.

No, wait. We have a small beautiful picture in here. I hear the birds sing. The grass grows. The tomatoes and strawberries bloom and fruit. The squirrels gather nuts for winter. Worms and mold decompose garbage turning it into soil. The sea has tides and the rivers flow. The earth spins on its same old axis, though the angle may be changing. We are only as good as the least of us. For some of us, we still, and will always, strive for the betterment of all, not just a few. Now, pardon me, I have a tomato to eat.

Color Watch – colorful attractions in my neighborhoods this week – Hot colors in hot weather. Sunset yellow and orange rose. Double hot summer shades of rose. Scarlet shade of carnation/pinks family. Love catching critters at work especially on a hot orange, yellow tipped echinacea.

Current View – {These are only my opinions about movies and books, but don’t let me stop you from trying these reviewed items yourself; your opinion may differ.} Red 2 (2013, rated PG – 13) with Bruce Willis and Helen Mirren. I usually skip the shoot-em-ups but this was a DC Comics production and had an element of humor to it. The movie was fortunately shy on the extreme graphic violence but with totally mad defense skills; Helen, of course, saves the day. * Season 6 of Game of Thrones (2016, rated TV – MA) finally arrived after months of being in the local lending library queue (waiting, or time, is the price low-income people pay, remember the old adage about time being money?). Living in the world of fire and ice for a few days. * I woke up one day last week wanting to see a couple old movies I’d seen before, both starring Kathy Bates, one of my favorite actors, and both adaptations of Stephen King novels, one of my favorite authors. Dolores Claiborne (1995, rated R), one of King’s psychological thrillers not based on the supernatural, arrived via my local lending library and how serendipitous, a full solar eclipse is part of the plot, which I had completely forgotten about! Part of the charm about watching older movies is recognizing actors who have since gone on to play significant roles elsewhere. The part of Vera Donovan, the village’s wealthy old recluse, is played by Judy Parfitt, who is now known for the brilliant role of Sister Monica Joan in the BBC TV series Call the Midwife.

Currently ReadingSwimming Lessons (2017, fiction) by Claire Fuller. My favorite summer reading so far. Twists and twists. Recommended. * Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right (2016, radical politics), by Jane Mayer. Ripping my heart out at all the hidden agendas financed by money when that money would better serve us all, even the ones who have it, elsewhere.

This week I have been grateful for:

  • Getting to spend a couple hours with the son.
  • The son heeding some maternal financial advice.
  • Basking in the notion of a little maternal success. Short-lived, but nonetheless.
  • How time “disappears” when I am involved in my writing and editing work.
  • Recognizing truth, how I understand truth, and how I apply truth in my life. Recognizing each of us has our own understanding of truth.
  • How ten degrees less heat is so much more tolerable. For me.
  • My local aquatic center rescuing me from the heat. Again.
  • Getting to attend a Town Hall meeting with Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, and knowing there are a few cool-headed, thinking people representing our citizens. Getting to thank him in person for standing up for us against the insanity of the current White House administration.
  • Oregon Albion strawberries, so sweet, scenting my fridge and kitchen every time I open the door.
  • Lemon cucumbers that smell like citrusy earth; green beans that smell green; cherry tomatoes that burst red in your mouth.
  • The relief one day of rain brings to my dry valley.
  • How happy the birds sound after the rain.
  • Water.

Hoping you have a lovely week.

Namaste. Peace. Blessings.

Floral ribbon border by Laurel Burch

Posted in abundance, Aging, Entertainment, GRATITUDE, Grief, Health, Photography, Poetry, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment