Thursday, April 29, 2004

And the priestess spoke again and said:

"Speak to us of Reason and Passion."

And he answered saying:

Your soul is oftentimes a battlefield, upon which your reason and your
judgment wage war against passion and your appetite.

Would that I could be the peacemaker in your soul, that I might turn the
discord and the rivalry of your elements into oneness and melody.

But how shall I, unless you yourselves be also the peacemakers, nay, the
lovers of all your elements?

Your reason and your passion are the rudder and the sails of your seafaring

If either your sails or our rudder be broken, you can but toss and drift,
or else be held at a standstill in mid-seas.

For reason, ruling alone, is a force confining; and passion, unattended, is
a flame that burns to its own destruction.

Therefore let your soul exalt your reason to the height of passion; that it
may sing;

And let it direct your passion with reason, that your passion may live
through its own daily resurrection, and like the phoenix rise above its own

I would have you consider your judgment and your appetite even as you would
two loved guests in your house.

Surely you would not honour one guest above the other; for he who is more
mindful of one loses the love and the faith of both.

Among the hills, when you sit in the cool shade of the white poplars,
sharing the peace and serenity of distant fields and meadows - then let
your heart say in silence, "God rests in reason."

And when the storm comes, and the mighty wind shakes the forest, and
thunder and lightning proclaim the majesty of the sky, - then let your
heart say in awe, "God moves in passion."

And since you are a breath In God's sphere, and a leaf in God's forest, you
too should rest in reason and move in passion.


(thanks R.)

Today I heard Jehan Sedat speak about the world situation and her work continuing her husband's quest for peace in the Middle East. Someone asked her what role America should play in the process, and she point blank said it was our responsibility to bring the Palestinians and Israelis to the table and reestablish a dialogue which respected the needs and wants of each side, and worked towards a common middle ground much like the Camp David process. This started me thinking about how we retreat farther and farther into our own "camps" in discussions about the current US policies, and how far we are getting from understanding what we have in common underlying our positions.

Where is commonbeauty when we need him?
I can't pretend to bring his deft touch to this, in fact I can only attempt a copy, but in the interests of a discussion I think should and needs to be had, I will attempt it.

I'd like to invite my fellow bloggers to share their contributions on my blog to explore the topic: What we are experiencing related to the events in Iraq and the rest of the Middle East.

I'm sensitive to the fact that many of us have avoided dwelling on the war here in our blogs because we don't want our blogs to become political commentary zones. Some of us, (Butuki from Laughing Knees I am thinking of in particular, in his post "Remorse Heroism and Shame",) have talked openly about our opinions of the policies or events, and have taken some personal hits as a result. Others such as Kurt from The Coffee Sutras have chosen to leave it alone. Clearly this is a topic which provokes disagreement and often divides us. I am offering to provide a "clearinghouse" and safe space here, in the hopes that if we can go deeper in our sharing and listening, we might find some new ways of viewing the situation and our own perspectives about it.

I'm not interested in a debate about right and wrong, partisan policies, or a review of historical precedents and theories. I would like to focus on your personal "heartspace" experience of war. What feelings does it create in you? What are your hopes and fears about our current global situation? What has happened in your own past, your own history which would tell us the story of how you came to feel the way you do now? What are the values and beliefs which contribute to your position?

Truly this could be something no one is comfortable with in which case I'll drop it, but if there is interest, I'd be happy to compile and post your thoughts. From there, maybe we can begin a dialogue that will bring us to some common understandings and a place of mutual respect and support. Let me know if you have suggestions on how to go about it, or would like to contribute.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

I watch the storm sweeping its way towards me. A flicker calls out it's warning from high up the cypress tree, then flies down to flatten itself against the grass, it's beak jack-hammering the ground for bugs in a last minute foray for food while the rain makes it's way forward. The chickadees in the camellia seek shelter from the gusts of wind which rustle the leaves and their feathers until a quieter spot is found. The sky grows darker but occasionally the swiftly moving clouds leave a break for the sun to re-ignite the vivid yellow of the daffodils, the cotton candy pink of the flowering cherries. I can smell the wetness in the air, the chill in the breeze betraying the last rays of warmth before the clouds fully shift the world to softness and gray. My cats dart back and forth across the yard chasing each other, tearing up tree trunks and scrabbling up bark, while the steady tinkle of the wind chimes on the front porch takes up where the flicker has left off announcing the change in the weather. I have sat searching for meaning this morning, once again trying to understand the way things are, but I've long since left off now and pay attention only to the shifting world around me here, the simple wait for the rain to begin, the quiet observance of nature anticipating change. There is no struggle or questioning why, nor should I. The mother of all of us lies warm beneath me, welcoming the water which will soften the ground and open her seeds. I am not needed for this world unfolding, but as I hold it sacred so am I sacred also, and it is enough.

Monday, April 26, 2004

For tonio and commonbeauty, because I am thinking they both have made a space like this here within the vastness of the web and I mourn their departures. I wish it for all of us here or elsewhere in our walk of living, but especially for these two who opened their hands to me when I asked to join the circle.

Somewhere, there are people
to whom we can speak with passion
without having the words catch in our throats.
Somewhere a circle of hands will open to receive us,
eyes will light up as we enter, voices will celebrate with us
whenever we come into our own power.
Community means strength that joins our strength
to do the work that needs to be done.
Arms to hold us when we falter.
A circle of healing. A circle of friends.
Someplace where
we can be free."
Starhawk from Dreaming the Dark

Incoming mail....

"Hello Precious,

I call you that because that is how I feel about you at this moment.
I was attracted to your ad because of your style...I will be in OR. for a brief period next week and may re-locate at another time. I would love to see you if you can sneak away...*smile*

As you will see I've put some time and careful thought in writing this letter to you. I don't have a profile on aol so I'm sending it to you here.

I wrote because I felt compelled to express a desire I have for you, From what you wrote, the way you expressed yourself leads me to believe I would enjoy making your acquaintance.You seem to me to have a style and class that might ruboff {:-) and perhaps I can fulfill some of the needs you requested..

I think your special and unless I'm wrong that is the way you will always be to me. Because that is the way I meet you here. The vision of loveliness...These are not just idle words of some computer nut. In fact I know very little about these machines..

But I felt you were more than worth the time. How can I complete your life, your feelings your needs, your sexuality..these are the questions going through my mind at this moment...

By now you wondering what do I see in You? And what may we have in common: Now I'll guess at this you can tell me how I did, You and I both love, travel, movies ( I just wrote and produced 2, doing 4 more this year ), theater ( I am the former Artistic director of a theater in Beverly Hills), music ( I'm producing a CD this year), reading ( Publishing novels this year) and I'll venture sharing quality time love making and laughing to name a few.

A computer, Chat or Instant message relationship I am not interested in..I like the old-fashioned method of speaking on the phone and or meeting a lady.

So. Unfortunately if you just want to talk on a computer I fear destiny will pass us by.

...So My Precious here I am.

If you are not interested, PLEASE DON'T WRITE BACK - It would hurt to much, to see you email and then to open it to find out, no!

Thinking of you...............



Think I'll have to save that one.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Do you prefer to plan your own birthday, or have someone else plan something for you?
I seem to find birthdays the perfect excuse for being impossible to please. Which is odd because I like birthdays, it doesn't distress me to age, after all its just a day more. Most times I don't mind being overt about my wants and needs. For some reason, I assume everyone should for this one day read my mind and understand what bizarre whim would please me.
A few years back, I was lucky enough to have some of my best out of town friends around the week before my birthday. I set up a room at a local German restaurant where there are strolling accordion players and everyone who works there retired from the set of The Sound of Music. We drank lots, ate excessively, laughed with abandon, and it was one of the better birthdays I can remember. It was an exception. Most of the time I sit in a quandary until its too late, and then I pout about it all day thinking "you have only yourself to blame" when there's no party. Irresponsible birthday planning is one of those privileges you give up when your family lives out of town, you're single, and your kids are too young to go out and buy the beer. Ok, deep inside I also recognize I'm damn bad at remembering anyone else's birthday and making anything out of it when its their turn. So why would anyone do it for me? I'm right on track this year! Self pity, guilt and abandon all tied up in a pretty bow!

This year I dreamed up a birthday dinner of BBQ'ed steaks, baked potatoes and asparagus. But. I don't want to invite people over because my house is torn up in remodeling angst. I don't want to ask anyone else to do it because then I'd be imposing. I don't want to do it at a restaurant because it would cost too much. And at least two of my four "must-have" friends wouldn't eat steak anyway, and a third would only do it because he thought he should accommodate me. Normally I don't eat steak either. Especially since I got secretly paranoid about mad cow disease.

Nothing else will do though. I froze up, unwilling to compromise on anything, so nothing is planned. I will find that answer least acceptable of all, but for some reason I think I'm entitled to shirk all responsibility for it since its my birthday.
Don't even ask about the cake.

I really can't whine, my women's circle had gifts and chocolate souffle for me during our retreat last weekend, so there was a bit of a party, but shhh don't tell anyone, or I'll lose my excuse to complain and fuss.
animated cake character Make my day! Post a birthday comment! Pretty please?

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Over on Dale's blog, there's a conversation about how we do or don't choose to be depressed.

I can't speak for anyone else's experience, but as best I can tell, I have three kinds of reactions when I'm on the "brink":

-I look at what else I have to get done and unceremoniously shove the thing aside and walk past it. This happens when it's simply not practical to fall apart or sink. I know this isn't true for others, but I seem to be able to decide I don't have time for the episode, that it's a luxury, and I'm going to have to forego it to feed my kids dinner.

-I see it rising on a wave of sand headed towards me from the distance, and like Aragorn in his latest horse-riding-movie-who's-name-escapes-me-at-the-moment, I take shelter from the storm under a roof of some of that accumulated karma Dale refers to. Or as I see it, just remembering that the spiritual concepts I try to live by are accessible if I invest some trust in them seems to shelter me through some of the threatened attacks.

-I have an accumulation of hormones or small defeats along with some span of available time, that hurdle me like a Nolan Ryan fastball into the arms of despair. No one calls, I miss my Mom, the dog tears up the cat litter box, and I'm down for the count. I know exactly how to exacerbate it too... copious quantities of chocolate to feel guilty about eating, a couple of hours online perusing personal ads or smarmy articles about dating and love to remind me that I'm alone and most everyone who's nice is married, some mood music (U2 really does the job, as does Red Rain by Peter Gabriel), and eventually regressing to the point of watching bad sitcoms in a pair frumpy sweats. Whatever you do, don't put on make-up, go for a walk, or call a friend, it might break the mood.

This is me. It is not you, nor do I think others operate this way, so please don't assume this is meant to be judgemental, in fact I don't think I suffer from any chemical patterns of depression so I don't think my experience is like most. It's just how I view my own responses. Frankly I don't know why I am so capable of switching it off, and alternatively why I am so capable of rolling around in it like my dog rolls on a decaying fish while we are out for a walk by the duckpond. I like the middle one best, really, the ability to dig in and remember the reason to trust and let go. It's so comforting.

When I was out at the coast on retreat this weekend, I took a long walk by myself on Saturday afternoon in the sun. I was surprised to find myself peaceful and actually joyful at my existance. So many times the alone moments turn into times to analyze and shred my self esteem to bits, or worry about something I should be doing, or finding things to be grateful for in spite of some overarching fear. I felt none of that Saturday, and it was awfully nice to spend minutes actually enjoying my own skin.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

There are moments, in my life, does this happen to you? Where its as if I can feel the permanent memory being etched into my blueprint, not often mind you but when it happens, the moment is one you know you will always recall in exact detail.

Life slows down, while this printing happens, as if to accommodate the time it takes to press hard with the pencil, to memorize each note of music, to make the path to this storage unit wide and well lit, easy to recall without looking up the address.

When I was in Denmark, there was one of these moments. But even more strange than usual, this time it was as if the moment already existed in my mind, like a negative just waiting to be dunked in the developing solution and colors, images, sounds brought to the paper’s surface. So that when it came to life before my eyes, I became confused, was I reliving a moment I had imagined or dreamed? Was this a memory from a past life or from a movie I had actually seen and just barely remembered?

For some months now, an Adagio has entranced me. In the three times I heard it before my trip, my heart slowed and my concentration drifted as the notes hesitated then hurried matching my breathing, the sighs and leaps mirroring my emotions. The original composer was Tomaso Albinoni, who gave up on the work in frustration, to be resurrected and completed by Remo Giazotto in the 1940s. The last time it played I stopped and listened long enough for the radio announcer to tell the composer and work (Adagio in G minor for organ and strings). Each time, this piece of music seemed to reach out and grab me, as if there were something I should remember about it but couldn’t quite recall.

It was a Sunday afternoon, after a week sightseeing in Denmark. I set out on a late afternoon walk down one of the main pedestrian shopping streets, Amagertorv. I stopped and watched a man do elaborate new age paintings using spray paints, and visited a street fair with various medieval craftspeople. As I approached the Tobaksmuseet (can you guess? Pipe museum!) music, familiar music floated around the corner of a beautiful church steeple. My step quickened, something tugging me forward, to where the street widened out into a square and revealed a young man playing guitar, unbelievably playing Adagio in G minor by Albinoni. Surrounded by and echoing from the stone walls of 1800s buildings, and faintly accompanied by the background music of trickling water from the Storkespringvandet, the notes filled the square with a sound that I can only akin to the way the moon fills a dark sky with a warm glow. Hauntingly beautiful and yet lonely. Here. I am sure that my words cannot convey the rich, full timbre that emanated from this one man’s coaxing from a simple guitar. But. Imagine me, spinning with my arms outstretched, head thrown back with my face to the sky, in slow motion the tears pour down my face and time stands still. Gratitude for the moment, amazement that it was this one special piece he played as I walked into this setting that indeed, seemed to spring to life from some painting or motion picture, anticipated or remembered I cannot say but completely familiar. Grief at all I had lost, in losing the one person in my life who would know exactly how I would feel, in a single strike knowing both what I had, and what was gone. Also joy, that I was still alive and awake to this moment, to this gift, even if it was only me unwrapping it in pleasure.

And now sadness, that no matter how I try, I can’t make the words explain the magic. Even the guitarist, whom I listened to play for as long as he put fingers to strings, looked surprised at the intensity of emotion that poured out of my simple words of thanks. “I think you’ll enjoy the CD. The Albinoni piece is on it.” But you see, it isn’t. Not the one I heard rise up and swell over the necks of the patinaed herons in the fountain, over the heads of the rapt couple, (maybe Italian?) that sat in front of me on a park bench. Not the notes that stopped street person and retired gentry alike, reverberating in doorways and singing to sleep babies pushed in carriages while their mothers shopped. Not the version that perfectly suited late afternoon sun, mellowed brick and the faint smell of pipe tobacco. Not the one I hear in my heart when I recall each detail of the scene.

Can you to hear it?

(get it here)

Monday, April 19, 2004

Fallujah. Read. Ask yourself this same question. "Why four dead Americans are worth so much, while hundreds of dead Iraqis are worth so little."

From the Washington Post April 10, regarding troops attitude about the ceasefire: "Their troops were eager to plunge back into the fray after a two-day lull in fighting that was allowed by the U.S. military so that tens of thousands of women and children could leave the embattled city, about 35 miles west of Baghdad. "Given the virulent nature of the enemy, the prospect of some city father walking in and getting Joe Jihadi to give himself up is pretty slim," said Lt. Col. Brennan Byrne, who commands the 5th Marine Battalion here. Jihadi is the Arabic word for Islamic warrior. "That's fine," Byrne added, "because they'll get whipped up, come out fighting again and get mowed down."
and this:
"The gunships relieved some of the stress on us, but now it's time to get moving," said Sgt. Daryl Hill, 38. "They took some comrades from us, but we can't sit back and grieve over our loss. It's payback time."

And this is what payback time means, thanks to references from Beth to wildfirejo, an English activist turned nurse/escort/witness in Fallujah. Read the account of her experiences.
And by Dave to Rahul Mahajan, another first hand account of the last week there.
Finally this article I am quoting in full,
Images of Civilian Dead, Wounded in Fallujah Become Anti-American Rallying Point by Matthew Schofield

BAGHDAD, Iraq - On television, the children are unmoving, dead in the streets, blood pooling and spreading underneath them.

On radio, announcers accuse Americans of attacking helpless civilians, not even allowing them to move for treatment of their bullet wounds.

Nura, 3, an Iraqi child wounded during fighting between US forces and Sunni insurgents is rushed into a public clinic by her father, no name given, in Fallujah, Iraq, Thursday April 8, 2004. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen) In newspapers, the stories ask if the deaths of perhaps hundreds of innocent civilians is not a greater crime than the horrific deaths and mutilations of four Americans.

For the past week, those have been the images, sounds and words that Iraqis have been taking in as everything here has focused on Fallujah.

In this one week, Fallujah has come to symbolize for Iraqis everything that is wrong with the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq.

"When the four Americans were murdered, almost all Iraqis were horrified, and understood that the reaction must be strong," said Iraqi journalist Dhrgam Mohammed Ali, referring to the killing March 31 of four private security guards whose bodies were then mutilated, dragged through Fallujah and hung from a bridge.

"But now, we see women and children dying, trying to escape and not being allowed to, and many stop remembering the dead Americans. Instead, they wonder why four dead Americans are worth so much, while hundreds of dead Iraqis are worth so little."

There is no official toll of dead and wounded Iraqis in Fallujah since the U.S. Marines began trying to take control of the town four days ago. Estimates range as high as 450 deaths and more than 1,000 wounded.

But U.S. officials acknowledge that many of the dead were innocent civilians, and Fallujah, a town of 300,000 according to residents, but only 110,000 according to a year-old medical census, by Wednesday was a cause across much of Iraq.

Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt on Saturday again defended American tactics, saying that Marines had been fired upon from mosques and from crowds containing women and children. He said Marines had tried to avoid civilian casualties, firing back in dangerous situations only in self-defense.

Saturday, as residents started escaping the city, they told tales that are sure to inflame. The residents refused to give their names, saying that even talking to an American right now could endanger their lives.

But one, a doctor, said: "I was in my home for days, unable to leave, even to treat the sick, for fear of being shot. One morning, I decided I had to make it to the hospital, but just before I left, I saw my neighbor walk from his house. An American sniper shot him, once in the head. I was afraid to go out to him, to treat him. I watched him die."

Another, a young woman, asked why the Americans had to take out their anger on a whole city. "They are angry, yes, but we were not all guilty, and yet we were all punished. Every time they shot another man, his brother, his father, picked up a weapon and swore to kill Americans."

Kimmitt denied that the Marines had engaged in collective punishment. But the damage had already been done.

"On one level, many believe that two groups of foreigners have invaded to ruin a chance for peace, both Americans and the foreign fighters," said Iraqi journalist Abbas Ali Saki. "But also, more commonly, Iraqis are looking at the images of Fallujah, and wondering if they're looking at the future of the rest of Iraq, should we ever anger the United States."
(C) 2004 KR Washington Bureau

And we think we can make things better in Iraq.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

"the price of a memory is the memory of the sorrow it brings" Adam Duritz from Mrs Potter's Lullaby

Seems like a fine line between being attentive and keeping our eyes open, and dredging ourselves in misery with no possible gain.

From an Easter sermon courtesy of Beth over at Cassandra Pages, something I can hang onto as I feel myself drift into the abyss of 9/11 commissions findings, Iraqi deaths (and I do mean Iraqis. Have you noticed how many of them died in the last two weeks compared to our total in the entire time since we began this war? sobering) and increasing signs of global warming...
"we can choose to live in the shadow of death, or we can live as resurrected beings, choosing the path of love and fearlessness over darkness."

And so, a kingfisher comes to the storm of my seas.
"Amidst our arms as quiet you shall be as halcyons brooding on a winter sea." --Dryden.

An odd collection of what's on my mind today....

Does the preponderance of baby boomers and (often unexamined) experiences of growing up during the cold war era have something to do with Bush's popularity and our responses to the 9/11 tragedy? Do we overreact out of the belief system that someday we will all be annihilated, something many of us believed as children? (Check out Kurt's musings on growing up today too!)

What should I make for breakfast Saturday morning for the women's circle retreat to the coast? One of the women doesn't eat red meat. One is not into spicy. Possibly a cajun egg scramble? Muffins? Quiche?

I journeyed a week ago and asked for a vision for the transformation mask I am feeling called to carve. There was a kingfisher, but as it opened up its mouth to show me what it carried in its beak, I basically lost the vision and couldn't grasp what the interior of the mask should open to reveal. This doesn't surprise me a bit. I clearly would rather avoid seeing whatever it is I am "masking." Some more work is in order, and I'm hoping this weekend's retreat will allow me to look a little deeper into my shadow.

In a talk on leadership and women yesterday the speaker suggested that women who aspire to corporate leadership positions should read military history, such as Napoleon and Patton, to understand the models that males follow in creating their own models of leadership. I have never had an interest in reading military history, but know many men colleagues that read it for "entertainment". Now I am wondering if this was actually reading for work.

Why is it that I'm finding out what today's weather is like where I live from checking in on my blog rather than being in it? Ok ok work is a good excuse I guess. But it surprises me that I haven't even looked out a window.

Happy (?) Tax Day to those of you in the U.S. Every year I find out some new mistake I've made in figuring out my taxes. :)

Monday, April 12, 2004

On a lighter note...
It occurs to me, as I update our "menu" on the left sidebar, that I risk bringing on the whole BBQ'ed vs grilled debate that defines me as being from someplace north of the Mason-Dixon line. Actually a long way west as well. Where I grew up, (obviously the best place to grow up since that's where I did it) in sunny So. California, anything that was cooked outside was referred to as "Barbeque." I had no idea this was in any way controversial until I dated, for short time, a No. Carolina guy who felt it was his sacred duty to correct me of this error. You see, where he was from, only if it was smoked over a wood pit and served out of a truck in a gravel parking lot, could you call it BBQ. Everything else was "grilled." This is different than the fully legitimate criticism I share of many so called "Barbeque" restaurants that serve boiled food covered in BBQ sauce and call it Barbeque. That's not BBQ, that's stew. But even if I flame broiled the chicken on the Weber, adding a nice coating of BBQ sauce at the end, if I called that barbecued chicken I was up for an argument. You ask about what kind of sauce qualifies as BBQ sauce? Vinegar, tomato, sugar, chiles, all controversial subjects. Don't even go there.
Now according to one legitimate looking source on the net, barbcue'n.com, "Grilling is quite a bit different from barbecuing. During the grilling process you are cooking at high temperatures, often in excess of 700 degrees, directly over the heat. In barbecuing, the heat is not directly affecting the meat. The heat is raising the temperature in the cooking chamber where the meat resides. Proper barbecuing temperatures are 210 degrees to 225 degrees. This is the optimum temperature for prolonged barbecuing. It also produces the most tender meat due to the slow cooking resulting from indirect heat." On the other hand, the Barbeque! Bible seems to have no qualms about including a preponderance of recipes for foods cooked at some sort of higher heat on a metal grill, exactly what I did with the pork tenderloin. But then of course the book reviews pick him to pieces on this point.

I'm one of those people who wants to do the right thing, especially where people have a lot invested in something that doesn't hurt me much to adapt around. But on this one, I think I'll probably always call it barbecuing when we throw hamburgers on the grill, and worse yet, my son (who at age 9 already has a (genetic? learned? instinctive?) sense of ownership about the Weber, right down to polishing the outside cover after every use with no hints whatsoever from me about men and their grills) will probably grow up saying the same thing. I think it's no big deal to use grill and BBQ interchangeably. So roast me. I'm feeling stubborn.

Friday, April 09, 2004

From a comment Leslee made to the last post, I wonder, do most of you find it more reassuring to feel puny in the context of the universe, or more terrifying? I fall into the former catagory. Somehow the perspective that no matter how huge and significant things seem for a moment in my little corner of life, that the rest of the world still looks up and sees the sun and moon, stars and sky helps me cope with my own stuff. That I'm but a fly speck in the overall context of the quadrillions of molocules moving in our current state, and even less so in the context of history, leads me to ask "how badly can I f**k it all up"? On the other hand, the "miracles" of existence are so huge, things like the Aurora, or the idea that most lifeforms successfully birth new lifeforms, that evolution has created such a myriad of adaptations to the environment, these things are amazing and seem to make me happy on a daily basis. But I wonder if I'm the norm, or the outlyer in this perspective?

I wonder if it goes back to the comments about our perspective on fate over on commonbeauty's blog. If we see ourselves as central to the universe and somehow expect something positive in our destiny, do we think we have some control over the outcomes, and therefore find the indications of huge forces that are beyond our understanding and control threatening? If we see ourselves as at most, local in our sphere of influence, and let go of feeling a need to control and take responsibility for the world, do we struggle less and become more appreciative of those things larger than us? Or more reckless? Or is it entirely individual, borne out of the feelings of security we learn in the first year of our life, vulnerable to everything?

Thursday, April 08, 2004

I dragged the kids out into the street tonight, a block down where there was less street lamp light and a broader view of the sky, and we counted off the five visible planets. Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter. Then we calculated how old they would be before they would be able to see this again. The idea of being mom's age is a bit scary it seems.
Next we carefully examined a long jet trail like cloud that moved and didn't seem to dissipate in the northeastern sky. Cloud? I could have sworn I saw it undulate just slightly. But I was probably just not seeing clearly.
Went home and looked up the news on SpaceWeather.Com web site, and it actually mentioned a solar flare that could trigger auroras tonight. I want to think we might have seen one, but we are pretty far south in Portland and I have yet to see any in the 20 years we've lived here.
I considered taking a trip to see the Aurora Borealis in Fairbanks last winter. It's so expensive though! And a crapshoot whether you'll get a storm that week, after planning the trip for months and spending so much to see it. One of those few goals I have before I die, to see the Aurora Borealis in person rather than pictures.

In the meantime, here are some nice ones.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

A couple of years ago, a visiting friend from South Africa and I decided to attend a popular Portland social event, a social hour held in an branch of the art museum here. It is called museum after hours - people stop by after work, have a drink, listen to some music, meet people, and act cultured. Or at least trendy. I hadn't been to this before, but we had spent part of the day at the art museum, and it seemed like a nice thing to do before heading home.

So we headed across the courtyard and through the entrance of the Masonic Temple. The center of the building includes a several story ballroom where the reception was held, and you had to step down to the floor level. Wrapping around all sides of the ballroom is what I will call a balcony on the main floor, basically a wide hallway and railing which is quite convenient for people watching the activities on the ballroom lower floor.

As we entered, there was signage indicating that the balcony area was housing a photography exhibit for the museum at the moment, and people were casually circulating, drinking wine, chatting, and glancing at these photos.

Now picture yourself surrounded by well dressed, young, mostly beautiful, upper class people, who are engaged in the fine art of picking each other up, and then noticing the subject of the art they are so casually viewing as they stroll happens to be genocide. Fanaticism. Holocaust. Stark images in black and white, the exhibit is a group of photos including some of these by photographer Gilles Peress.

I cannot fathom taking these images for granted.

I cannot imagine walking through this exhibit and talking at all, but if any words escaped, how could they be anything but whispers of anguish?

Faced with the stark contrast between plush surroundings and superficial interactions of our "neighbors" scored by light laughter and swinging jazz tunes coming from the stage, and the black and white images, simple and harsh in their depiction of cruelty, grief, despair, hatred, the most fundamental evidence of our core flaws as humans, the two of us fled. I felt like we had entered a room full of zombies - both alive and dead - each taunting the other.

Today is the International Day of Reflection on the Genocide in Rwanda. The day chosen to honor the dead and attempt to learn from this past. And I wonder, what have we learned? I wonder about the antidote the Face of Fanaticism web site asks us to imagine.

Monday, April 05, 2004

I meant to read one chapter as I slipped into bed with it, but when I finally realized some time had passed, it was three hours later, 2:30AM no less. I was still reluctant to stop because the story hadn't ended yet, and I ached to know the outcome. But the lights had to go out.

My children have learned the hard way the sacred nature of books to their mom. Toss one recklessly onto the floor, write in one, treat it disrespectfully and the reaction is only slightly less dramatic than for the deliberate or unthinking harm of an animal or person. Books have a life. Which leads me to this quote from Kim Stafford, Director of the NW Writing Institute and son and biographer of William Stafford the poet.

"For the forest, seeds hinge open. For the river, rain taps and throngs. And for our tribe, books nudge, books feed-not one book but the book of all books: secret book, public book, forgotten book, book loaned often, never returned but passing on to banker, beggar, lover, babe in arms, mother's solitary finger and thumb, thin book read many times, thick tome as doorstop, flower press, battered booster for a child until the morning we need exactly what it holds and fan the pages to that place and read aloud, the book not yet written your time could make-your nights, tears, quick pulse when you close your attention out and open your mind in, shut your eyes where a story looms, a poem, fragment, cry. The most improtant book is the uwritten summer in your life, days dizzy and green with answers to our dark questions now. How else shall we be perennial as rivers abiding pure in the mountains of our strange ways?"

I know many of you bloggers have a book writing inside you. I've never aspired to birth that which I most love to hold, a book. Call me a foster mother then.

Sunday, April 04, 2004

Truck Stop Diner

Today's special:
Stuffed cabbage
This place is soulless
Nurse’s white soles coated in
Bits of instant mashed
Ashes of cheap cigs
Big rig spilt maple syrup
I wear a hairnet
Capture stray pink strands in bobby pins
Dream of you
Slowly peeling off my support hose
In the back of a black stretch limo

Thursday, April 01, 2004

As a parent, I find myself turning off "normal" responses to things in order to support my kid's needs at any particular time. I guess this is part of what my last post was about, turning a switch off inside myself such that I don't experience the feeling and can cope better with my job as a parent. I imagine this "switch" is extremely familiar to a fireman or EMT responding to an accident scene, or a soldier under fire, or a multitude of other professions where feelings might get in the way of precision or logic or speed to do a necessary job. But I also question my own willingness to turn off the feelings to avoid them in and of themselves.

I worked in the fire department for a couple of years as a college student, administrative work. I got very close to several of the firemen I worked with, and even now I marvel at their calm, at their ability to depersonalize/deemotionalize very stressful situations, to compartmentalize their feelings. My friend Dave describes it as having a box that you open up, quickly slam the awful stuff inside, and then lock tightly shut. I guess all my life I've learned, from my family, from people I admire, that feelings are something that get in the way of being useful, and are best bottled up securely. No one yelled, and only the most serious situations warranted tears in my house. Never during moments of crisis though. We had a car accident when I was about 13, and as they took my grandmother and mother away in the ambulance I calmly explained the circumstances of the accident to the police and told them how to reach my Dad who was out of town. My parents praised me highly for this response, and I don't doubt that it was the exact best way to be helpful in that situation. Did I ever cry? I don't remember. I don't think so.

In fact, hell if I know how or what I felt/feel about many things anymore. Or more significantly, what to do with feelings that I don't cleanly can like so many jars of peaches, sealed and sterilized and stacked on the shelf. People admire this ability I have to avoid the negative stuff, look at the bright side, stay calm and collected. I'm rewarded at work for it, obviously it comes in handy as a parent, and as a habit I've even lost track of the choice to turn off the switch. I just do it.

But the jars leak a tiny bit, and crowd out each other such that I can't read their labels anymore. Of course they leak, I guess that no one has infinite shelf space to store the jars of pain, fear, hate, anger, but I think it's especially fascinating how the emotions have all lost their specific identities once buried deep in the cupboard. I think I've been lucky too, there hasn't been so many things to fill the jars over my lifetime, so it hasn't been so hard to find room for my stuff, and there's been lots of room for other's stuff to boot. But ask me to name how it felt at that moment, talking to the policeman, I can't for the life of me reclaim the feeling. Even if intellectually I can guess I felt alone and scared, the memory of the feeling is simply gone. But I do remember the feeling of responsibility, that it was my job to be brave, calm, and helpful, and how good it felt to be told I did the right thing.

I am confused now. I don't know if this is the trait of a strong person, or the trait of a coward. I felt strong on that kayak, in that moment, and yet I was completely powerless against the might of an ocean. Anyone else looking at it would say the normal response would be fear in the face of losing everything that matters, and anger that someone more expert than I let us get into the situation at all. But its neatly packaged up and stored away now, so I say "I did the right thing in the moment, and the emotions do nothing for me now if I reopen the box." It sounds so rational. But maybe secretly, I know that I couldn't handle it if I did. No one is going to praise me for falling apart, that much seems pretty clear. Still, a little voice somewhere whispers that I'm that much more numb, that much more likely to pull the switch on the next fifteen things that anger or scare me no matter if I have the luxury to feel at that moment or not.

A palm reader told me that the millions of tiny lines in my hands represented the feelings of others I had carried for them in safe keeping and empathy. She saw this as a gift, that I could look into their pain and hold it without allowing it to crush me, that it supported my life purpose. I wonder if I could do my work if I didn't have this gift? I don't think so. I wonder if I could parent. I wonder if I could be a friend or lover.

And I wonder why the word control hasn't shown up in all these words I've written up to here. Many synonyms, but I've neatly avoided the word itself. Isn't that telling.

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