Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Wordless Wednesday - Hang in There

This is what happens when a beagle barks at an unsuspecting squirrel. The old boy slides off the fence-top and hangs in there...

...until the beagle goes to the other side of the fence, then it's up and over!

Lie low and wait...wait...wait.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Bananas Over Leaves

I am absolutely bananas (in a good way) about the tiny green buds and leaves popping out of the branches of our new birch trees. For years I've wanted trees of this species to grace our yard. Recently Planted the trio has withstood pretty substantial winds this week (I kept watching to see if they'd fall over - oh, me of little faith), and now proof that they are thriving - leaves!

More flowering shrubs are going into the ground today.

But first - breakfast!

Have a terrific Sunday.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Sky in Water

Perfect blue, artful clouds, shimmering sun reflected on water prove that sometimes 'down' really is 'up' and things are not always as they seem.

And yet they are beautiful, inspiring, and where they ought to be.

Perspective. Viewing life with the idea that possibility comes to those free of the tethers of what they know.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Look Out! He's Got a Gun!

A nail gun...

We are tired, we are weary, but we haven't lost our sense of humor.

Ha. Ha. Ha.

Frightened and Demoralized

On Monday Tom and I watched Michael Moore's documentary, Sicko. It was quite interesting.

Here's a lengthy quote from Tony Benn who is a former Member of the British Parliament:

"I think democracy is the most revolutionary thing in the world. Far more revolutionary than socialist ideas, or anybody else's idea. Because if you have power, you use it to meet the needs of your community. And this idea of choice which capital talks about, 'you've got to have a choice,' choice depends on the freedom to choose. If you're shackled with debt, you don't have a freedom to choose.

People in debt become hopeless and hopeless people don't vote. They always say everyone should vote, but I think if the poor in Britain or the United States turned out and voted for people who represent their interests it would be a real democratic revolution. So they don't want it to happen....

See I think there are two ways in which people are controlled. First of all, frighten people, and secondly, demoralize them. An educated, healthy, and confident nation is harder to govern. and I think there's an element in the thinking of some people: 'We don't want people to be educated, healthy, and confident because they would get out of control.'

The top 1% of the worlds' population own 80% of the world's wealth. It's incredible that people put up with it, but they're poor, they're demoralized, they're frightened. And therefore, they think perhaps the safest thing to do is to take orders and hope for the best."

Hmm. How many of us feel this way?

I think Mr. Benn is a on to something. And I think we can learn from his wisdom.

Time to forget about doing the safest thing, and begin to do the best thing.


For anyone interested, I posted my April 20th snow photos here.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earth Day - April 22

"As the river runs freely the mountain does rise
Let me touch with my fingers and see with my eyes
In the hearts of the children of pure love still grows
Like a bright star in heaven that lights our way home
Like the flower that shattered the stone" ~~ John Denver

"American child, does the call of the wild
Ever sing through the mist of your dreams
Does it fly with the wind when you waken again
When it's gone do you know what it means?

Can you picture the time when a man had to find
His own way through an unbroken land
Before the machine changed the blue and the green
To something you can't understand?"

American child there's a burning inside you
That calls you away to the cold
To come back again to all that you've been
Can't you see that it's time to come home?"

~~ John Denver, American Child

More Earth Day Celebrating over here.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Snow Storm, Part Two

What did I see when Cassie lifted the blinds this morning at seven forty-five?


Snow on cars, on rooftops, along the fence tops, on the lawn, the sidewalk, the tulips, to herbs, and the line of empty flower pots waiting for warmer nights so I can fill 'em up with veggies and flowers.

I have pictures but my uploading chord is in Portland so I either need to buy another one or wait until Ben sends it down. Soon I'll post the evidence of this amazing snow from yet another arctic cold front swooping in from Alaska.

Is this what happens when one gets to missing Alaska? It comes to them?

If so, I miss Figi!

While eating our Sunday lunch of Shepherd's Pie, fresh coconut, and green salad we watched the happenings outside our big window by the table. Snow. Hail. Snow. Sun. Snow. Sleet. Sun. And rain coming from a cloudless sky, rain that looked like liquid sunshine or little diamonds falling from the wild blue yonder.

What fun! Talk about entertainment while you eat.

We don't mind a bit because the sun does come out for long stretches of time.

We're still working on the interior trim of the addition. Joe is doing that. Tom is hanging chandeliers in the bedrooms and getting the new sink to work in the bathroom. We're so close to done. So close. And we are fatigued. It's like the fact that we are near the end is making us a bit crazy because we are letting down our guards or something. For so long there's been a mountain on our shoulders and we bucked up out of necessity. Now that we are nearing the top we want to run, look at the view, dance on the crest but we are dragging, dragging, dragging from exhaustion.

We'll get there. Still moving.

And it's still snowing.

Maybe spring is waiting for us to finish before it arrives in full force. I hope not! Too much pressure!

Happy Sunday.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

What Do April Snow Showers Bring?

It's nearly ten in the morning this fine Saturday, and it's snowing.

In Oregon's Willamette Valley.

In the second half of April.


Thursday, April 17, 2008

Alaskan Skies

"Ah," she grinned knowingly, winking, pointing her crooked finger toward us, "Alaska will call you back. She will. You'll see."

The tiny old Alaskan lady was right. Alaska calls. She beckons. She woos. It's almost a spiritual thing, this missing of a place, this longing to return to the land that fed my soul for so long, the wild that satisfied intensely. My mind and heart turn northward toward the Land of the Midnight Sun just as Sitka's Russian Orthodox church points to the heavens.

Clear skies in Alaska are brilliant blue. Just when my heart feels like it can swell no more from the sheer beauty of the clean, expansive sky a bald eagle welcomes me. I gasp and wimper in delight. He soars, he lingers, he dips, huge wings masterfully working air currents, white tail feathers twisting before my appreciative eyes. "A thing of beauty is a joy forever."

Tears stream down my cheeks all the way home as we jet south through Alaskan skies.

Home seems grungy - yes - and I live in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, one of my country's garden paradises.

"I shall return, Alaska, to explore your vast, pristine loveliness with gentle, grateful steps."

Monday, April 14, 2008

Forty Years and a Lifetime

1968 - another glorious California summer was fast approaching. I was about to turn twelve.

The man in the moon had no American flag jabbed into his cratered face, a far-away nation called Vietnam occupied America's consciousness, Watergate was simply a hotel complex, and Bob Dylan had pretty much gone silent.

My chubby inner ugly-duckling had become a swan, I was taller, leaner, stronger. Five feet five inches, one hundred five pounds of tanned, slim, robust health, yet my siblings called me fat.

But I was happy. What was mine was mine. Bike riding, roller skating, tree climbing, swimming, going to Vacation Bible School for a week, Sunday school and church on weekends. Life was good.

Looking back, 1968's summer seems like a personal last hurrah.

If only I'd known. Yet, knowing would have merely stolen the golden joy, it could not have changed a thing.

In the fall I would begin Junior High where bullies were prevalent, and gym class meant mandatory group showers. What was mine had to be put on display every day and I resented it. While my gym teacher faithfully 'observed' with her 'friend', I had to replicate what to me felt like Jews going into 'showers' that were gas chambers. Herded. Forced against my will. Five days a week. Though I live to tell the tale it doesn't help to find out later that my ever watchful gym teacher and her 'friend' were lesbians. To them I was nubile delight.

A year later we moved to Oregon and I lost my social connections. Friends, gone. Familiar neighborhood, gone. Youth group, gone. Aunts, uncles, cousins, gone. Safe neighborhood streets for bike riding and skating replaced with a high, narrow, private hill-top with nothing but down and a long up again should I descend at any point. I blew my bicycle brakes within the first month by squeezing them as I coasted down the steep, skinny, gravel driveway hoping to miss cars as they ascended in my direction.

Our secluded Oregon hill-top felt like prison. To walk the oak and madrone dotted fifty acres of 'down' meant tediously straining to avoid plentiful poison oak and searching my body for bloodthirsty wood ticks upon return. The cons soon outweighed the pros. With both parents frantically working away from home, life became a housebound venture of homework, TV, snacks, and slow, steady weight gain.

But alas, it did me good to face a harsher world.

Still, I miss my innocent summer of 1968.
"Solitary trees, if they grow at all, grow strong." ~~ Winston Churchill

Friday, April 11, 2008

Sky Art

No human planning can create a pink-streaked sky, or a playful moon, or a sepia sunset. No, these are gifts given to the observant, often to the weary who need to be reminded that beauty exists, that life is still fresh and new, that beyond our imagination there is Someone who surprises, who creates sky art, and tree art, and creature art every day.

The dog acted hungry or thirsty so I ventured out to his doggie dishes on the back porch to check on their contents. "Yes, boy, you could use a little more water." Dumping the old water onto the lawn led me under a crescent-mooned sky, streaked with pink jet-trails. Jet trails, signs of man's intrusion into nature, made beautiful.

Good to remember the wonder. Needful to separate from the temporal to spend time in prayer just to get back to myself, my beliefs, my journey, and the Eternal.

Maybe this weekend the work will give way to a bit of play, a bit of quiet, and a bit of prayer.

Heaven knows we need it.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Lions for Lambs and Food for Thought

Lions for Lambs stirred up the settled sediment in my mind yesterday.

University student Todd (Andrew Garfield) wants to enjoy the good life because "I'm smart enough to." He says his parents resent him because he's got the nerve to enjoy it. Intelligent, articulate, full of potential he's decided that working toward a better country, a better world is pointless.

Longtime Poli-Sci Professor Stephen Malley (Robert Redford), who's observed students becoming more and more apathetic and cynical, confronts Todd early in the morning.

Their long conversation is familiar.

A short excerpt from the movie which is set in today's world:

Malley: If all your rants about Congress and politics are true, Todd, if things are really bad, as bad as you say they are, when thousands of American troops are dead and more are dying every day, probably as we speak, you tell me, how can you enjoy the good life?

Rome is burning, son, and the problem is not with the people that started this. They're past irredeemable. The problem is with us. All of us. Who do nothing. Who just fiddle. Who try to maneuver around the edges of the flame. And I'll tell you something, there are people out there, day-to-day, all over the world that are fighting to make things better.

Todd: You think it's better to have tried and failed than failing to try, right?

Malley: Yeah.

Todd: But what is the difference if you end up in the same place?


Malley: At least you did something.

Without preaching or taking political sides the movie helped me realize anew that it really is we the people who will have to right the listing ship. As Redford's character says in the movie, politicians and big corporations, " on your apathy. They bank on your willful ignorance. They plan strategies around it. They try to find out how much they can get away with because of it."

Manipulation. It bugs me. Deeply. When someone points it out to me I'm grateful.

I remember a man I truly respect saying that despite the errors of the sixties there was something there that he misses, that doesn't seem to be present in subsequent generations: passion. He's right. And I can't quite figure out what happened. Is it because the Flower Children, once full of passion, creativity, and energy have traded the garlands of flowers around their necks for suits and ties? Traded the VW van for a Benz? Left the garden to enter a security-gated, high-walled compound?

Or are we just tired? Tired of being beaten down by monstrous corporations who manipulate the hard-working everyman, or the impersonal government who's irrational laws and loopholes keep us fettered?

Uncle Sam is swirly-eyed, hypnotized, and in need of the Tin Man's heart. We the People are the courageous lions who see the danger. We are the clear-eyed citizens who recognize the senselessness. We are the strong who are told we are weak by lambs who know not their way. And, however incomprehensible, we believe those weak, wandering lambs.

Here's an example of the senselessness of leaders and the minion mentality existing today.

Excerpt from here.
Mother: School Took Girl's Crutches
The Tampa Tribune
Published: March 29, 2008
TAMPA - Patricia Elalem said she couldn't believe her daughter's kneecap dislocated after what at first seemed like a minor injury.

Even more troubling to Elalem is what might have caused the injury to worsen. Elalem says a nurse at Walker Middle School in Odessa took away 13-year-old Amber's crutches last month, forcing the girl to walk in pain.

Patricia Elalem said the nurse told her she had to remove the crutches because of a school policy prohibiting them without a doctor's note and that the intent is to prevent other students from being injured.

"I was floored," Elalem said. "You don't take medically prescribed treatment away from a child."

Elalem has filed a notice of intent to sue the Hillsborough County School District. The notice is required by law for legal action against a government entity and gives the school district 180 days to respond.

Her attorney, Tom Parnell, said he did not know what damages he would seek because Amber is still recovering from surgery to repair her knee. "I'm hoping at her age she's able to recover," he said.

If Amber walking without the crutches has caused long-term damage, Parnell said, he will pursue a claim that the school nurse violated the girl's civil rights.

School district spokeswoman Linda Cobbe said the district's office of professional standards is investigating a complaint Elalem filed about the licensed practical nurse, Denise McKee.

"The school and the parent have two different stories," Cobbe said, noting she could not elaborate because of the pending litigation.

There is no district policy requiring a doctor's note for crutches, but the district's supervisor of school health has issued an e-mail to principals stating students must produce a doctor's note to use crutches or a wheelchair, Cobbe said.

"We ask for a doctor's prescription or a doctor's note, but there's nothing that says take away the crutches," Cobbe said.

Amber is an avid athlete who participates in basketball, track and soccer, Parnell said. She had orthopedic surgery March 13 to repair her knee after walking without the crutches and now carries a doctor's note at all times about using the crutches, he said.

The girl initially hurt her knee while kicking a ball Feb. 3, her mother said. The injury seemed minor until the next day, when Amber complained to McKee about the pain. Elalem said when she picked Amber up from school, she spoke to McKee about taking Amber to Tampa General Hospital, where Elalem works as a registered nurse.

Amber was diagnosed with a strained ligament; the teenager's knee was placed in a brace called an immobilizer, and she received crutches, with instructions not to put weight on the knee, Elalem said.

On Feb. 6, when Amber returned to school, McKee phoned Patricia Elalem asking for a doctor's note for the crutches, Elalem said. Elalem said she didn't know the note was required but phoned the hospital to have a doctor fax a note to the school. The school fax machine wasn't working, so McKee never received the note, Parnell said.

That morning, McKee took away Amber's crutches, Parnell said.
"She didn't give her access to the elevator. So Amber was forced to walk up and down the stairs until about 1:30 p.m., when she couldn't take the pain anymore," he said.

Elalem said her daughter called her, saying, "I can't walk. Come and get me."

On the way home, Amber said, "You know, the nurse took my crutches this morning and made me walk all day," Elalem recalled.

"I got home, took her immobilizer off, and her kneecap was on the side of her leg," Elalem said.

Amber tried physical therapy for a few days but needed knee surgery, her mother said. She had a reaction to the pain medication and was admitted to the hospital for three days. She now is taking medication and watching her diet because she has developed symptoms of an ulcer, her mother said.

"It's been a nightmare. It hasn't stopped," she said.

When I asked my daughters what they would have done in Amber's shoes they each definitively said, "I would have called you or Dad. I wouldn't have walked without my crutches."

What would have happened had Amber refused to relinquish her crutches? Suspension? Reprimand? Who cares? It would have been better than re-injuring her knee to the tune of knee surgery, a reaction to pain meds, and an ulcer.


But I don't blame Amber. From the story she seems like a good girl who does what she's told. She tried to do what her school nurse instructed her to do without making a scene.

I hope that in the future, she'll make a scene if necessary to stick up for herself.

Amber is like you and me. We do what we are told by those in authority, even when it makes no sense, often to our detriment. We are made to fear consequences without taking the time to think through whether the consequences are worse than the resultant harm of obedience.

Amber's experience should be a wake-up call for all of us, most especially parents. Teaching kids respect is important. Teaching kids how to respectfully decline is important as well.

And teaching kids that sometimes respectfully standing up - even alone - against those in authority is not only necessary, but is the right thing to do.

I remember one time a neighbor lady took her often difficult son's side after a squabble between my son and hers. She loudly began to berate my then ten year old son, Ben, on the sidewalk outside her home, for all to hear, except for me as I was a block away at home. Her son had provoked Ben, then lied about why Ben was defending himself. It looked different to her, but when Ben told her his point of view she didn't listen. With his little brother at his side my quiet but independent son listened to her rant for awhile. Then he said, matter-of-factly, "I don't have to take this."

He turned around and walked home with Joe.

My phone rang before the boys arrived home. It was my turn to be berated for raising 'an insolent boy.' The story oozed through the grapevine and I was told by a few friends, in no uncertain terms, that Ben 'shouldn't have spoken to [she who shall not be named] like that.'

Both my sons told me the story, honestly I believe. I knew the other kid and I'd been witness to his behavior. I also knew his mom and knew she was given to small hysterics when it came to her children.

I told Ben that it was fine to calmly, with all due respect, walk away when someone is treating you badly, even an adult, that he was right, he didn't have to take that kind of abuse and intended humiliation.

I stand by that.

It pleases me to see and hear about my kids standing up for themselves with intelligence even into adulthood. Their honor, bravery, and insight buoys my spirit every day.

They have passion. I hope they can hold onto it.

And with that I end this way too long post.

I'm going to be quiet and think for a long while.
“Find out just what people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them.” ~~Frederick Douglass, 1818–1895

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Together We Plant

Tom and I have been busy this weekend planting things in the front yard. Trees, flowers, shrubs. Working in rain and sun, our shoes caked with mud, our gloved hands wrapped around shovel handles, rakes, and hoes. Our backs burning by day's end. But it's worth it.

Three Himalayan White Barked Birch trees now grace our front yard. There are leaf buds ready to burst open with green leaves that will become bright yellow in the fall. One of nature's most striking sights, to me, is a white barked tree with golden leaves shimmering in cool autumn breezes. Lots to look forward to!

For more photos of our weekend gardening session see here.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Furious Madness for Work

"Cannot the labourers understand that by over-working themselves they exhaust their own strength and that of their progeny, that they are used up and long before their time come to be incapable of any work at all, that absorbed and brutalized by this single vice they are no longer men but pieces of men, that they kill within themselves all beautiful faculties, to leave nothing alive and flourishing except the furious madness for work."~~ Paul Lafargue, The Right to Be Lazy (1883)
The more I find myself calming, observing, tasting, feeling, breathing with awareness the more loudly shouts the strange disconnect between human beings and their natural and spiritual environment. We all know it is so that technology and 'progress' leave us scrambling to keep up. We know that it's easy to get caught up in all the junk to the detriment of our health, our children, our sanity. We are moving too fast. It's not good for our environment, our country, our children, our eternal selves.

A life lived in the fast lane means blurred scenery.

I have a memory burned into my heart and mind. Tom is standing in the musty corner of his folks' garage a month after his dad died. He stands slump-shouldered before his father's long work bench, beside a gigantic, homemade, wooden toolbox, near cupboards full of tools, equipment, guy-stuff. From behind I watched my normally kinetic husband stand still. Not wanting to intrude I wait. And watch. Heartbroken.

There are the deceased man's joys - his tools and projects. There hovers the man's son - too much a stranger in a life filled with the 'furious madness for work.' In the midst of mute, inanimate objects Tom wells up with sadness that he didn't know his dad very well. He knows his dad's opinions, recalls that he preferred to be in the garage working on a wood craft or repair of some sort. Anything rather than spend time with his son who'd been an unexplored mystery to him for nearly fifty years. Work was salvation. Work was validation. Work was honor. Work was truth, justice, and the American Way.

And work was an escape, a hideout - a cop out. Tom's dad had become pieces of a man. I believe he loved Tom in his own way. The barrier of expression stood between him and the cultivation of the father/son relationship that should have been. Unable and unwilling to bust through the awkwardness, he allowed solitary overwork to kill within himself 'all beautiful faculties, to leave nothing alive and flourishing except the furious madness for work.'

There is a solid place for work. Everyday. It's the soil from which we grow. Balanced with inwardness and openness which take many forms work makes a whole person.

Work overdone makes for a person 'absorbed and brutalized by this single vice.'

Personally witnessing the effect work-addiction leaves behind I shout from the roof-tops for parents everywhere to consider the final outcome. Consider what is left behind - and what is not.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Down to the River

Mild fair weather coaxed us outside last night. We strolled along the water's edge while the cares of the world floated off our shoulders and minds.

I think this is the only way Caroline, Cassie, and I will ever be tall, lanky, supermodels!! In shadow only. The little model on the left with the Casper the Friendly Ghost head is Sammy.

Water calls to me, thrills me, soothes me and I don't know why.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

You Know I Love Goldie

She makes me giggle - and I'm in the mood for lots of giggles today.


Branching Out

Planting a different sort of garden. A fresh budding blog sprout to celebrate a new season. And then there were two!
Heightened Awareness