Friday, September 26, 2008

Out Going Tide

There's a certain melancholy that's comforting. While trying to maintain the high that comes with outrage and palpable national disappointment over our current state of affairs, a certain sadness that packs a blow to the bottom of my heart winds its way up to my throat.
Little things.
Yesterday, grabbing the mail and bringing in this week's New Yorker to Mama's bedside. For the first time in months she "'aint too inclined".
In her TV-less household of forty years, she's always had a certain pride in remaining informed via what hits the mailbox on the front porch weekly and being involved with people from all walks. That and a lifelong reading habit fed by bottomless interest in nearly every human exploit of the last 16 - 18,000 years. Well informed.
Adamantly put, she's done her piece; a lifetime of fire for people everywhere and a planet struggling. I'm just having a hard time letting her go. I keep wanting to stir the ash, look for embers. Connect her to the history making drama of now.
Accutely aware of another great one slipping away, I dredge through our shared history needing to bolster my commitment to a dignified passing. Be at peace with her being at peace.
There among the pages of a 40th anniversary special of Time magazine, my coming of age story is plastered consicely from cover to cover. The book has been sitting around the living room for months, a contribution from little brother. He'd been researching the cultural tempo and mood that was so much a part of our household in his pre- five years.
Inside, I found the necessary grease to release the knot that's made breathing raw for me lately. Page after page of international coverage from the front and center, nightly fodder that we scarfed back then, around the kitchen table the first year of Mom's step out from under a collapsed marriage.
Last night while I listened to the first two thirds of the presidential debate from Mississippi, I read, and was graphically reminded of the year we moved to Bakersfield, 1968. An odd marriage of present pride and shame for our country clamors back down the decades landing splat on that pivotal year.
My focus is interrupted, two thirds of the way through, with a phone call from home. My Merrick, former high school debater, along with her older brother and younger sister, shares a sweet update from home. She reports on her days: hand crafting a subsistance lifestyle in SE Ak. Firewood, smoked fish, poetry and berries for the winter. Her day job with special needs young people, increasing in hours. Plans for this fall's adult puppetry performance: her's, a retelling of Demeter and Persephone's dance, above as below. Travel plans for this year's pocket fluff funded globe trot, down below our most southern borders; to learn more and be with older cultures.
She notices the angry edge in my voice as I relate some of this week's news that she has missed. Her forest shanty, living remotely with out power. My heart feels looser and the sting behind my eyes is nearly gone by the time we hang up.
After her call, I help Ma to the wheelchair and the kitchen table. I toy with following the missed parts of the debate, quietly on the decade old laptop. I continue to read the Time capsule while waiting for sluggish downloads. The "Showdown in The Windy City" cranks up the personal nostalgia, rarely indulged, to a recognizable pulse as I momentarily relive those weeks. The DNC; Chicago's mayor Richard Daley. My adolecent political icons: King, Kennedy newly assasinated, Abbie Hoffman, Tom Hayden, Arthur Miller, Paul Newman... Thursa Revenaugh, arguing with her 79 year old mother over why the nation was coming apart at the seams and, "Yes!", her near 16 year old would indeed follow her own drummer and march, black arm band and all. My much younger sisters, quietly busy with crayons, glitter and popcicle stick homework at the end of the kitchen table. Little brother, aged four, daily hiding the newspapers so Mom and Gram won't fight.
In one of the obits for old Paul Saturday morning, he was remembered saying that after a certain age, the memory starts slipping and you just can no longer give the performance you were once capable of and it's okay to be done. I report this to Ma while bringing in the morning paper and helping her to get dry, breakfast, and a cup of coffee.
I told her I thought I'd go out and watch the morning come on from the backyard. She asks if the old Turkey Buzzards were passing over yet and I said no, probably not until late afternoon.
Under the morning shadows, I sit and watch the much smaller societies, busy in the grass and leaves of the Old Pecan, our axis mundi. Garrison's choices for the last two Writer's Almanac: Sept.26, "May Day" by Phillis Levine and Sept.27 "Smoke & Ash" by David Budbill; beautiful works, link up, gently with my moment.
Then, here they come. Low, direct, feathered squadrons. I stand, spread my wings in salute to their timeless personalities and loosen my grip on hanging tough. The dozens sketch swirling black paisley updrafts as I twirl beneath the bottomless, blue eyed sky.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Weather's Coming Up... and the winds began to blow

Yet another moment of silence.
Oh John and Sarah! May your fragile, leaking raft, continue to drift off shore, far from rescue and further drilling. May all who care for the planet and care for us all, build a gale force wind. Send their crumbling craft out onto the darkest of seas.
Long after struggling for their very existance, in the blackest of bottomless pea soups, teeming with every way of life and form of being, may they be cast ashore on some distant, desolate island, to be kept together safe and unharmed, away from dragging the globe ever closer toward head on catastrophe.

Hey! You two! Is that Uncle Don swimmimg out there? What's he hollering? Something about ear kissing? Hey! A household of three!

"More than $400 million of the money was earmarked for two separate "bridges to nowhere." One, nearly as long as the Golden Gate, would serve an island community of only fifty people. The second, a monument to waste known as "Don Young's Way," would connect Anchorage to a patch of scarcely habitable marshland.

"These two bridges are the most egregious example of government waste we've ever seen," says Tom Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste. Even the conservative Heritage Foundation called one of Young's bridges a "national embarrassment." But the congressman refused to scrap the projects. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when Sen. John McCain proposed that Young redirect his prized pork money to help rebuild New Orleans, Young accused his detractors of "ignorance and stupidity." The victims of Katrina, he suggested, "can kiss my ear!"
From Rolling Stone article: The 10 Worst Congressmen by Tom Dickinson re posted Sept. 17

And as the weeks ensued, the breeze became a gust. From all sides people began to look around and at each other, as if a turning point was forming.

Here, afternoons and evenings, first 20, 40, 80 giant, prehistoic turkey buzzards kite and twirl; more each day. They are Raven clan I believe.
Else where, walls are crumbling. Nervous people, hedging on large concerns, whimpered at night about a shakey furure they helped create.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

You'd Be Welcome at 39 Old Scout

Lighting Out For The Territories
I'm thinking of heading north to escape the election. Maybe Alaska.
By Garrison Keillor

Sept. 17, 2008 | I saw two moose on a bike trail in Anchorage last week and did not kill either one of them, neither the cow nor her calf, though under the Bush doctrine I certainly had a right to, since the cow could have charged and pinned me to a tree and danced me to death. Should a man wait for the beast to attack and then have to make a difficult over-the-shoulder shot while running hard and loading his pants? Should he not simply level his Munchhausen-Weltschnauzer 480 and blow her brains out then and there, call in support and hold the perimeter? While I pondered whether to stay the course or cut and run, the mother and child lumbered into the woods. And anyway, like so many Democrats these days, I was out in public without a rifle in hand. So there you are.

Fall was in the air, the woods had turned golden and the tourist business was winding down, a few last busloads of retirees trundling over for a look at Mount Denali. In Wasilla, north of the Knik River, I saw no tour buses. The town is a series of strip malls and unless you're unfamiliar with tacos or fries, it doesn't offer much to the outsider. In a little compound near the library, they have preserved a pioneer home of 1936, but we have many 1936-era homes in Minnesota, as well as people born in that year and even before. As for the former mayor of Wasilla, you find a variety of opinions about her there, not many of which jibe with the Clean Government Gal you're seeing now, but you've heard all this before. (Michael Kinsley rang her bell in Time last week; if you're interested, look it up.)

What was exciting in Wasilla was a call from my Merrill Lynch broker assuring me that everything was OK and not to worry, which, like the Current Occupant's use of the term "short-term adjustment," gave me the jitters. Of course a Democrat like myself tends to suspect that lax regulation has enabled demented bankers to play fast and loose with the workers' retirement funds and escape from the crash with handsome rewards, but I never floated a bond issue for a hockey arena and financed it with a big hike in the sales tax, so what do I know about economics?

I am a liberal. I once stood drinking coffee in the stern of a fishing boat on an icy fjord out of Juneau, mists on the water, snowy peaks beyond, and the enormous black bulk of a whale rose up from the deep and glided silently alongside, which like a true liberal I stood staring at until it disappeared into the deep though it posed a clear danger to our boat. Rudy Giuliani would've dove in with a harpoon between his big incisors and driven it deep into the leviathan's viscera. I did not. There is the difference between us.

Another time I rode a snowmobile up the Iditarod Trail, and on my way back to the cabin, I cut across a frozen lake and hit thin ice and there was a splash and the rear of the machine sank a couple feet and I gunned the engine and wallowed my way out -- and the next morning, as the ski-plane took off from the lake, the pilot pointed at the dark patch where I had not drowned and said, "Watering hole. The moose keep that open all winter." So they are out there, looking for us. Need I point out that there are no moose on the South Side of Chicago? The skinny guy has never shot a moose and cleaned and butchered it and humped it out on his back. She has.

I love Alaska and think about going there for a couple months and escaping from this election. Find a cabin at the end of a long gravel road, haul in some books, salt and pepper, a sharp knife for field-dressing moose, and a Taser in case people rush the cabin and try to force me to watch the debates and hear Sen. McCain, an old deregulator, say he plans to "look into" the financial markets. The president of Merrill Lynch raised a half-million for McCain before the company was sold last week for half its assumed value. But why do I bring this up? Why? You've heard all this before. So have I. I'm lighting out for the territories.

(Garrison Keillor's "A Prairie Home Companion" can be heard Saturday nights on public radio stations across the country.)

© 2008 by Garrison Keillor. All rights reserved. Distributed by Tribune Media Services, Inc.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Daily Snapshot: the exponent of the moment

If you get a rudimentry working knowledge of the I Ching or Book of Changes, you'll find it a very useful tool. Preferably the Wilhelm/ Baynes translation, all though others may be equally telling. The hexagrams are read from below (interior) the lower trigram, upward (exterior) the trigram above. Readings of the interior trigrams are also nicely translated in:

Wilhelm/ Baynes, 1950
Bollingen Series
Princeton University Press.
The title of this piece is linked to an informative site on this translation and the tradition on which it's based.

Today thinking of the poem listed under Monkey Trials below, I read from the I Ching # 24. Fu / Return, (The Turning Point)
(I wish I could share an artful rendering of the pictogram here).
Below: Chen The Arousing, Thunder
Above: K'un The Receptive, Earth
Read it as though looking through a holograpic image

Monkey Trials

via: JB

The Monkey is reaching
For the moon in the water.
Until death
overtakes him He'll never give up.
If he'd let go the branch and
disappear in the deep pool,
The whole
world would shine
With dazzling pureness.
Hakuin (1685-1768)

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Bunions, The Subtle Song, and Politics

There's an odd fray inside and out. Attitudes roll in overlapping waves.
Sound snags of other peoples wash. Little twists of damp, tumbled
tissue wads clinging, fused to every pillow case, shirt sleeve, terried cloth,
mitered corner, seam of wore- torn sheet.

Your faded mother, pink and grey seersucker
slacks washed a thousand times, hung out again in the continuous summer
heat close to the chainlink wall, wooded home of morning glory, virgin blue
Green wilt in the crunch brown landscape

That neighbor and his man, you've heard
their ostrasized angry hush, clipping,
ripping, virgin blue.Their exorbitantly nurtured abundance,
exotic plants, coddled through late middle years.

Rameis has a son, who hip hopped loudly all sullen yellow morning.
I, cranky with the world swing shut never closed windows,
close out his delight, mornings beyond authority other than his own.
Freedom from school, home alone, grinding metal with abandon.

Friday, September 12, 2008

A Muck Review From Rural SE Alaska

This information came to me 9/11/08 via: Nancy Berland of Lynn Canal Conservation. It's been posted as an information source to Grist, Salon, and Gather Press who may opt to utilize. It was also sent to the DNC. What the heck.
Takshunuk Water Shed Council is linked to the title of this posting.
Nancy writes:
"Given the recent national interest in Alaska and Alaska projects like the Bridge to Nowhere, it's important for Alaskans to help the public understand issues we work on and care about, in the midst of all the political spin.
There have been many stories on Governor Palin's canceling the Gravina Bridge, but the state's ongoing efforts to build the Juneau Road have received little national attention."
For each of us she adds:
"Please consider writing a letter to the editor of your hometown newspaper (email addresses can be found by a simple Google search) about the Road to Nowhere, post something on existing blogs, or create your own!"

Background information:
The 2005 federal transportation bill (named after Don Young's wife) had $467 million in Alaska earmarks for the Juneau Road, and the Knik Arm and Gravina Bridges . Congress later removed the earmarks but Alaska got to keep all the money to spend on any transportation projects it prioritized. The governor did not return any money. The Juneau Road is a prioritized project and the only thing currently preventing construction is the lawsuit filed by LCC and other conservation groups.

In September of 2007 Palin cancelled the Gravina Bridge because it was $329 million short of being fully funded. She said "it's clear that Congress has little interest in spending any more money on a bridge." She also stated that "much of the public's attitude toward Alaska bridges is based on inaccurate portrayals of the projects here." (Anchorage Daily News, 9/21/07) This is very different from her saying "no thanks" to federal earmarks.

Some points you may want to make about the Road to Nowhere:
* The road will cost taxpayers lots of money
The latest cost estimate is $374 million, and 90% will be funded by federal transportation dollars. Governor Palin could have canceled
the project at any time during her two years as governor, but has chosen not to.

* The road truly would go Nowhere
The road would dead-end at a mud flat with no human inhabitants. By contrast, the Gravina Bridge would connect Ketchikan to Gravina
Island's 50 residents. Instead of a Juneau Road, by a 79% to 11% margin, Alaskans prefer the state spend transportation dollars on
maintenance and upgrades.

* The road will be used by very few people
Only 380 vehicles per day are expected to use the road once it opens. That's an average of only 15 vehicles per hour.

* The road would only be open part of the time
The 50 mile road would pass through 36 active avalanche zones and 112 other hazards including rock and landslide areas. It is predicted to be
closed 34 days each winter due to avalanches and an undetermined number of days the rest of the year due to massive rock and landslides. You
can mention or link to "Steep, Not Cheap", on YouTube.

Thank you. Every bit of public education helps. And please feel free to forward this email.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Sweet Breath From The North! Welcome AL!

A Nation Is Only As Wise (and Intelligent) As It's People
Stir up a cold, hearty wind from the North.

Norm Coleman, the Republican incumbent from Minnesota, finishing up his first term in Congress, said before Congress adjourns he'd like to see an energy bill that allows more offshore drilling.

His Democratic opponent, Al Franken, also held a press conference, where he proposed a $5,000-per-student tax credit for families that want to send their kids to college. Franken said ensuring wide access to a college education is key to maintaining a strong middle class in the U.S.
COME ON DEMS! more soon

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Fall, a work in progress

There are certain indignities that accompany getting older. Things that turn the whole damned process into an odd array of misery. You've been doing just fine, maybe a little drifty, or odd on occasion. But, you're entitled, you're an old lady! Extended naps come at the oddest times of day. Dreams kinda mingle with the good book you've been rereading for the umpteenth time.

Glad you've annotated them all. Volumes worth over the years! Kinda adds to the entertainment. Although, you've got to admit, you keep surprizing yourself. You no longer necessarily agree with some of your oldest views. Feels like they've changed over night. Wish now you'd been more objective. Who knows which kid will inherit this partiular tryst.
It's January in southern San Jaquin Califonia. Every year when the desert winds blow, it gets cold in this quaint 1930's bungalow. Particularly this winter. Just stays kind of chilly. You want to keep the heat turned down to an affordable level plus they say it might help to reduce green house emmisions. You haven't given up caring about everything. Maybe the new gas wall furnace isn't so great. It was the cheaper installation. But it's only had one, mild winter on it, in Kern county!
Oh, Hells Bells! You grew up in U.P. Michigan in the 20's and 30's for crying out loud! Pull on an extra layer! Including the red polar fleece hat you splurged on from Eddie Bauer last year. Hey, Whoopie wore one to bed. Besides, you never planned on a Carribean cruise. This is a tired woman's retirement. Pamper yourself and stay tucked in.

Mornings still start pretty early. Reveille sounds around 5:30 or 6:00. Of course, when it's time to move the bones these days, the motivational force is usually the damned bedding requirements. Either you can avoid having to change it all, so you get up quick, take care of business, and feel like you've been given the day off. Or, things are wet, so you strip it all, dump it into the rollator, roll it out to nuke a cup of Joe, read the morning paper and start the laundry.
Your little blue caddilac with the basket, hand brakes, and seat (for when you gotta sit), is most often your choice. You still use the pretty cane as well. The one your New York son in law got the last trip back to see the eastern portion of your tribe. Mic, Mark, Melody, Pete and their kids. When was that? Two, three years ago?

Oh. Mustn't forget to plug in the cell phone. Even just looking at the time throughout the night seems to wear down the batteries. Let's see. Where's the plug. Ok. What?! How'd it get to be 4:30 already? AM or PM ? This time of year it's rather hard to tell. PM. Handy little device. Not so many teeny, weenie buttons. And it plays a forty's bit when you turn it on to check the time. I've got good kids. It's still brand new. Not entirely sure how to scroll for the numbers that Matthew programmed in. Better read the manual again. A gift from Mickey. May be a replacement for the alarm system that I neglect to carry the device for. You'd think I'd know better. If I wear the button for that one around my neck though, it swings back and forth in front of me while I'm using the walker. It makes it terribly hard to focus. I still pay for the system monthly and it's been serviced recently. I've needed to use it only once, a few years ago, when I fell and couldn't get back up. At least I know it works! One just learns to go very, very carefully.

This evening I don't think I need the rollator. I feel pretty good; grab the cane. If I get moving there's still enough outside light to get a Healthy Choice into the microwave with out toddling about to turn on a bunch of lights. Phone's plugged in right?. Ok. Here we go.

Thank God for Healthy Choice. They're a well balanced meal, tasty, and just the right portion. And you don't have to cook! Or wash dishes! Standing at the counter, trying to cook is not only for the birds but hard to do. This way I can slide the finished meal right out of the microwave along the counter to my roost near the "Oh My God" stack: a few carefully selected, annual donation requests from various shameless beggars (tee hee, I'm bad!); lot's of New Yorkers; equally large stack of National Geo's; Time, and mail order catalogs (I've been known to indulge; Harry and David's is great for Christmas time, although I'm afraid people might have been offended; expecting more. This is the first year I didn't send Christmas cards. Feel bad about that. And I got so many nice ones).

Today, I got The Chilkat Valley News, my favorite, next to the New Yorker. Reminds me of the little newspaper we owned in Sandy, Oregon back in the fifties. Not bad writing; fairly innocuous reporting, which you have to have in a town of 1800 or so people. Covers every thing in town from the the police report and Duly Noted, to borough government and all of the community events especially the schools and library events. I get to read good things about my grandkids from Alaska. Not quite as much any more now that they're out of school. But it's still entertaining. Adrian says I know more about the people in her community than she does.

So what day is it? Sylvia from A Caring Touch comes on Thursdays for the grocery order. Is that tommorrow? Well, even if it isn't I'd better take inventory when I pull out tonight's menu selection. Try to stay a week ahead. That is a lot of Country Herb Chicken. Lean Cusine's Salmon w/ Basil is not too bad either. Nor the Turkey Tettrazini, though that's really more lunch sized. They're kinda spendy but this is what your savings are for. What the hell! You're done traveling to all parts of the continent to see the kids and grandkids who aren't here in Bakersfield. Got the house in pretty good repair. Gave up driving a couple of years ago; global warming and the damned SUV's.

Not a bad retirement from the Kern County Welfare Dept. Good health insurance that you haven't had to use much yet. It'll be there if you do. An adequate monthly income plus social security and you've nickled away enough that if you outlive your plan, god forbid, an assisted living facility won't strap the kids.
Twenty one years as a social worker. Thank God you loved people! It got rough towards the end with Ronnie Baby in the White House, the so and so. As governor he made our jobs nearly impossible. I get mad all over again just thinking about it. But hey, it allowed me to raise the five remaining kids and pay for this house, on my own. Their father said this would be an exercise in futility. Wrong thing to say!
We sure as hell weren't rich by any means. I remember the look on Adrian's face when I told her we'd probably be better off financially if I stayed home and collected welfare. I was angry. Quite frankly, I would have gone crazy! I had a college education and I loved my job and the people I was helping. Poor mothers with out educations or handicapped in other ways; unable to get their lives in order. I passed up supervisior positions several times so I could stay out in the field.
Later, it was helping to open the new Jamison Center for the kids who needed protective services. Of course my own children were latch key kids, risky business. But we were resourceful. We survived.

Ooh! It's kinda dark. I'll switch on the lamp when I get over there to zap dinner. You should of brought the rollator from the bedroom. The left leg just doesn't respond the way it used too after that TIA a couple of years ago. I was demonstrating at the Kern County museum how the Yokats wove their baskets when it happened. There were about eighty, fourth and fifth graders and I know I scarred them for life by becoming a puddle on the floor in front of them. Scared every body. Damnedest thing. I couldn't get up! By the afternoon it had worn off but that was kinda it for the top volunteer of the previous six years. Not only frightening but embarrassing! Oh Well.

Talk about scarry. Let's see now. If I hold on to the counter with one hand... and reach way up to the freezer... and tug really hard. Dammit! Ok. Pull Thursa! Humpff. Well... Ok then. Ooo... two hands, reach. Now: this- damn- - thing-- will-- not--- bu...

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Keep it moving. Move on...

Creating open endedness in which time for healing from a catastrophic event is something we moderns are learning to stand in support of. The after math of disasters from around the globe, in the opening decade of our brand new millineum, have given us exposure to millions of stories. Events that change everything that was familiar. The stories that help us to be better, stonger, kinder, more resourceful.
The harvest from our Mother's vast sphere of influence, over eight decades, has been a life time devotion to healthy independence. An original humanist; teach others how to utilize their talents and resources toward living well and how to share the benifits of what they've learned. That goes along with Live and Let Live; code for "hands off!".
Learning to recieve help and the generosity of others may be her last sharp learning curve. And remembering once again how to share her life. Class 'aint over till the bell rings.
After Mom's injury and the subsequent gathering of her far-flung off spring, I decided my time was probably most available for helping her out. Kids are raised, husband newly retired, carreer homestead, stable.
Not having been away from Alaska for more than a couple of weeks in over thirty five years, it's been one hell of a season to plop in.
I'm brand new to the 21st century informational and entertainment advances but I'm finding my way around. Sister Mic has provided the household with a vintage iBook, browsing the Internet with Safari and an XM radio.
The house is always wide open to combat the heat. I stay close and kinda quiet; most of Mom's time is in bed reading and sleeping, but this externally imposed hiatus from my own life has given me an uninterupted crash course environment in which to learn all manner of things. About the world and myself. The last few weeks I've been on a trip with out leaving the farm.
By Sat. Sept.6, I was worn thin; Alaska's underbelly had gotten further washed ashore. It's a good thing. Exposure. But one wants to be with their own kind during times like these. Like when the lesser relatives have gone and done something terribly foolish (such as thinking they're worthy of accepting a nomination for the vice presidency of the United States) and immediately everybody finds out what the distant family member is really made of and shame is brought onto the entire house. There's hope for the compassionate of heart who are left with the aftermath of such a disaster. I'm rowing towards that little island.
By the weekend my boat was dragging bottom.
So I got up Saturday and decided it was time to soothe my parched sense of humor. Starting with Michael Feldman's brand of sweet, smart, sarcasam, backed by a grand installment of This American Life with Ira Glass and solidarity was reinstalled.
While waiting for Garrison Keillor's hoped for soul salve, I discovered the motherlode: From The Desk Of G.K.
Reading all afternoon via this kitchen wizard machine, and listening to all of the recorded and live performances of Sept.6 was a grand slam. Beautiful resources; seriously valuable additions to my Alaskan'08 Wilderness Survival Kit. But I sure miss home.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Backyard View; as above, so below

The lower basin has begun to cool. An hour before dusk the mercury swoops toward lower registers. Block after block of over watered lawns lay blanketed beneath condensed vapor. Infant tule fog. Come morning, the desert sun, an over ripe tomato, lingers over coffee. Quietly rising mid-day, our pensive blue cresent, breaking from the work week schedule, scans the news. Holding a bruin's belly promise, she'll gain girth steadily. I watch from below, apprehensively plotting a grand mother's winter garden.