Monday, December 11, 2017

Sweet Potatoes / Haiku / Four Generations / December 8, 2006 and Gratitude

I've been enjoying sweet potatoes on a daily basis for some years now. Currently, I cook several pounds of them for 10 hours in a slow cooker and keep them in the refrigerator until I am ready to slice and heat them in oil in a cast iron skillet.

Yesterday morning I discovered a haiku that I wrote last year on December 10:

December snow mixed with rain
Heart knows the way
One with the ocean

Today I am looking out at an ice fog.  It is 32 degrees outside.

Yesterday I discovered this, too, written by an unknown person about Monarch butterflies:

These fragile creatures make a journey of thousands of miles, but it takes four generations to complete the trip.  No single butterfly ever flies the full route, yet somehow the species continues to pass on the pattern of migration.  If butterflies can be part of a pattern that they never fully know, I think that the same may be true for us.

My blog began on December 8, 2006, with the name "Old Girl Of The North Country." December 8, 1970, had been the day the man I loved returned from Vietnam, and early that morning I had to face the reality of the devastating consequences of war.  In December 2006, a perceptive woman suggested doing something different on that date that had been a source of emotional pain for the previous 36 years, since I had been 21 years old.  I made the decision to start a blog and post a retrospective of the art work I had done since 1966.  Here is what I posted for the month of December 2006.

Blogging has been a healing experience for me for 11 years now in this community of kindred spirits.  I am grateful to everyone who blogs along with me, no matter what happens, and much has happened in these 11 years.

Thank you!

If butterflies can be part of a pattern that they never fully know, I think that the same may be true for us.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

"War is never holy, just a greedy man's dream"

A friend brought this to my attention via Facebook, where there is an extraordinary video of Buffy Sainte-Marie singing 'The War Racket." There is an interview, too.

I'm recommending the biography of Buffy Sainte-Marie.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Still learning to play the autoharp

Several years ago I bought a used Oscar Schmidt autoharp (made in the 1970s) from a local music store and enjoyed trying to teach myself to play it, not realizing that it was too large for me to play effectively. Because I wasn't making much progress and felt discouraged, I stopped playing it.  A friend loaned me a smaller autoharp recently, and I have been practicing again, using the songs with chords from here (scroll down the sidebar on the left).

Tuesday, November 14, 2017


Thanks to Beth, one of my first blog friends (our friendship beginning around 10 years ago) for bringing Virginia Mae Schmitt to my attention this morning.  The 11th anniversary of my blog is coming up on December 8.  When I started this blog, I didn't realize how much I needed the experience of worldwide community that has unfolded over the years through blogging.  It has enriched my experience of local community.  And today it has brought a new dimension to the voice of Walt Whitman.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Morning Meditation 12 November 2017: Bob Dylan and his Heart and the Door / Warren Zevon (Heaven's Door, Your Heart)


Forgetful heart. 
Lost your power of recall 
Every little detail
You don't remember at all
The times we knew
Who would remember better than you

Forgetful heart
We laughed and had a good time you and I
It's been so long
Now you're content to let the days go by
When you were there
You were the answer to my prayer

Forgetful heart
We loved with all the love that life can give
What can I say
Without you it's so hard to live
Can't take much more
Why can't we love like we did before

Forgetful heart
Like a walking shadow in my brain
All night long
I lie awake and listen to the sound of pain
The door has closed forevermore
If indeed there ever was a door.

Copyright © 2009 by Special Rider Music and Ice-Nine Publishing

Update:  Just after posting, I found this about doors in Jewish tradition.  Coincidence?

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Veterans Day 2017

Although I've posted Jimi Hendrix' version of the Star-spangled Banner four times before over the years on my blog, I'm moved to post it again today.  My beloved veteran was a high school dropout who was drafted into the U.S. Army at age 19 in the spring of 1969.  He did his basic training at Fort Lewis, Washington, and was sent to Newport News, Virginia, for helicopter mechanic training school.  He and his buddies had a plan to attend Woodstock and see Jimi Hendrix, but it didn't materialize.  I am sure that there were veterans in the crowd at Woodstock.  Jimi Hendrix had been drafted into the Army and served in the 101st Airborne Division, which was the same division my veteran was in, although Jimi Hendrix did not serve in Vietnam.  My veteran loved the music of Jimi Hendrix.

In late January 1970, I drove R to Oakland Army Base on the day before he was to fly to Vietnam.  He asked me not to cry when I said goodbye to him.  I honored his wish but cried hard on my way home across the San Francisco Bay Bridge.  That night he called me and asked me to come back and pick him up and take him to a draft resistance office.  I sat in the hallway while he talked with a draft resistance counselor.  When he returned to the hallway, his heart was heavy.  He said, "I will meet the defeat of her challenge."  He didn't believe he could be granted conscientious objector status.  He didn't want to go to Canada and doubted that Canada would accept him anyway because of his lack of education or skills valued by the Canadian government.  He did not want to go to prison (although he ended up in prison later in his life). He made the fateful decision to go to Vietnam. He was against the war when he left and against the war when he returned home on December 8, 1970, but when he returned he was broken by his experience of war.  He struggled for the rest of his life. We separated for the last time in early October 1971.  In one of the last letters to me in around 2006, he wrote. "All we are saying is give peace a chance."

May all veterans and their families, all over the world, find peace.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Just because

With gratitude to an anonymous friend who brought Robert Desnos to my attention today through an article by Susan Griffin which included the following:

"Like artistic and literary movements, social movements are driven by imagination. I am not speaking here only of the songs and poems and paintings that have always been part of movements for political and social change, but of the movements themselves, their political ideas and forms of protest. Every important social movement reconfigures the world in the imagination. What was obscure comes forward, lies are revealed, memory shaken, new delineations drawn over the old maps: it is from this new way of seeing the present that hope for the future emerges."

Le pélican

Le capitaine Jonathan,
Étant âgé de dix-huit ans,
Capture un jour un pélican
Dans une île d'Extrême-Orient.
Le pélican de Jonathan,
Au matin pond un œuf tout blanc
Et il en sort un pélican
Lui ressemblant étonnamment.
Et ce deuxième pélican
Pond, à son tour, un œuf tout blanc
D'où sort, inévitablement,
Un autre qui en fait autant. 
Cela peut durer pendant très longtemps
Si l'on ne fait pas d'omelette avant.

The Pelican

Captain Jonathan
Being eighteen years old
Captures a pelican one day
In a Far-Eastern island.
Jonathan's pelican
lays an all-white egg
from which emerges a pelican
Which looks just like the first.
And this second pelican
Also lays an all-white egg
from which emerges, inevitably
Another, who does the same.
This can last a very long time
Unless we make an omelet.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Remembering 1965 / Living Now

Set list taken from YouTube comment by Brinley Zhao:

0:17 I'm A Rambler, I'm A Gambler 2:35 There But For Fortune 6:26 Copper Kettle 9:22 Mary Hamilton 15:30 Don't Think Twice, It's All Right * 19:00 I'm Troubled And I Don't Know Why * 22:12 We Shall Overcome * 26:31 With God on Our Side 34:07 Plaisir D'Amour 39:37 Oh Freedom 43:32 She's a Troublemaker 45:48 The Unquiet Grave 50:35 It Ain't me Babe * 54:39 Isn't It Grand * 57:43 500 miles 1:01:10 Te Ador/ Ate Amanha

Images from mid-October to today (mostly taken in the morning during my yoga practice). I ended my final contract as a medical transcription editor on October 16 and am now finding out how to live on my Social Security check. I know it's possible to do. Several of my friends have been doing it for years. Anything is possible. My relief at being free from the pressures of being a medical transcription editor for pennies is immense.

(The unexpected early snow has melted. No snow in the forecast)

(Hard to believe that our generally unwanted president is still in the White House after this long strange year since Tuesday, November 8, 2016)

Here's Ursula K. Le Guin's version of #9 of the Tao Te Ching:

Being quiet

Brim-fill the bowl,
it'll spill over.
Keep sharpening the blade,
you'll soon blunt it.

Nobody can protect
a house full of gold and jade.

Wealth, status, pride,
are their own ruin.
To do good, work well, and lie low
is the way of blessing.

Here are The Roches. An appropriate song for today:

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

In these times

Fearless and Asymmetrical Mandalas (For William Blake) / Mandala #27:  Total Eclipse in Fossil, WA

(Faber-Castell colored pencil on Bristol board. Drawn by am between July 2017 and October 2017)

October 3, 2017:  From my porch, looking toward the foothills that lead to the Cascade Mountains.

October 13, 2017: Early snow in the foothills.

(Tentative lyrics from YouTube comment by Hige)
[5x - Chorus] Hanawena ha wen hey Hanawena ha wen hey yo wa It's one man rich and another man poor. Why we ain't satisfied, why we gotta' have more? Why the suicide rates on the rez so high? Why? I tell you the truth, but you see only lies. Why is being a good father at all time so low? Why is it so bullsh... Why? I don't know. Why she blame him and he blame her? It's useless. Ask yourself this question: why you making excuses? Why do parents gotta bury their kids? Why we text and drive and not caring how scary it is? Why is it so hard to forgive and leave the past behind? And if you did, that's divine. Why don't you help your brother when you see him fall? Why don't we act like god and try to see it all? Why do we call them black and white and asians and use labels? Now that's racism. [4x - Chorus] Hanawena ha wen hey wa Hanawena ha wen hey yo wa wa Why is the reminiscence (?), people locked up for life? Why some people can't say something nice? Why do we always gotta' question what all of it means and why won't you follow your dreams? Tell me why that night when you took my dad, why you let me see my grandpa cry? And tell me why, why did you choose to hide, even though you were born to fly? And tell me why, and why don't we turn from all the hate? Why don't we learn from all mistakes? Why do I keep on wrecking these fat beats(?)? And teachers don't make more than professional athletes. And why? Hée why? Hée why? Hée why? Hée why? Hée why? [4x - Chorus] Hanawena ha wen hey wa Hanawena ha wen hey yo wa wa

“When I’m invited to a nonnative school, it’s an amazing opportunity to share music and culture with them,” he says. “I feel like I have a responsibility to educate about Native people, and the history of the United States, and basic things like breaking stereotypes of Native people. Like, ‘Hey, I’m drug- and alcohol-free, believe it.’ I invite all of them to my reservation because they’ve been taught not to go to the rez, [or they’ll] get killed.”
“When it’s all-Native it’s great too,” Supaman continues, “because you get to share your accomplishments with them. You get to say, ‘Hey, I’m a fancy dancer. I embrace the culture and I embrace this other culture, which is hip-hop.’ We have the opportunity to share our heart and tell them that it’s good to stand up for these rights; it’s good to be drug- and alcohol-free, and embrace culture… I want to show Native youth that it’s okay to embrace other cultures, so long as you don’t forget who you are and where you come from.”
Read more about Supaman here.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

An' we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing

Far between sundown's finish an' midnight's broken toll
We ducked inside the doorway, thunder crashing
As majestic bells of bolts struck shadows in the sounds
Seeming to be the chimes of freedom flashing
Flashing for the warriors whose strength is not to fight
Flashing for the refugees on the unarmed road of flight
An' for each an' ev'ry underdog soldier in the night
An' we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing
Through the city's melted furnace, unexpectedly we watched
With faces hidden as the walls were tightening
As the echo of the wedding bells before the blowin' rain
Dissolved into the bells of the lightning
Tolling for the rebel, tolling for the rake
Tolling for the luckless, the abandoned an' forsakened
Tolling for the outcast, burnin' constantly at stake
An' we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing
Through the mad mystic hammering of the wild ripping hail
The sky cracked its poems in naked wonder
That the clinging of the church bells blew far into the breeze
Leaving only bells of lightning and its thunder
Striking for the gentle, striking for the kind
Striking for the guardians and protectors of the mind
An' the poet and the painter far behind his rightful time
An' we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing
In the wild cathedral evening the rain unraveled tales
For the disrobed faceless forms of no position
Tolling for the tongues with no place to bring their thoughts
All down in taken-for-granted situations
Tolling for the deaf an' blind, tolling for the mute
For the mistreated, mateless mother, the mistitled prostitute
For the misdemeanor outlaw, chaineded an' cheated by pursuit
An' we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing
Even though a cloud's white curtain in a far-off corner flared
An' the hypnotic splattered mist was slowly lifting

Electric light still struck like arrows, fired but for the ones
Condemned to drift or else be kept from drifting
Tolling for the searching ones, on their speechless, seeking trail
For the lonesome-hearted lovers with too personal a tale
An' for each unharmful, gentle soul misplaced inside a jail
An' we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing
Starry-eyed an' laughing as I recall when we were caught
Trapped by no track of hours for they hanged suspended
As we listened one last time an' we watched with one last look
Spellbound an' swallowed 'til the tolling ended
Tolling for the aching whose wounds cannot be nursed
For the countless confused, accused, misused, strung-out ones an' worse
An' for every hung-up person in the whole wide universe
An' we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing
(Bob Dylan, 1964)

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Saved one day at a time by the beauty of music

Day to Day (For 6 Days a Week)

Thanks to NPR for bringing this to my attention today.  Scroll down to Tiny Desk for more.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

38 years / Perseverance furthers / 150 million years / Sherman Alexie

Back in 1979, my heart was set on traveling south about 5 hours from Bellingham, WA, and seeing the total eclipse of the sun in the town of Goldendale, near the Columbia River in Eastern Washington.  Due to circumstances that I thought were beyond my control (it's a long long story, but I have since realized that I had more choices then than I thought I did at that time), I witnessed only a partial eclipse here in Bellingham, WA.  The morning light from the cloud-hidden sun did dim somewhat and then brighten again to become simply overcast, but that was all that happened.  I grieved and resented my circumstances.  

After reading Annie Dillard's description of the eclipse I had missed seeing, I vowed that I would not miss seeing the next total eclipse. Annie Dillard wrote:

"I had seen a partial eclipse in 1970. A partial eclipse is very interesting. It bears almost no relation to a total eclipse."  

"Abruptly it was dark night, on the land and in the sky. In the night sky was a tiny ring of light. The hole where the sun belongs is very small. A thin ring of light marked its place."

I was 29 years old, and that was during an extended period of darkness in my life that had begun in December 1970 when my boyfriend brought the war in Vietnam home with him.  We were 21 years old. That darkness lifted in 1987 with my one-day-at-a-time recovery from a severe and unrelenting depression that had been caused by a combination of my life circumstances, alcoholism, bulimia, and anorexia.  

Even these dark times today are not as dark for me as those years between 1970 and 1987 when I had very little light within me.  That little light of mine was close to going out.

If not for a first cousin who lives in Florida and perseverance and good fortune, I may have missed the eclipse on August 21, 2017.  In the spring, my cousin emailed and asked if I was planning to travel to see the eclipse.  I've been so focused on making a living and paying my bills that I had somehow missed all the clues that the total eclipse I had waited 38 years for was coming up.  A few minutes after receiving her email, I went on the internet to see if I could get a motel room in Albany, Oregon, on the I-5 corridor, in the path of the eclipse.  To my surprise, I found out that I could get on a waiting list only, that motel rooms in the path of the eclipse had been booked up to a year in advance.

In discouragement, part of my mind began to tell me that old old story that circumstances were beyond my control.  My fertile and creative mind, however, went to work behind the scenes.  Soon I had another plan.  I could take the back roads and the Coupeville-Port Townsend ferry to the Olympic Peninsula and drive to Olympia on August 20. There were motel rooms available in Olympia.  On the morning of the eclipse, I could get up early and drive to the path of the totality.  I wouldn't even have to drive all the way to Albany.

After securing a motel room in Olympia and thinking everything was good to go, I began to read about the predicted traffic jams on I-5, and my mind went back to the old old story, "Too bad for you.  You're just too late.  These are circumstances beyond your control.  Just accept them.  Sure, you can go to Olympia, but you'll probably not make it to the path of totality and if you do, the traffic will be a nightmare." Abandoning hope for that plan, I cancelled the motel room in Olympia.

Despite my conscious pessimism, my unconscious mind went to work again and soon came up with a third plan of driving across the North Cascades Highway to the town of Wenatchee in Eastern Washington on the day before the eclipse and staying overnight there.  On the day of the eclipse, I planned to drive to the small town of Fossil, Oregon, and then back to Wenatchee the same day.  I had no trouble getting a motel room in Wenatchee on August 20.  Again, I was convinced that I was good to go.  Eastern Washington and Eastern Oregon are lightly populated.  How much traffic could there be?  I looked forward to the spectacular drive across the North Cascades, to seeing the clear blue skies east of the mountains and above the Columbia River with its surrounding formidable golden hills in that part of Eastern Washington and then on to the vast bright golden rolling wheat fields of Central Oregon.  And so many stars at night!  Orion!

As the eclipse approached, the news on the internet became more and more negative in terms of horrific traffic jams and disaster areas in the path of the eclipse.  I began to doubt my plan.  The old old stories began to play in my mind.  Not a single friend or neighbor expressed any serious interest in traveling to see the totality, but they wished me well on my journey.   

On the night before I left for Eastern Washington, I told myself that I would get as close to the totality as I could, even if traffic prevented me reaching my destination.  The news had convinced me that I might well be hindered by a traffic jam and surviving that, I would arrive at the chaos of too many people and not enough services.  I was prepared to stop short of all that or, if it happened suddenly, I would turn around and find a more peaceful place some distance away and content myself with seeing a partial eclipse, knowing I had done my best to see the totality.

On August 20, I drove across Highway 20, the North Cascades Highway, to Highway 97 which would take me nearly all the way to Fossil. Here is a glimpse from that part of my journey, not far from where the Pacific Crest Trail crosses Highway 20:

For the morning of the eclipse, I set my alarm clock for 2 a.m.  By 2:30, I was driving south on Highway 97.  The sky was clear and filled with stars.  Orion accompanied me to the dawn.  All the way to Fossil, Oregon, the traffic was light.  

There weren't all that many people who had driven to Fossil that morning.  When I arrived, it was quiet and peaceful.  Some of the visitors had arrived on previous days.  The town of Fossil had designated areas for setting up camping tents.  Those areas were not crowded.  There was no commotion.  

The clear fresh quiet sparkling feeling in the air and the golden rolling hills brought me back to my first memories as a child, living in a small town in the San Joaquin Valley of South Central California between 1954 and 1957.  Although there was a distinct sense of something being wrong in my life and the lives of my parents (angry mother, depressed father), I felt joy looking up at the sky and seeing the golden rolling hills.  By the time I was 5 years old, my little light had been inexplicably diminished.  I don't know exactly what had happened to me, but I was a sad anxious lonely child with little self-esteem.  I remember looking in the mirror and thinking I was getting old and ugly, and that no one would every marry me.  

While waiting for the eclipse, many of us walked around the small town in morning sunlight, and some of us made our way over to Fossil Hill behind the town's high school after reading informational signs indicating that it was a source of plant fossils, including that of Metasequoia (Dawn Redwood).  I paid $5 at the beginning of a narrow path that led to the hillside above the high school field where visitors had set up their tents and walked along the path and up the hillside.

A little girl was explaining to the visitors about the fossils.  She showed me a leaf fossil and gave me suggestions to help me in my plant fossil search.  I sat down with my back to the sun and started gently digging with a flat rock and with my hands.  Within a few minutes, I thought that I had probably found a Metasequoia fossil from possibly 150 million years ago.  When I showed it to the little girl, she confirmed that it was what I hoped it was and said that few people found the redwood fossils.  Redwood trees are dear to me.  I grew up with Redwood trees.  I'm still in awe of my find. 

The eclipse was still to come.  I walked back to my car to drink some water and find a good spot for watching the eclipse.  A very few of us chose to sit on a hillside facing south.  Most people sat with their faces toward the sun.  I sat in the shade of a tree because the sun was already hotter than I am comfortable with.  I could see the sun through the branches of the tree and by leaning forward and looking up to the east at intervals, could easily watch the moon pass over the sun with my eclipse glasses.

Gradually the landscape took on an odd color only seen during eclipses, as less and less sunlight could travel to the earth at the spot where we were sitting. I remembered experiencing something of that dimming light from the partial eclipse in 1979.  For me, it was not as Annie Dillard had described in her essay.  She called the light platinum.  To me the light was something like that of color photographs from the 1950s whose color has been altered by time, but that description is only an approximation of the peculiar light.

Nothing could have completely prepared me or any of us who had not experienced a total eclipse previously for the startling moment of the totality.  Here is a photo approximation from the moment before the totality and the totality.

If you've watched the video at the top of this post, you've heard the awe and wonder in the voices of some of the people who witnessed the eclipse.  The darkness didn't last long.  As abruptly as it had arrived, the darkness was gone, and the landscape gradually brightened until it was just as before, under the sun as we usually experience it.

I wish you could have seen the children dancing with delight.  I wish you could have seen the little boy of 4-5 years old who looked at me and smiled and said, "Epic!"

Here is what I saw after leaving Fossil and beginning my journey north. I wish you could see the radiant light of the wheat fields of North Central Oregon. This is just an approximation of that light.

Along with Orion, I was accompanied on the eclipse journey by the recent writing of Sherman Alexie.  In early 2017, in the wake of the election of our shadowy president, a Spokane Indian by the name of Sherman Alexie published You Don't Have to Say You Love Me:  A Memoir.  I heard about the release of the book from a blog friend, Beth. Sherman Alexie grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation in a landscape much like that I passed through on my eclipse journey:

"Tribal members fished the Spokane River, the Columbia River, and utilized the grand Spokane Falls as a gathering place of family and friends."

I hope you will read this book that was written two years after the death of his mother.  He writes with love and grief about his relationship with his angry mother and his depressed father (who were so much more than their anger and depression) and the circumstances of their lives and the lives of native people since the arrival of the Europeans. Sherman Alexie has been in darkness darker than I have known, and he has much to say about surviving against all odds through centuries of trauma and grief.  He identifies as an atheist and writes about the presence of grace.