Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy Crazy New Year!

Tonight, I'm out in the cold taking pictures of stars, because I am either too lazy or too broke to go down into Philly for New Year's Eve. Call me the hybrid Brazy. Or call me pathetic. And, did I mention it's cold with the lion wind roaring in from from ... oh ... Pluto (more about that demi-planet later). So, yes. The Stars. I decide that I can certainly hold my camera still enough to take pictures of stars. It's cold, but I have had wine. Balance in all things.

Can you see the star?






















No? OK.









What if I blow it up? Does that look like a star? Maybe it looks like Pluto?










I'm thinking of Pluto, because, on the radio tonight (yes, I am ancient, and still listen to the radio) a correspondent for NPR's Marketplace show interviewed Astrologers in an effort to forecast our economic health for 2009. OK, let me repeat that: a reported for NPR's sassy, yet respectable show about the financial markets was interviewing ASTROLOGERS to try to snatch a glimpse of what the banks, brokers and purses will look like in 2009. Now, I was raised around astrologers, tarot card readers, psychics and other sundry paranormal creatures, and even I was saying, "WTF?" We're just throwing up our hands at this point.

"Madame Izzy, will Apple recover?"
Well, apparently, the driving heavenly force is Pluto, and apparently, she's pissed. he demo-planetoid has crossed over from expansive, glowing, everything's-gonna-be-allllight Sagittarius into dour, lay-it-on-the-line-and-don't-try-to-feed-me-any-bullshit Capricorn. No more carting around 17 maxed out credit cards because we can. No more "Hey, if we eat noodles for the first five years, we can afford this mansion!" No more riding high in the Hummer on gas fumes. Pluto is under the influence of Capricorn, and she isn't playing anymore. Pay your bills. Save your money. Stop buying crap. Call your mother. In the immortal words of Reverend Wright (don't tell my Mom I'm quoting him) "The chickens are coming home to roost!"

Anyone else thinking maybe we should not have demoted her from planet-status?

And, just to provide perspective, to let us know what we are dealing with, one astrologer mentioned that the last time Pluto was in Capricorn, it was 1776. Yes, the American- Revolutionary-1776. What the hell does that mean? She was forecasting an "enlightened" revolution. In our own crazy time. Given the War of Independence reference, I am thinking smells-like-victory saddled with massive debt. Mmmm. More debt. Yea.

So, let's just breathe in those fading Sagittarian fumes of optimism. Let's look to the distant star light. Let's celebrate the light and joy that exists in this world, whether the Capricornian dominatrix is banging on the door, or still sleeping off her hang-over. She'll be here for a while. Let us always remember that life is like that star in the sky; no matter how distant and cold it appears, it is the first thing you look for when the daylight fades.

Happiest of New Years to you and yours.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Magical Negroes

Lookee-Lookee! We’re all saddling up (again, damnit?) for some racist boors who created a song that makes fun of President-Elect Barack Obama! The nerve of those poor-losers! But, before we rise and smite them, brothers and sisters, let us dutifully rouse ourselves by overdosing on cable news shows and blogs abou-tit, because somebody must be lambasting somebody right now!

Ohhh, see??? Folks made a parody, transforming “Puff, the Magic Dragon” into “Obama, the Magic Negro”. Terribly clever, don’t you think? Can I get that in a ring tone?

And, please take a moment to commiserate with Poor Peter Yarrow. Back in the hippie-dippie days, his song was banned because somebody misinterpreted it as a pro-marijuana-commie ballad, (Puff the Magic Drag-on! Isn’t it obvious what he was SAYING?) rather than a poignant tale about a boy and his imaginary friend. And, now this. The guy can’t catch a break.

Obama, the Magical Negro. At least “they” didn’t call him “Obama-the-Angry-Negro”, or somehow-worse, “Obama-the-Happy-Negro”. Then we’d all have to saddle up to battle the shade of Uncle Remus (Again? Oh, for cryin’ out loud. Next someone will be throwing Huck Finn on the bonfire). Zippa-dee-doo-dah! Zippa-dee-dayy! My O My … Sorry.

Yet, somehow not sorry enough not to ask: Are we horrified at the characterization of Obama as “Magical” (but he’s a Christian!), or do we protest the label ”Negro” (with the acres of water long flowed under that particular bridge)? Is it that the perpetrators are working from a mind-set situated somewhere on the amusement-disdain-disrespect-hatred continuum? Or, that we, standing at the threshold of some significant victory over the dark hatred that has ever sullied the American Dream, just aren’t going to tolerate any more racist shit?

Me? I can’t seem to get my panties in a twist over this one. Maybe it’s because this issue brings to mind a story told to me about a black theater professional who counseled the white teachers working in a predominantly black school, to develop their own tactics and relationships with their students, rather than relying on black peers –he called them “Magical Negroes” – to solve the hard problems. Was that an insult? Maybe it brings to mind prototypical Magical Negroes in literature and film (Morgan Freeman, Will Smith, Queen Latifah, Denzel Washington – sorry I have to stop; I’m running out of room), who brought a magical wisdom to those who needed a new road in life. Was that an insult? Maybe it’s because I am a Negro, and have the audacity to find myself pretty damned Magical my own self. Is that arrogant? Good.

In fact, I’ll own that and raise you another, because I’m also a woman, complete with all the associated baggage stretching along a similar amusement-disdain-disrespect-hatred continuum. Hell, call me a “Magical Negress”. I think I’ll make T-shirts, and sell them right next to the ones that read, “DANGER! Educated Black Child!”

Honestly.

Because, for me, neither the words “magical” nor “negro” are slurs. Even when the RNC issues an
apology over the flap: "We do not want one ill-considered song parody to create the wrong impression. The Republican Party has always been, and will always be, the friend of the negro." then amended the apology with: “"It has come to our attention that we misused a word in our first apology. We should have capitalized 'Negro.'"

I could not magically make this stuff up.

Isn’t it clear? What is needed is not for some perceived enemy-“they” to recognize “us” as good. What is needed is for “us” to acknowledge (finally, publicly) “us-all” as good. Whatever our magical aptitude. Whatever our origin. “We-all” who spend our time and sweat and souls transforming the world in excruciatingly little ways each day. “We-all” who raise a candle, rather than a pipe bomb. “We-all” who shrug nonsense off. Like silly parodies.

And, if someone comes along with magical ambition to cast a big ol’ world-wide spell? Let me know; I’ll be happy to lend him my magic wand.

Now, put that in your bong, and smoke it.

Friday, December 26, 2008

A Piece of Peace at the New Moon


So, we made it through another High American Holiday. Now, as the year spins down, let us take a moment for ourselves. Are there things left unfinished? Do we rue our mistakes? Are there losses to grieve? Fine. Let’s do all that.
But, also let us celebrate our blessings, bask in the glow of our loved ones, and look upward toward the new opportunities that await.

A fresh road lies ahead, and in this inn by the side of the road, there is time to drink a glass of wine, and share a piece of peace.


Nostrovia!


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!


To the close and the far away

To the dear and the not yet known

To the dour and ever gay

Merry Christmas, every one.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Last Chance for Christmas






















By now, most of the stores have closed. Traffic is dwindling, as the frantic shopping mania finally winds down. The packages are wrapped (well, not mine). The trees sparkle. The candles glow in the windows. Earlier, the rain washed over the paper bag luminaries, but now people are out setting them aright along the streets of this neighborhood. Church services have begun. It’s standing room only in the abbey down the road. All is calm.

And, finally, it’s really, truly Christmas time.

Quick! While it’s quiet:

I wish you light, and love and joy. I wish you a full heart. I wish you love never-ending.

Merry Christmas every one.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Star Bright


There’s something about a star at Christmas …

I have two neighbors who hang Moravian Stars each Christmas.
I haven’t anything special to say about it. I just love the way these stars glow in the night, and wanted to share.
































The wreath looks great too.










Monday, December 22, 2008

100 Things


Copying my pal, Buschini ...

1. Started your own blog (May 2008)
2. Slept under the stars (Camping)
3. Played in a band (sorry elementary school orchestra)
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower (Valley Forge Park, freezing)
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland (Went to Disneyworld first)
8. Climbed a mountain (Guess climbing in a car doesn’t count!)
9. Held a praying mantis (watched them in the grass instead)
10. Sang a solo (Sweet Little Jesus Boy, June is Busting out All Over!)
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris (Not yet)
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea (Sorry - I was on the beach, like an idiot)
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch (I can barely draw in class)
15. Adopted a child (Not yet)
16. Had food poisoning (I love seafood, but …)
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown your own vegetables (Bad pumpkins, good peppers)
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight (Yea!)
22. Hitch hiked (It was the 70s)
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill (Doesn’t really count, because my boss knew)
24. Built a snow fort (yea!)
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping (It was the 70s)


27. Run a Marathon (pant, pant … no)
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse (twice)
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run (It was the 70s)
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person (So much better than I thought it would be!)
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community (Lancaster Co. is an hour away. Can’t believe that I drive slower than Maryanne)
36. Taught yourself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied (It ain't the money)
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo's David
41. Sung karoke (naturally)
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant (Are they a stranger if you introduce yourself?)
44. Visited Africa (same as 34)
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance (This year. Herniated disc. Yeah, that was great.)
47. Had your portrait painted (Guess drawn don’t count)
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling (Snorkeling in the Bahamas. There’s this old barracuda around Paradise Island…)
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud

54. Gone to a drive-in theater (It was the 70s)
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen (I stink)
61. Sold Girl Scout cookies (Boxes and boxes.)
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving (parasailing is not the same, is it?)
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check (I am so very, very sorry ...)
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy (I don’t know that I had a favorite)
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar
72. Pieced a quilt (I can knit, crochet, and cross-stich, though)
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone (ankle, playing Kick Ball)

78. Maryanne skipped 78, so I do not know what it is. Oh! Cherie had it: Been on a speeding motorcycle. I was on a slowww motorcycle. 'Cus I was a kid.
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car (Oh, THAT’S why I’m still broke!)
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper (Being hit in the head with a Frisbee at a stadium concert. It was the ... oh never mind)
85. Read the entire Bible (I'm such a pagan baby!)
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury! (Robbery trial)
91. Met someone famous (Sally Starr)
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake (only walked on the shore)
97. Been involved in a lawsuit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee
100. Read an entire book in one day (See, it was really good …)


Guess I have a lot of work to do! ;-)

Christmas Nation











Snowy early Solstice morning in Malvern









Three days until Christmas, and the natives are freaking out.
Too much to do, buy, think about …
Too many lights, carols, scented candles, plastic garlands …
Too many people you know, don’t know, brush past in the ever-expanding crowds …
Too many stores, web ads, and sales that don’t even make sense anymore …

Christmas Nation is rising, morphing into a full-throated beast in mid-frenzy. It shouts in our ears and tugs at our coats. It assaults our senses, and over-stimulates our children. We fear we cannot handle it. And, some of us are right.

Worse, it’s spreading a contagious disease: Wuntumani-itus. You’ve gone to one too many parties, baked one too many batches of cookies, had one too many drinks at the office party, and your hand starts shaking when you write that last “Happy Holidays!” with gold-glitter ink on that last card. Maybe it’s the flu. Maybe you’re going over the edge.

Because, now you are snarling at the nice woman who gave you the parking space at the mall where you rushed to pick up something for the Pollyanna your daughter forgot to tell you about … that’s tomorrow. And, the line’s ten deep at Claire’s Boutique, because you’re not the only parent needing a Sophie Sweet beaded purse for tomorrow’s Pollyanna. And, of course, your daughter has to go to the bathroom down the dark back mall hall where you wouldn’t even travel alone.

Your Christmas bonus was disappointing, because you don’t have a corner office, or the hope of a golden parachute. And, since you’ve bought into the Christmas-means-presents dogma for years, you worry that you won’t be able to do enough. And, you just wish you could skip the whole thing.

Then, your daughter says, “Look Mom! It’s snowing!”

You look up as the flakes drift downward, illuminated like tiny falling stars by the parking lot lights, and you don’t think that the snow-blower’s broken, or that the morning rush hour will be hell.

You just say, “Yeah,” and return her smile.

O Holy Night …

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Blessed Solstice

Stars burn bright in the indigo night where the wheel of time rolls onward.







Pre-Dawn, Winter Solstice in Malvern


Time is a hard illusion, even on winter solstice, the darkest day of the year. Today, the Lord of Night celebrates his zenith. And, look! He takes care to invite his golden brother to the banquet, because he knows his days are numbered. He knows that the Lord of Light, feeble, nearly spent, begins his ascendancy this day. Today, the wheel turns, the pendulum swings, and the light grows slightly brighter. The days will grow longer, the Dark Lord will grow weaker, and his brother will pass him on the wheel, carried upward. And, six months from now, it will be he who comes, weak, and nearly spent to his brother’s banquet. To rise.

So, as you hustle and bustle, regardless of your beliefs, I counsel you to stop. Even as you count up all the things of life you must attend to. Even as you hold your patience like the first egg of the next season. Even as dusk comes too damned early. Even as the indifferent wheel keeps turning. Stop. Look up. The sky is dark. The stars are bright. And, for this moment, time pauses.

But, only for a moment, before the universe rolls on.

Blessings to you and yours.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Hey Mom!







My mother was born in 1932, during the Great Depression.































Between that one, and the one impending, she matured,









(Mom's on the right)















went to college,















married my father,






















gave birth to my brother and me, worked, got divorced, retired, welcomed grandchildren into the world,





re-married my father, and still can never remain idle for any significant time period.











My mother loves to travel, and loves her family. She is brilliant, and has a ridiculous attraction to puns. She plays piano and organ for a church, and taught me to read tarot cards and cast astrology charts. She worked in Editorial at TV Guide Magazine, and tortured me about spelling and grammar. She loves animals and attracts crazy people. She will try to help anyone, and still must learn when it is time to step back. She sees beauty in places no one thinks to look, carries a noticeable cache if love wherever she goes (did I mention that she attracts crazy people)? She is a light in the world, and has more angel jewelry than ... an angel. I love her.
She has told me that her guardian angel is exhausted. I say he might want to call for back-up.

Hey, Mom!

Happy Birthday!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Big Ol' Moon


"We're sulking like children in the moonlight, aa-ooh" -- Gomez












Moon over Malvern







Celestial bodies, like human bodies, relate. They circle each other. They fly-by, in silence or in flames. . They enter each other’s orbits, commune, and then pass on, leaving a disturbance in their wake. They converge and move apart in a rhythm known only to them and those who study such things. They dance as we do, but blessedly, rarely touch, for those are the catastrophes from which gods are born.


Tonight, the vagaries of the Earth-Moon orbit bring our ancient satellite closer to the Northern Hemisphere (read that: bigger and brighter) than it has been in the past 15 years.

Howl.






















Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Holidays are for Touching

Looking for the Spirit of Christmas? If you are looking for the spirit of anything, it’s best to look for the heart of it. In the case of our late-year holidays, start with your own heart, and then reach for the heart of those you love, or like, or just pass on the street (Hell, see how many stalkers you can collect!).

Don’t look for the spirit of Christmas in a box. You won’t find it. It’s not under the tree. It’s not in the mall. It’s not in the bottom of that third cup of cheer. Your favorite holiday carol uplifts you. Is it still a Holly, Jolly Christmas when you’re in line at Target, and that kid keeps activating the singing animatron snowman? Christmas lights are beautiful, and Christmas candles are welcoming. The 50,000 light display next door might stop traffic, but it does not represent the spirit of Christmas.

That diamond gleaming in the spotlight of the jeweler’s window may make her gasp, but I tell you, it’s not the key to her heart. If she say’s differently, then go in search of a spirit that resides in a better lock. Ditto for anyone thinking of parking a new car in the garage with a big red bow. Christmas does not come with a $50,000 price tag.

A holiday comes with a smile, a hug, a kiss, a laugh, a passion for touching another being with meaning. A holiday is a holiday when we establish a connection – by want or design, or by chance – and the song has meaning, and the lights soften, and the man in line smiles a greeting, and a letter arrives, and that movie plays, a child sleeps, and the snow falling on a silent night is more valuable that all the gifts offered in all the sales. And, we touch.

And, our spirits touch.

So I wish you a Merry Christmas. Happy Hanukkah. Happy Kwanzaa. Happy Eid. Blessed Yule. Did I miss anyone?

Well, then come get a hug.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Dear Santa, Please ...

‘Tis the season to lament the commercialization of the Holidays.

Too many decorations. Too many stylish TV commercials suggesting a Lexus as the perfect gift for the wife that puts up with your nonsense all year. Too many presents. Too much food. Too, too much all-around greed that gets in the way of the things the holidays are meant to celebrate: love, togetherness, connections, hope, care …

And, there are the companions – the too littles: Too little charity, too little compassion, too little faith in the light of the human soul.

Yet every season, when I fear the Christmas Spirit has finally passed me by – when I think that the frenetic shopping, and the Black Friday orgies; the ten pound newspapers (9.6 lbs of ads, thank you paperboy! I won’t forget your bonus.); the grown women fighting over mall parking spaces; the miles of evergreen carcasses have finally killed Christmas – there comes a moment that resurrects the yuletide spirit in my soul.

Sometimes it’s a song on the radio. Sometimes it’s a quiet candle glowing in a window, or the moon shining blue on the snow. Maybe it’s Linus articulating, or George Bailey rediscovering the meaning of Christmas. Or, my new holiday favorite
Love Actually (I always tear up at the Portuguese restaurant scene). At that moment, in whatever form it comes, my soul literally opens up like a flower, and I remember:

“Oh! THIS is Christmas!”


This year, my moment came when CNN paused long enough in it’s coverage of the economic crises, with its stock markets and bailouts and holiday lay-offs to find another angle. It seems children are writing to Santa (the one who lives in the Post Office) to ask not for Wiis or the last Bratz® Dolls or games or balls or chartreuse cell phones.

No, they are writing something like this:

Dear Santa,

I am not writing for toys this year. My Dad lost his job. Do you think you could bring him a new one? We had to move in with my Grand Ma and Pop-Pop. If Dad gets a new job, we can move back into our house. That would be cool. Also, my baby sister needs diapers and wipes. My Mom needs medicine for her asthma, and I would like a new coat, because my old one is too small. My grandma makes good dinners, but needs more food for all of us. Hope that’s not too much to ask.

Love, Jilly


Memo to Santa: Jilly should get all that she wishes for this Christmas.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Butterflies are Free ... or Freedom ... or ...

Lori of the Skoog Farm Journal granted me this wonderful Butterfly Award, Thank you Lori! If you have not read her blog, please take a look-see. She and her husband Gary keep horses, a dog, a cat (who seems to have them), and grow flowers, vegetables, and the best garlic I have ever tasted. Lori is addicted to photography and life.

I like to share my thoughts, but I love to read the thought and daily travels of others. Life is full when we choose it to be so, no matter our circumstances. And, if my reading is any indication, there are a lot of bloggers who have chosen fullness. To all who pass by thanks for coming, and to all I pass by, thanks for being there.

Now, it is time to pay some butterflies forward.

Butterfly awards rules (do butterflies have rules???)

Place the logo on your blog
Add a link to the person who awarded you
Nominate 10 (or whatever number you choose) other blogs for this award
Add links to those blogs
Leave a message for your nominees on their blogs
Give a reason why you consider their blogs cool

OK!

Ken Mac of Greenwich Village Daily Photo offers up the best of the Village and beyond. I am particularly fond of his road trips and architectural delights. And, every once in a while, he inserts a human to provide context. Ha!

San's A Life with a View mixes art with life in a riot of colorful canvases, people, emotions, and open-eyed joy! Read her blog and you not only know just how she feels, but may actually feel her vibe coming in from the desert.


Cherie over at Baba Yaga's Mirror is another lover of horses who captures photos full of quiet beauty, and has this surprising, full-throated spirituality that just makes my day.

Lori stole Esther over at Ishtar News, AND Rebecca at Just a Thought, and Spartacus Jones does not do such things, so I'll close by saying, "Life is like (fill in the blank).

Monday, December 1, 2008

Naked














My First Nude


















I say I am not protective of my personal privacy, but that's not completely true.

If you ask, I will tell you a great many things about myself that others would consider quite personal. Do you want to know my political opinions, religious beliefs, social and economic circumstances, or how I feel about my family? Inquire to any depth you like. Care to know my phobias (I have two), my dreams (a multitude), what brings me to tears (Hey – have you seen those Hallmark commercials?)? I will give you a straight answer, without asking you why you wish to know. There are so many pieces of information and bits of “private matter” that people guard closely, and so many “secrets” reserved solely for their nearest and dearest. And, I look at the quality of all this stuff, and can only wonder why it warrants such a high security clearance.

I am a bit out of tune with the security protocols of American society. Oh, I can keep a secret from the best of them, provided that I actually understand that it is a secret. And, I have practiced recognizing sensitive information (Is that a secret? Is that embarrassing? Does anyone care?). I will admit, however, that I must regularly admonish myself against asking questions that breach the privacy halo, so if I ever violate yours, I apologize. Please forgive me. I just don’t get what all the fuss is about.

But.

I have these rogue, soft, tender spots that I shield from the world. I know – we all do. But, I am a sky-wide-open being! Why am I afflicted? Is it a rash? Where did it come from? And, can I buy a cure? See, these spots are very tender. If you touch one, I will flinch. If one of my spots is exposed to full daylight, I can actually feel it scurrying back into the shadows.

Then, I will say to myself, “How odd,”
Or, if I am really afflicted: “Shit!”

Which is a roundabout way which brings me to tonight’s Basic Drawing class lesson: model drawing. We had drawn our model once before, practicing quick sketches of her in her black leotard with the wee flowers around the neck, and her turban (let’s not freak out trying to draw hair!). When I entered the class tonight, she waved merrily from her platform. I was happy to see her. Such a warm person! I turned to open my portfolio, and when I raised my head, she had taken off her robe, and stood naked in all her glory.

I was stunned.

It wasn’t because of some errant strain of Puritanism running through my blood (we Americans are too prickly about nudity). And, it wasn’t envy, though I find it unfair that I do not have a body like hers. No, it was the sheer suddenness of her transformation. She was there, and then she was exposed. For a second, my training kicked in, and I actually lowered my eyes to preserve her privacy. I quickly recovered (see above). This was art, after all! And, there she stood, then reclined, then sat, a forgiving muse to our tentative efforts.

But, that first shock came back to me later, reminding me of my own feelings of exposure. Those times when I feel challenged, or set upon, or discounted, or probed for all the wrong reasons. See, at my best, I stand naked, like our model, owning the exposure, and staring back into the eyes of all who seek entry. And, my nakedness is nothing more than a reason to expose my skin to the cool air, the warm sun, and all the other wild vagaries of life.

But, there are the other times when I just feel Naked. When someone touches a tender spot I thought concealed or a weakness I had forgotten. Then my hands rise to cover my breasts, my legs cross to shield my vagina, my lids lower to hood my eyes, and I reach for my robe.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Horse Photos for Lori

Galen took these photos for you on the way to Thanksgiving dinner:



Belated Thanksgiving Wishes!

I'm a day late wishing everyone a Blessed Thanksgiving. I was down at my parents, and returned too late. My, but my family can TALK! :-)

What am I thankful for? Family and friends, of course; strength and good health (sort of); joy and passion; food and a warm home; hope for a better day in America; endless opportunties for education and expansion of consciousness; endless opportunities for creative expression, and political expression; variable weather; plants and animals, sky and soil, grass and sea; the first blue of dawn and the depth of twilight; and you.

What do I worry about? War, hate, lies that impact the world, crime, pain, loss of hope, voiceless victims, and unpunished victors. From the dawn of time, we have possessed an endless capacity to love, to laugh and bring joy. We have also possessed an equal capacity to hate, fear, and exercise our selfishness. We have stolen from each other, and pushed each other away. We have fought each other on every continent, and keep finding more reasons to do so.

I pray that next Thanksgiving the light will have pushed back the darkness, not just in the words of any victor who happens to be telling the tale, but in the hearts of all.

Blessings to you.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Rage Lives Here

“Earth is an insane asylum, to which the other planets deport their lunatics."
– Voltaire











Photo by: Stuti Sakhalkar





And, by "here", I mean the entirety of our Planet Earth.

How else to explain the burning emotions that unaccountably overflow each time we ease off the guard, and turn our heads toward a light we hope will illuminate the next day, or week, or – dare we say it – year? How else to explain how the world hopes with us, yet seems unwilling to wait for a new dawn that could be thwarted like the old dawns that came before? How else to explain the bombers who sacrifice their flesh on the streets of Baghdad and Afghanistan? How else to explain the rebels who rape and slaughter in Somalia, and the military that support them? How else to explain the persecutions in Tibet and Bangladesh? How else to explain the men with guns who prowled hotels, restaurants and markets in Mumbai today, seeking US and British hostages? Rage lives here.

Just when we gather together, line up and vote for Hope we are reminded. Just when we believe that we need only exercise patience to realize the time when we can lift our heads and return to our lives, we are reminded. Just when we believe the economy will stabilize, and that we can return to our shopping centers and well-designed recreation complexes, our fully-funded libraries, and our jobs with full benefits and 6% raises, we are reminded that rage lives here.

It is the imbalance that enrages us. Too much plenty while others starve. Too much greed when others struggle. Too much theft of land and culture and resources and spirit, when others are decimated, pushed under, and left to scrabble for crumbs in the sand, left by those who hold the power – in this present.

And we can tut-tut the tactics. We can bring our own answering rage to bear against those cast as "the enemy". We can build armies and fleets, and more sophisticated weapons. We can loose our diplomats, as a matter of form. We can stack the councils, out-maneuver unwieldy international organizations, and bribe influence the leaders of uncooperative countries.

Meanwhile, discomfort rises to dissatisfaction. Dissatisfaction congeals into disenfranchisement. The disenfranchised organize and, sooner or later, stop protesting and start learning to wield automatic weapons. Because, rage lives here. And, if we do not recognize it, acknowledge it, and address it, we can only fortify our homesteads, and dread the day when we are the ones who consume – and are consumed by – our own rage.

We are connected, all of us. And, we must choose well, lest our connection reveal a painful truth: the rage we fight lives within.


But, we knew that all along.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Caged America













Photo: Jenn Vargas





There is this air of superiority we emit when considering our prison population.

“Do the crime? Do the time.”

"Animals belong in cages.”

And my personal favorite:
“They MUST have done something, or they wouldn’t be in such trouble.”

As the prison population climbs, we feel safer. The beasts are locked away, and the world is a better place. We don’t stop to wonder: Why are the numbers rising? What are the real crimes? Why are they increasing? Who are the criminally branded? We don’t take into account the politics associated with determining who goes to prison, and who is given a pass. Financial resources, race, geographic location, social forces all factor into who is incarcerated and who remains free. We care nothing about the source of these prisoners; we simply support the building of more prisons, and switch the channel on our flat-screen TVs.

Hey, it’s just the times, right?

If you run afoul of the law, and have the money to hire a competent lawyer (read that: not a public defender buried in too many cases, and not an assignee lacking motivation), then you’re as golden as OJ: The Murder Trial Years. If not, you’re in Plea-Bargain Hell, wondering why judge, jury, bailiff and spectators surround you in a circle of glare, faces illuminated with that menacing Twilight Zone spotlight. And, if you are brown or black, be prepared for a dose of extra judgment based, in part, on the near-hysteria of the local evening news.

“Gosh! We’re surrounded by criminals!”

Commit a crime in the South or Southwest? Decision point: Does your Daddy have pull? No? Get in that cell, son.

Yes, I know. I know. The violent and recalcitrant exist. The greedy and immoral plague us. The psychotic and incorrigible walk with impunity. We need protection and punishment, and that slippery dream of rehabilitation. But, when some are given a pass based on class or an arbitrary ruling on the significance of their crime (ghetto crack vs. middle-class cocaine, white collar vs. blue collar, high profile vs. low profile when the profile is determined by the media), while others receive a wink based solely upon who they are, we can safely call the system corrupt.

And, the times? The times, they are intolerant. This is not the time to be a prisoner in these United States, but it is certainly a good time to own a prison. Yes, I said: “Own a Prison.” Because, we all know that the private sector is highly competent in making enterprises work, while the government is a collection of boobs who could not find their asses in their underwear. It’s all about efficiency, right?

So, Hey! Let’s privatize prisons! It’ll be like mortuaries! There’s never a shortage of the dead or the wicked! And, let’s sell stock. It’ll RAIN MONEY! And, then we can incarcerate more prisoners, and keep those already incarcerated behind bars longer, and – Did I mention that it will positively RAIN MONEY??

You see, those people gave up their rights when they picked up a gun, or copped a rock, or stole a chicken, or car-jacked, or smacked their wife, or robbed our neighbor or …

Hell, who ARE these people, anyway?

Geez! Who cares?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

California Burning

No more water,
No more water,
No more water, but fire next time.

– Darius Brooks






War. Fear. Flood.
Bombs. Scorn. Wind.
Greed. Hate. Fire.
There are those who believe that the “end times” approach. There are others who claim (with a disconcerting mixture of determination and delight) that we are being punished for our transgressions. Still others quietly wait within the shadows for all to fall, leaving a clean slate for the building of a better America.


Then, there are those who fight. Fight! Fight! Fight!

When the floods came to New Orleans, and Indiana, and Mississippi, they brought potable water, drove ambulances, and filled sandbags until their hands became numb. When the winds rose in the Caribbean, Texas and the Carolinas, they boarded over windows, trucked out their neighbors, and set up safe shelters and reliable communication networks. They heard the call, and came, and stayed until the troubles passed.

Now, in California, the Santa Ana winds have inflated wildfires into giants, and blown them into the realm of man. And, the firemen have come to fight. They labor to exhaustion, knowing that the fires have no preference or conscience, and cannot be reasoned with. They know fire has no score to settle, no divine message to deliver. Fire cares not whether it consumes back-country scrub, or trailer, or mansion. It is a force of nature, and can neither be bidden nor ignored. Still, the firemen fight, knowing that battle is the only thing that will tamp down the giants.















Photo: Beth Adelson



Meanwhile, in California and across the country, another inferno gains strength. We, in the land of the free, have (once again) notified our brothers and sisters that our freedom is not designed to be their freedom; that God has pre-ordained that their state of man is a lesser form than ours. A majority of Americans in California, Arizona and Florida voted to forbid the institution of marriage to gay men and women – and felt right about it.

But, here too, champions have stepped forward, have raised their voices in support of human rights. They know that bigotry and hatred cannot be reasoned with; that those who hate may have a score to settle, but no divine message to deliver; that those who oppose them would consume them, and move on, with a song on their lips. But, those who fight are fast becoming a force of nature in their own right. They will neither be bidden to stand down, nor ignored. They know that the battle is the only thing that will tamp down the giants of intolerance.


And, I applaud the heroes and heroines who fought today. All those who battled to preserve their rights and property, all those who defended the homes and civil liberties of their neighbors, and all those who fought on behalf of those they did not know personally, but recognized in spirit. Without their reinforcement, we would have fallen long ago.

Fight! Fight! Fight!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Politics of Love

“Marriage. Marriage is what brings us together today. Marriage that blessed arrangement. That dream within a dream.”
- The Impressive Clergyman from “The Princess Bride”


"Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination."
- Bible: KJ Version, Leviticus 18:22





(Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times)


Honest to God.

Of all the prohibitions in the Bible, THIS is the one that gives us nightmares? Of all the sins we commit each day, THIS generates the greatest angst? THIS we rise up against? The fact that a man loves a man, or a woman cleaves to a woman is the best line in the sand we can draw when the world is crumbing around out ears?

Last week, Californians, Arizonans and Floridians – upstanding citizens all, I gather – passed ballot measures designed to curb same-sex marriage.

I have to ask: What were you all thinking? Exactly what do you think you are fighting (for)?

Interestingly, California Proposition 8 passed with significant support from African-Americans. Given the historical prohibitions on interracial marriage (not to mention the problems with slave marriage) y’all should know better. The result is that Californians voted to take away the rights of their neighbors. Think about that for a moment. Voted to take away a right. Relationships that are, frankly, none of our business, caused them to rise up and say:

“Screw you! Your love is anathema. Back in the closet for you, Chester!”

So, Why?

Do you fear that civilization will disintegrate under the weight of too much “different” love? Does the joy of those who don’t match your online dating profile bring you pain? Or, is this puzzle more twisted? Perhaps you hope a law will save you from something hidden within YOUR heart. I have to tell you: No law will do that, because love, like everything else always finds a way.

Frankly, As long as two people are in a position to consent, I don’t give a #@&% who they #@&%. Do you? Do you really?

We are - each one of us - unique. Differentiated by sex and skin and faith and sensibility, we stand as one. We are - each of us - exactly as created, and if God wanted it differently, she would make it so.

And, still we come together.

So, get over yourselves.

And, get use to it.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Philly Drive-Bys

Drive-By Photos from the Schuykill Expressway (November):







South Street Overpass with Stickmen











The Philly Zoo Balloon










The Skyline from the road










Boathouse Row from a distance










Drive-Bys at Night (August)









In the shadow of the Art Museum











Boathouse Row






Cira Centre (my favorite) from a fountain in Eakins Oval

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Haitian (Fill in the Blank)



















(Photo from Reuters)


Quick word association exercise: I name a national identity, and you tell me the first word that comes to mind. Ready?

American.
Ingenuity? Capitalism? Freedom? Baseball? Apple Pie? Hot dogs? Water boarding?

Turkish.
Delight? Armenian? Coffee?

Tahitian.
Dreams? Exotica? Gauguin?

British.
Resolve? Empire? Tea? Chips?

French.
Cuisine? Culture? Toast? Freedom Fries?

Cuban.
Cigars? Socialism? Music?

Italian.
Wine? Cars? Passion?

Haitian.
Poverty? Disease? Hurricanes?

Yeah. Haiti. Out poor cousin (did they ask into this Western Hemisphere clan?).

And, now the La Promesse School has collapsed piling outrage upon despair. The death toll has risen to 93 as I write this, with 150 injured, and an unknown number missing – hardly a blip on an international conscience that can hardly raise its weary head for less than a thousand casualties. Hurricane, tsunamis, earthquakes, war, suicide bombings, famine – all have battered our sensibilities until we react to these “smaller” incidents with a numb stare.

Honey, let’s flip to “The Amazing Race”. The kids are in the room.

But, this tragedy must be measured by the impact to an already assaulted people, not by the body count. The Republic of Haiti has been visited by Mistress Iniquity since its birth-by-slave-rebellion, and foreign occupation, international interference, dictatorship, environmental destruction, and economic instability are just members of her posse.

This year alone, the country has been devastated by multiple hurricanes, tropical storms, and erosion-related floods. The people have weathered food riots, wrestling with an economy that lags behind the rest of the hemisphere, and most of the world. They have neither the resources nor the political will to enforce the building codes we take for granted.

Haitian parents labor all year to earn the necessary tuition to educate their children out of poverty. Now they stand vigil by the wreckage of the very institution upon which they built their hopes for the future, and they pray for a miracle. Local and International rescue teams (UN, Doctors without Borders, the Red Cross, US, French Martinique, and Canada) have responded, and yesterday, four children were pulled from the rubble - alive.

No one has been rescued since.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Hell, Yeah!










Photos from Huffington Post







A little while ago, I wrote about the phenomenon of thought ideas and circumstances converging to bring a lesson home. You might be thinking of something, and, suddenly your thoughts are played out in the action of others on the street. The contents of some random dream you have appear in an editorial column. A conversation you overhear plays out in a sit-com that evening. Life is always like that, no?

So tonight, I am in my class, Revolutionary and Federalist America, watching a film (yes, the professor took pity on us) about the creation of the Constitution. All those forefathers long ago turned to dust. I wondered what they would think about the America of today. Would they think we had realized their ambitious and messy dream? Would they marvel at how far we had progressed (or strayed, depending on your point of view)? Would they see this Presidential Election as the natural outcome of their grand experiment? Or would they shake their heads at the circus (truth to be told, not the first circus in this world)?

I could not WAIT to get to my car, and hear the early returns.

Just as I turned on the radio, NPR called Pennsylvania for Barack Obama. I nearly burst into years. See, just two days ago, I received video of a crowd of people who live just a few miles away from me. After a;; these years, they were still willing to call him an A-rab, a terrorist, a socialist, a ... There was one kid (he could not have been thirty!) who said he could never accept a black man as President. These were people who told this to a stranger with a video camera. What must they say in the privacy of their basements? I was ashamed of these fellow Pennsylvanians. Can we really have made so little progress after all?

But: "Pennsylvania has been called for Obama."

Followed by a whole bunch of other states.

George? James? Ben? Patrick? Alexander?

Can I get a, "Hell, yeah!"?

Just now: "NBC has just projected Barack Obama as the next President of the United States".

Hell, yeah.


Today's the Day

By now, you have heard all the arguments. You may have been in few of them yourself. It is much too late for me to be campaigning in your face about the candidates, issues, or political parties.

You've heard everything you have chosen to hear, and you have either listened or turned off.

You have chosen.
Or you haven't, and will when you finally step into the voting booth.
Or you won't.

You will do what you have always done. Or, maybe on this turn of the wheel, you will feel the need to respond differently, somehow.

Maybe in a hundred years it won't matter what happened here and now. The thing is, you are here and now.

Do you have something to say?

Monday, November 3, 2008

Wordie

Maryanne sent me this website (Thanks Maryanne).
It's an app that creates "word clouds" from your text.

If you like to play with words, click on the graphic below of one I just created ...



It says:

A dream is a trick of the mind
That counsels us to reach
To stretch,
To dream again
And in dreaming, stretch
And in stretching, reach
And in reaching step into our dream
Or fall to earth
To dream …

Hey, I need to stop staying up so late ...

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Christmas? Naw - Not Yet!

I was driving into town yesterday, skipping through the radio stations, and stopped in SHOCK (surfing the radio, not the Expressway). A station was playing CHRISTMAS MUSIC! Christmas music? It's 73 degrees outside.

Now, this station will play holiday music all season long. Happy, jolly, Burl Ives; poignant, mellow, Nat King Cole (and his ersatz daughter); rockin', boppin', country, jazzy, secular, hymnal season fare for every taste all the way through November and December. I like Christmas Music, but when somebody decides that 'Tis the Season starts after Hallowe'en I can't handle it.

So, I flipped them off.