Friday, June 22, 2018

The first days of the summer of 2018 / Looking east from my porch

Octavia Butler Meditation

"All that you touch
You Change.

All that you Change
Changes you.

The only lasting truth
Is Change.

is Change."

(am's note: from a set of beliefs called Earthseed that is practiced by the main characters in Parable of the Sower)

“The child in each of us 
Knows paradise.
Paradise is home.
Home as it was 
Or home as it should have been.

Paradise is one's own place,
One's own people,
One's own world,
Knowing and known,
Perhaps even 
Loving and loved.

Yet every child 
Is cast from paradise-
Into growth and new community,
Into vast, ongoing
Change.” ― Octavia E. ButlerParable of the Sower

“I'm a 48-year-old writer who can remember being a 10-year-old writer and who expects someday to be an 80-year-old writer. I'm also comfortably asocial -- a hermit in the middle of Los Angeles -- a pessimist if I'm not careful, a feminist, a Black, a former Baptist, an oil-and-water combination of ambition, laziness, insecurity, certainty, and drive.” ― Octavia E. Butler

“There is no end
To what a living world
Will demand of you.” ― Octavia E. ButlerParable of the Sower

With gratitude to Rosemarie at 37 Paddington for bringing the work of Octavia Butler to my attention last year.  Along with Toni Morrison and, in the past few days, Daša Drndić, I know of no writer who has reached me and moved me on a visceral level in the way that Octavia Butler did in Parable of the Sower.  

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Trieste, by Daša Drndić / Confronting the masters of racism, poverty and war

This performance was in 1994 in the UK.

Jun 17, 1994:   Former president Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn have responded to an invitation to visit North Korea. Press reports today, following Carter's meeting with Kim Il-sung, describe astonishment by the United States and the International Atomic Energy Agency at Kim's agreement to stop his nuclear research program.

Nov 8, 1994:   In the US, elections give Republicans control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate for the first time in 40 years. Republicans gained, and the Democrats lost, 54 seats in the House and 8 seats in the Senate. It is to be called the Republican Revolution. Analysts describe the Republican success as the result of perceptions that House leadership has been corrupt, dislike for President Clinton's support for health care reform and gun control measures and homosexuals in the military. Some Republicans consider Rush Limbaugh, popular radio talk show host, as instrumental in the Republican landslide.

Finishing reading Daša Drndić's book, Trieste, in the last few days when separation of children from their parents is being confronted has heightened my visceral awareness of the three evils of racism, poverty and war that were spoken of by Martin Luther King, Jr.  It was at this time last year that I read Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower and experienced human brutality and human resilience viscerally.

This is the summer to be reading Trieste, which is a novel in the form of a collage of brutal visceral experiences that surround and are inside the story of a woman who waited for sixty-two years to be reunited with her son who, as a small child, was stolen from her by the Nazis as part of Himmler's lebensborn project.  

I am still absorbing all I have learned by reading this novel that was brought to my attention by a blog friend in Scotland.  Something that stood out for me toward the end of the novel were these words by Werner Dubois while on trial for war crimes in World War II:

"The camp was only a chain of command and if one link had failed, the whole system would have collapsed ... We did not have the courage to disobey."

As I read this,

I wondered if this could be where the collapse of the Republican Party system begins?

In  Trieste, Croatian writer Daša Drndić goes to great lengths to give testimonies of those once anonymous and largely uneducated pawns like Werner Dubois who made their meager living working for Hitler and his followers.  Who are the anonymous people now who are being paid to do the work that assures that children are kept apart from their parents and that families are detained indefinitely?

Here is another review of Trieste.  

The questions are never-ending.  There are no easy answers.  No action too small.

Here's one more blogging voice you may not have heard before in response to the children separated from their parents.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Witnesses to the effects of the experience of being separated from one's parents / Confronting the reality of childhood physical, emotional and sexual abuse

As I listened to the official statements on this video, justifying separating children from their parents not that long ago, I heard this voice:

Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity (Martin Luther King, Jr.)

Today I heard Madeleine Dion Stout, too, among others who spoke on the video and who give me hope:

"... I'd like us all to be part of a team that really makes a lasting difference for not only residential school survivors but the other little children who are having difficulty today."

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Father's Day Meditation 2018

I love the Google doodle for Father's Day 2018.

This young woman dedicated "Father of Night" to her father.

Hmmmm.  When I checked my blog reading list this Father's Day morning, the first new post was "About books."

My father (perhaps in rebellion against his own father or from a feeling of inadequacy in connection with his own father's ability to not only read all the great books of his time and become a lawyer as well as write a few books of his own) was not a reader, although he did read Moby Dick after I gave him a copy in the early 1980s, hoping that he would not miss the profound experience I had of reading that book.  There was something about the book that I thought might speak to him.  It seems that it did. He was proud of my ability, something like his father's, to read extensively and write well.  It was only in his last years that he bought books that he enjoyed and wanted to share with me.  I bristled at his choice of books for me.  They were all books about a form of television Christianity that he had embraced in the last ten years of his life.  I couldn't read them, but I could begin to accept the love with which they were given.

In the last years of his life, my father wrote a book, an extensive autobiography, and dedicated it to his only grandson.

He included a wealth of photographs and memorabilia from his long life, including the bill for his home birth in Minneapolis in 1914 and a sweet photo of him as a baby.  It has been healing for me to look at that photo of him in the first year of life in the years after he died at age 89 in 2003.  I am grateful for all he shared about how important his work was to him and what he shared about his life growing up in Minnesota and what he shared about the rest of his life in California, beginning in the late 1930s.

I can't be absolutely sure but my best guess is that it was my father who took that photo of me looking at a book when I was about two years old.  I must have been about that old when I was playing on the carpet of our apartment and heard him say proudly to someone, "Listen to her, she is going to be a lawyer."  Rebellious in the same way he was, my two-year-old self thought but did not say, "No, I won't.  I will NOT be a lawyer."

Ha!  I am grateful that my father didn't say, "Look at her.  She is going to love books and learn to write well."

My earliest visual memory of my father is in 1954, when I was three or perhaps four years old and he was 40 years old, when he had the nearly full head of dark hair that he had when the Navy photo was taken around 1945.  By the time I was in grade school, he was balding and greying.  Due to his work for Standard Oil (later Chevron), he was only at home in the evenings and on weekends, when not away on frequent business trips.  I learned to accept his absence and not to expect closeness with him.  I learned to distance myself from him the way my mother did.  It has occurred to me in recent years that he may have been on the Asperger's side of the autism spectrum.  He loved us in his way and worked hard to support our family, working as a systems analyst.  It was work that he thoroughly enjoyed.  His autobiography's main focus was his work.  He didn't mention his love of flowers and gardening and baseball and archaeology and woodcarving.  When I tend my porch garden, I think of my father.  When my attention is drawn to baseball in any way, I think of my father.  The same thing happens with anything to do with archaeology or woodcarving.

Here is my porch garden in the first few moments after the sun began to shine on my porch this early morning.  The first golden Day Lily opened a few days ago.  Blooming along with them are Sweet William (my father took the name William as a young man, using "Carl" -- the name chosen for him by his parents -- as a middle name, for the rest of his life).  I didn't intentionally plant Sweet William.  They were simply part of a seed mix I planted years ago.  Of all the seeds in that mixture, the Sweet William have been the hardiest.  You can also see some yellow Coreopsis, a red Begonia, and some orange Wallflowers.  Next to bloom will be Shasta daisies and Crocosmia and deep pink Chrysanthemums.  Not so visible in the photo but blooming nonetheless is Salvia microphylla, also known as Hot Lips Sage, with its wonderfully fragrant tiny leaves.

Father's Day is a bittersweet day for many of us.  Each year I write about my distant father he becomes more real and human and close to me, and I feel safer in allowing myself to love him and be loved by him.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

I looked up and saw a single star / Spring rain seen and heard from my porch / Virginia rail

When I looked up from my laptop and turned toward my window this morning, I saw the image of a star.  It was the sepal of the second bud of the season on my Streptocarpus.  Although I tried to photograph it, I found that my camera struggled to focus on it.  I fiddled around with the settings menu but didn't get anywhere with that.   I love a challenge and so I kept trying, without great technical success but with images that satisfy my sense of beauty and wonder and awe.

I love rain, especially in late spring.  Can you hear the Virginia Rail?

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

No action too small

From June 2016:

From June 2017:

Maru Mora and some background on the detention centers.

From March 2018:

From June 9, 2018:

Something we can do today:

No action too small.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Birds singing at 4 a.m. / Blue sky alternating with dark clouds

When I read Sabine's recent post about blog housekeeping, I didn't realize that I was no longer receiving an email each time someone commented on my blog.  Finally I realized that there was a backlog of comments that were awaiting my moderation.  Thank you for your comments.  I am sustained by our conversations through our comments.   

This time of year brings frequent changes in the weather in the coastal Pacific Northwest.  It's been cold enough at night that I am sleeping as well as I do in the winter, with all my winter covers on my bed and all my windows wide open.  I'm enjoying watching my porch garden bloom.  I've been seeing an osprey flying above the portion of Lake Whatcom that is just beyond Scudder Pond as well as Great Blue Herons.  There is still some cottonwood fluff in the air.  I've seen more Swallowtails than I can ever remember seeing.

Morelle at Rivertrain brought Daša Drndić's life and death to my attention with a link to the interview titled "There Are No Small Fascisms." Our public library has a copy of Trieste, and I've put it on hold.  From what I've read about the book, it is as difficult and challenging to read as The Parable of the Sower, by Octavia Butler, and as important to read in these times.  

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Light In The Dark Forest

Thanks to Beth at the cassandra pages for her thoughts about the need for thoughtful dialogue and for posting this interview with Jürgen Habermas.

"Thanks to his courage, the idea of putting human beings and dialogue at the center of all solutions is familiar to us all."

Monday, June 4, 2018

A sailboat without sails / A dream as summer solstice approaches

On the summer solstice, the sun will rise here at 5:07 a.m., but it will begin to be light much earlier than that.  The birds were singing today at 4 a.m.

Last night I had a memorable two-part dream.  In the first part, I was with a crowd of people.  We were on a bluff above a steep sandy beach, sitting in chairs arranged side-by-side.  We were watching huge ocean waves that appeared to be winter surf.  The waves looked like this:

In the second part of the dream, I found myself sailing alone through the air in a brightly colored sailboat without sails.  By subtle body movements, I was able to guide the sailboat high above the deep blue-green sea, not far from shore.  The view and experience were exhilarating.  A strong wind came up, making it difficult to keep from being blown out to sea, but I found that if I guided the sailboat in counter-clockwise circles, I could make my way back to the land.  As I approached the land, my circles transitioned to clockwise, and then I flew in a direction that would have to have been south, if I were coming in from the Pacific Ocean.  I was not able to keep the sailboat as high in the sky, and then I skimmed along above fertile farmland, sturdy houses, curious people and brown cows grazing.  The landscape looked something like that of this scratched photo of me on the San Mateo County coast in the winter of 1971:

Then I woke up and went out on my porch to listen to the birds singing in the pre-dawn light at 4 a.m.  The photos of the moon were taken just after 6 a.m.

We are, as a species, addicted to story. Even when the body goes to sleep, the mind stays up all night, telling itself stories.
(Jonathan Gottschall)

(from beth's blog 27 May 2018)

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Spontaneous Hexagram 62 / Canada Goose / The beginnings of Mandala #31

The lovely carved Canada Goose that inspired me to begin Mandala #31 is signed "Aningayou." I don't recall looking at the signature since before the days of the internet.  Otherwise, I am sure that I would have researched the name before today.  Although I could have sworn that the carving was given to me by my youngest sister in the 1990s, a little bit of googling shows that the artist, Chris Aningayou, was born in 1983 and lives in Nome, Alaska.  Given that he would have been 20 years old in 2003 and that I am absolutely sure that my sister gave it to me previous to that, it appears that he must have carved it as a teenager.

While out walking a few days ago, I noticed some scattered pieces of a downed tree that made me think of the I Ching.  I arranged them into two trigrams and photographed them.  When I was home again, I put them together as a hexagram which turned out to be:

62.  Hsaio Kuo / Preponderance of the Small (Thunder On The Mountain)

The structure of the hexagram gives rise to the idea that this message is brought by a bird ...

(Source: Scroll down to Hexagram 62)

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

"Piper" / Speaking of the ocean ...

One of my neighbors, a walking friend who was also born in San Francisco, emailed a link to "Piper."

We grew up watching these little birds on the ocean coast of the San Francisco peninsula.  Sweet memories.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

To live

On page 91 from The Living Mountain, by Nan Shepherd,

"For falling asleep on the mountain has the delicious corollary of awaking.  To come up out of the blank of sleep and open one's eyes on scaur and gully, wondering, because one had forgotten where one was, is to recapture some pristine amazement not often savored.  I do not know if it is a common experience (certainly it is unusual in my normal sleep), but when I fall asleep out of doors, perhaps because outdoor sleep is deeper than normal, I awake with an empty mind. Consciousness of where I am comes back quite soon, but for one startled moment I have looked at a familiar place as though I had never seen it before.

Such sleep may last for only a few minutes, yet even a single minute serves this end of uncoupling the mind.  It would be merely fanciful to suppose that some spirit of emanation of the mountain had intention in thus absorbing my consciousness, so as to reveal itself to a naked apprehension difficult to otherwise obtain.  I do not ascribe sentience to the mountain; yet at no other moment am I sunk quite so deep into its life.  I have let go my self.  The experience is peculiarly precious because it is impossible to coerce."

Although I have not had that experience in the mountains, I had a similar experience when I was in my early 20s while sleeping in a nest I had dug for myself in a steep slope of warm sand when I was alone on the north end of Montara Beach on a cool windy sunny weekday. Although I have looked for a photo in Google images showing the steepness of the beach, I couldn't find one.  Perhaps the nature of that beach has changed in nearly 50 years.  Perhaps the nature of the beach changes from summer to winter.

Nan Shepherd's words brought back my experience.  That place and time was where I experienced paradise.

It's been 10 years now since I've visited the ocean.  That was also the last time I visited the Sierra Nevada.  I have lived closer to mountains than to the ocean for most of my adult life here in Northwest Washington and yet I rarely visit the mountains except in my dreams. Reading Nan Shepherd's book was like revisiting the recurring dreams I've had of walking in the mountains.  Some of my ancestors lived in Scotland.  Maybe some memories of the Cairngorm mountains of Scotland are in my DNA.  I am grateful to Nan Shepherd and John Muir for their celebration of life in the context of walking and resting in the mountains.

For now, I walk close to home near the shore of a 14-mile lake with a view of mountains, surrounded by woods, just a few miles from the Salish Sea, finding a measure of peace and celebration in doing that.

(Thanks to Brain Pickings for inspiring me to arrange to read The Living Mountain through our local library's interlibrary loan program.)

Monday, May 28, 2018

Memorial Day 2018 Meditation / Brothers and Sisters in Arms

On Memorial Day in 1975, along with women of various ages, I was working as an industrial sewing machine operator in a small factory that produced ski wear in Bellingham, Washington, where I still live. Among my co-workers were at least a dozen Vietnamese women of various ages who had been among those who had been evacuated just prior to the fall of Saigon.  I became friends with a Vietnamese woman who was the same age I was.  We had both lost our first loves in that war.  Her boyfriend's throat was slit by a Viet Cong.  My boyfriend returned physically from Vietnam in 1970 but never found the peace he sought and believed in for the rest of his life.  His gifts were lost to the world.  I lost him as a result of the Vietnam War.  He died many times before his death in a VA hospital in Palo Alto, California.  He was against the war when he went to Vietnam but saw no way to avoid going.  Each succeeding war troubled him deeply.

My friend went forward with her life in a way that I was unable to do. In the 1980s, my friend traveled to India as a single woman as part of a church group.  She hoped to adopt a girl from India named Karuna. My friend commissioned me to make a portrait from a photo of her and Karuna.  She was not able to adopt Karuna.

My friend was raised in a Catholic orphanage after being abandoned by her mother who had married a man who did not want her because she was not his child.  She was never adopted.  When she was old enough to work, she was hired by the U.S. Army and worked as a gym attendant in Saigon before being evacuated in April 1975.

In the early 2000s, she and her husband went to Vietnam and adopted an infant boy from an orphanage.  She and her husband and her son traveled back to Vietnam in the 2010s to meet with her mother and siblings that she had not seen since childhood.  Her son met his birth mother and siblings.  During the years I have know her, I have learned from her about living in the present.  She led the way.

Here is a photo of us in the mid-1970s:

and a photo of her on my porch in the 1980s:

From a previous post:

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."

The true end of a war is the rebirth of life;
the right to die peacefully in your own bed.
The true end of war is the end of fear;
the true end of war is the return of laughter.

-- Alfred Molano

Memorial Day is not only about those who have died in war but about the living.

To jog my memory, I visited these previous posts: