Friday, December 28, 2018

A day in the life of a PeaceTrees deminer

From a PeaceTrees email:

PeaceTrees Vietnam’s core work is sponsoring the clearance of landmines and other unexploded ordnance (UXO) in Quang Tri Province in central Vietnam. Quang Tri was once dissected by the DMZ, and it continues to be heavily impacted by the legacy of war. In Quang Tri, which is slightly larger than the state of Rhode Island, a startling 1.6 times more explosive weapons were dropped than in all of Europe during World War II.
Today, more than 40 years after the end of the war, 74 percent of the land in Quang Tri province remains riddled with land mines, bombs, grenades, and other unexploded ordnance. Since 1975, at least 105,023 landmine and UXO casualties have been reported in Vietnam.
Six PeaceTrees explosive ordnance disposal teams work throughout the year clearing UXO from fields, schoolyards, roadsides and gardens. Our deminers, like Khuyen, whose story is featured in the video above, work to ensure that the members of their communities feel safe walking to and from work and when tilling their fields. 

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Near gale on the Beaufort Wind Scale

SSW 37 mph.  Flickering lights.

An hour later.  SSW 35 mph.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Early Morning, Trees, Oboe

I love the two evergreen trees that someone planted years ago on the other side of Scudder Pond.  My guess is that the two trees spent a December in someone's house before being planted outside.  One is slightly smaller than the other.  It was years before they were tall enough for me to be conscious of them.

Yesterday evening, my sister who lives in Gulfport, Mississippi, sent an email to me and my youngest sister.  The email contained a photo of a little evergreen tree that she planted on her property.  I was struck by the coincidence that I had a vision a few days ago, upon awakening, of a tree like that growing in my heart.  It turns out that my sister's tree is a Deodar cedar.  Hmmmm ...  The linked article mentions weeping Atlas cedars, which brings to mind George Harrison's song "Beware of Darkness," from the album "All Things Must Pass," which R gave to me for Christmas in 1970 soon after his return from serving as a helicopter mechanic during the Vietnam War.  George Harrison was an avid gardener and planted an amazing number of trees on his property.

Weeping Atlas Cedars
They just want to grow, grow and grow

The next three trees are Sequoiadendron giganteum,  They were pointed out to me by a Bellingham friend who lives within walking distance of them.  Bellingham and Whatcom County have a surprising number of Redwood trees that were brought up from California, beginning at least a century ago.

Speaking of trees.  This was brought to my attention via my email inbox.

And that is Oboe, my talkative 13-year-old cat.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Looking closely at the photo from December 3 ...

Look closely at the photo, up to the right and slightly above Venus.  Snow Geese?  Trumpeter Swans?  Canada Geese?

Monday, December 10, 2018

Nadia Murad and Denis Mukwege / December 10, 2018

Transcript -- Nadia Murad

Transcript -- Denis Mukwege

On December 10, 2016, I wrote a haiku and rediscovered it once again today:

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

In the early morning darkness of December 10, 2018, I can hear light rain.  A few days ago was the 12th birthday of my blog.  I'm grateful for new and old blog friends.  My consciousness continues to be illuminated in this small but vital community of kindred spirits.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Mandala #40: Person With Questions Revisited

"When you start to think of the arts as not this thing that is going to get you somewhere in terms of becoming an artist or becoming famous or whatever it is that people do, but rather a way of making being in the world not just bearable, but fascinating, then it starts to get interesting again." -- Lynda Barry

(from beth's blog 6 dec 2018)

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

December Dream of Dublin / Alive-Alive O

When I woke up this morning, I realized that I had been dreaming that I was in Dublin.

"In Dublin's fair city ... Alive-Alive O!"

The crescent moon and Venus have been extraordinarily beautiful before dawn in the last few days.  The days have been cold and clear as can be.

Monday, December 3, 2018

My angry mother loved the stars when she was alive / The sun is but a morning star

The light which puts out our eyes is darkness to us.  Only that day dawns to which we are awake.  There is more day to dawn.  The sun is but a morning star.
(Henry David Thoreau)

Today 24 years have passed since my mother's sudden and unexpected death from a massive heart attack when she was 78 years old.  When I woke up and walked out to my porch to look into the darkness in hopes of seeing stars, I looked out on a thick fog.  I don't mind when I wake up to fog because it tends to lift after dawn and precede an extraordinarily beautiful clear day.  Of course I thought of robin andrea when I saw that there were crepuscular rays above the morning star as the fog lifted.

Early in the last year of her life, my mother said with great weariness, "I am so tired of being angry."

My relationship with my mother was difficult, more so in the last years of her life.  My angry mother loved books, stars, art, writing, knitting, cooking, cheesecake, pistachios nuts, Chocolate Kisses, Mogen David wine, horses, lambs, sailing, Groucho Marx, Danny Kaye, Judaism, birds, watching figure skating, the sound of bagpipes, living by the ocean, stained glass, documentaries, Joan Baez (only after Joan became a mother), Carl Jung, and Bob Dylan's song "Ring Them Bells."

Today I am sharing an early morning photo and "Ring Them Bells" in honor of my no-longer-angry mother who loved stars, among other things.  This version by Mary Black and Joan Baez was recorded in the year after my mother died.  I think she would have liked this version.  I sense that my mother's anger and rage died with her.  It was only after my mother died that I was able to consciously experience my own anger and rage.  Mine must be a different kind of anger and rage because I am not exhausted by it.  Its power can be channeled in non-destructive directions.  Perhaps my mother was exhausted from feeling guilty for feeling angry.  I will never know.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Just Because (just because)

Just because I love this eccentric crazy-quilt-of-a-movie.  Early this morning, something prompted me to look through my things for the only Christmas card I ever received from R.  He sent it to me from California in 1987.  It has an embossed scallop shell on the front of the card and:

"Softly...gently...joyfully...Christmas arrives in the heart."

On the same shelf, deep in my hall closet, was the DVD of "My Own Love Song." I just finished watching it again.  It speaks to me in a healing way as the first evening of Hanukkah approaches, with Bodhi Day coming up on December 8, followed by Winter Solstice on December 21, Christmas and New Year's Day.  For years, going through the days of December was like walking through a mine field.  Gradually, something has changed inside me.  Starting this blog on December 8, 2006, was the beginning of whatever it was that made it possible for me to experience December in a different way. 

R loved Bob Dylan's music.  I think he would have liked both of these videos created in connection with Bob Dylan's 2009 album titled "Christmas in the Heart," which was released a year and a half after R died.  R's spirit, like Bob Dylan's, was characterized by gravity and levity and paradox.

Friday, November 30, 2018

A quote from Black Elk that accompanied the thoughts of Brother Toby of Starcross Monastic Community in Sonoma County, California

Our Home Needs Fixing
A headline around the world this month has been CALIFORNIA IS BURNING! The rainy season has now arrived, several months late. The fire danger is over. We here at Starcross were spared being directly impacted but we did get heavy smoke.
Now comes forth the dramatic resilience of this land. I would like to see some headlines that say, CALIFORNIA IS HEALING!  Before the rains came I had been watching a tiny green plant push its way out of the dry earth. It is now about a foot high. I can only imagine how deep its roots must go. I sat and looked at it for a long time, I suppose it was a kind of meditation.
Neighbors from our county were providing practical assistance at the northern fires. Firefighters from down the road were on hand. Local humanitarian groups are responding to the great needs. Unsung heroes from all around us are spending their nights at the fire scenes with the arduous task of rescuing very frightened and injured animals. Our State Senator, who happens to be a dentist, is a leading force in the forensic examination of those who perished in the fire.
All these people are like the plant I was watching in one respect —they have deep roots of compassion. This is a part of the resilience of rural California.
There are new and very troubling developments which ought to be a warning for everyone. Our retiring governor, Jerry Brown (1938 - ) recently put the issue this way,
We've had fires for long before the Europeans showed up here. Our indigenous people had a different way of living with nature. For 10,000 years, there were never more than 300,000 people living in California. Now we have 40 million. …So it's not just one thing. It's how people live, it's where they live and it's the changing climate. …. The truth is we're going to have more difficulties. Things are not going to get better. They’re going to get more challenging because of the continuing alteration in the climate — lack of moisture, early snowmelt and faster winds, the whole thing.
So what is our governor going to do in retirement?  He's going to become the director of an international program focusing on climate change. Its mission statement says that science and technology should make life on earth better, not worse. One of its projects is maintaining the dramatic Doomsday Clock, a symbol which represents the likelihood of a human-made global catastrophe — including climate change.
This Thanksgiving we heard from friends studying or engaged in humanitarian work abroad. A number have pointed out that it certainly seems like our present national administration has abandoned a powerful response to the challenge of climate change because such actions would interfere with profits. I had a deep sense of sadness when one of them put it simply and strongly, that it was “very refreshing” for her not to be in the United States at this time. I think many people abroad share the same attitude. And I certainly understand it. The federal government has withdrawn from international treaties concerning climate change and has approved  project after project that will leave us more environmentally vulnerable.
I join those who are also concerned about the erosion of our moral core. The scope of this erosion extends from our lack of environmental stewardship to encompass humanitarian crises as well. 85,000 children under the age of 5 have died of starvation in the senseless war in Yemen, largely the result of sophisticated military equipment we have sold to Saudi Arabia. And we stand more or less alone on the world stage in not condemning the incredibly brutal murder of a WASHINTON POST journalist by Saudis in Turkey. It was, for me, shocking to hear a government spokesman state that such an action would be “bad for commerce.”
The day after Thanksgiving a major report mandated by Congress and compiled by scientists in 13 federal agencies presented a very bleak warning of the consequences of climate change in the United States if major steps are not taken immediately. Among other things, they say that the American economy will decline by up to 10% by this century's end.  This very detailed report is directly at odds with Mr. Trump's agenda for environmental deregulation, where he incorrectly argues his approach will spur economic growth. He has taken hard line steps concerning everything from vehicle tailpipes to withdrawing from the Paris Agreement under which nearly every industrial country in the world has pledged to cut carbon emissions. The congressionally mandated report warns of devastating effects from a changing climate which include wildfires not only in the West but also in the Southeast, crop failures in the Midwest, crumbling infrastructure nation wide, disrupted export and supply chains, and agricultural yields falling to 1980s levels by midcentury. A small minority may make higher profits from continuing present practices. For the rest of us, the consequences will be catastrophic.
Mr. Trump’s response to this major report came four days later. It was simple. I don’t believe it!, he said with a laugh. And that puts an end to any help we may have hoped for from this administration.
National governments can help a lot. In the ‘70s there was an international effort to ban aerosol sprays that injured the beneficial ozone layer in our stratosphere. I am told that as a result, the ozone shield is recovering. In the next few weeks the European Union will probably prohibit single use plastic bottles. Governments can make a difference but we can not expect much help from Mr. Trump’s administration. Thankfully that's not the end of the story.
Local governments can also contribute. In my own state and in others as well, and even in counties and cities, local governments are enacting policies in attempts to at least delay the impact of climate change.
Many spiritual traditions recognize that individuals also have a role to play in this struggle.
On Sunday Chanukah begins. A Jewish teaching that I have always admired is the concept that hope can be found even in very difficult situations. In 165 B.C.E, Jewish patriots drove out an oppressor and reclaimed the Temple in Jerusalem. They cleaned it and removed all foreign symbols. However, when the time came to light the perpetual flame, they found they only had enough oil for one day. With faith they lit the lamp anyway and it burned for eight days until new oil became available. This is the story on which Chanukah is based.
There is another bit of Jewish history that means a lot to me, and that is the concept of Tikkun Olam, usually translated as “repairing the world.” The phrase originated with Isaac Luria (1534-1572), a Kabbalist mystic, in the 16th century. This “repairing” was a way of looking at the presence of both good and evil in the world. Different meanings have evolved through the years. In the 1950’s the phrase often referred to social action programs. Recently it has meant quite literally repairing the earth and has become a way of combining Jewish spirituality with ecology. Many ideas have evolved out of this concept including Jewish Earth Week, which focuses on practical things that an individual can do such as picking up trash, working in a community garden, practicing composting, and many things like that.
Actions of this nature are a very practical way of teaching our children that we must act as stewards of the earth. We cannot individually restore the balance that has been disrupted. However, as the Talmud puts it, “we cannot excuse ourselves from taking part” in efforts to repair the world.

Brother Toby

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Northwest Washington Sky / Northern California Ocean

I hope you can watch the ocean in San Mateo County north of Half Moon Bay (after the wetsuit ad appears for a short time) with me today.  The waves are beautiful -- 12 to 15 feet high.  I've had the Maverick's webcam open for several hours now.  I love looking at the ocean and the sky.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

PeaceTrees Vietnam

PeaceTrees Vietnam

From the website:

Living on war-torn land that has been restored to safety and productivity empowers the most vulnerable people of rural Vietnam to emerge from poverty and take control of their health, happiness and future. We educate children and adults about how to recognize and avoid unexploded devices while also helping wounded victims find medical care, housing and other resources. Families whose loved ones have been killed or injured by land mine accidents receive direct financial assistance and scholarships to help them rebuild their lives.

Friday, November 23, 2018

"Knockin' on Heaven's Door" / "... the circus is in town ..."

Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door

Mama, take this badge off of me
I can’t use it anymore
It’s gettin’ dark, too dark for me to see
I feel like I’m knockin’ on heaven’s door

Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door

Mama, put my guns in the ground
I can’t shoot them anymore
That long black cloud is comin’ down
I feel like I’m knockin’ on heaven’s door

Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door

Copyright ©1973 by Ram's Horn Music; renewed 2001 by Ram’s Horn Music


Take a look at the Knockin' on Heaven's Door Portfolio.  Click on the series of images at the lower right.

Then I remembered Bob Dylan and Robert Hunter's "Forgetful Heart":

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

It's time for me to get together with friends and take a walk in the rain.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Alcatraz Sunrise Ceremony

This morning I learned about the Alcatraz Sunrise Ceremony from Corinne Oestreich in an article she wrote for the Huffington Post.  The video above was filmed in 2017.   In her words:

The first time I attended the Alcatraz Sunrise Ceremony in San Francisco was in 2017.  The Sunrise Ceremony is a special event organized by the Muwekma Ohlone people of San Francisco and other Bay Area Natives, to come together as a community in the darkness of Thanksgiving morning and partake in the reclamation of the holiday for our surviving peoples.  There is always a large, warm bonfire in the center and a circle of relatives and guests that surround it. 

Saturday, November 17, 2018

"... Sky full of fire, pain pourin' down ..." / California in November 2018

Photo dragged from beth's blog

Lyrics in post title from Bob Dylan's song titled "Mississippi," released on September 11, 2001.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Mandala #38: We were Talking about the Power of Awareness, Acceptance, Action

In looking for quotes to accompany a meditation on awareness, acceptance and action, I found that Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke most clearly to me:

Awareness:  “I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.” 

Acceptance:  “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”

Action:  He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”

From Voices for Creative Nonviolence:

"And in Bellingham, WA, our friend Mary Mele is planning to honor the 14 million Yemenis in danger of death by famine with a “Women Fasting for the Children of Yemen” event – for fourteen hours on Nov 14, she will set up 14 chairs in front of her city’s Federal Building – women will be invited to sit in them for an hour, then fast for fourteen hours."

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Veterans Day 2018 / Waiting for Eden

This piercing tale of a mangled soldier hovering near death is far more than a war story. (Julia Tagliere)

Waiting for Eden was written by a veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It's a short story.  It's a long story.  It's an old story.  It's a new story.  It's a complicated story.

It begins with these words, “I want you to understand Mary and what she did.”

(am and R in 1970 -- little did I know at that moment in 1970)

Waiting for Eden, as painful as it was for me to read, left me knowing myself more clearly and knowing that the writer understood women who are affected by war and what we do in impossible situations. 

"... it’s difficult not to fall in love with someone you’re on the run with. But you stop eventually, and then — .” (from Waiting for Eden)

On this Veterans Day,  I am sending love to all the living women and men whose lives are profoundly affected by war throughout the world.  I used to think I was alone.  I was never alone.

I hope to continue working on Mandala #38 today:

Monday, November 5, 2018

United Farm Workers / "Your vote is your voice"

From the United Farm Workers:

It’s easy to be frustrated in today’s politics of division and prejudice. The progress for which we have fought so long and hard is under attack. We don’t have to accept it. Our vote is the best weapon we have. The midterm elections are upon us. Election Day is Tuesday, November 6. If you are voting by mail you can vote now. This is our chance to tell Donald Trump that we’ve had enough. Voting is our right. It’s our responsibility. If we don’t vote we are supporting Trump and his agenda.

Cesar Chavez once said, “We don’t need perfect political systems; we need perfect participation.”

My perception is that the way we live our lives, participating in a positive way, drawing on our strengths, is an additional way to vote, doing what we can do.  Forever.

Woody Guthrie did that when he wrote the lyrics for this song with music written by Martin Hoffman, speaking for those whose voices were silenced:

"My father's own father, he waded that river
They took all the money he made in his life
My brothers and sisters they worked in the fruit trees
They rode the big truck till they lay down and died."

Friday, November 2, 2018

Days in the life of Ruth Bader Ginsberg

Perhaps everyone has already seen "RBG."  If not, your public library likely has a copy of the DVD.  I had to wait in line for my copy and the wait was well worth my time.

On October 9, 2018, Ruth Bader Ginsberg was one of two dissenting voices on the Supreme Court, taking a positive stand for the rights of Native American voters in North Dakota.

Quote below from this article :

Regardless of the result of this year’s election, North Dakota voter suppression has backfired: Thousands of newly credentialed Native American voters have shifted the electoral math in North Dakota.
And they are angry. Alexis Davis, 19, chairwoman of the Turtle Mountain Youth Council, told the AP, “It’s like, oh you want to make this harder for me? Oh, you want to take away my rights? It’s like, no, now I’m going to fight that, and I’m going to be more resilient, and I’m going to make sure that I’m going to go vote.”

Thursday, November 1, 2018

"Women Fasting for the Children of Yemen" / Fasting for the myriad of present troubles / November 14, 2018

Click on the above image if the print is too small.

Images of starvation in Yemen bring to my mind the Great Famine in Ireland, the starvation in the death camps in Nazi Germany, the starvation of the Sioux people restricted to a narrow band of land along the Minnesota River that led to the Sioux Uprising of 1862, the starvation in Ethiopia in 1984 and 1985, and the list goes on and on.

The above flyer was generated locally, before the news in the last 24 hours about a possible ceasefire in Yemen.  Of course, I am noting the timing by the current political administration in the U.S. in turning its attention to Yemen in the last days before the mid-term election, as did this spokeswoman who also noted the timing:

A spokeswoman for the International Rescue Committee, a charity operating in Yemen, said hostilities needed to end as soon as possible so aid could be delivered to those suffering the most.
"From our perspective there's a lot that could have been done before a call for this ceasefire, but [it] is a significant breakthrough in this war and a welcome recognition that the current policy is failing," Kellie Ryan said.
Although I will not be able to sit in one of the 14 chairs, I will be fasting for 14 hours on Wednesday, November 14, 2018, between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. 

The 14 chairs idea is a visible and visceral way of bringing attention specifically to the children of Yemen and the power of women who can sit together with their intense feelings of anger and grief as they ask themselves, "What kind of response can we make to one of the greatest famines in modern times?"

I have heard that something along these lines has also been organized in New York, also prior to the news about a possible ceasefire.  Has anyone else heard about the event in New York?

As I fast on November 14,  I will be asking myself another question in addition to the one posed on the flyer, "What kind of wholehearted response can we make to the myriad of present troubles that have deep roots and touch us all?"

Sunday, October 28, 2018

"We need to build a world where this kind of hatred is a thing of the past..." / Mandala #36: Winter Soldiers

Kentucky Kroger store deaths

From Rachel Barenblatt on Velveteen Rabbi:

"We need to build a world where this kind of hatred is a thing of the past. Right now it's hard to believe that such a world will ever be possible, but we have to keep building toward it. Because the alternative is accepting that what's happening now is okay, and that's unbearable."

Friday, October 26, 2018

One day's work on Mandala #36

After reading 37 Paddington just now, I may call this one "Winter Soldier."

(These photos were taken with my cell phone.  I just figured out how to download photos from my phone).

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Learning about the life and times of Grace Lee Boggs

A life well spent on so many levels. 

A story I needed to hear today.

Perhaps everyone has seen this already on PBS.  If not, it's worth seeing.