Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Tarpits Are That-A-Way, Dick…

It's unfortunate that Dick Cheney has decided to buck tradition and crawl out of whatever oblivion old presidents (and vices) are expected to gracefully descend into when they leave office. I'm not sure whether to be annoyed with him or embarrassed for him. Clearly, as little as six months ago, it became obvious that the American people were no longer buying what Cheney and his "boss" were selling. That a black man with a funny name could so incontestably be handed the helm of the American ship of state is a testament to exactly how fed up the electorate was with the performance of the Texas cartel and anything even remotely associated with them. So one has to wonder why Cheney can't just…give it up.

Since leaving office, ol' Dead-eye Dick has had to witness the continuing fragmentation of the right-wing base to which he and Dubya—and, thus, the Republican Party of which they were de facto commandants—pandered to keep themselves in power. Never one to countenance defeat, he's taken it upon himself to hit the talk-show circuit in an effort to single-handedly re-organize and re-invigorate the floundering wreckage of the party that held the United States of America by the throat for eight long years.

Of course he's rolled out the old blunderbuss that served the Bush Administration so long and so well: FEAR. Is it any surprise that his point of contention against the Obama Administration is "National Security?" Are we shocked that he is stepping up to any microphone afforded him and declaring that the policies of the new president are making Americans less safe?

Let me ask: Who ever said life was safe? How can you call any undertaking that always ends in death "safe"? To creatures like us—destined to die, but mysteriously imbued with the will to fight it to the very last—death never seems fair or right or welcome, no matter how it comes. We expend copious amounts of emotional energy on ways to cheat death, fend it off…we even seem to subscribe to the theory that inflicting it upon others proves we can exert some measure of power over it. But no matter what we do, who we kill, what we build, how much wealth we amass, what direction we face when we pray—we die. Isn't it a waste to spend life fearing death?

If the destination is always the same…shouldn't life be about the journey? Shouldn't it be about bravely and honorably facing the challenges that come our way? Shouldn't it be about what we will leave behind (because we are surely going?) Shouldn't it be about leaving a legacy of love and tolerance and forgiveness and understanding? Surely those things will do more to assure our children a place to live and grow than will fear and hatred.

Throughout American history, we have been at our very worst when we let ourselves be ruled by fear. We were afraid of Indians—so we mercilessly wiped them out. We were afraid of the black people that we ourselves brought here to act as our slaves—so we abused them, robbed them of their humanity and treated them like animals. During World War II, we were afraid of Japanese Americans—so we revoked their rights and slapped them into internment camps. And now, we're afraid of terrorists, so we take pre-emptive war far away from our own shores, torture prisoners and label the unintended but not wholly unanticipated deaths of innocent civilians "collateral damage."

Oh, we are so prone to indulging in shameful cowardice on a national scale.

The American people have (finally) chosen to shake off the latest round of national spinelessness. With their votes last November, they served notice that they rejected the "politics of fear." They are tired of hiding under their beds with their flashlights and their radios tuned to Rush Limbaugh. They are tired of playing "Let's Make a Deal" with their civil rights, exchanging them for a security that no democratically elected government has any business promising its citizens. They are tired of shaking in their boots and sending their young people halfway across the world to "take the hit." They are tired of the economic, diplomatic, environmental and intellectual disaster that was the administration of George W. Bush. And tired of the power behind the throne: Dick Cheney.

Do us all—and yourself—a favor, Mr. Cheney. Give it a rest. You had your chance. And you royally cocked it up. Shut up, go out to pasture, and give the new administration the peace it needs to rebuild what you destroyed.

We aren't afraid anymore.




Sunday, May 24, 2009


By chance does anyone recognize this pink, sort of shrubby perennial? It lives on the north side of the garage and is in shade most of the time. So it would probably be shorter if it got more sun. It has fairly large leaves. is about four feet tall and has a light, sweet scent. For the life of her mom can't remember what it's called. Not surprising, most of my nephews were still gleams in their mom's eye when this one was planted. Heck, for all I know it came with the house. LOL

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Friday Photo

Can you believe this is Long Island?


That's not quite fair. While there are many very pretty areas on Long Island, and we have more trees than I ever would have imagined, this is not your typical Long Island scene.

All spring, I've been wanting to make it out to Old Westbury Gardens. It is the preserved Joseph Phipps Estate (Joseph Phipps was one of the founders of US Steel along with Carnegie). It's a breathtaking place with the family home(mansion), formal gardens, cottage gardens, rose gardens, lily pond and a woodland trail around a small lake. This bridge is along that trail.

I didn't take near as many pictures as I would have liked because I brought another woman along with me who doesn't take pictures. So, we moved through at a much quicker pace than I would have alone. I'm thinking I need to make another trip out before long. There were so many species of flowers I would have loved to try and photograph.

As we walked the grounds, I tried to image what it would be like to live like that, in all that grandeur, surrounded by acres of gardens and woods. It's impossible...completely beyond me.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Friday Photos...For the Birds

BH Grosbeak

This week it was black-headed grosbeaks.

This is a banner bird year, I guess. I have families--yes, families--of both kinds of grosbeaks chowing down at my feeders.

The young birds are so funny. They fly down to the feeder and cheep! cheep! at the seeds for a few minutes, until they figure out the food is not going to jump right into their mouths.

And then they get busy and put their brand new great big beaks to the use the Universe intended.

I can just sit and watch them for hours. Better than t.v.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


When Harry Truman wanted a snort no matter what the time he is supposed to have said “well, the sun must be over the yardarm somewhere.” Well, it’s Friday somewhere.

We’ve watched the spiky iris foliage get taller and taller since early April. And crossed our fingers as we watched the bud stalks get taller and taller. And finally, finally the buds started to open. You could literally see the blooms open in the sun as the day passed.

Don’t blink, you will literally miss the party. The top blossom on this stalk is already wilting and I took the shot two days ago.

Perhaps a perfect reminder to enjoy the moment when you’re in it. It may not last very long and it could be a whole year before you can try to recapture it. Ah, but while you’re there. Colors that no artist can match no matter how hard they try. Pure magic.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Boom On, Brothers and Sisters

I had an interesting conversation with a friend last week. One of the things we touched upon was the idea of retirement; at what point one is too old to embark upon new projects, and when one should start considering going out to pasture, as it were. She and I have reason to ponder these things…we are both fifty-something, and we have each embarked upon Great Undertakings at this stage in our lives. And yet, we encounter so many of our contemporaries who are happily turning in their keys, collecting their gold watches and dropping out of the action. My friend even mentioned reading a retiring columnist’s assertion that she felt obligated to retire; that it was time for The Boomers to step aside and hand the baton to the next generation.

Say what? I AM a Boomer. I will declare my membership in that gigantic, lumbering horde confidently and proudly to whoever is within earshot. We are STILL the largest voting block in the nation. I’m not half ready to loosen the stranglehold I have on the political and social issues for which my generation fought long and hard. Though once we might have thought our work complete, the Bush Administration so capably reminded us that we must never relax our vigilance, must never think a thing—especially a good thing—accomplished for good and all.

Retirement? I don’t think so. I don’t intend to go gently into that good night any time soon.

I’m proud to be a Boomer, and I intend for the world—especially the younger generations reaching out to wrestle the baton out of my hand—to hear me “boom” for quite a few more years.

My conversation with my friend got me to thinking about a piece I had posted a few years back. I knew I had written something very specific about the lot of the Baby Boomer in the 21st Century…but I couldn’t quite remember what it was. I dove back into The Archives to find it.

Here it is…and though it isn’t quite the tribute to the great state of Boomerness that I thought it was, it is as true today as it was when I wrote it three years ago…

I am the silent majority.

I am the endangered middle class.

I am the fifty-something American citizen, bound to conform to the realities of the out-sourced twenty-first century workplace—minimum compensation in exchange for minimum commitment—for at least another decade. Or maybe forever.

I no longer dream of retirement, because I will neither be able to count on the government program into which I paid all my working years to sustain me; nor will I be able to depend upon the pension in which I invested a lifetime of drudgery, so that I could still enjoy my golden years in the not unforeseen event that Social Security would collapse before I drew my first dime.

I will need to work until I drop dead, which I will most likely conveniently do ten or twenty years before my time, since I can afford neither the medical care nor the drugs to keep me healthy.

I am a Democrat, a Republican, an Independent. I am a Catholic, a Protestant, a Jew, an agnostic. I am white, black, hispanic, asian, Native American. Neither religion nor politics can exempt me from this colossal crowd shuffling off to a dark, ailing, impoverished demise.

I am a former beaded, bell-bottomed Viet Nam War protestor, who foresook activism somewhere between high school and life, and is only now shaking out of my ears the debris from those thirty intervening years of keeping my political head firmly planted in the sand.

I am a Baby Boomer. And the only salvation I can count on in all the world is…


Saturday, May 16, 2009


I suspect that I’m not the only one who has been stuck in the writer’s version of the Bermuda Triangle.

I mean how many times can I write about Dick Cheney, the Energizer Bunny of the far right. As in “here he goes……….again.” That I suspect that he’s setting the table for a “torture works and I could prove it if the nasty liberals would just release the evidence” campaign for next year? How the pol who went to court to keep information on who advised him on rewriting the nation’s energy policy secret is suddenly all for release the documents already!

How I’d be so surprised if Cheney had announced that he supported Colin Powell’s opinion on how the ‘pubs should rebuild the party that I’d probably fall out of my chair. I mean, is anyone really surprised that the man with five Viet Nam era draft deferments and “better things to do” at the time went with the divorced, draft avoiding, pill popping, radio talk show host instead of the man who put it on the line, worked up through the ranks and served his country for over thirty years? The sound of bloggers falling off their desk chairs would echo through the country if he had. And is anyone really surprised that Dick Cheney just WON’T GO AWAY?

Remember how anyone who didn’t support the War on Terror, rendition, enhanced interrogation techniques (torture), the war in Afghanistan, Iraq, etc. ad nauseum was labeled a traitor, or at the very least was soft on terror? Do I want to blog over and over that wishing that the new administration would fail might not be very, shall we say supportive? I mean if the shoe fits……..?

How many entries can I write on my opinion that perhaps all unions that bestow certain secular benefits should be strictly secular? Make all unions civil unions and forget about the genders of the partners. Let the faith communities decide if they want to bless such unions within the community or not.

Do I want to keep repeating to the ether that given the bishops's stance that faithful Roman Catholics need to toe the line or else; the number of catholics on the Supreme Court or in congress might raise questions. But, do I want to live in a country where a candidates's faith should even raise questions? Arrrrrrrrgh! Never should have opened that can; I'll never get the worms back in.

And while we’re dog paddling in this particular pool; Miss California has a right to her opinion and the right to express it. Says so right there in the constitution. That said, I find the whole tempest in the teapot over the nude, semi nude, whatever photos to be just that. No one seems to have a problem with the contestants wearing bikinis for the swim suit competition so give it a rest already. And perhaps Carrie should follow the age old advice “when you find yourself in a hole-stop digging.”

And gee thanks, hon, you’ve given Mt. Sarah an excuse to blow a little ash……again.

And all of us in our little group probably could do an opinion entry on “why on earth do they still have a swim suit competition anyway?”

Reminds me of a very old Mad magazine entry. Teen age guest at friend’s pool party needs to borrow a swim suit. The extra suits are in a drawer in the bed room. Guest comes out wearing what appears to be a very nice bikini. Hostess asks which drawer she got it out of and whispers that the drawer in question is not the drawer with the swim suits. Same amount of skin exposed but the whispered information that the outfit came “out of the underwear drawer” makes all the panicked difference in the world.

That I had gotten along very nicely without ever hearing of Perez Hilton and again am wondering what all the fuss is about.

And so on, and so on and...............

Ok, mini-rant over. I feel much better now. If anyone wants me I’ll be checking out the lettuce seedlings and wondering why the yarrow isn’t up yet. If a watched pot never boils I’m beginning to believe that watched seeds will never sprout.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Friday Photo

It's still Friday...and I have a photo.

Once again, I have exciting(?) visitors to my backyard bird feeder.

This time, it's Grosbeaks! Evening grosbeaks, to be precise.

Okay, I know "exciting" is a matter of personal opinion...

But I just love these outsized finches (I've taken to calling them "clown birds" because of their somewhat comical appearance), and I haven't had them visit my feeder in a couple of years.

And I thought this particular picture, of a grosbeak feeding side-by-side with a goldfinch (the better to display the grosbeak's "Baby-Huey" proportions) was, well....cute!

Mutt 'n' Jeff

Friday Photo

I am sorry about my lack of participation here. Spring has finally arrived on Long Island which means I'm spending more time outdoors. I have pulled more into my shell than ever before. I'm becoming more reclusive and am feeling like I have very little to share. This may sound odd but I have a sense that anything I can't say with an image isn't worth saying. It's a funk I can't seem to shake.

Anyway, I wanted to assure you I am still around and I am still reading and trying to comment. I hope that one of these days....I'll snap out of this.

This is one of my regular haunts here in Stony Brook. I get myself down to the harbor almost every day to see what birds are visiting. I've photographed this scene a number of times but the light was especially pretty this particular morning.


Thursday, May 14, 2009


So, it's a day early. I took this picture of a lupine in the planter on the porch last month after the rain stopped. And then shifted the picture to black and white. I love the contrasts of the shapes of the leaves and the water droplets. Moving to black and white seems to accent the textures.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


I've been trying to learn more about herbs and what they can do for us. I would like to share what I've learned and perhaps learn from others who are interested. But, I'll be posting in my main journal. You're welcome to check out the Angel Herb.

Monday, May 11, 2009


Spring has really arrived here.

Saturday, May 9, 2009


The garden is partly in. Tomatoes, peppers, and onions; lots of onions. Probably three times as many as we planted last year. Some nice lettuce and other veggies have a nice spot all picked out and prepped. After almost no rain in April we had two inches in the first week of this month. Of course with not much rain we were able to get the beds nice and ready for the good rain. And that good rain does make a difference. You can water all you want with town water and it does ok, but get some good rain and a little sun and things just take off like crazy.

There’s a peculiar satisfaction in watching that garden change and grow. I still believe that anyone who wants to go into politics or command in the military should have to spend a few years working in the dirt. No rototillers, no fancy equipment, nothing with a motor. I’m talking pick and shovel work here. I want blisters. Maybe they’d be less eager to destroy when they’ve learned how hard it is to nurture and protect what’s growing and have those blisters to prove it. Heck that garden they’ve planted on the White House lawn is a good place to start.

Along the way I learned that knitting, baking, buying local produce and ripping out the grass may just be radical if not revolutionary actions. I wonder what would happen if we bombed the Afghan and the Pakistan border areas with loaves of bread instead of explosives? So I'm a dreamer, sue me. Although, I've pinched a few artisan loaves that would be almost as lethal as dynamite if they were dropped with enough altitude. :-)

Along the way I’ve come to realize how much of my identity is tied to the land. Although not just the place on the map that carries the label “Oregon.” It wouldn’t matter what it was called. I wish I could post the pictures that are in my mind right now. But, I did try to put it into words.

This is my take on living in a part of the world caught between the hammer of Oregon’s volcanic heritage and the anvil of that great western ocean. That wonderful, wild not so Pacific Ocean.

I am fire from the heart of the earth;
I am the sun, caught in flowing stone;
I am a pillar of steam, born when glowing stone met foaming breakers;
I am a cloud, gray white and heavy with rain;
I am a drop of rain, fresh water become salt;
I am a wave breaking on wind whipped cliffs;
I am a grain of sand caught in the ebb and flow of the tides:
I am the wind;
I am the land;
I am the sea;

Here I am home.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

…to be the Hummingbird

I think it was about a year ago that I heard Garrison Keillor read this poem on "The Writers' Almanac" one morning. I was driving at the time, so I couldn't make note of the title of the poem or of the author. I remember getting home and searching through the Writers' Almanac archives on NPR's website… No luck.

Today, it occurred to me to google the words that I remembered…the last line of the poem, as it happens. And I struck paydirt.

Long Afternoon at the
Edge of Little Sister Pond

As for life,
I'm humbled,
I'm without words
sufficient to say

how it has been hard as flint,
and soft as a spring pond,
both of these
and over and over,

and long pale afternoons besides,
and so many mysteries
beautiful as eggs in a nest,
still unhatched

though warm and watched over
by something I have never seen -
a tree angel, perhaps,
or a ghost of holiness.

Every day I walk out into the world
to be dazzled, then to be reflective.
It suffices, it is all comfort -
along with human love,

dog love, water love, little-serpent love,
sunburst love, or love for that smallest of birds
flying among the scarlet flowers.
There is hardly time to think about

stopping, and lying down at last
to the long afterlife, to the tenderness
yet to come, when
time will brim over the singular pond, and become forever,

and we will pretend to melt away into the leaves.
As for death,
I can't wait to be the hummingbird,
can you?

~ Mary Oliver ~

I want to memorize these lines, and when the thought of my mortality threatens to overwhelm me, I want to think, "I can't wait to be the hummingbird…"


This has been ticking away ever since I discovered that we are all literally made of star stuff and a very strong sense that I have been this way before.

Do you remember?

There was nothing and then there was….everything. In an instant a universe was born. The light faded and elemental particles came together. Hydrogen, gravity and time. The hydrogen pooled together and pooled again. Gas clouds whirled and swirled in the dark. Whirled, swirled, danced and grew again until hydrogen atoms fused with hydrogen atoms light returned to the universe. Pinpoints of light became glowing beacons in the night.

You danced in the starlight. Blue white giants were born, filled the universe with light and gave their lives in blazes of light and gas greater than a million stars. You watched as star seeds of iron, carbon, oxygen and all the other elements were born. You danced again as the newborn planet seeds swirled together, grew larger and larger still.

The next generation of stars began to shine, but instead of lonely splendor, their light reflected off growing worlds. Some were too far away; you could barely see their parent star through the misty, swirling gases. There were great gas giants; more failed star than planet. Some worlds formed too close to the star fire and were blasted, bare rock before they were barely born. A few were too small; their atmospheres were lost to the cold of space leaving deserts behind.

You danced again in the solar winds. In a forgotten corner in one of the great, glowing spiral arms of a galaxy you found a gleaming blue white world; a living miracle in the jeweled blackness.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A Voice In The Wilderness?

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, lately. Not a lot of writing, but a lot of thinking.

Among all these swirling thoughts, a couple of seemingly disparate factoids have come to a convergence and become a…theory?

Thought #1: I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about spirituality and spiritual gifts. There are those who possess mystical gifts, like pre-cognition, or the ability to see auras, or sensitivity to unseen spirits. I do not discount these things simply because I haven’t experienced them. But I’ve always known that these sensitivities were not among my talents. And I always wondered why. Why do some people have “the sight,” while the rest of us are destined to go through life…blind?

Back in my days as a Pentecostal Christian, much was made about “gifts of the Spirit.” (These were described somewhere in the New Testament…in the Acts of the Apostles, I think, but I’m too lazy to look that up just now.) There was the gift of tongues and interpretation, the gift of prophecy, the gift of “discernment of spirits” (whatever that means). Somewhere along the line, and I’m not sure if someone “prophesied” it about me, or if I filled out some kind of questionnaire during a bible study, I was informed that I had the gift of prophecy. Prophecy? In the Pentecostal world, that meant I would be one to stand up during service and declare aloud whatever I felt “led by the Spirit” to declare. I had never felt “led by the Spirit” to do such a thing; I was also pretty sure that if the Spirit had contrived to lead me in that direction, I would have planted my feet like a mule and clapped my hand firmly over my mouth.

Thought #2: During the final expulsion from AOL J-land, and the resultant crush to get my blogs moved, I had occasion to re-examine most of my (self-published) writing. A lot of it was decent…very good, in fact. And it did not escape my notice that I was at my very best when the subject was politics. If someone had asked me, prior to embarking upon this blogging enterprise, what genre of prose best showcased my writing abilities, political opinion pieces would not have even entered my head. Of course, I’ll have to cop to having always been opinionated, but for 80% of my life, I was not much of a political animal. (The antics of the Bush Administration had a lot to do with awakening that particular beast in me, I’m afraid.)

Most of the time, when I write, I have to pause, and think, and juggle, and edit, and cross out and re-work. But with political rants—not so much. I get a passion in my heart and an idea in my head, and the words just fly across the page. It’s almost as if I get into some kind of altered consciousness. Which leads me to

Thought #3: As my political fervor has grown, I have become increasingly mystified about the inability of large segments of the population to…GET IT. Time after time, the question has been ripped from my heart, “How can they not SEE???” WHY can’t people look back at history, if even from only a decade ago, and extrapolate some kind of understanding of why 2 plus 2 is pretty much guaranteed to equal 4? How can you forget stuff like the Vietnam War or Watergate or Iran-Contra or McCarthyism or Jim Crow or the lessons of the Great Depression or the first two World Wars? How can people be so “in the moment” that when something big happens, they have no ability to reach back into the archives to figure out what to do; they just…panic?


How do these three things meld together to form a “theory?”

Here it is: Anne asked, in a comment on the last post, what I DO to change the world. I gradually realized that THIS is what I do.

Maybe all those years ago in Pentecostal Christian land, they were right on the money. Maybe I AM a prophet.

Because maybe being a prophet isn’t what I would have thought it was. It’s not about going to stand up on a mountain and hold forth on what some Voice has told you to say.

No…prophecy is about GETTING IT.

It’s remembering the past, and looking at the present, and understanding what is likely to occur if a certain course of action is not significantly altered…quickly. It’s getting that fire in your belly and needing to give vent to every drop of conviction, persuasion, admonishment and intimidation that you can wring out of yourself… In the effort to get someone, if only one other person, to GET IT, too.

This is the only possible explanation for why mousey, afraid-of-her-own-shadow little me can become a pillar of political fire when the circumstances warrant.

Of course, I do understand that most of my ranting gets about as much credence as the prophets of old got when they delivered dire warnings.

But I can't seem to help myself.

Friday, May 1, 2009


Lisa your last entry has stuck like glue. I followed the link; read that article and did a little more research. Oh, what a tangled web we’ve woven. Trouble is the only folks we’ve deceived are ourselves.

I’m not sure how the pollers came up with their sample. Less than eight hundred people: all white. White evangelical Protestants, white non Hispanic Catholics, white mainline Protestants and presumably white unaffiliated individuals. Is it easier to say it’s ok because frankly none of these people are likely to end up being tortured? They sure as hell don’t face the threat of being stopped for DWB (driving while black) or being targeted by la migra (INS) or an over zealous county sheriff.

WTF is going on here? Is it easier to justify “enhanced interrogation” techniques because you can’t imagine yourself, your family, your friends or your neighbors being on the receiving end of waterboarding, being slammed in walls, suspended by your arms for hours on end, doused in cold water and left naked in a cold room, or even being stuffed in a box about the size of a coffin? Do too many of us check our empathy or sympathy at the sanctuary door?

What happened to the greatest commandment:“Do unto others as you would have done unto you and love your neighbor as yourself; this fulfills the law and the prophets?” (or words to that effect)

Or in Matthew 25? I’ll assume for the sake of argument that at least the evangelicals are familiar with those verses. We’re told that if we care for the sick, the widows, the orphans or the prisoners we are caring for Jesus himself. If this is true; then who are we torturing?

How Far Have We Fallen?

Here is a headline that really disturbed me:

Churchgoers More Likely to Back Torture

The actual story describes results of a pitifully small and probably misleading survey.

But still, the idea that 6 out of 10, or even 4 out of 10, of anybody could believe that torture might "sometimes" be justified...

...is a very, very sad commentary on our society.