Saturday, January 28, 2017

Wildly Afraid

I don't read books much.  It's not that I don't READ...I just don't read books.  I've never been much of a book reader.  Reading is a sedentary (for the body) activity, and I've never been one to sit in one place for long periods of time.  My brain has plenty of attention span..but my body does not.  These days, I sit around way more than I used to...but I shift positions about every five minutes.  If I don't move, my muscles and joints start to ache and freeze up. 

But the other day at a resale shop, I spied a copy of Cheryl Strayed's Wild, experienced that magnetic pull I feel to books I've always wanted to read (but once I get them home, they gather dust on the nightstand) and slid the book into my cart.

Wonder of wonders, I actually cracked open Strayed's book; possibly because I anticipated the subject matter to be more relevant to my life than, say, Fifty Shades of Grey or the Twilight series.  There was a time in my life, perhaps, when I might have been Cheryl Strayed, I thought...minus the serial adultery, the  "recreational" heroin use, the abortion...  Well, maybe not.  But the idea of going out into the wild to heal myself is not unfamiliar to me 

I'm about halfway through the book now.  And my chief takeaway  so far, the thing at which I marvel and of which I am acidly jealous, is Strayed's bravery.  Which was composed at least 60% of utter foolishness; but, really, isn't all courage a mixture of  some part "I can do this" and some part "What the hell?  Why not?"  Too much "what the hell" and you end up dead.  Too much analysis of  "I can do this" and you never get off the starting line.  It takes the right combination of both to ever have a life at all.

This was driven home to me in a particularly powerful way yesterday afternoon.  I had taken off in the van, solo, to "get out into nature," and maybe practice with the new camera a little.  I had packed a lunch, intending to stop at one of my favorite haunts--Big Eddy Park--to climb out of the van and enjoy my solitary repast under the canopy of cedars and firs...maybe get a few good shots of the indigenous bird life.  When I got to the park, it was still closed for the winter season.  Bah!  So I ended up parking on the roadside outside the park, consuming my lunchable, chips, yogurt and Trader Joe's soda while the log trucks and farm vehicles whizzed by on Highway 47.

So there I was, smugly patting myself on the back for getting in my safe, locked car and driving around alone for four hours, occasionally getting out (after stashing all my valuables in cubbies or under coats or blankets to be safe from "smash and grab") and not taking with me a spray can of mace or concealing a tiny designer pistol for "protection."  And then I pick up my book and dive into the exploits of a  26-year-old girl dragging a 75-pound pack a hundred miles up hill and down dale on the Pacific Crest Trail.  Alone.  What a take-down.  It felt like someone had grabbed that hand I patted myself on the back with, twisted it and held it up between my shoulder blades.

When sneaking a solitary  meal of convenience food at the side of a country highway is the bravest/most adventurous thing you've done or will do in months, the thought must cross your mind that the best part of your life is indisputably in your past.

But, you know what?  I don't want to be that person.  Not yet. 

I suppose it could be argued that the wide world at large was safer for a female out on her own back in 1994.  Humanity has spent the ensuing twenty-some years enhancing mass communication to the point where strangers are more likely to feel instant antipathy for one another, and the darker side of human behavior is much more likely to be expressed and acted upon.  And then, there's Criminal Minds...

Still, there's a lot of real estate between reasonable caution and being afraid of everything.  Surely there's a middle ground that will allow me the freedom to put myself out there without being either murdered or dying of a fear-induced heart attack. 

The question now is how to act on this newfound resolve.  I think I see a solo camping trip in my near future...   

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Off. That's What I'd Like to Tell Him.

(I have vowed to stay away from the social-media political feeding frenzy.  I swear, after today, my interactions on Facebook will be about innocuous things like food, birds and gardening. 

But was a day I needed to check in a few times, just to balance out the surrealism of yesterday.  The women were out and about today...all over the country...all over the world.  I'm with them in spirit.)

In my ninja strike wandering down my news feed, I spotted this:


What do I want to tell him?

How about that it will be a cold day in hell before I refer to him as "Mr. President?" 

Are you serious?  "Mr. President" is a title of respect.  Our duly elected Hater-in-Chief has none, for anyone or anything, and in return, will get none from me.  Karma's a bitch.

In fact, neither shall I refer to him as President Trump, or even Mr. Trump.  The best, the absolute pinnacle of  non-contempt that will issue forth from me in reference to the buffoon who has redecorated the Oval Office to suit his tasteless nouveau-riche preferences will be "Trump."  And that will only be if I am in mixed company who would be offended by my preferred appellation for our malignant (dick)head of state:   "Cheeto Jesus." 

"Mr. President" indeed.  Not in a million years.      

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Monday, January 16, 2017

Creative Admonition

First morning of post-vacation funk, I was sitting on my coffee deck taking stock of my abilities, talents and passions.  Dejectedly, I wondered why I think of myself as a creative person, one whose talents are distinctly right-brained, since I seem to suck at every creative endeavor I have ever embarked upon.  I USED to play music, USED to sing, USED to weave, USED to garden.  I don't do those things any more...I was never any good at them anyway.

More recently, I've turned to writing and photography as my creative outlets. Those two activities seem to be headed for the "USED to do" tar pit as well.  I've had to concede that I'm not really any good at those, either.

Just as I was spiraling down into a crater of depression about this, a thought came to my mind--as they are wont to do when I'm sitting in my place of communication with the Spirit...whether or not I think I've voluntarily entered into said communication. 

"Why do you have to be 'good at' these things to engage in them?  Creativity is not about that.  It's about enjoying the process.  It's not about success, or marketability, or even if anyone else likes or understands what you do.  It's about doing what you love because you  love it, and because you can."

Hmm.  I guess I'll have to think about THAT for awhile. 

Post-Vacation Grumbles

Dire weather forecasts aside, our mid-winter vacation in southern Oregon turned out to be quite a success.  We got in a lot of roaming around all over the countryside; visited an impressive little museum in Klamath Falls; even thoroughly enjoyed embarrassing ourselves at a bowling alley one evening.  We did NOT end up getting trapped in our room for days on end by the weather.   
We left the frozen tundra of the Klamath basin on Saturday; arrived back in the frozen tundra of PDX-land on Sunday.  Once this stuff goes away, I think I will have had my fill of snow for at least another year.
But if this vacation has turned me off snow for awhile, it has turned me off one other thing:  photography.  The new camera proved to be way more than I can or want to handle.  I even took time to watch an hour-long you-tube video that amounted to "Nikon D7200 for dummies"  in a vain effort to understand enough about the over-the-top technology of the thing to get it to a point where I can get acceptable pictures out of it. No dice.  I still ended up with unclear, off-color images 90% of the time.  It was an exercise in frustration that tainted my enjoyment of my vacation rather than enhancing it.  Bah!
Sure, it has a button for this and a dial for that, and six-ways-to-Sunday to adjust the exposure, shutter speed, ISO and aperture.  I can touch this button for low light-situations, this dial for bright light or back light, make this adjustment for infinity pictures, another for macro, and yet another for telephoto.  This camera will do a million different things, if I just make the right combination of adjustments.  But who wants to have to do all that crap every time you pick up the camera and point it at something?  What a pain in the ass!!!!  
And in the end, a photographer friend of mine conceded that  "we all try to get the most out of the camera in the field, but... putting time into post-processing [will make] a dramatic difference."  That suggests I need to invest time and money I don't have into acquiring a program like "Lightroom" to process my photos, and shoot "RAW" images, then painstakingly download and "process" every image.  By the way, "Lightroom" is an Adobe product--I HATE Adobe.  They are the least intuitive programs out there.  You need to take a fucking class just to figure out how to use the damn things, and it takes months of using and practicing with the programs to be able to get any results, much less acceptable ones. 
I once thought of digital photography as a gift from the gods.  It was such a liberating technology for hobby more investing mucho bucks into film and processing of pictures of which 90% were garbage.  No more boxes and boxes of photos to search through to find the one of Mom's 80th birthday or the trip to Mt. St. Helens.  I got my first digital camera in 2002 and have never looked back.
But like everything these days, the technology has morphed into more of a burden than a blessing.  There is no such thing as beauty in simplicity.  If you have a device, it needs to be able to do more and more and more and more.  No matter that the "more and more" are things you didn't ask for and will never use.   It has to be "cutting edge."  If some new trick is conceived, they slap it on there.  Just because.  And after awhile, all that extraneous crap begins to inhibit rather than enhance the original function of the device. 
So it is with DSLR's, in my humble opinion.  I don't want to take HD movies, or record stereo sound, or connect to Wi-Fi (a significant portion of the $1400 price tag of the camera went toward these features that I don't want and won't use); or get shitty images with a lot of "potential" that I have to screw around with in the digital darkroom to make decent.  I want to point the camera at something, make a few minor adjustments, if necessary, and shoot the damn picture.  Then download decent images right from the camera to my laptop.  Why is that so hard?
I have two choices:  I can either commit to taking the camera out "practice" shooting a couple of hours every day until I master the complicated technology, then spend additional hours downloading and processing the images, or I can bag it.  And it looks like I'll have to bag it at least for now, because I have a pretty full schedule, with an event coming up in a month, plus my commitment to begin sorting through and weeding out "things that no longer serve" around my house, plus the commitment I made the first of this year to posting ten journal entries per month.  There are only so many hours in a day, and I move a lot slower than I used to.  The $1400 camera is going to have to be set aside for awhile...and I may ultimately decide IT is a "thing that no longer serves."  Sigh!       

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Grass Roots Movement That Can Save Us

I posted this earlier today, after yet another call to sign a petition showed up in my Facebook news feed:

I've always had a feeling that these petitions were an exercise in futility.  Last week's story about Paul Ryan absenting himself from the delivery of petitions from Planned Parenthood  certainly reinforced that feeling.  Think about it for just a minute:  If the GOP-controlled Congress intends to ram through legislation over the objections of the minority in the House and Senate, it certainly has zero interest in hearing from the people represented by that legislative minority.  Petitions are a waste of time.  Ditto phone calls and emails to the offices of Congressional representatives.   Congress has demonstrated repeatedly over the past eight years that they have little regard for the actual will or even the welfare of the American people.   

The past nine weeks have been a struggle for me, as they have for much of the nation.  It has been difficult to watch the days of perhaps the last sane presidency of our republic tick away...we're down to seven, now.  The horrendous bloodbath that was the 2016 election left us all so drained that we literally cannot face the fear and dread that lies like a stone in our hearts.  Haven't we all held out a shred of hope that Trump would somehow, against all odds, rise to this challenge and at least start acting like an adult, if not entirely presidential?  Haven't we all been secretly waiting for some sign that surely things will not turn out as badly as we think they will?

But Trump continues to comport himself like an obnoxious, entitled 12-year-old who has never been taught the meaning of the word "no" and has no intention of ever learning it.  He tweets garbage, selects obvious misfits for important government posts just for the sensational value of it, picks fights with the press, sticks out his tongue and calls anyone who disagrees with him a "loser..."  His inspiring  New Year's missive to the American people was a taunt to his "enemies"--which, if one considers the results of the popular vote, would refer to over half of those very American people--crowing playground bully-talk about what losers they were. 

So, no...there is not one tiny shred of hope emanating from Trump or his suddenly sycophantic Republican Congress.  The hopelessness is paralyzing.  How many of us have been tempted to simply turn away from this fiasco and try to live quietly and genuinely until it all explodes?  I know I have.

This evening, I was sitting in, of all places, a bar in a bowling alley in Klamath Falls Oregon.  Country music was blaring from the stage where karaoke would begin at 9:00  pm sharp.  And, almost by reflex, I was starting to feel a curmudgeonly resentment toward these people in this area of the state, whom I do not know but am convinced are my political "enemies"--no doubt leaning as far right as I do left.

And  then it hit me:  We've got to stop hating each other. 

That's what we have to do.  The hate, the division, the's got to stop.

Because that's where the power of those who would destroy this country comes from.  From hate.  We call each other "the enemy."  We spew filth at each other on a daily basis.  We've  escalated from verbal assault upon our neighbors to cyber-bullying and, finally, deadly violence.  Beatings.  Rapes.  Shootings.  Riots. 

And  in our nation's capitol, we have 535 of our duly chosen "representatives" carrying out what they believe is OUR mandate to hate (or maybe we are carrying out theirs; it's become a chicken/egg thing...impossible to distinguish which came first.)  We've even elected ourselves a Hater-in-Chief.  We're no longer the United States of America.  We're the Divided States of Hate.    

It has to stop.  And WE can stop it.  At a very grass roots level.  In our neighborhoods, in our villages and towns and cities, we have to stop hating each other.  THAT is what we can do.  All the petitions and phone calls and emails and tweets and Facebook statuses and blog posts we can muster will not produce the result of We The People physically laying down our swords and our clubs, joining together and refusing to continue to hate.

THIS is what needs to be organized.  THIS is the thing into which we need to pour our hearts, our blood, sweat and tears.  We need to join together and STOP THE HATE.

Once we stop hating, our god-forsaken joke of a government can continue to stall, or stagnate or even explode, and we'll weather the storm.  Because we'll care about each other, and we'll take care of each other. 

We are all we have, my friends.   And that is not a bad thing. 

There are 319 million of us.  We are...HUGE!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Tomorrow Belongs To...

A little background here, invisible audience:  Oregon is a blue state purely on the strength of the liberals overrunning our most populous areas--Portland, Eugene-Springield, Salem.  The rest of the state is as red as they come...the farther south you go, the redder it gets.  Think of the guys that took over Malheur last winter.  Down here in these parts--we're in Klamath Falls right now--the folks were definitely siding with the Bundys.

So...we went to lunch at a local watering hole this afternoon, the kind with a tv-screen in every corner.  As it happened, we were tuned into the very beginning of a football game.  Up there on the tv, some guy steps up to a mike, doffs his cowboy hat and starts to belt out "The Star Spangled Banner."  

And a guy at the next table takes off his ball cap, stands at attention and puts his hand over his heart.

It made me uncomfortable.  And I was uncomfortable with being uncomfortable about it.  "Quit being an ass," I told myself.  "It's a free country.  He's not bothering you."  Still, a nagging bit of disapproval followed me through my meal, and out the door.

A little while later, after thinking about it some more, it came to my mind what exactly made me uncomfortable about this guy standing up in a bar showing off his ostentatious brand of in-your-face "patriotism."

It was because it reminded me WAY too much of this (from 1972's film version of "Cabaret."):

Friday, January 6, 2017

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Take a Good Look, Progressives

The holidays are over.   We're in to the new year and the countdown of the last days of a sane human being presiding over the United States of America has begun in earnest.    I've noticed some of my progressive friends returning to social media, passing around disgruntled memes and engaging in a little post-election observation.  What I've noticed most about the return of liberals to Facebook and Twitter is that no one is really talking too much about who is responsible for the fact of president-elect Cheeto Jesus.  Let me put it out there for you all:   I lay a good deal of the responsibility at the feet of the legions of progressives who either didn't vote or voted for a third party candidate because they were assured by the mainstream media of a Clinton victory, so they were free to "vote (or not) their conscience" without being afraid that Trump would win. Surprise!

In my humble opinion, the show put on by the progressive "faithful" during the entire election cycle was shameful. They were more than happy to abandon the moral high ground and jump on the vicious, negative, Hillary-bashing bus during the primaries; then they whip out their halos, polish them up and "vote their conscience" in the general election. I call bullshit on that. You can't run with the devil and then go kneel in front of the altar when it suits your fancy.

Prior to this election, Progressives believed they owned the moral high ground. It was a point of pride. Win or lose, they were always better than the ignorant, name-calling, slime-dwelling right-wing sheep. Unfortunately, during this election cycle many frustrated Progressives decided that ugliness was the way to go, since right-wingers obviously have so much success with it. They ran screaming from the high ground, straight into the mud pit, where they ended up shoulder to shoulder with the "enemy," flinging vile shit at one of their own who just didn't happen to be their first choice of Democrat presidential candidate.

I do not lump all progressives who harbored reservations about Clinton with the crazies who viciously tore into her, swallowing and regurgitating every bit of the baseless venom that Republicans had been piling on her for 25 years. I'll wager that raging mob didn't care a fig for any possibly sane reasons not to vote for Hillary Clinton. They wanted Bernie and they were going to help Republicans drag Hillary through the glass-spiked manure to get him.

I am not a registered Democrat.  I'm an independent--for good reason, it appears. Neither Republicans nor Democrats have answers any more. There was a reason many of the founding fathers distrusted and warned against political parties. Just look at the place to which partisan politics have dragged us today.

That said, the system is what it is. I align myself with the "side" that comes closest to sharing my personal ideology, so these days, I generally end up on the Democrat side of most issues. But having grown up in the suburbs of Chicago during the sixties and seventies, I have seen Democrats at their worst; so I have no particular allegiance to that party.

As a card-carrying bleeding heart liberal, I was overjoyed when Bernie Sanders entered the primary. I anticipated his input would drag the conversation away from the center--the political Brigadoon that doesn't really exist--where I knew Hillary Clinton intended to set up residence. There needed to be a major pull to the left , and Sanders could provide it.  And I applauded Sanders when he declared that his would be a "positive campaign, based on the issues."  That was EXACTLY what we needed.  That was how intelligent progressives would challenge each other in a complex and intimidating world.  Negative campaigning never addresses actual issues.

But when the Sanders campaign degenerated to the shitstorm it became, I lost all hope that our nation could be saved, or even that it was worth saving. AND my already very conditional respect for the Democratic party faded to near invisibility. The American people--and progressives particularly--need to take a serious look at the end result of EVERYONE sinking to the level of using the tools of the Dark Side to "win" political contests.

In two weeks, the Dark Lord himself will rise to the presidency of one of the most powerful nations on the planet.  THAT is what we have done to ourselves.  Progressives abandoned their traditional moral stance and dove eagerly into the mud pit.   The result was that they ended up with a damaged candidate--damaged not as much by her personal past as by those who supposedly shared her political ideology turning on her and ripping her to shreds. They got exactly what they wanted this election--NOT Hillary Clinton. Unfortunately, NOT Clinton ended up being Cheeto Jesus. And now we all have to live with that.


Sunday, January 1, 2017

New Year, New Challenge


Would it have surprised anyone if, after the marathon of the past three months, this space remained untouched for at least a month?  Or two?  It wouldn't have surprised me.

But wonder of wonders, I seem to have developed a habit.  Can't seem to make it through too many days without sitting down with my Dell in my lap and staring at the cursor blinking on the blank Word page until something shakes out.

Yes, I've settled myself back into this warm familiar room. I needed to air it out a little, sweep out the cobwebs; pushed out the empty chairs where no one sits anymore and dusted off and fluffed up the one big, comfy easy chair that remained.  Though it's so very changed from the electric, energy-charged place it was when I first found it, I still love this place.  It's full of good memories; rather than letting them prick and pain me with thoughts of a community lost, I'll allow them to surround me like a fleece blanket of fond remembrances. 

It being the new year and all, and a new year likely to bring storms and strife from many quarters, I've decided I'll need to come here to my place of contemplation and solace often.  I'm not one to make resolutions, but I know that if I don't set my competitive self a goal, my dedication is likely to fade. 

So here it is.  Ten posts per month.  At least ten; could be more, can't be less.  And no doing 12 posts one month and then 8 the next.  That would be cheating.  There may be times when it might come down to publishing ten posts on the 30th of  the month.  But I hope not;  I'd like to hope a deadline won't be my primary motivation.