Thursday, January 28, 2016

Day Off?

Every morning, when I’m home, I do a short morning devotion before heading inside to start my day.  I turn to each of the four directions and speak to the Spirit through the Guides I have encountered in each of those directions.  To the east is Heron, to the south are Owl and Hawk, to the west are Gull and Pelican, to the north are Hummingbird and Goose. 

Through Heron I ask for balance, through Owl and Hawk, I ask for sight.

Gull and Pelican oversee freedom and unburdenment.

Through Goose and Hummingbird, I petition for peace and joy.

This morning, as I turned to the north and made my petition, a small voice said clearly in my head:

“Peace and joy today?  Then you need to stay away from the internet.”


 I’m afraid the Spirit has a point…


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Asked and Answered--The Story Continues

A friend of mine once told me to “boldly ask” the Spirit for the things I desire.  There wasn’t a lot of backstory to go with that declaration, but it seems logical to assume there’s a certain amount of universally moral consideration that governs the situation.  One does not ask for evil to befall another person or being (“God” takes care of judgment and/or punishment); one does not ask for frivolous things, like a winning lottery ticket.  But if a request is properly examined and deemed acceptable, there is no reason not to step up to the Almighty and ask, frankly and specifically, for it to be granted.

This is in direct conflict with my old Catholic upbringing, which had us bowing, prostrating and sometimes flogging ourselves before the throne of God, framing our requests in terms of “If it be thy will.” Resorting to bargaining, if we were really desperate.  Early on, we were taught that God answers all prayer, but sometimes the answer is “No”—so if we prayed for something and didn’t get it, it wasn’t that God hadn’t answered the prayer.  The result of which was that we were anything but “bold” in our dealings with the Almighty.  We were more like…whipped puppies.

I have honestly tried to change that attitude that was implanted in me practically from the moment I came to understand that there was an entity called “God” and we were allowed, on an extremely limited basis, to interact with It.  Difficult as that road has been, I feel like I’ve made some headway.  I want to be a spiritual grown up; I don’t want to be stuck in that stage where most human religions seem to be mired: where mankind’s relationship to the Universal Spirit most closely resembles the relationship between a five-year-old and her parent. The child has learned who is the ultimate authority in her life and is learning what behaviors will ingratiate her to that authority.  And the Authority alternately punishes and rewards the child in order to enforce acceptable behaviors.

Still, given my early life indoctrination, it’s been difficult to put my spiritual aspirations into practice.  I actually have given the “boldly ask” notion a try…admittedly, on issues not terribly important or life-changing.  And the results, when I do put myself out there and ask, have been pretty amazing. 

So far, my bold requests have been limited to…owls.              

Three years ago, before we made our first birding trip down to Klamath, I turned my face toward the Almighty and boldly said, “I want to see an owl.”  I had no idea that the Klamath Basin Wildlife Refuges were pretty much overrun with great horned owls in the winter…we were going down there to see the eagles.  So, of course, my request was answered to an extent that I could never have imagined or hoped for.


The following year, as our bird viewing was getting universally skunked by the devastating drought conditions that had limited prey opportunities for the birds we sought, I once again requested of the Almighty that I be allowed an owl experience.   I was surprised and delighted to make the acquaintance of a completely different little owl with whom I would never have had a clue to request a meeting.

The past two years, we haven’t been able to afford a trip to that enchanting place in the high desert.  Discouraged and sad, I have nevertheless gone to the Almighty with my requests to meet owls.  Last year, it was a barred owl in the woods off a gravel road on Sauvie Island

This winter, it has been great horned owls in the leafless backwoods of Columbia County. 

As a side note to this winter’s effort:  After spotting my first GHO of the season, I began to wonder if I was destined to experience only one owl sighting per year.  This seemed unfair and unacceptable.  So…sitting behind the wheel of the owlmobile last Wednesday, I asked the Spirit, “Why only one owl?  I’d like to see TWO owls this year.  May I see two owls?” 


Yesterday, I had almost the same conversation with the Almighty, except it was, “Three.  I’d like to see three owls this year.”  Once again, the request was granted.


The Almighty has been more than generous in responding to my requests to see owls.  I know…it seems na├»ve, silly even, to believe that the Creator of the Universe hears or cares about this request from one infinitesimal human, regarding things most definitely not of Universal importance.  And yet…I only know that, in my personal experience of spiritual matters, I’ve noted a distinct tendency on the part of the Almighty to honor even the smallest sincere effort by a human soul to contact and commune with Her. 

The Spirit is out there, and She wants us to know She is out there.  If it means bringing two tiny creatures of this earth together in a requested meeting to prove the point, She is not averse to making that happen.   

Eventually, I will need to embolden myself to take the next step, a much larger step, toward communion with the Almighty.  In the meantime, I’m happy to ask for owls.   

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Maybe Not

Some organization in the greater Portland area has decided that the population is crying out for a positive message.  To that end, it has erected billboards around town that say things like, "You are freaking awesome."

You are freaking awesome.

I passed that sign today...and you know what?

I thought about it.

What came to my mind was, "Who was the last person who thought I was freaking awesome?"

And I couldn't come up with an answer.

Not a very positive message after all. 

Quite the Charlie Brown moment...

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

SO Sick of Guns

I'm not one much for routine, but there is one ritual I go through every morning.  After the livestock are fed, I pour a cup of coffee and head outside to my "coffee deck."  It's my place to connect with the spirits of nature before I begin my day.  This is not a luxury, not something I do when I have time or when I think about it.  It's something I need to do.  Every day.  Or I wither like an uprooted flower.

Early this past fall, I felt the Universe instructing me to go about my morning ritual a little differently.  I had been reading about mindfulness, intention, and being in the moment without judgment.  I felt that I should close my eyes and just listen for the first few moments of my deck time.  At first, it felt awkward and strained.  It seems like I'm pretty proficient at hearing, but not great at listening.  Once I began to get the hang of it, I found it refreshing, and at the same time, deep.  It felt as if, by eliminating one layer of noise inside my head, I was allowing the sounds of the world to enter my being to a deeper level without interference--so that I was not just hearing...I was absorbing.  A feeble description at best, but as close as I seem able to come.

That practice of connecting without judging came to a screeching soon as duck season opened.   The constant boom of far-off blunderbusses is not a sound I can--or wish to--allow to enter my being on a deep level. 

And it has been relentless.  In years past, there would be an almost acceptable level of gunfire in the morning...mostly on the weekends, and usually just enough to suggest a couple of sorties into the reeds with thousand dollar shotguns and designer dogs in tow.  It was bad enough to make me shake my head and grumble, but not so bad that it drove me indoors.  Not so, this year.

It seems that the gun fervor that has seized the nation has brought out every Bubba with a fire-spewing personal cannon and the will to use it.  They are coming out of the woodwork. Every morning--weekend, work day, school day, holiday--the explosions start as soon as daylight is barely a glimmer and continue on and off till dark.  I don't know what they're shooting at...I hope to god the level of noise they make is not indicative of the amount of death they are spreading, or there won't be a duck left to head north to Arctic breeding grounds in spring. 

My soul cringes at the senseless bloodlust.  I try to watch my little feeder birds, try to scan the sky for a heart-lifting glimpse of an eagle or a heron.  But I can't get beyond the sickening noise that, to me, sounds like nothing but horrible, painful, meaningless death.

How can anyone slaughter a beautiful, defenseless animal for no reason?  I am by no means convinced that every shotgun pellet that fulfills its purpose results in a meal for a human being who would otherwise go hungry.  And I'm not naive enough to believe that every bird killed winds up as meat on anyone's table.  How many of the shots taken are just for the hell of it, using living, breathing beings for target practice?  How many birds escape immediate death only to perish slowly and painfully from blood loss or infection?  How can anyone knowingly inflict that on another creature? 

These days, it's all the rage to exercise one's rights--most satisfyingly within close proximity to those that one can inconvenience or upset with the act.  Militant cyclists clog roads that they cannot navigate safely without monumentally interfering with automobile traffic--because they have the right.  Employers terminate workers for the minutest infractions, dashing hopes and impoverishing families--because they have the right.  Gun-lovers parade around in pubic bristling with weapons that frighten and intimidate people--because they have the right. 

In particular, conservative activists have taken up the banner of "gun rights" as some sort of protest against the "other side."  How lucky for them that they can publicly and flamboyantly exercise a "right" that by its very nature threatens those who choose NOT to exercise it, or to regulate the exercise of it!  What a feeling of power it must be, this ability to bully the "other side" wave a gun and watch people cringe, because you have the right. 

This "Y'all Queda" that has overrun the Malheur Wildlife Refuge, armed to the teeth, claiming "peaceful protest" while threatening death to anyone who would contest their right to unlawfully occupy federal land...  Every crack of gunfire that assaults my ears brings their images to my mind.  It makes me so angry.   I hate bullies.  Always have.   I just want to...make them go away.  Preferably in a non-violent manner, but that looks less likely with each passing day. 

And I wonder why the federal government sits by and lets these asshats get away with this bullshit.

I believe in Karma.  But sometimes, it just doesn't move fast enough. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The REALLY Important Debates Are Not On CNN

There are times when I seem to lose my zeal for political posts here on the blog.  But the zeal always seems to pop up somewhere...if not here, then on Facebook.  I thought I had been endeavoring, since my last post here, to dwell less in the negative political space  Facebook provides.  But I just can't seem to completely cut myself free...

In any case, today I found myself commenting on the post of a friend who normally does not post about American political issues...chiefly because he isn't American.  And he doesn't live in the US.  But I accept that American political traumas are news all over the world, and Europeans are entitled to have opinions about them.  So it wasn't because I thought my friend had no right to speak that I was because I thought his assertion needed rebuttal.

The exchange served to clarify--for me, at least--some points pursuant to my fervent aversion to Donald Trump, among other things.  So rather than go the hard route of trying to craft those comments into a legitimate blog post, I'll just regurgitate the conversation, verbatim:

Original Poster:  Donald Trump, I agree, has a mouth too large for his brain.  However.  His popularity indicates that he is talking about issues and feelings among the electorate that other politicians are not prepared to tackle.  In other words, there are problems in American society which mainstream politics are not addressing adequately, in the views of a lot of people.  Listen to him, he has a voice and is entitled to be heard.  Discard the bullshit, extract the underlying message--and get someone to take on those problems.  He'll soon fade away into his billions.

Me:  [Friend,] Donald Trump's "voice" is one that American society does not need to heed or encourage.  Trump is a "shock jock."  Like Howard Stern or Rush Limbaugh, Trump is popular because he says wildly inappropriate things that most people are too polite or respectful to utter out loud.  There is a certain amout of the frustration and anger of an increasingly disenfranchised and economically oppressed electorate to which he and his ilk have given voice, which unfortunately, over the years, has caused anger, meanness, xenophobia and aggression to become fashionable in this country.  It's bad enough that we have had to put up with that crap from media personalities.  It has already poisoned  state legislatures and our national Congress.  We cannot allow it to poison the presidency as well.  This election will be the last stand of decency and respect in the US.  It's important that Trump be seen for what he is--a blowhard charlatan interested in absolutely nothing but Donald Trump.

Me Again:  And Bernie Sanders has as many or more followers than Donald Trump.  He, too, is talking about issues--PROGRESSIVE issues--that resonate with voters all over the US, but he gets about 1/10th the media coverage Donald Trump does.  So it's really not about who is giving voice to the desires of the American people, it's about which voice the media are giving the biggest bullhorn.

Original Poster:  It's the money that talks.

Me:  ...and "the money" is SO not representative of the voice of the majority of the American people. 

Original Poster:  It's been put to me that the candidate with the deepest pockets stands the biggest chance of winning, irrespective of their political alignment.

Me:  The "deep pockets" believe that, [Friend]...and they want everyone else to believe it, too.  But Bernie Sanders is enjoying astonishing success, without any Super-Pac corporate donors...whereas the darling of the Koch brothers--Wisconsin's Scott Walker--dropped out of the field early, with hardly a whimper.  I won't say that big money has lost all its power in American politics, but the voters are beginning to wise up and demand their voices be heard. 

Second Commenter:  I completely agree with you [Friend].  He may be a loudmouth and he may be a lot of other things that people don't like but he makes a lot of sense in some matters.  It's funny that most people that trash one particular candidate can't seem to come up with a better choice.  Could be because there aren't any.

Me:  Seriously?

Second Commenter:  I didn't say he would make a good president.  I said he had important things to say that need to be heard.  I'm entitled to my opinion just like you are yours.

Original Poster:  As I said in my post, you have to read between the lines with Trump.  His lines are populist bombast--there was a Scottish politician like that in recent years, and his chickens are slowly coming home to roost.  

Me: You [referring to Second Commenter] said those who trash Trump can't come up with a better choice.  I named one in my previous comment.  In fact, among the crowded field of Republican presidential hopefuls, there are only one or two that WOULDN'T be a better choice than Trump.  Many people are of that opinion.  To which we are entitled.

Second Commenter:  I sent my post before I read your second comment.  I'm speaking of the dozens of others I have seen trash Trump and other candidates and not come up with anything better.  If you made a suggestion of a better candidate, then apparently I was not addressing you.  I like Bernie Sanders.  I still don't know if he would make a good president though.  Personally I don't like any of the candidates for president.  But if we don't do something quick we're going to be the next third world country.  We already owe our soul to China.

Second Commenter:  And I didn't say all people who trash other candidates, I said most.  Just wanted to clarify that.

Me:  Clarification noted.  :)

Third Commenter:  I don't like Donald Trump and would never vote for him, but what you're saying is correct, [Friend.]  I have said all along that he is touching upon something that Americans see is a problem or he would NEVER be able to get that many followers.  Most of them know that what he is saying is crass and wrong...but somewhere in the middle of all his hate is a kernel of truth for what is going on in America and they are grasping on to it.  I, too, advise candidates to start listening a bit more to what he is saying instead of writing him off as the joke that he is...that joke is reaching people.

Me:  ...and that kernel of truth would be...?  He lies so much, that would be nearly impossible to determine. 
And I'm desperately afraid that the "kernel of truth" is that people tend to want to indulge their hatreds, phobias and prejudices, and they will gather in large crowds to support a public figure who gives them carte blanche to do so.  This does nothing to improve the lives of only gives them permission to inhabit a very dark place.

Third Commenter:  That's up to each voter to decide for themselves.  It may not be your truth, but obviously it is to many, many, many, people or he wouldn't be where he is...that's just common sense.

Me:  There is no such thing as "my truth" or "your truth"  Truth is truth.  Fact is fact.  And the sad fact is, we in this country have decided that if something sounds good to us, it must be true.  There is SO much noise out there, and absolutely no standard of truth anymore in the media.  We have begun to choose our own realities, because there IS no truth out there.  And we are paying a high, high price for that choice.

Third Commenter:  Wow.  What I believe to be truth may be something you don't believe, so there is a "my truth" and "your truth," it happens every day in every home in America where we raise our children under values WE believe to be true...other people raise theirs completely different.  I really am not going to debate this issue with you so this will be my last comment...I was just supporting [Friend's] opinion, which he is allowed to have and I'm allowed to agree with.  No one here said they supported Donald I'm not sure why our opinions of why we think others do is such a big deal.

Me:  It's a big deal because the problem is complex and debate is essential.  And when someone suggests that there must be something valid about what Trump says because so many people are backing him, I feel compelled to argue the point.

Me again:  Incidentally what you describe in your last comment are beliefs.  "Truth" and "belief" are not interchangeable.  I may BELIEVE, for example, that the white race is superior, but my belief doesn't make it true...

I leave it up to you, readers, to judge if my comments were bombastic enough to elicit the obviously huffy responses I received from the other 2 commenters.  I didn't think so...but I have a way of being blind to my own obnoxiousness, and I fail miserably at dumbing down my earnest opinions so that they come off as less...fervent.

I think what bothered me the most about this is that the two ladies with whom I had exchanges are the type of voters who really SHOULD get involved in debates about the merits of different candidates and their points of view, but they obviously view the discourse--even this relatively benign example--with if arguing these points is somehow beneath them. 

Ladies, don't be put off by the words of someone who has obviously spent a lot of time and energy forming opinions about the subject.  YOUR opinions are as valid as anyone else's.  Don't be rude.  Don't call names.  Don't get hurt or huffy.

Just think about the issue and speak your mind.  Don't back off. 

We will all benefit from it.      

Thursday, January 7, 2016

They're Selling Soap; But You Don't Have to Bathe In It

Facebook is starting to bug me.
I mean, I don't blame Facebook itself.  I blame myself, really.  Because you  have more control than you think over what you see on Facebook...the pages you "like", the memes you share, the articles you comment on, the things you shop for (which is a little creepy, but it is what it is.)
It is my misfortune that much of my activity on Facebook revolves around my politics.  And what I've found is, Facebook has created an alternate internet reality for me.  When I go on Facebook, I am bombarded with liberal political memes, slams on the right wing, stories about current affairs with a definite left-wing slant.  Many of which cause me to nod in agreement and click the "share" button.  And so I continue--and escalate--the cycle.  Click more, see more, click more, see more.
It occurs to me that I have created my own little Fox-News-esque  reality bubble, where everyone thinks like me, believes what I believe, is outraged over the same things I get outraged about.  It is at once comforting and frustrating...nice to know there is a "community" of others out there who share my beliefs, but frustrating because the outrage never ends, things never change, dumb-ass stuff that makes me crazy continues to happen all over the country and the world, and there's nothing I can do about it.  It's like watching the planes fly into the twin towers over and over again; I know it's damaging my psyche, but I can't seem to look away.
Once again, I am confronted by the need for balance--a recurring theme in my life, and especially in the past few months.  Balance is as important to life as food and water.  Spending time in a consistently unbalanced environment has actually become a source of irritation for me, rather than a source of comfort.  Community is all well and good, but when you allow yourself to be encased in that community, when you settle in and never rouse yourself to go beyond it, it starts to suffocate you. 
The other night, I was navigating around Facebook, trying to get sleepy enough to go to bed.  I made an interesting discovery.  On my own page, wallowing through the stories about gun safety and red-neck militia and Donald Trump, I felt anxiety, depression and frustration closing in around me.  I am passionate about my political views, but right now, that passion seems to have no positive outlet. 
Then I clicked onto one of the group pages I belong to.  It's a page dedicated to an Oregon wildlife refuge, one where we post pictures taken there and share ideas and identifications of the birds and other wildlife. Immediately, I felt the atmosphere around me clear and lighten, as if a fresh breeze had blown away the miasma that had closed in around me on my normal news feed.  I suddenly felt happy,  engaged,  and excited about the "conversation" I was having with other members of the page.  And it had nothing to do with politics.    
THIS is it, I thought: the internet into which I had tentatively crept  a dozen years ago.  These were the feelings I had discovered and come to crave with my first interactions with people outside my own head in AOL's journal-land, 'way back in 2003.  The kinds of interactions I have missed and mourned...for quite a long time now.
Moral of the story, I guess, is that--a decade and a half down the road--the internet has definitely changed.  "Matured" might not be a good word for the process...but it has grown.  At first glance, it would seem to have descended into the dark side.  But is neither all bad nor all good.  It is what you make of it. 
But you really have to be aware that you ARE making it...perhaps according to someone else's idea of what you would like to see, but you are the source, nonetheless. 
And it helps not to forget that the "someone else" who is helping you create your internet reality does not necessarily have your best interests at heart.  They are basically trying to sell soap.  Drama and dissent sells soap.  As long as the internet is "free," it's important to keep that in mind, and try to take as much conscious control as possible of your internet experience.   


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Happy...Never Mind

Five days into a new year.  Already. 

Thinking about losing weight, exercising more, taking more walks, writing more blog posts...

Thinking about trying to be kinder, rationing my internet time, reading more books, cleaning out the clutter, spending more time with things of the spirit...

Absolutely dreading the increase in presidential campaign hype.  Wondering how it can get any more shrill than it is already...but knowing it will.

Feeling broke and frustrated about usual.  Looking to research more ways of creating cash flow.  Haven't made much progress, there...

All those thoughts that swim around in one's head in the very first hours, days, weeks of a brand new year...

As if some kind of mysterious energy is regenerated every January 1st. 

And by Valentine's, it's back to the same old wheel tracks in the same old ruts.