Sunday, December 31, 2017

Hope...


My Traditional New Years Eve Post

...wherein I take the first line of the first post of each month, and add some pertinent commentary:


January--Would it have surprised anyone if, after the marathon of the past three months, this space remained untouched for at least a month?--After a three-month marathon to wrap up 2016--determined to reach post #1300 in the blog's 13th year--I resolved to post 10 entries per month for 2017.

February--We step out of the used appliance store on River Road in Eugene, make our way back to our car parked by the street.  Husband looks out into the road...  "Uh-oh!  Kitten!" --We bid a sad farewell to our nearly 20-year-old senior kitty...

March--We're hoping this li'l biskit will fill the dog-shaped hole in our lives... --and hello to a crazy canine.

April--finches and jays

sparrows and starlings

woodpeckers and flickers

stop in my garden

to dine upon the humble offerings

of sunflower seed, millet and suet... --my one attempt at poetry in 2016

May--Yeah...  So, I failed - Five months in, my 10-post commitment it the big one... .

June--Age:  Almost 20 weeks

Height:  18 inches at the shoulder

Weight:  28 lbs.--Pupdate!

 

July--I belong to the “Concerned Citizens of Columbia County” Facebook page. --a rant about annoying neighbors annoyingly celebrating..an annoying holiday..

August--A friend posted this video on Facebook.  It was just after the Charlotte debacle, when every white person in America was either lining up behind the racists or hurriedly "white-splaining" why he/she was NOT racist.-- pretty self-explanatory, really...

 September--The Northwest is on fire...

......and the Southeast is under water.

Welcome to climate change... --commentary on a nation-wide miserable summer...

October-- How to get the 400# roof back up on your "free" gazebo without putting yourself and/or your spouse in the hospital:  --a pictorial of the husband playing with boy toys...

 

November--More wisdom from Purple Clover:


--my favorite meme from Purple Clover this year...

December--"The concept of toxic masculinity is used in the social sciences to describe traditional norms of behavior among men in contemporary American and European society that are associated with detrimental social and psychological effects."  --yes...masculinity CAN be toxic...

So...there it is.  2017 in review.  An interesting but somewhat crappy year.  Well...it's just about over now.  Here's looking forward to a LESS crappy 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sh**ty New Year



Saturday, December 30, 2017

New Years Review of Our Hapless POTUS #45



And a related Facebook comment:

 
 
 
No...not sad. 
 
Scary as hell.



Friday, December 29, 2017

The Year of the Goose


This year-end has been a strangely unsatisfying season.  For some reason, I have felt two steps behind everything since Halloween--which is my traditional starting date for gearing up for the holiday season.  I usually break out the advent-type instrumental music on November 1, and start gathering up my Autumn decorations in anticipation of replacing them with the winter holiday accoutrements.  This year, it seemed all my energy was spent spinning my wheels, lost and aimless beneath the suffocating political pall that has enveloped...EVERYTHING...for an unbelievably detestable year. 

In the end, I think, there has just been no acceptable way to put such a year to rest.  No way to sort through and bundle the events of a thoroughly distressing twelve months into a neat collection of lessons and revelations to absorb and carry forward into the new year.  So breaking out the trappings of what amounts to a year-end celebration has seemed irrelevant, bordering on downright inappropriate.  Putting out my prodigious collection of holiday decorations--a process that usually  immerses me in the joy of fond memories of past celebrations--has this year, been more of a gun-to-the-head obligation that has left me peevish and frustrated.  It all seems so...pointless.

Though Christmas is a dearly cherished tradition, the day itself is not actually of spiritual significance to me personally, anymore.  In fact, I find the absorption of the ancient pagan holiday of Solstice into Christian tradition, as the birth date of the "savior," somewhat amusing, and more than a little annoying.  Maybe if you have to borrow so much from the spirituality that has been around for ages in order to promote your concept of "salvation," your religion isn't quite as earth-shattering as you would like to believe.  Certainly it has wrought little of peace, brotherhood, wisdom, charity...or salvation... in its 2100-year existence.

The Solstice is my spiritual holiday.  For those of us who communicate with the Creator through the wonders of the natural world, this turning point of the year--pivoting away from ever-growing night, toward the return of the light--is symbolic of so much of life.  Without the promise of light beyond darkness, life becomes...hopeless.  This year especially, I so keenly anticipate the journey out of the gloom, and back to light and hope, it's almost a physical ache.  Who among us is not yearning for the light of truth and sanity to return to our world in the coming year?

The weeks leading up to Christmas this year were a slow-motion foot race; straining to catch up with the holiday spirit, tackle it from behind and grab some piece of it to inspire my lackluster preparations.  I even tried making some executive decisions pursuant to scaling back my usual over-the-top decorating mania, but I still couldn't catch up or catch "it."  It took me 8 days to decorate three rooms...and there was little joy attached to the chore.  By the Thursday before Christmas, I still hadn't accomplished my meager Christmas shopping list.  It was "Get in the car, go over the hill and get it done, now or never."  AND it was Solstice.  So the day had my two traditions colliding in a tangle of last-minute retail mania and the conflicting mandate to stop, quiet the whirlwind and indulge in some year-end soul searching.

As I wound down the road descending the hill from my shopping excursion, it crossed my mind that maybe I should bag my Solstice fire for that evening.  Surely I would be calmer and more centered in the morning...and I would have the entire day to contemplate, ruminate and celebrate.  But, no...something told me that THIS was the time.  Solstice was Solstice, and I needed to honor my commitment to my chosen spiritual path.

So I called the husband from the car, and asked him to collect up the various firewood we might have lying around the property and pile it up for me out by my coffee deck.  Twenty minutes later, I pulled in the driveway, dumped my packages inside the house, and proceeded to set myself to gathering the firewood that the husband hadn't got around to getting.  It didn't take too long to collect everything I needed: the wood, some sage, something to light it all with; paper and sharpie to write down the "things that no longer served" that I would burn in my fire; a set of hand bells to accompany myself, should I decide to sing or chant; an outfit of warm clothing that I wouldn't mind smelling of smoke afterward.  And that was it.  The task of making my Solstice fire happen, which had seemed, like everything else this year, a nearly insurmountable bother, was accomplished quickly and almost painlessly.

I lit the fire and stared into it through a fog of dumb surprise, unable, for a moment, to get a handle on what I should do next.  After a short interval of conscious slowing down and sliding into a more contemplative mood, I commenced the motions of my little ritual.

I burned my handful of things that no longer serve, I shook my bells and sang a bit. It was all a little colorless and weak...like everything else about the season.  Definitely a case of "fake it 'til you make it"--I was by god going to have this spiritual time even though I really wasn't into it.  One thing that made it less wonderful than my past Solstice fires was the loss of the expectation of a visit from some representative of the natural world, some creature with a message from the Creator that I could take with me into the time of renewal.  As it was much later in the day than my usual Solstice celebration, I could hardly expect a bird or animal to visit my fire, there in the misty dark in my quasi-suburban back yard; which made the whole ceremony feel even more like just going through the motions.

But as I calmed and opened myself to the Spirit, I came to understand that I should stop,  be quiet and listen to...what there was to hear.  Astonishingly, the first thing I heard was the voice of a wailing coyote, floating above the sounds of traffic and trains, in the not very far distance.  It was a wake-up call:  "We are out here.  Do not discount us merely because you cannot see us." Heartened by that sense of being in the company of wild things, I continued to pause from time to time in my ritual, to listen to what the Universe might have for me.

And what it had was...geese.  Over and over, for the entire duration of my fire, once I set myself to listening.  And not the distant honking that floats over from the marshes and the island to the east.  No...these sounds of geese calling pierced the murky darkness right above my head.  As if they were deliberately signaling that they had come to attend my fire, to bring me comfort and a message from the Creator. 

Goose has a particular place in my personal spirituality.  She is one of my spirit guides.  She is the bird of my family, of my ancestors.  And Goose represents peace in my daily salutation--in my prayers to the four directions, I turn to the north and ask Goose to guide me to peace.  And lately, I have been imploring my familial spirits, represented by Goose, to gather energy and reach out to family members who are trapped in darkness and pain on this earthly plain. 

So the unmistakable appearance of Goose at my Solstice celebration was really quite special. It was a reminder that the Creator is indeed connected to me, that the Creator hears my voice and is sensitive to my yearnings.  I believe Goose came to tell me that my supplication had been heard and was being acted upon even when I could not see it, as I could not see those geese who were calling to me from the darkness.

Uninspired and peevish as I was at the beginning of my ritual, the Creator nevertheless revealed itself in a personal and comforting way  A way that not only gave me hope for my intentions for my family, but hope for the larger world as well.  The message:  It is dark, but we are here.  The forces of Goodness, of Family and human connection to the Spirit...we are here.  And we are carrying out the healing work of the Creator, even when you cannot see us. 

And that is definitely a message that I can take forward into the new year--which will now bear the honorable name of my "Year of the Goose."

Monday, December 25, 2017

Saturday, December 23, 2017

The Journey of My Spirit in a Nutshell

The following is actually a reply I posted on a journal entry in "Life in the Shoe"--the blog written by a Mennonite pastor's wife/author/columnist who lives outside of Harrisburg (a very small town in the Willamette Valley north of Eugene.)  Odd, isn't it, that many of  my internet acquaintances are somehow deeply entrenched in Christianity, when I am...not.  Been there done that.  But I begrudge no one her adherence to that faith; if that is the path she has chosen to communication with the Creator, I'm fine with that (as if they need my approval!  LOL!) 

Dorcas had posted an entry about "Spiritual Winds" within the Mennonite/Amish faith.  Funny...I never thought that such a venerable conservative sect would have that kind of ripples running through it.  It reminded me very much of the stuff we encountered when we were "born again" charismatic Christians.  Seems as if charlatans can and do spring up everywhere there might be a receptive audience.  Dorcas' view was that she was at times mystified that she didn't rush to line up behind folks who blew through congregations, "on fire for Jesus" and bringing ideas for changes that she just couldn't get on board with.  She wondered if she might be missing something the Lord was calling her to by being TOO discerning. 

And now, this...from one of your "non-churched" followers:

I was born and raised Catholic...attended Catholic grade school, with the nuns and all that. But there's just...something...about the faith one is raised in that becomes stale and rote after awhile. And in the Catholic Church, there's so much dogma and "theology" in the mix, that I eventually felt it got in the way of my relationship with God, rather than enhancing it.

In the eighties, my husband and I got involved in a charismatic church--yeah, with all the prophesying and hand raising and praise-the-Lording and speaking in tongues. Stayed in that sort of church for almost a decade, but eventually, the whole culture began to seem exploitative and emotionally manipulative. And politically far right-wing. No place for an aging hippie. It seemed to me that there must be more (and less) to the Creator-of-all-things than that.

It appears to me that most organized religions want to depict the Almighty as either the big piggy bank in the sky, or as a wrathful, vengeful Spirit that rains plagues and curses upon those who displease It. Or both. My soul does not bear witness to either of those concepts. As a result, I am no longer Catholic, or charismatic, or even Christian. I commune with the Creator through nature. I'll spare you the details...as I feel one's spiritual connection is a unique and private relationship.

I have no beefs with followers of Jesus. If that is the form of spiritual connection to the Almighty that my friends are comfortable with, I'm not going to tell them they are wrong or misguided. Our God is so amazing that there are probably as many ways to connect to God as there are souls on Earth. Everyone must connect in a way that works for them. It's when people start telling you that THEIR way is the best way or the only way or the most blessed way that you have to wrap yourself in your cloak of discernment.  


Of which you seem to be doing a pretty fair job.

Thank you for this post. It was enlightening to see that some of the things that made me uncomfortable about church are universal...moreso than I had thought. 

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Shaking My Damn Head

And then there's this:


The demands from Democrats that he step down were 'the most hypocritical thing I’ve ever seen done to a human being,' Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) says

And I say again...What a bunch of clueless idiots!

Merry F'ing Christmas




It looks like the GOP tax "overhaul"--or should we say "windfall (for the rich)"--is inevitable.  The latest news out of Congress is that the Senate had to sweeten the deal with one more provision that would personally enrich a handful of Senate hold-outs, in order to assure the votes to pass the thing.  A final, unabashed display of what this legislation has always been about.

But, you know, taxes are taxes; the rich are always going to make sure that the heaviest burden falls on anyone but them, and they will always have the means to make that happen.

What bothers me most about the whole affair is not that the rich can and do hold all the marbles.  It's that there are folks in the same financial boat as me--the ones forever burned by the proven failure of "trickle down"-- who will loudly and slavishly support the right of the rich to have what they want and do as they will.  Because this is AMERICA, the land of opportunity, and some day, if  they just work hard enough, and get Jesus firmly in their corner, they could be rich, too.  The GOP is desperately happy to promote this fantasy among its most gullible (and financially vulnerable) adherents. 

The other thing that burns my ass about this is the unabashed hypocrisy that comes into play every time the GOP gets its hands on the joy stick. When Democrats are in power, all Republicans can do is cry and wail and gnash their teeth about how "liberal entitlements" are bankrupting our children.  Deficit! Deficit!  Deficit! is the never-ending war cry blared through the Republican bullhorn, and the idiots in the cheap seats pick up the mantra and scream it into the faces of their less-fortunate neighbors. 

Except...when the GOP gets the opportunity to ignore said deficit in order to grab cash and stash it in the coffers of the rich.  Suddenly, and ever so magically--*poof*--deficits don't matter! 

And they buy the silence of the middle class by throwing them enough money to buy a new TV.

So, anyway...  Here it comes, folks.

Merry f**king Christmas.

Monday, December 18, 2017

It's Still Making Headlines, So I'll Weigh In Again



I'm gonna say this again, with apologies to all the women I know who are huge supporters of the "#metoo" movement.

The current wave of firings, suspensions, disciplinary action, whatever, against high-profile (mostly progressive) men is over-reaction at best...deliberate targeting at worst.

How many men are being fired or suspended or forced to resign in the light of charges they are never made aware of until too late, and are not given the opportunity to respond to until after the axe falls? Is this fair treatment? Is this how we "get back" at the male of the species for the trouble we've encountered while trying to break into what was long designated by our society as a "man's world"? (Whether right or wrong is a matter of debate, but at one time--not that long ago-- male domination of the work place WAS socially acceptable.)

So now we just turn the tables on them? Make them fear for THEIR jobs or THEIR careers... Sit by and rub our hands together with glee and watch them suffer? Seriously? An eye for an eye just leaves everyone blind. Seizing this newfound power and bludgeoning men into submission with it is not the answer. We have been striving to prove that women can work SIDE BY SIDE with men, NOT to show that we can be bigger assholes than they are. Revenge is not justice. We need to allow EVERYONE their right to due process, their right to respond to their accusers. . This is the kind of well-considered judgment of which women are uniquely capable. Let's show them how it's done.

And if what we are actually doing here is attempting to gather some kind of unstoppable zero tolerance wave to throw in the face of the Cheeto...we are beyond stupid. THAT is never gonna happen, and we need to IMMEDIATELY cease the sacrificing of good-but-not-perfect progressive men if that is our ultimate goal.

Friday, December 15, 2017

2017: The Terrible, Awful, Very Bad Year





What a year! It's been SO hard! 

Perhaps we should all hang on to the maxim that "what doesn't kill us makes us stronger." 

That's what I am going with, anyway. 

Any other outlook drains my will and leaves me hopeless and bereft.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Returning to the Owl


We've had quite a spate of unusual non-rain weather here in December.  I have tried to take advantage of the pleasant conditions to get out into the woods and fields and play with the new camera and incredibly expensive, heavy-ass lens I purchased back in August.  And while I have managed to conquer my fear of the thing to a certain extent, the wildlife has been less than cooperative.
Two trips to the island yielded not one decent photo op for any animal or bird.  I didn't even see anything interesting that I wasn't close enough to get a decent picture of.  A few attempted birds-in-flight shots resulted in images not much different than fly-by's I had gotten with the old D40 and my screwed up zoom lens. 
Then there was yesterday. 
I have been trying to take advantage of the weather and make sure to get the dog out for a long walk and some exercise every day.  Which has worked pretty well for about a week.  But with the days of our dry spell (and decent picture-taking weather) waning--it's supposed to start raining tomorrow--and so few daylight hours available these days, I decided to try to combine the dog walk and the photo walk. 
Needless to say, this did not work out well at all.  My ADD dog is not one to just walk quietly and obediently by my side while I enjoy the weather and scan the fields, creeks and streams for wildlife.  She lags behind, she pulls ahead, she glues herself to every smear of bird poop on the pavement (bird poop is one of her preferred delicacies...)  My constant verbal stream of "No!  Get over here!  Drop!  Are you pulling?" is not at all a good way to sneak up on a photo op.  If there was any wildlife around, it heard us coming and headed for cover long before we got near.  It was a pleasant enough walk, but it was all about the dog...as she intended.
After an adequately long dog walk, I herded her back into her crate in the back of the van, and drove around my "Scappoose back-country" route, where I usually have some luck spotting raptors, egrets, or at least blue herons this time of year.  Came up empty again. Bah! 
I decided to take one more pass down the dike road, and that was when I finally spotted the unmistakable triangular shape of an owl silhouetted against the fading light of the rapidly setting sun.  I pulled a u-ie and made another pass...yep, still there.  Turned into the trail parking lot and drove as far in as I could, then got out and walked the rest of the way to the little stand of trees where I thought I had seen that telltale shape. 
And, by golly, there she was.  Though I could see nothing but a dark, owl-shaped thing sitting on a branch up close to the trunk of the tree, I knew what it was. 
I had a brief, one-sided conversation with the shape, then asked, "If I go back and get my camera, will you still be there?"  I did, and she was.
I fiddled with the camera enough to get some pretty bad pictures that were little more than proof that I had indeed encountered an owl.  Cranked the ISO up to 1250, and slowed the shutter to 1/40 second.  At that shutter speed, there was no possibility of getting a crisp image without a tripod (and I'm too impatient to drag that tripod around and set it up, even when I really should) not to mention that I had to use manual focus because auto-focus kept homing in on the branches in front of her face...and I couldn't really SEE what I was trying to focus on.  The fact that I got shitty images that were still unmistakably of an owl was a miracle in itself, considering the conditions.
 

Then I saw this, about eight feet below her perch
 
 
 and I was pretty sure I knew why Ms Owl was hanging out where she was.    

But what is really cool is that there is a second half to this story.

This afternoon, I decided to head out to the same location, this time to see if I could approach the tree from the other side.  The trees border on a large open field owned by the local nursery stock conglomerate.  They don't build a lot of fences around their property, so I was hoping I could walk out on one of their dirt truck tracks to the "front" side of the owl tree.  I parked the van on the side of the road, identified the grove of trees where I believed I had seen the owl.  I didn't take my camera, because it's heavy and awkward and the mud was slippery and I didn't want to take the chance of falling on my ass and tossing my $2.5k camera rig in the air while I was at it.  And, truthfully, I wasn't expecting to see anything photo-worthy.   

I slogged through the field to where I could see the nest.  And I do mean slogged.  Even though it hasn't rained in a couple of weeks, I had to wade through puddles, and picked up a coating of at least two inches of mud from about mid-foot down, on my hundred-dollar boots that are NOT trail boots.  Finally, I saw the nest. 

AND...the owl.  Sitting almost exactly where she had been the night before.

And I was camera-less.  Of course.

I spoke to the owl for a bit, and then I left...I didn't want to annoy her too much.  And I was NOT going to wade back to the car, grab my giant, heavy-ass camera, and slog all the way back.  My clothing/footwear was not adequate to that task.

But I DID go back to where I had parked the car the previous night, grabbed my camera and headed out (on the blacktop trail more suited to my footwear) to see what kind of daylight images I could get of my little friend.   

   

For the first time, I went back to a location where I'd met an owl, and it was there again.  Score!  I feel like I've performed some kind of photographer's rite of passage:  You gotta know where to find them, and you gotta be able to go back there and find them again.
Yay me!
Oh...and I have figured out that the new camera/lens combination takes hella pictures, even now, when I have NO idea what the fuck I'm doing.  I can only imagine what kind of results I'll get when I actually learn their proper operation!  

Monday, December 11, 2017

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Monday, December 4, 2017

You Learn Something New (or Old) Every Day




toxic masculinity (täk-sik mas-kyə-ˈli-nə-tē):   

The concept of toxic masculinity is used in the social sciences to describe traditional norms of behavior among men in contemporary American and European society that are associated with detrimental social and psychological effects.



a professor at The Wright Institute school of psychology, defines toxic masculinity as "the constellation of socially regressive male traits that serve to foster domination, the devaluation of women, homophobia and wanton violence".

How is it that I have only just heard that there has been an actual term for this kicking around in psychological circles for at least 20 years?



If this doesn’t succinctly sum up about 95% of what is wrong with the world today (and of course this “malady” is not endemic solely to European and American men…), I don’t know what does.