Monday, April 30, 2007


Something that wrote itself:

(for Rifleman Paul Donnachie, aged 18, killed today in Iraq, and for his mother)

What was it for

All those nights walking the floor

You, tiny, crying in my arms,
Humming to quiet you

Teach you there was help



In this world.

What was it for

All those days washing your wounds

Skinned knees, bruised elbows, loose teeth

Talking softly to calm you

Teach you there was help



In this world

What was it for

All those days of earnest conversation

Teaching you to be honest

To help

To comfort

To care

For this world

What was it for

It wasn’t honesty that sent you to Iraq

It wasn’t care that will bring you home in a bag

What was it for

What was it all for?

Sunday, April 29, 2007

For those of you who do not live in a borderland, you may not give much thought day by day to what it is like living in one.

But we do live in a borderland. The biggest conurbation in the world straddling national borders is the El Paso, TX/Juarez, Mexico megacity. (Las Cruces, though in New Mexico, is only 40 miles from El Paso/Juarez, and is itself a hop and a skip from Mexico.)

We Anglos "belong" here because our country owns the land - although even the American negotiators of that treaty oh, so long ago, the one that took the land from the Mexicans, did not approve of the treaty, felt soiled by their own work in the negotiations.

We live in the middle of the Chihuahua desert - there may be a clue in that name as to what other people might feel a claim and a lineage in this space. Let alone the people who for so long freely roamed this land, now penned in on "reservations". This borderdom impacts us daily - we can not go anywhere from our home here, north, south, east or west, without having to pass through immigration inspection stations (la migra).

You in the North who would build fences, understand, it may not be so easy or so clear who or what truly "belongs".

My favorite poem on the issue is written by Polish Nobel prize-winning poet Wislawa Szymborska and translated into English by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh:

Oh, the leaky boundaries of man-made states!

How many clouds float past them with impunity;

how much desert sand shifts from one land to another;

how many mountain pebbles tumble onto foreign soil

in provocative hops!

Need I mention every single bird that flies in the face of frontiers

or alights on the roadblock at the border?

A humble robin - still, its tail resides abroad

while its beak stays home. If that weren't enough, it won't stop bobbing!

Among innumerable insects, I'll single out only the ant

between the border guard's left and right boots

blithely ignoring the questions "Where from?" and "Where to?"

Oh, to register in detail, at a glance, the chaos

prevailing on every continent!

Isn't that a privet on the far bank

smuggling its hundred-thousandth leaf across the river?

And who but the octopus, with impudent long arms,

would disrupt the sacred bounds of territorial waters?

And how can we talk of order over-all?

when the very placement of the stars

leaves us doubting just what shines for whom?

Not to speak of the fog's reprehensible drifting!

And dust blowing all over the steppes

as if they hadn't been partitioned!

And the voices coasting on obliging airwaves,

that conspiratorial squeaking, those indecipherable mutters!

Only what is human can truly be foreign.

The rest is mixed vegetation, subversive moles, and wind.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Rain in the Desert ... is Different

Well, it's night-time here, but it's raining in our desert. A good old thunderstorm, long, hard, crashing nearby and far.

Now rain in the desert is different.

First, you can see it more than you do in cities and hilly grounds. See it coming out of this cloud, over there in the middle of the distance?

Not only that, you can often, during the day, see the rain leaving the clouds overhead, and see how that rain does not actually reach the ground. Yes, it often rains in the sky, but it's all evaporated before it makes the ground. We've even had showers where only the top half of the car's windscreen got any water. Kinda freaks out newcomers from the coasts. They never knew a) you could see rain from the clouds like that and b) it rains without raining.

Another difference is that, not having a lot of rain, we mostly don't have gutters on our houses, but "canales" (see picture on right). They just shoot the rain right off the roof.

We also do not have many, in most places we do not have any, street drains. You know, underground drains that carry water away ... with grates by the curbstones every block or so. No, our streets often are our drains. At the end of our street, at the bottom of the hill, are two huge openings right off the street down into the valley below. Splash onto the land down there.

But the most fun of all in desert rain is how the children, teens, and young adults all run out of their houses and stand on the street corners. Why? Well, if you do, as I did when new here, avoid going too close to them because the street is full of water and you do not want to splash them, for this care-taking, they'll yell scorn and even give you certain hand signs.

They want you to splash them, the bigger the better. It's a desert game. Whoopee! It's raining!!

Friday, April 27, 2007

News From Elsewhere - How We Are Seen

I don't much like being topical in my blog, seeing as I feel so powerless in the face of all that's going on.

However, I do still receive various publications from other countries where I have lived, and sometimes the news about America that's in those publications at the very least enriches my understanding, and at times just plain startles me.

Now maybe you already know all this, but two things I came across yesterday put a bit of a new light on our American fear and opposition to the spread of nuclear weapons in Iran and in Korea.

As this information is from the London Sunday Times, a Rupert Murdoch publication which could not be accused of being wildly anti-American (to put it mildly), it certainly makes me ponder, at least.

Iran: In an article headed "Iran to hit back at US kidnaps" we read that Iran is threatening action against American interests in Europe and elsewhere in retaliation for the kidnapping of "several" senior Republican Guard officers. The deputy defense minister while he was in Turkey, one in northern Kurdish Iraq, one in southern Iraq, and the head of the Revolutionary Guard in the Persian Gulf, for example. Not to mention an attack on the Revolutionary Guards within Iran itself, killing at least 17. All of which led Reza Faker, a writer close to President Ahmadinejad, to write in Subhi Sadek, the Revolutionary Guard's weekly paper: "We've got the ability to capture a nice bunch of blue-eyed blond-haired officers and feed them to our fighting cocks". Wonderful. But we couldn't respond to a letter from Ahmadinejad?

North Korea: An article headed Crime Keeps Kim In Luxury details the North Korean leader's bank accounts around the world, particularly in Macau, totalling more than $5 billion dollars in external assets (some the result of excellent counterfeiting of US $100 bills and much else not very pretty). Beginning in 2005 the U.S. government had pressured banks to freeze these accounts and cut Kim and family off from their corrupt earnings. Reluctant banks even found themselves under sanctions. Given the involvement of this money in smuggling weapons, even into the US, this is all understandable.

But here's what happened next. When the sanctions became uniform, and cut Kim off completely, bang, October's nuclear test. And in February we heard news that North Korea had agreed, in negotiations, to shut down their nuclear reactor...but we didn't hear the rest ... IF financial sanctions were lifted within 30 days. Alas, alas, that deadline passed in March, without such lifting. Thus when the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency went to North Korea to settle the details, he was sent packing. This information surfaced, according to the Sunday Times, in a report to the US Congress by investigators for Edward Royce, a California congressman. I've been hearing about North Korea not "honoring their agreement" - but as to our role in all this, maybe I've missed it, but it was news to me. In case it's news to you ...

I'll try and be more fun sometime soon.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

What Are You Thinking??

So there I was, in the hairdresser's chair. Who is also my neighbor.
It took me a long time to get there. I mean, I had a hairdresser, nearby, handy, OK ... you know how it is when you just move someplace. Nice gal, good enough job. She didn't dye my eyebrows when she did my hair, though, which was an annoyance, much less would she wax them.
And as for a pedicure - you had to be a contortionist -- no chairs or special equipment.
About two years ago we got new nextdoor neighbors. (Actually, every house around us has sold, more are on the market -- and these are new houses built in 2003 and 2004 with people deciding to move back home to Mom and Dad, or to get a different new house several blocks away, or .... It amazes me how many people can afford to move so often - but that's another blog.)
The new neighbor, Lance (name changed to protect the innocent, and that's not just a phrase as you'll soon learn) runs one of the best hairdressing establishments in town. Why was I so long delaying giving him a try? Well, inertia is a powerful universal force, that's my excuse.
Soooo - There we were, chatting as usual, when Lance allows as how his feelings have been quite hurt in the neighborhood. Turns out his other next door neighbor was doing some yardwork for the lady across the street when she said, "Do you know anything about the people in that house (meaning Lance). Are they drug dealers??"
The lady watches too much television. Her assumption was based on the fact that there are a lot of cars around quite often. Yeaaaaa - Lance is young, single, and has lots of friends. His house-mate/cost sharer Carol is also young, single, and has lots of friends. They have a neat swimming pool and a hot tub. Result -- lots of happy visitors. Considering how early everyone gets up out here in the desert, even their parties are over by 9pm. Good grief. She's seen one too many CSI's where they know it's a drug house because there are several cars outside.
What a comment that is about how many people live today! Hidden behind our woven impenetrable-to-the-eye shades. No cars in the drive-way but our own. Touchy enough that any sounds at all, even happy ones, that remind us there are other people in the world are interpreted as threats, assaults which shouldn't be there. No wonder many people here do not know many of their neighbors, especially in the newer developments. Makes you wonder what assumptions they're all making about each other! And what ones I make about people, too.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

On a colleague's blog, he has posted a video of his search for biodiversity in his church garden.

Reminds me of the project some years ago, a year or two after the first Earth Day, when there was a biodiversity search in London, England.

We found the most amazing plants growing in the grassy islands in the middle of major roads - some at traffic circles (roundabouts), some just traffic dividers. They were not native to Britain, many of them were African, tropical. What was going on? A search of nearby gardens revealed no such plants. Where had they come from?

Then, aha, there she was, an old lady, feeding the birds. One of many folks looking after the wild life that's trying to find a way to survive in our urban creations. Many of these plants would not, of course, survive the winter -- but even then their cousins might well be back next year as new birds were fed by new human neighbors.

Biodiversity is not always, however, a cause for celebration. The spread of biodiversity due to human actions is not always beneficial. Think of the fleas on the rats bringing plague to Europe.

Indeed, today London faces another "plague", this one precisely in the realm of plant biodiversity. It is Japanese knotweed, originally brought to England as a decorative plant by Victorian gardeners. We had a bit in our garden in London, and man, "hardy" doesn't begin to describe it. It grows so quickly you can almost see it. It's roots (actually rhizomes) quickly extend more than 20 feet in all directions, and nearly 10 feet down. And even if you pull it up as soon as it shoots, unless you get every little scrap of root, even if only about half a gram of root should remain down there somewhere, the whole thing will grow again.

It will happily invade your house (see above), and your drains. Worse, they have discovered an amazing mass of acres of the stuff just where the Olympic stadia etc. need to be built for the London Olympics in 2012. It will have to be dug out, and all the soil replaced. Herbicides are not an option, as it requires several years of herbicide application to eradicate this hardy import.

Cost overruns for the Olympics are legendary, but London's look to be stratospheric. Just eradicating the knotweed will cost millions of pounds, but if they don't do it, the stadia will just break up from underneath. Wow! Sometimes I have to love it when the earth fights back.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Anything Worth Doing Is Worth Doing Badly

Well, so there I was sitting in my quilting bee this morning, cutting away.
It was Community Quilt morning, so we were all working on quilts to give away -- to battered wives and children, to families whose homes have burned down, to the homeless, there are all sorts of people whose lives can be brightened not only by a quilt, but by knowing others are thinking of them enough to actually spend time and effort making them something nice.
Actually, at the moment, every week I work at community quilts. There are two bags of "squares" donated by someone who must have been, to put it kindly, happily sozzled when she cut them. There is much less use for irregular rhomboids and trapezoids in quilting than she must have thought. My job is to recut them into perfect squares so they can easily be assembled into quilts.
As a total novice quilter, just about to finish my only second quilt, I cannot tell you how intimidating I find all these wonderful women and their incredible skills. And they are wonderful. Quilters have an ethic, a code, a morality, a custom, of always being helpful to one another. Don't know how to do something? They will line up to kindly show you how. Make a mistake? They will line up and show you sixteen ways to get out of trouble with it.
And yet, and yet ... damn they know so much, and I know so little. Those who have always thought I was an arrogant sod would be amazed to see this shy intimidatee!
But as we went along today, first one, then another of these elegant gifted creative skilled women cried out, "Drat, how long have I been sewing without a bobbin thread?!" (A sewing machine needs two threads to stitch one line, the needle and the bobbin. Without a bobbin thread, you get a nice line along the top that looks as if you've sewn something, but it's a sham. You've got no connection.)
Now a few times at home I've been sewing along and when I take the piece out, flop, it falls apart, I've run out of bobbin thread. Dumb rube, I've thought.
Can I tell you how reassuring it was that these prize-winning show quilters did the same thing, and laughed with and at each other. I thought, "I might make at least a beginning quilter yet!"
Just reminded me how much we all struggle to look perfect, good, in control ... when so often what helps and inspires others is how our mistakes helps them realize maybe they could do this too.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Haloo Hallay

Halloo Hallay, it's bicycle racing season again. Started off with a terrific Tour of California, a week long race now beginning to attract top European teams as well as US ones (and US teams are starting to be top teams among the world teams). Won by American Levi Leipheimer. Now the Tour of Georgia is underway, well actually it finished today. TV coverage next week-end.

Next some of the European races, Ronde von Flanderen; Paris-Rubais; Milan-San Remo; Amstel Gold (Holland and Belgium mostly); leading up to the big week, two week, or three week races like the Giro Italia, Tour de France, Vuelta d'Espana. (Sorry, can't get a tilde to work on this machine, one belongs over the "n" in Espana.) Favorite teams are the Discovery Channel team, and CSC led by Bjorne Riis out of Denmark.

We started to watch these races many many years ago, somewhere around 1983, mostly because it is the best free travelogue without smarmy voices selling you restaurants that you can possibly get. Coverage is from motorcycles with the racers, but also helicopters, giving you fantastic overviews of roads, forests, castles, villages, gorgeous.

We continued watching because the commentary is so terrific ... former racers Phil Liggett, the eminence grise of bike commetary; and Paul Sherwin, former racer now running a gold mine in Kenya in his other life. Bob Roll, American wild man racer occasionally appears as well, and Frankie Andreu with technical information.

Like many other things (even, I know you'll wince but it's true, tractor pulls), if you learn enough about any of the wondrous things human beings love to do, you can become a fan yourself. Bicycle racing is deceptively complicated. I'm so glad it's started again. (Thanks Hampton Inns for sponsoring it!)

Now, I wonder what else will become fascinating if I just listen long enough to learn more about it?

PS List of Thinking Blogs still being worked on...coming soon!


Lying in the road, flat out of gas.

That's me tonight --

Old dog still in the pulpit, takes its toll some days. I am soooo excited, delighted, awed, honored, to have been named a thinking blog by mskittyssaloon, a blog I much respect and read daily myself, but too tired to move on with naming others, and with thanking her.

More, after naptime. And send your strength and prayers to Biddies in the Brain, she can use 'em, I'll recover after a good sleep and a tough two hours with my trainer tomorrow.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

"Money doesn't matter

This usually is said

By somebody well-housed

Well-dressed, well fed"

So goes the old rhyme.

Disturbing conversation with my brother today. The man is 74 years old, and has just suddenly lost his wife of four decades to lung cancer spread to her brain. It wasn't even diagnosed until two weeks before the end, though she had complained of chest pains as long as six years ago.

He's very strong, her children are very kind, and he's doing OK. Yes, he wakes in the night hearing her breathing beside him, starts up, turns on the light, and, oh yes, she's gone. Yes, he works at his desk hearing her reading behind him on the sofa, but when he turns, oh yes, she's gone.

Blessed God that is enough for any one to have to deal with. But alas, $$$ also rear their ugly heads, or rather, they don't, because there aren't enough of them around to. Without her pensions and Social Security, he now struggles to live on less than one-third of what used to come in. Any help from social programs? No, they've ruled he only needs $550 a month to live on. In urban California???

He is proudly doing OK for now. And I am glad. But oh, so aware of the large percentage of us gray-hairs who live hand-to-mouth, with shaky hands, and periodontal disease.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Vermont Peaches

What's that you say?
Peaches come from southern states like Georgia?
Not today, my friends, not today. Today the peaches, peaches, peaches are the Vermont Senate who voted to seek the im-peach-ment (::groan::) of President Bush and Vice-Pres. Cheney.
For some months I have been a-ponderin'. How is it that one President is impeached for losing 18 minutes of audio tape in a cover-up of a small-time piece of political espionage - child's play compared to today's computer hacking and misdirection; another is impeached for a blow job (please accept apologies for indelicate language, but indelicate is as indelicate does); and the third is not (??) impeached for sustained, deliberate, intention subversion of the separation of powers, checks and balances, legislative and judicial branches of the very Constitution he swore to protect?
I suppose it all boils down to if crimes are small everyone can imagine themselves doing them and they are easy to define and take to court; but some crimes are so enormous it's hard to even figure out what to call them, how to define them, and gets confusing even to think about what to do.
I've seen this in churches when the Board spends an hour on what size light-bulbs to have in the hallway (they can get their heads around what's "just like at home"), but skate over whether or not to have a Behavioral Covenant because, well, we've never done that before. And once again time spent is in inverse proportion to the importance of the matter.
So go go go Vermont, you peaches!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

No Splenda, saccharin, sugar, Equal, or anything else required

Well, this picture lies, I admit it. Down here in the desert the sweetness that is the desert Spring is far more advanced than this photo, taken in early March.
The trees are in full summery leaf, and much of desert plant life is busy ensuring its survival, renewal, and offspring. Which is just to say there's a lot of blooming going on.
And with, or without, bloom one of the surprises to a "ferriner" coming into high desert life is the incredible sweetness of all plant life here.
Sweetness everywhere! As in, even standing waiting for my sweetie in a Walmart parking lot (I know, I know, but their bubble envelopes for my book sales are the cheapest by far) I was almost overcome by the outrageous glorious sweetness of the yellow blooming desert bushes that marked off the parking rows.
And as for taking a "stroll" on my mobility scooter around the neighborhood, well, it's a natural gentle perfume store, and we're all sere desert landscapers here, none of that water-expensive grass nonsense for us. And still, and still, incredible sweetness. Some days it sure pays to notice where you are.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Bookstore Open Again

Now that I'm back, my bookstore is open again. See link at right.
I've had some enquiries about how to find a book you may want. When you click on the link, notice the section in the upper right. I find what works best is to set it to sort alphabetically by title from A-Z the first time you visit. Don't despair when you get to G and all the Grantas, just keep going and so will the listings.
From then on, once you've had your first look at everything (1050 books at the moment), you can just set the sorting device to newest arrivals, and keep up with what's coming in. Happy shopping!

Fear and Loathing

................... This is not me ....

OK, so now I come clean to you, dear readers. For the past several posts I have been, not at home, but on the road or in Las Vegas. My husband's son, who lives in Boston, will be there this week at the National Association of Broadcasters annual bun-fight, so we all came in early for the week-end. Lots easier for me to drive my mobility scooter to Vegas than to Boston!

Vegas is not my favorite place. OK, we did see Spam-a-lot, and laughed a lot, and enjoyed finding quiet corners in which to have great conversations (well worth the $$ at the deserted beauty shop where we all got our hair cut and could chat down the far end of some subterranean corridor).

But for a place which sells joy - winning, loving, straying (what happens in V...), there's precious little sign of happiness on the actual faces. Most people look like the lady above. At best befuddled and confused, longing, even despairing, all wanting what they spent a lot of money coming here for and finding, instead, crowds of shuffling somewhat purposeless people, all looking for a "good time" - most of them not quite finding it.

Me, I think it would have helped every one of them not to allow the entertainment industry to define "good time" for them. Anyway, it feels good to get back into the quiet, spiritual, healing desert. Now in my windscreen, not my rear view mirror.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

ALL the dead, maybe?

I've come across a few TV screens, facebook screens, whatever with the sentiment that we must never forget these 32 who have been lost at Virginia Tech.
Well, folks, as you probably know, the real number of dead at the Blacksburg tragedy was 33. There seems to be some sort of unspoken I don't know what that the shooter, being wicked, would not, of course, be mourned.
But like most ministers, I've learned everything worth knowing from members of the congregations I've served.
So let me tell you about Annie (name changed to protect those worthy of sainthood). Annie's much loved 16-year old niece was standing in her own family's kitchen, Dad and Mom in the living room watching TV, siblings in their rooms doing homework or whatever, when Annie's niece was stabbed to death by her boyfriend with whom she had been trying to break up.
Annie flew to her niece's town, sat in her niece's closet to breathe in her niece's scent from her clothes, and wept. Then she got up, and went to the former boyfriend's house to console his parents. After all, she told me later, we had all lost a young person we loved very much. Yes, their son was still alive (in jail awaiting trial), but they too had lost their son, that is, they had lost the son they thought they had, they had lost all the future they had so far envisaged for their son, they had entered new, and very lonely territory. Annie went to them to make sure they knew someone understood and cared.
Wow. Having learned from Annie there are other angles of vision one can choose to have in oh, so many situations, I so want us to remember there are not just 32 families grieving the events at Blacksburg tonight, but 33. And that one of those families may have almost no support at all.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Death in America

When the heart breaks, oh how we want simple answers.
And yes, I was horrified when both John McCain and George W. Bush immediately used the tragedy at Blacksburg to reiterate that great American "right to bear arms". I was horrified not least because this President has seen fit to let the ban on assault weapons expire.
And yet, and yet, if only it were so easy as gun control. I say this as someone who has always fought for gun control. Who wants to see far more of it. And who would like to see some acknowledgement from the proponents of the "right to bear arms" that they themselves don't really mean it. For if they did mean what they say about my right to bear arms, then how come I can't have my own atom bomb?
What's that you say? There have to be some limits? But the right to bear arms is in the U. S. Constitution as a protection for the average person from a corrupt state, so that a corrupt government can be overthrown. What an irony that with the guns we are currently allowed, there's no way any corrupt government could be overthrown, but horrible pain and devastating loss can be inflicted day after day after day, Blacksburg after Columbine. And my own government's email and web page reading programs will probably see enough words in this simple blog entry to register me for surveillance.
Truth is, of course, sadly and alas, even gun control, while it would assuredly have minimized today's damage in Virginia, would not prevents the cascades of human violence on this earth of ours. If you think it would, just refer to England, where it's not guns, but knives, that are killing young adults, teens, even children week in and week out.
Fragmented societies in which people feel rootless, powerless, with nowhere to take their anger, and often, no one to listen to it ... crossed with societies which have taught people from their earliest breathing moments to want it all (for what else are all those TV ads about) ... hard stuff to legislate ... but surely also part of the picture.
Damn I wish I knew the answers to all this, but the thing about true tragedy is, it just sits there, and you have to just sit with it.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

It's n.e.v.e.r. too late!

Last night we went to the theatre, more about that another day, but just to say though this is a new and modern theatre, it has a very steep rake -- great for sightlines to the stage, not so hot for mobility impaired people!
But not to worry - this is the new mobility impaired jubilata ... after her personal trainer got hold of her. And though the steps down were slow and painful (believe it or not, oh you temporarily able-bodied, but down is much worse than up on stairs) - the ones up were done at even a, dare I say it, sprightly pace. So much so that those behind us looked confused and surprised when, once at the top, I climbed onto my mobility scooter!
How is this miracle possible? Enter Brigit, personal trainer extraordinaire. She comes to my house (thus short-circuiting my enormous capacity for rationalization about why today isn't a good time to drive to the gym); and she works with the body you have with enormous intuition. I've referred her to several friends, our routines are all very different as each of us has different needs.
But now I'm throwing around the 30 lb. freeweights, and wearing 20 lb. on each ankle for leg extensions etc., well, hey, it's n.e.v.e.r too late! No, my auto-immune crap won't allow me to walk a mile - but there is still more I can do, and what I can do, I do much better.
So if you've been wondering if you should, you should. And go my triathlon blogging buddy! (See link)

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Supporting our troops

Working as I now do, as a consultant to a congregation literally next door to Fort Bliss, from where so many soldiers have been deployed to our two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and to where so many bodies have returned, what I now say may sound trite, banal, a truism ... but at least it is based on experience.
Namely, those who truly support our troops are those who want them home. The very idea that to oppose the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and wish to design a timeframe for ending this idiocy somehow does not support our troops is a joke - not just verbally - but look at the evidence.
The self-declared patriots fly flags on their cars and, driving by, shout abuse at the war protestors. It's those who oppose the war who actually run the GI help agency, providing support to GIs and their families as they struggle with the economic, emotional, and other stresses brought on by repeated, lengthened tours of duty in war zones. The self-declared patriots turn up with a band for those who return on their feet. It's those who oppose the war who are busy volunteering their help to GIs with broken bodies, and minds, who can hardly get help otherwise. And who sew the quilts with which they stay warm even in the disaster that is Walter Reed.
I can't speak for everywhere. But when a loyal GI, just going or just returning in whatever shape, wants help in my neck of the desert, it's those who oppose the war who reach out most with their love, their hands, their funds, their help.
For me, that's one trite saying that has become profoundly real. Those who oppose the war are the ones who really support our troops.

Friday, April 13, 2007

A friend has just returned from three weeks in Mexico. Some at language school, some pootling around, some by the water. He was at first amazed at the driving (terrified, too), but then, he says, he "got it". People were driving without particular expectations of the other drivers. So when the bus realized it was going the wrong way, it could simply do a three point turn in the middle of the road between blocks, stopping traffic in both directions, and everybody stopped and nobody even honked. They just let him do what he needed to do. Once my friend "got it", he said, he could see how much care people were taking with each other, even in what looked, to his lane oriented US eyes, like mayhem.
As they were flying back to the US, his wife remarked "Honey, do you know, in three weeks we have never once heard an angry word?" They both thought about that awhile, and realized it was so. (So much for assumptions about "hot-blooded" Latins!)
They got off the plane in Houston, and the first words they heard on American soil were a US Customs Officer yelling with a snarl at someone, "I SAID stand over there, not over there." His wife turned to him and said, "Welcome home, I guess". So much for happy, welcoming, friendly The US of America!
Makes me think of churches, no, hang on, really it does. And how churches always seem to characterize themselves as "friendly". Never met a congregation that proudly called itself "unfriendly", though I have known a few that had to be secretly proud of it to have behaved the way they did. Once upon a time there was a saying "Beauty is as beauty does", long discarded now in our extreme make-over world. "Friendly is as friendly does" doesn't seem too bad an idea either, though I suppose it's just as out-dated.
Never mind. I come by my old fartness honestly, so guess I'll have to stick with it.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

A new respect for what is hidden


One of our family's favorite cries is that of "Train!" when the sound of a train is heard in the distance, or when we see one passing by on the long long tracks that wind East from the ports of San Diego, carrying everything you're going to buy in a week or two on its way to you.

We get to call "Train" a lot down here in the high desert -- trains coming in from the West turn North, they come down from the North and turn East, we hear trains afternoon, evening, night-time -- only major roads have automatic gates out here. Many, many smaller roads and gravel lanes have, at best, a red light, or even nothing at all. So the trains must sound their haunting cry as a warning many many times on their journey through town.

All this I knew. And happen to love. But driving around through our continuing dust storms today, I became aware of the enormous amount of work being done on this major route for consumer goods into your town. We saw quite literally millions of dollars worth of huge, heavy machinery working its individual tasks on rails, and sleepers, track and bridges. Wow. Something I've kind of taken for granted for a long time turns out to be one huge job ... inspiring.

One thing I love about life is that no matter how old I get there are always whole new worlds to discover, from quilting to the hidden truth about plain old freight trains. What have you learned today?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

All Kinds of Decisions that Don't Matter (But They Do)

After 43 years of ministry, in a world with Holocausts (yes, plural, WWII, Ruanda, Darfur, Cambodia ... ), wars, destruction, true suffering, many things that people in our everyday world get all upset about seem pretty inconsequential to me.
And yet, and yet, so many of those inconsequential things are with us day by day.
Like laundry. See, I have this mini-problem to do with laundry. Should I do it often, with nice small loads, and not too many of them? Or should I save it up and wait for big loads and do it all in a marathon.
I tend to do the latter. It seems more ecological to use the machine fewer times for more clothes, even though the literature that came with my machine claims it adjusts the amount of water used to the size of the load.
I sure am glad I have a machine though. Had my two children in Europe. Long before the idea of disposable diapers had crept across the Atlantic. So it was strictly cloth. Nor was there any kind of Diaper Service. It was strictly store 'em in a bucket until you do it yourself.
Actually, for my first child, I also did not have a washing machine, indeed I did not even have a water heater. I had to boil them up on the stove in a big copper kettle like some demented cook.
So I am real grateful for my machine. But I still don't like using it too often.
Which leaves me with a different problem. The tiresome hanging and folding of big loads, now more problematical as my auto-immune @#$$%^% works its way along.
Have you guessed yet that today was laundry day?
P.S. And you know what else annoys me about laundry? Even as I am standing there doing it, I am generating the need for more. When I've done the dishes, if I don't eat for another half day, there are no more to be done! But laundry, well, there's an obvious solution, but it's still a bit chilly down here.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Spring is different here

Oh you who long for the daffodils to bloom, and the lilacs to begin to show themselves - harken to Spring in the desert.

Our daffodils are a mid February event, our trees are already leaving behind the last traces of that wonderful chartreuse early leafing and are entering the full green of summer.

And, the Spring winds have come.

Signs along the highways read "Dust Storms Possible, Next 10 Miles". Most of the year that only makes the tourists take their foot off the accelerator for a minute - we locals know it's unlikely to occur.

But Springtime, well, Springtime in the desert is different. Then the winds whip up, 30 or 50 miles an hour, the air is filled with fine dust, and we can hardly see the mountains which normally fill our distant skies.

Above are the Organ Mountains, from our front window (my quilting room), as they usually appear. Today, and for the rest of this week, they will be instead the vaguest purple shadow behind the white dust-filled sky.
But the sweetness of all the desert life (desert plants must want company - they always seem to have the most delicate of perfumes about them) will remain in the air. Happy Spring!

Sunday, April 8, 2007

There's no foolproof way ...

Now that I've got over 1,000 books in my on-line "shop" (see link), there's the whole question of how to find the ones people order.

Easy, right? Well ...

There are books from several individuals, and from two churches, all of which are sold with proceeds donated to the donors chosen charity or church. So ... you have to know who gave the book, who they want the money to go to, as well as finding the book itself. (With a bunch of separate spread sheets in my computer system to keep track of donors, charities etc.)

The order comes in. Now you've got to find the book. File by author, right? (Editor in a pinch). Yea, well, if the name of the book is long, then the on-line order field is too short to also show the author. Just shows the name. Big hassle to go find out the author's name. File by title then? I don't think so. Your eyes would cross in the "How To" section. Let alone the "Mystery of the..." department.

My beloved spend hours in our totally bookshelved double garage (which is ventilated, cleaned, library-like) sorting by author mostly. Still, it can really catch you out sometimes.

As I look around my house, I seem to have this same kind of problem lots of places. Like, my quilting fabric stash, small, but ever growing. File by color, well yea, but large pattern fabrics may not have one dominant color. And do you file small pieces by color in one place, and large pieces by color in another place, or all together?

Could it be, could it possibly be, this refulgent Spring, that life is not completely sortable? And is it possible to stop trying, and go watch The Apprentice? Yippee!

Up, Up and ... well ... back again

So it's official. The voters of Dona Ana County here in southern New Mexico voted FOR the spaceport - which will be about 40 miles north of our house.

You couldn't call it an overwhelming vote, not with the difference between the Yeas and Nays being a matter of under 300 votes. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised for the Nays to make good on their pre-election statement that they would call for a recall if the margin were under 500 votes.
Richard Branson of Virgin will be happy. Space tourism will be a go. Carbon footprints, anyone?
Don't think I'll be going up for a five minute, or less, experience of weightlessness, much as my over abundant corpus might enjoy it. I'll take a swim and use my imagination.
Perhaps, sitting here on the back patio in sun on a beautiful Spring day in the high desert, I just don't feel a need to escape. It's not that much of an escape anyway, for your vast $$$, not so much up, up and away as up, up, and ... well ... back again.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Never Quite ...

OK, folks, so here's the real skinny about my kind of quilting.
I know those of you who are purists out there will be wincing, nay, yelping at your computers as you read this, but ... well ... it's never exactly, perfectly right.
I'm working on three quilts right now. And in the mystery quilt (this is a great fun project for quilting bees - you get a Chapter of directions each month, but you have NO idea at all what the final quilt will look like - you just make little bits and try to guess as you gradually piece them together) --- well, in the mystery quilt I'm working on, things aren't coming out exactly to plan -- they are less the exact same size than they're intended to be. To put it mildly.
A friend showed me what to do today. I call it pulling and pushing, stretching and squidging. Because no matter how much I pin, they aren't exactly the same size. So a little pulling, a little squidging takes place to fake them into being the same size.
My friend informs me it's not called pulling and pushing, stretching and squidging. It's called "easing". Oh, so delicate. I say, "Teasing?" She says, "That'll do if you have to".
But you know what, given the current government, I'm in no mood for euphemisms and spin. Me, I push, pull and stretch. Sorry fellow quilters, but there it is.
'Course those of you who know me know there's probably a lot in life I've handled like that!

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Where's the Stone Anyway?

So now it's time to get the sermon finished. There's a well -known poem lots of my colleagues use about how the stone was moved away from the tomb of Jesus (as the story goes). I mean was it moved away by Jesus from the inside, or by someone from the outside, or a mini-earthquake, or ... ??

Me, I'm more interested in where the stone is NOW. I mean your stone, my stone, everybody's got a stone or two, that leaden lump inside that keeps the life force from flowing through us freely and without impediment.

So this week, I'll be handing out stones for Easter. Pretty stones in all kinds of natural colors (more than you see here) that have had quite a journey from their cave homes in Brazil, to a crazy mineral shop on Long Island, to a UPS van, to Las Cruces, New Mexico. And on to El Paso, Texas.
We'll meditate on the stone in each of our hands for a while, and then give to the real stone in our hands the stone in our hearts that blocks our living in full. Guess I'm not so concerned with how the historical stone got moved back then, as with how to move the stones I've got now - like thinking I'm too old, too weak, too scared, you know the kind of stuff.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Oh, ick

So today is the day I have to choose the hymns for Sunday. It's Easter, I mean, how hard can it be? I mean, even you can probably predict them.
So then how come I put it off and put it off?? I always do with picking hymns. (I do with washing my hair, too, and can't figure that out either.)
I hate picking hymns. Don't ask me why. I have a pretty good voice, so ain't scared of the music. I read music, so I can figure them out. And I'm picky about what we use. Different meter, perfect words, whatever. Music directors often want to pick the hymns, but I have found, in my limited experience, that, with two notable exceptions (you know who you are), Music Directors tend to take the information given to them about what the service will be about rather literally ... like choosing hymns that have one of the words in the service description in the hymn.
But it don't work like that, folks. The most moving love songs you've ever heard I bet don't even have the word "love" in them. Just like Eva Cassidy's tear producing version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbows" never ever has the word "longing" in it, it just is longing.
So ick ick ick, as the feisty Long Islander on Boston Legal would say, ick ick ick, it's been hymn picking day again. You'd think I'd learn that the sooner I get it done the sooner I can quit worrying about it. And it is only Wednesday, which for the younger me would have been early. But, oh sigh, here it comes again.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Whatever the front, there's always a back

Well, today didn't turn out exactly as planned. Went off early morning to my quilting bee -- worked on recutting literally hundreds of pieces that must have been cut by someone after several bottles of something or other. Our queen bee (or whatever the organizer would be called, who knows, I'm new to all this) doesn't want to throw all these squares out, but they are useless until they are actually squares, and not crazy paving rhomboids.
So I'm new, and it's good practice, so I gave myself this job. After all, when done, they'll be assembled into some of the (this is true) hundreds of quilts we will make during the year to give away -- to every Mom and child at the women's shelter, to every person after a fire in their home, to injured veterans at Walter Reed and our local hospitals, and to families of those who have lost a son or daughter or father or mother in this terrible useless war. Maybe you can see why I sit there and get neck pain cutting and cutting but do not stop.
That's the front of quilts. Then I come home, to the huge complicated quilt I'm making for a grand-daughter (only my second quilt, but have you ever seen the "learning" quilts for newbies - too boring for words, so I designed a challenge instead) ... and it's time to give attention to the back. Lots of loose threads, bits left over from sewing, shards falling out from rough edges, bits the sewing machine caught on the underside and pulled the wrong way that need to be resewn.
And I think about life, all that shiny front side stuff, and how it ain't worth a damn without all those willing to do all that clean-up work on the back as well. This day had both, not too bad I say.

Monday, April 2, 2007

An Alternative Career Missed - Oh, Sigh

Well, down here in the desert it's been a busy day. As I recover from a nasty virus which got way, way too friendly with my heart, I am getting back on track with the trainer.

Now here's the thing. My mother was very ill all of my childhood, and scared of everything, which meant I was barely ever let out of her sight, except for school. Certainly going out to play with other kids was out. I mean, only in late adulthood did I discover that I was perhaps, for real, the only child who was never, ever allowed on the monkey bars, or the climbing frame, or anything else for that matter.

Add to that the fact that I was, from the age of 7, the family's designated carer (as in doing all the cooking, etc. etc.) - well, you can see that I ate lots, read tons, and exercised not at all.

With retirement came, at last, the time to do something I'd wanted to do forever - namely get me a personal trainer. (They are really an economical option down here in the desert- wouldn't want to try it in a major city!) Enter Brigid Pass, trainer extraordinaire. German, past professional body builder, specialist in working with elderly.

We began with the extra-light broomstick, I kid you not. But I love to push envelopes (those who know me will attest to that) -- so now, suck it up people, I use 30 lb. free weights (dropping down with 25, 20, 15, 10), 20 lb. on each ankle for leg work, etc. etc.

Who knew? I've got great (if totally unused) muscle mass. Indeed, as Brigid has often said to me, if only they'd got hold of me 50 years earlier, I would, these are her words, "have been Miss Olympia for sure for three or more years! You would have been unbeatable."

Now, as a retired minister, that sure is an alternate life to contemplate!

Sunday, April 1, 2007

I'm Back -- Gasp

Wow -sorry for the delay - first it was illness (now all sorted out, thank goodness), then it was the installation of a whole new computer system, plus working with a nearby congregation part-time, and the on-line book sales taking off (see link) ...

Well, it just all got away from me! But I'm back, and planning to stay back.

So today's topic is simple. If you haven't heard Eva Cassidy, well, go buy her CD, or her songs on-line NOW. You'll be glad you did. More substantive remarks tomorrow...and tomorrow...and tomorrow.

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