29 May 2008

Sunshine in dark places

Wouldn’t it be something if former White House press secretary Scott McClellan’s belated honesty about the Bush Administration’s filthy prevarications regarding the launching and subsequent mash-up of Bush’s vanity war in Iraq were to open the “honesty floodgates?”

Wouldn’t it be something to see him on a panel with Colin Powell, Paul O’Neill, Richard Clark, Scott Ritter, and several generals who found themselves forced out of their jobs by the Bush administration for their honesty regarding the war and the way the administration has screwed America? Can you imagine the conversation? The revelations?

The shame?

McClellan’s tiny, timid mustering of courage in shining sunlight on the Bush Administration’s lies and propagandizing came, sadly, far too late to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians and more than 4,000 American soldiers. It came far too late to stop the horrors unleashed in Iraq, from forcing millions of Iraqis from their homes and even from the country of their birth. It came far too late for the thousands of American soldiers who came home from the war missing limbs, eyes, and portions of their brains, their lives forever changed. And it came far too late for the ones who are suffering, and will suffer for the rest of their lives from PTSD.

I’m glad he finally spoke up, but I’m furious with him and others for waiting until now, nearly eight years after the Project to Fuck America started, to speak up. We can only hope that by speaking now, McClellan will start a groundswell of honesty that forms a high berm against further disasters created, nurtured and planned by the Bush administration.

“Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran” comes to mind.

Perhaps today’s noxious expression of pus from the wound will inspire others, who may be sitting on information regarding new violence in new places and questioning in their hearts the “rightness” of the action, to come forward and speak up. Perhaps they'll put their country and their people before themselves for a change and shine more sunlight on the dark, stinking wound of the Bush White House.

I am not, however, holding my breath.

Update: I'm glad there are people like Steve Clemons out there to articulate what I meant so much better than I did.

25 May 2008


Something beautiful for a rainy Sunday in spring ...

24 May 2008


There’s this beautiful, watery early-morning light outside my window. It’s raining. Just before dawn it was a downpour. The roar of the opened sky woke me. Now gentle raindrops are tippling off the tender, spring-new leaves on the climbing rose and the sweet gum tree, and there’s that special musty-damp scent that long-dry, dusty cement exudes only when wet with rain. The rhododendron’s deep scarlet-purple blossoms are spattered with diamonds that wink dully in the quiet gray light.

You can almost feel the parched Earth stretching with pleasure as her pores open to drink this unseasonably cool moisture. You can almost hear the Mother sighing, “Aaaahhhh.”

This is the first real rainstorm we’ve had in Northern California since mid-February. That’s a long, long dry stretch when you consider that California’s dry season normally starts now and continues until late October or even November. The last, short rainy season wasn’t very rainy. It stayed dry during the last two months of the year, then rained and snowed through January and the first two weeks in February.

And then it stopped.

Today starts the long Memorial Day weekend. There are hopeful campers headed into the mountains this very moment, their cars and SUVs loaded down with tents and kids and pic-a-nic baskets, coolers, barbecue grills and bags of charcoal, air mattresses, sleeping bags and fishing poles. And you can bet they’re grumbling and cussing the weather. It’s supposed to be fine and hot on Memorial Day, isn’t it?

Not this year. Rain and cool temps – 50s and 60s – are forecast for the whole holiday weekend. And to add delicious insult to injury, it might even snow above 6,000 feet.


The hot weather will be back before we know it to plop its sweltering elephant-butt down on us for the long, long, long, long, long hot summer. Believe me, I’m enjoying this lovely cool rain while I can.

22 May 2008

Morning whimsy

Thoughts in my head upon awakening this morning: Sundials and tooth banks.

But the image in my mind was of a sundial with the minute and hour counters around the outside edge marked by human teeth. Molars, mostly. They made jagged shadows along the eastern edge of the dial as the rising sun caught them.

Then came the thought “tooth banks?” followed immediately by the image of a bank vault filled with billions of teeth.

I sat up, toed my slippers on and picked up the little notebook I keep by the bed. “Morning whimsy,” I wrote. “Sundials + tooth banks.” A smile. “Tooth dials + sun banks?”

Now I imagined a bank building filled with bright, cleansing sunshine. Then a sunny, wildflower-dotted embankment along the edge of a road. California poppies, glowing impossibly golden-orange.

“Sun banks.” Finally, the memory came of sitting in the windy, cool sunshine the grass on the side of the sea dike in Bremerhaven, Germany, watching the tall ships – three-masted windjammers – glide by on the Weser River, headed for the open waters of the North Sea.

I shuffled out to the kitchen to make coffee, smiling.

20 May 2008

Stealing memes

Lucy, who blogs A Commonplace Book and writes thoughtful posts on many subjects (nearly all of them insightful), recently stole a meme from an anonymous blog so she could post and while the time away as she waited for a meeting to begin. Having little in the way of scruples, I’ve decided the steal the meme from her. Why? Because I can’t think of anything profound to write about and if I’m going to bore you, I might as well look like I’m well-read. Or something.

Anyhoo, here’s how it works. Copy the list of books, then bold the books you have read, underline the ones you read for school, and italicize the ones you started but didn’t finish. Like Lucy, I’m adding commentary because it’s just more fun that way. At the end, I’ll list a few of my beloved old favorites which aren’t famous, would never make anyone’s list but my own, and which I recommend as a great read any old day.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (This was a good book as far as I got, but it weighs about six pounds and holding it up to read hurt my hands.)
Anna Karenina
Crime and Punishment
Catch-22 (I think everyone but me has read this book.)
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Wuthering Heights (this one too)
The Silmarillion
Life of Pi : a novel (I gave this one to a friend to read before I’d finished it and never got it back)
The Name of the Rose
Don Quixote
Moby Dick
(Lucy says Joyce is effing incomprehensible. I totally agree. I slogged through three chapters and decided I needed to rest and recuperate. The book’s still waiting for me.)
Madame Bovary
The Odyssey
Pride and Prejudice (Another Great Book my English teachers didn’t assign and so I’ve never read)

Jane Eyre (this one too)
The Tale of Two Cities
The Brothers Karamazov

Guns, Germs, and Steel
War and Peace
Vanity Fair
The Time Traveler’s Wife
The Iliad
The Blind Assassin

The Kite Runner

Mrs. Dalloway
Great Expectations
American Gods
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
Atlas Shrugged
Reading Lolita in Tehran : a Memoir in Books
Memoirs of a Geisha
Wicked : The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West

The Canterbury Tales

The Historian : a novel
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (I’ve heard bits of this read as a book on tape, and I liked it but I’m afraid of Joyce now)
Love in the Time of Cholera

Brave New World
The Fountainhead
Foucault’s Pendulum
The Count of Monte Cristo
Dracula (of course I've read this, but for some reason, Blogger won't bold it)
A Clockwork Orange

Anansi Boys
The Once and Future King
The Grapes of Wrath
The Poisonwood Bible

1984 (should have been 2004, eh?)
Angels & Demons

The Satanic Verses
Sense and Sensibility
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Mansfield Park

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

To the Lighthouse

Tess of the D’Urbervilles

Oliver Twist
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

The Prince
The Sound and the Fury
Angela’s Ashes : A Memoir
The God of Small Things

A People’s History of the United States : 1492-Present
Neverwhere (I love this title. I’d better read the book.)
A Confederacy of Dunces (this is about the Bush administration, right?)
A Short History of Nearly Everything
The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Slaughterhouse-five (Missed out on this one too when everyone else was reading it)
The Scarlet Letter
Eats, Shoots & Leaves (does it count if I want to read this one?)
The Mists of Avalon
Oryx and Crake

Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed
Cloud Atlas (I loved this one. It’s seriously strange and beautiful)
The Confusion

Northanger Abbey
The Catcher in the Rye
On the Road
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything (this sounds like it would make my head ache)
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values
The Aeneid
Watership Down
Gravity’s Rainbow
The Hobbit (In a hole, in the ground, there lived a hobbit … yessssss.)
In Cold Blood: A True Account of a Multiple Murder and its Consequences
White Teeth
Treasure Island
David Copperfield

And some of my own old favorites, read over and over:

The Stand (say what you like about Steven King – this was an incredible plot and some of the most well-written characters I’ve ever met in a book)

A Gift Upon the Shore (by M.K. Wren. A great and gentle story about what comes after nuclear winter, the value of books, and the danger of fanaticism.)

Always Coming Home (by Ursula K. LeGuin. This is a fascinating, lyrical and indescribable future-history of a tribe of California natives.)

Reading in the Dark (by Seamus Deane)

Del Corso’s Gallery (by Phillip Caputo)

The English Patient (by Michael Ondaatje. One of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read. The writing is sublime, the story compelling.)

The Lord of the Rings (Tolkein, of course)

Something Wicked This Way Comes (By Ray Bradbury)

To Kill a Mockingbird (by Harper Lee. I know this one is on lots of reading lists, but it was never assigned to me in school. I read it out of curiosity and loved it.)

Feel free to steal this meme – it’s gotta be a trend, now.

17 May 2008

Things I love

I’ve been enjoying Blue Girl’s posts about things she loves, inspired by one of her readers who compiled a 100-item-long list of things he hates.

Hating is easy. Loving is harder, but far more worthwhile.

Reading BG’s posts on this subject has gotten me thinking about the things I love, too. Sometimes I’m too busy, or too distracted to notice those little things, but they’re really what keeps me going each day. They make life worth the living, since if all we paid attention to was the negative stuff, there’d hardly be a point. It’s right to pay attention. To look for the positive. To be mindful.

Here are a few of the things I love:

1. I love the word “mindful.” I’ve never really looked at a dictionary definition of it, but the meaning is clear enough, taken in context. For me, to be “mindful” is to consciously slow down and really notice the world around me. Daily life can be hard-edged and shallow, a willy-nilly run from dawn to dark with not enough smiles and never enough hugs to go around. “Mindfulness,” however, when I remember to do it, releases my spirit and allows it to fly.

2. I love cooking homemade chicken soup for my family and friends when they catch colds. My mother came down with a whopper of a summer cold yesterday, and today she’s stuffy, headachy and has a nasty sore throat. So I have a small pot of soup bubbling on the stove for her right now. I know she won’t feel like cooking today. When it’s done, I’ll run it down the mountain, ladel it into a cup, and serve it up. The pot of chicken soup should last her a couple of days, by which time she’ll be over the worst of her cold and on the mend. My dear friend Magrit, a sweet German woman I met in Bremerhaven years and years ago, and who was 20 years older than I, used to tell me that cooking soup for others was “cooking love.” I used to smile at the idea, but today I believe it.

3. I love twisting the peppermill to crack black peppercorns onto salads, over grilled chicken and fish, or into soups. There’s something satisfying about the rumbling grind under my palm as I turn the mill and then, later, the delightful, sharp spice of the fresh cracked pepper in my mouth.

4. I love that short stretch of near-dark just as the sun is rising. It’s the time I wake most days, and the reason I do is that outside my open window the robins, who roost in a flock high up in our tall laurels, are “threeping” in a wild and joyous chorus. I know it’s silly to endow them with human qualities, but they sound just as if they’re shouting cheeful hellos at the rising sun, and they make me smile.

1. I love cat toes.

2. I love discovering new blogs. Today’s discovery, which I found in Brilliant Before Breakfast’s blogroll, is Harp and Sword. As I was reading it, I found this and fell in love. LOVE, I tell you.

Have a lovely -- and mindful -- weekend.

14 May 2008

A plate of brownies

In my opinion, the most comforting phrase in the English language.

I hear those four words and I can't help but smile. Instantly, they conjure the picture above in my mind, and following the image is the memory of the soft-gooey brownie texture, the sublime, tiny crunch of that thin top crust when I bite into one, and finally the burst of warm chocolate in my mouth, flooding my senses. If one bite was all I could have, I'd be happy.

There's a lot going on right now in my world, health-wise. Forgive the lack of posts, please. I'll be back.

07 May 2008

Time to move forward

It’s hard for me to see how Hillary Clinton can possibly win the Democratic Party nomination for president, particularly given last night’s races in North Carolina and Indiana. Obama won handily in the first, and came within two points of tying up with her in the second. It was not the clear victory in Indiana Hillary was planning on. Her prediction of a “game changing” upset and win in North Carolina turned out to be a pipe-dream.

I liked Hillary during the years Bill was president. I liked her intelligence and chutzpah, I liked how she stood up to the arseholes who wanted her to sit down, shut up and be a good little wifey, and I liked her changing hair-styles. Knowing that she wasn’t satisfied with how she looked made her seem human, more like the rest of us. I even liked her assertion that “it takes a village to raise a child.” I know, she got blasted for being so idealistic, but I liked her for that, too.

There’s nothing wrong with idealism. The trouble is, most of us don’t have a village handy any more.

But I’m finding it harder and harder to like Hillary in her current incarnation. She tells lies – obvious, pathetic lies – for one thing. And she seems so desperate to win the nomination that she panders to everyone and uses Rovian attack strategies against her opponents. It’s ugly and she’s better than that, or at least, I thought she was. Hillary is rattling the war saber, too, as if we haven’t already had enough of that, or learned the tragic folly of unnecessary wars. She was a young woman during the Vietnam years. Hasn’t she learned anything? And after Bush made a fool of her and rest of Congress, duping them into giving him the go-ahead to wage his vanity war against Saddam and Iraq, doesn’t she see that he’s duping her again with Iran?

Today’s Hillary disturbs me. She worries me. Haven’t we had enough of this happy-crappy from BushCo?

Since the first rumors that Hillary was considering a run for the presidency, way back in 2000, I believed that she shouldn’t do it, at least not until 2012 or 2016. Why? Because it would take that long for the “baggage” she carries, with Bill, to lose its toxicity. And yes, I know that the baggage was never toxic in the first place, and none of the wrongdoing they were charged with was ever proven. (Well, except for Bill's nasty, stupid little affair with Monica, but I'd argue that whole mess should never have been prosecuted like it was. That's another post, though.)

But thanks to the Republicans, most Americans perceive the Clintons as sleazy and crooked. They’ve been smeared with synthetic skunk and, unfortunately, they still stink.

I felt that the stinky “baggage” would make Hillary a non-starter. She proved me wrong about that with her campaign for the nomination, though. She’s smart and savvy, and I admire her for her courage in going for it.

But the presidency is about more than Hillary getting her own back. It’s about more than a woman being elected president for the first time in American history, as fantastic and affirming that would be. Now that George W. Bush has trashed our country, ignored its laws, stomped on the Constitution and divided us as a people so decisively, we really need a leader who can bring us together to clean up the terrible, tragic mess he’s made and restore, to some degree, our standing in the world. Hillary, I’m afraid, just isn’t the right person for the job. She may be, someday. But she isn’t right now.

Why? There are huge changes coming – oil production is reaching its peak all over the world just as consumption is rising fourfold. Our economy, for so long underpinned by the housing industry, is starting to collapse as we realize that it was nothing but sand and hot-air-bubbles we were building on. The collapse is affecting the entire world. Food shortages are causing severe problems in the Third World and have even touched us here in the U.S., where stores like Costco have limited commercial purchases of rice and cooking oil.

The price of gasoline as production levels decline is already showing up in ever higher prices at the gas pumps and startlingly high prices in our grocery stores. Many thousands of Americans are losing their homes because of dodgy mortgages. Some of them knew better and don’t deserve a lot of sympathy, but I think many more did not. The crooked mortgage companies encouraged people who didn’t make enough money to afford a home to commit themselves anyway, telling them it would all work out just fine. They lied. They were shysters. And we’re all starting to pay the price for that massive folly now.

If Hillary didn’t come with all that stinking baggage, she might be able to lead our country through the very dark times facing us. The fact is, though, that she’s still loaded down with it. And if she is able to prevail against the Republican attack machine and win the presidency, that won’t mean they’ll stop attacking her. I’m afraid that Hillary will find herself spending most of her time dealing with and fending off those attacks as long as she’s in the White House, just when we most need her not to be distracted from the disaster around her. I think they’ll make sure she’s ineffectual. That makes me sad, but I see it as truth.

There’s also a very good chance that if Hillary gets the nomination, the Republicans will destroy her chances before November and John McCain will win. If that happens, we might as well say good bye to America.

And so what I want Hillary to do now is concede that her chances for winning the nomination are slim to none, and that she’d be much better throwing her considerable power, prestige, intellect and charisma behind Obama. I want her to do it so that as Americans we can come together to repair Bush’s damage and rebuild America’s reputation and standing in the world. At this point, all Hillary can do by continuing her run is to divide us even more.

Please, Hillary. Focus. This is not about you. This election is vital to America’s future. It’s vital to your future, to mine, and to ours, all of us, no matter whether we’re Democrats or Republicans. Please concede the race and work for us instead of yourself.

And to those Dems out there who say they won’t vote for Obama if he wins the nomination (and likewise those Obama supporters who say they won’t vote for Hillary)? Excuse me – wake up and grow up. It’s not all about you, either. Refusing to vote or voting for McCain is childish and will only make things much, much worse for all of us.

Please, America. Think.

Existentialism for kids?

This just tickled me.

I know, I know, I haven't posted anything for days. I've been ... playing. Well, sort of. Since April 27, I've walked 29 miles with J and my daughter. My head has been full of everything but words. I'll be back, though. Promise.

P.S.: Oh, and what about that Obama!? Wasn't that a wild race last night?

01 May 2008

Appointment with life

As I got ready for my appointment with the mammogram machine today, I found myself wondering – perversely, morbidly – if I’d just dressed up nicely, with careful hair, makeup and subtle pink lipstick on my lips, for an appointment with Death.

I realized I was afraid.

I’d put on a brave front. I’m very independent. So I was going to the VA Medical Center alone. Mr. Wren was wrapped up in Master Gardener stuff, so I hadn’t asked him to come. My Mom had an appointment to take all her junk mail and old papers and receipts to a shredding place. She lives in terror of identity theft and has been talking about doing this for weeks, together with my aunt. I didn’t want her to cancel her plans. My daughter was at work -- and she got her two new kittens today.

I wished I’d asked my friend J to go with me. It was almost time to head out – it’s a 40-mile drive. I looked at my cell phone. I could call her. I could ask her to meet me somewhere along the way, and she could ride with me the rest of the way. If she didn’t already have plans. If.

I called her.

My dear heart-sister J said of course she’d go with me. She threw on clothes, hopped in her car and we met at a park-and-ride on the way down the mountain. Went to the VA Med Center, and I checked in for the mammogram. While I waited, J made me laugh. She was texting her friend who’s a financial advisor, calling him a slut. A nurse called me in.

Twenty minutes later, after some yee-owchy but thankfully brief discomfort, there were results. There were some dark masses in my left breast.

Next step, then. I was very calm, but I felt trapped. They said they'd do an ultrasound. Right then, right there, don’t pass GO, don’t collect $200. I was led off to another room.

There, the doctor/radiologist looked at the ultrasound tech’s first attempt and decided to do it himself. I tried not to think.

And then, with a big smile, he told me we were done. The dark mass was just fibrous tissue, definitely not cancer. I could relax – this sort of tissue was normal in women my age and nothing to worry about.

“See you next year,” he said, and left.

Holygods. I wanted a drink. I wanted a smoke. I wanted a drink and a smoke. Instead, I got a huge, tight bearhug from J and we went out for a lunch of falafel, Greek salad and baba ganoush.

Thank you, everyone, for your kind words of comfort. Looks like I'm sticking around for a while.