Tuesday, October 20

It Was Once a Wall



A hot, late afternoon sun cleared the streets of this "living ghost town" of almost 400 people.  Among the sparse buildings and homes, an adobe wall caught my eye. Ill formed, irregular and easy to overlook, it was invisible until a glint of metal directed my eye to the wall's embellishments. Interesting textures, embedded metal flowers, bugs, birds and everyday items, made this wall a colorful and happy surprise.  What was once an ordinary wall is now art, someone's expression of hope in a harsh land.

Sunday, October 4

Let the Angels Do Their Job

 


He lay down and slept under a juniper tree; and behold, there was an angel touching him, and he said to him, “Arise, eat.” - 1 Kings 19:5

Still I Rise

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
’Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
’Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame

I rise

Up from a past that’s rooted in pain

I rise

I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear

I rise

Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear

I rise

Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.

I rise

I rise

I rise.

Maya Angelou, "Still I Rise" from And Still I Rise: A Book of Poems. Copyright © 1978 by Maya Angelou.


May all beings know love, peace and be guided by angels.

Saturday, August 29

Lockdown Conversations

At the Heart of  Common Sense


Walking Meditation
“If any man despises me, that is his problem. My only concern is not doing or saying anything deserving of contempt.” ― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

“Mom. Are we going to have a civil war soon? Yesterday, I watched the republican convention with uncle Travis at my cousins and everyone was talking about the demon democrats taking over. That’s what Travis calls them. Aren’t you and Dad democrats? Doesn’t Travis know that and why does he think we’re demons. Mom. This is scary.”

Teddy’s young, teenage face with its wisps of man hair sprouting above his lip wore alarm and hints of determination within his clear, grey eyes. He liked to ask a lot of questions which drove his mother crazy because they always seemed to come when she was cooking or paying bills or trying to relax.

“Ted. All I can say is that people who like Trump, often say stupid things that they see on Facebook or Twitter. I can’t believe Travis said that when you were listening. What did your cousins think?” She hoped he’d get bored with this topic, but if he stayed fearful and nervous about the “civil war” and “demon democrats” she’d call Travis and rip him a new one. What an insufferable jerk her nice and loving cousin had become over Trump. More than once he’d talked trash about her husband,  an Iraq War vet, who loathed everything to do with Trump, and more than once she’d reminded her cousin that no one in her house talked trash about them and their political views.

“Well, Jean doesn’t care or pay any attention to politics. She hates when anyone starts talking about elections, voting, taxes and as far as she’s concerned the only party she supports is a birthday party – her words, Mom. Lisa does listen to her parents and their friends talk about how fake news on tv lies about corona virus, the police, baby killers, guns, monuments and she’s scared a lot. That whole family and a lot of people in our town are scared of democrats and they blame the virus, the protests and riots on the democrats.

But, Mom, aren’t the republicans in charge now? The convention makes it seem like the virus, lock down, masks, black lives protests, riots are because of democrats, but Dad complains that they keep getting shut down because of the republican majority. He says that republicans own the senate and the president. So, the democrats keep trying to get laws passed to do something about corona virus, health care, climate change, minimum wages, alternative energy, and the president just wants to destroy Obama care. He won’t listen to the democrats who bring bills to the senate because he hates democrats, so nothing gets done.

Mom. Does the president only work for republicans? What happens to what everyone else wants? Are there more republicans than anyone else, maybe?”

“Ted. You are driving me crazy, okay? Google this stuff and ask your Dad when he calls tonight.”

“Mom. I just looked it up. Wikipedia says that ‘As of May 2020, Gallup polling found that 31% of Americans identified as Democrats, 25% identified as Republican, and 40% as Independent. Additionally, polling showed that 50% (of independents) are either Democrats or Democratic leaners and 38% are either Republicans or Republican leaners.. In 2018, the Democratic party was the largest in the United States with roughly 60 million registered members.’ So, how can the republicans just rule the country for themselves and not for everyone. It’s not fair that the smallest group has the most power over us.”

“Talk to your Dad, Ted. Please, and when your uncle and cousins talk about Trump, ask to come home. You can tell them it’s not fair that the republicans do not care about the majority of Americans who are democrats and independent democrats, but they will continue to dredge up the latest facebook conspiracy lie that makes them the victims and the rest of us villains in some far fetched delusion.

Even though they are the ruling party, they want us to think that they are victims of anyone not like them and that it is their missionary duty to convert or dominate non-believers. They can’t accept the idea of ‘live and let live.’ So, just say you’d rather not talk politics, religion, or money. You’re fine with whatever they decide because you’re not some missionary converting the pagans. Okay? Maybe your Dad will have more helpful ideas.”

“What’s a delusion, Mom?”

“Look it up, Ted.”

Saturday, July 25

Headland

Pelican Swoop

Standing on the Headland
- Kathy Mackey

Above this shining ocean,
wind pushes into me.
I watch pelicans, so many of them,
glide with ease and in silence
past my awestruck eyes
into the golden glow of sunset.
To my left, the shoreline
is dotted with sparkling lights.
To my right, the shoreline
is bathed in waning sun rays.
Straight ahead is the vast horizon
pulsing with waves, always distant.
May all beings know love and peace.

Tuesday, July 21

Jesse Uncovered


Somebody's Following You

Slip Sliding Away


The Last Straw Saga
Chapter IV 


Soup. Hand sanitizer. Why are these smells familiar? I felt the pull of the thin crust sealing my right eye. It split and cracked letting a glare of brightness into my sore skull. As I tried to raise my hand to shield my eye, a hot breath warmed my cheek.

“Lookit, Mom. He’s awake. His hand twitched and he’s trying to open his eyes, God be praised.”

I pried open both eyes, blurring brightness with tears of pain, and then saw a circle of vaguely familiar faces matching the smells from earlier. Aunt Rebbecca and Uncle Walt. With them were my cousin, Trent and a female, probably his new wife, Annie something. I was lying on a couch in what looked like a double wide trailer, maybe a deluxe RV.  Confusion agitated the pain and it got worse as I remembered where I'd been going on a "borrowed" motorcycle, in the rain, passing a tractor trailer, on the slick Interstate 49: destination, Texarkana.

“Did I crash?” I croaked.

“Yep, Cletus, Or, should we call you Jesse now?” Uncle Walt pushed his face through the circle and met my wandering eyes with a stare of solid condemnation as he tossed my wallet on the side table.

“We should take you to the clinic because of your head injuries, but maybe not?” Aunt Rebbecca sighed. “I’ll doctor him better, I think," she reflected. "Right, Walt? Trent, clean him up will ya. Lift him into the bathroom in case he needs the toilet then call me and we’ll clean him up.”

“Come on cousin Jesse. Like that name, maybe I’ll change mine too.” Trent laughed as Walt and Rebbecca squabbled about clinic options.

I felt the heat of a hundred lightning bolts inside my head and knew the road rash, cuts, sprains of this unremembered accident would keep me from escaping the DRH feds, maybe for weeks. At least I had made it to Trent’s RV park or Trent had found me. Lots of questions bombarded my pounding head and body as I stumbled into the small bathroom. This must be Trent’s RV and as I grabbed the walls to keep from falling, booming thunder and spitting hail pelted the roof.

“Don’t worry Cuz, this old RV is not a tin can. It’s got a rubber roof so lightning’s not a worry. You need help with them drawers? Let’s get these boots off. Thank god you was wearing your leathers or you’d be a bloody mess right now. AJ will find you some clean clothes. Mom might have some of Bert’s old things you can use. Anyway, let’s get you cleaned up before the whole gang barges in.” The hot shower scoured my torn skin. Dirt streamed in red rivers down the drain. Trent hovered, commenting on the weather and as I dried off, he gave me an oblong, white pill for pain. I don't think I thanked him enough.

After an excruciating few hours of Aunt Rebbecca’s doctoring which consisted of painful extraction of gravel and other pieces of the Louisianna highway from my arms, legs and butt, I fell into a deep sleep filled with federal agents chasing me hurling lightning bolts and shredded condoms.

In the morning, my sister, Ruby, wandered in with her twin boys whirling like tiny tornadoes around the room. Even in this debilitated state, I recognized a contented, confident, beautiful woman who adhered strictly to the Christian dictates of the federal RHD. Her role in life as an obedient wife first, and mother first too, and a missionary for the Church of our Redeemer’s Kingdom suited her. I didn’t realize that she had developed another role of skillful interrogator and that Aunt Rebbecca had asked her to visit and figure out what her misguided nephew was involved in. Weeks later, I would realize how crazy bad I'd been to this family over the years and that payback was due.

“Well, Cletus, sorry to see you like this with your head bashed in, disowning your family name, with Bert’s Goldwing rusting in the barn all dinged up.”

“Hey Rusty and lil Mike, say hi to your uncle Cletus.” Both boys, identical tow headed twins about four or five years old crawled out from under the dining table and stared with a complete lack of interest at me. Rusty had a thumb in his mouth and sucked contentedly while his piercing hazel eyes looked for something, anything of interest about his uncle. Little Mike had spent almost five seconds inspecting, me, and finding nothing of interest, was now opening and closing the pantry door, loving the shake and shiver the loud banging caused.

“Make him stop, Ruby. Please. My head is killing me,” I begged. She seemed to be a strong proponent of the “anti-helicopter parenting” group supported by the RHD whose motto is “Lose a finger, lose a toe. Children learn when you let them go.” As I pondered the effectiveness of this child rearing approach, lil Mike slammed his hand in the door, and let loose an enraged shriek as he cradled his injury to his chest, kicking away his mother who half-heartedly attempted to kiss it and make it better.

Both boys crawled under the table again, dragging my covers with them and amused themselves by kicking the wall and gouging the baseboards with Rusty’s pocket knife. Ruby plopped down in the side chair by the couch and gazed with what I thought was compassion at my ruined skull.

“Ah, Cle! You are one almighty mess, aren’t you, brother. Auntie R called Ron when Trent found you. Thank god you left a note with Shauna telling her about taking Bert’s Goldwing for a spin up to Oklahoma. She called us last week to see if you had stopped by and when you called Trent about staying overnight and didn’t show, he knew to check out motorcycle accidents. He monitored the truckers and clinics and heard about a crashed motorcycle on the side of I-49 about 15 minutes from the RV park – he went and looked and it was you. He got to you about an hour before the patrol and we all got you and the bike to the RV barn until the search was over. Only took the patrol til dinnertime before they gave up looking. Lucky you, Jesse Martin.

Unlucky you, too. You should have known Shauna’d tell Ron, and guessed that our daddy would turn in his own son for an RHD apprehension reward – pitiful as it is. And, that’s what he's trying to do, you dipshit. So, you shouldn't stay here for long. I can’t image what you did to get Reproductive Health after you. Maybe they’re trying to make you tell them where your lawbreaking ex-girlfriend is these days. Or, maybe you sterilized yourself? Or, never mind. Too many maybes that become felonies with the RHD, so do not tell me a fucking thing about why you’re on the run."

She paused then, listening as her sons repeated the words “dipshit” and “fucking” while carving divots in the floor. “Shit,” she giggled as the boys repeated the curse. As if on cue, Aunt R and Trent bustled in with medical supplies and determined looks in their eyes.

“Good. You’re awake, still cleaned up. Erm, Trent, get him to the toilet. Ruby get your boys and take away Rusty’s knife. Look what he done to Trent’s wood work, not to mention all the nicks he has all over his little body. My god, use your head girl. It’s time to get some lunch together for all of us. Would you mind doing that, honey, while I patch up your big brother?” Rebbecca was famous for her steely nerves and decisive organizing. She stepped back while Trent maneuvered me off the couch, away from the crawling, stabbing boys and safely into the bathroom. Within minutes, Aunt R was bellowing for my return to bedlam.  Grabbing the walls again, I bumbled into the pristine bedroom nearby, and carefully stretched out on Trent and Annie's bed.

I clenched my jaw, grinding teeth and sweating with the pain as Rebbecca tugged, prodded, squeezed, rubbed, wiped, splinted, bandaged and discovered that I had a sprained left ankle and possibly a sprained left knee. My left shoulder was dislocated and put back in place with the help of Trent and Walt. My motorcycle helmet had protected my head and face from major damage, but the impact had shaken my brains severely, removing the memory of the actual crash. Other than a swollen and sore elbow, the right side of me was less damaged.

“Well, Cletus, I think we’ve doctored the major injuries. Nothing broken that I can see. No internal bleeding either. Some bad sprains, cuts, swelling, bruises – all fixable with home doctoring. I am worried about your head, though. You may need to go to the clinic if headaches and swelling gets worse. Understand, honey?” Aunt Rebbecca’s eyes lost the impersonal doctor look and became liquid pools of compassion. A contagious exhaustion blanketed everyone in the room banishing the adrenelin-fueled hyper-alertness.

“Becky, sweetheart, you need to rest a bit. You too, Cletus. How about you both have some lunch in the bedroom now.  After, you can lay down for a couple of hours. Trent’s got a good cot set up and can move it in here where it’s quiet. Trent, son, can you go get it, please.” Walt smoothed the bed covers, propped up pillows and moved Cletus into a sitting position before leaving to bring back food. Rebbecca was perched on the bedside, shoulders slumped, slender legs splayed, eyes closed. Within minutes, Walt was back with soup and crackers and Trent had set up the cot for his mother. Annie Jean, Trent’s wife, swooped in a half hour later, straightening the room, closing the curtains, removing the lunch stuff, kissing an already sleeping Rebbecca and settling Cletus into a gentle incline from his sitting position. It was peaceful in the room. The storm had passed in the night.

Beyond the door, Rusty was raging about losing his pocket knife. Ruby and Trent were packing up her car with the extra medical and herbal supplies she’d brought that morning. Walt was on the phone with Ron begging him not to drive up until he was sober. Someone with a powerful arm was pounding on the RV door.  Rusty hoped it was his daddy, Big Mike,  or even better, his daddy’s mama, Grammy Boyd, who sometimes put peanut butter on his thumb if he crossed his heart and stopped crying.

Saturday, June 27

Shameless Delusion








Every Day Is Exactly the Same
Produced by Alan Moulder & Trent Reznor
Album With Teeth


I believe I can see the future
Cause I repeat the same routine
I think I used to have a purpose
Then again, that might have been a dream.

I think I used to have a voice.
Now I never make a sound.
I just do what I've been told.
I really don't want them to come around.
Oh no.

Every day is exactly the same
Every day is exactly the same
There is no love here and there is no pain
Every day is exactly the same

I can feel their eyes are watching
In case i lose myself again.
Sometimes I think I'm happy here.
Sometimes, yet I still pretend.

I can't remember how this got started
But I can tell you exactly how it will end.

Every day is exactly the same
Every day is exactly the same
There is no love here and there is no pain
Every day is exactly the same

I'm writing on a little piece of paper
I'm hoping someday you might find
Well I'll hide it behind something
They won't look behind
I am still inside
A little bit comes bleeding through.
I wish this could've been any other way
But I just don't know. I don't know
What else I can do.

Every day is exactly the same
Every day is exactly the same
There is no love here and there is no pain
Every day is exactly the same
Every day is exactly the same
Every day is exactly the same
There is no love here and there is no pain
Every day is exactly the same


Sunday, June 21

My Father, My Teacher



Father's Song 
- Gregory Orr

Yesterday, against admonishment,
my daughter balanced on the couch back,
fell and cut her mouth. 

Because I saw it happen 
I knew she was not hurt, 
and yet a child's blood so red 
it stops a father's heart. 

My daughter cried her tears;
I held some ice 
against her lip. 
That was the end of it. 

Round and round: bow and kiss. 
I try to teach her caution;
she tries to teach me risk. 

From The Caged Owl: New and Selected Poems by Gregory Orr. Copyright © 2002 by Gregory Orr. Used by permission of Copper Canyon Press. All rights reserved.

Friday, April 10

Every Breath You Take


“There is a moment, a cusp, when the sum of gathered experience is worn down by the details of living. We are never so wise as when we live in this moment. —” Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air

Tuesday, March 24

This Belongs


"Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear." - Mark Twain

"I don’t care what anyone says. I’m going to my gym. It’s taken me weeks to be able to use the Stairmaster for more than five minutes. You know?" My friend was adamant.

"Well, you and I have got to be really careful not to catch this Coronavirus because we have an underlying medical medical condition. For me, a recent heart attack and for you cancer."

"Oh, that was five years ago and this virus goes for the lungs. I’ll be okay. I’m not going to let fear stop me from living my life. I’m just not."

And, I believe her.

But, what about her nearby family, her neighbors, and those people she runs into over the course of living her life in today’s dangerous and deadly world. She is a courageous and wise person, precious to me and to everyone that knows her. When I heard her words, my first reaction was admiration. I admire her feisty attitude which has carried her through some awful times. It served her well when she battled cancer. I am inspired by her spirit and zest for life. My second, more primal reaction was that I would definitely avoid her for a long while.

Reflecting on this fleeting thought, I realized that she embodies that all-American, maverick persona that is deeply ingrained in our culture: explorer, rebel, pioneer, astronaut. Those tools of manifest destiny always pushing forward as individuals leaving the less adventurous behind to eat their dust. Americans are ruthless world builders, lovers of handshakes and hugs, proponents of the rights of the individual, ignorant of the rights of the collective, and dismissive of sacrificing for the greater good. Today, though, my friend and I awake each morning to a growing crisis and no personal history with which to ensure survival. We haven’t had to think about not surviving because we’ve been fortunate to live in an abundant and healthy world.



Not long after our conversation, I read an editorial in our local paper. The author expressed fear that government is using this pandemic to erode or eliminate individual liberties. He did not beat the anti-government drum too hard and offered good suggestions on how and where to get verifiable information about COVD-19. These nuggets of useful community information are buried under examples of what he considers a pattern of government over-reach in response to crisis. I tried to change my own internal compass from pointing to the fear that government is not doing anything to the rather frivolous worry of the government doing too much. Time has not been kind to this editorial. People are now more afraid of death than losing their right to assembly.

Meanwhile, our feckless leader continues to promote whatever his emotions and bank balance suggests, steering our country straight into the tsunami today and waking up tomorrow from a fever dream suggesting caution or maybe the old tried and true anti-abortion idiocy.  Oh sure, in the minds of the righteous, we all must protect the unborn while suggesting that old people commit mass suicide to save everyone else from economic hardship. Hey, Lt. Govs and Fox News pundits - millions of children are parented by their Grandma and/or Grandpa. The fricking opioid plague  causes many of our senior citizens to sacrifice what little they have and take in their kids and grandkids in need.  In addition, crippling student debt and the cheapskate "service economy" make it so hard for youngsters and families to squeek by without the old folks helping out with cash and loans. That's millions of dollars out of our pockets to keep our families afloat in this tax cutting, safety-net shredding, hypocrisy brought to you by the Republican Party Platform. Skim down to the ultraconservative interpretation of the Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution. It is obvious that these "individual rights" interpretations were crafted on another planet where  everything is homogenized, sparkling white, and non-existent.


Day by day, reports of how Americans are reacting to this growing pandemic continue to astonish and dismay.  Herds of religious fundamentalists swear that this pandemic is signalling the "end times" and quote passages from the Book of Revelation while urging church going and communal prayer - even though experts demand that we protect ourselves by social distancing and hand washing.  These two desperate measures work and any loving god would urge us to do this rather than hold hands and sing hymns while spreading disease. In our small community, one church I know of is using Zoom technology to conduct Sunday services and foster faith based on survival. We change and adapt.

Survival of our species, how we use scarce resources, how we live with the unknown, how we unify and cooperate to keep ourselves and all people alive are primal priorities. In my area of northern Arizona, we have approximately 140,000 people, two hospitals with less than 400 beds, limited medical personnel, and in my town, 38% of the population is 65 years or older. My math skills are shyte, but even I can figure out that many of us oldsters with underlying medical issues are going to die in this pandemic. That’s a bone chilling fear and I need help coping with it.


So. I shelter in place. I explore the ways to cope with the pandemic and all the fear it unleashes. As Tara Brach, psychologist and proponent of Buddhist meditation, explains in her podcast "Facing Pandemic Fears with an Awake Heart (2020-03-18)"  dismissing or pushing fear away is not wise. Fear is an intelligent and lifesaving reaction to imminent danger. It exists to give urgency to problem solving, to fight or flight, to surviving. It belongs in our world, but it does not rule a world that I choose to live in. This virus which mutates and grows teaches us all the necessity of  adapting to change. which may mean trade offs - sacrificing some personal liberties for the greater good. 

We need to be alive to be free. Sounds too basic to even say out loud, but in times like these no one can afford to lose this focus.  Be well and stay strong.

Friday, February 14

Two People



Sonnet 116: Let me not to the marriage of true minds
by William Shakespeare


Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand'ring bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me prov'd,
I never writ, nor no man ever lov'd.

Forty years and counting, beloved. 

Friday, January 3

Disintegration


Disintegration - Apophysis Fractal Image

"The temptation was great to muster what force we could and put up a fight. It's the easiest way out, and the most satisfactory to self-respect--but, nearly invariably, the stupidest. ”
― Isaac Asimov, Foundation

Well, it's that time in the presidential election cycle when incumbents get desperate and contenders take the gloves off. In 2020, it looks like Trump intends to bypass Congress and wage war with Iran.  The Trump administration's drone strike on January 3, 2020, killed Iranian major general and IRGC Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani and Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. Both committed enemies of the US and not beloved by many of  their own people. So, let's wage war and make peace in the Middle East.  No. No. Wrong.  It has not worked in my long lifetime and the Trump approach is just more of the same mixed with personal vendettas and head spinning policy reversals.

Why am I politicizing this event when it should be acknowledged that this drone strike took out two enemies of America even if it was at the cost of any productive relationship with Iraq? Because our fear mongering leader, DJT,  predicted in 2011 that then President Obama would wage war with Iran as a strategy to win the 2012 election. (Btw, Obama never did provoke a war with Iran. Instead in 2015, he and other world leaders successfully negotiated a framework agreement to eliminate Iranian nuclear arms.  In May 2018, Trump withdrew from the  accord causing America to be  the first nation to violate the terms agreed upon by the US, Iran, China, Russia,  Britain, France and Germany. This violation severely weakened the accord and we see the results today in Iran's violations of the agreement.)

I really don't want to start shining lights on fearless leader but  this hypocrisy is painfully blatant  and hard to ignore. We know for sure, now, that Trump will do anything to stay in power and that the "wartime leader" card he accused Obama of, has been his own ace in the hole election strategy all along.  Welcome to a new decade of trumpian chaos and hypocrisy.