Friday, May 30, 2008

Joan of Arc (Leonard Cohen)

From today's Writer's Almanac:

It was on this day in 1431 that Joan of Arc was burned at the stake for heresy in Rouen, France. She was an ordinary French peasant girl, living during the Hundred Years War between France and England. When she was still a teenager, she heard the voice of God telling her to join the battle and help defeat the English army. She performed a series of apparent miracles and persuaded the French army to let her command a group of soldiers. At the battle of Orleans, she led the French army, bearing a flag with Jesus' name written across it, and the English were defeated. She continued fighting battles until May 23, 1430, when she was captured by enemy soldiers. They turned her over to the church to be tried as a heretic, idolater, and sorcerer.

Her trial lasted for months. Every day she was brought into the interrogation room, where she was the only woman among judges, priests, soldiers, and guards. The judges hoped to trick her into saying something that would incriminate her as a witch, so they asked endless questions about all aspects of her life, in no particular order. They were especially interested in her childhood, and because the transcripts of the trial were recorded, we now know more about her early life than any other common person of her time.

She testified that she had learned from her mother how to pray and how to clean the house, and that she was an excellent sewer and spinner. She talked about the games she played as a child, the songs she sang and the way she and other children danced around a particular tree in their town. She pointed out that she preferred singing to dancing. She said that she'd always loved the sound of bells ringing in her town, and she was greatly upset whenever the bell wasn't rung on schedule. She said that many of the people in her village believed in fairies, and that her godmother claimed to have seen a fairy once, but she doubted it. She said that she first started hearing divine voices when she was 13, while working in her father's garden.

After months of questioning, she was told that if she didn't sign a confession, she would be put to death. She finally signed it, but a few days later she renounced the confession, and on this day in 1431, she was burned at the stake. She was 19 years old.

She was mostly forgotten for about 400 years, and then she was revived as a patriotic figure during the French revolution. In 1920, she was canonized as a saint by Pope Benedict XV. She is the only person ever burned at the stake for heresy who later became a saint.

POEM: Rouen: Place de la Pucelle by Maria White Lowell

Here blooms the legend fed with time and chance,
Fresh as the morning, though in centuries old;
The whitest lily in the shield of France,
With heart of virgin gold.

Along this square she moved, sweet Joan of Arc,
With face more pallid than a day-lit star,
Half seen, half doubted, while before her dark
Stretched the array of war.

Swift furled the battle-smoke of lying breath
From off her path, as if a wind had blown,
And showed no faithless king, but righteous death
On the low, wooden throne.

He would reward her; she who meekly wore
Alike her gilded mail and peasant gown,
Meekily recieved once earthly honor more, -
The formless, fiery crown.

A white dove trembled up the heated air,
And in the opening zenith found its goal;
Soft as a downward feather fell a prayer
For each repentant soul.

QUOTE: "The most tangible of all visible mysteries - fire." ~ Leigh Hunt

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

America's Favorite Pastime (Todd Snider)

Claim: Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Dock Ellis hurled a no-hitter while under the influence of LSD.

Status: True.

The rest of the story can be found here...

And more...

YouTube video here...

POEM: Analysis of Baseball by May Swenson

It's about
the ball,
the bat,
and the mitt.
Ball hits
bat, or it
hits mitt.
Bat doesn't
hit ball, bat
meets it.
Ball bounces
off bat, flies
air, or thuds
ground (dud)
or it
fits mitt.

Bat waits
for ball
to mate.
Ball hates
to take bat's
bait. Ball
flirts, bat's
late, don't
keep the date.
Ball goes in
(thwack) to mitt,
and goes out
(thwack) back
to mitt.

Ball fits
mitt, but
not all
the time.
ball gets hit
(pow) when bat
meets it,
and sails
to a place
where mitt
has to quit
in disgrace.
That's about
the bases
about 40,000
fans exploded.

It's about
the ball,
the bat,
the mitt,
the bases
and the fans.
It's done
on a diamond,
and for fun.
It's about
home, and it's
about run.

QUOTE: "Baseball? It's just a game - as simple as a ball and a bat. Yet, as complex as the American spirit it symbolizes. It's a sport, business - and sometimes even religion." ~ Ernie Harwell

Monday, May 26, 2008

Song for Jeffrey Lucey (Meg Hutchinson)

In his Journal Friday, Bill Moyers wrote:

"We honor our war dead this Memorial Day weekend. The greatest respect we could pay them would be to pledge no more wars for erroneous and misleading reasons; no more killing and wounding except for the defense of our country and our freedoms. We could also honor our dead by caring for the living, and do better at it than we are right now…

You may have followed the flurry of allegations concerning neglect, malpractice, and corner cutting at the Veterans Administration, especially for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder - PTSD - or major depression, brought on by combat.

The Rand Corporation has released a study indicating that approximately 300,000 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from PTSD - or major depression, that's one of every five soldiers who have served over there."

The rest here...

"Another timely song on [Meg Hutchinson's] new album is her “Song for Jeffrey Lucey,” based on the real story of Lance Corporal Jeffrey Lucey, who returned from Iraq, suffering from severe Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). “I heard about Jeffrey Lucey and was devastated by his story but incredibly moved by how his family spoke out about PTSD,” Hutchinson says. “I think we all need to recognize sorrow, both the grief of a country at war and our own very private sorrows, in order to get through them.” Whether tackling political issues or matters of the heart, Hutchinson does exactly that—recognizes the pain that gives our lives a greater depth and a deeper appreciation of joy. She writes about human resilience and maintains that no matter what happens in our lives, our nets can still come up full."

Big love and thanks to AW for the heads-up on this wonderful singer-songwriter - I'd been hearing many good things about Meg but hadn't yet taken the time to check her out. When Amy sent me her recent mix CD with Meg's Home as the first song (with the line "dreaming in full color"), I knew it was slated for my next Oz compilation - I immediately ordered, and am very much enjoying, the CD...

Song for Jeffrey Lucey by Meg Hutchinson

The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict by Joseph E. Stiglitz, Linda J. Bilmes

POEM: Equinox by Joy Harjo

I must keep from breaking into the story by force
for if I do I will find myself with a war club in my hand
and the smoke of grief staggering toward the sun,
your nation dead beside you.

I keep walking away though it has been an eternity
and from each drop of blood
springs up sons and daughters, trees,
a mountain of sorrows, of songs.

I tell you this from the dusk of a small city in the north
not far from the birthplace of cars and industry.
Geese are returning to mate and crocuses have
broken through the frozen earth.

Soon they will come for me and I will make my stand
before the jury of destiny. Yes, I will answer in the clatter
of the new world, I have broken my addiction to war
and desire. Yes, I will reply, I have buried the dead
and made songs of the blood, the marrow.

QUOTE: "In war, there are no unwounded soldiers." ~ José Narosky

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Garden Rose (Kris Delmhorst)

Today was Flower Communion Sunday at our UU church, and it's always been one of my favorites - since the member who usually coordinates the ritual had to work, I was called into service (no pun intended!).

Congregants were asked in advance to bring a flower of their choice, either from their own gardens or from the field or roadside - when they arrived at church, a variety of water-filled vases were arranged on a purple-cloth-covered dais in the sanctuary and each person was asked to place their own flower in the vase. Reverend Gail used The Summer Day (below) as the cornerstone of the service - she and I read other Mary Oliver selections interspersed with talks by three members sharing their "wild and precious life" stories... :-)

From the
Unitarian Universalist Association website:

The Flower Communion Service is perhaps the most widely-celebrated ritual in Unitarian Universalist congregations today. Every spring, most of our churches and fellowships devote a Sunday to this festive participatory service which celebrates both the earth's beauty and humanity's oneness. Its simplicity and universality make it meaningful for children as well as adults.

The Flower communion service was created by Norbert Capek (1870-1942), who founded the Unitarian Church in Czechoslovakia. He introduced this special service to that church on June 4, 1923. For some time he had felt the need for some symbolic ritual that would bind people more closely together. The format had to be one that would not alienate any who had forsaken other religious traditions. The traditional Christian communion service with bread and wine was unacceptable to the members of his congregation because of their strong reaction against the Catholic faith. So he turned to the native beauty of their countryside for elements of a communion which would be genuine to them. This simple service was the result. It was such a success that it was held yearly just before the summer recess of the church.

The flower communion was brought to the United States in 1940 and introduced to the members of our Cambridge, Massachusetts, church by Dr. Capek's wife, Maja V. Capek. The Czech-born Maja had met Norbert Capek in New York City while he was studying for his Ph.D., and it was at her urging that Norbert left the Baptist ministry and turned to Unitarianism. The Capeks returned to Czechoslovakia in 1921 and established the dynamic liberal church in Prague; Maja Capek was ordained in 1926. It was during her tour of the United States that Maja introduced the flower communion, which had been developed in the Prague church, at the Unitarian church in Cambridge. Unfortunately, Maja was unable to return to Prague due to the outbreak of World War II, and it was not until the war was over that Norbert Capek's death in a Nazi concentration camp was revealed. From this beginning the service has spread to many of our Unitarian Universalist congregations and has been adapted along the way.

Call to Community: It is time now for us to share in the Flower Communion. I ask that as you each in turn approach the communion vase you do so quietly--reverently--with a sense of how important it is for each of us to address our world and one another with gentleness, justice and love. I ask that you select a flower--different from the one you brought--that particularly appeals to you. As you take your chosen flower--noting its particular shape and beauty--please remember to handle it carefully. It is a gift that someone else has brought to you. It represents that person's unique humanity, and therefore deserves your kindest touch. Let us share quietly in this Unitarian Universalist ritual of oneness and love.

The significance of the flower communion is that as no two flowers are alike, so no two people are alike, yet each has a contribution to make - together the different flowers form a beautiful bouquet. Our common bouquet would not be the same without the unique addition of each individual flower, and thus it is with our church community - it would not be the same without each and every one of us.

Thus this service is a statement of our community - by exchanging flowers, we show our willingness to walk together in our Search for truth, disregarding all that might divide us. Each person takes home a flower brought by someone else, thus symbolizing our shared celebration in community - this communion of sharing is essential to a free people of a free religion.

Just before he was put to death in Dachau, Dr. Capek wrote this prayer reflecting on his own life and the state of his spirit:

It is worthwhile to live and fight courageously for sacred ideals.
Oh blow ye evil winds into my body's fire; my soul you'll never unravel.
Even though disappointed a thousand times or fallen in the fight and everything would worthless seem, I have lived amidst eternity.
Be grateful, my soul, my life was worth living.
He who was pressed from all sides but remained victorious in spirit is welcomed into the choir of heroes.
He who overcame the fetters giving wing to the mind is entering into the golden age of the victorious.


To my knowledge, I've not duplicated a song/book/poem/quote in the 375+ days I've been writing this blog, but today I do so deliberately - Reverend Gail paraphrased Barbara Cooney's Miss Rumphius for her Words for All Ages in today's service and, although I used it in
a post almost a year ago, it begged repeating. The story became one of my favorites when I was a preschool teacher (I always asked one of my students to bring me the tissues before I read it aloud... =*) and I forever dreamed of traveling the world and living by the sea - I continue to challenge myself and others: "what will you do to make the world more beautiful?"... and I've gifted many a friend's new baby with the book as well...

Speaking of "one wild and precious life", and following up on
my blog of a few days ago, Utah Phillips died yesterday - here can be found the official obituary as provided by his family and a YouTube video from the Strawberry Folk Festival last year in which he retells the funniest story he ever heard. He will be much missed...

[Added 5/26/08: various articles over the years have mentioned the phrase "Rose Tattoo" in conjunction with Utah - I finally went googling today and came up with a definition ("the self-inflicted mythic fraternity of tramps, hobos and rare-do-wells"), the following explanation by Utah...

"Well now, what is the Rose Tattoo? I am not sure. We are not an organization. We are not a band. We are not something - yet. We are our own community, a circle of friends who go 'way back together. We have traveled and played together for years, and share a common experience on and off the trains. I guess you could say that the Rose Tattoo is made up of old friends who sing old and new songs, bring forward in our lives the lore of trains and tramps and carry a rose tattoo. There are more of us than you'll find here; how many? Nobody knows. We're scattered out all over North America. There might be one standing next to you right now."

...and this website.]

Garden Rose by Kris Delmhorst

Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney

POEM: The Summer Day by Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

QUOTE: "For myself I hold no preferences among flowers, so long as they are wild, free, spontaneous. Bricks to all greenhouses! Black thumb and cutworm to the potted plant!" ~ Edward Abbey

Thursday, May 22, 2008

You Learn (Alanis Morissette)

Not feeling too talkative these last few days - laying low, giving myself some much-needed breathing time... and looking forward to the three-day weekend...

POEM: Autobiography in Five Short Chapters by Portia Nelson

Chapter 1

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost ... I am helpless.
It isn't my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter 2

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don't see it.
I fall in again.
I can't believe I am in the same place.
But it isn't my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter 3

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in ... it's a habit.
My eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

Chapter 4

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

Chapter 5

I walk down another street.

QUOTE: "The purpose of learning is growth, and our minds, unlike our bodies, can continue growing as we continue to live." ~ Mortimer Adler

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Telling Takes Me Home (Utah Phillips)

Time/energy/worry has me putting off writing about my mom's visit... although she's constantly in my thoughts - until then, this missive from the FolkDJ list seems a suitable segue:

The following was posted on the blogspot that Utah's son Duncan set up.

Utah turned 73 yesterday. Please remember him on your playlists and let listeners know about his condition. Donations may be sent to: Utah Phillips, PO Box 1235, Nevada City, CA 95959

Dear Friends,

Utah here, with a rambling missive pandect and organon regarding my current reality. At no time should you suspect me of complaining (kvetching); I am simply grepsing (Yiddish word for describing the condition of that reality). First, medical: My heart, which is enlarged and very weak, can’t pump enough blood to keep my body plunging forward at its usual 100 percent. It allows me about 25 to 30 percent, which means I don’t get around very much or very easily anymore. I’m sustained (i.e., kept alive) by a medication called Milrinone, which is contained in a pump that I carry around with me in a shoulder bag. The pump, which runs 24 hours a day, moves the medication through a long tube running into an implanted Groshong catheter that in turn runs directly into my heart. I’ll be keeping this pump for the rest of my life. I also take an extraordinary number of oral medications, of which many are electrolytes. My body is weak but my will is strong, and I keep my disposition as sunny and humorous as I’m able. It’s hard enough being disabled without being cranky as well. Though I’m eating well, my weight has gone from 175 to 155 pounds. I look like a geriatric Fred Astaire.

We manage to get out a good bit, visiting the Ananda (a local spiritual village and retreat center) flower garden up on the San Juan Ridge and occasionally going to lunch at various places around town. The bag is always with me. Believe me, none of this would be possible without my wife Joanna. She has the deepest, most loving and caring heart one could ever imagine. She’s taken charge of all my medications and makes sure that I’m well fed and don’t fall into the slovenly ways of a derelict. She also has enormous physical beauty—I have never seen a more beautiful woman in my life. She is endowed with intelligence, deep insight, compassion, and a capacity for love that passes all understanding.

Heart disease aside, I find that I have a hernia that needs to be repaired. Someday I suppose I’ll become like Ernie Bierwagen, the old man who owned the orchards outside town. He said to me once, “I know that God wants me to say something, because the only thing I have left that works is my mouth.” But for now, I’m enjoying my life and can think of no good reason not to. Joanna and I both know that the chemical regimen I’m on can’t go on indefinitely. We take things a day at a time, deriving joy and solace from a solid, loving relationship.

I want to share with you something about where we live. If you’re reading this on the Internet, I’ve sent Duncan some photos to show you what it looks like. Our house is on a country lane right off Red Dog Road, about a mile from downtown Nevada City. Nevada City is an old gold-mining town in the Sierra foothills with a population of about 2,800. The old buildings are all still here, including the National Hotel, one of the oldest hotels in the West that’s still doing business. The town is a quirky, mystical sort of place, populated by poets, writers, artists, misfits, and just regular folks. When you drive down Berggren Lane where we live, you come to a brown house with green trim, lap-strake siding, a steel roof, and a high green fence around the front. The steel roof is there because we live in an ancient oak and cedar grove, which incl udes in the front yard a couple of towering poplar trees. Sometimes the wind coming down from the high Sierra breaks off tree limbs, and ! if it weren’t for the steel roof, we could well be eating our salad by the roots.

When we first moved in here, the house was tiny. Using her remarkable ingenuity and the prodigious skills of our friend Steven Goodfield, a fine independent carpenter, Joanna has added a hallway and two rooms going up the hill, which gives us a bedroom and bathroom, and me a study. The French doors in our bedroom open out onto a dappled hillside with hawthorns, cedars, pines, wild cherries, and oaks. The lot itself is quite narrow, the result of a bad survey many years ago. The old part of the house was built in 1912. When we bought it, there was a greenhouse along the southern wall. It was rotting out, so we replaced it with a new, insulated and thermo paned greenhouse so that we could remove the interior wall and make it almost part of the living room. Our house is a beautiful, comfortable place to live, absolutely surrounded by greenery.

Looking out the greenhouse windows now, I can see the huge poplars in front, already in full leaf. The front yard is Joanna’s flower garden, a great splash of color amid the green. As I look over my shoulder out the greenhouse door, which is also the front door to the house, I can see the hawthorn trees covered with cascades of white blossoms, as though their limbs were burdened with new snow. There’s a brick patio just outside the greenhouse with a fireplace and a small pond crowned with a bronze frog who emits a stream of water into the pond, which, when the weather is warm, we can hear from the bedroom when we’re going to sleep.

Opposite the greenhouse is the kitchen, with a wonderful early 1930s gas range, one of those with a two-lid firebox on one end. Outside the kitchen window is a railed porch built by our friend Kuddie, which overlooks another flower garden and an old apple tree, still bearing, that was probably planted when the house was built. The lot itself, narrow though it is, goes up the hill quite a way, where it levels off through the cedars and ends at a large open space that was a vegetable garden when I was still able to do that sort of thing.

The cedars are gigantic and quite an anomaly, a patch of forest that was never logged, probably because of the bad survey. It simply got missed. Walking in it now is like walking in the quiet of a much larger forest.

Walking up the hill, you pass three small outbuildings. One, called Marmlebog Hall (Joanna’s children call her Marmle), is where Kuddie ordered and maintained the CDs I used to travel with. It also contains a small labor library. The second building is a small barn on uneven stilts because of the hill. It’s there for storage. Don’t ask me what all is in it, but I do know it would drive an archaeologist mad. Among other things, it houses about 15 collapsing cardboard boxes that contain what academics have characterized as my personal archives, but are in fact a jumble of papers and objects, the detritus of over half a century. The University of California at Davis once said they wanted to accession my archives. I said, okay, if you hire somebody to come and plough through those boxes, because I’m not going to. They never called back.

The third building up there is an old shed, tiny, drafty, but a place where I spent many happy hours making things when I wasn’t traveling: wooden swords, bird feeders, and such. For the past few years the workshop has been a henhouse with a chicken-wire enclosure. Nothing fancy: five hens and a large rooster named Ralph (Rooster-Dooster). Ralph enjoys the good life. You could poke three holes in Ralph and go bowling with him. The hens all have names, but I forget what they are. They give us eggs, which I think was the idea to begin with.

Last winter a bear broke into the chicken yard and tore the door off the henhouse. The hens and Ralph managed to escape by hiding behind an old chest of drawers. The first hen to reappear showed up in our dog Bo’s mouth; she was uninjured, but that condition would not have lasted much longer. The others came out of hiding one at a time. Before our friend Che Greenwood could come over to fix the door, we feared the bear would return, plus a great storm was kicking up. So we set up a round of chicken wire in the greenhouse, which, as I say, is part of the living room, and installed the chickens there. Eventually, the smell was overpowering. How can chickens live with themselves? It was Friday evening and I’d turned on my small portable radio, as at this time the power was out, to listen to a station in Sacramento that broadcasts opera from 8:00 p.m. till midnight. That Friday one of the opera excerpts featured was an aria from Puccini’s Tosca sung by Maria Callas. That’s when Ralph decided he liked opera. As she sang, he began to crow along, so I got Tosca as a duet between Callas and Ralph.

That’s when I said, these chickens have got to go back up the hill. I mean, it was Puccini, for God’s sake.

So. That’s domestic life here at our place.

A few words about me and the trade before I wind this up. When I hit a blacklist in Utah in 1969, I realized I had to leave Utah if I was going to make a living at all. I didn’t know anything abut this enormous folk music family spread out all over North America. All I had was an old VW bus, my guitar, $75, and a head full of songs, old- and new-made. Fortunately, at the behest of my old friend Rosalie Sorrels, I landed at Caffe Lena in Saratoga Springs, New York. That seemed to be ground zero for folk music at the time. Lena Spencer, as she did with so many, took me in and taught me the ropes. It took me a solid two years to realize I was no longer an unemployed organizer, but a traveling folk singer and storyteller—which, in Utah at the time, would probably have been regarded as a criminal activity.

I spent a long time finding my way—couches, floors, big towns, small towns, marginal pay (folk wages). But I found that people seemed to like what I was doing. The folk music family took me in, carried me along, and taught me the value of song far beyond making a living. It taught me that I don’t need wealth, I don’t need power, and I don’t need fame. What I need is friends, and that’s what I found—everywhere—and not just among those on the stage, but among those in front of the stage as well.

Now I can no longer travel and perform; overnight our income vanished. But all of those I had sung for, sung with, or boarded with, hearing about my condition, stepped in and rescued us. I can’t tell you how grateful I am to be part of this great caring community that, for the most part, functions close to the ground at a sub-media level, a community that has always cared for its own. We will be forever grateful for your help during this hard time.

The future? I don’t know. But I have songs in a folder I’ve never paid attention to, and songs inside me waiting for me to bring them out. Through all of it, up and down, it’s the song. It’s always been the song.

Love and solidarity,

[Added 6/4/08: Bruce Utah Phillips: May 15, 1935 ~ May 23, 2008. Here is a link to Indymedia pictures from the service and the "shrine" to Utah. ]

SONG: The Telling Takes Me Home by Utah Phillips

BOOK: The Big Red Songbook: 250-Plus IWW Songs by Utah Phillips (Afterword), Archie Green, David Roediger, Franklin Rosemont, Salvatore Salerno (Editors)

POEM: In View of the Fact by A. R. Ammons

The people of my time are passing away: my
wife is baking for a funeral, a 60-year-old who

died suddenly, when the phone rings, and it's
Ruth we care so much about in intensive care:

it was once weddings that came so thick and
fast, and then, first babies, such a hullabaloo:

now, it's this that and the other and somebody
else gone or on the brink: well, we never

thought we would live forever (although we did)
and now it looks like we won't: some of us

are losing a leg to diabetes, some don't know
what they went downstairs for, some know that

a hired watchful person is around, some like
to touch the cane tip into something steady,

so nice: we have already lost so many,
brushed the loss of ourselves ourselves: our

address books for so long a slow scramble now
are palimpsests, scribbles and scratches: our

index cards for Christmases, birthdays,
Halloweens drop clean away into sympathies:

at the same time we are getting used to so
many leaving, we are hanging on with a grip

to the ones left: we are not giving up on the
congestive heart failure or brain tumors, on

the nice old men left in empty houses or on
the widows who decide to travel a lot: we

think the sun may shine someday when we'll
drink wine together and think of what used to

be: until we die we will remember every
single thing, recall every word, love every

loss: then we will, as we must, leave it to
others to love, love that can grow brighter

and deeper till the very end, gaining strength
and getting more precious all the way. . . .

QUOTE: "Health is a large word. It embraces not the body only, but the mind and spirit as well... and not today's pain or pleasure alone, but the whole being and outlook of a man." ~ James H. West

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Green (Edie Brickell)

Today is my blogiversary - woo hoo!

One year ago (
May 14, 2007) I began this exercise in creativity, little knowing how transformative it would become - my initial desire to post a daily song/book/poem/quote has segued into a cathartic/educational/
stimulating journal/scrapbook of which I'm quite proud. At times I'm unearthing emotions I never thought I'd make public - other days find me sharing trivial but joyful celebrations of life. It's all about the pendulum, eh? - god knows I've experienced both sides now (thanks, Joni!) and anticipate the upcoming chapters of my life as they continue to unfold...

Of the 366 days past (yes, it was a Leap Year), I submitted 316 posts - I didn't quite achieve *daily* but, considering holidays/family emergencies/vacations, I'm happy with the consistency of effort/content.

I'm still not putting myself "out there" (as in... I've only told a double-handful of people about the blog) - a few others have unintentionally found their way or synchronistically stumbled across my musings. I guess I believe the more privacy I retain, the more honest I'll be - I tend to be a very outgoing, widening-the-circle kinda woman... and it feels nice to keep a corner of my soul relatively to myself...

Thanks to all who stop in and read, whether or not you choose to comment - with my hits at 11,735 (averaging almost 1000 per month) even as I type, somebody's paying attention (not that I need the validation... but it is warming... :-)

I've been quiet the last few days and probably will remain so the rest of the week -
my mom arrived Monday (visiting from near Atlanta) and leaves Sunday, and the days are even more full than usual. Her health has deteriorated substantially since we last saw her at Christmas - it is very hard for her to take, as well as for me to watch. I have many things to process over the next few days/weeks/months - warning: some of it will most likely end up here...

I never take for granted my relatively smooth life: a husband and children I adore (and who love me in return), extended family who never give up on me, friends who listen, support and nurture, music to sustain, books to inspire, a so-far-hurricane-resistant roof over my head, abundant food in my pantry and a safe and friendly neighborhood in which to walk (at almost 8 weeks, we're still maintaining 4/5 days a week, 3 1/2 miles a day!) - and don't forget the jacuzzi (right, AW?... :-)

I thrive on hugs and tears and song lyrics, oh my - it's all about the love, peeps!

Green by Edie Brickell

BOOK: Love Makes The Green Grass Grow by Vaughn Loeffler

POEM: The Holy City by J. H. Prynne

Come up to it, as you stand there
that the wind is quite warm on the sides
of the face. That it is so, felt
as a matter of practice, or
not to agree. And the span,
to walk over the rough grass - all of this
is what we do, quite within acceptance
and not to press
the warm alarm
but a light
surface, a day
lifted from high
thick roots, upwards.
Where we go is a loved side of the temple,
a place for repose, a concrete path.
There's no mystic moment involved: just
that we are
is how, each
severally, we're
carried into
the wind which makes no decision and is
a tide, not taken. I saw it
and love is
when, how &
because we
do: you
could call it Jerusalem or feel it
as you walk, even quite jauntily, over the grass.

QUOTE: "Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place." ~ Zora Neale Hurston

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mothers, Daughters, Wives (Judy Small)

For my mom, my stepmother-in-law and for all the mothers out there, most of whom continue to believe that peace is achievable - "study war no more" indeed...


Who are the mothers of Mother's Day? Before President Woodrow Wilson made it an official holiday in 1915, Mother's Day wasn't about flowers and cards, but instead it was a tribute to women's peace-making activities.

Mother's Day is actually a marriage of two separate campaigns that began during the Civil War. The first version of Mother's Day is attributed to Anna M. Jarvis of West Virginia who participated in Mother's Work Days, in which women's brigades worked to improve critical community sanitation. In 1868, Jarvis established Mother's Friendship Day, which encouraged women to ease tensions between North and South once the war was over.

The second mother of Mother's Day was Bostonian Julia Ward Howe, author of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," who called upon all women to band together to abolish war. Her Mothers' Peace Day celebrations took place for several years in Boston and other cities until the end of World War I.

[Added 5/12/08: For These Stars, Mom Rules by Donna St. George, Washington Post Staff Writer - thanks, AW, for the heads-up on the MCC list! ]

POEM: Prayer Chain by Tim Nolan

My mother called to tell me
about an old classmate of mine who

was dying on the parish prayer chain—
or was very sick—or destitute—

or it had not worked out—the marriage—
or the kids were all on drugs—and

all the old mothers were praying intensely
for all the pain of their children

and for life—they were praying for life—
in their quiet rooms—sipping decaf coffee—

I bet they've been praying for me at times—
so I'll find my way—so I won't rob a bank—

I'll take them—the mystical prayers of old mothers—
it matters—all this patient and purposeful love.

QUOTE: "Mothers are not the nameless, faceless stereotypes who appear once a year on a greeting card with their virtues set to prose, but women who have been dealt a hand for life and play each card one at a time the best way they know how. No mother is all good or all bad, all laughing or all serious, all loving or all angry. Ambivalence rushes through their veins." ~ Erma Bombeck

Thursday, May 8, 2008

All the Same (Sick Puppies)

12,000 People Join Together for Supersized Group Hug

Everyone feels a little friendlier on a Friday afternoon. But on April 25th, more than 12,000 students, teachers, and parents from 10 Ottawa-area high schools took their T.G.I.F. joy to the next level, joining together in a supersized group hug that spanned a circle around the city's Rideau Canal.

It wasn't just the elation of another week coming to an end that brought the group together, though: The major-league hug was an attempt to break a Guinness World Record, and a fundraiser to collect more than $150,000 for several Ottawa nonprofit organizations. In 2004, the city first broke the record for world's biggest hug with 5,100; but after being beaten by a group of amorous Americans, they decided to reclaim their title this year. They're still waiting on verification from Guinness, but it seems like a sure thing that Ottawa will be back on top this time.

The group hug was a great way for the students to bond and raise money for a good cause – and it was definitely an experience they won't forget, regardless of whether they make it into the Guinness Book or not. "We felt like connected with everyone else, and I was in between two Canadian Mounties," one of the students, Byron Shaw, told CBC News. "It was pretty cool."

SONG: All the Same by Sick Puppies

BOOK: A Book of Hugs by Dave Ross, Laura Rader (Illustrator)

POEM: Hug o' War by Shel Silverstein

I will not play at tug o'war.
I'd rather play at hug o'war,
Where everyone hugs
Instead of tugs,
Where everyone giggles
And rolls on the rug,
Where everyone kisses,
And everyone grins,
And everyone cuddles,
And everyone wins.

QUOTE: "Everybody needs a hug. It changes your metabolism." ~ Leo Buscaglia

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Ohio (Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young)

I meant to post this Sunday, on the anniversary of Kent State - it's still horrific, 38 years later...

On May 4, 1970 the Ohio National Guard opened fire into a busy college campus during a school day. A total of 67 shots were fired in 13 seconds. Four students: (L to R) Allison Krause, William Schroeder, Jeffrey Miller, and Sandra Scheuer were killed. Nine students were wounded.

More here...

Ohio by Neil Young

The Kent State Coverup by Joseph Kelner, James Munves

POEM: Where Does It End? by Jeffrey Glenn Miller

The strife and fighting continue into the night.

Mechanical birds sound of death as they buzz


spitting fire into the doomed towns where the women

and children run and hide in the bushes

and ask why-

why are we not left to live our own lives?

In the pastures converted into battlefields

the small metal pellets speed through the air,

pausing occasionally to claim another victim.

A teenager from a small Ohio farm clutches his side

in pain and as he feels his life ebbing away, he too

asks why-

why is he dying here, thousands of miles from home,

giving his life for those who did not even ask his help?

The War Without a Purpose marches on relentlessly,

not stopping to mourn for its dead,

content to wait for its end.

But all the frightened parents who still have their sons

fear that

the end is not in sight.

NOTE: This poem was written when Jeff Miller (one of the slain Kent State students) was in high school. At this point he'd never been to Ohio.

QUOTE: "Again, where the people are absolute rulers of the land, they rejoice in having a reserve of youthful citizens, while a king counts this a hostile element and seeks to slay the leading ones, all such as he deems discreet, for he feareth for his power." ~ Euripides

Monday, May 5, 2008

The Part Where You Let Go (Hem)

From yesterday's Gimundo:

Chen Si, of Nanjing, China, is a very special kind of lifeguard. He doesn't wear a swimsuit, he isn't paid a penny for his work, and he's never even dipped a toe into the waters of the Yangtze River.

Nonetheless, since the 34-year-old began patrolling the Nanjing Bridge four years ago, he has saved 144 lives.

Chen began his rescue mission in 2004, while feeling guilty about the suicide of an elderly neighbor. "I thought to myself, 'Why didn't I go visit him, talk to him?'" he told The Los Angeles Times. "Maybe I could have saved his life."

So that weekend, he went to Nanjing Bridge, a landmark that's notorious as a destination for suicide jumpers. Since the bridge's opening 40 years ago, over 1,000 people have killed themselves by jumping into the water. Chen decided that, even if he couldn't save his neighbor, at least he may be able to save others from throwing their lives away.

On his first day patrolling the bridge, he came across a man in the process of crawling over the bridge's railing. I grabbed him by the waist, he hardly fought back," said Chen. "I pressed him to the ground. He started to cry."

The would-be jumper was distraught after losing his money to a con man, and believed that suicide was the only way out. But after Chen prevented him from jumping, the man realized he still had a lot to live for – his wife and children. Because the man was now penniless, Chen gave him enough money for bus fare to return home to his family.

"In a time of crisis, all people really need is one person willing to lend a hand," Chen said. "It could make the difference between life and death."

Shi Xiqing, another would-be jumper, who is now one of Chen's best friends, agrees. "This bridge needs people like him," Shi said. "Without him, I would not be here today."

BOOK: Secret of Letting Go by Guy Finley

POEM: Today by William Stafford

The ordinary miracles begin. Somewhere
a signal arrives: "Now," and the rays
come down. A tomorrow has come. Open
your hands, lift them: morning rings
all the doorbells; porches are cells for prayer.
Religion has touched your throat. Not the same now,
you could close your eyes and go on full of light.

And it is already begun, the chord
that will shiver glass, the song full of time
bending above us. Outside, a sign:
a bird intervenes; the wings tell the air,
"Be warm." No one is out there, but a giant
has passed through town, widening streets, touching
the ground, shouldering away the stars.

QUOTE: "Smile, breathe and go slowly." ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

Friday, May 2, 2008

Highway 61 Revisited (Bob Dylan)

Wednesday night was our book club discussion group meeting, and I mentioned earlier in the week that this month's selection was The Road by Cormac McCarthy - it has now joined To Kill a Mockingbird, Broken for You, Prodigal Summer and others in my Top Ten.

As I said, despite the stark subject (post-apocalyptic America), the language is stunning - although the reader visualizes the landscape in terms of black/bleak, gray/ashen, white/snowy (with splotches of occasional red/blood), the tone is undeniably optimistic. McCarthy is liberal (but not elitist) with his use of unrecognizable vocabulary, to the point where I almost suspected they were made up but, upon dictionary perusal, determined they were indeed real (rachitic and crozzled and parsible, oh my) - his not contractions were also apostrophe-deficient (shouldnt, didnt, cant), conjuring thoughts of calling in TEAL, a bit of comic relief to break up the horror (weak grin)...

The novel reminded me of Stephen King's The Stand (a long-time favorite), another tale of good vs. evil, although with fewer characters, less dialogue and more symbolism - McCarthy's prose is substantially more poetic and the undercurrent of hope is equally prevalent, but not easily told in shades of black or white (no pun intended)...

I don't think I'll ever be able to view a See Rock City sign, drink a Coca Cola or eat canned peaches without a visceral reaction - I'm also reminded to hug my (almost-grown) children more frequently, show my husband (of almost 32 years) I love him more demonstrably and stop and smell the "fire" more mindfully...

One member absolutely hated the book, and asked if anyone wanted her copy... and I quickly spoke up so I could pass it on to a friend - to say I'd highly recommend is an understatement (various said-it-better-than-I-ever-could reviews below)...


Washington Post

SONG: Highway 61 Revisited by Bob Dylan

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

POEM: For the Children by Gary Snyder

The rising hills, the slopes
of statistics
lie before us.
the steep climb
of everything, going up,
up, as we all
go down.

In the next century
or the one beyond that,
they say,
are valleys, pastures,
we can meet there in peace
if we make it.

To climb these coming crests
one word to you, to
you and your children:

stay together
learn the flowers
go light

QUOTE: "The future is called "perhaps," which is the only possible thing to call the future. And the only important thing is not to allow that to scare you." ~ Tennessee Williams

Thursday, May 1, 2008

May Day Cafe (The Nields)

Today's blogpost is brought to you by the month of May and dedicated to the Letter A (you know who you are!) - wishing much love and light on the journey from surviving to thriving... :-)

The name for the month of May has been believed to derive from Maia, who was revered as the Roman Goddess of Springtime, Growth and Increase, and the mother of Mercury, the winged messenger of the Gods. Yet this is disputed as before these deities featured in mythology the name Maius or Magius, taken from the root Mag, meaning the growing month or shooting month was used. - May, Mystical World Wide Web

POEM: May Day by Phillis Levin

I've decided to waste my life again,
Like I used to: get drunk on
The light in the leaves, find a wall
Against which something can happen,

Whatever may have happened
Long ago—let a bullet hole echoing
The will of an executioner, a crevice
In which a love note was hidden,

Be a cell where a struggling tendril
Utters a few spare syllables at dawn.
I've decided to waste my life
In a new way, to forget whoever

Touched a hair on my head, because
It doesn't matter what came to pass,
Only that it passed, because we repeat
Ourselves, we repeat ourselves.

I've decided to walk a long way
Out of the way, to allow something
Dreaded to waken for no good reason,
Let it go without saying,

Let it go as it will to the place
It will go without saying: a wall
Against which a body was pressed
For no good reason, other than this.

QUOTE: "The world's favorite season is the spring. All things seem possible in May." ~ Edwin Way Teale