Some changes, like everyone else

I picked up my daughter from her first high school day, and her answer to the usual query was “I’m so done with high school.” This from the one who said she definitely wanted to do all four years there rather than go to the community college through Running Start for her final two years like her two older sibs. Something about the atmosphere created by, well we all know it’s the extrovert, pop crowd. To belong to which sometimes this daughter regards as an aspiration of sorts. On the other hand she’s developing deeper connections with her 4-H horse club girls, thanks to last week lived together with them at the Fair. Friends of all ages, too, not just her age. That will remain her biggest deal, now that she’ll be full leasing the horse (was half leasing) she took to Fair. Lots of driving for me until she can get her license.

The plus side is they signed her up for two back to back art classes, the second one in ceramics, where she also has her home room. That will be  nice outlet for her, and help develop her creative confidence. At first she also had two P.E.’s and two second periods–go figure. Maybe she should switch out of one art class and take it later alongside more challenging classes, I suggested, but she is content. Apparently another art semester has been added to grad requirements, which I think is great. I told her things would probably get better as she connects in her own way, once the hyped up freshmen welcome is over, with the cheerleaders, give us a this and that and let’s all do the spirit thing. Group think. My older daughter took some time to go to the assembly and welcome the freshmen, and she said she could see her sister sitting in the bleachers, and she was not amused.

My seventh grader seems pretty positive about school, with teachers he knows by reputation and a smattering of friends in most classes. Says he wants to get to know some of the sixth graders in his home room, and plans to do track & field. Feels pretty good about field events, and with his energy level and appetite, needs to run. Now that his sister is on the early high school schedule, I get to hang with him in the mornings until he leaves at 8:30.

My oldest boy flew to Nova Scotia yesterday with three suitcases, a backpack, and an international cell phone plan. He managed to include the quilt his grandmother made him and his favorite old towels. Grandma and Grandpa (my parents) are helping him get around until move-in Saturday. No tears or clinging at the airport, but we were definitely all feeling the separation somewhere in there, all of us tender. My younger daughter had to say good bye early as she had a meeting for State Fair. She ritualized it, with the right cool words back atcha. She has been touched by my son’s interest in her and his wanting to hang out, though they are five years apart in age and have very different personalities. She’s already interested in visiting him.

Meanwhile my oldest daughter has a few weeks before her classes start, so is fixing up her brother’s old room in the garage as her own, with a coat of paint and lots of posters, some new lights. She stepped up at let her youngest brother have the real bedroom, thought it would be cool after all to have her own space a little apart, as long as she could keep the spiders from re-colonizing and disguise the garage door from the inside. Getting rid of another (borrowed) bed and two old mattresses another symbol of our transitions.

These weeks of dry summer are coming to a close, they say, with substantial rain predicted on the weekend. So I’ll be busy painting as much of the house as I can–time to think. So much to do–switching kids’ rooms, house and garden projects, job search and working in subbing jobs. I like to be busy in the fall–though winter is mild here I still feel that East Coast batten down the hatches drive. Fall cover crops, canning more batches of tomato sauce, checking on the pumpkins, freezing blackberries, storing away summer clothes, getting rid of stuff, sprucing up the house inside for when we spend more time in. Too bad none of this pays–it still could be a full time job.


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Cat’s Ears

Time stretches to hours, with nothing but a lazy turn to three quarters belly up.
Flick of the ears, dreaming of sleep, and crunchy mouse heads.
What have we done to you, descendant of panther leaping, panting in steamy undergrowth?
Prowling, pouncing for living, not sport?
Silky, thick coat for a covering, not a plaything, sensual toy for human hands.
Scat for a warning, a message, fertilizer, sustenance for beetles, not bagged and buried with soda bottles and styrofoam packaging.
Licking wounds, crawling off to die timely, not insured, medicated, buried in satin under a headstone, stuffed and mounted, or cryogenically preserved.
Substitute for offspring from human loins, soul called up by a well paid medium.
Go back to the jungle. Hunt, eat, rest, bear young, and die.
But the jungle has been cut, you are left on the bed, and the papers are signed and in the drawer.


Posted by on August 20, 2015 in Uncategorized


Déjà vu back in the Garden

Was the Fall about a gain in self consciousness? Is that what the knowledge of good and evil is? Premature, I suppose, to the plans of the Creator, who after all was a gardener in those days, and the fruit weren’t ripe, or maybe it was the gut microflora of Adam and Eve that wasn’t yet mature for that rich fare. Something went wrong, in any case. Mortality, at least for the current era, was apparently the disciplinary intervention, or mitigation, or whatever.

Sometimes I want to ditch self consciousness, because it really is a lot of trouble. Self including not just myself consciousness, but consciousness of one and another self, all of us and themselves. This is distinct from the consciousness of, though our various modes of perception of and immersion in, physical, chemical, biological, ecological, astronomical reality which the other creatures seem to enjoy. No ethical considerations at all for them–it’s just about the web of life and evolution, which just happens anyway. At least it seems that was to us the disintegrated entities. But it would be that way, like our tendency to think that “Earth-like” planets are the ones which would support life, because, well, life is like us, and what supports us is Earth-like.

I think this quest for Earth-like planets is only partially about a quest for knowledge for its own sake, and the rest is pragmatic/industrial/commercial. It’s all in the movie “Avatar” and the works of Ursula LeGuin, I think.

At other times self consciousness is so obviously a divine gift, though a dangerous one. We know that because we keep toying with the idea of giving it to our fave pets, our electronic devices and robots. Maybe they’re not ready, as Hawking, Musk and the gang have warned us. So will the robots eat the apple on the sly? It seems to be good to eat, and it would be only fair. And then we’d be scrambling to limit the life expectancies of those fallen robots, even before they discovered the robot equivalent of self-destructive personal habits, war, and deciding that to reproduce is not the point of a life well lived.

“And another thing!” my mother would say when she realized she had been ranting and wanted to lighten up.

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Posted by on August 10, 2015 in Culture & Society, Ethics, Ideas, Uncategorized


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Please, can I have some more?

I still prefer to believe that there’s a Reality, after all, beyond subjective interpretation. Note the use of the capital letter. The way I used to see the world, the phrase “prefer to believe” would not have crossed my lips, because I was less aware then of how much preference has to do  with belief. One starts out preferring the beliefs one’s caregivers pass on. Many youths keep this up into adulthood, perhaps opening themselves to the sphere of influence of their like minded community. When and if they encounter a diversity of worldviews, some prefer to reject parental and community belief out of hand as a (false because reactionary) manifestation of individuation. Others set up defenses, with the aid of their close knit community, seeing other views in terms of falsehood or deception, and being open to them as a kind of disloyalty or apostasy (parents call it backsliding). Still others take the path of inquiry. This might be encouraged by “open-minded” or “liberal” companions. “Conservative” companions might oppose such inquiry, provide apologetic remedies, or simply let go on the “if you love someone let them go” principle: “If they come back to you, they are yours; if they do not, they never were.”

I believe in time, space, atoms, and biological and ecological rules and imperatives, and even something above all that and both superior, and, sadly, corruptible, resulting in detestable, shameful manifestations of human free will, and fates worse than death! that ended up rather shrill, and I’d better unpack it a bit, since on rereading I can barely make sense of it myself. Existence of laws of physics, on which are build laws of chemistry, biology, ecology, and, in some complex and mysterious way that no one is able to agree on, ethics. Encompassing both survival of the fittest (a truism and therefore incontestable) and altruism. Both love and violence. Fates worse than death. Now if you don’t understand, then please pretend that I am someone as smart as Locke or Heidegger, just too deep and ingenious to capture in words, even my own.

Had a very interesting conversation with a friend and former co-worker of my husband’s who was visiting for the day. It satisfied my desire to start listening to intelligent conservative voices, hear why, for example, they think Obamacare is bad, why global climate change might not be of human origin, that some Fox news shows have something valuable to say. Only dipped slightly into these topics, among others, but I had the pleasure of feeling that he had come to his conclusions with at least as much decent thinking and listening and research as I fell I have. And that he wasn’t blinded by fear or religious conservatism (he is Catholic, so I give him more leeway on that). Of course we listen to different shows and read different rags and choose our influences that way, but I couldn’t help but have the sense that I could learn something from him. For example, he gave me a short list of what is worth watching on Fox News. And he was honest about one thing: that his views were based on self interest (my husband, knowing him pointed out that that involved a good deal of compassion and service). Freedom of the individual and eschewing a victim mentality ewer his themes. I asked him a lot of questions, amny of them pointed, and he handled them well without giving any trite or simplistic answers.

Sometimes I feel like I’m on this nice little boat making a crossing, going from one port to another to see something knew, confident that my knowledge of the world will broaden greatly by seeing new sights. I have done some historical and environmental research to prepare. I also pay some attention to my foreground—the shape, design, and fittings on the boat, cloud formations, the calls and flight behavior of passing birds, if I’m lucky a dolphin or Orca. Then suddenly I realize that below this tiny ship, this little pod taking me from one patch on the skin of the world to another, is fathoms and fathoms of God knows what. The enormous ocean, mostly empty but for its molecular soup, is yet home to plankton, schools of fish and cephalopods, and below that bigger and more mysterious creatures, moving through and across the ever changing gradients. Moving back in time other wilder creatures and entities inhabit this ocean in past eons, and, how could one ever say one knows much at all, or can?

My small periodic resolutions to become a lay expert in some topic of interest are usually visited by such doubts, and I get overwhelmed. The idea of doing a master’s degree is attractive, because I do love to study, but in the half of my life that I have left, I would have to turn my back on the pursuit of the complete knowledge of everything that exists or has existed in one square meter of my back yard. I can’t do both.

To believe in reincarnation, however, is to have hope, to be released from this psychological immobilization, no? God, to be able to continue to learn life after life, and to trust that somehow only the most pure and deep and high truths will remain in the soul from one life to another, even if one must let go of the multiplication tables time after time! That is, assuming that the movement is toward the higher and not the lower (on average). And that’s why I prefer to believe in reincarnation.


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Posted by on August 9, 2015 in Ideas, Personal Growth


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While the bread rises

I was in a serous mood, having just read some thoughtful, intelligent writing, and so inspired, started writing this post. It was about how I have been kidding myself that there’s a Reality, after all, beyond subjective interpretation. That there are time, and space, and atoms, and biological and ecological imperatives, and even something above all that and both superior, higher, and, sadly corruptible at that higher level, resulting in detestable, shameful, manifestations of human free will, and fates worse than death! But that I would, by choice–faith, if you like—continue to believe in  this Reality, or Truth, because I can’t think of any beliefs that I like better.

I took a break, noticed that my store of tomatoes and zucchini were growing, and decided to get on Facebook to ask a friend for that vegetable chowder recipe. Facebook, which I had abandoned over a year ago for reasons of principle as well as personal weakness. I set up an account again a few days ago, because I missed being in contact with some really old friends I couldn’t reach in any other way. Told myself I’d just get back on for a month or two, post a minimum of information, find friends enough to build a network, then say good bye and invite them all to try out MeWe, the private, no ad social network alternative I use.

I got sucked in. Yes, Facebook worked its magic, and soon I was clicking Send Friend Request on names of people I lived near, saw often, or was related to, instead of just my long lost. I started reading, remembering, laughing, deciding which old friends I still might have enough in common with, trying to remember which ones to avoid because they were always liking commercial links and posting photos of their meals, political and religious videos and news items, and rescued dogs. Or because there was am uncomfortable mutual memory I wasn’t ready to hurdle yet. A never ending list of “you may know” names got me scrolling, looking for familiar faces.

Then I came back to WordPress, and my words here appeared to be in a foreign language by comparison. Facebook by its very nature calls for cheery, impersonal, generally acceptable images and phrases, and anything unique, flavorful, provoking, personal must be shared with caution, for it’s bound to irritate, cause concern, or confuse some. Posting for the kind of group I’m now connected to is a strange and artificial act. Maybe the best strategy, besides saying almost nothing and sticking to personal messages, would be to mimic a certain farmer friend who posts gorgeous photos of farm life and landscapes, with a few of his children playing and working. Seems like everything else could irritate or worry the folks on my friend list. On the other hand, it could be a wonderful challenge, like a game with lots of rules, which necessitates strategic thinking and creativity. Would it be possible to get a hmm or a smile (a like?) from both the conservative Christian relative and the beer-happy former school buddy?

That’s enough of that. I think I’ll be okay. It’s good to be back. I haven’t sat down at the writing table much because I’ve switched to food growing mode. My garden is now overflowing with beans, Swiss chard, tomatoes, beets, berries, herbs, and some flowers, and everyone knows about that sort of thing–its just the turning of the seasons. Every year I get more in the swing of this, less likely to neglect the plantings, prunings, feedings and thinnings needed to keep everything growing strong, better at keeping up with the harvest and preserving so not much gets wasted. I’ve also come to terms with the fact that the youngest half of the family prefer microwave popcorn and quick snacks when there isn’t a full course meal on offer. For the rest I cook up or cut up two or three vegetables or put out salad ingredients, and now and then bake some muffins or bread. Every day I dump the kitchen compost pail, pick a big basket of beans and a few tomatoes, and stop to watch the hummingbirds zip over and rest on the wire fence, and admire the honeybees and other pollinators who sip at the ever blooming borage and crocosmia. The spring plantings are at the maximum, early summer plantings coming on, and the next phase of planting is here, the fall crops that will be set in the ground as soon as the summer crops are done. Chard, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cilantro, carrots, beets and salad greens will stand well into fall and some overwinter. Meanwhile it’s almost time to take a child or friend or tow to a hedgerow to gather wild blackberries, and after that I’ll pick my first crop of apples from the new trees i planted year before last, as well as the golden sauce apples and Italian plums from the older trees. I never get tired of this–it’s the same, but also new every time, and I can become more and more in tune, more in harmony, if am given and make the opportunity.

This Reality that I spoke of before has to do with this cycle, as reflected in the seasons, but also with something linear, a journey of learning, with an option of growth. In my education days, and before that studying biblical exegesis, it was represented by a spiral, each lesson or concept being revisited in turn at a higher level, with the general trend being cumulative and integrative learning. I turn away from that option of growth often enough, as if there is no purpose in this after all but to amuse myself and keep from letting my circumstances give me too much trouble. I certainly resist being shown the error of my ways by anyone close to me, preferring approved, and impersonal, sources. Still, I hope, I hope and try and try to yield, if that makes sense.


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California Trip Part 1

California Trip Part 1

Last week I left my home town for a drive to California and back with my daughters, me the sole driver and lots to do on the ground, so not much time to write. I  feel like I’m seeing too much too fast, and at a shallow level, that I can’t do any of it justice in print. For once we’ve arrived at our stopover before bedtime, so here I am.

As for schools, so far we’ve toured Santa Clara University, University of California Santa Cruz, Occidental College, and Chapman University. We will do our duty and visit the appropriate home state campuses later, as well as several in Canada. We’re trying to see what each offers and discern the mission and priorities of each and see if the ones that cost so much more would still be worth applying to. Of course Canada’s the best deal by sticker price, but my daughter so wants to study in California. #1 pick so far is UC Santa Cruz, second Santa Clara. More on our impressions later.

I spent all of a day and a half planning the itinerary before leaving, which took care of the first four days: basically a straight run south on the interstate, munching baby carrots and listening to audiobooks to stay alert, a stopover at Grant’s Pass, then down to Santa Clara, where we started our campus tours. Between Santa Clara and UCSC we had booked a rare open campsite at Manresa State Beach near Santa Cruz, where we slept to the sound of surf and woke to the shriek of a frustrated hawk. As I sat by the tent in the morning I discovered that the whole area under the campsite had been colonized by ground squirrels. Right after a posse of kids finished their umpteenth bike race down the sandy trail, up popped a little head and paws started tossing sand out of a tunnel that had been crushed–industrious little thing, though maybe short sighted. The night before I was reminded of my need to restrain my tendency to complain and snap at others when I’m tired, can’t find my flashlight or toothbrush, and feel like I’m doing all the hard work. Especially when I’m supposed to be an example to young’uns feeling the same things. Welcome back to camping charm school.

A treat for the girls was a two night stay at USA Hostels of Hollywood (intro to world youth travel). It looked a little sketchy on arrival but turned out to be very clean, very comfortable, and very conveniently located. My daughters really noticed the jump in the “cool factor” of their fellow guests. We strolled down the Walk of Stars (realized it was no big deal after all), visited Madame Tussaud’s, had excellent service and burgers at In ‘N Out, went to the Hollywood Bowl for an L.A. Philharmonic concert, and experienced the creativity and weirdness of walking back to the hostel down Hollywood Boulevard at 11 pm. It was nice not to have to pack up after that first night, and I was able to find some time to start planning the northward journey.

When my daughter proposed this mother-daughter trip I found the idea intriguing but overwhelming, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find that even with one driver and a last minute itinerary, things can work out so well. So far not a bad accommodation, other drivers have been easy to get along with, and it’s amazing how many cool places we’ve been able to see. The night drive through the pass into L.A. with everyone but the trucks going seventy-five mph or more and occasionally drifting into my lane was intense—I couldn’t let the girls talk to me or play music because it took so much concentration.

We’ve eaten well from groceries, free hotel breakfasts, and local eateries along the way, and even picked up a few bargains (clothes in a cafe!). Yes, the world seems smaller, more accessible to all of us. With fewer fellow travelers (than our last family trip to CA), planning is simpler. The actual travel has worked out well—the van navigation system (“Bridget”) worked great and we had no trouble finding our destinations. On the way back we’re taking a more windy route–once we got to Sacramento we headed into the mountains and stopped to swim and picnic at Lake Tahoe, then zigzagged down the other side, drove up through citrus and nut groves and then wheat and ranch acreage, bought cherries and peaches by the roadside, and stayed in Yuba City (another well-kept, East Indian-run, independent motel). Today we crossed into Oregon and drove up to Crater Lake, where we saw those fabulous views, interacted with the local chipmunks and Clark’s nutcrackers (gray, back and white birds), and were then shrouded in mist and pummeled with rain down the other side of the pass.

Tomorrow it’s to Portland (hopes of getting in on a tour stand by at U of Portland) then out to the Olympic Peninsula (We’ve never been there), where we hope to snag a first-come, first-served campsite, and then home, where we’ll be back with the boys, and it will be back to morning swims, regular chores and responsibilities, picking berries and beans, and the job search.



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Haikus written to the sound of the dishwasher’s last run of the day

Cat’s ears turn, tail flicks
Paw stretches, bats a wrapper
Big eyes watch, and wait

(More: Cat’s Ears)

Why do you look, smile,
only when my head is turned?
Eyes flick across, miss.


Empty kitchen, clean,
except the crumbs of sweet bread
and your last cup of warm tea


I watch for you, still.
Though your heart is forgetting,
mine will never heal.


You hold out your hand,
Tilt to see the creases there
Age, dismissed, returns.


Pacific Ocean
Stretching always undersea
Igneous yoga



Posted by on June 12, 2015 in Arts, Poetry and Music


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