Thursday, December 31, 2009

Samuel Johnson on Terrain and Tribes

Reading "A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland" which combines Johnson's travelogue with James Boswell's "The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides," chronicling their trip around the Hebrides in 1773, I was struck by Dr. Johnson's description of The Highlands. He discusses the opportunity to "investigate the reason of those peculiarities by which such rugged regions as these are generally distinguished."

Mountainous regions contain the original inhabitants, for geography qualifies them as not easily conquered. It happens that isolated peoples develop and keep their own version of the language. Tribes become small nations, with irregular justice, courage esteemed of highest value, and, removed from any seat of sovereignty by difficult access, clans pay little heed to central government. "Law is nothing without power," both to promulgate and enforce.

"The inhabitants of mountains are...careful to preserve their genealogies with a common interest in the honour and disgrace of every individual." Generations have lived together in the same place with alliances and feuds lasting centuries.

The chapter bears reading today, for although the observations in the Hebrides of the 18th century are a world and centuries distant, what Samuel Johnson observed about people who live in mountains applies to Afghanistan today. "Such are the effects of habitation among mountains, and such were the qualities of the Highlanders, while their rocks secluded them from the rest of mankind, and kept them an unaltered and discriminating race. Then begins the union of affection and co-operation of endeavours, that constitute a clan."

Who will the writers be who chronicle the logistics of supply depots and fuel disposition as we negotiate the mountains of Afghanistan, and who will read about this journey among the people of the mountains in the next centuries?

Friday, December 25, 2009

General Odierno Trumps Gen. Cucolo

General Odierno, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq has issued a new general order for military operations in Iraq. Effective January 1, 2010, General Cucolo's classification of pregnancy as a punishable offense for U.S. military personnel and civilians in northern Iraq will be overthrown. The new general order consolidates all the mission procedurals issued by second tier generals in the theater.

Good on ya' command HQ, and Merry Christmas to all our soldiers and sailors serving far from home. We're thinking of you today, and wishing the new year finds you safely returned to family and friends.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Christmas Story

I ordered a hat embroidered for my Dad for Christmas. It was to read "Atomic Veteran - APA 38 USS Chilton - Bikini Atoll." I could have done this earlier in the season, but I waited to have the money to do it. When the hat was ready, the ship was spelled USS Chiton. It was equally my fault for not checking the instructions properly. I had to be at peace that the hat would not be ready for Christmas. One of my major challenges is to accept the things I cannot change, to accept where I am at fault, and I am learning slowly.

Parkside called today and said the hat was ready and I could pick it up if I could get there before 3 p.m. I got there, asked to use my debit card to pay the balance, and the young woman, said, "You know what? It's okay. We spelled it wrong. Enjoy the time with your father. Merry Christmas."

I cried. I'm still crying. The true gift of the holidays was given by one woman and one business, and it is a mighty gift to me, and to my Dad, with whom I will share the story tomorrow.

Parkside Cleaners is located at 22645 Pontiac Trail, South Lyon, MI 48178.

Thank you for the lesson, Parkside Cleaners! It will be easier for me to count my blessings, to be grateful for kindnesses, and I will find fast and continuous opportunity to pass the good spirit forward. Merry Christmas and bless us all every one!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

See Avatar

The best movie I've seen this year. James Cameron has a gift for storytelling, a rich moral palette, and a much-needed unHollywood-like skill for portraying kickass female characters.

Neytiri has no cringing moments; no residual feeling that she could have been written better. She's a gem. We'll see if Zoe Saldana will be nominated for a part done completely in blueface.

Michelle Rodriguez as Trudy is quietly sparkling, absent the usual snarling histronics written for women warriors in film. And Sigourney Weaver never disappoints.

Don't miss this movie on the big screen; I saw it in 3D and after freaking out at the previews, settled in quickly to enjoy the feature. I'll see it again. And again.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

General Cucolo's Army

While ABC News is covering General Cucolo's policy with kid gloves in re: women getting pregnant in his Army in Iraq, four women Senators sent a letter to General Cucolo demanding he rescind his order making pregnancy a punishable offense.

"I regret that the term court martial is bandied about or mentioned," Cucolo said. "I do not ever see myself putting a soldier in jail for this."

Then rescind the damn order, General Cucolo. It's none of your business who got a soldier pregnant either, unless the soldier needs to report to her commanding officer about circumstances.

If you are addicted to writing reprimands, put one in your jacket too, sir. 7.7% of your troops are women: and you had to write an order regarding their reproductive rights? Get real.

Handle your mission. Let women soldiers handle theirs. Women know how to act professionally, even when their supervisors don't.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Get Pregnant = Get Court Martialed

Major General Anthony Cucolo has added pregnancy to the list of offenses punishable by court martial and possible imprisonment. The male responsible for the pregnancy will face court martial too. This ban includes married Army personnel. Gen. Cucolo commands the Multi-National Division-North in Iraq.

This edict applies to "all United States military personnel, and to all civilians, serving with, employed by, or accompanying" the military in northern Iraq. Wonder how Gen. Cucol thinks he's going to court martial civilians?

As one servicewoman veteran notes - emergency contraception was removed from Basic Care Formulary under pressure from the Bush administration, even though Dept. of Defense approved its use in 2002.

Senators Al Franken and Olympia Snowe this week (re)introduced the Compassionate Care for Servicewomen Act. This bill, originally introduced by Rep. Michael Michaud (D-Maine) as H.R.2064, was shot down in 2006. The current version is H.R.4386. The Senate bill doesn't have a number yet.

Review: DoD approved emergency contraception in 2002. Bush administration removed it from BCF. Bill introduced in 2006 got nowhere. Next bill - still nowhere so far. General Cucolo makes pregnancy a court-martial offense, November, 2009. Franken-Snowe introduce Compassionate Care for Servicewomen Act, Dec. 2009.

Why not just put the meds. back in the BCF? Is that too easy, General Cucolo?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Copenhagen Climate Summit = 41,000 Tons CO2

The private jets arriving for the last days caused the airport to be so overcrowded that planes landed in Sweden and their passengers had to be picked up by limo and driven back to Copenhagen. The limousines, rented from Sweden and other countries, totaled approximately 1,200. 5 electric cars were called into duty.

The attendees in Copenhagen created as much carbon dioxide as a medium-sized US city generates in the equivalent time period.

Sen. Inhofe flew in a private plane to let the world know that global warming is a hoax, got called "ridiculous" at his ersatz press conference on a staircase in the Bella Center and flew straight back to Washington.

The small countries' leadership has been there all week, quietly and with dignity fighting to have their voices heard.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Senator Levin Votes "No" on Cheaper Drugs

Here's the email I got today:

Linda --
If we don't pass health reform, millions of Americans will be trapped in a broken status quo, unable to pay their bills or see a doctor when they need one. More and more employers will drop coverage for employees. And Medicare and Medicaid will blow a hole through our budget. There's too much at stake to not get this done. That's why OFA supporters have made 849,856 calls to Congress in support of health reform since August. And that's why today, with the Senate locked in last-minute negotiations, our goal is to hit one million calls.

Can you help? Please call your senators now and help us "ring in reform." Then click here to let us know you called.
According to our records, you live in Michigan. Please call:
Sen. Carl Levin's Detroit office at (313) 226-6020
Sen. Debbie Stabenow's Flint office at (810) 720-4172

This holiday season, millions of Americans will go without desperately needed care simply because they can't afford insurance. But insurance lobbyists are desperate to pull apart the bill and derail reform, so your voice is needed now.
Your senators are fighting hard for health reform. Please call today, thank them for their work, and let them know we need them to keep fighting. Just dial the numbers above, then tell the staffers who answer where you live -- so that they know you are a constituent -- and that you support reform. Then click here to make sure you call is counted in the race to a million:
Thanks for standing up,
Mitch Stewart
Organizing for America

Why would I call Senator Levin in Detroit? He's busy in Washington voting "no" on what he's supported for years. I just wrote Senator Levin instead. To thank him for voting against an amendment to allow cheaper drugs imported from Canada - the very bill he introduced to the Senate in 2003. Because he doesn't want to jeopardize the back office deal with Big Pharma. Check firedoglake here.

John Kerry voted "no" too. Christopher Dodd. Find out who else did here.

The broken status quo: so far I still don't have healthcare, an affordable way to get it, but with this "reform" I can be fined for not having it. Ring in Reform indeed.

Copenhagen Climate Summit

The Kyoto Protocol in 1997 asked that the United States reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 7%. The United States declined to sign the Kyoto Protocol. We are runner-up to China as the top two nation-polluters on this warming planet.

Now the United States is muddying the UN efforts further by suggesting the world edit the Kyoto Protocol. We didn't sign it, but our leadership will try to reword what was accomplished in Kyoto (expires 2012) by other countries without being a signatory country to the Protocol.

There are 184 countries that are, and who signed the Marrakesh Accords in 2001 and have been working in good faith since then. Sidebar talks in Copenhagen concerning the United States alone, when bundled into the summit mainstream, caused a walkout by the 50-nation Africa group. Mohammed Nashid, the president of the Maldives, brought the nations back to the talks. His archipelago nation is one threatened by rising oceans.

Sakihito Ozawa, environment minister/Japan, said the African demand to spend more time on the industrial nations' targets "wasn't feasible." Japan is in the top 5 nation-polluters on the planet, too.

US Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced the US will contribute $85 million to an international fund to provide clean energy technology to poor countries over five years. In five years many poor archipelago nations will be well on their way to being underwater. Solar power then won't help.

As a protest sign in Copenhagen read "THERE IS NO PLANET B."

The world is watching. Millions in the world care deeply about reversing the global warming that will change our planet drastically in the near future.

There are 36,316 news items on the internet regarding the climate summit in Copenhagen, most recent are from non-US sources. There are 72,926 news items regarding Tiger Woods - first results all US news sources.

Refocus America! Our leadership is arriving in Copenhagen to encourage scrapping Kyoto and to propose a craven emission reduction rate of 8 to 12 percent, and to offer money rather than global stewardship to the developing nations that are already suffering with drought, unusual weather, and rising seas. We've continued our earth-blighting path for the 12 years since Kyoto, and now we want amnesty from our lack of participation and responsibility.

We need 40 percent reduction in global emissions. Chancellor Merkel stated that Germany is willing to increase their commitment over Kyoto, and beyond what has been agreed in Copenhagen so far. The US needs to retake a global leadership position if we, and the planet, are to recover.

Follow the Summit at The Climate Pool, a page updated by international news sources. Educate yourself. Know the issues, the players, the history, the threat to the planet, the efforts to reverse the threat.

Browse the Hopenhagen site. Write to our leadership. Buy a tshirt. Do something to save your planet. Time is not a renewable resource either.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

BCBS Michigan Fans the Fear

With a redesigned invoice, BCBS Michigan has taken the opportunity to add a couple of announcements.

BCBS will only send one bill a month. (They do that already unless you're late and sent a reminder.) But to be more "environmentally friendly and reduce administrative costs" - no more reminders.

"Please pay your bill by the due date. If your coverage cancels, you may have to wait 12 months to reapply."

BCBSM bills a month in advance, so my Dad's bill, which is due this month, is for January's insurance premium. While BCBSM has the luxury of being paid a month ahead of due date, their customers have no grace whatsoever.

Dad's BSBSM premium went up 30% since last year. Dad is 82. BCBS does offer a way to make sure they don't cancel you and make you wait 12 months to reapply - sign up for the automatic payment plan. Apparently there are fewer "administrative" costs involved in snagging their premium right out of your bank account.

This is health care insurance in Michigan. In the middle of an attempt to be more reasonable about health care coverage and medical costs in America, BCBSM shows us why health care reform is necessary.

Dad and I are enjoying the new sales message at the top of the invoice, too. "My Blue. My life. My health plan."

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Beckie's Joik

She is Foundation. The grounding person of every three-legged stool story in the global tribe's oral tradition. Woman of the earth. Like the mountains, ancient observer - roots deep and dense in the ground - challenging us to be majestic.

Universal understanding. Higher mind meets evolved heart.

Elemental. A white dwarf star of wisdom gently shared.

Human being, daughter, wife, mother, friend.

I am thinking of you today, dear friend.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Barb Barton Turtle Dove CD Release Concert Announced

Barb Barton's long-awaited Turtle Dove CD will be debuted at a dinner and concert on Sunday, January 10 at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 855 Church St., East Lansing, Michigan beginning at 5:30 p.m. YaHOO! as we say here in the Great Lakes State.

If you're not a Michiganderian, you will be able to order the Turtle Dove CD at Barb's website. Check the CD cover art, read the press release, and the dinner menu - oh, the menu!

Barb Barton first touched guitar strings when she was 5 years old. Her songwriting found life in elementary school, using a No. 2 pencil. Her music was born and raised in the woods and water of the magnificent Midwest, accompanied by her Dad's voice that reminded her of Vaughan Monroe.

She has followed the musical cues of artists she admired in her 20s: Buffy St. Marie, Dan Fogelberg, Heart, Roy Clark, Michael Hedges, Led Zeppelin.

Her audiences love her because her music is personal. As a musician songwriter, a woman and a biologist, Barb Barton hopes that "people can reconnect with themselves and the Great Mother Earth and all our relations." She finds renewable energy from other musicians, her audience and the planet.

If trees sang back-up, they'd be touring with Barb Barton. Think ear reiki. Close your eyes, imagine a soul massage. Picture a Lake Superior mirage, a spring-dappled, high-water creek in headlong flight to its sister river. An eaglet on its first canyon dive. Dream about Dancing the Rice.

Drench your brain. Music your heart.

Count your senses. You sure you've only got five?

That's Barb Barton music. Get some now.

Barb Barton Turtle Dove CD Release Concert Announced

Barb Barton's long-awaited 6th CD release - Turtle Dove - will be debuted at a dinner/concert in Lansing, Michigan on Sunday, January 10th at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 855 Church St., East Lansing at 5:30 p.m. Visit Barb's site for ticket information, to ogle the menu, and to take a peek at the CD cover.

Barb Barton has a signature on her email newsletter. "Truth is the greatest gift one can give." Her audiences know what that means: connectedness. Music is truth. Barb's music reveals the invisible thread that binds the songwriter to her music and the music to the audience.

Our heart knows the truth. This is why we choose our car mechanic, the bank teller we wait for, the books we read, the pharmacist who holds our prescriptions, our daycare provider. That's how we chose Barb's music.

You start by tapping your foot to the guitar. You like the melody line. You like the chords. Barb's voice is engaging, accessible, lifting. Wait. What was that line? There it is again! She's storytelling with music. Stories about quiet grace, about love, about loss, about leaving home, about coming home again. About what nature's like when she's resting healed; what she's like when she's wounded and furious. You look around you. Other people are tapping their feet, leaning forward, hearing the truth. Now you've got Barb Barton's music.

Accessible truth. Barb's audiences leave a concert thinking "I'm luckier than I thought." And they feel good. Darn good. That's the truth.

The picture here is from a home concert Barb gave in May. One friend's mother, who will be 90 when the Turtle Dove CD comes out in January, asked Barb if she knew "Crazy." Barb moved the stool closer to Marian, picked up her guitar, sat back down, strummed a little, and began to sing. No one moved, no eye stayed dry. Marian is holding her favorite Barb Barton CD in the picture. Our friend Nancy bought her a little CD player to keep by her chair, so her Mom can hear some musical truth whenever she likes.

We should all be so blessed. Get yourself some Barb Barton music, and you will be. Truly.

Atlin-Taku Watershed Preservation

The Taku watershed is home to all five Pacific salmon species, and other globally significant wildlife. It is a valuable carbon sink, food, water and medicine source and has survived for millennia under the stewardship of First Nations. A Tlingit Shaman wearing Frog Clan hat is pictured. I've blogged about this gorgeous country and the threat to its survivability in May, 2009.

Redfern Resources is still lobbying to reopen the Tulseqah Chief Mine, a copper-lead-zinc mine near Atlin in the watershed. There has never been a mine that has not fouled its ecosystem. Never.

You can help protect this beautiful and ecologically critical watershed by attending this website, organized by Rivers Without Borders, and encouraging the British Columbia and Canadian governments to help this wilderness remain so.

More information is available at the Taku Legacy site. Please use a few minutes of your time to do more good work.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Our Family Veterans

Norman R. Robinson served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. Supporting Operation Crossroads near Bikini Atoll, Dad's ship ferried the inhabitants of Bikini off the island to other islands. After Able and Baker were detonated, Dad's ship and many others cleaned up, towed melted ships in the target area to other places, and then returned to Treasure Island Naval Yard. Dad remembers his duty in the U.S. Navy in crystal detail, and can tell stories as though those events were yesterday morning.

John F. Robinson served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. My brother, who is 6' 7" tall was originally 4F, partly due to his height, and to his legal blindness: he has limited peripheral vision. When the war cranked up, he was reclassified and was stationed in Vietnam. He served two tours. John doesn't talk about Vietnam.

I'm proud of both my father and my brother, and I am grateful that they both are here today. These two young, skinny boys - having never been away from home overnight before they got on a train to go to war - came home.

Today we honor our service men and women, and light a candle for those who did not come home. I pray for the day to come soon when there will be no stories to tell of young boys and girls spending their first night away from home on the way to war.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Michigan Women's Public Enemy No. 1

Here he is: the Antihero of the hour. This month Rep. Bart Stupak (D) from Michigan's 1st U.S. Congressional District managed to hold the entire U.S. Congress, and Michigan women, hostage to his fundamentalist Roman Catholic views.

Rep. Stupak, in a stunning piling-on of stupidity over myopia, introduced an amendment to the House Healthcare Reform Bill to prevent federal funding for abortion, when in fact, federal funding has not been available for abortion in the past, and would not be allowed for abortion in the legislation as it was written.

Stupak made the news circuit for the weeks before the vote, grinning idiotically, while doggedly ignoring the fact - even when it was brought to his attention - that federal funding for abortion was not included, virtually admitting he hadn't read the Bill, or been briefed by competent people who had.

What the Democratic dunderhead from our Upper Peninsula has done is mutate the House bill in such a way that it is now only in the realm of rich women to have reproductive choice. Ezra Klein explains the mechanics of this anti-choice, anti-women amendment. Whether you are in favor of women having choice over their own bodies or not, this amendment will create a very real economic caste system: one that impacts most the women constituents Rep. Stupak supposedly represents.

Well done, Representative Stupak. We can only hope that the Senate will undo what you've spawned.

Heads up Antihero: I have a house in your district, and you're up for reelection in 2010. I'm mad as hell, and I vote. So do other women in Michigan's 1st Congressional District.

Claude Lévi-Strauss, 28 Nov. 1908 - 20 Oct. 2009

Claude Lévi-Strauss died last week just short of his 101st birthday. The anthropologist believed and wrote that societies share human experience equally, evidenced by myth and storytelling. Lévi-Strauss is credited with co-creating the theoretic underpinnings of structuralist thought. He pioneered that anthropology is not just the study of direct kinship by descent, but also about alliance, as when women marry into another family unit. His work emphasized it is not possible to separate the meaning of human existence from its history.

Influenced in the early 1940s by Franz Boas, who taught at Columbia and is considered by many to be the father of American anthropology, Lévi-Strauss adopted Boas' distance from cultural evolution, which considered that societies all unilaterally develop from primitive to civilized, using Western civilization as the cultural and technological benchmark.

Lévi-Strauss' open mind, humanistic approach, beautiful prose and quiet demeanor were evidenced later in his life with meditations on poetry, music and art. La Pensée Sauvage (a pun not translated well into The Savage Mind. The author thought "Pansies for Thought" would have been a more accurate title) has a line that softly implies that magic and science aren't aware how closely related the subjects are.

The French Foreign Minister eulogized Lévi-Strauss: "At a time when we are trying to give meaning to globalization, to build a fairer and more humane world, I would like Claude Lévi-Strauss' universal echo to resonate more strongly."

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Michigan Autumn

Women Ascendant

Women are center stage in all media this month. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice feature prominently as the administration issued a new Sudan policy. While BBC News headlines its story "Clinton focuses on soft power," we'll take progress, however achieved by these remarkable diplomats.

First Lady of California Maria Shriver is busy revealing the results of a Center for American Progress study, A Woman's Nation.

Governor Jennifer Granholm discussed new green energy companies coming to Michigan. Suniva will build in Saginaw County. The Wixom Plant renovation may become reality as XTreme Power and Clairvoyant Energy lead the rebirth. Even Dow Chemical hinted at going green.

Jonathan Greenblatt blogged about Women and Water, how we're connected, and how we need help to get clean water globally.

Women Waking the World website is up! Under construction, but aren't we all works in progress? Women are waking up and being heard!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Oversight: We, The People

We, the people of Michigan are fortunate to have Senator Debbie Stabenow representing us in the United States Senate. Senator Stabenow has a good head for the people's issues. Affordable health care is the people's issue.

But the U.S.A. has Sen. Baucus, whose finance committee bill was ghostwritten by Senior Counsel Liz Fowler, former WellPoint VP of Public Policy, and passed 14:9.

Rather than address the impropriety, ignobility, and outright heinousness of a U.S. Senate Committee giving attention, and taxpayers' treasure to the lobbying behind health care reform, and the industry's crafted arguments made on behalf of its untoothed language, there are more bills introduced in Congress. Senator Leahy proposes to erase the antitrust exemption granted to insurance companies in 1945. Read McCarran-Ferguson. We find that all it did was keep regulation and oversight in the States' purview.

Read the Supreme Court decision in re: United States v. South-Eastern Underwriters, 322 U.S. 533 1944 and you will find a footnote - Louis D. Brandeis, speaking as Counsel for the Protective Committee of Policyholders in the Equitable Life Assurance Society, on Oct. 26, 1905: "It seeks to rob the State even of the right to protect its own citizens from the legalized robbery to which present insurance measures subject the citizens..."

In the same summation, Brandeis argued that the States' regulatory oversight is inefficient, "and in some, doubtless, corrupt."

Justice Brandeis was vocally and legislatively against powerful corporations, and believed that bringing regulation into the federal arena solidified their monopolies, rather than limit. Trusts would eventually be like "clumsy dinosaurs, which, if they ever had to face real competition, would collapse of their own weight."

I'm confused, as most of us probably are. We've seen Federal oversight in action, most recently in New Orleans, Wall Street, FNMA, FMAC, AIG, and now with the irresponsibly ignored passage of a Senate bill to reform health care created by the very villainous usurers who insure us.

Oversight, whether in the States' domain, or the Federal domain isn't given the money, scrupulous scrutiny or support it - and we - require.

New tort reform legislation introduced! Is there doubt that tort reform is the new chewtoy for the insurance leviathan?

We, the people, do not need more laws. We, the people, need the laws we have in place enforced.

As Justice Brandeis noted: "Let us remember the ineffectiveness for eighteen long years of the Interstate Commerce Commission to deal with railroad abuses, the futile investigation by Commissioner Garfield of the Beef Trust, and the unfinished investigation into the affairs of the Oil Trust."

Rewriting McCarran-Ferguson is a smokescreen. Tort reform is a smokescreen. Obfuscation, and abnegation of responsibility to we, the people, must become the modus operandi of the past. We, the people, can envision a future with lobbyists and their checkbooks barred from the halls of the people's government.

Michigan citizens are fortunate to be represented by Senator Stabenow. And Senator Levin. We elected two Senators who know who they are paid to represent: we, the people of the State of Michigan.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

NASA Bombs the Moon

NASA will bomb the moon at 7:31 a.m., EDT, October 9, 2009. Our U.S. government is running a LCROSS Impact Clock on their website. As this is written there are 2 days, 18 hours, 33 minutes, 22 seconds to impact.

The NASA site is encouraging people to organize Impact Parties.

The bomb detritus will be examined by a shadowing orbiter for traces of water. Water! The Centaur rocket will be shepherded by a delivery satellite that will target the 2-ton kinetic bomb to blast the Moon's surface at twice the speed of a bullet, cratering the moon 5 miles across. The resulting dust cloud will be six miles high, visible from Earth.

If there is water, what then? Who holds the deed to the Moon?

Where's Klaatu when we need him?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Community in wildly varying forms is alive this week. Dizzyingly diverse, discordant and mystifying, I'm confused into inertia. When this happens, I rally by doing research, putting books on hold at the library. This feels like taking action, although I can deceive myself.

My best friend Beckie has been helicoptered to the Cleveland Clinic with hope of reversing the hold her pancreas has on her body's functioning. She's been in hospital for 5 months, struggling to complete the recovery from an aortic dissection. Her brain is fighting off encephilopathy, which the neurologists think can be improved by engagement - by community. In another state, her visitors will be fewer. Community in this instance may be vital. I'm praying the people there will talk with her, engage her brain.

I was surprised by finding my twitter update gadget on this blog full of comments from people I am not following, nor find on my profile at the twitter site. Community in this case is false and unwanted, and google offered only another false community by referring me to their help forums to solve this. Alone, inexperienced, with no answers, help forums feel alienating rather than bonding.

Saturday, during a retreat for women, community was created immediately. Intentional community, where like-spirited people meet in trust and openness. This is a community that heals and elevates energy.

We need to move in the direction of sitting around a campfire, meeting in trust and openness.

Text messaging, twittering, blogging, foruming are not genuine communication. I recently sat next to a woman who works at a Michigan university in the law school. She is figuring out how the school's law graduates can do better at job interviews. What curriculum can cover live person-to-person communication?

Are we clouding the communication channels with useless chatter, and by so doing, losing our genuine ability to communicate?

I made a commitment to myself, and to those attending on Saturday, that I will not be part of the problem, and instead focus on being part of the solution by changing my own behavior. I'll work to communicate by listening rather than ranting, by being involved in community rather than its critic.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Myth of Women's Happiness

Arianna Huffington announced today that Marcus Buckingham will be blogging "What's Happening to Women's Happiness?" In the launch of this in-depth coverage of the "sad, shocking truth" about our declining satisfaction, Buckingham cites two studies - The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness, and Aspirations, Attainments and Satisfaction: Life Cycle Differences Between American Women and Men.

The Paradox abstract is conducted by Wharton School of Business Economics professors. The Aspirations abstract is coauthored by a PhD candidate in Sociology (good) and an...economics professor. The abstract focuses on "domain satisfaction." While it has nice charts that depict women are less satisfied now, it also cites the different views held by economists and psychologists on the sources of well-being. Page 18 observes that many economists adopt the view that well-being depends solely on actual life circumstances, and satisfaction can safely be inferred from observing same, which the abstract goes on to dismiss.

The Paradox abstract cites the same Roper-Starch Surveys about "the good life." With declarations for life circumstances and aspirations like "a yard and a lawn" and one or more children, is this the real gauge of happiness for women we want to have blogged? In a series? Now? Paradox also mentions that perhaps women were riding high on the energy of the feminist movement in the 70s, and a decline in happiness index might - just might - be expected.

Both studies admit more study is needed.

A 40-something man who has spent 17 years at Gallup Research will be doing the in-depth look at women's happiness. He will look at the myth of multitasking, the myth of more free time, the myth of a balanced life. Maybe later, the myth of happy women?

I have a glimmer of a notion why some women may not be all that pleased these days, Arianna. That is the real sad, shocking truth.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Is GM Really the Future for Michigan?

Senator Debbie Stabenow's website lists the recipients of $1,360,680,000 in federal monies for advanced battery, manufacturing and job training funding. The website URL has an extension of "advanced battery funding."

On the list of applicants for this money, which is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, General Motors will receive $105,900,000 for "Production of high-volume battery packs for GM's Volt." The battery manufacturing assignment has already been given to LG Chem, a Korean company.

While LG Chem will supply the lithium-ion batteries, the packs will be assembled here in a new "state of the art" manufacturing facility in Brownstown Township, MI.

It will create 100 new jobs so far.

Of the partnership arrangements with foreign companies, I wonder how long manufacturing will continue - or expand - in Michigan. Have we commitments entwined in the tax incentives Michigan is offering to locate in our state?

A123 Systems
gets $249m, we can assume to build manufacturing facilities in MI to produce nanotechnology lithium ion batteries, although none of the links on their site are working right now. A Boston Globe story indicates battery alternative-use companies were not awarded reinvestment dollars, but understands that the U.S. automotive industry needs a little refreshing.

In the same package, Johnson Controls, an American company, is getting $299,200,000 for "Production of nickel-cobalt-metal battery cells and packs, as well as production of battery separators (by partner Entek) for hybrid and electric vehicles." Michigan anticipates a Holland, MI plant. Excellent.

GM will also receive $105,900,000 for "Construction of U.S. manufacturing capabilities to produce the second-generation GM global rear-wheel electric drive system."

Is the first generation on the road yet? Or still?

GM will also receive $30,500,000 to "Develop, analyze, and demonstrate up to 5,000 Chevrolet Extended Range Electric Vehicles (EREV) - 125 Volt PHEV's to EPRI and utilities and 500 (up to 5000) Volt PHEV's to consumers."

Those are marketing dollars, not reinvestment dollars. GM is still noodling around with a "near-production" test Volt, not scheduled to arrive until the second half of 2010; and probably not until 2011. GM, in abandoning its EV1 program in the 90s, deemed electric cars not a profitable enough niche. Instead of building alternative energy cars, GM decided to put money in fighting CARB legislation, scrapped its electric car program, and crushed the prototypes, except those cars now housed in museums.

Now we're dumping federal dollars and tax incentives into their decision-making skill set.

University of Michigan ($2.5m), Michigan Technological University ($2.98m) and Wayne State University ($5m) receive 3% of the dollars GM will get. Michigan State University is not listed.

Is this enough investment in the real future - education? Are we putting a half-dozen of our eggs in a used basket? Are we supporting a limping GM because the company has demonstrated the best business model, or because we don't know what else to do?

Can Michigan target the actual companies who will lead the way to clean technology? Where are the major players in the world of lithium-ion, nickel-cobalt-metal, and electric hybrid technologies? Are we targeting those innovators? What other applications do these batteries have beyond automotive? What green technology are we pursuing that is not inextricably welded to automotive manufacturing?

I need to look up "nickel-cobalt-metal" batteries. Doesn't sound too green to me. Maybe it's another oxymoronic phrase like "clean coal."

Are we avidly pursuing repurposing the idled manufacturing facilities littering Michigan, irrefutable rusting evidence of the abandonment of a skilled labor force in favor of cheaper manufacturing outside the United States?

We're all keeping our green manufacturing thumbs crossed for the rebirth of the Ford Wixom plant by Clairvoyant Energy and Xtreme Power.

And maybe I just missed the part where there are U.S. reinvestment dollars being awarded for job training funding.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Up North Weekend

The Sweetgrass Writers traveled to the Upper Peninsula last weekend, our first trip as a group, and - for many of us - the first Up North With The Girls excursion.

We had a special time. Friday was Sharon's birthday, and everyone but Rosemary forgot. We stopped at a roadside market, and Geri and Nancy had the owner make a birthday bouquet of sunflowers and cosmos that shared the table with us all weekend.

Friday lunch was shared at the park by the Mackinac Bridge under an azure sky with the sound of water slapping the shore, and bridge traffic humming nearby, while the seagulls squawked without success to be thrown some salmon.

We stopped at Timberdoodle Mercantile in Detour, MI and met Jan Kellis, author of "Bookworms Anonymous: A Non-Traditional Book Club for All Readers" and Jan agreed to swap her book for Chantepleure. "Bookworms Anonymous" stayed on the dining room table, and we picked it up, read, laughed and shared through the weekend.

A new fawn greeted us on the road to the cabin on Drummond Island, standing in the road, wondering what strange blue animal was in its path. We waited until she scampered away, off to enjoy her own weekend in the woods.

Saturday was a perfect late summer day, and we wandered around the Island after breakfast, journaled in the sun at Big Shoal Bay, visited the Old Cabin Gift Shop, walked around and took pictures of Uncle Tom's cabin (my grandmother's brother, Toivo). The cabin was constructed with dovetail joins. No nails involved, and it's still standing.

Nancy hadn't had a grilled meal all summer, so we planned to cook out on Saturday night. What luck that the IGA had seafood and steaks on sale. We dined on T-bones, corn on the cob, and crab legs with melted butter. Sharon brought wine from her niece's Michigan winery. Delicious!

Sunday we took turns driving back home, still laughing, relaxed and glad to have this beautiful State and terrific companions to share Up North Weekends.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Vote Locally, Think Globally

I am an independent voter, perhaps as my brother-in-law claims, mostly because there is no Misanthrope Party. In conversation with my surgeon once, I told him I thought I was an anarchist. He asked “do you want the roads maintained?”


“Then you’re a Libertarian,” he observed.

My single precious vote has been cast for all sorts of candidates in the past, including the Green Party, the Socialist party and yes, even Democrats and Republicans.

My choice is simple: I prefer candidates who are not professional politicians, steeped in Washington D.C., smoked in leathery lounges, managed by machines, bankrolled by Big.

My grandparents all were immigrants to the United States of America. My parents are first-generation Americans. My father’s parents were English: my mother’s Finnish. From my paternal side, I got the independence of rural laborers and cemetery caretakers from the Hadrian’s Wall realm of the British Isles; from my maternal side, the Sisu of near-Arctic dwellers who are accustomed to a temperature that can crack stone.

Finns are big people, stoic, quiet. As Marilyn French said, if dominance was only about size and strength, the Finns would rule the world. Northern British Isles people are smaller, quiet as well; although given to whinging in the local pub at the end of the work week. Those who disagree will risk fists, if the subject is dear, the discussion long, the pints flowing.

Fierce, independent, American. I am an independent voter.

And I vote.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Pfourth Pfizer Pfine

Pfizer has been fined $2.3 bn for illegally marketing its arthritis and menstrual pain relief drug Bextra for untested, off-prescription purposes.

This is Pfizer's 4th such fine. For this recidivism, $2.3 bn amounts to about three weeks of Pfizer pharmaceutical sales.

Doesn't Pfizer have a drug for learning impairment?

I have to wonder at a pain medicine that covers pre-menopausal and probably post-menopausal women. I'd like to see the clinical trial results for Bextra, and will do some research on that next.

What about heart medications given to women that have not been tested on women? Recent studies of metoprolol tartrate indicate gender-specific differences. Metoprolol was introduced in 1982 with no women included in clinical trials, yet the drug is widely prescribed to women.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality a unit of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, now directed by Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, has studies available for free regarding medical conditions and study findings on a wide array of health topics. Use the resource. You are your medical team leader. Keep informed.

Society for Women's Health Rsearch is working for good health care for women. Yes, there are some decent health care lobbyists.

Good on ya! Justice and Health and Human Services Departments!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A Bad Day in History

On our last trip to England, our cousin Charles told us of a Roman coin he found near Maiden Castle. The relic is clearly stamped and readable as minted in the time of Tiberius (Tiberius Caesar Augustus, born Tiberius Claudius Nero (16 Nov., 42 BC – 16 Mar., AD 37).

As we looked at the old coin, I laughed.

Picture a tired Roman soldier, tromping the weary road back to the hill-fort with his companions on payday, ready to enjoy a cool mug and a chat.

Reaching into his pocket, he discovers his coin gone. One rotten day 2000 years ago.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Green Energy Hub for Wixom, MI?!

Headline in the News today about repurpose of the idled Ford Wixom Plant possibly anchored by Texas-based XTreme Power, and Clairvoyant Energy, Santa Barbara, CA.

MI legislature yesterday rushed through an extension of the Economic Growth Authority tax credit program to cover the Sept. 14 federal loan filing deadline the companies need to meet.

The Detroit story calls the deal "hinging" on federal loans and state tax breaks. The reporters, in the online version, mention several other states are vying for the business but that the CEO of Xtreme Power declined to mention which.

In the Austin Statesman newspaper, one state identified is Xtreme Power's own Texas. The A-S reports the deal done. The Austin Statesman headline "Green-energy Company to Build Plant in Michigan."

Clairvoyant is working to bring Oerlikon, a Swiss high-tech company to North America. Oerlikon, among other products, makes thin film solar panels.

We have a company in Michigan that makes thin film solar panels. News today about Energy Conversion Devices 4th quarter fiscal earnings in Forbes. ENER will cut back on expansion plans which hopefully won't include the Ovonic's facilities in Greenville, MI?

Michigan workers understand competition. Barron's blog reports this week that the solar sector is in a run-up to a price war. China is turning up the amps. Michigan workers understand competition. We can handle it.

Bring it on!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Blaze Fury and Tommy Timlin

Two of my favorite people are on my mind today. I first met Blaze Fury and Tommy Timlin in 1969, and met Frances Parks, Blaze's mother, too.

Their world was fascinating. Costumes, show business, burlesque, famous entertainers. Kind, generous, happy with their work, knowing them was one of the finest experiences of my life. Backstage stories told by outstanding storytellers still echo in my mind.

Blaze said once "honey, when we find out what you can do, we're going to make you a star." Tommy watched over me like a father duck watches his swan-to-be.

When Blaze retired in the early 70s after a farewell performance at the Detroit Historical Museum, she worked wardrobe, as head and dresser at the Fisher Theatre, and other theatrical venues in Detroit, and the U.S.

In 1979, she was wardrobe head for a Cadillac dealers touring show. We joined her in New York in August, sharing her room at the Mayflower Hotel. Coming back from dinner at Tavern on the Green one night, we were surprised by cameras, crowds, police cordons around the hotel. We managed to get through, got to the room, threw open the window to watch the excitement. Godunov had defected, and the Bolshoi Ballet was staying at the hotel. We watched as a cab driver, leaning out his window, yelled to the spectators to find out what was holding up his cab.

"What?" he yelled. "The Russians are coming?"

"No," yelled someone from the crowd. "The Russians are GOING."

Blaze passed on in 1997, Tommy had moved on in the 70s. I love and miss them still.

At Blaze Fury's funeral, there was a life-sized cardboard theater prop of her, in her red sequined outfit next to the casket. The funeral was at Clyne Funeral Home, family friends. The organist played burlesque standards as we entered the small room. When the service was concluded, Dwight Clyne stood, thanked the guests, invited those attending to join the family for brunch, and asked us to stand and give Blaze Fury one more standing ovation.

Monday, August 24, 2009


Gordon Brown and Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf posted today encouragement for the United Nations to adopt a 2006 recommendation for a High Level Panel to "empower women throughout the world."

In the same post, the bloggers mention the 30th anniversary of the U.N. General Assembly Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

2010 will be the 10th year with U.N. Resolution 1325 "acknowledging" that war has effects on women and "enhancing their participation in conflict resolution."

Read the post. It uses soft words, and diplomatic language, which is appropriate for the halls of diplomacy.

But violence against women doesn't happen in the halls of diplomacy. It happens in the world. Daily. Hourly. Minute by minute.

30 years! 10 years! 2006! How many girls and women have died since 2006 as a result of war, genocide, and radical religion? How many girls and women have been trafficked from their homes, traded for goods or debt, beaten, enslaved, murdered?

The time for U.N. Resolutions and High Level Panels is long - tragically long - gone. It is past time to raise the cry for the voiceless, the missing, the exploited.

It is women who need to do this. Talk about it, write to the newspaper, your Congressperson, the U.N. U.S. Madame Ambassador Susan E. Rice is a woman. One of Michigan's Senators is a woman - and I'm going to write to Senator Debbie Stabenow.

Get involved. Zero tolerance for violence against women. JUST STOP IT!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Age of Aquarius

I'm reminded not to mind too much when my nieces show their navels. How did I get out of the house in those pants?

Barb Barton House Concert

On a soft focus summer evening in the woods of Michigan, with the trees shushing the wind, the crickets singing background, Barb Barton's music shepherded our spirits for a few hours this weekend.

We sat in cozy chairs with our shoes off as the goldfish hustled to get the best seat in the pond, and the moths fluttered to the upper balcony, stage right high on the window.

A few turns of a tuning key, a couple of soft strums, and the music of Barb Barton drifted into the summer night.

Barb Barton produces smiles, unfolds arms, balances spirits, removes the build-up of hanging out in the world.

I believe that if you're singing, it's not possible to feel bad. Barb takes that to the performance level - it is not possible for anyone to feel bad when she's singing.

A home is the best small venue to experience your favorite musician. People who are invited are there happily, eagerly. It's a mini-festival feeling.

Close up, we're rapt by tuning keys, fingers picking, the light glinting on the silvered neck of the guitars, foot moving softly to the beat. We see faces, smiles. Smiles are catchy. The intimate setting coats your psyche, the music stays in your head and the warmth stays on your heart for days.

I walked slowly out into the night after the concert, said good night to the trees, and the backlit sky, bemused and humbled by the extraordinary musical gift we'd shared, and hummed some of my favorite lyrics all the way home.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The 60s at 60

40 years ago music was what I studied, sang, played, listened to, danced with, dreamed about. We're singing Air from the musical Hair in the picture. A cappella. "Welcome, sulfur dioxide..." I was then, and still am, a second alto, tall, and an environmentalist. I may still have those jeans. I can't sing a cappella any more. Maybe I'm still Tribal.

Every generation wraps their teen years in music; and unwraps their senior years in remembering the music.

I remember. The Grande Ballroom. Aretha Franklin. Robin Seymour. Bob Seger. Marvin Gaye. Smokey Robinson. Iggy and the Stooges. The Four Tops. The MC5. Teegarden and Van Winkle. Yusef Lateef. Detroit Symphony Orchestra. The Drum Beat at 8 Mile and Schoenherr. The Crow's Nest at 11 1/2 and John R. The Ann Arbor Blues Festival.

Whatever music your ears and your spirit craved, you could get to it in Michigan.

Leni Sinclair (Detroit Artists Workshop) and Gary Grisham made a book of the music scene in Detroit from 1965 to 1975. "DETROIT ROCKS! A Pictoral History of Detroit Rock and Roll" will feature Gary Grimshaw's artwork and Leni Sinclair's photographs including many never-before or rarely seen photos by Leni, and much of Gary's artwork that hasn't been seen in the last 30 or 40 years.

I can believe I'm 40 years older. I don't believe the music is.

Healthcare Hijacked

I'm sick and scared of health care reform. What we're experiencing so far is not reform. It is a surreal game of Hide the Checkbook. And big entities are playing for high stakes with the health of the American people.

The state of Montana has 976,400 Americans in it: roughly as many residents as Detroit, Michigan. As a percentage of the US population at 304,059,724, Max Baucus's constituency represents half of 3.21% of Americans. Why is he able to hold the Senate Finance Committee hostage? Whose government is this?

How in hell did we get to this place? Which individual with power is going to step up? What media can we trust to speak for the people?

I was scared by a trailer for "The Amazing Colossal Man" back in 1958, while at the movies to see the harmless "Pocketful of Miracles." There is a scene in which the 60-foot Lt. Col. Manning grabs a huge syringe intended to cure him, and impales a man on the ground.

Are we being skewered, too?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Past Life or Eerie Serendipity?

There is a chapter in my new book, CODA that begins the story of a woman named Lyydia. She is the shaman of her village near the Arctic Circle long ago. As I wrote I saw Lyydia as clearly as if I stood next to her.

For a brief time years back, in a flurry of activity, I made figures. 14 inch tall women. One of these figures was a fur-wrapped shaman. I'd never done this art before or since. She now lives next to a warrior figure in the home of a good friend.

In the 90s, I painted a trio of paintings with the primary figure an old woman with long, unruly gray hair. These three paintings went to live in the homes of three good friends.

No similarity dawned on me until one afternoon at Higher Ground with The Sweetgrass Writers. The night before I had been reading a book from the university library about Saami Shaman drums. I am a nut for Saami drums. I turned to page 89, and there was a shaman drum pointer. I felt odd and dizzy, and I got up, opened the one place the brooch could be, and there it was. Made in Finland. It's undoubtedly newer than the 11th century and was probably my great-grandmother's pin.

I brought the book and the brooch to our writers' meeting next day, and was telling the story, when the owner of the coffeehouse asked if she could show the book and the brooch to a friend who was seated at a table across the room.

We settled in at our table, glancing over at the further table as Vanna explained the story, and the woman held the brooch and closed her eyes. There was a whispered discussion. Vanna said, "No, really, she'll want to know. I know she will."

I said, "please tell us."

The woman, Aileen, came over, gave the brooch back, sat and told what she had seen from the brooch.

An old woman, with long knotted gray hair, wearing a fur, and leggings on a frozen terrain spotted with rocks and spindly pine trees. She is alone. She is the shaman of her tribe, but she (here Aileen grabbed her throat) cannot tell all she knows. Something prevents her.

One of our writers whispered, "Lyydia." Aileen smiled and said "is your name Lyydia?" I said, "no, it's Linda."

She said, "But the woman I saw was you. I recognized you."

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Reading, Writing and Loving Both

I just signed on at with the recommendation of a friend of a friend.

Thinking about the books I've read, owned, borrowed, donated, traded, swapped, loaned, lost and got lost in, the people I've met around and about books, joining was irresistible.

So much adventure! Sail with a diabolically obsessed sea captain in pursuit of the final conflict? I've done that. Climb Mt. Everest, paddle around Australia, pursue trolls and redemption, escape treachery and bad hair days, get hoodwinked, hornswaggled and bit. Bit by werewolves, corrupt politicians, crazed first wives, and secret character flaws. And always a sigh as Our Hero triumphs over villains of every ilk and ire, internal and external through the centuries.

I've shared countless adventures in every corner of the galaxy and I never once had to buy a toothbrush I forgot to pack.

We're now wild about Jasper Fforde. Can you imagine being a biblio-detective? Jasper Fforde can, and he shares Thursday Next's life with us joyfully.

As writers, we tut-tut over the pop culture vampire craze, and behind the library meeting room door, huddle up to discover if we can contribute to the next fabulously successful subject.

We share book news, publishing trends, journal entries, writing books. As writers over 55, we wonder if we really ever did recognize a mass market miracle about to happen. Did we really have it once? Can we get it back?

We're learning how to be comfortable in the world of writing that doesn't necessarily have paper underneath it. We blog.

When we're feeling powerful, we email mslexia and ask them once more to please, please bring us a North American edition.

And we make new friends. I'm looking forward to reading Dusty Waters: A Ghost Story by Laura J. W. Ryan

I hope you will, too.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Target: Women and Seniors

Health care reform is getting interesting. If this was a movie, over the titles we'd hear the sound of thousands of boots marching, swords clanging on shields in the darkness. It's war, baby! Foley editors to your drums and weaponry!

Today's posts include more reports of ramped-up lobbying efforts, closeted and outed; "centrist" Senators' delay tactics; the closed-door committee wrangling to get stuff stuffed into the House and Senate versions of this screenplay.

Will health care reform be derailed by delaying a vote? No. Government hurried to bail out the "too big to fail" banks. Goldman Sachs did OK with the rush, but did we?

Jason Linkins reports that AP made up the $1.5 trillion price tag tied to the cost of health care reform. It's a fake number. It's a scary fake number. grabbed the same fake number. How far will it spread? The plot thickens!

We can't get the right information to find out who the players are, and who's being paid to play, and who has taken their balls and left the building.

And we're counting on Congress to get it right?

Big Pharma is battling to make the 5-year moratorium for generics on patented pharmaceuticals become a 12-year grace period. Big Pharma is the only actor in this drama that I know is absolutely not on the side of the American people. Big Pharma is in its own pocket, jiggling its pieces of silver.

Big Pharma is undoubtedly fond of a man named Dr. Robert Spitzer, who, after applying the same
"camel = race car designed by committee"
mindset that is overtaking health care debate, added "disorder" to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Thus was created the obscenely profitable realm of new medications for new disorders, at an enormous price to the American people - both in the costs of medications for undiagnosed, but medicated disorders - and to the women and seniors who have undiagnosed complaints that are prescribed one medication after another, and then the resultant side effects drugged as well. We're not curing diseases with all this pharmacology. We're lining the pockets of the firms who are treating restless legs, bladder issues, flaccidus, stomach upsets, and allergies.

Hey AP: got any numbers of women over 55 who are being medicated for bipolar disorder?

In our health care reform movie, Big Pharma is the villain.

Any idea who the heroes are?

Monday, July 13, 2009

CODA Foreword: The New Novel Begins

The Weaver: Before Time

In the beginning there was only darkness and cold without form. When The Weaver began to dream, she dreamed first in sound. The sound became vibration and the reverberation of her dream song became mist. The mist gathered and danced warm. The warm became liquid, and from the miasma there was heat. The heat became fire and from the crucible, crystals took shape and carried the song of the beginning in their hearts.

She dreamed deeper, and crystals sought other crystals, and the collision birthed stars and the closest star to her dream spawned molten eggs from its rays. The volcanic rock children cooled, and the beauty of their birth brought tears to The Weaver dream, and the cooled egg that would be home to her people was covered in the water from her joyful weeping.

She sighed in her dream, and with the heave of her breast, the mountains formed, rising above the water. The crystals with the song of The Weaver’s dream in each heart sang in the mountains near the sea. The water yearned for the land that was now the precipice, and kissed the rocky shores below, and the forest grew from the muddy union of water and mountain, and the crystals sang beneath the stone and the waves and the trees.

From the dream; the song, the crystals, and the forest offspring of mountain and water, The Weaver awoke. She opened her eyes, flexed her fingers and began to spin her people and their stories.

Into the weave she wove the pain of the galaxies that bloodied her hands as she worked; and the joy which was so light, it required careful attention to remain in the weave.

When the sun at noon split the sea, shattering through the clouds into green, blue, gold, amethyst, she reached into the deep water and gathered the beads of the sun, and at each knot in the weaving where a bead from the watered sun she twined, laughter came to the people.

At night, she gleaned the pearl tears of the moon from the dewed stones dancing in the forest. She wove the moon tears into the raven hair that would belong to all sleeping beloveds forever.

In the deep mystery of winter, she gathered the diamonds on skeletal petals that formed diaphanous daisies of shimmering snow. Snow daisies she wove into enemy eyes, sparkling to reveal the ancestors the enemies shared and the people would know that to fight bravely is good, but to fight without need is to kill a sibling.

In the early spring, when the frozen water returned melting to the earth, she gathered the lace ice skirts from the tree trunk dresses. The lace ice she wove into the costumes of the dancers who would call the spirits from the ice around the fire, and the people would believe in the power of the dance, and the conjuring strength of flame.

As the wind blew hot in the summer, she gathered its breath in ribbons, so weightless and mighty that the breadth and strength held the weave of the world to itself and the people would worship the wind song and gather strength from its release.

When the maples shed their golden stars in the autumn, she gathered these into her apron. The golden maple stars she wove into a mother’s dreams for her newborn child, and the child would dream of stars then, too. She wove the mother dreams into the stories of bear, fish, tree, heron and all living things.

The singing crystals she wove into the darkness of the mountain caves and the depths of the sea so that only those of the people who could hear their song would find them, and when found, would take the song into their hearts to be sung from generation to generation to generation.

The Weaver edged the weaving North the color blue, cold and deep so the people would remember the universe before The Weaver began to dream.

The East she wove red for the heat that created the crystals that birthed the stars. South she wrapped white and warm, celebrating the peaceful slumber of her people who are heir to the love of their creator.

Then West spun black: the wheel come full circle around, the people returning to join The Weaver in dreaming, the circle now sacred for those who heard, then sang, the crystal song and followed it to its end.

The Weaver sighed, held the stories of her people she had spun above her head and let all move from above and below to the center of the place her people would call home. The cloak of creation drifted for a long while and then, settling over the round egg of water, mountain, forest and crystal, disappeared into a brilliant sunrise.

The Weaver returned to dreaming as, on the shores of the Great Lake, near the mountains and the trees, a copper child awoke and began to cry.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Sentinels and Tyrants

Is ego a tyrant or a sentinel? Is my alarm clock the sentinel, shepherding the tyrant time? As a caregiver, am I more tyrant or more sentinel?

When I was giving a tour of The Dungeon to friends recently I noticed all the angels. Big one on the wall, small paper one on the cabinet. Tiny copper angel on my desk clock, sharing the 8-inch space with a double-winged fairy. Those figures that are not winged are also women - the nested doll from St. Petersburg, Russia; the African carvings on the wall.


Except for Lucifer.

Lucifer is a 2.5 feet tall...statue. He has horns, and is wearing a sleeveless monk's tunic. He has a small box in his hand that he is opening with the other. There is a silver imp in his tunic pocket. My mom bought him at the Ann Arbor Art Fair long ago, and I inherited him because no one else wanted him.

I'm still not sure I do. Without the artist to ask about what the hell she was thinking, I keep calling him Lucifer. I don't believe in the Lucifer, Fallen Angel myth. My mom didn't either. What did she find appealing enough to buy? Did she or the artist name it? What did he represent for her? Is he a He? He has a mustache, but so do I these days.

I put my reading glasses on him, with my Aunt Suoma's eyeglass chain to diminish his spookiness. If the statue had feet, I'd put high heels there.

Today's thought: Lucifer is Ego. Ego always has an imp in the pocket of its tunic. Ego is always opening a box, contents unknown; consequences unknowable.

Ego is a tyrant. Awareness are the sentinels. Is that close?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Biosolids, Orgro and EPA

The White House vegetable garden is a no-go. 93 ppm lead content is too close to the 100 ppm lead content line drawn by scientists concerned about feeding children lead. The Clintons let the White House lawn be treated with what was then called ComPRO, a "fertilizer" made of sewage sludge. The EPA was spinning the bad rap "clean poo" was getting. Biosolids. Sounds healthy, doesn't it?

ComPRO, renamed Orgro, was used in a lead abatement study in 2005 in Baltimore. In a Mother Jones article, the study was reported "controversial." Lead levels found were 237 ppm.

Why does Orgro's site open to the Baltimore City Composting Facility?

What about the misspelling on the supposed Seal of Approval?

A quick look forward to the US Composting Council's (spelled correctly) page regarding Terms of Use, the copyright is in the custody of the Solid Waste Association of North America.

Guidelines for environmentally-sound composting written by an association whose members resell clean poo. Hmmm.

At the SWANA site, there are links to press releases regarding the Climate Bill Jointly SWANA and the National Solid Wastes Management Association (NSWMA) make their PR case for delaying monitoring and enforcing as inconsistent with good environmental policy.

How do I figure out who the good guys are? Where is green that is genuinely green?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Like a Poke in My Third Eye

I'm out of sorts today. This would be described by my brothers as "hormonal," back in the days when we all had some.

Does Medicaid cover personality transplants?

Dad picked up a bagful of equipment to dispatch sleep apnea from the VA this morning. Reminds me of a story about a father who was also an engineer, and how he almost killed himself modifying his sleeping apparatus.

Yes, duct tape was involved.

With a poked Third Eye, the future is mighty blurry.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Happy Birthday, Baby Brother!

My little brother is 45 years old. He was born with Down's Syndrome. He lives with us, as he's always lived with the family, then just my parents, and now Dad and me.

He began life, as all Down's Syndrome people start out; happy, musical, outgoing, a joy to be around. He graduated from a special school, had a job, and was living in a group home.

Something happened.

In the mid-80s he spent several months in the psychiatric ward, in a semi-comatose state.

My mother did a remarkable job investigating possible causes, seeking help and counseling, finding a medication mix that worked well for her youngest.

My mother died in 1998, and there have been some diagnoses made, some treatment given, some attention paid since then.

For the last five years, once I was involved full time, we've tried to figure out what may help my brother to have a better quality of life. It's difficult to find self-reported issues, as he is only a little communicative.

He's been doctored/medicated for depression. Maybe four different prescriptions so far. He's been diagnosed/medicated for schizophrenia. A couple prescriptions so far.

He's now being medicated - without diagnosis - for Alzheimer's Disease.

But he just came from the dentist today, who reported that he is wearing out his teeth grinding them. His knee is moving nonstop again. And he's biting his nails. He doesn't focus on anything in the room, and he is not interested in his favorite activities. Listening to music, watching Star Trek episodes (original series only, please!) or doing crossword puzzles.

I wonder if what was diagnosed as schizophrenia might have been severe obsessive/compulsive disorder. Maybe the voices in his head weren't other voices, but conversations he heard in another room repeated, sotto voce. A speech repetition tic.

We wonder a lot.

Even with all he's been through, he still smiles when I sing along with the radio in the car, and he can still beat his companion at bowling with his very own monogrammed bowling ball.

I love you, little bro.