Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Barb Barton

Perfect Sunday afternoon: Barb Barton playing music, good friends and chocolate-covered potato chips.

Barb Barton - - is a gift wherever she is, but we were fortunate that she agreed to come to Holly for a private concert.

Home concerts are a booking dream, if your favorite artist[s] are amenable (which Barb is); you can round up some guests, give good directions: and if you've booked Barb, prepare yourself to be transported.

Barb's music is comfortable like a favorite tshirt, warm as a grandmother's hug, and when she's got something serious to say, as powerful as the Great Lakes that kiss our rocky, piney shores good morning and good night.

She described how she writes her poetry and then finds the music to go with; but as she began to strum the beginning bars of "Willow," she told us "this song came from somewhere else."

Somewhere else is where the poetry and the voice of Barb Barton take you. It's a place I love.

What's grand about Michigan is grand about Barb's music. Her guitar strings can reverberate and hum like the big trees in a summer wind, or whistle like shorebirds on the hunt. In her lyrics, you see the moon reflected on our copper rivers; the sun on a bleached log; the drifted snow sweeping a farm field; a morel mushroom keeping quiet company with the ash trees, nestled into autumn's fallen finery.

Hard as I've tried, I still cannot listen to "My Michigan/Letter to Joshua" without some tears.

Treat yourself to her website:

Mosey through the samples from the CDs. And book a concert! Barb's email is on the site. You will be as thrilled and transported as we were on Sunday.

We will be buying the newest CD with "Turtledove" just as soon as it is available, too.

Chocolate-covered potato chips? Get those while you can at Sweet Retreats in Milford, MI. Colleen will show you where they are, if they weren't whisked away already; right after she tells you "welcome."

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Bridges for Blockades

What makes me go ziggity boom? What makes my heartstrings zing?

This morning I listened to Nina Simons, cofounder of Bioneers, on "Conversations." The link was forwarded by a friend, Pat Fero, who is also a Connector. You can read about Connectors, Mavens and Salespeople in Malcolm Gladwell's book "The Tipping Point."

The conversation from "Conversations" this morning was about biodiversity, ecology, earth and women leaders. I started taking notes on a small notepad as I listened, swapped that for a larger note, and then swapped all for a big ol' pad of paper. My heartstrings zinged.

Just before I listened to "Conversations," I accepted an invitation to participate in another friend's Focus Group. Deb Schanilec is a blissmonger, an extraordinary individual and a joygiver. You can follow her blog by clicking on the link below.

Deb, and Nina Simons, Rosemary Jozwiak, Pat Fero, and my neighbor, Marilyn are trying to help us develop new neural pathways, replacing the affiliative neurons formed habitually by repetitive behaviors that no longer work for us.

We're finding our internal biodiversity.

I'm recently discovering that what my friends who are connected to earth, spirit and self are saying is true.

We are entering a new time. Connections are being made, forces are in play, the universe is sorting itself into a configuration that must be described as healing.

We're redefining our understanding of power. From the patriarchal system of win:lose, we are hearing voices and seeing faces who can ignite leadership that sees win:win as the more viable system for our planet. We are beginning to understand that the way we bind societal wounds is address > heal > transcend.

We are beginning to end the old stories, and tell the new.

We are beginning to awaken to not knowing. Not knowing allows us to choose who we are becoming; to appreciate respectful disagreement, to connect the dots, and close the circles.

We are finding that the fight:flight response is a stress response that was studied in men, and applied to women. We are learning that women have a different stress response that is tend&befriend, and that this response may be why women live longer.

Perhaps Earth can now, too.

This morning I discovered that my bookmark folders for internet searching no longer work alone. If I save a page lately, it can belong to Women, Water Stuff, Ecology, Environment, Educational, Health and Reference all together. How I think, react, cooperate, learn and win are becoming one.

Barriers are coming down, stories are coming up.

I'm finding bridges instead of blockades in relating to the natural world, communal spirit, myself.

I'm finding that "we" can be as beautiful as "I."

Susan, a woman I met first last Sunday, said that we can only become whole - become an Elder - when our feminine and masculine entwine. Rather than a blockade between left and right brainers, masculine and feminine, we need to blend the two energies. Yang without Yin is a weakling; bundled together the union is unbeatable.

Now, that makes my heartstrings go ziggity boom.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Confessions of a Caregiver/taker

My father's grandfather, Thomas Henry, was a cemetery caretaker. His family lived in the Cemetery Lodge at Dalton in Furness in England near Scotland's border. My grandfather played among the ruins of Hadrian's Wall.

Thomas Henry took care of the cemetery for his living. I know what he, and his parish, described his work to be because it appears on the marriage license of his son, John Frederick under "Rank or Profession of Father."

The Caretaker is also a Marvel Comics character.

Caregiver may be the newer version of the same tasks. Caregiving is now associated with paid or unpaid duties involving an elderly person, or disabled person.

The Caregiver is also a Marvel Comics character.

So what do I call me if I am the primary... comic book character with an elderly and a disabled person in my care? Caregiver? Caretaker?

Checking the web isn't going to get us a clear answer. The etymology is lost in the ethernet white noise. One person unhelpfully identified the difference: caretaking involves a building.

Let's figure "care" is definitely involved. Whether you're "taking" or "giving" is a thought experiment for those who have the time (and neither a building or a couple persons to watch over) to figure out.

And who, what and where might be the person who cares for the caregiver?

If some days it's hard for me to be attentive to the needs of others, to put the welfare of another human being ahead of my own: if on some days I really just don't I still a caregiver/taker?

Why do I need to know?

Because humans are composed of about 60% water, 2% carbon, and 98.5% self-doubt.

That's why.

Thursday, May 7, 2009


Patricia Fero, Michigan psychotherapist and author of "Mining for Diamonds," invaluable nuggets for overcoming adversity and achieving resiliency, has a new book about to be born. Watch for its arrival here:

"What Happens When Women Wake Up?" explores 11 personal stories of awakening. The experiences resonate with truth and urgency, and with purpose. Pat identifies the goal of her lifework as "Divine Assignment" and the book is extraoardinary proof of her mission as a guide to personal and planetary transformation.

On page 35 of the book Pat releases us with Permission to Rage. As our planet deteriorates, we must abandon our powerlessness to get well and truly mad. Patricia Fero: "The following essay is a demonstration of laying claim to my anger and using it to mobilize action. I offer this rant in the energy of Mother Bear fierceness. The niceness and pacifity we've been programmed into no longer serves us or our planet."

The book is a Call to Action, and Pat has inspired me to act.

To begin again, I revisited my bookmarks for "Ecology" and checked on the status of the Eagle Project on the Yellow Dog Plains near the Big Two-Hearted River in the Upper Peninsula. Kennecott Minerals (part of Rio Tinto, "a world leader in finding, mining and processing the earth's mineral resources") has been working hard since about 2004 to put an acid sulfide mine in the wilderness near Marquette, MI. This mine will create approximately 100 jobs, maybe for as long as 7 years. This is "creating jobs."

The mine will also net Kennecott about $2.8 billion in profits, and endanger the Salmon Trout River headwaters with acid drainage into the groundwater. No metallic sulfide mine has ever not polluted its watershed.

On April 21, 2009, activists, working for years just as hard as Kennecott, wrangled a stay of execution for the pristine area from Ingham County Circuit Judge Paula Manderfield, who reversed her earlier decision to approve the lease of 120 acres of state land for a copper and nickel mine. Good on ya! Judge Manderfield.

And good on ya' Chauncey Moran and the Yellowdog Watershed Preserve, who have personally checked water quality in the Yellow Dog Plains wilderness, and filed stays, protested at innumeral hearings and gotten decisions reversed over the years.

Revisiting the Rio Tinto dredge mine project in Madagascar revealed that there is review of a SEIS (Socio-Economic Impact Study). Rio Tinto has claimed that the ilmenite mine (a whitener used in plastics and toothpaste) is a model for future mines in Africa and the rest of the underdeveloped world. Rio Tinto presents their mine project proposals as environmentally sound, and a boost to local economies. Rio Tinto has not lived up to its promises to maintain sustainable resources, to compensate local populations for land use, and to keep it clean overall, darn it. Are we surprised?

Redfern Resources Tulsequah Chief Mine suspended operations as reported in Feb. 2009 because of lack of funding, but the court has allowed them a stay of execution through 2010 to continue to seek money to keep the mine going, including building an access road toward Atlin, British Columbia, where the Atlin Art Centre has its wilderness retreat.

But meanwhile, check what Redfern has accomplished in the Sacred Headwaters of the Stikine, Taku and Tulsequah Rivers. Their last effort to expand their Mother Earth gouging was to use hovercraft to transport mine minerals on the Taku River.

And why is the EPA "powerless" to enforce compliance of US agreements, initially agreed to by the mining companies?

Fortunately, the heroes of the efforts to heal Earth's wounds and restore her vitality are many and strong.

Dr. Wangari Maathai, founder of the Greenbelt Movement in Africa has planted millions of trees, been beaten unconscious for her efforts more than once, fought machete-wielding farmers and corrupt government, and stood on the stage in 2004 to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

These heroes have re-awakened my passion to keep our planet healthy, clean, viable and thriving.

"What Happens When Women Wake Up?" has launched me back into the river of being awake, of acting on my wakefulness, and encouraging others to do the same.

As Patricia Fero has said with insight and clarity: "we are the ones we've been waiting for."

There is no one else. There is no other time. Our generation is the last and only generation who has one foot in the beginnings of the feminist awakening, and one foot in the new dawn.

Get involved. Act locally, heal globally. The Upper Peninsula in Michigan is where my great-grandmother homesteaded from Finland, and its resources and beauty are ours to nourish and preserve.

Find your roots, identify the places where you can help prune, or fertilize. We all have an enormous and profound stake in the survivability of Earth and her treasures. Speak loud and often, act with vigor, get well and truly mad.

Feminine energy, Earth energy is rising. It is inevitable that the Sacred Feminine will wash the Earth clean, staunch her wounds, and restore her to health. We have evidence of this in the fact that Rio Tinto and Redfern are in financial difficulty (due variously to falling metal prices, expenditures related to mandated clean-up and enforced compliance, and the rising costs of court cases). Even so, we must remain vigilant and loud to assure that the injuries made are closely watched. Mining operations that have closed down leak carcinogens into the watershed the abandoned mines still silently abuse.

And it will take Dr. Maathai, Patricia Fero, our sisters, brothers and millions of committed others to trumpet the charge, to give us heroes to emulate and ongoing missions to embrace.

Good on ya', Patricia Fero!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

How's My Country Doing Today?

The ether is awash with news about Treasury's Bank Stress Test results. The banks got their version 10 days ago, and therefore Goldman Sachs was able to sell a bunch of million dollars worth of stuff already, violating the agreement to keep the results quiet, the PR departments of the financial giants had some time to get their spokesmodels an extreme make-over at the local day spa (or the far-away, outrageously expensive one), and the Cabinet folks who have some explaining to do about the criteria used had some study time to get the spin speed adjusted.

Wait one darn second - since when is Goldman Sachs a bank? Ah. Since October, 2008. Fine. Just in time to get in front of the line for the money being handed out.

As near as I can make out, of the 19 tested financial giants, most are doing really well, and the rest are fine.

How's that?

The results are self-reported. Good grief, Gertie! as my grandmother would say. Treasury needs to step up to the reportage responsibility.

Just wearing a cowboy hat doesn't make you Randolph Scott.

It's enough already that the dollars we have in our pockets (few dollars: holes in pockets) are not as green, and not as stretchy. It's enough already that there are now corporations that can "furlough" employees without pay for weeks, and that those employees are too scared to look for another job.

It's enough already that my father got a letter from Bank of America about cutting his credit limit. "You don't need it, so we're not offering it," was the tone of the letter. My father doesn't use credit, but he's not the only one who got that letter. Isn't offering credit how banks make money?

Isn't making credit flow again a major function of the bailout?

Maybe I'm wrong.

I want government officials - elected and appointed - who are being paid to serve the American people, to wake up every single morning and ask "how's my country doing today?"

Larry Summers can start by staying awake at meetings, or if he needs a nap like many of us do, he can do it off-camera.

Wall Street needs a prescription for methylphenidate. Why we keep paying attention to a blister when the economy is on fire is beyond me. Wall Street isn't the economy. The economy is the economy.

I want - in the quite near future - to be able to answer the question "how's my country doing today?" with "much better, thank you."

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Since When?

I bumped into a book searching for something completely different. The book is a collection of six word memoirs. It is published by Smith magazine, and maybe I saw a Nora Ephron quote from the book and opened a new window. I enjoy Nora Ephron's writing, and now I enjoy Smith magazine, too. Easily distracted, I immediately began composing my own six-word autobiography. It started with "I'll get right on that. Later." I arrived there after a short mental trip through "I told you I was sick" [taken]; "Not this time you don't, buster!" [paranoid]; and "When does my turn get here?" [ahem...].

I talked with my friend Joel soon after. We were opening new conversation windows, companionably moseying through the week's events, and inevitably, we landed on change. Not my favorite word, subject or circumstance. Maybe we wandered there through a new excerpt from his novel, my cut hours at The Corporate Job, my painfully long-term memory of the discontinued favorite mascara. However we got there, change led to my resistance to same, to the Smith book bump, and six-word autobiographies. I said maybe mine should be "How long's THAT been going on?"

It's my new thing about change.

My sister laughs at me. She does this affectionately certainly, but nonetheless she finds my quirks, twists, and passionate attachment to attempting to maintain a NO CHANGE life amusing. She thinks this because she is a smart, awake woman who knows that change is an opportunity for growth.

She thinks resisting change is silly.

For a long time, I thought change was silly.

One of my outed obsessions my sister spotted is tracking down the origin of a cold. How did I get this? This compulsion to solve the crime does nothing to cure the cold. But I feel better if I can identify the culprit who passed the virus along. It's my own little epidemiological kink. Silly absolutely.

Apparently another new outed obsession is tracking down how long something I didn't know about was out there being/doing/altered from whatever else I thought I knew.

I found out yesterday that cranberries are seasonal. Did you know this? I guess I did in the knowledge fog that loiters around the back of your brain, but there are other seasonal things that you can actually lay your hands on out of season. Like tomatoes. Or Christmas ornaments. Or a swimsuit.

Not cranberries. The young woman who explained this to me in the store started to take tiny steps backwards when I responded to her answer about cranberries and my inability to get some except from September to December by asking the obsessively odd, personally-affronted question "Since when?"

Honestly, does it matter how long cranberries have not been available except between September and December?


My resistance to change silliness has not lessened, as I have congratulated myself on recently: it has just become a different silliness.

But until I take advantage of the cranberry-induced growth opportunity, it has been deeply satisfactory to me to find out that cranberries are grown in bogs on the eastern seaboard, in Michigan and Minnesota, and in British Columbia. Cold areas, with a short growing season and a harvest in late August, or early September. 95% of cranberries are used for juice.

Those of you who secretly asked the question "what happens to the cranberries that are harvested, but are then diabolically not available to me from the months of January-August?" now can rest assured that the absent cranberries are being put to good use.

And it's been going on for a long, long time.

At the end of the conversation with my friend Joel, having shortened my six-word memoir to two words "Since When?" I decided that I'm going to abandon the obsession to find out how long stuff I didn't know has been out there without my knowledge.

When my sister lets me know what this obsession turns into, I'll let you know.