Just Plain Foolish

Just a chance for an old-fashioned, simple storyteller to say what needs to be said.

Friday, June 30, 2006

It's hard to beat snapping beans

Oh, how I love little moments of serendipity. Today, my husband asked me if I could stop by the shoe repair place to pick up his shoes. Okay, I said I'd swing by in the afternoon, since it was highly likely I'd get out early. Well, get out early I did, walked across the street to the credit union and deposited my pay. Then I headed in towards town where the shoe repair place is (unfortunately, nowhere near a Metro station. Grrr.) and as I head down, I spot a sign that makes me smile: Local Produce Here. (Hmm, I says to myself, that's a left turn now, but will be a right turn when I leave the shoe place...)

And indeed it was. There were fresh potatoes, smaller than golf balls, some of them. Tomatoes with that rich beefsteak smell, little zucchini, fat sweet corn, some strong white onions, and green beans. And then, oh, yes, there they were, little, oh, little, but so sweet that you could smell them even over by the onions: peaches! Yellow peaches, and white peaches too. So I bought some of everything. I hope there will be radishes soon.

The wonderful thing about this kind of dinner is that it really doesn't take all that long. The ears of corn were shucked on the way home, because I felt like a little kid that just couldn't wait. The couple handfulls of beans snap up in a couple minutes, and just a quick touch of heat will bring out their green and soften them just a little. The tomatoes will slice up in their crimson glory, and the potatoes should even go quickly, since I selected for the really tiny ones. And for dessert: a peach.

(The onions and zucchini will wait for tomorrow, since there's plenty here already.) And yet, for all the simplicity of preparation, the handling of this wonderfully fresh and basic food is an opportunity to contemplate the richness of creation, the joy of the food, the colors, the textures, the flavors.

And here's the really wonderful part: tomorrow morning, she says they'll have blueberries.

Praying for someone

What do I mean when I say I'm praying for someone? I'm not trying to say that I think God would make everything better if there are enough testimonials that this is a good person. I don't think God works that way. I may or may not mean that I intend to say something like, "And, God, could you keep an eye out for my friend?" because sometimes my prayers aren't shaped in words. Sometimes I mean that I will worry over the person and try to offer that worry up to God, perhaps in the hopes that God will understand both what's going on with my friend and my worry, and move in both our hearts. Sometimes I mean that I really wish I could do more, but I don't know what, and I'm hoping that God will open a way for me to be of service to my friend, or at least open my eyes to the way that's been there the whole time.

And sometimes it means something more practical, like I'll be opening my worry up to God while I bustle about in my little kitchen, making a casserole or soup to send over. I won't necessarily mention whatever it is that I'm fussing about. God knows. God knows that I'm fussing, and knows why. God knows that my friend needs help and how. God knows that I need help. God knows. And that's not what praying for someone is about to me. It's about sharing my caring and love for someone else with God, inviting God to be there with both of us.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Minisize me!

One set of links on this page deals with small and sustainable buildings. Last night, a friend of mine brought to my attention the possible introduction to the American market of a car that can get up to 60 mpg in highway driving and it is truly tiny - able to park two to a parking space. And I find myself struggling with just a touch of envy. I have no desire to own a bigger car or a 4,000 square foot house that I'd never be able to heat, cool, or furnish, anyway, but I do want a little house and a tiny car.

And when I say little, I mean little - while as a child I designed dream houses with my brother that would be connected to each other by roller coasters, and would have room to house my entire extended family unto many generations, my dreams today are considerably more modest, but still incredibly difficult. You see, I'd like to be able to put more than one of the tiny houses on a single urban lot - maybe only 2, but possibly as many as 4 or 5, and share certain resources among the residents - say, a central courtyard arrangement with outdoor cooking facilities (maybe a largish grill, a couple picnic tables, and a masonry pizza oven - an obvious solution to overheating the small houses in summer - gather for dinner outside with the whole small community and cook outdoors) and garden plots (Mmmm. fresh produce.). Such houses would require no more space than my current apartment, but would afford considerably more in the way of contact with the outdoors, contact with neighbors (though my building is pretty good about this - we tend to gather in the lobby around the entry desk), and privacy (as in, I get really tired of listening to my neighbors as they get into the elevator and empty their trash - my apartment is right in that corner.)

And yet, while one can buy small houses (though few are so small as some of the plans I'm linked to, which would officially be classified as garden sheds in my county) in order to take the roof off and convert them to 3-story large residences, even buying an unusual or hard to build lot and putting on my little houses would not be permitted under my county's zoning ordinances. Meh.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Real life consequences for petty politics

As I listened to the coverage of the Episcopal meeting in Ohio over the last couple of weeks, I admit to listening in a somewhat detached way, "Oh, will you look at what they're doing now? Don't you think we have better things to worry about in the world today than whether a woman can lead a church, or whether gay people should be ordained? Tsk." and went about my daily business. Tonight, I saw the situation through a friend's eyes, and finally saw how dangerous this divisiveness really is.

R. was truly upset, having finally found a religious home in the Episcopal church for many years. She has been deeply involved in the daily life of her parish, helping with dinners, choir, organizational details, and programs such as a weekly mission to feed people without resources in downtown. She works diligently for the church, and feels that outsiders are trying to steal her spiritual home. She worries that they are trying to make the church less welcoming to gays, women, and possibly even just ordinary Episcopalians. Tonight, she was deeply emotional, worrying about the impact that not splitting the church would have, just as much as the impact of splitting. She wanted to know why gay people going to church in America was more of a problem than violence against women in Africa. At times, she spoke in anger, and yet even then, her worry for the wellbeing of the spiritual center not only of her own parish, but of the worldwide Anglican communion, shone through.

I truly wish that some of the people funding this misery could know my friend, whom I am so honored to know and to call friend. I wish they could know the heartbreak they are causing by sowing strife in their spiritual community, and repent of it.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Destroying the substance to protect a symbol

Dear Senator,
I am writing in opposition to the flag burning Amendment. To protect a symbol of freedom by gutting those very freedoms is an insult to the American Constitution. The First Amendment is the cornerstone on which all our other freedoms are built. Do not help to weaken that cornerstone. You are sworn to protect and defend the Constitution, a Constitution which enshrines the right to unpopular opinions and peaceable protest. Please remember your oath.
Thank you,
Plain Foolish

A gluttony for death

After posting yesterday about one of the things I feel separates gluttony the sin from the joy of food - the concept of sharing that basic staple among friends in fellowship, each taking what they need from the common pot, I feel led this morning to talk about gluttony of a different kind. This morning, I had the radio on, since there is flooding in my area and commutes have been seriously disrupted for the last couple days, both cars and public transit. On public radio, they discussed both the recent Supreme Court decision on the death penalty and went on to interview Alan Dershowitz on the idea of warrants for torture.

As I sat there, I thought of the checkbox system that the Supreme Court approved for the death penalty: collect so many checks in one column, and even if there are an equal number in another column, you will be executed. It seems to be a system that exonerates the individual jury member of responsibility. It's not that I think they should die, you see, I just determined that while they may have had diminished responsibility due to an unfortunate upbringing and a mental disability, there were two aggravating factors, so we had no choice. And of course, with everything in neat checkboxes, we can pretend that the death penalty is being applied as fairly as it could possibly be, that there are no biases based on race or economic class. We can pretend that our society is not committing a grave sin. And more people can go to their deaths in little rooms, strapped to a guerney, allowing the observers to pretend that this is a scientific, nay, a medical proceedure, rather than a barbaric act of putting a fellow human being to death, every bit as barbaric as the noose, the chair, the stone, the axe of yore. Allowing us to go about our business as the guillotine falls elsewhere.

And the thirst for blood extends in other ways. The United States commits torture on a routine basis. There is no one in the world who doesn't know that now. We use techniques known to have been used in the Inquisition (waterboarding, for instance) in an attempt, supposedly, to flush out terrorists. We starve, contort, deny medical aid, deprive of sleep, confine people in darkness and filth, sexually abuse, and otherwise torture people. We do this without my personal approval, but we do it anyway. Mr. Dershowitz suggests that he also opposes torture, but believes that since it is inevitable, it is better to create a legal system within which torture may be used in specific ways for specific purposes, rather than deny we are doing it, yet encourage it from the top.

Which sounds briefly like an intelligent idea, until one thinks about it for a second.

Such an idea is always advanced by people who want to use torture. It has been advanced, I have no doubt, since one tribe caught a member of another tribe and wanted to beat the location of that other tribe's cache of dried mammoth meat out of him or her. It was certainly advanced by the Romans, who had an elaborate law built around torture. Saddam Hussein has argued that he simply enforced his country's laws when he tortured. Every torturer in the history of torture feels that right and good is on his side. If it weren't, why would he have the red-hot pincers, instead of the victim? And in every case, torture always goes beyond what is "allowed" in the law. Torture becomes a tool of petty revenge. There are Inquisition cases of unhappy servants reporting their employers as heretics over personal slights. There are current cases of people having nothing to do with terrorism or insurgency imprisoned by the US on the word of personal enemies. Rather than tolerate the further spread of torture, it is time to hold the torturer accountable. Remove those public servants who have abused the power of office to encourage torture. Demand accountability for the end of torture. This has got to stop.

Monday, June 26, 2006

The simple joy of breaking bread

Food: it's one of the most basic pleasures people have. I have fond memories of making a quick stir-fried pasta on a smuggled hot plate in my dorm room. Three of us consumed that illicit feast, all sitting on the narrow bed, grabbing pieces of pasta, tomato, garlic, peas, and olives from the shared plate with our chopsticks (I had chopsticks enough to go around, but only 1 fork.) as we talked of all kinds of things. I remember clearly everyone grabbing for the last piece of chewy brown garlic as we finished, and all of us laughing about it. Those two women are still dear friends of mine, our friendship cemented over hundreds of shared meals, from that simple pasta made from leftovers, to holiday meals and wedding feasts. Both of them will tell you that I am one of those "Food is love" people. I cook for people as an expression of love, and I enjoy cooking. And I deeply believe that sharing food is one of the things that bonds individual people into community.

I don't think it's a coincidence that the Last Supper has such resonance, even today. Everyone likes to eat with their friends. We gather to talk, to break bread, drink wine, and talk. We share - it isn't my bread or your bread, it's bread to share, a bottle of wine to share, a pot of stew or veggies or whatever to share. And in sharing, we're saying your needs are as important as mine. We each take what we need from the common pot, and pass it on. And I love potlucks. At a potluck, we each bring something to contribute to that common bonding experience, just as we do to the conversation. And the person who brings something basic, like a dish of rice or potatoes has brought something just as necessary to the dinner as the person who brings the pickled baby artichokes.

Following my brother's recommendation, I read Skipping Towards Gomorrah by Dan Savage. In this book, he attempts to experience all seven deadly sins by choosing a representative action for each. For gluttony, he first decided to go to a fat acceptance conference, but didn't find what he was looking for. So he went someplace I would have thought was the obvious starting place: a big box restaurant with seriously oversized portions, where he proceeded to eat his way through way too much food of very low quality. As I read that part, I noticed the way he emphasized the essential emptiness of the area: it was in the middle of an enormous parking lot, and was almost reduced to a place where trucks brought low quality food for people who came in cars to consume. And I thought about such a place, where each person eats from a platter rather than a plate. Where is that experience of communal eating? And how much of it proceeds from the experience of communally preparing the food?

This weekend, as we prepared dinner, my mother and I sat at a corner of the kitchen table and shelled peas together, with my husband helping from behind me. Later, my sister and I picked berries and shared them with each other and the rest of the family straight from the rasperry canes. We had sliced tomatoes, blood red and ripe and juicy, tasting *real*, with that smell that only sun-ripe tomatoes have. I've just sent out a message to some friends, inviting them to Do Nothing next weekend, as well. It's time to reconnect with people, taste the summer fruits together, share a loaf of bread, watch the rain fall, and just be.

After all that waffling, raspberries!

Well, despite sinus pressure up in the mountains and deluges in both directions, my husband and I have safely arrived home again. It was a little strange that what we ended up doing was Doing Nothing. Now, Doing Nothing is a code phrase used by my husband, myself, and several of our friends. It means gathering in one house, making a nice dinner together - usually a very simple one or two pot dinner with an inexpensive bottle of wine, unless someone is incredibly infused with Culinary Inspiration. Then we sit together, entertaining each other and ourselves - storytelling, reading aloud, reading quietly, playing boardgames and sometimes making up our own rules*, maybe taking a walk in the neighborhood, talking about stuff - whatever happens to be on someone's mind, maybe listening to music, or making it ourselves. This goes on for an entire weekend. One day is not really enough time for Doing Nothing. You've just gotten into the rhythm when it's time to do something.

The original plan had involved the boat, but the sticker to allow the boat in the state park was expired, and we couldn't renew it. Some barbequeing happened, but not a big thing. The skies were cloudy, so no observing took place. It was just a quiet weekend with my parents and brother, with a little visit from my sister, who was delayed in getting there. I found myself missing our dog, who died from cancer last year. His toys were still in the garage, along with a can of the special food he'd been on at the end. When I first got out of the car, I still half expected him to come out of the garage to see what was going on. I miss him.

Dad took my husband to an air show down the road, and introduced him around proudly. My mom and my brother headed out to swim and run by the farmer's market. I sat next to the humidifier I've sat over when sick since toddlerhood. That humidifier and I are old friends. By afternoon, I was feeling much better, and sat with Mom, shelling peas for a batch of peas and dumplings (made with soy milk so as not to irritate my sinuses any further and to be friendly to my brother, who is vegan.) We talked as we began dinner preparations, and my brother recommended a book, _Skipping Towards Gomorrah_, by Dan Savage. We ended up watching _Bend it Like Beckham_ together, which was cool, and we talked for a while more before heading to sleep.

My sister arrived late the next morning, and we all visited a while over a dinner of fridge-raiding. Dad decided I wasn't improving quickly enough and put me on medicines for the infection, and finally, we went to the backyard to take some pictures together. My sister and I found some golden raspberries and were eating them straight off the bramble, offering some to the others who came to see what we were up to, and looked at the blackberries (which won't be ready for a couple weeks, more's the pity.)

Overall, it was good. So often, it feels like I don't have time to slow down, and this was a pretty slow paced weekend. We kept stopping the movie when folks wanted to do something else, like make popcorn or talk, or whatever. The chance to reconnect without anything else going on. It's nice sometimes to just head home.

* Making up one's own rules can be a fun thing, and improves board games no end. I particularly recall a game of Calvinball disguised as a weekend long game of Monopoly - by the end, we were using Monopoly to experiment with various wealth redistribution programs.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Heading Home

Despite some continuing sniffles, etc., we're on our way west. Right now, family time is just too precious to allow for a minor illness. So I'll meet my husband for a big bowl of pho, and then we cross the mountains. Luckily, we'll at least be starting in daylight, so we should see some of what we're travelling through, though we'll have to take a break around sundown to keep the light from blinding us.

So not much from me this weekend.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Who is like You, Majestic in Holiness

I can't sleep. My face is stuffy, I'm still coughing and sneezing, and the world has erupted into sight, and sound, and power. Thunder forms a mighty chorus, counterpointed by the shush-shush of the falling rain, and the lightening turns the night blue-white, as it reflects through the sheets of water pouring from heavy clouds. The air itself crackles with the power of the storm.

How glad I am to have my snug little apartment, my glass of warm peach juice*, and yes, odd though it may sound, my doll and my blanket.

* Nothing beats warm peach juice with a sprinkle of clove for a sore throat. It's like drinking peach pie and the clove numbs the throat on the way down.


Stupid summer cold. I really wanted to go back home this weekend.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Basic needs

Lorcan, over on Plain in the City, recently posted about the distribution of basic needs in the world, and the radio has been talking about the cutbacks in Tennessee's health care program for folks without commercial health insurance. And I've been thinking about those basic needs: healthcare, shelter, food, and education. And their interrelation: healthcare, shelter, and food are easier to obtain with an education, but an education is very difficult to obtain if you're lacking any of the others.

And how do we allocate these? New houses sometimes top 4,000 square feet apiece in vast developments of nearly identical houses. My husband and I live in an apartment of under 800 square feet, and some folks live in storage spaces of 75 feet, or in even less. Healthcare ranges from toughing it out for those who can't afford anything else (or who know they will be humiliated if they seek care) to folks who demand immediate care for minor ailments. And of course, the things that allow us to take care of our health in the first place cost money, nutritious food, exercise facilities, preventative care. And what sort of food is available? There are few people starving in the US anymore, but there is an epidemic of poor nutrition for people without the time or access to cook from basic ingredients, so convenience foods predominate in diets.

And then the one near and dear to my heart: education. I used to teach Head Start. And before that, I was a student, one who was initially labelled as mentally retarded. My mother was told that I'd never learn to read or write, and would have difficulty mastering basic tasks of daily living. That fall, I changed schools, and was lucky enough to have a very alert teacher. She asked me how I came to school, hoping I could tell her that I came on a bus. Instead, I gave her the 4-part miniseries about exactly where the bus stop was, the exact route the bus took, and interesting things to see along the way. I'd taken the trip maybe a couple times by then, and she called Mom, asking for permission to have me tested, because my permanent record didn't match the child in her classroom.

That notation was still there, by the way, when I graduated from high school. I know, because when the principal was adding in the notation on my having won some award or another, he happened to read back, and was so astonished that he burst into the conversation I was having with the school nurse to express his astonishment that I was listed as retarded. Today, I don't know if I would be listed as profoundly gifted (the new term for folks more than 2 standard deviations above the mean) or as ADD, since I learn things so quickly that I become bored at the "average" pace and stop paying attention.

And I wonder sometimes what would have happened, what kind of life I'd have had, if that mistake had gone uncaught, as I suspect it does all too often. How many children are convinced that they *can't* learn, when no attempt has been made to teach them? Or when they've been so bored that they tune out school entirely, what then?

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

A thought that keeps cycling

What would a call to Closeness with God sound like today?

There's this constant media bombardment - there are now even ads that are designed to flash into the train cars in Metro tunnels, people are expected to carry phones with them everywhere (and the fact that we don't seriously wierds out some of my husband's relatives), there are televisions in many restaurants, and even where there aren't, there's piped music. People have turned their own bodies into billboards. While this is nothing new - after all, the whole idea of heraldry was to make someone visibly on one side or another on a battlefield- it's now taken to absurd lengths. Lots of Dutch fans watched a World Cup match in their skivvies after their orange lederhosen with lion's tails were confiscated as an attempt at "ambush marketing" by a brewery that was neither the team's sponsor nor the games' sponsor.

And of course, we're used to being harangued in the name of God. One hate-filled preacher after another assures us that natural disasters are the result of SIN! as though tragedy never strikes good people. I wonder sometimes what their followers must feel whenever something bad happens to them. How horrible not to even have God to turn to when you are feeling lowest, but only to implore not to make things worse, as though God were some sort of cosmic torturer, intent on paying tit for tat. We see constant reminders that God really wants us to go to church, though which one is still being figured out. One local megachurch has taken to buying ad time on the radio and delivering mini-sermons with an ad for the church.

How do we know the call when we hear it, if we can hear it over the boom of an earth-shaking subwoofer, the roar of our machinery, the distracting chatter that is everywhere, and of course, the loud cries of the preachers? What if, instead of the loud cries of the prophets to the cities in an age where all machinery was powered by muscle, wind, or water, today God whispers in the forgotten places? How will we know? Am I listening? Am I looking in the right places?

Some days

You find yourself falling into the open arms of the universe,
Frightened to be falling, delirious at the height, the speed,
The fresh air, piercing like a thousand icicles.
Trust in that loving embrace to hold you
Even as the universe falls with you.

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Monday, June 19, 2006

An invitation

Call me to You again
I long for your Voice
Speaking, whispering,
Your Voice calls me to
Wellsprings of Joy
Call me, for I am thirsty.

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Waiting for the Breath

I have been waiting for You,
One silent reed among many,
Waiting, hoping, swaying in the wind,
Fearing to be hurt,
Knowing only Your Breath
Can give me Voice to Sing,
Transforming silent waiting
Into the clear high Note of Oneness,
My trembling into Voice,
My stillness to the Pause
Which gives meaning to the note.

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Sunday, June 18, 2006

Tonight, I fell into the sky

My husband likes to stargaze, and the two of us occasionally attend star parties at the observatory a few blocks away, but tonight he had an invitation to go to one further away, with the bait that we might see Mercury. Well, we did. Tonight, I saw 5 planets: Mercury, Earth, Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter. Wow. And I saw stars, and a couple of man-made satellites. (The last was really ironic, since I kept spotting satellites when I was wanting to see stars.) And I saw 5 moons tonight, with 4 of them belonging to Jupiter.

As everyone looked though the various telescopes that had been set up, my husband and I got out our binoculars. Early in the evening, we had the best viewing of the bats and the fireflies that were about, and of course we could track things best, plus getting to see Mars and Saturn together in the same field. People with more impressive viewing equipment invited us to see things like binary stars, the rings of Saturn, the moons of Jupiter, and even the colors of stars.

But at one point, I reverted to the most basic observing equipment of all - I laid down on a bit of scrap fabric with a rolled up towel for a pillow and just watched the big dipper through the mist and haze that plagued the telescopes all night. I looked around, breathing the night air, smelling the grass beneath our feet, feeling the soft-rough texture of the grass, admiring the lacy spread of the trees surrounding our clearing against the midnight blue sky, and noticing the play of light on the cloudy haze. I watched the fireflies still signalling to each other even in the late hours, and I stood to look into the sky.

Oh, as I looked up, I felt the weight of my body, the anchoring weight of those binoculars and was grateful to them, as I looked into the sky, feeling that possibly only that cloud might prevent me from simply falling into infinity and becoming yet another point in the sky. Later, as the sky cleared, I again looked up, and was disoriented - no binoculars, no cloud, surely I was falling, and would have no hope of returning to myself if the One who took me from me did not return me correctly, and yet, what joy to dance among the stars, to spin in the cosmic dance, even as only a mote of dust. I was falling upward, into the sky, spinning in that infinite darkness that yet contains all those points of light.

Blessed are You, Ruler of the Universe, who has sustained us and kept us to this day.

I realized that this is the blessing that can never be said in vain. Some Jews wear new clothing on the second day of Rosh Hashanna - the Jewish New Year, so that the blessing can be said and not in vain, but each heartbeat, each breath, is a gift so precious that we could whisper, sing, and shout that blessing every moment and not have it be in vain. Tonight, I sit at this computer after falling into the vastness of the universe though the gift of returning, and my heart sings. Tomorrow, I am going to be a very sleepy fool, but tonight, I have danced with the cosmos.


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Saturday, June 17, 2006

Perceived danger

My mom just told me about a truly incredible moment that happened while she was in the tropics a couple weeks ago. Now, when I want to rest and recharge, I head for the Appalachians, which are relatively close, fortunately. My mom, on the other hand, wants to get out of them and head someplace with sand, water, sun, and preferably lots of tropical fruits which can go into smoothies for her. (I loathe sunburn, but she's lucky enough to pretty much never burn.) Anyway, she and Dad were somewhere in the tropics snorkelling about, when they rounded a bit of coral to see a large nurse shark basking about 10 feet ahead of them and 20 feet below. Now, nurse sharks are pretty much the opposite of aggressive - they like to bask in the sun, eat small creatures from the bottom, and not be much of a bother to anybody else. But, as Mom said, that's not the first thing that occurs to you when you see a large shark only 20 feet away without any plexiglass involved. So she and Dad backed away slowly and headed for more populated areas (nurse sharks are very shy and move away from areas with lots of activity, typically.) Contrary to usual practice, neither got a picture of the shark.

And I thought about the perceived danger - yikes, that's a big shark! versus the actual threat from a shark that typically prefers sun and some shrimp cocktail to exertion. Now, I'm not saying they didn't do the right thing. Nurse sharks like to be left alone, and humans typically prefer not to come to the notice of sharks. Humans avoid the shark, shark continues basking and eating shrimp. Problem solved. (Well, except for the shrimp...)

But we are constantly being told that we are surrounded on all sides by danger. My family was initially terrified when I told them that I was taking the subway every day to work. Don't people constantly get mugged on the subway? Well, actually, DC has one of the cleanest rail systems with a pretty low crime rate (though some pickpockets, as I learned to my cost a few years ago). On the other side, some of the city folks I've come to know have _Deliverance_ or something similar in their minds when they think of Appalachia. When I said to one that for the cost of a downpayment on a condo here, I could have a cabin with 3 approved septic fields on 10 acres of good forestland back home, she was horrified. To her, a cabin meant no water or electricity. When I pointed out that many folks get their water directly from springs and the septic fields were explicitly for waste and wastewater so they don't contaminate the groundwater, she was somewhat relieved. I didn't point out that you don't need that much electricity, and can provide pretty much all of it through a personal windmill and solar setup for a few thousand, and even sell some back to the utility company.

When I think of how much people are encouraged to fear each other, I think of the experiences I've had in both the country and city. As a country girl, I know the backwoods enough not to fear it, and in fact enough to love it. After marrying a city boy, I came to the Big City and learned that it wasn't as scary as I'd grown up believing. And I even live in a neighborhood that frightens some city folk - my neighborhood is in a majority-black county, and my neighborhood is one with a wide variety of cultures, languages, and religions. I love it here, too. I can get off the train, walk to the Salvadoran grocery down the block, and talk with the woman who runs it while she rings up my groceries, walk a little further and listen to the Mexican pop playing from the parking lot of the next apartment complex down, as guys gather there to talk after work, then in the parking lot of my building, there might be Egyptian pop playing in the parking lot and Jamaican reggae playing inside the party room. Along the way, I'll see plenty of people I've known for years here, and we may stop and talk or just wave to each other as we head our separate ways.

Somehow, I think that perhaps it's time we all look at these perceived dangers that beset us, and recognize that if we don't stomp on the nurse shark, he might not want to bite us.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Father's day

Sunday is Father's day, and I just sent him the card I made: a pop-up airplane with a spin-able prop. We used to fly small craft together when I was in 2nd grade, and he gave me for my 18th birthday my first actual lesson in piloting, where I got to do the takeoff and landing with a licensed instructor. In fact, the wind was higher that day than the instructor usually would have permitted a total newbie to go up in, but since I'd been flying so many years, I was just fine. I think he'll like the plane.

It's wierd facing this holiday this year, knowing that later this year, he'll be going again. I got home from work to find that he'd left a message on the phone, to see if my husband and I could come out to their place next weekend. I'm going to be calling some friends to see if I can reschedule with them so that I can go out to my parents' home then. But hearing the message just set me off. I cried. While I don't want this war for *anybody*, I feel extra super selfish - I want *my dad* to stay here.

I want a sign to hang in the air over his head: this is a nice guy, really, a doctor. He works to get healthcare for people who can't afford it easily. If only there weren't this stupid war, he'd be the kind of guy to get decent services going here. Please be nice. But then, wouldn't everyone get a sign? You know, everyone's got that light to share. Which is why folks have got to stop it with the playing politics and get the world back onto the route of solving our problems with our words.

As one of my comforts, the last time Dad went, I read both of the Terry Pratchett Discworld novels dealing explicitly with war, and I still like how he ended _Jingo_. Sir Samuel Vimes, Commander of the City Watch, puts both armies under arrest for "'Conspiracy to cause an affray,' he started to count on his fingers, 'going equipped to commit a crime, obstruction, threatening behavior, loitering with intent, loitering within tent, hah, travelling and carrying concealed weapons.'" and the whole mess is then solved when the city's leader steps in to carry on with diplomacy. That's what I love so much about the books - what solves things in the end is people talking to each other. (In fact, the author has said that he hopes that people might come to believe that we might actually solve our problems with words.)

And to all the macho posturers crying "cut and run" to any suggestion that perhaps we might put down our guns, I say, no. We helped to break it. We are now responsible for cleaning up our act and helping the people of Iraq. That doesn't mean shooting them. It means improving lives - with things like access to healthcare, roads, bridges, etc. It means asking folks with practical on-the-ground experience of peacework how to set about trying to rebuild. It means getting Haliburton the heck out out of there, and looking at actually *helping* people to rebuild their own lives, so they are invested in it and feel that they have some power in their own life, rather than whatever influence the US wants to visit next on them. It means walking humbly and saying we're sorry.

And yes, I'd even let my dad go.

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Thursday, June 15, 2006

History and its sad lessons

Something that's been nagging at me recently is this notion that terrorism is a new thing, dating to maybe the 1960's, and that before that, the world existed in a sort of happy state - oh, there were wars, of course. I mean, who didn't have to memorize all that stuff about the Civil War and all... And back then, of course war was between Nation-States... Only we didn't really recognize the CSA as a nation... Well, never mind about that, they thought they were a nation. The thing is that nobody was out there bombing for a cause... oh, except for some anarchists... and nationalists... okay, and communists... well, and Guy Fawkes, but the point is.. oh, dear, is it me, or did I just paint myself into a corner?


Okay, so Guy Fawkes was really ahead of his time... or not. The notion of killing civilians to show that their government can't protect them is actually pretty old. Anybody remember the speech Henry V gives at Harfleur in Shakespeare's play? That's slightly *cleaned up* from common methods of warfare of the time. The chevauchee was not a pretty tactic. And no, Sherman didn't invent the idea of destroying the ability to produce food. Sowing the land with salt is at least as old as the Bible.

The idea of two armies in uniforms fighting each other was supposed to be a way of limiting warfare and protecting civilians, a recognition that warfare was and is an ugly thing. And even then, there were folks who didn't don a uniform. Spies, irregulars, etc. were to be found even in "formal" warfare.

So why the idea that this is a new thing? I think it's an attempt to deny history. This enemy is *new*, so the lessons of history will be misleading. This tactic came out of nowhere, so noone will be safe until we (insert repression of your choice here). While not comparing Iraq with Vietnam has become a big issue for this administration, I think it's part of a larger wish to deny the lessons of history in general. If this war, this set of people to be scapegoated is *different*, then we should be frightened enough to turn over immense power to whoever will fight it for us.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


Oh, how much I hate to be weak. As I lay curled up yesterday, waiting for the pain to pass, I felt reduced to the headache at times, as though the stabbing pain had completely taken me over. But my migraines always come in waves, and when it ebbed, I could think a little. And part of what I thought about was feeling sorry for myself - here it was a beautiful day, and the sunlight hurt, the normal sounds of my apartment hurt, thinking too much hurt, even curling up under the quilt hurt. Poor, poor, pitiful me. Which, of course, only made the whole thing worse.

And I thought of a Russian novel that I enjoyed a great deal, The Master and Margarita, by Mikhail Bulgakov, a satiric masterpiece in which the Devil comes to Stalinist Moscow and wreaks serious havoc there in the course of hosting a ball at which Margarita is to be the hostess. She is mostly interested in getting a literary master out of the insane asylum he's been put in after writing a novel about Jesus. In the novel, Pontius Pilate is portrayed as having terrible migraines, which make the glaring whiteness of Jerusalem pure torture, thus setting the scene for him to reject the immediate connection he feels with Jesus, and passively allow the crucifixion.*

And I wonder: am I allowing my illness to get in the way of the person I could be? And I thought about another migraineur: Hildegarde von Bingen. Abbess, visionary, composer, healer. Now, admittedly, even Hildegarde has gotten her visions downgraded to visual chimera associated with migraine in this terribly literal age, and yet, she saw her migraine as a gift from God, the ability to see "angels of light", even if that gift left blindness where the angels had been, and a shaky disorientation in its wake.

Even I admit that the "visual disturbances" can make the whole world look really beautiful, except that I know what's coming. Right before the migraine hits, I see everything outlined in light, each blade of grass crisp and bright, even the shadows have a sparkling depth to them. And even as I see the beauty of it, I fear what's to come: sickness, pain, clumsiness, weakness, even blindness sometimes. And I know that all my senses will be extremely acute - I will hear the quietest sounds, see even in dim light - it's only in sunlight that I'll be blind - feel texture so acutely that even my soft quilt is too rough, even taste and smell become so acute that I can barely eat - toast, some frozen things, "light" broths, water with the barest tint of juice in it.

What a gift, to see the whole world infused in light, and yet... Ouch.

* As a side note: while this portrayal of Pilate really works in Bulgakov's novel, the historical Pilate was not a nice person in the slightest. He was an occupying military governor, helping to prop up a puppet state, and was the sort of person that that usually entails.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Sorry, folks

Just not up for writing today. Awful migraine, though the nausea is gone, I just can't think of much through the headache. Sorry.

Monday, June 12, 2006

And for more on peace as a choice

Check out Reflections of a Secular Franciscan. He has posted a quote from Thomas Merton that says some good things about choosing peace.

Peace and "holiness"

I had intended to write about prayer today. The thoughts have been bubbling and forming, even through an incipient headache, but right here, right now, there's a different post forming, so the prayer post will have to wait its turn. (Sorry but there's a limit to my willingness to sit at the computer during the buildup to a headache.)

One of the ideas that I think stands in the way of peace is how we perceive people who choose peace. All too often, the person who chooses, day after day, the path of peace is seen as set apart, holier than the rest of us poor mortals, the better sort of person. And when we find out that someone who's been so far elevated was really a human being with failings and difficulties, we feel betrayed. How dare this holy person make a bad choice? How dare they be a real person?

The rabbis teach that every person has two impulses, the yetzer ha tov, or "good" impulse, and the yetzer ha ra, or "bad" impulse, and that each of these is there to serve God. Wait a second, I hear you saying, how can my "bad" bits be there to serve God? For instance, the person who wishes to shed blood should direct that wish into ways that will ultimately benefit the community: a surgeon or a shochet (kosher slaughterer). The rabbi Shammai had a terrible temper, and he struggled to harness that fire to the study of scripture.

There is a wonderful story that one of the great rabbis dreamed one night that Moses came to him and took him on a tour around the world, answering questions about Heaven. Moses answers that some people who appear to be virtuous are actually struggling with concealed vices, but points out one person and says, that one will surely come to heaven. But why? the rabbi asked. That one is only a clown. Ah, Moses replies - do you know what a clown does? Every day, he makes people smile and lightens their burdens for a while. Today, he was hired for a wedding and settled an argument between the families with a joke. Yes, he will certainly be welcomed.

Peace, I think, likewise is a choice we make every day, every hour. We choose to help people put off their burdens, to come to each other in positive ways. I remember learning Russian back in the 80's when it wasn't such a popular thing in my hometown, and how many lessons I learned aside from just, "Da, ya studyentka. Vui studyent?" Later, my dad found out that the Red Army Chorus was travelling the US and got two tickets. He and I went together to see that, and I can remember seeing the tears rolling down his cheeks as he heard "God Bless America" sung with a Russian accent. When the house lights came up, he said that he could remember being taught air raid drills as a child, in case the Russians came, and he never imagined they'd come like this. I still have the playbill with the signatures from when Dad took me to the stagedoor afterward, and I tried out my heavily accented Russian, and they used their heavily accented English, and I saw a bit of an echo of my dad's surprise in their faces to hear Russian with an American accent.

It's little things that bring peace, chosen again and again. And it's not easy, but it's how I've seen it happen. It's like walking - we all want the superhighway to zip us there, but the truth is that we get there by putting one foot in front of another and slogging through.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

A fable for today

This story goes back a long way, to the time of Francis of Assisi, who was born into a wealthy family, and who lived the life of a very privileged young man until one day he listened to the Spirit telling him to live in a very different way. He gave up the clothing, the web of aristocratic connections and paybacks that were common in Italy in the Middle Ages, the life of idleness and wealth he'd been born to, and ministered to the folks at the bottom, seeing that Spirit everywhere, in people, in the rain that soaked him and in the sun that dried him, in the birds of the air and the beasts of the field.

Around the same time, far away in Persia, there lived a very different man, named Jelal ud-Din Rumi, who was born the son of a mystic. When he was a boy, he was introduced to the most famous mystic of that age who pronounced a blessing on this boy. Rumi began to show that he, like his father, would be a mystic.

And one day, he met a man named Shams. His friendship and love for Shams became so intense that he called Shams his Beloved. And in learning to love Shams so unreservedly, he too came to love the Spirit of God moving in the world. One day, Shams was murdered, but by then the love between these two men was so great that the spirit of Shams did not leave Rumi, but taught him an even greater love, reflected in the poetry he has left us.

Now, there is a story that the followers of Rumi tell about a man who came to Rumi for healing. He was covered in sores and was naturally very upset about it. Rumi looked deep into the man's soul and told him, once you journeyed over the sea to the Christian countries, and there you saw a Christian mystic in the street. You kicked him, and it has left a mark on your soul that will continue to give you sores until you journey back there and reconcile with the man. Well, this fellow wasn't too happy about it, but he was amazed that Rumi could know about this, and so he set out to find the Christian beggar he had kicked. He found Francis and was amazed to find that Francis fully forgave him, so he stayed to learn from Francis for a time. Eventually, he returned to Persia, and became one of the followers of Rumi who said that these two shared a friendship that transcended space and time.

Don't you think it's time we caught up with the Middle Ages?

(Or even with my favorite Crusade, the one that never happened? Frederick II was commanded by Pope Innocent III to go out and smite the infidel... and well, Frederick interpreted this command as more of a guideline, shall we say. And achieved more by words than any Crusade achieved by force of arms.)

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Saturday, June 10, 2006

Off on a sideroad again

A couple months ago, in an introduction to a mailing list I wrote:

My spiritual path is the scenic route - There could be a four-lane highway leading straight to heaven, and I'd insist on taking a deer-path that crosses itself at least 6 times, skirts cliffs, involves fording whitewater, and leads to a few unexpected clearings with Trillium and phlox all over the place. I like to blame it on being a stubborn Appalachian.

And yet, I try to step lightly. When you're off the main road, it's good to bear in mind that there is much that is precious and rare out there. You don't want to frighten the wildlife or crush the plants. You don't strip the blackberry bushes bare - the birds have to eat something, too. (Besides, do you have any idea how scratched up you can get, trying to get to the inner part of the bramble?)

It still rings true for me and yet in trying to come up with a decent metaphor for my spiritual journey over my life, I left out a key component. While the path is sometimes lonely, I am never alone. (Don't worry, that overquoted poem about footprints is not about to appear in this space - I'm much more likely to direct you to check out Terry Pratchett's Small Gods, in which a prophet finds himself carrying his god through the desert*.) You see, I don't think heaven is a place you can get to on a 4-lane highway.

Rumi wrote about union with the beloved, about drunkenness in an attempt to communicate the feeling of that closeness. Jewish mystics talk about the Shekhina - the imminent Presence, and I talk about a landscape I haven't lived in for 10 years, in part because that's where I learned to feel that closeness, that Presence, and it's where I go to reconnect when I feel that I am forgetting to be Present myself.

I was raised mostly with formal religion, though my parents have a pretty vast tolerance for the paths their kids have found themselves on - agnostic, Unitarian, and well, a deer path. My mom even once found a really pretty pair of silver moon earrings for me while I was still active with a working Circle. I spent some time after that attending Synagogue and still frustrated with the idea that any one person should be standing between that Presence and the average worshipper.

I should have been warned that I still wasn't happy with the whole thing when the best worship service I can remember happened while camping with a Friend. I brought my prayer book and a ram's horn. She brought her tent, the one with the removable walls (too cool. The only thing I really envy about folks with historically based tents.) there was another friend there, and we sat in the shade of that canvas roof, looking out at forest and rolling hills. Every so often, I would read out a bit of the service from the prayer book and then we would lapse back into silence. And maybe one of us might comment a bit later on the way the light and the shadow fell, or the smell of mid-autumn, or the feeling of mortality both from the prayers and the falling leaves. A bit later, I chanted a prayer for peace in Hebrew, and then translated it for my friends. We all sat with that prayer in silence until the sun began to set. When the third star came out, I blew on that ram's horn, both an addition and a breaking of the silence. Then we had some dinner. We were aware of each other, of our fellowship, and of Something More. That was incredible.

Last night, I found a post by a f/Friend whom I've only recently met, talking about the difficulties in communication and acceptance between theist and non-theist Friends. I wish she lived nearer to me, because I would invite her to go camping. Though she professes to be non-theist, we have spoken with each other about that Presence, and I think we use different language to describe the same thing.

* And I seriously do recommend this book. The basic plot is that the Great God Om has found himself just a trifle embarrassed, recently - he meant to turn into a Bull, but found himself turned into a small tortoise, instead, and is learning a lot about what vulnerability is, especially when his prophet gets into trouble.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Fooling about with paper and other thoughts

Well, cardstock.

Recently, I've been making cards. I like cards, even though I don't like the waste of the ways they are usually done. So I've found ways of doing them differently. I use the recycled paper cards from 10,000 Villages* or I use a card and put my note and signature on a separate piece of paper so that the card can be reused. Or I craft my own card - doing my best to not be a resource hog with my crafts. And most of my cards have an envelope or pocket in them somewhere to hold whatever note I want to put in, and then any note the recipient wants to put in afterwards. And so on and so forth

To one person who seemed to really like some of the imagery in my writing, I gave a bit of my poetry. My latest thing is pop ups and moving bits. I took some cardstock and created a really cool Art Deco thing as a practice piece, and I kind of think it's nifty.

Anyway, I've been making cards and I think it's a good thing. It's a way to reach out, to make a pretty thing in this world with so much ugly (some of my stuff is even made with stuff that would otherwise go to more ugly.) Or maybe I do it because the scoring tool feels so good, just sitting there in my hand, solid and smooth, shaped both for its purpose and for my hand. And it's something to do with my hands that I can finish before my muscles start protesting.

Did you know that Matisse turned to papercutting as he grew older? I've seen some of what he did and was astounded.

And of course, aside from the joy of creating, there is also the happiness of sending a message to another person in this world, and some of hearing back about it. Of knowing that one friend enjoyed the fish and the boat, that my husband's grandmother took so much joy in the butterfly I made for her that it sits out on the shelf right in the entry to her home. There is the joy of giving, of sharing, of knowing that the more I give of the skill of my hands, the more skill those hands have. That's a pretty incredible thing, actually.

There's the joy of being uncertain. I have drawn and painted before, folded origami and done other arts, but these cards are my first attempts at making "pop-up" structures in my cards. Even if it's not perfect, it's better than I've ever done before, and that's fun, too. Plus, it's colorful. Tonight, I made a red pop-up flower and drew similar flowers all around it. I made a peace crane that I'm thinking of sending out into the world, and I don't know to whom yet.

Any suggestions as to where this beautiful white paper crane (with little flecks of silver and gold - I used my Washi paper for this one.) should go? One thought I've had is to give it to a friend who does this geo-cache thing and have her leave it in one. I've also considered sending it to various politicians. Any other ideas?

* http://www.tenthousandvillages.org

Thursday, June 08, 2006

To make my last post more clear

I don't approve of what he did with his life, but I also am angered that anyone's death sparks the kind of self-congratulatory celebration I heard in the news this morning.

There is a story:

After Moses led the Children of Israel across the sea, Miriam led the women in singing and dancing. Now the angels were so caught up in all the excitement, that they joined in, singing loud songs of praise, but God replied, My children are dying and you sing?

If it was wrong to rejoice in the death of the Egyptian soldiers who were set upon genocide and enslavement, I cannot imagine that it is good to rejoice in anyone's death. For the same reason, at the Seder, the meal celebrating the freedom from slavery in Egypt, one of the cups of wine has 10 drops of wine removed, one drop for every plague, and the participants are encouraged to think of the havoc these wreaked for the Egyptians.

Justice and death

So now we've "delivered justice". So says Mr. Bush, and of course, if it's not obvious, we will repeat the word "terrorist" a half dozen times to convince you. What we will assuridly not do is mention the others who were killed, except maybe Mr. Zarqawi's "spiritual advisor", except to call them "associates". Well, then, they had it coming, didn't they?

And we will be grateful that this happened at a good time to distract everyone from those Marines, who really are just bad apples, so we can punish them in secret. And, of course, not only will it serve to continue to distract folks from the fact that they're being spied on, it will serve as yet another subject on which everyone must agree. We can be a little less afraid, now that he's gone, only not really, because our base state must be fear. If we're not afraid, of Terrorists, of being told we're Not Patriotic, of THEM, we might start demanding answers, and of course, that would only help the Enemy.

Except that whoever comes next, and sadly, someone almost certainly will, will now have a martyr to swear by and rally to. You would think that a man who claims to follow a 2000-year-old martyr would understand this.

We didn't bring justice to Iraq, and I fear noone will for a very long time. We brought more deaths. Death doesn't reconcile and it doesn't repent. It just is. It comes to every last one of us, some sooner, some later. Sometimes it's peaceful, and other times it's filled with pain. And none of that has to do with the goodness of the person involved. Infants die of disease, malnutrition, and even abuse. Murderers die in their beds surrounded by grandchildren. Sometimes the wicked flourish as the bay tree and the just man is persecuted. Sometimes the wicked are wicked because they were kept in a pressure cooker until they exploded.

And sometimes the just man is someone who sits down with the wickedness he has done and repents. The rabbis teach that the gateways of repentence and prayer are always open. The Christians teach that Paul was walking to Damascus when he was struck by the wrong he had done. In our own lifetime, some of the strongest attempts to bring Israelis and Palestinians to peace were attempted by "ex-terrorists" on both sides. We've lost the opportunity for anyone there to repent. We've lost the opportunity to show in the sunlight why this person was wrong in what he did. We've lost the opportunity to show the world that justice is not death.

Only, maybe, if we repent, we can find that opportunity again.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

A not so foolish letter

Dear Senator (X):

I am writing you to let you know my opposition to S. J. Res. 1 (Marriage Protection Amendment). This is a disgusting attempt to divert attention from the immoral and poisonous policies that have already been perpetrated by this government. To further encourage immorality by denying the human right of marriage to a segment of our population is only a further example of the perversion of religious sentiment purveyed by the current administration. As a person of deep faith in the God who calls us to the paths of life and renewal, I am appalled.

The founders of this country hoped to create a shining example for the rest of the world where citizens would be free to associate, speak, and worship in peace. This Amendment is clearly an attempt to undermine those lofty principles and ought to be rejected as unworthy of inclusion in our Constitution.


The Fool

Monday, June 05, 2006

A wonderful joke that says so much

A little boy turned to his mother one morning and said, "I want to be a preacher when I grow up!"

His mom asked him how he'd decided that.

"Well, I've got to go to church on Sunday anyway, and it'll be more fun to stand and shout than to sit and listen."

Sunday, June 04, 2006

I do simple. I don't do boring.

I said the above in a recent email and the person who received it said I should definitely blog about it. Since some of what I did today really exemplifies that difference for me, here goes.

I said it in reference to sewing a dress from a huge, loud madras plaid - purple, pink, greeny yellow, white, teal, and a teensy bit of black, all together. And I can make a long dress from about 3 yards of it. I know because I have. And now I'm working on a second one for someone else. They are not boring dresses - they are bright with the colors of the flowers, and they are not stuck in the question of what's fashionable - I'm using the methods of cutting used in the middle ages to ensure that not much cloth was wasted. After all, to get that cloth, you had to do every bit of the labor by hand - shearing, washing, dyeing, combing or carding, spinning, weaving, cutting, sewing. A couple extra seams takes a lot less time than the rest of the steps that went before, so garments were meant to use the fabric very efficiently. Cloth-wasting cuts are the product of mechanizing cloth production.

My clothes are plainly cut but they're full of color - blue, green, plaid, and pink - bright pink at that. And I smile, a lot. I've been depressed. I've been so far down in that pit I thought I'd never see the light of day again, and now I'm in the blessed sunlight and I want to stay here. And that means joy - it doesn't mean allowing myself to slip into the blahs again when something so simple as color gives me so much joy. It means noticing when the honeysuckle begins to bloom. I spent a week last month surrounded by the smell of honeysuckle. I even gave myself my yearly treat of two drops of honeysuckle honey from the woods near my apartment.

It meant that yesterday, I attended the Adelphi Friends Meeting annual strawberry festival and bought a flat of strawberries to eat fresh and to put up. Today there's a pot of strawberries and sugar bubbling away on my stove, and for the rest of the year, I will be able to taste the joy of real strawberries. And tonight, when we send out for Chinese food (Dear reader, don't you think cooking down a whole flat of strawberries is enough cooking for anyone in a day?) there will be a dessert of strawberries.

My only disappointment at the strawberry festival was that I was one person too late to get mac and cheese and had to settle for veggie dogs for lunch (I'd pout, but instead I've set tomorrow's dinner to be mac and cheese.) And I had enough energy to make it to the folk festival for a brief time - I got to listen to the music, admire the handicrafts, and talk to the woman who runs a glass studio. Oh, so cool.

(I had a brief run-in with a woman who was rather rude about the county that I live in, but brushed it off, and headed for dinner.) In short, I remind myself that being happy is part of the shape of my life, too, and I need to take care of that.

A tale of two sandwiches.

(I'll post about the strawberry festival and the folk festival and all the stuff I have planned for today later. I felt inspired to post instead about one of my favorite stories as a kid...)

This is a family story, in that it happened to my grandmother and my great aunt.

Now, my grandmother was not from a wealthy family, and she carried to school every day a lunch bucket containing a wrapped biscuit spread with bacon grease, and that was her lunch. My aunt, however, was from a better off family (it was this aunt who later set up a date between her friend and her brother.) and was able to bring to school a sandwich made from store-bought things, like white bread and bologna.

Now, it happened one day that the two girls were sitting together at lunch and my grandmother looked over at that sandwich and wondered what it would taste like, what it would be like to have a whole piece of meat to her sandwich and to have all that soft, pretty bread. At the same time, my aunt was looking over at my grandmother's sandwich, wondering if that biscuit wouldn't be more filling and tasty than a white-bread sandwich, so she said, "Now, if you like, we could trade sandwiches, you and I, and I'd eat your sandwich and you'd eat mine."

Well, my grandmother, she got to thinking that this girl was trying to show charity to the poor girl, and she'd been raised that they didn't need charity, so she said, "Well now, thank you, but I've got a perfectly good sandwich, and I believe I'll eat it." And my aunt was taken back a little and got to thinking my grandmother was a bit stuck-up. Luckily, it wasn't the end of the world, and they later made up, and many years later, after they were sisters, my grandmother mentioned the incident and my aunt told her she'd also remembered it, and they were able to clear up all the confusion between them.

And well, I heard that story a lot as a kid, along with other stories of my family both as children and as adults. And of course, lots of parables and suchlike to let me know when I was going about the wrong way of doing things. And just a bit ago, I was in a discussion about gifts and how much easier it is to see the good in what someone else has than it is to see the good in what you have, yourself. And I got to thinking about those sandwiches.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Some days, it's hard to be a fool

Today had a pretty rough spot that I'm not sure I'm ready to blog about.

And I couldn't stop thinking about the recent allegations out of Iraq. As my husband and I sat in our favorite coffee place, I found myself asking my husband if he could imagine being someone who loved these soldiers, not as unknowns, but as people he'd loved for a long time, husbands, brothers, friends, cousins, sons, maybe fathers. Ah, that hurt.

You see, my father is a soldier. He's been there before and he's going again. Now, he's not combat personnel, but this war has fronts everywhere. When he went the first time, I watched him go out for months ahead of time, practicing shooting a pistol at a target, preparing in case he had to kill. I found myself praying not only that he wouldn't be hurt or killed, but also that he wouldn't have to fire that gun the entire time he went. So far as I know, he didn't. But there are so many others there, soldiers who have been traumatized over and over again, body and soul. Soldiers who have had their humanity so broken by the machine of war that they can do awful things to fellow people.

It's not that I'm not upset for the people of Iraq. I am. But I'm also worried about the soldiers we're destroying with this war. I'm worried about their families. I know personally of one divorce already by a spouse who could no longer continue to live with the person who had come back from the war. There are undoubtedly hundreds if not thousands more. I worry about the children, especially of the soldiers who have been publicly identified as possibly having committed murder. The playground is not known for its grasp of concepts like innocent until proven guilty.

And I worry about these soldiers should the allegations be proven true. Already, there have been statements about what will happen to them. They will receive harsher punishment than quieter crimes, to serve as an example. And the madness from knowing what they have done will be added to by the treatment they will receive behind bars.

And now, the announcement comes that all soldiers will receive ethics training - a slideshow of moral choices. Let's see - a slideshow versus months of practice to kill. And orders to kill. And being under fire, witnessing horrors day after day, with not a scrap of sympathy or help, returned again and again to the same task.

Oh, yes, I support our troops. I've sent food, letters, DVDs, art supplies, origami, love, prayers, and my breaking heart with them.