Just Plain Foolish

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

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Fool and a Very Grumpy Week

Sorry about the long delay in posting. I think I've finally been feeling the exhaustion of the last year, and while I kept up on my email, I just couldn't find anything to post. I felt empty of words to put here.

Part of it was my camping trip going poof at the last minute due to a summer cold. Why do they always come at the worst possible time? Part of it was anger and frustration over the backroom treatment of Kate's exclusion from a support webring over fears about her sexuality. Part of it is that I have spent part of the last week preparing for a visit from the in-laws and then going to various restaurants and an art exhibit with them, and that can be tiring all by itself. And then...

Well, Saturday night, my father-in-law said some things that made me very angry. It wasn't deliberately said to anger me, but had that effect, nevertheless. Is it too much to ask that someone who *knows* that I'm from a rural background not use "hick", "bumpkin", and similar insults to characterize most of the people in this country? (Never mind that he's from the same country - he's from the city, which apparantly gives him an automatic 100 point boost to his IQ, right?) I found myself doing my best to tune him out, despite the fact that he was sitting directly in front of me. At one point, I even succeeded in doing so - a gorgeous mallard swam by on the river just outside the restaurant window. I know it's rude to tune someone out, but I couldn't think of a polite thing I could do. If I'd actually had to endure much more of the lecture he was giving on American politics, I'd have likely started a family feud.

And of course, it didn't help that he went on about the mess his generation would be leaving for mine. Excuse me? You're not dead yet. If you've made a mess and you know it, why aren't you doing your best to fix it? Why is my husband the only one at the table pulling out a guide to sustainable fish populations? (To add further frustration to the evening, the fish on the menu were not from sustainable populations and there was no vegetarian option, which I would have really appreciated.) Why are we and a cousin the only ones appalled by the fact that the restaurant only serves bottled water from Norway! and doesn't even bother to recycle the bottles? If you (the restaurant) desperately need bottled water to serve, I could point out that we're very close to a spring that produces absolutely wonderful water a mere 2-hour drive away, cutting your carbon cost tremendously.



Saturday, July 21, 2007

A busy day

Went to the Smithsonian today and took in the Portuguese exhibit at the Freer and Sackler, and the National Museum of African Art (One of the neat things about the Smithsonian is that these three museums all connect underground, so you can start wandering in one of them and come up to the outside again in another. Technically, there wasn't any of the exhibit in the Freer, but that's where we came in, and they're always mentioned together anyway...)

The Freer and Sackler have long been favorite haunts of mine - they tend to be quieter than the Air and Space Museum, for instance, or even the main galleries of the Natural History Museum in summer. And space is divided in interesting ways, and there are plenty of nicely padded benches for sitting and contemplating on (or for resting feet that have carried you through a maze of marble hallways and stairs). And best of all, if you make it all the way down to the bottom of the Sackler, there is the pottery room. The pottery room has a lovely, quiet fountain in it, and a few, exquisite pieces of modern pottery.

Hushed footfalls pause
Listen to silent whispers
Feel a painted breeze

And, of course, once you are out of the galleries, there are truly beautiful gardens, walkways, and decorative pools to enjoy, behind the castle. Flowers everywhere, and benches scattered to catch the shades of different times of day. Marble walks give way to brick, and clever gardeners have sculpted a fantasia from hedge.

Under an arched hedge,
Afternoon shadows tiptoe
Toward bright water.

The National Mall is growing dry and dusty from the heat, and from the millions of visitors who stroll across the grass, but even here, the trees spread shade, and there are vendors selling ices. And if you know where to go, there are sunken sculpture gardens with some shade, and quiet walkways. Plus, of course, the tall marble porches of the museums seem to offer relief.

Robins flick dust,
Watching tourists come and go.
Maybe scraps will fall.

After all that walking, I was glad to catch a train back out of the city, and stop to pick up the last few items for tomorrow from the grocery.

Labels: , , , ,

Friday, July 20, 2007

I'm peeved.

Rae and I decided to have a "girls night out" camping trip, since both of us have been positively itching all summer to get our tents out and enjoy the outdoors. And at the last minute, realized we could both do it this weekend. Wah-hoo! So, I set about to look for a campground that would be suitably close to where we want to go, reasonably priced, and reachable by a Civic. (At least one of the campgrounds would have required a somewhat higher slung vehicle.)

And realized I was going to have to put one more requirement in: must not seek to inquire into my domestic arrangements. One campground put right up on its website that it would only rent its campsites to families consisting of a mom, a dad, and dependent children. Excuse me? I don't believe I can have understood you correctly. Are you implying that I could not go camping with my sister, my brother, my cousin, or my parents (now that I'm an adult)? And of course, friends never go camping together. Is this how far narrow minded bigotry has led you?

Right then. State parks do not inquire into my wish to go camping with a friend, but will simply allow me to drive right up to the ranger station, fork over my portraits of George Washington, and pitch my tent in the spot indicated by the ranger. They do not inquire into my relationships, my morals, or my definition of "family".

They will charge me a little extra if I try to shoehorn more than 6 people into an individual campsite, but otherwise do not inquire into my intended arrangements, other than to recommend that I put any unconsumed food into a bear canister and don't wear the clothing I cooked in to bed. I think I can manage that.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Some stuff that's got me thinking.

Over at Quaker Pagan Reflections, Cat has a series going on her spiritual journey which has been deeply soul-searching and difficult. She tells it with compassion and strength, and does not flinch from revealing the dark parts of that journey, or from her struggles with her own actions. It is not easy reading, but it is, I think, more powerful testimony for that. Nor should I leave you with the impression that it is unremittingly dark. There are moments of joy and light that strongly illuminate the story as well. In reading it, I have been reminded of my own odd journey, trying to follow as I am led, though I do not think I could write in such detail about that journey as Cat has written about hers. It is well worth reading.

A different struggle is being illuminated by Kate over at When I Was a Boy. I knew Kate in person long before I began to share my writing online, and have long treasured her warmth and sheer exuberance. Recently, she has begun to work on discerning the call to service in her life. As part of that discernment, she joined a webring that was intended to deal specifically with women called to ministry, and became an active contributor and participant, while humbly asking for help with her own call. Unfortunately, that help turned to rejection over the issue of Kate's sexual identity, which she has openly stated on her blog.

The difficulties she has encountered sadden me, even as I acknowlege that it is simply a reflection in miniature of the larger discrimination our society inflicts against sexual minorities in general. I have commented before on my frustration that my heterosexual marriage is given preferential treatment over other relationships that may be just as appropriate for the people involved. *sigh*

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

One Deep Breath - More bodies of water

These are pretty much what came from my trip to Hawaii. I didn't take any photographs, but I did take away some pictures in my head.

Royal blue abyss
Elegant shark

Cold deep water holds
Ocean's sanctuary
Sunken volcano

Green turtle comes near
Colorful wetsuit looks good,
Maybe jellyfish?

Black volcanic rock
Salt water eddies
Tidal pool treasures

Sunrise surfer
Riding the morning light
Tracing lace topped waves

Earthquake shaking
Gold sand into blue waters.

Catching deep sea waves,
Cold waters caress
Hot sun above.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Galaxy Zoo

Spent today mostly asleep, wincing at light and sound, or otherwise just being generally ill. Ugh. But I did get something interesting in my email (other than a lovely "get well" wish which was much appreciated.)


is a project that allows folks to classify galaxies after taking a short test to show that you can get it right more often than not. (A score of 8 out of 15 tries) You look at pictures (sometimes blurry, sometimes really very nice) and classify the image as either an eliptical or spiral galaxy, and if it's a spiral galaxy, what way it's turning. There are also options to say "Ooops - star or other thing that is not a galaxy" and "Oh, wow, galaxy merger!"

As the person who forwarded it to me pointed out, "Better than solitaire."

Labels: ,

Monday, July 16, 2007

One Deep Breath: bodies of water

I grew up near the Ohio, and always imagined that Jordan's mighty waters must stretch like that, or like the Mississippi, near my grandparents' house, bearing barge after barge, headed from the North down to New Orleans. My uncle used to tell me about riverboats, and the joy of listening to the calliopes, dreaming that one day he would be the musician on board.

Rolling brown waters
Mighty river, road, dream, home
Whispers lullabyes

One day, my husband who, had been there, told me that the Mighty Jordan was no bigger than an Appalachian waterway, and my imagination still wants to make those banks in the desert as rich as the ones back home, cool and inviting, lifegiving, shaping the rock and the living world around it.

Sensuous green hills.
Running water cuts a path
Through living limestone

Folks are discovering that even now, those waters can still sustain us: creating a draw for people needing to "get away from it all". Ironically, one of the tourist draws was the home of a Civil War hermit for a long time.

Old Man's Cave waterfalls
Tourists hike, canoe, drive
Near the damp hermitage.

Wet diamonds flash
As forest yields to sunlight
Paddling downstream.

And other things have had drawing power for as long as people have known they were there. People think of cold mountain waters from snowmelt, but sometimes, the water goes deep in the earth, warms up, and creates sanctuary even in the coldest parts of winter.

Little crawdad scoots
Between emerging bubbles
Winter warm spring crick.


Shining rainbow fish
Leap from wave to wave dancing
Near the island ferry

Rain has come and gone
Puddles steam on the asphalt
No relief today.

From my husband:

Silver between the buildings,
Green at the water's edge,
No end in sight.

More refreshing waters at One Deep Breath

Labels: ,

Thursday, July 12, 2007

To clear up a misconception from what I've written in the past couple days:

"Shipwrecked in Carolina" did not write the piece of bilge that I responded to, nor does he agree with it. I am grateful to have it brought to my attention, since looking elsewhere on the net, it appears to be making the rounds of email. Whatever anonymous person wrote it, it was not the author of "Shipwrecked in Carolina" who frequently posts items to think about. I would further encourage folks to check out this post which has more recently gone up on that site.

And on to today's writing.

Finally, I got a day off - slept in and decided to watch a nice, brainless movie with a friend, so we caught the matinee showing of the latest "Harry Potter" movie, which I thought was one of those cases where the movie really is better. The sky was incredible today - that deep cornflower summer blue, fading at the horizon to palest baby blue. The clouds were giant cotton candy affairs, as though an artist had painted a fantasia across the heavens - it almost looked too perfect to be true.

So why, you ask, was I in a movie theater for 2 full hours of this glorious day? Anyone who had been through a DC summer could tell you: the air was heavy, wet, hot, and grimy. It wrapped itself around me the minute I stepped outside, invading even the shade.

And yet, after the movie, I found myself putting up mint syrup. Because mint only stores well processed - dried or turned into syrup. 4 cups of sugar, 2.5 cups of water - bring to a boil together and add 1 cup vinegar (we used cheap balsamic vinegar) now, let those simmer over a low flame for 1/2 an hour, then add a 1 gallon zippie bag of loosely packed mint that you pulled out to keep it from invading the rest of the world, as mint so often likes to do. Stir down until the mint is thoroughly mixed into the liquid, then put the lid on and leave it to blend well. We did a double batch of chocolate mint, and a batch and a half of the curly mint. And we'll be doing the bottling soon. Whew!

As I've mentioned before, I think it's good for people to process some of their own food, because not only does this mean that you can have some tastes out of season, but also you understand your food better. Plus, well, *you're* the authority on the quality of food you want. One of my favorite treats is frozen strawberries in August, a treat I can have because I put them up in early June. No tasteless waterbags, either, but little scarlet bundles of sheer strawberry-ness. Mmmm. And once you get over the bit about stirring boiling syrup in hot muggy weather, it's fun, too.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Religion and the military

One other thing bothered me about the laundry list of calumny that I responded to yesterday. It contrasted a hypothetical "you" clutching a cell phone, with an equally hypothetical "he" clutching the cross next to his dog tags. Back on the winter solstice, I wrote:

I hate this feeling that the war sits on my shoulders in a way that it doesn't sit on most of our lawmakers' shoulders. I wonder in what world of delusion some of them are sitting to imagine we can take the additional burden of an expanded presence. I wonder how many will sit this season, half hearing Christmas carols and sermons invoking peace on Earth and goodwill to man, and keep them in a completely separate compartment from the war that is being waged in our names, and in the name of the "Prince of Peace". And do not mistake: it is. I think the speech that made me the most angry at my father's homecoming was the minister who blessed the returning troops, making it very clear that Jesus was blessing their fight against the Foe. My mom, who is Christian, said afterwards that she had been very uncomfortable herself and couldn't imagine what it had been like for my husband and myself. I wondered what it must have been like for the young woman in hijab, holding her young child (obviously born during the early part of the deployment) in her lap.

Not every soldier is Christian. Some are Jews, athiests, agnostics, Pagans, Hindus, Buddhists, and yes, Muslims. And even some of those who are Christian do not buy the propaganda. My dad also expressed some discomfort with the sermon preached that day.

I've been there for swearing in ceremonies. I remember my dad swearing in a chaplain (who, yes, was Christian). Both stood there, in a bare parlor, standing to attention, right hands upraised, reciting the oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States from all enemies, foreign and domestic. There was no Bible involved, though there certainly were several available. This, you see, was not about religious study. It was about promising to serve. And while his decision to do that was informed by his faith, the chaplain would have been the first to tell you that others serve, too.

So stop insulting and marginalizing the service members who don't think or believe the way you do. It is unworthy of the sacrifice they make in agreeing to serve at the will of the nation. And realize that one can criticize those who thwart the will of the nation and abuse our soldiers, because that is the way we can serve them.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Some observations

Over at Shipwrecked in South Carolina, there was a series of observations. I made some observations of my own, which I think need to be made in response.

I can't speak for anyone else. I can only speak for me.

I stayed up many nights, praying for my dad's safety, praying that he wouldn't have to use the gun I saw him practicing with. I woke up in the middle of the night, knowing something was wrong, but with no chance of finding out what. I crocheted on a blanket for him through sleepless nights until my fingers were numb.

I wake up in the morning and thank God that my dad is here again, in body at least. I write to my representatives, knowing that my parents taught me the responsibility of citizens to be part of the governance of this country.

I go to work with a splitting headache because my leave was exhausted 2 months ago, with constant travel to visit with my mother who has been doing her work plus keeping my dad's business going while he was deployed.

I don't wear a t-shirt, unless I found it secondhand because I have no idea under what conditions that shirt was made - what child was kept at work 18 hours to make it. Besides, my tax refund went to care packages, so I'm not going to spend money on a shirt I can only wear 2 days a week.

I, like most Americans, do not have a maid, nor am I likely to get one any day soon. After I get home, I'll have to find the energy to pick up the living room, make dinner, wash my hair, and suck up and soldier on.

My cell phone is a treasured connection, full of possibility. Perhaps today, I'll hear from him, or maybe he'll answer an email.

I hear that soldiers are being "extended" and rage at the radio until my husband turns it off.

I worry when a friend writes that his ship will be leaving soon, and they expect to be sent later in the year to the sandbox.

I am angry because my dad's loyalty and service are being abused.

I criticize my government when the wounded are housed with rats and other vermin after they've come home. I criticize my government when my dad is given the wrong body armor. I criticize my government when billions disappear with no accounting while soldiers are sent unsafe equipment. Damned right, I criticize my government.

I criticize my government when it ignores the commission it created and puts even more lives at risk. I criticize my government because my dad put his life on the line for me not to live in a tyranny, and because there is more than one way to live bravely. My dad helped to teach me that words tend to solve more than fists.

I criticize my government when I learn that they are employing torture. Guilty? Innocent? The waterboard doesn't know the difference.

I do not and will not joke about the war. I said goodbye to my father, the taste of bile still in my mouth, because there was no time to brush my teeth after I vomited from worry.

I hear his voice from half the world away, and can't feel at peace, even in a bustling farmer's market - right between jars of apple butter and handsewn aprons.

Despite my heartbreak, I smile bravely, knowing he takes strength from his family.

I am on call. No matter what I am doing, it stops if the cell phone rings. And I smile, because he can hear the difference.

I know the world is a better place because of him. I know that when he is here, he treats people, often people who have little money. I have known him to treat people for nothing. I pray that my government will leave enough of him to allow him to continue to improve the world.

And feel free to link, email, or whatever. I don't want the lies to stand unanswered.

Labels: , , , , ,

Banjo progress

Learning the banjo comes with a lot of lessons that have absolutely nothing to do with where to put your left thumb to give the ring finger leverage on the strings, or how precisely to pick or strum with the right. Nor even how to grin properly while picking. One of the nifty neat-o things you learn is *who else* plays the banjo. Steve Martin plays the banjo - yes, the comedian. And he plays it well, too.

One of Steve Martin's sayings about the banjo is that it's impossible to be unhappy while the banjo is playing, which is one of the other things you learn. Joking aside, people like to listen to the banjo - it has that lovely light sparking sound. (Speaking of which, there's more music over at Quiet Paths. Woot!) Only a few months into my journey with the banjo, I've seen for myself that this is true. Despite my limited ability and songlist (Wild Thing, Skip to My Lou, and about half of Polly Wolly Doodle, at this point - and rapidly moving to all of Polly Wolly Doodle. Woot! Rise Up Singing, here I come!), my husband seems to like listening to me play the banjo.

When I went to my dad's welcome home party, someone found out I had a banjo, and I had to haul it out to play. Someone was actually tapping their foot and singing along as I played Skip to My Lou. I certainly didn't expect that anyone would want to do that when all I could play was 2 songs with any degree of comfort! That's another thing you learn: if someone finds out you have a banjo, they will frequently ask to hear you actually play. Even if you warn them that you don't play well, and are just learning. Let me tell you something: when I was learning to play the flute, mentioning this tended not to garner requests for performance. ("Oh, dear. Look at the time! So sorry - I need to... iron my socks... yeah, that's the ticket!" To be fair to the flute, though, when others would mention learning brass instruments, people would suddenly remember trips they needed to take to the next state.)

And another thing: progress may go in fits and starts, but the skills do transfer over, even if it doesn't immediately show. It took me *months* to learn Skip to My Lou. Polly Wolly Doodle, on the other hand, seems to be just flowing into my fingers after a short period of struggle. Wha? Where did that smooth transition come from? I know it wasn't there the last time I practiced, and now, I can hear a *song* when I play. It's going to be time for that songbook soon now, I think.

Labels: ,

Monday, July 09, 2007

Supporting the troops?

Over the weekend, I dropped off a couple of massive care packages for the troops. Snacks, books, DVDs, silly putty, puzzles, simple shelf stable meals - gathered with good friends. (Thanks, Rae and Mr. Rae, for going shopping with, for packing, for *being there*.) As I pulled out of the Post Office parking lot*, I saw an enormous SUV with the back just covered in those "patriotic" magnets - yellow ones, and red white and blue ones. And I felt frustrated.
*(No, I wasn't going to walk them over. Even with Priority Mail, $75 is a lot of postage...)

I wanted very much to walk up to the driver of said vehicle and ask what form (other than magnets) their support had taken. I wanted to be able to somehow send more. I wanted (and want) this mess to be over. Really over, not just whitewashed and declared over. Not "Mission Accomplished". I want my dad to go with his interpreter to the interpreter's family's farm, sit on the porch, and chat with the folks there about what kinds of crops grow well in Iraq, and what it was like to grow up on a farm in America. I want the grass to grow over the scars on the land so that eventually, it will fill in - like the old Civil War fortifications one still sometimes sees near my home.

Every time I hear the "We broke it so we have to stay until we fix it" argument, I want to answer - you don't fix having broken most of the plates in the cabinet by breaking the rest so everything matches. We're not working on fixing, we're still working on breaking. Where are the diplomats working on solutions with real possibilities? Where is the accountability for contractors? Where are the sewers?

Where are we?

One Deep Breath: our feathered friends

After wild summer storms
Birds return, wondering:
Where did that ole pecan tree go?

Intrepid seagulls
Ride cool ocean winds.
Grey whispers.

Songbirds chatter.
Trees shake in the bustle
Until hawks fly near.

I rage like high waves
Until soft doves arrive
Bearing olives

Snowy white owl
Solemnly watches
Waiting for a mouse.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

For a parted friend

Through shade and light,
You've sailed beyond the sky,
Beyond our thin voices calling,
Beyond our short arms' reach.

We lift up our prayers to Heaven
Hoping you can catch the whispered words,
Catch the sadness of our hearts,
Catch our souls' wanting.

We pour sweet mead to Earth
Reminding ourselves to taste the honey,
Taste the sunshine of the daylight world,
Taste the tear salted sweet memories of you.


Aunt Joyce

Florida wet air
Hanging hot and languid
Over the river.

Bored children fuss
Wishing the pool had water
Despite gathered clouds

Aunt Joyce sweeps dullness
Up the banana tree,
Out the front door.

Aunt Joyce tells stories.
Sneaky gator in the pool,
Wishes he could leave.

How did he get out?
Curious children demand.
Eyes big, breath held.

Big ole gator jaw
Bit the swimming pool ladder
And flip! Out he came!

Aunt Joyce has magic
To make a little gator
Live in fantasy.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, July 02, 2007

Back from the mountains

Yesterday, after visiting with family, my husband and I headed home through the mountains. I'm pretty tired after all that driving, and of course doing all the work for the party.

It was a relief to finally see my dad, and to see him doing well. It was also lovely to go from Dad's party to my cousin's surprise birthday party. And then to sack out on the couch and fall asleep watching "The 7 Faces of Dr. Lao" with the immediate family. We fed everyone who came, and the food that didn't get served will be going to the local shelter.

All in all, a busy but lovely weekend.

Labels: ,

One Deep Breath: Shadow and Light

Night on the mountain
I turn my face to the stars
Moonlight washes down

Emerging from shadow,
Broad trees drink the noonday sun,
Creating sanctuary.

Flame haired girl laughs,
Running in the summer sun,
Playing tag with shade.

Cool me in starlight
Summer breezes fan my face
Standing in night's shadow.

Swimming in the lake,
Rippled water, dappled shade
Watching tired cows drink.

Labels: , ,