Just Plain Foolish

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

Saturday, March 31, 2007

More progress

The rhythm is sounding better still today, and the G chord is working well, but something about my fingering isn't quite right, so the C and D sound muffled unless I sit there and work at my fingering, which means that the rhythm is gone. *sigh* So I've been picking up the banjo, trying to get it until I get frustrated, then putting it down and walking away for a bit. Then trying again.

But in the arts I'm more familiar with - well, I have a temporary banjo strap in place. (Once the current project is off my loom, I intend to warp it with a threaded in crow's foot/triangle pattern that will make a nice wide and strong strap.) What's currently on is an old inkle strap that I used to use as a belt. And I modified the bag at the back of Pete Seeger's banjo book to work a little better for me and sewed one up out of some really ugly blue paisley cotton upholstery fabric I once found at a yard sale. All I need to finish it is a long zipper. (The longest one in my sewing basket was a mere 22 inches and fell about 6 inches short.)

And then I heard about the milk chocolate Jesus from Don over at Country Contemplative. An artist created a sculpture of Jesus on the cross from 200 pounds of milk chocolate. The sculpture portrays him naked and anatomically correct. Predictably, some folks pitched a fit, at least one calling it "one of the worst assaults on Christian sensibilities ever" and the show was cancelled. Interestingly, when I visited the BBC site, one of the most viewed stories there concerned the suffering of lepers in India. I would have thought that that would be more engaging than a chocolate sculpture, especially given that there are already chocolate crosses for Easter, and a Jesus pan that looks like you'd maybe get a month's use out of it before the nonstick coating began to flake off. Perhaps they never saw the kick balls with crosses on them. Or the cross shaped suckers available for $4.95 a dozen. (Not to mention the kind with swirls or the ones with popping candy you can dip the cross into.) Oh, and I did find a chocolate crucifix, by the way, along with chocolate images of Jesus and Mary. And, oddly enough, a chocolate Torah. Wha?

Or maybe the problem is the nudity. Please. The Romans were hardly known for their touchy-feely, bleeding heart lovingkindness toward convicts. I mean, they'd already sentenced him to die by torture, a little exposure wasn't going to bother them even a tiny bit, especially since the local culture had far stricter modesty taboos, which would only make the punishment that much worse. And I can't imagine that this is the first such depiction, though probably the first in 200 pounds of milk chocolate. Actually, there are tons of pictures of naked baby jesus from the Renaissance. And frankly folks, I just don't see a little nudity as worse than genocide in Darfur, war in Iraq, or even than pollution in the Chesapeake. For pity's sake, can we take that outrage and channel it toward making this world a little better?

So I found myself proposing crucifixion scenes:

Jesus dressed in an orange jumpsuit with bandaged eyes. The soldiers below playing electronic poker. The whole thing surrounded by loose loops of barbed wire.

Jesus dressed in battle fatigues, possibly with one leg missing.

Jesus dressed in a bag over his head, with electrodes attached to the sites of the 5 wounds. I’d make this one interactive, with a button below it. Possibly the button would start a sound recording with the “Eli, Eli…” said not in Aramaic, but in English and Arabic.

No, they’re not pretty, and no, they’re not traditional. They’re not meant to be. I’d be very tempted to put an image of a hammer and nails on the gallery handout, were I to do this as a show.

For the record, this isn’t even close to the type of art I make, but if I were going to do a crucifixion piece, this is how I’d do it. Who are we crucifying today?

Labels: , , , ,

Friday, March 30, 2007

A lovely evening

Watching the sunset from our balcony and practicing the banjo. Well, my chords still don't sound right to me, but I've finally got the rhythm of strumming. Way cool.

And brie with dinner. Mmmm.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Letters from home

It is hard sometimes to listen openly to my father. I love him deeply and wish very much that he could be here rather than deployed. And yet, that love requires of me that I actually listen to him, to his perspective, to try to understand even if I can't agree. Especially difficult have been the 10 war diary entries he's sent home to the hometown newspaper.

I've been avoiding news scrupulously. At one point in the last deployment, I was driving home when I heard the news over the radio that some National Guardsmen had been killed from our home state, and had to pull over to get control of myself before I could continue my trip. Since most radio stations put the news right next to the weather and traffic, I've discovered that a peek out the window can serve as my weather forecast, and I can take my chances on traffic if need be.

And so, I had these diary entries, and I fully admit it: I've been afraid to read them. They've sat on my computer, waiting for me to gather courage to read them. I've written back and forth with other family members, spoken passionately, and poured my heartache out here now and again, but I would avoid looking at those files. And now, I'm trying and it's very hard. There are parts that have me wanting to cry. There are parts where I want to talk back to the words, or maybe to my dad, asking why.

And there's one other thing in there that is very hard. My dad is well aware of my opposition to this war, and of my belief that violence begets violence. When I write to him, I neither make impassioned cases for my beliefs nor do I disguise them. And yet, now that I'm beginning to read his entries, I've come across his reference to a question I asked, trying to understand when I was younger. I asked him how, as a doctor, he could join the military where people are trained to kill when he had pledged himself to save lives.

It was a hard question to ask, and apparantly, a hard one to be asked. He addresses it with words nearly identical to some of mine in a previous post, pointing out that there is more to being a soldier than death, though he does not go on to point out that there is more to a soldier than being a soldier. I've sent him a copy of that post, along with an apology.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Good morning.

Good morning, cherry trees, stretching awake from the winter,
Your pink and white lace flowers flirting with the spring wind.

Labels: , , ,

My banjo on my knee

One important thing I've learned: I need to stop by a hardware store and pick up a couple swivel clips, which I can then sew one of my handwoven straps to - it's easier to play the banjo when you're not having to think about holding it up quite so much. (And sewing up a gig bag looks like a project for soon. Much more compact and easier to cope with than a big cardboard box, plus I can sew in pockets for music and picks. I think I've found a use for the upholstery fabric in my fabric stash.)

Second important thing I've learned: strumming is not as easy as it looks. Seriously. I'm going to be practicing just strumming (with three easy chords) all week. GG CCC DD CCC. By the time I've got them down, I don't think anyone around me will ever want to hear "Wild Thing" ever again. So it's good that I've been promised "Oh, Suzannah" for next week, isn't it?

Thirdly, um, wow. I can tune a banjo. And produce a chord. Mostly.

Neat lessons. Now for a week and a half's worth of practice. GG CCC DD CCC...

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Spring and new adventures

Despite the fact that I've been sneezing and my eyes have been itching from the pollen, I love the spring days we've been having, rain and all. Actually, the rain is what keeps the pollen even reasonably bearable here in the Eastern swamp. The daffodils are up. There will soon be cherry blossoms all over the greater DC area, and the ground is turning green again. Today will be so warm that I'm not only not wearing my jacket, I've even pulled out one of my light summer shirts.

And tonight, I get to see if I've been practicing the right way, when I go to my banjo lesson. I'm way excited about the possibility of actually learning to play it, and apparantly, I'm not the only one. My brother in law last night asked me if I could possibly bring my new banjo to the Seder next week. I warned him that so far my only skills are tuning it and picking up and picking down. I can make sounds on it that make me happy, but nothing even remotely resembling a song. (I sometimes wonder if that perfectionism - I've only had a stringed instrument for a month, and only just arranged for lessons, and I want a song by next week?! comes from the high expectations that I learned as a gifted child. I learn so quickly, why isn't it instantly?)

And along with the high of spring - returning sunlight! warm weather! birds! there's the high of a new adventure (banjos!) and seeing so many of my projects coming to fruition - Dad's blanket is done, and the citrus blanket is progressing apace. The lace handkerchief is done, and my handmade socks are well on their way to being done. And the Afghan for Afghans is coming along as well. And once the citrus blanket and the Afghan are done, I've been going over quilt fabrics with my husband, considering a nine-patch variant for Quilts of Valor.

I feel like a seed that's been working slowly all winter, and only now am I seeing the sunlight. Now, I just have to learn "Red River Valley" on the banjo.

Monday, March 26, 2007

The quiet joy of creating

I had a lovely weekend. When I made Dad his blanket, he found information on blankets for soldiers who had been wounded and I promised to make at least one. A friend gave me some acrylic yarn that she had acquired for a special order (she's a fiber artist and someone commissioned one of her shawls but really wanted acrylic yarn.) in lime green, so I decided that I would be making the citrus blanket - lemon yellow and orange, perhaps to round out the citrus spectrum.

Alas, it was not to be - the yarn shop did not have orange in that type of acrylic, but did have yellow, and the perfect shade for pink grapefruit. Um. Well, while pink is heavily discouraged, this is hardly a little girly color, so I hope someone wants a citrus blanket with pink grapefruit. But the colors all look good together, and I'm working them in Aran stitches so that it's both decorative and thick with no holes. So I got it a little further along

And then, I took a break from the acrylic and the heavy thoughts that the citrus blanket, despite its cheery colors, inspires and turned to a happier task. I promised one of my coworkers a lace handkerchief for her wedding, so I've been doing sample pieces of lace - needle tatting and crochet. I have some idea how bobbin lace works, but I don't have a cushion or lace weights. Knitted lace isn't the look I want, and neither is Battenburg (which is so not my favorite kind of lace), and since I'm presuming she wants it this century, needle lace is out.

And I finished a crochet lace handkerchief this weekend. Woot! And it's beautiful, so beautiful. I can hardly wait to see it once it's been through a tea bath to turn it a lovely ivory color. And the tatting is coming along well, too, with little drop shapes in the corners. Plus I got in some banjo practice time. So although I didn't get out much this weekend, I feel I got stuff accomplished.

Friday, March 23, 2007

An odd moment

Over at Quiet Paths, there is a post about testimony, about listening, and especially about delivery which has begun a conversation. This post began as part of that conversation, but I found there was more to say.

As I walked into a federal building yesterday, I greeted the guard, who has come to recognize me, with a smile and a wave. We exchanged hellos and good days, but then the odd moment happened. I mentioned that it is a beautiful day, and suddenly, he said "And who created it? You should praise God for it."

Now, I do, and in fact had stopped for a moment to admire the Canada goose surveying the world from a high ledge on the building before entering. In that moment, I felt the deep quiet I associate with the Love of God, a feeling of deep communion, and my heart rejoiced in the spring and the goose and the clouds and even the first drop of rain on my nose. It rejoiced in my health to walk to the building and in every bit of the moment.

But the reminder bothered me, as though my silent communion were not good enough (good enough? for a guard at a federal facility who has no business at all evaluating my relationship to God?*) and I wondered how I would have felt in that moment had I been nontheist. I wondered how I would deal with it were I to frequently face that situation. Luckily, I do not.

* And how could it be "not good enough" when I more frequently encounter that communion in silence? When my most meaningful worship has frequently been either alone or with a very few fellow listeners to the silence? Not good enough for what? It was certainly a moment of rest and healing, after a stressful afternoon. (Occasionally, my work requires that I listen to recordings of emergency calls, and yesterday, I had a particularly difficult one to listen carefully to.)

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

A little bit of home

A few dry summer sausages, a hard cheese in wax, a harmonica, some mustard, some sandbox toys, a couple tins of wild Alaskan salmon, a small balsa plane, rye crispbread, a couple handfuls of candy, a few peace cranes, a magnetic dartboard with darts and a set of toy magnets, a can of tomato juice, a letter, some dry citrus stuff, a kettle, and a whole bunch of hopes and prayers, carefully packed in a cardboard box, neatly addressed and accompanied by a customs form giving the weight and estimated value of each item enclosed. (And no girl scout cookies. Apparantly, my dad's current position is awash in girl scout cookies.)

If I knew he had the means to cook it, I'd also send popcorn. If I could, I'd send a return ticket for everybody. Alas for high hopes.

And I think about the care packages I got in college, especially the one with the encouraging note from Dad that arrived just before finals. And about Alexander Solzhenitsyn's description in One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch of the arrival and unpacking of a care package in a gulag. And about the care packages in the Civil War, neatly packed in buckets and cloth bags that would sometimes take months to arrive. I think about the fact that every war has depended on soldiers having folks at home to send stuff - "Our Boys Need Sox!"

I think about the toy I saw him holding in our videocall - one I sent him in an earlier care package, and how much he says he plays with it. And I think ahead to his birthday, just a week away from mine, and so close to his date of return. Maybe I'll send some "cake" of some sort, and a packet of astronaut ice cream, with some birthday candles. Maybe by then, I'll be able to plunk out a happy birthday song on the banjo.

And I look forward to the day, currently off in the fog of the future "maybes", where he'll be back from deployment, back from "debriefing", back even from the tropical vacation Mom has planned for after that. And then, instead of carefully packing away a set of diversions and snacks, we can really share a meal and a conversation.

Saturday, March 17, 2007


The rest of town (especially the bars) may be celebrating St. Patrick's feast day but today is special to me in a very different way. From 7000 miles apart, my dad and I sang with eachother. Being 7000 miles apart, we didn't sing very well together, but we tried.

We were able to videoconference using the high speed connection at a local hotel and my mom's laptop with webcam. And I told Dad that I'd really like to be able, when I get better, to play my banjo with him playing his guitar. So we sang "Red River Valley" together - and yet 7000 miles apart.

From this valley they say you are going
I shall miss your bright eyes and sweet smile
For I know you are taking the sunshine
That has lightened my pathways awhile.

Come and sit by my side if you love me
Do not hasten to bid me adieu
But remember the Red River Valley
And the one who has loved you so true.

Given the fact that we were talking by satellite connection, I'm sure that each of us heard the other coming from the bottom of a pickle jar, but, green and grainy though the pictures were, we could see one another and talk, even if part of the conversation was by typing. And of course, the time lag meant that we weren't even close to at the same time. But I got to see my dad. I got to talk to my dad. He gave us the video tour of his quarters, where we saw the countdown calendar and the big wool blanket.

As this deployment drags on, it's a real blessing to be able to talk to Dad, to hang out with Mom, to talk about the much-hoped-for day of Dad's return. It was wierd to have a virtual meal with him - he was having an after-dinner snack of chips and a non-alcoholic beer, while we had the end of our lunch. At one point, we sort of offered our juice to the camera, as he offered his soda over. And therein lies the difficulty of cameras for crossing that 7,000 miles.

One of the strong taboos that military families must deal with is the taboo on "whining" which seems to include any and all reference to how much deployment sucks, how hard it is for the families to cope with someone gone, or to stay connected. "Suck it up and soldier" Well, no. I won't. To Hell with that idea. I don't even believe in Hell, but I'm willing for that concept to die a firey and painful demise. It's stupid. I will get through the worry of having my dad deployed in a dangerous situation, far from his family, as best I can, and if my talking about it makes other people uncomfortable, well, it's a big Internet out there, and I'm sure you can get some sports scores or something else to help you ignore the real costs of this war.

I've heard a military wife who was looking ahead to a year's deployment for her husband apologize for "whining" when she noted that it would be hard for her to have a social life since she would be a single parent for the length of his deployment. To Hell with that. No, its not whining, and it is important. It is yet another of the uncounted costs of this war. The blankets that I am making and that friends of mine have made will never be counted as part of the war cost and yet they are. Why are our soldiers not being properly outfitted in the first place? Why aren't they being given properly warm equipment in cold areas?

Why are military families who actually need support and to have the safety to express their needs being silenced? Where is the courage of those who send our loved ones to fight to hear our words? Where is their courage to face our tears? I'm not a whiner, but I will say this: anyone who supports this war but doesn't have the cojones to hear me cry is a coward.

Friday, March 16, 2007

One of those moments...

Last night, I walked into a local sandwich shop/teahouse with my husband and my mom. A waitress asked me how many in my party, and I automatically said 4. Four would be if my dad could come with us. I hate moments like that.

And this morning, I found the following in a friend's livejournal (reposted with her permission - no, I won't be doing this often, but the frustration in her post spoke to me.):

The average age of the military wife/girlfriend is 20 years old.

She isn't old enough to buy a beer, but is old enough to manage the entire household.

She probably never saw herself loving a man who was in the military, but she loves him regardless.

Her penmanship has improved over the last few months, due to excessive letter writing.

She cries alot, because she misses the man she swore to love. Her life isn't complete without him.

She looks very tired, because of her many sleepless nights either waiting for a call that never came or one that did and just because she heard his voice, she is too overjoyed to sleep.

As a wife, she is classified as a dependent, but she is completely independent.

She tends to her household, her kids, her school work, and her job, all without her husband.

She manages a smile, even though inside she's crying.

She understands that the man she loves has to go far away.

She understand that he can be taken from her in a moments notice.

She feels a great sense of pride and probably cries whenever she hears the National Anthem, sees a flag blowing in the breeze, or watches the news and hears about another death in Iraq, worrying that it might be him.

She goes weeks without a call or a letter, but she writes him whenever she gets a free moment.

She knows how to convert civilian time into military time.

She knows how to iron his clothes and how to get the creases just right.

Before he left she used to complain if she didn't see him for a day or two, but now she gets annoyed when she hears someone complaining about not seeing their boyfriends.

She may not have seen him for months but she remembers everything about him, every scar he has, the way he smells, the sound of him sleeping.

She has every picture of him and them out and in frames, she stares at them for hours on end and has read every letter he's written at least 40 times.

Even though her man is a half a world away, she manages to go on with her life, as he would want her to.

You may not know what she looks like, but as soon as you see her you'll know that her husband is a world away without even having to speak to her.

She's the one who's half frowning half smiling, she has at least one Support out Troops pin that she wears and one displayed on her car.

Half her wardrobe is based on his military branch.

She never knew that could love the color camouflage, green, tan, navy blue, red or black so much.

Next time you see her, thank her for what her and the man she loves is doing. She will greatly appreciate it and she will smile the rest of the day!


The pro-Bush posts in another journal got me thinking...People don't really understand the cost of this present administrations policy. The cost in lives doesn't mean anything to them, unless it is someone they personally know that dies...and then they also forget about the lives of the wives and children. We are faceless and swept under the rug. How many children are growing up without seeing their Fathers or Mothers for a year or more at a time? In the bed next to my husband, when he was in Walter Reed, recovering from his own injuries in Iraq, was a young man who had lost both of his arms. His twin sons were born the day he was injured. What do you say to a young man who will never hold his children? Never touch their faces, stoking the hair out of their eyes while they sleep? "It was worth it, because Bush says so, and after all, he was the lesser of two evils." I don't think so.

I restrained myself from responding in the other journal. But here is my response: Have you served? Are you a vet? Are you the wife, or the child of someone who has spent time in the sandbox? Have you gone to the funerals? Have you held someone while she cried, because she doesn't know where her husband is, and there was just a story on CNN about a helicopter shot down, or another IED going off and killing more soldiers? Do you know, personally, what the cost of the lies you support are? You don't? You aren't? THEN SHUT THE F*CK UP. You haven't EARNED the right to tell me to suck it up and deal with it.

*And from her comments: http://www.here-now.org/shows/2007/03/20070315_9.asp is an NPR story on sexual assault in the military.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Connected problems

It occurred to me as I read my entry from earlier today that I still had a little more to say about the Twike. Now, I drive a Civic hybrid, and I really like it. Even with 3 people in the car, I can manage about 50 mpg, a fraction over the EPA estimate. And this is without ideal terrain (low rolling hills, not mountains, but not flat, either.), ideal weather (DC was built on a swamp and we do experience that lovely Atlantic coastal weather.), or stupidly dangerous stunts. It's just careful driving- awareness of the terrain, my fellow drivers, the weather, and my surroundings at all times.

I like my car a lot. Even when I get tailgated by SUVs. And yet, it's not good enough. (Yes, I know, the Prius is slightly better and would let me have access to a real "stealth mode" instead of merely drifting the last few feet at a stop light under "Auto Stop", but a Prius is also out of my price range.) My car could still be more efficient, and I'm still not getting the benefit of exercise as I go. (Well, except for the happy wiggle when my mileage goes up. Okay, somebody somewhere has got to have a meeting: "Um, hi. I'm the Plain Fool and I'm obsessed with my mileage...")

I like the notion of adding in my energy to the system. Helping prolong the charge on the battery by pedaling is a total win-win situation. (Okay, so maybe more offices would have to add a small shower to the employee restroom, but this too is good.) The vehicle goes further, the driver gets exercise, that much less pollution is added to the air.

My main concerns about the Twike are safety - I could just see one tooling along and getting hit by an SUV. Especially since driving my Civic has made me more aware of how many people speed and speed a lot. The road my apartment is on is supposed to have a 25 mph speed limit, but people barrel along at 40. Yikes! A nearby major road is 35, but go 40 and watch other cars speed past at 60. Even if I didn't have any particular need to carry passengers, I think I'd be frightened to take a Twike out on my local roads except when they were at their most congested, since otherwise I'm not sure I'd be visible enough at the speeds I see.

And yet, it seems to me to be a good solution to conservation and to getting more exercise.


Dispelling Evil Spirits

Due to my current news fast, I am often one of the last people to find out about interesting happenings over the world. Mostly, that's not a problem. I can live without hearing about whatever the Hollywood stars are up to, or that yet another warning has been issued over global warming. Most of this isn't really news, anyway. It's olds. Somewhere in Hollywood, two very unhappy people are likely either getting married or divorced for the cameras, and I have to say that I don't actually care. They probably didn't read about my wedding, and I'm not all that keyed up about reading about theirs. (Cee, you're a different matter. I'm loving hearing about your celebrant and the arduous tasks of choosing music and registering for gifts, in large part because reading about yours is reminding me of mine, only this time I don't have the awful stress to go with it.)

And what I really want to hear about global warming is how folks are beginning to address it. Do an interview with someone who commutes by bike, or even by Twike. (The Twike is an electric/human powered hybrid, officially classified as a motorcycle in the US.) Put articles in the Home section on making existing houses more energy efficient and encouraging conservation. Cover alternative building techniques like strawbale and rammed earth. Do an article on teensy houses, or on the movement to design earth-friendly housing for disaster relief... Give me news, not olds.

And so, I was delighted to read a bit of news in the Quaker Colonel this morning. Apparantly, some Mayan priests have decided to conduct a religious ceremony to be rid of US President George W. Bush's influence on the site after he visits. My first thought was that this was an odd way to censure him, but later in the article that the Washington Post did, they mention that in other places, his visit has led to violent protest. I sincerely hope that this way of peacefully protesting Mr. Bush's violence will both avert violence and convey the deep disapproval of the locals. I have to admit that I'd begin to wonder what I was doing wrong if folks had to hold a banishment after I walked out!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Eight years ago...

It was storming - snowing, sleeting, raining, freezing raining, icing over, and generally getting pretty mucky outside. My father, with tears in his eyes, was putting matching bracelets around the wrists of my mother, my sister, and myself. My friend James was playing the harp nearby quietly. He'd arrived 3 hours early, to soothe our savage nerves with music before the ceremony. Robert was just getting in with the camera and film. Anni was arranging the flowers up front. My little cousins were bouncing with excitement in their new blue dresses, and my other cousin was making sure that they hadn't had a go at the cake.

And I was waiting, my hair carefully done, my nails exquisitely decorated, my mom's necklace around my neck, and my dad's gift around my wrist. Mom had carefully arranged her veil on my head, and all that was left before the ceremony were a few pictures. James must have seen how nervous I was looking, because he changed styles on the harp and turned it into the background for a comedy routine. The picture of me with the really big grin? Well, he'd probably just gotten finished telling a really awful joke.

As I walked up the aisle with my mom and dad, I burst into tears - loud sobs, actually, because I could hardly believe it was really happening and then all of a sudden, it was real and you were waiting there under the chuppa for me. We drank together from the cup that, like your grandparents, came to America to escape the Holocaust. We were wrapped in the same prayer shawl for the blessings, and walked around each other. And we each repeated the beautiful words from the Shir ha Shirim, the Song of Songs: "I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine." Our wedding contract was read aloud, and you smashed the cup that Mom insisted we get - the one made from glass made to shatter.

A few minutes of yichud, seclusion, where we'd hoped to break fast, but there was no food, so we laughed together, which was nearly as good.

And then, our reception - vegetarian foods that were kosher and hallal so that any who wanted to could come and eat and celebrate with us. And dance music from a ceileidgh band - English country dances, Scots reels, square dances, waltzes, and polkas. Even my favorite, Strip the Willow. (Hey, a good dance should leave you breathless and a little dizzy.)

And then, the hora, where this time I was the one in the chair, holding on for dear life as I was lifted high above the ground and danced about. I have never been so relieved to have my feet on the ground as after that. So you swept me off into another dance.

And finally, heading off into that storm and driving south, with all the mishaps that occurred as we headed for Virginia.

It's been a great eight years, Love. And I'm looking forward to our further adventures together.


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

I want mine

Thank you once again to Christine from Quiet Paths, who commented on my post that many of the folks arguing that Earthcare isn't important are coming from a perspective of "I want mine." (She does point out that in this context, it means money, but I thought about what is mine that I want.)

But part of it is that I do want mine. I want my hills and my blackberries. I want my strawberries (the little ones that taste like strawberries, not the bloated bags of water you can get in January, for pity's sake) and my place in the land. I want the sweet corn that God placed on the earth to feed us, and the songbirds sent to cheer us. I want crickets and the whippoorwill, and the wide Ohio.

I want to know that the Hawaii I visited last year is still there, and that the little nurse sharks I saw years ago on a trip to Mexico are still okay, swimming in their beautiful turquoise home. I want to see the stars and the moon, and to smell the honeysuckle. I want to have the cherry blossoms float down around me in the spring, and the sour cherry pie for dessert.

I want (and am getting) a fried green tomato sandwich for lunch with some lovely aged cheddar and a bit of canned fruit. I want to spend the occasional summer evening sitting on the porch and watching the sunset, possibly because it's too blamed hot to do anything else, and the occasional winter day, curled up in my quilt, reading a good book and sometimes sipping a bit of mulled cider. (Probably because I've declared it too cold to do anything else. These temperature points are flexible, but important.)

And though I note I want these things, they're quite share-able. I have no problems with other folks enjoying the same sights and sounds, and there are only so many blackberries even I can eat. (Not to say I haven't tried... Mom has a picture of me at about 1 year experimenting with the possibilities of absorbing blackberries through hair and skin. She said my hair was a purply pink for a week after.)

So, where's mine?

Monday, March 12, 2007

A lovely dinner

When I stopped at House of Musical Traditions for my banjo supplies, I planned the trip to coincide with the local farmer's market, and arranged to meet a friend to go grocery shopping with us. And tonight, I definitely reaped the benefit of that decision. Mmmm. Fried green tomatoes, with a mustard gravy, microgreens in a light viniagrette, crumby rich cheddar, creamy vermeer, and a hearty sourdough, all fresh and all local.

Oh, and just a bit of maple fudge for dessert.

Dancing in the shades of grey

Over at Quaker-Pagan Reflections, Cat talks a little about being Both-And, with regard to Quakerism and to Paganism. She mentions feeling inhibited from commenting on some posts, and also the feeling of being both a member and an outsider in two faiths. As I've posted before, Paganism has been an important part of my spiritual journey, as I suspect my current interest in Quaker community is becoming.

The memorial service I attended this weekend was Pagan and reminded me of how much I still love the small circle that nurtured me when I lived in Ohio. We have since moved elsewhere (Mid-Atlantic, Florida, the Western Desert states, the Northern Midwest) and yet when we see each other, that closeness is there again.

I have no idea what I count as, if anything. I've lost words to describe myself with, religiously. To describe myself as belonging to any one step on my journey currently feels false, as though I am denying the journey itself, the way the path has dinged me in different ways, the pain of changing communities and the joy of discovering new ones. I certainly can't call myself a Quaker - I'm not really a member of the community, nor can I call myself comfortably anything else. So right now, I'm going without a self-label on my spirituality. And I'm finding out where that leads me.

So far, it's led me to seek out spiritual community in smaller, simpler ways which is a good thing for me. It's giving me time to appreciate the various steps in my spiritual journey, and to listen to where I am being led.

Labels: , ,

A great moral issue of our time

The Washington Post had a story yesterday about the National Association of Evangelicals, and specifically about its position that "creation care" or environmental protection is an important moral issue. This doesn't sound like much until one realizes that other prominent evangelical leaders have attacked the organization for their stance that taking care of the Earth is important.

I would go further. Taking care of the Earth is part of feeding the hungry and caring for the widow and the orphan. When we pollute the water and the ground, we destroy their ability to feed us, to water us. And that destruction falls hardest on the poor. Over at Quiet Paths, Christine notes the impact that Ethanol production has had on food and feed corn prices, and the effect that has had on the price of tortillas in Mexico. "Solutions" that cause greater suffering are not terribly workable.

Here in Maryland, we are facing the destruction of the Chesapeake Bay, the Mother of the Waters, with blue crab, oysters, and native fish all on the decline. Recently, an invasive species, the Snakehead fish, was dumped into the Potomac system. And of course, we have the usual pollution problems in big cities.

I want to hear why the lives of children not yet born are more important than the lives of millions who struggle with the poisons we have released. It's wrong to stop the child from being born, but perfectly okay for said child to be mercury poisoned from fishsticks? Or sent to another country to take their resources in a terrible war? It's terrible for two men or two women to love each other, but it's okay to foster the scarcities that have all too often led to wars?

Labels: ,

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Important Words

Last night, at the memorial service of a friend who will be sorely missed, one person, Andrew, found his words just as the service was ending. And he wanted to share them, so he shared them with a few of us who were gathered to hear. Wow. He told of how when he was a boy, Diccon would help him out when he didn't understand words - precocious, for example, and would give him the words. He ended with "Words are important, and now I'll have fewer of them." And I was deeply moved by what he said, moved beyond words to express it.

And today, I was struck by what he had said anew, and realized that while I can never give him everything that our friend who passed gave, I can give what is in me to give. So I called up Andrew and asked him for permission to quote him, but also told him that while I can't give him our friend's words, if he ever wants any of mine, that he can have them.

Because it suddenly became true to me that the way to keep our friend's spirit with us is to act as he would have: to give of ourselves to each other that place in us that Diccon helped to grow, that place that he touched. By the time I'd met him, I was already full of words, but Diccon helped me really appreciate simple silence. He had a way of reaching out and doing what needed to be done, not in a "Will you people look at what I do for you?" kind of way, but just because it needed to be done.

Andrew, I hope you will continue to share the words of your heart, words he shared with you and words you found yourself. They are important.

Friday, March 09, 2007

A memorial

Tonight, my husband and I attended the memorial service of a friend who had passed after a stroke. He'd had a long struggle, and will be sorely missed. Many people from his various families, both biological and chosen, were present. The service combined a simple invitation to everyone to publically share their memories, followed by a "wake" with lots of libations. And a band of folks who'd known and loved him played music with everyone to sing his soul on.

And as people mingled during the wake part of the service, it occurred to me several times that he would have laughed at the jokes and added a few of his own, that he would have liked the stories, and the music, and... And. Goodbye, friend.

And odd as this may sound, I found the teacher I want to begin with on the banjo. He concentrates on teaching music using the instrument at hand, and is more than happy to begin gently and work on building confidence. I also liked that he warned straight off that he wasn't going to have me picking like Earl Scruggs. I think I'd distrust anyone who claimed that they'd be able to get me going on lightning fast 3-finger picking. Instead, and without me mentioning that I'd invested in the Pete Seeger book, he said to think more along the lines of Pete Seeger at a campfire sing-along.

And, sort of the way this post is going, the second part wandered between remembering Diccon and visiting. And his worlds mingled together, his religious community, his musical friends, his friends from science fiction fandom and historical recreation, his family. And I think his spirit was there, though his body had given out on him, and that part of him was enjoying seeing us all together, talking to each other.

In the continuing musical adventure...

Well, I've broken my first string. Ouch. Musical strings should come with a warning - it cut the back of my hand when it snapped.

I'm considering replacing the strings with nylon ones anyway. My dad and my sister each have played guitar. Dad's is a folk guitar with steel strings and my sister's is a student Spanish guitar with nylon strings. From what I can tell, nylon strings will be quieter, which will be an advantage as I learn, and easier on my fingers, and stretchier. On the down-side, steel strings could recycle... Meh. I'll talk to the person at the music store this weekend.

Labels: ,

Thursday, March 08, 2007

The Post Office delivers!

Dad's got his blanket and I've got my banjo! Woot.

I'd been expecting it to take longer than it did for the blanket to arrive, but it's there. Happy dance.

And my banjo... Well, I got to my friends' house last night and they asked me - did I see the big box in the entryway? Why, no, I hadn't. From Deering Banjo, to me. Whoo hoo! My banjo!

Like a kid at Christmas, I tore open the outer box and reached in, to find a second box. This one had cool Art Nouveau decorations all over it and was shaped like... surprise! a banjo case. Happy dance. So now I am the happy possessor of an out of tune banjo. Saturday's plans include a stop by my local music shop for a tuning doohickey (the kind that is electronic since I have exactly no musical confidence*) and maybe some hardware for a strap. (I plan to weave my own strap, since I can and even know what pattern I'd like to weave for it - and because I have plenty of handwoven straps around that aren't quite what I want, but will do as a placeholder.) After I have the tuning doohickey, plans include playing with the banjo until I'm told to cut it out, for heaven's sake. And I plan to ask at the shop about an instructor for getting me actually started.

* I was once told by the choir director at the church I attended at the time that God didn't need to hear my singing, in large part because my voice didn't blend with the others. I couldn't know at the time that my voice didn't blend because I was beginning puberty and my voice was beginning to lower into the sort of tenor that many female blues singers have. It took me years to discover that singing didn't have to hurt, after she'd had me singing in a really awful falsetto. On the plus side, I did become a reader at a younger age than the church usually allowed, with her full support, and I also did liturgical dance. That deeper voice was an advantage when it came to reading from the prophets, and I had the coordination to do modern dance and ballet before some of my classmates. On the minus side, I spent years ashamed of singing, even by myself.

As an adult, I've been challenging myself to reclaim music. I sing along to music in the car. I belt out spirituals and labor songs when I'm by myself. I've even done some sacred harp singing. Actually owning my own musical instrument is a little intimidating, but also freeing. Hah! She didn't like my singing? How about singing *and* banjo?

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Resurrection and nature

Over at Plain in the City, Lorcan has posted some thoughts about what the story of the resurrection means to him, especially in the light of the recent tomb find that some believe may have been the tomb of the rabbi, Joshua ben Joseph v' Miriam. And over at Quiet Paths, Christine has posted her thoughts about a forest recovering from fire.

And both posts spoke to me. And I've been picking up books again this week, letting myself take a break from the obsessive creation cycle that produced the blanket and has begun on a couple more. One book that I picked up is American Gods by Neil Gaiman. It poses the question of what happened to the old European and African gods when they came to America. One that has made the journey is Easter, and there's a point in the book where she makes with the magic and brings back the hero. So I've been thinking a little on the subject.

Right now, the world outside is cold and dusted with white- not like when the bakery does lemon bars and there's a delicate tracery of confectioner's sugar over the top, either. It's more like when you hand the little kid the sifter and turn your back for just a few seconds. There's a substantial amount everywhere, but it's not exactly even. And yet, under there, the evergreens are still dark green, the dry grass is getting ready to send forth new shoots, the tree sap is rising. In a few weeks, the world will be creating itself anew around me - the cherry trees will begin to bloom and the pale green leaves will appear on the trees. My car will be covered in sticky green tree pollen and I will be sneezing. The ground will be muddy and full of life instead of stiff and cold. There will be flowers and green everywhere. In just a bit, the world will come to life again.

The sun will be back, with longer days, and hotter ones. People will begin to wake up and be less sleepy. There will be music out in the parking lots as I come home, and the smell of food outdoors. There will be squirrels everywhere, and deer with spotted fawns hiding behind them. And the world will arise from her sleep...


It's snowing out, and it was a long, cold trip this morning. My hands are still a little stiff. I'm splurging on a bit of hot cocoa, stirred with a peppermint stick. (Yes, I know I could have tea. But I've got to get warm enough to taste the subtle flavor of tea. Freezing cold is either for really strong, really sweet hot tea or else for hot cocoa.)

Last night, dinner was soup, and soup sounds really good for tonight as well. Brrr.

Labels: ,

Friday, March 02, 2007


Christine, over at Quiet Paths, has a post on the importance of tea. I commented there, and she suggested I should post about it.

Well, making tea *is* fundamental. (And yes, you do have to warm the pot.) It’s the taking time out, it’s the sharing, it’s the connections, the conversations, the way my mother has always made tea, and the way I had tea with my friend Mary in the afternoons, the ritual, it’s the way the steam rises and the cup curves into your hands.

It’s the way my Great Aunt Rosemary gave me a cup of tea and a space in the parlor when I was old enough to sit with the women, and the way she asked me my opinion on something and then actually listened. It is the fascination of hearing my Great Aunt Florence talking about sneaking out of the house and off to the barn to listen to honkeytonk music on a smuggled radio. Tea is sitting with my coworker, Mohammed, over a cup of mint tea and talking philosophy. Or with my husband and my brother in law at his favorite coffee shop, while I have the tea - with lemon, please. Thank you. Oh, that’s lovely.

And to someone else, tea is a whole different set of memories. To my husband, tea should be strong and hot, drunk through a panel of sugar like the old Russian men who would drink it like that after daily prayers (when they weren't drinking schnapps, of course.) Or Earl Grey. Or the deep smoke taste of Lapsang Souchong (drunk while doing homework late at night - destroying both the ability to sleep and the math grade. Oops.)

To my mom, it's the memory of my dad with only two pans to his name - one for popcorn, and one for southern sweet tea. It's nights coming home to a lovely cup of herbal tea after a long day of helping others. It's travelling with a few bags stashed in her purse, in her toiletries bag, in her jacket, just in case. It's knowing that you have to run the hotel room's coffee machine a couple times to clean it out before you can even attempt tea. It's tea with biscotti after dinner. It's suntea on the back porch in summer.

To my dad, it's sweet tea, strong and sweet and cold, though he doesn't drink it anymore. For me as a child, sweet tea was always served with unsweet tea - not unsweetened tea, but tea made with unsugars - nutrasweet or saccharine, but never without sweetener of some sort for the iced tea. My mom didn't make this, but all my aunts and Granny did.

So, what's tea to you?


Since I've got the Afghans for Afghans blanket started already, I think it will be a multi-colored one like Dad's, out of animal fibers.

The blanket for the wounded should be washable, so I'm leaning toward acrylic for that one. Also, for one of them, it may well end up being red white and blue, since I now have a red tote that reads, "Honoring Veterans, Continuing to Serve" which I figure will make a nice bag to put the blanket into. The bag is bright red with a flag image on it.

Really, I promise I'll blog about something other than blankets when I can get blankets off my mind...

Labels: ,

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Oy. Just... Oy.

Supermodels for Christ? Wha?

Um... This is almost as mindboggling as the "Jesus" pan. (Yes, you, too can brand your fried goods with a hippie looking guy!) How about helping girls to find their unique voices in the sea of conformity that is American youth culture? Nah. Give 'em makeup tips and tell them that it's how to avoid going to Hell. That's the ticket. On second thought, pass the Jesus pancakes. I think they taste better than the Jesus makeup tips.


Random thoughts

I'm so amazed by my friends. One friend mentioned Quilts of Valor, an organization that provides quilts for the soldiers who are returning wounded, so another just whipped up a quilt top. Just like that. Boom. And with the leftovers from that, she's doing another couple quilts for the Linus Project. And silly me, I wasn't sure that they'd be as enthusiastic about the next blanket. I already have squares on offer. Wow.

And that same friend who just sewed up a quilt top was interested in one of the hyperbolic crochet pieces I did, so I'm doing another. Wave forms in blue... it's gorgeous. This one, I think I'll get a picture of for my flickr page before handing it on.

It feels a little strange to document the pieces I'm doing. I wonder if it's that I'm used to a more ephemeral art - storytelling, that isn't easily captured. Even if I were filmed while storytelling, it's hard to capture the full experience. And, of course, the same is true of other art forms. A picture or even a print is hardly the same as standing in a room with one of Matisse's papercuts.

But one other thing that I wonder is if perhaps I am acting as other women have, minimizing the art of our hands. A doily is often presented as the ultimate fussy accessory - a useless thing that must be kept neat, primarily owned by fussy old women. And yet - look at one, sometime. I have pineapple stitched doilies that amaze me. There are cobwebby pieces so fine that you can barely see the threads. And elegantly simple pieces - linen battenburg lace comes to mind...

And yet, how often do we know anything about the skilled women who produced these incredible works of art? Especially if said woman was poor or a member of a minority?

In an earlier comment on the finished blanket, Peterson Toscano asked me whether I felt deity-like when I finished and saw what I had created. If it's really big, it can take me time to realize I've really actually finished. The blanket was one of those. I kept looking at it, wondering what else I should do, even as I *knew* I wouldn't be doing anything else. Finished. And yet...

For me, the moment when I feel deity-like is when I'm in the actual process of creation. I can do anything with this piece - where will it go? What will I do? Will I learn a new stitch, or throw a different inflection in my voice at that point? For this audience, should I tell this story or that one? Funny? Sad? A teaching story? In traditional style, or with lots of movement? Or perhaps I'm making a card...

One of the concepts that really called to me in Judaism is the idea of tikkun olam - building the world. The idea is that God is still creating the world, and that people were created to assist in the work of Creation. We are called to help bring just dealing to the world, to make it a better place to be. When I'm engaged in that act of creation, I feel like I'm a small part of the Act of Creation, not so much a deity myself as a partner in work.

The rabbis have a way of teaching the idea: the blessing over bread translates to "Blessed are You, Sovereign of the Universe, who brings forth bread from the earth." Except that bread doesn't grow - wheat does, and then must be harvested, threshed, ground, mixed, allowed to rise, formed into loaves, and baked. By praising God for bringing forth bread, we are acknowleging our role as partners in the act of creation.

Labels: , ,

I've got the picture of the blanket.

And here it is!