Question Authority — Always

So here is something I remembered as I read about the Democratic sit-in. It is how much impact the Polish Solidarity movement had on the USSR. From there the thread lead to how controlling the GOP wants to be over all aspects of the US economy, land, and people. It’s not a democratic POV, but is closer to the USSR POV which disallowed disention.

Now, Solidarity began as a non-violent sit-in by Polish laborers. I remember reading and hearing about it as it happened. Here’s a link to a Wiki article about the movement:

Since I’m encouraging a bit of light reading, here is another link. This one is to a book I read when I was in my early twenties, The Gulag Archipelago. Because of this book and the book How to Lie With Statistics, I have ever since questioned authority even when in a position of authority.

Here’s a link about The Gulag Archipelago. After checking it out, I encourage you to read the book.

Keep On Keeping On

Wednesday, my gardening friend Nancy and I went to our plots to check our babies. My tomatoes looked confused, I expect because of the hot, cold, hot, cold, wet, dry, wet, dry, etc. weather.

Not confused were the slugs and cut worms. Ninety percent of my beans had been devoured. Out of 8 hills of squash and cukes, only 1 had any survivors. The corn that was popping up had holes in the leaves.

So I replanted, surrounded everything with organic slug bait and Dr Earth insect deterrent, and did a ceremonial dance to the gods-of-good-eating.

Like writing, gardening takes more than patience. It takes persistence, and persistence is my long suit.


I confess to not reading Jane Austin, and Emma was never on my list of must reads. But this summer I’m taking a writing class at Oxford, and Emma is on my suggested reading list.

Wanting to make up my own mind, I avoided the Intro and Preface and all the notes. I went straight to the story. It only took me a few pages to dislike the main character. She was shallow and thought too highly of herself. I expect if she lived today, she’d be a like-like girl, like you know, like, like. She was a person with too much time on her hands and not enough experience with real life.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t until after my declaring that I hated the main character to an agent and railing about Emma’s uselessness in a world full of grief and uncertainty, that I had my epiphany.

Yah. It’s satire. It’s a comedy. Austin is making fun of the lifestyle. Head thunk.

In my defense, I believe my knee-jerk reaction is because I just finished, The Great Gatsby, another book on the list. It is also about the culture of those who are wealthy and bored and choose to live a life without goals, needs, or purpose.

Adding to my cranky attitude, I have come to the conclusion that one of the presidential candidates is running because he is wealthy, bored, and causing an uproar is a fun, Ha-Ha game. However, to me the idea of him as POTUS is not amusing and leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

Having realized where my reaction was coming from, I’m going to do an about face. I may dislike the character, but the story is well written. I’ll finish Emma today. And then I’ll read all the notes, intros, and prefaces. I expect had I done so before reading the story, I would not have put both feet in my mouth this last weekend.

Gak. It’s a classic YA.

Moving a Mountain of Compost

So yesterday was to be a work party at the garden to move a huge pile of pine needles and wood chips off of a new plot I’m going to use. It’s been composting for over a year. An online site said the dirt will not be too acid.

I arrived early to take care of a couple other tasks – putting up the netting for beans and wrapping my tomatoes in case the temps drop again at night. They looked pretty perky.

But I was the only one at the garden. How was I going to move that huge mound of composted vegetation? I wanted to cry — something I hate to do.

At 3:30, my friend drove up and had her son, Sam, with her. In just a few minutes Sam was shoveling the compost into a wheelbarrow and distributing it around the garden shed. In an hour and a half, he had moved most of the compost.

What a relief. Tomorrow, Friday, I am going back to the garden and doing a final clean-up before turning the dirt and checking the PH level. Hopefully, there will be worms — big fat ones. If not, there will be more worms rescued from the fish bait people.

Sustainable Living and The Greener Good

For the last couple of years I’ve been learning filmmaking. Mostly, I have worked with Pandora Patterson who founded the blog, For The Greener Good. During this time, I did a bit of script writing (Intro for the hosts), camera work, and sound – both in a studio and on location.

There’s a lot to learn and I still have a huge mountain to climb. But for now, here’s a link to one of the videos Pandora has produced: and here’s a link to the For The Greener Good website:

A Holiday for Non-Cool Gifts

Here Come the Ides of March. But don’t beware, be practical.

In 2013 I set up a holiday for my family and friends. I chose the much maligned date of March 15th or The Ides of March as my annual holiday for the gifting of non-cool, practical items.

An underlying reason was a long, burning desire for a new vacuum cleaner, and as we all know, vacuum cleaners are not a gift for a birthday, Mother’s Day, Christmas, or Valentine’s Day.

This is my fourth Ides of March and I have scored a new vacuum, brooms, mops, and other items that have made my day-to-day living a bit easier. Some I don’t remember, but they really are practical and don’t rank up there with a bottle of wine and a book by my favorite author. And I’ve given dry books on Python, a shoe rack, a toilet seat, toothbrushes, a magic cleaning sponge, and many other items to friends and family.

March 15th is coming up fast and there’s still time to get something for your loved-one. This is a casual holiday. You don’t need to sweat it. Here are some rules that I follow:

• Un-cool functional items that enhance your day to day, month to month life are good.
• No cards with gooshy sayings.
• No gift cards to restaurants – nope. Cash and gift cards that can be spent on luxury items are not for this holiday.
• Wrapping is not necessary. If you do wrap, brown paper bags will do.
• Nothing romantic. A note regarding this – chocolate is okay. Chocolate is practical.
• Items can be shipped or delivered in person or left on the porch. A note on a piece of scratch paper is allowed.
• Items can be given ahead, on, or after March 15th.
• Items do not have to be assembled.
• Nothing that feeds a passion (for me that’s gardening).

So what is it you have wanted for years that would make your day or a family member’s day or a friend’s day easier? A new wheelbarrow? A shovel? An electric toothbrush? Batteries? A shoe rack? A power strip? It doesn’t have to be expensive. It doesn’t have to glow in the dark. It doesn’t have to arrive on the 15th. It just needs to be practical.

I have my fingers crossed for a new floor scrubber. It’s okay if I don’t get it on the 15th. It can come after we get our tax return.

Questing Minds.

So here I am auditing a college freshman lit class — Survey of Western Lit. I had been rereading Gilgamesh this last fall and find out that is the first story we’re covering. Several times the prof looked right at me, so I came up with some insights.

Today was the 5th class and we were sitting in groups. The prof came up to me and said, “May I talk with you for a minute?”

Ye gads. Here I am umppity years old and being called out of class by the prof. So I do the walk of shame and we go out of the class room for a chat.

But I guess what I am saying is okay except this is a FRESHMAN class. Enough with bringing up the Hero’s Journey, etc. It’s a bit too sophisticated for this class. Don’t stop commenting, but can I please help the students to search for the answers themselves? Ask them questions?

“And,” she says, “I have some good books on myths I can loan you.” (She doesn’t know I’m a book hoarder. But that’s okay. I’d love to see what books she has).

Sure. And I go back to my group I (By now I’m feeling both possessive and protective of these four freshman). They were trying to come up with their arguments for a paper. They had chosen the gods and supernatural as their topics.

They all talked and then looked to me for guidance. I told them I needed to not give them the answers but point them in a direction. So I asked them questions and listened, and asked other questions. When the prof wasn’t listening, I threw in a bit of cultural anthropology and number of times something is done. I’ve always been into going across disciplines and it will get them looking at other sources for material.

When the class was over, our group was the last to leave. And the four young students with their wonderful young minds all said they were so happy when I sat down with their group and they loved to hear my comments in class.

Wow. What a rush when the young want to listen to what I have to say.

And as the whipped cream and sprinkles on my chocolate cake, one of the students wants to be a writer. And from the first day of class, I picked her out as a person with a writer’s mind by the comment she made when we we moving the tables and chairs around the room. — “And so there begins the thundering of chairs.”

So I’ll be helping her make connections to our wonderful world of writers. It’s time for her to meet her tribe.

A Drive Through the Past. A Walk in the Future.

Yesterday was a perfect day for a drive in the Willamette Valley. We puttered out to where I grew up which included a look at new homes tucked in the old growth forest off of Glass Road. Then around the bend to a strip of homes on the Willamette plus a drive through Charbonneau. There is a restaurant in the Charbonneau Village Center we’ll stop at another time. It has some good reviews.

I remember when my Dad cleared the land the giant housing development and golf course sit on. He farmed it for quite a few years before it was turned into a walled enclave smacking of entitlement.

After that, we drove west along the Willamette, following country roads that wound past filbert orchards and hop fields. The whole drive was under clear, sharp blue skies. Water droplets that had clung to the stubble from harvested wheat were now frozen and sparkled as we past.

It was a wonderful and satisfying drive. I was experiencing ennui and could not put my finger on the cause. I guess I was suffering from the need to touch the past. The drive took care of that and I am ready to actually begin 2016.

So today, I woke up to snow on the ground — a perfect day to hunker down and create. Later I think I’ll put on my boots and take a walk, maybe walk over to Hawthorne for a cup of tea and a scone. That will be fun.

The Evolution of Hope

Facebook likes are now being used by potential employers to see if you are a good fit for their company. So I add the like button to all those cute surveys and ego-boosting personality tests and share-this-or-you-are-guilty-of-not-caring posts to my user beware list.

Now this does not mean I won’t like something. I do like the prospect of peace, prosperity, and social justice. I like intellectual people. I like science. Oh, there are so many things I do like — cookies, cats, dogs, horses — animals and plants. I like writers and artists and creative people. I like our planet and would like to visit every corner and see every marvel. I love people from different cultures, religions, ethnicities, ages, sexes, and economic groups. They add depth and joy to my life.

But I’ll be up front about this. I don’t like sticking my head in the sand when it comes to climate change. Nor do I like passing laws that prohibit teachers from checking the science in text books. I don’t like dumbing down US students and citizens. It’s a way to control us.

I don’t like racism, bullying, ignorance, power-mongering, tunnel-vision, inflexibility, or violence. I don’t like hypocrisy. But I do realize we as a species will always have to deal with these issues because we are still evolving emotionally, intellectually, physically, and spiritually. I like evolution. It gives me hope.

Time To Face The Day

There is a study floating around about starting school classes later in the day due to the students being too tired to concentrate.

I take issue with simplifying the issue of sleep, time, and clocks. Here’s the rub. Not everyone’s biorhythms are the same. I have a friend who is awake and working on her computer by 5 in the morning. She goes to bed before 9. People who live on farms are up at the cock’s crow to do chores. Many outdoors people are early risers. They also stay up late and sleep the sleep of the well exercised.

I know a person who is a true night owl. Loves to work the night shift at a hospital, sleep during the day. He’ll always be welcome wherever there is a graveyard shift. And he keeps the same schedule on his days off. Well, he varies it a bit to spend time with friends, but he has no trouble sleeping during the day.

I am usually alert and awake when I roll out of bed. But I need a nap around 1or 2. That’s when my energy tanks and I almost collapse. It hurts to be up and doing something. But after the nap, I’m good to go. How late I stay up depends on what I am doing.

I use to feel I was being lazy when I took a nap. But I did live in Mexico for three years, and siestas are normal. A mid-afternoon nap gets you through the hot part of the day. So I guess I don’t nap, I take a siesta.

For some people, their sleep cycles are natural to them, others have developed a sleep rhythm due to external forces like work or school. Some people are alert when they pop out of bed. Others take longer to wake up, get the synapses working. Some want to sit, sip coffee, and read the newspaper. Others are hot to trot — shower, brush teeth, hop into clothes, and face the world while singing an aria.

But back to students and classes. I believe that many kids who cannot wake up for morning classes are playing on electronic devices and thus don’t sleep well – recent studies have shown that working on computers or watching tv before bedtime makes it difficult for people to sleep – it’s a neurological thing. Reading a book or doing something physical doesn’t cause the same problem. But that’s a paper book, not on a tablet, nook, etc. It is the media that is the issue.

And changing the time of classes won’t change the mind of a teen. If the school day starts at 8, teens will be up until 2am. If it starts at 10, they will be up until 4am. Either way, they will be tired when the first class starts.

And then there is another way to look at it. If I am here in Portland, Oregon what time should a person in New York go to bed? What time should a person in Boston get up and go to school?

The whole thing about time and clocks is time is natural, clocks are artificial. If you are on the West Coast and get up at 8, imagine you are really living in New York and you slept in, at least according to the clock.