Friday, December 02, 2005

In Memory

I began this blog one year ago, right after my employer, Irvin Bettman, passed away. As I searched for a sense of purpose, I began to watch nature more closely, especially the behavior of crows. Although I started writing about my observation of crows, I swiftly moved to the observation of disasters, political and natural. As the anniversary of Irvin's death approaches, as the first year of his not being here ends, I return to observation of the natural world, and to the writing of poetry.

Poetry was one of Irvin's passions, Robert Frost being his favorite. This, my last blog entry, is dedicated to the memory of a true gentleman, Irvin Bettman. My haibun about Irvin, Walking Toward Death Mountain, can be found at:

To Earthward
by Robert Frost

Love at the lips was touch
As sweet as I could bear;
And once that seemed too much;
I lived on air
That crossed me from sweet things,
The flow of--was it musk
From hidden grapevine springs
Downhill at dusk?
I had the swirl and ache
From sprays of honeysuckle
That when they're gathered shake
Dew on the knuckle.
I craved strong sweets, but those
Seemed strong when I was young;
The petal of the rose
It was that stung.
Now no joy but lacks salt,
That is not dashed with pain
And weariness and fault;
I crave the stain
Of tears, the aftermark
Of almost too much love,
The sweet of bitter bark
And burning clove.
When stiff and sore and scarred
I take away my hand
From leaning on it hard
In grass and sand,
The hurt is not enough:
I long for weight and strength
To feel the earth as rough
To all my length.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

A Touch of Wistfulness

overflows metal bowl
more rain

The holidays bring their mix of joy and sadness. They remind us of time's passing, those no longer in our lives, and missed opportunities. Or maybe this is just my mood during the traditional holidays we celebrate collectively. My husband likes to remind me that he's the positive one, and I'm the negative half of our union. I prefer the word, sensitive.

After cooking, eating and cleaning-up, I'm physically full and spiritually reflective. I remember feeling this same wistfulness as a child. Even after Christmas gifts were unwrapped, there was a let-down, an unsaid disappointment. Maybe I was just a moody child, but I suspect a lot of people echo my feelings.

The world is in agony; we have suffered more disasters, natural and unnatural, than we can process. Ultimately, these events, the loss of life and property (who would have guessed we would lose the World Trade Center and New Orleans?) effect us on a spiritual/emotional level. There is a collective unconscious, an energy that includes each of us individually. Today, I feel a collective sadness, one that goes deeper than the holiday blues.

In spite of our losses, we have hope, always hope. And gratefulness. When we consider our lives, even the difficult times, we recognize intervention, being given particular insights and gifts. I'm grateful for family, friends, long walks, the dogs, IFC, poetry, the bed that greets me nightly. These are the things I'm grateful for throughout the year; so today, on this day of thanks, I am just as grateful as any other day. But grateful with a touch of wistfulness.

Sunday, November 06, 2005


As the truth continues to unfurl its ugly cloak in Washington, there is little satisfaction in having suspected early the dishonesty and subterfuge of this administration. There is instead profound relief that the truth is finally being revealed to the larger public.

We live in a country where the truth can be exposed, where the president's "rating" is broadcast daily by the media. The laws in existence are making it possible for us to ferret-out and bring to justice those who have lied, those who are responsible for the deaths of our sons and daughters in an unnecessary war.

If my parents were alive, Veteran's Day would be their anniversary. Veteran's Day, a day to honor all who have served in the military. My father served in England during WWII. My husband served for 22 years in the Air Force. My son gave four years of his youth to the Army. I'm intensely proud of each of them.

We cannot bring back the fallen, but we can stand in unison and say: Enough. Bring down Libby, bring down Rove, and bring home those who are fighting in the name of freedom. As misguided as the missions to Iraq and Afghanistan are, those fighting are victims of a monumental lie, and deserve our support and our respect. On Veteran's Day, let us remember their efforts; and let us vow to never allow a repeat of this travesty.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Oh, Osip

Brothers, let us glorify freedom’s twilight

Brothers, let us glorify freedom’s twilight –
the great, darkening year.
Into the seething waters of the night
heavy forests of nets disappear.
O Sun, judge, people, your light
is rising over sombre years.

Let us glorify the deadly weight
the people’s leader lifts with tears.
Let us glorify the dark burden of fate,
power’s unbearable yoke of fears.
How your ship is sinking, straight,
he who has a heart, Time, hears.

We have bound swallows
into battle legions - and we,
we cannot see the sun: nature’s boughs
are living, twittering, moving, totally:
through the nets –the thick twilight - now
we cannot see the sun, and Earth floats free.

Let’s try: a huge, clumsy, turn then
of the creaking helm, and, see -
Earth floats free. Take heart, O men.
Slicing like a plough through the sea,
Earth, to us, we know, even in Lethe’s icy fen,
has been worth a dozen heavens’ eternity.

Osip Mandelstam

Since my last post, where I disrespectfully called our Commander and Chief a bonehead, I've thought about authority and how we've slipped into an age of anti-authority. Not too long ago, I would have never considered insulting the president of this nation, whether I agreed with him or not. But I no longer trust the man or believe what he says. And there are thousands of Americans who are coming to the same conclusion.

Our lack of trust for those "over us" has not come from a disregard for men and women who lead honorably, but from a repeated disappointment in those who claim to have our best interests in mind, while they feed us bold-face lies.

Disappointment does not have to lead to disrespect, but with our current leadership, it seems a natural. I lost respect for President Clinton, too, so it has little to do with party, and more to do with trust. Clinton lied to us. Bush has lied to us. There is little in either man's past behavior to engender trust, the cornerstone of any healthy relationship.

This magnificent nation has produced some of the best thinkers, the most compassionate humanitarians, incredible musicians and artists and writers. And leaders. We need a renaissance of leadership, men and women who care more about the truth than about their careers or the power they've been handed. Where will we find them, and will we find them in time? Let us pray that this is not our "freedom's twilight."

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Skulls, Bones and the Bonehead in the White House

What many Americans wanted after eight years of Bill Clinton, was a return to moral, conservative leadership. So, we voted in the slow-witted George W. Bush, knowing he wasn't a beacon of accomplishment, but someone who more than likely would keep his fly zipped.

9/11 gave Bush an opportunity to appear heroic; and we wanted to believe. But since then, our president, who cannot put a complete sentence together, let alone a plan to get us out of Iraq, has proven to be an impotent leader. Worse, George W. Bush is a dangerous man.

A dangerous man uses the words "Christian," "freedom," and "terror," to manipulate a naive audience. A dangerous man begins a "preemptive" war in the most politically tenuous area of the world. A dangerous man whips up those he's vowed to protect into a paranoid frenzy over terror attacks and the Asian flu. A dangerous man hires his buddies and Skull and Bones cronies to lead agencies in which they have no expertise. A dangerous man says he is acting on God's promptings to invade another country.

Ha'aretz, Israel's most reputable newspaper, in June 2003 reported that in a meeting among top Palestinian officials, including Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, Bush said "God told me to strike at al-Qaida and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did, and now I am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East."

Let's see what bones the White House tosses our way to get our minds off of the president's failed attempts to appear even remotely presidential, let alone intelligent. This week we've had the "coming soon" Asian flu, and a threat on New York's subway, coming suspiciously after the president's speech about terror and our need to carry on in Iraq. Maybe they can convince us a plague is brewing in New Orleans, a good old fashioned wipe um' out plague. Anything to take our minds off the dangerous man in the White House.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

In the Wake

In the wake of Rita, I sense a collective sigh. We are relieved the damage was less than expected, but awed by nature's ability to upend our lives. Whether stirred by the hot water of the Gulf, or God's hand, Katrina and Rita have humbled us. We recognize our fragility, our need for joining hands in the wake of disaster, either natural or man-made.

Our man-made disaster, the war in Iraq, is every bit as frightening as the strong winds of any hurricane. Yesterday, my father-in-law told me the epitaph that graces Nikos Kazantzakis' grave: "I want for nothing, I fear nothing, I am free." We discussed what these words mean, and how our president has created a well of fear from which we must extricate ourselves. These words are apropos today as our people march for peace in D.C., in S.F., and in other cities across our nation.

I wish I was in D.C. today, marching alongside my peace-loving friend, Bonnie. Instead I read of the march and wonder if the media will give it proper coverage, or in a Fox-like move, ignore its importance, report smaller numbers of marchers than present, and continue their endless coverage of the breech of levees in New Orleans. Safe news compared to the newly-revived peace movement.

An Oregonian who lived out his love of peace, William Stafford, would be proud of those who are balking at the war in Iraq, who are marching for peace, who are awake. In memory of both William and Nikos, and in memory of all those who have died (and who will die) in Afghanistan and Iraq, one of William's poems:


This is the field where the battle did not happen,
where the unknown soldier did not die.
This is the field where grass joined hands,
where no monument stands,
and the only heroic thing is the sky.

Birds fly here without any sound,
unfolding their wings across the open.
No people killed – or were killed – on this ground
hollowed by the neglect of an air so tame
that people celebrate it by forgetting its name.

William Stafford USA (1914-1993)

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Four Years After 9/11

"The people are so nice, but this place is really strange to me," said Desiree Thompson, who arrived in Albuquerque last Sunday with six of her children and two grandchildren, along with about 100 other evacuees. "The air is different. My nose feels all dry. The only thing I've seen that looks familiar is the McDonalds."

Although I've never experienced this kind of displacement, I have felt that feeling of being lost in a strange land. Moves from CA to CO, back to CA, to LA and to OH, back to CA, and finally to OR, have brought feelings of uprootedness, of not belonging, of starting over. But nothing like the feelings of shock and displacement hurricane victims are experiencing. Or those whose lives have been changed by the war in Iraq. Or those left behind when their loved ones perished in 9/11.

Almost immediately after 9/11, my personal life turned chaotic. We sold our house, moved into two apartments, depleted our savings, and nothing has been the same since. Looking back, of course, we realize that one bad choice led to another. But we were Americans, positive and hopeful. Downturns just meant trying harder and praying more.

Today, we're awash in sorrow, sorrow for our fellow-humans, those displaced in the South, those killed by Katrina's wide hand of destruction. Sorrow for all those lost in Iraq, in Afghanistan, both Christians and Muslims. For those killed in London, those lost in Asia's tsunami. And for the powerless and hungry in Darfur. The general mood of the world seems to be one of sad resignation. Too many hurts piled on top of each other, too many deaths to truly comprehend. We take this collective pain into ourselves, feel the losses like fists in our stomachs.

Stubborn Americans, faithful Americans, hopeful Americans. Our roots may be in Great Britain, in Africa, in Australia, or Hungary. Displaced from the Soviet Union or Cambodia, we may have started over in this country of opportunity. Our cultural identities are lost (no matter what the media and political activists tell us) in the soup of our common humanity. Everyone is being "sensitive" and politically correct these days, but the poor were poor generations back, long before Katrina. What will hold us together now is not another welfare program, but common goals and compassion.

I have heard the great hurricane blamed on God, on the president, on FEMA, on our dependence on fossil fuels. Nature took some blame, too, but who can hold a grudge against nature? It's time to drop the blaming, to gather under the same tent in this time of chaos. And it is time to put our ears to the ground, listening for leaders who tell the truth. We have had enough of trumped-up resumes, of trumped-up wars, of corrupt levee boards, of the lies, the waste, the greed that has decimated our country. Downturns mean trying harder and praying more, and one other thing: pulling our collective head out of the sand.