The Silk Blouse

A little while ago I wrote the story of some silk I was given in Denver by a Thai woman I worked with at the Asian Pacific Development Center when I first came back from China in 1984,  A Shimmering Moment

This morning, my neighbor E, to whom I gave the silk, sent me photos of the finished blouse. It’s amazing and I wanted to share them. E is from Australia and was a teacher. Her training is Home Economics but her schooling is from back in the day when Home Ec was considered science, domestic science, so she is a lot of things — a nutritionist, a gardener, a master at knitting, crocheting and sewing — and more. She’s truly amazing.

Anti-Nazi Movement

I’ve read and seen so much over the last few days that my head hurts and my heart aches. So much of it is based on incomplete knowledge (not that my knowledge is complete) selective memory, stupidity and blatant desire. Most of it ignores the fundamental fact that we are all on this planet together. Those of us in the US are in this country together, black, white, yellow, pinkish/red and speckled (that’s me), young, old, rich, poor, smart, stupid… We’re here. Right now. We all have to make a life. We all want a good life. We all know that shit happens all the time. There are booby traps down the road — sinister ones like cancer, car accidents, dead children, loss of work, divorce. We all know this.

I’m bewildered by the lack of pragmatism in some of my fellow citizens.  If my life is good YOUR life is improved. It’s really very, very, very simple. My desiring a better life for my neighbors (and working toward that in some small way) takes NOTHING from me but enhances  my little world.

For this reason, I do not understand racism. What’s the point? When I hear discussions about race, they often turn on little points of definition, semantics. The long term goal of our society should be the best life possible for all the people in it. What doesn’t work in that direction should be questioned by everyone.

I’ve never felt “white guilt” or been ashamed of being white. That just seems absurd. Some of my ancestors owned slaves. Some of my ancestors stood on board a ship and waited for someone to buy them so they could get off the ship. Some of them died on the way. Some of them died in servitude. They weren’t me. Universally all of them worked toward a better future for their children. All of us look at our lives and say, “I don’t want my kids to live with this.” We have all done that. Generation after generation has worked in its small way toward improving life for the next generation.

I think one of the most appalling things that is happening in the US now is that forward movement has been stopped by the fuckhead who “leads” the country. 

So what is forward? Peace is forward. Prosperity is forward. Education is forward. Medical care for all is forward. It’s not hard to know which way to go, and I don’t know anyone who doesn’t want these things. Each of us works in our own way toward these things for ourselves, our families and our neighbors.

It has nothing to do with politics, race, religion, age, nothing. It is human nature when it is allowed to blossom. 

My black students cared more about my skin color than I cared about theirs. I got that. My brown students, also, noticed my whiteness more than I noticed their “brownness.” In China, of course, I stood out like a sore thumb, but I also forgot about my own skin color at a certain point until I was reminded by a green-eyed man from Sinkiang.

Sometimes I feel caged by my whiteness. I grew up in a world in which Spanish was spoken and Mexican people were loved and admired. I was shocked to find out that wasn’t the same everywhere. I wasn’t conscious of my “whiteness” until my Mexican neighbor in CA pointed it out by saying, “You’re the first nice white woman I’ve ever known.” Wow. In one sentence I learned that I’m white and that whites can be assholes for no other reason than that they’re white.

I’ve been in the middle of a family broken by “La Migra.” I’ve seen what black gang fights and the desperation of poverty can do to people of all ages. I’ve taught young people with PTSD returned from fighting the hopeless war against terror. My life has shown me that every person needs compassion. Every person deserves the respect of curiosity about who they are as individuals. 

I taught a black kid about a hundred years ago. It was an English class. Rap was semi-new (it was the early 90s). My students wrote a weekly journal. This kid wrote about his favorite music. They all knew mine (because they interviewed me). I don’t remember his words exactly but he wrote something like this, “Hey Martha, you won’t believe this because I’m a black guy, but I also love punk rock music. I’m not sucking up. I mean really. I like hardcore, just like you. I got to see Jello Biafra last summer and it was amazing.” He felt he had to prove he was telling me the truth and offered creds to legitimize his claim. I slipped a Sex Pisols sew-on patch I’d bought but hadn’t used into his journal so he’d know I understood. It appeared on his hat the next week.

I believe it’s human nature to seek commonality — and we will as long as we have honest interest in others.

When the Nazis (or the KKK, or the MAGA douchebags) dress in a uniform they are saying, “I have subsumed my individuality to the morality of this group. I am the lowest common denominator. I have abdicated my right to self-determination. I am no longer responsible for pursuing the highest good.” They are no longer fully human — by their own choice.

It’s a huge responsibility being fully human. We work hard all our lives to achieve that. There’s an old man at the end of my block. He’s Hispanic. His kids are junkies, so he is raising his grandsons. He’s a lovely, noble, gallant, old-school Hispanic man of the San Luis Valley. He rides his bike every day for exercise. He tips his hat when I’m outside and he goes by. “You’re working hard,” he said one day as I was sweating and mowing the lawn.

“I’m the only one here to do it,” I said.

“I know what you mean,” he said. “Have a beautiful day.”

The fuckhead in Washington knows NOTHING about these individual people, but we all do. That’s where we live, in the grainy reality of human effort and ordinary kindness.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/grainy/

Rocks…

I got involved in the ‘Painted Rock Movement’ I’m painting rocks and soon will be hiding them around Monte Vista to cheer people up. Why?

I can do this. There are a couple of local Facebook groups just for this. I’m sure they are everywhere! People paint rocks and hide them. If you find one, you can keep it or rehide it. Some of the rocks have made it all the way to other countries and distant states. Some of the rocks are beautiful. Some rocks have inspiring words, some are pictures, some are funny, some are just simple Ms from m&m’s. The point is to brighten someone’s day and godnose we need it.

I painted my first six rocks today. The forth rock was an epiphany. I found my rock painting style and content. Lines of poetry with relevant images, but that  will need some bigger rocks than I picked up today.

1

Anyway, along with the rock painting fetish I got a thing in the mail that made me want to paint rocks all the more. There is a rally in my town this weekend of the people who believe we’re in the end days according to the Bible. They’re having a revival which is ironic since in the end days well, anyway. Very depressing. I cannot imagine why — if it is the end days — people would want to huddle together in a building and sing and talk about the end days. I would rather cultivate my garden.

So, don’t feel bad if I’m not keeping up. I’ll catch up, I promise. ❤

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Short Story Collection

Once in a while I write a good story. I’ve put a few of them together in a little book (88 pages!) I’ve titled the little book Luv’. The stories are both fiction and creative non-fiction and all revolve around the humor, irony and sometimes sweetness of human connections.

There is no historical fiction, nothing about God or leprosy or salvation or torture or exile or even Switzerland! One of the stories won a prize last year in a short story contest put on by the library in Alamosa. 🙂

If you want a copy, you can get one on Amazon here. The price is $7.15 (my dad’s birthday) and shipping is probably $2 or less.

It will also be available on Kindle for $4.23 (Shakespeare’s birthday)

 

History Hiccups and Hiccups and Hiccups

Yesterday I read a post by a child. It was passionate and flaming. Said all the right things. Made sweeping generalizations. Had great prose. It pissed me off so much I thought about it all day. Millennial people, I don’t have anything against you, I mostly like you, but I know you too well.

The last class I taught was a literature class. One of my students — not a Millennial — was a 30 something Black woman who wanted to learn more about Black literature and the Harlem Renaissance. I was really happy to teach that as it has always been a strong interest of mine. She was also interested in the Civil Rights movement that happened before her time. The other older student (28) was interested too. The rest were just knocking of a requirement.

The class was mostly kids — 17 — 19, coming in at that level from Advanced Placement in high school. Yeah, really. And never have I seen a more arrogant and ignorant batch of people in my LIFE. This was a JUNIOR level class, not a remedial class, not a high school level class, not even a freshman class. It was a 300 level class.

These students didn’t really know what Martin Luther King had done. They knew only that he was a great man. They knew nothing about the Selma Riots or why there was a school named after Rosa Parks in their neighborhood. When I — aghast! — showed news footage of the riots that happened all too often back then, one Hispanic student said “This is boring” and another said, “This is depressing. We should be doing positive things.” That student was Black. She never returned to class.

One thing that surprised them was that white people were marching, white people were being clubbed, hauled off in paddy wagons, jailed and tried with blacks. They really thought that whites and blacks hated each other until, well, I dunno. I have friends who were there — white people — and I wished so much they had not lived so far away and I could have invited them to talk to the class.

When I taught Langston Hughe’s, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” most of the young students in my class did not know what Langston Hughes referred to when he wrote about the Congo. They did not know where it was or that it was a river. The Iraqi girl did not know the Euphrates ran through her country… 😦

I’ve known rivers:
I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the
     flow of human blood in human veins.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.
I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.
I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.
I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln 
     went down to New Orleans, and I’ve seen its muddy 
     bosom turn all golden in the sunset.

I’ve known rivers:
Ancient, dusky rivers.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

 

Hate is inexplicable and as blind as, I would say, love. I also do not think one needs to be “taught” to hate. I would posit that hatred and ignorance are partners. Ignorant people with poor critical thinking skills are easily persuaded by propaganda and inflammatory arguments based on “mine is better” thinking.

I believe that the nexus of the problem is ignorance and stupidity, two elements that are being nurtured by the current regime. I’m sorry but I cannot call it government. These people are not governing.

When I watched the footage (pixelage?) of the events in Charlottesville, I saw something I’d seen before and was sorry to see again. But I did not feel surprised.

I taught during the Politically Correct Time when PC was a THING you absolutely did, and I had mixed feelings about it. I read Dinesh D’Souza’s first book and felt sympathy for his argument that suppressing the work of philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle just because they were white slave owners (yes, that happened) doesn’t make sense. I was able to separate the men from their ideas and to understand that they lived in a world different from mine. Couldn’t everyone do that? Especially when their ideas had informed thousands of years of religious and political thought? D’Souza’s argument was that immigrants like him, wanting to know and understand America’s greatness and the values of the West, need this to understand. Of course, a guy can just go to the library… 🙂

I kind of admired D’Souza back then. Now, I don’t. D’Souza figured out from his initial best-selling book where his bread was buttered and is now a (corrupt) spokesman for the Far Right, saying that conservatism is “conserving the principles of the American Revolution.” I’d put him in a box with Anne Coulter and Sarah Palin and their ilk.

Many white, male writers fell out of the pantheon of literature during those years, not because their writing was suddenly no good, but because they were white and male. Hemingway, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Steinbeck, Carl Sandburg, Robert Frost replaced by “writers of color” and writers with vaginas — also fine writers, some of them, but primarily “of color” or vagina-clad. I resisted the “replacement.” I thought it could have been an “addition.” My philosophy of “diversity” was to enlarge the world, not edit it differently.

Many extremely well qualified white, male, English instructors I knew did not get hired because they were white. My working life was spent in academia, but the experiences I was having were part of the wider world. Affirmative action was probably necessary, but on an individual level it was hardly fair. A LOT of resentment built up over what was regarded as a quota system. It was never openly admitted to be a quota system, but minorities did have preference in hiring until a certain percentage of non-white employees were hired. Good or bad? Right or wrong? Definitely NOT ideal. Some argued (I argue) that a job should go to the best qualified applicant according to an objective standard, right? But it has never worked that way in real life Affirmative Action or not.

It did make a lot of white men angry and resentful; it left others feeling impotent and victimized. I am sure those from the poorer, the more traditionally black-hating states were angriest when a black person was hired and they were not. It was probably more difficult for them to “see the bigger picture.” There was a lot of discussion about “reverse racism” and I could understand the argument, but I also saw that we do not live in a perfect world and mitigating long-standing inequality is a monumental task fraught with ethical conundrums. White people really did feel that things were being taken from them, their livelihood, their neighborhoods, their jobs, their futures. The “Women’s Movement” was happening at the same time. I know it looked like a giant conspiracy against white men.

I believe it should have been done better, perhaps more slowly, but for those who had been disenfranchised for generations it really couldn’t be fixed quickly enough. The riots and demonstrations were evidence for that. Langston Hughe’s poem, “Harlem,” wasn’t just great poetry, it was prescient:

What happens to a dream deferred?
      Does it dry up
      like a raisin in the sun?
      Or fester like a sore—
      And then run?
      Does it stink like rotten meat?
      Or crust and sugar over—
      like a syrupy sweet?
      Maybe it just sags
      like a heavy load.
      Or does it explode?

 

My point here is that this entire situation is as old as time. How many pure Neanderthals have YOU met? It’s very complex and very subtle and based somewhat on the difficulty of sharing limited resources. Complexity and subtlety have no currency or power against hate nor are they within the range of stupid. People who hate others for no other reason than that they are black, brown, yellow OR white are stupid — probably also ignorant, lacking curiosity and wonder. They will NEVER go away. Those people are part and parcel of humanity and nothing — not even a generation of PC teaching — is going to awaken them.

I really like the Bible, and I’m going to mention a story now. Here’s God, up on a mountain, burning away, and Moses is there and they’re chatting. “Go give them my laws,” says God. “They’re simple, clear, easy to follow, nothing subtle or complex because, you know, people.”

Moses says, “God, Dude, I can’t do that without a citation. You have to give me a name so they’ll believe me.”

God’s thinking, “That’s weird. They should be able to see how good these laws are on their merits alone! Are they THAT stupid, my people, that they can’t see that?”

“OK, Moses, if you’re sure. Tell them ‘I Am’ sent you.”

‘I Am‘? Seriously?”

(I imagine God growling from the bush)

“Awright. I’ll try.”

And Moses tried. So here comes a list of laws that anyone can follow even if they’re stupid. God wanted his people to fear him so they could have a good life in spite of their stupidity and blind passions. They would really work if…

But much more than was God, Moses was onto the essential nature of human beings. We seek ways to justify our baser instincts, debating, questioning, interpreting, arguing things that are absolutely simple and clear. Killing people is wrong. Hating people is death to the soul. Taking what doesn’t belong to you deprives others of their rightful possessions and their happiness. ON and on and on and on. So simple, but we can’t seem to do it even when it FEELS better to do the right thing, to be kind, not to kill, not to steal, not to lie… 😦

For more on the word of the day, prickle, I direct you to T. S. Eliot. “The Hollow Men.”

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/prickle/

Paintings!

Things are not done in a “jiffy” here in the San Luis Valley. It’s far between places, for one thing. Yesterday my neighbors and I went on a studio tour. It began in the mountains, up above Creede at a place called Bristolhead and wandered its way down to South Fork, some 40 miles southeast. We thought we could see many of the studios on this tour between 9 and 1 and fit lunch into that time frame. That turned out to be impossible.

2017 STST Map

In winter many of these places are deserted except for the diehard, year-round residents. In summer they have a small population (and economic) explosion. There are large, multi-million-dollar fancy houses up there. It’s a different world from my year-round, salt-of-the-earth little town.

I bought a print. I would love to have bought the original, but it is out of my reach. The artist, Angela Hague, is an older lady from the east coast. She greeted me at the door as if she knew me. She exclaimed about my white hair. She said, “I paint from the New York School of Painting” and explained her painting philosophy to me — a painting philosophy another artist friend had tried explaining to me before. It was a little easier to understand what is, to me, a rather arcane philosophy, when I was surrounded by hundreds of very colorful paintings. She constantly repeated, “The subject matter is not important. What is important is the push pull of the colors on each other.”

Every artist has a “thing.” My thing is not to have a thing, but I know that’s a thing, too. And, subject matter matters to me. In the painting I bought the two “things” — the push/pull of color and the subject matter — come together in a very powerful and beautiful way.

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Walking Toward the Light by Angela Hague

Their house is adobe, built on a hillside, very dramatic and filled with little artistish details.

 

The tour  — and my recent trip to Taos with my friend, Perla — has made me rethink this artist thing. It’s a crapshoot, but for many of these people a lucrative one. It’s also made me think about what I do when I paint. I wonder if all painters are the same — there are paintings that are “outside” paintings and paintings that are “inside” paintings. I will also always be a representational artist. I don’t get — or do — abstract work. Reality is abstract enough for me. My house has my paintings hanging in it — six of them. Three of them are also paintings I will probably not hang in public or ever sell. They are paintings that represent moments in the internal landscape of Martha.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/jiffy/

Ennui

“What are you doing?”

“Organizing my underwear drawer.”

“You don’t have any underwear drawer.”

“OK. My underwear basket that sits on this shelf in my armoire. Besides. what’s it to you?”

“I don’t know. I’m bored.”

“Then go do something. Trim the roses or something.”

“That’s boring.”

“How about cut the weeds in the back yard?”

“ALL of them? That’ll take all day! Besides, I’d have to clean up the dog poop first.”

“What else do you have to do?”

“Nothing.”

“Well, go do that. Then when you DO have something to do, you won’t think, ‘Oh man, I should cut the weeds in the back yard first’.”

“I don’t see the point. They’ll just grow back.”

“There isn’t any point. It’s all just what it is.”

“Wow. You mean there’s no meaning?”

“Nope. We give things meaning through our effort and our love. That’s it. There. That’s done.”

“That makes it’s even MORE irrelevant for me to cut the weeds.”

“Look, there’s a weed out there that’s going to go to seed and the seeds can stick in your dog’s fur. Cut the fuckers before that happens. The meaning THERE is vet bills.”

“My girlfriend works for a vet.”

“OK, the meaning there is your dogs have less chance of an abscess and infection BEFORE the go to the vet. I don’t know what you expect from life. It’s just a thing we’re here and we do it to the best of our ability. Just find something you like to do and do it. I’ll help you in your backyard if you want.”

“No, c’mon, couldn’t we DO something?”

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/organize/

Too Much Drama

Periodically WordPress does something with the blog editor and it’s almost always buggy. Then the kinks get worked out then you go on to use the new blog editor with its spicy alterations and then they do it again. The most recent iteration has hidden my favorite blogs from view on my Reader, has given me a strange jumpy screen that will not properly load, has frozen my laptop attempting to load. Yesterday it told some of my readers that my blog was “not on this server.”

I’m a paying customer (as it happens) so this annoys me a little bit. I’m the first to say my blog is not the most important news of the morning, not to me or anyone else, but it’s a thing I do while I drink my coffee, the dogs chew their rawhide and I make the transition from sleep to wakefulness (probably obvious from my posts). Sometimes I am even inspired to write a spicy story.

Writing a blog is a completely elective activity for me. I’m past the point in life where I want drama or gratuitous change. In fact, I feel that’s a problem in this country. Rather than changing important things, we fuss about a lot of stuff that doesn’t matter.

In other news….

Yesterday my dog ran off. Bear. It was a terrifying event since I love Bear probably more than I should AND I live on a highway. She dived through the lilac hedge and got to the front sidewalk. I saw her and yelled, “Bear!” and I guess she thought she was in trouble because she high-tailed it toward the golf course, away from the highway, thank goodness.

Dusty and I went out to find her and failed. I came home to be sure Mindy was still inside because I left everything open. My neighbor, E,  texted me that she had some freshly picked green beans and I texted back, “Bear ran away,” and headed out the front door with Dusty. I unleashed Dusty so if he saw her, he would go get her (he would). I hadn’t gone 30 feet when I saw first, my next door neighbor, Tom, was outside in his front yard and Bear was coming up the street. I was behind a honeysuckle bush so my neighbor didn’t see me, but I saw what he did. He called Bear to him. Dusty went to Bear and both went to my neighbor. By then I’d caught up to them and we had a happy reunion. Meanwhile, E caught up to all of us. It was a really beautiful moment.

“I saw her run past so I decided to get out here and see if I could catch her and put her in my yard,” he said, “then come get you.” Tom is an old guy who just had a hip replacement.

E is in her mid-seventies. We stood in Tom’s yard and I tried to introduce Tom and E properly, but I was distracted so E finished what I started. We chatted and Bear leaned against me and Dusty got pats. I was pumped with adrenaline — a feeling I don’t like and have felt far too many times in my life.

We all went home — well, Tom stayed home — and Bear was exhausted. She was also strange. I realized she felt she’d been bad. I didn’t think she’d been bad. She came home. She was headed toward me when she saw Tom, whom she knows and likes. Probably when I yelled “Bear!” she thought I was angry — though I’ve only been angry with her twice. The day wore on, the adrenaline was slowly backing off, but I decided to take everyone for a walk at the slough before it started raining.

It was a miserable walk. It was humid, the air hung heavy, there were mosquitoes everywhere and none of us were happy. It was so strange. We came home and the afternoon routine unfolded in the predictable way dogs prefer. Then someone posted on Facebook a video of Glen Campbell singing “Gentle on My Mind” with John Hartford, who wrote the song. I’d never heard them sing it together. It was on the Smothers Brothers show.

I’m not a big fan of Glen Campbell and all of that was so long ago, but somehow it seemed to bring back eons of time, memories, events, visions of the future (in which I’m now living and it’s NOTHING like I envisioned) and the sense that it’s too late now for me to straighten THAT out (ha ha). I began to cry — I know it was an emotional release of the adrenaline and fear of Bear being hit by a semi-truck.

Bear climbed up on my lap (she is an 80 pound giant breed livestock guardian dog), put her muzzle on my cheek and looked at me. I was still crying. Bear went to sleep. I thought of the day and the incredible sweetness in that moment when two friends stood beside me because my dog had run away and I needed help.

Later on, a police car went by, its siren going. Dusty looked at me as if to say, “Well? It’s the right time for a howl, Martha” and I agreed. Dogs and wolves howl for many reasons, but one is to reaffirm their ties to their pack. When I had the Siberian huskies, it was a common thing at the end of the day when I came home, if they heard a “howl” (coyote or siren) they would come to where I was and we would assert our unity. It’s strange, but it’s what they do. Dusty learned this from his Siberian husky mother/sisters. I don’t remember Dusty EVER starting a “howl” but last evening he did. He doesn’t howl well, Bear mostly barks, Mindy only gives it a shot, but we all put our heads back and did our best.

Dogs aren’t people. Sometimes you have to meet them part way.

OH BTW, I’m composing this on WordPress’ old editor which is reliable, not difficult to use, and is accessible under WordPress Admin in your drop down menu.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/spicy/

a-ROUND and a-ROUND and a-ROUND

Of all the rides in all the cheap carnivals traveling the country, in all the fancy amusement parks across the world, in all the shopping malls in which they’ve been installed I can only say, carousels make me sick. Around and around is bad enough but adding an up-and-down forward movement to that is pure sadism. When I was a little girl, I didn’t feel that way. I know I found the baroque world painted on the carousel at Elitch Gardens enchanting.

People say, “Life is a carousel,” and I don’t know what they mean. Back in the days of long dresses it was a game people played, and there was a brass ring involved that you tried to catch as you passed by. So maybe “life is a merry-go-round” means that you try to catch the brass ring (golden opportunity) and if you don’t, you can try next time? I have no idea. I hope it doesn’t mean life is a sickening ride on a fake animal that goes no where and the good news is it lasts 3 minutes? That’s a very grim metaphor.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/carousel/