Monday, March 31, 2008
Better yet, Senator Obama referred to Alexander Hamilton. There's a guy who understood how economic systems work and who had some (brilliant) ideas about how to set up a financial and banking system for our fledgling country. It was a system he more or less invented pretty much from scratch. Hamilton cobbled together a banking system (and postal system, etc.) to respond to the needs of a country that was sort of making things up as it went along. More than two hundred years later, Senator Obama reminds us we need to continue to evolve and change to respond to new challenges in new times. He says we can learn from Hamilton about things to consider as we do that. He is right. (But then again, Hamilton is one of my Top Ten Heroes in World History so I am prejudiced.)
Just to totally balance things out, quote Jimmy Madison on checks and balances and separation of powers in your next speech, Mr. Senator, and you've got at least one vote from Florida! [No guarantees our election officials will be able to count it, mind you, but it's yours.]
I do not know a lot about economic theory or the nuts and bolts about how it works, but intuitively Senator Obama's speech resonates with me, on most points anyway. Best of all is the fact that Senator Obama is someone who thinks seriously about issues, based on a wide range of information. He apparently even reads books. Golly! In fairness, I am sure Senator Clinton thinks deeply and reads books, too. My problem with her is that her focus seems to be on the utilitarian part of how to put some legislation into effect, when what we need is someone who can put the situation into some kind of perspective and marshall our will to work together to get out of it.
Senator Obama's recent speeches have shown his ability to look at political problems from a variety of perspectives and to try to find a position that will be best for the most people. While I still have a problem with his inexperience and I would prefer for presidents to come from the ranks of governors (where they at least would have some administrative experience), I think it may also be true that his relative newness to national politics means he is relatively unencumbered by political favors owed. He may be inexperienced, but Senator Clinton brings way too much baggage with her.
The trick for him now will be to avoid mud-wrestling with Senator Clinton between now and the Convention. I personally think he would do well to start his GE campaign now. I think he would do well to look past the Convention and show America what he offers us versus the warmed-over, stale slop the Republicans will serve up in the GE.
Sunday, March 30, 2008
I loved the babyhood and toddler phases. I really did. I was a lot younger then. Now, it makes me tired looking at mothers with young children. DH asks me often if I miss having little kids around the house. Answer is: NO! Not for a minute. Hardly ever. Not really. Well, only occasionally.
Anyway, I love reading the mommybloggers. It brings back delicious memories I can carry around and savor. Some days I really need those sweet memories to remind myself of how much I adored everything about DD from the moment I first looked into her eyes on her Birth Day. I still love her just as much. I really do. But, she's 18. She's a Senior. I'd describe that more fully but the moms who've been there already know and the ones who aren't there yet won't believe that it can happen to them. (I didn't.)
This week DD was away for several days on a class trip. She never called home but she did send text messages a few times a day. She reserved her limited telephone time for truly significant people like her wonderful boyfriend (WBF). I missed her. I didn't miss the drama. I didn't miss that moment of holding my breath when she walks in the door from work, waiting to see if we are in the presence of the Lovely Young Woman or the Hormonal Post-Adolescent. That makes a big difference how a poor mom is to respond to an entrance. When she's in a good mood, it is okay to say, "Hey. Sweetie, how was your day?" When in the presence of The Other One it is better simply to hide.
Anyway, I did miss her. The house is not the same without her. It was quiet and peaceful. We did not have one episode of drama all week. I could do what I wanted when I wanted. I was kind of a wreck. I would be okay for five minutes or so after I got a text message and then I'd start worrying again. I was excited to have her come home. I couldn't wait to hear the blow-by-blow descriptions of her experiences. Her take on travel is usually fascinating.... often incomprehensible but always utterly gripping.
We went to the airport to pick her up last night. I actually got a hug. A real one. These days usually the best I get is a tilted head to kiss the top of in order not to mess up make-up. In fact I got two hugs during the course of the evening. Could it be she was glad to see me? Perhaps I should not get carried away.
While she and WBF were stowing her suitcase (does one really need a suitcase the size of a steamer trunk for a three day trip??) in the car, one of her teachers came over to me and said, "Your daughter is such a lovely child." Whereupon, I beamed and agreed with her. Then she added, "It is so nice to be around a teenager who is that easy going, with never any drama and always so laid back."
I laughed and said, "Must be. I'd like to meet that kid." Teacher seemed confused. (Teacher is apparently not a parent.)
Hmmmm. What is the meaning?
A) Teacher exaggerated a bit to make mother feel good, and it worked.
B) DD actually does know how to behave without drama when necessary (typically this is not necessary when in the presence of parents) and was on her best behavior during this trip.
C) Mom was happy.
D) All of the above.
One thing is clear: DD got way too little rest this week and will be very tired today. I plan to make myself scarce.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
But that isn't why I linked to this article. The Comments are (as is often the case) much more interesting than the article. One comment expresses my personal opinion better than I ever could do. I am quoting it at length here because I don't know how to link to it.
BL from Cincinnati wrote:
Hillary will not be a better President than Bill. Bill was a *leader*. Hillary is a *boss*. We don't need a boss. Obama is far closer to Bill, than Hillary is to Bill.
Hillary is good with policy and fighting to get what she wants. She is not someone who can inspire people. She would not be a good president. What she would be is a great Senate Majority Leader. Someone who can fight to get things done. Someone who is detailed and policy orientated. She'd have a far better chance of getting a Health Care plan and other plans pushed through as Senate Majority Leader, with Obama as President. Imagine this. Take whatever initiative you want. Health care, SS reform, etc.
Imagine President Obama getting people inspired to support it, and Sen. Maj Leader Clinton fighting in the Senate to get it passed.
Best of both worlds.
Senator Clinton is the quintessential Senator, and her skills are very much needed there. Senate Majority Leader! Now doesn't that have a nice ring to it? The perfect job for a policy wonk who likes to get down and dirty with the arm-twisting.
Mine is only one vote, but it counts.
Friday, March 28, 2008
The nuns I knew were all well-educated professional women: they were teachers, nurses and administrators. Not all of the nuns I knew wore habits, and the ones who did tended to wear the "modern" habits which looked more like uniforms than medieval garb. The nuns in my world gave the Catholic Church a feminine face but they also were smart, competent, tough professionals.
I am sure they would have been horrified to know that is how they came across. They sought to be Brides of Christ and humble servants of God's People. The Church would have that mean they were subservient and obedient. Every nun I ever met, including the most tyrannical ones, could behave like simpering ninnies in the presence of a priest, but we all learned very early about the act we were expected to put on when priests were around.
The rest of the time, in my experience, nuns were women who were efficient, determined and persistent in their pursuit of what was best for the children whose education and care were their responsibility. Some of them were intimidating as hell and a few were just bitches, but the majority of nuns I met were tough, sincere, hard-working, committed women who were dedicated educators, nurses and administrative professionals. They were excellent role models in ways I feel sure they never imagined.
They had learned to put on a different face in front of Male Authority and they tried to teach us to do that as well. That act may have fooled the priests. It never fooled the kids ... or at least not the girl-children. We knew that the male priests may have ruled in the hierarchy but the real power of Holy Mother Church was in the hands of the religious women who indoctrinated, educated, loved and prayed for Her children.
That lesson resonated for me in many ways. It still holds a lot of power for me.
War is such a hard subject for me to even contemplate.
I have wanted to be a pacifist since the Vietnam war, but I can't quite get there. My problem is that I just quite simply do believe there are some things worth fighting for. Among those things are family and home.
As a child I admired the conscientious objectors who refused to go to Vietnam. Most of the people I knew (who consisted almost entirely of the VFW crowd my parents hung around with, with its preponderance of gonzo WWII Marines, of which my dad was one) thought the conscientious objectors and anti-war demonstrators were cowards, at best, or traitors, at worst.
I thought they were, when sincere [Q-How can one tell? A-I don't know] courageous. They were brave enough to be willing to forgo violence even in the face of personal threats to their persons or their families. I think that's the most totally right and moral position to take in the face of violence. It is the biblical "turn the other cheek" position. I have to confess: I'm just not that evolved.
Perhaps it was because of the way I was raised, but I think I would have supported both WWI and WWII. Aggression needs to be stopped. It seems to me that it would be immoral NOT to oppose the megalomania and genocide as practiced by the Nazis.
The Korean War has always been something of a mystery to me. I am not sure whether I would have supported it or not because it has never been very clear to me exactly what we were attempting to accomplish. Whatever it was did not go so well in view of the fact that more than a half century later we still have American troops in Korea. I fail to see how that place was a threat in the early 1950's... although I do now understand how it is a threat what with the potential nuclear threat from North Korea. Maybe we should have listened to General MacArthur. I don't know enough about that situation to have an opinion.
I was in the first or second grade when the America sent the first "advisers" to Vietnam. I became aware of the war watching Walter Cronkite on TV every night after dinner. I was in Junior High during the Tet offensive. I was a sophomore in college when Saigon fell. My first heroes in life were the anti-war protesters. I would have loved to have joined them but my father gave me a word of warning about protesters that has stuck with me until today. He said I should consider very carefully whether or not I wanted to join those crowds and potentially have my picture taken with people whom I did not know. He said he thought they were there for a lot of different reasons, not all of them as pure as mine. He cautioned me about associating publicly with people whose motives and purposes I did not know or understand. Who knew my dad was such a prophet?? For once in my life, I listened to him and stayed on the sidelines, while rooting for the anti-war faction. (Besides, I did not have a car to get myself to demonstrations and virtually all of the people in my world supported the war so I was not likely to be able to hitch a ride with someone.)
I opposed the war, but, by God, I supported the troops. The boys I knew who went to Vietnam were scared but they went in obedience to the law. They went because they believed they had a duty to go where their government sent them. They were boys from a small town where they felt they had no future. "Join the Navy and see the world" sounded like a good thing to them. Once they were enlisted, they did the best they could, under appalling circumstances. I opposed the war, but honored the veterans. America's treatment of the Vietnam veterans has been and continues to be inexcusable.
One of my most vivid memories of the entire war was sitting on the floor in my dorm room watching the television coverage of the evacuation of the American Embassy in Saigon in April 1975. Those Marine helicopter crews were amazing! I cried and felt sick over the entire situation, but I was so proud of the Marines who must have been the most terrified people on the planet that day. They did what they had to do. As awful as it was to have to push people away, they made it possible for the choppers to evacuate hundreds of people. The Marines acted like professional soldiers in a chaotic situation. They were inspiring. That was such a horrible end to a decade-long nightmare. America has largely forgotten the heroism of the American Marines that day, if it really noticed at the time.
Granada barely qualified as a "war". It was the first time to my knowledge America behaved as an Aggressor Nation. It was a small, but inexcusable, blip in our history.
I watched the beginning of the Gulf War on CNN like many people in America. The next morning, I went to meet with my minister out of sheer frustration. I cried and swore and fumed about how wrong it was. My daughter was a baby who slept in her pumpkin seat next to me while I lamented and, on the other side of the world, bombs were destroying one of the most ancient and historically important cities on Earth. I was determined she would not grow up in a world at war like I did. Sadly, she has grown up listening to the the drums of many wars.
Afghanistan. I would have preferred for our political leaders to have handled aftermath of the Attack on 9/11/2001 differently, but I could understand the initial impetus to go into Afghanistan in search of Osama Bin Laden. I thought there could have been a better way, but I said nothing because I could understand the perceived need to attack. Where that conflict went off the rails was when America reneged on its promise to rebuild Afghanistan because we got distracted and decided we had to charge off and invade....
Iraq. Five years ago the purpose behind the war with Iraq was a mystery to me. Today it makes no more sense than it did then. True, Saddam Hussein was a wicked person who all but destroyed his own country for his own twisted purposes. He routinely violated the Iraqi's' most basic human rights and tortured his own people. He was apparently an evil man. I am not sure that gave America the right to invade his country. For one thing, I am not so sure that, had we had looked carefully around the world at the time, we would have found that he was the worst leader on the world stage. Saddam Hussein just happened to be one really bad world leader who was also openly anti-American and (most importantly) sitting on huge oil reserves at a time when America had an oil-man in the White House. There were a lot of factors, but they all came down to the apparent bottom line that President Bush was determined to finish what his father started. By hook or by crook. Some way. Some how. He was determined to finish off Saddam Hussein when his father had failed to do so. [We'll not go into the Oedipal aspects of that.] Osama Bin Laden just gave him a convenient excuse to do what he apparently intended to do anyway.
Since Granada, America has found herself in the position of an Aggressor Nation, attacking smaller less powerful, ill-equipped countries.
For what? I don't know.
I want to be a pacifist more than ever. But, I still can't quite make it. There are some battles worth fighting. None of the "wars" America has waged recently qualify, in my opinion.
Iraq certainly doesn't.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
But, then, that could just be me.
(I also think the Dems would do well to make nice for a change instead of spending the rest of the time between now and the Convention slinging mud while Senator McCain stays out of the fray.)
Learning to navigate the Gmail system and setting up new contacts, etc., caused me to think about technology. Today I can sit on my couch and look at live photos of traffic jams in in Paris, check the weather in my home town, track airplanes going to or from any airport in the world, look up definitions to arcane words or do all kinds of research. What is more, I can chat with people from around the globe and download music, videos, and pictures from a host of sources. I get irritated when the cable connection goes out or a page loads too slowly.
That made me think about my life in terms of the technology.
I learned to type on a manual typewriter, an Underwood that was an antique even at the time. A manual typewriter. No electricity involved. Sucker weight about 80 pounds. Changing typewriter ribbon.... well, some things are just too painful to think about.
In college I had a portable manual typewriter. I was a French major. My typewriter was an American made model that did not have accent marks. I had to manually add the accent marks to every paper I typed; that was a lot of manual editing. The university's registration process was "computerized", which meant we had to stand sometimes for hours in enormous lines that snaked around the auditorium and sometimes stretched outside onto the sidewalks. When a student finally got to the front of the line keypunch operators typed the class registrations into the computer. I spent most of my time in line praying to god I would not be shut out of a class because that required going to "Drop-Add". If you know what that means, you know how awful it was. If you don't know what that means, get down on your knees and thank the gods you are young enought to have missed it. And, after "Drop-Add" you had to go back to Registration and stand in line again. Fortunately for me, as a language major, I took a lot of classes nobody else wanted to take so I rarely had that problem. By my senior year I was in good enough standing that I had a couple of professors who were willing to force-add me to classes. I took a couple of classes I really did not want to take just because I could register through the department and not have to go through Registration. My general opinion of computers at that stage in my life was that they were more trouble than they were worth.
After I graduated, I spent a couple of years working as a translator. I got an IBM "Correcting Selectric" typewriter with extra type-balls for various languages. I could add the accent marks electrically! The combined improvement of the electric typewriter and the accent marks included made me one happy gal. I thought I was on the cutting edge of technology.
In the early 1980's I worked for a law firm that was handling large national litigation. We used several computer vendors to do what they called "automated litigation support." The vendors hired teams of coders to hand print bibliographic data from documents onto data entry forms which were then keypunched into gigantic mainframe computers housed in the basements of buildings somewhere. In the law firm, we logged into the databases on slave terminals (at astronomical cost) to run searches on the databases in order to identify documents relevant to certain issues in our cases. The output we got consisted of long lists of document numbers printed out on paper that came off rolls (and persisted in curling up as it came off the printer). We had to pull hard copies of documents manually in order for the attorneys to review them. It was a nightmare. I remember someone mentioning to me the idea of optically scanning documents into the computer. I thought that sounded like heaven if such a thing were even possible, which I doubted.
Sometime in the late '80's I acquired an electronic typewriter. It held about two lines of text which you could correct before printing it on the paper. Since I have always sucked as a typist, that feature was an incredible leap forward for me. I typed newsletters on that typewriter for several organizations for years. I also wrote two (lousy) novels and god knows how many stories on it.
In the early '90's my husband bought his son a computer, which he hooked up to a thing called the Internet. He never shared it with us, but he said it was amazing. In late 1996, he got a new computer and gave me his old one. He showed me how to log onto the Internet and he set me up with a Yahoo email account. Since I didn't know anyone who had email, I did not think that was a very useful feature, but I did like cruising databases for random and useless information, which is, of course, the best kind. Mainly I used the computer for a typewriter.... the most amazing and wonderful typewriter in the world. I could type a whole letter and correct it before printing it out!
In 1997, I discovered Listservs. OMG!!! I signed onto a bunch of them and wasted a lot of time. "Talking" to people from all over the world was amazing. I learned a lot. It was fun. There were lot of mean, rude, hateful people lurking about, so I quit with that eventually.
In about 1999 I bought a new computer that ran Windows 98. I was in heaven. It was so easy to use, at least when it wasn't crashing and locking up -- which it did on a daily basis. At that time I was working for a non-profit organization. I built a computer at work out of parts harvested from several computers people had donated. I signed up for free Internet access, free email and found a website hosting service for free. I built a website for the organization and put us online, all for free. The Board of Directors thought I was some kind of genius. I thought I was "all that" too.
In 2002, I convinced my husband to let me get cable Internet access at home. That was another huge eye opener. I had always shied away from sites with a lot of visual content because they took too long to load over a dial-up connection. Cable opened the world to me. DH still bitches about the cost and keeps trying to talk me into getting rid of it. I tell him we could cut down on food or some other non-essential stuff, or, perhaps, he could subscribe to fewer cable TV channels. That usually shuts him up.
In 2003, I bought my first laptop and my boss gave me an old wireless router he no longer needed. I was liberated from the corner of my bedroom and could once more join my family in the living room! At first I drove my husband crazy googling information about TV shows and movies and giving him running commentary of background information on the shows he was watching on TV. He eventually got into it and now will often ask me to look stuff up. Soon thereafter we bought a new desktop for reasons I don't recall. We only use it occasionally. Instead we fight over the laptop. Soon I am going to buy DD her own laptop for graduation. I want another one for me, too, because the new ones have cooler video and faster processors, and build in web cams.......
In addition to the computers we all have cell phones (with cameras), we use text messaging (which I hate but it appears to be the only way to communicate with a teenager), we take digital photos which we upload to the Internet and share electronically (DH hates that; he wants his pictures printed out!).
It is embarrassing to think of how irritated I get when people ask me for my fax number or, worse, my mailing address. My attitude is if you can't e-mail your information to me, I don't want it!! Don't even talk to me about sending outgoing snail mail. I do not communicate with anyone who requires me to buy stamps ... except my mother, and I usually just call her on the phone.
I am astounded (and appalled) when I run across someone in the business world who is not proficient with Microsoft Word or basic e-mail? How can that be in 2008?
Despite all that, I feel as though technology is changing so fast, I can't keep up. For years I have subscribed to IT zines and feeds in order to try to stay abreast. I used to be able to at least understand enough of the jargon to have a general idea of what they were talking about. Not any more. Technospeak might as well be written in Russian. I am falling behind. It scares me because (unlike the people I keep running across who can't operate basic office equipment but still manage to not get fired) my livelihood depends on staying ahead of the curve.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
....Not every minute of every day, mind you. I admit I dissolve into tears at inopportune times and I take offense at things that wouldn't bother me when I'm not so emotionally raw and wounded. I am hyper-sensitive where I am usually thick skinned. I feel as though none of the people I love cares very much about me a lot of the time ... at least not unless I am willing to play the game by their rules (and I resent that). [Very important note: I used to almost always be willing to play by other peoples' rules. That has changed. Methinks some of those people don't care much for that particular change in me.]
While I am dealing with my own problems, I find myself surrounded by people who are beset by spiritual and emotional crises of their own. A few of them are not coping very well. I am caught in the maelstrom. In the past, I have always been the spiritually strong one, the Wise Woman with all the answers. Unfortunately right now, I have my own emotional and physical issues to grapple with (aging being the biggest one -- my own aging and that of others around me, including my Dear Daughter who is soon to fly from the nest). I am not feeling particularly wise. I am not feeling particularly in the mood to deal with other peoples' problems.
Frankly, I have less patience or forbearance for bullshit from other people these days, and am not as willing to give them a pass when they give me grief, when they think they can dump their crap on me and let me deal with it OR when they come to me for advice and then give me a bunch of dishonest BS about what their problem actually is.
I may not be exactly turning into exactly a Wise Woman, but some days I certainly feel like I'm headed in the direction of a Crone.
Monday, March 24, 2008
Perhaps it would behoove us to consider electing a president who can enter into so many points of view from personal experience.
First of all, I have to say that I have had no serious physical issues, which probably skews my view of the whole experience differently from those women who suffer with debilitating physical symptoms. Unlike for many women, in my experience the physical symptoms of menopause have been more positive than negative.
Surprisingly, the emotional and psychological impact has been wonderful. I feel more confident, more creative, more competent than ever before. I was never overly concerned with what others thought of me, but I am even less concerned about it now. I am what and who I am. To those who have a problem with that, my response is, “Oh, well.” I can't be bothered with letting others diminish my growing personal power. I am respectful and conscious of the effect of my actions on other people. (Sometimes I feel like the only person in my world who bothers with that bit of common courtesy.)
The biggest surprise has been the burst of creativity and sort of spiritual expansiveness that came with menopause. For me it is like the breaking away of a chrysalis, and the emergence of a butterfly. I don't think my butterfly has really taken off yet, but it is definitely emerging.
Writing used to be a hobby, now it is my animating passion.
Nature was always fascinating and engaging, now I find everything from tiny details like rain dripping off a leaf to global warming to be matters of deep import, worthy of contemplation and deep concern.
Religion was always very central to my life , now I find (organized) religion to be utterly irrelevant, while at the same time I find myself more spiritually aware than I have ever been.
Whether it is because of hormonal changes that allow my brain to operate differently or because of the decreased focus on family-building and child care, it is as though my very psyche has expanded. Beautiful things are more lovely. Food tastes better. Entertainment is more fun. I seem to savor things in a way I never did before.
A lot of Baby Boomers seem to be trying to fight aging for all they are worth. I find myself reveling in it. For years I've looked forward to advancing to the level of the Wise Old Woman – otherwise referred to in Jungian parlance as “The Crone”. I'm getting there and I'm liking it.
Hence the problem perhaps????!!!!!
I said the other day that the funk I find myself in has to do with me dealing with other peoples' issues which I thought had little to do with me. I think I may have been wrong about that, at least in part. Several people in my life are going through their own issues having to do with aging as well. Some are handling it better than others. (Translation: the women I know seem to be doing well. The men... not so hot. That should not come as a surprise.) For the most part their issues and problems belong to them. I am very careful to try not to get caught up in things that are not my problems to deal with.
There is one little thing I didn't think about the other day. My friends, colleagues and family are also having to deal with the changes in me. It appears that some of those changes have not been received very well. There may well be part of their behavior toward me which is truly a negative reaction to changes in my behavior. I should probably challenge that ... that is, if I could sort it out.
In any case, I find myself in the process of being transformed. That may be a good thing for me. I have to keep in mind that it may prove a challenge others who are accustomed to the Old Me.
I also have to be mindful that, while I am a person who loves and embraces and seeks Change, most people are not. Most people like things the way they are. Most people are afraid of change and try to avoid it. They are freaked out by someone who relishes Change (even when it is scary). I am charging off excitedly toward Old Age with the attitude that it will be a new adventure. Others are hanging back, afraid and depressed. I am very, very annoyed by that. I need to keep in mind that they are just as annoyed by my attitude.
Hell, in terms of most things in life, I am the most risk averse person I know. If this were a question of changing jobs, changing homes, changing something a person has any control over, I'd be fine with their reluctance. I'd be sympathetic with their depression. I'd be willing to sit tight and wait until they were ready. I would probably be hanging back as well, fearing to make the wrong decision.
But getting older isn't something we have any control over. It's happening whether we like it or not. We have to go down that path no matter how afraid we are. I believe that every day we waste sitting around being depressed and miserable about aging is one less day we have to do something meaningful, help someone, make a difference, do something creative, be joyful, be stupid, or act like a fool. That is where I lose patience. I can't stand people (of any age including children) who sit around and mope and whine and bitch and complain. I can't stand people who think their lives and issues are so important that other people should take up the slack while they sit around feeling sorry for themselves.
I am prepared to go on living my life, doing my duty and taking care of my responsibilities while at the same time dealing with my own issues. I expect others to be able to do the same thing.
Clearly, I am delusional.
Sunday, March 23, 2008
Some of the most painfully beautiful stories in all of Scripture are the Easter Stories. Mary’s encounter with Jesus in the Garden has never failed to make me cry. I know just how she feels!!! The original ending of the Gospel of Mark is such a mystery: why did the women go away and not tell anybody? The stories about the Risen Lord are the foundations of the future Christian church. Paul avers that if Christ did not rise, then the Church is based on a lie. Theologians have argued endlessly about what exactly the disciples experienced when they “saw” the Risen Christ. I don't care very much what it was. What is important was that they "experienced" the Christ among them, and that experience changed them -- and the world -- forever.
Paul was wrong when he says, “Last of all he appeared to me …” ( 1 Cor. 15:8). Christ revealed himself to his friends (Peter and others), and then also revealed himself to Paul. I have no problem with that. I absolutely believe the disciples experienced the Presence of Jesus as the Christ. The Gospel writers assume that the initial Appearances are “it” and that once Jesus disappears into the clouds on Ascension Day, then the Disciples are in charge because they are the ones who were directly commissioned by him to continue his ministry before his death and they were the first ones to whom he appeared after he was raised from the dead. This, of course, gave them a significant claim to holding authority in the developing church (which is, I believe, one of the principle themes of the New Testament).
Paul correctly contradicted that idea and says, “Whoa, guys. He appeared to me and commissioned me, too! My witness, is also authentic so I should have a say in how the Church is organized and run.” Paul assumed that Jesus left the Damascus Road, and went straight back to Heaven, leaving Paul and the Twelve in charge of the Tradition-to-be. He was prepared to battle the Twelve for the power and authority in the new church on the grounds that Jesus came back and specifically commissioned him as an Apostle. Paul, then, conveniently sent Jesus back to Heaven. That way nobody else could come along and claim to be Witnesses, too, and undermine Paul's authority.
Well, Surprise!!! Jesus did not cooperate (when did Jesus ever do anything his followers expected?): He never “left." Not on Ascension Day. Not after the Damascus Road incident. The Christ has been right here all along, “appearing” to lots of folks just as clearly and surely as he did to Mary Magdalene and Peter and Paul and the others. That makes our current experiences of the Risen Lord as valid as theirs, and makes it possible for us to have a one-on-one relationship with the spirit of the Christ (the Spirit of G-d through Christ; the Holy Spirit – whatever you choose to call it), without the intermediary of the Bible, Tradition or the hierarchy of the Church. Contrary to Paul’s shrill protests and despite the Church’s best efforts to channel all Revelation through itself, G-d resolutely refuses to stay inside any box humanity tries to put it in.
For me, the real message of the Resurrection of the Christ has nothing to do with what happens to me after I die. Maybe it does that, too, but that has never really been an issue for me. For me the real power of the message of Easter is that it gives me a way to live my New Life -- Now. The knowledge that the ChristSpirit is only as far away as the barest beginnings of a soulprayer allows me to seek his presence as a comfort and source of strength. The ChristSpirit does not need the Church in order to come to us or nourish us, nor do we need the Church to reach out to that Spirit. It is always simply right here, as close as our tiniest breath. It is the same "still small voice" that Isaiah heard after the whirlwind, and it breathes into our hearts if we will only listen.
Yes, I believe in Resurrection, but not any long-time-ago resuscitation of the crucified body of Jesus of Nazareth or some long-time-hence resuscitation of lots of human corpses at the end of time (that particular notion gives me the creeps). I believe in Resurrection Now.
Most of the information we have about that is in the Third Testament of the Bible, which is written in the hearts and experiences of the many people who have encountered the Risen Lord. It is powerfully described in works like John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila and many others. That encounter can come in many ways. It can come unbidden and unexpected at any time or any place. Glimpses can also be found in some of the passages in Zane Grey westerns, great music, great art, home-made bread, hand-made wedding quilts, fresh brewed coffee or a gift of flowers picked by a child to mention only a few. All we have to do is open our hearts and our five senses and pay attention.
Resurrection Now demands that we always be prepared to die to some aspect of our current life and then live a New Life right now. Resurrection Now demands that we follow Christ when he calls us. We have to be prepared to put down our nets or whatever else may hold us back and simply follow the Spirit. We have to be prepared to change at any time. We have to be prepared at any time to put aside our old ways, old ideas, old practices, old religions, even our old notions about G-d. In our liturgical practice we tend to follow Jesus from his birth through his ministry and death. When he is raised on Easter, we tend to slide back and start over, but the Christ beckons us to follow him into resurrection life also. Right here. Right now.
That is the Resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come to which I set my heart (credo).
That is the significance of Easter for me.
Alleluia. Christ is Risen.
Christ is Risen, indeed. Alleluia.
Let us follow Him into that New Life.
Saturday, March 22, 2008
I have had so much going on in my life this year, Lent/Holy Week has come and gone and I missed it.
I didn't have the heart to meditate on the Passion of the Christ during Holy Week this year. I was too busy being in my own little corner of hell. Lots going on. Practically all of it sucks. It has been a long time since I have been this frustrated. Angry. Depressed. Not to mention just sort of generally fucking miserable.
The cause was not one big thing. It has been death by a thousand emotional and psychic cuts from a lot of different directions. Most of my significant external sources of support have all but dried up. What is more, a couple of my most important ones have "turned on" me for reasons of their own. I am angry, but most of all I am afraid. I don't see a way out of the situation because I don't have any control over what is happening. The negative stuff is coming from the outside of me, and I have no control, or even influence over it. The reasons people are doing this to me are because of their own problems and issues, which probably have very little (if anything) to do with me personally. A couple of people are openly taking their problems out on me. Others have simply dumped stuff on me because they knew I would pick up the slack while they are doing other things. In any case, I have ended up taking on a whole lot of crap of various sorts from a lot of different directions. And I have no where to go with it. What is more, I feel resentful and angry about it, but I can't express that without adding to the pain of people who are going through their own hell.
I feel trapped in circumstances that are becoming increasingly difficult. I have become lost in the woods somehow. I am afraid of the woods. The only way out appears to be straight ahead. I am afraid it will get worse before it gets better.
That would be bad enough but it seems that a lot of people are standing around hoping for me to fail, and a couple of the people who are closest to me (in every respect) are taking the chance to kick me while I'm down. I don't get down often, so I guess they have to take advantage of the opportunity while they can.
Even my fiction Muse has taken a vacation. The one thing I could count on when I felt lost, alone, frightened and couldn't cope with the world any more has withdrawn.
Hmmmm........... Wellsireebob, it appears that, while I may not have been paying attention consciously, I have been making the best Lent I ever did! [A fit of total hilarity should ensue here. Since I am such a hard case, god usually has to sneak up on me and catch me when I'm not paying attention. This appears to be a case in point.]
In contemplation, [despite previous preaching to the contrary here] I have always avoided identifying with Jesus. I can identify with everybody else in most of the Bible stories, but I always avoided identifying with Jesus. Despite centuries of Christian mystical tradition insisting that Christians should meditate on the experiences of Jesus, I took it upon myself to decide that it was somehow presumptuous and improper to identify with the Christ. The fact of the matter is it was just too damned terrifying. I managed to be a practicing Christian for most of more than 40 years without ever really getting the point. [Note to self: take some time to appreciate the totally ridiculous nature of that statement and experience -- someday ... when it won't hurt so much.]
So, while I may not have been paying attention consciously or "observed" it in any traditional sense, I find myself this Holy Saturday feeling bereft, exhausted, drained. Empty.
In other words, I am exactly where one should be at least one day of the year: Empty and dry, waiting for a Refill; Afraid but bordering on desperate enough to try just about anything, waiting for a New Gift; Dead. waiting to be Reborn.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
I did not get around to reading Senator Obama's speech on the issue of race until this evening. One of these days, I'll have to watch it on U-Tube or the History Channel. I want to hear him deliver it. In the meantime, I've settled for reading it ... and weeping.
In an unusual move for a politician running for office, Senator Obama acknowledged the complexity of the issues. He acknowledged that people of all races have some legitimate (and some not-so-legitimate) concerns on the question of race. He acknowledged that the racial divisions that beset us arose as a result of complex and long-term cultural causes. They will not go away quickly or easily, but that does not absolve us of the duty to try to do something about the problems.
Our racial problems (like any other problem) can only be dealt with if we deal with them as what they are.
Senator Obama took the opportunity, offered by the right-wing media's attempts to paint him as a black radical, to make an important speech on the subject of what is really happening in on the racial barricades in America. Perhaps no one in America is better equipped to know that territory than a mixed-race person.... a mixed race person who is in political life.
I honor and respect the fact that the Senator took the opportunity provided by the publicity over Rev. Wrights comments to address the issue head on and to be honest.
For the first time, I'm tilting in the direction of voting for Senator Obama. If the election were today, I think I'd vote for him.
Mine is only one vote, but it counts.
(I wish I could be more certain that it really matters.)
Sunday, March 16, 2008
In addition to her wide circle of colleagues, Mom had an inner circle of close friends who were very interesting. I am not sure how they got acquainted. They seemed to have virtually nothing in common. Maybe that was why there was such magic between them.
One of the women went to our church; I think that is how my mom met her. After her children were grown, she became an EMT and volunteer ambulance driver. She smoked like a chimney and chewed gum constantly. She was a very funny person; she loved dirty jokes (really, really dirty jokes). I liked her a lot, but I liked her husband even better because he was quiet, had a very dry wit and was not nearly so intimidating.
A second friend was the wife of a mid-level executive for a large corporation. To my knowledge she had never worked for money. Her children, too, were grown and lived far away. She had a really nice house (by my standards) which she had decorated herself. She was rather flamboyant in her manner and dress which both attracted and repelled me. She, too, smoked like a fiend (and had a heart condition because of it). She was very rough around the edges and she swore like a sailor, but I liked her the best of all Mom's friends. She acted rough and gruff, but her kind heart showed through despite all her efforts to hide it.
The third woman in the group was much younger than the others. She was a practical nurse who worked in a long-term care facility that cared for incurably ill people. She was quiet, gentle and kind; simply being around her was soothing and comforting. I always thought she must have been a spectacular nurse. She made me feel better just sitting at the table drinking tea with her. I don't think she had children of her own, but I think her husband had grown children. She lived in a trailer with her husband who, I think, was a truck driver. She was a native American and she had the most beautiful long black hair I have ever seen. She smoked a lot, too. The thing I remember most about her was how freaked out she was when she turned 40. The other women were very kind to her. They had all passed that hurdle and they were determined to help her through it. [I am both amused and freaked out to think that all of those women were younger than I am now. Hmmmm. ... moving along now.....]
What my mother, the ultra-religious Southern gal with late-life small children, had in common with those other three, I have no earthly idea. I do know they loved each other and got together often for lunches that involved massive quantities of coffee and overflowing ashtrays. (My mom didn't smoke but she never complained about the cloud of smoke she lived in from the people around her who did.) A couple of times a year they would go out to a restaurant for dinner. They were not regular drinkers, but their evenings out tended to involve a few cocktails, so one or the other husband would take them to the restaurant and another husband would pick them up, pour them into the car and deliver each one safely (but often somewhat green around the gills) to their respective homes. I remember those times because the women had such fun, and because the husbands were such good sports about it.
Occasionally when I wasn't in school, Mom would take me with her to lunch with the girls. My main purpose in being there was to baby-sit my sister who was a toddler at the time. I typically managed to park her in front of the TV or make her take a nap so I could sneak into the kitchen and eavesdrop on the girl-talk.
One particular lunch conversation stands out in my mind. I had just read The Feminine Mystique which was the "it" book that year. Only one of the women had read it but they had all heard of it. The woman who had read it explained the concept to the others. Two of the other three nodded and agreed. They said they understood exactly what Friedan was talking about, and proceded to provide examples from their own lives. My mom said nothing through the entire lunch. After the conversation calmed down a bit, one of the women pushed her for her opinion. Mom shrugged and said, "I can understand what you are talking about, but I do not feel that I have given anything up. I always felt that I had a choice to be a wife and mother or not. I chose the life I have. I would not do anything differently. I love my life."
They pushed back, trying to get her to admit that sometimes she felt oppressed. She refused to budge. Knowing my mom, I am pretty sure she was being totally truthful. I know she believed there were always choices in life. The fact that she chose the most common path did not make it any less her freely chosen one. Mom had no regrets (then or now). What an amazing accomplishment that is!
That day stands out in my mind for many reasons. First, because I had a chance to hear from my mother's friends what I expected to hear: the "Feminine Mystique" was every bit as real and every bit as suffocating as Friedan described it. Secondly, it stands out in my mind because my mother's staunch refusal to be railroaded into saying that she felt something she didn't feel, no matter how "popular" the notion, made me understand that not everyone shares the "majority" opinion. Thirdly, and most importantly, it may have been the most intimate conversation I ever heard those women engage in. It was my first experience of "deep" girl-talk. I have been hooked ever since on that kind of relationship with other women.
What I took away from eavesdropping on my mother and her friends was that women (people) do not have to have a lot in common to love one another. They simply have to care about one another and be willing to listen without passing judgments.
Years later when I found myself briefly blessed to find myself in a circle of chain-smoking, coffee-drinking women who met frequently for lunch and conversations on deep subjects, I could sometimes close my eyes and feel our connection to the larger Sisterhood of women who had gone before and who would come after us. The feeling of empowerment was amazing.
Saturday, March 15, 2008
Still my mother's indoctrination about not wasting food combined with my love of fresh ingredients caused me to spend some time in the kitchen today engaged in a salvage operation.
We have several citrus trees in our yard. We picked the oranges already and gave most of them away. It is starting to get hot, so we picked the rest of the grapefruit and lemons today before they spoiled on the tree or the ground. I spent the afternoon juicing lemons. I'm freezing the juice in ice cube trays to store in the freezer for cooking and adding to iced tea. I also made fresh grapefruit juice for breakfast tomorrow. The fact is that I don't like citrus fruit very much. However, I hate to waste such good, wholesome food. Perhaps even I shall start eating a daily grapefruit. I suspect there will be lots of lemonade in our future as well, not to mention lemon chicken, lemon fish, lemon rice, and anything else I can think of that would be enhanced by a splash of fresh lemon jusice.
Don't even suggest lemon bars or lemon merangue pie to this family of dieters... (although the thought did cross my mind). I am, however, open to suggestions for recipes involving fresh lemon and (even more) fresh grapefruit, of which I have several bushels taking up space in my back room.
These comments poked me in a sore spot. Good liturgy should point us at something beyond the experience itself. It should pluck at that something in us that resonates with the heartbeat of god and remind us that we are participants in creation itself. It should make us feel simultaneously part of the congregation present, the communion of saints, and the cloud of unknowing. My standard always was that if I could remember the whole service it must not have been very good. Really good liturgy often caused me to go off on a journey in which I was participating in the service at one level, but was also taken up into another place entirely. I often found myself (unpleasantly) surprised to find the service over.
Liturgy was the one thing that held me in the church about three years longer than I think god would have preferred (judging from the increasing intensity of the internal pressure to move out into the wilderness where I belong). Anyway I continued to disobey the SpiritVoice and go to church for several years because I could not imagine life without regular liturgy.
That was fine for a while. The church we attended offered some interesting liturgical opportunities. At first, I liked it. They mixed it up. Sometimes they had traditional high-church, almost Roman liturgy. Being an old candle-worshipping RC from way back, I loved that. They also had contemporary praise services; it was all I could do not to run screaming from the building when they did those, but DD liked them so I would grit my teeth and sit through them. They sometimes used classical music, sometimes contemporary. It was a nice mix. I liked it a lot.
Somewhere along the line, however they started mixing various forms of worship together. Then they started experimenting with multi-media stuff. They also fell into the trap of putting too many "special" rituals into each service. Pretty soon every worship service turned into something like musical theater (often performances that were about one act too long). Liturgy which was supposed to be "the work of the people" turned into "the people watching the professionals at work." That turned me off, although occasionally they would hit a home run. The prospect of the occasional good services kept me coming back.
The last time I darkened the door was Christmas Eve several years ago. DD was an acolyte. A few days before Christmas Eve she had to attend a rehearsal. I waited in the parking lot, thinking it would be a quick run-through. The rehearsal lasted almost two hours. When she got into the car, she was almost in tears, and very angry. Apparently the rehearsal had not gone well. In addition to going through the whole service several times until they got it "perfect", the rehearal involved considerable periods of the rector yelling at pretty much everyone in what she described as a mean and degrading way. I offered to go inside and tell him how unacceptable that was and then I suggested we just skip the performance. She said she had promised to participate and she would go through with it, but after that she was going to hang up her acolyte's robe. She asked me not to go inside and make a scene. I restrained myself to avoid humiliating her, but I inflicted her with the old "you don't have to take that shit from anybody least of all a priest...." speech all the way home.
The Christmas Eve service turned out to be something like a Busby Berkley musical. It was a multi-media mess with everything but pyro! It ended with the traditional candle-light singing of Silent Night, which would have been nice, but for the fact that they sang it in German. Now, granted, I'm a Zincinnati Cherman who thinks Stille Nacht should not be sung in any language other than German. Unfortunately, we were in Florida and there was apparently only one other person in the congregation who felt the same way I did, the Rector. For me it was beautiful and moving and I got caught up in the first verse. By the time we got to the chorus I realized I was about the only one in the congregation singing. How utterly inappropriate that was! Communal singing is so important to liturgy. Communal singing of Silent Night in the wee hours of Christmas morning is such a cherished American tradition, it made me mad to think that the rector placed his own musical tastes above the needs of his congregation, and robbed everyone but me and the choir of the opportunity to participate in the tradition. I haven't been to church since.
I think this year my Holy Week and Easter observances will include holding all the church-attenders in my heart and praying that their liturgical experiences during the Holy Days will not be spiritually harmful. (In a lot of churches, I think that is as good as it ever gets.)
Thursday, March 13, 2008
My dad went to the South Pacific on a troop ship instead of going to college, but he loved to read. His favorite subject was history. Despite cultural bias in our Catholic blue-collar community against intellectual pursuits in general and, especially against educating girls, he encouraged me to be curious about my world and he never once gave me even the slightest hint that he would accept anything less from me than the relentless pursuit of knowledge, in school or out. The first fight we ever had was over homework. He found my homework papers unacceptable. I told him they were good enough. He said, "If it's worth doing, it's worth doing well." He made me redo my homework, and he left me with a mantra. I may have been just a girl to the rest of the world, but he expected more of me. I soon learned to expect even more of myself than he did.
When I was in high school my dad read The Female Eunuch. Why on earth he read it I have no idea. Personally, I think he thought it was a dirty book. To my knowledge it was the only "liberal" and/or "feminist" book he ever read. He never told me what he thought of it. When he finished reading it, however, he gave it to me. I read it but I have to confess it didn't make a huge impression. Geer's thought processes were too difficult for me at the time. It inspired me, however, to read The Feminine Mystique, which I did understand (because it described the lives my mother and her friends were living at the time and which I was determined to avoid at all costs). Dad never mentioned the book again and he never mentioned the Feminists in a positive light, but somehow I always knew that his opinions were more complex than they appeared. He may not have liked the Feminists, but he knew they were looking out for my best intersts. He may not have wanted me to turn out exactly like them, but he wanted me (for some reason) to know about what they were doing. I don't think he really understood it or accepted it, but at some visceral level he made an exception for me in his anti-Feminist attitudes. I have always appreciated that.
Perhaps most importantly of all, my dad showed me by example how to pursue dreams. When he retired he embarked upon the study of music. The man could not read a note of music until he was in his early sixties at which point he started taking music lessons. For years, he practiced for hours and hours every day. No girl ever had such an amazing confluence of inspiring witnesses as I did at that point. My mentor, Liz, was off in Arizona learning to paint and writing long passionate letters about the ecstacy of the process. My dad was learning to play the organ, with perhaps less flair but every bit the determination. He never tried to describe how he felt about that. He didn't need to. It was evident in his beatific visage every time he sat down to play.
I heard the message loud and clear: follow your bliss; it is never too late.
He never pushed me like some fathers do. He merely offered me alternatives that may not have occurred to me because they cut across the grain of the ambient culture in our community. He practiced his principles rather than preaching them. How many girls have ever been lucky enough to have a dad like that?
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
- Governor Spitzer resigned. I'm guessing that was part of a deal to stay out of the slammer. I personally don't generally care who politicians are boinking. Most of the time it seems to me that the more time they spend with their girlfriends (paid or unpaid) the less time they spend passing laws that put their hands in my pocket. In Spitzer's case, I do care. He held himself out to be a paragon of virtue.... Mr. Green Jeans come to clean up the wicked state of New York, and after that ... who knows (?) the whole nation? Arrogance. Pride. Temper. And now this? Just about any other politician could meet with hookers in the alley behind their houses and I wouldn't care very much. A politician who defined himself as a moral, upstanding, religious family-man who spends $80,000 of the taxpayers' money on high-priced, high-maintenance hookers in expensive hotels is a totally other matter. A john who refuses to use a condom is a danger to himself, his wife and the hooker. The man needs to go to jail. I know I am dreaming.
- Mrs. Spitzer was at his side again today. While she was not exactly giving him the Nancy Reagan adoring gaze, she was there. I can't imagine why, but maybe the shock hasn't worn off yet and, just maybe, she really loves the guy. I hope when the shock does wear off, she will see a lawyer and sit her girls down and say: YOU DO NOT HAVE TO TAKE THIS BULLSHIT FROM A BASTARD LIKE THAT.
- Meanwhile there's something like a bitch fight over in the Clinton camp. Apparently Geraldine Ferraro [who knew she was still kicking???] said something obvious and everybody got excited. Ferraro resigned rather than require the campaign to deal with a diversity of opinion. I am no fan of Geraldine Ferraro, but the woman's got a right to her opinion. Last I checked they still haven't repealed the Bill of Rights. [Though, it ain't for lack of trying on the part of the current Administration.]
- Obama won Mississippi. Huh? Say what? A black man has won a presidential primary in Mississippi? Mssrs. Schwerner, Goodman and Chaney may be resting a bit easier in their graves tonight, I hope.
- An increasing wave of violence is sweeping Iraq. The next person who tells me The Surge is working is gonna get it -- right in the kisser!
- The price of gasoline hit a new all-time high. I paid $3.29 at the pump this morning. When are we going to come to the realization that what we need to do is quit worrying about meddling in middle eastern politics (which wouldn't matter if we didn't need fossil fuel so much) and spend some time, energy and research on alternative fuels. If we could cut down our use of oil, we wouldn't be so dependent on the Middle East. They, in turn, wouldn't have us by the short hairs. Lots of pressure could be let off just by reducing the need for that oil. Why does that seem so obvious to me and yet so not-gonna-happen?
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
I feel sorry for his wife and especially his daughters. As for the Guv, I figure, he made his bed, he can lie in it.
.. .oh, this is too easy. It isn't even fun.
Monday, March 10, 2008
In some respects Liz was a quite ordinary person. She was born and raised on a farm in the Midwest. Her harrowing tales of rural life being tormented by two older brothers were always entertaining, and maybe some of the stories bore a kernel of truth. They had been told, retold, and polished over the years by a master storyteller until the facts had been overtaken by the images and the meaning. The historical truth of the events of her early life may have been lost, but the significance of her memory of a childhood in a simpler time among hard but loving people was always absolutely clear in every story she told about the family she loved so much.
She was a young woman in love during WWII, and, like most people in her generation, she was forever marked by that experience. She was a flag-waving patriotic, jingoistic America-firster, and damned proud of it. She was a life long member of the Ladies Auxiliary of the VFW. She believed in the ideals of America with a fierceness that reflected her belief in the fragility of freedom, and the need to renew, in each generation, our commitment to the sacred trust of being the standard-bearers of freedom for the world. That America is the greatest nation ever in history was not a matter of opinion for her; it was an indesputable fact. If anyone was stupid enough to express a different point of view in her presence I never heard about it.
It would be a serious understatement to say she was “disillusioned” by organized religion. The fact is she loathed and despised organized religion. She believed absolutely in a God of Goodness and Love -- not because she'd read about it in Scripture or was told about it in preaching, but because she experienced in her daily life the Holiness that pervades all of God’s Creation. She did not need a church to experience God and she resented the Church's guilt-inducing influence on otherwise innocent children (including me).
She told stories of being a disappointment to her mother because she could never quite master the art of being “lady-like”. Even in her old age, having for years accepted that she was not then and never was likely to be a genteel lady, she could still express a deep sadness that she'd been such a disappointment to her mother. Those stories were laced heavily with sorrow for the impact her choices had on her mother. She never once expressed even the tiniest hint of regret over her choices, however.
Perhaps that clarity about herself was one of her most striking traits. She was very sensitive to others’ feelings and opinions, but she never let them deter her from being her own person, no matter how much her way of living flew in the face of the norm, and it did. In the 1950's and early 1960's, when most of the women I knew were homemakers with children who never left the house without their hair done and their “face on”, she was different. She was the first woman I knew who didn't wear makeup. She only wore a bra when she absolutely, positively had to (and she took it off the minute she had an opportunity). She never wore a girdle. She had no children and she worked at a full-time job -- both of which were unusual for a married woman in those years. She was not a feminist, however, at least not in any way she would have acknowledged. She rejected the very notion of "feminism" and God help you if you expressed an opinion that she had anything in common with “Women's Libbers” like Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, etc.
She saw herself as a Republican, and a conservative. When she moved to Arizona, I teased her about moving there to be closer to Barry Goldwater. Conscience of a Conservative was one of her all-time favorite books; she made me read it when I was just a kid and really didn't understand it. She did Republican party work her whole life, but I always saw her as more of an anarchist than anything. It always seemed to me that she only espoused the conservative “small government is better than big government” ideology because she understood that “no government at all” was not very practical. Nevertheless, deep in her soul, I always suspected she felt that “no government” would have been just fine.
I believe that is why she sought out-of-the-way places to live, where she could be left alone and where no one would try to tell her what to do. She had an affinity in literature, art and movies for the mountain men who so desperately tried to stay one step ahead of civilization if for no other reason than to stay away from the crowds. She felt herself to be their modern-day equivalent.
Liz was a person who knew what she wanted in life and she went after it, even when that may have caused her to go against the grain of social niceties. She told me many times that the first time she ever saw her husband in a store in her village, she told the friend she was with that she was going to marry him and she immediately embarked on a campaign to make that happen. She never told me how she managed to get from that encounter in the pharmacy to matrimony, but Liz was nothing if not determined. Her husband's painful shyness was no match, I suppose, for her determination. They were an odd couple in many ways, but that they cherished one another was obvious to anyone who saw them together (if you could manage to look past their constant arguing and bickering).
They built their first home with their own hands, and then filled it with the books and music that they loved. There was peace and love and contentment there, even during the otherwise tumultuous 1960's. Marty Robbins was always queued up on the record player and there were floor to ceiling shelves filled with books in the den. There were rocks to polish and photos to develop in the basement. Liz and I spent many an afternoon making jewelry from the rocks she'd collected and cut and polished. I longed to visit that house for many, many years after they moved away. I guess I still do.
I cannot think of Liz without thinking of books! My very first paying job was cleaning their house when I was in junior high. The room that always took the longest for me to clean was the smallest room in the house, the den. It took extra time because I had to investigate the new books on the shelves -- and there were new titles every week. I had blanket permission to borrow whatever I wanted, and usually came home from my cleaning job with a sack full of novels. Liz may not have had much of a formal education (I think she made it most of the way through the eighth grade), but she and her husband were both incredibly well read. Liz read widely in history and science, poetry and literature. She read books on accounting and economics, politics and geology. I can't think of a topic you could mention that she didn't know something about. But her tastes weren't only high-brow: she and her husband both loved paperback westerns, especially Louis L'Amour. I think she read every one of his many, many books.
Her other favorite western novelist was Zane Grey; I think it was from his work that she first fell in love with the American West. By the time I was a teenager she had read all of his books, most of them more than once, a few of them many times. I remember once she was trying to explain something to me about the colors of a sunset, and she pulled out a tattered old copy of Riders of the Purple Sage, turning to one of Grey's particularly rich descriptions of a sunset in the high desert. I could tell from the expression on her face and the reverence in her voice as she read the words she could actually see the sunset that Grey was describing. She taught me to read in that visual way as well. That was perhaps the most precious of all the gifts I received from her. She didn't just read books, she “watched” them like a movie – or, maybe, more accurately still, she “inhabited” them. I often felt that some of her paintings were her effort to capture on paper what she “saw” reading Zane Grey's novels.
As long as I can remember, she loved to draw and doodle. I remember many Friday evenings, sitting at our kitchen table listening to Mom and Liz talk, and watching Liz draw pictures and shapes and designs on the backs of napkins or scrap paper. It was no surprise to me when, after retiring and moving to Arizona, that she began to study painting.
For a number of years after her retirement, painting was her animating passion. She painted the landscapes she had carried around in her head her whole life. She painted sunrises and sunsets, barns and fallen-down prospector’s cabins, and any number of other scenes she had held in her memory or imagination for years until they finally had an outlet. Her pictures had a simplicity and sparseness that reflected the simplicity of her tastes, but they had a richness and depth that left no doubt there was lots going on beneath the surface as well.
I believe that her early years in the Southwest were among the happiest of her life. After a lifetime of loving to travel the Western states, she reveled in the opportunity to live there full-time, surrounded by the mountains and the forests and the spirits of the land which nurtured her and filled her with artistic inspiration, and personal contentment. All the creativity that she had stored up during a lifetime of wanting to create art, came flooding out on paper and canvas in a few short years. In those years she wrote many long letters letters to me. They were letters from a happy and fulfilled person.
The last time I saw her, both her eyesight and her memory were beginning to fail and she could neither paint nor read very much any more. She filled her time with clubs and Republican party political work, but she missed her books, and, most especially, her painting. When we visited that summer, she took down each painting in her studio, and asked me what I thought of it. Then she proceeded to tell me what she had been trying to accomplish when she painted it and where she felt she could have improved. The longing in her voice and the sadness she exhibited at the awareness that she would not paint again made those hours hard for me to bear. They must have been excruciating for her.
I believe Liz thoroughly enjoyed her life. She loved to travel. She loved music. She liked rum daiquiris and apricot brandy. She was no Julia Child, but she made the greatest fried chicken livers in the world. She was cantankerous and crotchety at times, particularly with people she felt were narrow-minded or unwilling to stand on their own feet, but she was kind and generous to everybody else. She loved her husband. She was a loyal and dear friend to more people than I can even imagine. She loved her country, its land and its people. She may not have had any children of her own, but she served as a “second mom” and “mentor” to a whole lot of us.
It might be said that, in her passing, a light has gone out in the world. But, I can't help but think of the lives she touched: the babies who were born because she advised friends to follow their hearts and marry the man nobody else liked; the educations or vocations pursued because she advised young people not to be afraid to take risks; the late-life careers or dreams pursued by those of us who followed her example of believing it is never too late to follow your dreams. Maybe Liz’s light has not gone out after all. Maybe it now continues to burn in the hearts and lives of those of us who were privileged to have her call us friends. Considering how many people are included in that number, that is quite an amazing legacy.
Sunday, March 9, 2008
From the first time I read it in the early 1990's, I loved the poem, When I am Old I Shall Wear Purple. I was aware that I was too young for the part then, but I decided that, when the time came, I would be an old lady like the one described in the poem.
It reminded me immediately of a lady who went to my church when I was little. I don't remember her name. In fact, I never knew anything about her. In the early 1960's, she was probably in her mid to late 60's. She was a little wiry lady who never walked, she marched. She marched into church and sat in the front row. She marched up to the Communion rail and marched back again. She marched out at the end of the service. She was always in a hurry. Other church-ladies moved quietly and slowly. Nuns seemed to glide [they must teach that in nun-school, sort like the runways exercises on America's Top Model]. This lady moved through her world like she owned the joint.
Other details I remember about her: She drove a Corvette. She wore mini-skirts (not really, really short ones but her skirts were above her knees, which was something of a scandal). She wore a big pink knit hat with giant sparkly sequins. She wore bright red lipstick and red fingernail polish. She had well manicured nails.
Needless to say, almost all the good Christians in our church trashed her something awful. The kids laughed at her because she was different. The mothers despised her because she was unfeminine, she didn't "act her age" and she didn't play the church-lady game. Three strikes, you're out, Toots. For most people being on the outs with the Church-ladies would have been a frightening thing. I don't think that lady noticed. And if she did notice, methinks she would not have cared.
I thought she was the second coolest lady in my world. (I'll write about the coolest one soon.) I would have loved to get to know her but she never slowed down long enough to talk to anyone, and she was apparently way too busy to participate in the church in any way other than regular Sunday attendance. Nevertheless she made a very strong impression on this good [ahem] little Catholic girl. I don't remember thinking that I wanted to grow up to be like her, but the idea must have seeped into my psyche somehow. At any rate, she made a lasting impression.
When I read the "Purple" poem the first time, I immediately thought of that lady. I made up my mind that when the time came I, too, would wear purple and revel in being old. I'll never be a Red Hat Lady (I'm not a joiner and I HATE the thought of dressing like other people), but I relish the thought that I finally have the opportunity to begin to grow into the sort of cool old broad I have always admired. It seems as though I have been waiting my whole life for this. I hope I can pull it off!!