conifertree

Roots & branches & all~

Something Stolen

When I think of things that are stolen, I picture cat burglars & jewels, like Cary Grant opposite cary & grace, meow! Grace Kelly. Smooth, sleek, smart & debonair. Or the murder mystery heist: blood pooling under the pajama-wearing master of the house, shadows stark along the floor… and yet, other ‘things’ are stolen that are less visible, less quantifiable.
When children are made to witness violence in their home we steal their innocence, if not their physical safety. young sexyWe steal something from little girls when we make them feel dirty if they don’t cover up their naked bottom and yet encourage the sexy little outfits they wear.  We take boys and teach them to stuff their feelings and live tough, robbing them of their vulnerability. We steal trust from one another when we lie to save face or get out of something.racial profiling cartoon We let the police and NSA steal our human rights with their search and seizure tactics and profiling tendencies where innocent people are treated as guilty until they prove they aren’t; an upside down version of our constitution.

Amendment IV
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

So. My first thoughts of things being stolen involve actual objects; things like my mom’s bike from the Safeway parking lot, or the bikes off the van in San Fran, or the ‘stealers’ in the forest, invading our van home, taking mostly worthless but sentimental objects and thus violating our safe space and our children’s hearts.  The stories are certainly there, fresh and full of feeling.

Then my mind goes deeper, on to more subversive thieves; those after our loving hearts, our trusting minds, who leave fear and doubt in their wake. Those who burgle our children’s trust have a more insidious effect; more difficult to recognize and impossible to retrieve. A trusting child is worth more than a bicycle and so much more difficult to replace.

cascara, 9 months old

cascara, 9 months old

IF ONLY

an empty glass ain't half full!

an empty glass ain’t half full!

If only we’d gotten that house in Corbett, we’d be home by now!

If only we’d bought land back in the ’90s when we were looking.

If only I’d stuck with writing all those years ago, I’d be published by now!

If only I was calm, confident, & peaceful…

If onlys get in the way of what nows.  What now or what next supply action.  If onlys bring on enervation.  They take your mind back to the past and send it down possibility tangents.  The maybes, what ifs & why nots all cluster close with if onlys into a tangled pile of Regret.

hummingbird

hummingbird

It is difficult to build a strong foundation on a pile of regrets for they are very slippery.

At one time, in my youth, I declared a war on Regret.  I would never regret a choice I’d made.  I’d chosen.  I acted.  No regrets.

if only i were an artiste...

if only i were an artiste…

If only I’d been the ballerina I dreamed of being.  If only I stayed on the stage instead of hiding backstage, so I could express the actress I know I am in my heart.  If only there were dance lessons when I was little or I’d kept up piano lessons (and practiced!)  Yes, it may be so that I have some secretive if onlys lying about in there.

Swami-ji at Sunrise

Swami-ji at Sunrise

And yet, if I’d wanted to, I would have.  And I didn’t.  I kept moving and changing; not living a life of single minded goals pursued relentlessly, but one of various exploration, discovery, interpretation & integration.  If only I’d had a clear motivation to heal, create or be I would be a psychic healer, an artiste, a swami-ji.

Instead, I am me: eclectic explorer, expressive entrepreneur, ecstatic evocateur.

cas & kelly. july 032Blessed be!

give thanks

So much to be thankful for and no time to express it! take a moment & the computer eats words, and yet… such an important emotional activity to be relegated to one day a year.

Daddy love

Daddy love

I give thanks for Ryan, and for Deb who raised him; that he is so lovely with Em & Cas, and so certain of his role in our lives.  As he chops wood & carries water, building them a home, he fulfills destiny with the certainty of a knight at the round table in camelot.

mama & child

mama & child

As her mother, I am so thankful for Emily’s trust in herself, to choose homebirth and then to handle its intensity so beautifully.  Not to mention her bringing forth into the world my grandbaby, the lovely, and oh so perfect, Cascara.

my grandbaby

my grandbaby

Ah, the overflowing grateful heart to meet, with the experience of my own children’s life affirming presence in my life, the child of my child.  How much more affirming can one get than to present a child to the world to carry it forward.  For humans to continue on the planet despite what we’ve done to it and each other!  I am thankful for this obvious expression of faith in a future and hope in humans.

grandma conifer

grandma conifer

I am grateful these lovely and hopeful humans have chosen Corbett as their home, living in the woods and rooting into their community with gentle affection and sharing gestures.

auntie hannah

auntie hannah

I am glad Emily has a sister to share these wonderful moments in her life as I have had a sister to mirror the love in my life.  In a life so blessed, how can I not offer thanks everyday?

sister love

sister love

This year, for the annual Thanksgiving, I  find I am grateful to live in Oregon and found a home where water falls & trees grow tall.

latourell falls, november

latourell falls, november

I am thankful for friends old & new, near & far, alive & dead, who have walked this life path with me and continue to bring strength, courage, creativity and acceptance to daily life.

first oregon christmas, 1993

first oregon christmas, 1993

blessing way, 2014

blessing way, 2014

I am grateful too to have grown up in Nebraska; friendly neighbors & the cleansing winds of the open plains, of the midwestern pace and peace of mind, which fits nicely into Oregon’s independence and appreciation of natural resources.

nebraska windmill

nebraska windmill

I give thanks for our pets and the animals who die that we may live, translating sunshine into nutrients to fuel the creative expression of my life.

libby kitty

libby kitty

rabbit meat

rabbit meat

It’s May: the month of yes you may!

ready for may day

ready for may day

beltane fire

beltane fire

Yesterday was May Day and memories filled my mind of making may baskets with my mom & siblings out of whatever came to hand. We’d fill the old fruit baskets, or construction paper cones, with popcorn, small candies & sticks of wrigley’s gum, with some violets to represent the spring, we’d plan who got each one. Then we’d run through the neighborhood, ringing the bell & leaving a basket, then running away as quick as the wind, sort of hoping to be caught & kissed. Later, my daughters, dancing ’round the may pole in the hippie town of Woodstock, all backed by the soaring sound of Julie Andrews in the musical CAMELOT singing verses in the lush British spring proclaiming “the lusty month of may” in honor of the Beltane fires that burned upon that cross-quarter day. All things bright & beautiful: a reminder of the goddess at play.

Flower wreaths crown maiden heads & young bucks run races on swift feet & coupling seems more imminent than on any other date. The babies born at Imbolc considered a blessing directly from the goddess. I wonder at times about our Jesus, the Savior, the son of god incarnate, & if he was truly a child conceived with the blessings of the goddess, in a holy ritual, on a date lost to history, as I look into the wise eyes of Mother Mary.

10th century madonna & child

10th century madonna & child

I gaze at this postcard of Madonna & Child from the Byzantine 10th century, picked up in Venezia on a journey through northern Italy.  I wonder at her foresight, to bring the goddess’ teachings forward, to help the light live on despite patriarchal treachery. Her bright eyes, large & darkly lustrous, knowing more than common folk about the plans & hopes of god & goddess, her long fingers gently hold the baby who is king enough to frighten the Roman guards, the stability of the Jewish caliphs, & the sturdy church she’d rock & shake just by having this blessed baby whose golden halo implies his spiritual awareness.

The symbols of May Day, the sacred purple flowers with their sweet blessed aroma, bring us remembrance of the union of goddess, human & nature. This union, of course, is always there, but at certain times of year that feeling is more alive, easier to notice & share. Perhaps a louder vibration or more aspects of sacred come alive, and May Day, or Beltane, is one of those special times. The bright heat & color of flowers & nature’s strong vibration of conceptive lust to live on & procreate, another generation at least, another chance to find solutions, to birth a Savior or King! That we birth not only babies but the ideas they carry with them, to re-focus on how we live together with each other & this planet. I know not everyone agrees on the path we ought to follow; if we could just open up to hear one another & not be forced by big oil or Monsanto! It’s time to leave behind the patriarchal paradigm of “more is better” & “drill drill drill” shifting to a simpler model of nourishment on all levels. We know to reuse, reframe, recycle but perhaps it’s even more important to create what we need at home, with friends, rather than depend on factories in China, and to share the foods we have right here rather than off-season organic from Argentina or Chile?

visit by ox cart

visit by ox cart

I and my friends like our comforts, it’s true, and travel by plane is totally common (unlike when I was a child) to see new lands or visit old friends or stay in touch with family, but it’s come time to settle on down or become creative with our fuels. There are too many of us to burn fossils to get home; perhaps a horse carriage or oxen cart will be an alternative solution and keep us from living so far apart from the loved ones in our circle. The power of the wind from the planet’s turning, the tides & waves of the sea, these are more likely energies in our post fossil fuel economy. And keeping the chemicals from our food, water & soil more important than ever as young mothers carry toxic loads & pass on asthma & allergies to their newborns. We have problems of major proportion if we want to survive but we also have the solutions: our DNA wants us to thrive!

Hello, Auntie!

Hello, Auntie!

Here I am!

Here I am!

So tuning in to May Day rites, the rhythms of the year, the love that Jesus & the goddess taught, the music of the spheres, can help us find the path of heart to save our earthly world. As we say about Jesus “he came to save us all” and perhaps we can continue with, “we came to save ourselves.” It is our turn to save ourselves from despotic corporate interests and stop chasing the energy dollar & return to survival investments. Not the fast-paced techy toys or pseudo-entertainment or gas guzzling accessories to life but dirty fingernails, grubby faces enjoying our garden’s delicacies. A child’s sweet smile, a gurgle & laugh, all the healing needed to rid ourselves of the curse of our time & its over medicalization.

And so Beltane, or May Day as it is more commonly known, where in Germany they still enjoy a day off from work & a fireman climbs a specially chosen pole & places a wreath of flowers over the pole’s great height: a symbol of the union of god & goddess & light.

sacred smells

sacred smells

We may not climb a pole, or even dance around one, nor feel the urgency of a buck seeking a rut or a maid with flowers & visions of prince charming, but our souls are still reminded to enjoy the sensual seduction of spring. To play in the dirt of your fertile garden be it earth, or paint, or song; to feel your skin kissed by the newly warm sun, or by the heat of steam or sauna; to breathe deeply of pine green air or the aroma of lilacs & body oils. The gift of Beltane is the gift of life, the essence of our senses.

bunny joy

bunny joy

The simplicity of a child’s laugh, the smell of baby on my sweater, the stretch of my muscles in a yoga pose after their long winter’s slumber. Find the beauty in each day & forgive the dirty dishes, take time to notice the brilliance of All That Is in May’s forgiving weather~

Now that I’ve rung your bell, chase & give me a kiss!

Mother, May I ?

Mother, May I ?

I’ve Got Rhythm!

In the words of the great bard, “ a rose by any other name would smell as sweet…” and Oregon Shakespeare Festival Theatre is a rose that could use another name: what a mouthful!  My daughters were inspired to take me there for my birthday to see STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, Tennessee Williams’ tour de force from post WWII New Orleans.

Streetcar Named Desire

Blanche & Stanley in OSF’s STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE

The OSF was true to the original, directed by Christopher Liam Moore, with a lovely set by Christopher Acebo which evoked the french quarter through expressive use of pretend rod iron balconies & real rain that fell in one dramatic scene. The ensemble did an excellent job with each other; the justifications for the choices they made to get by were personal, felt genuine. It (as I’m sure t’was meant to do) awakened in me a desire to think about desire. My own desires have shaped my life, for good & better (or bad & worse), causing change & upheaval, destiny shaping decisions & raw acceptance of who I am & what I want. How important is desire? We use it as an excuse for indescretion, we give in to a multitude of temptations from eating junk food to fighting at sports events, we write poems, novels, plays & tv series about it…

I have followed my desires; wouldn’t be the me I be if I hadn’t, and yet, t’were I to do again knowing what I know? Yes. My daughters asked me over supper that night, what would I tell myself at 30 from the vantage of being 58? I think I said to trust your heart & listen to your intuition & eat more meat. Of course, since then, I have thought about what I might say with the experiences I’ve gained. I would top my list with buy land and build a house on itfor choosing a place & settling right on into it, a homeplace to leave & come back to or stay & simply live.

I wish I’d figured out more about how I feel best with food rather than doing what I thought was right: juicing & fasting even though I didn’t like it, not recognizing my lack of energy & depression as lack of basic nutrition.

jars of abundance

dividing income

Along with investing in dirt & trees, I would look at my money, keep track of it, perhaps divide it among categories,always adding to my financial freedom fund, as well as necessities, travel, education & the all important LTSS (long-term savings for spending for emergencies).

Another thing I learned along my way, which has taken years to integrate, is to find my authority within, not in a teacher, preacher, or guru from without. It was the main truth I took from my time at the ashram in India when my daughters were 7 & 4. It was the main teaching I got from being raised Methodist; John Wesley’s premise of a personal relationship with God.

You ask, what would I do with them? I would make them virtuous and happy, easy in themselves, and useful to others. Whither would I lead them? To heaven, to God the judge, the lover of all, and to Jesus the mediator of the New Covenant.                    What religion do I preach? The religion of love.              John Wesley

I believe that God resides in my heart: I Am That, That I Am, and, as such, my decisions, even my choices, are rightfully based on what I hear from the sacred lotus at the center of my heart. In order that we all are well able to listen & share our heart’s desires with one another, it would be useful to learn how to communicate. Simple tools in cross purpose sharing as well as personal relationship could change how our nation, our world, gets along in the future.

Compassionate communication can change your life.

I communican.

Non-violent communication is compassionate.

Non-violent communication is compassionate.

If schools would take on the curriculum to include Re-evaluation Counseling or Compassionate/Non-Violent Communication or other proven methods of mediation & emotional expression, just imagine how people might begin to communicate & understand! Other than that, just the obvious: keep dancing, keep reading & writing, keep creating new things in art, community, clothing, food, music, everything!

As I pondered the things I wish I’d known, I saw a fundamental truth: a teaching from Rudolph Steiner, the early 20th century scientist & seer; the word rhythm. Rudolph said, “Study rhythm. Rhythm is the carrier of life.”

daily rhythms

daily rhythms

He didn’t mean dance & drum, though both are joyous healers; he meant the rhythms of our planet’s movement through the heavens, all the reflections of the universal rhythm: the light & dark of each day as well as how light changes through the year, the heat & cold of the seasons, the seed to bud to leaf to flower to fruit, the rhythms of our lives, the births, graduations, weddings, deaths, celebrated in grand traditional styles.

full moon fingers

full moon fingers

As a Dr. Hauschka aesthetician, I give a facial based on rhythm, I offer a body treatment that is rhythmical, the products I use are processed rhythmically and grown to the rhythms of the seasons. This biodynamic skin care line is based on Steiner’s suggestion to study rhythm. WALA Heilmittel, the parent company, makes remedies based on rhythmic processes & the skin care is based on these remedies, skin care that honors the natural rhythms of the skin, another way to bring more rhythm to your day. I am not saying this as an advertisement for Dr. Hauschka skin care (though I do offer the treatments & products!) but to illustrate that I have been thinking about rhythm for a long time. (It takes a long time to think about rhythm: something actually has to happen over & over again to take on the regularity of a rhythm.) This is true of creating a good (or a bad) habit; it must be done again & again over time to become a habit (for good or bad!) and this is true of all the things we do. My body is so much happier at zumba when I am regular in my attendance; when it is woven into the basic rhythms of my life. It is easier for me to get to class on time with all the things I need, ready & willing & with energy to last all class when I am doing it regularly, rhythmically. In Waldorf schools (a Steiner philosophy based education), the children honor the seasons with various songs, skits & creative activities to enhance rhythm in their young & impressionable lives. Having regular rhythms to their sleep & eating times helps children with ADD type behaviors and the opposite is true for children who have erratic & disrupted eating & sleeping schedules: they tend to act out, behave inappropriately, or show signs of listlessness & disinterest.rhythm of life

It is physically obvious with things like exercise, where when one falls out of regularity one will find it easier to self-injure and overdo, falling exhausted into bed following a class that just two weeks ago you were bouncing out of, “I swear it’s only been two weeks!” It is less obvious with internal issues of stress & emotion and probably even more important. Getting to your yoga class regularly gives you more than just the work-out, muscle stretching & balance improving you signed up for; it also releases the stress hormones & fills you up with the happy hormones, improving your mood & overall health & well-being in unquantifiable (as well as quantifiable) ways.

Everything in the Universe has a rhythm, everything dances.” Maya Angelou

primal rhythm

primal rhythm

As I sat yesterday, watching the ebb & flow of the mighty Pacific, from the comfortable warmth of Mary’s living room & giant windows, I pondered that infinite movement, that tireless flow of water onto shore, the breathing of our planet as she turns through the darkness of space. That basic rhythm of wave onto shore, of breathing in & out, of sun from behind a cloud & the beat of my own heart; this is to be alive, to be here, to be physical, present for this moment in the larger rhythms of our earthly home. As noted by the examples of ocean wave & breath, rhythms do not remain the same all the time. They are regular without being same; as each snowflake is unique, we each find our own rhythms. Perhaps going to church one day a week is enough social for you & you pursue that rhythm all the days of your life. Or maybe you are into ‘knit, chat & sew’ or book or bridge groups, or you volunteer, because you just love to hang out with others in communion and purpose. Either rhythm is fine, both people are supported by this knowledge of themselves & what they like in their life rhythms, what is in harmony with their individual soul. What is difficult & dis-ease inducing is when one person is going along with another’s rhythm just to be nice, just to share in their partner’s interest or because they feel coerced, or to fulfill a work commitment or an ideal they harbor of themselves. This is not a healthful choice for to operate at rhythms counter to your nature creates disharmony which can then blow up in chaos in any number of emotional or physical ways from eczema to heart disease. Instead, take advantage of rhythm, supporting the rhythmic system of your body; heart beating, lungs breathing, lymph flowing, by breathing. By coming back to yourself & taking a deep breath…

Breathing in,

I calm my body.

Breathing out,

I smile.

Dwelling in the present moment,

I know this is a wonderful moment.

Thich Nhat Hahn

Just as the dentist wants teeth brushing to be developed into a beneficial habit or a new dance move requires extra practice, so too, the rhythm of creativity in our lives; of seeing the sun everyday, or following the moon through her monthly phases, honoring sunset with a surya namaskar or a cocktail, writing every morning & walking everyday, enjoying that once a year thanksgiving dinner or celebrating a birth, anniversary, harvest, or evergreens for the dark time of the year, requires our intention. You get to dance to your own rhythm if you let yourself follow it, listening to your heart & following its lead. We mirror the harmony of the universe when we enjoy the beauty of each time, each place, each way of being.

As the Bible says,“To everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under the heaven.”

watching rhythm & writing it

watching rhythm & writing it

New Deal

Closed for Business

Closed for Business

Here’s the plan: fire the government. They are not doing their job properly; in fact, they are keeping a lot of folks from properly doing their job or getting paid for the job they do. I cannot believe how the House decided to hold the government hostage to passing a budget. In fact, I find the entire way the government has been running for the last bunch of years completely disgusting. If this were a family, it would be labeled dysfunctional. If it were a business, it would certainly go under. If it were a love relationship, it would end in acrimonious divorce. The fact that they have to hold filibusters, like the tantrums of children, in order to get the attention they want, or, in this case, not pass a budget bill because they don’t like something that’s in it, well, I find it pretty darned embarrassing. Are these responsible adults or children who don’t know how to use their words?

It appears that in Iceland, they actually did fire their government. Being particularly hard hit by the 2008 financial crisis due to privatized banking, the country was in huge debt to the IMF & came up with a plan to make every single person in Iceland pay to cover the debt incurred by an unscrupulous government. Instead, they the people fired their government & re-wrote their constitution

To write the new constitution, the people of Iceland elected twenty-five citizens from among 522 adults not belonging to any political party but recommended by at least thirty citizens. This document was not the work of a handful of politicians, but was written on the internet. The constituent’s meetings are streamed on-line, and citizens can send their comments and suggestions, witnessing the document as it takes shape. The constitution that eventually emerges from this participatory democratic process will be submitted to parliament for approval after the next elections.

This is not something we read about in our news: how a small country managed to kick out the IMF & take control of their own government! Here we are in the great U.S.of A., few of us feeling our government truly represents us, watches out for us, cares for us, or even does their job for us. Is it time to make a change in how we do things?

prez speaks

Let’s make a deal!

I am not saying that Mr. Obama is Mr. Innocent. It’s hard to tell from out here what actually goes on in the hallways of power. I don’t like a lot of things he’s done in his presidency, even though I voted for him. Many of the things I care dearly about, & I thought he promised, have rarely been mentioned. I’m not even sure I want obamacare since I don’t trust the medical establishment & think insurance companies are one of the banes of existence. Everything I’ve read tells me that it is a law now, that it has passed all the barriers & it’s a law. So how can the House ignore it? Playing hard to get? Waiting for a bribe of something you want even more?

who's got the power?

who’s got the power?

 

Once we fire the government, including the president & his cabinet, all of Congress &, while we’re at it, let’s fire all the lobbyists as well. Then we can start fresh. We can elect people who have NEVER been a politician. We can elect mothers because they care for children & are usually nice to everyone. We can elect librarians because they are smart & can read. We could even elect small business owners because they know how to do more with less & don’t have to listen to the profit only interests of stock holders. To top it off, let’s elect a mediator or two to assist the others in talking & listening to each other, since that seems to be a major problem in Congress. In fact, we could ask someone like Marshall Rosenberg, Phd., of non-violent compassionate communication fame, to sit down & help these pontificators actually hear what is being said & say what they really want. Marshall would say something like, “Always hear the ‘Yes’ in the ‘No’.”  And teach them how to listen better & ask for what they really want rather than sidestepping the issue.  If these big-wigs could only work out their problems the way any good family or loving couple does, by sitting down & talking & listening together, & asking assistance when they need it. If only…

Meanwhile, we can send those members of Congress who want to be rehabilitated back to kindergarten, where, as Robert Fulghum points out in his book ALL I NEED TO KNOW I LEARNED IN KINDERGARTEN, they could relearn what they’ve forgotten about being a citizen in a society. The rules:

    • 1. Share everything.
    • 2. Play fair.
    • 3. Don’t hit people.
    • 4. Put things back where you found them.
    • 5. CLEAN UP YOUR OWN MESS.
    • 6. Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
    • 7. Say you’re SORRY when you HURT somebody.
    • 8. Wash your hands before you eat.
    • 9. Flush.

If the good men & women we’ve elected to Congress would simply remember these few simple rules, they might find themselves able to actually pass a budget. If they would stop thinking they have to raise the level of drama to that of a reality tv show in order to get the attention they want. If they could see that polarizing is not going to bring the left closer to the right; moderation is. Finding middle ground. Realizing we all want what’s best for our family, our nation, each other.

compassionate care cannot be without compassionate communication

compassionate care cannot be without compassionate communication

The hardest hit segment of society during this shutdown is not the folks in congress or even the government employees furloughed into an autumn vacation. They probably have some money in their accounts to see them over & when it is, they will get paid. The poor, however, will soon begin to really suffer. School programs that feed low-income children & Meals on Wheels & WIC as well as other social assistance will be out of funding in many states by the end of October. If this lasts, our lower income families will be choosing between food & shelter; a choice no family should have to make. Protections watched over by OSHA, or diseases tracked by the CDC, or inspections by the EPA & USDA are not currently being funded which could very quickly lead to some particularly dangerous possibilities for all of us. (thanks, Sasha Abramsky)

parks are closed

Shut out by Shut down

Another interesting feature of this issue is that, because of the shutdown, it’s difficult to get information on what’s happening. Many of the government websites, not to mention national parks & monuments, are closed. I’m sure many people are working together in order to get us past this mess but at the moment we are disappointing many visitors, putting in danger many children & potentially having a devastating effect on our economy (again). My hope is that this is enough of a shock to the U.S. system that we realize we need to make a change. Something in our two party system is broken when we can’t even have a budget to run our country. Ask a housewife or a mother how she runs her household without a budget. She doesn’t. Our government exists to serve us: how is holding our services hostage to avoid paying for healthcare serving us? If they can’t get over themselves, send them home. We don’t need them if they can’t even pass a budget to run all the things government does. Bye bye, boys & girls. 

lincoln agrees

Fire Congress & uphold the Constitution!

jivin’ with james

 

My computer has a virus! Or, so I’ve been told by James, who called me out of the blue today from “windows tech support” because of all the error messages my computer has been sending them. “Windows tech support?” I said, “Since when does windows tech support call me?” He was very reassuring & said they just want to help my computer to run better & he wanted to give me some simple instructions to help fix it. “Shouldn’t my tech support guy be doing this?” I asked, “I don’t really know much about it.” “These are very simple instructions, ma’am,” he continued in his thick Indian accent, “Just go to your Start button.” I went to my Start button.  From there to computer & manage & system tools & event viewing & finally the windows log filtered for errors & warnings:

 

the "event view" page on my computer: all those errors!

the “event view” page on my computer: all those errors!

 

This all sounded very strange to me. I am not a computer maven, but I live with one so I let him do all that needs doing to keep up with viruses, software, malware, hardware & wi-fi… I just complain when it doesn’t work well or call him in a panic when I can’t access something I need. But I was curious… so, I followed the “simple” instructions James was giving me over the phone. I had difficulty understanding him say words like “left click” or “right click” or “event view” but we made our way through several windows so I could see the log of error reports my computer had sent somewhere. It looked just terrible: no wonder my computer has been crashing, closing or running slowly! He asked me to delete one of the messages by selecting it & hitting the Delete button on my keyboard. It didn’t disappear. It didn’t erase. When I told him that he responded in some urgency, “The virus has eaten your Delete button!” In order to deal with this horrible situation, he had me go to a website at which point he wanted me to push the button labeled Remote Support.

 

the website seeking remote control of my computer!

the website seeking remote control of my computer!

 

Up to this point none of the buttons he had me push changed anything so I was fine with following his helpful instructions. However, I know enough about computers to know that “remote support” opens your computer to someone else in another location. This was very helpful to my dad when his computer was acting up because my nephew in another city could remotely view & deal with whatever problems had come up on his computer. Great. But I don’t even know this guy calling himself James with an Indian accent from something called Windows Tech Support. So, I told him I had to leave right away & would call him back upon my return in an hour. He gave me a number & got off the phone. The number is a Houston area cell phone (281/220-2901) but apparently has no phone as all I heard was three beeps; no ringtones, no advertisements, no recorded message, certainly no young man with an Indian accent named James.

 

 

To pursue this mystery a little further, I went online & googled “someone just called me from windows tech support” & found several interesting entries including an article by Nate Anderson  from October of 2012 about this very same scam. Apparently “John” had called him & he too had followed the suggestions until they were about to take over control of his computer. Evidently that very day the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) had begun an investigation into allegations of cyber-piracy of this very sort. Once you have given John or James remote support of your computer, they can give it all kinds of problems that only they can fix, for a fee. If you refuse to pay the fee, they lock your computer up, away from you, basically holding it for ransom. Is computer kidnapping against the law?

 

 

Apparently, yes, “At the request of the FTC, a U.S. District Court Judge has ordered a halt to the alleged scams pending trial, and has frozen the U.S. assets of six operations named in FTC complaints.”  but this hasn’t stopped the overall scam or its effect on those who are trusting over the phone & don’t know enough to recognize this offer of help for what it is: a way to take your money & give you nothing in return. So, what should you do if you get one of these calls? According to the FTC : “Hang up. Legitimate companies won’t call you out of the blue and ask you to pay for tech support. If you’re concerned about your computer, call your security software company yourself on a phone number you know to be genuine.” In other words, don’t let anyone into your computer unless you know & trust who they are.

 

I feel badly for James & John & their friends, it sounds like an embarrassing job to have calling up utter strangers, pretending to be good samaritans & taking whatever they can get. It reminds me of the poor girl who calls from “credit card services” in order to lower my interest rates for which, I presume, I am to pay them a fee… this too is a scam from a company that won’t name names, give out numbers or otherwise identify themselves. Each time I ask for more information or to speak to a manager or for whom they are actually calling, they hang up on me. Why is it that most of the phone calls I receive to my landline lately, are trying to con me out of money? Not actually sell me anything or ask for donations for good causes, but out and out scams trying to trick me. I enjoyed the movie STING & can appreciate a good con in an intellectual way; it makes a great plot, but I am annoyed that my phone rings time after time with no good news, noone I want to speak to & nothing I want. So if I don’t answer the phone when you call, it’s not that I don’t want to speak to you, it’s that I don’t want to talk to James or John or any of their money grubbing scammer friends. Please leave a message with a legitimate phone number & I’ll happily call you back!

phone free of phishing!

phone free of phishing!

 

Pay your Taxes?

1040 tax form

U.S. tax return for 2012

It’s April 15th:  taxday:  did you pay?

I paid my 2012 taxes today, filling out the complicated forms with my own savvy & judgment, adding up receipts & garnering information from my online bank accounts. I have always done my own taxes, feeling that, as a U.S. citizen, I have not only the duty, but the right, to paymy taxes. In fact, it was part of my school curriculum back in the ’70s; we had a Citizenship class in ninthgrade & learned about filing taxes, how to keep track of stocks & bonds & how to vote. Haven’t heard of a citizenship, or civics, class in schools in recent years: maybe that’s why most people pay someone else to prepare their taxes for them? Or maybe it’s because they are so dang complicated, with more special detailed changes each & every year. Do you have a farm, know any ministers or own property you don’t live in? More complications.  If you do your own taxes, I’m sure it has occurred to you, as it has to me, that we desperately need to simplify. As Henry David Thoreau, an old-time American once said, As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.” As gurus have suggested to our meditating sisters & brothers for years now, SIMPLIFY, is a code word for living a happier life in this complex age & simplify is what the tax code needs in order to keep up. Personally I think the whole thing should be thrown out: baby, bathwater & all, composted deep to be reborn into some manageable form. Maybe just a straight on percentage, no exemptions or deductions, no special loopholes for corporations regardless of how friggin’ important they think they are or where they pretend to do business to get out of paying their taxes, based only on profits mind you, not on their gross capital! Even President Obama agrees, “In fact, the best thing we could do on taxes for all Americans is to simplify the individual tax code. This will be a tough job, but members of both parties have expressed an interest in doing this, and I am prepared to join them.” Me too!

I don’t mind the fact of taxes because I recognize that the support so much of the infrastructure of our society: I like good roads & safe bridges,

falling down

U.S. bridges falling down

as well as safe streets & schools, high educational standards & support of the arts. I know it takes money to pay for those well-used institutions & taxes is the primary way our government supports itself…. in fact, the way our government pays itself. In the 70’s when I took my Citizenship class, our Congress people were making $42,000 per year, not including their health or retirement benefits. For 2013, they will earn $174,000, for rank & file membership, $20,000 or so more for a speaker role. In that same interim, my annual earnings have gone up as well, since baby sitting didn’t earn me enough to have to file an income tax return, but shortly after that, as a nurse’s aide on minimum wage, I did. However, not having a high ranking anything kind of job, I still earn less than the Congress did in the ’70s… & even so, I help pay them their salary, as well as their health care, which I don’t have either!

art is smart

art works

It is indeed my choice to live a simpler life than if I were a congress person or working for a corporate entity that expects 40 or more of my waking hours each week & repays me accordingly. Admittedly, I could find a way to make more money, &, presumably, pay more tax with it. Since my taxes go primarily to military spending, however, I find I don’t really want to pay more taxes. I don’t feel I have been asked where I would like my tax money to go: perhaps if there were little boxes like the ones you check for charitable contributions? I could check THE ARTS or EDUCATION & uncheck THE MILITARY & then maybe I’d want to have more money to actually pay in taxes!

I recently listened to Rachel Maddow’s 2012 book, DRIFT, which is subtitled “the unmooring of american military power” (she read it herself with her usual humorous intonation) stimulating my thought processes toward questioning our current standing military belief system. The idea of our founding fathers, that we as a country not keep a standing military but instead utilize citizen soldiers, when the need arose, came from having a vision of us as a primarily peaceful nation. Once you got an army, you got to use ’em, right?

military unmoored!

army adrift

Can’t have them standing around bored all day for those ‘just in case’ moments! The point that stuck with me, however, had to do with how we as citizens experience the war or battle or whatever we’ve got our military involved in…. we, as citizen soldiers, are fighting the war, away from our families & businesses, being affected by every choice our government makes to keep us at war. The same could be said of doing your own taxes: if you actually go through line by line & fill in what you have done, or haven’t, to deserve to pay more tax or less, youtoo will be horrified by the complexity & loopholes, by the myriad addendums & atrophied anachronism of tax forms. I don’t do them online because then you don’t even get to see the other spaces not filled or the reasoning that went into them. As it is, I spread out all the booklets & forms & go back & forth from one to another for, as they are all connected the effect of any one line, effects the entire tax event! I think if we all go back to filling out our own tax forms, really trying to read & understand the legalese that peppers the paragraphs with pontification, we would all demand a tax revision, simplification & standardization. And if we all fought the wars that need fighting rather than a fewer than 1% of our population, the debate over war might become much more personal to each & all of us.

Today, I wrote a post card, as suggested by U.S. PIRG (Public Interest Research Group), to Bank of America in the Cayman Islands. It seems they have a postal box in order that they claim doing business there to avoid paying U.S. corporate income tax to the tune of $4.5 billion. The post card only cost $1.05 to mail & the idea is that by filling up their offshore mail box, we are showing them we know what they are hiding, to wit, that they don’t have an office, they have a postal box & as such should pay their taxes, which, could cover a big chunk of that infamous federal deficit that we are in for starting two wars while lowering taxes, a previously unheard of governmental decision. Taxes as a way of life began back in jolly olde when rulers needed extra money to fight a war, sometimes against their own brother or cousin to protect their rights of rulership. Wars are expensive & although they are good for some businesses, such as those arming & supplying soldiers, they are not good for society, taking husbands from wives, mothers from children & children from parents. We support our soldiers, you can tell by all the ads on television saying it is so, but do we really? With about 1% of our population in active military participation, we are under represented in the military. Where are the citizen soldiers who require our population to feel the effects of the war? If our downtown businesses closed & more mothers were involved, you would have more uprising against the war, any war, unless the people, yes, the people of WE THE PEOPLE, felt, knew & believed it was an important war to be fought. No war we have been involved with since WWII has had the kind of popular support that war enjoyed. To use the word enjoyed next to the word war seems antithetical, but in terms of support, that was the war to end all wars…. too bad it didn’t.

WWII patriot at home

WWII patriot at home

There are many things our country is doing that I disagree with: the XL Keystone pipeline is a good example, or the shipments of coal from Wyoming to the Pacific coast to be shipped to China rather than relieving our own energy burden, or the fact that we can’t even seem to do the logical thing & get GMOs labeled so we know when we are buying them in our “free market economy.” Yet, when I think of these choices I see they are based on something darker & dirtier than those choices alone… there are bigger, more basic problems afoot including population control & campaign contributions. The fact that a corporation can pour huge amounts of money into a campaign that threatens our safety while not having the responsibility to act for social benefit since the only thing they exist for is shareholder dollars, boggles my mind. The fact that corporations & certain wealthy individuals control our elections by buying all the airtime & getting the best “mad-men” to institute the best propaganda in our consumer driven society, means we are like lemmings running toward the edge of that proverbial cliff: that cliff is at hand & we are going to hell in a hand basket unless we change some of the ways we run our businesses as usual.

We have instituted a new health care plan which no one likes. The folks that fought for universal health care don’t like it because it is burdensome & doesn’t go far enough. The folks who fought against socialized medicine don’t like it because it smacks of bringing us too close to communism (oh fear of fears for those from the fifties). And noone seems to know how it will actually affect health care or cost because it is so complicated. We already have medicare & medicaid & everyone knows they don’t pay what they should for the services they cover so any doctor with any sense doesn’t accept them anyway making it harder for “everyman” to get good health care. I don’t have health care coverage & at this moment, I don’t want it, because I don’t want the insurance company making decisions for me about the kind of care I receive. I want to choose my health care providers & options & don’t want insurance companies doing it for me. So I actually pay my providers & in most cases pay full price, something medicare & -caid never ever do.

Prisons are full

over full prisons in many states

We have been raised on the idiom, or is it an axiom?, that America, the U.S. of A., is the land of the free & the home of the brave & yet most of our institutions have become fear-based, airport security one of the most farcical examples. And yet, as Tom Robbins so succinctly pointed out in FIERCE INVALIDS HOME FROM HOT CLIMATES, in 2000, before TSA & Homeland Security took over the reins, our land of the free is more an idea than a reality since the reality is “video surveillance in public places, police microphones on neighborhood street corners, sniffer dogs in airports, blue codes, urine testing, DNA data banks, Internet censorship, helmet laws, tobacco laws, seat belt laws, liquor laws, persecution for joking, prosecution for flirting, litigation over everything under the sun, &, the telling statistic that in the U.S., 645 out of every 100,000 citizens were locked up in prisons, as opposed to an average of 80 per 100,000 citizens in the rest of the world.” Sounds like we have become more like the home of the fearful & land of the watched over & incarcerated!

U.S. beats world in citizens in prison

U.S. beats world in citizens in prison

There is a time for keeping & fixing & a time for throwing out & starting again. I think we have reached the latter time. We need a whole new foundation in this country that gets back to the basics as it was designed. We have a Constitution & Bill of Rights

Our Bill of Rights

Our Bill of Rights

that pretty well state the case. We need to get back to some fundamental rights & privileges of being a United States citizen & if it means going into war when there is need or paying taxes to support our amazing infrastructure of roads, bridges, hospitals & housing, we need to get to it. We don’t need subsidized GMO corn to make high-fructose corn syrup, one of the worst ingredients to be introduced into our food market EVER: “OUR TAX DOLLARS HELP FUEL OBESITY EPIDEMIC—Since 1995, $18 billion has been given away in subsidies to Big Agribusinesses, this money gets used to produce common junk food ingredients, like high-fructose corn syrup. These giveaways are all the more absurd at a time when one-in-three kids is overweight or obese.” (USPIRG) We don’t need to subsidize factory farms, or hydraulic fracturing to feed & clothe our millions. What we need is good birth control, innovation in energy technologies & support of the family farm, preferably organic &/or sustainable in its origins & intentions. We need a simplified tax code & congress people elected by WE THE PEOPLE, not they the corporate entity! We need to consider our actions toward our beautiful & amazing country in the light of the next seven generations, protecting our heritage of wilderness & water for those who carry our legacy into the future.

U.S. mountains in fresh snow

U.S. mountains in fresh snow

E Malama I Na Kohola (save the whales)

"Thar she blows!"

“Thar she blows!”

“Thar she blows!”  Fingers & cameras point to the 10 o’clock position in front of the surging boat.  Unsure as to the sex of the animal, some joke that maybe it should be said that, “Thar he blows” what everyone is sure of is that there is a whale up ahead.  We are on a boat (I don’t think it’s big enough to actually be called a ship), owned by the Pacific Whale Foundation, & we are out whaling while vacationing on the island of Maui.

Ocean Intrigue of the Pacific Whale Foundation fleet

Ocean Intrigue of the Pacific Whale Foundation fleet

Maui, part of the Hawaiian archipelago, is one of the best places in the world for the ease & abundance of its whale viewing.  The whales we are specifically looking to find are the humpbacks.  Humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) are among the most exciting whales to find because of their many & varied surface activities.  They love to leap out of the water startling boat captains as well tourists.  They often slap their tail fins (known as a fluke), or their pectoral fins on the surface of the water creating splash & noise.

Collage of one whale's self-expression~

Collage of one whale’s self-expression~

 As we gain on the whale, always being sure to keep the proper distance (federal law requires 100 yards inviolable space around each whale, unless you are properly permitted for research requirements), she rewards us with a breach, thrilling tourists & PWF employees alike.  There is nothing like a 45 ton animal leaping into the air & splashing back into the deep blue of the Pacific Ocean!  The water streaming from fins & flukes, the grey body shining black in the bright sunlight & the huge resounding splash as the magnificent animal allows gravity to bring it back to its natural element.

Adult humpback whale breaching.

Adult humpback whale breaching.

All of us are in awe, eyes shining, cameras forgotten, as we share this amazing moment.  Many ask, “Does this happen all the time?”  No, it does not.  Does it happen often?  Yes, it does.  Noone knows for certain why these animals use their energy to rise up above the liquid medium they are so at ease in; perhaps they are as curious about us as we are about them, or maybe they communicate using the sound created by that huge splash to let other whales know they are there, or even better, maybe it just feels good.  Researchers postulate many theories about humpbacks & yet, due to the difficulty of research in a boundless sea, few facts are known.

The thrill of being in close proximity to a humpback whale goes beyond anything I’ve ever experienced.  The power & majesty of an elephant or a lion combined with the beautiful weather & pristine blue water off the island of Maui make for a world class excursion, a gift to myself.  I cannot believe anyone would ever want to be anywhere else when the whales are here.  And why, pray tell, are the whales here?  The humpbacks migrate to Maui each winter to birth & breed; here all activities related to reproduction take place, while they keep all kitchen & dining duties confined to Alaska.  Someone on the boat actually put it, “It’s as if they have their kitchen & dining room in Alaska, a really long hallway & a bedroom in Maui.”  Alaska is where the humpbacks spend their summers, enjoying the plankton rich waters where they fill up on a ton a day of krill or small herring or other tiny ocean creatures.

The baleen showing in a "mustache" whale

The baleen showing in a “mustache” whale

Humpbacks are baleen whales & as such must eat a lot of really small things, since they have no teeth to bite or chew on bigger things.  In fact, whales (& dolphins) are divided into two main categories based on the way (& what) they eat, as well as how many nares, or nostrils, they have.

Yes, whales are mammals & like us they need to breathe oxygen.  Our humpbacks have two blowholes on the top of their head as members of the Mysticetes or mustache whales, while dolphins or killer whales are members of the Odontocetes, or toothed whales, & only have one blowhole.  So the blow we just saw actually had a bit of a V shape as it was exhaled, another way to recognize what type of whale we might be seeing.  The mustache referred to is the baleen in the mouth of the whale, the fringes of which look similar to Tom Selleck’s mustache in his Magnum, P.I. years.  Baleen is a bony construct that acts as a sieve allowing the humpback to filter the krill from the water they scoop up with it when they eat, which of course they don’t do at all in Maui.

The V-shaped spout of a baleen whale.

The V-shaped spout of a baleen whale.

Humpbacks are not the only type of cetacean found in Hawaiian waters but they are by far the most numerous & the most visible.  Humpbacks can hold their breath anywhere from 2 minutes to 20 minutes, or even up to an hour, if they are busy singing & when they take a breath, you know it!  The mist, made from ocean water that collected in their blowholes, actually atomizes as it is blown into the air, making the 15’ high column of water visible from great distances.  They quickly inhale; filling their VW beetle sized lungs with air & close their blowhole with a powerful sphincter muscle & prepare to dive.  If the dive is a deep one, we will see not only the hump of their famous back with its small dorsal fin, but also the fluke as it raises gracefully into the air to head straight down.

A humpback whale executing a fluke-up dive.

A humpback whale executing a fluke-up dive, in 4 parts.

Windmills atop McGregor Point, Maui.

Windmills atop McGregor Point, Maui.

Rather than wait for this deep diving whale to reappear, we simply head off in another direction, trying to get out of the famous Ma’alaea wind.  Ma’alaea Harbor, from where we boarded our boat, is the second windiest harbor in the world, (Wellington Harbor in New Zealand is considered to be The Windiest Harbor in the world).  Gratefully we take our hands off our hats as the white caps recede behind us rounding McGregor Point into the lee shore, out of that infamous wind.

One of the activities we get to enjoy in this quiet water is to listen to the humpbacks as they sing their famous song.  Researchers assert that only males sing, yet even after these many years of continuing study, noone is sure exactly why they sing.  According to George Colbert, “The whales do not sing because they have an answer, they sing because they have a song!” as good an answer as any.  It appears that the males sing on their own, not in chorus, & that the other whales who respond to the song are males.  Each season the song is slightly different from the season before & yet all the males in the North Pacific population seem to sing the same set of sounds we call a song.  These complex & compelling sounds are not made, as we do, with vocal chords, but rather by moving air around cavities in their heads.  It is a wondrous haunting sound like owls hooting combined with wolves howling & a human baby crying in accompaniment.  The singing is not heard much in the “kitchen” of Alaska so must have something to do with breeding, though what that might be is unclear.

One of the many concerns for humpback whales is that ocean noise has increased what with the noise of shipping along with the noises from Navy sonar & oil & gas exploration & therefore the acoustic environment of the ocean has degraded making it difficult for whales to communicate over distances.  This is especially true of the largest of the cetaceans, the blue whales, whose extremely low frequency sounds are unable to travel the amazing distances of their relatively silent past.  Our humpbacks seem to have no trouble hearing each other in this instance as we are hearing the overlapping echoes of possibly 5 whales (it’s impossible for me to tell with my untrained ears).  I am told that as the season continues the song will subtly be altered & the changes will be exhibited by all the singing males of the North Pacific population & noone knows how they communicate these changes, or why.  It is a wonderful mystery to enjoy which you can share online through The WhaleSong Project, a non-profit hydrophone operator located on Maui.

Maui mom & baby.

Maui mom & baby.

The whales we see about us seem to be primarily groups made up of a mama & a baby; the “little” guy (born at about 1000#s, 15’ long), loves to perfect his leaping skills & excites us all with what the PWFers call “a flying pickle” for it’s oddly blunted appearance & the hereditary tubercles, large bumps on all humpback heads.

A flying pickle

A flying pickle

If you want to know the sex of the whale you are viewing, the easiest way is to look for a calf: then you know you got a mama!  It appears that the mama whales like the relatively shallow waters off the coast of Maui to give birth & start their little ones off in a safe & healthy manner.  With a gestation period of 11 months, they manage to get pregnant & give birth in the relatively calm waters of a Maui winter (picture the challenges of Alaska in winter).  The strange thing is, we don’t know how long they’ve been coming to Hawai’i for this activity, (some of the N.Pacific population choose Mexico, as do their close relatives the grey whale).  In Polynesian lore most whales referred to are the palaoa, or toothed whales, like the sperm whale whose teeth were worn only by the ali’i, or royalty of their culture.  Humpbacks, kohola, are not mentioned in the early written records of the white men visiting the islands either.  It is supposed that they began coming here for their winter activities about 200 years ago, possibly following a whaling ship.  Whale hunting was allowed until 1966 (with some conservation efforts in the earlier part of the century which were largely ignored) when it became internationally outlawed by the ‘Convention on Fishing and Conservation of Living Resources of the High Seas’, which took the first steps in marine conservation worldwide. This international treaty was designed to specifically counter the over-exploitation of sea-life, including whales.  Then in 1972 the U.S. passed the Marine Mammal Protection Act followed by the Endangered Species Act in 1973 bringing the U.S. into a pro-whale stance from being one of the biggest whale hunting countries.  Internationally the IWC (International Whale Commission) creates quotas for commercial whaling but since it has no enforcement power & does not cover aboriginal or “scientific” whaling, it doesn’t have much actual control, which is voluntary.  In 1966 it was estimated the North Pacific population of whales was down to only 1,400 animals which has rebounded nicely to as many as 10-15,000 animals.  The whale watching we are enjoying is located within the NOAA’s National Humpback Whale Marine Sanctuary, the only one of its kind in the United States.  These animals are protected & guarded from human intervention but that doesn’t mean they don’t have negative interactions with humans in the form of boat strikes or fishing net entanglements; nor does it mean they don’t have other threats in the form of predators.  Our flying pickles are the most vulnerable members of the population, prey to killer whales or tiger sharks, one of the reasons mama stays very close to her offspring & for choosing a breeding ground in Hawai’i, where Orcas are rarely seen & with her exceptional size & powerful peduncle muscle (her tail), she can fight off the solitary Tiger shark.

Pectoral slapping mom with her breaching calf.

Pectoral slapping mom with her breaching calf.

Our little leaping whale will have from 3-6 months in Maui to drink mama’s exceptionally high fat milk (up to 40-50% milk fat!), strengthen their peduncle muscles (the ones that make their tails move up & down so powerfully allowing them speed & agility in the water) & increase their size & stamina to make the 3,000+ mile swim to Alaska with their mama to experience the thrill of an Alaskan summer with lots of eating & growing to be done.  Our calf will then return with mama to Maui for the following winter, a yearling, where she will say her farewells & they go their own separate ways.  Our humpback whales have what is called a fluid social system; that means there is no family orientation (except for that first year of a calf’s life).  Other whale pods in our whale watch include a male with a female & her calf called the escort whale.  He is not “papa” but more likely wants to father next year’s calf.  Our mama may or may not want to make another calf; births average every 2-3 years, but it has been documented for a mama whale to have a calf every year for 4 or more years before taking a break.  The other grouping of whales, also having to do with reproduction, is a competition pod vying for the attention of the single female in their midst, who may or may not have a calf with her.  These males provide the most dramatic whale entertainment as they lunge head first on top of one another with their huge heads out of the water or use those powerful peduncle muscles to stay in the lead & discourage their contenders.  The experts assure me that if we see the blows of 4 or 5 whales at the surface of the water there are probably twice that many we can’t see underneath.  This is the challenge of studying humpbacks: so much of what they do is underwater!

The famous dorsal fin of the humpback whale.

The famous dorsal fin of the humpback whale.

As we head back into the wind to return to our port, we are all hoping to be mugged.  One of the few places in the world where mugging is a desirable experience, a mugging on Maui is not to be missed.  When a whale is curious enough to come over to a boat (remember that federal law keeps the boat from approaching the whale), that boat must be in neutral to avoid injuring the animal.  That means there is no leaving the whale & if that whale wants to hang out all morning, so too the boat.  This means extra close up viewing & the dubious thrill of a shower of “whale snot” (really it’s just ½ cup of ocean water atomized into the air).  You might see barnacles on tips of flukes or in the pleats under their jaw or even be able to tell what sex the animal is (females have a roundish protrusion on their bellies called a hemispherical lobe).  Sadly, this does not occur on our whale watch today but there is always tomorrow.  Most folks who love whales as I do are not content with just one whale watch while on Maui & some get season passes to go out as often as possible because each whale watch provides new excitement & you never know what will happen when viewing an endangered animal in the wild, especially the wilds of the largest ocean on earth.

Aloha, my beloved Kohola & mahalo nui loa for allowing me to experience one of the greatest wonders of creation.  As one of my favorite poems, by Thomas Pynchon, reminds us:

Dream tonight of peacock tails,

Diamond fields and spouter whales.

Ills are many, blessings few,

But dreams tonight will shelter you.

A fluke

That’s a fluke, folks!

once there was gus

pumpkin kitty

Gustav Klimt

There once was a kitty named Gustav Klimt, who lived in the land of Corbett, at the end of salzman road.   His hair was long & orange, his eyes a glowing green & everywhere that Gus-Gus went the day was brighter & more serene.  Gussy was a pacifist & picked on by local feral cats, one of whom had jet black fur & haunted our house by night, using our defenseless kitty door as his entry & scaring the bejeesus out of Gus, our gentle kitty.  So he was happy when we moved to town, more cats but of gentler frame & aim, except those siblings from behind our house who entered, quite unannounced.  This had Gus cowering in the corner & even worse but i won’t say more in this memorial verse.  Eventually we learned to defend our borders with magnets & deal with the local raunchy raccoons & then,  late in life had to get used to a kitten named Liberation, the bouncing kind who love to play &

Gus receives Libby

Gus & Libby

bite.  Poor old Gus sometimes had some fun but mostly had to excuse himself from such shennanigans.

Klimt's Portrait of a Lady

Klimt’s Portrait of a Lady, 1917

He was our best friend & pet from ’98 when he joined us on Salzman until his recent demise in northeast Portland.  Gus, unlike his famous namesake, was not known for his art, but with his giant hirsute paws, I’d always thought he might have some talent in that direction.  He was an outdoor cat & loved sitting in the flowers all spring & summer long.  In the summer, he was under the rosemary, where the shade was solid, in spring it was the love- in-a-mist that attracted him & for hours he would sleep among blue flowers, completely hidden despite his bright orange fur.  Only in winter would he deign to visit us inside, allowing for lap sits or long stints in a closet under the clothes or the basement cupboard or some other long term but constantly changing location.

gus 05.12 love

Gus in the love-in-a-mist, 2012

One great blessing in our lives was the long presence of Gus, his care our honor as he aged & finally died.  He came to us in 1998 & stayed a good long while, leaving his earthly vessel here at home, early morning of the new moon, 01/11/2013.  We never knew how old he was or what he’d gone through before, we just know he brought us acceptance & peace, soft fur to pet, humor, comfort, delight & goodness knows, so much more.

paws pause

paws pause

I think Gus stuck it out those few last days of decreasing mobility & more deeply sunken eyes in order that I care for him & adapt to his demise.  He gave me one last chance to express the preciousness of long term kitty love.  GusGus is buried under the forsythia bush I can see from my kitchen window;  it’s golden flowers will remind me of his fur, it’s leaves the green of his eyes, the nearby pear will shade & the dragon statue protect his grave as tears leak from my eyes.

ODE TO GUS

Gus in the sun, 2012

Gus in the sun, 2012

gazing out the window

flash of tail peripheral so i turn

jerking my head & straining my neck

hoping for a glimpse of gus.gus 12.09

i know it can’t be he,

that he is gone from me, but still,

i jerk & look seeing in memory

that fluffy orange kitty pad by.

his giant paws treading oh so

gently! slow to libby’s quick,

pausing to scent the air, head up,

his green eyes aglow, tail high.

oh gus to see you again,

to pet that so soft fur,

long & orange & all over,

even if matted or grunge,

i kind of wish this now was then.

goodnight gus

goodnight gus

x