Archive for June, 2005

Life is what it turns into

Monday, June 27th, 2005

There is a wealth of philosopy in Nora Roberts novels. An example : Kathleen, an anthropologist, was asked for her philosophy and she said, “Life is like a mustache, it might be terrible or pretty, but either way it tickles.” Sometimes one has to laugh right out loud. Nora herself says, “Love and magic have a great deal in common. They enrich the soul, delight the heart. And they both take practice. Now isn’t that the truth?

Linda Lael Miller uses unusual descriptions of characters that makes you wonder if you were poleaxed. A housekeeper…”could almost be as fierce as Geronimo himself, and just as likely to stake a man out on an anthill if he crossed her once too often.” Linda writes of fiesty women.

Stella Cameron pictures a fight. “Tom got two good fistfuls of Marry’s hair and pulled while he kicked the man’s slack belly as if it were a feather bed for jumping on.”

Debbie Macomber, Joan Johnston, and dozens of others are entertaining with descriptions the likes of which you may never have heard before.

On the face it appears I lean toward women writers. I can’t read everything so I choose those that offer good writing and revealing metaphors. I do submit to lesser writing now and then and enjoy adventure with Lamour’s “The Last of the Breed.” His sentences aren’t always well formed, or could have been – as he often says. His plot moved me along and as with the other authors mentioned, his book is worth a reread.

Not Pandora’s box

Monday, June 27th, 2005

A blog is an opportunity to practice writing. I’ve kept a daily journal since 1970 but it is private and no one will puzzle over my sentence structure or spelling. A blog should have a coherent thought and sentences, relevant or not. Richard Dawkins’ in “The Ancestor’s Tale” talks of written history and mentioned knowing very little about the 8 grandparents he can remember. That reminded me how little I remember of my mother’s parents, the only grandparents I knew. I have no excuse for not leaving some written record for my grandchildren. It doesn’t take much to kindle memories.

My screen saver is a slide show of photos from albums in my archives. When sister, Ruth, and I played cards several weeks ago, a photo of brother, Emil, and I came on screen, standing on the frozen lake where we lived in 1939 with the farm buildings in the background. We were carrying our lunch pails on the way to school. Boy, oh boy, did that bring up memories! – of the Halloween fire that caused the move, the one room school at the end of a mile walk, playing with snakes at recess, and as with my life, memories go on and on.

While those are subjects for written articles, this is not the place. Watch, not for history but, for MYSTORY on http://www.sherer.org

Decisions, decisions

Monday, June 27th, 2005

Watching backyard wildlife is time consuming and I don’t have the opportunity to stay by my kitchen window very long but when I saw a scruffy tailed red squirrel galloping in a frantic pace along Lorraine’s (my neighbor) eaves I was curious to know what the animal was trying to do. It would go to the corner and look down at the holly bush recently trimmed several feet below the eaves. It retraced its steps and looked across to my fir tree from which several days ago I had also cut a branch that hung above Lorraine’s sidewalk. My Douglas fir is three feet from my line and the branches spread more than twenty feet in every direction. The lowest one is level with Lorraine’s eaves but not anywhere near.

Our houses are about 40 feet apart according to city ordinance set over fifty years ago. A spacious distance to be sure but that squirrel has for months been making its way from a chestnut tree in Lorraine’s backyard across her roof to my fir tree and then across my roof to chew on the developing nuts growing on black and English walnut trees near my front door (with branches overhanging my roof). The squirrel appeared to be puzzled about the change in distance and seemed unsure about making a drop into the holly bush. Holly leaves are prickly and I wouldn’t want to grab one for my safety net. Well neither did the squirrel. After many pacings, the animal judged the distance to a higher limb of the fir tree to be its destination. And it jumped.

Red squirrels cannot fly. They cannot even glide like the so called flying squirrels that sail over distances many times their body length from a high perch to a lower one. This red sqirrel, with a scruffy tail, appeared to fly. It jumped across to the fir branch and scrambled to get to the more solid footing on the tree trunk. I left it there contemplating whether it was safe to go to the ground and cross the yard to its destination or go to a higher branch and leap to my roof.

Whatever its choice, I know it got there because scraps of nut casings were scattered on the ground.

Wildlife moves in

Sunday, June 26th, 2005

Wildlife is flourishing in my backyard. Mourning doves, California quail, and little brown warblers that chip, chip, chip beyond my vision delight me when I step out the back door. House finches sing heartily from the telephone wires. Earlier this morning robins scolded the squirrels which paid no attention as they listened to my voice and watched to see if I made any quick moves in their direction. Crows aren’t around much since nesting season but they will come at dusk to rest for the night. They find lucrative lunches where the garbage is that means their dining is in parks and streets.

I sit with a beer and contemplate the possibilities to welcome more wildlife by cutting a tall black walnut tree from under Douglas (he’s my 50 year old fir) and by forming a barricade with thorny shrubs to fend off house cats for ground nesting birds. I feast on wind fall apricots. They are really bird falls dislodged during snacktime. I pick and clean the pecked fruit before the earwigs and other critters crawl in.

The thermometer registers 99 degrees but a breeze blows the heat and insects away for my comfort. A wonderful place for a day in my life – a backyard never completely private!

Body relaxes, mind races

Saturday, June 25th, 2005

I gave up trying to put my mind to rest regardless of how well my brain allowed my body total relaxation. How long I laid on the verge of sleep I do not know but visions kept running through my mind so here I am in another day with another blog. I pursed my lips and removed a migrant hair bringing forth the vision of my mother in law in her perennial state of rinsing imaginary hairs from her mouth. I think of her often. The vision is usually dominated by her hands immersed in the boiled head of a pig extracting the gelatin and flesh with which to make head cheese, a delicacy Ron favored. And he was fond of pickled pig’s feet. Chicken feet didn’t have to be pickled, however. I would slip the scales and toenails off the cooked feet on which he preferred to feast before reaching for the roasted wings.

Thinking of skulls I must remember to contact Gary at Leo’s Taxidermy when
I get home to remind him to save skulls of animals he mounts for hunters.
I promised I would clean them myself so he agreed. Those bones are useful
tools at the Refuge Environmental Education Center in my vertebrate lessons
for students. Plastic replicas can be purchased but at a cost beyond what
I have to spend for props. A birder explained the time and effort that
went into processing the bird skulls she prepares for our display and
it appeared to be a daunting exercise. When I worried about that a fellow
teacher suggested his method which was to bury the skull and let nature’s
meticulous recyclers – millepedes, earwigs, roly polys, earthworms – do
their thing. Sounds like that would do my job, too.

Now let your thoughts send your mind racing!

One last meal

Saturday, June 25th, 2005

Last minute catching up took me to the post office. I cannot leave a foreign country without some postal stamps. Since the bus didn’t stop there I had to walk through the interesting Korean tent shops where there were native fashions, message, food sampling and Herstory tours. The 9th International Interdisciplinary Congress on Women in Seoul, Korea, is winding down. Just after lunch I removed my poster from Management Hall. The student docent was curious about my presentation and we discussed it at length. She is a business student expecting to graduate next quarter. After working for several years she hopes to go to another country. I invited her to keep in touch with me.

The new Ewha museum was my last stop before the steep climb up to the
auditorium where I could catch the shuttle bus to Hanwoori Hall. Korean
pottery is on display, some of it broken pieces from antiquity. As I strolled
past the exquisite and the mundane, my fingers itched to get into the
mud and create again. Most of the descriptions explained locations and
ancient dates so the geography and history were lost on me. I made notes
about some plants. It seems four plants are considered gentlemen : plum,
orchid, chrysanthemum, and bamboo. What makes them gentlemen I will have
to search for enlightenment from the internet. There are ten longevity
symbols somewhere to look for also. The brochures had no clue. It’s a
good thing there were no albums of the work on display or I would have
bought it. Like I need more stuff to carry home.

The only photos I could take were in the lobby and there were interesting orchids in bloom. I snapped dozens of pictures of the old trees still standing outside although they were severely clipped. There are elaborate supports holding them up. No mulch or ground cover prevents erosion of the top soil and the trees probably need the extra support during the monsoons.

The students at the reception desk in the dormitory were doing a photo session and I grabbed my digital and joined the fun. They became concerned about my trip to the airport tomorrow. It seems more complicated than the taxi ride coming in on Sunday. But they will see that I get sent home properly.

I will miss the ease at which I could access this familiar Hewlett Packard
with Windows XP. Much of the directions are in Korean but the little boxes
are placed in Microsoft menus so I could guess a lot. For all the technology
at Ewha U, very few locals speak English. To do it right they should begin
to learn before they are 6 years old. Dad couldn’t remember his native
language by the time I was old enough to ask about it. Before that he
had been determined to become American and learned the language as soon
as possible. I’d better quit rambling. I need to go eat dinner. I will
leave before breakfast tomorrow so this will be my last meal.

Worship makes men crazy

Saturday, June 25th, 2005

A woman told me a few minutes ago she had read that Bush directed every
condom in Uganda to be destroyed – burned the article said. Too bad AIDs
was destroying Africans, according to Bush in the article, sex was for
reproduction and that means no condoms. Whether the article stated that
Bush would destroy every African if he could through the disease, that
was the message the woman got from the article. She went on to complain
about the unnecessary invasion of Iraq and the continued manufacture of
dirty bombs, lethal chemicals and biological weapons under Bush. Obviously
her sources reveal different facts than the US press and television.

Am I safe outside of the USA? I don’t ask because I am in Korea, very close to a former military zone. Conversations with many women from other countries reveal that the USA is criticized everywhere. The women at the 9th International Interdisciplinary Congress on Women in Seoul, Korea, are demonstrators. I know they would not attack me because of my president’s policies. I do not defend my god-crazed government. Other women do not agree with every action of their governments either.

American tourists are welcomed in every country in which I’ve traveled. However, I am not pleased to have the natives hold their noses when they greet me.

Take back the earth

Saturday, June 25th, 2005

I heard only one reference that religion was the root of all the horror that women experience in our world today. In passing some speakers mention that religion must be reformed. These facts and ideas are repeated in the venue of the 9th International Interdisciplinary Congress on Women in Seoul, Korea.

Somehow women have been led to believe that reformation of religion to reflect
women’s roles will solve the problem like some magic elixir. Reform the
same old stuff? Invent a new religion where women can have equality and
power will follow. Oh, right! Watch the new pope!

Reformation is where many religious women are focussed and results show that women can become priests. Whoop tee doo! Now they can preach the gospel of denigration of women. As if women aren’t already responsible for the strength of the churches – embroidering layments, arranging flowers, dusting the sacristy, fundraisers, teachers of children, and leaders of women’s groups. With this support they build the church power bases and tighten the restrictions around themselves.

For centuries women have been told what their places are and they meekly accept them. Somewhere a holy word says the meek shall inherit the earth. Big deal! What women have to do is take back the earth. In ancient times women were held in high regard because of childbearing. We’ll never know how many centuries it took for men to realize or visualize what role they played in creating new children all the while enjoying the sexuality of willing partners. Jealousy may have played a part in the pairing of female and male but mating for life as we call it more likely came from the protective and compassionate gene we homo sapiens developed.

Marriage was taken over from the matriarchal society when brute strength was
used in agricultural societies long after humans developed language. Look
to the research on marriage. The daughter selected a male for consideration
of the mother who accepted him on the basis of his work ethic. From my
culture I can see Mama saying : “You don’t lay around under my roof just
to produce babies, get to work!” If you don’t believe in the influence
of women in that realm, think about the church institution of matrimony.
Word sources are very revealing.

Change takes place slowly depending on the pressures exerted. Of course it took centuries to instill the insecurity through verbal abuse that women are trying to rise above. I don’t believe the caveman had to drag a women into his cave. Women come into estrus with the animal itch to copulate at least monthly. A female might have chosen an acceptable mate for more reasons than his physique. Research shows that males get more consideration when protecting and providing for females and children when females are not in estrus.

The same pressure and verbal abuse gave men the inferiority they project when they beat their spouses and their children. They were somehow given the impression that males ruled. And by English common law developed from church practice, children became property of the man of the house, the same as women. If the man couldn’t be heard, by god, he could be felt!

Blame will not erase the results. Thoughts and action on those thoughts must follow. We’ve had the brains to get us this far. Let’s have new thoughts and the courage to reject those parts of our society that are the true roots of abuse.

Grievances, front and center

Saturday, June 25th, 2005

A gathering of women is joyous – meeting old acquaintances, making new
friends, and listening to the heartbeat of other women’s lives. The rejoicing
is articulate.

A gathering of women is smoldering with the injustices metered out to
sisters as if they were due. The undercurrent that boils up in the 9th
International Interdisciplinary Congress on Women, in Seoul, Korea, is
ripe with research and verbal information. The revelation is articulate.

What progress has been made in women’s lives in the decades of struggle?
In government, some countries have increased members of women in decision
making roles. And in those countries some areas of women’s lives are improving.
Those are encouraging statistics. In looking at poverty, education, prostitution,
mutilation, exploitation, abuse, pregnancy, and health of women all around
the world, not all statistics are encouraging.

There is more decriminalization of sexual exploitation of women. Definitely
a step backward. USA congressional committee placed female genital circumcision
under the sanction of religious rites to infer it an acceptable practice.
CEDAW was killed in that committee and has never been brought up again.
Women subjected to that practice by the hands of their mothers and grandmothers
spend a lifetime of pain and humiliation because the men in those cultures
are determined that “their women” will not enjoy the sexual act, unfortunately,
even with them. New age revelation encourages the clitoridectomy. Oh,
this is religion all right. Religion in all its glory!

Teenage pregnancies are old stories throughout the world. Education
on sexuality is critical for girls and boys. Even in the USA sex education,
always found in the gutter for boys, is nonexistent in the schools and
churches. Cultural expectations offer no help to parents to fill the ignorance
gap. Pregnant women of any age are seldom offered health education leaving
them vulnerable to disease, miscarriage, and death in childbirth. Surviving
mothers have few resources to help their newborns survive. Grieve for
the future.

Anger and frustration over poverty encourages parents to sell their children into prostitution. Many papers discuss trafficking for tourists and armies, street sex and “comfort” workers. Education is sorely needed. I can attest to the fact that just being poor isn’t the end of the world. Enfolded in the safety of a family can’t fill a belly but it helps to fill the spirit. My father sweated as a hired hand for a local farmer in exchange for the cattle that would bring us some independence. My mother walked behind a cultivator to keep the blades set into the soil between rows of corn in hot, insect ridden Minnesota summers while my sister sat aboard the horse to steer and insist on its continuous participation. This hardly compares with the struggle of peasants sweating in the soil of countries where land is owned by a select uncaring few, as my father did in the Austro-Hungarian empire in the 1800s.

Nevertheless there is hope that continued gatherings will encourage changes. Natural evolution demands it.

Satisfied with leftovers

Saturday, June 25th, 2005

A Korean breakfast was a reiteration of last night’s dinner except stir
fried zucchini and mild onions replaced the seaweed, fried smelt replaced
the sweet and sour, and a dark broth with spinach replaced the tofu soup.
I speak of food in the cafeteria of Hanwoori Hall, the dormitory at Ewha
University where I am enjoying the 9th International Interdisciplinary
Congress on Women.

I can see my food wasn’t so much of last night’s dinner as I first thought when I looked at the tray. But tomorrow when I fly I shall be glad I did not take the huge western breakfast. From the Korean tray I get the impression the chefs – or powers that be – have no law restricting them from holding leftover food. However, it suited my palate. I eat leftovers at home because it is economical and neither taste nor nutrition is compromised when food is refrigerated and nuked.

In reality, women accept leftovers far too often. I am as guilty as any. Coming from a childhood of poverty I have a very good life. I did not take the first job offered me when relocating to Washington state because I had the courage to hold out for a better one. When it came I should have been incensed that I was accepted only because I could type – and I couldn’t pass high school typing 25 years earlier. The job paid $5,200 a year, more that my husband ever earned in a year in his life. In those days increases were regular in government work and advance was easy although I couldn’t compete with men and certainly not without a PhD. I accepted what I got and put aside the allowed savings for 20 years. Later circumstances changed and I was left with a small pension and social security. My home was paid for so a car and utilities were all I needed to exist comfortably. But I lived in the poverty bracket in the slum area of town.

I was not about to sit still. The first 42 years of my life were spent in
the state of my birth. My ancestors came from Europe, my father within
the 20th century. I wanted to see beyond the United States. If I did not
skimp, eat leftovers, and restrict frivolous spending I would not have
experienced the travel and adventure I have. I will not change my saving
ways. I sit in cramped economy airplane seats putting up with little.
I will continue to have experiences that I now can’t begin to contemplate.