The Right to Petition

January 25, 2017

I’ve been quiet lately, pulled away from creating art and blog posts because I am going through my days stunned (but not surprised) by the actions of our President.  I have been taking more time out to read and be informed about politics because I feel I had become too complacent.  Being informed is time consuming and wears on my mental health — it’s a downer.  But I will persevere because it is more important than ever to speak out against injustice and for our democratic values and human rights.

You know that Trump has refused to release his tax returns and claims that the American people don’t care about this (he claims that only the media is making an issue out of this). Well, there is a way for WE THE PEOPLE to let Trump know that we DO care.

I read about an online petition gathering signatures asking for the release of his tax returns in this NY Times article: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/24/opinion/we-the-people-demand-mr-trump-release-his-tax-returns.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=opinion-c-col-left-region&region=opinion-c-col-left-region&WT.nav=opinion-c-col-left-region&_r=0

I decided to exercise my First Amendment right to petition for a redress:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
—The First Amendment, United States Constitution”

If you want to sign the petition, too, the link is here: https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/immediately-release-donald-trumps-full-tax-returns-all-information-needed-verify-emoluments-clause-compliance

I hope it garners millions of signatures (though I won’t be surprised if Trump takes down this website soon).

Path of totality on August 21, 2017

Path of totality on August 21, 2017

My close friends and family know that I love reading about and researching places I will be visiting on upcoming trips.  For me, this process of discovery whets my anticipation and clues me in to things I might look for when I am actually on the ground at my destination.  I don’t want to over plan, and I do want to stay open to serendipitous encounters.  But I very much enjoy the planning stages.

So with my calendar pencilled in to drive to the Oregon Coat to see the total eclipse of the sun on August 21st, I was thrilled to come across an essay, “Total Eclipse,” by Annie Dillard about her experiences watching the 1979 total solar eclipse in the Yakima Valley of Washington State.  Her descriptions were so vivid that I modified some of the things I had been imagining about seeing the sun disappear.  For example:

  • I might not actually see the moon as I normally picture it in the sky in those moments leading up to the eclipse.  Dillard says, “You do not see the moon.  So near the sun, it is as completely invisible as the stars are by day.”
  • The eclipsed sun might appear as a very small circle in the sky, not as the big, overwhelming orb I had in my mind’s eye for such an extraordinary event:  “The hole where the sky belongs is very small.  A thin ring of light marked its place. . . . the ring is as small as one goose in a flock of migrating geese . . . The sun we see is less than half the diameter of a dime held at arm’s length.”
  • I hadn’t thought about how swiftly the dark shadow of the moon would come at the moment of total eclipse, and how terrifying this approaching darkness might be.  Dillard and the people watching on the hillside where she stood screamed involuntarily.  Here is how she describes it:  “The second before the sun went out we saw a wall of dark shadow come speeding at us.  We no sooner saw it than it was upon  us, like thunder.  It roared up the valley.  It slammed our hill and knocked us out.  It was the monstrous swift shadow cone of the moon.  I have since read that this wave of shadow moves 1,800 miles an hour.  Language can give no sense of this sort of speed — 1,800 miles an hour.  It was 195 miles wide.  No end was in sight — you saw only the edge.  It rolled at you across the land at 1,800 miles an hour, hauling darkness like a plague behind it.”
  • I am now prepared for the draining of color from my surroundings in the sudden darkness.  With the absence of light, objects apparently take on an unearthly silver cast:  “The sun was going, and the world was wrong.  The grasses were wrong; they were platinum. . . . The hues were metallic; their finish was matte. . . . The sky was navy blue.  My hands were silver.”

I sensed that Dillard’s experience of watching the total solar eclipse was so alien and disorienting that she was at a loss for words to describe it until time passed and she had some distance from it.  She says, “I saw, early in the morning, the sun diminish against a backdrop of sky.  I saw a circular piece of that sky appear suddenly detached, blackened, and backlighted; from nowhere it came and overlapped the sun.  It did not look like the moon.  It was enormous and black.  If I had not read that it was the moon, I could have seen the sight a hundred times and never thought of the moon once.”

She says, “The sky snapped over the sun like a lens cover.  The hatch in the brain slammed.  Abruptly it was dark night, on the land and in the sky.”

The total eclipse “began with no ado.”  The moon, when it exactly covered the sphere of the sun was “an abrupt black body out of nowhere.”  The time of the sun’s absence was short — about 2 minutes, and then it was over.

Witnessing a total eclipse of the sun promises top be one of those experiences that one remembers for their entire lives.  One comes face-to-face with the implacable movements of the planets, moons, and stars, something so immense and out-of-our control that it must make one feel insubstantial and unnecessary to the workings of the universe.  It is hard to anticipate how I will feel if I am fortunate enough to watch the 2017 eclipse.  I am praying for clear skies!

“One turns at last even from glory itself with a sigh of relief.  From the depths of mystery, and even from the heights of splendor, we bounce back and hurry for the latitudes of home.”

— all quotes from Annie Dillard, “Total Eclipse,” from Teaching a Stone to Talk

Speaking Out for Justice

January 16, 2017

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Today is our Dr. Martin Luther King holiday and a time to honor all those who had the courage to stand up against injustices and fight for human rights.  How dismaying that today — this very moment — freedom and justice are under threat again.  Trump attacks anyone who disagrees with him and surrounds himself with others who reflect only his uninformed views.

It reminds me of when President Bush called “unpatriotic” anyone who did not support his Iraq war.  Paul Krugman’s article defending John Lewis’s refusal to attend the inauguration because he does not view Trump as the “legitimate” president of a fair and free election is worth reading.  He reminds us that speaking our truths, speaking out against injustice is patriotic.

We can refuse to be silenced.  We must speak our truths.  As Madeleine L’Engle says in the poster above, “Let us have the courage to go on being dangerous people.”

 

Christmas crow

Christmas crow

It’s just after 9 a.m. and already I feel behind.  As soon as I finish this quick post, I will head out for a round of grocery shopping and errands.  Once back home, I will need to clean the house a bit and do laundry and begin cooking for holiday meals, but what I really want to do is read with pencil in hand, sketch a few more pages in my Idleness book, paint something with color, and work on a few blog posts.

I’m not exercising and moving enough.  I have too many finished projects.  Aargh!

This is the time to remember what has helped me in the past.  To slow waaaaay down.  To take each moment as it comes.  To let go of the idea of packing all these things into one day.  Not possible!  Do a few things well instead.

 

Presence Not Presents

December 22, 2016

Garland of presents, Eagle Harbor Bookstore

Garland of presents Eagle Harbor Bookstore

“Presence not presents.”
— Jonathan Fields, How To Live a Good Life

Presence:  my niece and her daughter on the Winslow waterfront

Presence: my niece and her daughter on the Winslow waterfront

Blueberry bushes, Skagit Valley

Blueberry bushes, Skagit Valley

“. . . in solitude, or in that deserted state when we are surrounded by human beings and yet they sympathise not with us, we love the flowers, the grass and the waters and the sky.  In the motion of the very leaves of spring in the blue air there is then found a secret correspondence with our heart.”
— Shelley, On Love

This quote is the epigraph of Mary Oliver’s new book of essays, Upstream.  A timely message for me these days when I am feeling so out of sync with my countrymen and women.  Nature can help to heal a bruised heart.

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My yoga teacher

My yoga teacher

“Whether our practice strengthens our ability to be present with all that we experience is the only criteria we need for what we do or don’t do on the mat.”
— Donna Farhi, Bringing Yoga to Life

I’ve mentioned before that the new thing in my life these days is yoga.  I am very much a novice, having taken only a dozen or so beginning classes, but I like it very much and sometimes even feel I need it, like a craving.  And it will surprise no one that I’ve also been reading  few books about yoga.  Often a writer’s words help me to articulate and name the feelings and thoughts that rise from my direct experience.

The following words from Donna Farhi’s Bringing Yoga to Life resonated with me and gave me food for thought:

“Any practice can be used as a shield to protect us from life. . . . we can make schedules, control, and otherwise fill up our day with so many plans that there is not even the smallest crack for an outside influence to seep in.”

“An important part of learning to channel our energies is increasing our tolerance for staying in the pause between desire and satisfaction. . . . learning to be in the pause between a feeling and a reaction.”

So as you focus on your breath and the pause between inhaling and exhaling, allow the pause to be “a neutral place from which to make a new beginning.”

“To the degree that the mind is preoccupied with memories of the past and fantasies of the future, that is the degree to which we cannot reside in the present moment.”

“. . . there is no experience that is permanent and intransigent.”

“Working with discrete increments of awareness gives us the ability to separate and define our day-to-day experience as multidimensional rather than the smear of consciousness that is the product of the untrained mind.”

“What does incremental awareness afford us?  First of all, it allows us to reclaim our lives and the joy of everyday experiences.  We become actualists instead of theorists or fantasists.  We stop choosing for or against our experience or the assumption that it should somehow be different than it is.  Once we drop these assumptions, we can start choosing to open ourselves to all of our experiences, both pleasant and unpleasant.”

“Whatever connects us to our essence is our practice.  Whatever clears our head so we can see what is important is our practice.  Once we get clear that we are practicing to live, not living to practice, we can bring the concept of formal practice into perspective.  If our formal practice is utterly disassociated from our everyday lives, no amount of time on the mat will bring us peace of mind.”

“. . . it matters less what we do in practice than how we do it and why we do it.”

“. . . this radical process called yoga asks us to live without solidifying our viewpoint or fixing our point of reference.  There is no experience from our past that needs become a fulcrum for the one we are having now — or the experience we have yet to have.”

“We begin to create a more peaceful world the moment we develop the tolerance to be with a feeling without having to immediately act upon it.”

“. . . the practice is the reward.”

Wrong vs. Right

November 12, 2016

Nearing sunrise on my street

Nearing sunrise on my street

“We are all prone to think there is something wrong with the mental processes of the man who disagrees with us.”
— Jack London, “The Cruise of the Snark,” from Jack London: The Paths Men Take

I have to admit, I am often guilty of this!

On Stillness

November 11, 2016

Skagit Valley

Skagit Valley

“I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love,
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.”
— T. S. Eliot, “East Coker,” Four Quartets

Making History with My Vote

October 28, 2016

Marking my ballot

Marking my ballot

It is not often that you feel that your actions are history in the making.  But I savor the sense that my vote this year will bring about an important moment in the history of our country — the election of the first woman to the office of President of the United States.  I have waited all my life for this milestone.

It is so important to me that I just had to document my vote with a photo.