Monday, March 29, 2010

A Nation Afraid

Ray was a wise man.  He used to tell me, "We fear things we don't know.  Think about how you feel when you get into an elevator with one stranger who looks very different.  Or pass a homeless person sleeping on a sidewalk.  Once you get to know a person, you won't feel quite so threatened."

I have just finished a 2008 novel by mystery writer Kathy Reichs.  I didn't get as wrapped into the story as I have in some of her earlier novels, but pg. 302 resonates.  Reichs' heroine says,
     "Americans have become a nation afraid.... A shooter on a rampage in a school cafeteria.  A hijacked plane toppling a high-rise building.  A bomb in a train or rental van.  A postal delivery carrying anthrax.  The power to kill is out there for anyone willing to use it.... We fear terrorists, snipers, hurricanes, epidemics.  And the worst part is we've lost faith in the government's ability to protect us.  We feel powerless and that causes constant anxiety, makes us fear things we don't understand.... [things] exotic, unknown.  We lump and stereotype them and bar the door in trepidation.... People have lost confidence in the system on other grounds....  There's a growing belief that, too often, the guilty go free... [Then someone] stirs the public into a froth and some citizen vigilante appoints himself judge and jury...."

On the way to write this post, I stopped at my brother's blog.  I was surprised to find that today we are on the same page, responding to similar observations by very disparate writers.

If knowledge is power, hold on to your own power by withholding knowledge from others.  Secrecy. Intrigue.  Helplessness. Distrust. Fear.  

Last evening my mother and I watched a new film on TV.  Based on the book, Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcends Tragedy, it speaks of the community response to the murder of 5 Amish children in a tiny school in rural Pennsylvania in 2006.  There it is again, the theme of grief, helplessness, fear.  And in this instance, healing.  Healing through forgiveness.  "I cannot hold anger and hatred in my heart," says one character.  "If I do, it will control my life."

I had just listened to one of my favorite podcasts, the BBC Radio Wales program All Things Considered.  Theme for this segment?  "Can the Church Survive?"  Once again, survival seems to hang on reaching out, finding commonalities, building understanding, demonstrating love.

James Redfield, author of The Celestine Prophecy, maintains that there are no coincidences.

There is a message here.  It has to do with communication, understanding, love, empowerment.

It is Holy Week.  Passover begins at sundown tonight.

"Open my ears, Lord, help me to listen ... open my eyes, Lord ... "
Give thanks.  Don't forget to pray.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Dove Update

We have a baby!

There still may be another egg about to hatch.  Or this little guy's shell may still be in the nest.  Since getting these images requires a tall ladder and a reasonably good telephoto lens, it's hard to tell what else is there.

As fuzzy as this baby is, he may have hatched on Thursday or Friday.

Mama is still setting, but now leaves for more extended periods.  We still have not seen her feed her chick.

Pray for all the wee things in this world.  Pray for the babies touching your life, that they may receive the physi cal, social and emotional nourishment they need to mature into responsible, contributing adults.

Found -- but never lost

My family loves bargain hunting.  Yard sales and garage sales.  Rummage sales.  Especially thrift shops.  My mother, brother and sister-in-law consider thrift shop hopping prime entertainment.  They have an array of high end treasures found in at thrift shop prices.  I have never been quite so lucky.  Until this week.

On the path between the Hearing Center and the typewriter store (yes, really) is the Assistance League of Honolulu thrift shop.  We cannot pass the Assistance League shop without stopping.

On this day there were two boxes of framed art on the floor between furniture, china, men's underwear, and the Christmas shelf.

I thumbed through them, not particularly drawn to anything.  Until I saw the Bev Doolittle lithograph.  Numbered, from a limited edition series.  Nicely framed.  Marked $2.00.  I've always been attracted to Doolittle's work, full of things unseen.  This piece is titled "Hide and Seek Cameo B", from a series of 24 separate images which together form a composite.  Can you see the pinto horse among the rocks?

Mother didn't find anything that caught her fancy.  I came home with the Bev Doolittle.  Wonder if there are any more in the series out there for $2.00?

Recognize -- and give thanks for -- treasures, where ever they are found.
Don't forget to pray!

Lost and Found

Nearly two years ago my mother purchased a very expensive, very high tech pair of hearing aids.  They were not her first pair, but far more comfortable and effective as any others she had owned.

After only a few months, one of those expensive little gadgets escaped.  We tore her room apart.  She checked the clothes she (thought) she had been wearing when she last saw them.  We filtered through the heap of papers next to her chair where, like your favorite catch-all drawer, everything important ends up.  It's surrounded by a wastebasket, the newspaper recycle basket, and several boxes of papers she is currently sorting.  No hearing aid.

We sifted through the contents of the vacuum cleaner bag.  I refused to tear apart plumbing for something the size of a small pea.

She held out for several more months of non-hearing agony for both of us before giving in and replacing the lost device.  Since then, she has been keeping much better track of those hearing aids.

Yesterday she had a morning appointment.  She was dressed and ready to walk out the door.  I made a last dash back to the bedrooms.  There, lying on the hardwood floor, dead center in the doorway of her bedroom, was a hearing aid.  When I handed it to her, she looked puzzled, then worried.  She check her right ear, then her left.  Looked even more puzzled, then broke into one of her wonderful-but-rare smiles.

She still doesn't know where that lost hearing aid had been hiding.  

Like the wealthy farmer whose prodigal son came slinking home after squandering his inheritance, give thanks when what is missing returns.  Sometimes they are things.  Sometimes they are people.  Always they have value.

Don't forget to pray!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Spring; Curious Gecko

A song we used to sing in elementary school keeps running through my mind:  "Welcome, sweet springtime, we greet thee in song ...."  Spring has arrived!

I'v had a partial glass of mango juice at my side while working on the computer today.  One of our resident geckos has followed the aroma of mango, and has been visiting.  Wish I had a camera close enough to grab and take his picture.  First he landed with a thump on a stack of books.  Then he watched me carefully to determine that I am not a predator.  Then, ever so carefully, he reached out for the glass.  It's a brandy snifter style wine glass with a top opening of not more than 2".  He wasn't certain what to make of the "invisible" wall he encountered.  Then carefully up to the lip.  It took him awhile to figure out how to reach back down into the glass to the juice.  Eventually he decided to hang by his hind feet, reaching carefully with his tongue the last bit to the juice itself.   It must not have been quite the delicacy he was expecting; he backed out quickly and went off in search of other morsels.

Here's Mr. Gecko a couple of years ago, climbing a wall on another day of adventure.

Give thanks for critters like these who provide non-toxic pest control.  Give thanks for spring and renewal..  Don't forget to pray.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

More Selvages

Hey, quilters and other needleworkers!  Remember the selvage quilt that I commented on earlier this year?  Posted the image, then sent you off to look at the creator's blog?  This use of selvages -- other people's waste -- fascinates me.  I don't know whether it's the idea or the look.   So here's another example of garbage-to-useful, garbage-to-attractive.  How do people come up with these ideas?   Be sure to check out the creator's blog.  Scroll down to the entry of March 13 2010.

Take a look at what goes in your garbage.  Is there something there you can really reuse?  Or that someone else can use?  If you're not a garage sale or thrift shop person, have you discovered Freecycle?  If you're going to throw it away anyway, check the web your local Freecycle.  Yesterday in Honolulu someone wanted grass clippings.  For their compost pile.  Go figure.

Now how did I get from quilting to compost?

Give thanks for something.  Anything!  Don't forget to pray....

Monday, March 15, 2010

Resident Wildlife, Kahala

Sitting at the breakfast table each morning, I look out the window into this plumeria tree.  
It is one of the few trees in Hawaii that actually looses all its leaves in the (late) winter,
then breaks into bloom in the spring.
In other parts of the world, it's called Frangipani.  

I don't know what it was that caught my eye one day last week.
Movement?  An unsual bulge?

Look carefully at the multi-branched fork 
almost dead center in this photo.
The one that looks like it's got whispy sticks around it.
It really does.

On closer inspection ... 
Mrs. Dove has built herself a very untidy nest.  
She picked herself an excellent building site.
Unlike most of the other trees in the yard,
 this one does not  dance in the wind.
We've had a lot of wind recently to make the trees dance --
and fragile bird nests blow away.

Here's a somewhat different view of the tree.  
You can see that the path from the back door to the clothes line and washing machine.
It passes right under Mrs. Dove's nest.  
Mrs. Dove doesn't budge, even when a camera is stuck practically in her nose.  
She does come down for the daily offering of bread and rice.
My mother has been feeding birds here for nearly 70 years.  

Resident wild life in the City
is harder to find than in Groveland.
It comes in different shapes and sizes, too.  
No deer.  No foxes.  No mountain lions.  No bears.  
No racoons or snakes.
No hummingbirds or quail or bluebirds.
No nuthatches or woodpeckers. 
Instead, we are blessed with 
doves and mynah birds, 
Bulbuls and Java sparrows, 
monarch butterfiles, geckos ...
and cockroaches.  

What creatures lived in your garden, on your porch or under the manholes 
(ooops, not politically correct -- personnel access ports)
in your neighborhood?
Give thanks for their diversity.
Even as you wage war on the ants, mosquitoes and roaches!
Don't forget to pray....

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Happy Birthday, Kimo!

Forty years. Forty years since a baby boy was born at Maui Memorial Hosptial.  A typical baby boy, 7 pounds plus, chubby, pink-skinned, with squished up sleeping eyes -- and an almost blonde fuzz covering his head.  That wasn't so typical.  Most babies in Hawaii arrive with a thatch of very dark hair, curly or straight depending on ethnicity.  Fair-haired babies are an anomaly.  So are babies who have to travel all the way from Maui to California to find a family.

Actually, this is Arlene's day.  I know that for her it is a difficult memory.  I cannot imagine how hard it must be to carry a child to term, deliver that child -- and then have it disappear from your life.  Know, Arlene, how often I thank you for the gift of your child, given and received with love.  Hanai.

 My anniversary will come around next week. Forty years ago. Flying from San Jose to Los Angeles on Friday evening, a pair of 20-somethings with a 3-year-old and and empty baby carrier.  Christie asking, "Where is my baby brother now?"  Waiting with trepidation at the Western Airlines gate, watching, still with that empty carrier.   Receiving that baby into my arms, knowing that under Hawaii law, once I held him he was our child.  His biological mother made her choice voluntarily, understanding its implications; his biological father, still unmarried, abrogated his rights.  We would go into court to legally finalize the adoption, but the time for mind-changing had passed.

We returned to Palo Alto later that same day, now a family of four.  The good doctor who delivered our son on Maui, also delivered him to us  in California, declaring "You can't greet someone from Hawaii and leave without kau kau!"  So we left with a pineapple, and some dried fish, and I don't remember what else -- and a baby.

Give thanks for all those mothers who, out of love, make the decision to give up a child they cannot care for as they would like.  Give thanks for the loving arms and hearts which receive those children.  Give thanks for those parents, both biological and adoptive, who can openly and lovingly share those children in a non-threatening extended family relationship.

Happy birthday, Kimo.
Don't forget to pray ....

Thursday, March 4, 2010

It's cold in Honolulu ....

Overcast, intermittent rain.  Sometimes heavy, sometimes just a drizzle.  Tradewinds blowing, giving continuing movement in the garden as I look out onto the back yard.  Cool enough that I had to find a fleece jacket.  One of those curl-up-under-a-blanket-and-read-a-good-book days.

Temperature at 10:30 a.m.?  69.1 at the airport.

Give thanks for the rain --- and a warm jacket.  Don't forget to pray ....

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

3 March 2010

Dear Ray,
It's been 3 years since you passed over.  In some ways it was yesterday.  In other ways, it was forever ago.

I miss you terribly, and I miss the life we had in Groveland.  It was our place, the place where we lived most of our shared life.  It  shaped so much of what we both became.  I think we both found ourselves there.  I never realized what a country girl I am until I moved back to a city.  I'm a better, more rounded person because of what I learned there, learned from you.  Thank you for making the decision that ultimately took us to Groveland.

This being alone, being independent, stuff doesn't really suit me.  I miss your gently nipping at my heels to get things done.  I miss sharing dinner -- even at Perko's --, visits to a quirky museum or gallery, to book shops and hardware stores.  Remember the extra-terrestrial museum in Sonora?  Hasn't been there for more than 30 years....  Those things are not the same without someone to share your impressions, and offer their own.  I miss street fairs and craft fairs -- remember the one in Gainesboro, Tennessee where the young teen was walking her calf through town like anyone else would walk a dog?  That was where we learned why they didn't have local post cards in at least 3 counties -- they got a divorce, he was the photographer, but she got the postcard making machine!  It's just not the same without you to see the humor and remind me to laugh.

How often did you tell me, "It's a joke, Bonnie P.  You can laugh." and we'd laugh together.

You will be pleased to know I've finally gone back to church.  I often feel your hand in mine at the Lord's Prayer, just as we all joined hands at Grace Mission.   I'm just beginning to realize how much Bishop Vic spoiled us, and how well trained we were as lay leaders under his leadership.  Remember the conference at ECCO where Dr. Sam Garrett taught 3 sessions of systematic theology focusing on covenants?  It makes me smile to recall how much you enjoyed those sessions.  Remember the Cursillo teams we worked and the many friends we made through Cursillo?   And how much stronger we became as individuals and as a couple because of Cursillo?

I approach Easter with no small measure of fear.  Much as I love the Easter hymns, I don't know that I can even hear them, much less sing them, without tears.  Yet.   It's soooooo embarrassing to fall apart in the middle of a church service.

You will also be pleased that I am still active in genealogy work with the Groveland Museum, and have also become active in Daughters of Hawaii.  The museum at the Queen Emma Summer Palace is both larger and older than our museum in Groveland, but has a similar range of wonderful people keeping it together.  As in Groveland, I can work behind the scenes to help put what we have into historical context that makes sense to our visitors.

So I am beginning to find my feet again.  Meds help.  Christie is coming in June, with her girls --  her own two, and an exchange student from Germany.  That will help.  A call from Kimo would be nice. You understand the importance of family.  Healing is still a long, slow process.  Just stick around and keep reminding me that this, too, I can do.  

I'll keep praying.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Hearing and Listening

Living with a 95-year-old nearly deaf person is a lot like living alone.  My mother has spent far too much time alone.  She can no longer be bothered making the effort to carry on a real conversation.   I crave the sound of a human voice.

Sometimes I am just looking for background noise.  Radio talk shows are good for that.  Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers of PBS "Car Talk" fame are good, because there's lots of laughter along with the talk.  It's hard to feel sorry for yourself in the midst of laughter!  Music also works, but it lacks the conversational quality I seek.

When I am doing something relatively mindless -- cleaning, yard work, sewing or other needlework, even  occasionally walking  -- my iPod gets a workout.  I can listen to things that require attention.  A good novel.  A thoughtful conversation, often from other Public Radio broadcasts.

That was where I discovered the elephants.

Early this year, 60 Minutes (I know, they are neither public broadcasting nor radio.) broadcast a segment called The Secret Language of Elephants.  It was fascinating.

Elephants speak?  That's reasonable.  Most animals communicate in one way or another.

In tones beyond the range of human hearing?  Tones one can feel rather than hear?  If I pay attention at the local zoo, I might be able to hear/feel their language?   That's a more challenging concept.

Speak with enough diversity that it justifies producing a rather substantial dictionary?    Wow!!

Later in the month another of my favorite podcasts, Speaking of Faith, rebroadcast an episode called Whale Songs and Elephant Loves.  In fact, it's an interview with another researcher in the Elephant Listening Project at Cornell University.

Katy Payne, author, researcher, and guest in this segment, made a statement that caught my fancy.  She says she got interested in elephants because she "never grew up".   She never lost the childlike wonder of the world around her, never got so stuck in "the way its supposed to be" trap that creates blinders in too many adults.  When she felt rumblings around the elephant area that she did not feel in the rest of the zoo, she was open enough to explore these rumblings as a means of communication, and ultimately, a form of language.

Hearing is easy, assuming all our "hearing equipment" is working correctly.  Listening takes work.  It requires thoughtfully processing the sound we hear, whether nature sounds, urban sounds, music or another person's words.  Sometimes it requires reading visual clues along with the words.  The look in an eye, the expression on a face, movement of hands and body, all give clues to what the speakers is really saying.  Am I getting the real message?  Too often, I am not.

Listen -- really listen -- to someone's words today.  Try to get beyond your own hopes, fears and mindset as you listen.  What message is being sent?

Don't forget to pray.