“All Children Are Our Children” by Carol P. Christ


This is a rather long read the gist of which is this: what if “we were taught to love and nurture and be generous to others” and these were the primary values in the world rather than the current values. “What if we were taught to open our hearts to the world? Would domination, violence, and war be possible?”

Carol P. Christ by Michael Bakas high resoultion“All children are our children.” As I was posting my recent blog about the shooting of black men by the police, these words came into my mind with the force of revelation. At the time I was looking at a photograph of Philando Castile, taken at his place of work. Yes, I thought, my heart opening: “he is my child too.” This widening of the heart is at the center of the maternal values of ancient and contemporary matriarchal cultures around the world. It is a feeling some of us who were mothered well enough or who mothered children—including children not our own—carry within us. Is this the healing balm our world needs today?

Maternal  values?  So many of us turn up our noses at such a “gendered” term. Perhaps we were not mothered enough in our families of origin. Perhaps we still feel un-mothered. Perhaps we don’t want…

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Ethiopian Journey–Ancient Churches of Lalibela


In the 12th century the king of Ethiopia decided to build a New Jerusalem.  Eleven churches were carved out of solid rock on the mountain top in the village of Lalibela.  A UNESCO World Heritage site, these churches remain intact and in use.

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They were all carved from the rock top of the mountain down into the earth so that they remain invisible unless the person is only a few feet away.  This protected them from the vision of potential invaders, usually Muslims from what is now Sudan.  The above is probably the most photographed of these churches and stands separate from the others.

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My friend is standing near where the stairs lead down to the bottom where visitors and worshippers can enter the church.  Visiting all these churches in one day is not an activity for the faint of heart or for one terrified of heights.

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This is the first church we visited.  It still mystifies many as to how such incredibly intricate structures could me carved by hand out of solid stone.  Even these columns are carved out of the rock.  The “official” Ethiopian Orthodox Christian story relates how angels helped the builders.

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This and most of the other churches are connected by “waterways” where in the rainy season a sophisticated system of drainage keeps all of them from flooding and makes it possible for visitors and worshippers to walk along from church to church.

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Everything in the Christian churches in Ethiopia  symbolizes something related back to Jerusalem and the Bible.  Even though the guide explained it all in detail, keeping up with all the symbolism proved a daunting task.  Notice the swastikas.  They are ancient symbols of the eternal circle of life and death.  Hitler turned them backwards and into a totally different meaning.  There are also many different styles of crosses there, two of which can be seen in the windows of this church.

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This is a fertility pool.  In the past a priest got in the water–it is very deep–with a woman who could not conceive and bless her in the water.  At one point when it began to fill too much, they cleaned out the bottom and found many treasures buried there, apparently dumped into the pool to protect them from enemy invaders.

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The inside of the churches are intricately carved and sometimes painted.

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Two types of basalt exist on this mountain, soft and hard.  Churches carved out of the soft basalt have begun to deteriorate and as a consequence are covered.  As can be seen here, people still come to these churches to pray and attend services.

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Our guide lead us from church to church through these narrow passageways which are, as previously mentioned, used to drain water away from them in the rainy season.  If Ethiopia had a national color, it would be white.  It is not only worn to go to church and for religious purposes but in daily life as well.  It mystifies me as to how they keep whites so very white.

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The slit dug in the rock is part of the system of drainage.  The grass in the foreground grows out of a pool of holy water.  While we were there, a boy filled a plastic bottle with the water and left.

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St. George and the dragon are everywhere, not only in churches but also on beer.  He is the patron saint of the country, symbolizing the triumph of Christianity over paganism as symbolized by the dragon.

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The carving in many of the churches reveal a sophisticated knowledge of how to work in stone.  It is difficult to believe that this was carved by hand downward into solid basalt centuries ago.

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The road to Lalibela is rather daunting, climbing  higher and higher with no guard rails, nothing.  As you can see from this photo, patchwork quilt  fields cover even the mountainsides.

 

 

To learn more about Lalibela, see detailed information and explanations of their River Jordan and other religious symbolism, go to my blog posts from August 2014.

Book Review by Mary Sharratt: ESTHER by Rebecca Kanner


I am reblogging this because it fits with my next book project: poems from the viewpoint of the ancient mother goddess and others from the viewpoint of women in the Bible.

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We have been lost to each other for so long. My name means nothing to you. My memory is dust. This is not your fault or mine. The chain connecting mother to daughter was broken and the word passed into the keeping of men, who had no way of knowing. That is why I became a footnote, my story a brief detour between the well-known history of my father and the celebrated chronicle of my brother.

-Anita Diamant, The Red Tent

To a large extent, women have been written out of history. Their lives and deeds have become lost to us. To uncover the buried histories of women, we must act as detectives, studying the clues left from ages lost.

At its best, historical fiction can write women back into history and challenge our misconceptions about women in the past. Anita Diamant’s novel, TheRed Tent, became such an…

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Meet the Artist–the Writing Process and Poetry


This evening I am the artist at a local Meet the Artist event in Amarillo, Texas.  This event occurs bimonthly and past presenters have included musicians, photographers, and painters.  While I sing and take photos, my presentation will include reading poems from my book, “On the Rim of Wonder” and new, unpublished poems and talking about the writing process.  While I honestly thought few would be interested in the latter, several people have asked me specifically to discuss this.

Although I consider myself a writer, I do not sit down on schedule and write every day like many writers.  Inspiration, thoughts, come to me sporadically.  I write creatively exactly like I used to write college papers, magazine articles, etc.; I look like I am doing nothing, but in reality, all these ideas run through my head and finally gel.  Then I sit down and write it all at once.

The following is one of the poems from my book which I plan to read this evening:

 

Aging

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”  Dylan Thomas

Custom says, “Age gracefully.”

Are they crazy, dumb.

Who wants to look

old

wrinkled

grey?

They lie.

All of them.

Who wants a broken mind

confused

unfocused

lost?

Shoot me!

Burn my bones.

Scatter them

in the desert sands

to feed

desert willow where

rattlesnakes lie

searching for shade.

Dealing with Despair by Carol P. Christ


This blog post also notes that cities and small towns use traffic tickets for minor violations to fund their governments. Immediately, I thought of a tiny town on the highway from Amarillo to Dallas that rakes in huge amounts of money this way. Then this morning I just read of another incident where police killed a black man who, instead of having a gun as police claimed, had his hands up in the air–from a surveillance camera nearby. The police officers in question had on body cameras–that footage has not yet been released. I am quite sure we will hear more about that one even if it has not been on the national news yet.

Philando Castile, school cafeteria worker, killed driving while black Philando Castile, school cafeteria worker, killed driving while black

In a state of shock after the police shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, I turned to my Facebook feed, looking for community in my grief and hoping to make sense of what had happened. The statement, “He would not have been shot if he had been white,” referring to Philando Castile, appeared several times. The first time I saw it, I responded, “He would not even have been stopped if he had been white.” Think about it if you are white: how many times have you been pulled over by the police?

I can answer that question: in the United States, only once, and that was because I made a second illegal U-turn at the same stop-lighted intersection as a teenager.  The policeman issued me two tickets, stating that he had been willing to let the first offence go…

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Ethiopian Journey–From Addis Ababa to Debre Birhan


Addis is the second highest capital in the world.  Only La Paz, Bolivia, is higher.  To a large extent, altitude determines climate in Ethiopia.  Addis and the surrounding area, much of which is high altitude farmland, receives a lot of rain this time of year and looks totally unlike what a lot of people think of when they hear the word Ethiopia–not desert but rather miles and miles of green.

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We had not driven far from Addis when we crossed a river, an area of which is considered healing.  Many people had come for priests to bless them and to experience the healing power of the water.

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I saw only three tractors in ten days of criss crossing farmland.  Why so few?  One reason is rocks.  Many of the fields remain rather full of rocks in spite of many having been removed.

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Therefore, they farm the “old fashioned” way; horses or cattle pulling plows with a human behind.

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Houses in the villages in the farming areas demonstrate old ways alongside new.

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Winnowing the way we did in the USA a century ago.

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Much of the farmland is a picturesque patchwork quilt of browns and greens.

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Before dropping down to lower country, we drove by Menelik’s Window.   The drop off here is steep and far.  I did not go near it–I had not yet become used to the endless drop-offs or even realized that I would need to do so.  This is one of four places in Ethiopian where you can see gelada baboons.  They are extinct elsewhere. Menelik was an Ethiopian emperor.  This “window” allows one to look from the high country for miles and miles to the landscape beyond.

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The large tufts of grass provide food for the gelada which are grass eating herbivores, the last of the grass eating primates.  All others are extinct.  This same grass is used by the locals for roofing material so boys stay in these areas all day chasing off the baboons.

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To keep themselves busy they weave woolen baskets and hats to sell which they display in the grass.

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This ten year old boy happily donned the hat he had made.  I bought it for my grandson who was the same age when I took the trip.

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Except for the different vegetation, driving down the mountain looked a lot like driving through Colorado.

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Down from the mountain the landscape appears quite different and considerably drier.  We drove through several smaller towns on our way to Debre Birhan where we stayed the first night.

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Driving in Ethiopia requires navigating around animals.  Everyone drives their cattle, camels, horses, all livestock down the road whenever possible.  The roads are generally very good.  Many, built by the Italians, have stood the test of decades.

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Along the road we saw many of these “apples”.  My friend told us how they played with them as a child.  However, the adults all warned the children not to touch their eyes when they did–it will make you blind.  They are called Apples of Sodom–so many things in Ethiopia have symbolic meaning.

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These fruit could be seen all along the road and even on the road.  After driving through this drier area we rose above a huge valley with miles and miles of grass.

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A semi-nomadic group brings their immense herds of cattle here in the rainy season to graze.  When we drove further on above the valley, I saw the first tractor working a field as big as this grazing land.

 

 

 

Ethiopian Journey–Addis Ababa


We spent a couple of days in Addis staying with my friend’s sister who lives there.  Addis traffic is incredible.  In a city with millions of people I saw only one traffic light and it was not working.  Most intersections are giant traffic circles and getting through them is a rather daunting task.  On the way to my friend’s brother’s house one day, we sat stuck for nearly one half hour–we could not get through the circle.  Finally, the passenger in the car to the right of us jumped out and stopped the traffic so we and his driver could get through.

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Additionally, it rained often, streets and buildings were under construction, and mud and potholes showed up everywhere.  This is a nice traffic circle.

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A nice day with little traffic.

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They were building a new rail line across the city hoping people would use the train instead of driving.

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This is a typical residential street in a newer part of the city.  A gate with a guard can be found at each end of the street.

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In other parts of the city, houses have walls around them and you back your vehicle out into a street like this, then go to the main street.

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Walls around houses are not bare.  Lush tropical vines and flowers cover many of them.

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Many of the fancier, famous hotels, like the Hilton here, contain fountains and gardens. My friend and I could not resist a photo in front of the pool and fountains.

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After wandering around the Hilton we drove to see the grounds of another famous hotel where foreign diplomats often stay.  The plants in the foreground are papyrus.

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These extensive gardens take a while to walk around.  Many of the plants and trees are labelled.  From here we could see the Addis skyline.

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We stayed in Addis a couple of days.  Before we left on a ten day road trip, my friend’s sister took us to a traditional restaurant.  I expected it to be filled mostly with tourists–was I ever wrong.

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In addition to traditional food, this restaurant features traditional dancing.  Many locals came to compete, to try to out-dance the professional dancers.

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The lady on the left, one of the professional dancers, and the lady on the right having a little competition.  The lady on the left is dressed in traditional dress.

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In the background locals try to out-dance the professionals.

 

Ethiopian Journey, Dubai


If you have a long enough layover in Dubai, they put you up in their Emirates hotel and feed you in the cafeteria free.  The hotel is nice, the food excellent–quite a nice perk.  From the hotel it is easy to walk to several places as well as take a van tour around the city.  We did both.

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The view from my room.  The pool has a swim up bar but it is not open during Ramadan which was occurring two years ago when we were there.  Alcohol is available in some restaurants and bars but you must imbibe inside.

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One of the first places we visited on the tour was this mosque, designed to look like the famous mosque in Istanbul.  The following photos are of typical houses near the mosque.

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Then we arrived at the beachfront of the Persian Gulf.  The water is warm, like lukewarm soup.  In the background two of the most expensive hotels in the world tower above the water.

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The street goes along the waterfront with luxury hotels on the left.  Many of these areas are fill–manmade peninsulas.

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You can visit the sister hotel in the Bahamas.

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Because of the fill, the fake peninsulas, it is easy to get a bit disoriented.  Plus during the summer there is so much haze, it is rather difficult to determine directions.

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The tallest building in the world.

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After visiting several smaller shopping areas, we arrived here, the famous Dubai mall.  This is the largest aquarium in a mall in the world. Here you see people from everywhere in the world dressed in every way imaginable.

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A children’s store across from the aquarium contained this lollipop tree with giant lollipops.

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In spite of high heat–it was 108 when we arrived–no wind and high humidity (yes, because on the Gulf, even though it is desert, the humidity is stifling), many people were outside awaiting the fountain show.

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One part of the skyline reflected in the lake.  The fountain show, synchronized with music, is worth the wait even in the heat.

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On to the gold and silver souk.

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Gold and silver are sold by weight.  You can also buy gold in shops at the airport; however, nothing quite has heavy and exotic as some of this.

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We did actually shop in the food shops and bought nuts covered in various spices to take along for snacks.

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