Reflections on Independence Day


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When I was a child, we lived on a farm where it rains around 40 inches annually.  On the Fourth of July, Dad always shot off a few Roman candles, and we had small firecrackers and sparklers, nothing fancy, just fun.  Even then I knew about the Declaration of Independence, revered its message.  Still do.

Now I live where it is hot and dry.  The neighbor’s fireworks display rivaled those found in cities–beautiful but dangerous in brown grass country.  I wonder if they give any thought to the history, to why anyone celebrates this day.

For the first time in the decades of my life, I did not celebrate Independence Day.  Why?

Born decades ago, I originally went to college in Virginia where I experienced the shock of real segregation; I had not grown up where it was like that. I was horrified, lasted only one semester, then transferred.  Later I attended a college which shut down in protest over the Viet Nam War, I supported The Civil Rights Movement, I helped create one of the first intercollegiate groups to advocate for abused women, and with an ethnically diverse group I taught diversity classes for teachers.

Now in 2020, I feel that even with all that hard, determined work, progress has been too limited.  It is as if I have been transported back to 40 years ago.  People need to learn from the history most do not even know:

-Cotton Mather, the leading intellectual and Puritan minister in the colonial era, actually helped butcher King Phillip (Metacomet) like an animal.  What did he do to deserve this?  He tried to save his Native people.  Cotton Mather later writes about tearing Metacomet’s jaw from his skull.

-In 1676, when poor whites joined enslaved Africans to rebel for a better life and decent living conditions, fighting for justice against the wealthy planters, those rich planters realized they had to get poor whites to hate Blacks.  They took land owned by Blacks and gave it to poor white people and then paid them to hunt down and abuse, even kill, people of African descent.

-Later, the same Cotton Mather mentioned above, learned from his slave that in Africa, Africans had been taking pus from a smallpox infected person and inoculating others with it to prevent smallpox from spreading.  He refused to believe any African  could be so smart even though he inoculated himself and his family after learning this.  Later, he wrote this about his African slave who had told him the story that may have saved his life: “…brokenly and blunderingly and like Idiots they tell the Story.”

-Of course, we all know that the intellectual giant, Thomas Jefferson, held the deed to the woman who would later bear him numerous children while he proclaimed those famous words that all people are created equal.

The history of racial and ethnic hatred goes back to the inception of this country.  It continues to poison progress and hope.  It never seems to end.  I am tired of it.  Enough is enough.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gallo Pinto


Last eve a friend came over.  Both of us have been careful during this difficult time and felt it was safe to see each other. I cooked a dish I ate every day when I visited Costa Rica, gallo pinto.  Usually it is served with platanos fritos.  I did not have platanos so served it with a mixed salad.

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Poblano, red and yellow bell peppers, finely chopped, and  ready to cook.

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Finely chopped onions already sautéed and now the peppers are cooking.

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The finished dish–left over rice, black beans, the pepper and onion mixture, and a little cumin–served with fresh salad. The recipe for this dish and the salad are in my upcoming book.  As soon as I know the date to preorder, I will let everyone know. The book will also be available at Burrowing Owl in Canyon and Amarillo, Texas.

 

 

The World in One Room


 

Four jaguar heads stare at me,

Mexican, Costa Rican.

A third guards the mantel,

partially hidden in tropical plants,

attack ready, tail raised, jaws open,

teeth bared.

 

My feet rest on a coffee table

carved in Kashmir.  I look at the photo

of the young man whose family made it.

He took me home to meet his mom,

to the floating market.

Once peace reigned there.

Now I wonder if he is safe, alive.

 

The Hoop Dancer raises his arms,

the Acoma pot exudes ancient

black on white beauty, painted

by the tips of yucca stems.

The Thai Spirit House begs

to appease evil spirits.

I should put food and flowers there;

I never do.

 

Corn plant of life–for Navaho, Hopi,

me, painted, growing up my wall,

blue and red birds flitting through

the stalks, singing ancient songs.

Corn Maiden rug hanging on the wall;

an Isleta Pueblo girl won a contest

with its design.  Four Corn Maiden

Kachinas watch the room.

Corn everywhere–Sacred Corn.

 

Three Ethiopian crosses, St. George

and the Dragon, Frida Kahlo doll,

Argentinian Madonna, Tohono O’odham

baskets, a painted cow skull, Nigerian carved

wooden elephants, including a Chieftains chair,

the stained glass transom window from the house

where my dad lived from birth to ten.

 

In a room filled with windows, there

is little room for paintings, yet–

purple bison glide across the prairie,

an Iraqi woman flies through an azure

sky filled with dark blue birds,

a 15th century mystic, Kabir, tells

a tale in poetry, Navaho spirits,

pumas walking toward me–

my obsession.

 

Rugs scattered–Kerman,

an unknown Persian city, Afghani,

Egyptian, Indian, Zapotec, scraps of old

Turkish rugs sewn together.

 

In one cabinet, Grandmother’s china,

Mom’s Czech crystal–a wedding present

decades ago, Grandson’s painted art,

the silverware Dad gave Mom on their

first wedding anniversary,  Mom’s

everyday dishes–flowers blooming.

I use them every day.

 

These objects–a testament to who I am:

World wanderer, seeker, citizen.

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What’s in a Name?


Juliana!

Internet tells me I am Jove’s child.

I’m a goddess??!!

Where I grew up, no one had

my name.

The Queen of Holland had my name.

I wondered why?  A Spanish name.

Research explained:

Holland once ruled Spain.

It did not go well.

 

Juliana!

Internet tells me I am

Aspirational

Benevolent

Honest

Inventive

Original

Is this true?

Maybe. Probably.

Does a name create who

one becomes?

If I had a different name

would I be someone else?

 

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Note:  This poem came out of an assignment in a class I am taking with the Story Circle Network, an organization that promotes women writing and telling their stories.   The instructor, Yesim Cimcoz, lives in Turkey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Italy–a day in Naples


Naples is big; it is old; it contains stark extremes.  How old?  The New Castle was built in the 13th century; yes, that one is the new one.  Coming from Sorrento one first sees the ship yards, huge apartment complexes where the less fortunate dwell, industrial areas.

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Some said they thought it looked dingy.  I laughed to myself.  These buildings are old and near the sea.  Will anything built in the US last this long?

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IMG_4505Then we drove up higher and higher into another part of Naples.  You can see Mt. Vesuvius in the background.

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The island to the right in the distance is Capri. More on Capri in a later post. In this part of Naples it is obvious that some people live very well there.

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Then we went lower again driving along the seafront and parked where we could walk to the oldest part of Naples.

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A very old cathedral in the background to the left.  We wanted to go in but it was closed until later in the day.  To the right of this photo, a large group of protestors were shouting slogans, etc. through loud speakers. Military were evident in the square.

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A city government building.  The statues are of various famous people in the history of Naples.

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Looking across the square from the church steps.

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The oldest opera house is in Naples.  Operas are still performed here.

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We walked to another area and went inside this building which is filled with restaurants and shops, many with very high end clothing.

IMG_4532As we left, I noticed the bay was filled with tiny sailboats.  It was very windy and I thought they were very brave.  Later, I learned that these tiny boats are training boats, the ones you use when you are first learning to sail.  It looks daunting to me. I have only sailed on boats much bigger.

Why do so many people still live so near a non-dormant volcano?  Someone asked this question.  The response was:  Why do people live in Florida, Houston where there are hurricanes rather often.  Why do people live where there are tornadoes, earthquakes, mudslides? At least Vesuvius provides a beautiful backdrop.

 

 

Italy–Sirens’ Song


As we drove along the Amalfi Coast, the guide told us the mythological story of the Sirens.  My daughter took a photo out the window of the Sirens’ islands.

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Later I wrote this poem remembering the travails of Odysseus.

 

The melodious Sirens’ song

lured Odysseus

begging to be untied from

the mast.

Even the roaring sea’s

voice whispered in

comparison.

They sang honeyed

love songs to starving

sailors, longing for a woman’s

touch, a kiss, ecstasy.

With knife claws, they

ripped them asunder,

crunching bones, blood

erupting.

Satiated, they sang,

eternal, etherial, deceptive.

 

 

Several days later at a shop in Sorrento, while my daughter was looking for a medusa cameo, the owner, a cameo artist, brought out Siren cameos.  He insisted the Siren’s have been terribly misunderstood.  I wanted clarification but unfortunately other customers appeared and I remain mystified.

Italy–Pompeii


Although I had heard about, read articles, seen photos and documentaries, nothing prepared me for its size, grandeur, and wealth.

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To get here you have to climb up a hill.  This is where the gladiators lived and trained.

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The doors are copies, the rest not.  Gladiators lived in the rooms behind the doors and exercised and practiced in the green area shown in the previous two photos.

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This is the tiny amphitheater which holds about 1000 persons. Occasionally, performances, e.g. concerts, are still held here.

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An we walked around, I took pictures of the various buildings, streets, walls.

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Looking back toward the small amphitheater.

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This is the large amphitheater which holds 5000.  Just like in theaters now, the seats vary in size, view, etc. so that the where you get to sit depends on who you are and how much you have to spend.

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Looking toward what remains of the stage and area behind the stage.

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Streets were laid out in a grid at right angles to each other.  This is a typical street with sidewalks on each side.  Notice the large stones in the middle.  At times with excessive rain, the streets would flood.  The large stones allowed people to cross without getting their feet wet.  The spaces in the middle were designed so carts could pass through.  Along the sides are spaces for shops.

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The wealthy in Pompeii lived in very large, elegant houses, with water collection systems, heated and running water.  This is the entry to one such house.

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The courtyard at the same house.

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What remain of the frescoes there.  Considering this was buried for nearly 2000 years…

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Part of the dining room.  There, like in Rome, people reclined while eating.

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We moved on to another house.

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More frescoes.  Most of them tell a well known story.

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When they excavated this second house, they found this table with three legs–common then apparently.  This is not a new table, it is one from Pompeii found in this house.

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Decorated walls in this second house.

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An original floor in the same house.

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A place where someone had a shop with items for sale.

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We also visited the bathhouse area where there would be separate bathhouses for men and women, exercise rooms, hot water, steam, just like today.

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Although the walls, floors, streets and sidewalks are as they were before the volcanic eruption, in some places they have restored roofs to look like what they would have looked like then.

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They knew that domed structures are more stable.

Next we walked to the brothel.  Many of the sexually graphic frescoes remain.  They illustrate different positions.  I might also add that both stone and painted penises are everywhere in Pompeii.  Why?  They were the symbol of a good life, of prosperity, of fertility, of joy, of, well, everything good. I took some photos of the frescoes at the brothel but do not want to get thrown off my blogging site so will not put them here.

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Another typical street headed toward the giant city square.

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Standing in the middle, looking toward one direction.  I was astonished at the size of this place.  We went a good time of the year–the off season.  The guide told us that in high season there are so many people here, it is difficult to move through them at times.

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Looking the other direction with Mount Vesuvius in the background. Before the eruption this volcano was just a tall mountain or so the people there thought.  Then it was approximately 10,000 feet.  The eruption made it fall into itself and decrease by about 6000 feet.

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More photos of the square.

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The countryside near Pompeii is lush green. IMG_4454

The view walking down the steps leaving Pompeii.

 

 

 

 

Italy–Rome


Where have I been?  Italy, on a trip planned for months, a trip with friends and family centered around a group of women writers with The Story Circle Network, a group focused on women telling their stories.  Yes, we had classes and wrote every day.  When we were not writing, we discovered a little part of Italy.  The first half day we strolled through ancient Rome, starting with the Coliseum.

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To the left of the Coliseum stands this arch–see a bit of the Coliseum on the right side of this photo.

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The Coliseum is so large that it is impossible to take of photo of all of it at once.  We were there on a holiday.  There was a long line of people waiting to get inside.  We did not go inside.

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The arch in the first photo seen from the side.

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On the other side of the Coliseum facing down a wide pedestrian only boulevard.  Many of the following photos were taken along this boulevard.  The trees in these photos are umbrella pines.  They are everywhere in Rome and other parts of Italy south of Rome.

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My daughter and grandson strolling along with friends in the background.

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One of the things I found most enjoyable strolling along were the street musicians:  One played classical guitar music, farther down the boulevard another was playing popular music while another man danced to it. I wanted to stop and dance along but everyone was walking fast away from me.  Getting lost in Rome did not seem to be a great idea.

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While sauntering along, I turned around and took a photo of the Coliseum in the distance.

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In one short walk in Rome, I saw so many things from thousands of years of history, it was hard to fathom.

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Away from the boulevard and walking toward Trevi Fountain, we saw this memorial.  It was a rainy, stormy day.  I kept thinking it is going to rain but it didn’t. In many places, the ancient, the not so ancient, and the new could all be seen in one place.

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And, of course, one of the most famous places in Rome.  We found a little restaurant near here.  I had my first Italian cappuccino and a delectable desert which I tried to find everywhere else we went but did not. It was in a little cup, 2/3 was a creamy bottom, 1/3 was berries on top.

 

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Walking along another route.  I seem to have a little problem taking photos, walking, and keeping my fingers away from the iPAD mini frame while taking some of these photos.  So much seen in a mere half day in Rome.  Shortly after lunch, visiting the Trivi Fountain, and passing by the above monument, we headed on the four hour road trip to Sorrento.

I could not resist taking a video of the lush emerald Italian countryside south of Rome.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Reading


IMG_3957Last year I joined Now Read This, the online bookclub sponsored by PBS and The New York Times.  Why did I join?  To expand my exposure to books I might not otherwise read, to learn, to explore, to interact with others reading the same books.

I rarely read fantasy or science fiction.  This summer has become an exception.  The June choice, The Fifth Season by Jemisin, won the Hugo in 2016.  The other two books in the trilogy won in 2017 and 2018.  I wanted to know what happened to the characters so I read them all.  The spine says Fantasy.  I think they are more science fiction.  Even people who claimed they did not like either fantasy or science fiction became like me and read them all.  This series tells a futuristic tale extremely applicable to events, both social and political, in the world today, how prejudice kills both overtly and covertly,  how fear of those who are different affect everyone, what it costs to live in a world where certain attitudes exist.

It took me two days to finish the July title even with chores, touchup house painting, all the things teachers attempt to do during summer break.  Although I had previously read at least three books by Luis Alberto Urrea, I had not read this one, The House of Broken Angels about a family who lives back and forth across the border–San Diego and Tijuana.  It is a tragic-comedy about the endurance, hopes, dreams, cooking, living of several generations.  His non-fiction book, The Devil’s Highway, is a must read for those who want to understand what occurs along the US-Mexico borderlands.

In the midst of all this, I went back and reread Ursula LeGuin’s The Left Hand of Darkness.  Wow, no wonder it caused a stir when it was published in the 1960s: a whole country where everyone switches back and forth between male and female and those who cannot do this are considered perverts.  Additionally, the main character is described as having very dark brown skin and those who do not behave exactly as they should or politically protest are sent off to a stark camp where they work in excessive cold and eventually die.

Then I read an article about Toni Morrison and authors who do not write for people based on a certain audience, e.g. black, white.  They write about what they know, what they feel, for a different purpose. One book listed was Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, a fantasy, all of which takes place in what we now think of as Nigeria. It has not one single white character in it.  I kept thinking, wow.  I read a lot of literature from Africa, Middle East, and Latin America.  Most of the time, for better or worse, characters from other cultures show up, usually European and usually for the worse.  Not in this one.  If you go to a book store looking for it, look in Young Adult.  Jemisin’s can be found in Adult Science Fiction/Fantasy.  When I mentioned to someone I could not tell why some are categorized one way and some another, I was told there is less graphic sex in YA.  Really?  I cannot tell the difference.

Next on my list?  I annually act as a judge in a literary contest.  Three novels arrived in yesterday’s mail.  Guess I need to get busy.