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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Honor of My Father


The Nap

He lays on his back on the cold, hard, blue linoleum floor after

the midday dinner of homegrown roast beef, potatoes, wilted

lettuce salad, hot coffee, coconut topped cake.  His left arm

forms a right angle at the elbow as the back of his wrist rests

on his forehead, touching the slight curliness of his not quite

black hair.  His left leg stretched out straight, right one drawn

up, knee jutting out.  The sleeves of his worn, pale blue dress

shirt rolled up; his overalls show signs of wear and washing.

Every day after dinner he naps in the same spot in this same

position for exactly fifteen minutes before returning to the field.

 

My father.

 

Seventeen years after his death, one day as I napped, slowly

driving off, astonishment stuck.  There I lay exactly as my

father used to so many years ago, my left arm forming a right

angle, wrist on my forehead, left leg stretched out straight, right

one drawn up, knee jutting out.  I remember not just in heart

and mind.

 

The body always knows.

 

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Taken at the top of Mt. Evans in Colorado when I was a child.

 

 

Covid19-5-Spring Beauty


In the midst of being home for about a month now, it is spring most of the time.  Saturday was 80 something. Now it is snowing.  When it was 80 plus, I walked around outside and took photos of some of the wild flowers and the orchids blooming in the window above my kitchen sink.

I had planned to post several days ago, but I am so busy teaching English and Spanish online, I hardly have time to do much else. I did mow for several hours Saturday morning, did some gardening, cleaned horse runs, let them out to run. My students are studying the works of John Steinbeck, reading Animal Farm, The Odyssey, and Oedipus Rex–I teach four different levels of English.  Designing lessons they can do online with little assistance takes forethought and planning.  I thought I would hate it, but there are some things I really like and when we go back to class, I probably will continue.  In the meantime, I will read, think, garden, care for my horses, hike my canyon, teach, write, and dream.  Take care.  Be safe.

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Covid19–4


The cases and deaths rise; yet I see positives in all this mess. People are posting photos of food they are cooking at home for the first time in years, families sitting down and eating together.  Neighbors are keeping their distance but talking to each other.  People call friends to check on them.  Others are using the Internet to communicate with friends they rarely see or cannot see now, in some cases people they are too busy to connect with on a regular basis.  Some work on the stack of books they never had time to read before.  Several of my musician friends are posting concerts online.

Many of us who teach may be learning new skills like using all aspects of Google Classroom, searching the Internet for innovative ideas to use in our online classrooms. I used to play the piano daily, even competed in high school.  Then I quit.  My current goal is to relearn a piece, Fuer Elise, that only ten years ago I could play from memory effortlessly.  The music I am using is the same I used in high school, decades ago.  It is discolored, edges torn.

I do know how to sew but rarely do. This weekend I will get out the sewing machine my parents gave me more than four decades ago and make a mask.  I printed out a page of directions yesterday.  To be safe, I work from home, rarely leave my property except to go to the mailbox at the end of a long drive.  Luckily, I live in the country, have horses, and a lot of space.  It is easy for me to get out and exercise. Added to that I joined an online Zumba class with an invitation from someone I met years ago, a horn player in a mariachi band in San Antonio–I love mariachi.

Going to and from work took 1.5 hours each day so now I have all that extra time.  In the last three weeks I have read two books and started a third, caught up with magazine reading, and started FaceTime with my college roommate and her husband in California and also my daughter and grandson who live nearby but I cannot visit now. I have gardened, mowed, hiked, and photographed spring flowers and sunsets.

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Yes, living in the country with space makes this easier I rather imagine, but I feel confident if people really search, they can find new and interesting adventures inside themselves and around them.

Be safe, take care, dream.

 

Desert


Give me the long view

the endless space,

let my bones gleam white

beneath a desert willow

where a diamondback seeks shade.

 

Let me walk through red rock, climb to eternity,

stretch arms into the azure, crystalline air,

laugh out loud.

 

Give me the long view,

let me laugh out loud,

look down the Kaibab

Plateau into eternity.

 

Let me sing songs to emptiness,

to stark, open, free,

dance in sun, moonlight,

laugh out loud.

 

Give me the long view.

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Student Poems-Three


Three poems follow:

Nature

Nature is

a beautiful place

so start

kicking that

can all over

the place

we will

we will

rock

you

Ethan Singletary

 

As I am laying at home

I hear a loud thunderous noise

The sound startled me out of my seat

I looked out the window

There was a giant funnel

I heard the tornado siren

As the trees were coming out of ground

I run downstairs to take cover

The storm was ruling the land, but

I was safe from the natural catastrophe.

Makenna Byrd

 

The Grip

As the wind blows and the storm flows through this

Desolate wasteland

As you wonder the numbing thunder puts you at peace

As the wind whips and the storm grips the desolate ground

As it whirls and twirls bringing wreckage

to the sky

Someone brings a tractor to clean up

this decay

For this storm may bring sorrow but all through

the hollow the great sorrow is met with a great

peace

As the family sifts among the rubble and

finds on this trouble at least they are in

one piece

Corbin McKinney

 

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanksgiving


An icy morning awaited me when I awoke.  A slippery slope up to the barn to feed the horses.

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Ice covered branches above the kitchen sink window.

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Ice and fog looking up the canyon.  Yet I think of  everything for which I am thankful:

 

A life filled with adventure

Friends and family worldwide

A job I love

My students

Music and dancing

Good health

Natural beauty surrounding me

Cooking and celebrating life with friends and family

Oh, the list is endless!!

 

 

Wishing all of you a joyful day filled with gratitude.

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.