Gratitude


Usually, I plan my posts, write them out carefully, sometimes even proof a couple of times.  Today is Thanksgiving Day here in the United States.  Even though I know all about the historical lies to cover up the truth about the supposed original Thanksgiving, I continue to think this is a useful and fun holiday for several reasons.  Thankfulness, gratitude, remains the primary source of a happy life.  The list of things for which I am thankful seems nearly endless:

-health

-living in a place filled with natural beauty

-my daughter

-my grandson

-my son, even though we talk only occasionally and he lives far away

-teaching

-my students, one of whom posted on Facebook this morning that he is grateful that he had me as a teacher ten years ago

-the friends who took me with them to Ethiopia this past summer

-all my other friends locally and from all over the world

-the exchange students who have lived with me and from whom I receive messages regularly

-my parents for whom I owe eternal gratitude for teaching me values, independence, tolerance, a love of beauty and knowledge, and a sense of wonder

-music

-my ability to sing

-horses

-wildlife, nature–here where I am so fortunate to live

-art

-my ability to write

-all the people who love my book of poetry and tell me they do–I might also include the people, mostly men, who find it shocking

-happiness and the choice I made to be happy all those long years ago

-red wine

-plentiful food

I could go on and on.  However, it seems best to end with this fantabulous morning on my own little rim of wonder and say I am thankful for a life filled with so many astonishing events and experiences I never expected and for which I am endlessly grateful.

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Commitments, Hosting Benefits, and What We Take for Granted


Shortness of post is necessitated by the time.  Why bother?  Nearly three weeks ago, I committed to writing daily.  Blogging seemed like a logical means to accomplish this.  I expect others and myself to follow through on commitments.  So here I am writing in the middle of the night.

Tonight I hosted a fund raiser for the Hilltop Senior Center here in Amarillo.  We tried to sell tickets in advance but not all that many sold.  The Director of the Center and I became a bit worried, but continued with planning, hoping some would show up even if at the last minute.  They did.  We had great Mexican food donated by Braceros on Sixth Avenue, wine, my wonderful well water, cheeses, fruit, and cakes.  Even the silent auction proved to be a great success.  However, nature became the real star of the event, nature and my dog Isabella.  Unlike earlier in the week when the wind shrieked to 6o miles an hour creating several days of endless dust, today the wind laid low, the sun shone, and it was hot.  This morning the heat went on and this afternoon the air conditioning as it rose to past 90.  Thirty degrees difference between night and day is rather typical here and some days, like to day, this difference increases to nearly forty.

At dark the stars seem so much brighter out here in the country.  Many of the guests walked back and forth on the patio, looking for different constellations.  People came inside for a while only to go back out and look at the stars and the crescent moon.  What I take for granted daily, became a wonder for my company.  As I write this, I think about all the things each of us take for granted, things we eat, experience, feel daily.  How often do we really take the time to appreciate these things, to realize that although they may be ordinary for us, for others they would be incomparable blessings.  So now as I finish this, get ready for bed, and snuggle into my cool sheets, I will meditate and give thanks to the universe for the wonder of the stars.

 

The Sound of Silence


For years I puzzled over what this phrase means.  This evening I discovered the answer.  Unlike the first part of the week, today was sunny, little wind, high 70s, what most consider a perfect day weather wise.  I ran home from work, gave Rosie, my horse, some food, let Isabella, my dog out for a bit, and then ran back to town to see my grandson perform.  He attends Wolflin Elementary School.  The physical education teacher selected a group of students called the SWAT Team who perform at different functions.  The last time I saw them, they performed at a local high school’s basketball tournament.  Today they executed four routines at their school’s annual gala, a fund raiser with games, food, a silent auction, dunking in the water, that sort of thing.  It really astonished me.  I have no idea how much they practiced, but these routines were not short and everything was perfectly choreographed.  First, the boys performed using basketballs to do various tricks and movements in unison to music.  Then  the girls did this complicated sort of dance over these long bamboo poles that other students clicked together.  The only other place where I have seen anything like this is in Thailand at the Rose Garden near Bangkok.  The third routine included both boys and girls and they used this giant circle of multicolored cloth to dance around, in and out, make the cloth into a sort of yurt like shape.  I have no idea how they kept it up like a giant circular tent one minute and flat the next.  Finally, they competed with hoola hoops to see who could keep going the longest.

After I returned home, I hosed off the front entryway, planted some flowers in pots, and watered other flowers, all in preparation for a fund raiser tomorrow night at my house–to raise money for a local senior citizens center.  Rosie is shedding her winter coat and seemed miserable itching so I brushed her.  Now tufts of pale rose colored hair lay everywhere in her corral.  Finally, a bit after eight I came inside for a late dinner.  Then I noticed.  No sounds, no wind, no appliances humming, no coyotes howling, no birds singing, no dogs barking, no sounds at all.  Nothing.  The patio doors are open; I walked outside a few minutes ago.  Nothing.  I sit here before the computer and hear the sounds the keys make when I hit them.  When I stop, nothing.

Rosie

 

Rosie

 

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Isabella on the patio in winter.

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They started blooming today.

Intelligent Beings


Tonight the program Nature on PBS asked questions about animal intelligence as compared to humans.  This list portrays some of the things I learned, some new, some I remembered from past readings or other Nature programs:

-A few other animals besides humans recognize themselves in a mirror.  This list includes elephants, dolphins, and chimps.  Actually, humans do not demonstrate this ability until they are about 18 months old.

-Only a few species studied demonstrate a sense of social justice.  If they think they are being treated unfairly, they get mad and sometimes have a little fit.  This includes monkeys and dogs.

-Only one species studied demonstrated overt altruistic behavior and a sense of social justice toward others, the bonobo.  Of course, others may but have not been studied yet. Notably this is the same species that resolves social tension and conflict with sex rather than fighting.

-Humans grieve.  Many other mammals grieve immediately after the deaf of a loved one, e.g. their own young offspring, but few recognize the bones of long deceased members of their species.  The exception is elephants.  Elephants not only recognize the bones of other elephants, they frequently nuzzle them with their trunks and stay with them a while.

-Dolphins may seek out help when they need help.  The program showed a diver who was not looking for dolphins at all.  A dolphin who had a fish line and hook stuck in his side approached the diver and managed to stay very still while the diver removed the hook.  This took nearly ten minutes.  Of course, no one knows whether the dolphin was actually seeking help or simply stayed still when help was available.

-Chimps possess another behavior similar to humans, the ability to purposefully deceive.  A less dominant chimp was shown where a banana was hidden from a window outside an enclosure.  She and a more dominant female chimp were released into the enclosure at the same time.  The first chimp did not rush to the food.  Oh,no.  She waited and watched, played it cool,  and when the other chimp wandered off to the other side,  ran and ate the banana.

It is difficult to get inside of the mind of other animals.  Anyone who has pets thinks they are smart or at least dogs and cats seem to demonstrate considerable intelligence.  Horses do as well.  And yes, I have seen horses grieve.  When one of my horses died in a terrible and rather bizarre accident a few years ago, the other horses stood for hours in the place where the deceased horse had died.  They did not even leave to eat their alfalfa, a food they loved and always ran to.

I even think animals, in particular mammals,  know when they are headed to slaughter.  I think those who kill them know this but to admit it would be too painful.  They certainly know the smell of blood.  It incites terror.  Certainly animals can suffer at the hands of cruel humans.  Do animals besides us deliberately hurt others for the sheer, sick pleasure of it?  If there is a study regarding this topic, I have yet to see it.  I wonder.

 

A Happy Birthday with Three Penny Opera


After a certain age many of us do not expect all that exciting a birthday, but mine this past week was a huge exception to anything I could have expected.  First, on the day before, these spectacular flowers arrived from my son, Erik Karlsson.   Parie Designs in Amarillo, Texas, really knows how to do flowers out of the ordinary.

 

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Almost two weeks ago, Walker Lewis, the Director, and Jeromy  Hunt, the Production Stage Manager, of the upcoming production of Three Penny Opera (Amarillo Opera Company) arrived to stay with me for three weeks.  Yesterday, my birthday, was an off day for them.  Chad Armstrong, one of the baritones, came over to ride my  horse, Rosie.  Romy and Walker gave me a bottle of good cab and bought me a birthday cake.  We relaxed on the rim of wonder (my patio), ate, and rode Rosie.  Then last night we all went to the annual opera gala.  Unfortunately, one of the opera performer’s husband became ill so now I will have my tiny fifteen minutes of  glory playing the madame of the brothel, pretending to smoke a cigarette, counting money, and watching “my girls” and the customers, or so they tell me.  Later today, I go for a fitting and start the one week of rehearsals remaining until the first performance on Saturday night.

I could not have ordered a better birthday.

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Chad Armstrong on Rosie, Walker on the left and Romy on the right.

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While Romy, Walker, and I hiked around, Chad rode off here and there, disappearing for a while and then showing back up.  Rough riding in canyon country.  Neither Romy nor Walker had ridden since childhood.

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Walker Lewis learning to ride–on Rosie.  He loved it and will ride again this coming week.  He kept smiling all over!!!

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Romy on Rosie with my dog, Isabella resting in the shade of a juniper tree.

Apparently, riding Rosie produced so much fun that the other singers want to come over later this week and ride.  Nothing beats fun friends, fabulous food, and pretty well broke horses for a day to remember!!!

 

 

On a cold winter evening


This post displays my occasional propensity for pensiveness and reflection.  The highest temperature today was 8 degrees.  The weather forecaster predicted a low of zero, very cold for here with more snow.  In  a few months, it is likely we will hit 100.  Who would want to live in such a place?  Yet people do, worldwide.  Some in places much colder and hotter.  How and why did they all get to wherever they are?  Millennia ago we all migrated from Africa and look at us now.  We think we are smarter, better, but are we?  Perhaps technologically, but psychologically??  War rages over differences in ethnicity and religion.  Clashes for thousands of years change little, just the nature of the weapons, the use of advanced technology.  The intent remains the same.

Sunday, I finished a book by the Turkish writer, Elif Shafak.  I have read all her books translated into English.  This, her latest, Honor, details the effects of the belief in honor of above all else.  To paraphrase one of the main characters, a poor man:  rich men possess money, fancy cars, lavish houses, travel, but poor men have nothing but their honor.  Acting on this belief leaves one family devastated.  For those who desire to learn about other cultures and to understand the behavior of the individuals in them, I highly recommend this novel.

Earlier, I donned two pairs of gloves and socks, four layers of clothes, and ventured out.  If you own horses, you have to feed them regardless of the weather.  Unlike me, my dog, Isabella, fares well in this weather.  Her part wolf blood gives her an undercoat perfect for winter extremes.  Inside, I viewed my larder–what to cook on a frigid winter night?  A simple chicken curry with onions, brussels spouts, jalapeño peppers, and chicken with Jasmine rice, red, white, and black.  And a glass of red wine, cabernet franc, from a local winery, the only wine I have ever seen from only this one grape.  It is usually added to blends.  Definitely haram–still thinking about that book.

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As the temperature drops, building a fire in the wood stove seems like a reasonable endeavor.  I love fires but hate to build them.  Nevertheless, sitting in front of the fire reading brings a silent joy, a paradise.  I feel at peace:  chores done, warm house on a frigid winter night, satisfying dinner homemade, and the knowledge that my book of poetry lays in its final stages with the editors and photoshoppers who will make it publication ready.  I feel extremely grateful, looking forward to dazzling dreams on the rim of wonder.

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The Story Circle Network


This month, January 2014, is the anniversary of my becoming a STAR BLOGGER with the Story Circle Network, an organization of women writers from all over the world headquartered in Austin, Texas.  This month, I became a member of their board.  Every other year they hold a conference in Austin, Texas.  This year the conference will be April 11-13 at the Wyndham Hotel in Austin.  You do not have to be a writer to attend the conference.  I attended for the first time nearly two years ago and it changed my life.  Yes, I had published a book previously, a book about preventing sexual harassment, co-authored with an attorney–written years ago when sexual harassment was a particularly “hot” topic in corporate America.  It was even translated into Spanish.  I had been paid to write technical manuals, paid to speak at a technical conference, that sort of thing.  I wanted to write something different, something creative.  This conference lead me to a new writing path for which I am very grateful.

The Story Circle Network provides all sorts of classes as well, memoir writing, travel writing, poetry, flash fiction, blogging, as well as editing services and advertising.  First, I took a blogging course and started this blog–that anniversary will be next month–two years blogging.

Now to the big news:  within the next couple of months my book of poetry, On the Rim of Wonder, will be published.  Some of the poems or versions thereof were first published right here on this blog.  Do you want to become inspired, change your life, meet fantastic women writers, visit Austin?  Attend this conference!!!  You will not regret it.

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The Girl and The Woman


The Girl

She stands alone by the train tracks.

Watching and waiting and dreaming.

Hobos no longer exist.

She remembers reading stories of life

when her great grandmother lived:

hobos begging for food, gypsies stealing

children and telling fortunes, long days

working in the corn fields, chopping weeds.

Her own family praises:

tractors, riding lawn mowers, herbicides, pesticides,

electricity, TVs, dishwashers, muscle cars, MacDonalds,

diet Coke, cell phones, computers, DVDs, iPADs.

Now the only excitement lays in Grand Theft Auto,

guns, and sex.  She watches and waits and dreams.

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The Woman

She stands alone on the rim,

watching the moon rise,

wondering.

Life flies by on wings

outstretched.

She remembers rich years

filled with long joys, living,

loving,

and temporary sadness, divorces,

moving here and there,

Narrangansett Bay, Utah mountains,

Veracruz,

babies held to breast,  blond

and chubby, cafe con leche.

She remembers girlhood longings

for far horizons, traveling

around the world, lovers,

husbands, shades of brown

beauty.

She’s learned to make

her own excitement,

singing Goddess songs,

dancing on the rim of wonder.

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Photograph by Anabel McMillen and Painting by Lahib Jaddo