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Yeah, I was just reading in the Bible where Jesus said he absolutely loved it when he could kiss his wife and kids goodbye not knowing if he as husband and daddy would return, sling his automatic weapon over his shoulder, walk into the jaws of death, and have a GREAT REASON to KILL SOMEBODY, WOOO HOOO!!!

I know I’m supposed to be being kinder, not stronger, not righter. So I’ve suppressed the urge to say this directly to people… I almost forgot I wanted to say it yesterday, but today I hopped on facebook and… I’ll just say it here.

I wholeheartedly agree: Captain Richard Phillips is a national hero. What a horrifying situation. His poor family! What a brave man. He left his ship with the pirates to ransom his passengers, crew and ship. If he’d lost his life it would have been a horrible tragedy– but it would have also been a loving and honorable sacrifice.

I also agree that the sharpshooters who freed him are heroes, truly brave and honorable, who waited to shoot until they felt his life was in danger.

What I do not agree with is all the high-fiving and ‘that’ll teach you to mess with us, sucka’ I am hearing and seeing everywhere regarding the rescue.

Human life was taken.

The sanctity of human life is a favored platform from which to bash political opponents, women forced to ‘choose’ and the unwarshed.

I guess life is sacred unless the sucker deserves it?

When you get down to it, whose life is less precious than another’s? And whose pain or need or sin is greater than another’s? Are we sure we can say?

There is theft of property, which is wrong, and then there is violence against human beings and other living things– double, triple, exponentially more wrong in my book. Most criminals just want property, not to hurt anyone. Many criminals want property in response to, in an attempt to get out of, insane, inhuman conditions– and that’s the kind of conditions they have in Somalia, for darn sure.

Vice Admiral Gortney of the US Navy says this incident could further destabilize this part of the world.

I am very, very proud of how the Americans involved handled this situation. They did what they had to do. Their own lives were at risk. They are heroes. They rescued a hero.

But taking a life is a horrible consequence, and further horrible consequences are possible.

Celebrate Captain Phillips’ well-deserved rescue and the rescuers– God bless them for bravery and honor!

But this is a grave situation.

Those pirates blundered into what has become an international incident and three lost their lives.

Yes, we do reap what we sow, in this world or the next… but do we as fallible human beings get to decide what others reap?

The pirates left the boat peacefully, and kept the captain alive perhaps in hopes of saving their own sorry skins.

I wonder what was going through their heads in those last hours? Were they thinking of wives, children, villages, their once innocent and hopeful childhoods left behind? What they would do if they survived? Or were they just bloodthirsty, greedy animals? Or a bit of each? We’ll never know, I guess.

There are so many people suffering in Somalia– hunger, violence against women, violence in general, corruption, lack of education… how now can we get at the root causes of this piracy, instead of just picking people off one at a time, allowing the cause, and therefore the violence, to continue?

P.S. Speaking of theft and harm to other human beings… is this true? What is the truth?

From Johann Hari, London Independent columnist, April 13, quoted on the Huffington Post (thanks bro)

The words of one pirate from that lost age – a young British man called William Scott – should echo into this new age of piracy. Just before he was hanged in Charleston, South Carolina, he said: “What I did was to keep me from perishing. I was forced to go a-pirating to live.” In 1991, the government of Somalia – in the Horn of Africa – collapsed. Its nine million people have been teetering on starvation ever since – and many of the ugliest forces in the Western world have seen this as a great opportunity to steal the country’s food supply and dump our nuclear waste in their seas.

Yes: nuclear waste. As soon as the government was gone, mysterious European ships started appearing off the coast of Somalia, dumping vast barrels into the ocean. The coastal population began to sicken. At first they suffered strange rashes, nausea and malformed babies. Then, after the 2005 tsunami, hundreds of the dumped and leaking barrels washed up on shore. People began to suffer from radiation sickness, and more than 300 died. Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the UN envoy to Somalia, tells me: “Somebody is dumping nuclear material here. There is also lead, and heavy metals such as cadmium and mercury – you name it.” Much of it can be traced back to European hospitals and factories, who seem to be passing it on to the Italian mafia to “dispose” of cheaply. When I asked Ould-Abdallah what European governments were doing about it, he said with a sigh: “Nothing. There has been no clean-up, no compensation, and no prevention.”

At the same time, other European ships have been looting Somalia’s seas of their greatest resource: seafood. We have destroyed our own fish-stocks by over-exploitation – and now we have moved on to theirs. More than $300m worth of tuna, shrimp, lobster and other sea-life is being stolen every year by vast trawlers illegally sailing into Somalia’s unprotected seas. The local fishermen have suddenly lost their livelihoods, and they are starving. Mohammed Hussein, a fisherman in the town of Marka 100km south of Mogadishu, told Reuters: “If nothing is done, there soon won’t be much fish left in our coastal waters.”

This is the context in which the men we are calling “pirates” have emerged. Everyone agrees they were ordinary Somalian fishermen who at first took speedboats to try to dissuade the dumpers and trawlers, or at least wage a ‘tax’ on them. They call themselves the Volunteer Coastguard of Somalia – and it’s not hard to see why. In a surreal telephone interview, one of the pirate leaders, Sugule Ali, said their motive was “to stop illegal fishing and dumping in our waters… We don’t consider ourselves sea bandits. We consider sea bandits [to be] those who illegally fish and dump in our seas and dump waste in our seas and carry weapons in our seas.” William Scott would understand those words.

if true…


Saturday, January 19, 2008

pick a fire goddess

Or, it’s either fuel or spark

I don’t understand it, but it tickles me. My husband cannot get a fire to burn.

This man can make any combustion engine run, no matter how shitty filthy broken down it is. He’s from Cali, not where you’d expect your talented self taught shade tree mechanic to come from, but his stepdad’s people was from West Virginia, so maybe that’s where he gets it. He’s saved us a fortune on cars and lawnmowers. Literally. One time he and my brother (two anti-man’s men if you ever saw any) were talking about our broken lawnmower, and he said the profound words, ‘Well, it’s either fuel or spark.’


In our wonderful Brady Bunch house (not really, just from the same era) we have a real fireplace.

I love it so much, although I am a bit scared of it cause I don’t know when the chimney was last cleaned and everyone knows the creosote builds up and eventually catches and burns your house down. And then there’s the carbon monoxide, of course–

Anyway. We had a huge dead tree in the yard when we moved in, and as men do, a little over a year ago my husband and about eight of his friends congregated to scratch themselves and take it down with chainsaws, rope, and beer. I was too frightened to be home that day. When I did muster the courage to come home the tree was just a pile in the grass. The house and fence appeared undamaged, and there were no head wounds or severed limbs to be seen, praise Jesus.

I should have known when I caught him attempting to throw away all these long pieces of bark. It was a huge amount of huge dry pieces of bark, and (I’m guessing) he thought it was useless because it wasn’t big smooth manly logs. Sigh.

STOP DUDE! I said. Why? he said. That’s kindlin,’ man! I said. I didn’t say, what the hell are you thinking, don’t you know how to build a f*ckin far? Okay, maybe I did say that, but quietly, so as not to embarass him in front of his dude friends. He gave me this look like I’m some kind of idiot and we boxed up the bark and saved it for months and months. (And I was picking bits out of the lawn for months and months, too, cause apparently if a chainsaw don’t cut it men don’t pick it up, and someone had to get it up in order to mow our jungle).

He took some of the big smooth manly logs camping with him– part II of the saga which started with scratching, chainsaws, rope and beer. No burns or severed limbs from that trip, either, unless there’s something he isn’t telling me. There was plenty, plenty more wood from that old tree, and we stacked it in the carport for the winter.

Last winter it seemed like it just never was the right time. This winter, part III, we’ve used it constantly since Thanksgiving, any time it was even a bit cold.

So, since I didn’t take the hint at the time of the manly tree topplin’, I let him build the first fire of the season this year. My stepson looked on. And it wouldn’t catch. I said, let mamma help.

Next fire of the season, I heard him telling my step son– want me to show you how to build a fire?

I couldn’t resist. I do have a competitive streak, which my stepson finds reasonably funny (at least I think he does). Not just that– but he really doesn’t know what he’s doing. I can’t let my boy go down like that. I said, don’t you think I should be teaching him how to build a fire? He (husband, not stepson) flipped me off and kept working. I can’t remember how that one worked out– not very well, I don’t think.

I love that fireplace so much, I took to cleaning the ashes out each morning after and laying a proper fire, so that it would be ready when I wanted it. I had a lovely dancing fire one night when my girlfriend came over for supper. I had a lovely dancing fire the night my husband left to go out of town for a work trip. My baby and I built and lit it together and curled up on the couch with blankets and watched The Secret Garden (1993) for the first of, um, like five times so far.

So one night this week baby was begging, can we set the fire? Can we set the fire? (Do I have a l’il pyro on my hands?)

Baby and daddy got to work. About ten minutes later it wasn’t working out. The frustration filled the whole downstairs. Or was that smoke?

I said, do you need help? He said, f*ck you, I mean, yes, I do.

Okay, you cook, I’ll start the fire. Off he went.

Later, I tried to explain it to him. It’s either fuel or spark, I said, just like the lawnmower. Then I thought about for a minute, cause he had spark and plenty of fuel.

Oh, fuel, spark, and, you know, air? I think that’s what you’re missing.

He loads that fire place UP. It’s so chock full of wood the fire cain’t breathe. The nice biguns. And how ’bout we clean out the ashes once in a while?

My fires are a tender, patient bricolage. First there’s a loose pile of bark. No, first there’s removal of ashes. Then there’s a loose pile of bark. Then some slim branches, then some slim logs. Then the coup de grace– a few balls of newspaper under the iron thingy that holds up the firewood, the touch of a lighter, and a dancing fire emerges in a minute or two. Then and only then do I throw on the big manly logs.

My fires burn fast and hot. But at least they burn!

Tonight I got a beautiful fire going with wet wood. Yes, wet. It has rained for a day or two and the woodpile is getting low and soaked. And with a little love I got that bitch going beautifully. I loved sitting there next to it, watching it steam and slowly catch.

I said, a couple of times, to be sure he heard me, did you know I’m the fire goddess? I made sure to tell the baby again when I had her to myself, too.

Pick a goddess, any goddess. Let’s see, there’s the outcast Pele, with her foul temper. I see that in myself, definitely. There’s Maman Brigitte, known for her hard work and cursing and drinking, could be me, and Li the lucid middle daughter, could also be me. Good so far. Izpapalotl seems to be resurfacing from the collective unconscious via graphic novel and other current art.

And I’ve always thought of St Bridgid as the patron saint of hospitality, always there for folks to come and be warmed and fed and comforted, and her kindness to stray dogs is spot on, but it appears fire was her special familiar. The stories are frightening if one thinks of them occurring now… but they resonate most for me.

I don’t know. There’s something precious and nurturing in building and enjoying a lovely fire. It’s evidently not the easy common sense I thought it was. My husband’s a bit of a star, in some ways (some more playground and some more to do with grownup skills and extremely accomplished in a world that completely leaves me behind), especially lately with his new job, and it’s comforting to me to know how to do something so basic, so, well, competent.

I think I need to invent my own goddess. Lord knows I’ve done enough studying of what qualities, destructive, freeing and healing, chaotic and nurturing, I have and want in my life. And what with reading Shirley McClaine’s Out on a Limb, I’m all ready to go review all the Biblical references to aliens assisting the tribes in the form of fiery wheels and burning bushes.

It’ll have to be another post, though.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

tree says climb

I think it’s a child’s job to put us in touch with the rightness of certain impulses or experiences that we’ve long since lost sight of.

I have some low level angst about (among many, many other things) raising my child and stepkids living here in the Dixie Burbs because I feel strongly that children need unstructured outdoor time in order to thrive, preferably in the country. We live on a busy street, our land is stripped of topsoil and floral or animal diversity, and there’s no f-ing way I would let my kids out of my sight for any amount of time *at all* even in our spacious fenced in back yard. I’m terrified¬† they’ll wander away and get hit by a car or that someone will entice them with candy or just snatch them.

As a child I spent hours alone doing things I would never let my child do alone at the same age, ever. I spent hours outdoors by myself. I walked for hours in the woods, sometimes in charge of my much younger brother, and played at the edge of ponds and creeks.

My husband grew up in Napa CA but it was a different place then. Starting from about the age of eight he and his ragtag band of friends stayed out on their bicycles all day long. They could safely pedal all over town, and wild, undeveloped land was just around most any corner. He never heard of any strangers abducting or trusted adults molesting kids left alone in this way, and nor did I.

I couldn’t let my child or stepkids do that, I’d be panicking the whole time.

Too, I wish my childhood had been a bit more balanced. I wouldn’t take anything for those long hours of freedom in the woods but my family always lived in pretty isolated spots. Social support really helps a child make sense of and heal from trauma.

For me and for my husband both I think the long, long hours out in the fresh air in all weathers was a blessed refuge from unhappy (or worse) home lives.

But looking back on it I can’t imagine much that is more precious. The fantasies spun– everything from Narnia or Tolkien style epics to Little House in the Big Woods-style survival on my own in the snowbound woods– the serenity found, the difficult situations that began to heal in those hours outdoors– there is just nothing better. I think a lack of nature– wide open space, freedom to navigate as one pleases, fresh air, sunshine, cold or heat, mud, dirt, plants, insects– makes a healthy child, emotionally and physically, and I think lack of those things is at the heart of many so-called ills for today’s kids, no matter how loving and present their parents are.

Unstructured time outdoors instils a contact so desperately needed –with basic physical realities, with one’s physical self and one’s inner resources– and so painfully absent. I know I certainly am missing it ever since I became a creature of cerebral pursuits, by turns plodding and suffering incredibly through educational, professional, romantic, financial and parenting experiences.

I’ve always felt a faint-to-painful unease living in urban / suburban situations but over time I’ve just learned to make do, as we all do. Having a baby brought me closer than I’d been in years to the pleasures and boundaries of being a truly physical being again… but that was only the tip of the iceberg of what I did not even know I’d lost.

So at our place we have these crappy scrubby trees that are probably just weeds nobody ever cut down and then it was too late and they were trees.

We spent several hours working in our yard this weekend. (I asked my husband if he remembers trying to throw away the kindling wood, and told him I’d blogged about the whole tree/fire saga. he just made a ‘nyah’ face at me. Haha!) Anyway, darned if she didn’t climb those crappy trees and just love it. It was the first time I’ve ever seen her do such a thing. My ass squinched up real tight, reflexively and painfully, in the way that it does when I’m afraid something will happen to her– I had visions of falls, like in Bridge to Terabithia, wasn’t that it? or of her getting hooked or cut or worse on some jutting branch or the chain link fence next to the trees on her way down. I had to control my urge to hustle her down out of that tree, and reduce my admonitions to her to be careful and hold on tight to only once every other minute.

And it was pretty darn neat. She was so happy.  She climbed over, and over, and over. She installed herself in one of them and just stayed up there, peering at us through the leaves like a gorilla in the mist and saying mom, dad, look at me! Look how high I am (about four feet). She sang, and sang, and sang, Winnie the Pooh style, little made up songs about how she felt up in that tree. She got stuck over and over and went from asking us to get her down to navigating her own way down. She begged to climb the tree one more time when, hours later, it was finally time go go in

I suddenly remembered something I’d long forgotten.

Tree says climb.

I remembered at least cerebrally even if I couldn’t really bring it back, the compulsion of childhood to climb any and everything vertical. Because it’s there! What a wonderful mindset to be in– tree says climb. I climb. Why can’t we live our entire lives that way?

Of course my angst kicked in– I can’t give my baby real nature, she has to climb these crappy scrubby weed trees.

I realized that to a child a tree is a tree, whether it’s an ancient crab apple tree with limbs broad enough for me to lie down on and stuff myself on crab apples, or a scrubby little crap tree in the Dixie Burbs. I always got in trouble because I could not control my longing to climb a small young ornamental tree in my grandmother’s tiny suburban back yard (it’s huge, now, in spite of all the abuse it took from little me). She’s just four, almost five. So many mundane, substandard things are full of wonder to her.

What a lesson. I feel even more grateful for our yard, such as it is. I realize that she has the faculties to create a precious experience of fresh air and connection with her physical body, of challenges to her strength and bravery, right where she is.

Tree says climb.

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