This precious freedom…

Journal Practice
Journal Practice

Keeping a personal journal is a practice that helps me identify what is buried in a deluge of daily demands. It reactivates soulful energies numbed by uncivil dialogue and murky information impossible for me to discern without spending hours reading from multiple news fora.

Today, I wrote this: A beautiful quiet morning in the desert. One of the times when I am examining how I wish to spend my time over the day. A total luxury in comparison to families fleeing violence, or individuals unjustly jailed, or people living in oppressed societies. This delicious, precious freedom to choose is under assault, and may, in the end, enjoy only an ephemeral existence, a once-upon-a-time story in the annals of humankind.

We forget the oppression from which it was born, and the daily struggles of all our founding mothers and fathers, nations that were here who worked for peaceful co-existence. The Iroquois, the Cherokee, and many nations of our first societies, then, the British, French, Spanish, and the settlers–the immigrants who formed our nation. Human minds are complex, needing ways to guide their behavior. Seeking peace is not an end point but rather a process that is continuous. Our current historic moment finds us at each other’s throats, divided because we have lost our compass and we are not one nation under God. We may lose our precious freedom to wonder, on a Saturday morning, how we’ll spend the day.

 

Moving On

The River
The River

For the next few weeks, I will read from Threshold in high schools and at special places where the book is set. The Pima County Public Library added my novel to their collections — a huge honor — and today I’ll be selling books at a screening of Before the Flood at our YMCA.

March 11-12 is the Tucson Book Festival. I’ll be at the Author’s Pavilion to sell books on Saturday morning. Then, I will be packing up and heading home to Pensacola, Florida.

My time in Tucson has flown by but been a rich experience. I hope eventually the book will become a local story that people turn to when climate begins to challenge everyone to adapt and thrive in new conditions.

To Madeline Kiser, Betty Falter, Barbara Warren, and others who have promoted the book in Tucson, and Karen Schedler in Phoenix, I wish to say a big THANK YOU! You opened the doors for me.

Thanks to Fireship Press, to Mary and Jacquie for your confidence and support.

I have completed my second novel — the first draft — started at the Rivendell Writers’ Colony in Sewanee, TN. Its subject is a river and the people who made their life near it. I’m ready to start the editing process and looking for a publisher.

And so, I am moving on from Threshold — an 11 year journey. One person traveled that path with me, beginning to end, and remained a loyal supporter: Betty Christensen — friend in the golden realms of my life. Thank you, Betty.

As the World Turns

earthIndeed, it feels like a soap opera, doesn’t it? Vanity Fair magazine recently published an article with embedded videos from various countries around the world which are making fun of Donald and calling for their nations to be Second!

But, of course, we are living in a time of world-wide contraction toward nationalism, watching the steady dissolution of international unions of liked-minded states to prevent war, improve the conditions of people, and address global threats together.

America has long been the leader or co-leader in these negotiations, looking far into the future and planning for various contingencies and outcomes. What we are doing now is a wildcat, “make it up as you go along”, type leadership from a man who is a marketing genius but not anywhere near what we need for a world leader.

In many ways, Trump exemplifies what many scholars have observed about our cultural transformation: ideas in sound bytes, and opinion-driven decision-making that reduces the level of analysis to a shallow sea–broad but lacking depth.

As the World Turns kept people watching for half a century. With its outrageous characters, each out for themselves, and the sudden turn in events (shock and awe), Americans were hooked. Today’s White House seems very similar with the cabinet selections and their leader playing the roles instead.

But make no mistake: without the active resistance, and vigilance, of the American public, we are on the road to damaging long standing democratic values and practices that Republicans, Democrats, and Independents have mutually agreed upon for the last 241 years of our existence as a UNITED States.

Waning American Leadership

History and Justice
History and Justice

The United States of America assumed the role of leadership among the world’s countries after its role in WWII. We led with malice toward none.

The world has grown up and borders have dissolved as we face common challenges across the world. Exceeding the carrying capacity of the Earth (enough food, materials, lodging, and yes, turnover of waste) to support the every-expanding Human Community, is now a shared problem from which we cannot recede. The global risk is too great.

We have always believed that participating in shaping the future is one of our most important strategies for peace, and consequently, safety for the American public. Its not easy to do, but its essential to be a player in the international community.

The combined footprint of humans on the planet’s ecosystems crossed a threshold decades ago but is now becoming more evident to more and more Americans who have been largely unaffected by it.

Yesterday’s inauguration turned away from playing our role as world leader–the richest and most powerful country on the planet. By turning inward to “America First” and withdrawing from international leadership, our agency in the world wanes right at the time when it is most needed.

I am perplexed to understand how bringing the most powerful, wealthiest people to run our government, set our policies, and lead our nation is a solution to achieve the goals that the Americans who elected this administration hope for.  Most of the new proposed administration is ultra-wealthy, elite, white and male; one led a company that is a documented polluter of natural resources, a company that hid its own knowledge that their activities negatively impacted world climate. Not only are they not in jail, they are lifted into power and influence. The Art of the Deal.

We now have leadership that defies laws and conventions to burn their brand on our democratic structures (Core American Values). These include conflict of interests, censoring the free press; silencing protest; privatization of public assets (schools, basic resources such as water), and denying our diverse citizenry and citizens to be, to conform to a wealthy, white male prototype and cold handshake for those who would seek citizenship in our country.

This is a narrowing of our Founder’s vision–one which American citizens and great leaders have continuously striven to expand to include a diversity of citizens and perspectives since our beginning. This is not a bipartisan issue; it is a fundamental American issue. Do we truly stand for Equality for All? ~ WalkEarth.org

Is our example to the world’s people to turn from each other, to hunker down to take care of one’s own as a way to “be great again”? Is it our example to support other nations’s that turn away from international cooperation? We will support Israel at all costs and ignore the rights of Palestinians to their own land?

What we see on this 2nd day of transition is the waning of the American dream and the American soul. The flame of justice and equanimity flickers and shrinks. But, as night comes after day, let us increase that flame in our hearts, and light the way of justice and good will for all Americans and the world community. Citizens have carried that flame in other dark times, and so we will do so now.

As President Obama said, this is just a pit stop on the great American journey, a comma, not a period.

“I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience.” ~ Patrick Henry

Our Lady of Guadalupe – Patroness of the Americas

from http://www.sancta.org/intro.html
from http://www.sancta.org/intro.html

Our Lady of Guadalupe inspires millions of believers, offering a mothering balm of love, peace, and forgiveness through her Blessed Son. Read the legend of the appearance of the Holy Mother on Tepeyac Hill near Mexico City. Her apparition was witnessed by Juan Diego who had gone to the hill at the request of his Bishop to gather roses for the church. The Bishop’s actions were inspired by a request for a sign from the Holy Mother after she asked the Bishop to build a church on the hill. When Juan Diego returned with the roses, an image of the Holy Mother was embedded in his tilga–a garment that has remained without any sign of wear or age for the last 485 years.

Miracles do happen but we never know how or sometimes why. The universe and the Earth herself are imbued with numinous qualities that we intuit but can never “prove”.

guadelupe-tumamoc-hill
Guadalupe Shrine on Tumamoc Hill

In my novel Threshold, Dolores Olivarez is a devout Catholic who recites the Rosary as she hikes the mountain to the top.

At the summit, she looks out over the vast metropolis, and then down at the Birthplace of Tucson at the base of the mountain. cropped-cropped-mission-a-mt.jpg

From a place of reverence, Dolores seeks to understand the meaning of her time and place, much as Juan Diego climbed to gather his roses.

Threshold in the Classroom

Teenage friends spending time together
Teenage friends spending time together

Threshold will be read at Tanque Verde High School this month. It is also being reviewed by Green Teacher Magazine.

Several educators have encouraged me to use sections of Threshold to develop lesson plans for high school students. One elementary teacher will read to her students and plan an activity and discussion around the story. I am very encouraged about this way of extending the story.

Three adolescents from Threshold emerge as strong characters–youth you feel will become leaders. However, each is working out certain personal challenges and social realities.  Below are excerpts to give you a window into the layered stories:

Enrique Santos: 

Enrique lifted his grandmother, thinking she felt even lighter than last time, like a ghost in his arms. But he felt blood coursing in her legs, and heard the rasping sound in her chest. She was barely able to sit herself on the commode.

In the kitchen he opened the cabinets and refrigerator, surveying what he could scrape together for a snack and what his mother had cooked for dinner. Refried beans and rice, a package of tortillas. He’d hoped for a fresh tomato or onions, but the vegetable bins were empty. It was close to payday for his mother.

“Enrique?” his neighbor’s voice called through the screen door.

Mrs. Carrillo held a hot dish in a towel. “I brought you all some burritos.”

His stomach growled as he opened the screen door to let her in. She heard it and laughed. “Boys are always hungry,” she said with the same grace with which she did most things. She knew what kind of hunger Enrique really experienced.

Enrique thanked her and followed Mrs. Carrillo into the kitchen, where she set the dish on the counter, looking around. She turned to Enrique and said, “Be sure to leave some for your mother, and refrigerate these after you and granny eat, okay?” she touched his arm with affection.

Enrique smiled shyly. Mrs. Carrillo noticed his long eyelashes. Then she eyed his tattoos. His gaze followed hers. He looked up and she said, “Why do you kids ruin your bodies with these marks?”

He shrugged and smiled, “I dunno.”

Luna Lopez:

Luna loved both summer seasons—the hot, dry time from March through June, and the wet, humid season from July to September. Like clockwork, right after the Fourth of July, the rain clouds appeared over the Santa Rita Mountains. Luna anticipated the cold dollops of summer rain, the torrents of water running in the washes, and the scent of the creosote bushes after the storm. She loved to be inside when the giant cloud beings grumbled and heaved their lightning swords onto the earth.

But in this twelfth year of her life, the elders were perceiving a pattern change—a pattern that had governed life on desert lands for thousands of years. The monsoon was late. July stayed dry. Rains came, but they were often more like the other rainy season—the gentle, steady winter rains. The people who gardened in the old ways, letting basins fill with summer storm water, noticed first.

 Daniel Flanagan

After they had finished the gray-water system, Daniel excused himself to shower. As the trickle of cool water spattered on his hot skin, he thought about the sudden turn of events in his life. A woman was now in the picture. It was like a bomb had dropped from the sky on the brokered peace he’d managed to create for himself since his mother died. He realized suddenly that his father, as clueless as he could be, might actually be moving on. It was shocking to Daniel. He felt a knot of resentment in his gut. But shouldn’t he be glad? Living with his father this year had been like living with a stone statue. Was it possible a woman had moved his father’s broken heart? He wondered what she was like. What if he didn’t like her?

Hunting for Treasures Not on the Internet

Digging for ...
Digging for …

The art of finding nuggets of wisdom and truth telling in a world of data, false fronts, and confusing messages, has never been more challenging–but worth it.

In the blog, Brain Pickings, Maria Popova, is one of the best. I can see her with her “miner’s cap” flooding unlikely places with new illumination. Piles of old books, letters, and memoirs are her digging ground.

Maria, a young social entrepreneur, who looks back to old but wise sources for directions. Then she presents them in exciting new media formats. She is a curator of moral, ethical, and social discourses from which we can continue to pull jewels.

OnBeing.org has rebroadcast an interview with Popova, which is refreshing and inspiring. Check it out when you feel the need for a mental floss!

 

Rain, rain in desert land!

Rain in Desert
Rain in Desert

The last two days in Tucson have me swooning. When rain comes in a typically dry region, it is truly a blessing. The scent of creosote floats low on the ground like a perfumed decongestant, it opens my lungs when I breathe deeply. The sound of winter rain is gentle because these are the slow soaking rains. I lay in bed listening to the drips and little drumming sounds as each precious drop falls to the ground.

Then I dream of the places — streets, homes, and businesses — where rain is being collected for later use. Shining swirled metal on cisterns by homes and shops, landscaping that directs rivulets of blue water into the roots of trees, along garden paths, and to fruiting citrus trees. Lemons, tangerines, kumquat, oranges and grapefruit trees are full now, gaily greeting passersby. On a morning’s walk around the neighborhood, I pick up a lemon that has dropped and rolled to the sidewalk. Fair game?

This is food security, at least part of it, besides enhancing the world in which we live. Collecting rain water is an old, maybe ancient, human art. My grandparents in Tennessee had a huge cistern on their farm. But, here in the desert lands of America that are heating and drying, it is an essential skill. Brad Lancaster, a local Tucson resident, has spent the last two decades of his life teaching himself and others how to harvest rainwater. This coming weekend he is a featured presenter at the Tucson TEDx conference. To learn more go to Brad’s website. I highly recommend his books. He is one of many many Tucson Treasures. Videos by Brad

Into the vacuum: China

NX_whitehouseClimate change is real, advancing, and draining the world’s resources country by country–and causing tragic migrations of families across the earth in search of places where people will take them in. This is just the beginning of woes should the world’s leaders not act decisively to stem carbon dioxide emissions.

The spectacle of our times is awesome and terrifying. Anticipating the ascension of a world leader who denigrates science and promises to focus America’s interests inward, world leaders at the latest global summit to implement the Paris Climate Change Accord have already moved on without us. China quickly stepped in to realize the benefits of leading other countries toward a fossil free world community.

P.S. America: the green economy is leading in economic sectors as our new leadership prepares to dig more coal and suck more oil out of the ground.

Have we entered into a new paradigm of Selective Science? We believe in science when it comes to curing disease, or making weapons, or making us money. But, selectively we denigrate the agencies charged with studying and protecting the earth–the planet from which our lifeblood flows. Does that make sense, I ask you?

How would Americans feel if the world’s leading countries imposed trade restrictions on us for our irresponsible behavior? Tables turned? How would it feel to be the cause of suffering across the planet due to our lack of participation in reducing emissions? I hear a refrain, from another misled politician: Burn Baby, Burn. That will come back to haunt the source and us if we do not realize our responsibility to greater humanity and to our children and generations to come.

Americans must be vigilant like in no other time before in our history. We must oppose any policies that destroy the democracy and tear asunder our fragile international relations. We must recognize our responsibility to continue to be an integral member of the international community–especially now.

VITAL SIGNS OF THE PLANET