Saturday, June 9, 2018

GRANDMOTHER REMEMBERS

As my regular readers know, (and many of you are accompanying me on this journey) I am an aging grandmother of seven. Lately, I spend much of my time "reminiscing". I love to muse over my favorite life events.. even though I sometimes need a little help with my memory.  I am attempting to recreate some of the stories for my grandchildren, and someday, my great-grandchildren. A lot of my favorites took place in the decade of my fifties. Here are two of them: 

DEATH AND REBIRTH
(Joe Sohm/Getty Images)

"I crawled out and fell on the cool earth like a newborn child on the bosom of his mother. . . . Despite my physical depletion, I was filled with an overwhelming sense of peace. I felt like I had gone to the other side of death and returned renewed, refreshed, rebaptized. It was like all the sacraments rolled into one, rising up whole and inseparable from the very center of the earth."...Ken Nerburn, from his book The Wolf at Twilight..An Indian Elder's Journey through a Land of Ghosts and Shadows

The above quote describes the author's experience in a sweat lodge ceremony. These may be "purification ceremonies" or simply a "sweat".  These were originally used by Native Americans for religious purposes only. Made of simple items, such as branches of trees, they are sometimes covered with animal skins. Inside, water is poured over a hole containing heated stones from outside the hut. Thus, the "sweat" from steam rising up. 



A good friend, Mary Smith Hendricks, who had trained with a local shaman in the methods and rituals of conducting a "sweat", and in  possession of some Native American genes, was to be our leader the night we planned to hold a sweat in the country. She lived at a commune-type place called Rainbow Valley. This was a delightful small community of earth-sheltered homes where some used solar electricity and practiced other methods of living "green". Mary's house even had a compost toilet! 

At dusk, women from our local church, after donating a gift of some kind, gathered in a line outside the tiny entrance to the lodge. It was summer, and I had on a brief cotton romper sunsuit. (We were told in advance that clothing was optional. I thought my outfit would be "cool". So much for understanding a sweat!) My friend behind me asked if I were going to wear that when I went inside. I said, "Yes, why?" She answered, "Marilyn, this is a ceremony of "rebirth". (The lodge represented a womb.) Do you want to be reborn with clothes on?" I quickly looked around and immediately stepped out of my clothing. After all, this was not a co-ed sweat as I had heard some were.

Many experiences were felt by those of us in attendance.. all were meaningful, and even mind-expanding. I don't recall any expressing their experience with such eloquence as the above quote. Some could not take the heat, and even had to lean on another.. but none wished to exit before the others.

As I recalled the memories of that night, I contacted Mary for a little more information. (I wish I had a picture of the lodge.) Mary is my go-to for lots of esoteric information, and even for some of her herbal concoctions when my skin is in need of healing. She and her daughter Heather are both herbalists, often appearing at Renaissance Faires and such to sell their wares. In the intervening years since our sweat lodge was held, Mary has joined FEMA as a disaster assistance employee, and met and married her husband Jaye. She answered my latest request thus:

"George (her son-in-law) and I built it. We covered it with blankets and then an old army tarp. Normally a lodge has four main ribs going across each direction and four around to the opening. And then smaller branches to fill in. Somehow, we ended up just putting three ribs around and a circle at the top. I was told by a shaman friend that we had joined the forces of Indian and Celtic traditions when we did that!

The token gifts were to honor spirit and to support the lodge. Kinda like what one does when one gives money at church.

Technically, we had 13-virgins in that lodge (womyn who had never been in a sweat lodge) plus two that had. So, to bring in that type of energy was a blessing. 

Heather was the keeper of the fire, and George was our guardian (at a distance). Plus, we had two drummers to hold the heartbeat."

This took place in the 90s. I told my children about it, and my daughter seemed to be shocked that we went into the lodge in the nude. For some reason that stuck in her mind. 

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CRONING AND MORE

Not too long after, this same group of  women met at my "cabin in the woods" that I called The Barn. We gathered indoors in a circle, with Mary again being the leader of what is known as a "smudge"...another Native American ritual used to "purify or bless people or things" with burning herbs such as a sage bundle. After the burning sage was passed around, we then passed around a "talking stick" for each to add their own blessings or needs for purification. Although Mary is of Native American heritage, and is very devout in her use of such rituals, it is a controversial thing to hold these circles. To call our experiences "New Age" would be a more accurate description.

(The Barn)

We had gathered at The Barn this night to celebrate the 50th birthday of one of our members. In attendance was a woman who practiced Wicca. (Another New Age ritual practiced by some.) Even though the majority of us were Christian in practice, this was a "croning" ceremony, designed to invoke spiritual reflection, dignity and wisdom. It is an ancient pagan rite of passage to honor older women. Croning ceremonies have become nearly extinct, but they're making a comeback. And they were going mainstream as there were so many "baby boomers" reaching age 50 and older.

After the smudge, we grouped outdoors in a line. The birthday girl sat in the center of the flagstone patio surrounded by trees, while our Wicca celebrant, wearing a crown of English ivy and a flowing dress, circled her, chanting "Magic is afoot". She invited us to chant along with her as we entered the patio and circled around as well. For most of us this was a new (and only) experience of this sort. Some of us even giggled at the site of middle-aged women "dancing in the moonlight".

Though I lived in the middle of woods, I had neighbors who were close enough on the other side of my drive to hear our chants. Since they had a two-story house, they could look down upon our celebration. I noticed their lights coming on, and knew that they were watching. I wondered what on earth they might be thinking. I had lived there many years before they built their house. We never became good friends. After this night, that surely wasn't going to happen!

We returned indoors where we held a guided meditation to a video tape I had made of the late John Bradshaw's series "Healing the Inner Child" on PBS. This particular meditation was titled "Finding Your Wild One." I tried to locate a copy of the music, and Mr. Bradshaw told me I was correct that the title of the song was "Thunder Drums". He said, "It is one of the most powerful backgrounds to certain meditations." Since that time, many who attended have asked me about the music. It was, indeed, powerful. And a perfect way to end our celebrations that night. The following video is the closest I could find to the rendition we heard. I am not certain if these are the same artists, but it is a great performance. It is rather lengthy, but listen to even a portion of it and be transported!

Afterwards, some described their experiences during the meditation. One woman manifested "goat feet" so she could climb a mountain! Another shared that she "had a very wild-looking African banshee as her wild inner child". After all these years, I can still hear the drum beats as they got faster and faster. I was dancing around a campfire, going as fast as the drums, until my body glistened with sweat. Was my inner wild child still longing to be a dancer? "...Dance was not merely corporal movement, but also the connection between humans and the gods. They danced for the harvest, fertilization, fun, thanks and most especially for communication and understanding among members of that society..." The Representations of Dance: A Sociological Analysis by J. Medina  Aha!
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Of course, I had to tell my curious daughter about that evening as well! Many years later something brought up those experiences in a conversation I had with her. She said she repeated stories about this last night to her friends through the years, saying that all of the women at The Barn participated in the outdoor ceremony in the nude. I nearly choked laughing at this. When I could speak again, I corrected her. "Oh, no!" she exclaimed, "I've been telling that story for years, and I always said you all were dancing in the nude!" She had confused this with the "sweat lodge" story.

No wonder my son Craig always called me his "hippie Mom"!

Peace, love, and good memories to you all,
Marilyn

Monday, April 9, 2018

DEEP STATE?

"Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright describes herself as an 'optimist who worries a lot.' And lately, it seems, there has been much to worry about.". The article on NPR is worth reading. Fascism

Always considering myself an optimist, I'm shocked when some tell me I "worry too much". This mostly comes from my grown children. I've had this article in draft stage for a couple of months, as I thought maybe I am making much ado about nothing. When I read the above quote from Madeleine Albright this morning I knew I was not the only optimist who tends to worry. She has written a new book, Fascism: A Warning. Although she doesn't out and out call Trump a Fascist, she does say he is "the most anti-democratic leader that I have studied in American history."

As I am a big fan of Albright, I found myself justifying my own worries about the state of our country. I decided to go ahead and publish this post and then get back to bragging on all the good my children and grandchildren are up to in a future post. They are the ones who will be faced with undoing the damages made by the Trump administration.

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I have been hearing and reading many references to the "deep state"  recently. After running across a couple of definitions of the context currently being used, it reminded me of the 1960s, and the conservative conspiracy theory of "the Kingmakers", a behind-the-scenes group of powerful businessmen who were supposedly "really" running the country. 

Then I did some research into recent similar theories. Only this time, it was not proposed by radical conservatives. I found the following excerpt in an essay on Bill Moyer's website. Anatomy of Deep State It was written by Mike Lofgren in 2014, before Trump popped up in the political arena. I have substituted Obama's name with Trump .. 

Speaking of the authority possessed by the office of President, he writes:
"... President Trump can liquidate American citizens without due processes, detain prisoners indefinitely without charge, conduct dragnet surveillance on the American people without judicial warrant and engage in unprecedented - at least since the McCarthy era - witch hunts against federal employees (the so-called “Insider Threat Program”). Within the United States, this power is characterized by massive displays of intimidating force by militarized federal, state and local law enforcement. Abroad, President Trump can start wars at will and engage in virtually any other activity whatsoever without so much as a by-your-leave from Congress..." (by Mike Lofgren)

The above emphasis in italics is mine, of course. Add to the above the powers of the members of the so-called Deep State (who are really not so hidden)​, the "private enterprise" (read Mercer, Koch brothers, Sinclair Media, etc.) entities, to quote George W. Bush, "the deciders", and the direction the current Congress and Trump administration are leading us is akin to leading lemmings over the cliff!

(Kevin Kallaugher aka KAL)

Read the entire article if you want the bejeezus scared out of you. So much of what Lofgren wrote is similar to what is happening in Washington today.

Look at all the trouble the Trump administration has brought to us. See how he is dismantling and destroying so much of our country and its parks, institutions, safety regulations, civil liberties, etc., etc., etc.. 50+ years ago I thought we were in trouble with Communist Vietnam..​.now Trump has North Korea looming over us. He and his cohorts continue to deny critical climate changes, and we see some of the results in the horrific hurricanes of last year.

When Trump ordered troops be sent to the border of Mexico, he undoubtedly thought he could send in the Marines to show how tough he is. He is probably disappointed that the only ones he could send without the approval of Congress were the National Guard troops. And they are limited as to what they can legally do. Posse Comitatus Act

Image result for cpac 2018 PUBLIC DOMAIN
On February 23, 2018:
Trump touched on a wide-range of topics
during his CPAC speech. He called for Republicans to avoid complacency in the upcoming 2018 elections in order to keep both chambers of Congress in a march towards his own re-election in 2020. 


He also praised his work in improving the economy and claimed his administration had removed more regulations than any other in history.
And that's a good thing? Most regulations were imposed to protect the American people, not just the major corporations. Then there's the new tax plan that also favors the rich and corporations.

Now there are the "trade wars", which Trump avows we will "win". Poor farmers - just to begin with.

It is becoming increasingly harder to remain optimistic. The bright spots are some of the younger candidates moving up in the political realm. Ones like Beto O'Rourke challenging Ted Cruz here in Texas. We love the older politicians such as Biden and Sanders, however, they are well into their senior years. We need more young people, such as the brave high school students behind the Never Again gun control movement, deciding to go into politics in the future. We may someday again see democracy in action in our great country. I hope I am alive to see it.

I urge Democrats to avoid complacency in the upcoming 2018 elections.
Image result for democracy in Action
(Wiki)
Peace,
Marilyn

Friday, March 30, 2018

FAMILY NEWS

Tanner went to Ecuador in January with students from UC Berkeley and some other college to work on an environmental engineering (his major) project involving bamboo. (They built a "house" from bamboo.) He is currently a freshman at the University of Texas. They were there for a week, and he made a couple of new friends who also attend UT. (After looking at a website for Ecuador, his mom said, "I want to go, too!" ) The last I heard, Tanner is planning to attend film school this summer, and work at a part-time job.


Hannah, a senior at Booker T. Washington Performing Arts High School in Dallas, will graduate this spring. She has been extremely busy recently interviewing at several different universities here in Texas, and recently she flew to Syracuse, NY to interview at Syracuse University. (They paid for her trip.) She had her interview, and according to her dad, Craig, it went well. He said she didn't sound too enthusiastic about the snow, however! Of course, we would prefer she go to one of the Texas universities, but like a lot of young teens, she is anxious to get far away from home. That is probably true for most college freshmen - at least until the first real case of homesickness sets in.


Hannah also recently directed a play at Booker T. Even though she aspires to be an attorney some day, Hannah is a talented playwright.. and apparently a talented director.


Ashlyn will graduate in May as well, from Oklahoma State University with a degree in Nutritional Science. She plans to spend the summer in Austin, working part-time, and studying for the GRE. (Graduate Record Examination. Created and administered by Educational Testing Service, it is used by thousands of graduate and business schools to make admission and fellowship decisions.) Currently, her plans are to go to graduate school to become a Physician Assistant (PA) as her mother did. We are hoping she applies to a PA school nearby. I've seen too little of this grandchild while she's attended OSU.



During winter break, Ashlyn went with her big sister, Audrey, and a friend to Big Bend, where they stayed in a rented cabin. Audrey took this amazing photo inside the cabin. I love this even more because Ashlyn is such a spiritual young woman.


This is Easter weekend. Daughter Carajean and her family are going to come over tomorrow after visiting an exhibition of Salvador Dali's paintings. I can think of a better artist to view on a Holy weekend. Although, hopefully, it will broaden the grandchildren's interest in famous artists and artwork. They are talented in the arts in many ways -- music, dance, photography, and film -- however, there are no artists in their family. Yet.


I've baked cookies, but I really miss dying Easter eggs for the kids to hunt! Time flies, and they grow up way too fast!

Craig, Carajean, Matthew
Easter 1972
Matthew's Children - Kelly and Travis
Easter 2011
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Happy Easter -- a day of overcoming! 

With love,
Marilyn

Saturday, February 17, 2018

HOW MANY MORE MUST DIE?

My good friend and frequent contributor to not only this blog, but also to the Denton Record-Chronicle Letters to the Editor, Jack Garner, wrote the following shortly after the Texas church shooting last November. Since that time, according to the Gun Violence Archive there have been 1,894 gun deaths in the U.S. in 2018 alone. Number of mass shooting incidents reported and verified so far this year, 31. Number of teens (12-17) killed or injured, 373; and 70 children ages 0-11 killed or injured by guns. 

Those statistics alone should arouse the protective instincts of all Americans - not to go out and buy more guns, but to compel our Congress to strengthen the gun laws in this country. There should be no assault rifles sold to anyone other than our military or law enforcement. Why are "bump stocks" still being sold? We must strengthen our background checks. Why are guns being sold to anyone at gun shows without such checks? So many questions with only one answer - the NRA. Our children's lives are endangered more and more. Putting "good people" armed with guns at every school is ridiculous - and reprehensible.

After the shooting in Florida that cost the lives of 17 more children and their teachers on this past Valentine's Day I thought what Jack had to say last November was appropriate now as well. President Trump even made the very same comments.





NEW GUN LAWS NEEDED
John Nance Garner, V

"Donald Trump's unabashedly false declaration said, 'The Texas shooting is a result of a mental health problem; not United States gun laws.'

This proves his political relationship with the National Rifle Association and its ever-present mantra, 'Guns don't kill people; people kill people.'

Did Devin Patrick Kelly murder 26 people with a slingshot? Did Stephen Paddock kill 58 people and wound 546 others in Las Vegas with a cap pistol?

It's time to label NRA propaganda as what it is: Big bucks in the pockets of the gun industry. For over 50 years, the NRA has preached that the government wants to take away your guns. Not once has a government official knocked on my door and with outstretched hand declared, 'Gimme.'

How about you?

New laws should outlaw assault rifles like those that mowed down unsuspecting citizens in Sutherland Springs and Las Vegas. A new law should do away with clips holding 30 or more rounds of ammunition.

It would prohibit clips of more than 10 rounds for home defense. If you can't take down a home intruder with 10 shots, best you throw the gun at him and try to bite him to death.

Limited gun laws will not prevent deranged individuals from committing senseless killings; that is demonstrated by the death of eight people in New York City last week. (a 29-year-old man struck pedestrians and cyclists on a bike path around 3 p.m. and continued driving a rented pickup truck, colliding with a school bus.) But it will stop more Sutherland Springs and Las Vegas carnage. You can make it happen." 

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"It takes a village to raise a child", but it only takes one person with a gun to kill him. And it takes a united country to stop the killing.

Peace and love,
Marilyn