Thursday, October 19, 2017

An Indelible Memory


She wrapped silence around her like a shield. Sitting on the shadowed side of the meditation hall, she seemed to glow with concentration. I could not help but notice her, her pale denim clothes and long white hair, which was tied near her skull with a thin red ribbon. 

Two Tewa elders had been invited to open the meditation retreat entitled “In the Arms of Mother Earth.” They stood on their ancestral lands welcoming those who came to celebrate the planet and focus on ways to protect it. We were in accord. 

She seemed to pay particular attention to the elders, both apparently younger than she, both wearing simple dresses with colorful traditional patterns. 

Three days later, she was back as the two elders spoke their closing blessing then invited participants to come forward and take an item from the ‘give away’ table. 

That’s when she sang. Before any of us moved forward, she leaned back in her chair and sang. The song, in the Tewa language, reached every person in the hall. It reverberated in my soul. Although I could not understand the language, I understood the meaning. It was a hymn to the sacred planet, so beautiful it brought tears to my eyes. 

The item I took from the table was a small round of glazed clay inscribed with the words, “I am Blessed.” As I walked from the hall, one of the elders used a large feather to anoint me with drops of water. Looking up I saw the singer standing nearby and was able to thank her and shake her hand. 

I was blessed indeed.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

A Rainbow Celebration

🌈Sunday, Oct. 15, my congregation celebrated the fact that we had earned the official designation, “Welcoming Congregation” from the Association of Unitarian Universalists. 

That means ours is a congregation in which people can feel welcome, whatever their sexual orientation. Even if they are ‘straight.’ So lesbians, gays, bi-sexuals, queers, transgenders or indecisive know that they will be treated with respect. 

That’s a big deal. It has taken us a long time – three years – to earn the designation. There were sermons and seminars and workshops and films and books that introduced those of us largely unaware of the varieties of physical attachments to the variety of sexual identities. 

 Some of our members wearied of the effort. Why were we focusing so much attention on one sector of the general population when so much else, so many others, have so many, urgent needs. 

I have figured out why. I am, as I recall (it has been a very long time since this fact was of interest to anyone) a straight, heterosexual woman. Although I had no particular problem with gays or lesbians, I had no real understanding of the lives and struggles of gays and lesbians and bi-sexuals and transgender people. I understood in theory. Not in practice. Now my eyes and mind and heart are open. I no longer see the label. I see the person. 

That’s significant. There are all kinds of labels – sexual, racial, political, religious, economic, national, etc. Once we have learned to see the individuals behind the labels, we can begin to learn from each other. And there might even be hope for us all.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Fried Green Tomatoes

 My tomato plant died Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017.

 Every day this summer I had faithfully watered it. It had little yellow flowers that, eventually, yielded two red ping pong ball-sized tomatoes. And lots of green globes.



When the frost warning came, I took a bucket out and picked a dozen green tomatoes. Now what? I couldn’t just throw them in the garbage. Not after months of careful tending. I decided to fry them. I had liked the movie but had never tasted fried green tomatoes.

 It wasn’t hard (but it was messy). [You slice the tomatoes, then dip the slices in flour, then in egg/milk, then in breadcrumbs or cornmeal seasoned with salt and pepper. Then fry.] And I liked them [my taste may have been skewed by the memory of  summer.]

Things die. But something new always seems to emerge. And it can be beautiful.



Or delicious.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Catalog Benefits

There is one huge advantage from receiving catalogs from every (or almost every) vendor in the United States. 

On relatively nice days, I have made it a practice sit on my porch swing to sort through my mail. The catalogs and bills arrive sometime between 3 and 6 p.m. depending on postal personnel rotation. 

Catalogs not only help keep the U.S. postal system in business and its carriers employed, they also give me an excuse to linger longer in/on my swing. 

At that time of day most everything slows down. Until you look up. Sit still and notice the hundreds of insects, mostly tiny, helicopter-ing in the air. For the most part, they do not harm or otherwise bother our species. Indeed, some (probably most, I’m not an entomologist) enhance our lives either by pollinating fruits and flowers or adding beauty to our lives. 

All we have to do is notice them. 

Before I trimmed back my spirea shrubs, I watched chubby bumble bees roll over their blossoms, probably delighting in their pollen. 

Recently, small beautiful butterflies – ‘painted ladies’ I think --settle on remaining flowers. 


There’s always something wondrous. Migrating birds of various dimensions skimming the sky. Not my smart phone.  

Just look.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

inflated greetings

On arrival at my home, the birthday balloon sat in the kitchen, tied to the wrist of a small teddy bear. It soon escaped and, for a week, bounced around the kitchen ceiling, greeting me from a different angle each morning. Making me smile. 

Somehow it wandered into the living room in time to subtly greet my guests on the first day of September.

When I came downstairs on Sept. 2, I couldn’t see the balloon. It couldn’t have just disintegrated, could it? No. Later, I was sitting where one sits in the upstairs bathroom. Something peeked from the stall shower. Guess what? 


After that, it wandered into the study. Then mysteriously, it was gone again; this time into my bedroom, eventually settling in the bedroom window.

My cat Herbie sometimes noticed our visitor. Once, the balloon bounced around in front of him trailing a small piece of white ribbon. He swiped at it a couple of times but gave up when the balloon floated up toward the ceiling. [Herbie is an old cat.] 



For a while, the balloon hovered near the floor and I thought it was on its last non-legs. But it has been a month! It is still sort of viable. It cannot last much longer but it has been a good friend. And a great present.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Eclipse Notes

  I was sick --ironically because I had winnowed a grove of sunflowers on Sunday, August 20. Sunflower detritus irritated my pores and that night I was unable to sleep more than a couple hours of slightly tormented exhaustion.

I had special glasses to watch the eclipse. They are still safely in a drawer.
The time for the phenomenon came but I was spent.

Stumbling through some necessary chores, I walked out to my front porch. Looking down while the rest of the country was looking up, I saw the most remarkable shadows. I grabbed my smart phone and took some pictures.

The shadows were on the concrete area supporting my planter.

They were on my front sidewalk.

They were on my neighbor’s driveway.


And they were wondrous. When I came back inside, the house had darkened. I had to turn on the kitchen light. Everything was still. The cat who always comes down when I am in the kitchen, stayed upstairs, sleeping.

So I missed the eclipse.

And yet I didn’t.


Shazaam.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Grand Consolation

After I signed all the papers required to buy a home, I discovered that there was a raspberry patch in my new backyard. I’ve always told people that had I known, I would have paid more for the house. 

Every year the patch, now the size of a pickup truck bed and four feet high, produces blooms then berries, which every year I eat before I can harvest enough to make something wonderful with them. 

Not this year. 

Ah, the bushes flourish. And bloom. And produce hundreds of green berries. I monitor their progress, awaiting scarlet fruition. That never comes. What blushes in the morning, disappears by the afternoon. 

One day, entering my yard from the alley garage, I discovered why. As I stepped onto the path, a dozen birds flew out of the raspberries. 

It’s my own fault. I hang birdfeeders and fill bird baths. You would think that would be enough. But when I walk out my back door, as many as six squirrels scurry away. They take the bird seed. The birds take the berries. 

I now buy raspberries at the grocery store and take consolation in the giant blooms of my hibiscus (which neither birds nor squirrels consume). 



Although I am a little worried about the small bunny I saw the other day.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Old Hair

Other than senior discounts and Medicare, one enormous perk of aging is the lack of hairy legs. 

Oh I do occasionally – about once every three or four months – have to harvest the meager crop, scattered sparsely on legs whose veins tend to make them look like maps of the London subway system. 

Still. It’s a perk. 

Hair is a contrary mammalian trait. It seems to grow where we don’t want it and disappear from places where it is fervently desired. 

This is true for both men and women but I will deal only with the aging female here. [And I will not deal with all of the capillary ramifications – like moustaches (which is another dilemma altogether).] 

When I was younger and more smug (smugness seems to be characteristic of youth) I would smirk disparagingly at men who had attempted to disguise a balding pate by combing longer locks over barren skulls. 

No longer. 

My once glorious tresses still exist but, like the earth’s aquifer, are diminished. 

My hair is thinning. 

From the front and the sides, I still look adequately ‘haired’. Not so much from the back. 

Now I too must fluff the remains and try to guide them over my pink, pink scalp. 

I even have some powder I can sprinkle over the too obvious hair barrenness. It helps. 

So beware, oh youth. Avoid smugness and smirks. All too soon, that which you deride will be that with which you must contend.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

No Reverence for Earwigs

There was an earwig in my kitchen sink this morning. 

I turned the faucet on full blast and swooshed the insect down the garbage disposal (which was turned on). As I saw it disappear, I wondered, What would Albert Schweitzer have done? 

I remembered hearing a story about Dr. Schweitzer moving his place setting rather than disturbing the ants parading across the table somewhere in Africa where he was doing great humanitarian things.

I don’t know if that story is true or just an illustration of his philosophy of “Reverence for Life” (for which he was awarded the 1952 Nobel Peace Prize). He wrote: “The laying down of the commandment to not kill and to not damage is one of the greatest events in the spiritual history of mankind.” 

The Wikipedia entry calls him a French-German theologian, organist, writer, humanitarian, philosopher, and physician. 

Whatever else he was, he considered his work as a medical missionary his personal atonement for European colonizers. He wrote: “Oh, this 'noble' culture of ours! It speaks so piously of human dignity and human rights and then disregards this dignity and these rights of countless millions and treads them underfoot, only because they live overseas or because their skins are of different color.” 

I agree with so much of what Dr. Schweitzer wrote and did. 

And yet. 

It was an earwig!

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Indelible Memory

It was time for it to come down. A decade ago I taped an odd collage onto the pantry entrance wall. On a piece of black construction paper, now faded, was an obituary for Jean K. Brabandt … and a little prose/poem I had written in response to her death. 

Jean was one of my first buddies in Loveland. We’d get together for lunch or just a cup of tea. Her sense of humor, or rather, her sense of delight, was what drew me to her. Tiny and spunky, she was full of surprises. I visited her little senior living apartment which she had somehow made habitable. When I commented on a lovely watercolor on one wall, she offered to show me others and promptly pulled another half dozen out from under her bed. 

The fact that she was more than 20 years older than I was irrelevant. We both had personal histories in the Chicago area. We both had traveled abroad. We went to the same church. And we loved to laugh together. 

The little prose/poem I wrote was sort of an apology. She had said that her doctor advised her to eat low-salt soup. I found some and was going to call to deliver the cans but time slipped away. Then she slipped away. 

For 10 years, I kept the faded obituary and prose poem as a reminder. The time to reach out to friends is always sooner than later. 

Always.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Solstice Significance

There is a story about a June family gathering to celebrate my father’s birthday. Someone remarked that the date, June 21, was the longest day of the year. 

My paternal grandmother groaned, “Believe me. I know. It was the longest day of my life.” 


Charles Thacker McClure was born June 21, 1915 – 102 years ago. The only photo of him on my computer is when he was a baby on his mother’s lap. 

I have a million images of him in my mind and memory. He was good looking and smart and funny. [All my friends in my college residence would magically appear whenever he happened to visit.] 

However, his humor, often sarcastic, left emotional scars on my psyche and especially, on my brother’s. 

Writing my new book, Family Time, I came to understand where that sarcasm came from. And to forgive it. He filed for divorce from my mother, Roberta Anne Walker McClure (Bobbie) the same year I filed for my divorce. Not a good year. It took me a long time to forgive that. But I did. And that forgiveness enriched both our lives. Forgiveness works that way. 

So. For better and for worse, here’s to you, Dad. Happy Birthday.

Friday, June 16, 2017

June 16, 2017

Today would have been my mother’s 100th birthday. She was born June 16, 1917 in Pittsburgh, PA just before the Summer Solstice. She died in Aurora, CO, Dec. 17, 1995 -- about 22 ½ years ago -- just before the Winter Solstice. 

All of the seasons in-between she was her own unique being – giving, loving, laughing, crying. Doing great things. Doing stupid things. Occasionally doing cruel things. Often doing kind things. She was my mom. I have some photos of her.




                   Here she is on her father's knee surrounded by her mom, her older brother Bill, and little sister, Lou.



A few years later -- older and more glamorous.


And later, still glamorous, with children of her own:
Bill and me (Mim)

What a great and wonderful life. A great and wonderful mom.
Happy Birthday, Mom,
wherever you are.
Mim   

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Revising the Past

Last week there was an article in the New York Times (and other newspapers) about 300,000 year old human fossils found in Morocco. 

In my novel/fantasy memoir, Family Time, the protagonist recounts the orthodox version of our species’ evolution. According to her, humans developed in east Africa (Omo River region, Ethiopia) then migrated around the globe. Evidently she was wrong (I was wrong, I wrote it). Evidently our species emerged from its antecedents in many African sites. 

I can understand differing views of the future. After all, who truly knows? But it boggles my mind a bit when we change our shared understanding of our own origins. And we are doing it all the time. 

Every year it seems, we are surprised to discover that one ancient tribe created great art and another practiced some form of religion and yet another evidently had a sophisticated language. 

Why are we surprised? We are all the same species, floating along in the continuum of time. We may know different things now – maybe even more things -- but we are definitely not getting smarter. 

Many religions – past and present – advocate honoring our ancestors. I concur. Even better, let’s keep digging. I’m willing to bet they have a lot to teach us.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

SLAMMED BY JOY

There are so many things that give me quiet joy:
           My garden in springtime, 
           The way my cat Herbie comes running to greet me when I come home, 
           Sunlight through the glass stuff on my windowsills and the rainbows that hanging prisms make dance in my rooms.
But every once in a great while, I get slammed by joy. 
It happened often between May 20 and May 30 when my grandson, Harlan, and his parents visited. They didn’t stay with me the whole time but when they were here, a lot of wonderful things happened. 
    My daughter-in-law laughed at my jokes and complimented my cooking and we spontaneously gave each other half hugs every once in a while. My feelings toward her transformed from respect and admiration to genuine fondness (while retaining respect and admiration).
    My son, without a sign of protest, helped me fix the overly complicated dish I had decided to serve and was authentically friendly and supportive the entire visit.
    Harlan and Herbie enjoyed each other -- Herbie tolerating the undisciplined love of a 19-month old boy and Harlan delighting in (and petting) the 16.75-year-old cat. And Harlan and I played with a toy truck, pushing it toward each other in a game we spontaneously created.
     And my brother spent some significant time with me and then joined in the Denver family celebration of my grand niece’s 21st birthday (the first time all of us had been together for a decade or two).
     And a hundred other little moments that, cumulatively, were seismic emotional treasures. Perhaps none more so than little Harlan—the ultimate joy slammer.

Monday, May 1, 2017

What Price Technology?

I just saw a stunning, original play performed with consummate artistry. It was the last performance of “The Blue Kitchen” written by Eric Prince and brought to life by Wendy Ishii (and Barbara Clark).
    It was far too easy to get a great seat in the middle of the second row. And there were far too many empty seats in the Bas Bleu Theater in north Fort Collins.
    Why?
    Talking to Wendy after the performance, she attributed the sparse attendance to sparse (nearly non-existent) newspaper coverage. Newspapers are in jeopardy because people rely on their computers – email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. – instead of reading off-screen.
    What a shame. If our understanding of our world must be shrink-wrapped into sound-bites and 140-word messages, the scope of our lives and understanding are correspondingly diminished.
    Amazingly, the Bas Bleu Theater is celebrating its 25th anniversary. . . in spite of an information vacuum.
    What can I do if I wish to help Bas Bleu thrive for another 25 years? Well, I can continue to subscribe to my local paper (delivered to my front door).
    And I can use technology – post a blog and share it on Facebook.
    And tell my friends (and an occasional stranger) that there is an amazing pocket of real culture in our area which deserves our support.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Squirrely

I distinctly remember writing a post called something like "The Squirrels Always Win."  I thought I 'published' and scheduled it, but it has disappeared. As if it never existed.

It was about my long and monumental efforts to feed the little birds -- finches, chickadees and an occasional goldfinch -- that I try to entice and nourish in the area of my 'patio' (it's just a slab of concrete under my pergola).

I have now purchased three 'squirrel-proof' bird-feeders all of which did not even slow the little rodents down.



There was always a vine or post or branch from which the critters could swing over and munch.
So I moved the latest far from any vine or post or branch.

For days, the level of bird seed remained constant . . . but then . . . catastrophe


Somehow, swinging on the wire for the little dragonfly lights I'd hung around the edges of the pergola, they broke the wire, now dangling, useless next to the feeder.

Then they broke the feeder -- making its bounty unavailable to both birds and squirrels.

I have another new feeder. The dragonfly wire has been fixed. We'll see how long they survive.

After all, the beasts ate the post I wrote and published last week.

Beware!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

The WAY back

Lost in cyberspace, I have, until about 9 p.m. yesterday, been unable to post anything on my blog. That evening, I invited the Christensen family over for dinner and Way Christensen offered to see if he could solve my internet mystery. He did! I'm back!

On March 23, I attended an event that moved me deeply. I wrote about my reactions but was unable to share them until now. Many, many thanks to Way for helping me come back.

We did not belong 

A friend and I went to a community meeting on immigration. We both thought we would learn how to counter the anti-immigrant policy and sentiment that threatened. It took us a while to understand that the meeting was not for well-meaning Anglo-Saxons but for the Hispanics in our community. 

It was organized by the local chapter of LuLac (League of United Latin American Citizens). The church pews were primarily populated by people who looked Hispanic – families, elders, young. The people who spoke into microphones spoke mostly Spanish . . . until they realized that there was a scattering of non-Spanish speaking people attending -- me among them. 

 The key speakers were immigration lawyers sharing valuable information on how to respond to ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement). What Hispanic rights were. What precautions they could take against having their families torn apart. What resources existed to help them. All essential stuff. 

From time to time, a family would be called to the rear of the room, presumably for private counseling. Looking around, I saw only people I would like to know better -- people who were living in fear in my own smallish town. In my own country. 

Although I was grateful for the sporadic English translations and occasional bilingual slides on the screen, I was more grateful to experience what it was like to be an obvious minority listening to a language that was not what I had learned as a child. [I had forgotten how nice it was to hear another language.] 

And I was grateful to be among those who, in spite of the possibility of detection/ deportation, had enough courage to assemble and learn. My friend and I did not belong at the meeting. It was an honor and privilege to be there.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Both Sides Now

I can’t even find the CD. I purchased it in an obscure used bookstore somewhere in Chicago, probably about 20 years ago. 

Recently one of the songs invaded my consciousness, haunting it, searing it. All of a sudden it has become more relevant, more devastating. 

I had to find it. 

I can hear it on YouTube and I copied the lyrics from Google -- so what was lost is not really lost. 

Then I had to figure out why, 20 years later, it surfaced on my cerebral cortex. I reviewed the words – about clouds and love and life. I realized that, while all the verses are still accurate – for Joni Mitchell and for me – I needed another verse, maybe two. 

They would be about my country, my safe, smallish town existence. I think we all shared the illusion that what we are as a nation, as an island of privileged population, would just keep on keeping on, in perpetuity. Sure there would be bumps and detours but overall, we were eternal. 

No. That’s a dangerous illusion. We really don’t know our lives at all. 

Now, awakened, we must stand and be counted. Sign petitions. Write letters. Demonstrate. Object. Support those who support our values. Pray to whatever we pray to. Join with whomever we trust. Sing. Shout. Come alive. 

We must truly see Both Sides Now.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Herbie Sleeps Around

It's a seasonal thing.

When it’s really hot, he prefers the upstairs bathroom sink. 


When it’s mild enough to open the dining room window, he watches squirrels from a little window platform. 

In cool weather he has favorite places in almost every room: dining room, atop the high east-side shelf in the morning sun; guest room, bed pillows; TV room, the back of the couch; living room, either in front of the furnace register or on the blue cushion on the ladder back chair; in the laundry room, the little blanket atop the dryer. Upstairs: the pillows on my bed or on one of the three places in my study that I’ve covered with soft things for him. 

The one place I find inexplicable is the upstairs windowsill where he rests his head on a book. 


It doesn’t look at all comfortable but when the sun shines, he’s there. 

There used to be jokes (which of course I do not remember) about all the East Coast signs proclaiming that “George Washington slept here.” However presidential he may be, I can't to do the same for Herbie.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

February 11, 2017




Flowers bloom! in my front yard in Loveland, Colorado, USA


Saturday, January 28, 2017

This is what we are about

"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Looking at these words etched in the soul of this nation, I see no mention of race, or religion, or gender. The golden door has slammed shut -- replaced by a wall of intolerance and a wall of arrogance.

This has been a week of inexcusable actions, a week that will live in infamy.

This is not what we are. 

This must not be what we will become.





Monday, January 23, 2017


This is Iris Genevieve McClure, the face of the future.

She will be 12 years old on April 1, 2017. She is my grand niece. I held her when she was just a few hours old. I was with her on Nov. 8, 2016 when we (and other family members and friends) watched the U.S. election returns in horror. 

She was as devastated as any of us.

On Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017, she and her mother, Kelly Mansfield, joined 150,000 in the Women's March in Denver. And, in some way, the 150,000 in Chicago; the 500,000 in Washington, D.C., the 150,000 Boston, the 130,000 in Seattle, the 55,000 in Toronto, and thousands of others in cities across the United States and the world (including 10,000 in Sydney, Australia.

Look at her face. 
See in that face the joy of being with women
-- all women -- celebrating the power of women. 

No matter what happens. No matter how many times we need to stand and march and protest and petition, we will do it. And as long as we do, there is hope -- for women, for children, for Muslims, for African Americans, for Hispanics, for LGBTQs, for any who are threatened.

Until, someday, all people --whatever their gender, or age, or race, or sexuality, or ability, or religion, or (yes) politics are celebrated.

Hallelujah!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Upstairs/Downstairs

I will never do it again but recently I was reading two books: “Homegoing” by Yaa Gyasi and “The Underground Railroad” by Colson Whitehead. I kept one upstairs and one downstairs, reading each when I had a bit of time. Both are powerful books about aspects of slavery in this country. Both are complex books with variable main characters and sometimes convoluted timelines. 

 I will never be able to pass any form of quiz about these novels, the names of the protagonists, or their chronology. [Unless I read them again. Which I might.] 

However confused I got (and I did get very confused), I don’t believe this foolish practice was without substantial benefit. 

Reading about any aspect of history should (in my opinion) help you better understand that history – at a deep, visceral level that transforms your vision of a time period and its impact on the present. My upstairs/downstairs reading did that exactly that. Never again will I underestimate the horrendous scars our ancestors inflicted on a people and their cultures. These books obliterated any romantic/’Gone With the Wind’ vision of this nation’s history. 

 It is never acceptable to force any persons to abandon their culture and language. It is never acceptable to destroy family units, overwork and over-punish anyone, to subjugate by terror, to deny anyone’s value . . . The list of unacceptable practices – crimes against humanity -- that our nation perpetrated (and perpetuates) is long and bloody. 

 It is good to understand this, to acknowledge it and, acknowledging this, to work in whatever way we can to ensure that we never, never do this again – to any peoples, whatever their race or religion or sexual orientation. 

No one should be confined to the ‘downstairs’ of our country.