Saturday, April 26, 2008

Poetry For Beltane

As I've said before, I think this is a perfect Beltane poem:

The Swan

Did you too see it, drifting, all night, on the black river?
Did you see it in the morning, rising into the silvery air -
An armful of white blossoms,
A perfect commotion of silk and linen as it leaned
into the bondage of its wings; a snowbank, a bank of lilies,
Biting the air with its black beak?
Did you hear it, fluting and whistling
A shrill dark music - like the rain pelting the trees - like a waterfall
Knifing down the black ledges?
And did you see it, finally, just under the clouds -
A white cross Streaming across the sky, its feet
Like black leaves, its wings Like the stretching light of the river?
And did you feel it, in your heart, how it pertained to everything?
And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for?
And have you changed your life?

- Mary Oliver

Friday, April 25, 2008


Angela Eloise! Everytime that I try to comment at your blog, I get a message saying that I've tried to post too many posts in too short a time. Can you fix this?


My brilliant friend E reminded me this week of something I wrote a while back about Beltane:

My idea of the perfect ritual involves women showing up to a calm, clean, well-ordered space, where wine is poured, tensions are dropped, flowers release their scent into the ritual air, muscles relax, women remember who they are and from whence they came. I want intent clearly specified, ritual supplies laid out, incense alight, and grounding done right.

Anne, I prepare like hell for the strike, and then I let that sword just fall as it will. My Younger Self responds better that way.

But, that's not THE only way to do ritual. I've been reading Barbara Ehrenreich's Dancing In The Streets every day at lunch, four or five pages a day. She talks about how women left their spinning to run into the streets to follow Dionyisis, how ecstacy can overtake even the most repressed, at times. Beltane is all about living in the moment, all about feeling, after a long winter of parsing out the left-over seeds and saving enough back for planting, that it's ok to let go, ok to burn fires on the high hills, ok to have sex in the fields, ok to act without thinking it all through. About finding what Anne calls the "middle ground between worrying and controlling something on the one hand, and ignoring it on the other."

Blessed Beltane.

As you prepare this week for Beltane, for the fire festival on the high hills, for our religion's most important celebration of acts of love and pleasure, I hope that you feel free to let go. Goddess knows, I mean to.

Blessed, blessed Beltane.

Art found here.

Good Thinking

[Nature on Earth continually cycles itself through the use of energy, which comes] from outside the system in the form of perpetual solar income. Not only does nature operate on "current income," it does not mine or extract energy from the past, it does not use its capital resrves, and it does not borrow from the future. [Designers must begin to use these same principles.]

. . .

[Discussing a day care center built for the City of Frankfurt:] Because of the solar hot-water collectors, we asked that a public laundry be added to the program so that parents could wash clothes while awaiting their children in school. Because of advances in glazing, we are able to create a day-care center that requires no fossil fuels for operating the heating or cooling. Fifty years from now, when fossil fuels will be scarce, there will be hot water for the community, a social center, and the building will have paid back the energy "borrowed" for its construction.

~William McDonough, Centennial Sermon: Design, Ecology, Ethics and the Making of Things, Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Feb. 7, 1993~

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Life, Life, Life, Life, Life

I left work early yesterday to go to one of my favorite sit-and-watch places alongside the Potomac. This was obviously the day that the caterpillars burst forth from their nests. They were ALL OVER the place and they crawled all over me while I was taking pictures. Ducks on the river swam over to see if I'd brought them anything to eat.

Cradle To Cradle

[I]f what we make with our hands is to be sacred and honor the earth that gives us life, then the things we make must not only rise from the ground but return to it, soil to soil, water to water, so that everything that is received from the earth can be freely given back without causing harm to any living system.

~William McDonough, Centennial Sermon: Design, Ecology, Ethics and the Making of Things, Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Feb. 7, 1993~

The witches say: We all come from the Goddess./And to her we shall return,/Like a drop of rain, flowing to the ocean./Corn and grain, corn and grain,/All that falls shall rise again./Hoof and horn, hoof and horn,/All that dies shall be reborn. McDonough's trying to ensure that what we create -- buildings, shoes, carpet, textiles, toys -- follows the same principle. His ideas remind me, in a way, of what the Arts & Crafts movement was trying to be about, although they didn't have the ecological awareness that exists today.

My New Name For A Blog

What Jane Said About What Digby Said.

Maybe it's nothing more than the fact that it's been sunny and warm, with the daylight extending almost to 8:00 pm. Maybe it's the lilacs and woad in full bloom in my back yard (For the last few days, I swear that I've literally been able to hear the Earth thrumming: Beltane, Beltane, Beltane!) Maybe it's the win Hillary pulled off in Pennsylvania due, in large part, to those old women in boxy blazers. Or maybe there's more, but, in any case, I'm lately feeling quite hopeful about almost everything.

As Jane notes that Digby said:

To me, this primary is actually a good thing for the fall. All this hand wringing strikes me as typical Democratic nervous nellie-ism. A huge increase in Democratic voter registration, building of strong ground operations in most states, new technologies being beta tested, lots of media coverage and battle testing for the nominee are of benefit to the nominee in the fall. Meanwhile, the Democrats stay at center stage while McCain wanders around in obscurity, failing to raise money and leaving a trail of gaffes in his wake. As long as they don't know at whom to aim their fire the Republicans can't cement their narrative. In the end, I remain convinced that we are going into an election that is so fundamentally seismic that either of them can win it, even if more closely than we might want, due to the breakthrough nature of their campaigns. The primary continuing on is not going to change that.

I don't think people realize that the democratization the internet has brought to the system is also one of the main reasons why the campaign goes on. If you think superdelegates are undemocratic, back in the bad old days (of a couple of cycles ago) big party donors pulled the strings by pulling the money when they decided that someone had no chance to win. Today, both candidacies are where they are on the basis of avid small donor supporters contributing online and that's prolonged things past the point where it would have in the past. Thousands of Clinton supporters keep sending her money-- ten million since last night, apparently. So, if you don't like the fact that the campaign continues, blame the internet. It wouldn't have happened under the old paradigm.

Obama supporters could do themselves and the party a big favor if they'd quit crying about how that eeeeevvvvvvvvvviiiiiiillllllll woman needs to shut up "so we can speak with one (man's) voice!" and step down before she "destroys" the guy who is supposedly going to be able to stand up to the Republican slime machine. I didn't like it when Sandra Day and her Gang of Four shut down democracy in Florida and I don't like it when Obama's supporters try to do it in the Democratic primary. I am just saying. Have a little faith -- in your candidate and in the process.

As Digby explains:

the fact that Clinton is still winning big primaries and getting campaign contributions makes it ridiculous to expect her --- or any politician --- to quit (no matter what the NY Times editorial board says.) She has a legitimate constituency (nearly half the voters) in the party that wants her to see this through. As Somerby says in response to Maureen Dowd's typically daft (and equal opportunity insulting) column this morning:

This year’s campaign has shown what can happen when a party has two closely-matched candidates. There are potential downsides for the party, as anyone can see. But journos like Dowd think it’s their role to demand that the person they hate should just quit. Those million-plus Democrats [who voted for her yesterday] don’t exist in Dowd’s world. In Dowd’s world, Dowd wants Clinton to quit. And so, by the laws of childish dreams, “the Democrats” must want that too.

Since I don't think the Democratic Party will crumble from the stress of finishing up the primaries (or even a brokered convention for that matter) until Obama officially wraps up the number of delegates and superdelegates to go over the magic number, I think she has a right to continue.

Wouldn't It Be Nice To Have A President Who Believed In Science?

From today's EEI newsletter:

Scientists Report Instances of Political Interference

More than half of the 1,586 EPA scientists who responded to a questionnaire from the Union of Concerned Scientists reported witnessing political interference in scientific decisions over the past five years, the Washington Post reported today. Francesca Grifo, director of the Union of Concerned Scientists' scientific integrity program, said: "Things are not as they should be at the EPA. Scientific findings are being suppressed and distorted; 889 scientists personally experienced at least one type of political interference. ... Scientists are being pressured by outside interests."

More than 100 respondents said the Office of Management and Budget was the source of the interference, with hundreds of others blaming industry groups and other agencies, the Post reported. Wrote the Los Angeles Times: "Such allegations are not new: During much of the Bush administration, there have been reports of the White House watering down documents on climate change, industry language inserted into EPA power-plant regulations and scientific advisory panels' conclusions about toxic chemicals going unheeded."

J. William Hirzy, an EPA senior scientist and union official, said scientists also saw political interference during the Clinton administration but "what we're seeing now is ... the favoring of energy interests, coal-fired power plants. That's something different in this administration." Rep. Henry A. Waxman, D-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has sent a letter to EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson advising him to prepare to face questioning about the survey findings at a hearing next month. Waxman wrote: "These survey results suggest a pattern of ignoring and manipulating science in EPA's decision making."

As far as I can tell, the survey only includes scientists now at work at EPA, and not the many who have left, disgusted, over the past seven years. If there were a way to include those scientists, the results may have been even more alarming.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A Building Lovely As A Tree?

From this month's VF article on Cradle to Cradle design:

Jefferson . . .wrote to James Madison in 1789. “They were deciding the term of the federal bond,” says McDonough, “and Jefferson’s conclusion was that a federal bond should have a term of only one generation. And his logic was this: The earth belongs to the living. No man may, by natural right, oblige the lands he owns or occupies to debts greater than those that may be paid during his own lifetime. Because, if he could, then the world would belong to the dead, and not to the living.”

McDonough discusses the Industrial Revolution and notes that:

Consider looking at the industrial revolution of the 19th century and its aftermath as a kind of retroactive design assignment, focusing on some of its unintended, questionable effects. The assignment might sound like this: Design a system of production that

• Puts billions of pounds of toxic material into the air, water, and soil every year
• Produces some materials so dangerous they will require constant vigilance by future generations
• Results in gigantic amounts of waste
• Puts valuable materials in holes all over the planet, where they can never be retrieved
• Requires thousands of complex regulations to keep people and natural systems from being poisoned too quickly
• Measures productivity by how few people are working?
• Creates prosperity by digging up or cutting down natural resources and then burying or burning them
• Erodes the diversity of species and cultural practices

Does this seem like a good design assignment?

Even though none of these things happened intentionally, we find this "design assignment" to be a limited and depressing one for industries to perpetuate — and it is obviously resulting in a much less enjoyable world.

And, of course, McDonough's discussion of building buildings as lovely and safe as cherry trees in bloom reminded me of a poem:

Joyce Kilmer. 1886–1918

119. Trees

I THINK that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the sweet earth's flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The One They Pick. The One You'll Know By.

You know, people who think that:

It's time that we declared a ceasefire on the caricatures and explored the shadows -- not just the silhouettes -- of our differences,

yet who go around saying things such as:

At another university, a woman in a black, boxy blazer took the microphone as she stood up, clearly preparing for a full-on lecture. After talking about the books she'd donated to the women's center, the feminists she'd known in the late 1960s, and the virtues of knowing your feminist history, she said: "I don't want to hear about justice and blogs and food politics; I want to hear about feminism. Is there some common ground that we can all stand on?"

might spend a few minutes being self-reflective. I am just saying. Boxy blazers cut an interesting silhouette.

Atrios, who is as good a feminist as a man can be, directed me to the above post, noting:

I've been reading with some fascination the various intergenerational feminist back and forth going on. I'm not sure how valid that description is for the country generally (aside from the general trend of older voters siding more with Clinton), but it has played out in the media to some extent that way.

I found this bit to be telling:

At a recent pre-panel reception, I immediately connected with a philosophy professor about the difficulties and joys of teaching feminist theorist Judith Butler. But the professor's mood took a 180-degree turn when the issue of eating disorders came up. "I'm so sick of hearing young feminists talk about fashion and body image and work/family balance," she said, rolling her eyes like an adolescent, though she looked to be about 50. "What about the women in Afghanistan!?"

She even approached one of the other panelists, 42-year-old journalist Kristal Brent Zook, with a plea to shut down any conversation about these "frivolous" issues if they should come up during the panel (i.e., shut down me, the silly author of a book on body image). Zook had my back, of course. She responded to the professor, "Actually the entire goal of this panel is to create intergenerational dialogue where all voices are heard. It's not my job to decide what's important to Courtney or any other feminist. It's my job to express my own issues and listen openly to others."

One of the more frustrating, futile, and self-aggrandizing rhetorical games is to tell people what their priorities should be. Nick Kristof has played this game in the past, chastising womens' rights groups for not focusing their limited resources on whatever his pet cause of the week happens to be. It's also global warming concern troll Bjorn Lomborg's trick, saying that instead of focusing resources on combating global warming we should use them for a bunch of other things that aren't going to happen. There's always a more important cause, a more deserving subject, a more downtrodden person. It's essentially a way of undermining all good works while building up the critic as More Serious And Enlightened Than Thou.

But people have different priorities. And to the extent people become involved in issues or causes, they have different skill sets, different abilities, different sets of knowledge. They have different things they can bring to the table. Telling people they should be fretting about the women of Afghanistan instead of focusing on eating disorders is, to put it bluntly, just stupid. More than that, it achieves absolutely nothing.

I have to say that my first reaction was: "Gee, thanks, Atrios, for telling us silly women how to have our debates. What we've really been needing is a guy to come along and straighten us out, tell us that some of us are stupid." But Atrios' post, which, in all fairness is trying to make a larger point about discourse in general and not just feminist discourse, reminded me of Anne Hill's recent heartfelt post about attempts to control acceptable topics of discussion within Reclaiming. Anne recently explained:

One thing I noticed in the course of the afternoon is that the things which drove me away from Reclaiming continue to rub me the wrong way. A case in point is what happened over lunch. I was at a table with some people I have known for a long time, and a few that I had just met. I was enjoying catching up with an old friend, when our lunch was interrupted with a lengthy announcement explaining that every table was now going to have a discussion about the same subject. Each table would take notes, and the results would be somehow digested at the BIRCH meeting the following day. (Don’t ask me what BIRCH is—I may say something cynical.)

The topic we were to discuss was diversity. To wit: why isn’t Reclaiming more diverse, and what can be done about it? I was already banging my forehead against the table in pain, but the intro continued, first singling out my friend Evelie, who got to stand up and wave because she is diverse, I mean Filipina. Then a woman named Rosa got to stand and say her 2¢, to the effect that people like her could be helped by people like us if we only knew how to meet more people like her.

I kid you not. I am dead serious, and by this time it was through sheer force of will that I was not 1) bolting for the door, or 2) standing up and saying something confrontational in the middle of the dining hall. The only thing that kept me from shouting out was the knowledge that if I did so, I would be in the middle of an even worse discussion than the one I was apparently now going to have.

. . .

[T]his is where I can get a good rant going, I have had it with red herring questions like this pre-empting conversations about the real issues that Reclaiming has avoided for years. I am speaking here mostly of Bay Area Reclaiming, but frankly the patterns that have been set here get exported regularly to other areas, and I have seen more than one community plagued with the same issues that we have been mired in here for a decade or more.

The final straw for me on this was when I was still in the Bay Area teacher’s cell—I believe it was in the late nineties—and the group was essentially split in two, with neither side trusting or speaking to the other. It had been months, the group was moribund, and though we had plenty to discuss we were not even able to come up with a date for a meeting, let alone assure that some representatives from either side would attend.

It was a horrible dynamic and finally Thorn and I, who had some credibility on both sides, were able after several weeks of intensive lobbying to set a date and get people to agree to come. With assurances that there would be neutral facilitation, we were going to actually talk about the issues that mattered, and hopefully come to some resolution or at least respectfully agree to disagree.

Then literally the night before the meeting, Starhawk, who had been out of town, emailed saying that we should really discuss fundraising for scholarships so that young Pagan activists could attend witchcamp. Another person on the cell quickly wrote back and said that’s what she wanted to talk about too, and I watched in dismay as months of preparation were tossed out the window.

Disheartened, I could not even bring myself to attend the meeting. That was the turning point for me, the moment where I gave up my years of struggle to change the course on which our local community was set. Now there are virtually parallel Reclaiming communities in the Bay Area, and no encouraging signs that the two will ever be reconciled save briefly, when old friends are able to catch up over lunch or lounging on a sunny deck.

The fragile alliance which had led to that meeting was hijacked by the very mentality that hijacked my lunch table discussion at Dandelion: the insistence that Reclaiming is best served by bringing in new recruits rather than cleaning its own house. Blessedly, I found myself not a lone voice of discontent at the table, and we ended up with some meaningful feedback to offer the next day’s meeting. Then I got the hell out of there before a second discussion topic could be suggested.

In both cases, the attempt to exercise power-over, to control the very questions that may even be discussed, becomes the topic of discussion. Feminism, as a movement based upon the notion that the personal is the political, can't be about shutting down discussion. But, that goes both ways and sometimes, sadly, young women like Martin are as willing to shut down those women in boxy blazers (we all know that's code for "up-hip middle-aged woman") as the women in the boxy blazers are to tell young women to shut up about issues that weren't as important to us when we were blazing new feminist trails back in the sixties and seventies. That woman in the boxy blazer is as entitled to talk about her feminist credentials and hope for feminism's future as Ms. Martin is to talk about eating disorders. That Clinton's candidacy has gotten us -- boxy-blazered old women and young women -- talking about generational issues seems to me like one of the benefits of her campaign. I'd like to think the talks will continue, regardless of who wins the nomination.

The situation in Wicca's a bit different; one can hive off when one gets fed up with attempts to control the discussion, although I certainly understand why those who've invested so much in Reclaiming wouldn't want to do that and I admire them for hanging in there and attempting, as Anne has clearly done, to address the problems rather than just walk away. It's also less clear to me -- out here on the East Coast and living in my own closed, eclectic circle -- that Reclaiming's issues are generational, although I may be mistaken about that. Regardless, it's interesting to compare the two attempts to control conversations. In the case of Reclaiming, Anne and her table did take on the "suggested" topic and used it as a way to address the larger issues that concern them.

Monday, April 21, 2008


Did you do anything vital today?

My New Name For A Blog

What echidne said.

Jane Sixpack, the ignored voter.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Resign Condi

My New Name For A Blog

What Ruth Said

Not all countries on our earth, though, have been held captive by a ruling cabal that eschews good relationships based on diplomacy. Some are advancing their interests.

China has been moving into good relationships that include material advancement. It has trade agreements with Sudan, that it has not used to advance human rights there. It has also a few alliances our media does not usually talk about. I thought it might be a good idea to see what some of them are.

Liar Or Completely Out Of Touch With Reality? You Decide.

When your wife's unrevealed assets top $100 million, it's difficult to understand the problems faced by most Americans.