Q: Is there such a thing as a 'just war'? In his Nobel speech, was President Obama right to speak in these theological terms about war? He also stated that 'no holy war can ever be a just war.' Do you agree or disagree?
Is there such a thing as a 'just war'? The problem with that question is that when we answer 'yes', we end up in a world where there is 'just war'--just war as an ultimate solution to every problem, whether it be terrorists, international diplomacy, drugs in our streets or bugs in our gardens. War becomes the default setting for all of our responses. War becomes the measure of manhood and the definer of strength. War constrains our imaginations and limits our intelligence.
A chemical farmer sees a bug in his field, and declares war. Out come the poisons and the sprays, the herbicides and the neurotoxins, dangerous and costly.. Kill the enemy! The result--poison on the vegetables, beneficial insects die, some pests always survive, making the problem worse.
An organic farmer sees a pest, and says, "Hmmn, here's an interesting piece of information. Something in the system is out of balance. Perhaps some mineral is lacking in the soil, that's weakening the plants. What can I do to shift the balance, to create conditions that will favor the beneficial bugs that will keep the pests in check?" Result--increased fertility, clean and nutritious vegetables, bright flowers growing among the fields, reduced damage to crops and increased health for farmworkers and consumers.
Our policy in the Middle East and Afghanistan, for decades, has been that of the chemical farmer--kill the enemy, and anything else that might happen to be in the vicinity, including civilians and potential allies, and when resistance develops, apply more of the same, regardless of cost. Then call it a 'just war'.
Imagine what our policy might be if, instead, we were guided by the maxim of the clever politician Harry Seldon from Isaac Asimov's classic science fiction novel, Foundation. "Violence is the last resort of the incompetent."
We might develop a policy more like that of the organic farmer--looking for the underlying forces that create the imbalance, that favor the development of terrorism and anti-U.S. sentiments. We might look for ways to support and favor the elements within Afghani or Iraqi or Iranian society that make for health, resilience, and liberty instead of employing the force that creates a perfect habitat for resentment, hatred, repression and terror. We might have supported and protected our Kurdish and Shiite allies after the first Gulf War instead of abandoning and betraying them. We might support the women's organizations in Afghanistan who, even under the Taliban, struggled heroically for women's rights. We might look at the model of Otpor, a student group who successfully overthrew the dictator Miloscevic using nonviolent resistance--with some strategic help and funding from outside. We might support the nonviolent resistance among the Palestinians, pressure the Israelis to lift the stranglehold siege on Gaza, to restrain their use of disproportionate force and to recognize that their true security can only be gained when Palestinians also have peace, security, and a just recognition of their human rights.
I'm deeply disappointed in Obama, because he is intelligent enough to forge such a policy. However, he operates in a country still controlled by a deep assumption--that strength equals force and violence, that a man who is reluctant to use force is less than a man, that a nation who refrains from wholesale slaughter is 'weak'. I can't help but think that his decision to send more troops to Afghanistan has less to do with the 'justness' of the conflict and more to do with the politics back home--an attempt to placate his right wing detractors and to look strong in their eyes.
In my futuristic novel, "The Fifth Sacred Thing," my character Maya says, "For five thousand years, men have been goading each other into acts of brutality and stupidity by calling each other cowards."
Until we confront that assumption, until we challenge our 'real men' and real women to embody a different sort of strength--the strength that nurtures, that heals, that uses intelligence and thoughtfulness and diplomacy to solve problems instead of brute force, until the thought of violence becomes abhorrent to us all, we will have no clear yardstick by which to measure any sort of justice.
I'll disagree only to the extent that I don't think it's the concept of "just war" that is the root of the problem. I think, as Starhawk's discussion of farming intimates, that the real root of the problem is the notion of duality -- the idea that there's nature and then there's us and we can war against some part of nature (say, a bug that eats our crops or a group of people who bother us, possess "our oil, live on "our" land) without warring against ourselves. Once you buy into the notion that we are separate from nature (and, thus, each other), then you need the concept of a "just war" to "justify" what you do, not only to plants, animals, and planets, but also to other humans. And that notion of duality, of "us" and "them," with "us" better than and, thus, "in charge of" "them" is bound up deeply in patriarchy, in the notion that men are better than and, thus, in charge of women.
Starhawk's right: Men have been goading other men into violence for thousands of years. Men, even intelligent men like Obama, would rather kill thousands of other humans (and we won't even mention war's impact on animals, plants, the Earth) than be called a coward. And women raised in this culture often agree. We need a new way to raise children that helps them to see themselves as a part of a beautiful web, not as separate from, and therefore "justified" in wreaking havoc upon nature, including other people. It's one reason that I try pretty hard to get G/Son out in nature, to help him to see the wonder of it, to get him to care for it. I don't kid myself that a few trips to the Nature Center completely counter a world that fills his head with Batman beating up bad guys (just war) or that had him convinced at age two that girls aren't fire fighters. But I will undermine the patriarchy every chance that I get. And I get a lot of chances.
May it be so for you.
PS: If you haven't read The Fifth Sacred Thing, you owe it to yourself to do so, right now. One of my all-time favorite novels.
Proclaiming to be a prophet influenced by the "Holy Spirit," a Bechtelsville area woman dramatically stood up in court and called the woman she's accused of stalking a witch.
"(She) is a very powerful witch, it's true. She has grown more insolent," Sharlene Andreyko bellowed in a Montgomery County courtroom on Tuesday as she stared at the Lower Pottsgrove woman who prosecutors say she repeatedly stalked. "I am here making an accusation that I do not do lightly. This is very, very real. I am not a crazed lunatic."
Countdown to the allegation that the legal system is picking on this poor xian by preventing her from following her religious beliefs in 5, 4, 3, . . . .
For hundreds of years, the [P]agan, communist ideas expressed in this movie circulated among a threadbare group of outcasts with dirty fingernails and greasy hair, who shared their obtuse, occult ideas amongst themselves with manic, alienated glee. Now, James Cameron has made these insane views the major bulwark of a very spectacular movie, but the spectacle does not make these Neo-Marxist views any more coherent, rational or uplifting.
TheTulsa Zoois a filled with [P]agan deities. The elephant exhibit has a six-foot statue of Ganesha, the principal god of the Hindus.
When it was placed there by the secularists who run Tulsa’s publicly funded zoo, they claimed it was a “cultural symbol” and had nothing to do with religion.
The Hindus felt otherwise. They were offended by the prospect of children touching their elephant-like god and persuaded the zoo to put a fence around it.
In the rain forrest exhibit, there are several examples of [P]agan deities. That has been true in other exhibits, including the one from Africa.
And, of course, the zoo continues to display an exhibit on the theory of evolution, even though its information is outdated by even the most secular standards.
Imagine if a Christian wanted to put up a cross at the zoo or a display of Noah’s Ark. The atheists and the humanists at All Souls Unitarian Church would have city fathers take it down immediately or they would file suit.
The Bible is full of examples of God reacting adversely to idol worship. Ganesha apparently wasn’t enough to protect Amali.
Tulsa shouldn’t have [P]agan idols at a publicly funded zoo. The zoo should be made private or the idols taken down.
Until that happens, Christians should boycott the zoo.
I practice Paganism and magic. . . . I’m fine with being a 21st century person practicing a religion with ancient ancestry and contemporary innovation. As a person who lives on this land and in this time, among these cities and farms and wild places, how can I really do anything else?
For right now, I will call myself Pagan: one who connects with the non-Dual and the many Gods, with this sweet earth and with the stars far beyond my eye’s ability to reach.
I think that's about right.
My wonderful circle of amazing women practices a very eclectic brand of Dianic witchcraft. We're big believers in doing what works, what's worked before, what logically seems as if it will work in this situation, for this objective, at this time. I wouldn't keep doing something that didn't work just because it was an ancient practice and I don't hesitate to adopt brand-spanking-new modern practices (including the use of iPhones and computers and modern plumbing) that are effective. Sometimes, when I'm doing magic or engaged in my daily practice, I get a strong sense of being part of an unbroken line of women who have priestessed Mother Earth. Sometimes, I can tell that I'm starting something that my great, great, many-times-great granddaughters and great nieces will continue. And sometimes, I'm just a 53-year-old woman doing the best that she can in the early 21st Century.
And, I practice my magic, these days, almost entirely in the DC metro area. What I do, what works for me, the seasons as I know and celebrate them are, of course, different than they were for ancient European witches and Pagans. I'm in relationship with this unique river that, in so many ways, is different from every other river in the world. I have access to places of -- literal -- worldly, political power that rival almost anything my uneducated, impoverished, rural ancestors could have imagined. I can bless and bind politicians, justices, lobbyists, newsmedia figures. I can do it at lunch, in a bar after work, outside their homes and offices, in the Capitol building, the Supreme Court, the Old Executive Office Building . . . where they least expect it. I ground by sinking my roots into red Virginia clay, not Mediterranean sand and, when I cast a circle, I cast it around white oaks and crape myrtles and a red fox and squirrels both grey and black.
Does my religion have ancient roots? Yes. Is it modern? Yes. Does it borrow from other religions and time periods and practices? You bet. And, as Ms. Coyle says, I'm fine with that.
Actually, they teach you in law school: Try not to get arrested with your clients; it makes it more difficult to get them out of jail.
And, then, there's this: My faery friend recited a poem so graphically sexual that even I was blushing, and I’m not exactly demure about such things. The cops, being San Francisco cops, never turned a hair. I gave them William Butler Yeats’“The Hosting of the Sidhe”and they all dropped their pens and stared. Shortly after that, they let us go, in time for me to make my lunch date. As Victor Anderson said: White magic is poetry. Black magic is anything that actually works. Sometimes, poetry actually works. At which point, it's black magic. Me, I'm a huge proponent of what works.
I believe that if the Senate health care bill passes as Joe Lieberman has demanded it–with no Medicare buy-in or public option–it will be a significant step further on our road to neo-feudalism. As such, I find it far too dangerous to our democracy to pass–even if it gives millions (perhaps unaffordable) subsidies for health care.
20% of your labor belongs to Aetna
Consider, first of all, this fact. The bill, if it became law, would legally require a portion of Americans to pay more than 20% of the fruits of their labor to a private corporation in exchange for 70% of their health care costs.
. . . Senate Democrats are requiring middle class families to give the proceeds of over a month of their work to a private corporation–one allowed to make 15% or maybe even 25% profit on the proceeds of their labor.
It’s one thing to require a citizen to pay taxes–to pay into the commons. It’s another thing to require taxpayers to pay a private corporation, and to have up to 25% of that go to paying for luxuries like private jets and gyms for the company CEOs.
It’s the same kind of deal peasants made under feudalism: some proportion of their labor in exchange for protection (in this case, from bankruptcy from health problems, though the bill doesn’t actually require the private corporations to deliver that much protection).In this case, the federal government becomes an appendage to do collections for the corporations.
Mind you, not only will citizens be required to pay private corporations. But middle class citizens may be required to pay more to these private corporations than they pay in federal and state taxes. . . . And if they have a significant medical event, they’ll pay 22%–far, far more than they’ll pay into the commons. So it’s bad enough that this bill would require citizens to pay a tithe to a corporation. It’s far worse when you consider that some citizens would pay more in their corporate tithe than they would to the commons.
And, finally, while the Senate bill does not accord these corporate CEOs a droit de seigneur–the right to a woman’s virginity the night of her marriage–if Ben Nelson (and Bart Stupak) get their way, it would make a distinction in this entire compact for how the property of a woman’s womb shall be treated.
Single payer for the benefit of corporations
And for those who promise we’ll go back and fix this later, once we achieve universal health care, understand what will have happened in the meantime. The idea, of course, is to establish some means to get people single payer coverage (before Lieberman, this would have been through a public option or Medicare buy-in) and, over time, expand it.
In fact, this bill will move toward single payer, too–though not the kind we want. For the large number of people who live in a place where there is limited competition, this bill will require them to get health care through the oligopoly or monopoly provider. It’ll work great for the provider: they will be able to dictate rates. But the Senate bill allows these blossoming single payer providers to keep up to 25% of the benefit in profits and marketing costs, and pass little of that benefit onto citizens. If we make private corporations our single payer, how are we going to convince them to cede control when we ask them to let the government be the single payer?
The reason this matters, though, is the power it gives the health care corporations. We can’t ditch Halliburton or Blackwater because they have become the sole primary contractor providing precisely the services they do. And so, like it or not, we’re dependent on them. And if we were to try to exercise oversight over them, we’d ultimately face the reality that we have no leverage over them, so we’d have to accept whatever they chose to provide. This bill gives the health care industry the leverage we’ve already given Halliburton and Blackwater.
The feudal health care filibuster-proof majority
It’s the 9.8% tithe that bothers me the most. But for those who think we can fix it, consider this, too. If the Senate bill passes, in its current form, it will mean that the health care industry was able to dictate–through their Senators Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson–what they wanted the US Congress to do. They will have succeeded in dictating the precise terms of legislation.
Now, that’s not the first time that has happened. It certainly happened on telecom immunity. It certainly has happened, repeatedly, on Defense contracting (see also Randy Cunningham). But none of these egregious instances of corporations dictating legislation included a tithe–the requirement that citizens pay corporations to provide their service, rather than allowing the government to contract the service.
This is a fundamentally different relationship we’re talking about–one that gives corporations vast new powers. And the fact that–with one temper tantrum from Joe Lieberman–the corporations were able to dictate the terms of this new relationship deeply troubles me.
When this passes, it will become clear that Congress is no longer the sovereign of this nation. Rather, the corporations dictating the laws will be.
I understand the temptation to offer 30 million people health care. What I don’t understand is the nonchalance with which we’re about to fundamentally shift the relationships of governance in doing so.
We’ve seen our Constitution and means of government under attack in the last 8 years. This does so in a different–but every bit as significant way. We don’t mandate tithing corporations in this country–at least not yet. And it troubles me that so many Democrats are rushing to do so, without considering the logical consequences.
I agree with Dr. Dean. Kill this bill. Perhaps our "above it all" President will decide that it matters to him to get decent health care passed. Or, he can be a one-term-wonder. Gee, that was such a super cool YouTube, wasn't it? Turns out, no, he can't (be bothered).
to drive my daughter through the jeweled morning light this morning:
joy to sigh "What a lovely morning!" and see the glimmer in her eye in the rear-view mirror as our light went green,
and joy to show her how the ochre sunrise hadn't yet washed down from the cross on the steeple at the top of the town.
The temperature was three degrees, the bank sign said. "Wake up, old Mr. Sun," we called as if he were our corner grocer, not the ember burling distant crowns.
A mile we rode in silence while the nickle-purple crystal of the world was poured with light.
I need to think she saw it all as it sped by -- the rink in spun chain link, the outlet mall in mist -- and loved the pinks and golds as I do. She is so young. If I can't train her eyes to love, how else then praise the lapidary, who cuts our days like diamonds from the carbon cold above?
Jacqueline Kelly died yesterday in Jersey City, New Jersey, of ovarian cancer. She also had emphysema. She was 61 years-old, a woman who was a stay-at-home mom to her six kids and a supportive wife for 44 years to John Kelly. John, 68, worked for fifty years as a truck driver and was old enough to get on Medicare when he retired. His wife could not, since she was 61.
She was told she didn't qualify for Social Security disability benefits because she had never "worked." They didn't qualify for welfare assistance or Medicaid because John's pension checks were too high. So, instead, most of the money went to paying for Jacqueline's medical expenses, as much as they could, until it became a choice of chemotherapy or food. As John put it, "I worked all my life. She's being penalized for staying home and taking care of her kids." Kelly died because of a lack of health insurance, pure and simple, cause and effect.
Think about that: John and Jacqueline Kelly were like apple pie, they fit so perfectly into the mold of ideal Americans that conservatives propagate. John was able to support his family doing a job that he stayed dedicated to. Jacqueline chose to stay at home and raise a large family. This is also death by sexism in that we live in a nation where full-time motherhood is not valued as a job and never has been. The myth of the American dream is always, always revealed as the lie it always was, and those who continue to foist it upon us are the ones least willing to make it be true. Where were all the alleged Christians, who are now so ready to kill health reform legislation? Where was the charity that's supposed to take care of such things? There was some, but not enough to get her the medical care that might have saved her.
You know who stepped up to help the Kelly family? Professional wrestlers. Yeah, Total Mayhem Pro Wrestling held a fundraiser for Jacqueline about a week ago, raising $4000 for medical expenses. That money will now be used for a funeral.
Pulls at your heartstrings, no? Really gets that lump in your throat going, this story of love and failure? Jacqueline Kelly was one of millions of Americans who would have qualified for help in just about any of the health care reform measures that actually seek to insure people. She'd have qualified for the public option. She'd have qualified for Medicare buy-in. In almost any other country in the developed world, and even in some in the undeveloped part, her care would not have even been an issue.
We are overwhelmed, yes, by tale upon tale of the sadness and horror brought on by this country's willful neglect of its citizens because we need to please some mad god of capitalism. And because we need to soothe the vanity of politicians, like Joe Lieberman.
We focus our rage on Lieberman out here in Left Blogsylvania not just because he is the kind of man who sucks his own cock in public and then grins, his semen-slicked teeth shining in the klieg lights, to the delight of Aetna and Wellpoint executives just before they shove his ass full of cash and tell him he can have it after he shits it back out. That would be enough. But it's that Lieberman actually takes pleasure in dicking over the Democratic caucus. Motherfucker said he supported the Medicare buy-in and then bailed? What kind of fuckery is that? That's just doing shit for the sake of doing shit. He's Shylock with less motivation. And that just makes us wanna go Berlusconi on his face. (Rhetorically, of course. Of course.) . . .
Lieberman's gotta be punished, or they gotta get rid of Reid. There's gotta be consequences for Lieberman. He's gotta lose his Homeland Security committee chair, maybe even be ejected from the caucus. He's gotta be publicly defiled. If there was any kind of justice right now, Lieberman should be locked in a glass room with the ghost of Lyndon Johnson. Motherfucker would be on his knees after five minutes, begging to give LBJ a rim job for mercy's sake.
Or, instead, Lieberman should be forced to eat the body of Jacqueline Kelly. He should have to taste her diseased organs and mutated cells. He should have to stare at her dead face as he ingests her faded skin and deteriorated muscle. And if he can't do it on his own, he should have her bones shoved down his throat until he fucking gags. Then maybe he'll understand that we're not talking about abstract numbers of people dying. We're talking about real corpses.
I'm just out of patience with these narcisists.
Update in response to comments: Yes, the Rude Pundit is a bit of an acquired taste (and, believe me, this post was mild. I've seen him perform and, trust me, it's "worse" and, somehow, the dildoes involved always wind up in the hotel bar at an ungodly hour. At least, that's what I hear). As to his desire to persuade, his only audience, for that purpose, is, I believe, the nice, polite Democrats (you know who you are, and in the words of my G/Son, "I am giving you a look") who think that civility and bipartisanship are goals, not only in and of themselves, but also, goals for which it's appropriate to, well, in this case, allow good Americans to die. He's a bit of a performance artist, and the point of his performance is to shine some light on the fact that we often, shall we say, get our panties in more of a wad over "incivil" language and the use of dry powder than we do over actions such as torture or murder that would, in a rational universe, be deserving of significant amounts of scorn. Every other civilized nation on Earth, and some that aren't so civilized, manages to provide basic health care for its citizens. And, then there's us and Uganda. If I've offended my readers, I apologize. I value each and every one of you.
O dark dark dark. They all go into the dark. The vacant interstellar spaces...... I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting. Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought: So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.
This morning, there was sun-infused mist hovering over the beautiful Potomac River, the river of my heart. There was also mist covering the city of Columbia, mist surrounding the Washington Monument so that it rose like a single, giant tower out of Fairey, mist hiding the Capital and the statue of the Goddess.
As I leave the George Washington Parkway, which runs alongside the Potomac and edges T.R. Island, and head onto the Teddy Roosevelt Bridge, there's a lovely stand of (now, dead) weeds and berried trees and, every morning, I roll down my window and touch the dried, dead weeds as the traffic creeps slowly into the city. As I enter the merge lane, I look for the Homeless Vet, with his swollen feet and fingers and his cardboard sign that says, "Always Proud." Sometimes I bring him hot potatoes in silver foil, crisp apples, bread with raisins. Sometimes, I bring him a package of tube socks, a few dollars, some bottled water. Later this week, I'm going to bring him a hat that I knitted for him. Once I'm across three lanes, onto the far left, I look at the old, dead tree where, sometimes, I see a bald eagle sitting, sunning, staring at the Kennedy Center.
Far across the Planet, in Tasmania, T. Thorn Coyle is working with forest activists. She writes:
Thus began a discussion of disconnection and being part of place. Some of the activists feel that they are not part of great Nature, but rather must work to stop this alienated human destruction of it. I replied that in sensing we are not Nature, we instantiate the rift that causes the logging and wood chipping of the old growth that they are fighting. Alienation and disconnection are the same, whether one thinks humans are superior or inferior to the land, the trees, the animals and the sky.
We need a deep realization that we are one with all of these. That we are the same. That the call of the koorawong is our call. That the rocky outcropping high above the Weld Valley, with its view of clear-cuts, masses of trees, the glorious white of the soaring grey goshawk over the appearing and disappearing shine of river is a vision of the connectedness and disconnectedness of our very lives.
. . .
We are Nature. We are of place. We are born. We live. We die.
We are all indigenous to this planet and this solar system. I am indigenous to the state of California. My practices of religion, inspired though they may be by the magic of the ancient tribes of Europe and rooted in the folk practices of the US and the ceremonial practices of the late 19th century are also informed by my animal body responding to the ocean near my home, to the particular quality of light reflected upon hills or buildings, to the strange quirks of weather on the little peninsula at the Golden Gate. Place informs me and I inform place. My practices are no more nor less indigenous than those of any other migrating people. Something that was invented to root us in this particular place or contemporary time is no less authentic for being 40 years or 40 minutes old rather than 4,000.
I may be a nutty old woman. But doing magic in a place weds me to that place, and being in relationship with a place increases my ability to do magic, aids my daily practice, makes me become the witch I am meant to be. It's not complicated or esoteric, really. It's mostly paying attention. I pay serious attention to the weeds, I notice them every day, I think about them, I touch them when I can, they show up in my dreams, I bless them for absorbing as much carbon exhaust as they do. I pay attention to the people, the birds, the shape of the city. And, in return, they pay attention to me. I am who I am because the Potomac River is who she is. I don't understand how it can be anything else.
I am "of this place." Whether than makes me "indigenous" according to the definition of some person who finds value in dividing things into categories doesn't change who I am, what I do, how effective my magic is, nor does it change my relationship with the misty river, the shining city, the dead, dry weeds. It doesn't change the antiquity of my practices; witches have been doing "this" for aeons. And, tomorrow, I'm still going to be in relationship with the same river, the same shining city of monuments, the same Homeless Vet, the same trees. I'm going to come home and feed the same demanding cardinal by hanging suet in the same euonymus bush that I've been tending and loving for over six years now. I'm going to be a witch, loving the world into magic and magicked into love by the world. Somebody has to do it.
Here's an interesting story about a fifteen-year-old Wiccan whose school choral class is singing xian holiday songs. The school's agreed to let her "sit out" those songs, but as she says, This is school and not church," . . . I was the one kid that stood out." And, as someone who really enjoys some xian choral music, I'm almost ready to agree with the teacher who explains that his music has some historical and choral importance and is being taught for those reasons until the article gets around to mentioning that : The [student's family, the] Keens also have raised concerns this year about prayers in class and a prayer board posted in the choir room.
Miller said he gave students permission to lead prayers in class Mondays, at their request. The prayer board was a student-led activity, he said. Miller revamped the concert to include a wider variety of secular songs for the holiday season.
First Amendment Fail!
I notice that the compromise didn't involve including some Wiccan music in the program and letting the xian students sit those out while Ms. Keen sang a couple of solos.
I suspect Ms. Keen will learn a whole lot more, about herself, her society, and the value of standing up for yourself even when that makes you "different," than she'll learn about singing. May the Goddess guard her.
(One does wonder who went to the paper with this story. Was it the family? The school? Some busybody?)
The comments section is worth its weight in, well, dross if not gold. They're such loving, humble people, these xians. Such a shining example of their god's love for all. No, they're not.
Although the roof is just a story high, It dizzies me a little to look down. I lariat-twirl the cord of Christmas lights And cast it to the weeping birch’s crown; A dowel into which I’ve screwed a hook Enables me to reach, lift, drape, and twine The cord among the boughs so that the bulbs Will accent the tree’s elegant design.
Friends, passing home from work or shopping, pause And call up commendations or critiques. I make adjustments. Though a potpourri Of Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Jews, and Sikhs, We all are conscious of the time of year; We all enjoy its colorful displays And keep some festival that mitigates The dwindling warmth and compass of the days.
Some say that L.A. doesn’t suit the Yule, But UPS vans now like magi make Their present-laden rounds, while fallen leaves Are gaily resurrected in their wake; The desert lifts a full moon from the east And issues a dry Santa Ana breeze, And valets at chic restaurants will soon Be tending flocks of cars and SUVs.
And as the neighborhoods sink into dusk The fan palms scattered all across town stand More calmly prominent, and this place seems A vast oasis in the Holy Land. This house might be a caravansary, The tree a kind of cordial fountainhead Of welcome, looped and decked with necklaces And ceintures of green, yellow, blue, and red.
Some wonder if the star of Bethlehem Occurred when Jupiter and Saturn crossed; It’s comforting to look up from this roof And feel that, while all changes, nothing’s lost, To recollect that in antiquity The winter solstice fell in Capricorn And that, in the Orion Nebula, From swirling gas, new stars are being born.
Don't you love the way the poet rhymes, and thereby meaningfully links, "Capricorn" with "being born"? I do. And, I miss the xmas palms of LA and Pasadena. The poinsettias that grow outside. The beach at dawn on Solstice morning. Not too much, but some. And I miss the San Gabriel mountains and their silence. I miss those almost every day.
One of the best things about Winter, IMHO, is soup.
I have this soup on the stove right now.
3 tbsp olive oil 1 cup coarsely chopped onion 1 cup peeled, cored and coarsely chopped Granny Smith apple 1 cup peeled and coarsely chopped turnip 1 cup peeled and chopped butternut squash (seeds discarded) 1 cup coarsely chopped carrot 1 cup peeled, chopped sweet potato 5 cups vegetable (or chicken) stock 1/4 cup maple syrup Cayenne pepper 1 small whole-grain baguette 3 oz goat cheese 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
For soup, heat oil in a large saucepan on medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté until translucent. Add apple, turnip, squash, carrot, and sweet potato; season with salt, then sauté 5 minutes. Add stock, bring to a boil and simmer, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Add syrup, then cayenne pepper to taste. Cool slightly. Puree with a handheld mixer, food processor or blender. For toast toppers, cut 6 slices bread and toast them. Spread 1/2 oz goat cheese on top of each; sprinkle with chives. Pour soup into 6 large bowls; float toast on top.
My proportions are off from the recipe; I had a lot of little, multi-colored carrots from my CSA and no turnip. But that's the great thing about soup! I peeled and chopped listening to Handel's Water Music, which is likely the one CD I'd take to the desert island -- you know, the desert island where you can take one book, one CD (played by solar power, I guess), one photograph from your past, and one important memory.
Yesterday, DiL, who is a really, really brilliant cook, made butternut squash soup with grated gruyere cheese. Damn, that was good! I ate two bowls!
The other wonderful thing about soup is that it often gets better served as leftovers when the flavors have had time to meld. I'll freeze some of this soup, take some for lunch a few days this week, have a bowl nuked in the microwave when I get home late, starved, and cold. Fiber, Vitamin A, and the extra, not-to-be-discounted health benefits of warm, filling, brightly-colored, and spicy food eaten in a warm kitchen in the heart of darkness.
Just when hope withers, the visa is granted. The door opens to a street like in the movies, clean of people, of cats; except it is your street you are leaving. A visa has been granted, "provisionally"-a fretful word. The windows you have closed behind you are turning pink, doing what they do every dawn. Here it's gray. The door to the taxicab waits. This suitcase, the saddest object in the world. Well, the world's open. And now through the windshield the sky begins to blush as you did when your mother told you what it took to be a woman in this life.
Photo by the author. If you copy, please link back.
I'm a woman, a Witch, a mother, a grandmother, an eco-feminist, a gardener, a reader, a writer, and a priestess of the Great Mother Earth. Hecate appears in the
Homeric Ode to Demeter, which tells of Hades who caught Persophone
"up reluctant on his golden car and bare her away lamenting. . . . But no one, either of the deathless gods or of mortal men, heard her voice, nor yet the olive-trees bearing rich fruit: only tenderhearted Hecate, bright-coiffed, the daughter of Persaeus, heard the girl from her cave . . . ."