Saturday, March 08, 2008

Make Of Our Lives A Study

This August evening I’ve been driving
over backroads fringed with queen anne’s lace
my car startling young deer in meadows—one
gave a hoarse intake of her breath and all
four fawns sprang after her
into the dark maples.
Three months from today they’ll be fair game
for the hit-and-run hunters, glorying
in a weekend’s destructive power,
triggers fingered by drunken gunmen, sometimes
so inept as to leave the shattered animal
stunned in her blood. But then evening deep in summer
the deer are still alive and free,
nibbling apples from early-laden boughs
so weighed, so englobed
with already yellowing fruit
they seem eternal, Hesperidean
in the clear-tuned, cricket-throbbing air.

Later I stood in the dooryard
my nerves singing the immense
fragility of all this sweetness,
this green world already sentimentalized, photographed,
advertised to death. Yet, it persists
stubbornly beyond the fake Vermont
of antique barnboards glazed into discotheques,
artificial snow, the sick Vermont of children
conceived in apathy grown to winters
of rotgut violence,
poverty gnashing its teeth like a blind cat at their lives.
Still, it persists. Turning off into a dirt road
from the raw cuts bulldozed through a quiet village
for the tourist run to Canada,
I’ve sat on a stone fence above a great-soft, sloping field
of musing helfers, a farmstead
slanting its planes calmly in the calm light,
a dead elm raising bleached arms
above a green so dense with life,
minute, momentary life—slugs, moles, pheasants, gnats,
spiders, moths, hummingbirds, groundhogs, butterflies
a lifetime is too narrow
to understand it all, beginning with the huge
rockshelves that underlie all life.

No one ever told us we had to study our lives,
make of our lives a study, as if learning natural history
music, that we should begin
with the simple exercises first
and slowly go on trying
the hard ones, practicing till strength
and accuracy became one with the daring
to leap into transcendence, take the chance
of breaking down the wild arpeggio
or faulting the full sentence of the fugue.
And in fact we can’t live like that: we take on
everything at once before we’ve even begun
to read or mark time, we’re forced to begin
in the midst of the hard movement,
the one already sounding as we are born.

At most we’re allowed a few months
of simply listening to the simple
line of a woman’s voice singing a child
against her heart. Everything else is too soon,
too sudden, the wrenching-apart, that woman’s heartbeat
heard ever after from a distance
the loss of that ground-note echoing
whenever we are happy, or in despair.

Everything else seems beyond us,
we aren’t ready for it, nothing that was said
is true for us, caught naked in the argument,
the counterpoint, trying to sightread
what our fingers can’t keep up with, learn by heart
what we can’t even read. And yet
it is this we were born to. We aren’t virtuosi
or child prdigies, there are no prodigies
in this realm, only a half-blind, stubborn
cleaving to the timbre, the tones of what we are,
even when all the texts describe it differently.

And we’re not performers, like Liszt, competing
against the world for speed and brilliance
(the 79-year-old pianist said, when I asked her
What makes a virtuoso?—Competitiveness.)
The longer I live the more I mistrust
theatricality, the false glamour cast
by performance, the more I know its poverty beside
the truths we are salvaging from
the splitting-open of our lives
The woman who sits watching, listening,
eyes moving in the darkness
is reheasing in her body, hearing-out in her blood
a score touched off in her perhaps
by some words, a few chords, from the stage,
a tale only she can tell.

But there come times—perhaps this is one of them
when we have to take ourselves more seriously or die;
we when have to pull back from the incantations,
rhythms we’ve moved to thoughtlessly,
and disenthrall ourselves, bestow
ourselves to silence, or a severer listening, cleansed
of oratory, formulas, choruses, laments, static
crowning the wires. We cut the wires,
find ourselves in free-fall, as if
our true home were the undimensional
solitudes, the rift
in the Great Nebula.
No one who survives to speak
new language, has avoided this:
the cutting-away of an old force that held her
rooted to an old ground
the pitch of utter loneliness
where she herself and all creation
seem equally dispersed, weightless, her being a cry
to which no echo comes or can ever come.

But in fact we were always like this,
rootless, dismembered: knowing it makes the difference.
Birth stripped our birthright from us,
tore us from a woman, from women, from ourselves
so early on
and the whole chorus throbbing at our ears
like midges, told us nothing, nothing
of origins, nothing we needed
to know, nothing that could re-member us.

Only: that it is unnatural,
the homesickness for a woman, for ourselves,
for that acute joy at the shadow her head and arms
cast on a wall, her heavy or slender
thighs on which we lay, flesh against flesh,
eyes steady on the face of love; smell of her milk, her sweat,
terror of her disappearance, all fused in this hunger
for the element they have called most dangerous, to be
lifted breathtaken on her breast, to rock within her—even if beaten back, stranded again, to apprehend
in a sudden brine-clear though
trembling like the tiny, orbed, endangered
egg-sac of a new world:
This is what she was to me, and this
is how I can love myself
as only a woman can love me.

Homesick for myself, for her—as, later the heatwave
breaks, the clear tones of the world
manifest: cloud, bough, wall, insect, the very soul of light,
homesick as the fluted vault of desire
articulates itself: I am the lover and the loved,
home and wanderer, she who splits
firewood and she who knocks, a strange
in the storm, two women, eye to eye
measuring each other’s spirits each others’
limitless desire,

a whole new poetry beginning here.

Vision begins to happen in such a life
as if a woman quietly walked away
from the argument and jargon in a room
and sitting down in the kitchen, began turning in her lap
bits of yarn, calico and velvet scraps,
laying them out absently on the scrubbed boards
in the lamplight, with small rainbow- colored shells
sent in cotton-wool from somewhere far away
and skeins of milkweed from the nearest meadow
original domestic silk, the finest findings
and the darkblue petal of the petunia,
and the dry darkbrown face of seaweed;
not forgotten either, the shed silver
whisker of the cat,
the spiral of paper-wasp-nest curling
beside the finch’s yellow feather.
Such a composition has nothing to do with eternity,
the striving for greatness, brilliance
only with the musing of a mind
one with her body, experienced fingers quietly pushing
dark against bright; silk against roughness,
putting the tenets of a life together
with no mere will to mastery,
only care for the many-lived, unending
forms in which she finds herself,
becoming now the sherd of broken glass
slicing light in a corner, dangerous
to flesh, now the plentiful, soft leaf
that wrapped round the throbbing finger, soothes the wound;
and now the stone foundation, rockshelf further
forming underneath everything that grows.

(1977) by Adrienne Rich

My New Name For A Blog

What NTodd Said

My New Name For A Blog

What Charlene Said.

[I]n “post-conflict” Liberia 90% of the women were victims of sexual or other physical assault, and 75% were raped. A study of Liberian refugees in Sierra Leone in 2003 found that 75% of the women had been sexually violated before they fled their country; after they fled, 55% were sexually assaulted again.

. . .

Jones explains a central reason: although UN Security Council Resolution 1325 calls for women to be included in all peace processes, they are rarely invited to the table. With men in charge of “post-conflict” governments almost everywhere, their “fearful fascination with bad, bad men,” as Jones puts it, continues, and “the perverse preference for predators” trickles down. She notes that the most thuggish of the war criminals are often given government posts in the interim “post-conflict” structure of governance – rather than put on trial!

As I have written in The Resurgence of the Real, the countless independence wars and other conflicts rage on – without any truly strong pressure for a diplomatic solution – because, in large part, so many of the major economies depend on their highly lucrative arms trade.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Well That Almost Never Happens

As a follow up to an earlier post noting that the catholic church was urging parishioners not to donate to the Susan Komen charity, which funds mammograms for poor women, today's WaPo, notes that the church has apologized. No word on whether the apology came with a check. Good for the folks at Komen for standing up to the church.

Caring Economics

Thursday, March 06, 2008


So I promise not to turn this blog into "A Crone Adores Her G/Son," but, I cannot blog about my life w/o blogging about some "nonna issues."

I have a wonderful dentist, from Castillian Spain, and we've been friends for many, many years and whenever I see her, as I did today over a chipped tooth, we ask each other about my Son, the litigator, my DiL, the prosecutor, my G/Son, the genius, and about her Daughter, who is applying to law school, and her Son who is so gorgeous that it hurts. (OK, we talk about purses, too. We are both purse fiends.)

Today, on the elevator ride up to the third floor, I was chatting w/ her hygienist, who was on the elevator w/ me. I've never been too crazy about this hygenist, who's a bit brusque with all sorts of rigid instructions about flossing. Today was no different. What floor? Was I seeing Dr. N.? For a cleaning? No, then, what for? I got off the elevator a bit miffed.

Flash forwards 20 minutes. I have mouth full of metal and am almost upside down in the chair. The brilliant Dr. N. says, "You're going to have to get a crown. I'll patch it for now, but, to be honest, this tooth should have been crowned years ago."

I imagine myself in the cabin in West Virginia, on the porch, watching leaves sprout. I imagine myself in West Virginia, getting a massage. I imagine how sunlight looks, shining through leaves, onto a running brook. In West Virginia. I kick myself for not putting more money into my cafeteria plan.

Dr. N. does lots of stuff to my tooth and says that she'll be back soon.

Her hygienist stays with me. This is this lovely thing that women do for each other. They stay with each other and they weave the universe by chatting. "You have grandson, no?" I nod. "Two years, no?" I nod. She: "I have granddaughter. Four years. She is learning Russian, not at home, but on computer. "

She went on to tell me about her 4-year-old G/daughter's piano lessons and violin lessons and how she starts her English sentences by saying "First of all," and how she loves the computer, which she completely knows how to use. She tells me, with my mouth full of metal and unable to speak, how her G/daughter is even teaching her English, not at all ashamed, as some Russian children are of their parents/grandparents who don't speak perfect English.

She tells me, with my mouth still full of metal and unable to say how brilliant my own G/Son is, how, even though she has medical issues that make it difficult for her to sleep, when she takes care of her G/daughter, she sleeps w/ no discomfort. Suddenly, we are not two women separated by cultures and income levels and temprement, but simply two old women w/ beloved grandchildren. At some point, she takes all the metal out of my mouth and I tell her how whenever his parents tell him "no," G/Son says that he wants to go to "Nonna's house." Her eyes shine w/ admiration. Mine shine w/ pride.

By this point, my dentist has joined us an she says, "Ah, that's what I want to be called: 'Nonna.' That's lovely. I saved some toys. You know, it's an act of faith. You don't know if they'll get married or if they'll have children, but you just save the special toys in case. OK, let me see this tooth."

No one ever told me. No one ever told me how much sheer, flat-out joy there was in being a crone. No one ever told me about this sorority of old women, joined by nothing more than the amazing knowledge that having a G/child rejuvenates and validates and empowers you. No one, I guess because no one could figure out how to sell me something based on it, ever told me what joy and delight and glee there is in being a crone, a grandma, the one who says, "Namaste" to the babies.

Why were they hiding this?

The Twenty-First Century! The 21st!

I got to work late today because I had a dentist appointment in the morning.

With luck, I found a parking space on the bottom floor, and, as I was heading for the door to the elevators, I saw the nice gentleman who runs the car wash concession in our garage coming along behind me. I held the door for him and, as we were getting on the elevator, I said, "Looks like a lovely day today." He said, "Yes it is. You should get your car cleaned." I, noncommittally, as I tend to clean my car myself, said, "You're right." He says, "We're running a special for you secretaries, this week. Twenty dollars a clean, instead of twenty-five."

Me: "I'm a lawyer."

He doesn't even have the grace to look ashamed.

I worked as a secretary during college. I have a secretary today who is almost an extra member of my family and who, I will specify right now, here, on the spot, is the reason behind my success, not to mention an incredibly gorgeous woman and a saint.

But, damn. Just damn. It's 2008. There's a woman running for president. I can not get on the fucking elevator to my fucking office without being mistaken for a fucking secretary.

I am going to turn someone into a newt.

And now I have to find a different place to get my car cleaned.

I Can Haz Flowers!

It turned out to be a bright, sunny day. The crocus are in full bloom in the front bed and the hellebore are opening wider and wider. The lawn guys came and gave my yard its spring cleaning. I ate an early dinner out on the screen porch. Life is good.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

It Doesn't Get Any Better Than This

Today, I was editing a piece of testimony when my cell phone rang and my DiL, the prosecutor who handles death penalty cases while baking gourmet cupcakes for G/Son's day care class, studying yoga, going kayaking, and making Son one of the happiest men on the planet, called me from the Starbucks near G/Son's doctor's office. G/Son had just had his two-year physical and wanted to call his Nonna. I pushed aside the testimony and chatted w/ G/Son about his Elmo party hat. I swear I am going to buy that kid his own cell phone. Because I hope with all the hope that I have that he'll keep calling me to tell me about things like that.

I love my life.

The art is from the Daughters of the Moon Tarot Deck. My brilliant friend E. reads with this deck and it is delightful!

Why Young Women Need Feminism

From Media Matters:

During the March 5 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, while discussing the electability of Sen. Hillary Clinton with a focus group of young voters at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, pollster Frank Luntz claimed that "Hillary Clinton would not be the first female president. Jimmy Carter was the first female president."

I am going to say this slowly, and in words with as few syllables as possible. A crone, on the virtual eve or Eostara, I'd like to speak for a minute to young women. I know that many of you think that feminism is over, old, boring. You think that your boyfriends and guy friends and male colleagues appreciate you "for who you are," and that you, unlike, say your mom or aunt or older sister, are going to do just fine on your own.

I want you to read what Frank Luntz said. The very worst insult in the world that he could come up with for Jimmy Carter was to call him a female. And because, although it's not really true, the popular wisdom is that Jimmy Carter was a dopey, ineffectual president (who only tried, 30 years ago, to get us off Saudi oil and who installed solar panels on the WH that Ronald Reagan removed), the implication is that Hillary Clinton, BECAUSE SHE IS A WOMAN, would also be a dopey, ineffectual president.

In the patriarchy, the worst, and I mean the worst, thing that you can do to a man is to call him a "woman."

And it hasn't changed since I, too, was a young woman in the 1970s, sure that I, somehow, was going to personally transcend this bullshit.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008


I've complained before that if you search "Wicca" on YouTube you get a lot of rantings by morons and some cute slideshows set to Goddess chants. This video (and a bunch more like it that appear to have been added in the last few days) is a good use of YouTube. Lots of Wiccans and people interested in Wicca can't get to conferences, so the chance to, for example, learn from Starhawk, via YouTube, is wonderful. This series could be a bit better if the pictures corresponded more closely to the discussion rather than just showing landscapes. Bu it's a big improvement over lots of what's available.


More witch clothes and dresses from the land of the Fey. Must be the season of the witch.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Goodbye To All That

Kind of like Poe and Anabelle Lee, I love Molly Ivor's writing with a love that is more than love. She's smart and incisive and kind and she writes from the place that we all want to believe that we have within us where genius and learning come together with smarts and wisecracking and a great love of life, and I could read her dissertations upon the phone book, if that's what struck her fancy for writing.

Today, however, she turns her gifts to explaining how many women are feeling on the eve of what I hope is not, but fear may be, the end of Hillary Clinton's run for the White House. Readers of this blog know that I'm a huge supporter of Hillary Clinton. I like her a lot. She invented smart. She keeps getting back up from the shitty things that life hands her and somehow goes on with a generous spirit bent on doing good. She digs down into the details and really learns what's going on. She gave a world-changing speech equating women's rights with human rights. She's got great ideas about how to fix our energy mess and she's always been a huge promoter of women. Whatever happens tomorrow, or at the Democratic convention, or in November, we haven't seen the last of Hillary Clinton. She's blazed a trail for future women to follow and she's done it with grace and humor and strength.

Supporting Hillary on liberal blogs for the past year or so has been an interesting experience. Lots of folks who somehow managed to get right behind John Kerry, his "I was for the war before I was against it" and his vote for the war notwithstanding, started off this primary season full of screaming hatred for Clinton because she voted to authorize the war. To be clear, she was wrong to vote that way, just as Obama has been wrong to vote to continue funding the war every time that vote has come up since he's been in the Senate. But there's been, IMHO, a different tone, a demand that she, far more than Kerry or Obama or Edwards or anyone else, should somehow crawl through broken glass with ashes on her forehead and that nothing she said was somehow "enough."

I've watched people who insisted that they were for Edwards because he was more progressive than Clinton (fair enough) switch directly to Obama when Edwards dropped out of the race (not so fair). Obama is less progressive, and far more willing to adopt the kind of shit-on-the-liberal tactics that many liberal bloggers used to disparage, than Clinton. Forgive me for perceiving a different organizing principle behind the behavior.

And so we who look at this primary season as another example of systemic prejudice often have reasons for doing so. Dismiss them as personal or petty if you like, but don't pretend that we are emotional and you the disinterested arbiters of what is and is not fair game. I have been accused of everything from willful stupidity to “vaginal solidarity” over these last weeks. It's insulting and demeaning, and intended to be so, as much as major opinion pieces on how dumb girls are and how Hillary should just climb on the Obandwagon. I've always said that it's not the sexists who get to define what kind of speech and behavior is sexist, what kind of office behavior is harassment.

I'm going to try to only say this once. I've got concerns about Obama. The notion that we're "one America" is bullshit. The idea that there's some grand level of compromise between me and the people who want to turn this country into a theocracy is bullshit. The notion that you can "reach across the aisle" to people like Grover Norquist and John Boehner is bullshit. They've explained as clearly as they possibly can that they view bipartisanship as date rape and that they intend to be the rapist, not the rapee. The notion that the details of policy don't matter as much as just getting a bunch of people excited about "change" is bullshit. The notion that "we worship a mighty God in the blue states" and that I'm supposed to want to vote for yet another candidate who puts out campaign literature saying that he's "called to serve" against a sacristy background is bullshit. And, as a proud member of the "anti-war left," I'd like to invite Mr. Obama to bite my ass.

I hope that I'm wrong. I'll be as quick to say I was wrong, come the Obama presidency, as I will be to say, "I told you so." But I'm tired of reading on liberal blogs that Obama is engaged in some form of Matrix-like ju jutisu whenever he adopts Republican talking points and concedes the battle ahead of time to the Republicans, while Clinton is bullheaded and dumb for not just giving in. It would help if those same liberal blogs hadn't spent years beating (correctly, IMHO) on vichy Dems. The level of nastiness and glee at Clinton's demise can have, IMHO, only one explanation. I'd be lot more impressed if the Obama supporters that I know spent more (aka almost any) time explaining which of his positions they like and less time shitting on Hillary Clinton.

And, so, if, as it looks like tonight, the nominee is Obama, I'll vote for him, as, I believe, will Hillary Clinton. It's possible, although not likely, that he'll realize that he has fences to mend with the feminist community ("You're likable enough" is not something that I'm likely to easily forget when I'm being asked to open my checkbook. Just sayin') and that, by November, I'll be more enthusiastic than I am tonight. But, as Molly says:

Indeed, it seems that Senator Obama will be the candidate, not because of (or in spite of) my vagina, but because of his ground game. I respect that. But I also ask respect for my position, for my experiences. Win with grace, not with sneers at old ladies who have repeatedly been told that it wasn't their turn yet, only to be told that sorry, their turn has passed by. That's about as alienating as you can get. I don't think his followers are shallow—at least not most of them—but many are rudely dismissive and do not seem to know whose framing they're adopting.

My favorite episode of the Sopranos is the one where the psychologist tells Carmella, "Whatever you do, you can never say that no one told you."

You're Right; Not Xianity At All

Oddly, for once, I agree with Ratzi the Nazi:

I am, in fact, convinced that what feminism promotes in its radical form is no longer the Christianity that we know; it is another religion.

Ratzi, you have no idea. See you in DC.

Sacred Prostitute

Two v. brilliant women, one of whom, in particular, has shaped much of my thinking about modern Paganism, discuss the concept of the Sacred Prostitute. I believe that Christ may be misinterpreting the word "prostitute" as I understand it within the context of the Sacred Prostitute. I've always thought that, to the extent such activities were for money, they may have resulted in a donation to the temple. Beyond that, though, why is giving sexual pleasure so different from giving other kinds of sacred pleasure? If you massage someone, or play the harp for them, or cook for them, or recite poetry for them, or drum for them, or take them on a vision quest, that's ok, but giving them transcendence through sacred sex is somehow wrong? I think that notion only comes because we're viewing sex through modern, aka patriarchal, eyes.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Satanism In Suburban Virginia

Que the worried, protesting fundies in 5, 4, 3, 2, . . . .

May The Goddess Guard Her. May She Find Her Way To The Summerlands. May Her Friends And Family Know Peace.

The LAT reports that:

Barbara Seaman, a writer and health activist whose groundbreaking 1969 book that warned against the dangers of the birth control pill is widely credited with launching the modern women's health movement, has died. She was 72.

Seaman died of lung cancer Wednesday at her New York City home, said her son, Noah Seaman.

In her first book, "The Doctors' Case Against the Pill," Seaman exposed the serious and little-known side effects of the high-estrogen pill prescribed at the time. Women weren't warned that the pill could cause heart attacks, strokes, depression and a host of other ills.

Her investigative work prompted Senate hearings in 1970 that led to a warning label on the drug and the mandatory inclusion of patient-information inserts.

When women who had been harmed by the pill were barred from testifying at the hearings, they fought back by constantly interrupting, calling out questions such as "Why isn't there a pill for men?" and "Why are 10 million women being used as guinea pigs?" Seaman wrote 30 years later in the New York Times.

Those acts of "feminist disobedience," as Seaman called them, are often portrayed as ground zero of the women's health movement.

Judy Norsigian, an author of the pioneering women's health book "Our Bodies, Ourselves" (1973), told the Los Angeles Times last week that the protests were "the beginning of women's voices being heard in women's health."

First Flowers Of Spring

Hellebore bud, white crocus, purple crocus. I'm always threatening to pull out all the hellebores, but then they show up so early, when I'm really longing for a touch of Spring, and I forgive them for taking up so much space the rest of the year. I've got lots more crocus coming, but these two were the first. Since the crocus is the flower of friendship, I'm glad that they showed up together.