Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Portrait of a Couple

By Camincha

I see them dancing. Where did they go wrong?
Was it because they turned too quickly?
Was it because they danced too fast?
She learned though. And survived him by not dwelling on the past.
And when the memories kept intruding, the years of hunger,
recriminations, the hatred. Yes, the hatred. The hope. Yes, the hope.
The love. Yes, the love. She thought only of the dancing they did
in those years before he made his last journey. Before he went
into that last number. Before he took his last step.

She's sure he knew. She's sure he remembered too,
many times, years later, El Mambo, Perez Prado Aaaaaaaaaccc.
The Cha Cha Cha   
Ay! que rico Cha Cha Cha.
They danced it in that Bar Lounge in San Francisco.
A Peruvian band was in San Francisco, friends called to tell them.
They got a babysitter. Changed, The Little Black Dress
for her with the white buttons. The opened shirt for him
with slacks and sport jacket. Put gas in the car. An extra dollar,
it went far then. And they were off. And danced. And he played the
maracas and the palitos. 

He was good at it all.

And the women warming the plastic covers looked up begging him
with their eyes to dance with them. He obliged. Ever the dancer,
ever the charmer. And when he walked them back to their
plastic covered seats, they were all aglow. Rouged cheeks all the
more prominent, and lips as moist as the behinds they sat on.

He was also a body builder when body building hadn't even been invented.
So good, at so many things.  Why wasn't it in him then, to be a husband,
a father? Was it because his own hunger gnawing at him was more
powerful than his children's? And had to be fed, every moment of every day
so he couldn't feed anyone else morally, emotionally, physically?
There is no going back now. I see you as you were then.
The young, much too young, good looking couple full of promises.

I see them dancing. Where did they go wrong?
Was it because they turned too quickly?
Was it because they danced too fast?

Camincha, a writer living in California, is from Miraflores, Lima, PerĂº. She calls the United States her second home and keeps close to her roots for she feels that “it is much easier to get where you want to go when you are proud of where you come from.” She earned her MA in Spanish Literature at San Francisco State University.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Train Wreck Nation

By Dan Beauchamp

There's an old joke about a man who's taking a test to qualify as a train station master.  The test is simple: There's a train moving 100 miles an hour, one hour out to the west, headed for the central station. A second train, also moving 100 miles an hour one hour out to the east, is also headed for the central station.  Ditto for a third train: same speed, same time out, moving from the north to the station.

The questioners asked the applicant: "What would you do?"

The man thought a moment, and then he said, "I would call my cousin."

The examiners were startled. "Why call your cousin?"

The man answered, "I would tell him to get down here.  There's going to be a hell of a train wreck!"

That't the essential test the media are being given in the present election.  As Paul Krugman in The New York Times argues, if the Republicans win and if they live up to their "Promise to America," we are headed for a train wreck of massive proportions.

The only newspaper to truly report this impending disaster is The New York Times and then only in a lonely column by Krugman, the Nobel Prize winning economist.

The promised agenda of the Republicans, if carried out, would produce massive deficits and necessitate drastic cuts to social program, and would eventually ruin Social Security and Medicare.

That's not opinion. That the blunt truth of the matter, rejected only by the nuttiest of supply side economists.

We have become the nation of spectacle, not the nation of reality, the nation more interested in the fight than in the outcome, no matter how dire. Of course, the Democrats may pull it off but that's unlikely, especially for the House.

But the important point is that every responsible newspaper, every self-respecting journalist, ought to be deeply ashamed that we have reached this point.  One party is hell-bent on winning in November with a platform that is totally wacko, loudly denouncing debt and deficits and promoting tax cuts that will make our deficits and debt worse while it makes the super-rich richer.

And no major newspaper or television network at the regular news hour is willing to tell this obvious truth on the front page or at the top of the news hour, where no one can miss it.

Everything has drifted into the land of opinion and slogan, and every idea, no matter how stupid or contradictory, must have its day.

I have never watched Fox News. In fact I don't watch much evening news and haven't done so for two decades now.  But we returned for a four-day visit to Albany, New York last week, where my wife Carole and I worked for ten years, I saw Fox News for the first time.

On the first morning of our visit, when I got up for breakfast at the hotel, I found Fox News running, and it ran all the time we were there. When I asked the attendant at the breakfast counter why she had Fox News on constantly, she laughed and said, "Isn't it awful?"  And she left it on.  And people watched.

Carole says it's because Fox News is like "All in the Family," the long-running sitcom; it's so outrageous that people are drawn to it, can't stop watching and listening.  "Fox News" is so plainly and obviously outrageous, so constantly carrying the water for the most extreme elements of society, so frequently skirting the boundaries of racial politics and gossip, that people have become addicted.

It's as if we are mesmerized with the bitter truths about ourselves, the truths we are afraid to say out loud but will watch when so many others are doing so.

Now MSNBC also is extremely partisan from the liberal side, but the format is less news reporting than commentary by prominent liberal columnists, identified as such:  Olberman, Matthews, Maddow. And even I get tired of their endless harangues.

Meanwhile, every day the big story is on Fox News: the impending train wreck for our first-ever black president!  And our best newspapers carry the same story: the increasing inevitability of the same impending collision and subsequent gridlock.

What a wonderful, thrilling fall from grace!

What a train wreck! Let's all watch! And guess what?  After the train wreck, it's going to get even worse!

Let's all buy the newspapers and turn on the television sets!

What a show!

Before his retirement, Dan Beauchamp was professor of health policy at the School of Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and also at the State University of New York at Albany. He served as deputy commissioner for policy and planning at the New York State Department of Health from 1988 to 1992. This piece is taken from his blog, Tales of Copper City.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

You don't have to be in love to vote...

By Claudia Ricci

Will you vote in the mid-term elections in November? If not, why not?

Millions of Americans will stay home this Election Day. Some say it makes no difference who gets elected. Some say it's their way of protesting. Some are so disgusted with the state of the nation that they just can't be bothered getting involved.

Such a different landscape it is than two years ago, when the Obama fervor drove record numbers to the polls.  The Associated Press reported that voter turnout in 2008 reached a 40-year high, with more than 131 million people casting their ballots in the Presidential election, up from 122 million in 2004.

Voter turnout in mid-term elections is always less than in Presidential elections; only about a third of the nation's eligible voters cast their ballots in 2006.

But still, why are so many people saying they will stay home this election when they were so wildly enthusiastic about Obama in 2008? What happened to all that hoopla that carried Obama into office?

The pundits are calling it the "enthusiasm gap." Simply, lots of people who jumped into the political waters in 2008 aren't in the mood for politics now, nor are they so fond of Obama. The enthusiasm has shifted; the people most fired up about voting are the right-wing types who are dead set on booting Obama out of office.

In some cases, the Obama supporters lost their enthusiasm because they also lost their jobs. NPR on Sunday morning interviewed a Pennsylvania woman who voted for Obama in 2008. A year later, in December, 2009, she lost her job. She also lost her health insurance. Speaking in a thick Latina accent to the interviewer, the woman explained that she had grown disillusioned with Obama. Sure, the President had passed a historic health care bill in March, but it was awfully "complicated," the woman said. And it didn't promise to provide her with health benefits anytime soon.

You can't blame her for being discouraged. But does it really make sense for her to bow out of the political process altogether?

It seems a little bit like a love affair; a couple has that six months of absolute bliss, and then reality sets in.  Each person realizes that the other is, well, only human. So at that moment do they go forward, or throw in the towel?

Part of  the reason people have grown so disenchanted with Obama is because they had such pie-in-the-sky expectations of the President when he was elected.  For heaven's sake, Barack was walking on water in those days. We weren't electing a President, we were putting a Savior in the White House (or a celebrity at least.) The way people flooded the streets of Washington, D.C. in January 2009, buying billions of hats, scarves, T shirts, ties, and other memorabilia, you would have thought it was a coronation, not an inauguration.

The rock star celebrity that he and Michelle enjoyed in the period just after the election - their gorgeous, gleaming photos on the cover of every magazine in America - was bound to dry up. And so, now we are left with the reality, and it feels like such a great disappointment. No, Obama didn't fix everything. He brought the economy back from the brink but he hasn't helped the job picture rebound quickly enough.

And so, what President has been a miracle worker?

Certainly he falls short as a leader. He tends to compromise too much. He can't seem to counter Republican obstructionism with an equally passionate vision. He doesn't give us the gut sense that he is really out there fighting for us. He took way too long to get fired up enough to pass the health care bill.

No, he isn't perfect. But does it make any sense to take our disappointment and turn it back into apathy going forward? Discouraged as we are about the political process, does that mean we should decide, oh what the hell, I won't vote.

I don't see the logic. I also see the increasingly likely possibility that with all sorts of Democrats staying home, the populist right-wing tea party types will make their votes count.

And I wonder, how exactly will that help the Latina woman in Pennsylvania who has no job or health insurance and how will it help all the millions of Americans like her?

This piece appeared first in the Huffington Post. The subject of low enthusiasm among Democratic voters was the focus of an article in The Washington Post on Monday, September 27th. 

Saturday, September 25, 2010

change is always possible

By Claudia Ricci

Change is always possible.
She says that to him one night
at dinner.
He looks up from the puddle of
thick yellow polenta on his plate.
He blinks.
Sure it is, he mumbles.

She brings her goblet of red wine
to her lips
in her two hands.
Steadying her eyes on his,
she sips.
The air around them on this warm fall evening
turns warmer.
The leaves in the lowering sunlight turn more orange and
more golden and
more crimson.
Almost as if the sun has gotten closer
and brought everything into
a brighter focus.

Oh but I mean it this time, she says.
She nods a little as if to make her words
Stand out as sharply as the leaves against the powder blue sky.
He scoops more polenta onto his plate,
and adds a dash of the tomato sauce.
For a while he busies himself
bringing the spoon back and forth to his mouth.

I wonder sometimes, he says,
mashing the polenta
--she can picture it on his tongue--
When did we stop being nice to each other?
He swallows
and she tips her head back and drinks
more wine.
He swallows.
And why? I mean, sometimes I just want to
know why?

She shrugs. Her eyelids lower.
I used to wonder that too, she whispers.
She hasn't touched the round splatter of
polenta staring up at her
from the plate.
Polenta as sunny as that

Noon day in August not so many years past
when she stood beside the straw
laundry basket gazing at the socks
and the wadded sheets and the
T shirts with the V necks and
the mud spots
still in them.

She bent over to the wet clothes
and lifted a T shirt to the line
and pinned it there
just like every other morning.
But that day, she stood
just watching
it flapping
in the back yard
in the steady hot breeze.

She knew that day in a new way
a hard fact:
life can be a study
in unhappiness
where change is always
possible but as unlikely
as it is
absolutely necessary.

She inhales now. She gets up
and crosses the room,
her bare feet slapping against
the flip flops she should have
stopped wearing years ago.
She searches a kitchen cabinet
until she finds the cigarettes.
She returns to the table.
Bends one knee. And sits on her foot.

She lights one of the cigarettes
and promises herself it will be
the only one she smokes before
she smokes the next one.
On her plate the
stares back at her.

I'll do up the dishes, he says,
standing, reaching toward her plate,
that is,
if you're done.

She gazes up at him
and blinks, and
ponders the words
he just said,
and wonders.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Flowers into Fall

Just when you think summer is over,

The giant pink hibiscus bloom in the front yard
as big as dinner plates.

And a single morning glory
appears on a stem that's yellowed.
And the dahlias that took
so long to appear,
are here
at last.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Chase

By Joshua Dittmar

The sun was shining and it was the last nice day of the fall. It was starting to get cold and one could tell winter was coming fast. I really wanted to take my new ZX6 out for its last spin of the season. I love riding motorcycles, but this one I'd bought with my own money so the feeling was even better.

The only problem was I only had a motorcycle permit and that meant I couldn’t drive alone. My father and brother were at work and I didn’t know anyone else with a license.  So I decided I’d just take it out on my own. I'd done it before so it wasn’t a big deal.

I turned the key and she started up and purred like a baby kitten. At that point there was nothing better than that noise, well, except maybe the wind blowing in my face. I strapped on my helmet and was on my way. The weather was just right, a little chilly but the fall sun warmed my skin. I went out for about 45 minutes and was on my way back home. I was speeding, but that's nothing unusual for me on my motorcycle. I was rounding one of the last turns to my house when I saw a cop coming from the other direction. I saw him pull into a driveway and pop his car into reverse. He never turned on his lights but thoughts raced through my head: I knew he was coming for me.   
My first thought was to stop but I was less then a mile from home. I knew I could easily outrun him, my bike was much faster and quicker at accelerating than his car.
I wanted to stop but I knew if I did I would lose my license and not be able to do one of the things I enjoy the most. So I took off.        

I was gone before he could even back out of the driveway. I made it home, hid the bike in the garage, and ran inside. My heart was pounding. I have never been so nervous and scared in my life. I knew the cop had no clue where I'd gone because no one came. I sat on my couch sweating, thinking about what had just happened, when suddenly a cop drove past my house. I live on a dead end road so I knew it wasn’t just a coincidence. But the strange thing was, he didn’t pull into my driveway. I didn’t want to be there so I hopped in my car and drove to my mother’s house.                                                        

A few minutes after I got to my mom's, the phone rang. It was my brother telling me there were three cop cars in the driveway and if I didn’t come home right away there was going to be a warrant out for my arrest.  Of course I made the right choice and went back up there.  As I stepped out of the car the police officers were in shock. A 17-year old kid had just outrun and evaded the police. It was kind of weird because they were joking around with me. They told me they knew it was me because of a little skid mark in front of my house. I ended up getting four tickets -- for speeding, reckless driving, failure to comply, and operating out of my class. I felt horrible; I wanted to die at that point. I didn’t feel so bad about breaking the law, I felt bad because I knew I was going to disappoint my parents.                 

We both knew I was smarter than that. Months later, in court, the tickets were reduced to parking tickets and I had to pay 300 dollars. The fines would have been higher -- over $1000 -- and I would have also gotten points on my license but since I was from a small town I knew respected people in the law enforcement system. And the judge. They both knew I was a good kid and that I'd just made a poor choice. I lucked out, but I won’t make that choice again. Oh, and when I came to college last month, I left my bike at home.

Joshua Dittmar is a freshman at the University at Albany, SUNY. This is his first published writing.

Want a "Virtual Assignment" from The New York Times?

The "democratization" of journalism rolls on. This is just in from Media Bistro, an on-line observer of all things media-related. The way I read this tidbit, anyone can now write for the Times.  Well, not exactly.

You have to have a good idea, you have to be able to write it, and the story has to be about the East Village of Manhattan. But maybe this is just an experiment. Maybe it's the wave of the future, i.e., all kinds of citizens will be participating in journalism (i.e., blogging!) for the Times.

P.S. They don't say it, but you have to write for free of course.

"The New York Times and New York University launch one of the more ambitious projects in recent memory, The Local East Village. The plan: to cover the 110 blocks that roughly make up the New York neighborhood. Former Timesman Richard G. Jones will edit, while current NYT deputy metropolitan editor Mary Ann Giordanooversees from the Gray Lady and NYU professor Jay Rosen plays the role of brains/cheerleader/spiritual guru. Perhaps the most revolutionary goal is for half of the content and the story ideas to come from people who live in the East Village. To achieve that end, the group developed the Virtual Assignment Desk, which will allow any user registered on to volunteer for an assignment or suggest a story. If VAD works, it could be the ultimate takeaway from this whole experiment..."

At the website for The Local East Village, this is the welcoming message:


The Local is a journalistic collaboration designed to reflect the richness of the East Village, report on its issues and concerns, give voice to its people and create a space for our neighbors to tell stories about themselves. It is operated by the students and faculty of the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University, in collaboration with The New York Times, which provides supervision to ensure that the blog remains impartial, reporting-based, thorough and rooted in Times standards. "

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Chapter Fourteen of SWITCH!! "The Place Between, I've Seen it I've BEEN HERE Before"

This is an excerpt from the past-life murder mystery, SWITCH!! Read it on-line at

By Gina Morrison

When we arrive, the first thing I see are the darkly splendid redwoods, and the ghostly grey light they create as the sun filters into the space around the bark.  Xandra was right, there is indeed a giant fairy ring growing, the redwood sprouts form a circle that must be 20 or 30 feet in diameter. In the center of the ring stands an odd little building, eight-sided, with lots of long glass windows and of all things, a roof that has grass and vines growing.

"However did she built it?" I whisper, and Xandra just chuckles. We get out of the car, and it is only when we are standing outside that I see through the redwood forest to the "other side" -- the starkly bright golden hillside, dotted with live oaks. And on the top, one that spreads in all --

Dear God.

I gasp. My eyes start to water, and I close them and open them again, half hoping the hillside won't be there, because

because I've seen this hillside, because I've been here so many times before, because I've laid beneath that spreading oak more times than I can count, I've climbed it with my dear Teresa, with a blanket with a canteen of fresh lemonade she made me. I've sat beneath the prickered leaves, I've written and written about my cousin Antonie, I've been filling my diary just the way Teresa instructed me...

I turn to face Xandra but she is already a few feet away, standing at the edge of the fairy ring. I follow, determined to have her explain what is happening. Before I have a chance, though, I see Xandra step into the ring and take the hand of a woman with long dark hair and a wide face and a smile so bright you might say it lights up the redwoods.

Xandra and the woman hug briefly, and then Xandra turns and motions for me to follow. I stop just before the ring, wondering if somehow I need permission.

I wish I had a picture of what I see next. At the edge of the redwood forest, there are four deer standing. Four deer! One of them is smaller than the others; one of them has an architecture of antlers so big you could hang the laundry on it.

The deer are quietly watching us. Then they turn and leave.

But then I see something I never thought I'd see up close: a coyote. We have them back home; David and I have lain awake at night listening to them howl. But here is a coyote only about 20 yards away. He is greyish yellow, slightly bedraggled. He slinks along the edge of the redwoods, and I am thinking he must be following the deer.

And then the coyote too is gone. As if on cue, I hear something right overhead. An owl. I look up and see the curved brown head. White speckles. And one yellow eye.

"Are you coming?" Xandra calls to me.

"Do you see the owl?" I point to the branch, but when I look back, there is nothing.

Now I am realizing, this is the kind of place where all kinds of weird things are happening.

Gingerly, I step into the ring, and walk across the spongy forest.

"Gina, this is Lenora," Xandra says, and I shake hands with the woman. She is wearing jeans and a white blouse embroidered in colorful flowers. Her arms are exposed, and they are strong and very muscular.

"I think the best way to explain what she does is to have her show you." Xandra smiles. "I have to go, but I'll be back in a few hours and we can take a walk."

"OK," I say. Lenora turns and I follow her, my heart beating so hard I feel it in my hands.  What awaits me I don't know if I want to know.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Life is Good

By Dan Beauchamp

Well, I've reached the great age of 73.  And I decided to take myself back to where my life  began in east Texas and southern Arkansas, sorting through an old baby book my mother kept of my first five years.

First, an interesting piece of paper, especially for someone who has worked in health care reform:  My mother saved the original receipt for the hospital bill for my birth at Kahn Memorial Hospital in Marshall, Texas: $17.00 for the room, $12.50 for the delivery room, and $1.50 for what I assume was the anesthesia, for the grand total of $31.  This was for a stay of three days!

The doctor's bill, a Dr. Littlejohn, was not included, but I think I recall Mom saying it was something like $15. 

I weighed 9.5 pounds. My mother noted that I had a noticeably ruddy face. I was probably already pissed off about politics.  Later in my first year she noted that I had an olive complexion; Mom had the same dark complexion. She was very beautiful, tall, five feet, seven inches. She cut quite a figure in tennis shorts.  Ten years later, rhuematoid arthritis began to destroy that, eveything except her beautiful face.  She lived to be 87, an invalid for almost 35 years.  My Dad died early, when he was 56.

Here is a picture of Kahn Memorial Hospital, where I was born; the building  no longer exists.
Among the gifts I received was one from a Mr. L.C.  Tittle, who lived across the street from us and who had a nearby grocery store.  Mom noted that Mr. Tittle took my picture on my second birthday. His nephew was one Yelbert Albertson Tittle, Y.A. Tittle, and if you know anything at all about football, he was a great one, playing most of his career with the San Francisco 49s and finally for the New York Giants. He's in the Football Hall of Fame, one of the great quarterbacks. David Halberstam was killed in a car crash in 2007 going to interview Tittle in California who was living in Mountain View, California.
We lived at Mrs. Rembert's house on 804 East Rusk Street.  We lived there for over two years. Here is a picture of East Rusk Street, which I remember only because we went back there several times when I was growing up, once on the way to Barksdale Field, in Shreveport, Louisiana, to see my cousin, Scud Redus, who was in flight training during WWII. They wouldn't let us on the base. He plane went missing over Okinawa and was never found.  Here is a picture I found on the Internet of Rusk Street about that time. These houses are much nicer than my memory of Mrs. Remberts. 
Dad was a traveling salesman for H.J. Heinz and later for Folgers. It was a time when the national brands all used salesmen with territories. I traveled all over east Texas with him, at least once a season, spending the nights in hotels.  All the men wore hats.
  Rusk homes
Marshall, and Harrison county, had the highest percentage of blacks to whites in the state. It was a railroad town, a plantation town, and very close to Louisiana.  Lady Bird Johnson went to high school there.  Marshall is the town where Wiley College is located, the "traditionally black" school that had the famous debating team.  Denzel Washington directed and starred in a movie about the school and the times, "The Great Debaters."
Bill Moyers was from Marshall, and a few years older than me, but he was born in Hugo, Oklahoma, near the Texas line, a part of Oklahoma known as "little Dixie," about 30 miles from Bokchito where my mother and her family had a farm, a rented farm. It is likely that Moyers's family, like my parents's family, left eastern Oklahoma and western Arkansas because of the devastation of the Dust Bowl. East Texas was kept afloat by the big oil fields, some of the biggest in the world and we lived in towns all around that island of prosperity.
If I hadn't let Willie Morris talk me out of going to journalism school in Austin at the University of Texas, in 1955, I would have gone to school there when Moyers was on the Daily Texan staff.  Bill Moyers is a Texan I would have loved to have known.
After Marshall, we moved to El Dorado, Arkansas, where there were also oil fields.  H.L.Hunt got into the oil business in El Dorado and then he moved to Texas, and the rest is history. Then we moved to Jacksonville, Texas, and then, for five years, to Tyler, where a lot of my relatives on my Mom's side lived; my Dad's parents lived nearby in Kilgore, right next to a grove of huge oil derricks. Kilgore smelled like oil waste; they used it on the roads and for sidewalks and paths.
Van Cliburn lived in Kilgore and it was Cliburn playing the piano for his high school English teacher, Flo Hood, that I heard as a boy on the other side of the thin walls of the the unpainted duplex where my grandparents lived.
We all lived in duplexes, or in small apartments in larger houses.  I loved those years. That's when moving on got into my blood.
Today, I am back in my favorite small town, and I was treated by Carole to breakfast at the Bisbee Breakfast Club, and was given a free piece of cheesecake for dessert, along with a hug, from Kim our favorite waitress.  The pie went well with the sausages and eggs. 
On the Saturday before, I was taken to our famous restaurant, Cafe Roka, and had a wonderful meal. Our waiter was the beautiful Gretchen Baer, one of Bisbee's best and boldest artists and a well-known Hillary supporter. She drove her art car all the way to the Pennsylvania primary. We have a wonderful painting by Gretchen in our living room.
I wish more of us had listened to Gretchen and Hillary. 
I got hugs and kisses from some very lovely women, inside Roka, and outside, where a street dance was going on. None compared to the hugs and kisses I get from Carole, now for 42 years.
Life is good.

Before his retirement, Dan Beauchamp was professor of health policy at the School of Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and also at the State University of New York at Albany. He served as deputy commissioner for policy and planning at the New York State Department of Health from 1988 to 1992. This piece is taken from his blog, Tales of Copper City. He lives in Bisbee, Arizona with his wife, Carole. Hey, Dan, HAPPY BIRTHDAY :) !!

Monday, September 06, 2010

Putting Sandbox Lessons in Place Creates Peace

By Judith England
Right now it’s pretty easy for me to be peaceful.  I’m surrounded by nature in all her late summer lushness. The only sound is a boat motor in the distance, and crickets talking to other crickets.  But mainly, there’s no one but the dog to talk to.  No back and forth, give and take, which is conversation at it’s best. But also no disagreement, no opposing point of view or difference of opinion, to wrangle through.
You might say I’m like a little kid all by myself in the sandbox.  I don’t have to share. I don’t have to get along. I can think to myself “Gee, what a nice peaceful person I am,” with all the toys around me.
Forest Gump may have said “Life is like a box of chocolates,” but I think that life, and the living of it in this complicated world, is more like a sandbox.
And the sandbox is getting smaller by the minute.
With communication at the click of a button we are free to say what’s on our mind via Facebook, Twitter or Skype. Instantaneously we have the opportunity to get up close with hundreds of people. Unless someone decides to “un-friend us,” external censorship is mostly absent, and internal controls seem less apt to kick in than with face-to-face encounters. Even old-school letter writing, which implies a captive audience, seems more restrained.
I wonder sometimes if a prompt should come up on the screen inquiring, “Do you really want to say that?”
Don’t misunderstand me here. I am squarely in the corner of individual freedom of expression.  I also think that networking cuts both ways:  broadening horizons and expanding tolerance of people different from ourselves as well  as serving as a stage for personal diatribes.
What’s been deeply disturbing to me lately is the growing lack of tolerance and concurrent rise in acrimony when two minds find themselves at opposite poles.
Peace in the sandbox is not an option. Without it, it’s really impossible to meet any other human need.  Why worry about having enough to eat, or getting an education or fulfilling work if bombs are exploding overhead, or we live in fear that they might.
Fear, that is what drives divisive attitudes and behavior.  Fear of differences, fear of losing your beliefs if you allow another theirs. A healthy caution of strangers we were taught as children magnified beyond reason in adulthood.
Prejudice = pre + judging = deciding before knowing.
One of the great blessings of growing up in New York City was the lesson I learned from childhood – different isn’t bad, it’s just different. In my neighborhood and in school, I was surrounded by an amazing patchwork quilt of ethnicity, religion, and cultures. In High School I had the gift of knowing that I was a minority in the student population. I began to internalize the hope espoused by Dr. Martin Luther King, that  “children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
My grandchildren go to daycare.  It’s a program with creativity and a large measure of love.  It’s a place where they too are surrounded with children who may look very different from them.  I watch the ease they have with those around them, not just with the idea of taking turns.  It doesn’t hurt either that their parents have always modeled what it means to “share the sandbox.”
I’m remembering the lyrics to a Rogers/Hammerstein tune from the musical, "South Pacific." Always current, always timely:
“You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught”:
You’ve got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You’ve got to be taught
From year to year,
It’s got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You’ve got to be carefully taught.
You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.
You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You’ve got to be carefully taught!
Perhaps we can work a little harder for a time when the words of this song no longer make sense, and we’re all more comfortable in the sandbox.
Judith England, a certified yoga instructor and a massage therapist, is a regular blogger for the Albany, New York Times Union. This piece appeared first in the Holistic Health blog. Bookmark that blog because it's full of great wisdom and advice on how to live a healthy and peaceful life!
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Friday, September 03, 2010

Waking To Eden, the story of a healing journey

By Michelle Morgan Doucette

The clawfoot bathtub we inherited with the purchase of the Brown House had become a place of refuge. The children knew if the flicker of candlelight and the scent of lavender greeted them at the bathroom door, it was Mom's quiet time.

When Mary, my naturopath and midwife, called the next day to check on me, I took her call in my watery sanctuary. "Mary, if I am miscarrying, what's it going to be like? I mean, what's it going to look like?" I had to be prepared.

"Well," she said evenly, "The cramping will get heavier and more frequent like labor but not as intense, and then you will pass the product of conception."

"The product of conception? What will that look like?"

"It's usually a large clot of blood and tissue."

We finished our conversation, and I hung up the phone. It was all rather surreal. Twenty-four hours ago I had the next member of our family in my belly, and now some anomaly, some "product of conception" that was only fooling us into believing that it was a baby would be expelled like a science experiment gone wrong. I was being pulled along in the drama.

There was nothing else I could do. I attended it with keen attention, listening, as if to Shakespeare, to the rhythm and rhyme of the action and allowing the meaning to be evoked from the author's intention across time and space. I surrendered to the great playwright in the sky.

I stayed in bed most of that day with minor cramping but no more bleeding.

My husband Dale offered what he could in encouragement, telling me that everything would be all right. Leaning into his strength and steadiness, I dozed, wondered, and waited, riding waves of sadness, despair, and hope.

Julie came over to check on me. I was tired of lying down or perhaps impatient. I sat on the couch and talked with her awhile. We stepped out onto the back patio to take in the summer day. I laughed. How complex we are, to be able to find moments of laughter within the depths of despair.

Heaviness began to build in my belly. I think that's probably why I wanted to stand—to challenge God.

What's it going to be, God? It's already decided somewhere, isn't it? So, let's bring the story out into the objective light of the August sun. "I have to lie down now," I said.

Alone in my bed, Mary's words seeped into my bubble.

"Talk to the spirit of your child," she had counseled.

I truly had not heard her words until this moment. I had been communicating for months with this spirit, though not in words. It was an unformed communication, a connection from the heart. Now, at the threshold of life on earth, was the time to try language.

I spoke softly. "Spirit child, if you will experience pain or constriction or limitation that is not in your best interest, you may go. If it is not for you to be a child in our family, so be it. If you need to go, I release you. And if you want to stay in this body and be born into this lifetime with us, I will do everything I can to care for you. I will love you. I do love you. And you are welcome here."

The heavy hand of labor began to clamp down.

Michelle Morgan Doucette is a Vermont-based chiropracter. Her new book, "Waking to Eden," from which this piece was taken, can be purchased via at In "Waking to Eden," Doucette tells a remarkable story of her healing journey following a miscarriage and the subsequent discovery that she was suffering from an autoimmune disorder.