"Who, if I cried, in the hierarchy of angels would hear me?" Rainier Maria Rilke


Snow, skirts, pants, and feminism

I go to a lot of ceremonies where I’m regularly told that in order to honor my grandmother, I must wear a skirt.
(There are dissenters, but this is a message which comes around regularly.) It dawned on me this morning why this bothers me so much.

In the 60s, when I was in grade school, I lived in suburban Philadelphia. We got snow every winter, 3 or 6 inches at a time. There were plenty of snowplows, so it was usual to go to school when it snowed or at most a day later. Every now and then we would have a snow day, but because it stayed cold, there were still inches of snow on the ground when we went back. The temperature stayed in the low 20s or teens. At that time, in addition to no Iphones and no internet and no computers, and having to research by actually going to the library and looking for books in a card catalogue, we had dress codes. Not only did boys have to wear pants which actually covered their undershorts(nor would it have occurred to them not to), but girls were forbidden to wear pants.
This meant that  in sixth grade when I left the house to walk to the busstop, waited for the bus outside, and then got off the bus to wait another twenty minutes in the schoolyard in the snow for the school to open at 8:45 am, I was standing in the snow. In a skirt. And snowboots. There came a winter and a day that was so cold that I put on pants. My mother said that surely the teacher could not get mad in that weather. Mind you, I tested out as the smartest student in the entire elementary school, and was in the top 2% nationwide. I’d never been in trouble in school once and could be relied on to always have the answer, whatever the teacher’s question was. But when the students were let into the school that day, I entered with trepidation, while the boys were exuberant and boisterous with relief at the warmth. Sure enough, the teacher came over to me and started shouting that if I didn’t take off my pants and put on a skirt I would have to go home. She would call my mother. I was in trouble. I was a bad kid. Because I didn’t want to catch pneumonia. This was not a day on which I learned that women honor each other by wearing skirts. This was a day on which I learned that women will punish their own and sell you out and that your appearance is more important to them than anything you know or are likely to ever know or learn. If I’m not mistaken, this was the same teacher who, when I told her that some boys had knocked me over on the playground and got on top of me and shoved snow down my shirt during recess, told me that “boys will be boys” and to get over it and there was nothing she would do about it. So-assault by boys, ok and accepted and expected. Wearing warm clothes by girls, deplorable, punishable, expellable offense. This is why I bristle when anyone tells me to wear a skirt. This is why I look askance at women when they tell me to show respect to older women. Let those older women show some respect for the little girls, and I will.  Some of them do, and some will sell you out over and over and over for nothing more than a dress code and a code of silence on the behavior of boys. The message was that there is no protection, there is no understanding, there is no compassion, and you are only here in the end for decoration. This was a public, not a parochial school.

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Thoughts on Anti-Depressants

I am moved to write this morning because some friends think I just don’t support treating mentally ill people. That is not accurate; I do. However. I have lost count of the times that I saw a friend from AA and they told me, “no, I’m not in counselling, but I’m ok now, the psychiatrist got my meds adjusted” only to hear the following week that they were dead by their own hand.
I have lost count of the number of times my friend and sponsee Susan was in the mental hospital, having cut herself and attempted suicide, or in the regular hospital, having relapsed on crack and gotten beaten nearly to death by a drug dealer. On these occasions, she, too, will tell me that it’s ok, they upped her level of Seroquel. A medicine which has not in twelve years time kept her from cutting, smoking crack, attempting suicide directly, or attempting it by year-long drug runs. My friend Lori hung herself while in the care of a psychiatrist and on meds. My friend Kelly Cheer od’d in a hotel room, while in the system, receiving benefits, and on meds. There are more I cannot name as I’ve forgotten or blocked out their names, who all spoke hopefully of the cure their doctors had given them, and I recall their naive trust and hope with some pain.  My own experiences with anti-depressants were dismal and not helpful in the least. And so, yes, I am skeptical of the claims of the medical establishment which cannot prove that depression is caused by low serotonin but claims to cure it by adjusting serotonin levels. A quick google search produces many studies which call into question the efficacy of these drugs.
I want people to be treated and to get better, but I do not give big Pharma a blank check or my complete and blind trust in their treatment of mental illness. And I do not forget my friends and acquaintances who have died horrible deaths while the system checked them off as treated, because they had a few pills.

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Thoughts on Travel, Drought and Fire

Dear Friends: Last Thursday, I drove from Seattle to just south of Missoula, Montana. This took me through the parched and burning places near Cle Elum and Ellensburg, and near other fires in Idaho and Montana. I am accustomed to high desert; the dry of happy sagebrush does not alarm me; it is usually an invigorating change from the damp of Seattle. I waited for that hit of clear, crisp air to tell me I was out of the city. It never came.
Instead, there was dread calm, there was a haze of smoke which looked like morning mist but never lifted. There were evergreen trees scattered through the forest on the mountains and hills which were brown and dead, seemingly from lack of water. And there was sagebrush which was also brown and struggling. Usually, I marvel at the sagebrush being fat and happy in as little water as comes naturally to the plains; this time, I was saddened by watching it struggle in drought. When the sagebrush is brown and dying, that’s a really dry year.

Thoughts of the Hopi Prophecy I heard about in the early 80s came to mind. We were told that the cities would burn and it would be important to be able to get away to the mountains. But this was different-the plains are burning, and the mountains, not the cities. What I know of climate change competed with thoughts that if it was predicted in the 80s and before , then we could not have caused it or prevented it.

I meditated on the water, the spirit of water and the water table. And asked it what would it take to call in more water to these parched places so that the people, the land and the animals would suffer less. This is the response I got: “In this country, so many people are on anti-depressants and anti-anxiety pills. They want to avoid their feelings and suppress them. Water is feeling. When so many people are blocking their emotions, it blocks the water from flowing. In addition, if they weren’t medicating themselves so much, they would have noticed a long time ago that the earth is hurting and things are out of balance. They feel these things emotionally in their bodies, but instead of addressing them and doing something about these conditions, they medicate the feeling. So it does not get healed. People need to act to address the causes of the fear that they feel, whcih are real, and quit medicating everything. This is why the waters are blocked here.”

I went and looked up anti-depressants to find that 23% of the women in this country in my age group are on at least one. 11% of the population overall. This represents a huge increase in the last 20 years. And are we happier and better adjusted? Is there statistically less suicide ? Are we addressing the root causes of the depression? I don’t think so. Some people do benefit greatly from these medications; some do not. Studies have shown that excercise is as effective statistically. Studies have shown that some anti-depressants actually increase rates of suicide. I don’t want to tell anyone individually what to do and am not a doctor but wonder what we’re up to as a people.

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Hello world!

Hello World! I am starting this blog as The Sound, a magazine I’ve been editing in the Pacific NW for a few years now, is in hiatus. And I am trying to learn WordPress. And I realize that I love to write and don’t want to wait for publishing monies and a four times a year deadline to be read…so, here are some of my thoughts without having to please any editors or readers. Hopefully I will please some or at least provoke thoughts. On a platform more conducive to serious consideration of issues and less off-the-cuff knee-jerk response than facebook!

Some of my topics will undoubtedly be feminism, the environment, climate change, religion. Who knows what else.

Happy blogging!