Thursday, May 26, 2016

What Stood Out

Now two years into the past, my big trip still fills my mind.  I try to keep quiet about it so people do not get sick of me. There are some things that really stick out in my mind.  I will just mention three.

First, the amazing tourist system in Russia. I used the services of a company called Real Russia.  They were excellent. Russia has a train system that works, runs everyday, all day. They have an affordable food service on the train. There is a real human on each train car who can answer your questions. I have tried to imagine a similar service in Canada, but it could not be done.  The trains do not run often enough. Tourism cannot be done by air in Canada--the cost is prohibitive. And buses don't run all over Canada. So we are not really set up for tourism.

Russian train stop--like North American bus stop;  
trains are always going by day and night...


Second, the amazing cosmopolitan culture of Mongolia. On June 8, 2014 the annual culture fair took place in a town square in Ulaanbaatar. The event was free. Open to anyone who wanted to join in. Where else on earth could one sing along to "Nessun Dorma," watch Swan Lake, and see every conceivable type of activity--acrobats, contortionists, jugglers, symphonies of both western and eastern instruments, huge choral groups in languages both native and foreign, baton twirlers, artists, crafts, authors, thousands of people in full costume for musicals, ballets, plays.  I will never forget that. 




Third, the singular beauty created in China in the midst of millions of people. Just because millions of people live together does not mean beauty is lost.  They purposely plant roses down the medians of busy streets. Wherever a potted plant can fit on a tiny ledge, there is a green plant growing.  There are beautiful objects placed wherever a piece of beauty will fit. There are plants climbing up walls. there are little overhead TVs playing on the subway reminding travelers to treat each other with kindness and respect to bring about peace and beauty in the midst of a crowd. As I walked up and down my hutong, about a two block stretch, in the quiet evening twilight, I passed families out strolling, groups of grandpas playing a game like checkers, pots of roses here and there, cucumber vines climbing up a trellis, people walking little tiny dogs on leashes.    


Bottom picture snapped while driving along median;
top picture a trellised rose outside a house along the hutong.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

When the News is Bad and You need a Little Something

Today I was just zipping along, accomplishing item after item on the to do list and then, despair—noon meal must be prepared. This does not convey much to anyone who lives near a fast food place or is in the habit of a sandwich or something. Noon here is a scaled down Thanksgiving meal and supper is Sunday best, so this involves messing up the kitchen, staying by the stove, and not getting anything else done, rather going backwards for the amount of mess...

So I followed all mom's best rules, like clean up as you go, which again slows one down at the moment but really does pay off after the meal when you are too dead tired to do anything anyway. As I chopped and stirred and grated and wiped up the spills and talked to the smoke detector and tried to squeeze in a bit of fridge cleaning on the sly, I could feel my mood dropping. 

The old accomplishment hormones were not kicking in. I could not use my mom's main and most important rule which is get up anyway, get clear out of bed, do not turn back, get fully clothed clear down to the shoes, hair combed, make up on, and smile like you mean it. I had done all these things already and could not go back and repeat at this point. So I tried the next best thing—humour.

I was raised on slap stick and satire so I quickly went to my Facebook page to find inspiration and there was dear old Mark Critch marching or sashaying down the street with our friend Justin singing “Sunny Ways” or is that “Sunny Days” or whatever and I got a good laugh and carried on.

Running along to make sure everything turned up on the table at one time, I didn't notice Dan standing beside me at the stove while I poured a cheddar cheese sauce over some cauliflower. “Ewe, what is that?”

Well, I can tell you, that was the wrong thing to say. So I told Dan so in a really nice way and he carefully went around by the longest possible route to watch Carole McNeil continue to tell us how awful the world is right now. In my customary manner I began a discourse with Carole telling her she was deranged. Telling New Yorkers to act normal and everything will be OK, while 500 and some newly deployed policemen are running around fully armed in SWAT suits, yeah, man. That is normalcy for you. Finally Carole heard me and asked the guy from New York if it felt normal with SWAT teams all over. So it pays to talk to your TV for more reasons than one.

First of all, there is emotional adjustment for you. I learned about emotional adjustment from my college English teacher in the spring of 67 I think. Anyway, when upset, one yells things, often curse words according to my teacher, and they are for emotional adjustment. Over the years I have found if I yell at the TV, they sometimes listen and take up my train of thought. This can be worrysome—I try never to do or say anything of true import in front of a television for fear they are listening and watching....

And I forget my second point, but we had to switch channels and went with a music station and they just happened to be playing “The Happy Song” by Frank Mills. That was nice. We ate companionably for a bit. The next song was “The Godfather Love Theme.” But next was “Karen's Theme” from “Out of Africa,” and I never find that movie a laughing matter so we went back to the news and it was Adele the singer but we do not know her so it was of no interest...We turned back to the music, it was “La vie en rose,” which is famous and will still be famous in another hundred years, probably, if we get that far.

A health ad came on about a foot vibrator or something. I said, “Where is Uncle Bill's old foot vibrator?” I was thinking of a grey one that Maddie used to keep in her room and sit reading with her feet vibrating. She was such a kind little girl. When she had to leave the room, she would put her life sized doll, Sybil, sitting there with her vinyl feet on Uncle Bill's vibrator for tired feet.

Anyway, Dan said, “You mean that red thing? Wait a minute, I will go get it.” He soon returned with a red thing with golden pokie things like rollers. It is not a vibrator because it does not vibrate, but it is for feet, and it is red so it will fit in with our holiday decor and tickle my feet at the same time and maybe that will be the thing that cheers me up.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

A Christian Response to November 13, 2015

After reading Erwin Lutzer's response to the Paris killings,
I wrote the opinion piece below. I tried to post a copy to Erwin Lutzer through the blog he originally wrote on, Precept Ministries, but their comment section is limited to those who belong to their group. I instead contacted Erwin through another page associated with the church he serves as minister. I found a way to contact Precept Ministries through a customer service page for donors and sent a copy of my thoughts there. I then found Precept has a FaceBook page so I tried to post my comments there below Mr. Lutzer's commentary, but my comments were repeatedly rejected with an error message. I am just so disappointed with Mr. Lutzer's commentary and feel there is another Christian response desperately needed. And so below are my thoughts regarding the “Paris killings.”


Western media has won another victory in terrorizing the Western world with its particular brand of journalistic extremism. The media have guided our minds and emotions with their particular unbalanced and opportunistic manner of reporting and now must bear responsibility for the Western World's new wave of hatred against a perceived foe—right now the foe is hidden among fleeing Syrian refugees. “Friday night’s series of coordinated attacks in Paris which killed 129 people and injured more than 350, over 100 of them critically, is symptomatic of violence occurring around the world”, and most recently in Beirut, but there have been plenty of other ignored attacks in Somalia and Nigeria and other places that have no whites or oil.

As fellow human beings who have also been touched by death, we mourn with those who have lost loved ones and strangers alike in another mass killing. None of those dead deserved to die any more than the person standing next to them. We mourn the senseless loss of life and joy and we mourn the sorrow and pain of those left behind. We mourn the loss of normalcy, peace, confidence, joy, enthusiasm, creativity, love, which is engendered by masses of unrelated, but civilized people living together side by side in a free society. We mourn the state of fear and panic caused around the world first by the actions of the killers, and then the reporting of that action by fear-mongering journalists who are intent on holding the world captive to adrenaline-producing secondary terror. Secondary terror is created by those who wish to keep all eyes riveted on the killers as long as possible rather than on the healers who do not garner such high ratings.

All over the world, these deaths are a reminder that we too are vulnerable to death—notice, we are all vulnerable to death. We are all vulnerable to death at all times by endless possible routes. It is that vulnerability to death that gives the journalist power. But it is immoral of a journalist to seek to use that vulnerability to garner ratings for news coverage of a murderous event by repeating events in an injudicious way for the intent of causing terror for the sake of terror itself, or for the purposeful linking of said terror to any group of people. Some group may purposely claim responsibility in order to take advantage of the terror, but unless the journalist can without doubt link a party with those claiming credit for the terror, it is immoral to link any person to the terror. In this particular incident, it is immoral to link refugees to the terror unless you can without doubt, that is, with out any chance of your claim being refuted in a court of law.

Meanwhile, our politicians still speak about dropping bombs as if this were a rational response. As long as persons viewed as experts or authorities in our governments see this as our only means of stopping terrorists, we are not going to make progress. As long as there are persons teaching our children that all who worship in any religion other than ours are incorrect and evil and by no means to be negotiated with as equals, we are just raising up more generations as mentally and morally helpless as our own. Terrorism is deeply rooted in our sacred texts. Read the Psalms. The Psalmist commands our God to kill the enemy, even to dash the babies against the stones. This is not peaceful and loving talk. This is out of OUR sacred book.

What must Christians do in the face of this evil? First, we must grieve the loss of those killed in this senseless attack. We should scream and cry, asking ourselves if there is anything we can do right now to take action to prevent this sort of hatred in the future. Are you a Sunday School teacher? Do not go to church on Sunday and teach those children that persons following another faith are wrong. Ask yourself, what is your faith doing to build world peace and cooperation, or does your God ask you to condemn and destroy those who do not believe as you do?

What does loving your neighbour mean right now? Who is your neighbour? These are the first questions to ask, because the two great commandments of your chosen faith are to love God above all else and your neighbour as yourself. Matt. 25 tells you that what you do to the least of those around you is what you do to God in Jesus Christ.

Second, we urge all moderate journalists, politicians, and government leaders, teachers, and others in positions of influence, to discuss with all constituents the meaning of democracy and free society, the meaning of tolerance and acceptance of those around you who do not believe the way you do, but are fellow members of our free society. WE must stop teaching our children that our way is right and no other. We must begin the process of teaching that all persons are free to make choices. As long as the choice made does not harm a fellow human being, that choice is acceptable. If a choice is harmful to one's neighbour, that choice should be negotiated with the neighbour, using the auspices of a mediator if necessary. For instance: there is a building owner I know about that decided to put on a certain ecologically friendly siding in order to help the future generations of the world. Now there is a fertilizer factory being built across the street that will ruin the siding of the first building. If there had been negotiation, probably both parties could be happy with the outcome. As it is, these two parties are going to be at odds for years to come.

Only through negotiation and working together in daily decisions with our neighbours in our immediate neighbourhoods can we learn the give and take necessary to make democracy and freedom survive and spread worldwide. We must learn to love our Muslim neighbours nearby and demonstrate our concern for them by teaching all children here how democracy works. It is not “my way or the high way.” That is despotism, tyranny, all the things democratic countries are supposed to abhor.

We have lists of laws and rights and responsibilities in our civil governments to guide us. Murder is wrong, theft is wrong, slander and libel are wrong, inciting hatred and violence is wrong. These are not religious rules. These are the laws of the land. No matter what faith one is, all must obey the laws of the land—See Romans 12. If the country you have chosen to live in is a democracy, you cannot force it to be a theocracy, unless all persons living in the country have the opportunity to vote to make it so, and then you abide by the outcome of the vote.

Once it is a theocracy, you will have to live by the rules of the leader who is the strongest. You will not be in a democracy any longer. Theocracies do not offer plebiscites or referendums to ask the people what they want. The religious leaders choose for you, for it is the leaders who know the mind of God. Think back in history to the Salem witch burnings for a reference point.

Finally, we need to communicate with our leaders. We must insist that they obey the laws we have in place already to guide our humanitarian efforts to relocate thousands of refugees needing a place to be this winter. We need to reassure our leaders that we understand that they need to be careful, but no more careful than they were when our immigration documents were offered to gain our landed immigrancy and later citizenship. We need to pray for ourselves to remember that we were all persons who were new and different at one time.

Help us to realize that there is no “foolproof” method to prevent fear and death. These are part of being human. No government can keep us 100% free from fear and death. The government will do its best, but fear and death will always be with us. Terrorism is only one way of dying. There is cancer, and drunken driving, and irresponsible gun use among friends and loved ones; there is fire and gas explosion, their is flu and falling down stairs and endless ways to die that happen every day. We will all die. That is probably one of the main incentives to think about God. We each choose a way to approach God with our fears of death. Let us make sure in the passing on of those beliefs about God to the next generation, that we do not spread terror by saying ours is the only right way and all others are evil. You do not want to be part of the problem do you?


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

How Does One Say Thanks?


The Return of the Prodigal Son is an oil painting by Rembrandt. As seen on Wikipedia.

This morning bright and early--between 7 and 7:30--I was lying quietly in bed, waiting for a certain alarm clock to go off.  Far be it from me to wake up a budding responsible citizen who is this summer learning to get up and go to her first job.  No, I quietly wait, giving her the opportunity to learn.

While waiting, I picked up that shiny scarlet red metallic Nintendo--yes, Zach, that 3DS one--and click  the right buttons to go past games and such and get to first my e mail and then Facebook and see what has happened in my family and friends worlds.

One post I read changed the course of my day. Probably not the post that stopped many of the others who can read what is on my news feed...no, the one that stopped me was the one written by a young person who has taken up the cause of being angry at the welfare system.  I know that this is a cause taken up from others because the writer is only 21.  21 is not old enough to be personally aware of the welfare system, unless one has been raised in it, and in that case, the young person would have a different viewpoint.

I will not repost the offending rant.  It was just the usual.  Enforced birth control, no fun foods, only subsistence rations, no voting rights, etc.  I guess what realllllllly did me in was the very first assumption and allegation that 48% of our provincial population was the problem.  Red flag.  

I read the young woman's writing in full. What follows is first statistics provided by both an independent think tank, and the government of Saskatchewan. And then the other side of the statistics—the anecdotal.

First of all, Saskatchewan is not over run by persons on welfare. "At its peak (1995), 8.1 percent of Saskatchewan’s population received welfare benefits. Saskatchewan’s welfare recipients have declined by 23.5 percent as a percentage of the population since the 1995 peak."

Second of all, sorry to be so boring, but the purported "welfare problem" in Saskatchewan is not a matter of us and them.
2011 National Household Survey (NHS) shows Saskatchewan’s Aboriginal population was 15.6% of the total population.
First Nations 10.2%
Métis 5.2%
There were also 290 individuals in the province that identified as Inuit.
Of First Nations individuals living in Saskatchewan, 53.2% lived on reserve. Zero per cent of those on reserves can receive welfare from the source that is referred to by the young woman who originally wrote the comments referred to in Julie's post.
All this is to say that at most 15.6% of the 8.1% of the persons on welfare are aboriginal; the vast majority are regular white folk who have had the misfortune to have qualified for welfare. Qualifying for welfare is a gut wrenching ordeal. It requires exhausting every possible avenue of outside assistance.

One day I personally stepped from the world of the HAVES to the world of the HAVE NOTS. Without my consent, I found out what it is like to wake up one morning as a widow with four pre-school children in a country that was not my own and no blood relative within thousands of miles and wondering what on earth I was going to do. A woman I had previously known by name only (Lois McMaster) gave me a card that had the Elisabeth Kübler-Ross stages of grief in it and then told me to go to the local post office and apply for Canada's Widow's and Orphan's Benefits. Another woman, whose name before this time was not really even known to me, Edna Klingler, brought me a roasted turkey and a white lace table cloth in case I did not have one for the funeral lunch. You see, a few people actually know how a family slides into poverty by accident suddenly one day--the bread winner dies or is incapacitated; a house burns down, or a job ends without warning. Suddenly in spite of all your good planning an event happens and unless someone else steps up to help you out, you could just starve to death.

Now what can happen is that good people rally round and help--and this happened for me--people came and ran the farm for me and others would slip 10 dollars in my hand or pocket (Hope Reichert comes to mind) and some, especially two families, (Seig and Arlene Degner were one; Walter and Erica Wentzil were the others) brought bag after bag, week after week, of groceries. But I was lucky. I could have found myself without food and help and decided to move to a place where I had to beg for welfare until I could figure out how to look after 4 kids--and before you tell me to learn about birth control, two of those children were adopted which sort of clears up the idea that possibly we had not planned very well. We had planned so well that a government agency thought we were a good place to take care of two more children.

At about age 47 I had the opportunity to live in a form of public housing and came into contact with many single parent families struggling to better themselves. In the three years that followed, I gave away my microwave to a mom who needed it to be able to cook meals between her shifts at an airport hotel and her classes at The King's University College where she some how stayed awake through classes. My husband gave away thousands of dollars to a number of moms for their tuition so they could stay in school. He also loaned money to single childless persons of either gender to pay tuition and he brought food from our garden to give away to those who had access to a way to cook potatoes. He generally came with a pail of ice cream also, because all potatoes and no ice cream makes for dull students.

At age 51 or 52, in the middle of a master's degree in theology, I took a year off from school and got a "MacJob" at minimum wage, part time shift work so I could truly experience what it is like to work until one is ready to drop at a job that has no benefits whatsoever and is not unionized. I learned a number of things. People are treated very poorly by executive persons who have no concept, no personal experience, with being born into poverty or falling into poverty by doing something like getting older and getting laid off a job because a younger person just entering the work force will do it cheaper for a while until they get too old and tired, worn out by a job that requires many thousands of steps a day and offers no worthwhile reward--not even a decent wage or a two week paid vacation each year.

When I finished my degree, I came back home to the Saskatchewan farm, just a tiny one with old machinery where grandchildren come to see what a garden is like and what a small town is like. We may be small, but we have paid taxes all our lives. When one of my kids gets in a jam, like the time one's job which had been a sure thing, the project even sponsored in part by the government, suddenly fell through, and they were left with a brand new house complete with mortgage in a town with no other employment possibility, I remind them to go apply for their EI. This is NOT welfare.

When another was jobless due to the seasons changing and having a seasonal job, I encouraged the child to go to the right agency and find out what could be done to get another job. In a few weeks the child was off and running in a new job located through the Western Producer...and when the government agency phoned to inform us their offer of job training was now in place, the government agency begged me to come take my child's place in their job training program. They did not have enough people to run the course. That does not sound like way too many people applying for welfare to me.


I can never tell people in an adequate way how much I love this country. It breaks my heart that Canada is no longer as kind and gentle as it once was. I can remember what it was like to wake up one morning as a widow with four pre-school children in a country that was not my own and no blood relative within thousands of miles and wondering what on earth I was going to do.  

Foot note: All the Poggemiller family, both immediate and extended, contributed to my welfare.  My father, Paul Halliday, collected money from relatives and friends near and far and sent it to me via a living courier. Hildegardt Magnus found a way to contact my mother who had just moved to the wilderness of Alaska and had no telephone. Helmut Schmidt ran a shuttle service to the airport in Saskatoon to bring relatives to the farm.  

I had the luxury of family and friends who formed a support net for me--at considerable expense to themselves.  What do we do in a mobile society where families have broken down, and there is widespread poverty?  What do we do when education has become so expensive, some have to go without and some become debt-ridden in the process of becoming educated? The government tries to provide the semblance of a family support net.  The 21 year old who wrote the derogatory remarks sounds like the older brother in the story of the Prodigal Son. Those of us who have ended up in the pig pen and had to crawl home really appreciate those who give with grace and love.  Some end up in the pig pen by choice, yes, but even they are sorry and their children are hungry. Many more end up in poverty through no conscious choice of their own.  Some get born into it. Surely they are not guilty of poor choices even before birth. Having been on the receiving end of both gift and welfare, I try to live out a spirit of gratitude. In stead of grabbing what might be considered mine, I try to remember none of this will go with me, and it should be put to good use now by who ever needs it.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Memories of the Blue Rose

Memories.  We all have them. Even me, who cannot remember what just happened, but things from years ago, well there they are, clear as a bell.

When I saw my sister-in-law Sandee Shuman's picture of Indian paintbrush I immediately remembered the road up to my grandparents' "house" on the Blue Rose Ranch during the fifties and early sixties. The last time I saw the Blue Rose may well have been in 1962 shortly before my journey to Three Hills, Alberta, Canada to attend Prairie High School.

When I came back from there, my grandparents had moved to Grants Pass, Oregon.  I  next lived in Santa Barbara, then Whittier, then back to the Escondido area, but since my grandparents now lived in Oregon, I did not visit the Blue Rose.  I do not remember who owned it at that time. I do have a jumbled memory of a bus trip provided by Uncle John between 1970-1975 when we did go out Bear Valley direction and saw what was then the backwoods area of the San Diego Zoo...the Wild Animal Park.

Some years later, when Arnold had died and I was remarried to Dan, I thought Dan should get to see the Blue Rose.  Aunt Virginia said "Don't do it; just remember the place of so much childhood wonder the way it was, unscathed in your mind."

After lo these many years, at least 50, the Blue Rose remains for me unchanged by all the development that has happened there in the last half century. For me, it is still the two cabins that composed the outer limits of the "house" with the gigantic outdoor living room in between.  The one wall was the big rock which provided a back drop for many a barbecue.  There are no such barbecues in today's safety driven world.  Children were allowed to toast their own hot dogs and marshmallows from the time they could hold a green branch.  We were free to let the sticks catch fire later and wave then wildly about in the dark as part of the entertainment.  No one was ever hurt--I suppose we were just lucky.

I remember a July the 4th when my other Grandmother, Mathilde Halliday, and I got to camp out on the front porch of the bedroom house on a set of old metal bunk beds.  I in my bright yellow Christmas pajamas and Grandma in her blue dress posed for pictures in the dark--what a flash the bulb made!

On another occasion I was let stay up and see the cactus bloom in the middle of the night...

night blooming cereus

the july night is warm and dark and late
and i am very young to be up at this hour
i sit with my grandfather in the silence waiting
for the night blooming cereus to flower
she lights her was tapers in the black of night--
tapers producing an aroma so awesome
i am intoxicated, think i hear music
wafting from each trumpet-shaped blossom
and as the fire dims and the oak trees rustle
in a breeze blown over the pacific ocean
i drift off to sleep in my grandfather's arms
drugged by the night blooming cereus' potion

The huge oak trees provided a dappled dirt floor and a star lit night ceiling. There were no doors keeping any one in or out--all were free to come and go.  The room merely extended onto a hillside lawn that ran down into the garden where long, long rows of vegetables, fruits, and flowers, ran back and forth across the valley formed by two rows of the sage brush covered hills that cover the back of the orange groves and avocado groves east of Escondido...

There was no electricity in Grandpa and Grandma Abbott's house to shock the eye or any phone to grate one's ear.  A wood stove cooked the food and filled the kitchen cabin with the aroma of coffee permanently imbibed by the walls. The stone foundation built by long departed Aboriginals was larger than the kitchen and extended in an open wash stand where Grandpa's six inch deep water line arose in a tall tap over an enamel basin where grandma kept a bar of her homemade soap.  In the oak tree on that side of the house, all sorts of small potted pots were placed in clefts to send cascades of baby tears and string of pearl vines, Boston ivy and gold fish vine flowing down the trunk. This tree was the wash stand wall and ceiling and a good place to climb away from a nagging parent if need be. The table holding the wash basin was covered with an old piece of lino not needed for the floor.

There was a bench along the kitchen wall to sit and rest and watch the garden if you wanted to get away from the crowd in the living room on the other side of the cabin...   Out some where down the garden was the out house.  The walk was a wonderful escape for tired mothers. And a person could always pull a few weeds if they didn't feel like coming right back.

Dogs and cats were free to come and go in the living room along with the kids and no one was ever yelled at to close the door. There was a screened wind cupboard where food was kept safe from flies and wasps and bees and cats and such. If the weather was damp or cold or too hot, we played in the bedroom cabin with an old gramophone we wound up. Or there were lots of old games to play.  A favourite was pick up sticks. We got good at BINGO too. You could just lie on the floor with your arms under your head and make up stories with any of your twelve first cousins and numberless second cousins or whatever you call the children of your parents' first cousins...

Indian paintbrush, wild lilac, sumac, poison oak, manzanita, "chillycody" vine with its spiked fruit and shiny black seeds, canyon live oaks loaded with acorns, sage brush, and mesquite bushes, all of these covered the hills and roadsides. We wandered among them with the rattlesnakes and lizards. We climbed the boulders and trees and slid down the gravel slopes. We found mica in dry riverbeds. We camped under starlit skies. We swam in the old well under a massive oak and watched for falling stars...

Memory is the only way back home now. No road goes there any more. Oh, the road is still there.  There is still a Lake Wohlford you can go past up the grade and there is a Bear Valley Road although it does not run exactly where the old one did. The same general hills are there, and surely no one could ever move that boulder.  But the Blue Rose is gone.  The Blue Rose was a state of mind unconfined by a "normal " house, no matter how luxurious that house may be. The Blue Rose was a place with a certain set of people. Those people were all somehow linked by a relation or an association with the four Shute Sisters and their generations and generations of ancestors. You had to get born into it or marry into it or get accidentally inside the heart of it somehow, and then you couldn't get out. The Blue Rose still exists on Facebook in the jots and tittles we post to each other from far flung places on the globe.  Sometimes when I go there, I can see the |Indian paintbrush.  I can smell the wild lilac. I can feel the poison oak.  I can nearly hear the splash of the water thrown from the enamel basin. I am one of the lucky ones. I can always go home by way of memory.      

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Good Morning, Mongolia!

A year ago today, I woke up on a train traveling south from Russia to Mongolia.  We had arrived at the Mongolian border the night before at about 9:30 p.m. and it took several hours for the train to clear customs and immigration between the two countries.  During the wait, night fell with pitch dark arriving about 11; 45. Between being so relieved to have managed to have all the right papers to get out of Russia and into Mongolia and there being nothing to see out the window due to darkness and no one to talk to due to no one speaking English within ear s hot, I fell asleep--and nearly froze to death before understanding my Mongolian compartment mate who was trying to explain that I needed to locate the heavy blankets that come with one's seat on a Mongolian train.  Finally warm and comfy, I fell asleep.  The moment I woke up in the morning and looked out the window, the sight above met my eyes.  Nothing could have been more perfect.  A yurt! Just like in the book Dakota and I read so many years ago...  About 16-20 hours later, after a sand storm, getting lost, and other adventures, I began a 2 week stretch of living in yurts, or gers. I loved it! I want on in my yard now... such a simple life, sort of like living up at the Blue Rose with no electricity, except solar, no phones, no computers, tiny wood stoves, and herds of horses, camels, goats, sheep, yaks, cows, and what ever you call yaks and cows crossed. No more gardens like in Russia.  Just sand.  There are regions better suited to farming, but mainly I saw desert and Orhton National Park.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Preconceived Ideas


This is a city in Siberia.  It does not match your your long held idea of how Siberia looks, does it?  Where is the snow? Where are the fur clad starving people in shacks?  There are places that match our old ideas, but there are plenty of places that do not match.  The people who were sent to Siberia were expected to make the place of their captivity into a place of productivity and commerce. This was a sort of forced settlement of the hinterlands.  Millions died.  Many of those who survived bloomed where they were planted.  And then one day, the day the Berlin Wall fell, everyone who had been sent to Siberia was free to go "home" and many did. Others looked around and realized Siberia had become home and stayed.