Sunday, April 20, 2014

San Luis Obispo Story - Laguna Lake

Yesterday I went to Laguna Lake for a walk. I wanted to be aware of what was there, to notice what was living and growing and happening.
It was overcast, but pleasant. I parked a bit away from the lake to give me a longer flat walk, easy to navigate. As I passed by the area where people can barbecue, I caught the delicious smell of whatever it was they were cooking, and watched the young and the old all taking part, getting stuff out of the trunks of  cars, carrying things, cooperating, having fun.

Near the lake, the geese were peacefully plumped down on the grass, not honking and being noisy as they usually are. Coots were walking around taking occasional pecks in the grass, gulls were flying in and out, landing, walking a bit, then taking off again.

I walked on the road along the shore, breathing in the sharp fresh air, seeing birds out on the water, feeling the life in everything around me. I wanted to take in this beauty and this aliveness, to feel separate from the worries of the world, both public and personal. I wanted to feel the presence of  my inner self, my real self, experiencing Laguna Lake.

I went as far as the "turn around" where a path begins that goes on out into the fields, but is too rough and uneven underfoot for me to navigate safely. As I came around the turn I was near the small dock where Cal Poly students and others learn how to launch sailboats and how to sail.

There was a solitary crow sitting on the ramp railing and as I watched, he flew down onto the ramp and began walking toward the dock. But every couple of steps he would stop, walk over and look through the uprights of the railing, first on one side and then on the other. He did this very deliberately all the way to the beginning of the dock. What he was looking for I can't imagine, but he seemed to know.

 When he reached the dock, he flew up again onto the rail and sat there,  looking around. I was conscious of our being together somehow, our connection even in our separateness. The crow seemed to sense my presence as well, and when he took off from the rail flew low and close to me before he rose into the air and disappeared into the trees. It was not aggressive, but like  a gentle acknowledgment.

When I was almost to the point where the road turns away from the lake, I heard what sounded like a Meadow Lark coming from some small shrubs or trees on the edge of the lake. I stopped and peered into the branches, following the sound, moving slowly. I looked down to be sure of my footing, and there at the edge of the road was a little ground squirrel sitting on his haunches, looking at me.

I turned my attention to the squirrel and spoke to him gently. Although I was close to him, he made no move to run away.  His head stayed turned toward the sound of my voice. After a few moments, he put his front paws on the ground, and then slowly and tentatively began to cross the road, heading toward the grassy fields beyond. I went on my way too, slowly, so as not to alarm him.

At the turn of the road I looked back. He was almost three quarters of the way across the road. Just then, a huge SUV rounded the corner. For a moment I was horrified, thinking it would be the end of my little friend, but the driver must have been unusually observant. He spotted the squirrel, slowed down, and waited for him to get across the road and into the grass before proceeding.

There we all were, separately together in the same moment.   

Friday, July 19, 2013

Trayvon and George--Was it Racism?

You don't have to be black to understand that George Zimmerman's shooting of Trayvon Martin was based on racism.

George Zimmerman announced his fear, suspicion, and hatred of blacks in his initial conversation with the police. He voiced his fear of Trayvon because he was black, wearing a  hoodie, unknown to him, and also young. He "knew" he was "up to no good" and didn't wan't him to get away, because "that kind, (xxxx blacks), always do."

George Zimmerman's epithets clearly expressed his fear, suspicion, and hatred, not of Trayvon as an individual, but of blacks as a group. That is racism.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

About George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin

If George Zimmerman had not been carrying a concealed and loaded weapon, the whole story would have been different.

Without a loaded weapon at his disposal, Zimmerman would not have dared to get out of his car and follow Trayvon Martin on a dark and rainy night.. An unarmed person is forced by prudence to avoid dangerous confrontations, no matter how much he may believe himself to be right and another wrong.

Any person with a gun has an unfair advantage over a person who is unarmed, and especially over those who are unaware that he is actually carrying a loaded weapon.

Owning the gun is not the problem. Carrying it concealed and loaded is the problem.

Think about it.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving--How It Really Began

When all the foolish and inaccurate hoohah about Thanksgiving began to rob me of my sanity, I decided to find out what actually happened, and how Thansgiving really began. I had a lot of fun digging up a few of the facts. So for all of you out there who are equally in the dark about the true beginning of Thanksgiving, here is a brief summary of how it all came about.

After leaving Plymouth, England, on September 6, 1620, to go to the New World, the original 102 Pilgrims finally saw land in late November, but it took time to find a suitable place to land. Finally, on December 11, they disembarked at Plymouth Rock. While still on the ship, they signed the "Mayflower Compact," America's first civil document , which introduced the concept of self-government.

The Pilgrims were unprepared for the harsh New England winter, and suffered from scurvy, malnutrition, and various contagious diseases. Only half of the Mayflower's original passengers and crew lived until spring.

They were visited by a native American, Squanto, a member of the Pawtuxet tribe, who had been kidnapped by an English sea captain and sold into slavery, so was able to learn English before managing to escape and return to his own land. He taught the Pilgrims how to cultivate corn, extract sap from maple trees, catch fish in the rivers, and avoid poisonous plants. He also helped them forge an alliance with the Wampanoag, a local tribe, which would endure for more than 50 years. Sadly, it is one of the few examples of harmony between European colonists and Native Americans.

Because of help from Squanto and other Indians, the settlers had a bountiful harvest of corn, pumpkin, beans, and barley, and had learned how to make many Indian dishes and the many ways to use cranberries.

To give thanks to God and to the Indians, Governor William Bradford organized a three-day feast, starting on December 13, 1621.  Four Pilgrim men were sent out "fowling," or bird hunting, in preparation. The Wamponoag guests, about 90 of them, including their chief, Massasoit, came bearing five deer.  Lobster, seal, and swan were also on the menu, as well as ducks, geese, fish, and cranberries.The Indians even brought popcorn.Together, they all celebrated the good harvest, and the Pilgrims gave thanks to God and to the Indians for their indispensable help. This was the first American Thanksgiving.

Some of the most notable passengers on the Mayflower included Myles Standish, who would become the militaray leader of the new colony, and William Bradford, a leader of the Separatist congregation, who wrote the classic account of the Mayflower voyage and the founding of Plymouth Colony, and who also became governor of the colony.

At the end of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln asked all Americans to set aside the last Thursday of November as a day of thanksgiving. Much, much later, the day was changed by Congress to the fourth Thursday in November.

I'd say that the first Thanksgiving was a sincerely thankful celebration, and undoubtedly so was the Thanksgiving at the end of the Civil War. But gradually it deteriorated into a day for sports, which began in the 1870's, parades, which happened in the 1900's, and shopping, as well as a day to cook, and gather together and pig out.

What I am thankful for today is very simple and very basic--much more real than what I thought of when I was younger. Now I know it is a gift just to be alive and to love and be loved. That's what I'm thankful for.   

Freedom Is Choice

My son, Bobby Jameson, has been engaged in conversations on Facebook about people who  want to impose their religious beliefs on others, either by proselytizing or by passing laws to institutionalize what they believe. He gets all sorts of comments--some silly, some adversarial, and some intelligent.

Many people seem to equate the concept of not wanting to be forced to accept someone else's religion with denying the existence of God. The point is not whether God exists, but the freedom to decide for one's self. It's not even about the attributes or failings of any particular religion; the point is the freedom to choose your own religion or no religion.

People came to this continent in the first place in order to obtain freedom from religious persecution, and for the freedom of individuals to choose what they believe. In other words, freedom of religion and freedom from religion, "freedom of" religion being the right to choose, and "freedom from" religion being the right not to have any religion imposed on you. You can choose any religion or no religion; you get to decide. Otherwise, there's no freedom at all.

Even if  you think you cannot respect what another person or group believes, it is still important to recognize and respect their fundamental right to believe it.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Democracy Yes, Theocracy No

I don't want to live under a theocracy, no matter what religion it is based on. People came to this country in the beginning to escape religious persecution and to have the freedom to follow their own religious beliefs.

Governments are made up of ordinary men and women, not gods, and it is not the  province of government to be a religion, or to make up religious rules, regulations, or laws.

In a democracy, all are equal under the law. Under a theocracy, equality would be impossible.

Because that is true, religion should be separate from politics. Of course, people's religious faith will always influence their political beliefs and their ideas of personal integrity, but that does not mean they have a right to impose their beliefs on others, or to pass laws making others subject to any sort of religion-based restrictions.

Under a democracy, people of every religious persuasion are equal under the law. No religion is considered to be better than any other.

However, at the moment, those on the Christian right, be they Catholic or Protestant, are so fanatic about  the truth of their own beliefs, they have lost sight of the fact that others have a right to believe differently.

Why should the religious right be able to dictate whether or not a woman can have access to birth control? Many married women do not want to refuse their husbands, and yet don't want to have a baby every year. Why should a woman ever be put in this position? And why should unplanned-for babies be born into families that can't afford them? Or to families not equipped to give them proper love and care?

It is irresponsible for anyone to insist that every time a sex act is performed, a baby must be born. No man would hold that opinion if he were the one who got pregnant.

Let's all back off a bit from the position that our opinion is absolutely right and our religion infallible. Let reason prevail. Let kindness modify our actions.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Telephones I've Known and Loved

We just got new landline telephones, and it made me much happier than I expected. They are so much better in every way--easy to see, easy to use, and very clear. I didn't realize how bad the old ones were until we got the new ones. And they weren't even costly. I love our new telephones!

Something about this experience caused me to think of the difference between phones now and phones early in my life. The first one I ever saw was an oak box attached to the wall with shiny metal bells on top, and the receiver hanging from a hook on the side. Talking on this telephone was not a relaxing experience, impossible for a child unless you stood on a chair.This was the telephone we had in the early twenties when I was very small.

Then as technology began to develope and life began to become more effortless, we got an exciting innovation: a "candlestick" phone. It was upright, the receiver still hung from the side, and it sat on a little table that also held the phone book. I liked those telephones. They were comfortable to hold and I felt somehow important and efficient answering when it rang, or calling one of my friends. The numbers in our small town were very short. Ours was 2742. The cab company was 666! Easy to remember, but with unpleasant connotation which I wasn't aware of at the time

There was no such thing as a dial tone. You just took the receiver off the hook and waited. An operator would say "Number please!"  Sometimes this happened immediately and sometimes not, depending on how busy she happpened to be. You would give her the number and she would connect you.

The operators did many other things too, such as delivering messages in an emergency, or helping a tearful little kid who was hurt track down his mother when he couldn't remember where she said she was going. Most of the operators were very kind and helpful. .

The operators always sounded a bit odd because they were taught to enunciate in a certain way in order to be perfectly understood. They would say "Number ple-uz!". And if they had to repeat a number to make sure they had it right, it was said in the same exaggerated way: "Fi-iv fo-er tha-ree!"

Even small towns had a switchboard where one or more operators would sit connecting and disconnecting calls. When I was 9 or 10, an operator called our house to tell us a friend of the family, an amateur pilot, had crashed his small plane at a farm just outside of town and been killed. Neither of my parents were at home. My mother was performing, playing her violin at a local church that afternoon. I told the operator, and she rang the church, but no one answered. So I ran six or seven blocks to the church and went breathlessly up to the podium to give her the sad message.

At other times operators would track down doctors or family members in an emergency. More than once, they were instrumental in finding a lost child. And I am sure there were countless times when instead of hearing a number, they heard a frantic, weeping child, and did what they could to ease the situation. Really, I can't say enough for operators--they helped over and over in a myriad of ways. They were like a dependable connection that was always there whenever you lifted the receiver. Looking back on it now, it seems almost like a cosmic source of aid and connection.

Some time in the early thirties, we got a "French" telephone, a cradle phone. We thought it was so new-fangled! You only had to use one hand to hold both the mouthpiece and the receiver, and then you could write with your other hand. How modern! What would they think of next? Secretly, I liked the old candlestick phone. It seemed so official and business like. To me, it had real personality.

But the rest of the world didn't see it my way, and before too long our cradle telephones had dials. That was really a radical step forward. No operator? Just dial? Amazing! Now we only had to use the operator for long distance. We had to dial "O" for operator, and then ask for Long Distance.

Eventually, I can't remember exactly when, the world graduated to push button phones. That made it  inevitable that sooner or later we would be able even to call long distance without having to involve an operator in most cases.

How can people born into a pushbutton or cell phone world even imagine how much every new development in telephones affected our daily lives? How could anyone today imagine the importance of telephone operators in small town life back in the twenties and thirties?  It was a differnt world, and in some ways a much nicer one. Even though we were less connected telephone-wise, we were  more connected in almost every other way. It was a good time to be alive.