Thursday, December 25, 2008

Thoughts at Christmas

For much of my life, Christmas has been a time of family gatherings, friends, gifts, parties, decorations, snow, and the scent of pine. It was also a time of nostalgia for previous Christmases, on which time had already conferred a rosy glow.

Christmas, now, is a time of reflection--thoughts about the present as well as the past. It's about appreciation for all that went well in my life, expectation that today is a good day, and gratitude for all that surrounds me. The things in my life may not look like much to other eyes. My possessions lean toward the scanty rather than the opulent, but I have a computer to write with, a studio in which I paint, instruments to play on when the mood strikes me, and I am sheltered from the Christmas rain that is falling as I write.

I can't help but think of the homeless right here in this town that have no shelter, and to whom Christmas must be just another day in which to struggle to keep warm and dry, to stay safe, to find food, and to try to find anything at all that is good in the circumstances they are in.

Here I am, warm, dry, and well-fed, not in need; and there they are, cold, uncomfortable, abandoned by life. I have done little to help any of them beyond giving a dollar when I pass near someone who is holding a sign, "Hungry, will work for food."

One of my friends, seeing me do this, asked me why. "You don't know what they'll do with it. They'll probably just go drink it up."

"Perhaps," I answered, "but it's not my business what they do with it; it's only my business that they need it."

She thinks I'm crazy.

But giving is giving. If you attach strings to it, then it isn't giving. I would give much more if I could.

If I have a prayer for this Christmas, it's to be able to be of more help than I have been to people who are in need.

Why is it that for most of us it seems to be easier to help people in a far-off foreign land than it is to help those who suffer right under our noses in our own home town?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

What Happened to the "News"?

Listening to "talking heads" on the news channels, hoping to hear reasonable points of view, is just frustrating, because so many of them have become well-known by occupying a certain political niche, and once established, seldom vary from their accustomed themes.

It's no fun listening when you already know what will be said even before they say it. It's maddening to hear so-called pundits--whether from the right or from the left--fudging the facts to bolster their points of view, or even worse, slandering by innuendo and suggestion, the motives and characters of those with opposing views.

Many so-called "news" shows have morphed into gossip fests, and are about as meaningful and accurate as gossip usually is.

When someone pops into view who thinks, who speaks in more than sound bites and jargon, and who has something substantial to say (whether I agree or not), it is a pleasure and a refreshing surprise.

The news channels give far too much attention to the latest accident, car chase, celebrity divorce, or gruesome murder. There is a saying in journalism, "If it bleeds, it leads." I suspect there is another saying, "If it thinks, it stinks."

Everyone has a right to express his or her point of view--but let it be a point of view, not just rhetoric. And let's have some real news. When I look at the "World" section of my local newspaper, I realize, again and again, how much we miss on TV. I used to love CNN when it really was a news channel.

What happened to the journalists who used to dig deep for the really interesting stuff? Wherever you all went, please come back. And whatever happened to just reporting the news without lacing it with comments and opinions.? I'd like just reporting to come back, too, from wherever it went.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Best-Laid Plans . . .Gang Aft Agly

In August, I promised, on this blog, to start painting again, and to begin with a scene of California Poppies by Laguna Lake, here in San Luis Obispo. I did that painting as I promised, but failed to keep my promise to post it here.

I've been working on my second painting since August. Foolish me, I embarked on a scene of "Dawn in the Country," which turned out to be more difficult than I expected. A dawn scene requires using gray, and the presence of gray does odd things to the colors, sometimes bringing forth colors you don't expect and don't want. I have learned a lot doing this project, and finally feel happy with the results.

I'm not sure I know, yet, how to photograph my paintings properly in order to post them here, but I will dive in and see what happens. Depending on my success, my first painting, "Poppies by Laguna Lake," and this recent one, "Dawn in the Country," will be posted some day next week. Then, I'll start a new painting.

I thinks it's wonderful that I was able to conquer my long-standing painter's block by challenging myself in public on this blog! (Read earlier posts.) It worked! Now I paint every day, only missing if events beyond my control interfere. I am happier than I could ever say to be painting again!