where DSL and meadow grass collide

Himalayan High Treks – India, Nepal and Indonesia 2014 January 13, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — clovernode @ 3:26 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

welcome-to-India-at-Indira-Gandhi-International-Airport-1024x683 image (6) image (5) image (3) image (2) image_1 (4)image (7)image_1 (2)image_1 (3)image_4 (3)image_4 (4)image_4image_5 (2)image_5 (3)image_6 (2)image_3 (4)image_3image_4 (2)image_6 (3)image_6 (4)image



Impressions of India, Nepal and Indonesia

Impressions of India, Nepal and Indonesia

Caregiving is a stressful job, yet a fulfilling one. After caring for my father for two and a half years, while he struggled with cancer, I felt that I needed to get away from home after he died. Watching him go through such a difficult time helped me understand the fleeting nature of life in a way I had not understood before. I had moved back home in order to be available to help. For some time, I considered whether I would ever leave Virginia again. However, the prevailing political climate in Virginia, with its senseless attack on the rights of women, and several intractable, unchanging family situations (over which I had little influence) helped make the decision easier.


So I reoriented myself towards the West Coast again, where I had spent my best years. I visited Santa Cruz for a Buddhist retreat in January 2013, and contemplated becoming a nun at that time. Although it is not a decision to take lightly, the pressure just to “do something” with my life has now waned, thankfully. Despite the obvious benefit of caring for others, including the good that it does for society, it is not appropriately valued in American society. In fact, the role of caregivers is often blatantly denigrated and disregarded. Instead, in place of respect, we get an idealization of motherhood which is facile, unrealistic, and blind to the real life pressures of caregiving and the actual person being idealized. With the increasing conservatism now on display in American society, being idealized is actually preferable to being demonized, but neither of them are considered responses to the genuine challenges of motherhood and caregiving. When will American culture grow up? When will we stop giving respect to “lowest common denominator” behavior? We represent great ideals to many worldwide. How can we live up to those expectations?



Our hotels. Although the accommodations were somewhat different from what we expect here, including occasional power blackouts in and around Nepal, the hotels were comfortable and warm, with delicious buffets offered by friendly staff. Almost every place we stayed was surrounded by lawns with a wall around the perimeter, with gates that closed up in the evening. So even though we were immersed in local culture by day, at night we were safely tucked away in these secured “compounds”. At times, I wished to go out and see what was going on beyond the walls in the evening, but the rigorous schedule meant that we all needed our rest for the next day’s activities!


Tea stalls and samosa carts. One of my favorite parts of the day was when we would stop at a local tea stall or samosa cart in order to have a quick snack. The locals nearby would usually congregate, in order to take in the spectacle of a group of Westerners so far from home! Masala chai, offered in a small plastic cup, became my cherished throat soother, as I carried a respiratory infection in my chest for most of the time I was there. It wasn’t until I got back to the United States that I fully decongested from that. The samosas were fried in a pan right in front of us, usually an open air place on the side of the road.


The countryside. As we rode in the tour bus between historic sites, we were witness to miles and miles of the rural life in Uttar Pradesh. This was the most humbling part of the trip for me. We saw vibrant towns and villages, but also astounding poverty. People washing clothing in rivers and streams, open defecation in fields, disabled beggars on the side of the streets. This is not something to look down on, instead it was heart-wrenching to witness. It filled me with the desire to do something more than just prayers and pujas. I want to use my practical skills gained from a lifetime in the West to benefit those who deserve a better standard of living.


Delhi. My first impression of Delhi was the smog hanging in a cloud outside the Indira Gandhi International airport. I had never seen such a dense chemical cloud in the air before. There were crowds of men waiting outside to give people rides from the airport. Although my traveling companion immediately put on a mask, I did not, and subsequently became hoarse. It didn’t seem to affect the men outside as much. We spent one night there before moving on. We flew to Varanasi the next day, where we met up with the entire group. We spent a few days there recovering from jet lag, then set out on a tour bus for the trip to various pilgrimage sites.


I went with a tour group on a Buddhist pilgrimage, visiting the sites of the Buddha’s life. It was a month long trip, across Uttar Pradesh in Northern India, into Nepal to visit Kathmandu, then off to Yogyakarta, Indonesia to visit several ancient Hindu sites near Mt. Merapi. There were about 25 of us in the group, along with two Western Buddhist nuns and a Nepali tour guide. My fellow pilgrims hailed from New York, California, New Zealand, and South Africa.


Varanasi. I loved being in Varanasi, it was my first real taste of the vibrancy of India. I made a couple new friends there. We visited the ghats at night, taking a tuk-tuk bicycle cart there and back. The ride was exhilarating, the shops and throngs were a blur of activity. I remember seeing a full grown steer running alongside us, blending in with the car and bike traffic, as we made our way to the Ganges banks. Vendors everywhere hawked their wares. I made friends with a silk merchant when I left our hotel for awhile. He helped me pick out a Ganesha tapestry and gave me a scarf to cover my head when needed. His kindness towards me as a Western woman in a new place I will never forget. I loved Varanasi and would be willing to go back anytime.


Lumbini. Lumbini was the first place we stayed in Nepal. The population is less dense there, so the streets were more manageable by one’s self on foot. The level of street begging decreased as well, for which the women in the group were particularly grateful. You can only have so many Buddha statues shoved in your face by well-meaning, yet slightly too aggressive salesmen, until you start ignoring people just in order to get down the street. In Nepal, we felt like we could breathe again, after that onslaught.


Remember, these pilgrimage sites are visited by hundreds of groups each year, and they all come through within the same time period, from January to March. So these vendors get geared up early on in order to sell to the incoming tourists. Some of them make all of their money for the year during pilgrimage season. I was cautioned not to give money in some circumstances. It was hard to resist the natural impulse to help out.


Kathmandu. Kathmandu was by far my favorite place that we visited. I would go there again in a heartbeat, and would consider living there for part of the year as well. With a population of over one million, it has the excitement of a major metropolis along with the ingrained culture of thousands of years of pilgrimage and commerce. Kathmandu was young, vibrant, upbeat, and hopeful.


I visited Children of the Universe while we were there. It is an orphanage for Tibetan and Nepali refugees from the surrounding region. I met Tsering Gyalpo there, he was born in a Tibetan refugee camp and now runs the orphanage, which is home to over 30 kids. He seemed so mature for his age. I agreed to sponsor one child named Purnima who I am still helping with a monthly donation.


Swayambunath in Kathmandu was the most holy place for me on our tour. The stupas there, high on a hill above Kathmandu, just seemed to emanate peace. The mood was hushed, yet relaxed. The ever-present sales people offered their goods from various stoops and shops. There were paintings for sale, along with a shop full of antique relics. We sat on the ground and did our practice right there in the square. I tried my best to maintain good meditation posture for the locals’ sake. When one woman showed curiosity in what we were doing, I underlined the words with my finger as we recited them, so she could follow along. She seemed to want to make sure we were doing things properly, and came away fairly impressed, it seemed.


Yogyakarta. What I remember most about Yogyakarta was the scooters. There were packs of them at each stoplight, usually out ahead of the car traffic. The riders were mainly in their twenties, although occasionally one would see a whole family riding on a bike. The sea of riders, many with Muslim headscarves on along with their riding gear, were an impressive lot. I was surprised to see many young men riding in short sleeves and sandals, seemingly oblivious to the danger surrounding them.

We rented scooters after the retreat for an afternoon, and I can vouch that there were some fairly large tour buses on the road! It was so fun to do after being on a rigorous tour schedule. We mostly took the back roads, taking a tour of the countryside surrounding Borobudur. I became quite enthusiastic about scooters after that. Maybe I will buy one someday!

It was great to get to experience a moderate Muslim country such as Indonesia. The school groups who were touring Borobudur with us seemed genuinely curious about us. They wanted us to stop and take photos with them. I think people around the world are realizing that we have much more in common than our governments would like us to think. People are pretty much the same wherever you go. Some good, some bad, some extreme, some moderate.


Return to the US. Coming back to America, one of the first things I appreciated was the cleaner air and water. The sky was so blue outside the plane! I stopped drinking bottled water, which was required in areas with poor sanitation, and no longer needed to reflexively apply hand sanitizer like mad. I was also glad that I could dress the way I wanted back in the States without worrying about offending anyone. I had covered my head in some places in India, particularly in the more remote Muslim regions near the Nepali border, and so it was a relief to not have to worry about the changing local customs for a change. Although I hate to admit it, I also missed having food that I was more accustomed to at home, including French fries!

The time difference between Indonesia and California meant that my schedule was off for the first few weeks. I would have the urge to nap at random until my body fully adjusted again. What was harder to bear was coming back to an overwhelming sense of depression and cynicism in the populace. People just seemed less happy in America. I tried to avoid it as long as I could, but once I moved into a new housing situation, I too became bogged down with the general sense of malaise. It was as if my trip was something to be jealous of, not to be celebrated. No one seemed to take seriously my actual interest in the teachings, and what we had considered a pilgrimage was seen as a luxury vacation by some. I guess that’s just the way it is.


Although we went to some “exotic locales”, I can assure you it was not a resort style trip, although we were delighted with the pleasant hosts we had and the food was wonderful in itself. The idea that I was told by my landlord in California, of all people, is that I wasn’t being “Buddhist enough” in my actions. People in America often mistake “being Buddhist” with someone being completely pliable and agreeable. We think of Buddhists as happy, smiling, and compliant. In my experience, that is not the case. We have a very simplistic view of the religious beliefs from other parts of the world. It would suit us well in the long run to reform that view. Christianity is just one religion among many which are influential worldwide. I hope to continue to learn more about other cultures.


Why do people in America seem to have no confidence left our country? I was so glad when Narendra Modi came over to visit, including his “rock star” appearance at Madison Square Garden. Finally, the emerging world started coming into plain view for the developed world. The United States aligning with India makes good sense. If all of our software jobs have already gone over there, why shouldn’t we take the next step, and become administrators of the transition from West to East? At least, we need to be able to acknowledge that American businessmen have moved most of our manufacturing industries overseas. It has already happened.


Obviously, not everyone can be an ambassador for the developing world, introducing them to what the West has to offer. But for those of us who are lucky enough, we *can* make a difference, by transforming ourselves into “bridges to the future” for our peers in other countries. Even those who do not choose to travel outside the United States can support our new allies by donating to causes which support the developing world. We are leaders by example as we move into a new century. We can contribute by striving to show the world the best of the democratic ideal.


“A rising tide lifts all boats.” That’s what we are looking for to create a sustainable, non-violent world: a concerted effort to bring all human lives up to a decent living standard, including access to clean water and sanitation. Did you know that more people now have a cell phone than a toilet in the world? This is a situation which cannot stand. We must do better than that. It is possible. We just need to demonstrate the collective willpower.


K-Pop Psychology:

What I admire the most about Asian culture is its optimism and reserve. Growing up in the rural South, there were polite topics and impolite ones. This changed once I moved to San Francisco, where any topic was up for discussion. Although intellectually exciting, this could also often lead to uncomfortable situations in which someone would make more and more outrageous statements, just for the sake of “winning the argument”. Competition gone awry in some cases. I’m all for freedom of speech, but people also need to learn there are consequences for what you say and do.


The optimism of the younger generation in Asia was wonderful to be around. You can really feel a strong sense of hope for the future there. Countries which previously were mostly rural, such as South Korea, are rapidly developing into modern economic powerhouses. There is a rush to be a part of it which is balanced by the traditional cultural practices. The East will express itself differently than the West, a phenomenon for which I am grateful. They have a stronger sense of oneness with nature, even in an urban setting. They are also less effusive in public. One of the most memorable impressions of Americans which I had upon my return is that we are overly cloying and sentimental in public. We also love to exaggerate and brag. Maybe this is due to the devotional nature of Christianity, in which we are supposed to profess our “undying love’ for Jesus. It could also be rooted in the ideal of courtly love, which was created in order to serve the ruling classes. Since I grew up in a more conservative area of the US, I appreciate having the chance to learn more about the Asian perspective.


What I will never forget about India, Nepal, and Indonesia is the sense of decorum, especially in India, where *every single* village that we drove through had a Shiva, Ganesha, or Krishna temple right at the edge of town, guarding the villagers and beseeching the newcomers. Also, many of the religious sites comfortably hosted a blend of Hindu and Buddhist gods in the same temple. In Nepal in particular, they seem to make no distinction between Hinduism and Buddhism. I loved that. There just isn’t any equivalent in American culture for a thousand-year old living tradition rooted in the native geography and people, except for that of the Native Americans. The European traditions which we brought with us were transplanted onto colonized soil. We are still newcomers here.


I enjoyed the lack of sensationalism, the way that people were obviously skilled in what they did, and yet seemed stoically humble about their situations. The sense of human dignity was strong: people were not yet completely guided by greed there, selling out by using the lowest common denominator to make a buck. That’s what worries me about the development of China, South Korea, and other Southeast Asian countries – the import of materialism and rampant development into ancient cultures which can certainly modernize their own way, without becoming exactly like Western countries. We don’t need to clone the United States.


People prided themselves on being low-key there, in a similar fashion to California, but with a major difference – they weren’t “marketing” or “branding” themselves, they really were mellow, stoic and humble. The culture there supported such openness. I think a big difference is that most of the places I visited still had strong neighborhoods and a sense of community, unlike much of the rapidly developed urban sprawl in the United States. People are alienated and distrustful of each other in America, and it is ruining our country. No one socializes much outside of their immediate families in many areas. The status-driven ethos which emerged during the 1980’s means that people are forced into excessive competition, not creating community. It’s unhealthy for our children’s future.


The farmer’s market and “Farm-to-Table” movement in the US, which considers the sourcing of our food, is an important step, along with the push to know our neighbors, form “Take Back The Night” groups, and so on. What America needs to do is stop feeling sorry for itself, take a hint from developing countries, get on the clue train, and learn how to smile at strangers again. The beaming looks from many of the people we visited were not fake: they were genuinely glad to host us, as we were bringing them revenue for that season. The sense of “gross national happiness” matters in places like Nepal and Bhutan much more so than here, where we tend to focus only on the Gross Domestic Product, or “bottom line”. How can we get back to what is most important in life?

The millennial generation, with the buoyant optimism of youth, is attempting to shake things up with flash mobs and heart hand symbols, Youtube memes and the like. How do we translate that enthusiasm in order to have an influence on the currently prevailing Baby Boomer generation, which has clamped down on issuing credit with an iron fist? Where are the hippies now? Have they all become Yuppies?


How do we encourage Generation X, whose members are now reaching middle age, to persevere in a social climate which does not reward them, but punish them, for wanting to prosper? We cannot blame all of the excesses of the previous generation on those who were children when these changes began. Kissinger and Nixon started to put in place changes which we are now just seeing, with their reliance on racial strife as a way to “divide and conquer”. It will take my lifetime to rid our government of the corrosive influence of Richard Nixon, Dick Cheney and George Bush. Let’s get started clearing out the officials who are not following their mandates.


I don’t have a solution for our society, but a prescription – be kind to one another, let someone in front of you in traffic, give someone the benefit of the doubt, try to trust more, try to avoid conspiracy thinking. America is still important, just like Europe is still important, Africa is important, and Southeast Asia is important. When putting together a jigsaw puzzle, all of the pieces are needed to make a complete picture.


Due to the nuclear arsenals of the United States and other countries, we will remain a world player, even as our country adapts to globalization. Just as we took the reins of world power from Britain after World War II, inevitably we will hand over our role as global economic powerhouse to China by within the next hundred years. The decisions which set that change in motion were made long before Generation X could vote. Do we fight that inevitability, or embrace it? The way we respond as a group will determine the success of future generations.


The environmental stresses we all face globally will force nations to begin cooperating on a level previously unseen. Let’s learn to be better global team players, in order to ensure health and happiness for future generations.




Chosen Family: Then and Now June 4, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — clovernode @ 2:50 pm
Tags: , , ,

I just heard yesterday via Twitter about the LGBT family blogging challenge. This seems like a good time for me to take some time to write about those friends who have become part of my chosen family, both back when I first started exploring my sexual identity (the mid-nineties), and now that I have gotten older and somewhat settled in comparison. I currently identify as genderqueer or bisexual.


Rather than use their real names, I’m going to write about my experiences with LGBT community members in general who have encouraged, supported, and sheltered me at times, as I struggled with understanding my difference from my original family, and learned to celebrate it. I’ll also include my dogs Bodie and Sara, who are the equivalent of children for me now.


My experiences with gender-bending began at an early age. Although I was somewhat curious as a child, the cultural climate of southwestern Virginia in the 1970’s and 1980’s meant that there were no visible role models to look up to. Consequently, expressing gender variation or difference was seen as subversive. For teenagers, rebellion comes naturally, so it never occurred to me that what I was doing was wrong, it just seemed different and therefore cool. My first girlfriend sought me out at age 14; we had a torrid love affair which ended two weeks later with her unceremoniously dumping me to skip school with a friend.


This first experience of rejection from a teenaged woman was hard for me to take. To her credit, she later talked to me about it, and said she was sorry, but by then, I called the whole experience “a mistake” and pretended to be straight, rather than accept her apology gracefully. Although I regret that now, this was a time when being “found out” as lesbian or gay was quite frightening, as you would almost certainly go through the experience alone. No Dan Savage, no “it gets better” videos. You either convinced yourself and everyone else around you that you were straight, or concealed a secret which you were sure would result in social exclusion if found out. It has not been that long ago that this rejection of LGBT people was commonplace in America.


I guess my first LGBT ally was my mother. Whether she ever realized my difference or not, she was a fair-minded person who told me about gays and lesbians she knew while living in Ohio. In the rural South, these experiences were my first exposure to gender difference, and I’ll always be grateful to her for it.


The assassinations of Harvey Milk and George Moscone weren’t on my radar at the time, but Anita Bryant’s anti-gay campaign in Florida made the local news. The flamboyance of guys like Liberace and Elton John were merely seen as them being “entertainers”. Even Freddie Mercury, who now seems as flaming as a forest fire, kept up a tough guy façade in order to successfully front a 70’s rock band.


I went to my local bookstore at age 15 and special-ordered a copy of the Radclyffe Hall book, “The Well of Loneliness”. The protagonist, a woman named Stephen, is allowed to demonstrate her feelings for her girlfriend, Mary Llewellyn, but she is not allowed to find any happiness with her, she must give the girlfriend up in order to please a biological male. At 15, this was the message I absorbed about lesbianism, that it existed but merely in subordination to straight male needs.


The first friends I made in college who were gay were well-traveled but heavy drinkers. Nevertheless, I got caught up in their circle and hung around for a few years, mostly because they were the only out LGBT people I knew. My friend who had HIV asked me if I thought I was a lesbian. I said “maybe” but my life experience up until that time demonstrated an almost evenly divided interest in both men and women. He basically took me under his wing, and encouraged me to seek out female friends as well.


Later, when I moved to San Francisco in the late nineties, I met a wider circle of LGBT people who had no qualms about being out and proud of it. The social climate there was much more supportive of gender-bending, so much so that it was frowned upon to be closeted. This was a 180-degree shift from the cultural disapproval I was used to. I found that I was more reserved about my sexuality than I had thought.


Part of what has held me back has been original family issues. While I was in San Francisco, my mother fell ill and had a protracted illness for six years. It was difficult to be so far away while this was going on, and I made every effort to come back when I could. This meant less time for any personal journeys, as I was still responding to the needs at home. Later, after the first dot com bust, I thought it would be best to come back to Virginia and help my father, who had gotten sick himself while taking care of my mother. I was worried about his health breaking down as a result of the long caregiving situation he had just been in. He had a few years afterwards in which he was able to go out and meet a new girlfriend, socialize with buddies, and so on. He recently passed away from lung cancer, after a five year battle with the illness. I was directly involved in his care and became his primary caregiver for the last several years.


So over the last 16 years, 11 of them have been spent with either my father or mother suffering from sickness and needing care. Between this reality and the demands of work, I’ve had little time to reflect on what I wanted for myself as a single person and to look for potential partners. I have also struggled with substance use, but moving home has made it easier for me to wean myself off of these crutches. That has been the biggest benefit of moving here, besides being able to help my family from closer by this time.


What role does chosen family play in all of this? Well, quite simply, they give me the hope that my life will get better, that I’ll be able to go on and have a life with a partner of my choosing, and that I won’t be rejected for it. Chosen family are the people who accept my gender difference and actually like me for it. They do not expect me to play a straight role for them, just to make them more comfortable. They join me in the enjoyment of just being different, and together we have built a whole community around the recognition and even celebration of this fact.


Although I’m a strong supporter of marriage equality, sometimes I feel a little weirded out by the eagerness with which the straight community embraces us, almost as if to say, “Hey, I’ve got a gay friend”. I never sought approval for my feelings of gender difference, and I never thought it was wrong despite the disapproval of society and some peers. So it bothers me a bit now that some straight people seem to patronizingly “approve” of us, as if we ever sought that. No, instead we went and made our own communities. We created our own social structure, in which we were diametrically opposed to any attempts to define us or demean us based on gender difference.


The good thing about the marriage equality movement is that it “normalizes” our relationships, states that they are not inferior marriages and that we are able to experience same-sex love in the same way married straight couples do. The concern is that not everyone necessarily wants to get married, and so it creates some pressure within the LGBT community to “blend in” with the straight world, when that may not exactly be on everyone’s dance card. One of the happiest times in my life was when I went about 5 years without socializing in the straight world, living exclusively within the LGBT community. Now we are expected to be “role models” on display for the straight world’s approval. I’m not sure I’m entirely comfortable with that yet.


Although I’ve dated some women in the past, I’m currently very single and living in an area with very little LGBT visibility. The younger generations are coming out earlier, but many LGBT people who are my age and older here remain closeted around straight people. Hopefully, this will change with time.


So my LGBT family consists of my two dogs, Bodie and Sara. I dote on them like a devoted mother, and they show me a lot of unconditional love in return. I recently inherited Sara when my father passed away. She’s 14 and Bodie is 7 years old. She has been a great addition to the household. I won’t be able to take her with me when we move, due to issue with rentals and pets, but I’m glad we got to spend this time with her. She has helped mellow out and mature Bodie, who is still very much a teenager. I can’t wait to take him walking on the city streets and in parks. He will be my advance PR department, as he is way cuter than I am at this point :}


Well, that’s all the time I have to write for today. Pride month has a special meaning for me this time, as I prepare to move back near the LGBT community in San Francisco which I remember fondly (for the most part). I’m going to appreciate it a lot more this time. I hope that younger LGBT people will listen to their elders when we say “we haven’t always had it this good”.


Science Podcast: an interview with Frank Biermann March 20, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — clovernode @ 11:04 am

The journal Science recently posted a proposal from an international group of scientists regarding improving world social systems in the face of global warming. The proposal is titled “Navigating the Anthropocene: Improving Earth System Governance.” The full article is available for purchase.

A supplementary podcast of an interview with Frank Biermann, one of the authors, was included on their website. I’m linking to a copy of the podcast below in order to pass it on people on Twitter. All rights owned by the journal.




We’re Having a Heat Wave December 7, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — clovernode @ 10:12 am

The weather has been unseasonably warm here so far this winter.  Luckily, I live at around 3000 feet, so a temperature increase here doesn’t feel as drastic.  Even though we’re not talking about it much, most rational adults collectively understand that we are seeing the initial effects of global warming: melting ice caps and warming average temperatures.

Part of me feels panicked about this.  The little girl who used to save earthworms from drowning in rain puddles won’t be able to save each creature who suffers the effects of this change.  Just the other night, I saw frogs hopping on the roadway during a rainstorm, which is unusual for December, it seems.  What will happen to those out-of-season creatures when the weather suddenly turns cold?  It saddens me to think about it.

But my more adult side understands that adapting to this change is all we can realistically hope to do.  The planet’s ecology is too massive for humans to control, so the Earth will adjust, whether that suits us or not.  My meditative side knows that accepting what I observe, and responding appropriately to it, is the best way to cope with whatever life throws my way.  After the dot com bust, one of the biggest mistakes I made was that I didn’t react fast enough to the changes.  I lamented what had been, rather than embracing and facing what was happening at the time.  This was a costly mistake.

So now, I try to dodge deer and other creatures on the roadway, while saying a short prayer for those that have been killed.  I don’t spend too much time agonizing over the sight of them, like I used to though.  I’ll go out and mow the grass, which continues to grow even after the leaves are gone from the trees, even though this “shouldn’t be happening”.  I recycle and buy recycled products as much as I can, in order to minimize my family’s impact on the environment.  Mostly, I’m learning to look at the world differently than my dad, who grew up in the 1950’s when there was no worry about over-consumption or pollution.

He used to dump oil on the ground to lay the dust in the driveway.  He would pour creosote on fence posts to keep insects from eating the posts.  He would paint cars without dust masks, change drum brakes which exposed him to asbestos dust, and wash his hands in kerosene after working out in the garage.  I’m sure this disregard for his personal safety was thought of as macho at the time.

He has now lived with lung cancer for the last three years.  He is on oxygen and has a diminished lung capacity.  The man who was an accomplished mechanic and carpenter now shuffles from the bed to the dinner table and back, a shell of his former self.  As a child, he idealized the idea of cowboys and war heroes. He may still have a “John Wayne” mentality, but he’s been affected by his actions and environment, whether he chooses to see it or not.  The Marlboro Man is still immersed in the world, regardless of his posturing.  (My dad didn’t smoke, but I’m referring more broadly to our individualistic society.)

I have had to accept these health changes in my father quite rapidly.  He hasn’t really been able to absorb it fully.  It saddens me to know that his workaholic tendencies may end up being what kills him.  My sister is also working herself to death to support grown children with addictions who live with her.  I don’t want to go that route.  I want to help the most people I can with the talents I’ve been given.  I don’t want to be a needless martyr to consumption and capitalism.  If I can live through being a cancer caregiver, I can live through anything.  So that’s how I feel about global warming: the planet is getting sick, too.  I’ll do what I can to help us cope.


Culture War, Class Warfare, or Ecological Crisis? December 5, 2011

Filed under: nonviolence,occupy,peace,social justice — clovernode @ 5:34 am

When I arrived at VCU in Richmond in 1989, I remember seeing an art installation for the Tiananmen Square protestors on the lawn of the student commons.  It featured a replica of “The Goddess of Democracy,” which had been built by Chinese art students in Tiananmen Square, before the sculpture was destroyed and many protestors were massacred by the Chinese army in early June.



The installation featured hundreds of small placards with Chinese characters sketched on them in red paint.  These placards were meant to represent each of the protestors killed that day.  A moving tribute.

How did this affect me at the time?  I felt the proper sense of outrage, and was proud to be in a new, exciting place where political statements like this were made.  Moving to Richmond, Virginia from small-town Southwestern Virginia was a liberating and eye-opening experience, as I’m sure this rite of passage has been for countless others.  I went on to do what most college kids do: try to get good grades, meet new people, and learn more about life away from home.  But this novel display of solidarity has stuck with me over the years: it is still one of first images that come to mind when I think about those heady days so long ago now.



Back then, when the World Wide Web was still in its formative stages, how connected did I really feel with those protestors?  I remember watching footage of the infamous “Tank Man,” and being shocked at how heartless the Chinese government seemed to be.  However, back then, we Americans still enjoyed a comforting if false sense of distance from international events such as these.  China seemed to be a world away from us.  The Soviet Union had just fallen, and pro-capitalists were gloating over the fall of communism as a viable system.  Most people my age were busy preparing to launch their careers into an early-90’s recession economy.  Sounds kinda familiar, doesn’t it?

So although I felt for the lives lost, and found the wanton brutality repugnant, I didn’t see how what had happened there really affected me here in America.  That has changed now.  Thank you, VCU Art Department, for creating a lasting image in my mind of what it means to stand up with creativity and courage against a brutal regime.

In 2011, we don’t need much prompting to see how much has changed in our country.  The largesse of the 60’s and 70’s has dried up, and we are starting to see through the capitalist façade.  After the dot com bust, I noticed that our country seems to have recessions every ten years or so.  This recent deep recession should just be called what it is: the second Great Depression.

After 9/11, the Enron scandal, ten years of global warfare, bank bailouts, the deregulation and swindling on Wall Street, and the travesty of a politicized Supreme Court, it’s hard to recognize what we have become.  The ridiculous inquiry into Bill Clinton’s private life paved the way for the current penchant for “reality shows,” trials-of-the-century, and the general exploitation of human emotions for entertainment purposes.  When is our country going to grow into something more than an adolescent gang of hoodlums snickering at Super Bowl half-time nip slips?



Now I understand how my mother felt as she watched the 60’s generation come of age.  She shared their politics, but was born twenty years earlier than your average hippie.  Occupy Wall Street (and beyond) is the first political movement in my lifetime that I feel compelled to take part in.  I have seen the ups-and-downs of our modern job market and societal mores, and so instinctively, I know I have to create my own reality, my own working environment, my own value system.  The tired old Vietnam-era, “uptight squares vs. wild hippies” framing of our country as a cultural battleground must stop.  We are bigger and better than that.

We are looking at the first generation of college-age young adults who may never have the opportunities that their parents did.  Training our youth to think critically isn’t going to work out so well when the target is our own crumbling society.  The concentration of wealth in the hands of a small minority has happened a few times before in history, and the result is usually the same: revolt and revolution.  When is America going to drop its puritanical obsession with everyone’s sex lives, and start to see the crisis for what it is: the majority class of workers against the minority class of corporate investors?

This past year had some record-breaking weather, including a tsunami which devastated Japan, which led to the world’s worst nuclear disaster.  This should be a wake-up call to many, but instead, perhaps due to overwhelm, we giggle at the latest case of sexual indiscretions.  How long will America be able to keep this up?  What if a nuclear winter were to occur, and we all became sterile?  There wouldn’t be many left after a generation to publish the tabloids.

As more and more draconian laws are passed, to placate a fearful yet fading worldview, let’s take the inspiration of the Arab Spring and American Autumn into 2012, and remember that people power will always triumph over the fickle few.  Why don’t we forget about 1960’s-era debates – it’s time for Gen Y *and* Gen X to come into their own.  We can’t live in the shadow of the Baby Boomers forever.  Let’s start framing this in modern terms: a struggle not only for the welfare of the little guy, but for the sustainability of our ecology and planet.  Peace.  Solidarity.  No nukes in any hands.  Occupy peace of mind.



WYSIWYG FTW November 29, 2011

Filed under: facebook,nonviolence,peace,twitter — clovernode @ 4:20 am

Hello again, I’ve finally taken the time to figure out what was up with the font formatting, I’m using Windows Live Writer now, much better.  I’m increasing the font to 10 point, since my eyes are getting fuzzier as a middle-aged blogger.

Well, many people have encouraged me to continue writing here, and for various reasons, I’ve been putting it off.  After hearing about the attack on Mona Eltahawy in Cairo last week, and seeing her hands in casts, I feel that I can’t put it off any longer.

I spend most of my social networking time on Twitter.  Facebook is like a clunky beast.  They should hire a new user interface team, imho.  What a messy and obtrusive site.  Yuck.

Anyway, I’ll be checking in here more regularly now.  I don’t want to make any promises, as it’s too easy for my schedule to get re-arranged these days.  But trust and believe, I’ll be on here speaking my mind, trolls be damned.

Occupy your body, and occupy peace of mind.




Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.