Friday, August 31, 2007

Urban Zen

A friend turned me on to this website and I was inspired by the video of Kris Carr, a young woman who has stage 4 cancer, and author of the book Crazy Sexy Cancer. I heard about the book because I met the book's editor at the ASJA writer's conference in NYC this past April. I haven't read the book, but this video is inspirational. Go to and then click on Video. The project is one put together by designer Donna Karan, and in the first video, "Voice of the patient" you hear my favorite singer-songwriter Alanis Morrissette.

I'm working on an article about mountain lions, and reading some in David Quammen's book Monster of God about large alpha predators and the fear they inspire in people, and how for better or worse they've been a part of our cultural and evolutionary history and to lose them would be a shame.
I'm also working through Julia Cameron's book The Artist's Way with a few girlfriends and though we've just started, it seems like it will be a good project for me to help myself break through the glass ceiling, so to speak. I love things like this that I can do with other people to discuss progress, etc.

One thing I've realized is that literature and books really inspire me and help energize that creative side of me. I used to read voraciously as a kid, and now as an adult I rarely have time to read anything that is not directly related to articles I'm working on. But over the past year or so, I've been listening to more books-on-CDs. I actually was in a book club a few years back and did the same - listened to them all on CD. It really also does stimulate the creative side of one's brain also to keep reading new thoughts, and new ideas. I've just started listening to Al Gore's The Assault on Reason, and during my trip to Glacier actually managed to read a whole print book cover to cover. It was People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil by Scott Peck - which was utterly brilliant and fascinating. I plan to blog about these two books on The Fish Wars blog.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Visiting Glacier National Park

Dad and Wendee's trip to Glacier National Park. We drove from dad's cabin near Deer Island, OR to Montana and stayed at Glacier NP for several days, and then drove back to the Seattle/Tacoma area where I met up with my cousin Holly and her kiddos. This is dad and I on the roadside inside Glacier NP, at a scenic spot. Not a great photo but the best I could do! Glacier NP used to have 150 glaciers, but today only 26 remain - one fewer than last year's 27. Global warming hits the high mountain areas faster than elsewhere.
A gorgeous view of the mountains.

A coyote at Two Dogs Flat (left). Dad at Josephine Lake (right).

Lucas M, a graduate student, took Dad and I out in the field to look for pika, which he studies for his doctoral work. These are the talus slopes we climbed up!

Can you spot the pika?
Here I am! Squeak squeak!

This is my favorite shot. This was on the Trail to Hidden Lake, at Logan Pass behind the visitor's center. I was blown away by this entire hike!

A shot of people hiking the Trail (same one as above, at Logan Pass). The boardwalk protects the fragile alpine vegetation.

Another shot on the same trail.

Yet another gorgeous scene on the same trail. I love how we're literally hiking through and near the clouds.

To the left, the Canadian and U.S.A. flags fly near the Logan Pass visitor's center. Glacier National Park borders Canada and has a sister park, Waterton N.P., on the Canadian side. To the right, another shot on the Trail to Hidden Lake.

The mountain goat on the left was near Hidden Lake, and the one on the right seems to be nearly enshrouded by clouds.

A mountain goat kid - how cute! And a vocal chubby little Columbian ground squirrel.

Saturday, August 18, 2007


I had an encounter with someone recently in which I told them what I thought, and they took it as that I was being mean. The truth is, the truth can hurt if it's something you don't want to see about yourself. Humans can be masters of denial. You have to be fully committed to truth in all of its forms if you want to be truly an emotionally healthy human being- including having the courage to see yourself for how others perceive you, even if it's not what you think you are, or how you wish to be perceived. We are masters of delusion.

I try to speak the truth in love, and am learning when not to speak, instead of "all the time" as I used to believe I should do. During the situation, I was calm, and the other person was what I'd call "freaking out" but what others my call agitated, upset, stressed. It was apparent from the moment I picked up the phone. It had become a regular state of being. I mentioned it, and said I thought the person needed counseling. This may seem harsh, but it affected my children.

So then after I made that decision to speak, I read something in Utne Reader that was like a sign from God, from the Universe, whatever, that I was on the right track. It was an article called "Out of the Drink" by Tess Gallagher, and was originally published in the Sun. In it, she is writing about her experience with an alcoholic friend, to whom she spoke up about his denial. She writes, "I guess all the havoc I've seen alcohol cause made me unwilling to play the denial game. When the spades fall, I call them what they are. It's the kindest thing to do. I recommend this kind of boldness or effrontery - whatever you want to call it - because although it won't always succeed, it might, and it is this chance that makes it worth the risk." Her friend, in the article, checked himself into rehab the next week.

Monday I leave for Oregon, and from there Dad and I will drive to Glacier National Park. I'm excited to see him. Glacier is in Montana, on the border with Canada. I booked my flight to Nepal also!! I will be there in the first half of November. Woohoo! I am trying to see all the continents in the next couple of years (after Nepal I only have Europe and Africa to go - unless you count Antarctica). I have a writer friend who I was emailing about my dilemma - to go or not - because of the costs versus the payoffs from writing gigs. She said GO, and enjoy. Her sister died young, and yet when she was sick it brought her joy to remember all the travels she'd done. I've always been sort of obsessed with death. I'm both scared of it, and not afraid of it. But I know that life is short, and I want to be able to say that I lived fully, and loved fully (even if that love was not always requited) and that I took the time for my friends. I think that finally in my last few years I am living up to this. And yet I am always reminded of my own imperfections as I continue to try to become a better person. I hope only that my friends and family will always be as forgiving and patient as I know the good Lord is as he smiles on us all with such love at our human foibles.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Kent State shooting victim Jim Russell dies

This is old news, from June, but it's personal. Jim Russell lived just down the road from my dad. I met him on several occasions. He remains part of that cherished spot in my heart and memory from my childhood, my roots, the only roots I have - on Meissner Mountain in Oregon. I moved around so much as a child that the only place that still belongs in my family remains my hippie father's homestead and rustic log cabin. That land is part of my heart, and all the people who live there. I grew up there every summer, and for 2 years (3rd and 4th grade) rode a school bus all the way to Rainier. Jim and Nelda lived down the road, nearly one of our closest neighbors at a couple miles away.

My dad told me that Jim died of a heart attack recently - on June 23, 2007. His wife Nelda was pouring him an Epsom Salt Bath and he slumped over and called out, as the reports said, "I think I'm dying" and then, "Oh God," more surprised than scared. What I didn't know until Dad told me was that Jim was one of the 9 survivors of the Kent State shootings on May 4, 1970 - where the National Guard shot at nonviolent Vietnam war protestors. Four died, nine were injured. Jim was shot in the head and leg. Ironically, Jim says he was not even involved in the protest but was on his way to turn in an art project (however he had participated in other protests). As one of the shooting victims, he got fired from his job, and the university told him he didn't need to finish, he could just take his diploma (he was a senior). Not only that, his dad got fired from his job. These kids were targeted as "dissenters" and anti-American.

So he eventually moved to the woods of Oregon, like my dad, where they met. Until my dad told me, I honestly didn't even know Jim was one of the 9 survivors but my dad went to his wake which had a lot of the Kent State survivors there. From what I've read, Jim didn't talk about it for many years, since for many years he worried they would still come after him. The Kent State survivors have all kept in contact over the years. I've been reading about it and it has moved me to tears. In some ways, our country has not alienated war dissenters like they did then. But we, the public, have not staged as massive and united a movement as the hippie generation did. Who knows what our government would do if we did. I don't have a lot of faith that it would be much different.

Eight members of the National Guard were indicted by a grand jury, but they claimed self defense, and basically that was accepted. But in May 2007, one of the injured, Alan Canfora, requested that the case be re-opened after a videotape was found at Yale University on which the clearly distinguishable audio can be heard, "Right here! Get set! Point! Fire!" just before they fired into the crowd. I don't think he's made much progress.

Kent State's May 4 Task Force - has a memorial to Jim.
The Oregonian has a piece "The Long Road Back from Kent State."

Long live the right to dissent, and peacable demonstration! A Jim Russell memorial fund has been established through Rivermark Community Credit Union, 4875 S.W. Griffith Park, Beaverton, OR, 97005. 1-800-452-8502.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Islam vs. Islamists

I watched an absolutely fascinating documentary on Houston PBS last night, Islam vs. Islamists: Voices from the Muslim Center. It talks about attempts to silence moderate Muslims by more extreme fundamentalist Muslims, often by death threats. It talked about the Wahhabi Muslims, who are the very extreme Muslims that want sharia law instituted which means Muslim law for all people, even in non-Muslim countries. This law includes stoning women and men to death for adultery --the documentary showed secretly captured footage (which was horrid). Yet many moderate Muslims believe in democracy, and in separation of church and state, and were interviewed and highlighted in the piece. This includes Phoenix physician Zuhdi Jasser, who leads the American Islamic Forum for Democracy.

Here's the documentary trailer on YouTube.

Apparently there was a big controversy several months back because the documentary was supposed to air as part of a Crossroads in America series on PBS, but got pulled. The reason? PBS wanted the producer to somehow say that the moderate Muslims portrayed within (who believe in democracy and live in a Westernized society) are actually not "true Muslims" but the extreme fundamentalism represents a truer form of Islam.

The irony here, and the beauty, is how parallel this is to Christianity, and to some extent Judaism. In these three religions (which I know best) there are gradations from fundamentalism and literal interpretations of Scripture, and more modern interpretations. Fundamentalists inevitably claim they are the only "true" believers. Ultra-Orthodox Jews take a literal interpretation of Genesis, as I understand it, and believe things like the devil planted dinosaur bones like Christian creationists.

Interestingly, the literal interpretations also seem to be more tied to political activism (at least within Islam and Christianity), probably because the leaders can control those with fear. Christians in past eras engaged in Crusades because they applied Old Testament laws to the new evangelism. Spreading the "good news" became killing others who didn't convert. It's quite similar to the current flaring of Islamic fundamentalism. They want to force everyone to follow their way, which will never happen, because once you've tasted freedom there's no going back.

The fundamentalist Islamists want to institute sharia law which came not from the Kuran but, as I understand it, from oral tradition (hadith). Christian denominations vary on whether the Bible is the sole source of authority, as do Jewish sects on the use of the Torah (Old Testament) versus the Talmud (rabbinic discussions and interpretations of the Torah and its Law).

These three religions share many similar teachings, and so it comes down to whether we interpret Scripture and religious teachings literally, or rather take the spiritual lessons meant within. You can believe the Bible, for example, to be literally true without believing that every word is literal. What about poetry? In Islam, do we interpret things like the 72 virgins one will receive in heaven as a literal truth or as a description of the ecstasy of heaven since perhaps sex is the closest ecstasy we will feel to heaven on earth? (It's no accident that Jesus called the Church his bride).

It's also ironic that there are fundamentalist Christians who tend to agree with the fundamentalist Muslims that "the only good Muslim" is one who is an extremist, and wants to force their faith on others. It furthers their own cause which is often to condemn those outside their religion, and paint Christianity as somehow different. All religions suffer the same problems. That does not make the religion itself wrong, it just shows the ways humans in their selfishness and greed and power-hunger can hijack what is truly meant by faith.

Here is a great interview with the documentary producer, Martyn Burke.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

manifesting your vision

Freelancing can be very "feast or famine" and since I left my job nearly 2 years ago, I've been blessed with an abundance of work - one assignment after another. This famine snuck up on me. About 2 weeks before my last assignment was due (Friday), I realized I did not have a single other assignment on my plate. This, as a single mom, can be frightening. True, I have one assignment based on my trip to Nepal in November but that's not going to bring in money until maybe even January and probably will barely cover my expenses anyway. So I sent out several queries (which, if you're not a freelance writer, are mini-proposals about a story idea) and some were quickly rejected, some have not been responded to, and some were nibbled at but I've got nothing solid yet. These are times when faith and positive thinking come in handy. It's also a reminder for freelancers - when you're most busy with work is the time you need to send out queries!

I very much agree with the power of positive thinking and visualization - which are ways of asking God, and trusting that He will provide - but these things take time. It takes time, and the making of a new habit, to sit still and visualize success. But I'm going to try it. I want to print out some words about positive things like success etc. Reading blink I realize that seeing positive words and things can subconsciously affect our mindset and our results. But I think we also have to be prepared when the answer is no, to not get what we want, because sometimes a no is part of a bigger plan.

It's interesting that what I have read about The Secret, Norman Vincent Peale's classic The Power of Positive Thinking, and recently I picked up Joel Osteen's book Your Best Life Now all echo the same thing - you have to believe it to make it happen. (On an aside, I'm not so sure about Joel Osteen - I watched him on TV and he's too smiley and his sermons don't really cut very deep. His book also does not say anything really new).

You know because I was raised very poor during a part of my life (my dad was on welfare, used food stamps, we shopped in thrift stores and lived without running water) AND because I feel for the plight of the world’s poor – like in 3rd world countries that I’ve seen - I have identified these semi-conscious thoughts about money and people with money that I have. I almost feel like I should not earn lots of money, that people with money sell their soul, that they can’t be good people, that money is associated with greed and lies and power-mongering, but I know these are just delusions (though money can corrupt, and can lead to these things, it does not have to). I think these subconscious thoughts may keep me from making more. I feel very blessed with my success with magazines and my ability to pay my bills monthly, but could I do it out of Texas where the cost of living is so low? I’m not sure. I make a decent salary but I want more! ;) (And I even feel bad about writing that, I wanted to delete it). I want to be completely economically self-sufficient to the point where I can move wherever I want, and even make substantial contributions to the causes I care about. I think about how much Oprah has been able to contribute and I realize wealth does not have to be associated with selfishness and greed.

I’m doing a cleanse right now, so that takes up some time and energy too. I'm doing Jon Barron's colon cleanse and liver detox. I just finished 5 days on the colon cleanse and just started day 1 of the liver detox. I have to drink this orange juice/garlic/ginger/olive oil drink in the morning and he writes that "believe it or not, this drink tastes great!" Don't believe it for a minute, barforama! I had to add Stevia for sweetness but it really tastes like garlic... AND every day I have to increase by 1 Tbsp Olive oil and 1 garlic clove so I can just imagine what it will be like on day 5... then I drink a special liver detox tea which is actually quite good and does help with nausea. There is also a liver tincture that you add to juice and he says to "shoot it down like a shot of bad whiskey" and indeed, that's what you have to do. It's very bitter! I'm doing the cleanse with several other girlfriends and we're discussing as we go. And we're all supporting one another. Jon Barron says that the liver/gallbladder detox is the single most important thing you can do for your health, so it will be interesting to see how it goes. Here's to good health!

And hey, I'm offering another Online Writing Course, starting Sep 15 so if you're interested check it out! I've had a full course every time I've offered it and all positive reports back from students. It's chock full of helpful resources, and yours truly providing interactive feedback on all your writing questions.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

on my mind...

I'm listening to the audio-book of Freakonomics and it's so fascinating! It's about, essentially, how people get what they want ("economics"). It talks about incentives, cheating teachers and gangs and whether the real estate agent selling your house really has your best interests in mind. And all kinds of things. Really makes you think. Good stuff.

I'm listening to blink at the same time (well not literally at the same time). What can I say, Malcolm Gladwell has a bit of a monotonous voice! I love what his book says though. I think the most interesting think about blink is how we can make these snap decisions that really are valid, and it's actually based on real information, but just information collected on a semi- or subconscious level. That fascinates me because I do know how important it is to trust one's gut instinct. I've learned that darn lesson! When we overanalyze situations we can actually undermine our intuitive abilities and make bad decisions. This counts more when making quick decisions, because if we have the luxury of time gathering more information can be helpful. He uses real examples from situations in war, with cheating card players, with firemen, and docs in the ER.

On another note, I just booked my flight to go visit my dad in Oregon, and we'll drive straight to Glacier National Park in Montana, spending a few days there. I'm very excited because this place is very special to him, so it will be fun to go on a road trip and see a place he cares about. I've never been there either, and he says it really brings him peace. It's an international peace park, so of course! ;) We went on another road trip some years back to Rocky Mountain National Park. I enjoy traveling with him and talking about all kinds of things. I hope to record some stories about my childhood, which I will use for my memoir which I'll write one of these darn days... I'll also get to see a couple of friends (my next door neighbor from 7th grade, Elissa, who I still keep in touch with) and family members (cousin Holly and her husband Ross and my "niece and nephew" (really 3rd cousins technically), which will be great. And it looks like I will be going to Nepal in November, which is super cool. I'm still investigating on that one, but I'm about 95% sure. Got an assignment and everything. I get excited to have adventures on the horizon. What would life be without adventures, and things to look forward to?

I've had a lot on my mind lately. Time goes so fast, and I feel sometimes like I'm not passionate enough about what I'm doing. I tend to multi-task and lose focus. I want to learn how to channel out unnecessary distractions and really find my focus and my passion. I miss that feeling I had when I was alone in New Mexico in Nov 2005. That was just brilliant. I've read that you can close your eyes and just bring those good uplifting inspired feelings to mind. Maybe I just need to do that more often.