Wednesday, March 27, 2013

No Skimmed Milk Please

Quote of the Day
Justice Ginsburg on the Defense of Marriage Act.
There are two kinds of marriage: Full marriage and the skim-milk marriage.
Justice Ginsburg, arguing that federal law has created two tiers. (NYT on-line)
Hope she stays a member of SCOTUS for a long, long time. Love it that  she can describe the watered down version of DOMA vs. the 'whole' version as well as she does. When in doubt, go for metaphor.
I haven't read all of the available text and quotes coming out from today's hearing, but love Ginsberg's.
Chemo at 7:30 tomorrow morning, so doubt I'll have a post for Thursday. This will have to do.
Along with the Supreme Court, I've been watching hours of NCAA Division 1 Women's Basketball at night. Filled with blowouts and close games, these women are tough, smart, and know the game. Wonder women. If you haven't watched, keep your eyes out for Skylar Diggins of Notre Dame, Brittney Griner of Baylor, Adele Delle Donne of Deleware. And those UConn women...and Stanford...and Duke. So it goes. Great basketball; these women's games are definitely not the skim milk version of basketball. One of the many great things brought to us by the Courts, Title IX.
And the men are playing also. And they are also good. But those women...

Seeing the Future

“Same-sex marriage is very new,” Justice Samuel Alito whinged, noting that “it may turn out to be a good thing; it may turn out not to be a good thing.” If the standard is that marriage always has to be “a good thing,” would heterosexuals pass?
“But you want us to step in and render a decision,” Alito continued, “based on an assessment of the effects of this institution, which is newer than cellphones or the Internet? I mean, we do not have the ability to see the future.”   (taken from Maureen Dowd, but the Alito quotes has been all over the press).
No, we don't really think SCOTUS as a body is one big psychic made up of several parts, we don't think the lawyers are like Oedipus, riddling the sphinx; we aren't even looking for Tieresias or a new age prophet. 
Glad this group isn't grappling with writing a constitution for a new country. It would be all new, all visionary, all encompassing, all forward-looking unchartered territory of new democracy.  As Alito said yesterday, "We do not have the ability to see the future." Would never happen.
I don't know about you,  but talking about equality and equal rights for all as something newer than the cell phone or internet seems just a bit bizarre. The role of SCOTUS in the fight for justice and civil rights is nothing new.
Let's hope the quotes that emerge from today's hearings make more sense.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Anthony Lewis; SCOTUS

Yesterday was Gloria Steinem's 79th birthday; today Sandra Day O'Connor turns 83. Two women, aging with grace and wisdom, who helped change the world we all live in. Thanks to both of you.
Today, as SCOTUS begins historic hearings on same-sex marriage, we are reminded of the power of both women, but truly wish Sandra Day O'Connor had not retired, not given up her seat on the Court. She must wish - just a little bit - that she still had her place. I'm sure many of those people who have been camped out in the Washington DC snow, hoping to get a seat at the hearings, wish she were still there.
Speaking of the Supreme Court and missing voices, here's a salute to a great man  who will be sorely missed, and whose thoughts would have been of great benefit this week to the Supreme Court. Carol Rose writes an elegant, eloquent tale of Tony Lewis' life and his influence on so many lawyers. But he thought and wrote not just for lawyers and people with legal minds, he thought and wrote for the rest of us also. He wrote with grace and truth; he made us all better thinkers for reading his prose. He understood the power of story, the narrative that draws us all in to understanding the higher truths. In Gideon's Trumpet and so many other writings this 'pre-eminent expert and explainer of The Constitution and The Bill of Rights' taught us well. Whose voice will replace his? Let us hope that his sort of writing and explaining isn't lost to future generations. And let's hope that such a voice will be writing on the Supreme Court's decisions.

Anthony Lewis: A Voice of Courage and Clarity

Posted by Carol Rose, On Liberty March 25, 2013 02:53 PM

The world lost a voice of courage and clarity when Anthony Lewis died this morning. He was our nation's pre-eminent expert and explainer of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. By telling human stories of personal courage and the law, Tony Lewis inspired me and countless other journalists, lawyers, and ordinary people to embrace what it means — and what it takes — to be a free human being.
I first met Tony when I was a young reporter at The New York Times, and he remained a mentor and teacher when I later became a civil liberties lawyer at the ACLU. He taught me to love the law, to strive for clear prose, and to realize that courage is essential to a free society.
Shaped by his early reporting experiences covering government loyalty programs during the McCarthy period, the civil rights movement, and the U.S. Supreme Court, Tony combined a reporter's knack for story-telling with first-hand knowledge of human suffering in the face of injustice. He used narrative writing to teach Americans the fundamental concepts that keep our nation safe and free: freedom of speech and the press, due process and the right to counsel, and equal rights under the law.
He knew more about the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights than any lawyer, and wrote about them with more eloquence than any other writer. His books became required reading for generations of Americans, particularly his 1964 book, Gideon's Trumpet. In it, Tony told the true-life story of Clarence Earl Gideon, a poor man who filed a petition on his own behalf demanding his constitutional right to a lawyer. The book chronicles Gideon's case up to the U.S. Supreme Court, resulting in Gideon's exoneration and a victory for the right to counsel in criminal cases. On this 50th anniversary of the Gideon decision, the importance of that ruling — which Tony taught us in Gideon's Trumpet — continues to inform and inspire today's efforts to extend the right to counsel to civil and immigration cases.
Another of Tony's books, Make No Law: The Sullivan Case and the First Amendment, told the story of freedom of the press and the civil rights movement. Capturing human drama, fear, and courage of the time, it told the story of how segregationists tried to silence press coverage of the struggle for freedom in the South. In Lewis' retelling, both the free press and the civil rights movement were saved by a courageous Supreme Court.
Courageous judges were a theme in Tony's writing, and in his life, as evidenced by his marriage to Margaret Marshall, a long-time anti-apartheid activist who later became the Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts. In his final book, Freedom for the Thought We Hate, Tony concludes with what can only be read as an ode to Justice Marshall, who in 2004 authored the historic Goodridge decision extending the freedom to marry to same-sex couples in Massachusetts:
"The courage required in a free society is not alone of those who believe in change, but of journalists and other shapers of opinion. And, not least, of judges," he wrote. "Many of the great advances in the quality — the decency — of American society were initiated by judges: on racial justice, on respect for the equal humanity of women and homosexuals, on freedom of speech itself. Every one of such steps exposed judges to bitter words and, sometimes, physical danger. 'We are very quiet there,' Holmes said of the Supreme Court, 'but it is the quiet of a storm center.'"
Tony Lewis' call for courageous jurists has never felt more essential than now, this week, as the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to take up two historic equal marriage cases. I can't help but imagine how helpful it would be to hear Tony's perspective on the cases and the Court, and I am bereft that he is gone.
Fortunately, his words live on in the extraordinary body of writing he bequeathed to us and to future generations. Perhaps the wisdom of Anthony Lewis will inspire today's Supreme Court justices, as it does so many of us, to demonstrate the courage that the world needs if we are to realize freedom and justice for all.
This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.
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Monday, March 25, 2013

Spring Error

That's about all I have to say this chilly morning.
Just got this on FB from Cheryl Curtis. A big installation failure here in Denver. Cold, so cold. Snowed most of the weekend. Anyone have a solution?

Thursday, March 21, 2013


It's not even 7:30 this morning and I've already managed to screw up the coffee pot, deleted two messages I need to go back and retrieve and spent fifteen minutes trying to get on this blog, because I somehow forgot the password.

Glanced at the morning paper just enough to get depressed about the gun control mess and the fact that Arizona wants people's access to bathrooms tied to the gender on their drivers' licenses. Between the aliens and the transgendered, what's a state to do? And read a brief follow-up to the news that lululemon's top yoga pants have turned out to be transparent. Recall.

I'm trying to follow Mary Oliver's plea about how to be in the world: Pay Attention. Be Astonished. Tell About It.
I've only paid a tad bit of attention, but I am astonished at the day's beginnings, and now I've told you about it.

Think I'm going to re-start the day. Hope yours is a good one.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Poets for Spring

Vernal Equinox; First Day of Spring

Oh, how I wait for this day every year. I'm not sure Mother Nature is following the calendar and lining up the weather with the promise of spring, but it is the official day - day of hope for fresh starts, new beginnings, new ways of seeing. So many spring poems to choose from, but here are my two favorites, dedicated to the 2013 spring season.  I love the goat-footed balloon man. And 'What is all this juice and all this joy' is one of my favorite lines ever. Thanks to ee cummings and Gerard Manley Hopkins for capturing the essence of spring. Thanks for poetry.

By E. E. Cummings 1894–1962
in Just-
spring when the world is mud-
luscious the little
lame balloonman

whistles far and wee

and eddieandbill come
running from marbles and
piracies and it's

when the world is puddle-wonderful

the queer
old balloonman whistles
far and wee
and bettyandisbel come dancing

from hop-scotch and jump-rope and




balloonMan whistles

By Gerard Manley Hopkins 1844–1889 Gerard Manley Hopkins
Nothing is so beautiful as Spring –
When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;
Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring
The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing;
The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush
The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush
With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.

What is all this juice and all this joy?
A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the beginning
In Eden garden. – Have, get, before it cloy,
Before it cloud, Christ, lord, and sour with sinning,
Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy,
Most, O maid’s child, thy choice and worthy the winning.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Spring Cleaning

I have a long 'to-do' list this week, but this morning's e-mail list reminded me of two more simple things: take my name off Sweaty Betty's and Waterstones bookstore listserves. Both stores are in Hampstead, England and always having fabulous sales. But I can't walk up the street and take advantage of them. Haven't been able to do so for a couple of years now, but also haven't wanted to disconnect from the time when I could. And how can one not love a message from Sweaty Betty when the other yoga stores that bombard me with e-mails are named Lucy, Lululemon, and Athleta? I'll take Sweaty Betty stuck in downward dog anytime.
As for Waterstones - another bookstore to love. All the Man Booker finalists' books are lined up ready to go, just waiting for the winner to be announced. Last I was there, there wasn't an e-book reader for sale anywhere. They have joined the e-word, but it's still a store that focuses on print. It was an old-fashioned bookstore, filled with people and great books. I did get rid of the punchcard long ago, figuring I'd never finish it off from Colorado.

If I'm really ambitious I'll also get off some of those American listserves I never open. (Did I really say that? As if there is an 'American' only listserve? As if Bare Necessities and Chico's aren't international.)
 Don't know how Bergdorf Goodman, for instance, found me.  I've never opened one of the almost daily e-mails. Just hit delete and go on to the next delete. It's time for spring and spring cleaning.

On another note, it's March and we're heading to spring, so that means March Madness and the NCAA college basketball dances. They announced the men's brackets on Sunday and the women's last night. Big, long ESPN shows revealing the teams and their rankings. Two-page spread in the Denver Post on Monday morning, so everyone has one of many hard copies.
No two-page spread on the women in the paper this morning. Guess all the significant betting happens on the men's tournament, so there is greater need to have the schedule to make predictions. This doesn't go down as a big gender offense, but one has to wonder.

More on women's basketball in the coming weeks. My team is UConn, but I happen to like all the serious contenders, so it's going to be a good time getting to New Orleans.

Don't forget the spring cleaning.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Hope for the Future

Caught up with two DU alum Saturday night at the DU-CC hockey game.
Ten years ago, Joey Lechuga and Ryan Marks entered the Pioneer Leadership Program at DU. We've met up several times prior to this, and this time they were reflecting on the past and present with Professor Emeritus Roscoe Hill. I knew Ryan and Joey for the four undergraduate years, and talking with them reminded me, once again, of the good fortune bestowed on those of us whose careers have brought us in contact with undergraduate men and women.

Every once in a while, one can just tell in that first classroom encounter that there's a game-changer, a bright light whose glow isn't going to diminish over time. Potential major or lack of major isn't a marker, writing samples, test scores don't give a clue; some sort of indefinable soul spirit just says 'this one is special.'

Even as first-year, first quarter students Joey and Ryan stood out as students who were going to do good things. They were driven by theories of social justice, environmental studies and making the world a better place. Free spirits, grounded in thoughtfulness and common sense. I'm not sure either will find his way to the top of a Fortune 500 or any other money-marker of success, but I am sure they will transform their students and make the world a better place to live.

Joey majored is Religious Studies as an undergraduate and thought he might go on to teach theology. He was also the resident advisor for the Social Justice Program. Ryan majored in Biology, studied environmental science, traveled to India on a service-learning course, and taught in Thailand. Their lists of achievements are long.  Both were energetic activists; both were eager learners. Witty and wise.

Today, Joey teaches Latin at Regis High School and Ryan teaches science at High Point Academy.

Joey has ninety students spread out in beginning level Latin.
"Many of the guys study Latin because they are interested in the wars, the strategies, the thinking of the leaders. The girls tend to study because they plan to go to medical school or law school and feel the preparation is right," he says. "I love teaching and love the students." 
I love students loving Latin.

At High Point Academy, the student body is roughly one-third white, one-third Latino, and one-third African American, along with African immigrants.  26 languages are the mother tongues of the students there. Ryan loves the diversity, but struggles to keep the vocabulary and reading levels appropriate for everyone.
"One teaching tool I use is to put lectures on video. The students can watch them at home first and then have good discussions in the classroom. For the low-reading level students the video lecture homework is better than written assignments," said Ryan.
Have to love someone who's working to bring the love of science to all students.

It wasn't a great night for DU hockey, but it was a great night for catching up with two incredible young men. Ten years out, Joey and Ryan are still free spirits, still grounded in thoughtfulness and common sense. Both still tell a good story, and both are still eager to learn.

Because of them, and others like them, I'm filled with hope for the future and for education. Teaching is a huge challenge today; Ryan and Joey are up to it. We have quite a few other teaching stars out there (Hi, Kristen Weaver et al), and cheers to all of you.

Friday, March 15, 2013

No Homework

This article came to me through a young, disgruntled teacher --- well, not even still a teacher. The academically talented and emotionally savvy minority male didn't even make it through a year of teaching in an urban middle school packed with students. Unfortunate for all of us.
I've read the whole report previously (Program for International Student Assessment - 2006), which was a grim reminder of the place of the US education in the world. We do get first prize, however, for using standardized tests. Hmm..
I know Finland is a very different country, different economics, demography, social structure, than the US, but this article is worth a read - and a thought or two. Hope you can read the sources at the end of the article.

There Is No Homework In Finland!

So, every single student these days is talking about it – there is no homework in Finland! I guess you are all already packing your bags. But, is having no homework really a smart thing? Well, according to this awesome infographic – it is!
High school graduation rate in Finland is at 93 percent, which is fantastic, especially when you compare it to 78 percent in Canada or even less (75 %) in United States of America. Finland also has the highest rate in Europe of students going to college (two of three).
They don’t have homework and they are so successful! How is that even possible? There are only twelve students on one teacher, so students get plenty of teacher interaction. They also don’t have much standardized tests. For example, student in New York takes ten standardized test before he or she reaches high school and guys from Finland only have one standardized test at the age of 16.
Finland educational system sounds really awesome and other countries can learn from them!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Jesuit Rankings

If you watch or read any kinds of news, you know The Catholic church has a new leader...a leader from Argentina. Anderson Cooper has to be happy to put this story to rest and catch up on a bit of his own. Pope Francis, humble bus-taking, dinner-making man that he is, champion of the poor and advocate for social justice represents two of what I find to be the better qualities of Catholicism: he's a Jesuit (all about education, are they) and chose the name Francis, from Assisi, founder of the Franciscans.  Jesuit and Franciscan. Conservative theology (are you surprised?), but focused on people, not power.
It's time for news of the underside, the wrongdoings or whatever in this man's life to surface, I suppose. How else to keep the news running. But, for now, score a big one for the Jesuits - and Francis.

I visualize Pope Francis sipping tea, talking with the Dalai Lama and I like what I see.

Speaking of Jesuits and education, a report in the Denver Post ranks earnings by degrees from colleges and universities in Colorado. The rankings are based on first-year graduate salaries. Not surprisingly, Colorado School of Mines ranks No. 1. Find me a school packed with engineers, and I'll find you some good starting salaries.
Regis University, a Jesuit school, ranks second out of 24 names schools. And Regis ranks significantly higher than some other high-priced colleges and universities.

I spent my time and place in the academic world where, other than business schools, one didn't talk about salaries and values; we talked about developing a philosophy of life, interaction, critical thinking. But those were the times of relative economic stability and smaller student loans.
Times have changed and it makes sense to seek a correlation between getting a first job and the student loan load.  I know all these studies are suspect in one way or another, but I like the serendipity of the Jesuit focus today.

So here's a big shoutout to Regis University, embracing the Jesuit tradition of education, and granting degrees with financial value.  And am I glad not to be sitting around an administrative table with deans, vice chancellors, presidents and marketing people trying to come up with a plan to respond to the report or ignore it.


Wednesday, March 13, 2013


Well, it's been six months since Winter Pilgrim took off, moving from Argentina through Chile and into Peru. About six more months to go. So many trails, so many stories.

In her honor, here's the poem, Stories.


Stories move in circles
They don't go in straight lines.
So it helps if you listen in circles.
There are stories inside stories

and stories between stories,
and finding your way through them is as easy
and as hard

as finding your way home.
And part of the finding is the getting lost.
And when you're lost,
you start to look around
and to listen.

--  Corer Fischer, Albert Greenberg, and Naomi Newman of A Traveling Jewish Theatre, Coming from a Great Distance

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

More Than Enough

Well, slurpies and all other gigantic drinks prevail for at least a while longer in NYC. I've never been one for the big drink and have a hard enough time drinking a minimal allocation of water each day.

I often wonder why there isn't legislation against making such humungus drinks or serving such big plates. Better not to have the option. Maybe.
Sunday night we went out to dinner, with two people ordering from the appetizer section for dinner, one a salad, and a fish dish. The salad was the size I'd put on the table for four to six people for dinner. No one other than the person who ordered (me) wanted any. Ditto for all the other dishes. More than enough. And more than enough pita bread and chips thrown on the plates to last a Fourth of July picnic. Why?  I have no idea. And this was a nice restaurant. Probably 40% of the food at our table wasted. Maybe the pita and chips get re-distributed or used up at the bar late at night, but there was just too much too much.

And of course, at least I believe, one always eats more or too much from the too much plates. So the best laid plans end up on one's hips. Maybe the over-abundance leads to bigger tips, the 'oh, our waitstaff was so generous' kind of extra cash. I doubt it, but just digging for answers.

Back to Mayor Bloomberg and New York. I doubt he's finished his battle. After all, he is the man who is responsible for much of the smoke-free dining, drinking, hanging out. He's not one to go gently.  But even if he does 'win,' fat drinks will not go away. Saw in Saturday's NYT the 800 calorie drink one can get at Starbuck's -- and that's with coffee or tea as a base. And not 32 ounces. Classier than that.

For now, I'll try drinking my water, avoid the clean plate club,  and avoid those movie theatres where the crunchy popcorn boxes are larger than eight-year olds and the syrupy drinks have enough ice cubes to keep the popcorn filled idiot (finished with popcorn during the trailers, just some crumbs hanging off side of lips and shirt) crunching, chewing on his ice throughout the entire film.

My, that turned into a rant, and it's not even about the papal conclave.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Catching UP

Tricko is right. A new pope won't make a bit of difference in this world. Hope I don't find myself chawing on those words in the coming years.

Been away from the blog for a while; my son Rob and his wife Elena came from Fort Lauderdale on Friday for a long CO weekend. Sunshine and Red Rocks on Friday afternoon, all-day snow storm on Saturday. Elena, born in Cuba, had been in CO once, years ago, so it was a refreshing day for her. As both she and Rob only get snow when they go east to CT for the holidays in December, it was a snow fight, snow angel, snowball kind of day. We sat in the house as they made their way around the parks in Lowry. It's easy to forget how beautiful the snow can be when one rarely sees it. And, of course, Sunday the sun spilled down, making it appear as a whole magical holiday weekend.

They also managed to get to the Mayan, Denver Art Museum, Curious Theatre, REI and a couple of micro-breweries, so it was a good showing for our city. Still, I'm sure they were looking forward to their own sun bathed little patio this afternoon.

Speaking of good showings, don't miss The Brothers Size at Curious. Intense, riveting, and incredibly well acted. I missed all the other outings, being on chemo tired time, but the play was more than worth the effort to get to opening night. If you don't like it, I'll reimburse you the price of your ticket - or something. Maybe I'll apologize, but don't think I am in for that.
Three actors, no intermission, directed by Dee Covington. Smashing. Mature audiences, but aren't all theatre goers mature?

Last July 6th I sent an e-mail and a copy of a post I had done on the Hartford Circus Fire to someone who had just written a book on the Fire (July 1944 CT). I had been among the participants and had commented on my memorires - or what I made up as memories to him. Also had commented that the famous photographs of Emmett Kelly, the clown with a bucket of water, taken by George Emerson, turned out to be my neighbors during the '80's. So many coincidences. I went on a bit, and that was that.

Just got a long answer from the book's author today. Am I feeling good about not being behind on e-mail. You never know who is waiting for just the right moment.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Voting Rights

Just wondering...if a new pope will really make any difference in the Catholic world or in the world at large.

Choosing one from a group of men all of whom have lived similar lives makes it hard for me to imagine there is any hope for real change. And even if a different sort of man were to emerge as pope, is it possible to change an institution as old and steeped in its own traditions and rituals as the Vatican?

I do like that the contenders allegedly abide by the old school rule we once had: it's impolite to vote for yourself. Personally, I had trouble with that in the third grade, but am happy someone can still keep up with such a thought. And I like the idea that there is supposedly no campaigning for the position. Find it hard to believe, but like it. No trading of art works, promises of art collections or new robes, no "I am the best man for the job."

What if we held our political elections following a similar scheme. Do you think anyone would run for office - or vote?

That might be a better question for SCOTUS to be discussing than the voting rights on the docket right now.  Come to think of it, they already discussed it in Citizens' United - and came down hard on the side of no holds (or donations) barred bare-knuckle campaigning. In that world, the issue of voting for oneself is dwarfed by many more frightening things.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Winter Pilgrim Update

Somehow a day of chemo doesn't do my brain much good --- I sit, think, read a few pages here and there, delete e-mails.  My mind wanders, but doesn't really collect anything of substance or make links that are meaningful. Other than the news of Hugo Chavez' death, nothing of international consequence leaped out at me. And I sure don't understand why the stock market is at an all-time high, but that's probably why I am not rich. The wealthy do know things that the rest of us do not.

So instead of a review of the complicated Chavez or money musings, I thought I'd give you a recent update from Winter Pilgrim. She is approximately half way through her pilgrimage - six months down and into Ecuador. Hard to imagine, and harder still to imagine the faith and endurance that keeps her going.  Here's Ann Sieben, Winter Pilgrim, update from her blog:

Finally, Ecuador presented itself beneath my eager feet, in a soft warm rain and a lot of mud in an oversized world. At first, I thought that the leaves on some of the undergrowth were big enough to diaper a baby, then saw others I thought big enough to blanket a baby, then others big enough to blanket me. Always interesting.

My last night in Peru was spent in a village called San Ignacio de Loyola, my old friend from Spain. I read his autobiography a few years ago and read of our commonality... severe stomach pain during a pilgrimage. I experienced it first when I went to Santiago de Compostella, again in Crimea, and lastly in Istanbul. I thought I had it beaten, attributed to Vitamin A D E or K deficiencies and affecting the upper digestive track. I try to be careful about what I eat, but it's not always easy when you eat as the locals. The Peruvian countryside diet is very meager in fat and meat. When I arrived in Ecuador, an entirely different plate was presented - fresh whole milk instead of canned sweetened evaporated milk, 5 or 6 ounces of beef rather than an ounce or two of guinea pig or chicken in soup... richness. I ate a rather small portion - the priest kept insisting 'eat, eat', but by nightfall, I was flat out with a rock in my stomach. I made it through the night but in the morning, the folks at the parish office called the doctor (housecall!). He gave me the magic shot in the rear, which arrested the constant vomiting, and prescribed rest. I thought that would be that, as it was on the other occassions, and after a calm and restful second night in the same bed, I set off with the blissful satisfaction that it had passed. Fooled! Another small meal of beef and rice and milk in my coffee was enough to cause another fitful, painful sleepless night. After walking some distance by foot, I moved ahead a town by bus at the insistance of the (rather frightened) parish priest to a hideous tourist town of expat Americans and Brits but with a regional hospital. There, after a refreshing bag of intravenous saline, they diagnosed it as gastritis and sent me off with some tablets to set me right. Poor Saint Ignacious, what was he to do when moving from one gastronomic palate to another?

I now have a map of Ecuador and am working out a route that includes the famous sanctuaries and historic places and will rest for the day before continuing on my pilgrimage tomorrow, after days of interruption. Life's still good, of course, loving the pilgrim way.

I can't say for sure, of course, but I think I'm at the halfway point at just over 7,000 kms. In Peru alone, I passed more than 3,400, more than any other single country I've walked through. Immediately in Ecuador, the ugliness of 'gringo' is gone and people are far more inclined to smile and greet me as I do them. Nice.

Those intestinal disasters are bad enough at home, with a bathroom just a room or two away. Hard to imagine being on the road, in unpredictable settings, with such upheaval. Hope that relief comes soon.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Hint of Eternity

Chemo all day today if the white blood cells count gives up the right answer. So I'll just leave you and this blog with a couple of quotes from poems. Great article in NYT Sunday on 'You Are Who You Quote.'
First is a quote that toppled me in college:

I'd rather learn from one bird how to sing
than teach ten thousand stars how not to dance.    e.e. cummings

This next one is a more recent find. I don't eat biscuits much any more, and haven't baked in decades, but still like the image of something ready to rise in me.

I Was Just Thinking

I was just thinking
one morning
during meditation
how much alike
and baking powder are:
getting what is
best in me
to rise,
the hint of eternity

I always think of that
when I eat biscuits now
and wish
that I could be
more faithful
to the hint of eternity,
the baking powder
in me.                                               Macrina Wiederkehr

That's it for now. W.B. Yeats and Emily Dickinson are calling to be put on the page, but I have to let them go for now.

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Beat Goes On


e-mail from my friend Mardi, the day before the 60th birthday party her family planned for her this past weekend:

 Ties or no ties, that is still the question in this house. Dale's response is he thinks he will begin the evening wearing a tie....profound right? Ha, ha I have to laugh just knowing that these guys have one fashion decision to make.

 By the time it is all said and done, I will have had harsh chemicals put on my head, attempted to yank minuscule hairs out of my eyebrows while wearing bifocals, shaved and waxed every inch of my body (don't ask me why), worried the dimples on my ass will show through my dress which means trying on every Spanx product in the store and hope that the wings of skin on my arms won't hit someone in the face. OK guys just take a shower, pick a pant from column A, a shirt from column B and when you ask me WHICH tie to wear I will so be there for you.

 That’s about as accurate as it gets for most of us as we prepare for such events. The number of minutes that any given woman has paid attention to the hairs on her body must amount to half a life. Simple enough at first – it’s just the hair on the head. But it’s a long journey to collecting all those hairs over our bodies. I’ve long suspected that it’s only women who notice the hair on other women; I’m not sure there’s a guy anywhere offended by those almost invisible hairs that don’t quite fit the eyebrow look; not sure there’s a guy who has said ‘Nope, not dating her again as her eyebrows have stray hairs.”  It’s a woman thing, I suspect.

As for the Spanx, I know there are male Spanx products, but I just don’t know any men who own them. Must be an age thing.

But the good thing about a 60th birthday party - after the angst of preparation - is the music. Bring in a DJ who gets that the Rolling Stones works with this crowd, a DJ who can please an audience of people from 30 – 70 years old  and it’s worth celebrating the aging process.  Sure there was some arm flapping and those shimmies weren't quite as rapid as they used to be. Women of a certain age abandoned their heels with the first dance, but the rhythm was still there. When we finally left, the DJ had just gotten to Van Morrison’s Brown Eyed Girl. Made me want to turn back around, walk past the cake and get back on the dance floor. The beat goes on.

That’s all from an otherwise sequestered weekend.





Friday, March 1, 2013

Always in March

Derivative again today. Same poem as last March 1st. I've already looked at the trees, hoping for a bud somewhere, hoping for signs of winter's good-byes. The heart yearns for warmth, some sort of internal and external warmth that is natural. March is usually the snowiest month in CO, although last year there wasn't a flake of snow to be had. I think the poet got this one right Always in March I . . . . grasp for the patience to wait. It's a trickster sort of month, one that requires patience as it gives us earlier morning glimpses of light that don't always fulfill the promise of fullness.

Always in March

I am greedy for color.

the bleached bones

of bare winter trees

stand out against the

pale flesh of sky like

raised trails of parasites

showing no promise,

yet, of green, of life

of movement beneath.

After days of warmth

faint and ominous

as low grade fever

I am ready for the

ruby bloom of full

spring days, ready to

drop this heavy coat of idleness.

this thick blanket of inactivity.

always in March

I give myself over freely

to minor rises in temperature,

look everywhere for tiny shoots

of crocus and iris, listen

for the tiny bells of lilies,

grasp for the patience to wait

for the fullness of what is to come.

Amy Christman