Thursday, April 28, 2005

Foot It

I've become fond of taking a stroll on my lunch break, walking down to the market for a soda or a snack. With that in mind, I usually wear shoes that are comfortable to wear for a half-hour walk. This morning it was damp and foggy, and the weather forecast predicted showers and rain, so I wore my less comfortable heeled shoes for a change.

But now the sun is out, and it's gorgeous and warm outside, and yet I'm more or less stuck inside on my dainty heels. While I've walked to the store in these shoes before, my feet were always kind of annoyed with me afterward--and right now I have a wart on the ball of my foot that makes it uncomfortable to walk even in sneakers, and in these shoes it's almost impossible to walk any distance farther than, say, from my office to the front desk without feeling like every step is landing on a rusty nail. That excellent four-mile walk on Sunday really pissed off the wart, apparently, and it's been punishing me all week.

Stupid warty foot. Stupid pointy shoes. I feel like a grounded child. I'm going to go hobble around the block, anyway. Maybe I'll be back before the vengeful wart notices.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The Journey

Sunday afternoon I wandered down Shilshole Avenue in the warm sun of a late-April day in Seattle. I hadn't planned to walk all the way to Golden Gardens but I was there more quickly than I expected, so I crossed under the railroad tracks and started up the winding road that carves up the bluffs to 85th St. I'd only taken a few steps when I saw a dirt pathway trod into the ground to my left, straight up away from the road. I clambered up, pretty much on hands and knees to scrabble over the last steep bit below the lip, and found myself outside an off-leash dog park area.

I had cut out a loop in the road, and across it a wide concrete stairway continued the climb to cut out the next huge loop. Sweaty and determined, I hiked up stairs, along a level dirt pathway, and up another hundred or so stairs. It occured to me that this would be a nice place to prepare for a hike with a lot of steep elevation gain; minutes later I crossed paths with a couple with the same idea, wearing full-on backpacks and hiking gear. I climbed and climbed, feeling a bit like Aerin in Robin McKinley's The Hero and the Crown, dizzied by the hypnotic repetition of stairs beneath my feet. And when I reached the top and found myself at 85th, directly across the street stood a little cafe where I could get an icy Italian soda and cool off for a few minutes before strolling down 32nd back to our apartment. For a moment there I felt like I really had been climbing a stairway to heaven.

Anyway, I'd had no idea that staircase was there, and I googled "'golden gardens' stairs to 85th" at home later that evening, curious what I might find out about it. And the very first promising hit, number 4, was "ghosts and other things." And if you like that (and unless you're a complete troglodyte, you will), read "the story of the hedge clippers" too. And "stand by me." Or you could just do what I did and start systematically reading through the archives until you realize with a start that your eyes are dry and sore because it's 12:30 in the morning and you've been mesmerized by Joshua Norton II's writing for three swift hours.

Google, I thought, I could kiss you on the mouth for pulling that out of the murky depths of the internet for me.

Then, as if Google hadn't tried hard enough to get in my pants, it lured me even closer when I found this poem today. There's a period of a year or two in the recent past that I'm not ready to write about yet except in vague allusions. Mary Oliver's poem "Journey" ("there was a new voice / which you slowly / recognized as your own") lyrically captures the essence of my sentiments about it, anyway:

The Journey, by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice--
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do--
determined to save
the only life you could save.

God Beyond All Names

We sang this on Sunday. For the first six months we attended Keystone last year, every Sunday morning one hymn would make me weep. I hadn't been to church in several years, but before that I'd never been one of those overly emotional people in church. (I used to pretend to be, to fit in, but that's another story.) Nevertheless, when we started going to Keystone, every Sunday some song would make me emotional. I was quiet and unobtrusive about it, nervously blinking away my silent tears, but it was inexplicable and embarrassing. Fuckin' A, I thought, I don't take any of this literally--I don't even pretend to believe it anymore--and still these ridiculous heartbroken tears.

This was one of them. We sang it again last Sunday for the first time in months, and sure enough my throat started tightening and my eyes prickled. I quelled it pretty well, know....well, it is a lovely sentiment. "In our living and our dying, we are bringing you to birth. Hm.

God, beyond our dreams, you have stirred in us a memory,
you have placed your powerful spirit in the hearts of humankind.
All around us, we have known you; all creation lives to hold you,
In our living and our dying we are bringing you to birth.

God, beyond all names, you have made us in your image,
we are like you, we reflect you, we are woman, we are man.
All around us, we have known you; all creation lives to hold you,
In our living and our dying we are bringing you to birth.

God, beyond all words, all creation tells your story,
you have shaken with our laughter, you have trembled with our tears.
All around us, we have known you; all creation lives to hold you,
In our living and our dying we are bringing you to birth.

God, beyond all time, you are laboring within us;
we are moving, we are changing, in your spirit ever new.
All around us, we have known you; all creation lives to hold you,
In our living and our dying we are bringing you to birth.

God of tender care, you have cradled us in goodness,
you have mothered us in wholeness, you have loved us into birth.
All around us, we have known you; all creation lives to hold you,
In our living and our dying we are bringing you to birth.

--Bernadette Farrell

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Goodbye, Blue Sky

Via insomnia, we see that in May 2004, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez gave this testimony to the Senate at their hearing on Iraq prisoner abuse:

REED: General Sanchez, today's USA Today, sir, reported that you ordered or approved the use of sleep deprivation, intimidation by guard dogs, excessive noise and inducing fear as an interrogation method for a prisoner in Abu Ghraib prison. Is that correct?

SANCHEZ: Sir, that may be correct that it's in a news article, but I never approved any of those measures to be used within CJTF-7 at any time in the last year.
Oooh, nice job with the careful nitpicky language there, Sanchez! Oddly enough, however, he wasn't nitpicky enough, since his testimony is in direct contradiction to his words eight months previously when, in September 2003, he wrote a memo authorizing interrogation techniques such as:
Presence of Military Working Dog: Exploits Arab fear of dogs ...
Sleep Management: Detainee provided minimum of 4 hours sleep per 24 hour period, not to exceed 72 continuous hours.
Yelling, Loud Music, and Light Control: Used to create fear...
But no worries! Perjury and torture are nothing to be concerned about in an Army officer, and Sanchez is now ollie ollie oxen free:
The U.S. Army has cleared four of its top officers of allegations of wrongdoing at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez became the senior commander in Iraq two months after the fall of Baghdad in 2003. Earlier investigations had faulted him for a lapse in leadership that may have contributed to the prisoner abuse.

But the Army's Inspector General office concluded the allegations were unsubstantiated. It came to the same conclusion for two generals and a colonel under Sanchez's command, defence officials said.
I can only imagine the depth of the relief Iraq's citizens must feel upon hearing that poor, innocent, wrongly accused Lt. Gen. Sanchez has been cleared of responsibility for the events that he approved! After all, they do have some familiarity with innocent people wrongly accused and punished; Iraqi blogger Riverbend described one such situation last May, at the same time poor Lt. Gen. Sanchez was pleading his innocence before the Senate:
In Abu Ghraib, they were seperated and M. suspected that her mother was taken to another prison outside of Baghdad. A couple of terrible months later- after witnessing several beatings and the rape of a male prisoner by one of the jailors- in mid-January, M. was suddenly set free and taken to her uncle's home where she found her youngest brother waiting for her. Her uncle, through some lawyers and contacts, had managed to extract M. and her 15-year-old brother from two different prisons. M. also learned that her mother was still in Abu Ghraib but they weren't sure about her three brothers.

M. and her uncle later learned that a certain neighbor had made the false accusation against her family. The neighbor's 20-year-old son was still bitter over a fight he had several years ago with one of M.'s brothers. All he had to do was contact a certain translator who worked for the troops and give M.'s address. It was that easy.

....They have been trying to get her brothers and mother out ever since. I was enraged- why don't they contact the press? Why don't they contact the Red Cross?! What were they waiting for?! She shook her head sadly and said that they *had* contacted the Red Cross but they were just one case in thousands upon thousands- it would take forever to get to them. As for the press- was I crazy? How could she contact the press and risk the wrath of the American authorities while her mother and brothers were still imprisoned?! There were prisoners who had already gotten up to 15 years of prison for 'acting against the coallition'... she couldn't risk that. They would just have to be patient and do a lot of praying.

By the end of her tale, M. was crying silently and my mother and Umm Hassen were hastily wiping away tears. All I could do was repeat, "I'm so sorry... I'm really sorry..." and a lot of other useless words. She shook her head and waved away my words of sympathy, "It's ok- really- I'm one of the lucky ones... all they did was beat me."

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Feliz Cumpleanos

To me!

A co-worker took me out for lunch, and on our return I was greeted with a little surprise party she had organized. I really hate being the center of attention, but it was a really sweet thing for her to do. Also, the people I work with are apparently a sneaky and secretive bunch: this is the second surprise party we've had in the last month.

And Mr. Thel's band has released their first CD, So Little Left to See. Mr. Thel plays drums on tracks 1, 2, 3, 5, and 11. I'm told the cool kids all say "w00t" about things like that! It's good stuff, too.

AND, just in case I was looking for a place to store my collection of songs from So Little Left to See, I got one of these for my birthday. Mmmm, tasty. I guess this makes me one of the trendy kids now, so "w00t" again!

You know, people complain about aging, but I should note here that I'm really sort of delighted with the process so far. (Of course it helps my perspective that all day yesterday I got to hear what a "baby" I still am: our director asked how old I was, and when I said, "Twenty-six," she indignantly burst out with, "You liar!" She actually thought I was older, and I take that as a compliment to my competence and maturity since I know for a fact that at least two people have been working there for more time than I have been alive on this planet.)

Seriously, things keep getting better. I keep getting better. I was a nervous, insecure shell of a person in high school, and while college was an improvement I still didn't have much faith in myself. Let's not even discuss the train wreck that was my early twenties, as I skipped along obliviously destroying friendships (granted, I did have help in that process from some spectacularly...ah, unhelpful... friends) and hurting people I cared about. In my defense, I made a few decisions that in retrospect were good and right--but I almost always did so in the clumsiest, least kind way possible. Whee!

But I'd like to think I've worked through a lot of the repercussions from that time. I feel far more solid and confident now than, say, four years ago. Some of it's just blind, stupid luck, of course--I didn't exactly plan to meet and marry Mr. Thel. (Hell, I figured my karmic debt would require payment in years of loneliness after the way I acted when I was twenty-one.) But I've also mellowed out a lot, and learned to trust myself more. I'm told this process continues as one ages, and I look forward to it with much relief. I'm grateful that there doesn't seem to be any cosmic law requiring me to remain mired in my youthful self-doubt and insecurity--that, in fact, it seems the cosmic law tends to try to move people toward greater wisdom and grace as they age, if they'll allow it.

So let's go, 26. It's party time.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Pope Rat

Aw, crap. I know next to nothing about Catholic Cardinals, but I knew enough to know I was hoping he wouldn't be the one.

As the esteemed Patrick Nielsen Hayden said, "Benedict, hell. Look at the guy--he's Palpatine I."

Friday, April 15, 2005

Laser Eyes!

So tonight we're cleaning up after dinner when we happen to see a commercial for knee replacement surgery on TV. This is amusing, as we had just been discussing Mr. Thel's aching knee this morning and exchanging banter about knee replacement. I point at the TV and say encouragingly, "See! That's what you need!"

Mr. Thel rolls his eyes. "A ceramic knee!"

The idea of surgery makes me muse, "I wouldn't mind having my eyes done."

"Ceramic eyes?"

"No, you know, laser--"

"Laser eyes!" Mr. Thel narrows his eyes and glares wildly while making "zzeaooo" noises similar to that familiar light-saber sound.

Yeah, laser eyes. Then I can do his knee replacement myself.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

You're No Bed of Roses Yourself, You Know

My friend convinced me (i.e., nagged me and guilt tripped me until I gave in just to be done with it) to go with her to a class at the gym recently. "It's so great," she raved beforehand. "It's a good workout, and it's really fun, too."

The name of this class, by the way, is "Body Blast." Would you want to go to something called "Body Blast?" Yeah, me neither. But I had promised, so there I was.

When the class began slowly I was reassured, much as a frog placed in cold water on a stovetop remains calm. Unlike the frog, I noticed when the class instructor began rapidly increasing the difficulty of the workout. After about forty minutes I felt suddenly ill enough that I had to stop following the exercises and stand still. I halfheartedly faked my way through some motions, trying to breathe deeply and not be sick. And then I felt a kind of rumbling in my insides, a stirring headed south. I knew with great certainty that once this airy body blast dissipated I would feel better.

I might have tried to contain it, anyway, but I felt so queasy. I was lucky enough to be facing into the wind of the fans, and I could tell that it would be silent beneath the manic tunes on the sound system. That was the clincher.

I felt almost instantly well enough to rejoin the exercise and finish out the class session. Turns out I wasn't getting sick after all.

I do feel badly for the man who was standing behind me, though.

I wasn't really going to tell this story, but I am trying to write every day this month--and what the hell, I'm anonymous. (And if I'm not, just pretend.)

Blogger...seriously now.

Why does my blog look broken? Is this a blogger problem or an Explorer problem? Grr...

Seen on a bumper sticker: "Where are we going? And why are we in this handbasket?"

Monday, April 04, 2005


More experimentation with the camera, trying to capture just a hint of the spring this year.

Bright new growth on a shaggy tree:

Looking straight up through the dense canopy of a birch:

A tree in bloom (I really need to learn more botany...):

Lovely lilac:

Sunset behind another budding tree:

Sunday, April 03, 2005


Yesterday Mr. Thel and I stopped at the Aurora Burgermaster for a lazy late Saturday lunch. Being less than ravenous, I ordered a kiddie meal. It came in a cheerfully colored box with an "Endangered Animals" theme. Hey, that's cool--I'm all for educating the youngsters. But we were darkly amused by the contradiction between the grim theme and the brightly happy box art.

Thel [reading the box]: Look, the panda says, "Hi, kids! Here's where some of my endangered friends live," and there's an educational map. Hm...California sea otters live in Florida? This map sucks.

Mr. Thel: "Where my friends live--" he must mean the ones that aren't already dead or extinct, anyway. Hey, did you get a toy with that meal?

Thel: No, just a lollipop.

Mr. Thel: Well, that makes sense...what kind of toy would they give out with an endangered animals theme?

Thel: "Look, mom, I got a rhino horn with my meal!"

Mr. Thel: Heh..what, not a gorilla's hand?

Thel: Ooh, I hope I get a lucky tiger tail next time.

Mr. Thel: Dibs on the elephant-tusk back-scratcher.

Thel: Hey kids, collect them all!