Conversations with a Ghost

Now before you go all logos or pathos on me, I have not been seeing any wraiths or spirits, at least not more than I usually do. Where I live, in Tucson, this month is a lead up to the All Souls Procession. This month, in my life, is a month when I think a lot about those who have left the world of the living, because of the many birthdays I would be celebrating with those people whose absence truly does create a void in my life.


I think my dad is the person in my close family with whom I most miss conversation, discussion, and story-telling.   I didn’t really get to have all that many conversations with my dad when I was an adult.  He was gone before I had a child and before I realized in mid-life that he and I were very much alike.  A perfect impossible day would be spent with him under a split trunk box elder tree  looking over the farm fields I knew as a youth .  There would be lemonade and angel food cake.  History, philosophy, and religion would be discussed in depth.  Paradox and inconsistency would be noted.  Eyes would twinkle.  Family history and folklore  would be dissected. Possible revisions would be made.  It would be grand.

But, as I cannot live that impossibility, other than in pleasant thoughts, I have been listening to The Evolution of God, by Robert Wright, and The 4 Percent Universe: Dark Matter, Dark Energy, and the Race to Discover the Rest of Reality by Richard Panek.

So you see, I am not really having conversations with a ghost.  I am listening to and having thoughts about books that recreate, for me, the mind space that I’d like to think Dad and I would be sharing if we could talk.  A ghost, a shade, a shadow of him is with me as I do this.  It is comforting.

With so much of the universe missing, is it any wonder that we little humans try to construct meaning from the voids we note in our lives?

Happy 99th Birthday, Dad. I Miss You.

The Battle of Hastings, 1066.  This is how I remember the date of my father’s birthday.

Harold II's death Bayeux tapestry

Bayeux Tapestry depicting the death of King Harold II death in the Battle of Hastings.

October was so filled with birthdays of so many friends and family members when I was young that I had to take some extra measures to remember when each one was.  My mother (30th), Dad (14th), my best friend in grade school (24th),  my best friend in high school (31st), my first boyfriend (29th), my eldest nephew (30th), and another high school friend (16th) all celebrated October birthdays. My dear next door neighbor who lived to be 105 and was like a grandmother to my daughter was born October 7, 1904.

I remembered: 10 – 14, 10 – 66.  My dad was not evil so his birthday could not have three sixes associated with it and the birthday I confused with his was a high school friend’s who had a 10/16 birthday.  His birthday could not be 10-16 because his birthday was on the anniversary of the Battle of Hastings and if it was the 16th the anniversary would be 10/16, 1066 – three 6s.  And growing up in the Bible belt I knew three 6s was bad news.  (I so wish I had not grown up with such superstition!)  So his birthday must be on 10/14/1915.

Does anyone else in the world use such convoluted memory tools?

My mom would be celebrating her 100th birthday on the 30th.  I think she was actually born on Halloween, as her mother always told her she was born 5 minutes before midnight.  Midnight would have meant Halloween and thus a questionable alliance via birth with dark forces.

Mom and my friend with the Halloween birthday loved their connection.  I guess there was something about being born on a high holiday of the Old Religion that connected them.  My friend lived to be 21 and died on Friday the 13th.  My mom lived to be 92.

Birthdays of those who have passed on can be odd, especially when the cluster contains more who have died than those alive. But I’m going to have a cake for Mom’s 100th birthday.  We celebrated my 50th birthday together a few weeks before she passed on.  Dad liked apple pie. I think I will make a pie this weekend.  Why not?

First World Problems

On a recent weekend I spent the morning thinking about women, education, empowerment, information, fundamentalism and the tremendous power we fortunate women who have access to social media and the time to use it are frittering away. I am not lecturing, I am as guilty as anyone.

First of all, I do not expect every woman to want to be political. I understand that politics is man’s game, that is, a game where the rules were created by men.  Our current political system is derived from previous systems and those trace back to territorial and resource protective strategies as old as human communities. Rancor is ever-increasing, and it was not great to begin with.

I really do understand wanting to stay out of the fray.  To live a functional life I have to manage my stress level quite carefully.  Bumping over a stress limit can send me into a fit of tears and fight/flight behavior that is nearly impossible for comfortable folks to fathom.  I have learned to recognize these very thing  lines between acceptable and melt down levels fairly well and only veer off course a couple of times a year.

Some of this may be my basic constitution that infused my personality with a toughness and resilience long before any trauma and situational stress triggering of post traumatic stress reactions ever came into play.  But maybe I learned to be tough after living through nasty situations and breaking through barriers in my path.

But all that said, I expect women who are aware, intelligent, and informed to do everything they possibly can to help others who do not have the luxury of time and money to spend on activities that do not directly support food, shelter and basic hygiene in their lives.  Most of the world is hungry, has no access to clean water, water with which to wash, nor access to toilets.


If I can keep knocking away at the problems as I see them and keep crafting solutions as best I can, almost everyone can.

In basic anthropology courses I took when I was an undergraduate, I was exposed to the concepts of environmental degradation, climate change, and that pandemics and starvation are likely to emerge when ecosystems, if not the entire biosphere, begin to fluctuate and exhibit crazy flip-flops looking for a new balance.  No guarantees that humans will be around when a new balance emerges.  That was a long time ago.  We’ve known.  Those of us who understood have not been silent, and are not silent now, but most of the women I know, even the really smart ones, avoid thinking about unpleasantries of what life will be like in a decade or two.

Just Blog It

We can change things.  But we have to act.  Now.  A major opportunity exists in form of elections next month.

I personally believe if enough of us decide to write about making intelligent choices in this election, in light of current events, that we can have a significant influence on how our women readers think about the issues and get them to the polls.  I will be writing pieces about ebola, fundamentalism (as in ISIL,) infrastructure, community, and scientific/critical thinking. I hope these will give others ideas as to how they can frame issues.

Let’s do it.





My Rediscovery of the Audiobook

My temporary job is made up of extremely monotonous tasks.  But on the upside,  I can do the job while I listen to audiobooks.  Libraries lend audiobooks.  This service is not one of which I had taken advantage until very recently.  The Pima County Library uses OverDrive  for audio and ebook distribution, and I have to say, “I’m sold.”  Up until the last couple of weeks, I had primarily listened to audiobooks when I was on long-distance, usually cross-country, drives.

Butler signing

Octavia E. Butler signing copies of Fledgling, 2005.  By Nikolas Coukouma [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (], via Wikimedia Commons

The first audiobook I listened to at this new job was Octavia Butler’s Fledgling.  She was such a wonderful writer.  Even though she thought this title was an undistinguished, simple vampire novel, I found her exploration of the popular vampire genre  to explore sex, race, gender, and community, basically all of human culture, to be nuanced,  thoughtful, and thought-provoking.  Her use of language was eloquent, intelligent, and totally uncontrived.  Her timing and tempo flowed smoothly, and quickly.  Her characters in this novel were not all appealing to me, but they were intriguing.

Her death a few years ago while she was still in her late 50s from a fall and/or aneurism took a voice from the speculative fiction world that should have should have been telling us stories through which we could learn more about how we perceive the world for another several decades.  Few women have cleared the hurdles of the sf community that can be a bit misogynist, and her status as a woman of color blew through all the barriers, boxes, and preconceptions that almost anyone could bring to a reading of her work.  We needed her for a longer time.  I want to listen to Parable of the Sower and Kindred again if I can find an audiobook of it.  This minor work, Fledgling, has whetted my appetite for some of her classic works.

I have also listened to a couple of books by Kate Wilhelm.  She did not draw me in the way Octavia Butler does. I decided that few of the audiobooks available for check out could successfully compete with Octavia.  So I switched from fiction to non-fiction and will probably talk about A Safeway in Arizona by Tom Zoellner in the very near future.