Summer Above, Winter Below, and Confusion All Around

“It is the June Solstice wherever you go today,” I wrote last week.  In the Northern Hemisphere we observe the Summer Solstice and in the Southern Hemisphere the Winter Solstice is observed.  Like everything humans do, there is some disagreement about what this means, except that old Sol aligns with the Tropic of Cancer.

I live in Tucson, Arizona, so for me that means that June is the height of the dry Summer.   Summer Solstice is definitely the middle of summer in my book. The monsoons usually start in July during which time the humidity spikes while temperatures remain quite high.

tucson weather

This has been an unusual year, weather-wise.  Spring often is only evident here by the blooms of plants.  Here is southern Arizona we say that, “The ice breaks on the Santa Cruz River” the first day it reaches 100 degrees F.  It usually happens in April, but this year it was mid-May before we hit a hundred;  it was on May 17th, my birthday,  June 17, our wedding anniversary, often records temperatures well over 110 degrees.  I do not remember what the temperature was last week on the 17th.  That information was lost, completely overwritten, with the slaughter of nine good people at Bible study at Mother Emanuel in Charleston, SC by a hateful, domestic terrorist.

I often wish others, “Happy Solstice.”  The main reason I am pleased when Mid-Summer arrives is that the monsoons will soon arrive.

Arizona, rain, distance, monsoon, landscape,

But this year there is a pall over the anniversaries and celestial celebrations that has finally broken through my resolve to exclude sadness from this time of year.   I am tired of being parched.  It is so dry around here that things can mummify. That can put one in a foul mood.  In these days of air conditioners, central air, evaporative cooling, and electric fans it is rather hard to explain why I am living in a hot-house.  It is not for the plants.  My husband and I are trying to stay on budget and pay off all debt.  Obviously to do this we cannot accumulate more debt.  So we are limping along with a 20-year-old A/C unit that needs to be replaced.  There are parts of our home that will not get below 80 degrees.  That makes me a bit irritable too. We will pay cash for a new unit when a tax return is generated for us; did I tell you that some thief filed our taxes for us this year?

With the already evident climatic fluctuations caused by the increase in overall global temperatures, what the future holds for us here is not promising.

Then there is this year’s unsuccessful attempt to push back the memories that come forward every year near the anniversary of my mother’s death.  June 25th.

I was to have a Grand Opening for the Women’s Legacy Project on June 25th.  But I just could not finish the last bits and pieces of the remaining tasks.  Thoughts about religion and racist beliefs  have been on my mind constantly these past 10 days and that is not conducive to the concentration needed for a few more launch tasks.  Looks like September is the next window for an opening.

Where does protected public expression of your beliefs end and imposition of your beliefs on others begin?  It starts way before the killing of 9 good people.  I do not say any pledges to flags.  I do not support any organized religion.  Personal faith is another matter and should be kept personal. But everyone believe they are right.  In this area I just do not know, but I do know that freedoms granted by the constitution allow me to do business in public and have my private beliefs.

Abraham Isaac Human sacrifice interupted.I will not actively or passively support the public imposition of a religion that was conceptualized at the same time that human sacrifice was practiced.  Abraham was going to ritually slaughter his son.  Perverse.  I am just as suspicious of beliefs related to these practices as I am of any system that has incorporated ritual sacrifice of living creatures.  I am extremely uncomfortable with patriarchal, segmentary lineage beliefs and practices that trace to North Africa 5,000 years ago.

Faith is a decision, said Mother Teresa.

Mysticism is “belief that union with or absorption into the Deity or the absolute, or the spiritual apprehension of knowledge inaccessible to the intellect, may be attained through contemplation and self-surrender.”

I have had mystical experiences and from those I have decided to have faith.  But I do not want to impose my beliefs on others.  That is one of the reasons I like written words so much.  We can choose not to read.  But please do not expect me to quietly support your ritual practices in my presence unless I have willingly and overtly made a decision to participate in them.  Flag flying, a behavior, can be a very dangerous thing.  One thing can stand for another.  One thing can represent another.  One thing often points to other things.

Love and grace are real to me.  Everything else is questionable.  Even summer and winter depends on where you are standing.  I stand firm in my understanding that everything is relative.

Pink Flamingos R Us

Donald Featherstone touched lives, created a cultural icon, and made people smile.  That sounds like a pretty good life and legacy to me.

I have to utter thanks one more time as he is laid to rest; he passed away a couple days ago.    Pink flamingos are iconic in and of themselves. But the plastic ones are more so. He invented these.

Created at the height of the post-WWII baby boom, in 1957, the same year I was born and the same year that Sputnik launched, the pink plastic lawn ornament captures the essence of an era it helped to create.  Or at least it captures one essential view of the era.

Flamingo_1To me the prototypic 1950s image conjured up by the word retro is an image of a platinum blonde woman wearing pointy frame glasses, a wasp-waist full-skirted dress, emerging onto steps from an Airstream travel trailer onto a perfectly manicured lawn decorated with pink flamingo lawn ornaments.

Such pink flamingo lawn decorations served as trail markers for the path at the top of Mount Lemmon to Lemmon Meadow where my husband and I exchanged wedding vows in June of 1989.  I wore a flamingo pink dress.  We loved retro kitch!  The bathroom in our first home was “the flamingo room” that iterated the theme in the shower curtain, the toilet plunger, towels, framed pictures, and just about every bath-related product that friends could find and buy for us from a Five and Dime or touristy gas station souvenir shelves with a flamingo image.

We have always had a few flamingos displayed in our home.  There is a gorgeous, well-framed professional photograph of a flamingo that was a wedding gift.  An Audubon print of a flamingo is in my hubby’s study.

We took a pink flamingo with us to Niagara Falls to celebrate our 25th Wedding Anniversary.
Nancy.Robin.Flamingo.Aug2014

 

Is it accidental that Donald Featherstone had a bit of surname determinism playing out in his life?  I suspect not.

Yes, this ad leads to an Amazon listing where you may purchase a Featherstone Flamingo.

Keep on Keepin’ On – The Meme

When underground comix were de rigueur, Robert Crumb created a character that was depicted as walking determinedly down the street that popularized the phrase, “Keep on Trucking.”  This phrase was probably influenced by “keep on keepin’ on” that was a phrase in Tangled Up In Blue by Dylan.KeepOnTruckin

The phrase means to just keep on living life and putting one foot in front of the other without getting too caught up in the details.  The phrase according to Crumb-lore was derived from Blind Boy Fuller song “Truckin’ My Blues Away.”  In any case, the Grateful Dead released the song “Truckin‘” on the 1970 Album “American Beauty” that was certainly derived via influence from all of these.

A phrase diametrically  opposed to this understanding of truckin‘ was also in common use, “Be Here Now.” This was the title of a book by Ram Dass, that was originally developed from Ram Dass’ manuscript, and illustrated by Lama.  The eastern, spiritually inspired text encourages living in the moment and being aware of all that is.

Beherenowcvr

It intrigues me that these two phrases both became emblematic of the attitude associated with the 1960s and 1970s counter culture without any real awareness that they advocate completely and distinctly disparate attitudes about how to happily live life.

Early and Contradictory Memes

It is not strange that complex culture contains contradictions, it is, if not strange, at least intriguing, that such contradictions are overlooked by the people who were influenced by both of these countercultural memes.

A concept that I am playing with is that these are some of the first identifiable memes for the later born boomers created by These are both versions of 1970-ish memes, slow memes, or concepts that went viral in a pre-digital world.  When did ideas become memes?  Even though I really do not like the man’s other ideas that are all focused on “gene” centered evolution, Richard Dawkins author of the Selfish Gene, did coin the term meme. 

Memes in the Digital Age

What meme has come to mean is a bit different from what Dawkins intended.  The way we use the word meme is distinct from how he used the term where meme was the smallest replicable bit of cultural meaning akin to the smallest part of a replicable hereditary trait.

The biggest difference that is easy to explain between what he originally meant and how meme is currently used, is that it now needs to be viral.  It needs to disperse successfully at frenetic rate – but it does not need to be the smallest unit of meaning.  It just needs to be dispersible as a unit, in this case a visual unit, in what is viewed as “the same time.”

If you are intrigued by this concept, I will talk more about slow memes in a future post.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What A Freakin’ Amazing Week!

After several weeks of living in a funk I have re-emerged with energy and ideas.  Watch out world!

TED Women – TEDx Tucson Women

I was lucky to be invited, or have an invitation wrangled for me by my friend Pam Vaner of My Sassy Notions, to a gathering organized by Mary Reed, TEDxTucson Leader extraordinaire, to catch a livestream of a session of TED Women 2015 with around 15 other Tucson women at Connect Co-working.   These local women are so inspiring and I feel privileged to have been included.  I hope to feature some of their doings on the Women’s Legacy Project. Tucson is such a cool place, filled with radically creative people!

IMG_6195

Connect Coworking, Downtown Tucson

I encourage all readers to check out the videos of sessions at TED Women 2015 in general and A Question Worth Asking: Babies at TED Events? in particular.    Why?  This is a key segregation issue that has held women back in innumerable situations throughout history.

TED has been around for over two decades I think, and I am so not buying that this is the first time that a woman was asked to leave because she had an infant with her.

Now do not get your panties in a bunch as the TED honchos got wind of this and must have realized that a potential bad media disaster could be in the offing, or maybe they really cared that an attendee was being booted because she was a mother with an infant.  We will never know for sure, but the outcome was positive if not perfect.  The primary livestream viewing area on site was made available to her, and another special “screaming baby” livestream room was set up so mothers with fussy offspring could still participate.

I have to commend BlogHer for being the first major conference I ever attended that provided childcare for attendees and allowed them to plan it into their regular old planning to attend the conference in a way that feels inclusive and non-segregationist.  Babies regularly come into sessions with mothers at BlogHer Conferences too.  Making women feel set apart or like second class citizens via segregation is something that should have disappeared from places of innovation and sharing by our best and brightest long, long ago.  Better late than never, I guess.

The Container Store

The second rather nice warm and fuzzy happening this week was connecting with other Tucson bloggers via a blogging luncheon and tour at The Container Store before the Grand Opening weekend that is going on right now. The Container Store, by the way, is not an evil place.  Becca Ludlum of My Crazy Good Life,  garnered an invite for me.   And I was pleasantly surprised to find Martha Bishop and Suzi Hileman there.  And I met Desert Chica‘s Karen Heffren and the woman behind Tucsontopia but I cannot for the life of me remember her name.  And  others whose names/blogs my leaky brain has neurally mis-shelved.

TUC Blogger Preview Photo

Tucson bloggers gathered for special preview tour of The Container Store

I like it when people are cooperative rather than competitive, we all rise in collaborative effort. In a way I wrote about this sort of positive interaction in the Women’s Legacy Project article too.

Find of the Week

Instant Articles on Facebook  looks like it could be great per mobile viewing if the people featured in this video are to be believed as they talk about what is being promoted as a “new tool for publishers to create fast, interactive articles on Facebook.”

I am not one of the people who can use this feature so I have no idea how much it will cost or if it will be useful for small publishers like myself, but it bodes well for the future of publishing. Facebook will not be able to corner the market on this kind of layering will it?

Anyway, it was a good week.

Clouds of Late Fifties Funk

I have been in a funk and giving myself a pity party for the last several weeks.  First I realized my magical year was ending as my 58th birthday rolled around a couple weeks ago.  Born in 1957 my 57th year was to be magical or golden according to contemporary mythology I chose to embrace.  This past year has been eventful, but magical is stretching it a bit.  Then I realized I celebrated the wrong year. Damn.

One of my favorite peace buttons.  Pro solcier pro peaceI should have known this as my 49th birthday forever stands out in my memory as the day I was escorted from a U.S. Armed Services Senate Committee hearing because I called Donald Rumsfeld a liar and Ted Stevens who was chairing the session said “Get that woman out of here.”  After being escorted out the door to the sidewalk I spoke with a Vietnamese delegation of business men who were on a tour of Capitol Hill.

A culmination of pro-peace activism that began 38 years earlier when my brother was horrifically wounded in Vietnam juxtaposed with finding a trade group of the same country against whom my brother fought was a coupling that made me realize that individual soldiers really are just fodder for corporate interests.  Awareness of all sorts descended upon me during that 50th year when I fully came into my own.

That day in D.C. began my 50th year that would find me caring for my mother in the last month of her life in her home 2000 miles away from my home and family a year later on my 59th birthday.  Somehow my family did not send a card not even a call.  It was not the best of times, but it was a learning time, and there was much healing between my mother and me.  The experience of that year taught me something that should have been obvious before it became real to me.  The first year ends with the celebration of the 1st birthday or 1st wedding anniversary.  The 50th year ends with the 50th birthday, the 57th year ends with the 57th birthday.

So I missed my magical year, thinking the 58th year was the 57th year.  My magical year was not this past year, but the year before.  Now I have to go through my blogs and journals and photos and find out how my 57th year,  May 2013 to May 2014, really was.

This was a real downer of a realization after a less than eventful Mother’s Day opened the week leading up to my birthday.  And I had all these event descriptions and photos picked out for a summary post about the year.

Something began to dawn on me when my daughter called to wish me a Happy Mother’s Day, bless her, and she asked if her dad had announced his usual insensitive Mother’s Day comment, repeated every year, “You are not my mother, so I didn’t get you anything.”  Twenty-five years of being told this gets very old. I told her he did indeed say this again.  We both just groaned and shook our heads.

My husband does not do presents well.  Unless someone applies constant reminders or pressure, he “forgets.” I know after talking to many, many spouses of scientists and academic  researchers that this tendency to forget about the importance of real world events is a character trait of many ridiculously bright people.  I am not sure it is so much that this type of person cannot remember such things, but they have been taught by our culture that they do not need to bother with such mundane world occurrences.

So weekend one, Mothers Day, less than stellar.  Weekend two, birthday, less than marvelous.  Then Memorial Day, weekend three and  this is the first Memorial Day for me since my brother passed away last November.  He was a casualty of the Vietnam War although it took 45 years for him to succumb to the physical  injuries and psychic wounds he suffered in Hue and Khe Sanh.  My parents are gone.  Three of my four brothers are deceased.

Let me tell you that all this really sucks.  I have spent most of my adult life dealing with depression.  I have it under control, so I no longer bottom out and become mired in black pits of despair.  But lethargy and lack of focus can and will descend when I do not actively countermand the early stage of a downward spiral.   I have gotten much better at reframing when something triggers recursive negative thinking.

I have even accepted that sometimes I need to incorporate the negative realizations into my worldview so that next time I experience them I do not spend so much energy fighting them and pushing them back down into the subconscious.  Acknowledge and go on.

These past three weeks of realization have not been fun, but they were probably part of an experience that needed to be lived through.  I have come to trust myself when it comes to almost unconsciously doing what I need to do.  I wish I could count on someone to do things for me when they need to be done, but all I have is me.  And I do have me.  I am strong, resilient, intelligent, and caring.

I suspect we all need to learn to support ourselves more than we do, to be our own best friends, because we do walk through this life as an individual.  In my case I am an individual who is 58, in her 59th year, headed toward my 59th birthday next May.