Thursday, 27 January 2011


Just when you think you’ve reached your quota of jellyfish, life throws a few more (or a really big one) at you. But the same goes for sundogs – they just appear without reason, shining their lovely spectrum of colored light all over your eyeballs.
I was just getting beginning to feel better after the national (and my personal) malaise over the Arizona shooting tragedy. It seems like the victims didn’t die or suffer in vain, after all. There seems to truly be a lot less yelling and name-calling going on in national politics. Both legislators and citizens seem more willing to pull together now. We all have more awareness about gun control and mental health issues and how special and precious each life really is.
Two weeks later, I was settling down into a nice routine with a new experiment in my writing life: an old crit buddy and I agreed to try collaborating on some short stories. He has this incredibly fertile imagination and I have the toolbox, the literary filler, and the word-whacking polish. I’ve also nabbed an interesting telecommute job that is pushing me to use new editing skills and old.
I was zooming along early one morning, telecommuting and word-whacking, and discovered via my e-mail electric bill that my vacant home had a larger than usual fee due. Which meant pretty much one of two things – either someone had taken up residence there, which would be unusual in that people who do that usually choose McMansions and not 30-year-old trailers. That left the other diagnosis: the well pump might be running frequently due to a water leak.
I was right. The trailer is toast – very soggy toast. My writing buddy says my life reminds him of the “Perils of Pauline”. As there are all sorts of water exclusions with home insurance policies, I may not receive a thin dime for the accident. The state of my water main is a mystery, as I thought the only main was the one at the tank and pump - and because my well is shared by a neighbor, that had to be left on. Heat – well, the pipes freeze there even with the heat on.
I was crushed for a few days – who wants to lose part of an investment that is due for a fix and up for sale? I even considered moving back in later this year. But I soon recovered as there’s not a darn thing I can do about it now. The whole mystery about the water main and its unusual placement should have been solved by me before gallivanting off to slay dragons and put out fires. Old trailers aren’t worth much, though if it had been struck by lightning and burned down, I’d probably have gotten a check for a new home by now.  There’s the distinct possibility that the leak is long-term, not a by-product of the New Year’s weekend freeze, and that means I may still get that check, or some reimbursement. An engineer has made an assessment and I’m awaiting the verdict. Live and learn.
The sundogs started shining when I received a generous donation by a lovely couple who have published a New Age newsletter for many years. Avaton and Vikki of CAC in Olympia, WA rock. At the very least, if I get nothing from the insurance company, with the kind donation I’ll be able to have the soggy box pulled off the property. This is a pretty good thing. Just the thought of the donation warms my heart so much that I’ve forgotten my initial shock after the neighbors looked around the trailer.
I’d like to think that my years of donating and paying things forward have all come full circle. This is definitely a sundog moment. The writing life is like that too. Artistic endeavors aren't just about honing one’s skills. I think when you reach out to other writers and share what you learn, whether it’s through a critique group or by volunteering time to a writer’s guild, or volunteering to help children read and write in your local schools, your own writing improves in leaps and bounds. As all our lives are improved by generosity, so is our art. I suspect that all aspects of life are involved in this continuous interplay of cause and effect, that it isn’t simply our own personal efforts to succeed that make the biggest difference in our lives. It's our willingness to serve others and work with others that marks the break-out line between success and failure.
So I’ll keep muddling along, doing my do, and when I have more skills or excess resources to share, will pay them forward. I really like to see those sundogs between the jellyfish days. And I enjoy YOUR successes too.
Winter View from the Old Homestead 
Puja Robinson  © 2008

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Jellyfish Day of Epic Proportions

I lived in Arizona for 36 years, and of those, in Tucson for over 12, and it’s the last community in Arizona where I would predict a shooting like yesterday's to happen. Tucson tends toward a liberal or at the very least, a laid-back, live-and-let-live ambiance in comparison to many conservative areas of the state.

I’d never dreamed of seeing an event so singularly tragic unfold in Arizona in my lifetime. The intended target just had to be one of the nicer, kinder AZ legislators who uses her time and influence to make a difference for her constituents rather than enriching herself by playing people for votes. The 8th District's U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords, for all appearances, is a decent and committed national legislator.

I predicted tragedies in the making last year when Arizona legislators under Governor Jan Brewer’s watch rescinded a slightly more restrictive gun law and adopted a conceal carry, no permit scenario, shortly followed by the over-reaching SB 1070 “Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act”. Bent on curbing illegal immigration, the act controversially stretches the U.S. Constitution and plays with Federal powers.

There are usually reasons why the Federal government gets to exert some weight and play a cooler hand, I’m thinking. Just seems to me. Not that Uncle Sam is always right, because he isn't, but Uncle Sam in recent years is at least mostly cognizant of the responsibility to assure the welfare and rights of all living inside national borders, regardless of their legal status.

I didn’t extend my prediction to include an attempt on a national legislator’s life, along with the death of a federal judge, a young girl, and several bystanders. I thought we’d see much more citizen-on-citizen crime in Arizona, especially whites and other races toward Latinos, or the senseless type of domestic violence that appears in hard times when guns are easy to reach for.

It took Governor Jan Brewer more than two hours to appear on television yesterday and make a statement – she should have been the FIRST to express grief and to decry the violence. She and other legislators who have driven this somewhat fear-based legislation and talked tough about unseating political opponents - often more to gain votes than to actually accomplish anything - got their damn votes, though it was a close election for some.

It appears that a certain type of not-so-good political rhetoric and how it stirred up people with less than sterling character and rock-solid emotional stability has brought some karmic weight upon the shoulders of the Arizona governor and legislators. In addition to this type of political rhetoric from the conservative right and maybe even the far left, there have also been many unenlightened people meddling in Arizona state politics, such as the writers of SB 1070, who stirred up beaucoup trouble from far away to further their ideology and political agenda. A pot of jellyfish does not make edible soup.

After living in Wales for a year, experiencing the political climate in Arizona’s wild, wild west is like stepping into a desert wildfire. It doesn’t feel healthy and it doesn’t feel safe. Now you can see one reason why I’m cooling my heels in S. Cali and avoiding my home in central AZ, where there are a bumper crop of fearful people who probably don’t consider themselves to be hateful, who love their families and their friends, and probably do lots of good deeds in their communities. But there is too much anger and fear in their hearts, and their stated ideology has a raw effect despite their intrinsic goodness. Plenty of truly nice folks with kinder, gentler hearts live over yonder too, but the political climate runs too hot and too heavy for my taste.

Kudos to Pima County Sherriff Dupnik for publicly saying many things that most Arizona officials, including Governor Jan Brewer, dared not say. As he indicated, “The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous. And unfortunately, Arizona, I think, has become sort of the capital. We have become the mecca for prejudice and bigotry. . . It’s time to do a little soul-searching . . .”

Sundogs or more jellyfish? Hope springs eternal in the human heart. I’d love to think that this is the shining moment when people will pack it in, eat another bowl of brown rice and chant Om in a big bipartisan circle. But the vitriolic infection in America runs deep.

I predict the US will eventually (and hopefully very soon) shift to a true multi-party, parliamentarian type of government in which more people are fairly represented and a coalition Congress and Senate must work hand-in-hand with the people; either that, or Dems will sweep the 2012 elections after two years of Tea Party gridlock and a boatload of partisan grief. People will find that many of their extreme, rightwing legislators will not bring them the relief or the comfort they voted for and may even undo some pretty good sundog stuff in their surreal zeal to re-work the Constitution and turn back the clock.

Unfortunately, I suspect that human nature being what it is, full of conflict and obstacle, that this one incident will not be enough to calm extremists down. We’ve watched the drama of extremism play out on an international stage in the last decade and have developed plenty of our own homegrown variety. While yesterday's shooting spree will spur already sensible people to reflect and behave responsibly, many fundamentalist and hard-core, rightwing types will likely not see the light. And mentally unstable folk spurred on by outside rhetoric can't see the light.

Sadly, this may not be the end of the story, especially not in reactionary Southwestern states like Arizona and Texas. The high emotion during the mid-term elections stirred up vitriol in virtually every state in the nation, so no corner of our fair land is truly exempt from this spectre of violence, either. This incident may even inspire copycat events. Some of the hatred spewed on the internet and over the air toward government leaders, even after the elections unseated many officials, is shocking.

You notice that I haven’t focused upon the perpetrator in my rambling. In a way, Jared Loughner is a victim too, of the times, of his youth and inexperience, of his unbalanced, conceptual thought, and of the thoughts and actions of far more sane and responsible people than he.

He is our nephew, our brother, our son. We let him down. We let us down. We have some work to do, America.

My heart bleeds sundogs for my old love, a culturally diverse and beautiful place. Get well soon, Arizona.

Wrong Way
 Puja Robinson © 2009

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Back to Re-al-i-ty, Uh Huh!

So what’s next? It’s always both exhilarating and daunting to roll up my mental sleeves and face the real world after a long holiday. And since my long holiday also included a pleasant 3-week trip to Kenya via the 2010 SLS Kenya writing gig as well as a round of Solstice, Christmas, and New Year’s cheer, the windshield of my about-face (that’s windscreens to you UK and Commonwealth folk) is plastered more with jellyfish than sundogs.
The least of  this year's new cycle was my propensity to organize my stuff, because I’ve had to deal with stuff on so many different levels in the past 18 months already. My stuff is well-organized or out of sight. And it usually makes me happy to sort it out.
The part of my stuff that brings me to tears is trying to adjust to not having my own desk in my current living situation. My beloved oak desk and antique oak office chair, which I bought for $100 and $50, respectively, at a used furniture store over a decade ago, seem to spark and enhance my mental acuity. They both now live with that giant pile of unused stuff I mentioned in my previous post.
At any rate, the desk, along with my rattan filing drawers were part of system that is now interrupted. I did move my the filing drawers into my new room last fall (one of my brothers insulted my lovely filing system and said why didn’t I throw it away and he’d buy me a new one – but what do men know – it just needed dusting off!). But without that desk and the old arrangement I’d gotten used to in a decade of experimentation with paperwork flow, I’m floundering.
At the core of this, I seem to be having trouble creating a smooth inbox / outbox system with my correspondence. The online stuff seems to take care of itself without fanfare, but my snailmail stacks and my calendar book seem to be too easy to ignore or temporarily misplace. I guess I’ll just have to literally set up a brightly labelled inbox and outbox on my file cabinet, depressing and business office-like though that is, because I can’t seem to wrap my mind around any of this even after 3 months of living here. I suppose the long break from daily reality and immersion into the world of fiction and tourism didn’t help either.
Then there’s the worry – in the back of my mind, of course – that I’m losing it. My family has members who have lost it to Alzheimer’s, Lewy body dementia, and general garden-variety dementia, so any lapse of memory on my part tends to make me wonder if I’m losing it too. This is probably a normal reaction when you’re well past 50 and looking at how the months stack up to 60 and beyond. There’s just more life behind than ahead, so the quality of what's left becomes an issue.
I say that I think all this in the back of my mind, because of course, living in the present moment without attachment to past or future is a particularly sane way to live. This brings more sundogs than jellyfish into your life. The mind is a terrible thing to waste, as the pundits say, and a good way to waste it is by grappling not only with unnecessary physical stuff but with thoughts that have nothing to do with present moment.
Again, I’m talking more to myself than to you, dear reader, so please don’t mind my rambling. Sometimes I just have to write these things down because I’m a very hands-on and writing-focused person. For me, saying things aloud or thinking about them is sort of like trying to capture clouds in jars. Writing makes things real for me. So this blog is, in many ways, just letters to myself. If you enjoy Jellyfish Day and take away something from it, then so much the better. That’s a sundog and something I can live with.
I guess I’m repeating myself here, but so be it. I’m a senior and I will likely repeat myself this whether I or  anyone else likes it or not.
Suddenly my mind jumped on the fact that this is 2011, sort of the gateway to 2012 and all that prophecy about the ascension and attendant bubble, bubble, toil and trouble.
I’m going to let that thought melt away. It’s supposed to be a rather good thing to watch thoughts as though they’re clouds passing over the clear blue sky of the true nature of our minds. Or like waves on the surface of the ocean, which is vast and still underneath the roiling surface.
I figure that just the little daily issues that we all encounter are enough jellyfish to deal with. The decaying age, in Buddhist terminology, makes EVERYTHING hard to accomplish, so say my Tibetan teachers. So little things thwack you in the face like squishy jellyfish and are just as problematic as the larger world. As above, so below.
So, all this frustration is reflected in the the voice of the overworked / underpaid school administrator who rushes you off the phone when you’re trying to deal with a simple issue for your child’s education. And reflected in dealing with the tired and unhelpful clerk at the grocery store who looks like he would dearly love to get off work and go home, or wrangling with the darn Redbox machine that doesn’t register the return of a DVD.
The generosity of humans and their systems is not impeccable, particularly not in the week after a long holiday, so sometimes we have to be the generous ones instead. This means politely overlooking the rough spots. It isn’t easy, especially when public servants, whether live or mechanical, are paid to serve. It’s annoying and my tendency is to bite back or complain about lack of sensitivity or competency.
Like jellyfish, these incidents sometimes sting and too many of these incidents in one day just, well, suck. Living with jellyfish is the practice of patience and we are supposed to be grateful to those who give us the opportunity to be patient.
So I have gratitude coming out my ears.
This seems to be the stuff that New Year’s reality is made of. Though the date marks a fresh new cycle, it’s still mid-winter and the season doesn’t exactly reek of fresh beginnings even with the date 01/01/2011 posted all over the place. Spring marks the New Year in many societies, which makes more sense to me. Spring is a sundog season. Plus, in the bigger picture that I said I would ignore above, the economy is still a shambles even though rhetoric has it getting better, birds are dropping dead from the sky, and there seems to be a crisis of some sort or a war around every corner.
But this is human life and sort of the way it always is, on some level or another.
And this, my post, is the dust churned up by the wild horses of the mind that careen around at 3 a.m. So excuse me whilst I go and attempt to tame them. Thanks for your patience!