Tuesday, April 30, 2013


In the weeks since I injured my knee I have experienced episodes of anxiety.  Anxiety is beyond worry and concern  It is a fearfulness and uncertainty that affects both physical and psychological health.  For me it comes in the night.I wake bathed in sweat.  I cannot return to sleep. When I do sleep I continually tumble and fall in my dreams.  My heart pounds.  40 million Americans experience one or more episodes of anxiety each year.  The lucky ones know that there is effective treatment.  I am surprised at the degree of psychological engagement with my injury,  I have a new appreciation of the greater exposure to anxiety experienced by those in life threatening situations.  In case you know someone who is experiencing fearfulness, worry, apprehension, and is distracted, fatigued, nauseated, has heart palpitations or chest pain, share the website of the National Alliance on Mental Illness .  Your friend does not need to suffer.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Red Winged Blackbirds

There is so much sorrow now.  Confusion, anger, pain, uncertainty.  Here is a bright spot in the world.  The Red Winged Black Bird.  This raucous bird is common across North America.  The males are spectacular, with red and yellow wing patches that they can puff up in competitive display.  The antics and call and wing-patch display seduce a simply marked brown female into the caller's territory.  And another, and another. He builds a nest with each.   Over 30 % of his daylight hours are spent guarding his harem.  But, surprise, many of the eggs laid in his nests are from an invading competitor.  The females incubate and care for the young regardless of the territorial sparring around them.  This festival of aerodynamics and singing fills the air around ponds and marshes in the spring.  It is happening now outside my window.  Here is the Red Winged Blackbird. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

What is a "Mental Health Background"?

In all of the debate about gun control and background checks this phrase is tossed around as though it means something specific.  What is a mental health background?  What about this "background" can be discovered through searchable records that might be available to sellers of guns?  What research or data are available that correlate episodes of treatment for mental illness with tendency to kill people?  For years people have lied about times in their lives in which they have sought treatment for mental illness because for years such information was believed to disqualify an individual from a job, public service, professional licensing and the like.  This stigma has added not only to the burden they carry from their illness, but also their reluctance to seek help. Only in the last decade have we begun to acknowledge that those experiencing mental illness can live productive lives in society if they receive the treatment they need.  Treatments are increasingly available on the same terms as treatment for other illness.  Do those advocating a  check for a "mental health background" believe they have a right to inspect the records of such treatment?  Medical records are not considered records in the public domain.  We believe in the right to privacy with respect to such personal data.  How is all this expected to come together in a background check that can be performed from a gun store in any place in the country?  Who might be helped by such a requirement?  Who might be hurt?

Monday, April 15, 2013

Traditional Marriage

I follow the debate about marriage.  I have not heard a presentation of the issue as I see it.  I believe that many are romanticizing what is said to be "traditional marriage".  In many cultures, for centuries, marriage, for the woman, has been simply an exchange of owners.  A woman went from being her father's possession to being her husband's.  In some cultures, marriage, for the woman, was an exchange with the expectation, by others, of better trading relations or less war.  In all cultures, women bore children as they were conceived - hardly always the loving commitment glorified in the so-call "tradition".  In even so called civilized cultures women had few rights and many responsibilities.  Men have always been free to pursue pleasure outside of marriage.  Women have not. The 20th century saw great improvements for women in choice and opportunity  - in some countries.  Many conventional marriages between a man and a woman followed a course of love and mutual commitment that was uplifting to both partners.  I do not begrudge that relationship to any who share it.  I also do not think it characterized "traditional" marriage.

Sore Knee

I promised not to bore you with news about my injury.  Last week I had a surgical repair of my knee - a rebuilt anterior cruciate ligament and clean up of the torn meniscus.  Today my rebuilt knee hurts from the procedure but bears weight.  I am on the mend.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Goose Day, Creamers Field, Fairbanks, Alaska

Early this year.  Goose Day was yesterday, April 8.  It is often several weeks later.  Goose Day marks the arrival of the first Canada geese on the fields at Creamers Dairy.   In 1904 Charles and Belle Hinckley started  a dairy in Fairbanks.  In 1915 they moved to the large fields and wetlands where Creamers Dairy stands today.  The Hinkcleys are gone, sold out to Charles and Anna Creamer.  The Creamers prospered in the post war years before everything fresh came to Alaska by jet plane.  The dairy shut down in 1966.  But the land prospered on.  The Creamers' spring plowing and fertilizing, and fall harvest created the perfect stop-over for migrating water fowl.  Their fields are now a designated wildlife sanctuary. In the years since the dairy closed Kiwanians have spread grain over the plowed fields to keep the birds coming.  And come they do.  First the Canada Geese.  And just a bit later, the Sandhill Cranes.  These birds must be on your life list.  Words do not do them justice.  In case you will not be able to make it up to Fairbanks this spring, here is a video, from Homer Alaska, of their mating dance. 

Margaret Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher was one of my heroes.  You can read extensively about her today.  Complements and criticism.  That is how she would want it.  In her own words, "I am not a consensus politician.  I am a conviction politician."  There will be those who disagreed with her, but none who did not understand her.  Yesterday I heard a critic try to diminish Lady Thatcher by pointing out that her own party turned her out.  The same was the case with Winston Churchill.  Tough medicine is hard to take.  We could use some in this country.

PS  Margaret Thatcher carried a purse.  Not a stylish shoulder bag or mannish brief case.  A handbag.  She managed that at the same time that she earned recognition as the Iron Lady.  Remarkable. 

Saturday, April 6, 2013


Yesterday, April 4, was the anniversary of the marriage of Powhatan native Pocahontas and Englishman John Rolfe in 1614.  Reflect for a moment on the times.  Rolfe was a gentleman, raised in Elizabethan England at a time of cultural explosion.  The printing revolution had brought literature to the homes of the aristocracy and gentry.  By mid century almost 100% could read.  Shakespeare, Marlowe, Spenser, Bacon and Donne wrote for this new audience.  Merchants thrived.  Schools were built.  Enrollment at Oxford doubled in the first quarter of the century.  Four million people lived in England and Wales.  The Virginia Company of London sought to prosper from a new colony that was thought to be on the way to a northwest passage to the Orient.  The colony's needs were poorly understood.  The first settlers included far too few laborers and skilled farmers.  Many starved in the first winter.  The relationship between these men (women arrived several years later) and the 14,000 Algonquin speaking Indians was complex.  It included compassion and help from the Indians along with fear and hostilities over the use of their land.  The English knew nothing of the Indian culture. The Indians had prospered for centuries. Out of this unlikely mix came a love affair between the young Pocahontas and the widowed tobacco farmer, Rolfe.  They had a son.  They travelled to England where Pocahontas was presented to the Queen.  Imagine her world view.  Imagine the gulf she crossed.  She died in England before she could return to Virginia.  Imagine the grief of her soul. 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Road Trip

My husband and I drove east earlier this week.  Our destination was New Dayton, Alberta.  We went there to pick up a new puppy - and three of his brothers who we brought back to Western Washington for other people.  We drove 1600 miles in three days.  The return trip included our two adult dogs as well as the four puppies.  We shared the full-sized four-door cab of our truck with the dogs for 16 hours (including stops).  We actually had a good time.  There were many sights along the way. We crossed the Rockies in Canada on the way to New Dayton, and in Montana on the way home.  The scenery was spectacular.  One of my favorite roadside attractions on a trip across Washington are the crop signs in Grant County.  Grant County is in the middle of the state, on the eastern side of the Columbia River.  It was settled in the early 19th Century.  Early settlers raised cattle. By the middle of the century crops had replaced much of the grazing land.  The soil in Grant County is rich, built up after years of glaciation.  In the 1930's development of power projects on the river made irrigation possible.  Crops and food processing are now economic engines.  The crop signs hang on the fences that border the Interstate.  Potatoes mostly.  But a nice mix with alfalfa, tree fruit and onions.  The signs are bordered by flashy flags, making it easy to spot even at 70 miles per hour.  I like the Grant County mission statement:
The mission of Grant County is to meet current and future needs, serving together with public and private entities, while fostering a respectful and successful work environment.