Across the Blogoverse

During these hot August days and nights I have been visiting some very cool sites of some very talented and engaging bloggers.  What follows is a sampling of some excellent recent blog posts that I have particularly enjoyed.

I call this ACROSS THE BLOGOVERSE

Spanning the virtual globe to bring you the finest blogging anywhere…

 A Gardener’s Optimism (wordsandherbs.wordpress.com) Cathy conveys the heart and soul of a gardener in her post. Beautifully written with a flourish.

Weekly Image of Life: Beautiful (thismansjourney.net) A beautiful day shown in stunning photos.  Well worth the trip.

 Anyone needing a smile? (gusgus64.wordpress.com) Gunta delivers.  A must see.

What you don’t know can kill you (globalunison.wordpress.com) A well-written article about Hookah smoking. Naima is a talented writer for sure.

Paraprosdokian (judysp.wordpress.com)  Judy Sp not only taught me something I didn’t know…she made me laugh.

How I learned about Shinola (ctwfrank.com) There’s a lesson to be learned here.  Great advice in an enjoyable read.

Read about Heart to Harp and of her experiences playing soothing music at the hospice unit in the following posts:

Finding new confidence in playing for others.(hearttoharp.wordpress.com)

Playing at the hospice the second week.(hearttoharp.wordpress.com)

This is the first installment in what will be an occasional series showcasing superb blog posts in a variety of styles and subjects across the blogoverse.

Happy Reading!

Strawberryindigo.

The Spark

I believe we all have that spark inside of us; that indescribleness that I shall attempt to describe here.  A special something unique to each and every one of us.  Call it a soul, a consciousness or the divine…it precedes our birth and it dwells far beyond the physical; deep inside down the rabbit hole.  It can be so faint it is difficult to grasp, it is difficult to see and it’s easy to lose one’s way. This I know firsthand.

Sometimes people give up. It is gradual. They die a little inside every day until one day they realize the spark has grown cold,  pale and lifeless. It may seem at times to be totally extinguished. It may seem that way sitting all alone in the dark. At times the truth is clouded by our proximity to it.  And sometimes we see only what we wish to see.

My truth says the spark can never die that the spirit is timeless and beyond time. I believe it is a thread that weaves us all together like a beautiful tapestry, full of rich color; filled with hopes and dreams and the song of the universe telling a tale that is in constant rewrite.

My truth also tells me the spark can grow and burn brilliantly with the intensity of a million suns. It can set the world aflame with the light of unity and compassion. I believe it is up to those who burn the brightest to light the way for those who cannot see. I have found that a good many of us have walked in darkness at some point in our lives and the experience brings about an appreciation of the light and a profound sympathy of those who still dwell in that cold dark realm of nothingness.

We are all connected and we can tell if a fellow human is in distress, even a stranger. We have that built-in empathy that we literally feel each other’s pain.

We can also feel each other’s joy as well…..

What am I trying to say with all this spiritual mumbo jumbo? Chalk it up to new age silliness or an open mind full of crazy notions, maybe it’s a mid-life crisis or too much caffeine that’s prompting me to write all this today. I don’t know…

We all believe differently. I am the first person to acknowledge this. I prefer that people should believe whatever they damn well please as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone. There are universal truths that most of us agree on…

Kindness begets kindness and spreading joy is a hell of a lot better than spreading its opposite. Patience is golden and at times we all need a little light.

Burning bright at midnight…wishing you a sunny day,

Strawberryindigo.

Occupy moves on

occupy berlin

From its infancy the occupy movement has run the gambit of highs and lows of the human experience. The movement started in New York as a protest against the unbalance of wealth in our society and it has grown and morphed and spread all over the country and the world.

A movement born out of frustrations brought on by hard economic times mixed with vanishing natural resources, dwindling opportunity and the remains of a system once created for the common good that is now corrupted by the few and the powerful who put profits over everything else.

The American dream is slipping through the fingers of many Americans.  Our golden age is tarnishing. We the people have lost our way.

Occupy Portland March - 60
Image by merrick_monroe via Flickr

I believe this movement is only a beginning and it is a sign of more to come.  The events of late have truly surprised me and have caused me to re-evaluate my feelings on the Occupy movement more than once.

I  have always supported the ideals of the movement, in that there has never been any doubt in my mind. However, I have not always supported the means. This occupying has from day one struck me as unsustainable.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions and all the good reasons and high ideals cannot trump cold hard reality. These camps created by Occupy degraded into a health and safety hazard that cost our cities dearly at a time when city and state budgets are strained to the max. This occupying also cost the movement valuable credibility.

They showed why it is illegal for a group of people to take possession of a public park and just squat there indefinitely. No matter how worthy the cause, those ends do not justify that sort of means.

Night march through Portland
Image by K. Kendall via Flickr

In most places the cops have moved in and used a varying degree of force to retake the parks once occupied.  Every city is different and in my city, to my surprise, it was relatively peaceful thanks to all involved. The local police showed uncommon restraint and the protestors themselves seemed to police themselves in many instances.

The crowd, estimated to be 2-3 thousand, gasped as a fiery projectile thrown into a row of mounted police injuring one of them and causing him to be taken away during the eviction last Saturday.

The perpetrator was quickly pointed out by the crowd and the man was promptly taken down and arrested. Then in a move that surprised me, the police backed off and allowed the protestors to form a drum circle in the middle of the street, dancers in the hundreds surrounded the circle, cheered on by the overwhelming number of spectators.  A party atmosphere prevailed into the wee hours. There was a sense of unity shown that gave me a sense of long forgotten city pride.

I felt I had been a bit hasty in my predictions of doom and gloom but then I looked around and found the reaction in my city to be unusual.

Occupy Portland
Image by drburtoni via Flickr

The next day 50 people were arrested and the Occupy encampment was retaken by police.  A handful of protestors remained and helped clean up the disgusting mucky mess left behind in the two city parks held hostage in this all too human drama.  Many citizens came out to see the damage and confronted leftover protestors milling about  It seemed not everyone was happy with all the mess and the cost of the occupy.

Heated debates sprung out on street corners.   People that would have never spoken to each other before were voicing their varied but strong opinions,  exchanging ideas and solutions. Citizens were taking to each other instead of just ignoring.

occupy portland
Image by snap turtle via Flickr

By Monday, a press conference was held by what serves as our local occupy leadership fronted by youngish woman in a bright red cap.  She spoke eloquently as she demanded an apology from the mayor and the chief of police for the use of force during the eviction.  Tears welled in the eyes of a nearby protestor as the woman in the red cap spoke of a member of their group, a sign language translator who had apparently been hurt in the scuffle and was now in a wheelchair.

Evidence is sketchy on this and I have this natural inclination to believe the protestors  though I cannot say as I was not there. I have only seen what is claimed to be altered footage of the event.

When asked if they were planning on occupying any more parks, the spokesperson beamed a smile and said “no comment”.  I had hoped for a sign of leadership or a clear focus from the group.  They seem intent on continuing the movement and will not let anyone but themselves know exactly what they have planned.

On Tuesday, the protestors marched and invaded an upscale shopping mall.  On Wednesday,  they marched in solidarity with local university students protesting high tuition and an unfair treatment of school loans.  Today is dubbed “N 17” and a protest on the banks is planned. Events turn on a dime. Only time will tell how this all plays out and how history will view this phenomena.

A smart person once told me that revolutions can be messy and that all that mess makes people stand up and take notice. I have to agree.

It is  prompting us, forcing us  really to look at ourselves as a community of connected individuals who can all have a say in our collective future . This movement has opened a dialogue with ourselves, all 100% of us. It is a discussion that is long overdue and if we want any real and lasting change for the betterment of us all, we need to have it.  If this movement has achieved anything it is this and it is the most essential.

fire
Image by matthewvenn via Flickr

The Occupy movement has provided the spark. To succeed the spark must grow and for it to grow and become something formidable, it must kindle the fires by adding new converts with clearer heads who can focus the attention on key issues.  For this movement to move it needs the help of everyone.  It cannot afford to alienate.  There are many problems and the protestors have every right to be angry, but their anger and a lack of clear focus hurts the very cause most they and I support so very much.

Strawberryindigo.

Occupy Standoff

It was only a matter of time  and  the local media is all abuzz. The too-white smiles and scared eyes of the local newscasters reporting live in front of a hostile crowd  tell the tale.  Tempers are high and people are nervous.  Down at the center of it all, our downtown and “Occupy Grand Central”.  A reluctant mayor, feeling the pressure given by  downtown businesses  concerned about the upcoming holiday season and the bottom line.  Drew his line in the sand and called out a warning to the local occupiers.  It was an ultimatum, really;  Get out by midnight Saturday or else. 

The protestors occupying two parks across the street from city hall have vowed to stay. They have sent out for reinforcements and witnesses from other occupy encampments in other cities.  They are making homemade weapons and shields.  They seem to be digging in and readying themselves for a fight. 

 

The stage has been set.  On one side; the occupiers. On the other; the establishment. Stuck in the middle;  The people.  The real  99%.  Victims of circumstance. People from all walks of life. Very human signs of these hard times. 

We decided to pay another visit  before time ran out on our local occupy. So MM and I went down there on this very overcast Saturday morning. 

We have been there before, earlier in the occupation.   I expected much of the same.  I could have not been more wrong.  The tarps and the tents looked the same but that was about it.  With the deadline looming; the people who could or would leave have left and what remain are the chronic homeless and mentally ill.   And with them remain an unhealthy cesspool of waste and filth. And mud, a foul-smelling gunk all over.  The stench is almost overpowering.  Wet garbage and clothing strewn about.  Food containers and human waste lie on the ground mixed with brilliant yellow autumn leaves.  I almost gag.  I want to leave. We go further in.

Gone is the D.J. and the music.  Gone is the library and medical tent.  The art tent is empty and the local radio station has withdrawn its booth.  The food service has dwindled.  The air of hopefulness is gone.  The unity is gone.  All that is left are the ugly remains. 

The tattered would be heroes.  Dirty, hungry and lost, smoking hand rolled cigarettes, huddled together, worn and wary.  A spirited few cheer on the others.  Pontificating and proclaiming to fight. 

 “This is my home.”  Says a young man in a red cap. 

 His friend, the one with droopy tired eyes, calls for “warriors.”

 

A good Samaritan has brought in coffee and a brown-haired girl with big innocent eyes passes out brownies, she looks about 8 or 9.  She is a sweet little thing and stands as a stark contrast to the mess around her.  As does the  teenage girl shivering in white shorts and flip-flops eating a  glazed twist and savoring every bite. Her dirty face looks sad and alone, I wonder where she’ll go? 

A despondent old man in a wheelchair sits forgotten and ignored, a scene erupts around him, involving a woman who is obviously distressed and upset.  She is almost in tears as she begs and pleads with some occupiers to use their energy for good and leave peacefully. A small crowd has formed aligned against her.  Her young daughter hides her face in her Mother’s warm and fashionable coat. 

Cops stand on the corners. Many of them have donned medical type masks. I suppose to keep from getting sick. I feel sorry for them.  They don’t want this.  I wonder what will happen tonight.  There is a certain queasy unease in the air that goes beyond the lack of sanitation.  I can see it their faces and in the faces of the ones with nowhere to go. Those are the ones I feel for the most.

Others have come to witness this. People here and there, like MM and I.  Some are taking pictures. Others have gathered at the parameters in twos and threes, whispering in an almost revered awe and shaking their heads in disgust.   I see surprise in some eyes.  I know the feeling. Whatever the dream, the dream is lying in a ditch by the side of the road.  It’s tired and hungry and it gets the feeling that no one is listening.

Many hand-lettered signs have been left behind and many of these have valid messages.  I think these people and many others in this country and really in the whole world feel they have no voice and that no one is listening.  The world is going to hell and we know it and there is nothing we can do. 

It seems hopeless.  Our problems are so huge and all the occupying in the world won’t change that.  It’s easy to sit here in my nice warm house tapping away on my nice white laptop and judge these people.  It’s also just as easy to  turn and look the other way.  But it is history we are witnessing here, right or wrong, good or bad.  

These people, those people….We the people. We are The People and we are all connected.  Whatever happens to the least of us happens to us all.  All 100%.

 These problems are not going away. Whatever happens on the streets of my city tonight, will not change anything.  It will only put an ugly face on a valid and much needed social movement. 

….And as the rain begins and  the darkness of night sets in across the city, I can’t help but wonder the outcome.  The deadline has been set and we are all watching and waiting……

Peace.

Strawberryindigo.

 

 

Occupy What Next?

Occupy Portland in Pioneer Square
Image by S.MiRK via Flickr

Recently I paid a visit to my local “Occupy” encampment.  I first wrote about the Occupy Movement in a previous post and   I wondered about the outcome of all this “occupying”. Now after some time has passed and the movement has gone on into full swing, I decided to go see what all the fuss was about.  Well, I should say that MM talked me into it.  He asked what kind of writer I was. To miss out on such an event?  He shamed and goaded me, then offered me a trip to Starbucks. THAT did it…. and before I knew it, we’re on our way.

Much has happened since this whole thing started here and all over the country, even the world.  

Occupy My Town

 Our local occupation consists of two city park blocks across the street from the courthouse.  There are an estimated 500+ people there.  There are two bathrooms.

By the time we got down to the occupation it was high noon, the sun beamed brightly giving the scene a sense of hopefulness.  It was like I was entering a moment in time that would forever be etched in my memory. I felt a great excitement to witness this exercise in freedom; This power of the people.  I felt alive and electric. 

Occupy Portland Image 32 jcj

 A row of shiny police motorcycles caught my attention and then it was the tents, so many of them in a big multi-color conglomerate.  Hand lettered signs everywhere, running the gambit of the highs and lows of cardboard communication. From telling me to vote “nobody” for president and take my money out of the “evil” bank,  to “We are the 99%” and Death to tyrants”.  Someone had even put up a picture of Teddy Kennedy next to one of Che Guevara

Occupy
Image by K. Kendall via Flickr

A man in a rainbow shirt welcomes us to the occupation. We smile hello and are greeted by a woman sitting on the ground, her wares spread out on a blanket beside her, selling beaded bracelets and bran muffins. Her sign proclaims her to be a student and not homeless.  I’m glad that she can clear this up. Later I see the relevance in the sign as we go deeper in.

It all reminds me of a bad Mad Max remake, but with a  dreadlocked D.J. providing  a glitter rock soundtrack. We skirt around the art tent and the first aid booth, with its free condom jar smiling proudly.  There is a lending library and a green  Medical marijuana tent next to a small one labeled “chill”.  A sign proclaims fortune-tellling and a local radio station has a booth, broadcasting live.  

Near the community “garden” there stands, most impressively, a food line, serving what one man exclaimed to be “good shit” around a statue of pioneers, now riddled with police tape and spices.  Someone has put up a sign  asking for dish-washing volunteers and they seem to have a handle on recycling and waste management.

In a way, I am impressed, there is some organization here.  It is good work to serve and feed the needy. But isn’t this supposed to be a protest?   Nobody really seems to be protesting anything, or advocating anything either, just occupying. 

Tent City
Image by kuow949 via Flickr

We reach the other side of the occupation in the adjacent park.This one is a bit more crowded and a lot raunchier.  A blue haired woman kisses a blond rat on her shoulder, while the “cute” tweaker couple in front of us fight over a cigarette.  A heavy-set  woman in a red dress puts a scarf over her head and screams “Starbucks!”  I smile and drift away, thinking of chai lattes.  M.M brings me back to reality when he points out the group of about 20 bikers laughing and partying in the midst of it all.

We obviously don’t belong here and it shows.  We look like total tourists. Most of the occupiers don’t seem to notice us and go about the business of “occupying” which apparently consists of sitting around smoking cigarettes, drinking and yelling out  random drunken nothings.  

 It finally dawns on me that the park is mostly filled with people who have no where else to go.  I saw the local media coverage of this phenomena, most of the people featured in the coverage of the marches and protests seemed to be from all walks of life. I guess those people went home because 99% of these people left here squatting in a public park in the middle of our downtown are obviously street people and the mentally ill. Some look  downright scary.  

I had heard of problems here.  A major uptake in crimes. Theft, damage, assaults, and rape.  Even with the police presence across the street, a certain lawlessness prevails. Seeing all this makes an impression on me.   

In a city that prides itself in weirdness, this wins hands down as one of the weirdest moments of all. But to what end?  Who will occupy what next?

Dare 2 Dream too homeless camp

I think about protests in the past and how this one is different.  It has become bigger than itself and  it’s taking us to a place of no return.  

 Occupy Reality

 The sentiment behind it all, the one that started it, is valid but it has grown into  a monster that lives on the backs of  well-meaning activists and YOU; the citizen and taxpayer.  This monster serves not equality and change, but chaos. These occupiers are setting a precedent that does not bode well for actual social and economic progress in the future.  I believe in the cause but I believe it does not justify the means.

To the occupiers I ask: To what end?

I hope more people don’t get hurt. 

      Stay Safe.             Strawberryindigo.

Indigo Rant: Critics

Great barracuda with prey.
Image via Wikipedia

You’re so vain …..

I bet you think this post is about you..Perhaps it is..If you see yourself in the forthcoming words, don’t be alarmed, just listen…

Ronald Reagan once said “I don’t pay much attention to critics.

The world is divided into two kinds of people:

Those who can and those who criticize.”

No truer words were ever spoken by anyone.  The fact that it comes from someone I disagreed with politically and morally do not take away from the wisdom of those words.

It seems that where there is art and where there are artists and creative types there are a few critics hanging around.  I guess that makes sense, for how could a critic be a critic without something or someone to criticize. Usually critics have trouble with the creation process themselves, they tend to resent those for whom creativity comes naturally.

These people are usually bright and scholarly. Some have impressive degrees and credentials but one can’t just acquire creativity so easily and so shallowly.  Creativity cannot be taught by convention and laws and whatever someone said before.  Creativity is from the heart.  From the soul itself and everything that is the essence of a person; all the beauty and the ugliness. 

It could be some cannot bare to give a long hard look at themselves.  Maybe it’s ego? It would be easy to think these critical types would have enormous egos but it may be quite the opposite.  I think that criticism….I’m talking about unconstructive criticism, not anyone trying to be helpful but someone who is trying to be hurtful.  A petty spiteful kind of criticism, I think that kind of criticism shows in a profound manner, the character of the one who’s criticizing.

I feel I must say something to these people, these critics, why leave it all to Ronnie Baby.  So here it goes…

I have a little advice for Mr. and/or Ms. Critical.  Free your Mind.  Acknowledge the fact that you do not know everything about everything. I don’t know if you are bored or angry or lonely or whatever, I do know that your kind destroys what it does not understand in its quest for its posession. 

For my friend,  You do not possess creativity or the appreciation of it.  It possesses you. Learn it, know it, feel it.  Perhaps you may join the world of those who contribute, we would love to have you

Wishing you well…

Strawberryindigo.