December 18th, 2006

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Good Morning!!

The sun is shining, this cold wintery day.   I am feeling exuberant about the approach of Christmas, and cannot believe it is only one week away.  When did that happen?

On Tuesday, a beautiful friend opened an umbrella to discover there was a heart cut out of the cheerful fabric.   Here is my poem to her and her mother-in-law.  I have decided that when I die, I am going to have bought colorful umbrellas for my friends, and each one will be missing a heart-shaped piece of fabric, so I can look down and give them heart-shaped kisses when it rains.

The First Rain


She opens the umbrella left by her mother-in-law when she died.

There is a heart shape cut out of the fabric, a big one.

We  contemplate what would motivate such action, until, one day,

I see her mother-in-law looking down through the heart when it rains,

parting the tears with her kisses,

shaped like hearts.

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Food -

I am trying to pay more attention to where I get my food.  After reading an article on Alderspring Ranch, I ordered some meat from Glenn and Caryl.    Because they have been so publicized, I received an email saying my meat would be coming from a different cow than they originally thought and would be delayed a week, and was that okay?   Today, I receive a phone call from Glenn.  He was out looking at the meat and thinks he could do better with it if I can wait until January.  I hear children's voices in the background.   Part of me wonders if I can eat meat that is starting to feel so personal.  I rarely eat beef anyway, but every once in awhile I do get a craving, and there is something about this system that feels right to me to support.   Anyway, I find it touching to see pictures on-line of this ranch where children play and contrast it to those poor cows of Harris Ranch standing next to the freeway grouped so close together with sprinklers spraying over them.  There has to be a difference in the meat.  I hate to give this web-site because they are already overloaded, but maybe as they do well, others will too.  Support the farmer, not the conglomerate.

When I was at Jane's I saw photos of the farm where her husband Jim was raised,  Gandhi farm.   Surely there can be some return to that way of life for a few.   If we support it, then, there can.  Read Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma, and consider how you feed.

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A vital comment on "discrimination" -

Op-Ed Contributor to the NY Times -

The Midas Touch

Published: December 18, 2006

IN a ruling in a lawsuit last month, Judge James Robertson of Federal District Court said that United States currency discriminates against blind people because bills are all the same size and cannot be distinguished by touch. His decision was applauded by some advocates for the blind, including the American Council of the Blind, which brought the lawsuit. But as president of the National Federation of the Blind, the nation’s oldest and largest organization of the blind, I believe that Judge Robertson’s ruling is wrong.

Discrimination occurs when the blind are barred from enjoying benefits, goods or services. This definition of discrimination is what most people understand the word to mean. If a landlord refuses to rent an apartment to someone because of race, color, creed or disability, then discrimination occurs. Sometimes people with disabilities are barred from certain facilities or services because of the way they are designed. A person in a wheelchair cannot climb the steps of a public building; if the building does not have a wheelchair ramp, that person is prevented from entering it. In another example, my group is suing the Target Corporation because the company’s Web site doesn’t accommodate the special text-reading software that the blind use to surf the Internet. In both cases, a person with a disability is kept out of a public place or denied use of a service, just as African-Americans were not welcome at whites-only lunch counters.

But while blind people cannot identify paper currency by touch, that does not prevent us from spending money. When we hand merchants our money, they take it and provide us with the goods or services we have paid for, no questions asked. People with whom we transact business provide us with correct change if needed, and we then organize the money in a manner that allows us to identify it in the future. We transact business in this way every day.

There is no evidence that the blind are shortchanged more often than the sighted; if a question does arise about a particular transaction, it is the responsibility of the blind person to sort out the matter. Identifying money by feel, as the blind are often able to do in many other countries, may be more convenient, but inconvenience is not the same thing as discrimination.

While it is crucial that minorities have a voice in society, it is also the responsibility of every minority group to use that voice wisely and not to cry “discrimination” when no discrimination has occurred. The blind of America will fight discrimination wherever we find it, but we achieve nothing by falsely portraying ourselves as victims and engaging in frivolous litigation.

Marc Maurer is the president of the National Federation of the Blind.

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Jane Hirshfield -

Interconnected Life
Jane Hirshfield
from an interview in Rattle, Winter 2006

In my 2001 book, Given Sugar, Given Salt, there’s a line that appears in two different poems: “You work with what you are given.” And so, as an example of what I’m talking about, in the new book, After, there are some good number of poems that speak about looking out the window at the mountain. Now, it’s in the poems first as itself, Mt. Tamalpais, which is the first thing I see every morning when I wake up, if it’s light out and there’s not heavy fog. It’s also in the poems as what mountains stand for in the human psyche, and for its instruction to the psyche in what  mountains teach. It’s a slope and presence by which I can investigate and question. Other things come in--in one poem, Vilnius and St. Petersburg, in another, a line from Gerard Manley Hopkins, in a third, an imaginary herd of bison. All these things are themselves and are also prism-lights of my own psyche, and perhaps of the reader’s psyche as well. I also feel that through the shared life of poems, mountains in some way can know us. They enter us, when we bring them into words, just as walking in the mountains enters our bodies and changes the strength of our legs, the capacities of our lungs. We aren’t just ourselves, once we have walked those paths--we are also our history of being changed by the mountain. This is interconnected life. Poems are one way we make ourselves more transparent to the fullness of existence.