Sunday, December 10, 2006

Taipei Afternoon

We were surprised by the beauty of Taipei. It was definitely one of those trips full of paradoxes. Here, in the early afternoon, homing pigeons are called back to roost. We saw homing pigeons everywhere we traveled around the island. We were also very lucky to see the mountains surrounding Taipei. They are too often hidden by clouds or mist.

One Small Victory

We visited our friends in Taipei in February 2006. As always in travel, we met people from all over the world, doing amazing things to make this a better world.

We took a city tour of Taipei and our one companion on the tour was a woman who worked for an organization that improved labor conditions in southeast Asia. She talked about projects like microcredit banking where people can borrow money -- the equivalent of twenty-five, fifty, maybe a hundred dollars -- and turn that loan into life-changing projects. Women buy a flock of chickens or a cellphone or sewing materials and create a local business. With their earnings they send their children to school, improve their homes -- and pay back the loans.

She talked about the struggles and successes. We shared our frustrations over world politics and especially over the damage done by U.S. policies railroaded by the Bushes and company. That damage is so deep. We (U.S. citizens) have lost and squandered and damned ourselves by allowing this government to wage war on the world in our names.

But today I celebrate a small victory. John Bolton, the Bush representative to the UN who was rammed into place by political maneuvers, has resigned. I know this will be great relief to this woman in southeast Asia, nevermind to the rest of the UN and to thinking, caring people worldwide.

I sent her an email in the spirit of the season -- miracles do happen -- especially when we keep faith, speak out, vote, think, listen, and don't cave in to despair.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Pandagaran, Java

On the southern coast of Java, we stayed at a local fishing village. Everyone goes to the beach at sunset to watch the thousands of fruit bats (flying foxes) fly from the forest to the fruit plantations across the bay.

These young men were fishing in traditional ways. They walked chest deep into the sea and seined. This time they came in with two small fish, a collection of plastic bottles, a shoe, and other debris. Someone told us they used to fill their nets and sell to the big cities inland.

Fishing and tourism have been important in this area. However, Pandagaran was heavily damaged in the May 2006 earthquake that hit nearby Yogajakarta. I call this photo, "Two Fish" to honor the catch of that day.

Bogor, Indonesia

This morning I listened to the BBC news report on George Bush's visit to Indonesia. My initial reaction was to apologize to the Indonesians (and the world). The global community and America desperately need better-than-Bush. Now!

But beyond politics, I was drawn to the report because I have been to Bogor. In February and March 2001, Barry and I visited our good friend who was teaching at the Jakarta International School. It was my first time in Asia and the experiences changed me forever.

Here's the Bogor I remember: We saw flying foxes (tropical fruit bats) hanging in huge trees. The Presidential Palace is a large white mansion, a remnent of colonial rule. There is a wide main thoroughfare, vast lawns, high fences, and roe deer roaming the grounds. We walked through botanical gardens and saw a raffesia (corpse flower) well beyond its bloom.

We were the only people from a western country in the gardens that day. Two men approached us, one selling postcards and one selling small silver spoons with figures from Indonesian puppetry. The two men spoke English and we spent the next few hours with them as they became our guides.

One man had been a teacher and the other, an engineer. When the Asian markets crashed in the late 90's, these men lost their jobs and like so many others now sold souvenirs. They told us few tourists came to Bogor those days, especially after Suharto was driven out and the American businesses fled.

We rode back to Jakarta on smooth highways. As we approached the city center, there were tall, western-style skyscrapers, emblazoned with the names and logos of American banks and insurance companies -- and all were abandoned. There's a river/ canal that also runs through the center and along its banks were cardboard huts where families lived and ate and washed. I watched an elderly woman dip water from that brown sludge that carried the refuse of 12 million people to the harbor and on to the Java Sea.

It wasn't all poverty and stereotypic images -- not at all. There were trees and vibrant markets and everywhere, families together. We visited museums along with multiple school groups, all dressed in different uniforms. We visited the largest mosque in Southeast Asia. We were a great curiosity and that created so many memorable, thoughtful conversations.

My credo is: We are all just people. This is what I learned in Asia, across the length of Java and Bali, in the botanical gardens of Bogor.

I still have those tiny silver spoons. I wonder what George Bush will bring back from Indonesia?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


This is one of the best election nights I have ever had! New Hampshire has elected Paul Hodes over Charlie Bass... and Carol Shea-Porter over Jeb Bradley. John Lynch is our Democratic Governor, and for once, I am very proud to be a New Hampshire Democrat.

Now, let's go after those miserable hypocrites in the White House.

Merry Hell, indeed!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Full Moon in November

It was a full beaver moon this past weekend and the night landscape was gorgeous -- and eerie. It was a dark silvery light, like a kind of parallel universe glimpsed only at times like these.

I often write about November. It's a transition time, before the holidays and Winter Solstice, yet beyond the brilliance and abundance of October and the harvest. I see brown fields, bare trees, and a pause between seasons.

One of my first stories, "The Goat Woman", was all about that November sense of time and mortality. This led me back to 1986, when this story was published. Twenty years ago. Guess I thought life would be different, somehow, twenty years hence.

Here are bits and pieces of that story. It's still one of my favorites.

"She awoke with the fire in her bones. Her Granny had called such pains, miseries. But Natty knew she suffered more than a misery. The devil himself poked at her spine. Every morning he tested to see if she were ripe, ready for the stewpot."...

"Outside, the morning sun crept over the brown weeds in her yard. She counted the twenty-five paces it now took her to reach the barn. She slid the door to the right and stepped into the cool, dark cavern. She closed her eyes, as she did each morning, and slipped back forty years."...

"A low bleat broke into her daydream. She opened her eyes. Gerta, the last of her French Alpine-Toggenburg cross, called. The doe pointed her long ears at Natty and tilted her head as if to say, Well now, old woman."...

"....hard to figure, said Natty. You came back alive, but Tom was dead. Cut down by his own heart right in the middle of sugaring season. Thin year that was."...

"Will Dove shook his head. 'I saw a goat. A big silver goat, mind you, running with the deer on Bridgewater Mountain. I had it in my sights, mind you. She looked just like that big doe of yours. Never saw anything like it, a goat running with deer...'."

"The Count had been Tom's idea. Natty never liked it, but she understood. So even with Tom dead she did the Count, year by year. She tucked the book under her arm and went to the barn, repeating Tom's charge:

"Count the hay. Count the goats. Count the grain. Count the goats. Count one winter's worth."...

"Your November light cuts right to the bone."...

"For supper she cooked a soup of onions, oatmeal, carrots and dried beans. She wished she had a piece of bread to sop up the broth, but things like fresh bread belonged to the days when Tom was alive."...

" ....she opened the fire and laid on chunks of maple. She washed with warm water from the bucket. She stroked her feet, legs, arms and face. She put on clean longjohns and fresh socks. She tucked dried fruit and nuts into the pouches of Tom's hunting coat. She combed her white hair and pulled on the purple hat. She checked herself for gloves, scarf, extra socks. Before she left, she blew out the lamps.

"Outside her breath showed in little white gusts. The full Beaver Moon had risen, bathing her yard with silver light."...

"Gerta bounced like a kid. She kicked her heels sideways and tugged at Natty's sleeve. Now, old woman, she seemed to say.

"Natty leaned on her walking stick, a smooth piece of hornbeam Tom had cut for her years ago. Under the light of the full moon, she pushed off and slowly followed Gerta past the maples and through the overgrown orchard. Ahead she saw the silver line where a well-trodden deer track led up Bridgewater Mountain.

"She was certain Gerta knew the way."

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

I'm experimenting with photos. For me writing and images are one and the same. The challenge is always to find the words to create and share the image on paper or in blogger space.

East Inlet, late August. It's one of my favorite places on earth -- a Nature Conservancy site in northern New Hampshire. That morning the mist was thick on the water. The rising sun cast a lavender-pink light that eventually broke through the fog.

Monday, October 30, 2006

On the eve of Halloween

It's a quiet night. A bright half moon settles in the southwest. I see it through dark, sketchy branches. Over the weekend we had winds that stripped the trees. Only the beeches and a few oaks are hanging onto brown and gold leaves. It's just right for Halloween.

A big brown mouse has been eating our sunflower seeds. The cats saw him first, of course. I used a flashlight and the beam caught him in the open milk jug. He ran so easily up the twine to the branch and then down the trunk. He's a fat, sassy mouse.
I expect he has a number of admirers -- me, the two cats, and maybe a barred owl or two. We'll see.