Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Post Your B Lists and Sentences Here for Feb 2


Hi friends,

B is for...blackbird!  Alphabetaphilia day 2, February 2, means it's time to post your list of five words starting with B and your absurd or gorgeous sentence using them all.  Welcome!  I hope you're taking time to enjoy other people's lists and sentences so you can encounter some more amazing words.

cheers,
Laura

31st and Final Small Stone: Stuck Sun

The sun seems stuck in the peach tree notch for a long time.  Should I help it?   It will take care of itself.  

Monday, January 30, 2012

Lisa Solis DeLong Interview on Blood Brothers

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Dear Friends of Reading and Writing,

My friend Lisa Solis DeLong, another member of The Last Sunday Writers, has written a beautiful and courageous memoir of her experiences with first one son being diagnosed with leukemia, having a respite for a while, and dying, and then a second son being diagnosed with leukemia.  No one could cope with such terrible disasters easily, and Lisa has struggled as anyone would, but has some hopeful words to offer others in dark valleys in life.  Here is her interview with me.


  Lisa, do you think it was harder for you to deal with the tragedy of your first son’s death because of your background in nursing, or was it easier?  
My nursing experience prepared me for the reality that bad things happen to good people.  I was not na├»ve to death when Justin, my first, was diagnosed but and I was able to accept his diagnosis and treatment.  Nothing could have prepared me for his death.

You have a great “eye” for details, taking the reader along with you to medical venues and to your house.  Do you have any advice for writers who are trying to remember enough details of a place they’ve been only once or twice to recreate it in writing? 
I do a lot of journaling and have done so for most of my adult life.  I was able to recall details after reading my journal entries even though I didn’t always include setting details, reading my entries brought me back to locations and I could then remember surprising details.

 When I imagine how it must have been to write this book, it almost makes me cry, yet your writing doesn’t anticipate the negative, doesn’t dwell on pain, doesn’t end up with a message of misery but one of hope and love.  Are you basically optimistic or what do you do when it’s almost too much to bear the pain you’ve been given? 
I definitely am an optimist by nature.  In real time, I practice seeing the positive in life but do get worn out by negative responses of people around me.  Sometimes I retreat to being alone but can’t do that for too long as I have a healthy 12 year old son who keeps me laughing and that’s good.  I have learned from my boys that a day outside of illness and hospitalizations is a very good day—one I refuse to waste.  When the weight of grief and life stresses become too much to bear I dance.  Seriously, sometimes I’m so down and out that I just want to run away but instead I retreat to a couple of ballroom dance places.  Entering the ballroom, seeing aged grey haired folks gliding like youngsters, hearing Michael Buble’s “Feeling Good” and I really do feel good.  I dance twice a week, would do more if I could, and do a lot of walking.  Hanging out with my kids when we can just relax and watch documentaries about finding Big Foot with Jacob or Adult Swim with my 23 year-old daughter Jess, on TV and laugh is another favorite.  Jojo, my 18 year-old basketball player at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon is also a great joy magnet.  Seeing my surviving children thriving takes me away.

 Recently you posted an anecdote about your second son’s worn out shoes that really summarized for me your approach to life.  Would you share that with the blog readers? 
Oh my goodness, those shoes make me cry!  Jacob returned to public school one year ago after being on chemo treatments for three and a half years.  He came home from school the other day showed me a hole on the soles of his shoes and said, “Mom, can I get a new pair of shoes?”  This is the first time in his 12 years of life that he has worn out a pair of shoes.  This may seem strange but he has never been able to be active enough to do so.  Jacob has not had this many consecutive months of health in six years.  I asked him how he wore them out and he said, “I think it’s from shuffling,” as he slid his feet forward and back to demonstrate. Would it be too weird to bronze them?  Frame them?  Man, worn out soles—good news!

No, I’d agree they deserve that bronze!  Lisa, what has surprised you the most about becoming a book author?  
I had a woman accost me at a book signing because she was angry that I shared her adult daughter’s story.  I was very careful to get permission from the parents of children whose lives I shared but neglected to do so with this woman as her daughter was of age and I wrote only positive things about her.  I felt horrible, completely devastated by her in-my-face public display of anger, (she asked me to step outside at the book store).  I eventually worked through this and had her daughter’s story edited out for the sake of my own piece of mind.  Sure, didn’t see that coming.  

Was it pretty much as you expected?  There have been more positive experiences than negatives for certain.  I’ve found that it is far better for me to share my story with people in the right niche.  Today I attended an End of Life Nurse Education Consortium conference and was swarmed by nurses hungry to read my story.  Wow!  That felt good.  I’ve discovered that because of the sensitive and powerful nature of my story, it is important to find the right venue for effective book sales.  I have not tapped into online blogs and sites nearly as much as I should but find it difficult to find the time. 

What did you do to help people who might need to read your book to discover it?  I am a bereavement facilitator and nurse so I tried to get the word out to my contacts directly.  This has been the most effective use of my time for sure.  I’m not very tech savvy so I get frustrated using sites and programs I can’t navigate easily.  I do use Facebook and have had some positive results there.

Has your perspective on yourself changed since your book was published?  You know, I hadn’t thought about it much but now that you ask, I must say there are times when I am very proud of my accomplishment and others when I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders to sell it.  I swing wide here.  I am working on letting go of measuring its success monetarily and enjoying setting it free—kind of like having another child. 

  Do you feel like a standard bearer for parents of kids with leukemia at all?
         I definitely do, which is ironic because when Justin was first diagnosed, being the poster mother for    leukemia kids was the last thing I wanted but I learned a long time ago to embrace my story.  Sharing it has connected me with “my people”:  writers, mothers, medical professional who care about sick kids and fearlessly kind people. 

Do you have any writing tips to share with the blog readers? 
A lot of people ask me how I was able to write about such painful aspects of my life.  Journaling has become second nature to me.  I need to get my thoughts on paper often or become too fretful.  Writing often, even if it is not being share publicly is good therapy and exercise.  If you decide to write publicly you can tap into your journals as needed for inspiration and information.  

How did you keep going long enough to produce and rewrite a whole book, even though reliving some of these events must have been very painful? 
I couldn’t give up on Justin, his strength, his story and the same for Jacob.  Every time I felt like quitting, I thought, You know, Justin never quit, and neither did Jacob.  So what if I cry when I write.  Shut up and write.  I also took lots of naps as emotional stuff is exhausting to share.  I’m a really good napper!

 Any other thoughts you’d like to share? 
The best thing I did for myself is to create a writing community.  Mine is centered around The Last Sunday Writers.  As you know, we meet once a month to read our work out loud, share information and encourage one another.  This group has grounded me.  Every time I attend, I feel like a real writer and that is so important as the task of writing is so lonely.  Create community!  Take classes, attend workshops, begin with whatever you can afford and keep showing up.

Do you have any blogs you’d like to recommend? 
Our TLS blog for sure! (Read it at: http://tlswriters.wordpress.com/).  I also have my website blog:  www.lisasolisdelong.com  but I must be honest here and say it is sorely neglected.  I do hope to blog regularly in the near future.  Thanks for the inspiration!

30th Small Stone: Slow-Opening Bud


The swollen bud on the tall camellia bush that first showed red is still closed, but two other red camellia flowers are full open to the sun.  Will the slow-opening flower be more beautiful for waiting?  No, everything takes its own time and is itself. 

Sunday, January 29, 2012

A is for Alphabetaphilia, Feb 1 Lists and Sentences go here!

Hi friends of reading and writing,

A is for Apple and a whole lot more! Feb 1 is the kickoff day for the alphabetaphilia game for February, 2012.  You need a list of five wonderful words beginning with A today and a sentence using your words, to be posted in the comments below.  I have to moderate comments, so it can take up to a day for your comments to appear, but I'll put them up asap.  I can't wait to see your words and sentences!

cheers,
Laura

Alphabetaphilia Starts Weds, Feb 1, 2012. Simple Directions.

Hi friends of reading and writing,

Here is the fast version of February Alphabetaphilia:
The letter of the day matches the order in the alphabet.  Feb 1 is A, Feb 2 is B, etc.  The last three days are wild cards, any letter you choose.

Choose five favorite words that begin with the letter of the day (your LIST).

Make up a sentence using those five words (SENTENCE)

Post the LIST and SENTENCE on this blog (www.westcoastwriters.blogspot.com) under the Day and Letter title, as a COMMENT.  It will take up to a day to be approved and posted (sorry, I have a busy life).

If you miss a day or two, no problem, you can make up the days you missed OR just skip them.  No need for guilt.

That's it.  Hope to see you around playing with the glorious alphabet and words that sound delicious all during February!   Laura

29th Small Stone: Waltzing Magnolias

The evenly spaced magnolia trees on Mountain Avenue slipped by my car in time with The Blue Danube waltz.  

Saturday, January 28, 2012

28th Small Stone: Slanting Sunrays

Santa Ana Condition with sere wind and heat is here.  The slanting sunrays pick out the delicate design of a cast iron decoration on a neighbor’s house and the tall, white branches of a birch, waiting patiently for its leaves to reappear.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Interview: Eleanor Stoneham, author of Healing This Wounded Earth


Eleanor Stoneham, author of Healing this Wounded Earth, recently let me interview her for the West Coast Writers blog.  Here is that interview for you to enjoy.  Her web site and blog are at the end; if you're interested, buy the book and visit her web site and her blogs.

Laura: Eleanor, your book, Healing this Wounded Earth: with Compassion, Spirit, and the Power of Hope, seems to go against the prevailing pessimism of society today.  How have you maintained your own hope in a life with many difficulties?

Eleanor: Sometimes it’s been really difficult! I’ve been to some dark places, to the brink of almost total despair, and fought hard to recover. But I think my faith has supported me, and my friends and church community, and a very understanding team of medical professionals over the years. And also a positive belief in human nature. Anne Frank, in spite of the terrible experiences she suffered at the hands of the Nazis in the Second World War observed that ‘Despite everything…people are really good at heart.’ Simone Weil once observed that ‘at the bottom of the heart of every human being, from earliest infancy until the tomb, there is something that goes on indomitably expecting, in the teeth of all experience of crimes committed, suffered, and witnessed, that good and not evil will be done.’ We have to believe this! If we are to hold any hope at all for the future of our race we must believe that mankind is inherently good, not evil. And hope is more than simple optimism. Archbishop Desmond Tutu once said that he had never been an optimist. “I've always been a man of hope,” he said, because “hope holds on even when things are seemingly doomed and dark.” I like that – it’s very positive and has helped me get through some pretty dark times of my own.     My first working title for this book was Ripples of Hope, from a speech that Robert Kennedy made in Cape Town in 1966: 
“Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

Mahatma Gandhi meant virtually the same thing when he said, “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.”


Laura: While many people see a dichotomy between science and medicine on one hand and spirituality on the other, you find their union generative to your hopes.  Can you explain your ability to connect these two spheres of mental activity?

Eleanor: I don’t believe there is a dichotomy! When I talk with delegates at the conferences I attend, with scientists, doctors, philosophers and scholars from many disciplines, even enlightened ministers of religion, I realise I’m far from alone in believing that science and religion or spirituality are not mutually exclusive. I think the extremes of polarity between the scientific and the spiritual viewpoint, between the objective and the subjective, between thinking and feeling, the expressible and the ineffable, between our outer or exoteric selves and the inner or esoteric, are simply different ways of viewing the same reality. We have inherited the works of the great mystics, from all cultures and faiths. They have seen things, experienced things, which they’ve been able to articulate for the benefit of us all. And many of us are able to feel these qualities from both a heart and a head perspective, to have a sense of the spiritual, the intrinsic, the inner, as well as an ability to analyse rationally and objectively. And we sense that there is something there beyond the material. Some scientists, such as Rupert Sheldrake, think “outside the box” and are daring to challenge the restrictive materialistic dogma that has infiltrated science worldwide. Sheldrake’s theory of morphic resonance, for example, through morphogenetic fields, controlling the growth of plants and animals, is simply brilliant. In Rupert we have a highly intelligent scientist, also incidentally an Anglican Christian, who reminds us that we should have a more open mind in our approach to science. And when I was at such low ebb, I found healing in the spiritual, in meditation, yoga and prayer as much as in conventional medicine and pills!


Laura: As you point out, regulations and laws are not  very effective in changing behavior, and you advocate education and understanding instead.  But many people feel that atrocities perpetrated in World War II by highly educated people, claiming to be sensitive and cultured, undermined any faith in learning and understanding as a way to improve human behavior. What can you say to critics who make that claim?

Eleanor: But we’ve moved on since then and I’m advocating a different kind of education that hopefully recognises past mistakes and tries hard not to repeat them. I want to see an education that is more holistic, that equips people with the skills to be good citizens rather than simply able to find and hold a job. I want to see an education that nurtures spiritual literacy, teaches conflict resolution, the art of dialogue, tolerance and respect for all people. And this kind of education has to become available to all, including women-in fact especially women- across the globe, in the poorest as well as the most privileged countries.

Laura: As your book title implies, you emphasize healing from wounds as a road to insight.  If someone has had a blessed life with no major problems, do you believe they cannot achieve real understanding?

Eleanor: No, I don’t think so. The emerging science of empathy is showing us that we seem to be actually wired for empathy and compassion, at a neuro-physiological level. Empathy and spirituality are natural in young children, but unfortunately this is too often beaten out of them rather than fostered by our education system. If children have a blessed life, as you say, then their natural empathic selves should reflect in their empathic behaviour. But very few people have such totally charmed lives. We also know that who we are and how we behave as adults is not only a combination of our inherited gene and possibly also our meme makeup. We are also affected by subsequent influences in our upbringing and our experiences as we develop through childhood and beyond. This is what is meant when we talk about ‘nature versus nurture’. And as well as our inherited physical characteristics, we pick up mental wounds from the collective experiences of our ancestors. The unhealed wounds of mankind inflicted through millennia of evolution by strife and violence and disaster mean that hundreds of millions of people are psychologically, emotionally and physically scarred and wounded and in need of healing. It has even been suggested by some psychologists that human culture as a whole has been saturated by unhealed wounding, which, if unchecked, will continue on a downward spiral toward inevitable disintegration. That’s a really gloomy prognosis I know, which is why I am calling for much more healing!

Laura: Your emphasis is on what one person can do, a powerful concept and one that can move people to individual actions that add up to big effects.  But I've heard criticisms of this approach by people who say that only acting at the level of city government or above has any measurable effect on the huge problems we're facing today.  How do you answer such people?

Eleanor: Of course we need both. Some things are just too big to tackle on our own as individuals. But without a change in the hearts and minds of the individuals laws can be and are in fact widely abused. Sadly today many people seem to live according to what they can get away with. The use of hand held cell phones in autos is a good example of this. And shoplifting. And this brings us back to education again.

Laura: When you were writing your book, did people tell you no one would pay attention unless your coauthor was Nick Kristoff or someone else with name recognition?  How are you approaching getting your message out all over the world?

Eleanor: Yes, as any budding author knows, getting a first book published is not easy, and global recognition is a long slog but I’m getting there!! I continue to write, I do talks, I attend conferences to keep up with what is happening in my areas of interest, I have my own blogs and I actively comment on other blog sites if I think it will help to get the message out there. And it obviously helped to have people like Dr Larry Dossey, Dawson Church, William Bloom, Alastair McIntosh, Paul Ray of Cultural Creatives fame, and The Revd. Peter Owen Jones, for example, supporting my book and endorsing its message. Not to mention the renowned psychiatrist and writer Iain McGilchrist writing a very powerful Foreword for me.  I really hope that many will read Healing This Wounded Earth, be challenged by it, inspired by it, tell me what they think about it, tell other people about it, use it for discussion in their book club, their faith group, or in any other discussion groups, and run with an idea or two from its pages. Because each such deed, however small, will start its own ‘ripple of hope’ towards a better future. Surely we all want that. 

Laura: I notice that a large section of your book focuses on money (and its inedible quality) while your biography says that you've been a scientist and an accountant.  Do you feel you understand the unreality of money because you've been an accountant?  Do you approve of the Occupy movement, focusing on the concentration of money with the 1% instead of the 99%?

Eleanor: Yes after I’d completed my scientific PhD, I trained as an accountant with one of the largest accountancy firms, and further training as a tax consultant and financial adviser obviously gave me quite some grounding in all matters financial! But I spent the last decade of my business career as a sole practitioner looking after small self employed businesses and family companies, plus some wealthy individuals, and others who continually struggled to make ends meet. And I noticed very often that vast sums of money were not necessarily making people any happier. I also became disenchanted with the whole money-making machine, where for many clients the sole purpose in life seemed to be making more money, and more; and for what purpose? And I saw greed and injustice at first hand! And that sickened me. So yes, I do support the Occupy movement, at least in principle. I believe they have a very good point to make. In fact I went up to London twice to walk around the camp outside St Paul’s Cathedral, to talk to some of the demonstrators; and I was impressed with the set-up, the serious discussions being held, the really strong feeling that something is terribly wrong when the gulf between the rich and the poor is so huge. How can we call ourselves civilised and human when the divide between the materially wealthy and the hungry poor is massive and the gap is apparently widening; when half the world live in hunger and poverty whilst there is a serious obesity epidemic amongst the rest of us?     

Laura: Would you like to tell people about your blogs?


Eleanor: I started my Ripples of Hope blog as I was writing Healing This Wounded Earth, and I try to post items that I pick out of the news, that expand or illustrate those things I write about in the book. I also like to include plenty of photos of beautiful images – of gardens I have visited, places I have been, anything really that speaks to me in some way, which I hope others will also enjoy.I have now completed my second book, Why Religion? The Wisdom of Tolerance, which will be published hopefully later this year, by Circle Books, an imprint of John Hunt Publishing. This book is a rebuke to the militant or angry atheists, an apologetic for all religion, and this is the focus of my second blog, started in 2011. I push the boat out quite a bit in this book, because as I mentioned before, the trained scientist in me rejects the rigid materialistic dogma of conventional science. I believe that there are other realms of reality beyond this materialistic one; that the soul is immortal, that prayer can and does work, that we can connect with others through conscious intention. How can we explain phenomena such as psychometry, near death experiences, psychic imprints, intuitive medical diagnoses, and telesomatic experiences, for example, unless there are links between us all at some deep level in our consciousness? The late and great T. C. Lethbridge believed that the supernatural of one generation would eventually become the natural of the next and that all occult phenomena would in time be explained by science. But it will be that science I’ve already mentioned, a science that has thrown away the shackles of conventional dogma, a more open-minded science. And far from proving the myth or fairy tale of all matters religious, I think this new science will support and explain the religious phenomena of prayer, distance healing, and life after death, for instance. And this is something that I think could help to unite the religious in some way, not divide them. I’m really interested in this and am working on these ideas now.  So to my third blog. I love my allotment. I was really keen on gardening even as a little girl and when we moved to a farm when I was eight years old I began fairly soon to supply much of the family’s vegetable needs. Any surplus vegetables were sold outside the farm gate to passing traffic. That helped to supplement my pocket money, which always went on gardening books, seeds, plants, cloches, netting, and anything else I could afford to buy for my garden. This all came to an end when I left home to go to University, and then my career and business took over. So now I am thoroughly enjoying being able to grow all our vegetables again. I set up the allotment blog to share some of my trials and successes, to show photos of the plot and the plants throughout the year, to help others who may not be so familiar with the whole gardening process, to perhaps inspire confidence in those who aren’t sure where to start!
Please visit Eleanor Stoneham's web page and blogs to learn more, and buy her book!  Cheers, Laura
and blogging at:

27th Small Stone Bluebells Ahead


Dark soil with fifteen bright green points breaking through it, thrusting it aside, coming of the bluebells.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Lonely Hydrangea


Blue hydrangea plant in a pot sits alongside the dormant flower bed like a guest at a party full of unknown people.  

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

25th Small Stone: Generous Beams


Because I slept late, the den was flooded with light when I came out, and I felt renewed by the generous beams.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

24th Small Stone, Similar Branches

Finger-thick grey branches of plum tree and wisteria vine, how similar they look now, but later, one will have pink blossoms and the other purple clusters of blooms.

Monday, January 23, 2012

23rd Small Stone: Dragon Puddles

Welcoming dragon year to a world with darkened moon and dripping sky, circles widening and disappearing in shiny puddles. 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Coming in February: Alphabetaphilia, 2012

Do you feel like you need a shock of electricity to wake up your writing this winter?  Yes, I was being mildly shocked many years ago by the van de Graff generator above, but it was stimulating! 
 I was fascinated recently with Captain GrammarPants’ Facebook lists of words originating from different countries/languages.  I was reminded of some word games my family used to play on long car trips.  Is winter like a long car trip?  Don’t we keep asking if we’re done yet?  So let’s play a word game.  It’s open to everyone.  This blog is moderated due to the bad behavior of some foreign posters, so your post will take around a day to appear each time.  But be comfortable; it will not be lost.  And if you'd rather post anonymously, you can (but read on, you may not want to).  I will not post obscene or scary postings, and I have the final decision on any submission.

This year is a leap year so we have 29 days in February.  To play the game, on Days 1-26 choose and give us a list of five favorite words beginning with the letter of the day, A for February 1, B for February 2, etc. Each day, you can challenge yourself to make a sentence (or in a pinch a couple of sentences) using all of your words.  Days 27, 28, and 29 are free choice of repeats of letters, ones where you sensed one group of five favorite words didn’t even scratch the surface. Post each entry under the thread of the day, which I will post so you can “comment” to add your list and sentences.  There will be author interviews and other longer posts, but just scroll around to find the “Febrary 1, A lists and sentences here” posting for February 1, etc.  I will be out of town a couple of times, and will post the threads you need before I go each time so you won’t have to search fruitlessly for a place to post your alphabetaphilic entries.

Is this a contest?  If so, does the winner get a prize?   Yes, and yes.  Everyone who writes at least ten lists and sentences during the first 26 days is automatically entered in the contest.  I will recruit one more judge and we will judge the entries according to our aesthetic taste and announce the winner by March 15.  The entire group of lists and sentences submitted by a contestant will be considered together, and we’ll look for sound, imagery, diversity of meanings, and success of the sentence(s).  There will probably be intangibles involved in the selection of the winner too.

The winner will receive a new copy of either Gruen’s Water For Elephants or my memoir Breaking Through the Spiral Ceiling, his or her choice.

All participants will be asked at the end of the month if they want to choose some of their lists and sentences and have them included in an Alphabetaphilia, 2012 pdf that will be made available free via WestCoastWriters blog, to anyone who wants to receive it.  Your work, if you ask to have it included, will be acknowledged with a byline.  It will NOT be used without your agreement.  This pdf will not be sold, so there will be no financial profit to you for being included in the pdf, only free publicity. 
         Stay tuned!

         Cheers, Laura


22nd Small Stone: Thinking Like Water

As I back the car down the driveway, the sun shines on five big raindrops at the top of my windshield.  The lower half of each one has blinding radiance.  Should the water in the top half of each raindrop be jealous?  

Saturday, January 21, 2012

21st Small Stone: Puddle Reforms

A smooth puddle reflecting the gray sky suddenly shatters from a big raindrop from above, bounces it back, then absorbs the water into itself, smooth again.  

Friday, January 20, 2012

20th Small Stone: Tiny World

We enter the car, close the doors, all windows misted over, in our own tiny world.  

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Swelling Camellia Buds, 19th Small Stone


The tall camellia bush beside the door is covered with fat, green buds, and one showing red along the top side as a promise for the future.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

18th Small Stone: Angry Real Birds


So much noise from the sparrows and the hummingbirds, they drown out the car motor starting up.  A Cooper’s hawk sits on the highest bough of the sycamore. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

17th small stone, Captive Palms


Captive palms stand in the street median, tall and skinny, dusting off the clouds.

Monday, January 16, 2012

16th Small Stone: Entwined Elms


Tiny scrolling branches of two elms entwined and tangled over the street, reaching, touching, as close as they can ever get.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Birthday

Dear readers and writers,

When I was in graduate school, my office mate, a young man from Yemen, often played tapes of speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr.  I had heard of him, and vaguely approved of him, in college days of civil rights activism.  But the power of the man's words surprised me.  I could not do anything else when these speeches were rolling through the air.
Later, as a young professor at Occidental College, I taught in a class called "Collegium," the entire curriculum of these students for their first year of college.  My colleague, Axel Steuer, had the students read Letter from the Birmingham Jail.  If you haven't read it, you can find it here (click on link).
I'm going to quote a couple of passages from that letter here.
"In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churchmen stand on the sideline and mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard many ministers say: "Those are social issues, with which the gospel has no real concern." "  ...
"I have not said to my people: "Get rid of your discontent." Rather, I have tried to say that this normal and healthy discontent can be channeled into the creative outlet of nonviolent direct action. And now this approach is being termed extremist. But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." Was not Amos an extremist for justice: "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream." Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." Was not Martin Luther an extremist: "Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God." And John Bunyan: "I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience." And Abraham Lincoln: "This nation cannot survive half slave and half free." And Thomas Jefferson: "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal . . ." So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice?" 

Two or three years ago, I took a detour when driving between the Atlanta airport and my mother and sister's homes in Chattanooga, TN, and visited the Southern Poverty Law Center in Birmingham, AL.  I stood a long time at the Maya Lin-designed fountain-table inscribed with the names of those who died in the Civil Rights struggle in the US.  I read and reread the inscription from Amos, quoted above, which is inscribed on a black granite wall with water coursing over it.  I was glad for the gains in Civil Rights, glad for this organization that says we must not forget who paid the price.  Let us celebrate MLK's birthday by reconnecting with what he most cared about and stood for:
"Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty."
cheers, Laura

15th Small Stone: Scared Birds

Coming outside on a damp, grey morning, I scare a robin into the darkness under the cedar.  A fleeing mourning dove alights on the top branch of a leafless Liquidambar tree among the hanging balls of seeds.  I won’t hurt you, birds.  

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Berries Going


In the gray light, I see that the bright red berries of the Nandina bushes are almost all eaten up.  A mourning dove coos.

Friday, January 13, 2012

New Classes, New Books, Need One Like Mine?

Hi friends of reading and writing,

I just got a packet of books from the SDSU bookstore for the classes I'm about to take.  And I've been re-reading the three for the two classes I'm teaching at Pomona this semester.  New books smell so good, look so good, and feel so good.  If anyone out there is teaching something where you could use an inexpensive book to show women can have both family and career in science, take a look at my memoir, Breaking Through the Spiral Ceiling (Amazon.com).  It's priced to be a feasible course supplement for people who want to discuss issues for women in science.  I am willing to send you a text sample free if you email me about your course or library or whatever venue at lhoopes@pomona.edu.  It was just reviewed in BioScience (BIOS) by Emily Schmitt.  My main goal is to open doors and windows for young women who aren't sure they can balance both family and a science career.   Keep reading, keep enjoying books, 2012 is off to a good start, book-wise!

cheers, Laura

Small Stone 13--Mint Awakening


Beneath the network of bare branches on the plum tree, sprigs of mint leap into life with lime-green shoots. I crush one leaf and inhale its sharp sweetness.

This is my 13th small stone.  Scroll down to find out more about the January River of Stones or Google "Writing Our Way Home."

PS Friday the 13th is lucky for me; hope it's lucky for you too.   

Thursday, January 12, 2012

12th Small Stone: Bare Trunks


Bare trunks of three sycamores in the median echo V, V and more V as the branches rise and divide.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Moss-Grass Armistice Line, 11th small stone

Chartreuse moss versus green grass, the armistice line runs from the Ceanothus to the fence.  The swelling buds on the California lilac match the moss.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

New Hampshire Election Realities

I wanted to see the Vietnam War ended and the draft ended in the late 1960s.  As a twenty-something student, I went to New Hampshire many weekends in late 1967, working for Eugene McCarthy in the Democratic primary to be held in January, 1968.  I wore holes in my woolen gloves shuffling voter cards as I went door-to-door with informational brochures and follow-up answers to voters’ questions about McCarthy’s positions on local issues.  I was colder than I’d ever been in my life, visiting one more house, and then just one more before returning to the storefront headquarters to warm up with strong coffee.  I slept on the floors of churches, Dartmouth professors’ homes, storefront offices.  I learned a lesson that appears to be as true today as it was then.

To me, the opposition to the Vietnam War was the big issue that separated my candidate from Lyndon Johnson.  But the New Hampshire voters wanted to know details of each candidate’s thinking on many issues.  It was the first time I encountered voters seeking so much information as the basis for voting.  I’m sure my parents in North Carolina read the papers and made thoughtful decisions, but we never discussed it so I was unaware of their ways of getting ready to vote.  Presenting a candidate in New Hampshire, to voter after voter who was well informed, interested, and actively seeking to make the best possible decision, I found something special: the basic wish of American voters to do the right thing. 

In 2012, I was curious to see, in these digital days, whether this dynamic had changed.  In my view, it has not.  Candidates who spent a lot of time and used a lot of volunteers working door-to-door in New Hampshire, convinced voters.  It was not so much the big PAC money for TV ads as it was caring enough to organize on the ground, to find the answers to the voters’ real questions, that counted.  I am cheered that New Hampshire voters have continued this tradition.  They are bedrock Americans.  More power to them.

10th Small Stone: Sycamore and Sparrows

The sycamore tree has a few leaves, brown star-shapes against the blue sky.  Many sparrows perch on its branches, having a morning gossip.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Ninth Small Stone--Sycamore Leaves


Six sycamore leaves, saucer to dinner plate sizes, fly by flipping madly in the wind, disappear into Aileen’s yard.  A hummingbird pips and circles, then perches on a bare branch where the leaves used to live.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Bonus 8th #smallstone: Sunset Palms

Hi river of stones readers/writers,
I could not resist capturing one more small stone as my husband and I drove through the sunset tonight.
cheers, Laura

Clear yellow sky with a band of mauve clouds, then a band of dark purple ones.  Compact tops of three tall palms reach up to touch the mauve layer, black silhouettes of fans against the bright sky.