Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Long Night Moon


Blooming night,
sailing the height
while earth is still,
comfort the heavy heart.

Cold the night,
hardscrabble the ground, despite
all efforts to till
our soil to its best;
perhaps a forgotten art.

Clear, the sight,
on this, the longest night;
watching, be eased, if chill,
awaiting warmth, as test
and testament to sum and part.

O, Maternal Night
and all stars in flight,
watch over valley and hill,
call Dawn to make blessed,
and release all seeds to new start.

Your cool gaze
            will have prepared earth
            for renewal and rebirth;
may it be to a new and more wondrous phase.

© 2013 Elisabeth T. Eliassen

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Have a Hollow, Jello Christmas, along with Pavlov’s dogs?


As we approach the final shopping weekend before Christmas, I thought I would jot a few lines about the holiday.

First of all, it is thought of as being a Christian Holy Day, but it really isn’t. It is thought to be a celebration of the birth of Jesus, but it’s not. The winter holidays are pagan. Church Father’s (somewhere in the early 4th Century CE) thought it would be a good thing for Early Church PR to have some sort of Feast Day to balance out the Church year with Easter, and what better way to be welcoming to pagans (you plan to convert) than to syncretize a new holiday onto their own winter festivals?! So, if you wondered about the pine and fir trees, the yule log, and all that… it has nothing to do with Jerusalem, Nazareth or Egypt… it has to do with Saturnalia, Festivus, Yule and Dies Natalis Solis Invicti. Because of the magic of Wikipedia, you can look up all these festivals and find out what they are about, but basically it is about the season of winter and the winter solstice. It is a true fact that New Zealand holds its Yule festival in July… (Think about it.)

So, to all those cry that the spirit of the season has been usurped, and that we must put "Christ back into Christmas," I have to reply, we can't--Christ was never in it!

The traditional giving of gifts is always misconstrued to be the “Gifts from the Magi”, gold, frankincense and myrrh. But, folks, the truth of the matter is that the gift giving tradition comes directly from the Roman holiday of Saturnalia. It was all about conspicuous consumption, drunken debauchery and eating to excess. Even Pliny the Elder (23-79 CE) had to retreat to a suite of rooms in his manor, in order that the noise from the festivities might not interrupt his studies. Toys were given to children, and gag gifts exchanged between adults. [You know those ugly Christmas sweaters we all love to hate? Well, the togas at that time had to be either really tacky or were doffed completely, during these Empire mandated celebrations.] The gifts, if you want to know, are about the agricultural god Saturn, who was the embodiment of prosperity. You exchange signs of prosperity with others so that you will be blessed with prosperity—that’s the general idea. There were sacrifices, also… I won’t get into gory details; this is a family blog. All you need to know is that Alexander the Great found a way to eliminate that element from the holiday picture.

We are, therefore, acting in a truly Roman Empire sort of way when we deal with Christmas, which makes the holiday not very Christian, at all (because it isn’t). Add to that the fact that we have all been trained to be good little consumers, and you have a complete mash-up of priorities: giving to the poor means getting for ourselves. We must decorate and cook and wrap and give and get and buy and buy and buy and and and and… and by and by get stuck in traffic jams, everywhere, with grumpy people who fume and yell and text and commit acts of road rage against fellow drivers. How celebratory is that?

Sigh.

In the face of all this craziness, I and my colleagues have been commuting (though certainly not rushing at great speed) on these holiday-frenzied roads and public transit systems in order to offer the simplest, but perhaps the most profoundly intimate gift that can be given or received: sound. Into the sanctuary of churches, concert and social halls, living rooms and other spaces, set aside from the noise and the rushing and the personalities, musicians gather with scores, voices and instruments to soothe the savage breast (of strangers or family and friends) with healing vibrations. In the past few weeks, there have been many concerts, small and large; there are more to come. Give the gift of music to someone you know, with concert tickets or CDs purchased from local groups. There is a lot of great music happening where you are--don't miss it!

Is your ChristeSaturnalimas seeming shallow, hollow, empty of feeling or too full of hassle? Get away from all of that. Hie thee to a concert, now! Settle into a seat. Close your eyes. Let the music help release your spirit, to make it soar. In appropriate concert situations, public dance might figure in. Join in and let your body go; that is singing, too. Listen to beautiful music via electronic media, or go to the shore to hear the waves and the birds. Trust me, you will feel much better for it.

And have yourself as much of a merry something-or-other and as happy a New Year as you can stand.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

How To Give Thanks


Greet the morning sunlight,
both as friend and miracle.

Feel each footstep
as a handshake, as a greeting;

Know that every touch
is an engagement with All That Is.

The whole world is smiling at you;
smile back, with warmth and feeling.

Let the empty chair fill itself,
Keep your door open to opportunity.

Drink deeply from the well of possibility,
the source of the river of life.

Take a slice, accept your portion and be filled;
share with family, friends and those in need.

Respect the wonder of Earth’s vegetation,
medicine for our health and wellbeing.

Know that each conflict has built into it
an opportunity for healing and renewal;

Move beyond the frayed fabric,
find a proper loom for mending, and be glad.

The star-kissed wind blows through you;
sing praises, sing praises, sing praises!

Weave yourself into the earth;
it will be glad to accept you,

And offer you back, as a restorative gift,
to this world of wonder.

© 2013 by Elisabeth T. Eliassen

Thursday, November 14, 2013

First Amendment Convolutions


While reading my local paper, I came across the following letter to the editor:

It is disturbing that California's attorney general, Kamala Harris, believes that access to contraception trumps the First Amendment ("State questions corporations' religious rights," Nov. 11.). Religious business-owners should have the right to manage their own companies according to their most basic beliefs. The First Amendment does not simply guarantee the freedom to worship; it ensures "the free exercise thereof," which extends beyond Fridays at the mosque or Saturdays at the synagogue. Subtle attempts to undermine this guarantee to all Americans, masked in pernicious language like "regulatory obligations," should be what the attorney general is protecting us against, not standing up for.

This letter had been written by the pastor of a church. The name of the pastor, church and community from which this letter came are not important. It could have come from anywhere, been written by a religious leader of any denomination or faith.

This letter is clearly about denying rights to women. The pastor perhaps owns a business. Surely the church is not the business he owns, is it? Hopefully the employee in question is not a female church secretary…

What I find most interesting is the ironic twist accorded to the First Amendment. To me, it is clear that the author of the letter is unclear on the letter of the law, as well as a bit muddy on the tenets of his faith. The author of the letter seems to imply that the religious freedoms accorded by the First Amendment allow one person, in the context of practicing and keeping of their faith, to deny rights to another person.

This is, of course, not true under the letter of the law. This kind of confused thinking is what the separation of church and state is all about, and why it is essential. This is what the Women’s Movement, the Civil Rights Movement, the Labor Movement, the LGBQ Movement and all of the Movements since, have reared up to remind us all. We should all be equally treated under the law. It could also be argued that we should all be treated equally under divine providence.

Your beliefs and your practices are yours. You are welcome to them. You cannot impose them on others. The First Amendment applies to individual conscience, not collective consciousness. The First Amendment allows you to say you don’t like contraception, and to rail against contraception and to campaign against contraception, but it does not entitle you, because you practice a certain religion that has dogma and doctrine against it, to deny any person the right to access, have and use contraceptives. Even if you are a business owner, your business cannot deny any worker access to contraceptives, whether you pay all or part of the insurance coverage for your employee or not. To do so is to disrespect and violate the privacy and rights of your employee, which surely is not what any divine being would require of you, in order for you to be a good person, ostensibly living a life of righteousness and equity.

You are free to exercise your right to be a dogmatic doctrinaire, even a misogynist; you just cannot impose your personal will, whether or not it is informed by your religion, on others—and that means not in the work place nor in your church.

Pernicious is the language that claims the golden rule, yet excludes people from the rights and dignity they should naturally be accorded. Pernicious is the hate hidden in a convoluted, conditional and inconsistent rhetoric of love. Pernicious is the morality that counsels, “You must do as I say, or you will go to Hell!” The First Amendment is not a club to be wielded against someone else.

I am grateful that the attorney general of California is holding people, religious and not, to their regulatory obligations under the law.

Mr. Pastor, sir, if you don’t want contraceptives, the Good News is you are not required to have or to use them. The bad news is, you can’t force others to do as you would do, not even your wife. It is none of your business what other people do with their health coverage, and why should it matter to you? The sad truth is it costs you nothing that someone else can obtain and use contraceptives. While you may believe that the use of contraceptives is ungodly,     though how you would arrive at that conclusion I don't know, as the Bible does not mention them at all  you have no legal grounds by which to deny their availability to or use by anyone. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Eleven, Eleven, Eleven: a meditation


November 11th has become less a day of observance and more sort of loaf-around, generic holiday kind of day. Is it blasphemous for me to say such a thing?

How many people realize, or remember, that what we call Veteran’s Day was a day that was intended to mark the cessation of war in the world?  Armistice Day was what they called it, back then. It is known elsewhere as Remembrance Day, a day for red poppies and solemn music, for prayer.

The day commemorates the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, commemorates the end of “The War To End All Wars.”

The irony, of course, is that this treaty did not end all wars. It did not even completely end the hostilities of World War I. The armistice served to drive further political wedges that led the way to more militarism, more bloodshed and ethnic cleansing—all of this leading directly to primary causes of World War II. The reasons for this are many, not the least of which was the redrawing of borders over traditional ethnic boundaries to placate certain authoritarian leaders who were looking to an expansionist land-grab to shore up their fascist, totalitarian dominions.

What happened in Europe is nothing less that what happened to the ancient Jewish tribes in biblical times; the cultural centers of many small states were destroyed or heavily damaged, and the people were resettled to other places, so that the conquerors could have their traditional homelands to use. The economy of Europe was made unstable for generations.

But, let us set aside this observation and engage an aspect that is elusive and theoretical.

Armistice is only a temporary function; it is an agreement to ceasefire while negotiations are made for a peace that will hopefully be lasting. The unfortunate truth is that war has become an economic tool too useful to turn aside for anything so difficult as cultivating a peaceful world.

Indeed peace, as a theoretical, like infinity, it is too difficult to contemplate. Essentially, it means that people have to strive for the best of everything in a way that is cooperative rather than competitive. The human psyche is only prepared for domination, for dominating or being dominated. Our brains are preprogrammed for quick reactions, but only from the lowest part of the brain. Lashing out is the first response; it is so much easier than having a reasoned conversation.

So, this is possibly why we, in the United States, could no longer call this remembrance Armistice Day. The name had to be changed, in recognition that a lasting peace was no longer the objective. We had to pay homage to the instrument of the hegemon, by honoring the sacrifice of its pawns.

Blasphemy! (I can hear the grumbles.)

The ancients recognized the problem. If there was to be just governance, the arbiter could not very well be human, given how we are each and all preprogrammed to react from our lowest, when challenged. This is how it was expressed, by an old geezer named Isaiah:

Why should you be beaten anymore? Why do you persist in rebellion? Your whole head is injured, your whole heart afflicted. From the sole of your foot to the top of your head there is no soundness—
only wounds and welts and open sores, not cleansed or bandaged or soothed with olive oil…

Your country is desolate, your cities burned with fire; your fields are being stripped by foreigners right before you, laid waste as when overthrown by strangers. Daughter Zion is left like a shelter in a vineyard, like a hut in a cucumber field, like a city under siege…

If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword…

See how the faithful city has become a prostitute! She once was full of justice; righteousness used to dwell in her—but now murderers! Your silver has become dross, your choice wine is diluted with water.

Your rulers are rebels, with thieves; they all love bribes and chase after gifts. They do not defend the cause of the fatherless; the widow’s case does not come before them.

Times have not changed, in several thousand years, nor has the inherent nature of people.

We do no honor, to war dead or war living, to perpetuate armed conflict! I do not agree that we need to honor bloodshed. I will never agree to that!

The spoils of war are destroying the hope that life can continue on this planet. We teach our children war games, but not how to resolve conflict from our highest selves. We teach that killing is honorable, and what is worse, we make guns available to everyone so that they can use them for that purpose—as if it is a sacred right! Children die in our streets at home and in foreign streets where our soldiers patrol. Ignorance and thoughtless waste abound in a world that is, by nature, beautiful, if only we wouldn’t pollute and profane it.

We should not honor bloodshed. I do not agree to that.

I believe we can only honor our Veterans by working toward a world without weapons, a world without war, a world without dominating bullies.

Verily, I say unto you, we have more important things to do than appease (and act as pawns for) bullies! Life, as we know it, is at stake.

The only true Armistice Day is the one where we all win, and we all become veterans to a past that is over and done.

The old geezer envisioned it this way:

They shall beat their swords into plowshares,
And their spears into pruning hooks;
Nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
Neither shall they learn war anymore.

Honor our veterans for their service, but not their servitude to a culture of corruption and death. 

Strive for good, heal the sick, uphold the widow and the orphan, clean up the polluted planet, teach new ways to deal with conflict.

Let us not wait for the Eleventh Hour that signals our destruction; let us begin, this very moment, to build anew.

Ready?! 

GO!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Kind Heart


            For Janet W., and all who quietly go about the business of
                   life-changing-miracle-making

Kind heart,
loving, your art,
finds each open door,
all the ways in, and more;
smiles are not sufficient,
favors and deeds not efficient,
for ‘tis the lingering hour
of connection that ignites the power
to move mountains with eyes,
to conquer despair, save lives;
Love spins its tale true
by never resisting the urge to do.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Caveat Donator; How Technology Doesn’t Work For Us

This is a tale of what perils can befall the doer of good deeds.

This may be a typical story, although I would hope it is extremely unusual.

I bring it forward only so that you will think about your presence within
the intractable web of technology.

I am a musician and a poet. I work hard to cobble together a life with my family, one that is deeply invested in my community. Everyone in my ever-widening circle of artistic colleagues is similarly struggling to serve and be blessed by art, while being responsibly invested in community.

Times have been tough, not just recently, but for a long time. We all just keep tilling our fields and hoeing our rows, painting our canvases, arching our bodies in dance, plying the singing staves, playing our instruments, because—ultimately—our art is what keeps us alive. But, keeping it all going seems to get harder and harder.

Times have been toughest for our small non-profit art organizations. The National Endowment of the Arts does not serve the small arts organization. It cannot possibly. If you thought of the human body as a mass analogous to the national budget, the amount of money the Federal Government funds the NEA might be represented by a single hair follicle, if that.

Aside from the annual fundraising efforts that have gone on for years, there have been emergency appeals, as well. Please… if you can give anything, it will help us offer our next show.

Investment. It is all about where we live, what we believe and who we are.

I have little, but I try to give, nevertheless. So, when in January a dire straights appeal came out from several groups at once, I responded in the only way I could at the time. I selected one really, really small group that I have worked with and responded, first with the word: YES. How could I help? Well, we had a car to donate; and donate it, we did.

The umbrella organization that handles car donations for non-profit groups is very well organized and efficient. You sign on the dotted lines the pick-up driver points to on his clipboard, you are given a receipt in exchange for your signed off pink slip, and the vehicle is towed away. Our donated vehicle left our driveway in the first week of February.

This week, in the mid-October of the year, we received a lien notice from a tow yard in Stockton. I had no idea what it was about, but examining it closely, I saw that it had to do with the car we had donated. Hmmm. I fished out my donation receipt, made a copy, and sent it, in the enclosed pre-printed envelope, to the Department of Motor Vehicles, and went on with my life.

Two days later, my out-of-town-on-business husband received a cell call from our auto insurance company, requesting information about the accident. What accident?! My husband called me to ask about the accident that occurred, apparently, the day after he left on his business trip. I told him that on the day in question, I didn’t drive the car until that evening, when I had to drive out of town to a rehearsal. That drive was uneventful. I told him I would examine our car to see if there was damage, but I already knew there was not.

Meanwhile, a bell went off in my head. Could this be related to the lien notice we had just received in the mail, the day prior?

I called my husband back and told him about the notice, and that I suspected the accident was with the car no longer in our possession. He called the agent back and talked to him, then both the agent and my husband called to speak with me afterward.

In all these communications, there were missing bits of information. The agent had neglected to mention that the auto that had been in the accident was the one we had taken off our policy, earlier in the year. While we had all been playing phone tag, he had been able to look up in the databases he has access to and find that a release of liability form had been submitted for the vehicle. I told the agent about the lien notice and he was puzzled by it and the situation. What apparently happened is the car we donated was auctioned off to a person who did not subsequently register the vehicle. Unspoken, but probably true, the new car owner didn’t insure the car. The car owner got into an accident, and the car was towed to the tow yard, from which the lien notice had been issued. Once we wrangled with the spotty details we had before us, the insurance company took my statement and that was the end of it. We had done everything that was required, and it was obvious that we were not involved or in any way at fault. I asked the agent what I should do about the lien notice. He told me to call the tow yard and tell them that I had no interest in the car, having donated it in February, and they could sell it if they wish.

Getting off the phone with the agent, I called the tow yard. I explained to the woman who answered that the car that had been involved in the accident last week was not my car, and if they wanted to sell it they could. I told the woman I could fax her the donation receipt, so they would have it on record that we are not responsible—

I was cut off.

“That’s not what we need,” the voice was full of venom.

“Excuse me?”

“We need a DMV notice.”

“I’m not sure you understand, you see, the donation receipt clearly states—“

“Are you gonna go on, or are you gonna let ME TELL YOU?!”

Well, that did silence me. I was amazed that the entire tone of the exchange was so horrid. I thought I was calling to do the tow yard people a favor, and it turned out I was being mistaken as a bad guy.

“We need a DMV notice. If you don’t give us one, you will have to pay us for storing your wreck.”

“All the forms were turned in, all I have is a donation receipt—“

“Look, if you didn’t do what you were supposed to, it’s not my fault.”

“— that clearly states I am no longer responsible for the car. Can I have your fax number, so I can send it to you?”

“Here’s the fax number, but we’ll just throw it away. And then we’ll bill you.” She hung up.

When I launched into the tackling this misunderstanding, I thought it would take no more than an hour to clear it up, but so far I was into hour number four. My client’s work sat, waiting for my attention. But, here I was, in the middle of a nearly comical case of “no good deed goes unpunished.”

I thought about it for a minute, then decided to call the Department of Motor Vehicles and ask what I needed to do to obtain whatever form was needed to provide that would officially certify the fact that I no longer was responsible for the car.

I had no idea what DMV form they would need. The woman had been so intent on being malignantly self-righteous with me, she failed to be specific with a form name or number. Sighing, I looked up the Department of Motor Vehicles. I looked for a phone number to call for information. There is a phone number. There is no information. The phone number plays an outgoing message detailing which branch offices are closed. Searching on the website offered no clues as to what I needed to do. Finally, I resigned myself to making an appointment. Fortunately, there was an available appointment within the hour.

Nearly getting killed in an intersection by a driver who ran a red light (not only to my shock and amazement, but also the other drivers who were observing the red light), I shook off the adrenaline rush and drove for twenty minutes to the DMV office, located in the next city, where I parked my duly and legally registered, smogged and insured vehicle in the lot. I queued in the line designated for those with appointments. I waited in this line for twenty minutes. When I was finally called, the clerk asked me what I needed. I said I wasn’t quite sure, but some sort of form that was proof I had released liability on my donated car.

“Oh, we can’t do that here,” he said.

I looked around the vast office, filled with clerks and computers and forms and pencils. I saw posted signs telling the public that it was a crime to attack DMV workers. I heard people behind me muttering with thinly veiled anger.

“Huh?”

He thrust a form with multiple pages in my hands. “We don’t handle that at branch offices. You have to fill out this form and send it into the main office with a fee.”

“Uh, okay. How long does that take?”

“Four to six weeks. Oh, and don’t separate any of those pages, or they can’t help you. NEXT!”

As I drove home, I considered the state of modern technology and compared it to my experience. There was a vast disconnect. It would have been helpful to speak in advance with a person who could have told me what form I needed and how I could obtain one. It might even have been possible to find the form online, although if I printed it out, it would have had multiple parts, as opposed to the one I was given.

Surely, in an office full of computers, all one would need to do is pay a fee and have a clerk print out a verification notice of some sort. WE HAVE THE TECHNOLOGY TO DO THIS.

On my return, the pile of work from my client glared at me, but I turned my weary gaze at the form. There were multiple options on the form, but none of them seemed to match clearly with what I thought I must need, and the instructions were a bit on the inscrutable side, once you got past name, address and license or VIN number. I began to wonder if I had been given the wrong form. I finally chose the option that, naturally, had the largest fee; I would get a complete record of the car’s history for this year, a car I owned and operated for one month.

Sighing heavily, I signed the form, wrote the check, placed them in an envelope and proceeded to the nearest post office. When I got there, a hand written note taped to the glass door stated: CLOSED. BACK AT 2:25.

Pondering at the oddness of the stated re-opening time, I drove to the farther away post office and waited for twenty minutes there. Only two clerks were on duty in an office that can be worked by six clerks, and every customer had a package to mail. When I was finally called, I asked to send the item with delivery confirmation, but was told I could only send this piece as a Registered Letter, because it was not the right size to receive delivery confirmation as First Class. Not wanting to spend even more time filling out the form and getting back into line, I threw caution to the wind and let it go with just First Class postage and returned home.

When I got home, I realized it was now nearly three o’clock, and I hadn’t eaten breakfast or lunch.

I had spent all day on something I should not have needed to do. I had spent all day trying to be a good and responsible citizen. I had spent all day being thwarted, abused and turned away, punished for doing the right thing.

I took up the Donation Receipt. This is the printed statement, on which I had pinned my entire day’s activity:

Notice of Donor’s Liability: Your liability for your vehicle/vessel extended until the vehicle was picked up. All agents involved in the donation are not responsible for any theft, damage, vandalism, parking violations, moving violations, registration fees, late charges, impounds, storage charges, liens, etc., prior to the time the donated time was picked up. If your State Vehicle Registration Department has a form to notify them of the transfer of ownership, such as a Release of Liability, Release of Interest, or Seller’s Report of Sale, we recommend that you mail that form.

You are not responsible for your donated vehicle/vessel after the date it was picked up! It is possible you may receive a notice for ticket’s, impound, lien sale, vehicle registration or other charges relating to your donated vehicle/vessel. Send the issuing agency a copy of this receipt. If you have any questions or need assistance in resolving a problem, call 1 (800) nnn-nnnn or email help@*****.info.

I had done as directed, to know avail. However, I had not read the notice carefully enough to see that I could get help from the donation center.

I called the number on the form. A person answered the phone! I was so elated by that, I nearly burst into tears! The receptionist who answered listened to the mini-version of my tale and, said, “Oh, Sherry handles that. Here, let me connect you.”

Sherry, was on the line already, and I had to leave a message. But Sherry returned my call almost instantly, not a minute after I hung up from leaving the message. I told Sherry the longer version of my tale of my woe, and she looked up the information on the donation. In a friendly tone, she told me she would send a couple of copies of the release of liability I had signed when the car was picked up, no problem.

“Have a good one,” Sherry said, as she ended the call, “Call again, if we can do anything else.”

<><><><><><><> 

Obviously, this day was wasted needlessly.

This story points to many social themes that need to be addressed. People are desperate for money. Bureaucracy is entrenched, inefficient and maintained like an armed fortress, with little accountability and stingy access. People are angry. Some of the people that are angry are irresponsible, but many more are frustrated because they are trying to do the right thing. Those people who try to be responsible suffer due to the actions of both those who are irresponsible and those who are corrupt and play the system.

The theme that this experience highlighted for me was that technology, touted as the savior of the world, does not work for us when we need it to; technology can, however, be used by others to work against us, at will.

Access to Information. There is no reason why I should not be able to obtain a copy of a form I signed from the DMV the day I go in for an appointment. These forms are not stored in hardcopy, but are digitized, and should be maintained in an electronic database that can be accessed, as needed, by various agencies, and members of the public entitled to the information. I should be able to pay a fee to get copy of a form, if one is required. Four or more weeks of turn around on a minor clerical requests is simply inadequate, particularly since I know for a fact that people working at certain agencies can see proof of my claim, proof that I cannot obtain without paying a fee. My insurance company could see the trail of everything that proved I was no longer responsible for the car, but they could not provide me with a document that I could use or talk to another agency on my behalf with any authority.

Public versus Private Information. If you have not searched for your own name on Google, do it now. You will be shocked at the array of information about you that is available to anyone. You can pay a fee to the online CARFAX service get a complete history of a vehicle, including the name of former owners. Google the owner’s name, and voila, you can find out where they live, maybe even a phone number. You can call up the former owner of the car and harass that person. I’ve heard it happens! In my case, the tow company ran a CARFAX on my former car and thought to make some money off of me, since the deadbeat new owner was clearly not going to pay for towing and storing the wreck. If you can intimidate people with a lien writ and a receptionist who acts like a bulldog, maybe you can squeeze someone for some money.

Non-Enforcement of the Law. What is the point of making laws, if they will not be enforced? This might seem to be a rhetorical question, but I assure you that it is a practical one that requires real answers. It is against the law to purchase a car without registering it and purchasing accident insurance. I reiterate my refrain: WE HAVE THE TECHNOLOGY. If you purchase a car, you should register it and purchase insurance at the same time. All of these agencies are hand-in-glove in that they all share the same interests and information. A person should not be able to purchase a car if they do not register it and insure it, but the only way to make sure all of those things happen is to have it happen at the time of purchase, in the case of vehicles sold off the lot. A transfer system needs to be set up for person-to-person sales. Well, guess what, there is an agency currently existing that could and should handle this: it is called The Department of Motor Vehicles.

The irony of this story is that the man who bought and wrecked the car will not be answerable for the things he did and did not do. He won’t have to pay any money, he won’t be yelled at on the phone or turned away from the DMV. The worst for him is that he no longer has a car. The other party involved in the auto accident will have to foot the bill for what happened there, that party’s insurance company will have to cover the damages.

I will end by saying that no one mentioned in this story was physically injured, for which I am grateful. That doesn’t mean this story had a happy ending. After going through this, I can still say that I am glad I was able to make the donation, and I would do so again. I am hopeful that my experience was an exception to the rule, in these cases. It is my belief that we should strive to do good deeds, even if it is difficult.

It should be a goal of society to enable people to do good.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Turning


Leaves cascade to the ground,
a small music,
played by the wind;
it has begun,
this turning,
detaching
and falling
to freedoms
complicit with windy whims.

It is just the beginning
—we must be clear about that—
the start of a dialogue, a transition;
each leaf, as it turns,
glows, even as it fades
under the Autumn sun,
and, dying, dries,
and when it falls,
this is only a newer
hello,
the very latest one.

A slow dance,
this seasonal song,
is merely one of nature’s
many conversations;
the cold breath of Winter
may find an answer
in the winds of Spring,
or a balmy reply
on Summer’s sunny crest.

To turn,
to burn;
to prance
and dance,
unpinned
by the wind,
upended
(mayhap unintended)
and made free
to flee and be
and to become,
with all and some,
wholly changed material,
electrically ecstatic and
eclectically charged
for both the now and next.

© 2013 by Elisabeth T. Eliassen

Friday, September 27, 2013

Is it a flu? Is it a cold? No, it’s Hystamine Overload!


Since I was a small child, living in the country, and unto the present day, I have been allergic to many seasonal pollens. My fate was somewhat sealed by a bout of pneumonia at about age 3. I remember that summer illness: the doctor and the shot he gave me (he wore a suit and came to the house); the heat; the cool evening breeze blowing through the curtains, my grandmother (on a rare visit) singing me a lullaby. My respiratory system was always somewhat weak after that. Windy conditions always brought sore throats, and many times, that would turn into a bad chest cold.

When I grew up, as things turned out, I became, of all things, a trained singer.

I cannot remember when it was, exactly (15 or even 20 years ago?), that I noticed a distinct pattern to each illness that would threaten my ability to sing. They unfolded in exactly the same way each time, although the durations was not always the same. Severe swollen glands, severe rhinitis, fluid streaming down the back of my throat into my bronchial tubes. The menu always included severe congestion that decongestants could not tame. I at certain times of the year, I thought I was catching bugs from people, and I might have been.

At some point, I realized that with flu and real colds, there was temperature elevation, as distinguished from the “allergy bronchitis”, which did not.

Five or six years ago, I studied about herbs. I discovered supplements and concocted home remedies that were successful in ways my allopathic doctor could not. Newly armed, I have since had fewer illnesses to deal with, and was able to recover more quickly.

However, every once in a while, an ill wind doth blow, and while my new knowledge of herbs has served me well, the “allergy bronchitis” does pop up now and again, threatening my ability to sing.

Meanwhile, I had moved from learning about herbs to dealing with issues of diet, in order to help with a cholesterol issue experienced by my husband. Having added to the wellness toolkit, we have modified our diet recently, with good results.

Then, my son who wakes up with a clogged nose everyday, came home from school on a windy day, glassy-eyed and sneezing. Uh-oh. Not good. You see, he is going camping with his scout troupe this weekend.

I wouldn’t worry, if it had not been the case that he was hospitalized four years ago with an “asthmatic episode.” My son does not have asthma, mind you, but he had to be hospitalized because he was unable to breathe, owing to severe swelling of all his sinuses, throat tissues and bronchial area. Scary! And, upon his release, we were sent home with steroid inhalers and had to closely monitor his recovery. If it should happen again, the doctor told us, we might have to enroll him in an asthma clinic and have tests taken…

On Sunday evening, just before the third week of school, my son was changing for bed. He came running into the living room. “Mom, Dad! I have this rash!” Sure enough, he had a rash covering his entire trunk and upper thighs!

The squeaky wheels of my mind got to work. Benadryl, the answer popped out. My husband thought he needed to be taken to the emergency room, the rash was so extensive, and now starting to really itch. I drove to the emergency room. By the time we got checked in and seen by a physician, the Benadryl had done quite a lot to clear up the horrific looking rash. We were sent home. By morning, the rash was completely gone. The doctor, after asking us a number of questions, could really offer no explanation for why there could have been such an outbreak.

As we were driving home, because the squeaky I asked my son how many glasses of milk he had drunk that day. I knew I had seen him drink two glasses, at different times in the afternoon. He confessed to having had four, that he could remember, maybe five glasses of milk. Hmmmm… I told him to drink no more than two glasses of milk in a day, and to drink more water. “Milk is a food.” I said, “You need to think more about hydration with water. It could be that your rash was caused by too many histamines in your system.”

Last week, I had drunk a glass of wine with dinner. I took another glass with me as I cleaned up in the kitchen. I found myself scratching my arm several times. Looking at the location of the itch, there was a raised bump, but it was not red. A spider bite? I wondered.

Then next morning, I had a number of cups of coffee. The wind was howling outside, threatening to cancel the America’s Cup races. Uh-oh. This time of year, ragweed, elm, chenopods, every weedy thing in the world is blowing around at 30 mph. The arm was still itching. And then my nose started to water, and my eyes, by the afternoon, I was in trouble, with concerts coming up in the following week.

The squeaky wheels started turning again. I knew this was no cold. I knew this was an allergy attack, but what if there was more to it than just exposure to pollens?

A kaleidoscope of images over the years came flooding to mind: my daughter waking up with “spider bites”, my son wheezing in the hospital, both kids getting clogged sinuses while visiting at a friend’s house (I figured that one out: The friend was using detergent on her sheets that had “timed-release freshness particles”); my son’s rash; my itching arm while drinking a glass of wine.

Histamine overload. Obviously, that was it. But the histamines accumulated in our systems were not just due to airborne particulate allergies and detergent/chemical reactions. Histamine overload due to dietary considerations, that had to be a huge piece of this puzzle!

I started looking around on the internet. Turns out, there is not a whole lot of information in this country about “histamine overload”, but I did find information available on European sites. HIT (Histamine Intolerance) is what people are calling this. The real culprit in this situation is a lack of DAO (Diamine oxidase, an enzyme involved in the metabolism of histamine.

When you look at the list of that trigger, build or bring histamines to your system, you get an idea why doctors here don’t want to deal with this issue: the list of foods is endless; and your favorite snack items and cereals are at the top of this huge list.

The list of foods that don’t trigger histamine release is about a paragraph long. The list of natural antihistamines is extremely short. Here are three from that short list: apples, Vitamin C, quercetin.

Taking the short list of antihistamines, I have mostly recovered from my overload, just in time for the concerts.

Now, I will explore the longer campaign of diet issues, so that I can help my family avoid major problems in the future. This will be the hard part. All of what I have read, so far, tells me that elimination of trigger foods is not the way; rather, one needs to rotate the foods one eats, and realize that nutrition, and also enjoyment, can be the better choice.

And, of course, “moderation in all things, including moderation!”

I may report in on this later, but suffice it to say, the whole family is in for additional dietary changes, including the old adage, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.”

Amazing, that this mystery has taken my entire life to unravel! I hope you will wish me good fortune as I continue with my family on the path toward better health, living with allergies and HIT. 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Anniversary Chard


You were here
long before we arrived
with all our worldly cares
and truckloads of things;
your presence
opened the gates of Spring
with this greeting:
Welcome Home!

Where you are,
we planted;
it seemed an auspicious spot.

You, however,
we could not harvest;
you were our first friend
in this amazing place!

Now, you are lanky,
trunk wrinkled,
falling down;
Maybe, after all these years,
so are we.

But we hang together,
clinging to this mountain
where morning fog crawls,
giving way to sunshine
and shimmer of sea.

Year after year,
we uphold one another,
old friends, together,
as we share this beautiful life.

© 2013 by Elisabeth T. Eliassen

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

La Habana, en versos libres: V. Dias Cinco


Not quite late, but nearly
—even so, time enough
to roll the dice
with the coffee machine;
guess who won?

To class, to class, to class!
—the last one
in which we attempt to learn
the most complex genre of dance.

The eyes,
the mind,
the heart open;
so this is the truth:
when they took the drum away,
on the continent,
The People were robbed of their language.

Expected to capitulate,
The People on the continent,
nevertheless invented a new language.

But the islands regained the drum,
by way of the invention of the clav├ęs;
the culture survived,
even flourished,
despite unintended changes,
via telegraph and telephone,
that brought a blossoming,
a renaissance,
to the tropical paradise
of song birds
walking trees
and rum.

This is a true story
[though, from his library in Argentina,
Borges would have observed
it is a true story
just made up;
this would be both
right and wrong]:
There are two birds in the forest;
both are holy beings.

One bird desires
union with the other,
to achieve the basis
that is universal:
one.

The male plumps his colorful plumage,
while the female demurs.

Though the female seems plain,
she is the Queen of
sky, sea and forest;
it is she who is mother of all.

The male, the Fourth King,
he who enjoys a good party,
he knows the Queen is best,
so he reaches into the sky,
calling on Thunder and Lightning,
pulling their power
deep into his gravitas,
placido y not.

The Queen,
she can have anyone.

The King,
is he worthy?

Right now, what can he achieve?

Is this the opportune moment
and portal
for encounter
and engagement?

Can this be love,
or merely convenience?

And what will happen next;
what are the consequences;
will the cosmos be changed?

Harmony is a coordination
of chant,
rhythm,
and movement
—one language,
heard and understood
in all times and places;
call and response,
with an outcome,
is a complete revolution,
a return to stasis and rest,
that resets the stage
for a new play.

Oddly,
“The more things change,
the more they stay the same”
is not true;
this drama kicks forward;
the revolution is really an evolution,
but only when the ritual is
correct and also unique;
there is no empty repetition
if there is blessing,
but blessing only comes
when being is engaged.

This is why the true language,
composed of thought,
                        word,
                        deed,
expressed as rhythm,
                        song,
                        dance,
is not a trinity,
but one expression,
that is being,
only when being is fully engaged.

There is no emptiness in being,
nor is there perfection;
there is only engagement with possibility.

If you believe,
if you know,
you realize the future imperfect
need not be tense;
there are no winners or losers,
there is only change,
even growth,
perhaps even understanding
and healing,
if all goes according to what is possible,
while maintaining the integrity of being one.

This, my friends, is rumba.

© 2013 by Elisabeth T. Eliassen