Friday, February 29, 2008

Einstein Was Funny

"Once you can accept the universe as matter expanding into nothing that is something, wearing stripes with plaid comes easy."

Thursday, February 28, 2008

William F Buckley remembered by Chris Matthews and Peggy Noonan

Thanks to ThePoliticalHawk

The bird's back...and I'm not sure how I feel about it

6:28 AM and my cardinal is back pecking on my window with determination! I'm not sure how many people could understand this flimsy co-dependency - and I really do hope he moves on in the spring- My good sister tried to console me last night by saying the following: "Don't fret about your cardinal- Our cardinal is still hard at it- pecking at two windows, and has been for several years... Whether it is the same one or not, it is their journey in life...and your cardinal WANTED to peck away searching and searching.... and maybe has met his end because of that search."

I know cats are patient psychoanalysts- (I certainly don't allow any of them in my house!)- and the neighbor's well-fed cat is in no hurry to subdue my little bird. I just wonder how long I can take it, if I'll defect and begin to cheer on the predator as the days go by?

February Grays

My friend Nancy died in early February. A few weeks earlier we had gone for a ride in the car, and then stopped at my house for awhile. While we were talking, she said the following, which I wrote down verbatim as she talked and later read at her memorial service:

Notes from conversation with Nancy, around the New Year 08.

“I love the color and sounds of February. I love a February day when a storm is approaching, about 4 in the afternoon, before dark. If someone wanted to know me, my spirit is hiding behind each of those shades of gray-it’s not monochromatic- I’m not ambivalent- but open to the subtleties of those grays-

The wind, the solitude, the majesty of the ocean in an oncoming storm-
How the sea roils-
the crashing waves
the power of it
It opens the senses in a way the summertime with its crowds and glaring sun can’t do

There are beauties I admire in autumn with the changing of leaves but
The grays of February make us all one
I’m a little sucker for peace and harmony,
not good at confrontation.

I am a Libra of balanced temperament. If you want to find me you have to find a February day, and all those elements I’ve described. In Ken Burns’ Civil War book a soldier talks about how he will come back to be with his wife if he dies- I’ll come back to you in the sights and sounds of nature-

All this is a bit of vanity, as if my passing holds consequence."

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Do No Harm. Ahimsa!

Today I came home from work and started tapping at my keyboard. My busy friend the cardinal should have been tapping at the window too...but wait, wait!...silence. Where is he?

Suddenly, with fear and loathing in my heart, I remembered seeing a great big smug-looking cat in the yard in the morning before I left for work. In retrospect, I would say he was eerily calm. When I left the house, my cardinal was furiously battering his head against the window with all his might, happy as a clam. I had set out some decorations for him for the day...a little picture on the windowsill,a small jade Buddha in the southwest corner of the window for feng-shui and good fortune, a few pretty pillows arranged carefully on the couch inside the window, and my shoes nearby, to remind him of me.

I still had not taken the big step. I still was enabling him to live his treacherous lifestyle, allowing him to "fulfill his destiny". I thought perhaps his pecks on the window were sounding softer, as if his beak were getting worn down. I thought fleetingly of taking the big step of going outside and nailing up an old sheet over the window- (the one on the inside hadn't worked)- thus blocking my view and his destiny.

So it's possible I have done more harm than good, a sin of omission rather than commission. There is a word in Buddhism for doing no harm, not even to microorganisms. "Ahimsa", say certain monks, as they gently dust the ground in front of their feet before they take a step, as I should have said. Instead I have allowed my dear simpleton cardinal to catch the attention of the nasty neighborhood tomcat, who may have taken advantage of the situation, and done'im in. Ah but that's life - endless endless endless cause and effect.

I'll know for sure tomorrow at sun-up. If he's not there, I'm going to have to look in the yard for a few of his little bones and feathers. I'll set them on a sunny window ledge, grieve a bit, and cherish occasional cheery thoughts of his misbegotten, woebegone, yet earnest little life.

Who knew William Buckley founded the conservative movement? Who knew it was a movement?

I thought conservatives had always been there, they were the top, the wall, Kafka's Castle, the Man, the thing good people had to go against since the beginning of time. But to read today's obituary of William Buckley, and to hear him hailed as the intellectual founder of the modern conservative! a movement!? There was a movement? Vraiment? Well now wait a minute...I think I want some of that. My parents listened to his show, they found him entertaining in one way or another, although I never understood exactly which way. Of course I was not always crazy about William Buckley, his voice was unusual, his arrogance was undeniable, his idea to tattoo AIDS patients shocking, his occasionally frightening ideas, odd. But come to think of it, as I sat with my parents, he never bothered me that much,he was interesting. I loved his vocabulary. And now that he's gone I want to know more about why he said the things he did.

Suddenly, this week at least, being a conservative has a certain je ne sais quoi...I like the sound of it. I want to be Peggy Noonan. I want to be on the Board of Trustees of the Manhattan Institute. A liberal? Ewww...that's Hillary Clinton. That's the B word. That's bra-burning, beat-up-toenails and Birkenstocks, banners waving, bailing out some lazy and unprincipled folks with services and money...the heck with all that. And they say Barack is more liberal than Hillary but I won't believe it. I want him to win the Democratic nomination for sure, and after that I'm not 100% sure.

My Christian heritage says to remember the afflicted in spirit, and I have done what I could, I gave my goods to the poor, it's an easy stance for a young liberal to take, but the chain of Biblical translation into our present vernacular has not held up the true meaning of charity, caritas, as in "faith hope and charity." It's not the liberal give-away, it's a very pure kind of love: loving-kindness. Is that more conservative, or is there no connection? I need William Buckley back just for a few minutes please. I want to ask him a few questions about where he stands on all that, and why. I want him to autograph my still unread copies of "Up From Liberalism" and "God and Man at Yale." But it's too late to get in on the ground floor of that movement. I was in on the other one, and it was great but I always felt I was looking through a glass, darkly. Now old age is settling in, and I'm starting to see something else, face to face. But I still can't quite put my finger on it.

1 Corinthians 13
1Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

2And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

3And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

4Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

5Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;

6Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;

7Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

8Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.

9For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.

10But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.

11When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

12For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

13And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Academy Award Night: Always Fun, Thanks to My Kids

It was exciting a few weeks ago to learn that the Writer's Strike was ending, and that the Academy Awards would go on. At out house, it's always been an occasion, because we all love the movies. When the kids were little, they had astonishing gifts for following complex plotlines of political thrillers that left me clueless. One daughter could quote famous lines from famous movies from the time she was a toddler. One daughter loved all psychological thrillers. A Perfect Murder was a family favorite. One daughter loved Patriot Games, which I never understood, and she watched it again and again. One daughter's face was always covered with quiet tears at sad endings. My son analyzed and dissected earnestly every bit of the way. On Oscar nights my son and daughters dressed up like movie stars, ascot, boas, sequins, old prom gowns. Through the years, we switched it up and switched it down- we might have had chips and dips, little hotdogs wrapped in toasted dough, gingerale in champagne glasses, fondue.

So now they are grown, and it's still a big night for me. We exchange a few text messages about the red carpet interviews, gowns, hairstyles, facial expressions and acceptance speeches, as the show goes on. One daughter, a director of a local movie theater restoration project, helps host a "Night at the Oscars" party at the theater where the awatds are shown on the big screen. One daughter and her husband had a little party, with a spread of hors d'oeuvres and printed ballots so friends and family can vote, including another daughter, in from Austin with her boyfriend. Two of my kids live in New York City,and in the heartland of celebritydom, and always have interesting sightings and anecdotes to share.

It helps to feel a little connection to a worthy nominee, however slim. Last year I was rooting for "Lives of Others" because my daughter's college roommate was related to the director. I was thrilled that it won for Best Foreign Film. Having just watched "La Vie En Rose" yesterday afternoon with my daughter On Demand, I was so happy that Marion Cotillard won for her incroyable performance as Edith Piaf.

Ah The Oscars! I thank my kids for always making it interesting and fun. Even though now I have tea and a piece of chocolate and toddle off to bed before it's over, it's always a great night. Congratulations one and all. Hooray for Hollywood.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Enabling My Cardinal Friend, My Little Sisyphus

A cardinal started tapping at my window about a week ago, and, after a few attempts at conflict resolution, I've grown to respect and honor his life's Sisyphean struggle. He taps for hours each day, steadily, every four seconds or so, flying six or seven inches from the tree branch into the window and back again. Every so often he flies off to another tree in the yard for a minute or two, but comes right back to resume his determined battle with his reflection.

I began to worry about him. What a headache he must have at the end of a day! His little neck must be so sore and bruised! I wanted to tend to him, and so I researched. I put a blanket against the window to dim the reflection. I removed everything red from the room that might cause him to want to come in. I played beautiful music to still his soul. Still he pecked, a little John McCainish in his indomitable spirit! But my little cardinal is on Team B, he's not aiming too high, he'll never be rewarded with a spot at the White House, unless I cage him and take him there myself when the cherry blossoms bloom in the spring.

My cardinal reminds me of Greek mythology, and Sisyphus, doomed to push a boulder up a hill into eternity, never getting to the top because the boulder kept rolling back a little each time. My cardinal will never conclude his battle, never meet his match, never accomplish his goal. He may not be the brightest bulb in the box. God may not have blessed him with the logic he needs to change his plan. And yet his grit and determination, his intractable nature, his genealogical imperatives and perhaps his own little karma, force him to forge ahead with his pitiful little task.

So OK. I've decided to aid and abet him, to comfort and succor him, to help him fulfill his destiny. I don't allow the incessant pecking to bother me, we're in this together now, and I can use the company. I have put my grandaughter's pretty little stuffed bluebird on the windowsill. I have put the red pillow back by the window. I love my poor cardinal. I can't do anything else about the stress he endures, the pain in his little wing shoulders, his jaw, his headaches. This is his life, and he feels important and worthy. No real harm is done. I know he's wrong, but I'll stand by. I just might need a few tranquillizers in another month or so, so I don't get carried out of here in a straight jacket..

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Maria Callas - "O Mio Babbino Caro"

I tried to think of something really lovely to post. Just lovely. I didn't set out to think of something sad, I'm not a fan of sadness, but sometimes life is sad, and sometimes the expression of that sadness is remarkably lovely. So here we have a song about love, the story of Lauretta, a girl in Florence who is asking her father to approve of her lover. She tells her father that if she can't have this love, she will jump from the Ponte Vecchio into the river Arno.

In this two minute video , Maria Callas, lover of Aristotle Onassis for years before he married Jacqueline Kennedy, reveals some of the sensitive and volatile temperament that marked her life.

Aria from the opera "Gianni Schicchi" by Giacomo Puccini.

Dalai Lama Quote of the Week About Living and Dying Consciously

Advice from Dalai Lama "Mind of Clear Light"

If you're not inclined to read the words below, for whatever reason, at least try the last paragraph, and give it some thought. You might be glad you did.

"If, after having performed a virtuous action and accumulated its potency, that potency remained without degenerating until its fruit issued forth in either this or a future life, it would not be so fragile. But that is not the case. Rather, the generation of a strong nonvirtuous state of mind, such as anger, overpowers the capacity of a virtuously established potency so that it cannot issue forth, much like scorching a seed. Conversely, the generation of a strong virtuous attitude overpowers potencies established by nonvirtues, making them unable to issue their effects. Thus it is necessary not only to achieve many powerful constructive causes but also to avoid contrary forces that would cause those beneficial causes to degenerate.

The good actions required for accumulating these causes, or potencies, arise from a tamed mind, whereas bad actions arise from an untamed mind. Common beings like us have been accustomed to an untamed mind since beginningless time. Given this predisposition, we can conclude that actions performed with an untamed mind are more powerful for us and actions performed with a tamed mind are weaker. It is important to appreciate that this excellent life support of a human body that we now possess is a wholesome result of many powerful good actions from a tamed mind in the past. It was very difficult to gain, and, since it is very rare, you must take care to use it well, making sure that it is not wasted.

...If this human endowment, so difficult to attain, were stable and permanent--not prone to deterioration--there would be time later to make use of it. However, this life-support system is fragile and easily disintegrates from many external and internal causes. Aryadeva's "Four Hundred Stanzas on the Yogic Deeds of Bodhisattvas" says that once the body depends on the four elements of earth, water, fire, and wind, which themselves oppose each other, physical happiness is just an occasional balance of these elements, not an enduring harmony.

...So this human body is a precious endowment, potent and yet fragile. Simply by virtue of being alive, you are at a very important juncture, and carry a great responsibility. Powerful good can be achieved for yourself and others, so becoming distracted by the minor affairs of this lifetime would be a tremendous waste. You should make wishes to use this lifetime in this body effectively and make petitions to your guru, the three refuges, and other sources of help. In doing so, urge yourself on from the inside and seek assistance from the outside.....

In sum, since this human body, which supports your life, is beneficial, was difficult to gain, and easily disintegrates, you should use it for your benefit and that of others. Benefits come from a tamed mind: When your mind is peaceful, relaxed, and happy, external pleasures such as good food, clothing, and conversation make things even better, but their absence does not overpower you. If your mind is not peaceful and tamed, no matter how marvelous the external circumstances are, you will be burdened by frights, hopes, and fears. With a tamed mind, you will enjoy wealth or poverty, health or sickness, you can even die happily. With a tamed mind, having many friends is wonderful, but if you have no friends, it is all right, too. The root of your own happiness and welfare rests with a peaceful and tamed mind."

--from Mind of Clear Light: Advice on Living Well and Dying Consciously by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, translated and edited by Jeffrey Hopkins, Ph.D.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Wedding in Cherokee County

Why has this always been one of my favorite songs? I think I used to imagine, and even fleetingly hope, that I would end up out behind the smokehouse in my rocking chair, and Randy Newman would come and be my man. And I would not laugh at his mighty sword, no sir, I would help him if I could. This is a throwback to my days traveling with carnivals out in mid America and the deep south about forty years ago, stories for later. Well, actually, it seems those stories are starting to surface in my funny old mind, so watch out!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Do People Ever Dance or Sing Like This Anymore? Anywhere?

First, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in Top Hat.If you're in a hurry, skip the first two minutes, that's the singing- the dancing starts at 2 minutes. If you watch to the very end, you'll be amazed at how relaxed they are as they lean against the balcony when they glide to a close.

Then, oh my, The Platters singing "Only You" and if I can find it, "Twilight Time"- there aren't any perfect versions available- don't mind the non-synching, just get the gist of it.

The following doesn't really belong in this post as an exceptional style in and of itself. But I do remember the days, the sweet feelings, the magic of Neil Young. If only I could find him singing the original Harvest Moon.

Nutty dinner table conversation

I've never been able to figure out where I keep my checkbooks. So we talk about it around the dinner table, me myself and I: my echo, my shadow, and me. One of us will say "Well when the kids were little you used to always put them on the shelf in your closet" and another will say "But then you switched to the drawer in the antique desk." And then I'll chime in "It was too messy in there so you switched to the glove compartment of the car." Someone screams "you must have a spare in your purse."
My shadow, always aloof and occasionally sinister, tells me that I am so disorganized I don't even realize it's time to reorder checks because I don't have any anywhere. But aha! I have three checking accounts, just to be sure, they can't possibly all be depleted of funds and access by paper. Oh who uses paper anymore anyway?, just do it online! But I need to float the check, you idiot, don't you get it?

This dinner table conversation, such as it is, takes place at the computer, and by my modern day candlelight, the glow of the monitor. Once in awhile my grown kids stop by the house and turn my keyboard upside down, laughing at the crumbs that fall out. They know nothing about my busy times. Go on, say grace. Pass the potatoes.

I wanted to include "We Three" by one of my all time favorites, The Inkspots, but I'll include the lyrics and a video of them singing another great song, "If I Didn't Care". So pretty! I love the lead singer's hands, facial expressions and his sweet confidence! I think his name is Billy "Butterball" Bowen. Courtesy of Balboa Bill.

We three, we're all alone
Living in a mem-o-ry
My echo, my shadow, and me

We three, we're not a crowd
We're not even company
My echo, my shadow, and me

What good is the moonlight
The silvery moonlight that shines above?
I walk with my shadow
I talk with my echo
But where is the one I love?

We three, we'll wait for you
Even till eter-ni-ty
My echo, my shadow, and me

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Uh-oh, Obama by a landslide? Buyers Remorse? Let's Be Careful What We Wish For.

I feel just a little scared this morning. We are catapulting the photogenic Obamas right over top of the grasping gasping Clintons, into primetime they might not be quite ready for. Michele Obama says she was never (so) proud of her country before. Barack never voted much in the legislature, except against the war. Present. Present. Present.

So ok. We'll have a 46 year old cool guy orator going against the old saber-rattling coot who doesn't always care if he gives an inspired speech or not. The media being what it is in relation to our electorate, who will look better? I imagine the Obamas will stir up youth like youth has never been stirred up before. And nowadays, I'm not so sure if a majority of the youthful electorate, raised by absentee parents and nurtured by video games, ecstacy, ritalin, Hollywood, and sexy songs about junk in your trunk are able to wisely determine our future.

Wishful thinking and sentimental fancies won't carry us to peace and prosperity. I think about our enemies and I feel really scared even on the best of days. As my son reminded me recently, they want us dead, they want us obliterated, they're not fooling around. We need heavy-duty opposition to the forces of hatred. Faith, goodness and loving-kindness make a strong foundation, but the structure above needs to be armed and dangerous, gathered in troops, ready and able to smite the enemy.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Reflections from Youth: Still Not 100% Sure

I'm not as liberal as I used to be. And even back in the day, I wasn't as liberal as I thought I was. For awhile I was the rebellious daughter of solid Republicans, my father a hematologist/oncologist and former Navy doctor, my grandfather a Republican senator from Pennsylvania who served in the senate for thirty-two years and as chairman of the State Appropriations Committee. Naturally I was ecstatic to become a Democrat in the sixties, the first one in recorded history on either side of the family, and they all blithely respected that.

I was never a woman's libber, valuing wholeheartedly the woman's natural caregiving role at home and hearth. I wanted a husband, and children, and I wanted to make them my life's ministry and devotion. I never wanted to enter the workplace, and never planned to carry my liberal arts education beyond the home. I had been told by more than one teacher at my private school that my education would make me better able to converse pleasantly and intelligently with my husband after his difficult day at work, and that was fine with me. But I ended up in a time and space warp where those skills were not required, those days long gone, that way of life past.

There is a memory of my misspent youth that makes me cringe in shame more than any other. It's not the worst thing I did, but it is emblematic of the self-righteousness of the sixties. It was a night after I had hitched rides home to Pittsburgh from California and tried to stir things up by playing Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention at full blast as my parents were having their after-dinner drinks and heading off to bed. I thought I was enlightening them, and they, always cordial, listened patiently and endured elegantly.

I remember tossing aside their record album and triumphantly replacing it with some of Frank's screaming, and then, less horribly, The Velvet Underground- Nico singing "I'll Be Your Mirror(and reflect what you are, in case you don't know)"- What a little snot I was! Mom and Dad were years and miles ahead of me, and had been listening to Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, sage musicians who knew more than Frank, Nico and I all rolled together might ever know about what's going on in love and life.

So it's a little of the lost euphoria of my rebel youth that makes me want to love Barack Obama and to do all I can to encourage my little corner of the electorate to support and nurture him into true greatness. It's just that, as I occasionally say: being a social worker is making a Republican out of me. It's that old standard, still immanent in my very being, that makes me want to listen more closely to the more mature McCain. When I look at pictures of him as a young man, I'm reminded of a few earnest and principled boys I knew who didn't waste time at Woodstock, in Haight-Asbury or Studio 54 - solid boys who moved on quickly to greater things.

Have to run, but will look for the exact quote, one of my all-time favorites: Winston Churchill said that when a man is twenty, if he isn't a liberal he has no soul, and if when he's fifty he's not a conservative, then he has no brain. So the trajectory that some Boomers have been on is ok with Winston. We're just late bloomers, we Boomers.

Monday, February 18, 2008

What Do Our Enemies Think of Our Candidates? Do They See Obama Assuming the Mantle of Greatness?

If you were someone irrational and vicious, someone in Al Quaeda or the Taliban, someone who rejoiced after 9-11, someone who wants to see America in ruins, what would you think about our candidates? Most human beings are incapable of thinking from that perspective, thank God, but those who do are real and gaining in fervor and influence.

Imagine an eager operative, fifteen or sixteen years old, or his trainers, thirty or fifty years old. Imagine the room they are in, the photographs pinned on the wall, clean books, grimy books and some poorly translated texts on a table, flashlights, remnants of food, coats and jackets, explosives. Who knows?

So how does Hillary look to one of those guys? For starters, they think her face should be covered, right? Can they discern that she is desperate to win? Do they find desperately ambitious women offensive? Do they assume she is doing her husband's bidding? Do they find the Clintons loathsome?

McCain, a prisoner of war for five years, wants to kick ass and take them all on, even if it takes a hundred years. Are the zealots scared? There are still a few crazed and vocal Vietnam Vets out there who think McCain collaborated with the North Vietnamese. We here in Saneville generally respect him for what he endured in those years. Many want to give him a chance to set things straight. But for whom? Have those years been burning like an eternal flame within him? Is he harboring some very personal retaliatory impulses, and willing to drag us all along to Armageddon? Will the bad guys be afraid of a man who has been subdued and reduced to captivity already? Would they hold back their own murderous impulses, out of respect for a man's sufferings?

What would a crazed and/or impressionable young zealot make of a man named Barack Hussein Obama? Now there, just in the name, we have some real psychological leverage. But the leverage is far greater than that. Barack Obama, past editor of the Harvard Review, knows what his name his. He knows full well that he is young and relatively inexperienced. He also knows history and government, culture and sociology, psychology and math, and art and poetry. You don't get to be editor of the Harvard Review without broad knowledge and a solid worldview. The young zealots in the dimly lit room won't appreciate all that, but they will be affected by it. And who knows, perhaps disaffected from their disaffection by Barack Hussein Obama, when he stands on a much larger stage than their current mentors, who are urging them on to those virgins in heaven.

Barack Obama, radiant, graceful, brilliant and young, is willing to take on the mantle of greatness. He's willing to expose himself to all the dark forces in the dimly lit rooms around our troubled world. He's willing to carry the load, to learn and lead, and, implicitly, because of the dangers out there, to offer his life. I imagine a young enemy zealot in training, catching a glimpse of Barack Obama on a television screen, and after looking back once more at his twisted teacher, choosing to attach himself to life and freedom, and to Obama.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Darwinism and Creationism: What's it All About?

The argument about Darwinian evolution vs creationism is a popular area of discourse which I have never joined because I don't understand it at all. I can't wrap my head around it, not even close.

I have a problem with the disdainful discussion of "creationists" by the intelligentsia who generally seem to favor the evolutionists as being more aligned with science and therefore reality. I don't think it's either one, really, because I believe in eternity. I believe in a light shining in the darkness,I believe in birth and death, in regeneration and flux. I accept the laws of thermodynamics: that all beings seek equilibrium and that equilibrium is achieved only in death. I believe we are born again and again, and that some people are old souls heading towards enlightenment, and that then they'll start all over again. I love the Hindu and Buddhist texts that talk about endless ages and intoxicatingly large expanses of time.

Once again, I admit I may be missing something, because I totally don't understand the issue. I am not a religious nut, not by a long shot. I am not a so-called evangelical. I am not what some would call a gun-toting Bible-belt single-minded zealot. I do believe that species adapt and evolve. God knows when I take out the family Bible and look at photos of my great-great grandparents, so stern and odd, they seem to be a different species altogether. But even a cursory look through a few hundred years on will awaken you to a dim understanding of the huge swells and tides of humanity. We don't need to be evolved from the apes, just from folks trying to make the best of it down through the millennia.

We know, from science, there is world upon world in the universe. Solar system upon solar system, galaxy upon galaxy. When I was a little girl, starting in my very youngest years on earth, my parents and grandparents taught me that God had no beginning and no end, that He lived forever and ever and ever. And as we lay in summer fields I learned: same with the stars in the sky- no beginning and no end. Even at the age of two or three, I could wrap my head around that, or at least try. And it was a comfort and a thrill to hear or to say "I will love you forever and ever and ever." The thought of eternity comes easy to certain children.I know my children all loved those thoughts.

So if there is forever and ever, world without end, and if, for example, as many Christians affirm weekly in the Apostles Creed, "I believe... in the communion of saints, the foregiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting", then why is it so hard to accept that the tide of homo sapiens has been continual throughout time and space? We learned from scientists in Japan and Wisconsin last Fall that skin cells, when mixed with just a few genes, could theoretically be changed into sperm and egg cells. This is a jump but think about it: bits and pieces of you, sloughed off in the shower or your hairbrush or even the grave, could theoretically drift and mingle with the stuff of stars and be reconstituted into you again*. Resurrection of the body, life everlasting, if you will only believe.

Before I send you off to read the Dalai Lama's Thought for the Week, which carries this thinking further, I'll encourage you to watch and listen for three or four minutes, to Claude Jeter and the Swan Silvertones sing "All Things Are Possible If You Will Only Believe."

Dalai Lama Quote of the Week

"As to what might be the mechanism through which karma plays a causal role in the evolution of sentience, I find helpful some of the explanations given in the Vajrayana traditions, often referred to by modern writers as esoteric Buddhism. According to the Guhyasamaja tantra, a principal tradition within Vajrayana Buddhism, at the most fundamental level, no absolute division can be made between mind and matter. Matter in its subtlest form is prana, a vital energy which is inseparable from consciousness. These two are different aspects of an indivisible reality. Prana is the aspect of mobility, dynamism, and cohesion, while consciousness is the aspect of cognition and the capacity for reflective thinking. So according to the Guhyasamaja tantra, when a world system comes into being, we are witnessing the play of this energy and consciousness reality.

...Despite the success of the Darwinian narrative, I do not believe that all the elements of the story are in place. To begin with, although Darwin's theory gives a coherent account of the development of life on this planet and the various principles underlying it, such as natural selection, I am not persuaded that it answers the fundamental question of the origin of life. Darwin himself, I gather, did not see this as an issue. Furthermore, there appears to be a certain circularity in the notion of "survival of the fittest." The theory of natural selection maintains that, of the random mutations that occur in the genes of a given species, those that promote the greatest chance of survival are most likely to succeed. However, the only way this hypothesis can be verified is to observe the characteristics of those mutations that have survived. So in a sense, we are stating simply this: "Because these genetic mutations have survived, they are the ones that had the greatest chance of survival."

From the Buddhist perspective, the idea of these mutations being purely random events is deeply unsatisfying for a theory that purports to explain the origin of life. ...One empirical problem in Darwinism's focus on the competitive survival of individuals, which is defined in terms of an organism's struggle for individual reproductive success, has consistently been how to explain altruism, whether in the sense of collaborative behavior, such as food sharing or conflict resolution among animals like chimpanzees or acts of self-sacrifice. There are many examples, not only among human beings but among other species as well, of individuals who put themselves in danger to save others.

...From the scientific view, the theory of karma may be a metaphysical assumption--but it is no more so than the assumption that all of life is material and originated out of pure chance."

--from The Universe in a Single Atom: Convergence of Science and Spirituality by H.H. the Dalai Lama


And remember the Einstein Thought For the Day earlier this week: "Mass and energy are both but different manifestations of the same thing - a somewhat unfamiliar conception for the average mind."

Steve Fossett Declared Dead: Did he Discover Shambala?

Yesterday, February 15th, 2008, Steve Fossett was declared dead, five months after his dramatic disappearance. His obituary appears startlingly in the media today, and so I re-post my blog entry from last Fall, in his memory:
One of the greatest adventurers of all time, a man who pushed himself to achieve physical feats that noone else on earth has ever achieved, has vanished from the face of the earth. He apparently removed his Breitling wristwatch with its Emergency Locator Transmitter, grabbed a bottle of water, jumped on a single-engine plane and disappeared.

Did he really crash into a remote Nevada cul-de-sac where even the best technology in the world can't find him? Or did this world class adventurer enter a place where he languishes in peace and from which he may still emerge? A man so interested in human limits as he was might not have ignored accounts of mystic transfigurations and superhuman accomplishments emanating from the Himalayas.He was a good-humored and down-to-earth businessman and family man, but certainly not a simple man. He could have read the most esoteric literature on earth for all we know. Few could know the heart or mind of a man like Steve Fossett. How many of us could inspire the likes of Richard Branson to engage with Google Earth to create a special set of all new high-resolution images so that computer-savvy people world-wide could conduct a search for his missing aircraft?

And yet, he's gone. Some conspiracy theorists say Fossett disappeared into Area 51 near Roswell. Some say maybe he had enough, was growing old, and went off to his own private island to live in obscurity with a newfound friend. Would a man of his caliber do that?

There are far more intriguing possibilities. For instance, ancient accounts tell of Shambala, a paradise that is not visible on this earth, to which entry is gained only by the achievement of certain levels of physical, mental and spiritual disciplines through yogic techniques. Why couldn't it be something like that? Mircea Eliade wrote about it. In Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, the objectivist philosopher, wrote of a utopian society created by brilliant industrialist drop-outs who used illusion and mirrors to hide access to their mountain kingdom. How about that?

Listen to Shakespeare: "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy." And finally, remember the words of Christ: "In my father's house are many mansions. If it were not so I would have told you."

Let's hope that Mr. Fossett is somewhere in the universe reaching the new heights that he deserves to reach. I often take heart from this old Scottish proverb, and I hope Mr. Fossett would at least be able to say: "I am wounded but I am not slain. I shall lay me down and bleed awhile, then I shall rise and fight again."

Friday, February 15, 2008

Valentine Perfection: simple and pretty

I love my heart-shaped meat-loaf on Valentine's Day, and still love making one in my dotage, even if I'm the only taker. When my kids were little they always decorated a valentine box and put cards in it throughout the week before. When those school busses rolled home on February 14th and the kids came through the door, the house was magical for all of them, across their eleven year age span. I loved watching their faces as they came through the door to a wonderland Valentine party, so sweet and simple, candy kisses and balloons, a few little packages, and the meatloaf for dinner- heart-shaped with a celery stick for Cupid's arrow. And always, tulips on the table, a forecast of spring to come.

Now they're grown, and they carry the sweetness of this day with them. I'll always be happy on St. Valentine's Day, just basking in the memories. I most specially remember the time I passed out valentine hearts of candy to the four oldest and announced that they were going to have a sister in the Fall. I can still remember the thrill so clearly: little "faces looking up, holding wonder like a cup*". So much love and life within us all!

I also remember the days of romantic love and hope they are all experiencing those feelings on Valentine's Day. If not, I know they know that some flowers, chocolate and a heart-shaped meatloaf can do the trick to lift the spirits and stimulate dreams of future love. I hope they all feel a little blip of magic, an electric glance, a gentle touch, a sense of lovingkindness.

My son, the man in my life, sent me roses and brought me chocolate. My daughter sent tulips from Texas. They all sent love and fond memories. I'm a woman blessed, and I can dream of past and future loves. Hail to that mysterious St. Valentine! Hail to Cupid! Hail to the sweetness of love!

"Life has loveliness to sell,
All beautiful and splendid things,
Blue waves whitened on a cliff,
Soaring fire that sways and sings,
And children's faces looking up,
Holding wonder like a cup.

Life has loveliness to sell,
Music like a curve of gold,
Scent of pine trees in the rain,
Eyes that love you, arms that hold,
And for your spirit's still delight,
Holy thoughts that star the night.

Spend all you have for loveliness,
Buy it and never count the cost;
For one white singing hour of peace
Count many a year of strife well lost,
And for a breath of ecstacy
Give all you have been, or could be.

Sara Teasdale

"Barter" by Sara Teasdale

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Stop saying Obamakin! It's babytalk!

I really don't like this new Obamakin/Obamacan word. It makes me think of a little Tolkein character, an obomikin, climbing out from his miniature cozy home-sweet-home in a cave under some rocks. It's not a noble enough word for those Republicans who are seriously considering switching allegiances at a critical time in American political history.

I can't believe the media is so fascinated by the word, or that Barack uses the word himself. It's silly but not fun, verging on the ridiculous. Despite Obama's recent very exciting sweep, the use of this infantile word does not bode well for a candidate who wants to woo folks worried about the economy and the Iraq war. Sounds too much like baby talk from a babe in the woods. I hate to think what Hillary and Bill could do with that in Texas and Ohio.

My two year old grand-daughter loves Barack Obama and it might be cute to call her an Obamakin or an Obamakid. But if anyone calls me an Obamakin, an Obamacan or an obomikin, I'm leaving!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Skiing For the First Time in Forty Years

I feel like an athlete again, and I'm absolutely on top of the world. I actually skiied at Killington Vermont this weekend, past sixty years old, and came out intact thanks to my amazing daughter and son-in-law, the best ski instructors in the world.
I was blessed to be with them and other great folks, including my youngest daughter, in a house right on the trail. Out the door and down the mountain we would go!

First the bad news. I was so excited to ski, lets say over-excited, that when I finally got suited up and out on the slope, ten minutes after an eight hour trip to get there, I thought I was having a heart attack. Literally. I had chest pains, felt faint, saw stars and started to sweat bullets, not very lady-like but true. I wondered if I should have had a physical, after all I don't go to the gym and I don't do a whole lot beyond my Whole Body Vibration machine! In other words I'm not in tip-top shape. Not even bottom-shape. I thought it was a heart attack, figured what a burden my sudden death would be to the happy people in the ski lodge, and gave up before I began. I knew my daughters, so thrilled at the prospect of seeing mom take off down the mountain like a champion, would be disappointed and worried to see me retreat, but I just couldn't do more than ski across the path to demonstrate my great potential. A seasoned observer correctly diagnosed a panic attack, but I was having none of that! Me?? Panic struck? No way! So we laughed it off and I made it through, heart still pumping. I could feel a few concerned glances shot in my direction, and was greatly appreciative of course, having passed through the valley of the shadow.

It was the clothes. Back in the day when I really skiied, and weighed one hundred and ten pounds, cotton and wool was all we needed. I wore blue jeans and a wool sweater. Skiis were very long, wooden, and had elaborate bindings.You had to strap them up and lock them in. But your whole body could move freely. So in Vermont this weekend I was amazed at the newfangled ways of it all. I rented skiis and borrowed clothes for starters, figuring I'd upgrade to my own equipment after getting the lay of the land. The ski boots nowadays are rock hard and go practically to your knees. Fibers I've still never heard of choked and strangled me. The goggles were huge. I felt like an astronaut. My breathing reminded me of the scene in 2001 when Hal is being shut down. My daughter pointed to a path through the woods and I knew I couldn't go there in the state I was in. So back inside we went, disappointed but laughing, albeit a little nervously.

The next day I adjusted. Thank goodness the temperature was above freezing. I wore my wool felt street jacket and my very familiar and therefore comforting pink cashmere scarf around my neck. After a few runs, the scarf started flapping around, my son-in-law re-wrapped it around my neck while we were on the skilift, one of the nicest things that's ever happened to me, and I'll remember it all my life. It was beautiful to ride the chairlift with two of my beautiful daughters and one of my wonderful sons-in-law. It was heavenly!

Before we did anything else we tried the baby slope, where before I went the first time up the lift, I had another slight near heart attack. But lo and behold it was easy! It all came back to me. My daughters looked so beautiful to me as they rode the chairlift past or we skiied around each other. Five or six times there and we were ready to move on.

All went well. We skiied. My son-in-law, saint-like, skipped his usual black diamondish trails and stayed behind me, making encouraging comments and helping me up when I fell. My upper arm muscles need some re-training, they felt hollow and strained, but loved the action! I was so proud to see my daughters skiing so well. My daughters, like snow princesses, skiied relaxed and serene, and led us through the path in the woods, back to the house. We skiied right up to the back door then went in by the fire.

I could go on and on about how wonderful it was. How I skiied and then drove back home, down the mountain in a foggy blizzard, and survived! But now it's back to work and back to reality.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Einstein Quote of the Day

"Mass and energy are both but different manifestations of the same thing - a somewhat unfamiliar conception for the average mind."

That Einstein! Sometimes the daily Einstein quotations that come to my desktop make me think he could have been a stand-up comic. Other times, like today, he provokes us to think more deeply. Where were we when God created the foundations of the earth? We were there, honey, we were there.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Ash Wednesday Recollections of Grandma

My grandmother died on Ash Wednesday 1978, when I was young and away from the church. Having been raised mostly Presbyterian and having spent my earliest adult years in California in the sixties, my mind was not attuned in 1977 to a traditional church calendar. Like many of my generation, I was a wondering Druid with a head full of magical mysteries.

First some background. I loved my grandmother and grandfather with all my heart. They took me and my sister and our six maternal cousins to their country home ("The Bugs Nest") outside of Punxsutawney, every summer for weeks on end. They lined us up with buckets to go picking blueberries or catch crayfish in the stream, or with sticks, string, safety pins and worms, to go fishing for bluegill and bass in their big pond. Grama would fry up our three inch bluegills for lunch while her fragrant bread dough sat rising in big bowls, gently covered with tea-towels, or her ginger-cookies baked in the oven, or the chicken she killed the night before sat waiting to be dressed. She baked her home-killed chickens, usually making dumplings to go with the homemade bread and the homegrown potatoes, the homemade apple pie and the ginger cookies, just to be sure we had enough carbs. But when it came to "store-bought" chicken, Grampa loved to barbeque it with his secret special sauce: heavily salted water. He always said all you needed was salt water to make that chicken taste like butter.

Grampa and Grama sometimes made fudge and icecream. Grampa loved to heat up chocolate sauce mixed with peanut butter to top the ice-cream. When they made fudge, he would stir dramatically as we watched wide-eyed with jabbing fingers as it spilled into strings from a big wooden spoon. Sometimes on a Saturday night Grampa would pile up to eight of us into the big old Dodge and take us to a little store out the road for penny candy: wax lips, candy cigarettes,wax tubes of sweet liquid. One night he woke us up to take everyone in the car to look at the full moon shining on Cloe Lake. My grandmother, a card-carrying member of the WCTU, would not have suspected that he kept a whiskey bottle hidden in the basement, and had a shot or two now and then.

There was always a lot of laughter and spontaneous singing in Punxsy, either bits and pieces of song, or all five verses. Grampa and Grama lined us up around the piano (with my mother, the former church piano player at the helm) to sing old-time tunes and hymns: "In the Garden" "Rock of Ages" "Dearie Do You Remember?" "She is More to be Pitied than Censured" "When the Saints Go Marching In." On Sundays they dressed us up and took us to Sunday School and services at the EUB church, where Grandpa sang bass in the church choir. They took us to ice-cream socials at the church, where Grampa sang with a barbershop quartet. There was no baking, no card-playing, no dancing,no sewing, no going to the movies, no heathen activities on Sundays, or else we would surely be doomed to eternal hellfire and damnation. Behavior modification technique to give Grama and Grampa a restful Sunday? Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy!

We took long walks with Grama, who pointed out and identified birds, plants, trees, while singing bits of old hymns as we followed along with knapsacks and canteens of water, like a ruffian group of VonTrapps. This is not the life our more urbane parents lived, and we returned happily to our good schools, our luxe homes, our glamourous mothers, and our busy fathers in the fall, but we loved every minute of our country summers. After Grandpa passed, Grama spent more time with us in Pittsburgh but we still go to Punxsy to this day, where my sister and some cousins still hold down the fort, a much-updated (and urbane) version of the old days.

On Ash Wednesday in 1978, I went to my grandmother's bedside at Shadyside Hospital in Pittsburgh, past dark, towards the end of visiting hours. As I drove there I nearly hit a homeless man who was standing disheveled in the middle of the road near the hospital. Adrenaline shot through and must have dislodged and released some vestiges of marijuana or psychedelics in my brain from the sixties. Because as I parked and entered the hospital on that eerie night, I walked through hallways and up an elevator, feeling as if I were looking through a fisheye lens at people walking towards me- doctors, nurses, visitors passing me and seeming to look at me meaningfully with dark smudges of ash on their foreheads. I had no idea what the smudges were, no frame of reference came to mind, I just sensed death.

It was like a dream- people with somber faces and darkened brows passing me as if on an airport's moving walkway. I knew my grama had died. As I got ready to enter the room, my uncle and cousin were there in the doorway. I said to my uncle "She's gone isn't she?" and he nodded a somber yes. I went to her side within a minute or two of her passing and put my hand on her cooling arm. I had a most distinct awareness of her spirit rushing and whooshing to an upper corner of the room and beyond. In the state of heightened alertness I was in, it seemed much more than wishful thinking to feel her spirit going to heaven. It's a certainty she's there.

Requiescat in Pace
She lived gracefully, and died gracefully.
My life is blessed by our friendship.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Ash Wednesday: Invitation to the Observance of a Holy Lent, from the Book of Common Prayer

From the Book of Commmon Prayer:

"Dear People of God: The first Christians observed with great devotion the days of our Lord's passion and resurrection, and it became the custom of the Church to prepare for them by a season of penitence and fasting. This season of Lent provided a time in which converts to the faith were prepared for Holy Baptism. It was also a time when those who, because of notorious sins, had been separated from the body of the faithful were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness, and restored to the fellowship of the Church. Thereby, the whole congregation was put in mind of the message of pardon and absolution set forth in the Gospel of our Savior, and of the need which all Christians continually have to renew their repentance and faith.

I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God's holy Word. And, to make a right beginning of repentance, and as a mark of our mortal nature, let us now kneel before the Lord, our maker and redeemer."

Setting Politics Aside

I believed Obama would win California at least. He's doing fine, and the race is still tight, but now some of us are pondering foreign countries where we could relocate if Bill and Hillary recapture the White House. I have been feeling bad about the collage I made of poor Hillary, and my unkind words about Billary. But I feel worse when I consider our electorate here in the good old USA. What is happening? Our citizens at large aren't educated as they once were. No more Latin, no more Western Civilization,no more four years of French, no more pride of the Founding Fathers. Young people aren't inculcated with values of respect and loving kindness as they once were, say 50 years ago. We've had a disastrous evolution from the drug-addled intentions of our misguided and issue-driven youths in the 60s and 70s.

Those of us who ponder the American landscape, and who have felt the winds of change and the sweet fragrance of hope may have to wait. I'm ridiculously naive about politics and definitely don't know who should win. I shouldn't even be talking politics, I'm not well-read enough. That's why I'm so curious about the electorate. How well-read is anyone else? Today I'm watching Huckabee, who is so funny! and I'm thinking ok, maybe I could jump on HIS bandwagon. So don't pay attention to me, I apparently haven't got the courage of my convictions- remember when we all did??. I'm going to go back to my roots for awhile, and will think about Lent, which starts today. I'm thinking forty days and forty nights in the wilderness....but my self-discipline is lagging behind my good intentions. Which reminds me of poor old St Paul, and that passage from Romans 7 where he describes his struggle towards self-discipline:

14 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.

15 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.

16 If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.

17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.

18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.

19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.

20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.

21 I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.

22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:

23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.

24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?

25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.

And remember this on Ash Wednesday, Psalm 51:

1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your
loving-kindness; in your great compassion blot out my offenses.

2 Wash me through and through from my wickedness and cleanse me from my sin.

3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.

4 Against you only have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.

5 And so you are justified when you speak and upright in your judgment

6 Indeed, I have been wicked from my birth, a sinner from my mother's womb.

7 For behold, you look for truth deep within me, and will make me understand wisdom secretly.

8 Purge me from my sin, and I shall be pure; wash me, and I shall be clean indeed.

9 Make me hear of joy and gladness, that the body you have broken may rejoice.

10 Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquities.

11 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.

12 Cast me not away from your presence and take not your holy Spirit from me.

13 Give me the joy of your saving help again and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.

14 I shall teach your ways to the wicked, and sinners shall return to you.

15 Deliver me from death, O God, and my tongue shall sing of your righteousness, O God of my salvation.

16 Open my lips, O Lord, and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.

17 Had you desired it, I would have offered sacrifice; but you take no delight in burnt-offerings.

18 The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Hillary as Lorena Bobbitt, Cruella DeVille and Dr. Strangelove: Getting Back at Bill for Monica and the Cigar?

I used to believe that Hillary Clinton wanted to be President of the United States because she felt a higher calling to serve the people. I never doubted the sincerity of her earnestness. I admired her for raising a level-headed, highly motivated daughter. When she apparently forgave Bill for what he did in our nation's Oval Office with Monica Lewinsky and that cigar, I thought "God, that has to have been tough to rise above that, to be so high-minded to deal with the disgrace and humiliation brought upon her, her daughter, and the Presidency, by Bill's philandering, broadcast worldwide." How many women could do that?

But now, through a multitude of debates and because the media captures everything right up to the edge of toilet stalls, we've had a good look at the real Hillary. Despite her most recent civility toward Barack Obama, I find it hard to validate my previous admiration for her. My objections aren't particularly substantive, they're pretty emotional actually. It's just that Hillary's civility seems to be offered with clenched fists and gritting teeth. Her answers come too fast and smooth, verging on pathology. She's too glib. Her laughter is frighteningly manic. There's a Dr. Strangelove quality about her: I think of the way Peter Sellers would lose control of his arm and grab it back. She has used cut-throat Cruella DeVille sarcasm to deflate Barack Obama, subtly revealing how desperate, clawing, clamoring, bitter and vengeful she really may be.

Rather than devolving into Lorena Bobbitt with a butcher knife, she could be getting revenge another way. It's conceivable she rose above Bill's sexual escapades with the ladies, not because she has a well-developed spirit of foregiveness, but because she knew she was going to go for the top prize and that Bill, hate him though she might, would be her ace in the hole. He's pretty efficient out there on the campaign trail, albeit looking crazed and sexually frustrated, using skilled but convoluted tactics to get back to his easy chair on Pennsylvania Avenue. In his own wing.

Could Hillary be obsessed, using Bill to get the vote, with the ulterior motive of humiliating him once the Oval Office is hers? She will have the means at her disposal to do that.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Happy Groundhog Day! Six More Weeks of Winter

Happy February Second to all the dear hearts and gentle people who live and love in my family's home town. The people there sure know how to brighten up a dreary winter and have been doing so for over 120 years by celebrating Groundhog Day at Candlemas. I'm proud to say that I am a card-carrying affiliate of the groundhog-related events in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. My first cousin Bill ("President") and my sister's husband Bob ("His Protector") are among those top-hatted men in tails who respectfully inquire at dawn of the groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, about the weather to come in the next six weeks.

I have been on Gobbler's Knob at dawn on February 2nd,and you have to be there to believe it. The whole town apparently stays up all night, along with thousands of college students from all over the east coast in anticipation of the main event. Luminaries also attend, like Bill Murray, of course, preceding the famous movie. It's an all night happy raucous outdoor party on a wooded hillside, very well lit, with music and entertainment on stage all through the night, for people of all ages. No advertising or drinking allowed, supposedly, although I have seen an advertising blimp fly overhead and the atmosphere is suspiciously Bacchanalian in its conviviality. It's so much fun! Licensed groundhog t-shirts, hats, blankets, cups and more are available in town and from the Groundhog Association all year long, if you want to get ready for next year. Check out

Turns out the groundhog saw his shadow this morning, and here's the AP news release:

Associated Press: PUNXSUTAWNEY, Pa. — "If you believe in folklore, bundle up for six more weeks of wintry weather.

This is Groundhog Day, and the furry little critter known as Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow this morning. That, according to tradition, means six more weeks of winter.

The apathetic-looking rodent was pulled from his stump by members of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club Inner Circle. They are the local businessmen in the Western Pennsylvania town who carry out the February 2nd ritual while garbed in top hats and tuxedos.

The ceremony was preceded by a boisterous celebration attended by thousands of cold, but happy people, including a few couples who used the occasion to get engaged.

The town of Punxsutawney leads the modern observance of what is essentially a German superstition. The belief is that if a hibernating animal casts a shadow on February 2nd, the Christian holiday of Candlemas, winter would last another six weeks. If no shadow were seen, legend said spring would come early."