Wednesday, June 17, 2009

I can't believe we did this on our summer vacation, Part 3

On our return to Iowa, we camped in a riparian (Part 1), at the Grand Canyon (Part 2), and...even better than that, we tent camped at the Fisher Monuments in a Federal Land Reserve primitive site in Southwest Utah. The landscape reminded me of the stage background if the senior class play at a small country high school was a western:

The northern boundary of our little allotted tent plot was the shore of the Colorado River!

When the sun lowered, we took off into the warm desert and explored the monuments...up close and personal:

They were rather humanoid in appearance and amazingly otherworldly:

This is my current laptop screensaver. I still can't believe we were here. (Actually, the campground had a pit toilet, so it wasn't too primitive.) Mr. B.E. referred to the tree as "The Hanging Tree."

We watched the moonrise over the ridge. There was a fairly strong windstorm that night, but we were snug and safe in our tent.

This was my happiest camping experience on the trip, so I wanted to share it. Stop on over and visit us and I'll show you (ahem) a few other photos from this Utah site.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

This is why I love the Southwest

I dragged my feet all the way to El Paso three years ago. I did not read one nice thing about the city prior to my arrival. But my husband wanted to give it a try, and I thought I owed him that chance. I tried to shut my mouth and keep an open mind before I got there.

I fell in love with the place.

It was stressful for us in El Paso this last go-round. Now that I'm in Iowa, that's what I say. But, a video arrived in my email inbox this morning, igniting my heart. It's a performance from April's Border Book Festival [when I saw Amy Goodman speak] by two visiting artists: Perla Batalla, singing La Llorona and Luis Rodriguez reciting his poem "My Name is Not Rodriguez."

I don't know why this grabs me so hard. There is nothing in my past that connects with any of this. But it grabs me hard:

Friday, June 12, 2009

Happy 80th Birthday, Anne Frank! We need you more than ever.

"With a diary kept in a secret attic, she braved the Nazis and lent a searing voice to the fight for human dignity." --Time (1999), naming Anne Frank with the heroes and icons of the 20th century on their list of The Most Important People of the Century.

Anne Frank was born just 80 years ago in Frankfurt, Germany on June 12, 1929. A Jewish girl who hid from the Nazis with her family, Anne kept her sanity before her capture and subsequent death in a concentration camp by recording her thoughts in a diary. That diary, given to Anne on her 13th birthday, chronicles her life from June 12, 1942 until August 1, 1944. It became a classic when it was published after her death: The Diary of a Young Girl, one of the most widely read books in the world.

As we reel this week from the fatal shootings and deaths in Washington DC's Holocaust Museum, initiated by a man with a virulently anti-Semitic past...

when we view photographic evidence of unspeakable acts of torture inflicted by our military in prisons far and not-so-far away...

when indigenous defenders of the Amazon jungle are gunned down like criminals...

...we ponder with broken hearts our own human capacity for evil and struggle to find the hope we need to remain faithful to working for justice and peace.

These quotations, taken from Anne's diary, are worth recalling today as a celebration of her life, her voice, her courage, her open heart. In Anne we find the antidote to despair that we sometimes desperately need:

On our infinite possibilities:

"How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world."

On optimism:

"I keep my ideals, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart."

On the restorative power of nature:

"The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be."

On personal power:

"The final forming of a person's character lies in their own hands"

On gratitude:

"Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy."

On human nature and hope:

"In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can't build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery and death. ... I think peace and tranquility will return again."

On happiness:

"Whoever is happy will make others happy, too"

On human potential:

"Everyone has inside of him a piece of good news. The good news is that you don't know how great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is!"

Happy birthday, Anne! Your life, your spirit is as relevant as ever. May we, the living who are blessed with your example and inspiration, live today more fully and humanly.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Insurance Profits Make Us Sick!


"Enough is enough!" exclaim Iowa activist friends. With 20,000 dying each year and millions suffering needlessly, a coalition of peace groups has launched a public campaign called "Insurance Profits Make Us Sick." Focused on the abuses of health insurance corporations, their first measure is a weekly vigil in front of Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield headquarters in Des Moines (insurance capital of the USA, I'd say).

The national healthcare crisis in the United States springs from the stranglehold that profit-driven private insurance corporations have on the system. Not sure we're in a crisis? Activists cite these bullet points:

■ 50 million Americans have no insurance or access to medical care and, with the economic crisis, this number is skyrocketing.

■ 20,000 (probably more) die each year due to lack of health care.

■ Millions suffer disability and chronic conditions that would have been prevented by access to adequate health care.

■ Millions who have health insurance are denied necessary care by their insurers.

■ Health care bills (of people who HAVE health insurance) are the single highest reason for filing bankruptcy in the U.S.

■ Untreated disease and injuries hurt those who do have access to healthcare and make us more vulnerable to pandemics.

Does the healthcare industry care about us? Or about profit? These folks say coverage by health insurers is based on profitability not on providing health care for those who need it. The industry makes money by only insuring those who will likely remain healthy and by denying coverage to those who do or might get sick.

■ 20-40% of every health care dollar goes to profits and overhead and things other than anyone's healthcare.

■ Precious health care dollars are wasted on symbols of wealth: anything from private jets, to skyscrapers, to capital investments.

To add insult to injury, they say healthcare insurers lie, hiring lobbyists (with outrageous salaries) to protect their interests. Here's what lobbyists won't tell you:

■ Other nation's national healthcare programs work efficiently.

■ National healthcare will ultimately create more jobs. (They just won't be in the health insurance industry.)

■ No one will have less ability to choose a doctor or wait significantly longer for medical procedures with a single-payer healthcare plan.

■ Mainstream media and members of congress are financially controlled by insurance lobbyists, campaign contributions, and advertising revenue.

These Iowa activists support single-payer healthcare as the viable way out of the crisis.

Single-payer healthcare (H.R. 676) cuts out the middle man (i.e. the health insurance industry) and earmarks all healthcare dollars in one public fund to be used for healthcare only. Experts (and even Presidents Clinton and Obama) have agreed it's our best option, but claim the public doesn't have the political will to make it happen.

Let's prove them wrong and demand equal health care for all. Take it to the streets...the internets...the congress...the media...because:

Healthcare is a human right!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Puny Thoughts on the Grand Canyon

Semi-annually, Mr. B.E. & I migrate between our spring/summer Midwestern abode and our fall/winter Border abode. The upheaval is complete. I think of our lifestyle as a split-screen existence; this year I termed it "crossing the Great Divide." Coincidentally, since we decided to return North via a Grand Canyon visit, we literally crossed the Continental Divide a couple times in the process.

Looking at the Grand Canyon is an other-worldly experience. Gazing over the rim, I felt like I was standing on the hologram deck of the Starship Enterprise. Alternatively, I was a child again, looking into a View-Master at a friend's house.

The cool thing about the Canyon is that it is always changing, depending on the time of day and angle of the sun.

Visiting in early May is good. Numbers are down. There were many AARP-couples there, not so many children.

The campground was far from full. I preferred tent camping to staying in a resort hotel. It seemed more authentic to the experience.

An important aspect of the visit is the heightened sense of time and place this natural phenomenon imparts. Mr. B.E. has since taken to library books about geology and the creation of the Canyon: how water works and how it will change the future face of the planet. Much like looking upward at the stars, looking into the canyon--gazing back in time--is humbling.