Point of View

Point of View
and if you wanted to drown you could, but you don’t...~David Whyte

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Season and Solstice: A Celebration

A few thoughts on this, this evening, this night before the dawn, and the birth of whatever is new in each of us. May each of us feel that inner spark within and gently treasure it; may we kindle it into flame and fire, may it then burn steady so that we may warm others in the days and years ahead. Best on this, the solstice and the season - Kelly.
Photograph of Kelly with grandson, Jeremy - Alaska, 2008.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Grief or Landscape

In Alaska, I do not think of it anymore. Vast
Space can hold a broken heart,
A hundred thousand rivers, lush with lupine,
The reaching fingers of tributaries, pebble-heavy,
The small prayers making their way up creeks,
To rest in pools, bathe in a mother’s still cry
Wet in the water’s glint, lost in the flash of white
Hard current, prayers hurtling themselves to the sky-
Carpe diem! Before they die, holy and red
Drinking in their last breath one cup of air, or of tears.

The 10,000 Smokes
Take their sweet time
Spitting lava and ash
Spreading their lazy legs down over the Aleutians
Prehistoric and true– Living five billion years in a second.

People are either born to the Great Land,
Or come to it running from the wolves at their door
The wolves, those ghosts, grow heavy silver coats,
Begin to like the arctic cold, their nose in the snow,
The small ptarmigan, a moose, now and again,
They join packs, cut a cub off from its mother…
Howl at the night, forget whom they came here to chase–
The tundra is boundless and wolves have other things to do
The Great Land swallows them up.

The cold and arctic glaciers move like tides-
A mile in a thousand years, or less.
The past, scrawled on tattered pages, turns fluid
Before massive mountains of turquoise lit by pink,
Prussian blue fills the night.
Here, stars fall like fireflies on my face,
Northern lights visit, rarely
Enough, ink or spilled paint sketching fire against the night,
Far beyond my myriad concerns, the minutia of a life,
The coldness of knowing things
That never let go.

The sky offers no end, nor horizontal line, no
Trace of past - its black dinosaur bone, its fossil element-
But melds in shades of gray that fold to the very edges of blue, no
Evidence of it in the rooted alders, barely holding on as they make
Their way down to the bay, no indication in the burning
Devil's Club I am careful not to touch.
No one here who can say
They knew me when...

...The wind whipping and certain,
Brings its cold news, its threshing brush
And it is a big wind, says cut some firewood,
Get ready for winter and a kindness of raven swoop
In at the birch trees and perch, hundreds
Or more of them; In Alaska, I do not think of it anymore
Except just now, hearing the owl flee
Reaching for one last bloom of fireweed, before
Summer blows away.

-Kelly O'Neal Thompson

Copywrite 2008. Please do not reprint without express permission of the author.

Friday, December 19, 2008


I ran across the definition of a pantoum the other day and decided to try my hand at one:

The World Wide Web Spreads Its Net

The new leader of the revolution is a poet,
He waves the baton before schools of fish,
Like Billy Collins, he makes poetry accessible,
He reads the manifesto, shaking his fist.

He waves the baton before schools of fish
Singing the revolution song of the zillions,
He reads the manifesto, shaking his fist,
The fish form schools of the conventional.

Singing the revolution song of the zillions,
A predator moves in the shadow, entranced.
The fish form schools of the conventional
Among the mirrored water, learning tricks.

A predator moves in the shadow, entranced.
The new leader of the revolution is a poet
Among the mirrored water, learning tricks,
Like Billy Collins, he makes poetry accessible.

Kelly O'Neal Thompson

Copywrite 2008. Please do not reprint without express permission of the author.

Monday, December 15, 2008

A Meditation on Being

Think of the parallel universe, of the many selves, of the eternal now moment that offers up
an eternally new past, a possible future,
Think of yourself as you might exist ubiquitous or only microscopically - but both at once-the particle in the wave.
Decide to exist wherever it feels best - don't get caught in the moment when there are so many to choose from.
Climb the board of alternate states of consciousness; ride the great One you are; talk to yourself magnanimously, happily, eternally, with pleasure.
Follow the breath as it moves, with everything, in and out in the ever-widening, ever-tightening circle.
Do not take it, but let it take you into the dance of being, into the dance of I/Thou
You, into the holy of holiest instant, simply
Breathe and exit the vehicle of time and its travails, the hundred thousand million billion stories.
They are all yours. So be them.

Kelly O'Neal Thompson

photograph by journeysendphotography.com
Copywrite 2008. Please do not reprint without express permission of the author.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Clyde the Fraud Dog

There is such a thing as a dog-person and I am not one of them. I have had only one other dog, other than Clyde, in my life - that was Angel, a small German Shepherd mixed breed of mutt. Angel was the puppy we got for my daughters when they were elementary school age and she came to be one of the family.
Angel had a litter of pups and we kept one that we named Decker - for that wild part of me, for he was a wild dog. Sadly, Decker was but a pup when the girls' stepfather and I divorced. Decker went with Bob. We got custody of Angel, who lived to have yet another litter; puppies we had to give away (actually we sold them for $5 each, as people don't want free puppies; you get a much better rate of response if you set a price on them.)
Angel became part of our family lore and I still cherish the photo of her wearing sunglasses and lounging with us on one of our family camping trips. Angel is gone now and my daughters are grown up with families of their own. Once in a while, one of us says, "Remember Angel?" and then we tell a story - like about how she allowed Jennifer to put doll clothes on her and lug her around, legs up, like a baby and never complained. Poor Angel. How she loved us!
She was aptly named Angel, for she loved us like one and took our well-being as her personal mission; not a guard dog by any means, but a lover - with the eyes of a doe; seriously, we could have named her Bambi.
Clyde the Fraud Dog came by his name due to his last-minute reprieve and rescue from the dog pound and sure death - or so we were told.
We were new to Alaska - cheechakos as they call greenhorns here - and it was around Christmas time. We had lived here about four months and were headed into our first winter, the darkest part of the year, when we met Clyde at a potlatch (Alaskan for potluck dinner) given by one of our new Alaskan acquaintances, Shelly Gill.
Shelley Gill is a well-known children's book author in Alaska and elsewhere, but before that she was famous for being one of the first women to run the Iditarod in the seventies; she writes about the adventure through the eyes of her lead dog in her children's book, "Kiana". She's a colorful personality and she's the one who introduced us to Clyde.
Clyde, Shelley claimed, was a "Newfie"; well, "half- Newfie" anyway, some kind of a "Newfie-mix"; meaning he was part Newfoundland. The reason they had Clyde, she went on to tell us, (and making a pest of himself besides), was that Shelley's daughter, Kai, a volunteer for the local animal shelter, had brought him home with her a few days earlier (it could have been weeks, but you know how stories go) to "save him from death row". He was about to be, to use the euphemism, "put to sleep". They had no room for another dog, but - Shelley sighed and shrugged - what's a mother to do? For the moment, we learned, he was allowed to sleep on the porch with absolutely no house privileges allowed.
I admit that, at the time that we met Shelley and thus, Clyde, Wayne and I had been discussing the possibility of getting a dog. Wayne was generally against it- his argument was that a dog would be a huge responsibility, would tie us down, and would prevent us from traveling. Did I say he was "generally" against it? Let's just say he wavered once or twice and a waver is good enough, as he'll tell you, for me.
"Give her an inch; she'll take a mile".
Further, I was, most likely,homesick. (Do you know how far Alaska is from the contiguous lower 48 United States?) But rather than admit that I felt adrift, I fantasized that a dog would provide the familiarity and sense of stability that seemed to have left me since our move cross- country to Alaska.
True, I am a "wild girl" and a true-blue Decker, and "running off to Alaska" at mid-life seemed exactly the sort of thing that I would do. But there is another side to me that is deeply rooted in my family and, though I had not lived closer than a thousand miles to them for twelve years prior to moving to the Great Land, I had foolishly believed that their proximity would be just a matter of getting on an airplane.
Once here, stakes and all, leaving Alaska can be a hefty undertaking.
When we lived in Southern California going out-of-state was a simple matter of an hour's drive to the airport and a relatively short flight to anywhere in the country. Try flying out of Alaska. Basically, taking expense, time, and coordination of connecting flights into account, it can take two days to get anywhere. Being the gypsy hearted girl I am, with our move to Alaska I began to feel claustrophobic as I progressively processed the enormity and ramifications of our decision to move here. But here I was in the biggest state of all - a state that could contain over half of the United States within it, a state very remote from anything I had ever known - when I met the Fraud Dog.
What does this have to do with a dog?
A dog, I imagined, in my homesick condition, would make us complete. A dog would provide a sense of family, something that, really, I have missed since I was eight years old and we moved - away from my Grandma Decker Saltsman - "out west" to Colorado - where I was to live the next thirty-one years of my life.
I was to forever miss my Grandma, although we took trips back yearly to see her. I missed the every Sunday dinners at her house, the multitude of aunts and uncles and cousins, the farm she and Pa, my grandpa, lived on, the pump where I got, in a tin cup, drinks of the coldest best water I ever tasted, the hen house, Grandma's gardens, the barn, the 'forbidden' grain silo that we kids played in anyway, the animals...but mostly, Grandma.
Now, in Alaska, I found myself imagining that our house and acre and a half of land could be a little bit like Grandma's farm. I even went to hang a tire swing on a tree, before I realized that most of the trees in our part of Alaska that had swings featured life buoys, not tires. So I got a bright blue life buoy and Wayne helped me hang it from a branch on one of the huge birch trees on our land.
You see how perfectly a dog fits into this scenario. The only thing I was missing, beside the dog, was a fresh water well - and that I was not going to get. Too much arsenic and copper even if we could reach underground water. Then again, I was also missing the hen house and the garden, but Wayne would take care of the garden part - he's a real green thumb and the hen house, I decided, remembering how dirty chickens were, I could do without.
We didn't have to have a real farm, I decided - being "out in the country" was enough. (We live 4.1 miles from town.)
Clyde, at nine months old, was big. Huge. A perfect Alaskan farm dog, right? For some reason, the idea that he was Newfoundland, even if a mix, appealed to both Wayne and me. I looked up the breed on the Internet, even went so far as to join a list-serve. Before long, I had ordered a book on Newfoundland dogs from Amazon. All this after only one meeting with Clyde, who had rushed me with all the enthusiasm only a puppy can have, and solidly licked my face. Which I hated, by the way. I hate being licked by dogs. Somehow, though, Clyde's big red floppy tongue did not offend me. His big, clumsy puppy body quivered with joy; his enthusiasm for making friends overshadowed any reservations I could manufacture.
Wayne, the Scrooge of Dog-Adoption, was - rather quickly ( and suspiciously, I now think) - won over, considering that he still insists it is my fault whenever there is a problem with Clyde (like having to find a kennel or a dog-sitter when we want to leave, even for a weekend, or like when he does something embarrassing, like barreling full speed into a 78 year-old visiting guest and knocking her over.) Within a week or two of meeting Clyde, we were on the phone to Shelley, "We'd like to adopt Clyde."
"Come and get him!" Shelley pinned us down for a time and date immediately.
We should have suspected when, before we even got half-way parked in the driveway, Shelley immediately showed up at the door of the truck and shoved a befuddled Clyde, all the then sixty or so pounds of him, into the passenger side and on top of me. I was too love-struck to notice and, evidently, so was Wayne, for regardless of how much he loves to remind me that getting Clyde was not his idea, he allowed that big lug of a pup right into my lap, his truck, and our lives.
So we had ourselves a Newfie - we thought. But Clyde the Fraud Dog, about nine months old when we got him, stopped growing at around eighty-five pounds and stayed there. He didn't double or triple his size, as we expected, and as a Newfie would. If we squint just right in the light some days, though, he does retain just a hint of the helmut head that Newfies are famous for - but Clyde the Fraud Dog is not much of a Newfie, it turns out, at all. He doesn't even drool. But he is black. He is big. Just not as black and as big as a Newfie.
Anyone who has ever been to Homer, Alaska knows- just look around - there's one in the back of every pick-up truck - a big old black Labrador dog. With the exception of his slightly curly fur and the big white patch on his chest, we suspect that Clyde's parentage was largely Labrador - the classic dog of Homeroids, if sheer numbers tell the tale. True, Huskies are popular here, due to the Iditarod, but they're runners, so most non-mushing folks get themselves a big ol' black Lab. We see them everywhere. That increases the odds, we tell Clyde, that he doesn't even have so much as a lick of Newfie in him.
"You're a fraud dog, Clyde!" we tell him.
We have to hand it to him- pretending to be a Newfie - instead of the everyday run-of-the-mill token black Lab so common around here - got him off death row and into our hearts - hey, how's that for a Fraud Dog? Clyde the Fraud Dog, we call him.
Nope. I'm not a dog person. But Clyde does have one sure Newfie trait - he's a people-person.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Just returned from a long, wonderful trip to Southern California
where I soaked up a big, fat dose of sunshine, friendship, and family. The malls, rush-hour traffic, and the general, all-around sense of everywhere people-ness more than gratified me.
The first few days, I felt like someone beamed up warp-speed to an alternate universe - popping eye candy. I come home with five senses overflowing -
brain brimming with color - the orange and blue of California in its' multiple shades -
from peach tan to faded cerulean, Sunkist orange to blue man blue- red light/green light/yellow - on and off ramp - Mini-Cooper and Hummer, black beamer, white Jeep, then silver, Toyota 4runner, Lexus, Mercedes, F150 and gas prices falling like Humpty Dumpty...diesel smell of gas and rubber, the low, slow brown of pollution hovering sun heavy on the horizon, the blonds bleached natural and spray booth tan -
the ten, the fifteen, the six-oh-five, the J. Paul Getty
a favorite Van Gogh painting, discovering Fernand Khnopff's "Portrait of Jeanne Kefer"... girl-child bonneted in soft charcoal, an entire world behind a pale blue door she leans against...
then homeward - the familiar trudge through airport security, an aisle seat,
disembarking -just enough time for a Hudson News stop and another magazine in Seattle before the long darkening ride over the Pacific and the jostle down fast approach to
Anchorage where it is cold and gray-lit night- where we stand waiting for the shuttle -
home still five hours by car and a hotel bed away-home still there standing square
against the bay, home a gray box lit the color of fireweed lingered into violet...
the mountains smudged ink among pink dribbled sky... the tides and glaciers, all their coming and going....how twilight and soft they will be.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Untitled Poem

Mark Doty's post of a photograph of a stone sculpture on his blogspot http://www.markdoty.blogspot.com inspired me to post one of my poems:


I polish his bones with my hands,
crumple his face
like sheets of soft paper.
Only his ice blue eyes remain,
Cracked porcelain marbles
I roll in my mouth
until they are petrified wood,
caramel rivers of sweet
flowing through blood;
and the pores of my skin
open like flowers
to his sun-soaked tongue.

Kelly Thompson

©Kelly Thompson - All Rights Reserved

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Then The Tide Will Turn

Clyde and I take Jeremy's Trail again, down to our favorite perch on the bluff overlooking the ocean. The tide is coming in and the sun, which rose at 8:44 a.m. and will set today at 4:54 p.m., is making its short climb above the Grewingk Glacier and the mountains across the bay. It's a high tide coming in, almost 16 feet today.

Wayne d. Thompson,Photographer

We sit by a stubborn alder on the crumbling hillside and soak up rays on this clear November day. A neighbor's dog shows up, trotting down Jeremy's Trail like she owns it and Clyde runs to greet her. She's an old dog, a white fluffy breed, and I tell her to go home, as I know her owner won't be happy she's come this far. She does and Clyde throws a short whine of complaint at me, looking at me like I just took away a favorite toy.

I tell him he doesn't need no stinkin' dogs to play with - he's got me and we wrestle a little, which makes him very happy. We keep him on a short leash for a variety of reasons (one being that dogs in Alaska who chase moose get shot) and sometimes I feel badly for him that we don't have another dog. I guiltily explain to Clyde why he can't run off to play with the three new dogs that just moved into the house across from us. Clyde just looks at me and I admit to him that it isn't fair that he doesn't have a dog of his own to play with. I promise to campaign for another dog with the other member of our pack, my husband Wayne.

Clyde says, "Good luck!" and we settle into the damp leaves on our little clump of dirt beneath the sun and above the beach. I think about the election and the world celebrating Obama's win. The sense one gets when doing a puzzle, that satisfying click of a piece finding its place, seems to have taken place; I feel a sense of myself as an American more deeply than I can remember in a long time. It's as though a part of me has come home, a part of me I didn't know was missing.

Forty years have passed since 1968 and my fourteenth birthday: June 5th, the day Robert F. Kennedy was shot and killed. Forty years since Martin Luther King was assassinated. Forty years since the 1968 Civil Rights Act was signed into law. Forty years since I was a girl, facing my future.

I didn't know how much we Americans lost that year. I didn't know what lay ahead. I was a child on the brink of adulthood and I couldn't understand the world I lived in, how it would effect me to grow up in the aftermath of such loss, in the midst of the turmoil of the short years that followed. I couldn't know then how much history would play a part in the creation of my own life in the years ahead.

All around me I heard slogans like Make Love, Not War, Do Your Own Thing, Power to the People, What If They Gave A War and Nobody Came? Question Authority, Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out and even God Is Dead, an announcement attributed to the Beatles.

In 1969, I was fifteen and a man had just walked on the moon and he was an American. I was fifteen and 250,000 people had just marched on Washington to protest the Vietnam War. I was fifteen and 400,000 of my peers would soon attend a rock festival at Woodstock.

I was fifteen. I believed anything was possible. Before I would turn sixteen years old, four students would be shot dead and nine others wounded by the Ohio National Guard at Kent State University. .

The blows just kept on coming. Like many young people, I was swept up in the tide, a wave of millions of young people (the Babyboomers), and I, like similar teenagers and young adults, did not understand that I could not live my life as though nothing mattered and not suffer the consequences. I did not understand that I was not independent of the context in which I lived. And neither, in retrospect, I think, did many of us. With so many others of my generation, I rejected not only the Establishment, but all authority.

I came of age during the sex, drugs, and rock and roll revolution. I was a believer. But the leaders who might have made a difference, the leaders who had both the vision necessary and the wisdom to counsel a generation had been killed in the streets. Who would lead us after that?

And as I went out, at the age of fifteen, to "find myself," as I proclaimed my civil rights and that of others, as I sought the freedom to dress, act, and live as an individual in a free society, a democracy, did I, could I, understand the greater "we" - that I was a part of? Did I understand that it was not about me, but about "We the people..."?

I don't think so.

But many did and do. They are the "invisibles", the worker bees, the unsung heroes and, without them, November 4, 2008 might have never come. They were there then and they are here today. They are teachers, social workers, firefighters, welders, mechanics, factory workers, nurses, doctors, preachers; they are soldiers, miners, carpenters, electricians, orderlies, secretaries, police officers - and they are the unemployed, the underemployed, the underclass, the middle class, but they are also the elite, professionals, the wealthy, and they are in poverty. They are every race and every creed. They are first generation, and beyond, immigrants. They are gay and straight. They are Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim.

They are voters. I am one of them.

Clyde licks my ear, reminds me that I am his person and he is getting thirsty. It is time to head home. The air has gotten crisper, the sun a little lower in the sky. The tide is beginning to turn.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Proud to Be American

"I happen temporarily to occupy this big White House. I am living witness that any one of your children may look to come here as my father's child has." Abraham Lincoln

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Reporting From Small Town Alaska

No lines at the polls here in Homer, Alaska, just a steady flow of voters.
After voting, I headed toward downtown Homer to check my mail at the post office. I noticed a fairly good-size clump of people in the park right on the corner of Pioneer and Lake. They were waving signs for McCain/Palin and Paul Seaton, a local Republican representative, and there was even one sign for Ted Stevens.
No sign of any Obama supporters, although I knew there were plenty of them with our own Obama headquarters in town, so, on impulse, I headed for headquarters, housed in the old 'Try My Thai' restaurant building. There were two Obama campaign workers there (the rest were at another location getting out the vote) who were kind enough to give me an "Alaskans for Obama" sign.
I headed back to the corner of Pioneer and Lake and, taking the corner opposite the McCain/Palin supporters, I took my place and held up my sign. It felt good to exercise my civil rights in a spontaneous gesture that came from my heart.
There were quite a few children in the McCain/Palin crowd and I was glad to see them there. This is a day they will always remember, especially, I think, because I stood opposite them in support of their candidate's opponent.
There was a lot of traffic for a weekday in November in Homer. People going to vote during their lunch hour, I assume. There were lots of honks and even some engine gunning for the McCain/Palin crowd but, as some drivers noticed me, the one opposer, I began to get big smiles, nods, and thumbs up from some. I also got negative gestures, like thumbs down, shaking of heads, even some angry yells out windows of "Nobama!"
After about an hour, a woman showed up waving two Obama signs and proudly joined me saying, "I saw you out here all by yourself and here I am to help!"
Within the next hour, seven more people had joined us on the Obama side of the street. There was practically a traffic jam for a while - lots and lots of cars driving by and signaling their approval of either side.
Often, when I got a direct smile, thumbs up, wave and honk from an Obama supporter, our eyes met and what I read there was hope. Alaska is a Republican state and the electoral vote will go to McCain/Palin. The many Alaskans proud of their governor's nomination for vice-president makes the already Republican majority here even more fervently for McCain.
So it seemed to me that the Obama supporters driving by that cheered my small group on, were heartened to see us there exercising our civil rights on this crisp November day.
Eventually, the McCain/Palin supporters dwindled until there were none. The last of them, a woman with the group of children that I suspect were homeschoolers, stopped and shook my hand.
"I appreciate that you came out in support of your candidate." she told me. "This is good for my children to see."
"Thank you," I said. "Your children are never going to forget this, are they?"
We both smiled genuine smiles at each other and, as she drove off in her van with the kids yelling, "Don't be insane! Vote for McCain!" out the windows, a lone figure took their place across the street.
Whereas I had been alone facing the twenty or thirty Republican supporters several hours earlier, he now stood opposite me and my ragtag group of Obama sign holders with his own sign.
It read, "We're All One."
Yes. And it's time for Americans to finally figure that out.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Heil Obama?

I have received two emails in recent days warning that Barack Obama is the new Hitler. One was couched as a personal email from a survivor of Nazi Germany; the most recent quotes Fouad Ajami, with an emphasis on his Arab-American ethnicity, as a source for why Obama is to be feared.
These are indeed difficult and exciting times: difficult in part because information is irresponsibly dessiminated on the internet and elsewhere - responsible journalism seems to be a thing of the past - exciting because information can be dessiminated by anyone, from anywhere, all over the globe via the internet. Free speech and true democracy is accessible through the electronic gateway and, as long as the information continues to freely zoom along the internet highway, any Joe Blow (or should I say any Joe Plumber?) may join in the fray of public discourse, such as it be.
It is my choice to post a link via this article to Fauad Ajami's incendiary commentary because, in light of my enthusiastic endorsement of Obama, I to want provide readers with some of the misinformation that is circulating via the internet and email.
The only answer I have to a discourse like Ajami's is to point readers in the direction of Barack Obama's book, "The Audacity of Hope" as another source of information; in my mind, a better source of information for those who truly want to get to know the man, Barack Obama.
Fear appears to be the weapon of choice among Obama detractors. It is a corrosive, debilitating tool - it steals into the hearts of the most honest, sincere and authentic among us. It plants it's seeds of discord and moves on. Witnessing its clever disguises, my heart is heavy. My heart is sad. I am afraid for us all.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Barack Obama - The One and Only?

In both humility and hope, this is my endorsement of Barack Obama for President of the United States of America.
Because he speaks so well for himself, I will quote his words from the prologue of his book, The Audacity of Hope:

...I am new enough on the national political scene that I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views. As such, I am bound to disappoint some, if not all, of them. Which perhaps indicates a second, more intimate theme to this book - namely how I, or anybody in public office, can avoid the pitfalls of fame, the hunger to please, the fear of loss, and thereby retain that kernal of truth, that singular voice within each of us that reminds us of our deepest commitments..."

Obama then submits before the reading public a portrait of himself as a three-dimensional, whole person, a human being, a man, a father, lawyer, legislator, husband, and son. It is his awareness of who he is, what he comes from, and where he is headed, as well as his astoundingly clear vision of the issues facing us and how to lead us through them, that resonate for me. In the third chapter of the book, entitled "Our Constitution" he writes:

The Constitutions system of checks and balances, separation of powers, and federalism may often lead to groups with fixed interests angling and sparring for narrow advantage, but it doesn't have to. Such diffusion of power may also force groups to take other interests into account and, indeed, may even alter over time how those groups think and feel about their own interests.
The rejection of absolutism implicit in our constitutional structure may sometimes make our politics seem unprincipled. But for most of our history it has encouraged the very process of information gathering, analysis, and argument that allows us to make better, if not perfect, choices , not only about the means to our ends but also about the ends themselves. Whether we are for or against affirmative action, for or against prayer in schools, we must test out our ideals, vision, and values against the realities of a common life, so that over time they may be refined, discarded, or replaced by new ideals, sharper visions, deeper values. Indeed, it is that process, according to Madison, that brought about the Constitution itself, through a convention in which "no man felt himself obliged to retain his opinions any longer than he was satisfied of their propriety and truth, and was open to the force of argument."

After studying, listening, watching, and reading this election period, I think I am beginning to understand why Oprah Winfrey said of Obama, "He's the one" - not because she meant to imply some messianic status to Barack Obama but, to the contrary, because she believes, as I have come to believe, that he is a man capable of leading the USA through one of the most difficult and challenging periods in our history, that he is the one we need to lead us into the 21st Century. This because, more than anything else, he is a man of humility, courage, and moderation; one who can encourage us, the entire nation of you and me, to have a conversation that will result in what American democracy was founded to do - ensure the Union's survival and that of our individual and collective liberty. Barack Obama is the one in which my hope now lies, the one that I will vote for come November 4th because I do believe that he may lead us, our children, and our children's children, in the direction of a solid future true to this country's highest aspirations.

That is not to say, of course, that he is the only one but, rather, that Barack Obama is only one of many who have played a crucial part in the formation and preservation of this democracy, and he is also one of the few, among those who have led us, capable of accomplishing greatness as a man - but, more importantly - capable of accomplishing the great task of navigating our country successfully through the formidable challenges of the 21st century.

I must share - I finished reading "Audacity of Hope". I put the book down, turned to my dearest companion, my husband, and said, "He is the one."

Please vote November 4th.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


Clyde, the Fraud Dog, and I head down Jeremy’s Trail on our bluff and perch on the spot just before the deep drop where Jeremy tied the rope off. I can see the tide as it comes in, close below us, hear the busy sound of breaking water, its soothing rhythm.
The sun is high in the sky, as high as it will get today and I look up steadily, straight at it, like I warned my children not to, lifting my face. I am hungry for sunshine as winter approaches in Alaska; I never knew how much I needed it until now. Facing my sixth winter here, after a long gray and overcast summer season, I am outside at the mere hint of the sun’s appearance, throwing myself at it, beginning to understand sun worship as it was practiced by ancient peoples.
The image of a chariot pulling the Sun across the sky comes to me as I stare at the too small yellow globe high above me. I don’t have to imagine; I can see it in the Alaskan sky, a sun chased far.
In the Nordic myth, the Sun rides in a chariot pulled by horses that are chased by wolves, known as Skoll (treachery), across the sky and below the horizon. Living in Alaska has made me conscious of nature in a way I’ve never experienced elsewhere – and by necessity. Here treachery becomes stronger in the winter, weaker in the light of the summer months, when it takes Skoll longer and longer to chase the Sun below the edge of the world. Some day, according to the mythology, Skoll will catch the sun and eat her; that day is known as Ragnorokr, the twilight of the Gods’; destiny.
Until then, the Sun deity is worshipped, loved, offerings are made. Until then, I do my daily dose of light, 10,000 luxes of it, every morning. I take Calcium with Vitamin D, suck Vitamin D lozenges, and eat the salmon stock-piled in our freezer from the summer’s catch.
Clyde puts his paw across my arm purposefully and snuggles his doggy face into my shoulder, letting me know he highly approves of this activity. He is happy to sit perched halfway down the bluff with me, to worship, even to resist the temptation to plunge down the hill to chase the shorebirds mocking him from below.
The sun warms me in a place I know I had better nurture if I want to survive the darkening winter. The light sparks my imagination like a piece of kindling taking catch. I think of my father’s people way far off and long ago when they first came to America, soldiers for the Revolutionary War. I picture their odyssey from the eastern shores of the Atlantic through Virginia and on into Kentucky. Our people lived among trees in hollows, near branches of lakes and rivers and streams and something moved them, perhaps the rushing water. They made music and spells, spun stories, like me. Might they ever have conceived of a descendent of theirs’, gone this far north, all the way to Alaska?
This is the same sun, I think, that they saw a hundred years ago and more.
My father told me once, as if in warning, or perhaps in apology, “The Deckers were some wild people, you know. It runs in our blood.”
Remembering, I pull my hat off and loosen my coat, think, “That’s me. I’m a Decker, a wild woman. I was a wild girl. I always will be.”
Somehow, I don’t think any Decker girl way back then or now - say a girl like my Grandma Ollie Mae was once - would mind a’tall, not a’tall, as she would say.
Clyde, the Fraud Dog, and I stay where we are then, perched on our small church platform in the alders, long into this day’s journey across latitude 59 and the Alaskan sky.
Skoll is running fast, chasing the light, the horses’ hoof beats fading.

Finding Home in the music

There is nothing more beautiful than a soft southern accent like my
mother,father and ky people had and have!! They were born with a song
in their voices, and I wish I could of been so lucky----dad

Friday, October 24, 2008

I read "A Parchment of Leaves" next to the Eden House pool in Key West just after meeting Silas House at Key West Literary Seminar in January 2008. I finished "Coal Tattoo" and "Clay's Quilt" in front of our wood stove here in Homer, Alaska upon returning home.
Reading his novels is like listening to my family talk. They take me back to Sunday dinners and Pa and Grandma's house, we ate chicken & dumplings, corn on the cob, shucky beans, baking soda biscuits, red-eye gravy. Grandma gathered eggs in her apron, the sunflowers towered over my head, and she grew all her own vegetables in a huge garden. She and Pa milked the cows, she churned the butter, he slopped the hogs. We kids played in the barn, swinging off the hay loft using a thick rope that burned our hands.
Then the music started. Foot-stomping, fiddle playing, guitar strumming, a story about every song from my Grandma, one of my aunts on the piano, another with a guitar, my dad playing banjo...I could go on but I'll save it for my own writing. Silas House tells stories that remind me I was never really alone.
It was his writing that has inspired me to dig into my own Kentucky roots. My people on my father's side are from Grayson County and Daviess County in the bluegrass region of Kentucky. Exploring the map, I find the area where my Grandma and Pa were born; she in Elizabethtown, (raised in Leitchfield) and he in Annetta. I am dreaming of a trip to Kentucky to visit the parts my people come from and then take the same route north to Illinois they took after losing their farm during the Great Depression.
There is a place where I belong and that's in the rivers, the mountains and the music, the magic of my own people.