Monthly Archives: August 2016

The Anthropocene epoch: scientists declare dawn of human-influenced age

Credits to Robert A. Vella from “The Secular Jurist” blog. This is a thought-provoking article indeed. Makes one wonder how much longer can “mankind” as species continue to exist as if nothing it does matters, or makes any difference. If planet earth means anything, perhaps it’s time for all members of the species to take personal responsibility for its survival. After all, if the plant tanks… what are your alternative plans?

The Secular Jurist

Humanity’s impact on the Earth is now so profound that a new geological epoch – the Anthropocene – needs to be declared, according to an official expert group who presented the recommendation to the International Geological Congress in Cape Town on Monday.

The new epoch should begin about 1950, the experts said, and was likely to be defined by the radioactive elements dispersed across the planet by nuclear bomb tests, although an array of other signals, including plastic pollution, soot from power stations, concrete, and even the bones left by the global proliferation of the domestic chicken were now under consideration.

The current epoch, the Holocene, is the 12,000 years of stable climate since the last ice age during which all human civilisation developed. But the striking acceleration since the mid-20th century of carbon dioxide emissions and sea level rise, the global mass extinction of species, and the transformation of…

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What does it mean to die a Martyr?

[a dream by   ~burning woman~   ]

In the midst of all my writing activity… I fell asleep outside at my back yard computer “desk” while listening to Ana Vidovic playing “Recuerdos de la Alhambra” by Francisco Tarrega.  I had a dream, almost a lucid dream. 

In this timeless dream I stood  in an old Middle Eastern or Turkish city square – the ground surface was of beige stone, as were the houses and walls surrounding this square.  There were many people around but deathly silence.  I was a tall blonde woman wearing a long white cotton robe draped from the shoulders down to my ankles with the neck carefully and deliberately exposed.  I wore long blonde hair down to my waist and I had large, bright blue eyes.  What had I been before this ordeal?  A captured royal princess?  A slave?  

My wrists were tied with ropes at my back.  Two swarthy men stood at each side of me and in front was an execution scaffold with a depression for a human neck.  A very large bald headed man holding an over-sized scimitar stood by the bench, looking down, waiting.  All so well staged, I would have smiled had it been a play. 

I looked over the crowd and they were all staring at me.  The overall impression I was getting was, I was trying very hard to decide how my situation should make me feel.  Frightened?  Angry?  Desperate?  Hopeless?  Distant?  I wanted a feeling to hang on to but each feeling flitted across my mind and none would stick.  Should I again try to beg for my life, to argue my innocence?  But I already knew it had nothing to do with justice, or innocence, but with religion and politics; with machinations I could not begin to understand.  I wasn’t a human being, I was a tool, perhaps a weapon of state craft.  My death was necessary to make a point.  To whom?  I had no idea.  It occurred to me then that I did not understand the language being spoken, and no one had ever translated anything for me.  But could they understand me? 

I would not beg; I would not speak a word.  I could not speak. 

I realized then I was already dead, so prepared for this inevitability that I had gone past my physical body and was looking at myself from the other side of the ordeal.  I could already see my head on the ground and the blood gushing out of my severed neck, over the ground and what had been a pristine white dress and in my mind it was all over.  That’s death, I thought. 

What does it mean, then, to die like that?  I thought about it as I walked slowly to the place of execution, and as I knelt down to put my neck in the curved mold.  It means to be utterly alone; it means being just yourself for the first time since the day of birth.  It means a new birth, however frightening, however painful, however devastatingly stripped of everything that your life, your beauty, your dreams or everything else that ever meant anything to you or anyone.  This is it.  One life’s, however brief, final crossroads.  Did I see a friend, a lover, a possible “knight in shining armour” to save me in the crowd?  Honestly it would not have mattered, I no longer desired to be known, loved, or saved.  I no longer belonged here.  My feelings were dead. 

Donald Sutherland Explains the Real Meaning of Hunger Games and Why its Message Must be Understood

And now something about the movie, “The Hunger Games” and Donald Sutherland’s spoken comments in a 42 second video.

Tales from the Conspiratum

The young people who see this film must recognize that for the future ‘blind faith in their leaders,’ as Bruce Springsteen said, ‘will get you dead.

Source: Donald Sutherland Explains the Real Meaning of Hunger Games and Why its Message Must be Understood – Waking Times Media

“The young people who see this film must recognize that for the future ‘blind faith in their leaders,’ as Bruce Springsteen said, ‘will get you dead.’”

Hollywood actor, Donald Sutherland just dropped a bombshell on the military industrial complex. Sutherland, who playsPresident Coriolanus Snow in the blockbuster movie seriesHunger Games,was recently asked what the movie was really about – he held no punches in his answer.

“If there’s any question as to what it’s an allegory for I will tell you.

It is…

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My Golden Boy

(*** for Vidhika at “The Grateful Dead” blog***)
   [a Short Story – by Sha’Tara]

It had all happened so fast.  Maybe because everything spoke of perfection, a dovetailing of events that happen only in fairy tales.  It was my fairy tale.  That perfect Summer.
 
I probably better go back a bit and explain.  Our family, that is my mom, my dad and me, well, we were what is called dysfunctional.  My dad is an alcoholic and an abuser.  Even as I write this, and admit it to myself I cringe inside.  I can still see him come into my room those nights when mom worked the night shift at the hospital.  I can still smell his breath and feel his hands on me as he tugged at my nightgown while I tried to hold on to it, curling up and crying, begging him to leave me alone.  But every time I had to let him or get beaten.  If I got beaten I lied to mom about the bruises.  I was so sure all of this was my fault and if she found out she’d hate me or beat me up and maybe send me away to a foster home or something.
 
But then he beat her too and she fought back.  She’s a nurse and you could say she’s pretty tough.  She kicked him out of our lives finally, divorced him with an injunction against him not to contact us.  He tried it once.  He went to jail.  I don’t know where he is now and hope I never find out.  I’m still afraid of him; afraid he’ll show up one day, even though I’m now living on my own.
 
After the divorce things got better for mom and I.  I told her then what dad had done to me and we became, well, more like two women who share their pain in understanding rather than mother and daughter.  You will say, she should have known, but I think she didn’t want to face it then.  I was only fifteen then but my life had made me mature in some ways, though in others I trailed behind.  In school I did well and I had a dream to become a doctor. 
 
Mom had saved up some money and some vacation time and after I turned sixteen she decided to spend a whole month in a cabin at a popular lake near the mountains.  Kind of a birthday gift for you, she said.  We took only what we could pack and took the bus to Chanesville, then a smaller tour bus to the resort on lake Chitsaw.  Our cabin was back in the trees, a bit old and moldy smelling at first, but it was far enough we didn’t have to hear the jetskis and power boats that continually tore up the waterfront.
 
The beach was perfect.  Golden sand under a golden sun.  I tan easily and within a couple of days I felt pretty good walking around in one of my two bikinis.  I had a blue and a pink one and sometimes I mixed the colours.  Within a week I knew almost everybody and had a couple of girl friends from my school.
 
I saw him during the second week and I fell in love.  No, not just infatuated, but deeply and madly in love.  It was as if he had materialized from inside my dreams.  Tall, handsome, beautiful of face with shoulder-length blond hair.  I wasn’t the only one who noticed him, of course, and soon he was the talk of our circle.  We dared each other to go over and talk to him.  Sometimes he walked alone along the shore and it seemed to me that the sand became even more golden after he touched it. 
 
I decided I’d risk it and waited until he took one of his walks by himself and walked to the water in an intersecting path.  When he was within a couple of yards from me I bent over pretending to be inspecting something in the sand.  He came over and asked what I was looking at.  I lied and said I thought I’d seen a green bug burrowing in.  He laughed.  Introduced himself: Dean.  I did likewise: Shauna.  We walked together.  I, lost in a lucid dream.  He, probably looking me over as men do.  It often made me uncomfortable but with him, well, I would have danced naked for him if he’d asked me!
 
D’you have someone?  No I said.  Neither do I.  There’s a party at our cabin tomorrow evening.  I’ll come by your place and escort you, if you want to come.  Sure I said.  It’s number forty-three, up there in the trees.  Yeah, I know, he said.  I’ve watched you before and I followed you yesterday. 
 
Well, with that my feelings went off the chart.  The rest is just too predictable, right out of a bad novel.  He came to our cabin and I introduced him to mom.  She didn’t take to him the way I’d expected.  She took me into her room and closed the door.  You watch yourself, Shauna, she said.  This boy makes me uncomfortable.  Maybe it’s just me, being your mom and seeing you go out on a date like that.  Promise you’ll be home by midnight and that you won’t walk back alone?
 
Yes mom, yes.  Promises are easy to make when your mind, your heart, your whole being is somewhere else.  Walking with Dean was like floating in the air.  Everything was wonderful, beautiful.  The stars were brighter than usual.  The air was cleaner, sweeter.  The party was great.  When most of the people had wandered off, the kids to “midnight swims” and the adults back to their own places, I found myself practically alone with Dean.  Come upstairs, I’ll show you my room, he said.  I felt a twinge of something – a warning?  Mom’s words tried to make me stop.  But I couldn’t.  He was my golden lover. 
 
Yeah, we made love.  Wildly, passionately.  He had experience.  He drove me crazy.  I lost myself in him and finally fell asleep in his arms.  He woke me up just before midnight, reminding me of my promise to my mother to be home by then.  We got dressed and he walked me home.  I was still in that mood you get when you walk out of a movie theatre when the romance has triumphed.  Dizzy with love.
 
I spent most of the rest of that vacation with Dean.  Inseparable, we were.  Afterwards, we talked every night on the phone.  It was long distance but mostly he made the calls so it didn’t cost me much.  Then I missed my period.  I knew I was pregnant.  I couldn’t tell mom and didn’t know what to do.  So stupid.  I just forgot the damned pills.  Just figured it couldn’t happen until Dean and I were married, or living together, you know?  I told Dean.  Dead silence on the other end of the phone.  Dean?  Yeah, well, you going to get an abortion, aren’t you?  They’re not legal here and I can’t tell mom.  What do we do?  I asked stupidly.  I don’t think it’s a question of what we do, babe.  It’s not really my problem, is it.  You have to get an abortion.
 
I must have passed out.  When I came to, the phone was talking to me.  I hung up and tried to wake up from a nightmare.  But it was like before with dad.  It was no nightmare.  Real.  This was real.  Dean dumped me.  Then mom noticed and after much crying, I told her.  She was real mad at first, said I should have told her and she could have made the arrangement.  Stupid, you’re so stupid.  Now it’s too late.  What are your plans?  She asked.  My plans?  I don’t have any plans!  Dean and I were going to move in together eventually, get married.  Now I’m alone again, just like when you worked the night shift and dad molested me.  What can I do mom? 
 
You have to give my mom credit.  She didn’t stay mad, or in blame, or denial.  She asked me, what has life taught you so far when you have a problem?  And I told her, I have to find my own solution to it.  It’s my problem and I must deal with it.  And I want my baby I said suddenly with a new kind of passion I’d never had before. 
 
I continued in school until it got too embarrassing.  Took correspondence courses put together for girls in my situation.  Mom supported me.  She attended when I had my baby.  At first, well, he was just a typical shriveled up little thing with a loud mouth.  But as he grew I saw the spitting image of Dean in him.  He is my golden boy and I love him.  He’s the legacy of my lost pleasure and happiness as a stupid young girl and he’s my joy now, my life. 
 
I’m nineteen now, soon I’ll be twenty and Shane is three.  I moved away from home last year, just to be alone with my son.  It feels right to do this by myself and for him to know who his real mother is.  Mom was spending too much time with him thinking I needed time to myself.  I don’t need that much.  I like my work – I work in a hair dressing shop where they train you.  I like working with people and pleasing them with the right words, the right touch and of course, the right hairstyle.  We live in a basement bachelor suite in a run-down old quadplex but it’s a good place.  The owners live upstairs; an old Jewish couple who adore Shane.  They baby-sit for me, most of the time for nothing.  What can I say more?  My life and my world are good.
 
The other day as I was getting on the bus I noticed a stretch limo stopping on the other side of the street by a Starbucks.  I smiled – I always do at those ostentatious ugly vehicles that have only one message for the rest of us: Hey look at me, I’m rich.  Dumb.  Then I saw a man step out as the chauffeur opened the door.  Tall, handsome, blond.  It was Dean.  I know it was.  My heart was pounding in my chest and I had to grab the back of the seat to keep my balance.  I looked again but he was gone and the bus pulled out.  It’s then I realized how good my life really is.  It’s mine.  Dean could have been a part of the wonder we created in our foolishness.  But he chose not to and left the entire fortune in my hands and my heart.
 
When Shane is old enough I’ll let him go and give him his life too.  We make our own way in life; we don’t depend on others or belong to others.  Then life is truly good. 

Do Sound Waves Speak?

[poem by   ~burning woman~   ]

Sharp footsteps clack evenly
Down the old faded-gold hallway
With blistered hardwood floor.
Rain beats the window pane,
As wind blusters, impersonal, cold.

The front door like a thunder clap
At two thirty five in the morning
Slams so hard it fails to latch
Creeps back slowly on dried hinges
That creak like skeletal bones
Rattled from a dusty sleep.

Now you know, now it tells you
Even the ghost of her is gone.
All you can feel, all you can hear
Is the slap you gave her in the night
When she asked why you lied.

(“Now I predict the future / merely by listening to echoes. A slamming door / can tell you everything you need to know. It’s not a trick / only a simple matter of wisdom, an obsessive attention / to dreams.” — Mary Jo Bang)

The Party – a short story

a short story   by Sha’Tara

Call it a day in the life, hey?  OK, a couple of days, whatever.  I drove 300 miles for this. Cancelled plans.  Re-scheduled jobs.    You be the judge whether I was a complete fool, or whether lady luck and Jove were vying to entrap me, set me up, or bless me with something I’d spent over half a life avoiding. 

Approaching, and just as I expected, there’s Lady Ruthledge in full evening regalia leaning casually against the front entrance door frame of her sprawling mansion.  I slow down to negotiate the rather tight curve in the old drive and pull up in front of what was once the garage and chauffeur’s living quarters. Strange to see only two other cars in the vicinity.  Am I that much too early?  As Lady R is certain to remind me, “How gauche, my boy.”

“Well my boy, congratulations.  You’re late by one whole day.”

“Well, good evening to you too, Diane.  Impossible, I’m early actually my dear.  It’s 18:33.  Dinner, said the invitation, is at 21:00, promptly.”

“Ah, the invitation.  Dinner, my dear boy, was last night.  You haven’t changed, have you.”

“Changed?  Am I supposed to have changed?” 

Sardonic smile times two.  Diane and I go back a few years.  No, a few years more than that, thank you.

“What day was the dinner party last year, Sims my boy?”

“Saturday.  Saturday evening.”

“As it was the year before?  And before that, yes?  You can remember that much, can’t you?”

“Yes, yes, of course I can remember.  It was always Saturday.  How well I remember.  Those girls you imported from Paraguay or Taiwan or Bosnia, wherever.  Damn, I sure do remember.”

“Fine, stop remembering so well for a moment and tell me what day this is?”

“Day?  Of the week?  Sunday.”

“Exactly.”

“But the date said, July 6th.”

“Exactly.”

“What do you mean, exactly?  You sent me a date, I came on that date.” 

“You came on a number on a piece of paper?  Weren’t you coming to a party, and aren’t my parties the greatest parties in the county, always?”

“Sure they are.  Oh, sure.  Yes!  Dammit, yes.  Mind, heart and body twisting best.”

“Who in their right mind has parties on a Sunday evening?”

“Ah!”

“Exactly. Well, do come in.  There are leftovers, and I’m sure Letta will rustle up something for you.  Hungry?”

“After driving over 300 miles like a bat out of hell, non-stop?  I’d say so.” 

“Then say so.  I’m afraid all my guests have left, hangovers and new-found loves thankfully gone with them. But who knows, there may be one or two still lingering about in the upstairs rooms or hanging in some closet.  I don’t keep the maids on weekends anymore, what would be the point?”

“The point?  I don’t know.  Sure, what would be the point?”

We enter the dining room to sit at a table that would have made the Knights of the Round Table and King Arthur blush with envy.  Two servings waiting under cover.

“Well, there you are.  Sit.  And dig in, as the plebes say.  I’ll keep you company while you eat.  As I was saying, there may still be a couple of guests about, and perhaps you can help me dig them out.  If they’re back to standing shape, maybe a bit of dancing and singing later?  Some drinking and love making?”

“Ever the master manipulator and tease, Diane.” 

“Exactly.  My specialty. Is the wine to your taste?”

Between mouthfuls.  “The wine?  Excellent.  Of course.”

“Yes of course.” 

So it went, all through dinner.  Just the two of us, Letta having left the room to attend to her kitchen duties.  Just Diane Ruthledge and I.  Talking.  Just small talk.  She sat opposite me, watching me eat, smiling when I let show how much I was enjoying the wine.  Ah, the wine.  I should have remembered the wine.  Well, I did, but I did not want to.  You know what I mean.

“More wine, dear?”

“Dear?  What happened to ‘my boy’ and ‘my boy Shims’?”

Am I slurring words?  Dimples betray a repressed smile.

“How were the veal cutlets?  Still palatable, I hope?”

“Excellent, excellent.  Never tasted any better.” 

I felt very thirsty, so I drank more of her marvelous wine.  Local, she said to me once.  I only serve local wine.  That, I will not import.  I drank local wine, more local wine, and each time I wanted more.  She served more but now I could not tell whence it came.  It just seemed to appear, one bottle, another… then she was sitting next to me. Smiling.  I had the presence of mind to realize I was totally, astonishingly, famously, utterly and irretrievably drunk.  Drunker than Bacchus at his inaugural bacchanal.  On wine of all things.  Past the point of feeling shameful I tried to get up, staggered, sat down, and watched the room begin to rotate, and if I moved my head, it would wobble.  It was the earth spinning in space.  And it wobbled – another scientific theory proved beyond any doubt.  By a computer programmer.  I heard something. 

“Huh?”

“Sims, listen to me.”

A voice talking to me from space; from another planet.  A voice I once knew but cannot place.

“Lisssssssssten toooooo meeeeeeeee!”

Slowing down, down.  Lights going out, candles snuffed, lamps dimmed, extinguished.  Sound of waves washing over shale.  

“Shhhhhhhhh…  Shhhhhhhhh…”

I wake up frightfully late the next morning.  Unfamiliar surroundings, large four poster bed.  Blankets, spreads and sheets twisted as a sea surface caught in a Caribbean typhoon.  Perhaps I’m exaggerating, but don’t blame me for that: you expect it, don’t lie.  And you want more.  You want to know, you know – “What Happened, and What Happens Next” – so predictable.

Slowly I turn my head.  There is the definite indentation of a body having laid beside me.  Who? Couldn’t remember.  There’s a breakfast on the side table.  One look and I’m off to the bathroom.  Thank God for toilet bowls.  After that hellish purge I remember the wine.  Red.  Red everywhere.  Red lips locking onto mine, eternally demanding satisfaction.  Whose lips?  Hips?  And all those other parts coming together in the definite form of a potential woman?  I stagger out of the bathroom to encounter a woman struggling to undo the effects of the typhoon over the bed.

“Er, hmmm…” I hear myself say and suddenly I feel, not pleasantly or lasciviously nude, but vulnerably naked.

“Oh, sorry Mr. Dearborn.  I thought you’d left.  May I help you dress?”

I realize it wasn’t a question after all.  And now she is being very thorough.

“You’ve done this before I gather.”

“Will you turn around please?  I have to tuck your shirt in.”

“Ok, fine.  Have me your way.  This is Monday, yes?”

“No sir, this is Tuesday.” 

“What?”

“Tuesday sir.  This is the day.  The auction is this afternoon.” 

“Auction?”

“I believe Mrs. Ruthledge is waiting for you downstairs.” 

“Thank you, uh…”

“Jane.”

“…Jane.”

At the foot of the stairs:

“Sims dear boy, are you going to grace us with your indulgent presence finally?”

“Come on Diane; I’ve got a splitting headache.  The sun’s too bright.”

“That’s the dining room light dear.  High clouds today, no sun.  But no rain either, I wouldn’t stand for it, not today.  Do you need some refreshments?  A light lunch?”

Again those dimples, the repressed smile.

“Please don’t mention food.  Not now, not today, maybe not ever.  What’s that about an auction?  The maid said something about an auction.”

“Selling the place, dear boy.”

Ah, that I caught.  A difference in her tone.  And an unfamiliar shrug, just a touch of apparent defeat in slightly sloping shoulders.  I hear vehicles approaching.  Diane has a tear, one tiny pearly tear, hanging at the edge of each eye.

“What is this all about Diane?”

“That’s it Sims.  I’m done for.  Broke.  If I’m really lucky today, I’ll break even.  Gone.  Gone with the wind.  Romantic, isn’t it.”

“Why didn’t you tell me sooner?  Maybe I could have done something.”

“Make me look like an incompetent, having someone else manage my affairs, Sims?  No, I had to take it to the end, take the plunge all at once.  This is an all or nothing world.  You can’t just go down gradually.  So I threw one last party.  The staff stayed on to help knowing that it was unlikely there’d be any extra money from the auction to pay their salary.  I don’t even know how to say ‘thank you’ to them.  I really don’t.”

And suddenly I saw her.  I saw, not Lady Ruthledge, but Diane.  A pretty, vulnerable petite brunette with waist-length hair brushed straight down.  In a plain, knee-length blue dress and slippers.  Tears running down her face.  And suddenly, just as suddenly, I realized that I loved her.  That I had always loved her.  Not the Princess and Queen of Ruthledge House, but this woman, this… Diane.  I walked up to her and took her in my arms just as her dam of pent-up sadness, of helpless fear, of sorrow and shame to be the one to witness her family’s downfall, broke, shattered. 

I let her cry on my chest as an army of professionals, buyers and onlookers filled the yards and took over the house.  I held her as each member of her staff came over and kissed her goodbye, wiping their own tears.  I held her as I guided her through the grass to my car, opened the door for her and placed her in, fastening her seat belt. 

We’ve been together five years now, married for two of those.  I think she’s getting used to the idea, but who really knows with a Ruthledge?  She’s certainly good to me and I think she loves me, as much as her state of mind will permit.  There’s a piece of her heart missing, a hole that I know I can never fill.  Too much of me is the rescuer—a bad spot to be in, and too much is too completely unlike her.  And I must admit, being of that part of the world, I haven’t given up on other women: they’re still there, as available as ever.  Don’t you love her? You’ll ask, and why don’t you respect her?  And I’ll tell you I do love her, of that there is no doubt.  And I do respect her.  The reason is, she lets me have my way and doesn’t express resentment.  And I let her have her way. 

Any other way and we would be at each other’s throats and we’ve both seen enough hell for one lifetime: that we have in common, if nothing else.

 

Like a Single Candle Burning

[a poem by   ~burning woman~   ]

I got a snail mail letter from him
From some distant place I’d never heard of
Up in northern Canada, it said
Up by the Arctic circle or beyond.

In it he wrote in his simple style,
I miss you so much, so much
And what am I, lost in this endless land
Of snow and ice and very strange lights?

It’s so cold, so cold, way up here
And the aurora borealis is like a distant battle
Flashing ominously in tortured skies
And under my feet the pink snow crackles.

How cold is it?  Can I even explain?
It’s like standing all night in the frozen snow
Watching a single candle burn slowly
In a window across a street I cannot cross.

Near morning the candle guttered out,
The window went strangely dull black
And I knew then without any doubt
That what we’d called our love had died.

Do I write back to tell him I’m happy
With my new man and new baby?
Do I confirm the truth of his vision
And break his heart a second time?