Rainy Day Writing

Writing, Reading, Inspirations and Aspirations

Goosebumps — vanbytheriver

If you react to certain kinds of music with goosebumps, you have a unique brain. You may have a wider, richer range of emotions. Those who get chills from music have structural differences in the brain, namely “a higher volume of fibers that connect their auditory cortex to the areas associated with emotional processing, which […]

Loved this post so much had to share it via Goosebumps — vanbytheriver

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Fighting Fascism: We Need War Veterans Voices

I read a Wall Street Journal article today about  Fascist and radical nationalists marching in Polands’ Independence Day Celebrations yesterday. Tens of thousands attended the march.

On the same day here in America, we celebrated Veterans Day. In ceremonies, words and pictures, and silent thoughts and prayers, we considered the sacrifices of our Veterans.

I wonder how many veterans of the second world war are still alive in the world? I wonder what they think of the youth marching in Poland? Or of the marches our own home grown Nazi sympathizing youth have made recently, proudly wearing their swastika arm bands and reciting anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim epithets.

According to the National World War II Museum, 416,800 American Military lost their lives fighting Fascism during the war. Poland lost Five and a half MILLION people, 240,000 of them soldiers. Three million Polish Jews were exterminated. Nearly two million non-Jewish Polish civilians were also killed by the German Reich. The Nazi goal during WWII was to exterminate the Polish people and cleanse the country of it’s Polish culture. They very nearly succeeded.¹ Our fathers and grandfathers fought and died in the European theater, on foreign soil, to see that Hitler did NOT succeed.

And now we have young Polish citizens hungry to cleanse Poland of Jews and Muslims, homosexuals, and, it doesn’t take much imagination to conclude, any other group they find objectionable.  They seem to confuse their bigotry with patriotism, much as our own young nationalists do. Ironically, their slogan in Poland, borrowed from a speech US President Donald Trump made there in July is “We Want God”.

A young Polish man, part of the counter-protest Saturday, is quoted as saying “It’s getting more vicious…We are Polish Jews…We are really in fear.” The Polish Police were standing by to protect them.

I’ve been sickened by the wave of white nationalist and pro-Nazi sympathy that has washed over my own country recently.  You can read about my thoughts on that here.

But I would have hoped that in a country so completely devastated by Hitler and the Nazis, a country that still bears the scars of it’s seven WWII era concentration camps² and cemeteries full of the WWII dead, a country whose soil still clings to the DNA of it’s war dead, that the youth would be more enlightened to the dangers of  Fascism. And yet, they are embracing it. In large numbers. And, they believe, in the name of God.

My father was a veteran of WWII. And my father-in-law. And several of my uncles. And male friends of the family. Sadly, they are all gone now. They cannot give voice to the atrocities of that war and when they were here, they rarely spoke of it. It was not in vogue to talk of such things. They were rarely called upon to bear witness. And that is to our loss. History is never so compelling as when it is shared by those who lived it.

The sacrifices of our parents and grand parents are being taken for granted by our youth. We need strong and reproachful voices from people who know war, who can speak against the proliferation of hateful ideology and who understand the grief quotient of  war.

We especially need War Veterans Voices.

But we also need your voice. Speak up against the things your father or grandfather or great grandfather fought against. It’s not a Right or Left thing. It’s the right thing.

Too many of our young men are slipping into sentimentality for things they really know nothing of. They believe in militancy and heavy fire power and have no appetite for community, civil discourse or diversity. They believe in race as a defining character and in the superiority of one race over another. They want to divide our country and they have found an ally in their President who, wittingly or unwittingly, drives us further and further from the unity that is the namesake of our country.

I’m worried about the direction things are headed–not just here but globally. So many young men seem to believe that ethnic cleansing is the cure all for all socio-economic woes. And they believe that their ideology is pure and Godly, which is dangerous.

I’d like to think that they don’t really know what Fascism is or what it has wrought in the past, but I’m afraid that their ignorance is willful and that their understanding is more complete than I give them credit for and that I’m just being naive.

I’m interested to know what you think. Let me know in the comments.

©2017 Ilona Elliott

Me and Cosmo

The Author (on the right)

 

¹https://www.nationalww2museum.org/students-teachers/student-resources/research-starters/research-starters-worldwide-deaths-world-war

²https://go.fold3.com/holocaust_camps/

Gratitude, Greeting Cards and the Biography of Our Lives

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Photo: Ilona Elliott

Two weeks after my father passed away I opened his closet to start sorting through his clothes. The shelf above the closet rod where his clothes hung was crowded with numerous heavy, bulging plastic bags. I pulled one down and looked inside. It was packed full of greeting cards. I pulled another one down. Same thing. I removed all the bags and spread them out on the hide-a-bed and floor of the den of my parents house, and began looking through them.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that although the bags were in Dad’s closets, they were put there by my Mother. It seemed like she had saved every card they had ever received throughout the course of their fifty years together.

Since my fathers death I had been steeped in nostalgia and living in a memory box of my family’s life, so it was perfectly natural that I sat there and read card after card after card.

There were pretty birthday cards and frilly valentines from Dad to Mom, some silly and some very romantic–the sweetest ones dating back to the early years of their marriage. They often included a memorable inscription. When it counted, Dad had a nice way with words.

There were hoards of get-well cards for Dad, with personal notes from close friends and relatives. Reading them reminded me of the long, up and down road he had traveled battling disease. There were get-well wishes for Mom too, dating back to 1977 when she had her stroke. I read the one from her best friend, Hattie Pillo, with tears in my eyes.

There were sympathy cards for Mom: “On the Loss of Your Sister”; and for Dad: “On the Loss of Your Brother”.  Some had mass cards tucked inside them with images of Jesus, Mary or one of the saints, and were inscribed with Catholic prayers for the dearly departed: Jean, Helen, Joseph, Pauline, Mary, George.

There were multitudes of cards from my five siblings and I to Mom and Dad. They varied from gaudy to simple, from humorous to seriously sentimental. The progression of our lives became evident in the way the cards were signed over time–from wonky one word scrawls to scripted signatures. The tone and timbre of the inscriptions changed over time as well, from child talk to adolescent reticence to meaningful and coherently adult expressions of love, gratitude and appreciation.

As I read, I traveled back and forth through the years and relived the lives of my father, who was gone, and my mother, who was in the other room. Some of the card’s senders were gone too, but their written words brought them back to me and reminded me of how closely their lives had been intertwined with ours. It was bittersweet, and at times difficult, but I was compelled to continue reading through the pile to the conclusion. I was reading a deeply personal and moving story. The story of a man and his wife and their six children. It was a memoir, a biography, an illustrated work of historical non-fiction. It was instructive and at times auto-biographical.

Initially, I was a little shocked at the sheer numbers of cards my Mother had saved. There were hundreds of cards. Bags and bags of them. But as I sat and read through them, I realized that they were so much more than bags of old greeting cards. They were the stories of our lives and the history of our family. Contained within them were death and life, birth and tragedy, sickness and health, happy occasions and sad.  They were the documentation of one family’s good times and bad. They were the edifice of my mother’s infrangible connection to her loved ones and to the life we all lived.

I sat there reading for a long time beside a box of tissues, and when I was done, I packed the cards back into their bags and put them on the shelf again. I closed the closet door and went to see what Mom was up to.

The day would come, after she was gone, when I would sit in my dining room and read through them once more, culling the most important ones from the stacks and stacks and stacks of them and discarding the rest. Sorting through the stories of our lives one more time and saving the choicest, most meaningful moments for myself, I managed to reduce the pile down into just three bags. Then I put those three bags into a bin, on a shelf, along with my own growing collection of postcards, cards and letters, spanning numerous years,  from so many loved ones, some gone now, but none forgotten, and I closed the door of my closet, until another day.cherished-badge17

Check out the Cherished Blogfest for more bloggers treasure!

 

 

 

©2017 by Ilona Elliott

Me and Cosmo

The Author (on the right)

 

 

 

 

Anthony Bourdain on Paying Taxes reblogged from Live and Learn

Nobody likes paying high taxes, but I don’t mind. Maybe that’s a luxury, but I don’t need to hire some hotshot to spend 12 hours a day figuring out how to chisel the government out of an extra few thousand dollars. If getting that extra money means a lot of phone calls and talking to […]

via I’m an American. I don’t want to be that guy. — Live & Learn

In the Event of Nuclear War, I’ll Be at the Beach

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Photo: Ilona Elliott

I don’t know why it’s so hard to write witty little blog posts anymore. I mean geez, it’s not like any of those North Korean missiles Kim Jong Un is hurling at the Pacific can actually reach the west coast…yet.

Of course I haven’t lost my sense of humor completely. My husband and I have even taken to joking about it when ever we hear unusual sounding aircraft noises overhead. Our new favorite buzz word?–FAIL SAFE!

For a while I was thinking positive thoughts about it, as in, “I live near enough to the joint Army/Air Force base to be near ground zero, it won’t be any worse than the final few seconds of the movie.   Until I checked with Wikipedia. Imagine my dismay when I learned that “death is (only) highly likely if caught in open terrain within a 0-3 km radius of a one mega-ton air burst, and the 50% chance of death from the blast extends out to ~8 km from the same 1 megaton atmospheric explosion.” Well damn, I’m at least 40 miles as the crow flies. How depressing.

And it really complicates things. Instead of sudden and certain death, which doesn’t worry me, I  now have to worry about things like radiation burns, radioactive fall out, crop and water supply contamination,  conflagration, and being witness to acute human suffering and environmental degradation. The good news is that the neighbors have three years of canned food stashed away so we can always barter some of my silver jewelry for canned peas and corn. Piece of cake! Unfortunately I think the ice cream will probably be melted, but you can’t have everything.

So I’ve come to the conclusion that the absolute best place to be in the event of a nuclear attack is camping at our favorite beach! It’s where we spent election day last November, after mailing in our ballots early of course. Everything was awesome. No television, no newspapers, no social media. We avoided any social contact with other campers beyond a wave of the hand and a smile, (we’re really good at that stuff). We ate goat cheese brownies from the hippy store. We walked on the beach everyday until our legs ached, and then we sat on the beach and watched the sun drop behind the stretched out ridge of the Olympic Mountain range. It was me and the old man and the dog, along with a handful of curious harbor seals, and a couple of bald eagles.

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Ilona Elliott

We had two of days of pure bliss. Then, at 6 am the morning after the election, I received a text message from the east coast: The end of days are upon us, (which in hind sight, might have really been a prophetic utterance).

I didn’t know at the time if Donald Trump had been elected as President, or if Hillary had and armed militias were storming the White House. Either way, the bliss was over. It’s never really returned.

In some ways DT has turned out to be even worse than I imagined. I hoped he might actually pull together a team that could run the White House and interact with the Legislative Branch on an adult level, but no, that hasn’t happened yet. And as bad as I knew he might be,  I never expected him to play verbal chicken with the imbalanced maniacal supreme leader of North Korea the way he has. I guess a lot of people thought he might actually stop tweeting stupid things and saying stupid things and doing  stupid things when he got into the office, the way a lot of women think that their stupid boyfriends will start acting better once they become stupid husbands, but of course, they don’t. That’s just plain stupid thinking.

I pray that this raging rutabaga doesn’t push the wrong buttons with the supreme asshole in North Korea. If he does, and bombs fly, his faithful will more than likely find a way to blame it on Hillary or Obama, because that is how they roll, but some of us know better.

As for me, if I have anything to say about it, I’ll be at the beach. The one sandwiched between the Naval Air Station and the Naval Ordinance Magazine, hoping to be at ground zero, because the final episode of that reality show is one I’d rather not be around to watch.

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Photo: Ilona Elliott

*For more interesting facts see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Effects_of_nuclear_explosions

©2017 by Ilona Elliott

Me and Cosmo

The Author (on the right)

 

 

 

Americans are Better Than This: The Struggle for Political Civility

It wasn’t that many decades ago that athletes living behind the iron curtain would risk their lives to defect to the U.S. in order to find the freedom of expression that is the right of every American.  And now the movement in this country seems to be moving towards stifling the voices of our own athletes legitimate protests. How did we get here?

Continue reading

A Tequila Sunrise And The Burning of Multnomah Falls

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Image: Ilona Elliott

The sun resembled a slice of molten pink grapefruit this morning, partially obscured by the green lace of fir and cedar branches on the eastern edge of the yard. It made for an interesting composition framed by the wide expanse of clerestory windows over the bed. Sunrise in Western Washington isn’t usually such a spectacle. Sunsets are generally the thing here. A lot of things haven’t been “usual” in these parts lately.

And there was a thin bank of white clouds higher up in the murky sky, with a ribbon edge of bright magenta, which gave them the appearance of thunder heads against the pale backdrop of milky sky.

And last night the moon rose red-orange with gray features in relief, another spectacle.

And I remember waking up numerous times to the smell of smoke.

And as the day wore on in between, the light remained yellow and refracted, and splashed itself through the bedroom window and across the floor in unexpected golden rectangles.

And in spite of all the haze and the ash in the air distorting the sun’s light, the heat rose quickly and peaked above ninety degrees for what felt like the hundredth day and humidity made even the weakest physical efforts produce sticky sweat and unreasonable fatigue.

And there was a coating of white ash on the car and on the black landscape fabric in the unfinished back yard.

And the vegetables at the farmer’s market were wilting.

And the sunset tonight as I walked through the thick unhealthy air was odd– the sky still hazy pale gray, the sun cranberry red, but flat and dull, with no iridescence, making it look like a paper collage of a sunset sky and not the real thing.

And The Columbia River Gorge is on fire.

And the Multnomah Falls Lodge is threatened.

And people in the area are being evacuated from their homes, given fifteen minutes to get out of harms way.

And this is just one fire of seventy five burning in the western United States.

And the entire summer has been mysterious and surly and unforgiving, and sometimes it feels like the Gods have replaced our blue planet with a set from the twilight zone, or like we’ve been living in a model experiment for the green house gas effect.

And these are the observations of  just one person.

And this is not a test.

©2017 by Ilona Elliott

Me and Cosmo

The Author (on the right)

 

 

Things I Don’t Know But Think I Might

The longer I live the more I realize how much I don’t know.  For people like me who are always trying to understand things, not knowing that I know something but thinking that I might is frustrating.

I like knowing stuff. Which is hard, because I forget so much. That’s where it get’s dangerous, because I don’t know that I know something, so I start thinking that I might know it, but do I really know it?

If I knew it and forgot it did I ever really know it? Ya know what I mean?

Here are some random things I don’t know, but I think I might know, or  might have known, which still seems to put them firmly in the unknown category, but that never stopped Donald Trump from telling us what he knows, and he got to be the POTUS so I’m not gonna let it stop me either:

*I don’t know if horses have shoe sizes. But I think I might know that they do.

I know they wear shoes, at least the well dressed ones do. And they must have different sized feet. So they must have shoe sizes.

But I don’t know if they have different size shoes. As a matter of fact, I don’t know much about them at all, because I no longer ride them. Horses did not respect me.

I think they knew that they made me nervous–those big chesty animals, with such big teeth, (and feet). I’m assuming they didn’t trust me because of my nervousness. Maybe I talked too much for them. Maybe I sweated and they could smell it. Maybe I was lousy in the saddle. When I was around horses I kind of acted like a Woody Allen character around a big chesty woman.

I’m guessing, because of course I don’t know, that draft horses–Shires and Clydesdales and such, wear large shoes, and petite horses, like Icelandics and slender Arabians, wear small shoes.

Perhaps I should google it and then I will know, because the internet knows all, sees all and tells all. And it’s 100% accurate. Then again I probably won’t because I really don’t care, I’m just trying to come up with some nonsense for a blog post, the way the White House is always coming up with some nonsense for a press briefing.

Speaking of big-footed critters:

*I don’t know if Big Foot exists. But I think I might know that he doesn’t.

I consider myself a bit of an expert on this because I live in Big Foot country. According to local legend, Sasquatch lives here and has even been known to bed up with lonely loggers’ wives from time to time and produce illegitimate Baby Big Foots. We know this to be true because of course you can believe what you read while standing in line at the IGA check out counter.

The town I reside in was even considering opening a Big Foot museum at one time. Like a lot of depressed towns, we need a hook to convince travelers to exit the Interstate and drive the three miles to our down town area. Never mind that once they get here dining options are sparse, and their only lodging option is the creepy haunted hostel right next to the noisy railroad crossing. But hey, while staying at this fine establishment,  you can actually sit on the couch where the owner’s grandmother died. Really. You can’t make this shit up.

I think I know, though, that Big Foot does not exist. All the time I’ve spent in the woods I have never seen one. And I have spent far too many nights sleeping in a flimsy tent in the big Northwest woods and never been approached by that hairy he-man once. (Could it be my breath?)

I don’t know for sure but I suspect (or think I know but I’m trying not to be redundant) that Big Foot is a figment of mushroom eating Northwest hippy hikers and Mad Dog 20/20 alcoholic logger hallucinations.

I could be wrong. If I am, I’ll let you know. Or better yet, I’ll let the Star know, and you can read about me as you wait in line someday at Walmart.

*I don’t know what I did with my glasses, most of the time when they are not on my face, and sometimes, even when they are. But sometimes I think I know where they are.

I think I know that I put them by the bathroom sink when I washed my face. Until I walk back into the bathroom and know that I did not.

I think I know that I put them on the bedside table when I got in bed, until it’s dark and I’m feeling around for them so I can see when I go into the bathroom. When I’m done feeling around, and have wiped up the toppled water glass, I know that I did not. I just thought I knew I did.

I think I know that I put them on the computer desk when I closed the laptop last, until I walk over to it, (in the dark so I don’t wake up the old man), on my way to the bathroom. Then I realize that I’ll never know that I put them there without feeling around again and knocking shit over and swearing and waking him up, swearing, so I never really know until morning whether I knew that I put them there or I just thought that I knew that I put them there.

Are you having a hard time following this? Yeah, me too.

The problem is I never know where I put them (my glasses, try to keep up), until I find them. Then I know that, Oh! I put them on the kitchen island. Thank God I know where I put them. I might have chopped off a finger.

Right now I think I know that my glasses are on my face because:

I know that I can read this screen.

I know that I can see the keyboard.

I know that those two things are impossible without my glasses.

Sometimes I think I might be going blind, but I don’t know for sure because sometimes, like now, I can see almost perfectly, and other times, I see only blurs. It all depends on where I put those damn glasses. I have to go now so I can stop typing and feel for my glasses on my face. I’m pretty sure they are there, but hey, I never really know. I just think I might know.

©2017 by Ilona Elliott

Me and Cosmo

The Author (on the right)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Re-blog courtesy of William Pearse of Pink Light Sabre

In the morning the street lamps are still on past 6 with their long, dinosaur necks and pink/peach, lit-up heads. I set my alarm for 3 AM but got up before it went off, sailed past Tacoma and Olympia around 4, and it never was so easy on the 5. Got to the ranger station […]

via Song for mid-summer fires — William Pearse | pinklightsabre

On Being a Snowflake

A while back, someone on a conservative friends FB page made a comment about Left Coast snowflakes that made me realize, I qualify as a snowflake.

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Awesome!

Snowflakes are COOL!

Snowflakes are beautiful.

Snowflakes are unique.

Snowflakes are complex structures.

Snowflakes are symmetrical and asymmetrical formations, so no, they are not all the same.

Snowflakes final forms are determined by the paths they take and the atmosphere they move through as they travel from the clouds.

Snowflakes are the raw material of snow balls, which carry a powerful sting, like a slap in the face, when necessary.

But of course, snowflakes are primarily associated with happy things, like Christmas, snow men, sledding, skiing and ice skating, to name a few.

Snowflakes are the stuff that dreams are made of.

Snowflakes make lots of people happy.

The appearance of snowflakes often signify a happy outcome in books, films and songs.

 

******

However:

Snowflakes in large accumulations are known as snow storms.

Snow storms muffle loud noise,  slow down fast moving objects, and encourage people to stop and contemplate things.

Snow storms kick ass. They can stop eighteen wheel trucks dead in their tracks. They can shut down an interstate. Or entire cities. Even whole states.  No one wants to get caught out in a snow storm unprepared.

Throw a little wind into the mix and you have a blizzard. Blizzards are a bitch. Some are deadly.

 

So while one snowflake on it’s own may not have a lot going for it, a mass of snowflakes of singular mind, are a formidable and powerful force to reckon with.

I wouldn’t mess with a committed, cohesive band of snowflakes. You could get iced.

©2017 by Ilona Elliott

Me and Cosmo

The Author (on the right)

For more on snowflakes, visit Snowflake Science on the web.

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