Today, I learned enough about widgets to add a couple. Fortunately, over the weekend I also changed my template so I have a sidebar in which to house said widgets. Slowly, but surely…



An amazing video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IyDdVJ81Ixs is making the rounds. It shows a woman who was deaf and is hearing for the first time. What isn’t being as widely reported is that the woman chose to have cochlear implant surgery now because she is rapidly losing her eyesight, upon which she relied to read lips. Her brain, never having had to deal with sound before, will take time to learn how to interpret speech, but, as her eyesight continues to dim, she will still be able to communicate as her ability to understand spoken sounds improves. In the end, it’s not the method of taking in information and expression that matters; it’s that there is a way to experience and share thoughts, joys, hopes, and fears.

The Scripture readings at my church for the Fourth Sunday of Lent http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/033014.cfm  center around sight and include the story of Jesus curing a man who was blind from birth on the Sabbath. As the story is told, it becomes apparent that the greater gift is that Jesus reveals his identity as Messiah to the man, who has been thrown out of the synagogue for defending Jesus in the face of questioning by the religious authorities. As the deacon who was preaching noted, the cured man received not only physical sight, but insight. Those who clung to the rule of no work on the Sabbath had physical sight, but not insight into the healing power of God, which is beyond the human boundaries of time and circumstance.

In the end, it was the ability to be open, to take in new experience, to grow, to change, to ponder, to learn, to communicate one’s own truth, to connect on a deep level that was important. No matter the state of our individual faculties, insight is possible if we are attentive.

Slam(ish) Poem

My new and exciting experience this month is attending my first ever workshop with the Binghamton Poetry Project., which is a weekly, five-week community poetry working/learning hour with (mostly grad) students from Binghamton University facilitating. Our facilitators present a topic, which includes a couple of example poems, and then we write and some volunteer to read what they have just written from prompts based on the poems.

This was week three, and I finally got brave enough to read my prior week’s poem at the beginning of class. In fact, I got so brave that I also performed the poem I wrote during class. I say performed rather than read because we had an introduction to slam poetry and our prompts were to try out the style, which isn’t meant to be read from the page but experienced in performance. I was (perhaps inordinately but quietly) proud of myself for attempting this, given that I am not current/hip/adventurous enough to have ever been exposed to the style, and more so because I was the only class member that actually was brave/foolhardy enough to attempt it, rather than writing something else that was in their head that had nothing to do with the prompts.

So, here I am breaking the rules, presenting my first – and perhaps only – attempt at slam poetry in written form, rather than as a performance video, because a) I am not technically able to produce and post a video, b) I am not skilled enough as a performer for it to really make a difference, and c) it’s easier to potentially embarrass myself once in a room of about twenty people than to post it to the internet where I could be embarrassed permanently.

Yes, I am a feminist.
No, I do not hate men.
Yes, I went to Smith, but
No, that does not automatically make me a lesbian,
– although what difference would it make if I was?
Yes, I am Catholic, but
No, I don’t just do what the bishop says.
Yes to primacy of conscience.
No to denying my own God-given talents.
Yes, my worth is not tied to money ‘cuz
No, I’m not paid for the work I do.
Yes, I’m a poet.
No, I’ve never sold a poem.
Yes, I make a difference.
No, you can’t make me feel worthless.
Yes, I have silver hair.
No, I do not qualify for your senior discount.
Yes, I am blessed – or lucky –
if you don’t believe in blessings.
No, I won’t stand for being abused
or letting others be.
Yes, I’ve got my troubles, too.
No, I can’t let them define me.
Yes to knowing who I am.
No to being stuffed into your stereotype.

Anti-Fracking Petition Presented To Parliament

From a new blogger-friend in Australia. Working together around the world, we are making progress on stopping unconventional fossil fuels and ramping up renewable energy.

Unload and Unwind

Thank you to everyone who supported the petitions and shared the information regard Fracking here in Australia and overseas.  Today Federal Member for Lyne, Dr David Gillespie, MP presented The Big Ban CSG Petition in the Federation Chamber of the Australian Parliament at 10:07:50am on Thursday 27 March 2014.

thank you 2

This was an important victory but only the first step.  Having raised the concerns of Australian voters to the point where it was necessary to table the document in parliament and with a reading is wonderful. Now we need to continue with the pressure on both the government and those companies who are the financial backers of this enterprise. If you haven’t had a chance to sign you can still add you name to the list or simply visit the site by clicking on the link in the first paragraph.

Below is a recording of the live feed during which the presentation…

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Daylight Savings Time

I just realized that my blog did not automatically switch over to Daylight Savings Time. I briefly considered re-setting the time manually, but decided against it. Not being a fan of DST, I thought I would make a (tiny, inconsequential) protest by keeping my blog on standard time. 😉

Groundswell Rising

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to see “Groundswell Rising,” a new documentary on the effects of the fracking industry on individuals and communities across the country and what some of those people are doing in response. You can view the trailer and get much more information, including signing up for updates here: http://www.groundswellrising.com/ .

Because I have been involved in advocacy against shale fossil fuel for several years, the information in the film was not news to me, but it was powerful to see the story compacted into an hour and twenty minutes, beginning in the West with Erie, Colorado, and moving East into the Marcellus with the impacts in Pennsylvania and our ongoing fight in New York to keep drilling – and as much of the waste disposal and infrastructure impacts as possible – out of our state.

Because my town is on the NY border with a heavily drilled PA county, we have seen impacts up close and have felt some ourselves, including heavy truck traffic, road degradation, and noise, light, and air pollution. And because much of the filming was done in NY and PA, I have had the privilege of hearing rally speeches, lectures, or debates from many of the people who appear in the film, including Dr. Tony Ingraffea, Dr. Sandra Steingraber, NY Assemblymember and US Congress candidate Martha Robertson, (now retired) Rep. Maurice Hinchey, Vera Scroggins, and Craig Stevens. There was also footage from events in which I participated, such as the the Stop the Frack Attack rally and march in Washington DC.

We were privileged to have a question and answer session after the film. Renard Cohen, executive producer/director (Resolution Films), and David Walczak, associate producer, were there to answer questions about the film itself and local community organizer Isaac Silberman-Gorn gave the NY political perspective. Most powerfully, there were four of our PA neighbors who are affected by drilling and fully engaged in the fight against it sharing their stories: Vera Scroggins, Craig Stevens, David Kagan, and Ray Kemble. When you hear such personal stories and hear the emotions in their voices, you know this is not some political-economic power play; it’s about regular folks who have had their lives and homes violated and who will never be able to regain what they have lost. It was especially poignant as the day before the screening, Vera Scroggins had been in court over an injunction that Cabot Oil and Gas had placed last fall which has kept her from setting foot on over the third of the land in her PA county. (Links to media coverage on that here:  http://www.nofrackingway.us/2014/03/26/cabot-martyrs-the-vera-for-frackcrack-photo/ . Warning: post contains photo of a gas worker mooning Vera, because they try, albeit unsuccessfully, to intimidate her at every turn.)

Fractivism feels like a David versus Goliath enterprise, a small number of the common people fighting the powerful industry that has co-opted much of the government that should be protecting us. Given that a lot of time is taken up with private research and comment writing and writing/calling government officials, it is easy to feel isolated. When you see the suffering that the industry is causing, it is easy to feel discouraged. That is why films like this are so important. For those of us in the fight, we can see the people with whom we are connected in spirit and advocacy and draw energy and inspiration from them. For those who aren’t familiar with the topic, this film presents a sobering introduction to what it is like to live near drilling.

The film’s subtitle is “Protecting Our Children’s Air and Water.” It is that vital. Please look for a screening near you or request a screening, if one isn’t yet scheduled. Watch for it at film festivals. There are hopes for cinematic release or television. I have put in an email to POV on PBS, suggesting that they include it in their series. (I’m hoping for PBS over HBO because it is easier for those of us without premium cable to see it.)

We have kept the industry from drilling in NY for over six years. People in other states are fighting hard to keep the industry out or to rein it in or put moratoria in place. By documenting the fight, “Groundswell Rising” is doing important work. Let’s make sure as many people as possible get to see it.

Water, women, and Jesus

Yesterday was World Water Day and the lectionary readings for today were also about water, including the story of Jesus and the woman at the well, all in the month of March, which is Women’s History Month in the US.

Women and girls are most likely to be dealing with water access and pollution problems as they are usually the ones most in charge of fetching, carrying, cooking, washing up, laundering, etc., especially in the parts of the world where clean hot and cold water do not run abundantly from the tap, as they do for me and my neighbors. Water is a necessity of life and access to it is a justice issue.

In the gospel story, it is a woman who comes to fetch water from the well of Jacob, her ancestor. She is in a socially vulnerable position, female, a Samaritan, sexually exploited. Yet Jesus asks her for a favor and engages in conversation with her, breaking with the norms of the society both on gender and ethnic grounds. What is even more astonishing is that he reveals his identity as the messiah to her and that she, despite her lack of community standing, becomes an apostle of the Good News, one who “goes and tells” others of salvation.

Preaching on this gospel often revolves around the woman’s sinfulness, because she has been married five times and is living with a man who isn’t her husband, but Jesus, although he tells the woman that he knows this about her, never condemns her for it or discusses any need for forgiveness. He offers her the living water of the Spirit, truth, salvation, and the love of God, which she gratefully receives and, energized, brings other people to meet Jesus so that they too can encounter him and believe that he is the messiah.

The woman, unnamed as are many of the women who encounter Jesus in the gospel, stands for all the other nameless women who are exploited or marginalized because of their gender or their ethnicity. Her modern descendants in spirit might live in Syria, Sudan, Ukraine, or might be victims of human trafficking in Thailand, Brazil, the US. God offers radical, unconditional love, not guilt or blame about their exploitation.

We are called to do the same.