Monday, June 26, 2006

My answers... Stephanie's interview questions.

1. Describe your religious upbringing or lack thereof? How does this affect you today?

A: Well, my childhood experience would be closer (on the religious spectrum) to lack thereof. My father considered himself a moralist and a thinker but I don't remember him ever attending church, and my mother was an Episcopalian who only went occasionally. I accompanied her whenever she did go, though. I loved the silence and the ceremony and the singing. These are still my favorite aspects of worship. I don't remember discussions of faith at home, but there was a solemn sort of grace said around the table at special occasions: "We thank Thee, oh Lord, for these and all gifts of Thy bounty".

I always knew that God existed--the notion of God being intricately linked with nature in my mind. I remember finding a driftwood crucifix as a child (not a real one, but a perfectly worn hand-sized piece of wood with upraised arms and even a shadowy face turned sideways) and I kept it for years and years, finding comfort linking its "arms" between my fingers and cupping the base of the cross in my palm. No one ever told me to do such a thing, and to my knowledge I had never seen it done, but it quietly and privately comforted me.

I loved church and God in a very childlike, uncomplicated way when I was young. I believed in a higher power. Whenever it was time to make a wish (blowing out candles, the first star of the night, throwing a coin into a well) my wish was always the same: "I wish for whatever will make me happiest." The logic being that a power high enough to grant wishes would also know best what would make me happiest. Granted, sometimes I would add a gentle suggestion, "And if it's a pony, that would be great." But I never presumed to know.

I still pray in a similar way, although my understanding of "higher power" has changed over the years. But I have always felt innocence, trust, and awe well up inside me when I think of God. I hope I always will.

2. If you could lunch with any historical figure (famous or not), who would it be, where would you have lunch and what would you eat?

I would like to visit Thomas Jefferson at Monticello and eat from the fruits of his gardens and orchards, visit his library. After lunch, he could show me the grounds and some of his inventions. I think he would be fascinating to talk to, on so many levels, as a writer, a revolutionary, a scientist, an inventor, a progressive and even a slaveowner (how did he reconcile that?).

3. How do you nurture yourself throughout the day?

I really don't do it enough. I nurture others. But when I do think about treating myself, it usually involves either getting outside (breeze, birds, sunlight, ahhh) or chocolate (self-explanatory). Books are also a divine indulgence.

4. What were the best and worst jobs you've ever had?

I love any kind of work, so I can't really think of a bad job that I've had. I worked in a fabric store in college and some of the people were kind of gossipy--I think that was the worst thing for me, job-wise. As for the best? Oh, so many, for so many different reasons: the nursing home job taught me a lot about death, dying and dignity (I was 16); Colonial Williamsburg was a good job--very cool people, cool period costume, and I got to make books and talk to groups of people about books; working at Jamestown as a potter rocked--Jamestown Island was amazing after all the tourists left, I could feel the spirits of the early colonists all around me; teaching art to little kids in Hawaii was amazing; I worked in several artists' cooperatives and always loved that; and for the past 15 years or so I have been my own boss both as a writer and co-founder of a marine ecology study-abroad program in Dominica.

5. What is your proudest moment at the workplace? Most humiliated?

I don't have a proudest moment that I can recall. I'm always proud to work and try hard to do work that I can be proud of. My most humiliated moment came when a friend and co-worker of mine found a rant I had written (only for myself) about her. Fortunately, she was mature and took me aside and told me she had read it. I am so grateful she gave me that opportunity. I apologized, and explained that I had been working out frustrations and didn't really feel that way all the time, but it was how I dealt with upsetting things and that I never meant for her to see it. God bless Martha, she was so understanding. I think it made us much closer afterward.

6. When have you felt that you transcended time and space? (Bonus Question)

I'm going to think more on this one before I reply...

Thank you, Stephanie, for such great questions! I knew you would make me think. If anyone else wants to play, guidelines are below. :)

Interview Guidelines
1. Leave me a comment saying “interview me” ONLY IF: I have either met you or exchanged emails with you before, AND if you have a blog.
2. I will respond with five questions. I pick the Q’s.
3. You will update your blog with the answers
4. You will include this explanation and offer to interview someone else

Sunday, June 18, 2006

A Carnivore's Conscience

There's a great article about the ethics of eating meat (and other alternatives) here.

Here is an excerpt:

"With all the problems facing humanity — war, terrorism, poverty, tyranny — you probably don't worry much about whether it's right or wrong to eat meat. That's understandable. Every society lives with two kinds of moral problems: the ones it's ready to face, and the ones that will become clear or compelling only in retrospect. Animal sacrifice, human sacrifice, slavery, the subjugation of women — many traditions seem normal and indispensable until we're ready, morally and economically, to move beyond them.

The case for eating meat is like the case for other traditions: It's natural, it's necessary, and there's nothing wrong with it. But sometimes, we're mistaken. We used to think we were the only creatures that could manipulate grammar, make sophisticated plans or recognize names out of context. In the past month, we've discovered the same skills in birds and dolphins. In recent years, we've learned that crows fashion leaves and metal into tools. Pigeons deceive each other. Rats run mazes in their dreams. Dolphins teach their young to use sponges as protection. Chimps can pick locks. Parrots can work with numbers. Dogs can learn words from context. We thought animals weren't smart enough to deserve protection. It turns out we weren't smart enough to realize they do."

Friday, June 16, 2006

Stress dreams

I think I must be reaching some sort of inner peace in my dreamlife. Last night I had stress dreams--I've had them all my life at various, busy times--but for the first time ever, they weren't stressful. Let me explain.

In my younger years, my stress dreams corresponded (loosely) to the stresses in my life at the time:

1)In my thirties, I had car crash dreams in which I died, but my children didn't. I was glad they had survived, but devastated that I wouldn't be there to raise them, that they were all alone. For the first time, I feared my mortality--not for myself, but for those small innocents who depended on me.

2) In my twenties, I was most often chased by an angry, hairy, knife-wielding madman when I was wearing the equivalent of big lead boots. To make matters worse, the dream often ended when I had just about completely wriggled under the fence (i.e. reached safety) and he caught my ankle and yanked me back. Brrr!

3) In my teens, I remember a recurring stress dream that tore me up. I was being followed by a three-legged dog who needed help. I desperately wanted to help him, but I couldn't, so I tried to run away, instead. I would run for a mile, swim a river, scale a mountain, and push through a thick forest only to turn around and there that dog still was, quietly wanting help. It's humorous in the retelling, but the dream was awful.

4) In my even younger years I was usually in school, missing some sort of essential pants. Miraculously, I had left home, gotten on the bus, walked the halls, and made it to my desk without anyone noticing, but suddenly I knew, beyond a shadow of doubt, that the minute I stood up, all eyes would be on my naked arse. It was mortifying and maddening. Should I stay seated after the bell and draw attention to myself? Stand, be cool, and hope people continued not to notice? Attempt to strategically place my books? Oh, what to do?

Okay, so my stress dreams have clearly evolved. And last night? I was juggling eggs. Okay, not juggling exactly...rather, carrying eggs. But there were way too many to carry easily, so in effect I was juggling them. And dropping them. (Whoops. Splat! Damn.) But the funniest part of this, and why I feel so calm today, is that in my dream I was coaching myself. I was saying things like, "They're just eggs, Mare. Don't worry about it. They cost, what, ten cents a piece? You could drop a dozen if you wanted. It's okay. You're doing the best you can."

Now. Wasn't that nice of me? To calm my dreaming self, within my dream? Nice to know my subconsious is looking out for me. Today, I am at peace. They really are all just eggs.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Hope for Coral

This article from the BBC gives hope that corals can survive rising ocean temperatures. The world's coral reefs are largely ignored by most, but they are as important to the ocean (and the overall health of the planet) as the rainforests are to land. The diversity of aquatic life (both flora and fauna--in the case of corals, both flora and fauna living symbiotically in one organism) has led many to term coral reefs "the rainforests of the sea."

We will be studying coral bleaching very closely this summer at The Institute for Tropical Marine Ecology to see if another major bleaching event occurs (like last summer). For those of us concerned about reefs (and for those who could care less) this article is very good news.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

What morality is not...

It is not invading a country and killing a hundred thousand of its citizens for something that turns out not to exist.

It is not insisting on the sanctity of a blastula of cells when millions of already born children are starving and dying all over the world.

It is not charging two loving people who happen to be the same sex and want to make a life together with a crime.

It is not hiding behind the flag and never admitting you've made a mistake.

It is not giving tax breaks to the wealthy while you brainwash those who are struggling to make ends meet that it is in their best interests.

It is not controlling the media to spew your particular brand of patriotic religiosity and clogging the airways with hate-mongering extremist views.

It is not calling dissenters unpatriotic for simply wondering if there might not be a better way to do things.

It is not rolling back environmental standards and polluting the earth for the benefit of large corporations.

It is not seeing everything in black and white, regardless of the circumstances.

It is not calling yourself moral when you are anything but.