If Death Were a Woman


This poem grabbed me.  I wasn’t thinking about Death, but the beauty of the words — the possibility of it — captured my imagination today.

We all will face Death, one day — some of us sooner than others — but how we face it, how we accept it or fight it, can be as important as how we live on the way there.

Death is scary.  It isn’t something I want to do, any time soon — I have grandchildren to watch grow up, great-grandchildren to welcome many years from now — but when it comes, it would be nice to think it would be like this poem.  Nice to think that those I’ve loved and lost were welcomed to the Other Side in so gentle and beautiful a fashion.

Namaste,

Barbara

 

 

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If Death Were a Woman

–Ellen Kort

I’d want her to come for me smelling of cinnamon

wearing bright cotton      purple maybe       hot pink

 

a red bandana in her hair          She’d bring

good coffee         papaya juice       bouquet of sea grass

 

saltine crackers and a lottery ticket      We’d dip

our fingers into moist pouches of lady’s slippers

 

crouch down to see how cabbage feel when wind

bumps against them in the garden     We’d walk

 

through Martin’s woods      find the old house

its crumbling foundation strung with honeysuckle vines

 

and in the front yard     a surprise     jonquils

turning the air yellow     glistening and ripe

 

still blooming for a gardener long gone

We’d head for the beach wearing strings of shells

 

around our left ankles     laugh at their ticking

sounds     the measured beat that comes with dancing

 

on hard-packed sand     the applause of ocean and gulls

She’d play ocarina songs to a moon almost full

 

and I’d sing off-key     We’d glide and swoop

become confetti of leaf fall     all wings

 

floating on small whirlwinds     never once dreading

the heart-silenced drop     And when it was time

 

she would not bathe me     Instead we’d scrub the porch

pour leftover water on flowers     stand a long time

 

in sun and silence     then      holding hands

we’d post for pictures     in the last light

 

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Poverty


A few days ago, I wrote about the 1% of the world’s richest people having one half of the world’s money. Definitely doesn’t seem fair. There are a lot of middle class people in the world and they really work hard to be in this niche. Most are poor and/or extremely poor. They live through hopelessness and despair. Some are destroyed by these emotions.

 

What is poverty anyway? It is more than not being able to buy your child an ice cream cone in June. It is putting cardboard in the bottom of their too small shoes. It is wondering how you will feed your family through the end of the paycheck, and wondering if you can afford needed medication.

 

What is abject poverty? It is not having clean water so that you gamble with each drop not to get Cholera. It is dressing children in rags the rich wouldn’t use to dust their houses. Abject poverty is a mother that is so malnourished she can’t suckle her babies. Babies die from hunger. Is is neglect? It is horrifying to see a baby die from dehydration and malnutrition. The mother still has to go on to do what she can for the rest of her children.

 

Abject poverty is having no education, so you cannot have hope. Hope is what kept the prisoners in the concentration camps alive…at least until their number was up. Hope is what you wear when your country is at war, or there is a civil war. Can you take your family and run? No, not really. Many tried during WWII and were executed. In the nineties, the Baltic War robbed citizens of food, water, and even lives.

 

What happens usually is that people see the homeless and the hungry and many look away. They decide that what they saw wasn’t real. The homeless and the hungry people are lazy and are taking advantage of other people, people will say.

Many years ago I discovered this: people don’t want reality, they want pretty. I decided to begin random acts of kindness. Just doing something kind for someone who doesn’t ask, but it is needed. I have been questioned often, by by-standers.

 

I have heard, “don’t give your money away, they probably have more than you do”. I answer that that would not matter. What matters is the kindness and gentleness you show.

 

We as a species are getting a little smarter. We always used to send food. Now we send seeds and volunteers who will show villages how to plant, cultivate and harvest those seeds. Instead of sending money, there are organizations where for a donation of $15-$20, a family receives a cow, sheep or goat. The milk will feed the children and they will go to bed at night with full bellies. Just like we do every night.

 

The next time you see a person or a family who is obviously poor, meet their eyes. Look into their souls and see a brother or sister, a fellow human being. Just like we are, except we have more money than they do. Does it cost us to care about the poor? No. It makes us better people. People who walk their talk. It also gives us peace and a sense of well-being.

 

Neuroscientists say that the brain is changed by the traumas and horrors it survives. The brain rewires around the damaged areas. This is oversimplified, but tragedy makes us turn into different people. Love, caring, assistance changes people too and brings them a sense of inner peace.

 

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The poor suffer in ways we can’t even imagine. They can’t even get medical care when they need it. So the next time you see a poor person, or a person on a fixed income, try a random act of kindness and watch how their eyes light up. It has nothing to do with religion or faith, kindness and compassion are part of a human’s basic character.

Namaste

 

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Botanical Gardens Photographed and copyrighted by Barbara Mattio 2013

Botanical Gardens
Photographed and copyrighted by Barbara Mattio 2013

 

 

 Texas butterflies. Photographed and copyrighted by Barbara Mattio 2007

Texas butterflies. Photographed and copyrighted by Barbara Mattio 2007

 

 

No place for anger within us.

No place for anger within us.

 

It’s Time to Start Livin’


Stop a moment.  Let your heart dance and take a good look around and see all the blessings in the world, and all the beauty that surrounds you.  We will get Peace.  We will find Joy.  We will have Justice and Equality.  It may not come today, or tomorrow, but if we keep working for it, I know that, as surely as the sun will rise in the morning, it will come.

In the meantime, keep living for today — or start living, as recommended by this song from the wonderful musical Pippin, sung by the inimitable Martha Rae

Namaste,

Barbara

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Race and Police


The New Year brings with it a clean slate but not in every aspect. I think we will find that Race is an exception. It is sad but true that America is still a racist country. Why? Please read Tom Foreman’s article.

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The following article is excerpted from CNN January 3, 2015

By Tom Foreman, CNN

 

(CNN)

I obey the speed limit, use turn signals, and don’t cruise around with broken tail lights. I don’t have substance-abuse problems, unless you count Diet Dr. Pepper. I live in a safe neighborhood, and no one in my family has a criminal record. I like to think all of that is why I spend virtually no time worrying about the police.

Yet there’s another big reason: I’m white.

The way most white people see the police, and the way most black people see them, is separated by a gap so wide it may as well be a canyon.

That gulf has been cast into sharp relief by events in Ferguson, Missouri, where a grand jury declined to indict white police officer Darren Wilson in the death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown. That sparked protests around the country, as did a decision in New York not to indict a white police officer in the death of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man who police confronted while investigating allegations that he was selling cigarettes illegally.

Those cases collectively have come to stand as a kind of national Rorschach inkblot test, with people looking at the same events and reaching different conclusions. Some people adopted the phrase “black lives matter” to protest police treatment of minorities, while others countered with “police lives matter,” and — maybe in search of a more universal middle ground — “all lives matter.”

 

People immortalized Garner’s last words — “I can’t breathe” — on T-shirts and protest signs and social media posts. Those on the other side of the national divide fired back with slogans such as “I can breathe” and “Breathe Easy, Obey the Law,” arguing that if you just obey the law, you will avoid encounters with the police altogether.

One of our latest CNN/ORC polls put numbers on the gap in public opinion.

Asked “How many police officers in the area where you live … are prejudiced against blacks?” 17% of whites said “most or some,” but more than twice as many non-whites — 42% — felt that way. “Does the U.S. criminal justice system treat whites and blacks equally?” Whites: 50% said yes, compared to 21% of non-whites. True, plenty of blacks and whites buck those trends, and no racial group can be treated as a monolith in these matters, but leanings — writ large — remain.

Those opinions may grow out of the fact that police tend to arrest blacks at rates disproportionate to their share in the general population. FBI figures, for example, show that blacks made up 28% of all people arrested in 2013; they make up about 13% of the U.S. population.

But plenty of people have long suggested those numbers are deceiving; that police pursue black suspects more vigorously because they are predisposed to believe blacks are guilty, and those suspects are often less educated and not as financially prepared to defend themselves. The result, they argue, is a self-fulfilling prophecy: a larger percentage of blacks are arrested and convicted because police spend more time chasing them down.

Accordingly, when an unarmed teen gets shot and killed by a cop in Missouri, or a man in New York dies after being choked by an officer, some people see evidence of police targeting and brutalizing minorities.

Still, facts often fit into this debate like broken Legos, if at all. In both Ferguson and New York, police supporters point out that the men who died were being approached about possible criminal behavior and did not do what the officers asked of them. That’s a formula for trouble, they say, regardless of race.

 

Want more complications? Consider this: About a quarter of the nation’s officers come from minority groups, and they too are making those arrests that so disturb some people in minority communities. That suggests this friction may be partially about black and white, but also tied to a pro-police mentality that sees blue first. And by the way, there are still plenty of places like Ferguson where the overwhelming prevalence of white officers in a largely black community creates a feeling of apartheid for some minority residents.

It all plays out in so many heated ways. Protestors flood the streets and some observers see overdue demands for change, while others see pointless rabble-rousing and destruction. In New York, officers turned their backs on Mayor Bill DeBlasio on the grounds that he supported protesters outraged by the grand jury decision not to indict a police officer in Garner’s death. Anger at the mayor deepened after two New York police officers were killed in ambush by a man who had posted on Instagram: “I’m Putting Wings On Pigs Today. They Take 1 Of Ours, Let’s Take 2 of Theirs.”

Some see well-founded, fair objections, while others see brazen disrespect. On it goes, each action honestly generated from within a worldview, and yet seen in a wildly different way by those who use another lens.

The divergent views were captured neatly after a Facebook post from Mike Rowe, who stars in the CNN series “Somebody’s Gotta Do It.” Someone asked what he thought of the protests in California triggered by events in Ferguson. He said those protests made him 90 minutes late for a holiday dinner in Alameda, California, where the deaths of Brown and Garner dominated conversation.

“My conservative friends were focused on the fact that both men died while resisting arrest, and were therefore responsible for their own demise. They wanted to discuss the killings in light of the incredible risk that all police officers agree to assume,” Rowe wrote. “My liberal friends were focused on the fact that both men were unarmed, and were therefore victims of excessive force. They wanted to discuss the killings in the context of historical trends that suggest bias plays a recurring role in the way cops treat minorities.”

He said it was clear by dessert that both sides wanted law and order.

“But the conservatives were convinced that order is only possible when citizens treat cops with respect. Liberals, on the other hand, were arguing that order can only occur when cops treat everyone the same,” he wrote. “And round and round we went.”

More than 115,000 people offered a range of views in their comments on Rowe’s Facebook post. Nearly 65,000 people shared the post, with each spawning more comments from more people with more views.

When these events happen, people always say “At least we’re talking about the problems. That’s a start.” I’m not so sure. I’ve covered versions of this debate for close to 40 years now, and it hasn’t changed much.

Some are so convinced of police bigotry, they will not stomach the slightest allowance that maybe officers are taking on a hard, dangerous job in which judgment calls can be fairly made and still wind up fatally wrong.

Some others are so certain that this is all just so much liberal whining, that they cannot tolerate even a reasonable review of police conduct, suggesting that it constitutes an erosion of respect and support for people they consider de facto heroes.

I suspect if any real progress is to be made in this national discussion, it will have to be started by people who don’t fully buy into either camp. And the discussion probably can’t include poisoning phrases like “black underclass” or “white privilege,” because those are conversation stoppers — not starters.

 

 

The man who helped me get my first job in television was an excellent investigative journalist named Norman Lumpkin. He made his reputation as a rare African-American TV reporter in Montgomery, Alabama, grappling with inept public officials, scheming businessmen, and, yes, shady cops. He was my friend and mentor. One day Norman called me aside to criticize a story I’d just done on divorces, noting that I had not included any black families. I took offense.

“This isn’t a story about race,” I said.

“It’s always about race,” Norman said.

“Well, I don’t judge people that way.”

“We all do.”

I’ve thought of that clash many times, especially since Norman passed away, and I’ve concluded I was right to try to ignore race in a story that was about human values we all share. He was equally right to say race has a way of creeping into places where it doesn’t belong; like divorces, politics, and police work. And we were collectively right in trying to actually talk about our differences, instead of accusing each other and lapsing into hardened silence. Neither of us was being racist. We were trying, as friends do, to help each other understand. But then, Norman and I already knew we could trust each other.

And in too many places, police and the people they are sworn to protect, are not so sure of that.

 

 

Save our Oceans and Save Ourselves


As this new year begins, we need to think about the year to come and how we will act in it.  What can we do to make the world better?

I’ve often talked about the poorest people in the world, and needing to help them and take care of them.  One way is to feed them, to give them the nourishment they need to thrive and grow, which gives them the strength to learn and earn a living, and gives them hope.  People with hope learn to love and through love, we all know, Peace can grow in the world.

There’s an organization that is working to help the poorest of the poor, by helping the oceans of our world to survive and replenish themselves.  Oceana.org is that organization, and I want to share with you a bit of what they do, and what it can mean, and why it’s so important to save the oceans.  We can feed the poor, and protect the beauty of our planet at the same time.

Please help.  A donation, volunteering for this organization, or just spreading the word on your own blog would be a wonderful step towards peace, harmony and beauty in the world as this new year begins.

Namaste,

Barbara

Gratitude for Mother Earth


 

 

 

We are coming to an end of another year. We witnessed a lot of horror, violence and pain this year. We have also had reason to hope, love and show kindness to others. My goal for 2015 is to promote peace and love as much as possible. Will I succeed? I don’t know but I believe that if I and others don’t try, it will make life here in our world worse. So I want to state that we are all one family, one species and we share one World. It is our only one. There isn’t even a second string planet waiting to fill in if we destroy Mother Earth. So let 2015 be the year we save our own lives and begin to heal Mother Earth. May 2015 be the year we practice love, kindness and acceptance.

 

“O Hidden life vibrant in every atom;

O Hidden Light shining in every creature;

O Hidden Love! embracing all in Oneness;

May each who feels himself as one with Thee,

Know he is also one with every other.”

—Annie Besant

 

” Let us be united;

Let us speak in harmony;

Let our minds apprehend alike.

Common be our prayer;

Common be the end of our assembly;

Common be our resolution;

Common be our deliberations.

Alike be our feelings;

Unified be our hearts;

Common be our intentions;

Perfect be our unity.”

—From the Hindu sacred writings of the Rig Veda

 

“Grant me the ability to be alone;

May it be my custom to go outdoors each day

among the trees and grasses,

among all growing things

and there may I be alone,

and enter into prayer

to talk with the one

that I belong to.”

—Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav

 

We need to save our forests, jungles and green spaces. Plants give off Oxygen that we need to breathe.

We need to save our forests, jungles and green spaces. Plants give off Oxygen that we need to breathe.

 

 

The indigenous people of the world valued life. Do you?

The indigenous people of the world valued life. Do you?

 

 

Gratitude and gratefulness for Mother Earth

Gratitude and gratefulness for Mother Earth

Never Stop Making the World a Better Place


To have peace we also have to have equality for all peoples, nations, religions and cultures. We do need to address the racism which remains here in America and all over the world.  Women’s and girls’ rights are being denied many places across the world. They are an invisible minority. Women are being beaten, terrorized, even executed. Many females are treated with contempt and violence.

 

We find that the violence against women is perpetuated by fellow citizens. There are laws to protect women but they are not always enforced. Often authorities look the other way. It is a woman after all.

 

Women are often denied opportunities for education and work. Women wanting a better life can’t protect themselves from violence and harm. They also can’t protect their children.

 

Leadership, by definition, means being out in front of your people when it is called for. It means standing up for your dignity and the dignity of others. It also means encouraging others to do the same.

 

Human rights mean that all people are treated like human beings. It means being able to stand up as a woman, a radical, religious, tribal or ethnic minority and being treated the same way as everyone else. Human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights.

 

We need to recognize the gains we have made as women as well as the gaps where women and girls can fall through. We then need to focus on the gaps and filling them logically. Social media has improved things somewhat. But we have 200,000 million fewer women with access to the internet than men who are online in the developing world.

 

“I have loved and been loved; all the rest is background music.”   —Hilary Clinton

 

To everyone who has worked as an advocate or feminist, you can’t rest on your laurels. Never quit. Never stop working to make the world a better place for all of us to live and thrive. We have unfinished business and we must go forward until all human beings enjoy human rights and full equality.

 

Since the time of our founding fathers, we have had to work on equality and human rights for all. The founding fathers began our country as a great experiment. They had a dream and they created America from that dream. There were many people who predicted our demise as a nation. George Washington, the father of our country was criticized as being a mediocre surveyor with a bad set of wooden teeth.

 

People who have bet against America have found themselves to be surprised and dumbfounded. The one issue which caused much debate and angry words was, as it is now, equality between the races. The founding fathers finally agreed to disagree. They crafted America and left future generations to come to terms with the question of equality. This job fell upon the shoulders of Abraham Lincoln. He was assassinated and therefore his plans were not implemented. After the Civil War, there was no slavery but there also was not any equality except for a very few.

 

These days women are not equal. Black citizens and white citizens are not equal. Middle Eastern people are not equal since 9-11. Poverty has increased here in America as well as around the world. The future brings opportunities to learn our lessons and heed the call of history. We need to make  human rights a priority. America needs to stand together firmly and united in pursuit of a more just, free and peaceful world.

 

“It ‘s supposed to be hard…The hard is what makes it great.”   —Excerpted from A League of Their Own.

 

We need leaders who will lead in a way that will unite us all and renew the American Dream.

 

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