Monday, February 23, 2009

Hope hides in the secret of snow

(printed first in

It was 1979. February 18th. A most remarkable thing happened. It never happened before in all of recorded history. It has not happened since.

Thirty years ago, it snowed in the Southern Algeria part of the Sahara Desert.

It lasted for about a half an hour, and vanished as soon as it fell.

But what a quietly spectacular event.

Why is it that this ephemeral event, snow that vanishes with almost a sizzle on hills of burning and scorched sand thousands of miles away, why is it that this gives rise to hope?

I love the sheer sass of it -- the great defiant now of it. Snow comes to the desert, indeed. Did Nature's moth seek Nature's flame? Did God play a sprightly joke? Was there an odd confluence of biorhythms and astrological pivots? Did the Great Global Warming Beast hiccup? Beats me.

I just take this as a tangible sign in the universe that anything is possible.

It gives me such hope, this fluke of nature. Whenever something happens that I could never imagine I realize that I have no control over the outcomes in my particular personal universe, really. Even my peripheral vision, ample though it is, may not see possibilities that are real, that can happen, that fly in the face of convention.

When I was in graduate school in Ohio, I got to know an older student from Tanzania. He had never seen snow before. One day in early winter, it started to blizzard out of nowhere. He ran outside and picked up a huge handful of snow, and stood there with an absolute look of astonishment on his face. "What is it?" I asked. He replied, "I had never imagined that it would be!" He had rarely thought of snow at all. He hadn't needed to. And when he did think about it, he never thought about how it might feel against his skin. Cold. It felt cold. What a delicious surprise!

He laughed and laughed as a group of us taught this brilliant student of age 35 how to make his first snow person. He went home that night, excited and delighted to teach his little children how to throw snowballs and how to make people out of snow.

He knew about snow. He had expected to see it. But he had no idea that it was cold. There was still a shocking element of surprise and wonderment to be had, even with all he did know.

In the pockets of our days, in the corners of what we expect, in the dim recesses of our wildest dreams, there are still surprises to be had. There are secret joys. Things that make us feel like children again. Flashes of happiness amid moments of despair.

We imagine, with all our computers and watches and blackberries and PDA's and twitter addresses and email and late breaking news and software and devices of every nature and description from automatic juicers to globally orbiting telescopes that we somehow have our arms around the world of possibilities. If we haven't thought it up, someone we know has. Or will.

Outcomes can be predicted with surveys, charts, research and statistics. Data will tell the story, if we just get enough of it to fill in the gaps.

Then it goes and snows in the Sahara.

I love the sputter of that event. I imagine Mother Nature thumbing her metaphorical nose at us, reminding us of her wild self, the crazy glory of God's creation, the defiance of life in general.

Flowers grow out of chinks in the pavement. People fall deeply in love and stay together through their lives. Out of the blue a friend calls to reconcile. Some astonishing act of grace happens. A job offer comes from the blue. People heal. Life goes on with these wild streaks of impossibly actualized possibility running through it.

You can't plan for miraculous events, surprise blizzards. Sometimes I think the world of miraculous events is like a room full of ping pong balls balanced on mousetraps. One sets off and bounces and another and another and pretty soon balls are popping all over. There's just no telling where they will pop up next.

It's so easy to get the blues, isn't it? Real life hands us such a bouquet of all-too-real real sorrows. People we love die. We get sick, or someone we love does. Finances in this economy are scary. Wars happen. Families break and fracture. There isn't enough (fill in the substance here) to go around globally.

And then it snows in the Sahara.

I say, in light of that event, that it is worth living with some hope. It is worth living with an attitude of abundance.

Make way in your heart for good things to bounce in. Deliberately bounce them into someone else's life. Believe that even ridiculously wonderful things can happen.

Charlie the Service Dog has been paired with a young autistic boy named Tim. Read the sweet story about the tiny miracle that happened at their house.

Nathalie decided to bring the "snow to the Sahara" via a "Random Act of Knitting". Read this touching story of her surprise gift to a bank teller she didn't know.

In Janiece's fabulously named blog, Hot Chicks Dig Smart Men, she speaks about how Darwin's theory of Evolution gives her hope.

Lizzie Goodfriendis a consultant in Liberia with rape survivors. She says "The consultation, our second of four regional 'dialogues', was a joint effort by the Women's NGO Secretariat of Liberia (Wongosol) and International Center for Transitional Justice, with support from UNIFEM and the Open Society Initiative for West Africa, to give women the space and opportunity to reflect on the process of an ongoing truth and reconciliation commission (TRC), to express how they think it could have been done better, to let us know what they hope comes out of the TRC, and to generally discuss how transitional justice, as a set of tools, can have meaning or use in their lives." During the consultation, something very unexpected, very dramatic, very painful and very essential happens. Read her blog to see.

Snow is falling everywhere. We have but to look, and to recognize it when we see it. And to listen closely to its lessons. Shhhhhh. Get quiet with me.....Let's listen together. Tell me what you hear.

What messages of hope, or joy or goodness have surprised you lately?

Monday, February 16, 2009

I Love Helen and Margaret

My friend, Kate, just told me about these two amazing gals. They are in their 80's and they are taking no prisoners! Here are some samples from the amazing Margaret and Helen:

On the topic of Ann Coulter's latest book Helen says:
the jacket cover has a picture of Ann Coulter in a pretty, black dress with her hands on her hips looking like she is ready for a fight. Well, having finished Chapter 3, I have determined I can take her skinny ass.

They say that given enough time, a hypothetical chimpanzee typing at random would, as part of its output, almost surely produce one of Shakespeare’s plays. If that is true, then two monkey’s typing for ten minutes could have produced this book and Tom Daschle’s tax returns with plenty of time left over to pose for the picture on the jacket cover.

She later adds:

Reading Ann Coulter’s book is like chewing aspirin without water. I just finished another chapter and I am sitting here wondering if anyone has actually seen Ann using complex tools like a ball point pen or say… I don’t know… a toaster? After reading the 4th chapter of her book I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that she actually doesn’t even have opposable thumbs. I could be wrong, but it is hard to believe that the person who wrote this book is also capable of fine motor skills.

On Politics in Washington:

But it’s not so much George W. who has me flabbergasted. You would have thought his departure would have instantly increased the IQ level inside the Beltway. But while the entire nation is singing “ding dong the witch is gone“ members of Congress seem to forget that they’re the only ones who have a lower approval rating than the jack ass himself. Talk about glass houses. Congress gave Bush a blank check. They allowed the continuation of an illegal war. And they looked the other way while the White House took away our basic civil rights. This all happened while the fox watched that little hen house we call the Capitol and now Congressional politicians are coming out of their holes to pontificate on Obama’s every move before he has even been sworn in - much less starts a war. It’s sort of like Rhoda telling Mary that she looks fat in that dress.

On Tuesday the whole world will be watching with hope as well as anxiety. The last time that happened our elected leader told us all to go shopping while he and his band of merry morons planned for war. Well, the world is watching again and this time I am pretty sure our elected leader has something a bit more profound to say. So maybe, just maybe, Congress needs to sit down, shut up and start trying to work together with the President and finally lead our nation into the 21st century as the beacon of hope it could and should be in the world.

In her column "Soup's On" she says:

Speaking of soup, there isn’t enough in the world to cure what ails Sarah Palin. Is she maybe a little touched in the head? I mean, I keep hearing that she’s still complaining about how the media “mistreated” her. But she seems to forget no special affects were used. For goodness sakes Sarah, she simply asked you what magazines you read. I swear, the only difference between a moron in real life and a moron on TV is about 10 pounds. And speaking of morons…

I hope I never find myself in the same room as George W. Bush because I love my shoes and it would be a shame to lose one up his ass. I just can’t handle much more of this “legacy tour” of his. A few years ago he was asked if he had made any mistakes and he couldn’t answer the question. Now he decides to let us know that “Mission Accomplished” might not have been a good idea. Oh Really? Turning the war into a public relations opportunity wasn’t a good idea? Announcing mission accomplished when thousands of soldiers would continue to die isn’t just a mistake you jack ass. It’s unforgivable.

So I have a legacy for you Mr. President. When you go to war with other people’s children, you need to take it seriously. Because when you are President and you take your country to war, they ALL become YOUR children.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Friday the 13th

No one knows for sure where the superstition about Friday the 13th started. Some date it back to the ancient Greeks, some to Biblical times. According to Wikipedia, the fear of Friday the 13th is called paraskavedekatriaphobia,... derived from Greek words meaning "thirteen", "Friday" and "fear". The authors then continue with my favorite words of the week:

This is a specialized form of triskaidekaphobia, a simple fear of the number thirteen, and is also known as friggatriskaidekaphobia.

Ya'gotta love a word like friggatriskaidekaphobia.. Frigga-triska-ideka-phobia.

The dictionary tells us that "superstition" is defined as a blindly accepted irrational fear of what is unknown or thought to be mysterious

Friday will fall on the 13th day of the month in March and again in November. So it isn't over yet.

Any discussion of Friday the 13th raises the larger discussion of superstition in general.

Gingersnaps gives us a great YOUTube of Stevie Wonder singing "Superstition" on Sesame Street
Very superstitious, writing's on the wall,
Very superstitious, ladders bout' to fall,
Thirteen month old baby, broke the lookin' glass
Seven years of bad luck, the good things in your past.

I was raised in an Eastern European family. We are great on superstitions. The deep and dark forests and mountains of Eastern Europe gave forth some colorful superstitions. Here are a few that passed as gospel in my family.

1. Never let a rocking chair rock with no one in it. You will be giving the devil a free ride. We actually stop a rocker from rocking when we exit it. It is now a reflex.

2. If someone is mending something or hemming it while it is on you, you must hold a length of thread in your mouth or your mouth will be sewn shut by a flying sewing needle.

3. Never throw a hat on a bed. Bad luck.

4. Never ever have 13 people for a meal. One of them will die within the next year.

5. If you give someone a purse or a wallet for a gift, you must put a penny in it or they will have bad financial luck.

6. If your nose itches, you'll be kissed by a fool.

7. Drop a fork? Company is coming.

8. Itchy ear? Someone is talking about you.

9. Palm itch? Money is coming. says that the fer of 13 people at dinner is a wide one. They also say:
The Turks so disliked the number 13 that it was practically expunged from their vocabulary Many cities do not have a 13th Street or a 13th Avenue. Many buildings don't have a 13th floor. If you have 13 letters in your name, you will have the devil's luck (Jack the Ripper, Charles Manson, Jeffrey Dahmer, Theodore Bundy and Albert De Salvo all have 13 letters in their names).

Not all bloggers are superstitious, but several explored the number 13 and what facts and fears surround it.

"Phylameana's Holistic Healing Blog"lists 13 interesting things incorporating the number 13 that she found on google today.

Karin lists "interesting" facts abut Friday the 13th, among them "The seals on the back of a dollar bill include 13 steps on the pyramid, 13 stars above the eagle's head, 13 war arrows in the eagle's claw and 13 leaves on the olive branch. So far there's been no evidence tying these long-ago design decisions to the present economic situation."

This will be the first year since 1998 with three Friday the 13ths. On average, this happens once every seven years.

So I decided to hunt out some intriguing superstitions. was a big help.:

An acorn on a windowsill will fend off lightening.

The new bride must enter her home by the main door, and must not trip or fall - hence the custom of carrying the bride over the threshold.

Bad luck to light three cigarettes with one match.

Cows lifting their tails is a sign of coming rain.

It is bad luck to say the word "pig" while fishing at sea.

Cut your hair on Good Friday to prevent headaches in the year to come also lists the following cautions about the number 13 that even extend beyond North America:

More than 80 percent of high-rises lack a 13th floor.
Many airports skip the 13th gate.
Airplanes have no 13th aisle.
Hospitals and hotels regularly have no room number 13.
Italians omit the number 13 from their national lottery.
On streets in Florence, Italy, the house between number 12 and 14 is addressed as 12 and a half.
Many cities do not have a 13th Street or a 13th Avenue
In France, socialites known as the quatorziens (fourteeners) once made themselves available as 14th guests to keep a dinner party from an unlucky fate.
Many triskaidekaphobes, as those who fear the unlucky integer are known, point to the ill-fated mission to the moon, Apollo 13.

But as strange as some superstitions seem, there are many that we have just folded into our lives, superstitions that just seem part of the everyday landscape:

Blow out the candles on your birthday cake to get your wish.
Wish on a falling star to get your wish.
Pick a four leaf clover for luck.
Step on a crack, break your mother's back.
Never say the name "Hamlet" in a theatre. Say "The Prince of Denmark" instead.
Beware a black cat crossing your path.
Do not walk under a ladder.
A broken mirror? Seven years bad luck.

Oh, and of course the major electronic superstition..."send this email to 10 people or something horrible will happen to you!"

Are there other superstitions that you learned as you grew up? Are their any that you still believe in, or observe out of habit?

And, one superstition just for Valentine's Day :
On the eve of St. Valentine's Day it is an old custom to pin bay leaves to your pillow, one at each corner and one in the middle. You will then dream of your future lover, or the man you are to marry.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Groundhog's Day

OK Punxsutawney Phil, we need to talk.

I am sick of snow, ice and cold.

You have predicted more winter.
Either change your mind or I will contact food bloggers for recipes for Groundhog Stew.
Site Feed