Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Dreaming of the return of the light – and garden catalogs

I took this photograph today, a close-up view of fruit stacked on a market stand, creating a bold pattern of repeated forms and colors, a delicious treat, especially on this unusually drab and dark, overcast and rainy day stuck ignominiously between the shortest day of the year and the beginning of the New Year.

Because this produce looks so lush and succulent – plus guaranteed to be 100% organic – you yearn to just grab a piece and take a big bite, but you can't. The fruit displayed on this stand was painted by Gustave Caillebotte 130 years ago and it was his painted images I photographed today at the MFA in Boston.

Gustave's vibrant painting instantly transported me back to sun-filled days in our own lush garden last summer. And triggered happy memories of visiting similarly spectacular food stalls at the Common Ground Fair in Maine. (See blog entry from 4/4/09).
Common Ground Country Fair

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Times They A-Changin'

Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon You'll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you
Is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin.

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won't come again
And don't speak too soon
For the wheel's still in spin
And there's no tellin' who
That it's namin'
For the loser now 
Will later to win
For the times they are a changin'.

Come senators, congressman
Pleas heed the call
Don't block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There's a battle outside
And it is ragin'
It'll soon shake your windows
And ratte your walls 
For the times they are a-changin'.

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don't criticize
What you can't understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Rapidly agin'
Please get out of the new one
If you can't lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin'.

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast.
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is 
Rapidly fadin'
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin'.

Bread and Roses
Imagine World Peace

* The lyrics obviously from Bob Dylan's For the times they are a-changin'.
* The photographs are all by me, except for the last one, which is of me talking to new friend, Dave.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Return of the light after Winter Solstice

First sun over Jenness Pond after Winter Solstice*
Darkness can't drive out darkness;
only light can do that.
Martin Luther King

* photograph taken 12/23/11 and polarized in photoshop.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Winter Solstice Greetings

Polarized version of a 27 year-old photograph I took of my son,
marveling at the new ice forming in Jenness Pond at dusk
To all my readers on this, the Winter Solstice:
May you be happy
May you be healthy
May you live with ease

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

We are all one at Winter Solstice

Sun setting over newly formed ice on Jenness Pond: 12/21/11     J. Stimmell
“The first peace, which is the most important, is that which comes within the souls of people when they realize their relationship, their oneness with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize that at the center of the universe dwells the Great Spirit, and that this center is really everywhere, it is within each of us.” – Black Elk

Sunday, December 18, 2011

They tell you we are dreamers

OWS photos taken at Duarte Park, NYC, 12/17/11        J. Stimmell      
The true dreamers are those 
who think things can go on 
indefinitely the way they are. 

We are not dreamers. 

We are awakening from a dream 
which is turning into a nightmare.

We are not destroying anything. 
We are only witnessing how the system is destroying itself.*

*Quotes above from a speech given by Slavoj Zizek at Liberty Square, NYC in October 2011

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Mother Earth undressing us, putting us to bed


Sun sinking 
Shutting off the lights
Movement ceases
Silence reigns*

Poem and photo of Pittsfield Cemetary (taken 12/12/11) by J. Stimmell

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Who will save us?

Graffiti at Sewells Falls: 12/9/11                     J. Stimmell©2011
The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer at a staggering rate.  Once upon a time, the United States had the largest and most prosperous middle class in the history of the world, but now that is changing at a blinding pace. 

22 Statistics That Prove That The Middle Class Is Being Systematically Wiped Out Of Existence In America*
#1) According to a poll taken in 2009, 61 percent of Americans "always or usually" live paycheck to paycheck, which was up from 49 percent in 2008 and 43 percent in 2007.

#2) The number of Americans with incomes below the official poverty line rose by about 15% between 2000 and 2006, and by 2008 over 30 million U.S. workers were earning less than $10 per hour.

#3) According to Harvard Magazine, 66% of the income growth between 2001 and 2007 went to the top 1% of all Americans.

#4) According to that same poll, 36 percent of Americans say that they don't contribute anything to retirement savings.

#5) A staggering 43 percent of Americans have less than $10,000 saved up for retirement.

#6) According to one new survey, 24% of American workers say that they have postponed their planned retirement age in the past year.

#7) Over 1.4 million Americans filed for personal bankruptcy in 2009, which represented a 32 percent increase over 2008.
#8) Only the top 5 percent of U.S. households have earned enough additional income to match the rise in housing costs since 1975.

#9) For the first time in U.S. history, banks own a greater share of residential housing net worth in the United States than all individual Americans put together.

#10) In 1950, the ratio of the average executive's paycheck to the average worker's paycheck was about 30 to 1.  Since the year 2000, that ratio has exploded to between 300 to 500 to one.
#11) One study found that as of 2007, the bottom 80 percent of American households held about 7% of the liquid financial assets.

#12) The bottom 40 percent of income earners in the United States now collectively own less than 1 percent of the nation’s wealth.

#13) Average Wall Street bonuses for 2009 were up 17 percent when compared with 2008.

#14) In the United States, the average federal worker now earns about twice as much as the average worker in the private sector.

#15) An analysis of income tax data by the Congressional Budget Office found that the top 1% of U.S. households own nearly twice as much of America's corporate wealth as they did just 15 years ago.

#16) In America today, the average time needed to find a job has risen to a record 35.2 weeks.
#17) More than 40% of Americans who actually are employed are now working in service jobs, which are often very low paying.

#18) For the first time in U.S. history, more than 40 million Americans are on food stamps, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture projects that number will go up to 43 million Americans in 2011.

#19) This is what American workers now must compete against: in China a garment worker makes approximately 86 cents an hour and in Cambodia a garment worker makes approximately 22 cents an hour.

#20) Despite the financial crisis, the number of millionaires in the United States rose a whopping 16 percent to 7.8 million in 2009.

#21) According to one new study, approximately 21 percent of all children in the United States are living below the poverty line in 2010 - the highest rate in 20 years.

#22) According to Professor Emmanuel Saez of the University of California at Berkeley, the gap between what the top 10 percent of Americans earn per year and what the rest of us earn has been widening sharply for the last 30 years.  His measurements show that the top 10% percent of Americans now take in approximately 50% of the income.

*The above copied from the website, The American Dream: http://endoftheamericandream.com/archives/22-statistics-that-prove-that-the-middle-class-is-being-systematically-wiped-out-of-existence-in-america

Monday, December 5, 2011

Thomas Merton's poem prefigures OWS

Vaughn State Park, S. Berwick, ME: 12/7/10             J. Stimmell©2011
Where is the millionaire
Who squanderd the bright spring?
Whose lies played in the summer evening sky
Like cheap guitars?
Who spend the golden fortunes of the fall
And died as bare as a tree?

–From Thomas Merton's poem: Dirge for the Proud World–

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Mind is a luminous quality of the earth itself

Marin County, CA: June 2009            J. Stimmell©2011
I'm aware it’s an affront to everything we stand for in our hyper-cognitive, ultra-individualistic society, but what if our precious mind is not unique to us and – even more counter-intuitively –  does not reside inside the squishy gray matter of our fleshy, three-pound brain? What if, instead, what we call mind is not inside our head but a luminous quality of the earth itself . This sentiment is beautifully expressed by David Abram in his latest book, Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology:

“As soon as we breathe out, letting mind flow back into the field that surrounds us, we feel a new looseness and freedom. The other animals, the plants, the cliffs, and the tides are now participant in the unfolding of events, and so it no longer falls upon us, alone, to make things happen as we choose.

Since we are not the sole bearers of consciousness, we are no longer on top of things, with the crippling responsibility that that entails. We’re now accomplices in a vast and steadily unfolding mystery, and our actions have resonance only to the extent that they are awake to the other agencies around us, attuned and responsive to the upwelling creativity in the land itself.” (pages 131-132)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Occupy the Churches

Looking across the river from Water Street: Laconia 12/2/10

"The significance of this latest public protest movement, erupting all over the country, may eventually rival the impact of the civil rights movement of the 1960s, yet when comparing the two movements, there is one glaring difference: priests, pastors and clergy of every stripe are rarely in the forefront of Occupy protests.

"Instead, secular young people are doing the very work that Jesus from Nazareth would urge us to do. Just as Jesus condemned the injustices of his own day – and overturned the money-changing tables at the Temple – the Occupy protesters are challenging how Wall Street bankers and today’s rich and powerful are harming the masses of people.

"This week, religious people have felt proud of giving turkeys to the poor, but they should be joining the protests against the haughty rich. I maintain that Jesus would be a part of the actions in Portland, Denver, New York and many other cities. For Christians, the crucial issue should be “what would Jesus do”?

Above quotes from Would Jesus Join the Occupy Protests by Rev. Howard Bess, published 11/26/11 by Consortiumnews.com


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Dandelions shame climate change critics

Dandelions in full bloom in December – in N.H.?

The Times They Are A Changing

 It used to be bone-chilling cold by the end of November.  In my younger days, I can remember skating on Jenness Pond on Thanksgiving Day. But those days are gone.  This last November, unbelievably, we had 8 days with temperatures topping 60 degrees.

What does this say about global warming?

Bill McKibben once wrote: "To declare, as some editorialists have done, that the warming has not yet appeared and therefore the theory is wrong is like arguing that a woman hasn't yet given birth and therefore isn't pregnant."*

Obviously these dandelions aren’t listening to the critics as they shamelessly birth new babies along the edge of the river flowing through Laconia under the weak December sun.

*  quote from The End of Nature

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Nature of Impermanence

Mindfully walking around Wagon Wheel Farm
on Great Bay estuary today: 11/30/11
Photographing  beginnings...
The Nature of Impermanence
The End
(and The beginning)

Monday, November 28, 2011

Occupying nomads: uniting the 99% of us

Genghis Khan †

Why it it – if the mainstream media and talking heads are right about OWS being such a bumbling failure without a message or  goal –  why is it, then, that the police, all across the US, have been ordered to mount such a violent assault against these misguided but peaceful protesters?

Naomi Wolf is speaking for all of us when she says “US citizens of all political persuasions are still reeling from images of unparalleled police brutality  against peaceful OWS protesters in cities across the nation this past week."

The answer is, of course, is that the Occupy movement is not a failure. Quite the opposite: instead it has dared to touch the third rail of American politics.  As Wolf and others have written, the Occupy movement has been attacked because it has directly challenged the the political class and corporate elite in this country.

Meanwhile, the mass media and talking heads are fiddling while Rome burns, being, as they are, well-paid front people for the powerful in this country – they are in denial, whether willfully or not, about the big picture, choosing to obsess instead on the red herring of why OWS doesn't have concrete goals.  

This is like the  entrenched establishment in Asia dismissing Genghis Khan as clueless  –  for not having a slick PR message and a list of ten demands properly vetted by an approved focus group – even as he swept across Eurasia conquering all in his path.

The difference is that Genghis Khan came to power by uniting the nomadic tribes of Asia while Occupy is coming to power by uniting the 99% of us who, up until now, were isolated, nomadic individuals and tribes. Genghis Khan conquered by military force while Occupy is conquering by celebrating nonviolence and diversity, creating a space for all to be heard, creating a community of trust and commitment, and, in the end, "showing, by its internal organization and methods of proceeding, that an alternative form of democracy is possible." *

*This last is from Peter Marcuse.   As opposed to our mass media’s obsession with Occupy goals or messages, Marcuse views the Occupation movement as having a number of roles and functions. This seems to me to be a much more productive way to understand and analyze our movement. Seven functions he lists are:
A confrontation function, "taking the struggle to the enemy's territory, confronting, potentially disrupting, the operations at the center of the problem." A symbolic function which registers a collective and "deeply felt unhappiness about things as they are and the direction in which they are going." An educational function, "provoking questioning, exploration, juxtaposition of differing viewpoints and issues, seeking clarification and sources of commonality within difference." A glue function, "creating a community of trust and commitment to the pursuit of common goals; [providing] a way of coming together in a community for those who are deeply affected and concerned. "An umbrella function, "creating a space ... in which quite disparate groups can work together in pursuit of ultimately consistent and mutually reinforcing goals ... a political umbrella, an organizing base for an ongoing alliance, not just a temporary coalition, of the deprived and discontented." An activation function, "inspiring others to greater militancy and sharper focus on common goals and specific demands ... providing space for ... cross discussions among supporting groups and interests, organizing ... events in support of ... reforms that [suggests] Occupy's own ultimate goals of change." A model function, "showing, by its internal organization and methods of proceeding, that an alternative form of democracy is possible."

†  Khan image thanks to to kungfumagazine.com

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Let your soul occupy you

Parker Mtn. Sunset: 12/11/04  J. Stimmell©2011

“Remember this: Most likely, the corporate state has, to some degree, colonized your mind, as it is well on its way to destroying the ecosystem of the entire planet.

Conversely, let your soul occupy you. While there might be an ongoing effort to scour Liberty Park of liberty, they cannot do likewise to your heart without your consent. Turn the tables on them: Evict the corporate occupiers from the public realm within--as all the while, you challenge propaganda whenever it crosses your path…on the streets, at your workplace, at family gatherings, and on social media-- because a lie left unchallenged begins to be accepted as truth. And worse, invades, colonizes and exploits (and often kills) a portion of the soul of the world…”

“The ground is shifting below our feet and this phenomenon involves more than the echoing footfalls of marchers and the trudging of militarized formations of riot cops on city streets worldwide.

“The first vibrations, closer to tremors, transpired because the ground below us has been fracked of dreams...the void engendered seismological activity. Now, from Cairo, Egypt's Tahrir Square to Syntagma Square in Athens, Greece to Liberty Park, in New York, New York to Oscar Grant Park, in Oakland, California, we have become like tuning forks, in sympatico with the resonances of the tormented earth.”

The above quotes are from an article by Phil Rockstoh published on Wednesday, November 23, 2011 by CommonDreams.org

Phil Rockstroh is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. He may be contacted at: phil@philrockstroh.com. Visit Phil's website or at FaceBook.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Occupy Delusion

Schizophrenic Delusion       Photoshop Collage        J. Stimmell©2011

I had an “aha moment” while reading a piece in today’s NYT by Benedict Carey: Finding Purpose After Living With Delusion.

Carey's article is about people with schizophrenia who are now arguing that their delusions are not solely from a biological illness “but also in fears, longings and psychological wounds” stemming from their environment.  Now, he writes, these psychiatric veterans are coming together in increasing numbers.

It struck me that  Finding Purpose After Living With Delusion is a perfect metaphor for the Occupy Wall Street Movement which is also people coming together, much like a huge support group, to validate each other while disputing the prevailing attitude that their problems are due solely to personal failure and incompetence.

“It’s a thrilling time,because people with lived experience are beginning to collaborate in large numbers,” says  Gail Hornstein, author of Agnes’s Jacket: A Psychologist’s Search for the Meaning of Madness. “They are developing their own theories, their own language about what their experiences mean from the inside.”  

Just like the Occupy Movement:  people coming together to share their own felt experience about what it actually feels like to be  poor, hungry, uninsured, unemployed, homeless and hopeless. 

And more than that, what it feels like to have society turn its back on them and call them losers because they no longer play the only game that counts in America: Buying things. Shopping until you drop.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Occupy Peace

The Perimeter Between Us and Them            J. Stimmell: Vietnam 1966
War is a place of fear, and fear is a place of borders. Fear requires us to dehumanize our enemies and, in the process, to dehumanize ourselves. Borders should not provide a justification for dehumanization. That is a trick of militarists who are in need of enemies, real or imagined, to make the war system work for them. But there is another way to deal with enemies, and that is to turn them, by our actions, into friends.

We need to stop fearing each other and treat each other with kindness. Consideration for the 99 percent does not stop at a country's border. We are all humans together, and we need each other to be fully human. We need to embrace our common humanity. In the nuclear age, war is far too dangerous; it has the potential to end civilization and most life on the planet. Peace is an imperative. We need to find a way to occupy peace, which begins in our hearts and must expand to encompass the world. 
  The above quote is from an Op-Ed by David Krieger published on Truthout on 11/23/11
Thank you, Pat, for sending me this.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Grounded in the present moment on Thanksgiving

Taking nothing for granted
Battered yet standing tall
Last collard in our garden
Grounded in the present moment
"If what most people take for granted were really true—if all you needed to be happy was to over indulge today and then on Black Friday* grab everything and see everything and investigate every experience and then talk about it, I should have been a very happy person, a spiritual millionaire…

But (w)hat a strange thing! In filling myself, I had emptied myself. In grasping things, I had lost everything. In devouring pleasures and joys, I had found distress and anguish and fear."
quote from A Thomas Merton Reader
*my addition

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Are you running in circles like a mad dog?

Coco doing her crazy running       J. Stimmell©2011

"The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything is to succumb to violence. More than that, it is cooperation in violence. The frenzy of the activist...destroys his own inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of his own work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful."
–above quote from Cojectures of a Guilty Bystander by Thomas Merton–

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

When the operation of the machine becomes so odious

Police Survellance Tower
OWS at Liberty Park, 10/8/11.   J.Stimmell@2011

 "There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part; you can't even passively take part, and you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop."

The above is from Mario Savio's famous speech at a Free Speech Movement demonstation in Berkely CA on 12/3/64 – a call to arms that, in many ways, ushered in the wave of activism that came to be known as The Sixties.

May the Occupy Movement be the catalyst to usher in a tsuami of activism in our even more urgent fight for peace and social justice in the 21st Century!

Monday, November 21, 2011

On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing

Sunrise on Jenness Pond in Fall      J. Stimmell©2011
"Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. 
On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”
– Arundhata Roy