Dept. of America

Tuesday, 4 July 2017 03:38 pm
kaffyr: Mid-afternoon view from the spirit world train. (Train view)
I Am Silent In the Face of Heartbreak

Every year, I try to write something about this country on July 4, because I love it. 

(Oh sure, you do, 
[personal profile] kaffyr  ... how come you're not a citizen?)

But this year, after eight months of surreality - 

(What makes a country great? What makes it great again? How can it become great for the first time?)

I find that I cannot.

(Some must think that makes me a traitor. Some must think I must be spineless. Some must think it makes me a patriot. I think it makes me confused.

I still love it.

(Can't figure out why, except that it's still got a chance to be great, and isn't that almost enough?)

So I turn to music. 

This man's guitar killed fascists. 

This man was prescient in so many ways, but he was wrong about the revolution. Or maybe he'll still be right. It's apparently the counter-revolution that's being televised. 

This American Woman slays - and she frightens racists. 

And this one ... I forgive him for forgetting that there were a lot of folks here when the Mayflower arrived, because ... because, because, because, and partly because of the beauty of their two voices. Every year this one makes me weep more. 

Dept. of Remembrance

Saturday, 29 April 2017 02:53 pm
kaffyr: The star poet from the SJ Adventures (Star poet)

It's almost the end of National Poetry Month. I'd meant to post this on Yom HaShoah. 

kaffyr: The TARDIS in snowfall (Christmas TARDIS)
The Sky is Full of Stars

Most of them we will never know. God alone knows if we'll ever make our way out there. And God alone knows whether we're worthy of getting off this ball of mud, this little jewel. 

So here we sit, turning our world to bloody red, dirt grey, despoiling the place, and ourselves, body and soul.  We take pearls, and become swine - or worse than swine, because pigs are pretty damned smart animals, and we, with all our great big brains, are small and petty, dumb in a way that beasts never are, and unworthy of pearls. 

And yet. 

Somewhere, a father cradles his child and prays he can protect her; a mother hunts for something to make her son's eyes grow big with joy. 

Somewhere doctors fight death; somewhere men and women tear aside bomb-broken walls, in death's way themselves, to rescue their fellow human beings. 

Somewhere, a girl creates glorious art, a boy makes music that makes peoples' hearts glad. 

Somewhere, someone gives up being selfish and cowardly, even as she is frightened to death of being good. 

Somewhere, someone is reaching out to her, giving her the strength, because he knows what it's like to take that step.

Somewhere people are cleaning up their messes, and our messes, too, helping the sky stay blue and the earth still verdant.

Somewhere, someone is standing up to a bully, and maybe even reaching into the bully's heart and starting a sea change.

Somewhere, an old man gives wisdom to a young fool, and a young fool gifts the old man with joie de vivre. 

Somewhere, one scientist pulls aside the sky of stars and looks into the infinite, while her colleague peers into the microscope and finds the cure for Alzheimer's. 

Somewhere, hearts yearn for love, and are rewarded. 

It isn't much, against all the death, and filth, and despair.

But perhaps it's not us doing the judging. 

We have always excelled at beating the odds, we fearfully arrogant humans. And perhaps, says the woman who isn't even sure one exists, except at the darkest time of year  when she needs one, there's a God out there, forgiving us our arrogance, loving us for it, saying, "Alright, you beloved cheeky monkeys, another year. I can't bear to give you up. I love you."

It's a gift I'll take. 

And to all of you magnificent people out there, here's a gift I've proffered before: my riff on "It's A Wonderful Life."

Dept. of Thanks

Thursday, 24 November 2016 01:50 pm
kaffyr: The TARDIS at Giverny (TARDIS at Giverny)
Thank You All

This world is a horrible world. But it's also, as Louie sang, a wonderful world. 

There are children dying in the Mediterranean. There are families starving in Aleppo. There are indigenous Americans and their allies being injured and frozen in North Dakota. There are black men and women, fellow citizens, who are being shot and prisoned here in a country that pretends it wasn't built on the backs of black men and women. There are people who wish to know nothing, and wish us to share their ignorance, at gunpoint, if necessary. There are slightly different versions of this horror across the globe. There is death, and starvation, and dying, and hate, and hate, and hate, and bitter tears, and the silence of apathy.

But there are sunrises. There are unexpected sperm whales greeting delighted underwater oceanographic nerds. There are lives saved. There are lives lived fully and fiercely with full and fierce love. There are rockets and tiny, tiny starships carrying bits of us into the icy dark, not caring one whit that there might not be anyone out there to meet. There are wonders, and children who may still save us. There are beautiful books, there are lovers, there are people who we love and who love us back.  There are angels unawares, dressed just like us. They are, in fact, us. 

And you are there, my friends, in that latter. 

Thank you. 

Any support I can give you, I will. Any love I can send you, I will. 

I love you all. 

Dept. of Independence

Monday, 4 July 2016 04:30 pm
kaffyr: (Joe Hill)
A Plea

Every Independence Day, I try to write a post that tells friends and acquaintances what I feel about Independence Day in America. This year, my post is a plea to everyone in this amazing country - and, frankly, to any of my friends and acquaintances around the world. Because what I'm about to ask all of you is something that I think is necessary. It's a plea from my heart, asking you all to help maintain democracy in a way that goes beyond love and duty, to action. 

Read newspapers. 

Read newspapers that you agree with, read the ones you're pretty sure are wrong-headed. Compare their stories. Continue reading them. Read newspapers from other countries if you can. 

Pay for those newspapers.

If you read them online, and there's a way to subscribe to a digital version of those papers, think hard about which ones you think are doing a good job - not necessary the job you like, but a good job - of trying to inform their reading public. 

If you read them in hard copy, subscribe. If you can only afford to get weekend delivery, do that. If you can afford seven-day-a-week delivery, do that. It'll be more expensive, but it's worth it to you - after all, you won't have to worry about your access to news dying with a recalcitrant laptop or aging tablet. And you'll have something to line your birdcage with eventually. More importantly, you'll be able to turn a page and find news you hadn't expected, hadn't looked for - and you might learn something important about your world. That's another benefit to hard-copy. When you read online news sources, they tend to conform themselves, via algorithms and other marketing magic, to what they think you want to read, or hear. Voila, instant echo chamber. 

So, yes, if you can, read newspapers, and pay for them. 

Most of you know I'm a reporter, so you may assume this is my biased, and slightly panicked, plea to my friends and acquaintances to help keep my source of income alive. Well, of course it is. 

But there's also this: this is what The Nation wrote most recently about the public's decreasing access to news that men, women, and children need to know, in order to make informed decisions about what's going on in their neighborhoods, their towns, their counties and provinces and states and nations and world. 

It's nothing new, as even the author states. But it's frightening in the extreme. 

They call journalism The Fourth Estate. I consider it one of the important pillars of democracy, along with informed voting, and continued informed involvement in democracy before and after voting. In fact, if you don't know what is happening around you - what businesses, governments, individuals, corporations, courts, et al, are doing to and for you - you cannot vote in an informed fashion. 

Newspapers are dying. And I'm not sure that live media is doing much of a job providing the news that people need in place of newspapers. Reading heavily targeted news that agrees with what you believe (something of which I'm equally guilty) will not tell you what's going on in this world. Newspapers, general circulation newspapers - small, medium, large, weekly and daily, neighborhood and national -  are what will help. 

They need money to keep going. So pay up. You're helping pay for democracy. 

Will keeping newspapers alive keep news alive? Probably not, in the long run, or at least in the way we once thought of news and newspapers. But it will help. And I can't think of a more patriotic thing to do on this Independence Day, than to check your wallet, figure out which two or three newspapers to support (remember to make one of them one that you don't agree with, but which you think has half-way decent reportage), and put your money into a subscription. 

Nor can I think of anything more patriotic for Canadians, for Brits, for Australians - for anyone whose country has a half-way open society - to do. We don't have the excuse of personal danger when we subscribe to good news sources that many folks across the world have. Let's use that freedom. 

Thank you, and here's a little something from Robert Reich that says other good things about democracy.

kaffyr: The TARDIS in snowfall (Christmas TARDIS)
Fighting Against the Dark

I'm sitting here, listening to extremely eclectic Christmas music, the Best Tree Ever bright and shiny to my right, my beloved BB and FB in front of me. It's Christmas Eve, and, as usual, I haven't gotten everything I wanted to get done today actually done. But, as is not actually as usual, I'm not too worried about it.

I got the faux mince mix done, and it's marinating now, ready to be put into a pie tomorrow morning. I got the cranberry relish made, and I made the two dressings (a sausage dressing and one that's nominally vegetarian, although it's hardly got any vegetables in it, just loads of artery-hardening yummy fat-soaked carbs, because it's my Nana's traditional sage dressing, and I should probably end this overloaded parenthetical ark right here) and they are baking now. 

Tomorrow, it'll be time to cook the goose, the corn casserole, the mashed potatoes and the Berghoff-style creamed spinach. And maybe a pumpkin pie, although one guest is bringing cheesecake, and another one is bringing a Sicilian cake. And of course it will also be time to race around, trying to make the place look a little better before the guests arrive. 

But tonight ... tonight, I'm very happy. 

I looked back at a few of my past Christmas posts, and I wish that I could replicate some of the elegance that occasionally glinted out from my prose. But this year, I don't have much that's elegant to say. 

Tonight, we will be watching The Snowman, and It's a Wonderful Life together  (if the three of us don't conk out ... it's gotten late, and we're all exhausted.) Both of these are Christmas traditions for us. 

Folks who know me know how much I love It's a Wonderful Life. It's a complicated, sophisticated, deeply realistic but ultimately hopeful little cinematic myth, and it says so much about family, love, anger, disappointment, hope, the turning of rage into joy ... it's all about fighting against the dark, and I never get tired of it, I never stop crying, or laughing, or ultimately being made that little bit happier by it. 

Years ago, I wrote three little vignettes based on the movie. It's a Wonderful Life fanfic, I suppose. I present them again here, with love. (They aren't under a cut, because I can't seem to make cuts work tonight. Forgive the word dump.) 


The building was cold and drafty at the best of times, the high ceilings and ornamental columns of its main room conducive to nothing more than the slow leach of heat to the outside. Tonight it was, perhaps, colder than usual; he'd let the employees go early because it was Christmas Eve, and ordered the janitor to damp the furnace. He didn't care. He'd be warm enough with the fire his man had built up in the study's fireplace.

He rolled his chair closer to the hearth, and leaned as far as he could into the warmth, then looked back at his desk. The telephone hadn't rung, not for two hours. Not since that fool had banged on the window and screamed a greeting at him - crazed smile, five o'clock shadow and wild hair, no topcoat - then disappeared.

He had felt a sour glee at that point. It seemed obvious the man had lost his senses. But his  heady victory had gradually ebbed in the dark and the silence, replaced with nagging questions and unsatisfied, fearful curiosity. Where were the sheriff and the examiner? Where were the reporters? He brought his fist to his mouth and scowled, resisting the urge to send his man to find out what was going on. He tried not to listen to the clock.

The fire died, and the room grew cold. He rolled himself around and back to his desk, retrieved the envelope he'd stuffed into a top drawer.

Eight thousand dollars. Such a small thing to him, and such a large and fatal weapon - he had thought - to his nemesis. Such a poison as would - he had thought - silence the fool and bring him to ruin in the eyes of the rabble.

He had thought.

Outside, the silence of the snowy evening gave way to something else. He heard snatches of song, the tinkle of a bell. For a fleeting moment, so quick a one that he could easily insist it had never been, he thought he heard his mother's voice. The music faded, and the laughter braided through it, and the bell.

He stayed where he was, his heart not yet ripe for the picking.


Ever since Laura (who laughed with, not at; who loved; who left too soon), the dream had been a recurring torment.

He would be walking down Main Street, a Main Street lined with people, everyone he knew. They would all be laughing. No one would speak to him. No one would let him in to the office. He would run to his home, and it would be empty, all the animals gone. He would wake, tears streaming down his face, with the memory of his brother's disapproving eyes.

(His brother had never had those eyes, of course. Nor had his sister-in-law, nor his wonderful, brave, boss of a nephew. They all loved him, and so he got through with strings on his fingers, and the occasional snootful.)

When he lost the money, it was as if he had stepped into the nightmare. He had cried on his desk, the animals around him as he tried to remember where he'd left it, and tried to forget the fury in his nephew's face.

He wasn't a praying man - none of the men in his family were - but he felt as if a prayer had been answered when she knocked softly at the door and asked what had happened. Then she asked for his help, looked into his eyes and said it wasn't his fault. It took a heck of a woman to make him believe that, but he did, mostly. And off they went, making telephone calls, and telling those they called to call others, then knocking on doors in the snowy twilight, everyone telling everyone that his nephew needed their help. And everyone answering.

It was like a festival, or a deep breath of relief, in the crazy, crowded, happy front room at their house. He proffered his basket of loose bills like a vassal to his lord. It would have been enough for him. But while everyone was singing, and she was bringing out some unexpectedly welcome eggnog, someone tapped him on the shoulder. He turned, and was brought into the tweedy, still slightly wet and doggy-smelling arms of his nephew.

The hug almost sank him, but he stayed afloat, grinning like a fool. He only had to sit down and fight the tears again when the younger man asked him - him - for forgiveness.

He forgave.


She had always known there was rage at his core. She didn't know where it came from or why it bubbled through the quirky humor and the odd decisions and the steady look in his eyes.  But she never worried, because those things were the crucible through which he changed the rage, made it into something strong and good for her and the children. And somehow she had also known there was just enough fury in her own heart that he would trust her with his.

She held two secrets in that heart of hers.

The first? She had lied all those years ago, when she said she was happier home than in New York. She was only happy where he was, and if he'd given her the choice - home, or him on a tramp steamer and only a stone on which to lay her head - she'd have nicked her brother's shortest pair of dungarees, found some rubber boots and booked passage.

The second was that she knew his secret. Not the one everyone else thought he had. Everyone else thought he'd given up dreams of the world for her and for the family, for the family business. Even he still thought that, sometimes. For a few years she had thought so, too.

But she had grown to understand the truth. It was the other away around with that man. He wanted the National Geographic Magazine, yes he did, and he wanted to talk about coconuts (and she had made herself like the stuff for him), and dream about trains and aeroplanes and those blessed tramp steamers of his.

What he really wanted, though, were all those things from behind the solidity of Mr. Gower's counter, or his desk, or from under the counterpane on their bed. The look in his eyes when he'd walked, wet and angry and curious, into their leaking living room on their wedding night; that had been her first clue. Eventually she cottoned on to it.

She never told him, and when he came home this Christmas Eve in an uncontrolled panic, with the rage untransformed, she thought she had made a terrible mistake. She wasn't even sure what mistake (Him? This life? Herself?) but it seemed as if everything she thought she knew about him had been wrong.

Until she remembered the feel of his lips on her throat, the night he dropped the telephone and gave in to her. And she put aside her fear, and went to see his uncle. They would figure it out together.

And they did, and here they all were, and she was laughing and crying, and shepherding trays of coffee and eggnog to the flock that had gathered here.

She would shake later, but not in front of the children. She would do it in his arms, now that he had come back

Merry Christmas, everyone. Good Yule. Happy Bringing of the Light. 


kaffyr: Mid-afternoon view from the spirit world train. (Train view)
Grace and Gratitude

I had an odd thought recently. 

I wondered if Thanksgiving wasn't in actuality an incredibly smug holiday. Leaving aside the feel-good story of the first Thanksgiving, and all its worrisome aspects, wasn't there something just a little unpleasantly self-satisfied about saying how thankful one was for whatever great or small riches one might have? Was that something I wanted to do, I wondered, when this world is full of people who have nothing, nothing at all, for which to be thankful? Wasn't my being thankful for my life just rubbing my luck in the metaphorical faces of those people?

I don't think I would have had that thought a few years ago. I think this past year has tired me physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I know that the world has always had too much of hell in it -  I've always known that, I am no naif -  but this year seemed particularly awful, with hate, fear, and ignorance nurturing every bloody proclivity toward barbarism that we humans have, and smothering all of our tendencies toward love and grace.

As I said, an odd thought. A weird one. 

But I decided that I was looking at it all wrong, that I was allowing my spiritual weariness to curdle into cynicism and hopelessness. Like the boy whose heart bore a shard of the Snow Queen's shattered mirror, which turned his every thought to darkness, I was looking at the holiday with the hard, half-blind eyes of the hopeless soul. I was a fool to do so, when I was surrounded by so much for which to be thankful. 

Being grateful for the people who I love, and who love me, isn't being selfish or self-satisfied. Being thankful that I have a little home that I love; that I have a job which still, amazingly, means something to me; that I have medical help to wield against the physical and mental illnesses I scuffle with; that I can still write about things I love; that I have Bob and Andy in my life; that I know all of you, my online friends and acquaintances - none of that is wrong. 

Let me now try to work on behalf of people who have less than I have. Let me try to pass on the love with which I am graced. Let me try to help others into a life for which they can be thankful. 

Thank you all, for being who you are, and for being in my life. 

kaffyr: Animated Canadian flag (Canada!)
I Will Not Forget

 photo ldquoInFlandersFieldsrdquoPaintingbyDirkLemmens1959_zps8a818ba2.jpg

Not because I glorify war, but because I hate it.
Not because all soldiers are heroes, but because they are all human.
Not because of the generals, but because of the privates.
Not just because of the soldiers, but because of the civilians.
Not just because it is good to remember, but because it is necessary. 

My grandfather was an RAF and RNAS pilot in the First World War. He was an ace. He won the DSC. He also served in the Second World War on the home front. He was a highly imperfect and often awful man, but he was brave, and more than occasionally worth knowing and remembering. 

My mother served as a nurse in the Royal Canadian Navy, although she didn't have to serve during wartime. You know what I think of my mother.

My brother served as a police officer and a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. They also serve who are always on alert on the home front. 

Dept. of Lovely Things

Saturday, 4 July 2015 04:38 pm
kaffyr: The TARDIS says hello (Default)
Oh Beautiful, For Spacious Skies

This country is a mess. We are a mess.
We are a fractious, miserable, small-minded people. We fight with each other, over stupid things. We cheat each other, for shameless reasons. We kill each other, for shameful - unforgivable - reasons.
We despoil our land and air and water, because it's easier to do that than to change our ways.
We eye other nations with suspicion and disdain, even as our power impacts those nations. 
We are, inescapably, a mess. 

But this country is also wonderful. We, as a people, are also wonderful.
We are wonderful for one simple reason. 
We hate being a mess. 
We fight ourselves, we battle our worst impulses.
We refuse to let our government screw up without at least trying to hold its collective feet to the fire.
We march in the street to say that black lives do matter.
We insist that anyone who chooses to marry in the eyes of the law have the lawful right to marry.
We fight in the courts so that women have the right to choose their reproductive destinies.
We reach out to each other, despite our fear of difference. We struggle past our fear of hijabs, yarmulkes, crosses, Darwin, you name it.
We look to other nations with curiosity, respect, a desire to help.
We try to clean up after ourselves.
We try to love each other as we love ourselves.

We fail much of the time. We despair.
But we don't give up. 

This country may be a mess, but it's one of the most beautiful messes it has ever been my honor to try to clean up. 

Happy 239th birthday. We'll try to do right by you. 

Dept. of Remembrance

Monday, 25 May 2015 02:57 pm
kaffyr: The TARDIS says hello (Default)
Memorial Day

Janet Sears; close friend in my early newspaper days. Sweet-faced, wryly-sardonic woman whose laugh I can still hear, as she nursed me through a broken heart, as we shared musical tastes and made fun of the men who broke our hearts. Janet'sweetness concealed a tough determination to control her life, which came in handy, because her life was a tough ride. Died of cervical/ovarian cancer in the late 1990s. I kind of loved her, and I miss her.

Mary McAndrew: newswoman extraordinaire, poker player, sardonic to the point of being frightening. How amazing was she? This amazing. I'll always be grateful to her for introducing me to percogesic, an amazingly effective over-the-counter anti-headache medicine, which no longer exists.  Died of cancer in 1999. I respected the hell out of her, and I liked her and I miss her. 

Ed Sunden: unforgettable, unbearable and unbearably wonderful. Brilliant, over-the-top, horrid and lovely, sometimes at the same time. Gun lover, deer-hunter, non-stop smoker, beer drinker, tequila consumer, inveterate prankster, nonstop in every sense of the word. I met him at Suncon, the 1977 World Science Fiction Convention.  SF fan, friends with some of the most amazing people, one of whom was my Best Beloved, to whom he introduced me. He changed my world. Died of an apparent aneurysm while sitting down to work, Dec. 6, 2000. I loved him, and I miss him. 

Rona Malk: nurse and educator, mother, brilliant - yes another one whose intellect glittered - and occasionally dangerous. Joined Ed in making nights at our favorite bars an unpredictable adventure. Wanted a family, and found it when she fell in love with her husband, and had two children with him. Died of cancer in 2001. She made me laugh and think. I liked her, and I miss her.

William Cardwell Routliffe:absent father, bon vivant, convivial train-wreck, whose live lurched and stumbled because of alcohol, but who always got back up. Maker of friends, teller of tales, a man who knew his life wasn't what it could have been, but loved it nonetheless. Died following a stroke on January 26, 2009. I didn't know him nearly enough, but I think I loved him, and I miss him. 

Nick Katz: my first friend at Pioneer Press. Incredible reporter, long-ago blues guitarist, purveyor of the darkest, blackest of humors, one-time romantic idealist turned wounded cynic. Lover of cooking, to a near-chef level of talent. Detective noir fan. He babysat my son when FB was a little guy. He was an amazing, wonderful friend, and a vastly talented individual, who, at the end, hated everything about his job and his life, but he kept going. I wanted so much for him to be happy. Died of a possible heart attack or maybe an aneurysm on May 11, 2013. I miss him very much.

Mary Glen Keirstead Routliffe Stirling: my mother. This is how amazing she was. I can't begin to say how much I love her. Died after a year's fight against cancer that wasn't found nearly early enough. I miss her like crazy, and I still like to talk to her. 

Dept. of Joy

Friday, 12 December 2014 06:54 pm
kaffyr: Still from Arakawa Under the Bridge (Arakawa afternoon)
Thirty Three Years

We have a beautiful card that sits on our mantelpiece. It's a reproduction of a Chinese painting. On a separate cover sheet is a single English word, and the Chinese symbol that represents the same concept; contentment.

Inside, BB wrote: "Your head. My chest. Our bed. 20 years."

That was 13 years ago. It has never left the mantelpiece.

Four homes, eight cats, one son, 10 or so jobs, seven or so used cars, 10 or so computers, various life-threatening ailments and five different hair colors between us.

One life together, where the worse is always made better, and the better is always turned into the best; where the ride is roller-coaster, the sorrow is bearable, the joy is sharable, the sex is probably none of your business, the laughs occasionally uncontrollable.

He is my lover, my best friend, and so much more.

Who cares if he doesn't make the bed the way I like to make the bed?

kaffyr: Mid-afternoon view from the spirit world train. (Train view)
Thank You

In the past, I've written some pretty lengthy essays, monologues, meditations and such on Thanksgiving. Some of them were pretty eloquent (I know; I just checked, because I roll that way.)

This year, it's not going to be all that eloquent. I'm older. I'm more tired than I have been in previous years. My ability to find a verbal hook on which to hang the rest of my commentary has rusted, along with my facility with words. 

However, along with my advanced age, I've become wiser. At least I've reached the age when I realize it's not egotistical to say, "I've learned from all these years on earth." And I've remembered that one can be brief without missing the point - which is this.

Thank you.

Thank you, online friends, for being out there. My world has not shrunk to the social pinpoint it could have, thanks to you. I am not chained to work and sleep, and fear of going out, thanks to all of you. You show me the world through your words - you show me many worlds. You reach out to me from across the globe. You let me share a little bit of your life. You let me cheer you on; you let me wish you happy birthday (usually late); you let me give you electronic hugs. You allow me to care for people beyond myself. Thank you for that.

And you care for me. Whether we know each other just a little, through fanfic, or shared fandom interests, or know each other a little more intimately, you have soothed my cares, lightened my loads, and reminded me that life can be good. You've hugged me, helped me dry my tears, put up with my seemingly endless bouts of depression.

You are all treasures. Remember that. Each and every one of you.

Today, my son came over; we baked a pumpkin pie together. I finally made some more bread - and it turned out beautifully! I got housekeeping chores done; washed our comforter, kept the kitchen neat and clean despite all the cooking. FB and BB and I laughed together and listened to music (FB introduced me to Fugazi, and I introduced him to Caribou, and we both listened to Joe Hisaishi's orchestration in the soundtrack to Princess Mononoke), and I had a glass of wine and remembered to do another recommendation over at [ profile] calufrax. The house is warm and fragrant with baking. I am surrounded by family, something that is more important to me than I can ever explain in words. A little later, we're going out for Thanksgiving dinner with good friends.

The world is in a terrible state. There is heartbreak out there; there are injustices crying out for reparation; there are struggles to be maintained; there is an environment to be saved.

But right now, right this very moment? I am blessed. And I hope that the love that surrounds me will energize me, and allow me to go out there tomorrow and fight a little harder for this world.

And I owe so much of my blessings to you.  It all comes back to people, to shared hearts and minds, to all of you.

Again I say it. You are all treasures. Again I say it - remember how precious you all are.

Thank you.

kaffyr: The TARDIS in snowfall (Christmas TARDIS)

Merry Christmas to all of you who celebrate within a traditional faith.
Merry Christmas to all of you who celebrate with faith that isn't traditional.
Happy Holidays to all of you who love the lights and the songs and the in-gathering of loved ones.

The lights, the music, the determination to fight against the dark, the faith in something that loves humanity, (whether God or ourselves as we let the better angels of our nature lead us to grace) ... they are all precious in this universe.

I'm not a traditional believer these days, although I grew up in the Christian tradition. But in this season, I gladly reclaim some of that faith. I am glad to rejoice. 

One of the ways in which I celebrate each year is by watching "It's A Wonderful Life," which everyone in our family unironically and deeply loves. The reasons are hard to unpack, but they have as much to do with grace as anything, I suppose.

Some years ago, I wrote something about a then-current essay that seemed, until one looked closely, to inveigh against the film (and there have certainly been many people who do.) My meditation included three small stories of what I thought might have happened after Mr. Capra's story ended. If you're interested, here's a link to what I wrote back then.

So, let's embrace life, and celebrate it by giving of ourselves to those we cherish, in whatever way we do. Let's eat goose, exchange presents, wear paper hats, embrace our children and friends, get maudlin, and search the skies for a star (or for all the stars.)

Merry Christmas, friends - and here, have a Christmas tree!
Under here! )
kaffyr: The TARDIS says hello (Default)

This has been a hell of a year. Frustration, and loss, and death, woo.

So as I was driving with BB to our friends' house for Thanksgiving, I found it hard to do what I normally do on this day; be grateful for everything that I have. I was able to say, "I'm so lucky to have friends," and then I stopped dead. What else did I have to feel thankful for?

Well, that was foolish. I knew it, but I'm kind of bruised right now, and the bruising makes it hard to think or feel efficiently. And I kept thinking of all the defeats, and the losses, and the cuts and bruises ... 

But luckily, I eventually remembered other things.

I really do have so much to be grateful for - my health isn't good, but it's not nearly as bad as it might be, not nearly as bad as that which so many of my friends deal with.

I have had a tough year, yes, but I was surrounded by people who loved me, supporting me through all the tough times.

There have been defeats, but there have been a few victories.

There have been losses (so much easier to say in the passive voice), but I am working on remembering that they aren't, perhaps, losses, just detours and delays.

And I kept coming round and round again to, "I have friends. I am loved. I can love in return." 

And that is wonderful.

Thank you all.

kaffyr: The TARDIS at Giverny (TARDIS at Giverny)
 Lest We Forget

I love the poem "In Flanders Fields" but the last verse — "take up our quarrel with the foe" — is something that doesn't sit well with me. Still, Flanders Field represents both the senseless loss of war and the crucial remembrance of both what is senseless, and what, sometimes, is necessary to fight for.

And, most important, it reminds us of the men and woman who labored, fought and died.

 photo Flanders-Fields-during-the-War_zpsd7179766.jpg

Flanders Field during the First World War

 photo ldquoInFlandersFieldsrdquoPaintingbyDirkLemmens1959_zps8a818ba2.jpg
(Painting "In Flanders Fields" by Dirk Lemmens)

kaffyr: The TARDIS in snowfall (Christmas TARDIS)
Silent night, holy night ....

Would that it were, for all of us, in some way. Would that peace, good will to all would resound on earth as it did in heaven, once upon a time, (or so we were told.) Would that those heavens could be filled with a joyous multitude rejoicing that God With Us was born on Earth and in our hearts, rising in patience and forgiveness and understanding that would flow from heart to heart.

Oh, the human heart. Tillich said once (and I paraphrase slightly) that sin is the separation of human from human, human from self, and human from the Ground of Being. When we live alone in our hearts, separated from our fellows, what can follow but sin and sorrow?

And does it not seem that this is now the case here on Earth?

The world is filled with blank-eyed, bloody-mouthed cruelty. Young and old are seduced into selfishness and we live apart from each other, either scrabbling for day to day survival, or suffocating in surfeit.

What a pitiful thing we are. What an evil, what a waste upon the face of the cosmos, the chorus shrills again and again.

Could anyone blame me - blame us - for recoiling from ourselves in disgust, for giving up?

But somehow, we don't. Somehow we keep going.

We as individuals sometimes fall, but more times we get up and stagger on. We as a world lurch and spin and teeter on the edge of annihilation of spirit and place. And we are teetering every day, every second - and yet we have somehow, for now, refused our own annihilation.


I think - general agnostic and sometime atheist and defrocked Northern Baptist that I am - that whatever there is in the universe that yearns towards light and warmth and good still burns in some corner of our hearts. The filth of all we do ill may nearly extinguish it. And it alone, that tiny burning spark, is not enough by itself to keep us warm, or keep us from dying inside.

But it is there, and it stubbornly refuses to be completely doused. With patience, love and hard, hard, heart-breaking work, it may yet burst into flame again.

Here at the turning of the year, I choose to believe, for however short a time, in the birth of a child who is the sign of ultimate love. I choose, who does not even know if one exists, to welcome God With Us. I choose to welcome the sun from darkness, and follow stars into light, and reject - oh, silly human that I am - all that is petty, if only for one blessed silent, holy night.

Once upon a time I wrote about how much I love the movie It's A Wonderful Life, (and this is connected, believe me.) I wrote my own coda to the story. And each year on Christmas Eve, even in years where confusion and sadness are inescapable, as they are this year,  I remember the love that shone through that movie, and recall the silent and holy nights of my youth, and decide to believe, for a little while longer, in the completely irrational and unsupportable victory of light against the darkness.

Blessings to all of you who I know, and also to those who I don't know. Blessings to you in whatever form you will take them. Star of Bethlehem. Welcoming of the Yule. Turning from cold to warmth, from death to life, in whatever fashion it seems best to you. I hope to have the grace to carry you all in my heart for the coming year.

kaffyr: The TARDIS says hello (Default)
A Beautiful, Messy, Disastrous Victory of a Country

There are faults and dangers. They're real, and they have to be tackled, and acknowledged, and we have to struggle to fix them, and we might fuck up badly. Lord knows, we've done that before. There are Americans who are still oppressed, marginalized, passed over, and wronged. And none of us will have full freedom until we change that.

I hope to god we do that; I hope we stand up to the greed-headed selfish bastards - either the ones around us or the ones inside us - and transform their hearts,  our hearts, and make this country better.

Because America is something amazing on this earth, one that stumbles and lurches, falls, gets up and struggles forward again,  toward freedom and democracy. This country holds within its Constitution, within its traditions, within its millions of souls, the promise of so much good ...

I promise to do my best. I promise to help this place, this America - my second home, the place that holds so much of my heart - become as magnificent as it can be.

Happy Birthday, America.

kaffyr: The TARDIS says hello (Ice and the stars)
"Challenger, go to throttle up"
Twenty-five years ago. Jesus. )
kaffyr: The TARDIS says hello (ChristmasTARDIS)
Merry Christmas
It's a quarter to two on Christmas morning. There are no lights up at Casa Kaffyr; no tree, no presents. The year hasn't conspired to result in that. Nothing horrible, just a few too many expenses on too few dollars, and a bit more time, attention and energy spent on Bob and his health. 

All that's OK. We just finished watching It's a Wonderful Life, and I just finished bawling, and feeling my heart swell a little more than I expected it to this year. And Bob and I embraced, and he told me that's what he needed for Christmas. And it's all I needed, too. And we're lucky because we have so much more than each other. We have our son, and people who love and care about us, and who have helped us in so many ways over the years.

George Bailey's got nothing on us. Bless his soul.

Merry Christmas, my friends, if you celebrate. If you don't, let me wish you the brightest of Yules, and a successful victory over the darkest time of the year. May you be with friends, or family - the ones you love, and who love and support you most. May you be warm and free from want. May you not be afraid. May the gifts you give bring joy, and the gifts you receive as well. May today be good, and the days to come be even better.

A couple of years ago I wrote something connected with It's a Wonderful Life. It's here if you want to read it.

kaffyr: The TARDIS says hello (A Cat Looks Up)


My head's aching.
  • My head is still on my shoulders, and it is often filled with wonderful thoughts, and sometimes I can spread them to people who like them.
My fingers are at the mercy of three different ailments, leaving them by turns painfully numb, yellow-white and cold; so swollen that they look like sausages and are painful to the touch; or afflicted with aching joints and skin battered into permanent soreness by lack of circulation.
  • My fingers fit beautifully in Bob's. With my thumbs stuck in my ears, they wiggle very nicely. And they still handle a keyboard with surprising ease.
My little condo is far tinier, far less gracious than the place I once lived.
  • My little condo is mine. Inside its wall are my books, my computer, my art, my memories, my cats, my best beloved and (occasionally) my first born. I have shelter from the storm, and I wish more people had that.
My cats have fleas and worms, despite my best and most expensive efforts to get rid of the parasites.
  • I have cats, who sit on my lap, purr, and keep both my body and my heart warm.
My bank account's empty; that 15 percent pay cut has finally stripped the fat and the flesh, leaving the fragile bones. I have two more years to look forward to of overages, grocery- and gas-less weeks, and choices between this or that medication purchase.
  • I have a bank account, where millions haven't, and I have friends who have helped me and mine over and over again, in ways that never cease to humble me. I will never be able to thank them enough, or repay them in any way that they deserve, and they still want to be my friend. How fantastic is that?
My job may disappear within the next year or so as the news industry undergoes what may be death throes or labor pains in the birth of something new.
  • I have a wonderful job that continues to challenge me, and gives me the chance, I believe, to help and entertain people and strengthen local democracy. And I have the next year or so to prepare for another adventure.
My mother is old and I know I will have to bury her, realistically sometime in the next half-decade. I will lose one of my best friends.
  • I have had, and still have, the world's most amazing mother; she is beautiful, kind, brave, and strong, and still comforts me when I cry. How lucky am I to have had her in my corner for 55 years? She will, I suspect, be with me forever. Silly death, to think it can take her from me.
I have nicely frakked-up brain chemistry. It tosses me in the dark places more than I'd like.
  • I have medications and knowledge and doctors and a beloved husband who drag me back into the light each and every time. And my dark places do not compare with the dark places of others; I wish those others could have the support and stability with which I've been graced because, damn, no one should be left in the dark.
I live in this world, and it's filled with cruelty, and fear, and ignorance, blood, and greed, cupidity and venality large and small. The air is poisoned and the seas are dying, and spreading deserts are mummifying the good earth.
  • I live in this world, and it is filled with children singing, and coffee, and stained-glass windows and doctors and nurses who worked to save my husband's life, and ice cream and books and rock and roll and Vermeer paintings and Chinese calligraphy and Uluru*and didgeridoos and ballet and Inuit sculpture and the Great Rift Valley and the Great Barrier Reef, and always, always, the hope of doing better tomorrow.

Thank you. Thank you all.

*Many thanks to [ profile] st_aurafina 

kaffyr: The TARDIS says hello (Default)
To Every Thing There is a Season
Nine years ago tomorrow, things fell apart. We're still trying to put things back together. It's difficult, because, nine years on, we still can't find all the broken pieces and we still can't decide how they go together, and we're still fighting over how it got to be so bad that things fell apart, and we're still figuring out whether we need new pieces.

And part of the difficulties are the thousands of souls no longer here who were, nine years ago today.

And part of the difficulties are all the souls — hundreds and hundreds and unending hundreds of them, young and old, man and woman, deliberate and accidental, son, daughter, father, mother, fighter, non-com, ally and adversary — that followed those first ones into the dark.

And part of the difficulties are that what fell apart here was echoed and presaged and iterated and reiterated, before and after, like images in a puzzle of mirrors. all over the world. And now things are falling apart for people we don't know, oceans and cultures away, but it's all still connected.

It's hard to put things back together when the blocks we reach for may only be images in the mirrors of our own fears, or someone else's fears, or worse.

It's hard to put things back together when we can't agree on what they looked like before, or what they should look like now.

It's hard to put things together when people stand in the wreckage and glory in it, even as they hate everyone else standing in the wreckage and glorying in it.

It's hard to put things back together when people are shooting at us, harder still when our own hands are filled with guns and not blocks.

And love is not the answer, or at least not all of it.

Patience is.
Willingness to listen is.
Willingness to restrain our anger is.
Willingness to see the other.
Willingness to work hard to make the other see us.
Willingness to work hard, period.
Willingness to fail; over, and over, and over, until we get it right.

And it's hard, because we're not the only ones in the equation. And others have to learn those lessons, too, and how the hell do we convince them to learn, and help us find and fix the things that fell apart?

And then we need a break from the lords of chance and change, ensuring that everyone, on all sides, grows weary of salting the earth and burning the bridges and living in hate.

I don't know how to do it any more than you know, at least not all of it. That's the problem when things fall apart. None of us has one answer, one answer seems to be all we're looking for, and even if there was one answer, we probably couldn't agree on it, or bring ourselves to follow its dictates.

do know what we don't need. Screaming over a community center or a place of worship. I found this particularly helpful. And I signed this. If you decide to do it, pass it on, would you?
kaffyr: The TARDIS says hello (Breaking my heart)
Greed, Mr. Gecko*, Sucks.
Because I am always and forever late with these things, and because lately I've been certain I have little of worth to say (must be a phase of the moon or something) I didn't post these at the beginning of Labor Day. 

These two songs encapsulate a little of what I feel when I read about the economic state of our nation, of all nations, of the world.

*Not the cute insurance lizard

Show of Hands - Arrogance Ignorance and Greed

James Keelaghan - House of Cards

kaffyr: The TARDIS says hello (Breaking my heart)
Greed, Mr. Gecko*, Sucks.
Because I am always and forever late with these things, and because lately I've been certain I have little of worth to say (must be a phase of the moon or something) I didn't post these at the beginning of Labor Day. 

These two songs encapsulate a little of what I feel when I read about the economic state of our nation, of all nations, of the world.

*Not the cute insurance lizard

Show of Hands - Arrogance Ignorance and Greed

James Keelaghan - House of Cards

kaffyr: The TARDIS says hello (Default)
Happy Birthday, United States of America!

The road's been long and difficult, and probably won't get any easier in future; everyone's taken wrong turns, and will do so again. But I'm so glad to be walking the road with you, because my companions on the journey are, by and large, decent and honorable folk, and the destination we long to reach - freedom and justice for everyone - is a shared yearning. May you have many more birthdays, and may we all, as your component parts, grow in wisdom and mercy.

So: Tomorrow we go back to cleaning up the Gulf, fighting Wall Street greed and influence, pursuing new scientific knowledge, pressing our elected representatives to be better, educating our children and ourselves, rescuing those in danger, planting trees, repairing homes, writing stories, watching each other's backs, and caring for each other in a difficult, day-to-day way. It's frustrating, tough, work that demands we listen to each other, put aside differences, and hold to ideals while being practical team members.* Apart from spinning straw into gold, I can't think of a more difficult job. Apart from loving each other, I can't think of a more important job.

For today, though, let the barbecues heat up, let the bands play Sousa, let the picnic baskets proliferate, let the kids eat ice cream and let the fireworks explode across our skies!

(Here's a group of people trying to do just that. Check it out.)


kaffyr: The TARDIS says hello (Default)

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