Saturday, October 17, 2020

Love Letter to My Life #28: Something about picnic tables

by Joyce Wycoff

(We know the day we were born, but most of us do not know the day we will die. This love letter to my life is written on the day I've designated as my death day, the 17th of every month, and reminds me to be grateful for my incredible life.)  

There is something about a picnic table. It’s not particularly comfortable, or lovely even in its cross-legged simplicity. However, the sight of a picnic table prompts a happy reaction in me. Maybe it’s the picnic table from childhood under the shady shelter of a large pecan tree; maybe it’s the symbol of years of camping trips and excursions; maybe it’s an ancient memory of eating in community out doors around a fire. 

My reaction to picnic tables seems to be deeper than its form or function. Something happened yesterday that started me on this path of thinking about picnic tables and called to me at 3:30 this morning until I surrendered and began this letter. 
San Diego County ... ocean to desert
I’ve been here in the hill country of east San Diego County for a week and a half, long enough to settle in and begin the familiar routines of writing, photography and making art. Yesterday, as the shade laced the yard, I spread my laptop and notebooks across the picnic table and settled in to think about a new project.

It was a perfect fall day: the air fresh and that perfect temperature that feels neither cool nor warm.. And, even though I’m in a rather large RV park (250 spaces), my neighbors were gone and the only sounds were a rustle of leaves and an occasional birdcall in the distance. I drifted into the project, writing, revising the related art work, mapping the project which slowly emerged like a developing photo in a dark room. When the day softened into evening and turned cool, I picked up my work and went back inside.

That's when I noticed the quiet. Not just the quiet of outside, but the silence in my head. I could hear, or rather feel, the silence, like being wrapped in a blanket of calm and peace. I thought it would go away when I noticed it, but it didn’t. It seemed to be in my body as well as my mind. It was part of  my breath.

In the past six weeks, I’ve been called to make this change, not understanding why. Every time I would have a doubt, it would be whisked away by the ease with which everything was happening. It was like walking through a maze of blind corners with no clue of which way to go until suddenly a “this way” sign would appear. 

I still don’t know exactly why I’m here but it feels right and the peaceful silence is still with me even though it did wake me up in the middle of the night, demanding that I get up and write about this.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Take a Stand #3: Free, independent press is worth protecting

"Take a stand” is a on-going series articulating beliefs which deserve more of my action.

Taking a stand #3: We need a free, independent press. We need journalism we can trust to bring us facts and truth. We need net-neutrality to guarantee the free flow of information.

Action: Subscribe to Mother Jones; donate to Democracy Now!; pay attention to attempts to end net neutrality, and reduce time on Facebook and Twitter through a social media fast on Mondays and Thursdays.


This stand was prompted by a podcast from  When Truth Is Dangerous: The Power of Independent Media featuring the leaders of two of the most successful independent news agencies in the U.S.:
  • Monika Bauerlein is the groundbreaking CEO and former Co-Editor of Mother Jones, which since 1976 has stood among the world’s premier progressive investigative journalism news organizations.
  • Amy Goodman, host and Executive Producer of Democracy Now!, has won countless prestigious awards, including an I.F. Stone Medal for Journalistic Independence Lifetime Achievement Award and the Right Livelihood Award. She has co-authored six bestsellers, including Democracy Now!: Twenty Years Covering the Movements Changing America
  • Neil Harvey, Host and Consulting Producer
Podcast Highlights:

MB: The only way we are going to have journalism that serves the democracy that it is a part of is for the public to take ownership of it.

MB: Speaking of the history of corporate journalism.“Like any profitable activity, the people who were doing it, the people who owned the profit-making, wanted to do more of it, so there was an incredible amount of corporatization and consolidation. 

NH: A handful of mammoth of media monopolies now dominate the mindscape with familiar names such as AT&T, Comcast, Viacom, CBS, and Disney. Not only does this media concentration stifle freedom of speech it also throttles a diversity of counterpoints.

NH: In 2017, under intense lobbying by media monopolies, the Federal Communications Commission overturned net neutrality. Although the Internet was created and paid for by US public tax dollars, it’s now controlled by giant corporations. The information highway will start to act more like a toll bridge.

(The FCC's Restoring Internet Freedom Order, which took effect on June 11, 2018, provides a framework for protecting an open Internet while paving the way for better, faster and cheaper Internet access for consumers.

NH: Amy Goodman and her team began broadcasting in 1996 as the only daily election show airing on public television and planned to wrap it up after the election was over. Instead, it was a free and open internet that allowed Democracy Now! to flourish. 
AG: But there was more demand for the show after than before. I mean, it was a way of getting grassroots, global voices out there.
NH: The early Internet mantra that “information wants to be free” gave way to web and social media platforms that are now some of the biggest corporate monopolies in history, such as Google and Facebook. The public town square is not in their business model, and they have siphoned away the majority of advertising money that funded traditional journalism. Nor do they pay to use the news gathered and produced by media outlets. 
These digital media platforms are also largely unregulated, and not subject to standards of journalism. In reality, their main profit center is your data, which are now the most valuable commodity in the world. 
MB: So the way Facebook makes a profit is the more people spend more time on the platform and share and like and engage, the more money they make by them being the people who do the bundling of eyeballs and selling them to advertisers.

*** Previous Stands:

Taka stand #1: I believe that we white people created Black Lives Matter out of over 400 hundred years of treating people of color as if they didn’t matter.

We did it to black people, native Americans, Chinese, Muslims, Jews, Indians, Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, and others that don’t fall into the white, supposedly-Christian, used-to-be majority.

Action: Apology and resolution to be more outspoken
As a white person, I sincerely apologize to all people of color for not working harder to end the injustice that has gone on for far too long.

Take a stand #2: I believe all consenting humans have the right to love whom they love and their private relationships should not be restricted by laws or religious pressures.

Action: Apology and resolution to be more outspoken
As a heterosexual person, I sincerely apologize to all non-heterosexual people for not working harder to end the injustice that has gone on for far too long. 

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Bioneers Podcast #2 - Interviewing the Vegetable Mind

Fire and Ice
About five years ago, I felt a small shift in my being when I was honored to have a piece of art selected for the Bioneers, San Luis Obispo conference. My compensation was a complimentary registration which I appreciated as I thought it might be an interesting experience. I expected an academic meeting of environmentalists. What I experienced were amazing, uplifting stories about love ... love of our planet, love for every living being on our planet. 

 I wound up volunteering to be part of the organization which turned into a seed that continued to grow even after I moved away from the Central Coast. 

Last year I attended the national Bioneers Conference last year and recently began to listen obsessively to their amazing podcasts, looking forward to the many different approaches to stories from the ..."revolution from the heart of nature."

Robin Wall Kimmerer is a favorite author: Braiding Sweetgrass and Gathering Moss, and Monica Gagliano tells amazing stories of developing creative ways to test plant intelligence.

This is such a delightful, inspiring podcast. About 30 minutes.

“It’s a sign of respect and connection to learn the name of someone else and a sign of disrespect to ignore it. And yet, the average American can name over a hundred corporate logos … and ten plants. Learning the names of plants and animals is a powerful act of support for them,” — Robin Wall Kimmerer

Precepts of the Honorable Harvest … it’s just good manners.

“Every breath that you take was made for you by plants.” — Robin Wall Kimmerer