Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The After Life

I have always had a weird fascination/obsession with death. It's so mysterious, the hereafter. Everyone has their own ideas about what it is - harps playing, a burning hole, a green garden, turning into a ghost, reincarnation, "beam me up, Scottie," a meeting with the worms and inevitable decay, or whatever.

The thing is, you can't really know. People of certain faiths believe and "know" they are right, but that is different from logically, physically actually knowing. I know that behind me is another room in my house, because I built the house and I've been in the room. But in someone else's house, I might believe there is a room behind me - and be completely wrong.

Having not yet died, I can't say what is in the next room.

But I am not here to argue the merits of after lives and whose ideas may be right or wrong. As I am writing this, I am facing another outpatient surgical procedure and I am terrified, so I am simply ruminating on what could be an outcome of the procedure.

And now it's the day after that outpatient surgery, and I survived. Modern medicine is amazing but it still doesn't always make you calm! Sometimes it scares you into, well, I don't know. A different frame of mind, for sure.

The good news is my multiple ulcers have healed and I am not longer bleeding from the inside out. The bad news is there is still some redness and inflammation in my tummy and so I have been told to stay on my medication.

Steps in the right direction, though.

Still don't know about the after life. Maybe it's like being put to sleep with medication, only you never wake up again. I have trouble with the images of harps and things in the Christian heaven; seems kind of boring. I also have issues with Hell, because I don't believe a loving god would create an eternal hell. What kind of forgiveness is that, to just send folks off to burn until the sun poofs out? That's pretty mean-spirited, if you ask me.

And ghosts? Well, I've actually seen a few things that make think that, at the least, there are energies that manifest themselves that we don't yet understand. I don't know if they are ghosts from the past or simply planes of being that we cannot experience. My ghost tales date back to my childhood and into my adulthood. We stayed at a house in West Virginia that belonged to a relatives that apparently was haunted - pipes clanking, spigots turning off and on, banjos playing at random in the night. I experienced that.

About 15 years ago now I was in a very late Board of Supervisors meeting in Craig County at the courthouse. This was before they were to begin renovating the building. As I sat there taking notes, a man dressed in a blue gray uniform, looking tattered and worn, simply walked up the aisle and passed in front of the supervisors, and then went into the next room. I looked around to see if anyone else saw anything, but no one appeared to see anything out of the ordinary. I knew it was a ghost. I thought it was a Civil War soldier.

Ten years ago I was driving to Fincastle in the middle of the day, and I looked over at a subdivision just outside of town. There sat a band of Native Americans on horses, surrounding a white guy. At the time I had a little part-time job in town and I was so shook up I could hardly work that afternoon.

I don't know about reincarnation, but when I was very small, I started telling my mother about the beheading of Mary Queen of Scotts, and talking about Scottish castles and tombstones. It scared my mother so much that she forbade me to talk of it anymore. I have a bit of Scottish ancestry in my blood; who knows what comes down through our genes. Or maybe I was a scullery maid in the 1500s.

My own personal thoughts on dying are this: your body turns into worm food, but your spirit moves into a different place, another plane of being. Maybe you soar among the stars. Maybe you do go to heaven and play harps. Maybe you float around until you come back as something else, a rabbit or another person or what-have-you. I don't know. I am - sometimes - envious of those folks with that "knowing" that's really faith, their belief in something that logic dictates they can't really know. They don't question and I suppose that brings them comfort. I question everything and always have, for as long as I can remember.

Why, when I was 10 my goal was to grow up and fly in airplanes until one of them disappeared over the Bermuda Triangle so I could find out what happened to them! One night when I was 12, I participated in a world-wide UFO watch, spending the night out in the field gazing at the skies until I fell asleep (this was organized back then, in the 1970s, through, I think, The National Enquirer, which my mother read and then passed on to me since I read everything put in front of me.)

There is so much we don't know about the world. I believe we only function in a certain sphere and the rest we only infrequently tap into. That other place can be reached by prayer, by certain alternative medicines (acupuncture and Reiki, for example), meditation, and things we've not even thought of.

I've felt it occasionally, that different place, but not long enough to understand it or even begin to do anything more than acknowledge it. I think humanity could, if it wanted, reach an entirely different state of being, one that dealt not only with the physical but also the abstract and the metaphysical, in a loving and beautiful way. Some religions attempt this, I think, but most fail because they are human constructs and as such give in to the greater pressures of society, mainly money and politics.

Anyway, enough of my confession of weirdness for the day. Moving along, nothing more to see here . . .

Monday, September 15, 2014

Author's Talk: Beth Macy on Factory Man

Saturday my husband and I went to Barnes and Noble, Tanglewood, in Roanoke, to hear Beth Macy talk about her book, Factory Man.

Beth and I attended Hollins College at the same time, though she was in the master's program while I was an undergraduate. We had several courses together, though.
Beth went on to become the star reporter for The Roanoke Times. She's had an inspirational career and her writing has won her awards, acclaim, and fame.

Author Beth Macy
My husband is the man in black. He hung out at the rear of the crowd.
Beth reading from her work.
Gesturing during discussion.
At some point I became entranced by the number of post-its Beth had placed in her book.
For some reason, I think this picture, cropped though it is, is splendid. It is the perfect example of reading and writing.
Beth's autograph and note to me. The Write!!! came from my husband, who suggested she should add it to the page.

This is the book. It's nonfiction ostensibly about a man who built furniture in a little town called Bassett, which is just down the road a piece. It is, I think, much more than that. It is, instead, a commentary on the way the powers that be pay no attention to how their actions impact those upon whose backs they stand.
I'll let you know more about that when I've actually read it.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Sunday Stealing: Celebrity Obsession

From Sunday Stealing

Celebrity Obsession

01. First Celebrity Obsession or Crush

A. Davy Cassidy on the Partridge Family.
02. Favorite Celebrity Encounter

A. Can't say that I've had one, except for politicians.
03. Most Cherished Celebrity Obsession

A. I'm not sure what that means, but I cherished the online relationships I made when I was involved with the Xena Fandom. That was early in the life of the Internet.

04. A celebrity you’d love to hang out with

A. Tom Hanks. He seems so down to earth and intelligent, and his production company does some really great work.

05. A celebrity you’d love to sit down and have a conversation with

A. Well, for me, hanging out means the same as sitting down and having a conversation, so I suppose Tom Hanks again.

06. An artist you’d like to see live

A. Bill Maher.
07. A celebrity you respect purely for talent

A. Jim Parsons.
08. A celebrity you feel you’d be good friends with

A. Meryl Streep
09. A celebrity you dislike that others seem to love

A. Adam Sandler
10. A celebrity you respect for what they’ve been through in life

A. Sandra Bullock
11. A celebrity you share a birthday with

A. Barbara Bush. (I had to look that up.)
12. A celebrity you find annoying

A. Adam Sandler
13. Favorite under-20 celebrity

A. I don't know of any.
14. Favorite over-60 celebrity

A. Betty White.
15. The celebrity “fandom” that means most to you

A. The Xena fandom, which I suppose doesn't really exist anymore. I've never been as involved with a show as I was with that one.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Saturday 9: Hey, Soul Sister

Saturday 9: Hey, Soul Sister(because John suggested Train)

If you're not familiar with today's song, you can hear it here.

1) The video was shot on a street corner in Echo Park in central Los Angeles. If you saw a film crew making a video in your neighborhood, would you stop to watch? Or would you just keep walking?

A. Oh, I'd have to stop and watch. My goodness. That happens so infrequently here in the sticks it would make the newspaper.

2) The singer says he remembers his girl in every dream he dreams. Do you remember if you dreamed last night?

A. I don't recall the dream but I know I dreamed.

3) The band Train is from San Francisco. Have you ever visited The City by the Bay?

A. I visited it when I was 12 years old. Old enough to vaguely remember that I was there but not old enough to be good with details.

4) Lead singer Pat Monahan got his start in a Led Zeppelin cover band. Can you name a Led Zeppelin song?

A. Stairway to Heaven. It's really the only one I know.

5) In doing research for this week's Saturday 9, Crazy Sam discovered a publication called Trains, The Magazine of Railroading. What's the last magazine you flipped through?

A. The AARP magazine. Yes, I am old. 

6) Do you consider yourself a leader or a follower?

A. I prefer following but frequently end up leading.

7) Scholars tell us that "To be or not to be" is Shakespeare's most quoted line. Give us another one.

A. Out, damned spot! Out, I say!

8) How do you listen to music on the go? Car radio? CD changer? iPod/mp3 player? Your phone?

A. I listen to the car radio, but I have some songs on my Kindle and listen to those occasionally.

9) Are you a convincing liar?

A. I don't think so.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Ephemeral Quality

One of the things that bothers me the most about the Internet is how easily things disappear.

Websites vanish. Blogs vanish. People vanish. Often there is no warning when a blog is no longer updated or it is removed. One day it's there, the next day it isn't.

You never know why. Maybe the website was business related, and they went bankrupt. Maybe the person running the blog became ill. Maybe someone simply forgot to pay the renewal bill - that happens frequently, I think. People "unfriend" one another on Facebook or decide certain social media isn't for them, and then they aren't there.

Sometimes you notice. Sometimes you don't. On Facebook I think it could be a while before I notice someone has "unfriended" me, depending on who it is. Family members I notice right away, of course.

Recently a friend of mine removed her blog. It had been up about as long as mine but she posted more frequently and had more entries. I actually met her through blogging and consider her a personal "real life" friend now. I was surprised when she suddenly took down her blog. I haven't asked her about it, but I have wondered what caused her to hit that "delete" button. Maybe she hit her limit on photos and didn't want to pay the storage fee that Google demands after a certain point. Maybe she simply tired of it. It is her business and if she wanted me to know I suppose she would have told me. But I missed her blog immediately, along with the wealth of information she had on it - lots of interesting links to how to make your blog better, things like that. Being somewhat lazy, I used her list of blogs on occasion, too. I've lost those folks, as well, because in most instances I hadn't followed them or otherwise hooked up with them.

Once I was on a group list and felt like I knew all of the members intimately. One of them committed suicide not long after we'd actually spoken on the phone. I was as devastated as if she lived right next door.

And now something I've feared for a while has happened. I've lost contact with someone I consider a close friend - though we've never met in person or even spoken a single word to one another. What we have done is exchanged more than 10,000 emails over the last 13 years. Usually we write each other twice a day, morning and night. We also exchange Christmas presents and birthday gifts, usually courtesy of Amazon.

My friend, who lives in England, had been complaining in her emails of not feeling well and on Monday had gone for an EKG and blood work. But they sent her home, and I thought that a good sign that they thought there was nothing seriously wrong.

She hasn't written since Thursday morning. Twenty-four hours is not a long time, really, but given the circumstances I am concerned. If I haven't heard anything out of her tomorrow, I will try to call her, though I suspect that won't do much good if she is ill and in the hospital. I do have a phone number for her, but she lives alone. She has a sister but I don't have contact information for her. *Update* I heard from her sister; my friend has had a heart attack and is in the hospital.

Isn't odd how we form these friendships, so nebulous and ephemeral, yet so solid and real? I do that with blogs I read, too. Does it mean we love too much? Can you love too much? Care too much?

I don't know. I tend to give my all when I care about someone. It means, I think, that I have a chronically broken heart, but I am not sure that is a bad thing.

The internet - so personal, yet so detached. What an oddity it is.