Letter to Elyse

Dearly Departed Madam Puppy Dog,

Well, we did it. We got a puppy. We brought home your successor, and he’s recalling your spirit. He has also borrowed your collar, your leash, your crate, which you hated but he loves, and many other doggy things we kept for whenever this day would come.

Daddy said we had lots of Nature’s Miracle stain remover left, but he was remembering all the bulk stock we had while we still had you, messy lady. We later donated the rest. We still have the odor remover, but who wants to remove new puppy smell, really?

And your toys. All, except the ones we buried with you and the few we donated, are now his.

We think more about you, talk more about you again, now that a canine cousin has arrived. Comparisons are inevitable as inter-species learning returns and evolves. Every day is a new adventure with the resonance of all those new days with you, our first dog, when we didn’t really know what we were doing except in theory. You then blew all our theories out of the water. I suspect Ethan will throw us some curve balls, too.

Did I not mention, he has a similarly human-sounding name that starts with an “E.” Like yours did you, his seems to suit him. There’s some kind of enhanced dignity in it. And yet, it’s almost more fitting as a puppy’s name than yours would have been, since we got you as an adult. The name “Ethan” sounds fundamentally boyish and playful to my ear, reminiscent of other names with an “en” ending sound, like “Munchkin,” “Pumpkin,” “Button,” “and so on. Not to say your name was bad; we loved it and you all the same. It was just so very serious, my darling, as was most of your life with us.

I hope you have found rest and freedom from the pain you suffered for too long, even in our care over the course of three years. Beyond that, I have transferred all my hopes to Ethan now. I hope you don’t mind. He needs us as you did. He is shy, impressionable, and skittish, abandoned like you were but less dominant and nervous, perhaps. Whereas you were co-alpha in your foster family pack, Ethan was definitely a follower among his foster pack members, not quite fully so with us yet.

At the moment, he seems to prefer neighborhood dogs, kids, and passing cars to his would-be human parents. But in this, he’s helping us to come out of our shell as much as we are helping to socialize him. After so carefully protecting your heart from the risk of injury and illness from other dogs, it is good to look forward to letting our dog be a dog.

Ethan is our first puppy, so all the puppy behaviors will take some getting used to for us. With his ongoing adjustment and shyness, we still have to get to know his true personality, too. But he’s still a dog. He sleeps and eats and pees and poops and looks and listens and walks and barks like a dog, just like you did.

In a way, we’re falling in love with you all over again, with all dogs, by bringing just one into our home that’s been too quiet since you had to leave us. He sees, smells, and treads the ground with that eager puppy step, clomping heavily on the kitchen floor in feet he must grow into. The sights, sounds, smells, and textures of another beautiful dog refresh our lives and reaffirm the rightness of our time with you.

So, anyway, wish us luck with this Ethan character. Despite his calmness at times for a puppy, I’m sure he’ll become a handful in his own way soon. You were in yours.

After a year and a half without you, we are finally ready again to take the good with the bad, to learn and to love. I’m hopeful our capacity for these things will only grow the longer we have this dog. And we’ll be sure to teach him discipline, as I’m sure you would if you were here.

Your bones remain beneath the ground by the service berry tree we planted to commemorate you. Both serve to remind us of what we have learned, loved, lost, and gained anew. Your white and brown hair and scent still live in the corners of our house, and, after only three days, Red Ethan is already just fine with all your hand-me-downs.

Farewell, and hugs and kisses, my sweet Elyse. We will always miss you and love you.

We are . . . Yours Truly Forever.

Dial up the sun

Dial up the sun

November 8, 2016

As the year draws to a close, 
with the loss of late-day light, 
when holiday sweetness goes, 
where bright trees slumber nude, 
so fades a fraught election. 

If one worse thing eludes,
invoke the sun and know: 
Change is certain. Some things 
do evolve, and all must 
end eventually. 

So after deeply breathing, 
or sighing deep relief, 
find a world-class museum, 
admission free, to nurture 
the best of humans, nature, 
and the world. Then become
a member, praise and breathe.

Peace.

Sundials at the National Museum of Scotland, September 18, 2016

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poem and photos copyright © C. L. Tangenberg

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Five-Phrase Friday (22): Why Freedom?

Five-plus phrases of things to celebrate about freedom of the press and free expression:

  1. revelation through openness: unfettered expression of facts, opinions and impressions, making possible the discovery of truths
  2. diverse, idea-rich culture and personal responsibility instead of sacred cows and “safe” spaces for absolutely everything: Such riches flow out of sources ranging from irreverent comics to wise, reasonable academicians and beyond.
  3. constraint and dissent against bureaucracy and corruption: government transparency, accountability, restraint of power; courageous whistle blowers; the repeal of bad and excess laws
  4. greater personal safety, freedom, and fairness–and less fear: no to a military-style police state, no to federal intimidation, no to economic imprisonment, no to political entitlement, no to terror, no to executive power grabbing, no to detention without charges or trial, no to knee-jerk litigation, no to more prohibition (yes, upholding the Constitution in general is essential to numbers 3 and 4)
  5. lighten up, get real and get out of your own way: uncork childhood and let them breathe, laugh at ourselves, leave the Internet unregulated, and say “yes” to risk, to play, to innovation, to experiments in arts and sciences–to better life

Roosevelt was right: Our greatest enemy is our own fear. And guilt is a close second.

Most of us theoretically want the foundation of the five conditions above; we just advocate different ways of getting there. For my part, I say:

Self-control is a skill worth cultivating alongside rational and critical thinking.

Let not your pulsing heart scream silently in ready offense, righteous indignation, outrage, despair, doom, panic, self-hatred, or vengeance. And if you can’t help it, delay the impulse to give your heart voice until after it consults your mind (or a neighbor’s if you are out of yours).

To kick our addictions to dread and catastrophe, and curb our bad habit of trying to change others, if we really want to make life better, first we have to change our own hearts and minds. Adaptation propels us beyond mere survival into thriving.

You find what you look for, so look for the good in others. You cultivate what you rave about, so, if you must rave, rave about the good you have found. Replace the need to spread anger and fear with an addiction to the highs of good news and hope.

Oppression rules when we approach life as an error to correct, as a problem to solve, as something broken to be fixed. Hypocrisy and idiocy reign when we engage with and operate from assumptions of imaginary woes and wars within society.

Out of such an atmosphere spring useless, tyrannical communism; insidious, oppressive fascism; and volatile religious fanaticism–and their attendant violence. Feel free to despair at that point, but then quickly dust yourself off to fight the now-real war.

Either way, no one is getting out of here alive.

Therefore, let life pursue its natural course–improvement. Let there be creativity on earth, and let it begin . . . with freedom. Only under this necessary first condition can we hope for truth, love, integrity, respect, and trust in ourselves and each other to foster widespread, lasting peace and prosperity.

Five-Phrase Friday (1): The Poetry Politic

It’s a new series of weekly posts featuring choice phrases in English! I hope you enjoy them. This first one surrounds the theme of politics in poetry.

Favorite phrases from poems peppered with politics:

"when lilacs last in the dooryard bloom'd" 
  - "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd" by Walt Whitman 
     (an elegy for the fallen President Lincoln) 

"something there is that doesn't love a wall" 
  - "Mending Wall" by Robert Frost

"Their pain cries down the noise of poetry."
  - "The Foreign Gate" by Sidney Keyes

"the glittering neutrality / of clock and chocolate 
 and lake and cloud"
  - "The Country of a Thousand Years of Peace" by James Merrill 
     (Can you guess which country he means?) 

"like Caesar's Gaul, I feel divided"
  - "Driving Myself to a Poetry Reading" by Billy Collins

lilac_multicolor_in_basket

Here’s to slam poetry, graffiti & public murals, dystopian fiction, palace architecture, subversive songs, documentary films, satirical cartoons, great political speeches, politician mimicry, national anthems, spy movies, biopics, creative protests, conflict-zone journalism, eloquent cries for freedom, superhero comics–in short, creative efforts that address, dismiss, laud, mock, or simply use the world’s governors, power mongers, and citizens in the making of true art.

As some of the excerpts above illustrate, the personal is often political, the political often personal.

Live long and multiply, Free Expression . . . and Love, Truth, Justice, Beauty.

On issues raised by post “Journalist Sentenced to Die For Insulting Muhammad”

See the link to the article at bottom.

With the passing of the one-year anniversary of the three Al Jazeera staff members’ jailing in Egypt for simply doing their jobs, and with increased targeting, kidnapping, maiming, and death of journalists around the world in 2014, press freedom, free speech, and censorship are very much on my mind. Source: “Journalism Is Not a Crime,” December 29, 2014, on Al Jazeera America.

A few prime examples of contemporary attacks on freedom: Unknown but suspected government muscle in Russia currently perpetrates a brutal campaign of near-fatal beatings against journalists who question the regime or Putin connections. Mexico remains plagued by drug cartel/government efforts to intimidate, eliminate, and otherwise silence journalists who print anything the criminals dislike.

During the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, this year, local police handled members of the press poorly, whether by intervening or blocking their access excessively or addressing them abusively. The United States stands as 46th in the world in press freedom, and that is not good enough.

Sources for above facts: “Killing the Messenger,” a special re-aired news program, and other stories aired, December 29, 2014, on Al Jazeera America.

Only the free can truly fight the silencing trends by becoming and remaining aware of them and by speaking out even more. Attacks on journalists and news organizations are attacks on everyone’s freedom everywhere.

One approach to the fight is through funding. Consider giving to high-quality, freedom-seeking organizations in the U.S. and abroad. Some U.S. entities that I give to include FIRE: Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, the Institute for Justice (IJ), and Reason Foundation. See the Charity Navigator, a sort of BBB guide for donors, to evaluate organizations’ effective and efficient use of received funds.

Included here is another of many more examples of free speech’s suppression: Journalist Sentenced to Die For Insulting Muhammad.

May the new year bring all of us greater freedom and, thus, greater capacity for peace, joy, wisdom, and creativity.

The World Cup: Never Final

The 2014 FIFA World Cup Final match plays today at 3:00pm EST, about an hour from now, at the Maracana stadium, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, South America, Western and Southern Hemispheres, Earth, our solar system, the Milky Way Galaxy. Here.

I’m told you can see the Milky Way, and its gradual tilt overnight, somewhere in the corn fields of Iowa, and perhaps in rural regions the world over. This way is a symbol of constant change and perceived constancy, a swirling path we travel within while ourselves rotating on an oscillating axis and revolving around a sun that rises and sets in this galaxy, just as it does on our planet.

Another setting, another rising have brought us to this day: A global, month-long sports tournament and exhilarating spectacle, recurring every four years for twenty World Cups, once again climbs to a pinnacle and, with the greater speed of gravity, descends to rest dormant–though beating and breathing–in the imaginations and emotions of the everyday lives of fans young and old, spectators old and new.

Courtesy of The Daily Mail - dailymail.co.uk

Courtesy of The Daily Maildailymail.co.uk

Yet the intense work scarcely hesitates, restarting the same process, until the next fourth summer in the Northern Hemisphere (winter in the Southern, as it has been in Brazil).

We live our lives by cycles, by seasons of all sizes and types, returning to familiar states of being, forever saying “so long” to others. A drilling down into the crust of this earth exposes the layers of cycles of our many pasts, in the bones of our ancestors, and some descendants, and in the strata of the living, pulsing planet.

What a rare and wonderful blessing, to feel the security of knowing one’s rightful place in time and space. So few living human beings may luxuriate in such a sense of rightness, and the feeling, like all feelings, is fleeting. How precious these moments in experience.

That they may be shared and collectively enjoyed from time to time amplifies the rightness into greatness, expands elation into rapture. Win or lose, we experience the unmistakable richness of high and deep emotion fused into an undeniable, unified energy.

Together–across the sectors and lines of city, region, country, continent, ocean, and hemisphere; through the boundaries of language, culture, neighborhood, street, household, stadium, and playing pitch–the unity of a common love of futbol, team, and player penetrates.