Monday, October 10, 2011

My Sister the Chicken

Jeanne C Hardy was an amazingly unique person.  Yes, she would have been proud to be remembered as a chicken. She paraded through town that way, as a matter of fact. She clucked down the main street of her small town purposefully one summer, marketing her newsletter and her many other writings. She put together the costume, prepped her handouts, then laughed when a neighbor dressed up as a rooster and chased her down the parade route.

Jeanne was a professional writer. She did everything she could think of to support her passion. She made her living from writing, although it didn’t make her rich. She lived her life with such amazing energy, creating truly rich story after story. She hit on the concept of group journalism in the ‘80’s..... She created a newsletter called The Spotted Chicken Report and solicited memberships instead of subscriptions. Members were a part of her marketing plan. They sent in items to publish, from all over the country, and publish them, Jeanne did. She was interested in her members and shared news about them in the letter. She celebrated their victories and raved about their accomplishments. She ended with a personal piece. Over and over, the readers would say, “when I get my “Chicken” in the mail, I sit down immediately and read it. It makes me feel wonderful.”  Not “the chicken,” but “my chicken.”  I felt that way too, and opened them eagerly.  I was every bit as thrilled as any member when she put in a bit about me.

What was it that attracted people to her writing?  Well, it was simple and personal and funny. She had a sense of humor that glorified common experiences so they became poetic and important. Everyday occurrences, well there was no such thing. Every event, or nearly so, was food for fond elaboration.  She loved a funny story, and found them hidden where no one else could see. Her simple theme mesmerized folks living in a complicated world. She was not a country hick, she had been born and raised in a large city. She was earthy and practical, honest and good spirited.

The motto of the Spotted Chicken Society was No Chick Kicking. The intent was to save the world, one spotted chicken at a time. What is a spotted chicken? was the question.  A spotted chicken is any chicken that has been observed, she answered.  Of course it was kindness she was peddling.  She wrote and quoted articles, recipes, quips and poetry that followed that theme. She had Spotted Chicken Conventions for her members at her cabin in the country. She thought up activities to foster ideas on protecting Spotted Chickens. She had chicken paraphernalia up the ying yang, gifts from readers. She had more than one chicken costume.

There’s much much more to say about my writer sister and her fabulous trek through life, now after nearly 10 years without her. She died of lung cancer in 2002.  (She said she thought that was a good year to die.  Even, balanced. The digits kind of looked like a bra, fostering her feminist inclinations.)  I miss her all the time. Her odd viewpoint, her interest in every possible subject, her resourcefulness, her intelligence, her love for her 4 sons and her granddaughters. Her interest in every relative and each and every person she met. But mostly I miss her love.  Her great endless capacity to love.  I don’t have to feel selfish in that yearning, for I know that others are missing her too, still.  The world is just a bit cooler without her wacky, heart warming chicken perspective.  Fill her shoes?  Never. Conjure up her wit? Nope. Impossible.  Love her and miss her? Yes.  That’s it.  Sometimes, and my family all will concur, desperately.

Orchard Memories 1986

These apple polishers and tractor driver (Tasha) searching for her hat gathered one day at the Canyon Park Orchard.  Apple maven Susan on the right was directing operations for her sister in law Barbara and niece Holly in rubbing the bloom off the gorgeous orbs.  The farm held 5 acres of apples, two houses and a large pond in front of which sat the apple stand where customers bought from the selection of 37 varieties of apples from 2000 dwarf trees. The action was quick and constant. Apples were harvested, sorted, polished, boxed, labeled. Earlier in the year there was much ado about pollinating, fertilizing, mowing, thinning, watching the weather. The first row of trees was right outside Susan’s kitchen window and the beautiful apple blossoms filled her whole view........

 The whole apple production process was great for kids and visitors who only got a glimpse of the incredible work it took to take care of 2000 apple trees that produced giant, crisp apples. Selling season was very quick in October. Boxes of apples flew off the hill into the hands of waiting customers.  In the beginning both farmers Susan and Tom worked outside jobs to help support the fledgling business. The work was hard and wearing but they loved it.  They loved seeing the fruits of their labors! The unusual varieties of apples attracted the attention of scientists and media and they had more than one story done on their operation.

Making apple cider was an October celebration. The honey from the bee hives was delicious. Tractor rides for the kids was a regular feature, and 25 years later, new grandsons get the privilege. The orchard is gone, pulled down by the problem of apple maggots, and the trees rotted in piles and are now only a memory, and part of the earth.  A pretty pasture and vegetable garden anchor the hillside.  Two weddings were conducted there. Little kids still run through the property which farmer Tom has rigged with places for pushing toy dump trucks through dirt pathways, a fort in a wagon with a pulley and basket, a swing on a stage that has held musicians and diners.  The farmer couple like to sit on their wide front porch, in a house constructed so many years ago by their nephews, and watch the vines creep up one tree and across to the others, making a quiet, secluded place for contemplating life and its surprises.

A Quick Primer on the Basics of Our Rights

The American Constitution:  the 1st Amendment from the Bill of Rights: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or of the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Thomas Jefferson said: Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his god, [the people, in the 1st Amendment,] declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state.  

He also said: ... no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer, on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.

The original Constitution,  Article 6, at the end of the third clause: ....but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

When the Constitution was written, the individual states were writing their constitutions too, and included references to freedom of religion.  The men had lots of different takes on the subject.  The Declaration  of the Independence for the country says: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Some Empowering Inspiration....?

When soldiers opened fire on a crowd that was taunting them over government tyranny, five men were killed. This became known in the press and forever as The Boston Massacre.  It was 1770.  John Adams, a lawyer fighting for American independence, defended the British soldiers, at great peril to the success of his own career.  The only American lawyer willing to take the case, he said he was firm in the belief that no man in a free country should be denied the right to counsel and a fair trial. He was convinced, on principle, that the case was of utmost importance.  He would be hazarding his hard earned reputation, and in his words, “incurring a clamor and popular suspicions and prejudices.”

David McCollough wrote the above in John Adams, Simon and Shuster, 2001. ........ I often wonder about the principles that led to our American Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, since I read such a wide variety of opinion about how our Constitution was formed, and about our current loyalties to that document. McCollough has unearthed detailed information about the original ideals, through the writings and letters of John Adams, who later became our second President, 1797-1801. It appears that much of the dignified, respectful resolutions toward freedom and individual liberties came from John Adams.  At least, he was best equipped and disposed to collect the ideas and write it all down.  But the thinking on the Boston “Massacre” was his own. The words compel, given the current growth of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Protesting crowds, however high the intentions, can lead to violence.  Much depends on the police:

John Adams: “We have entertained a great variety of phrases to avoid calling this sort of people a mob. Some call them shavers, some call them geniuses. The plain English is, gentlemen, [it was] most probably a motley rabble of saucy boys, Negroes and mulattoes, Irish teagues and outlandish jacktars. And why should we scruple to call such a people a mob, I can’t conceive, unless the name is too respectable for them. The sun is not about to stand still or go out, nor the rivers to dry up because there was a mob in Boston on the 5th of March that attacked a party of soldiers…Soldiers quartered in a populous town will always occasion two mobs where they prevent one. They are wretched conservators of the peace.”

He described how the shrieking “rabble” pelted the soldiers with snowballs, oyster shells, sticks, “every species of rubbish,” as a cry went up to “Kill them! Kill them!” One soldier had been knocked down with a club then hit again as soon as he could rise. “Do you expect he should behave like a stoic philosopher, lost in apathy?” Adams asked. Self-defense was the primary canon of the law of nature. Better that many guilty persons escape unpunished than one innocent person should be punished. “The reason is, because it’s of more importance to community, that innocence should be protected, than it is, that guilt should be punished.”  (To me, this translates to innocent til proven guilty and if there’s a doubt let them go. So why are our prisons so full?)

“Facts are stubborn things,” John Adams told the jury, “and whatever may be our wishes, our inclination, or the dictums of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”  The jury remained out two and a half hours. Of the eight soldiers, six were acquitted and two found guilty of manslaughter, for which they were branded on their thumbs.  John Adams later said the defense was “one of the best pieces of service I ever rendered my country.”

I support the Occupy Wall Street movement. Who wouldn’t?  Federal Reserve Chairmen Ben Bernanke said "Like everyone else, I'm dissatisfied with what the economy's doing right now. They blame, with some justification, the problems in the financial sector for getting us into this mess, and they're dissatisfied with the policy response here in Washington. And at some level, I can't blame them."

My investments are shrinking with everyone else’s. But I’m not ready to hit the streets, because of the potential personal danger.  I am an old lady, not very strong. I don’t know if this is cowardice or not. Thought I’d write about it first and see what happened next.  I find the words of John Adams most inspiring and practical. They make sense.  He said: “The preservation of liberty depends upon the intellectual and moral character of the people.  As long as knowledge and virtue are diffused generally among the body of a nation, it is impossible they should be enslaved…”  That’s us, folks. Not a mob, but intelligent, moral people.  I do have a Bank of America account I can close.