Monday, January 30, 2012

Life 101–Reality in Living Life Today

Last Thursday Ben and I attended a meeting in town concerning the effects of fracking. Fracking, for those of you who don’t know is the process of fracturing the underground structure of rock in order to pour in chemicals to extract natural gas. The problem isn’t in the fracturing itself, but the chemicals which they put in. Those chemicals leak up though fractured ground into the aquifer and surface water or spill into waterways though careless acts, permanently destroying underground sources of water and killing waterways. Do you recall that I made reference awhile back to darker-souled individuals who care nothing about others? The people responsible for this pollution are those kind of people. At the meeting our local group, which is trying to protect the environment in our county, showed a documentary, Split Estate, which told about  the shocking, ill effects of those chemicals on humans. In the film they also interviewed gas and oil company representatives. The blatant, bold-faced lies those representatives told were appalling. I was aghast at the way they were able to smile so pleasantly as they told their interviewer there was absolutely nothing wrong with what they were doing and that they were fully in compliance with the law. And actually, thanks to our beloved politicians, they were fully in compliance with current laws.

Also in the film they showed the lives of people whose health and well-being had been completely destroyed and whose homes had to be abandoned – a complete financial loss – because the water, land and air around them had become so polluted with extremely toxic chemicals. The landscape around the drill sites is reminiscent of the land around Butte and Anaconda that was destroyed by the copper mines and smelting process. The chemicals the drillers put into the earth are never divulged and don’t have to be because of laws that protect the gas and oil companies, but there are also poisonous substances that occur naturally at the depths the companies drill and are washed up in the process, but some of the chemicals that ‘show up’ are not naturally occurring, but no one can prove that because the companies don’t have to tell what they put into the ground. One company representative interviewed, again with a sweet and innocent smile, told the interviewer that what they put into the ground is a surfactant, that it was just “soap.”

The reality of us living here on earth in the current political and economic situation we have religiously nurtured across the globe is that we, the people, don’t matter. We, who pay the taxes and keep this world running with our labor, our hearts and our minds, are given no more consideration than bothersome mosquitoes on the drill sites.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Hiking in the snow

Ben and I went to the mountains this afternoon. I was sure the snow was not good for skiing, so we took our snowshoes. The first half mile or so of the trail was so barren of snow that we didn’t even take our snowshoes along. Later the snow was deeper and we could have used the snowshoes from that point if we would have gone off the trail, but the trail was so well packed by snowmobiles and skiers that we hiked in our winter boots just fine. On top of the mountain the snow was actually pretty good and we could have skied, but staying on the trail we were still able to walk without any problems. Today was beautiful and sunny, and the mountain spectacular with the brilliant snow. We decided to go back up the next nice day we have, taking both our snowshoes and skis. I’m anxious to get back up there. It’s a truly fine way to exercise.

Our exercise program isn’t going along as well as we had hoped. Oh, we’re keeping to our new routine and increasing the time of our workouts, but I’m starting to get over-tired and not recovering with a single night of sleep and Ben is having trouble with his joints. So, I figure if we can ski and snowshoe, that should give our bodies a break from our regular exercises while still giving our bodies a workout. I hope that’s a logical as it sounds. Growing older just hasn’t been as fun as it should be, at least according to the way it would be if I had my way, but we’re both determined to stay in shape one way or another. And, anyway, being outdoors is what the good life is all about in Montana. There’s so much beauty out there that changes constantly, so we have to enjoy each moment of it we can whenever we can. Of course that means I’ll have to climb out of the rut I so easily get myself into . . .



Along the trail



The forest service cabin we hike up to.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Writing 101–Limbo

I’ve been in limbo for a several days now (oh, wow, it’s been nearly two weeks since I last wrote. That’s terrible.). I’m working on an essay about the tense and bitter relationship between my paternal grandmother and my mother. Part of the emphasis of the essay is grandma’s mysterious background. Both her father and her maternal grandfather came to America under some sort of secretive circumstances and we haven’t been able to find out anything about them or even any records about them, or grandma’s mother, entering the U. S.

The mystery has me in a dither (has had me in a dither for several decades, actually), so I’ve been on the internet lately trying to find out anything I can about them. I also read a book on Russian history. I’ve been doing this research to find any true facts I can about grandma’s family for the essay.  I did find out a couple of things we didn’t know before, but nothing, really, to go on with it. I have two photographs of grandma’s, which were in the vanity I inherited: one is of her father (a not particularly handsome soldier who, according to grandma’s stories, rode a tall white horse in the Russian army to escort prisoners to prison camps) in Russian military uniform with his parents, supposedly in Lithuania. Of note in this picture, is the austerity of the background and the furniture, which were surely what was available in the photographer’s studio, as well as the clothes his parents are wearing: they are of common materials. They were probably peasants. (And her father’s father, whose name we believe was Wincenty, is where grandma’s nose came from.) The other picture is of her mother, a very pretty girl about eleven or twelve years old (I’d guess) standing beside two seated young men in Russian military uniforms. Grandma didn’t know who the men were, but I presume they are her mother’s older brothers, although we know nothing about any siblings nor even anything about grandma’s grandmother. The background and furniture in this picture are rather fancy, as is the dress grandma’s mother is wearing. They were probably not peasants. I read on the internet that photos were usually taken of Russian military men when they were about to be shipped off to a distant part of Russia or to a foreign country, usually with their parents, but sometimes with other siblings.

Grandma said that her grandfather came to America with a passport he forged. She said he worked in the passport office in Grodno, which was in Russia at the time, though grandma said they were Polish. She also said that he forged the passport because he had an affair with a married woman and her husband challenged him to a duel, so he escaped to America. Some of that doesn’t make any sense to me, because he must have changed his name at least a couple of times in getting here. Unless he came into America through some sort of underground network which skirted him into a life in America without all the paperwork of entering. And if he had a passport, why would he have done that?

According to grandma, her father’s name was Stephan Gigielewicz (though I found, in the marriage records of Philadelphia, 1901, his given name spelled Stefan), and he defected to America because he hated his position in the Russian army. I can certainly understand that and I don’t have any qualms with his story. And grandma had spelled her grandfather’s name as Wtadystaw Sawicka. I could find absolutely nothing anywhere for that spelling of his first name, but I did find that Russians and Poles, at least at that time when writing in Roman letters, crossed the letter L with a short upward stroke (which was quite different than the crossing on a T), both lower and upper case and the name Wladyslaw (with the W pronounced as a V, of course) was a common name. Wladyslaw, according to family records, died sometime around 1915 in Philadelphia, but I haven’t been able to find that out for sure, not even under the name Stanley Sawicka, which grandma said he went by in America.

It’s possible grandma’s mother’s family was of Polish descent, but there was no Poland at the time her family would have come to America, it had been dissolved. Grodno was never part of Poland until after WWI, but was in Lithuania until both Lithuania and parts of Poland were absorbed into the Russian Empire. Poland was later divided up (ripped apart) and distributed between arguing, neighboring countries long before grandma’s grandfather would have been born. Although I read nothing about any such strict rules placed on Lithuanians, the Tsar forbid Poles to speak Polish and schools in the area that had been Poland taught exclusively in Russian. Still, it is possible they were of Polish descent and maybe they even spoke Polish, secretly, in their home in Russia. Grandma said that “when the women got together, they spoke Polish.” However, her father and mother moved to Idaho, apparently away from her grandparents, in 1904, when grandma was two, and being so far apart they probably didn’t get together all that often. And though she knew a little about her grandfather, grandma did not even know her grandmother’s name and she never learned to speak Polish, Lithuanian or Russian.

I did not grow up believing I had any Russian ancestry. Grandma was adamant, as were her parents, that they were Polish and Lithuanian. All that historical information I read at least explained why my Lithuanian great grandfather, at least until he and my great grandmother learned to speak English, was able to communicate with my supposedly Polish great grandmother: they would both have spoken Russian.

So I still have so little to explain, in my essay, about the mystery of grandma’s background, which was one point of contention with my grandfather’s family when he wanted to marry grandma and which was at least part of the cause of grandma being so bitter and unaccepting.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Life 101– The Ups and Downs of Daily Living

On Monday afternoon Ben and I played hooky and went cross-country skiing. It was a calm, warm, sunny day; I couldn’t resist the temptation. We had a great time on the mountain among the fragrant pine and fir trees. We came home tired and elated.

On Tuesday morning I had to go to the dentist for a root canal.

Now to those of you who have never had a root canal, I cannot really describe the ordeal without sounding like a whiner. To those who have had one, you know I couldn’t possibly say anything about the process that would make me sound like a whiner. In short, a root canal isn’t fun. So, my Monday afternoon and my Tuesday morning could not possibly have been more dramatically different.

Unless, of course, someone was actively trying to make life a living hell.

Life is never a series of sunny Monday afternoon ski days. There are, in every life,  Tuesday morning root canal days. It’s just a fact of our human condition. Whatever your spiritual/religious/philosophical beliefs are, life is not easy and was never promised to be so. Whatever happens at the end of this life, we all agree that where we end up on the other side has to do with how we live our lives here in this temporal world. Yet there are those among us that use our spiritual/religious/philosophical beliefs as a means to manipulate and control us, convincing those of us too naïve to understand their motives that what they say is doctrine. In other words they abuse our beliefs for their exclusive benefit.

And we let them.

We willingly become victims by listening to those who are bold enough to do nothing more than declare that we should use our beliefs to hate , or to belittle, berate, ostracize, punish or even kill other human beings because they believe something different. Does anyone out there actually believe that being cruel, abusive or murderous can actually get us to a better state in the next life?

That is, obviously, a ridiculous notion. But, also as obvious – but less well realized – there are those among us who don’t want us to rise up to a better state. And we have allowed those people to become very powerful. They teach us to cripple ourselves out of fear that what we deeply believe might not be right, that what we know innately might be wrong, that what our hearts feel might lead us down the wrong path.

So why is it that a sweet, simple,  naïve child knows more about how to live right than an educated adult? In reality they don’t know more, they just know what’s right. They haven’t been fooled by those who claim they live by universal spiritual/religious/philosophical regulations while they convince us that being cruel, abusive or murderous is the proper way to get to an advanced or enlightened state. They teach us that we’re higher than the other animals, but behave like the most violent of those other animals.

It has always been so in human history; we’ve followed this pattern for thousands of years and we’re still wallowing in the putrefied destruction of that pattern.

Isn’t it about time we stopped listening to self-acclaimed noblemen who live and direct us with only ignoble intentions and actions?

How many more generations will it take for a critical mass of us to figure that one out?