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Irom Sharmila, the hunger striker and political prisoner from Manipur, in northeastern India (very far northeastern: it's in the portion of India that's on the other side of Bangladesh), has announced that she is going to give up her hunger strike in August and stand for election.

I think this is a very good decision. She has been on a hunger strike for sixteen years. As a means of accomplishing her goal (ending the law that lets the Indian military take the lives of Manipuris with impunity), the hunger strike has exhausted its usefulness. By entering politics, Sharmila shows she cares enough about the cause to work with others. She'll no longer be isolated in a hospital ward; she'll be able (required, in fact) to speak with others, listen to people's concerns.

She'll also get eat again. Imagine tasting food after sixteen years.

This news story includes comments from people in Manipur. The BBC also covered the story (that's how I heard it), but the report there is bare bones.

But actually, no.

Sometimes something comes to you in a "wisdom" package, and you're conditioned to nod humbly and say yes, yes, I see, but sometimes, if you (or in this case, I) stop and think for a moment, the wisdom seems completely bogus.

Case in point, this, which is apparently from Swami Satchidananda (but I don't know who that is ... yes, I know I can Google it. I probably will, at some point)

“What is it that dies? A log of wood dies to become a few planks. The planks die to become a chair. The chair dies to become a piece of firewood, and the firewood dies to become ash. You give different names to the different shapes the wood takes, but the basic substance is there always. If we could always remember this, we would never worry about the loss of anything. We never lose anything; we never gain anything. By such discrimination we put an end to unhappiness.

No. I have way different relationships with planks of wood, a chair, firewood, and ash. WAY DIFFERENT! You might as well say that all of us are made up of electrons and protons and neutrons, so we're interchangeable. Maybe so, at the subatomic level. But that's not the level at which we experience the world. If a chair gets turned into firewood, you bet I'm going to mourn the chair! And when the firewood is gone and all I have is ash, I'm going to be sad, too--and I'm going to need more firewood, because you can't burn ash. So no, Swami Satchidananda, I disagree with your logic here entirely, and this thought experiment does *not* put an end to unhappiness.

So there.


Open, Close Them**

Dried flower at 7 am

Dried flower at 10 am

I don't know how this flower, with only the remembrance of being alive, decides when to open and close, but somehow it does.

**Title line comes from this song for toddlers. Hand motions accompany it--opening hands when it says "open," closing them when it says "close them"

Open, close them
Open, close them
Give a little clap-clap-clap

Open, close them
Open, close them
Put them in your lap

The Case of Dyani Alissa Hernandez

In the summers, Dyani's father took her to work with him because he didn't trust babysitters, and however dangerous it might seem to others to have a ten-year-old on a building site, Dyani's father felt most secure when he could glance over and see her.

She entertained herself with magic markers and the drywall, drawing (for example) fleets of flying frogs, held aloft by inflated bladders extending from their necks on thin stalks, or cars in flooded parking lots, their roofs colored metallic sandbars just barely visible, or children, spreading their fingers in front of their faces like fans, but so many fingers--many more than ten.

Her father didn't say anything about the artwork--didn't praise her or scold her--just put the panels into the houses, pictures facing inward so they wouldn't be painted over. In later years, some homeowners discovered these artworks when they made repairs or improvements, and the art of Dyani Alissa Hernandez was briefly a minor sensation on local news, with some homeowners speculatively making holes in their walls to see if they might have a hidden drawing. But many of the drawings are still undiscovered, surreal visions communing with insulation and wiring in early twenty-first-century subdivisions.

Pictures to come (maybe), but here is one I discovered online **after** having written the story (source)

some words wrapped around some photos

I have a plan: I am going to grow a mangrove. You can do it! I checked, and the Internet said yes. First step is to get the seed to sprout. It's possible this seed won't germinate as (a) I picked it (rather than it falling of its own accord--in other words, it may not be ripe yet) and (b) the seeds mustn't be allowed to dry out, and it might have, between the time I picked it and the time I hit upon this plan. But I'm hopeful. And if this seed doesn't work, I'll get another one. Somehow. I think you can order them.

And here is a lawn that is crying out for a thyme pun (I lost track of the thyme... I had all the thyme in the world... )

From a distance

Up close, with bonus clover

And lastly, during my travels this weekend, I saw mermen reclining at ease, while nearby children frolicked. Here is one of them:

Pokémon Go

My kids were and are big Pokémon fans, and I have great affection for the game and creatures. I was closeted at home, working, when Pokémon Go went live, but on Monday, when I got out to do stuff in town, I saw crowds of people running around, chasing unseen-to-me things with their phones. The excitement and enthusiasm--so infectious! I felt like I'd stumbled upon a festival, a festival of clairvoyants, for whom a whole nother world is present that I'm unable to perceive. I couldn't stop smiling. I assume the craze for it will wear off, but right now it's great.


journey through mangroves

Why do I love mangroves? Because they grow between water and land, between saltwater and fresh. They protect coasts from hurricanes; they're like above-water coral reefs; they are all a-tangle. And they have weird and wonderful traits.

Here's what Marjory Stoneman Douglas said about them:

Two kinds of mangroves dominate … the black and the red. It begins on the last peat with tall hammocks and forests of buttonwoods, called “white mangrove,” not a true mangrove at all but Conocarpus. Then in the first level of the high tide stands deep-rooted the black mangrove, the Avicennia nitida, not tall but thick, which often sends from its submerged roots up through two or three feet of mud and water the curious pneumatophores, like thousands of sharp bristling sticks, most difficult to wade through. They are breathing organs. The darg-green leaves above them often exude salt crystals. The roots stain the water brown with strong tannin.

Beyond that, marching out into the tides low or high, and rooted deep below them in marl over the rock, goes the great Rhizophora, the red mangrove, on its thousands of acres of entwined, buttressed and bracing gray arches. The huge trunks, often seven feet in circumference, stand as high as eighty feet.
Marjory Stoneman Douglas, The Everglades: River of Grass, 50th Anniversary Edition (Sarasota, FL: Pineapple Press, 1997), 55–56.

You see what looks like a tiny forest of sticks in the photo below? Those are the pneumatophores, helping the black mangroves breathe.

mangrove with pneumatophores

But most of my pictures are of red mangroves, with their arching prop roots and their torpedo seeds:

prop roots
mangrove tangle

torpedo seeds hanging down

mangrove with torpedo seeds

What I've always wanted to do on mangroves:

five more, including one with a crocodileCollapse )


Fantasy names

In secondary-world fantasies (i.e., not recognizable alternative Earth), names are such a conundrum. It ties into the larger conundrum of culture creation, but I think the issue is especially acute with names. You can invent a culture that contains elements from numerous Earth cultures. For example, you might have a raiding seafaring people with a martial ethos and religious structure like the Vikings, but based in a tropical climate, so with material goods, food, etc., that are more like Pacific islanders. But you further imagine that rather than coming from small island chains, these people have a home base that's a big city on a continent. And so on. But now you go to give your warriors names. Your choices are going to cue people in to particular Earth cultures.

Those of you who write secondary fantasy, how do you deal with this? Do you use names that come straight-up from this or that language (and associated culture)? In C.J. Brightly's novel The King's Sword, for instance, she used unaltered Japanese names for some of her warriors, because, as she told me, "I wanted to bring a bit of Japanese flavor in through the language unique to soldiers, since so much of the rest of the setting was more European in feel."

Other writers, what choices do you make? Do you modify them in some way--for example, changing the spelling, or shifting the vowels or something?

Readers of secondary fantasy, how do you feel about names in fantasy?

Quote from the letter

I got a copy of the reply Head Start sent my student. Here's most of it.

It concluded by thanking her for writing and wishing her well on her HiSET (GED) exam.

**so happy**

your voice makes a difference

One of the women I've been working with at the jail wrote an essay on what a good choice Early Head Start is, if you have young children. (One essay topic I use frequently is a version of "What child care situation is the best?") I said it would be great if the folks at the Early Head Start program could read it, that this was just the sort of feedback they would love, and so she sent it to them. When last I saw her, two weeks ago, she was on tenterhooks waiting and hoping for a reply.

And now I hear she got one! And I'll get to see it tomorrow.

It's so exciting. Her words made a difference. She did a thing: she organized and wrote an essay, and she sent it to the program, and now they can use it when it comes to funding battles to show just how much their work means to people. And meanwhile my student knows that her voice really does make a difference, that she really can help change the world.

I get all choked up thinking about it.

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