Jun. 21, 2009


by Ted McMahon

Let's meet in Santa Fe
where we can stroll holding hands
along the acequina madre
then sip espresso
at the bookstore on Garcia Street.

Let's meet in Santa Fe
and bask like lizards
on the rocks at Bandelier
or explore the secrets
of remote creek beds.

Let's meet in Santa Fe
to share our stories and let
the whisper of cottonwood leaves
fill the silences between.

Let's meet in Santa Fe
and eat posole with our eggs
and laugh, and love, and turn
the calendar to the wall
for a few brief days.

"Rendezvous" by Ted McMahon, from The Uses of Imperfection. © Cat 'n' Dog Productions, 2003. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Today is the summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, the first official day of summer and the longest day (and shortest night) of the year. It's also the winter solstice in the Southern Hemisphere; it's the shortest day of the year today in countries like Australia, Argentina, and South Africa. Down there, the summer solstice is in December.

The term solstice comes from the Latin words for "sun" (sol) and "standing still" or "stoppage" (stice). On this longest day of the year, the sun appears as if it were standing still in the sky. There are big celebrations in Northern Europe today, many of which go back to ancient pagan times and incorporate bonfires, dancing, feasting, and staying up all night to welcome the dawn. One of the biggest destinations for the summer solstice is Stonehenge in England; today it is the place for New Agers such as neo-druids, neo-pagans, and Wiccans to gather, along with college-age revelers, wholesome families, romantic couples, and shoestring backpackers. And it's the only day of the year the park service offers free parking, free admission, and the opportunity to stay at the monument overnight.

The day is also celebrated in China by honoring Li, the Chinese Goddess of Light.

Today is also Midsummer in the ancient world, and it lends its name to one of Shakespeare's plays, A Midsummer Night's Dream, a romantic comedy about young lovers, amateur actors, royalty and fairies. It's set in a magical moonlit forest. It's one of the most popular Shakespeare plays to produce, and it's been staged in New York's Central Park on numerous occasions.

It's the birthday of Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Berkeley Breathed, (books by this author) born in Encino, California (1957). For many years, he wrote and illustrated the daily cartoon strip Bloom County. It was for this strip that he earned a Pulitzer for editorial cartooning in 1987, despite the fact that he had long and ardently resisted calls by his editors to be moved from the comics page onto the newspaper's editorial page.

He started as a news photographer as a student at the University of Texas but got fired after he doctored a photo of a street preacher; Breathed snuck in and put a flaming halo floating around the preacher's head. But there, too, he couldn't suppress the urge for a little comic embellishment, and he wrote up a news story about an unidentified student who, he said, "secretly released hundreds of baby alligators into nearby Lake Travis, which would have been compelling if I hadn't made it up." About that time, he said: "Some wise sage finally suggested that the cartooning desk might be where I belonged, as I could let my little imagination soar wherever it wanted, and federal agents wouldn't be needed. So I started copying Doonesbury, and you know the rest."

It's the birthday of the woman who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003, Shirin Ebadi, (books by this author) born in Hamedan, Iran (1947). She's a lawyer and a human rights activist. She had been a judge in Iran in the 1970s, but after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, she was removed from the bench when conservative clerics insisted that it was contrary to the laws of Islam to have women judges. She was demoted to secretary.

These days, she's a very active lawyer, defending all sorts of accused Iranians, including people who have been charged with the crime of converting to the Baha'i faith, an offense that carries the death penalty in Iran. She also takes on the cases of those accused of being political dissidents or homosexual (a crime), and she advocates for laws that prohibit child abuse. Her most consistent battles have been for women's equality and for freedom of speech.

About six months ago, in December 2008, the Iranian police shut down her human rights group office in Tehran, and she reports that death threats have intensified. Still Ebadi, who is Muslim, loves Iran in a very nationalist way and is committed to bringing about change on human rights issues from within the country. She is critical of Western meddling in Iranian affairs, and she thinks that Iran's nuclear ambitions are integral to its security as a nation.

She lectures frequently in the United States and Europe. She recently wrote a memoir, but had to publish it outside of Iran because she could not get permission to publish it there. It's called Iran Awakening: A Memoir of Revolution and Hope (2006). In it, she wrote:

"In the last 23 years, from the day I was stripped of my judgeship to the years of doing battle in the revolutionary courts of Tehran, I had repeated one refrain: an interpretation of Islam that is in harmony with equality and democracy is an authentic expression of faith."

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




  • “Writers end up writing stories—or rather, stories' shadows—and they're grateful if they can, but it is not enough. Nothing the writer can do is ever enough” —Joy Williams
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