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Grieving the horror of nine killed in Charleston by a terrorist.
Grieving for my sister-in-law, who just lost her father.
Needing to find, fight and eradicate racism.
Needing to fight for rational gun laws in the US.
Disgusted that GOP political candidates who are Catholic are disparaging the Pope’s message.
Still looking for a job, after too long.
Horrified by the staggering numbers of refugees around the world.
Heartened by the Pope’s message, which clearly ties social justice teaching to the need to change our ways that are destroying the planet.
Heartened that families of victims are living their faith by forgiving the terrorist.
Heartened to see support shared among a community formed via Twitter, when one is in need.

But still sad, disheartened.

Then, a surprise this morning from someone I only know via Twitter. She is giving us a gift, and it’s linked to a fictional character we both admire. I am reminded of the grit and hard-headed determination in that character, and how I sometimes use her to help me move forward when things are hard. Timely reminder. I have a little flame of optimism lit inside me again.

Thanks, Terry. And thanks, Diana, for creating Claire.

Our actions can have unknown impacts on others, so let’s be positive.
Even small gestures can have a big impact to the person you reach, even if you never know it.

October light

October light

It’s said that All Hallows’ / Samhain is a “thin time,” when the separation between the corporeal and spirit worlds is very thin. Celebrated and commemorated through All Saints and Dia de los Muertos rituals, the spirits of those we love but who are no longer living with us are central during this period.

It was very much a liminal few days for me, with thoughts and feelings of loved ones very much present. Halloween, always an excuse for a party in San Francisco, was topped with a parade for the San Francisco Giants World Series victory. It all meant that my city was in a celebratory mood. On November 1st, a neighbor asked me “how was your Halloween?” “Good.” I said, with a smile. His young son was eating candy for breakfast. Actually, I stood on a thin edge.

My emotions were so near the surface that it made being in public a challenge. I cried easily and often, for grief and happiness: grief for my loss and failures, and happiness for the good memories. I included my dad and my dog among those dead to be included in prayers at church. I went from thinking of loved ones to seeing the joy of a family with their 6-day-old child and twin toddlers, and cried for both. I hope people at church just figured I had a cold, based on how often my handkerchief was out.

I felt the blessing of sunshine and the fall breeze on my skin, and missed my dog Phoebe. Phoebe and I would have been together outdoors on a hike or in the garden on such a day. She would have set a quick pace up and down hills a few years ago, but went far more slowly the past few years. Out for a walk at a brisk pace, traveling past our old haunts, I miss her. She’s been gone just 4 months now. At least outdoors, it was sunny enough to wear my Oakley sunglasses, which hid my misty eyes from people on the street.

And then there’s the headache that tends to follow after all that emotion. To give myself a break, I immerse myself in a really good book. Here’s a quote from one by Diana Gabaldon, whose writing made me think of this as a “thin time.”

“This is the thin time, when the beloved dead draw near. The world turns inward, and the chilling air grows thick with dreams and mystery.”
Diana Gabaldon, An Echo in the Bone

Tuolumne Meadows

Tuolumne Meadows

I have recently had the time – and inclination – to carefully follow my Twitter feed, tweeting occasionally, re-tweeting in bursts, and replying on a variety of topics. It’s been a luxury to wallow in, as well as exasperating and hilarious at times. I’ve built up my feed from a diverse set of topics, from professional to personal interests. As a result, I get updates on #impinv (impact investing) and #socent (social enterprise), #climate change, #collecon (collaborative economy), #sharing and #susty (sustainability) to updates from PBS NewsHour, The Economist and The Atlantic. I get posts from authors Anne Lamott and Diana Gabaldon, people focused on providing capital to women, and the San Francisco Giants. I’m also following the production team and cast of the new Outlander series. Sometimes it makes my head explode, but all the different inputs stretch my thinking and give me numerous “squirrels” to chase. Speaking of which, just a second ….

Sorry, I just had to respond to a post on how depictions of rape in film are/aren’t helpful on a discussion form that I found through my Outlander thread. Then I started to consider whether I should write a post on how interesting the forum discussion is, ranging from gender bias in the workplace to depictions of women and sex on TV. Then I had to check for updates on Twitter, and look at some naturally-dyed fibers, think about knitting projects, and read a post on whether to write longhand or using a computer. And while I do both, I am using a computer right now ….

Did I mention that I started the initial notes for this post almost a week ago?

Still Waters, Tuolumne Meadows

Still Waters, Tuolumne Meadows

Anyway, sometimes my “squirrels” take me into interesting little eddies of the flow, or little pools where I can stay for a bit, before letting the currents take me further. And sometimes, I connect unexpected dots, both serious and fun, whether gender empowerment (too numerous to mention) or the San Francisco Giants. Who knew that @RonDMoore and @TheHealthPolicyGroup are also #SFGiants fans?! And I learned a little bit about baseball scorekeeping. [squirrel!]

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Squirrel! Tuolumne Meadows

I know this luxury of time won’t last, but I’m enjoying it while it does. I’m @elizlk, if you want to join me.

A variety of ideas have been swirling in my brain of late. It’s taken a few days for me to synthesize enough to sort out why they are connected, and important enough to write about. I’m not entirely sure I’m ready, but I want to get at least the sketch of the pieces I’m seeing down: #HeForShe, Outlander, Google, MissRepresentation, and even a bit of church thrown in.

Late last week, Emma Watson gave a heartfelt speech to the United Nations on the need for gender equity, launching the #HeForShe campaign, encouraging men as well as women to embrace feminism – equality of opportunities for all. I was happy to see a young woman taking on equal rights for women & girls, and to see efforts to enlist all people to the cause. (You can refer to older posts on how I feel on the subject.) If you’re uncomfortable with the being a “feminist,” watch the speech.

I’ve also spent quite a bit of time the past few weeks using Outlander as a break, and recalling the many reasons I enjoy the books: the historical detail, the evocative characters and more by author Diana Gabaldon, and the strong female characters of Claire and Bree, among others. I have read and re-read the Outlander books over the past 20 years, as escape, primarily. I love the characters and the history, and these are tried and true friends I return to when I want to immerse myself in another world. Re-reading Outlander and seeing it come to the screen has been a welcome respite as I wrapped up months of really intense and emotionally challenging work earlier this month. As my work schedule finally relaxed, I also began following some of the press around the show, including several mentions that Claire is not the usual female character portrayed on television (including comparisons to Game of Thrones.)

As someone familiar with the Outlander books, I hadn’t thought of Claire as such a uniquely strong female on screen, but it is part of what I so enjoy about her – both on the show and in the books. A favorite line is when Claire, very early on, is admonished (by a man) with the line “St. Paul says ‘Let a woman be silent and–‘ …” and replies “You can mind your own bloody business, and so can St. Paul.” Anyone who’s spent any time with me in a church setting knows that I fully endorse that sentiment. (Despite the fact that Paul was instrumental in spreading Christianity beyond the Jewish community, my studies of early church history and recent reading of Reza Aslam’s The Zealot have not improved Paul’s standing in my book. Then again, St. Paul is not likely to have thought highly of me, either. I’d figure we’re even, but no one reads from my writings in church.) Speaking of both conscious and unconscious bias, I think I’ll leave the church bit to another post.

And this week the NY Times story about how Google is starting to look at unconscious bias in the organization, as a part of its efforts to become more diverse. First step is to make oneself aware of the biases. With awareness, you can start to take yourself off of autopilot and potentially make different decisions. I’ve made multiple career moves where I had different experiences of cultures, diversity and gender bias, and I’m about to make another move, so all that is also on my mind, but that’s another post, as well.

Back to Outlander and feminism. Claire is an unusual character in the story, and in television. If you’ve not seen it, I recommend watching MissRepresentation to get a flavor of the importance to society in general – both men and women – of how women are portrayed in our media. When she’s objectified, she fights back, and as a woman in the 18th century, she’s in a tough spot with lots of opportunities to choose to accept her situation, or not. Jamie would be a great feminist, too, I think. Of course, surrounded by Claire and Brianna, he might not have a choice. (Thank you, again, Diana Gabaldon, for writing such rich characters!)

The intersection of the #HeForShe campaign, talk of feminism and Outlander, corporate diversity and biases all do come together. In some ways, I’m seeing others become more conscious of biases in society, and being reminded of my own. There is much work still to be done.

All people are equally worthy of respect, and entitled to opportunity to live with dignity and be fully alive throughout their lives.