Saturday, August 18, 2007

Sacred Datura: Night-Blooming Wonder of the Desert

Last night when I came home, the Sacred Datura plant in my front yard was in full bloom with 20 or 30 gorgeous white trumpet-shaped flowers glowing in the moonlight. What a marvelous, mysterious and powerful plant.

Sacred Datura tea is a hallucinogen and has been used by some Native American tribes in rituals. According to Wikipedia, it is a very powerful deliriant. The effects of ingesting Sacred Datura tea--which include seizures and death--are downright scary! It's in the deadly nightshade family and is said to be more powerful than peyote, psyllicibin or LSD.

Some agricultural websites ignore the plant's beauty and ritualistic and pharmaceutical uses, and call it a noxious weed. For example, this link says that the plant is toxic to livestock. (Ok, maybe this is God's way of saying that Sacred Datura belongs in the desert and cows don't?)

My plant has been plagued by large (3"+) caterpillars. Initially, my thought was to leave them alone because they would become butterflies or moths. Also, I thought they couldn't survive eating the Sacred Datura--not so. I came home from work one day, and they had done considerable damage to my gorgeous plant. No more Ms. Nice Guy, I thought. I moved 7 or 8 very large caterpillars to some Buffel Grass (a nasty pest plant) growing in the neighbor's curb lawn. Later that day, the caterpillars were gone. I don't know if they found a better home or if the birds found them. Today (Sunday), after the glorious blooms of Friday night, the plant again looked damaged. I hunted around under the leaves, and sure enough, the catapillars were back!!! I moved another 10 today to the weeds across the street. The above photo is one of the smaller caterpillars. You can see the stem he is on has no leaves.

Another species that seems to enjoy eating Sacred Datura is harvester ants. I have been fighting them ever since I moved to this house. I let them chomp away at it thinking that maybe Sacred Datura would kill them or at least keep them away from more vulnerable plants in my yard.

Anyway, I grow Sacred Datura for its beauty and desert hardiness. It just goes to show ya: one person's weed is another person's decorative flower or drug store. One animal's poison is another's food supply. Nature's funny that way.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Sicko: What a Movie!

Tonight I went to see "Sicko", Michael Moore's latest documentary. What a powerful movie.

Several of my friends had seen the movie before me and had offered snipets of information about it. Although I sort of knew what to expect from "Sicko," I was overwhelmed by the movie and reduced to tears by the end. Yes, the personal stories were moving-- the guy who had to choose which finger to save, the couple whose medical bills forced them into backruptcy and their daughter's basement, the 9/11 rescue workers who were foresaken by our healthcare non-system, the little girl who died because care was refused, etc.

But above all of the personal stories, one commentary really hit home for me. An English gentleman said that American corporations and government want to keep US citizens fearful, uneducated, and disillusioned with the system because then they will be so pessimistic and hopeless that they won't vote. They fear citizens who are healthy, educated, and fearless because they can't be easily controlled. He explained that for Great Brittan free national healthcare came with democracy. (Huh? Aren't we the ones who are supposedly making the world "safe for democracy"? Isn't this our biggest export?) How come our democracy values money and corporate profits more than the health and welfare of its citizens? The current government hopes that we will stay uninformed and believe their big lie that the US has the best healthcare. A recent NY Times editorial offered a conservative but thorough comparison between our non-system and healthcare offer in other industrialized countries.

I liked "An Inconvenient Truth" and thought it was exciting how one movie could sigle-handedly push global warming into the collective consciousness of the American people. I hope that "Sicko" does that for healthcare.

Every adult in the US should see this movie and then take action: contact friends and encourage them to go to the movie; send e-mails or letters to legislators encouraging them to actually do something about the US healthcare scandal; blog about "Sicko" and healthcare in the US; send letters and comments to newspapers; march in the streets; and VOTE.

As Michael Moore said at the end of the movie, when are the citizens of the US going to think of "we" instead of "me"?

What would happen if the poor and disenfranchized citizens of the US all registered to vote and actually voted?

Monday, August 06, 2007

Wind Dancer Design Shrine in El Dia de los Muertos Exhibit

One of my shrines has been accepted into Tohono Chul Park's upcoming Día de los Muertos: The Gift of Remembrance exhibit. The exhibit runs from August 23 through November 4.

El Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is a big celebration in Tucson. Historically, Mexicans have celebrated the day after Halloween as El Dia de los Muertos. They set up shrines in their houses to remember loved ones who have passed on, and they often go to the gravesites and have a celebration-- complete with food, music, flowers, and offerings.

Several years ago, some Tucson artists -- most notably the Puppet Works organization-- started holding a procession on El Dia de los Muertos. Following the procession, Flam Chen, a local-- but internationally famous-- fire dancing troupe holds a free performance.

There are three levels of participation in the procession: watch the parade (ok but that's not really participation), walk along the parade route in street clothes (ok, if you're too cool to wear a costume but also not in the spirit of the occasion), or full participation complete with costume and noise makers or drum-- very fun. One year, I walked the procession as La Llorna.

Here is a pic of my daughter (center) with her husband (left) and friend, on their way to the procession one year. If you want to learn more about the procession in Tucson or El Dia de los Muertos, check out this link.

New Emblem for US Government

A friend of mine recently sent this bit of news for my blog.

"The federal government announced today that it is changing its emblem to a condom because it more clearly reflects the government's political stance. A condom stands up to inflation, halts production, destroys the next generation, protects a bunch of pricks, and gives a sense of security while it's actually screwing you."

Sad but true...

Everyone needs to vote in every election!

As Jim Morrison sang, "They got the guns. We got the numbers."