Finding meaning

by cheri sabraw


photo by c. sabraw 2019

My sister and I are avowed bird and bunny watchers.

Instead of hashing over how miserable we are about the socialism creep (verb or noun depending on your perspective) or about Theresa May’s crippling act of personal wilfulness and abject defiance for the voters of the U.K., we employ a diversionary tactic–staring at the desert, clucking to thrashers and quail and throwing Shredded Wheat squares to lure them up on the patio.

First, a disclaimer: if any of the Gestapo that run this over-55 retirement community are reading my blog (instead of finding something to complain about), we do not feed doves or pigeons, bunnies or coyotes. So there!

I do, occasionally, feed the golfers by offering a beer to  those whose golf balls venture too close for comfort, but only if they do not swear. My act of Hoppian charity is rewarded with big toothy smiles.

In studying the birds that frequent my patio, my sister and I are most moved by the Gila woodpeckers, who in turn, are moved by hummingbird feeders full of sugar-water.


photo by c. sabraw 2019


photo by c. sabraw 2019

Then the late afternoon breezes,  made more melodic by the sound of palm fronds swishing and swaying, begin to subside.P1120028

The bunny trio emerges from under the desert shrubs to nibble on the soft grasses of the fairway.


The metal friends continue their social engagement oblivious to the world’s problems.

They do fear the coming heat of the summer when their metal is tested.




Posted in My photography, Nature photography, Politics | Tagged , , , , , | 13 Comments

The Oppressive Nature of Politics


Photo by cheri block sabraw 2019

by cheri block sabraw

Oppression is no joke.

Marching into a packed  boxcar during the winter of 1939 in Prague is oppression.

Having a overseer whip and slash the  back until the flesh is shredded in 1858 on a South Carolina plantation is oppression.

Bending over with a short hoe in the Salinas Valley, weeding a field of strawberries in high heat, with few breaks and no toilet, is oppression.


The new political animal, the likes of Representatives Omar and Ocasio-Cortez- vying for attention by vacuous social media–lead by lightweights, play the oppression card often, shamelessly. And why should they feel shame about doing so if they have no idea about history other than what they can learn on Wikipedia?

The denizens of oppression–Obama, Ellison, Warren, Harris, Booker, Bernie, and a host of other people who have no real idea about it– slog on in the mines and factories, on the docks and picket lines of their imaginations.

It’s vogue to cite oppression in politics. It makes for sassy news clips and terse sound bites, the tropes now of the uninformed experts.

They seem to be as oppressed as stuffed animals in a baby’s crib.






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The game is on!

by Cheri Sabraw

I have surrendered to the tom turkeys this time of year when their fancy turns from pooping all over my driveway to the ladies. The lengths to which the toms will go to attract and finally mate with a hen are evolutionary at best and clownish at worst.

Take this group of four puffy noblemen ( or so they think…)

First, they must posture and meditate, making themselves as large as possible. Catching the afternoon sun on their tail feather fan helps their sense of Self.

Then, out of order, they begin a circular parade that is all about them–their feathers, their one-legged pose, their robotic Hokey-Pokey (shimmy to the right and shimmy to the left)–all while holding their breaths in order to push every fiber and feather into an enormous love machine.

Then, at the behest of the lead love-maker, they begin their march to sex.

“Yes, you heard me, ” Moe silently directs, practicing his machismo as he, Curly and Larry head toward the soft creek bed.

“That little gal over there can’t help but be magnetized toward my colorful face, big breast, and of course, those red balls at the end of my neck. God, I am so hot.

“Hey, you aren’t the only massive dark meathead, Moe, ” Curley and Larry chortle.

“Well, hey there, girls. Look on up instead of down. Not enough for you yet? Let me show you my backside. That ought to trigger your hormones.”

Hello you little wild cutie…are you heading for the creek?

[ Green piece of pottery speaks ]: “Hey there buster, it’s been very lonely here on the patio this rainy and cold winter. I am interested in you. You can see that my cup runneth over for you. Come on up…”

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A fire in Vermont

by cheri sabraw


The rain has been good to Northern California

The propane delivery truck bellowed down our driveway last month, its brakes barking like a sea lion.

I peeked through the wooden shutters in my closet window. A familiar scene, one that I have watched every couple of months for 25 years, unfolded mechanically: The operator Sergio found the thick hose, pulled out yank by yank, and stretched it to our blue propane tank, across our  lawn mottled by gophers and over a rock wall until finally, hose and tank coupled in a gaseous ecstasy.

The momentary high left inertly when Sergio wrapped the bill around our door knob, hoisted himself back inside the truck, which  belched  up the driveway.

In my closet, I finished dressing for the day and trundled downstairs to the coffee pot.

Oh yes, I thought. That propane bill. I must retrieve it before the wind blows it into the creek.

When I opened the bill, and saw what two months of propane cost, I had a brief moment of breathlessness myself.

Either a gallon of propane has gone up in price or I have used too much. Reluctantly, I accepted the latter and at that moment vowed to reduce hot water and heat usage.

To that end, I have been making my own fires in our wood-burning stove, whom I will call Vermont.

Today, when the weather changed again, I made another fire, an inferno in Vermont, who complained a bit by rattling when I threw more kindling in her belly.


The deer abound

I love the smell of oak burning in Vermont and the warmth that a fire provides. And I love the fact that I am not using propane.IMG_3870

The birds wait for foliage


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If Dinah could talk


by cheri

Those of us who own animals have probably wondered what they would say in certain situations; the older I have grown, the more often this thought occurs to me.

My horse Cricket, who  left this earth for Horse Heaven, unless other horses have had a say in who gets in and who does not,  certainly would have asked me why we had to wait until Hizzoner’s father was ready to ride. The conversation may have gone like this:

Ok, Cheri. You have tightened the cruel cinch, put that lousy cold bit in my old mouth, slapped my butt for good luck, and hoisted your hundred-plus pounds onto my wide back. We are ready to go, aren’t we?

Be patient, Cricket. Stop pawing the ground, first right, then left, then dust, then mild impatience, then head-throwing, and then more dancing, dust, and anxiety. Stop that now!

Ok, Cheri. Who does that man think he is?

He’s the one whose barn you sleep in, the one who orders your hay, your vet, your manicures. In short, he’s the reason you are here. And he’s a fiddler-not the type that has musical talent but rather the type who wants everything just so.


My dog Dinah, who is thankfully still wandering this earth, despite having eaten everything from rats to paper towels, certainly would participate in the following conversations:

Ok, Cheri. I’m wondering about that contraption called the Central Vac. You know I’m deathly afraid of vacuums and leaf blowers, but since you and Hizzoner remodeled the kitchen–damnit, the only place I am allowed in this whole stinkin’ house–what’s with that secret noisy opening under the new dishwasher?

I’m not sure to what you are referring o’ furry one.

Very funny. LOL. That place under the new dishwasher that you keep kicking when trying to Swiffer my hair. Suddenly, the peacefulness of my space ruptures into suction. Is that a secret vacuum? I’ve noticed the glee on your face.

Oh that. Yes, Dinah, that is a place where some of your shedded hair can be eliminated. The other hairs, of course, are stuck to my black sweat pants, black Yoga pants, black socks and (God forbid) Hizzoner’s pants.

I would also like to broach the subject of my meals. Why am I relegated to canned low-fat gastrointestinal food when your grilled halibut topped with crispy shallots smells so much better?

Dinah dear, your diet changed when your Aunt Sara observed that your head had shrunk.

Dinah,  sometimes we don’t see ourselves as we really are– overweight, aging, slouching, greying, wrinkling hunks of protoplasm. I did not see how fat (sorry, let’s tell it as it was) you had become thanks to Hizzoner’s  tossing you sesame stix, cookies, Triscuits, scraps, and Yahuda Matzohs. Although he isn’t a dog lover, he is a food lover and to see you there, salivating all over his slippers while he tries to relax after a grueling day dealing with greedy and acrimonious types and BART–well, he’s to blame for your new diet.

Thanks. That doesn’t really address my problem, but since I have your ear, I’d like to complain about my bed, a cheap version of a memory foam luxury that I saw at Pet Smart last month. I noticed that you were looking at the prices of these beds. Gee, I seem to remember a large truck pulling down into our driveway last fall to deliver a Tempur-Pedic to you and Hizzoner. You didn’t even blink when ordering that bed. I know; I heard your conversation.

Dinah, your visit to the veterinary ER cost us a small fortune last May, so your expenses are on a budget.

I saw that picture of your sister’s dog Buca asleep on HER BED. My feelings are hurt. Let’s end it with that.


And also, since I was a puppy, I have been forced to listen to Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald way too early in the morning.

Tell Hizzoner that!


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“It’s how you look at it,” she said.

IMG_3507by cheri

On a walk the other day, I came upon a tall and spiny collection of individuals with light on their fingertips and ribs on their bodies. The atmosphere was electric; the ground, troublesome.

Although I greeted them with my customary “hello there,” and “how’s your day going?” they ignored me, choosing instead to pray to the  One-Armed God at the top of the hill.

Otherworldly, they spent the day in a depression, looking for some color in their lives.


The One-Armed God capitulated to the Terrier God, who entered the blustery sky just in the nick of time.

With a little “woof” and a swirl of swift swells in the atmosphere, the prickly ones returned to color; the ground , too, obeyed. The jumping cholla began to laugh in the middle ground.

When the West Highland White Terrier left the sky, a small sign that said, “Worship me,” pushed up through the desert sand and dirt. Order was restored.


The Palo Verde and Mesquite trees bent to the bush who said, “Straighten up!”

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From my fine art blog

by cheri

This story seemed to be more than just about art, so I am sending all of my readers the link.



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Holocaust Remembrance Day, 2019


by cheri sabraw

Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day.

On a day like today, only the victims of Nazi atrocities should be in our minds and hearts.

Any other tangential political topic must be avoided lest we become distracted from the barbaric acts of hatred and torture that occurred not so long ago in countries that counted themselves as civilized but in actuality were not.

There is no positive spin to be put on the events that transpired in Germany in the 1940’s and continued throughout most of the European mainland from Austria to Poland, from Belgium to France, from Czechoslovakia to Lithuania, and so on.

All we can do is educate the young about what took place over seventy years ago for “whoever listens to a witness, becomes a witness.” (From the website of Yad Vashem.)

I’d like to think this song by Rachelle Shubert honors those stars whose lights were snuffed out.





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“She has the most sand of any girl I know…”


by cheri sabraw

In Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Huck says of Mary Jane Wilks, a 19-year-old girl he meets and admires and who, along with her sisters, is the object of a failed scam by the Duke and the Dauphin,  …She has the most sand of any girl I know…

My first question to my students after finishing that chapter was “What did Huck mean when he described Mary Jane as having sand?

Eventually, amid answers that ranged from the granular to the universal, someone would observe that Mary Jane had courage.

Ahhhh… I would nod,  You must mean ‘grit’, don’t you? and then I would insist they look up the word grit in the dictionary.

Most of us hope  we have such strength of character, courage, pluck, or grit when faced with life’s greatest challenge: that moment when we face our mortality.


I first met Susie in 1972.

I was a first-year teacher at the tender age of 21, hired as a Learning Consultant  and English teacher by Joe,  my former teacher and principal.

Susie, then 26, was a bouncy confident vivacious blond (those were the days when you could refer to a woman as a blond instead of a guidance counselor.)

We clicked like Dorothy’s shoes in The Wizard of Oz.

I found Susie–a native Arizonan married to Aldo, the basketball coach and business teacher at the high school I attended, to be energetic, fun, and full of life.

Before long, Susie and I were both pregnant and informed Joe, our Italian principal, that we would be taking a leave of absence.

Joe did not take this news well as two of his most popular blonds and brunettes had been compromised and he would need to replace us.

Damn it he said in his office when I told him the news before I almost threw up from morning sickness. Good God! What? First Susie and then you? What’s in the water here at this high school?”


Years passed. Susie and I had two kids each and became best friends. I say  Best Friends but the truth is, Susie was my best friend but she was a best friend to at least 50 other women. I accepted that fact, pleased to have a best friend from my standpoint.

Our families met many Friday nights to celebrate “Friday Night in America.” We would party, drink, watch TV, and entertain the neighbors, who eventually would stream into Susie and Aldo’s home.

If I had a secret that needed working out, I called Susie. Her common sense, willing ear, and sense of play made my secrets dissolve.

As life does, it moved on. Susie’s husband Aldo died too young. Susie soldiered on, eventually moving from counseling to the District Office at our local school district, in charge of the Gifted and Talented Education Department.

Our kids married and had their own kids. We were there together for all of those occasions.

Then, to my disappointment, Susie moved out of California and back to Arizona 14 years ago. Of course, I handled this with maturity. I only cried a bucket of tears.


Last April, a text arrived with an Emoji wearing a stern facial expression. Call me when you have a moment the text said. This cannot be good news, I thought.

And it wasn’t.

Susie told me that she had  early stage stomach cancer and  was headed to MD Anderson in Houston, Texas, for chemotherapy, radiation, more chemotherapy, and then, six months later, the removal of her stomach. In one of my more shallow moments, I asked her if we could still have a glass of wine together. She laughed and said, “maybe.”

In September, I visited Susie six weeks before her scheduled stomach removal. We ate out, drank some wine, laughed about old times, took some photos, watched British television, and talked about life, religion, and philosophy. When I got into my bed each night of my visit, I marveled at Susie’s strength and grit, her resolve and bravery.

Of all of the people I have met in my lifetime, with whom I have some intimacy, Susie is the person who has mastered the practice of staying in the present moment.


A human stomach holds between 4-6 cups of food.

Susie has a newly fashioned pouch made from her small intestine and attached to her esophagus, which will hold 1 cup of food at a time. She must eat every two hours to maintain weight. The miracles of modern medicine!

Ron and I drove up to see Susie on Friday.

There she was! Beautiful, smiling, laughing, greeting us at the door.

It would have been easy to pretend that nothing had changed.

When someone we love has survived an illness, a disease, or an accident, their essence seems  palpable and intense.

Their eyes seem wiser, deeper, and instinctive.

Susie radiates with purpose and grit.

Long live Susie, my dear friend.








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The European Onion


by cheri sabraw

In psychological parlance, an onion is a metaphor for the subconscious, a place that often needs to be peeled back, layer after layer, in order to get to a problem.

In most cases, the problem has rested dormant but is set off by an external event, which then causes psychological distress.

In the case of the European Onion, the problem at its inception in 1993, began when a group of 28 countries decided to become a United States and operate one Onion to ensure for a better economy, sort of safety-in-numbers position.

One Onion Under God (No longer just the Judeo-Christian God) Indivisible, With Liberty and Justice for All (Except Hezbollah).

One big problem: Cultures are different.

Yep. The Greeks don’t think it is a big deal to go to work at 11:00 am, take a long break at lunch, and leave by 4:00. Their economy has tanked, their international debt has ballooned, but they still want a loan.

Yep. The Germans, well, they are very green, tidy, hardworking  and accommodating (NOW, not in 1939). They work hard, rat on each other’s neighbors if the neighbors leave the garbage can out too long, and have let 1.5 million Muslims into their country, many of whom hate Jews. Talk about historic irony.

Yep. The French. Actually, let’s just bypass the French.

Yep. The Brits. Now there’s a group of brave souls who recognized that signing up for a single currency would not work and now, want out of the Onion. Since the United Kingdom is the 5th largest economy in the world, the Onion is not happy with such a decision and has set up a trench, similar to those in WWI, where the Brits lost over 700,00 soldiers.

The Onion is made up of bureaucrats in Brussels who think they know what’s best for the average Hungarian, Pole, or Irishman, lumped together as if they were the same. They are globalists who want no borders, a single currency, and a kum-bah-ya feeling between all peoples, sort of a John Lennon Imagine moment. One only has to be a junior high student to know that even when most of the student body is homogenous, kids still don’t get along.

The peeling back of the Onion is in progress with tears to shed for the grand theory that really wasn’t very practical in reality.




Posted in Education, Life, People, Places, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , | 18 Comments