All posts by Elizabeth

panama flag

Panamá Progesses! Election Day 2014.

In this week’s El Visitante ( the weekly bilingual periodical in Panamá) they reported that according to national polling, seven days out from the national elections, the three primary candidates for president are separated by a mere 6% points. In Panama this near dead-heat is considered historic. No one seems certain of the outcome. No election in recent memory has been this close.

panama flag2 Panamá Progesses! Election Day 2014.So, on the spur of the moment, I decided to conduct my own poll. Now, to be clear, I am not (yet) a Panamanian citizen and I can’t vote or even, really, participate in any political activities. But, once an activist, always… or something. Seems I can’t help myself. I want to know why people are supporting one guy or the other—there being no females in the current top positions—unless you count the wife of the current president, Ricardo Martinelli, who is running as vice-president on his Cambio Democratico party ticket, despite constitutional challenges, but then, she did resign her ‘position’ as First Lady and isn’t a blood relative…oy vey…

First thing this morning, I asked my taxi driver who he was going to vote for and why. Varela, candidate of the Panamanista Party (though he was elected five years ago as Martinelli’s vice-president, until they had a falling out and he switched parties, mid-term…whilst continuing to be vice-president. Ojala.). Why is my driver going to support him? “Because he is less of liar than the others.” Really? (Perhaps I misunderstood, my Spanish being somewhat less than perfect). But no, that is what he said. Varela is a liar, but less so than the other guys. Ok, then. Moving right along. Try to keep up.

Second in my polling, my physical therapist. He was less definite. He told me how all his life, since age 7, he had been a devoted follower of the PRD (Popular Revolution Democratico). He had an early age encounter with Omar Torilljos at his grammar school and it made a positive and indelible mark on his young mind. A die hard PRD supporter was born. But then, a few years ago, a Chiricano (resident of the province of Chiriqui) told him about The Black Hand. According to this friend, under Omar Torilljos, the Black Hand made swift work of any and all who opposed the populist military dictator, including tossing reluctant folks out of helicopters from high altitudes. It changed my therapist’s mind about the PRD—which is the party that supported Noriega, after all. So, come election day, he may, or may not, vote for Navarro, the current PRD candidate who espouses all the correct populist ideals, but is still tarred with the brush of the Black Hand. He kinda likes Varela, the vice-president splitter, but doesn’t trust him because he was once hand-in-glove with Cambio Democratico Martinelli. How does one keep track?

Third, in my utterly random quest for information, was the manager/bartender at one of my favorite restaurants where I took myself for some post physical therapy food therapy. The answer there was unequivocal and emphatic. “José Domingo Arias! Of course! Look at all the good things that have come to Panamá under Martinelli! Panamá progresses!” And he ticked them off: roads, super highways, hospitals, canal expansion, metro, agricultural distribution centers, minimum wage pay raises. Not all of these project plans originated under Martinelli, but he has, in fact, made them happen. He could have pocketed ALL the money as his predecessors have, but, no, he actually did some things. You can drive on the roads, ride the metro in the city. The clinics are soon to be open for business. The farm/agricultural centers are expediting the distribution of food throughout the country. And while the price of basics has gone up—a great source of discontent for the poor—so have wages. “You know,” he challenged me. “You’ve lived here for more than ten years. Under Mireya? Under Martín Torilljos? Nada. Nada. Never mind that Martinelli, who has anointed José Domingo and given him his wife as vp, is a global joke. No importe.”

So, my poll, actually, pretty much mirrors the nationals. A three way split, with a few percentage points making a big difference—if you can trust the polls, which most say can be bought.

My point in all this? I live in Panamá. It’s now my home. And I care what happens here. I have strong opinions about things. Health care. Education. Water quality. Indigenous rights. Domestic and sexual violence. I cared about these things in the US, before I left, too. I’m happy with that choice for many reasons. While I still retain, at least for the moment, US citizenship, I no longer vote there. And, I can’t vote, here, yet. But in two years? Oh yeah. Sign me up. But which party? No sé.

Then, there’s this, which I probably shouldn’t mention, but can’t help myself. A few weeks ago ALL of these three candidates signed an agreement saying that they fully and exclusively support marriage as an institution between one man and one woman. Great. Sound familiar? But here’s the kicker, as explained to me by a couple of well-connected Panamanians: ONE of the three is known to be actively bisexual, though married with children. The other TWO each have mistresses and/or illegitimate children…and their wives have, hmmm, consorts? The two really far left wing candidates, who no one takes seriously, each refused to sign. Called it by its name: hypocrisy and cheap vote buying.

panama flag3 Panamá Progesses! Election Day 2014. Really. How’s a girl to choose?

Disclaimer: I have only reported what others have told me. They may well have reason to believe what they have said. As for me, I couldn’t possibly, personally, comment. (Thank you, House of Cards (British version).

Ramblings from the Mountain meets Cloud Forest Botanicals

(Note: Ramblings from the Mountain will now be found monthly in the Cloud Forest Botanicals Newsletter. Unless I am moved some random midnight to expound on an unrelated topic!)

February 24, 2014

 Ramblings from the Mountain meets Cloud Forest Botanicals Ramblings from the Mountain:

Happy Valentine’s Day from The Cloud Forest Queens!

Yes, Valentine’s Day was last week. We missed it. We apologize. We were thinking about you. Really. We’ve just been really busy here on the farm with visitors from around the world walking The Medicine Way Trail, making products to keep up with the growing demand, and caring for the plants during this VERY dry season. (Our own Valentine’s celebration was a quiet night at home with a movie and in bed by 9:30 PM, dead asleep, if that gives you any clue!).

But, we have been thinking about this whole hearts and flowers and love thing.

A good article came across my desk the other day about the ancient Greeks’ six different words for different types of Love… read the whole article from our February Newsletter here.

Profile photo

Boquete, Panama – Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday on the mountain in the highlands of Boquete, Panama, listeningBlue Morpho Boquete, Panama   Palm Sunday to chorale singing composed by J.S. Bach on WQXR out of New York City. I LOVE my NPR! Outside, the soft breezes of this changing season promise rain later in the afternoon. I’m so glad. It’s been a thirsty three months. The baby chickens are happily sunning in a corner of the coop, while the Big Black Bitch clucks angrily outside. (She earned her moniker when she killed two babies from another mother). Charlie the Dog is yapping down by the pond. A blue morpho lit on the snowy coffee blooms by the terrace. I’ve spent way too much time on Face Book today, under the guise of connecting, networking and marketing. Not sure why I do that. At any rate, it’s a lovely day on the farm.

So, what’s going on?

dianne teaching visitors about plants1 300x225 Boquete, Panama   Palm Sunday
Dianne teaching visitors about plants

Well, it’s been really, really busy. High tourist season means lots of visitors to Finca Luz to walk the Medicine Way Trail to learn about medicinal plants. We’ve met doctors, botanists, Chinese herbal practitioners, large scale agri-farmers, students, backpackers, teachers…all interesting and all a pleasure. The Tuesday Market has been a weekly source of amusement, revenue and new faces. (Check out this short video for a giggle.

Lots of ongoing research for Cloud Forest Botanicals products—I’m working on a new pain relief salve and it just isn’t quite ready to test drive, yet, and Dianne is digging deep to find remedies for thyroid related issues. We spend time servicing existing clients (more every week) and promoting to future customers. We are hoping for our first significant international order next week. Busy. We love our jobs!

Life has its dramas. There are the daily chicken dramas. Fighting hens, bullying roosters, neurotic adolescents, happy growing hens-to-be and a bevy of new little ones. We love them and like to think they love us, but really, it’s all about the food. It is amazing how quickly they learn that at 4:30 every afternoon they can come begging to the kitchen door and one or other of the Food Giants will come out and toss them handfuls of corn. They feel entitled to it and scrap and fight and complain if they don’t feel they are getting their fair share. A lot like some people and most politicians.

Ripe coffee cherries 300x224 Boquete, Panama   Palm Sunday
Ripe Coffee Cherries from Finca Luz

Then there’s the coffee fungus, La Roya, which is threatening coffee fields throughout Central America and decimating the crop for 2013. It has been declared a national emergency in Guatemala and Costa Rica and Panama will follow shortly. Finca Luz is surrounded by coffee fields that are neglected and I watch daily as the leaves on those neighboring plants shrivel and drop.

I am very irritated with fair weather gringo coffee growers who come here, think growing coffee is a romantic hobby and then don’t follow through with good stewardship. They are irresponsible. The wind spreads the air borne fungus onto my trees and others. May they choke on their Starbucks latte. If they don’t want to do the work, then cut the coffee down and plant blackberries that can be ignored.

Those of us who are  serious about this coffee thing–whether large or boutique farmers–  are vigilantly treating to both prevent and control in accordance with recommendations from the local MIDA (agricultural extension) office. So far so good. Now the rains have come and the spread will slow. I think I will plant another 1,000 trees this year to replace my oldsters and get a leg up on a shrinking market.

I’m looking for an alternative crop to plant in one area of the farm that gets lots of heat during summer and rain during winter and is difficult to reach for irrigation. Ideas? I’ve considered rhubarb, tea, chili peppers. Needs to be a high end product to be competitive, hardy to thrive in challenging conditions, and relatively low maintenance. Hmmm. Blackberries?

I received a not-so 5 star review of Risking Everything: Coming Out in Coffee Land by a Kiwi writer for a New Zealand travel blog. She loved the story and wants to come visit us. But…she called my writing ‘turgid.’ Ouch. That stings. But, perhaps it’s true that any publicity is good publicity? Still. Turgid? I’ll have to consult my buddy Webster about that.

The manuscript for my new novel is proceeding, in fits and starts to be sure, but I’m almost 2/3 of the way through the first draft. Working towards climax and denouement. Chasing Tropical Ice. Watch for it…sometime next year.

hotei god of contentment happiness 1 Boquete, Panama   Palm SundayI’m casting about for some significant thread of thought to follow here. Can you tell? I’m a bit all over the place. What I feel, however, is a bone deep soul contentment. I’m not dwelling on the past. I’m not anticipating the future. I’m very much in the moment, today. I’m here, now, mindful of how much I am grateful for, how blessed I am. I’m healthy. I’m prosperous by the standards of most of the world’s population. I’m interested in and challenged by my work. I’m in love, still. I am loved, still.

profile photo Boquete, Panama   Palm Sunday
Elizabeth Worley, author and medicinal plant farmer. And yes, coffee is medicinal!

Perhaps that is significant enough for this Palm Sunday. “If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.” – Meister Eckhart.

What are you grateful for? To whom? Do the people you care about know that you are grateful for what they have brought to your life?

I say, now, to all, ‘Thank you!”

Boquete, Panama: Manana…or why nothing is getting done today…

Boquete, Panama. Finca Luz. A sunny Sunday.

I love my dictionary. Seriously. I’ve had this copy of Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary since 1965. The gold lettering on the faded blue cover is completely obliterated by the desk side detritus of spilled drinks, potato chip grease, and the sheer dust of the ages. The spine vanished decades ago. The thin pages are yellowed. The print has grown so small I now need glasses to read it. This book has lived in North Carolina, Texas, Georgia, Arizona, Washington and now, Panama. I love this book.Dictionary Boquete, Panama: Manana...or why nothing is getting done today...

When I was in high school, I would read this very same dictionary during boring classes. I remember the day I discovered the word mellifluous. Say it…mel-li-flu-ous. Just kind of rolls off the tongue like honey. I was in civics class with old Mrs. Coldren, being driven to distraction by the particularities of the North Carolina State Constitution. I mean…really…at age 15, who cares?? I got caught.

“What are you reading, young lady? What is that book in your lap?”

Smiling sweetly, I held up my lovely blue dictionary. “I’m looking up a word,” I explained.

“Oh.” Not much else she could say.

That day I went on to lyophobic, and to the thirteen distinct definitions and fifteen sub-definitions for shot. Who knew?

The word for today is procrastination. “To put off intentionally and reprehensibly the doing of something that should be done.” Ouch. Reprehensibly? That seems a bit harsh, but there it is in black and white on page 679 about mid-way down the first column.

I admit: there are dirty dishes in the sink from last night. The tomato plants should be sprayed for powdery mildew. The chickens need to have their water changed. The bougainvillea are dry as bones, the basil is going to seed, the bed isn’t made, and…honestly…I need a shower. Worst, there is a character in my nascent novel who is hanging on tenter hooks in Icabaru, Venezuela where he is fixing to get into seriously deep shit over some diamond smuggling and I haven’t the foggiest clue how it will come out, and here I sit eating tortilla chips, drinking a beer (in the middle of the afternoon, no less!!), and messing around with web pages and blog posts about everything from the Embera indigenous of Panama, botanical plants, recipes for pain reliever salve to…my dictionary.

Maybe reprehensible isn’t so harsh. Let me see. Reprehensible: “Worthy of or deserving reprehension.”  Reprehension: “Reproof.”

Okay, I get it. It’s not good and I should get on with what needs to be done and quit procrastinating.

But wait. This is interesting. Reprehend, from the Middle English and dictionary1 Boquete, Panama: Manana...or why nothing is getting done today...Latin, to hold back, and the French, reprehendere (to grasp, see prehensile.).

How did we get from prehensile (as in a monkey’s tail) to a morally suspect postponement of tasks? I have no clue. Do you? Any linguists out there?

That’s it, then. I’ll start with the chickens’ water, progress to the bougainvillea and basil, wash the dishes, take a shower and THEN I will see about the poor bugger in Icabaru. I have a feeling it isn’t going to go well for him. The tomatoes will have to wait. Manana.

Manana. (spanish. lit. tomorrow. french, earlier, as in early tomorrow.). An indefinite time in the future….. And that’s it for today, from Boquete, Panama. Hasta manana.


Male Pattern Violence

I’ve been thinking about men’s violence against women in the days past. It seems it is on all the major news media, daily, everywhere.

  • The Taliban shoots a girl who wants an education (and she’s only the one who made the news network. There are thousands of others, just like her.).
  • A young woman is raped on a bus in India and dies. Her rape, by a gang of young men, made headlines around the world and now some in India are looking at the misogynist culture that encourages child brides, widow burnings, men beating and raping woman just because they can. (And this is only in India–it happens  all the time, all day long, every day, everywhere on the planet.).
  • Three women activists are executed by men in Paris.
  • Rape of women by male soldiers is a tactic of military conquest.
  • Men with guns go on shooting sprees across the US killing anyone who gets in the way, and other men vociferously defend the right to carry arms as if someone were threatening to cut off their penises by wanting to regulate AK47s.
  • A man on a local news bulletin site writes that complaints against a local scam artist/crook are a ‘woman’s slam’–because those who stepped forward to name the jerk were women.
  • The US Congress fails to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act.

I have been ramping up to write a Ramblings on the subject of men’s violence, but then I found the article below. The author says it all.

I will say that, during my career as a psychotherapist, part of my work was with a domestic violence and rape crisis center and there is little that I read now that shocks me. During those early years (the 80’s) my then husband accused me of ‘flag waving feminism’ when I went on a rant about men’s violence. I tried to learn ways to talk about it that wouldn’t set him, or others, off.

I raised both sons and a daughter.

When I came out six years ago as lesbian, I again soft pedaled my feminism. Didn’t want to be called a man hating lesbian.

I am through being an apologist for what is clearly a predominantly male problem. Men being violent–against men, against women, against children, against animals, against the environment. I don’t hate them, but I am SO over making excuses for them, or putting in the conventional caveats, i.e, “Well, not ALL men…”.

Men.  Come to attention. It’s YOUR problem. Examine yourselves. Examine the state of the world. If you are not a violent man, congratulations on being a reasonably evolved human. Now call your fellowmen to account for their violence and get involved. Stop it.

If you are a violent man, be warned: Women are so over tolerating your bullshit. A group of Indian women in pink saris armed with bamboo canes are paying visits to men known to abuse their wives and daughters. They are dishing out payback. It may well be an international trend. Be afraid.

There. I’m done. I have to weed the garden beds, baby my tomatoes, make sure the hawk doesn’t fly off with one of my chicks, and keep writing on my new book, Chasing Tropical Ice, a Panama mystery with a twist.

The article below is SO worth reading. If you give a damn.

Male Pattern Violence — reprinted here without permission but full credit to the online journal: Off Our Backs.

By Jennie Ruby

There seems to be a kind of statistical dyslexia that people get when

Do We Really Want To End Violence?

Why do both men and women avoid admitting the existence of and examining male violence? Could it be we don’t really want to end violence? Are we afraid, as a society, that if our men shy away from violence, we will be vulnerable to the violence of other men, other cultures? Do women find violent men attractive? Are men afraid that if they are asked to end their own violence, they will be vulnerable to the violence of other men? Are they afraid that without violence, they would lose their dominance over women? Is it that without recourse to violence, men would lose part of their identity?

We may all have to examine our fears in order to reveal resistance to stopping violence. And we may need to examine the ways in which our economy, our nation, and our way of life are supported by violence before we can dismantle all the mechanisms that perpetuate violence in our lives, from our media’s glorification of violence, to our violent video-game industry, to our love of violent sports, to the institutionalized violence of our military.

feminists start talking about male violence. The statement “Most violent crimes are committed by men” is often misheard as “most men are violent,” or even with a kind of gender dyslexia, as “women are never violent.” Thus radical feminists find themselves in conversations like this:

“Most of the violence around the world is committed by men.”

“You can’t say that! My friend Jim isn’t violent!”

“Nevertheless, the Bureau of Justice statistics show that over 85% of violent crimes in the U.S are committed by men.”

“Are you saying women are never violent? Because I read about this one woman who…”

“I guess her crime would be one of the 15%…”

“Some of us don’t think men are that bad, you know.”

The conversation usually stops there, stuck in rounds of denial and accusation, while the defensive person accuses the radical feminist of man-hating, male-bashing, and unfairness, and of wanting to alienate half of the population. The conversation never goes on to examine what it is about men that causes the violence, what we could do to help men stop their violence, or anything else constructive.

This reluctance to talk about men’s violence is widespread and seems to amount almost to a taboo. The news media report that “a woman was raped,” but never say “a man raped a woman.” Analyses of school violence talk about “kids killing kids,” ignoring the fact that it is almost exclusively boys committing the violence. Terms like “domestic violence” mask the fact that most of this violence is commtted by men.
Feminists and feminist organizations also fall into this pattern by using the term “violence against women.” This wording puts the focus on women as victims and hides who is perpetrating the violence. If we can’t even say who is doing most of the violence in the world, how can we hope to stop it?

Why do both men and women resist naming male violence? One reason is that we are afraid to insult, alienate, or anger male family members and loved ones—and men are often angered by discussions of male violence. Men are notoriously reluctant to accept responsibility or apologize for anything they do on an individual level. When it comes to taking responsibility on the society-wide level, we encounter this fragile male ego writ large. Of course not all men are like this. But the unapologetic male is a pervasive cultural theme that we are all aware of. And it is true enough, often enough, that on a case-by-case, experiential level both women and men know to avoid stirring up that male defensiveness. When feeling accused, a man may lash out by raising counter-accusations, confuse the issue, deny the wrong-doing, become sullen and withdrawn, or even, dare I say it, become violent (see box on page 24 for some common defenses against discussing male violence).

Another reason men resist naming male violence is that men tend to think of the male as the default human. This means they can’t see male patterns as male—they just see them as human. So male researchers and theorists often write about “human” aggression, “humanity’s” wars, and so forth. But can we stop “human” violence without acknowledging and examining the fact that it is disproportionately committed by men? I think not. For example, doing research on violence in both men and women together, without looking at differences between the sexes, would result in skewed results in which women’s different reasons for committing violence and women’s decreased propensity for violence would mask the male data, decreasing the chance that meaningful, usable findings would result.

We need to stop debating whether men are more violent or quibbling about whether women could be as violent as men if they had the chance, and take accurate stock of the evidence: United Nations Economic Commission for Europe data show that in the U.S. and Europe, 85%-100% of people convicted of assault are men. And 90% of murders are committed by men. Men are by far the principal perpetrators of rape, war, torture, incest, sexual abuse, sexualized murder, and genocide. We need to investigate what it is about men and masculinity that is so conducive of and associated with such a wide range of violent behavior.
We need to talk about male violence. The sooner we stop denying that men are the ones who commit most violence and begin to examine what it is about men that causes this, the sooner we start to solve it.

We need terminology that will break through the statistical dyslexia and the resistance surrounding the term “male violence” and allow us to focus on the problem. I think we’d have more success with a phrase that could not be misinterpreted as “all men always do it.” For example, most people can understand that “male-pattern baldness” is a male problem and that when women do have thinning hair the pattern and etiology are usually different. What if we start calling male violence “male-pattern violence” as distinguished from “female-pattern violence”?

Male-Pattern Violence

“Male-pattern violence,” then, is characterized most notably by its far greater overall prevalence than female-pattern violence. A far greater proportion of men commit male-pattern violence than women commit either male-pattern or female-pattern violence. Male-pattern violence also has a different etiology than female-pattern violence. Male-pattern violence is often characterized by motivations of aggression, revenge, competition for dominance, competition with other males (for example in drug- or gang-related violence), or feelings of ownership or entitlement toward women. Male-pattern violence includes sexual violence, including sexual violence against their own children. Some common patterns of male-pattern violence are assaulting/killing a woman who rejects them or tries to leave a relationship with them, killing children, wife, and self out of a tendency to see their wives and children as merely an extension of themselves, killing other males who are in economic competition with them, killing after being dishonored, killing for sexual gratification and killing in a jealous rage. Male-pattern violence ranges in scope from these individual crimes up to full-scale war and genocide.

Female-pattern violence is more often characterized by self-defense, response to long-term abuse by a husband, killing children because she cannot properly care for them, and involvement in male-initiated and male-led violence ranging from crime to war (e.g., women in the military).
I think the term male-pattern violence side-steps the whole “some men aren’t violent” thing because it is obvious it is talking about a pattern that most often occurs in men, but can also happen in women. It should also be clear that it doesn’t mean all men engage in male-pattern violence (any more than all men exhibit male-pattern baldness) but that when it occurs, it does result from some tendency related specifically to masculinity. So a woman who commits male-pattern violence is following a pattern that is found predominantly in men, but can happen in some women. Once we learn what causes male-pattern violence in men, we can see if those same causes are present in a violent woman—did she have a sense of entitlement, did she have a jealous rage, and so on.

Some are already doing this work. The movie Tough Guise, produced by Jackson Katz, shows that if we can get beyond the denial, we can explore the aspects of masculinity as defined in families, in schools, and in popular culture that encourage and condone male-pattern violence. The book Men’s Work by Paul Kivel and the book Refusing to be a Man by John Stoltenberg also examine how masculinity is connected to violence.

But for social change to take place, we need more than just a few books. We need a public information campaign. We all need to be talking about solutions to the problem every day. We need to talk to our male family members and colleagues in ways that point to the truth. We need to raise sons who don’t perpetuate the violence. We need our newspapers and other media to help focus the attention on the causes of violence, rather than the victims. These things are needed for social change, for men to change.

Without open discourse about the truth of male-pattern violence, we have confusion. We see increases in women’s violence. And we see male violence continue and even escalate worldwide while societies seem to just accept it as inevitable.

Until we can openly and honestly address the problem with those who are committing it, we are going to have male-pattern violence.

What You Can Do:

1. Replace the phrase “violence against women,” everywhere you or your feminist organizations currently use it, with the phrase “male violence against women” or possibly “male-pattern violence against women.”

2. Specifically name the most prevalent kind of domestic violence as “male-pattern violence in the home.”

3. When writing and speaking about male-pattern violence, actively name the perpetrator or at least the gender of the perpetrator: “A man raped a woman.” Do away with expressions such as “a woman was raped,” “her rapist” and every kind of wording that focuses on rape as a problem only for women.

4. Wherever possible, present statistics about violence in ways that clearly indicate the gender of the perpetrator, not just of the victim: Instead of “Every 15 minutes a woman is raped,” which makes rape seem like a female problem, try “Every 15 minutes, a man rapes a woman.” Or better: “Every 15 minutes, a man commits a rape.”

5. Call people on their defensiveness against acknowledging male violence. Watch for the classic defenses (see Ways People Deny Male Violence) and point them out.

6. Know the statistics and cite them often.

7. Talk about male-pattern violence openly and constantly. Make sure everyone you know is aware of this particularly masculine problem. Discuss it with your children. Discuss it with male friends. Discuss it with female friends. Discuss it in classrooms, in gossip sessions, and in bars.

8. Study the phenomenon. Examine how the construction of masculinity contributes to the commission of violence. Read what researchers such as James Gilligan are finding about why men become violent.

9. Encourage men to explore and question the cult of masculinity. If you are a man, call other men on their unexamined acceptance of mainstream masculinity.

10. Don’t accept male violence. Make it stop.