Friday, March 24, 2017

Perfect example

So often when I go for a walk, I notice something that prompts a creative thought. But of course I don't bring a notebook with me, and I don't have a smart phone, as yet, to speak into. By the time I get home, and deal with this or that, the thought is gone.

Also, even if I write down the kernel of insight, if I don't put it to use within a month, it's as good as lost. My notebooks are not searchable by topic or keyword, and my memory of the approximate date of a jotting fades with time.

But here's one from my walk today. For decades, newspaper delivery boxes are the same everywhere--plastic squared tubes, open at the receiving end. The only difference is in the color and the newspaper name on the outside. Then today I saw one for the local Herald that was fitted with a plastic hinged cover. What a good innovation! I take it to mean that it has finally gotten to them, and to enough of us, that a knotted plastic bag keeps the paper from getting rained on, but creates tons more plastic bags, made from petroleum, that can't be re-used. Unless you have more talent unknotting them than I have.

This solo newspaper box may be the leading edge of a trend, or maybe not, but I'd like to think it is. What's the thought, then?  Well, I tend to think that human behavior is similar whether it concerns big issues, or little ones, and so if I find an example of a little thing, it might help illustrate a pattern--like, for the longest time, it seems impossible to ask that we do something better than throwing plastic bags at a problem, and then eventually we change. Maybe an insight like that might give me more patience.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Focusing near and far

This afternoon I watched the snow fall through a large window. A bare maple tree is right outside this window, and it looked clear as a bell, the snow resting on it's branches adding outlines and emphasis. And in the far ground past the end of the driveway, the tangle of tall trees made a pattern, again, a clear picture that held still for me. But between the two, between the clear foreground and the clear background, all I could see was the movement of flakes falling. The movement was nice, but I couldn't focus on it or it would confuse my eyes.

This made me think of what the esteemed theater director Anne Bogart wrote:
“Middle distance creates a kind of buzz. A blur. The Fox News Channel, for example, and even CNN, produces an annoying buzz that makes it hard to hear, see, or think in a differentiated manner. Middle distance ambushes your perceptions.
    As an antidote to the buzz, listen below the buzz. Move in close. Then, alternatively, make distance from whatever issue you are grappling with. . . Because it makes everything seem vague and general, the buzz, the middle distance, leads to inaction, Engagement from the middle distance feels futile. But when you lean in or reposition yourself by changing your distance and posture, the movement itself helps to clarify issues.”

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Empty bedrooms

The Seattle Times "FYI Guy" does a neat service--he'll investigate to find the answer to a question sent in by a reader.

On Dec. 16, he reported the results of the question, "How many empty bedrooms are there in King County homes?"

He counted 3 + bedroom homes that a single or married couple owns and lives in, with no kids or extended family living with them. He used census data to come up with the figure of 144,000 homes in King County that have empty bedrooms.

Starting with the third bedroom of these 144,000 homes, that was 200,000 bedrooms with no one sleeping in them.

Yes, empty nesters, mostly, peaking now with the Baby Boom generation. But it makes you think, doesn't it? Makes me think about sprawl, for one thing, as young families move outwards to new construction, while a single older person in a five bedroom home in the city stays put due to a tax break.

Monday, December 12, 2016

What I want for Christmas

1. I want for a well-off liberal to find any six Midwest Jerry Springer fans and bring them to New York City for a couple of nights at the theater. Because they must not get out much if they mistook this past election for theater.

2. I want a half-dozen local people to join me in writing thank you notes to anyone and everyone who does the difficult, good, and necessary work that we depend on, particularly work in the civic arena that most of us run away from.

3. I want us all to start a composting habit, if we haven’t already. Besides the regular reasons you can easily find to do so, it will help you to feel cleansed. It will help you get your head up and anticipate rich soil in which healthy things can sprout in this great land.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Wordless friendship

This has never happened to me before, and it tickles me. I put out food for a native Douglas squirrel, and within five minutes he was on it. I can’t say how many times I have put out seed for some ground-foragers, birds not squirrels, who seemed down on their luck, only to have to sweep up the seeds in a few hours so as not to draw rats.

Almost a month ago, when the Big-Leaf Maple dropped its seed, I watched through our kitchen window as a Douglas feasted on them. The little russet squirrel came back for days and ate its fill, showing me its perfectly groomed butternut-tan belly.

Then the rains came. I went out after a week or so and looked closely. Some of the leftover seed was now starting to rot on the ground, and the squirrel wasn’t coming around. I gathered up the seed that had fallen in clumps rather than separating, high up, to wing away. Oh, my husband said, the clumps didn’t just fall. The squirrels cut them by the clump and let them drop for easy later harvest.

Anyway, I tucked a bucket of them under the barbecue cover to dry off and keep. Today I pulled the bucket out and sprinkled the seed under the maple. When I saw my spunky friend so soon after I withdrew, I was more than tickled—'Doug,' I read your book! What I didn’t expect was that this would go a long way toward dispelling my feelings of impotence, post-election.

No, the squirrel is not in the photo—I didn’t think of the camera in time. But this is the seed, the tree, and on the tree a licorice fern like we get to enjoy at this time of year.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Remember the "War" on Christmas?

You remember the War on Christmas—just another snit by Fox News, right? In the wake of this week’s presidential election results, we liberals, progressives, and centrists would do well to have another look. Look and learn. How the Neocons orchestrated their win, over time. The long game. The so-called War on Christmas was not a controversy so much as a call to arms, and the rest of us unwittingly aided their cause.

We took the bait. We took up what we thought was the issue—religious freedom—thinking we could argue it civilly. Our mistake. This was not a one-off. It was not about whether it was better to use “Happy Holidays” as a greeting rather than always saying “Merry Christmas” reflexively. Our other mistake was thinking: This, too, Shall Pass.

If that wasn’t the issue, and we made a mistake discussing it, (or ignoring it, which many also did) then what else could we have done?

Our big mistake we was in accepting their terms for the discussion. And their terms were that it was WAR. You don’t remember accepting those terms? Me neither. But by not calling a halt to the discussion until we could expose this meta issue to the light of day, we gave them the win.

The Neocons were playing a long game, the fruits of which are clear now. Follow this sequence with me. First, they accused the left of waging war. War, that very meaningful word, against their fellow Americans. In this age of trash talk and hyperbole, we rolled our eyes and let it pass. Now look what that did for the Neocons. They avoided any daylighting for that deeply anti-democratic piece of fire-bombing. And without daylight, without calling it out on the conscious level, the war idea seeped in to their ever-hardening supporters, who could conclude, as they did, that they were the innocent victim, and in wars, ethics, honesty, fair dealings, even listening, are jettisoned. Thereafter the Neocons didn’t need to continue to use the word “war,” which would risk their getting called out on what they were doing. No, they could go to dog-whistle politics. They had a growing army, and it was underground. Even carefully insulated from any voices but their own. Brilliant, I have to admit. In the worst way.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Heightened emotions

I'd like to think I can "compartmentalize" and set aside, at least for a Sunday, the emotions of the current, historic election season. But I suspect the glass was half full before I started on my weekend.

When one thing after another sends emotions running through me, how to respond? Should I rest, settle out? Or should I “use it,” as by writing. Yesterday the dedication of a painting at the library honoring the late Vicki Marshall, was emotional. Of course it was. The tributes paid to her memory moved the crowd, and I was proud to have known her. It also recalled my late friend Maureen, whose park dedication ceremony I didn’t get to, and so I made doubly sure to go to this local one. Then, inspired, I checked out two children’s books and went and read them to my ninety-five year old mother. That was emotional, because of the way she lit up, loving as she does everything connected with childhood. And the story of Vicki Marshall was such a perfect lead-in that any fears I had that I wouldn’t be respecting her mental capabilities were bypassed. These events of yesterday were followed by today’s Sunday sermon, a very tough message, but good, about violence toward women being far from over and done with, and in part flowing from our very language—the use of the “he” pronoun helping to render women invisible, dis-regardable.
    The pastor’s message was true, yet I also felt for the men in the stories of domestic violence, and the men and tender teen boys in the the pews who were hearing about a sizable portion of their gender implicated in power-poisoned actions. How trapped some disregarded mem must feel when they fail to negotiate contradictory cultural pressures and toxic definitions of manhood. More emotions. Followed by yet more, when I stepped across the aisle to visit with Lynn, a church acquaintance who is getting on and having some health problems. I knew I should have visited in depth years ago, but now I had a question I needed to ask for my writing purposes. She told a very affecting backstory about her late husband. I was touched.
    And then on to being asked at coffee hour by Nancy to help lead next winter’s Lenten discussion series, and then at home, discovering I’d forgotten to feed the neighbors’ cats while they are away this weekend, a reason for surprise and dismay. I’m flooded, such that just now I had to look up Nancy’s name for this blog entry to be sure it wasn’t Wendy.
    One thing I know about what’s next today—I won’t be going out for a big grocery shopping foray.