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.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The peril to ourselves if we let extinctions happen

Cleaning up my desk just now, I found a 2012 Sierra magazine. You think that's old? I've found way older things in my work area. It seems I saved it due to one small article. And didn't know what to do with it, because, you know, it provides only one example of something I've been thinking about.

As we carry on toward greater global warming, and shrug at warnings that a lot of species are already going extinct, we occasionally hear of a huge reason not to shrug. Some species, and we don't even know yet which ones, have enormous medical uses for us humans.

We've seen it with species that we've abused, thinking they were of low value. The magazine points to the horseshoe crab.  It has BLUE blood. A blood that has special ability to clot quickly around bacterial contaminants. So now we've put protections in place on this declining creature. Maybe no longer will we casually grind it up into fertilizer, or use it for eel bait.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

News report about air conditioning

News report out of the Washington Post. Yet another way we divide ourselves--we can be either pro-air-conditioning and hear the hum, or anti and turn into non-moving slugs. But here's my thought.

While we in Northwest Washington are weather-fortunate, several young people have told me their homes uncomfortably warm in summer. I’m grateful for my tree-shaded house, while they have fully exposed apartments.

Wouldn’t it be great if developers, and the bankers who set profit standards for financing the building of apartments, were to make an allowance for the reasonable comfort of their tenants, without resorting to air conditioning? Room in a project for shade trees would be so helpful. Desiduous trees which would let in light in winter, and provide cooling shade in summer. Making space for trees may provide less profit, and more need for roof and gutter cleaning. So what? Getting satisfied tenants that stay longer, that's gotta be worth something, too.

Air conditioning is not the answer to a warming world.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Always thought so--Reading is good for us

"Reading books is tied to a longer life.”  So it was reported in the New York Times (Science section) last Tuesday, and I love it. The study, published in Social Science and Medicine, of 3,635 people over age 50 followed them for twelve years. And controlling for education, income, and other factors associated with longer lives, the study found that those who read more than 3 1/2 hours a week were 23% less likely to die in those twelve years. 

Cool! So, does that mean we writers can say, “Here, read my book and live longer!”   ?

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Erma Bombeck was right

Humorist Erma Bombeck’s syndicated column in May of 1990 was “Older People Only Talk about Food.” The joke was older people, going somewhere remarkable like Yellowstone, only want to report on the food they ate on the trip. Main reason, she speculates, is that, “after a certain age, food is one of the few vices left that you can enjoy.”
    This gentle slam now has me in its sights. I’m one of them now, the older folk who talk talk talk about food, and not only at vacation locales. I’m like the army, which famously runs on what’s in the belly. I can’t seem to even do my shoulder therapy exercises without a food break. “I need a treat for  doing these awful reps!”
    Food is even what I recall about movies. Such as the diner scene in “My Cousin Vinnie” introducing our hero couple to grits. Of course life doesn’t revolve completely around food, and I try to maintain rich days of many interests. I watched the Democratic convention last night, and thrilled to important themes well beyond my stomach.
    But after it ended for the night, a movie came on that Bill stayed to see the start of, the Altman brilliance known as “McCabe and Mrs. Miller.” Bill remarked that it never gets shown on TV. Then he came back upstairs and mentioned that it was not every day you hear the phrase “butternut muff diver.” Of course I laughed, but you know which memory of the movie cued up for me? Why, the food! Not every day you see people in the movies ordering food like this pair: two raw eggs and a whiskey for McCabe, and for Mrs. Miller, a meal for someone who hasn’t eaten in awhile, an astonishing list of about two days worth of dishes, ending with, after you were sure this thin person was through ordering, “and some stew and hot tea.”
    For me food isn’t only a fascination with flavors and treats. I just put a new finished batch of homemade kombucha into the fridge after five days on the counter lying under a slimy, ugly “mother.” I lovingly picked out the mother, looking like something the ocean washed up, and returned it to its jar until time for a new batch. I am acquiring a taste for this sweet-tart drink. But when I add the, let’s face it, vinegary amber liquid to a glass of water I’m hoping it is a health tonic. I want to be around for some time to come, to taste life’s sweetness. Which has more to do with the people I love than with sugar. Anyone want a kombucha mother? I have an extra.