The day before

It's raining hard today and the trees outside my windows are almost free of leaves. We are in the heart of autumn, and it's the day before Thanksgiving. Tomorrow I'll spend the day in Longview, Washington with old friends. I was invited to go with Jennifer and family and about 35 others to the coast, but I declined. As Jennifer told her friends who asked why I was not going, "Spending the day with a noisy crowd of 40 people is Mom's idea of hell."

So, it's the day before the holiday and I've no cooking or planning or cleaning to do. How nice. I sit down in front the fire with my knitting and listen to a highly literate podcast. It was comforting, even uplifting to hear two adults discuss a broad range of topics in complete sentences without making fools of themselves.

When that was over I put down the knitting and picked up a book my neighbor had lent me: Lies My Teacher Told Me by James Loewen. Thumbing through I came on a chapter about Thanksgiving and sat down to read. I confess I am not excited about reading this book, I expect it to disabuse me of several favorite convictions and be seriously depressing. The Thanksgiving chapter did not disappoint, nor did it surprise me. You and I know the myth is just that—a myth. Tomorrow we will tacitly ignore all those who came to these shores before 1620—the Spaniards, the Portuguese, the Dutch—even distort the relationships those early settlers had with the local Indians.

But I'm not going to dwell on that. I'd rather enjoy the myth, at least through tomorrow. I put down Lies and picked up The Hidden Reality by Brian Green, who was discussing, when I left him, the cosmological constant. This is one of many elements in our universe that is little understood but has bearing on whether or not we, Earth, our solar system, could even exist. I suffered through several pages of math and put the book down.

Opening the door for the cat I saw that despite the shorter days and colder temperatures the geraniums on the porch are still blooming. I will have to bring them in soon, before they die in a freeze. This thought reminded me of a podcast from yesterday, about a distinguished biologist with dozens of peer-reviewed publications to her credit, who works with plants and has proven through experiment that plants both learn and remember and recognize sounds. How can this be?

I am thankful for all these ideas that are so easily available; thankful for science and the mystery, for the measurable and the imaginary. How lucky we are to be here now, on this beautiful planet in this unfathomable universe. I am grateful to all who return to read my often erratic reflections, and I send you thanksgiving blessings.




Two days

After the election I thought things might calm down. How wrong I was. I know not everyone is as consumed as I by what passes for politics in this nation, but the constantly breaking news surely has a deleterious effect, even while we try to ignore it.

In just two days we've seen the firing of the attorney general and appointment of an "acting" who may not last a week, given his previously recorded words and tarnished reputation. We have a president arguing with and insulting members of the press and pulling credentials (and also lying, but that goes without saying). We have another horrific mass slaughter of innocents, and now in California we have two town-destroying fires. Oh, and ballots are still uncounted in Florida, California, and Georgia.

Yes, of course I'm happy about the new House Democrats—a wonderfully varied group who I hope  will get to work doing what they were elected to do; preferably in a bipartisan manner. But one happy event, great as it is, pales in the face of our ongoing news cycle.

It was my determined purpose to cut back on news after the election. And I have. But not enough, apparently. So forgive me this rant; I'm done now. The universe may not want to give us a break but I'm taking one anyway—I'm going for a walk. You should probably do the same.



It's the busy season

  Sand hill cranes on Sauvie Island, photo by Jennifer

Sand hill cranes on Sauvie Island, photo by Jennifer

It's hard to believe that we're more than halfway through October already. Thursday, the 18th, was Ray's birthday; he would have been 80. That feels impossible. He was so energetic and full of life, always looking toward his next adventure. Even as illness overtook him he fought to keep cycling, keep going, keep trying.

I had been dreading the day, but in the end it was not so bad. I bought two slices of his favorite cake at the market, put a candle on one, sang Happy Birthday to him—wherever he is—and ate both pieces of cake. Then I looked through some of the photo books I've made since his death, reliving those good memories. And there are so many! I feel very blessed.

The next family birthday is mine, in 15 days. I would prefer it not to be Election Day, especially this election, but I don't have a choice. It will make me happy if you VOTE and send me a blue tsunami. A week after that is Jennifer's birthday, closely followed by Thanksgiving, then, too soon, Christmas.

Fall has always been a busy time for our family, and a favorite season; beautiful in Oregon. To catch Fall's last gasp (rain sets in this week) Jennifer and I drove out to Sauvie Island yesterday and picked tomatoes at one of the many farms on the island. It was a gorgeous day, mid-70s, clear blue sky, and lots and lots of people shopping for pumpkins and enjoying the food stands and farm animals. I had spent the last two days painting the bathroom, and it was wonderful to be out in the open again, relishing the light breeze and the endless skies. We looked for Sand hill cranes where Jennifer had last seen them, without luck, but the drive and the scenery were soul soothing.

Before long the days will shorten and winter will settle in, a time for reading and knitting, and visiting with friends. I look forward to that cozy period and hope that with the election behind us we can all return to a less frenzied and troubled existence. In the meantime, I'll enjoy what's left of our beautiful Fall, and even, maybe, make a pumpkin pie. 

Anger and angst

Like a lot of women in this country and beyond, I was triggered by the testimony given by Christine Blasey Ford, and not reassured by that of Judge Kavanaugh. Humans tend to put a lot of faith in memory, despite research telling us it is often unreliable. Witness accounts, for instance, vary widely. But as Dr. Ford described, traumatic events are stored in the hippocampus and are always available for recall.

I have previously written that I am not one to dwell on the past or worry much about the future. The past cannot be changed and the future cannot be known. As a result of this tendency I was soon able to put my own attack (similar to Ford’s) out of my mind, and seldom have I given it even a fleeting thought. I certainly didn’t report it and I didn’t tell anyone, not even my husband. Shit happens, and to women and young girls it happens a lot. And then we move on.

Until now. No matter what the outcome of the final confirmation vote, the angst and anger among women will not soon end. It is palpable, it is everywhere, and unlike after the Anita Hill hearings, I don’t think this is going away soon. I am fed up with white male privilege and I ain’t the only one.

Your daily surprise

Zoe woke me early this morning. She bounded onto the bed and immediately started telling tales. "Meow meow meow," said she.

"Go away" I said, rolling over and covering my head. "It's too early."

Zoe wriggled her nose under the covers. "Meow MEOW Meow!"

"There's an elephant in the tree? I don't think so. Go away."

"MEEEOOOOW!"

I got up. There was no elephant in the tree, of course. It was a sloth hanging upside down from a slender branch. Only a cat could mistake a sloth for an elephant. The creature opened its eyes, winked at me, and went back to sleep.

None of this surprised me because nothing surprises me lately. Elephants and sloths in Portland trees are nothing compared to what happens daily in this country. (If you don't believe me, visit The List.

But I have to confess that the NYT anonymous editorial almost surprised me. I was certainly shocked, but the content should be no surprise to anyone given what we've all been hearing and reading for almost two years. I was shocked because the writer seemed to believe that he or she is a patriot. 

Much as I abhor Trump and his policies, he is our duly elected president. His staff, however, was not elected (most were not even properly vetted), and I am uncomfortable having unelected persons co-opting the presidential role just because they're in the oval office occasionally. Where might that lead?

Sure, the writer claims that in light of a deeply unfit president s/he is doing what s/he thinks will make us all safer. I accept that argument while reserving my right to sceptcism. I would be more inclined if the writer had boldly signed his or her name, resigned immediately, and marched the copious evidence to Capitol Hill to share it aloud with Congress on live TV. That person would be a patriot. I, on the other hand, would be utterly surprised.

 

 

Wave at the ocean

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I visited old friends last week and since they live near the ocean I got in some beach time. My friends are avid ocean lovers and I carried some of that love with me onto the sand. After marking the spot that would take me back to their house I set off in a northerly direction.

The tide was going out and the still damp, packed sand near the waterline was smooth and dark and easy to walk on. The gray skies reflected in the gray water and the waves themselves looked lazy and relaxed. It's always reassuring to see the ocean again, to hear the surf and know its constancy and to carry that knowledge home.

Few people were about and the repetitive murmur of the ocean only added to the silence. Memories of other beach walks passed through my mind of course, but they weren't unhappy—far from it—and I walked on contented. Here was a slight rise in the sand, a kind of low knoll. Standing atop it I could see farther into the sea and I scanned for boats or whales; neither was seen.

But there was something worth noting. An invisible line marked the water's behavior. On one side the waves turned north, and on the other side they turned south, meeting at a 45 degree angle. I've seen this before of course, it's not unusual. But I had never paid much attention. Now, with no pressure to be anywhere, I stood and watched.

I could discern no reason for this behavior, the beach looked perfectly flat, but the waves continued at cross-purposes. Instead of running up the beach in unison they came from opposite directions, crossing and recrossing, forming ripples and ridges but striving to make progress despite the interference. A little like our political parties I thought, though the waves eventually found their way and did their duty.

As I write today the country is mourning the death of Senator John McCain, a man who loved his country deeply and who deserves our respect even if we disagreed with his politics. What struck me this afternoon was the very bright line separating McCain's life from the president's. The two could not be more dissimilar. Will this bright line expose the choice that now faces us? It's very clear: love of country or utter disregard for country—patriotism or deluded vanity.

We've all worked at cross-purposes at times; it's a human failing. But this week feels like a critical moment for the country. And the choices couldn't be clearer. We must wake up, and like the ocean waves, do our duty.

 

August slow

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August is the laziest month of the year. There's plenty of time to sit in the shade and read a book or simply sit and watch the world go by. Plenty of time to take an evening stroll though the neighborhood, or a long walk by a river. Nothing should be rushed in August.

 Zoé the cat is proof of August's power. Each day as the temperature begins to rise she repairs to the porch and stretches out on the settee. The hotter it gets the better she likes it. Sometimes she hardly moves from 9 to 9.

I have been trying to imitate her, but of course I have to go out and buy food for both of us occasionally, and sometimes other tasks demand my attention. Still, I'm doing pretty well for a human. I started the month lying in a hammock strung between two fir trees, and with the requisite vacation reading I managed to remain prone for days. 

Yesterday I went to the Japanese Garden. It was cool under the trees and the sound of water falling over rock was soothing. I heard many languages, and watched as families and friends posed smiling for photographs. When I got home Zoé hadn't moved, but I felt better for the outing.

I hope you can find time to enjoy some August peace. September and its to-do lists can wait a few weeks longer. And so can the constantly changing panoply of characters in the news. 

It's summer. It's August. Take a break; the world will wait.