Ponder this:

Sunday, March 29, 2009


Just last week I noticed that a neighbor on our backwoods dirt road has hung an eight-foot-long burnt-wood sign, "QUIETUDE," at the end of her driveway. She is a psychologist who lives here part-time and hosts country retreat weekends for city people who pay a lot of money to sit in a field and do role plays.

When we finally moved here, after years of owning the land and traveling here just to walk in the fields, I suggested to Husband that we name the place. I thought it might be triumphant to call our long-awaited residence by some name, like a country estate. Like Scarlett O'Hara's Tara, Wright's Fallingwater, Daniel Chester French's Chesterwood, or Millay's Steepletop. Or even something more humble. I recognized a sign on another nearby property, "The Land," for what it was: simple identification. We had for so long referred to this acreage as "the land," ("This weekend, let's go out and walk around the land.") that I knew those people must have been doing the same thing.

Husband was derisive. His joy in living out here on the country hill derived from the anonymity it offered. Our mailbox, a third of a mile from the house, carries only our box number, not even our house number, and not our name. He didn't want relatives, of whom he considered himself well rid, to be taking Sunday drives and finding us. Fair enough. I didn't want them dropping in on us either.

We remain unnamed, and now it seems silly to me to call this place by a name. It is its own wild place, grand and unrestrained. Sometimes I feel as if we don't even own it, that it cannot be owned, that it is only loaned to us; it has that strong an identity of its own. Were I to try name it, I would never be able to discern what that name should be.
It is ineffable.


A dear friend, who is usually a great devotee of Real Words, recently signed off on an email with "tnt." I sat looking at "tnt" for a few minutes, trying to translate it into a phrase that I might recognize.

talk 'n' talk?

take no tschotchkes?

thanks 'n' ta?

The last came closest to making sense, but I had done nothing to justify an expression of gratitude. SWAK must have been around practically since the first loveletter, and everybody knows TGIF. I recall KISS from a Dale Carnegie course I took once. After having seen the thousandth repetition of some television commercial featuring an insolent preadolescent girl, I finally was able to remember that bff meant Best Friend Forever. But for tnt I needed interpretative assistance, and after a short search I found The NetLingo List of Acronyms & Text Message Shorthand, and learned that tnt is shorthand for Til Next Time.

Okay. I can live with that.

But who on God's green earth would bother with WDYMBT when "huh?" would be clear enough?

If not whispered into a beloved ear, shouldn't BTWITIAILW/U or IWALU rate complete written sentences? Do the expressions' brevity indicate the depth of the sentiment? How sincere is FTBOMH? Imagine Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning exchanging the passion of LYWAMH!

Is AGB in danger of becoming a road sign? Might I pass a warning, "AGB" just prior to my car's plunge through rotted planking into cold rushing water? Or is written on dental charts all over the United States, and of immeasurable use to DDSs?

Honestly, what need is there for "BJJDI"? Is Billy Joel wandering around the countryside, dropping in on people at random?

The whole thing makes me feel curmudgeonly.

GMAB. BHIMBGO, because it all looks like a CWOT and ITIGBS. IOH.

Sunday Scribblings: Aging

Sunday Scribblings prompt this week is "Aging."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, under the headline "Healthy Aging for Older Adults," says:

"The United States is on the brink of a longevity revolution. By 2030, the proportion of the U.S. population aged 65 and older will double to about 71 million older adults, or one in every five Americans. The far-reaching implications of the increasing number of older Americans and their growing diversity will include unprecedented demands on public health, aging services, and the nation’s health care system.”

My God, that sounds discouraging. It gives me a mental picture of slack-jawed, empty-eyed, ungroomed old people in wheelchairs parked in filthy institutional corridors. That vision could menace my mind like Poe’s raven if I allowed it.

We baby boomers are an Aging Population.
Well. Everybody’s aging.
As soon as a baby’s born, he begins aging.
Aging is simply living.

Sales and marketing industries, thriving on fear of infirmity and poverty, would go belly up without products purporting to control and reverse the signs of aging in everything from fingernails to brain function. Advertising for anti-aging cosmetics features airbrushed photographs of twenty-two-year-olds. No sign anywhere of a pore or the tiniest facial hair.
Not so long ago, women were the target market, but now more of that appeal is targeted toward men. Men with gray hair: won’t get jobs; won’t get women; are consigned to sitting in easy chairs reading newspapers.
Once they become restored to the youthful look of full-color hair, their social and economic prospects instantly improve. Presumably, they will never again have inclination or time to read the news.

I have never truly feared growing older; I have always been only too happy to move onward.

When I was contemplating one of the early “zero” birthdays, a friend tried to relieve my momentary flutter of apprehension, telling me, “You might be halfway through your life, but you get to live the second half the way you want to.” Still mid-apprehensive flutter, I looked at him askance. It sounded like good propaganda, but I knew him to be not excessively wise. He was right, though.

When I was twenty-five I knew several women who all happened to be forty-two. They seemed far more comfortable than I. They seemed to be having fun. They seemed to know who they were, to have formed a life matrix to which they could, if they chose, add new experiences. Forty-two was a great year for me. So good, in fact, that I looked forward to forty-three. I still know people far older than I who are comfortable with their lives and themselves. I think there is a leveling at some point in life, at which the chronological age matters not at all in how much enjoyment can be achieved and shared.

The mechanics and the chemistry of my body are slowing down: There’s that. My eyeglass prescription grows stronger with each examination. If I eat pizza, I'm puffy a little longer than I used to be.

A few years ago, after a wonderful long dinner at a fine local restaurant, a friend and I stood up slowly and creakily. “We’re like two old wooden lawn chairs unfolding!” she muttered, and the aptness of the image sent us into gales of helpless laughter. We would have laughed longer, but we both had to progress expeditiously to the ladies' room.

I think I will continue to be comfortable with the gradual physical changes of aging. I know people, some far younger than I, who attend to each ache and pain and assiduously seek medical attention at astonishingly short intervals.
If you think too much about how you feel, you’ll never feel good.

I’ve benefited so much from growing older that I can hardly imagine that continuing that process will be a negative experience.
Aging suits me, I think.

The only part of aging that concerns me is something that has begun already. My linguistic mental rolodex cards are becoming a little slower to flip, and I find that I need to ponder a little longer to avoid repetition when I want a different verbal nuance. Still, it’s nothing to the repetition I hear in people still at Aging Denial stage: Consider the frequency of “Awesome!”

I'll keep my slow rolodex, thanks.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Roots and Shadows

Roots and Shadows borrowed from

I was born in the same county as were my father and his siblings, his parents, and his grandparents. For the first several years of my life, everybody knew me as part of that big extended family: "Oh, you're S's girl! Sure, I know S! I went to school with his brother!" My father had a reputation as a hardworking, friendly and quick-witted man. My mother was a talented artist and gardener, a skilled seamstress and a snappy dresser.

Everybody I knew in my first years of school had grown up the same way I had. All the generations knew all the other generations. Birthday parties were populated by cousins and perhaps a friend or two. More likely the "friend" party would be a secondary, separate and smaller affair.

All our neighboring households had, at least, a few cows, and some had whole herds. One of the rituals of late summer was that in the early mornings all the men from five or six households would walk over the hills to each other's fields and spend several days cutting, baling and pitching hay. I was too young to understand the work they were doing, but I knew that it was an annual event when methigulum was the end-of-the-day beverage, and that my father would come home pleasantly tired and sunburned, redolent of fresh cut dry grasses, ebullient from the company of other men. It wasn't ten years after the end of WWII: The shared memories of their war service days and the shared work of farming bonded men in a different way, I think, than men's work bonds them now.

My mother had grown up on a farm too, in a county miles away. She enjoyed sitting on the back step in the afternoon sun, pinging freshly picked peas into the old metal dishpan and she knew how to pluck and clean a fresh-killed hen. Her enjoyment of farm life was shadowed and haunted, though, by memories of being sent out with her five siblings every election day to cull, with cold-stiffened fingers, the last of the potatoes from half-frozen fields.

Farm life and farm work hadn't changed much from the families' yeoman roots in 15th century Europe.

Before I reached adolescence my father died and our family moved to a small village far from my birthplace. There were farms out beyond the village, but having no Man, our family was no longer part of the camaraderie and the rhythm of farm work. The village men seemed to me a different species; they went to work in shortsleeved shirts and finished work at five o'clock. They never smelled of mingled hay and sunshine or of clean hard-work sweat. The children I met in my new home all had known each other since babyhood. To them, and suddenly to myself as well, I had no history, no context. For years I missed being a recognizable piece of a larger known entity.

I live and work now in yet another community where everyone I meet has local roots like the ones I used to have. Everybody has known everybody else since kindergarten. They know each other's family histories, each other's quirks, each other's family tragedies, scandals, successes. I take care of whom I speak and what I say because everybody I talk to is somebody's else's cousin by blood or marriage.

Being surrounded by a community that has known you all your life has reassuring advantages. If you have famous uncles you can reflect a faint glow of their eminence. If you were always the Smart Kid or the Strong Kid you hold onto the peer respect you earned at the age of ten.

Now, though, I see the drawbacks of one's history dragging around behind like a shadow. I've grown accustomed to standing shadowless in a noonday sun, and I have come to be grateful that no one knows everything about my history. They don't know that I am S and E's daughter, and that's too bad. But they don't know, either, about my crazy aunt who set fire to the barn, or that one day in kindergarten I threw up right on the floor after lunch, or that my junior choir surplice was bathed by tears for the duration of a church service because my boyfriend had given his ring to some other girl. If I choose to tell my acquaintances those things I can couch them in hilarious stories or surround them with an aura of hard-earned wisdom: I can shape my shadow as I wish.

This post inspired by Sunday Scribblings prompt #155 - "I come from..."

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Departures and Arrivals

“How are you doing today?” I asked him.
“Well, I’m not eating much,” George said. “I feel weaker, but I went out for a ride in the garden in my wheelchair, and the pain’s not bothering me. But I can’t find my passport. Do you know where my ticket is?”
“It sounds like you’re planning to go somewhere, “I answered. George nodded.
“Are you going on a journey?”
Nodding again, George said, “I don’t have my papers.”
“Are you talking about a different sort of journey?” I asked. “Maybe about leaving here? Maybe about dying?”
George responded to this suggestion with relief. He nodded, opened his mouth as if to speak, then shrugged.
“If you’re talking about that journey, you don’t need a passport and tickets,” I said.

--from Final Gifts, by Maggie Callanan and Patricia Kelley

Less than ten, more than five, years ago I held my mother’s hand while she died in the downstairs bedroom here. She had been ill for a long time, but the diagnosis preceded her death by only seven weeks. Both of us intuitive, sensitive, and high-strung, she and I understood each other. During most of my life, we were not comfortable with each other, despite, or perhaps due to, the similarity in our natures.

We never spoke of exactly what was happening. I never brought it up and when Mom would mention it, it was always, “This.” On her final trip to my house, knowing that she would not be going home again, she remarked, surprised, “This isn’t so terrible.”

“What?” I asked.

“This!” she said, making a small wave around herself with one graceful fine-boned small hand.

In the evenings the first few weeks, we would enjoy a nightly treat of ice cream. One night, Mom happily exclaimed, “This isn’t like being sick; it’s like a party!

During the weeks that hospice nurses and I cared for her, with the calm, desperate, undiscussed knowledge that time was short, I finally came to see her as someone other than my mother . . . as a person in her own right. I saw the positive side of our similarity in her sense of humor at the ridiculous indignities of the failure of a human body. She demonstrated “It is what it is” to me before the phrase became a part of my customary lexicon. I felt her disgust with her brain when it lost the ability to follow a game of five-hundred rummy.

One day she told me about a dream she’d had. She’d been on an elevator, going up. The doors opened and some people got off, but she wasn’t meant to get off and was sent back down. Another dream was about her visit to a restaurant where the chef was famous for a magnificent sauce of his own invention. She waited in line, she told me, and then was told she wasn’t yet allowed to taste the exquisite sauce. There were other dreams about maps and driving and the time of her arrival being something she need not worry about.

I hadn’t yet read Final Gifts, but it was clear to me that she was on the verge of a not necessarily unpleasant change.

After Mom’s death I dreamt that I saw a group of older ladies in an anteroom somewhere. They were dressed to the nines, and having a grand time. I asked if my mother was there and they said oh yes, she's in at the party, but you can’t see her yet . . . it isn’t time.

I don’t know what dreams Marly had in the days and hours before she left me. I would not be surprised to know that they were of sunny fields full of voles and squirrels who could be hunted and caught over and over again . . . of running running running, her legs strong and no pain in her belly. I sat outdoors with her two days before she went and watched her as she listened to the calling and singing of the birds that have finally returned. I saw her ears prick and swivel at the sound of her dog friend calling hello to her from up the road.

She was ready to go. She looked reproachfully over her shoulder at me when I didn’t take off the leash and let her go off on down the field, regretful that I understood her purpose and that our record of perfect accord would be marred at this time. On St. Patrick’s Day evening, alone in a clinic kennel, free of my unwillingness, she went on her journey to those endless sunny fields.

No, I will go alone.
I will come back when it's over.
Yes, of course I love you.
No, it will not be long.
Why may you not come with me?—
You are too much my lover.
You would put yourself
Between me and song.
Come now, be content.
I will come back to you, I swear I will;
And you will know me still.
I shall be only a little taller
Than when I went.
--From The Concert, by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Last night I fell asleep over my book. Sleeping, I looked up to see Marly on the other side of our glass front doors, wagging and smiling at me. She wasn’t asking to come in, she was at the door that we never open to come in and go out. She was just letting me know that she had arrived at the other end of her journey . . . and she is having a great time at the party.

Marly is a Good Dog.

Weekend Wordsmith's suggestion this week is "Passport."

Sunday, March 15, 2009


I have always enjoyed my own company, to the point that I could easily become a recluse. The necessity of having to go out among other people to earn a living saves me from my proclivity for a completely hermitical existence.

In addition to the financial incentive, there is the Get Me Away From My Pets factor.

I love them; I love them.

But the two small poodles, whom I acquired in their adorable tiny, weak, chrysanthemum-headed puppyhood, have somehow learned the value of a persistent

bark................................. bark.................................. bark

It is an aural equivalent of Chinese water torture.
I don't know who taught them that: Surely it was not I.
Someone must have come into my home during my absence (if I had been at home, all hermity, I would have barred the door) and trained them to interrupt any activity at regular one-minute intervals. Like circus poodles doing syncopated jumps on and off trotting ponies, they can even do the

bark.................................. bark.................................... bark

in alternating rhythm, like a round of Row Row Row Your Boat, so that the interval is diminished from one minute to thirty seconds.

Or less.

If you knew how many times, just during the writing of this small piece, I have been required to inquire as to their needs, to cajole them to ..."get up here!" ...to "eat that!" ...to "go out!" ...to "come inside!" without losing my temper and twisting their noisy tiny heads from their bouncy little bodies, you would more greatly appreciate the fact that some of these words are strung together in a way that makes any sense at all, never mind that I'm half a week late with a "Wednesday" post.

These three factors...
  1. need for lucre, filthy or not
  2. one poodle
  3. the other poodle

...account for the reality than I am at this time in my life unable to pursue my natural inclination for a life in solitude.

I might soon look into investing in a sensory deprivation tank as the only means to save what is left of my sanity. Maybe it would help get rid of this pesky twitch, too.

Thanks to 3-Word Wednesday for the goad resulting in the creation of this vent.

Little June, Old June

How timely I find Sunday Scribblings' suggestion for this week:
Dear Past Me, Dear Future Me .

Dear Little June,

You don't know me yet, but in time you will. I am you almost fifty years from the time you're reading this! I know how afraid you are of so many things, but you know what? The fear that freezes you in your tracks now will make you courageous and strong.

I know that: It is true.

I know how you tremble at new things . . . remember when you thought you would be the only one in your class who never would be able to do the Australian crawl? Remember the night you went to bed and thought through how this arm moved and your head turned one way and then that arm, and your head turned the other way, and your legs kicked all the time? ...and the next morning at your swimming lesson, you did it!

You're going to have sad things happen to you that will be beyond your control. You will feel lost and alone. But from here I can see how, in time, you lifted your chin and figured out how to carry on.

I see how courageous you are, even if you don't yet know your strength.

Courage isn't not being afraid, you know. Courage is putting one foot in front of the other despite being so afraid that you tremble and cry. Your courage is going to be your Very Greatest Strength in life.

I love you, and I am very very proud of you.

Big June


Dear Old June,

I wish I knew how you see me, with one foot poised to step into old age, and the other foot with the toe of its shoe still dragging in barely-attained adulthood. I hope you're looking at me and nodding and smiling, approving of my late attainment of the knowledge that my life is not in my hands, but my happiness is.

I hope you're a wise and wry funny old lady.

I have a feeling that you will look back at Little June and me and think of the last stanza of the Millay poem, "To A Young Girl":

For there came into my mind, as I watched you winking the tears down,

Laughing faces, blown from the west and the east,

Faces lovely and proud that I have prized and cherished;

Nor were the loveliest among them those that had wept the least.

Sometimes I think I can feel your comforting hand on my shoulder, telling me that I am okay, and that it will be all right. I know you're right: I've said the same to Little June. I've learned that all those things that I thought would bring the sky crashing down were simply temporary discomforts. I've learned so much, and only in the past few years.

I hope my acquisition of wisdom accelerates at the same pace as the seasons are beginning to pass. We aren't that far apart, you and I, after all, and if you're going to be a funny and wise old lady, I need to get a move on.

My most fervent hope is that you will be proud that I finally saw the worthiness of me, just as I am.

With love,

June, Aging Gratefully

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Tragedy averted

The Divine Miss M has been uncomfortable in a nearly indefinable way for weeks. A lot of stretching as if she had a stomachache.... much-reduced appetite (although a butter paper to be licked is irresistible) ....and a great lessening of her joie de vivre (although a walk with Mom and her pack has set her bouncing and prancing along in her usual way).

We tested her for worms, found and got rid of roundworms. She seemed to feel better, and I tried to feed her up so she could gain back the weight she had lost.

A couple of weeks later, same ol' same ol'. Back to the doctor.
Got antibiotics and some medication to soothe her gut.

She seemed to feel better and then a couple of days ago, downhill again.
11:15 to 12:45 yesterday I was with her at the clinic. I was prepared to hear that her dining-out habits had caught up with her and that we would be finding pieces of deer bone in her innards.
I was prepared for a surgical necessity.

Tested for Lyme disease: negative.

X-rays: No bone fragments, but something that worried the vet.
It appeared either that the intestines were piled up on each other or there was a mass there just inside her lowest rib, where a full tummy would press on it.

The vet told me that I could wait until next Tuesday and have an ultrasound . . . and I could wait until her blood had gone to the lab to see if M was in good enough shape metabolically to withstand surgery.

I listened carefully and told the doctor to go ahead and do exploratory surgery . . . with the sobering understanding that if the mass had its teeth into other places enough that it could not be removed without too much peripheral damage for life, the doctor would call me and I would have to decide if I wanted M sewn back up and sent home . . . or euthanized on the table. I would never see my M alive again.

In the car on the way from the vet's back to the office, I was thinking about what my decision would be if the mass couldn't be removed. I was trying not to think about what her loss would mean to my life, but considering the situation as a problem to be solved. I had short thoughts (I couldn't stand long ones) of what a good life she's had with us, and how happy and doggy-fulfilled she has been. I had pretty much [intellectually] decided that a slow "managed" death would not be superior to euthanizing her. There was no happy solution except the one that happened.

The doctor found a 3"-5" mass inside Marly's small intestine. Lymph nodes not enlarged, and no apparent tendrils reaching into other parts of her intestine or her pancreas. It appears that the entire mass has been removed. Next week we'll learn more from the biopsy.

When the little dogs went out last night I had to put on shoes and coat and do M Duty. I depend absolutely on her good judgment and her faithfulness to her pack.

She's my little helper, my nanny dog, my buddy, my little girl.
The Divine Miss M is A Good Dog.
I'm glad that we get to keep her a while longer.

Friday, March 6, 2009

A public servant speaks

In response to Sunday Scribblings prompt, "Listen up because this is important!"

A few years ago Prince, an acquaintance of mine, and I held an email discussion about economy, government, political correctness, et al. I saved the email because I found it an interesting exchange of ideas with someone who is intelligent and advances his points cogently, not to mention passionately. I knew that his business was in a privately-held heavy industry company, so I knew how that colored his view.

This is part of what he wrote:

"Given that 'heavy' industry is the engine of our economy, I find it disturbing that jobs created in these businesses are so callously discarded. First, who decides what is and isn't acceptable? I would argue that the PC crowd is a very vocal minority. Second, if every community bans these politically incorrect industries, then how are the needs of society to be met? Every resource that we utilize comes from two (and only two) sources: 1) It is grown or 2) it is mined."

The reason it's on my mind today is that Prince is one of the Big Fish in the Small Pond in which I am employed, and he has twice voted to abolish my position.

Prince also has said that "government employees are a net loss to society" since any income we get is a handout from honest hard-working taxpayers, and any money we put back into the economy could just as easily go from his hand to the hardware store. My admiration for his ideas, with which I intellectually agree to an extent, is now colored by the emotions of fear and anger, and I am thinking over the idea of public service.

I live near our state capitol and an oft-repeated wry joke is that there are no state workers, only state employees. Until I was forty-two, I worked in private business. I worked for automobile dealerships, and insurance companies and agencies, and many of my private-industry working years were spent as a waitress in restaurants where there were no busboys, no dishwashers with their arms sunk deep in pots, no cleaning crew that came in after hours to vacuum. I know how hard it is to work in private industry. I remember hearing, in the 1990s, that the economic wave coming in this country would be in the service industries. It wasn't good news, but it turned out to be accurate, partially because of the truth of Prince's arguments.

I probably would have kept waitressing had I not broken my ankle, spent six months in a cast, and been unable to pick up my aging pace to get back into the rhythm of the job. I took a civil service exam and went to work in a state office doing data entry. My private industry work ethic served me well, and three years later I was working for the general counsel in the state agency.

During those three years I had moved to Small Pond, far away from my state job, and was hired by the municipal government, where I made the acquaintance of Prince.

In a 1997 speech,
Reflections on the Role of Public Service, then Congressman Lee H. Hamilton, said,

"I know it is fashionable to decry government, but I don't think I would want to live in or under a government marked by mediocrity.
People often say to me, 'Just get government off my back.' They say that-until a child dies from eating a tainted hamburger, or the earth cracks open and wreaks chaos, or until they want a bridge built, or the education of their children improved, or their
country defended.
Just think what we depend on the government to do: to keep us safe in a dangerous world; to secure justice and domestic order; to maintain infrastructure and social services; to educate our children; to provide health care to a large segment of our population; and to solve a whole host of problems pressing upon us, such as drug abuse or the diminishing ozone layer.
I don't want second-rate people dealing with those problems. "

The principle of caveat emptor would seem to figure prominently in the logic of someone who disdains public service and public servants. If Prince's son were swimming in a neighbor's pool and if he were electrocuted because no inspector checked to see if the installation was in compliance with the state electrical code, I wonder if Prince would blame himself. But then, why would his kid swim in another's pool when the kid has an indoor Olympic size pool of his own?

Prince complied with the law by getting a permit to build the addition to his house. The cost of this project, he said, would be $10,000, and he paid the required application fee for a $10,000 project. It was a great deal for him, considering that his addition is a couple of thousand square feet, is enclosed by glass, has a roof that rolls back during good weather, two fireplaces and a wet bar. The assessor sees a $10,000 building project and looks no further in his assessment of Prince's property.
Prince has arranged for several acres adjacent to his village home to be forever wild. He will never be bothered by his neighbor's outdoor lights or hear their radios or hear children's skateboards bang-slapping on parking lot pavement because he has insulated himself from the zoning-law-free market development that he propounds.
Lee Hamilton, whom I'm beginning to see as my new hero, is quoted elsewhere (Why political virtue matters in the voting booth) as follows:

"Voters today might think of virtue in any number of ways: as moral probity, honesty, self-discipline, a sense of responsibility, and, of course, integrity. These are all qualities that citizens look for in their candidates, and understandably so. Yet the Founders had something even larger and more encompassing in mind when they talked about virtue. They were looking for a sense of civic self-sacrifice - the ability to overcome self-interest and act for the benefit of the broader community.
"There is nothing old-fashioned about 'virtue' when seen in that light. Our Republic functions best when it generates political leaders who are capable of setting aside their own desires for power or partisan domination or pecuniary self-interest. It suffers when our politicians are incapable of doing so."

We have a man who lies to avoid paying his fair share toward the support of his community, and we have a woman whose paycheck and job performance are public record, both of which have lately been hung on the community clothesline for wide and lengthy viewing.

Part of the earlier-quoted email exchange included this from Prince:

"I believe strongly that those who can must help those who can't. That does not mean that someone physically and mentally capable of working has the right to sit on their lazy ass, drinking beer, procreating with another lazy SOB breeding other lazy SOB's on mine or any other taxpayers' nickel."

A public servant’s job might or might not consist of moving piles of rocks from one place to another all day. A public servant’s job is to be available when the public needs him. Sometimes many people need him for several days in a row. Sometimes nobody needs him but they know where to find him. I am "physically and mentally capable of working," but Prince wants my income to go away. He disdains unemployed people, yet he advocates my unemployment. Do I not have the same right as he to honor my obligations to my family, my creditors, and my community by remaining employed?

Prince's income derives from state contracts. I pay the state taxes that pay the man who wants me unemployed. I feel unfortunate that I, his employer, cannot affect his income in as direct a way as he can affect mine.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Late winter evening

We're going to have another six weeks of uncomfortable weather here. Even when daffodils are blooming in the valley at the bottom of our hill, up here we still need to look carefully for the first green leaf-haze in the trees.

Today we're buffeted by a storm that is more wind than snow, but there's enough of both for the police to have blocked the interstate eastbound beyond my home exit.

I have just time enough to get the soapstone stove heated through and then I'll turn it down and turn myself back toward work for an evening meeting. It would be a good night to curl up with a book and listen to the wind howling around the eaves, and I will do that as soon as I get home again.

I'll enjoy that coziness more now than I would have a week ago: a few days ago I heard and saw the first redwing blackbird of the season.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

New Anger is Killing Civil Discourse

Image copied from The Other Me

Years ago, a passionate and intelligent dear friend railed against our coworkers who would not express any political opinion; she believed that everybody should have an opinion. It was hard for me then, and it's impossible for me now, to argue against that point. What frustrated me then and still rubs my fur the wrong way, is not that people don't have opinions; it is that some people form opinions based on intentionally limited information and express the results with vitriol.

Peter Wood, in A Bee in the Mouth: Anger in America Now, according to reviews I have read (I had not heard of the book until this morning, although it was published a couple of years ago) describes such expression as New Anger. Stanley Kurtz' review of the book says, "America's New Anger exchanges the modest heroism of Gary Cooper's Sargent York for something much closer to the Incredible Hulk." Another review (sorry, I didn't save the particular link, but it's a common sentiment among the book's reviewers) says that New Anger makes people feel that if they are Angry, they are Important.

I'm tired of New Anger. It wears me out.
I'd be grateful for a little bit of informed and civil Old Anger.